Friday, September 23, 2005

Ninth Edition

Lies, wars and politics

Well this evening I caught another anti-Bush movie or rather a sort of documentary, this one titled “Uncovered The Whole Truth” and is about the Iraq war. I am not a good “party man” for political parties; when I first turned 18 and old enough to vote, I registered as a Democrat, as my father and mother had been. A few years later, I was very dis-illusioned with the Democratic party, and living very much ‘hand to mouth’ with jobs not available even to buy, (haha) so decided to switch my registration to the Republican party after meeting some party representatives at the Harford Fair. The party reps gave me the old sales pitch of less government, fiscal responsibility and preservation of our individual rights; in particular the 2nd amendment guaranteeing the right to own and bear arms. Some gun organizations such as the NRA and the major hunting magazines such as Field and Stream, Outdoor Life, and Sports Afield all had strong arguments to support the Republican party, pointing to the Democrats long record of attacking our right to keep firearms.

I had also become convinced that a Democrat president, Johnson or LBJ – had actually pulled a coup detat, being involved directly or indirectly in the assassination of JFK. He was the obvious person to benefit from such a terrific crime, not the only time in our history that a president has been assassinated but the first time we suffered a coup detat. In the intervening years I slowly grew dis-illusioned with the Republican party as well – with its strong affiliations with big oil corporations and the ultra-rich and a seeming preference for a high unemployment rate which led to low wages for American workers. As bad as the Democrats had been, with trying to establish a welfare state and seize all weapons in the hands of citizens, they never tried to control what we watch on our televisions or read in books, and never ran up such budget deficits as we got to see with president Reagan and Bush sr. All that hype about how deficits were bad for the country, fiscal responsibility etc was a load of BS. I switched my allegiance again, this time changing to “independent” until I heard about a billionaire named Ross Perot who was considering running for president. When he started up a new political party, the Reform party – I switched my registration again to his new party. It was first named the Patriot party, and the ‘planks’ were all to my liking, from fair trade not free trade to preservation of our right to bear arms to smaller government and true fiscal responsibility and less ‘adventurism’ overseas. I voted for Ross both times he ran, and most people forget it but Ross at one point was even in the lead ahead of both Clinton and Dole, until his family was threatened with death unless he withdrew. He withdrew, but later gained the courage to run anyway, but his lead was gone. He got something like 19% of the vote, and Clinton got the White House without having a majority. (He got more votes than the others, but not more than 50%)

The Clinton years were good for the country and economy, with solid growth and dropping interest rates, at the same time bad for Roy & Beth – with new regulations making prospecting all but illegal, new restrictions on “assault rifles” but at least we had jobs and could afford to eat and drive to work. Fuel prices fell as well, I can recall our taking a trip to California and paying 89 cents a gallon at a number of stations. Strange to say, Clinton was true to his word and even got a balanced budget, real fiscal responsibility, and eventually a nice surplus! (The last time our government had a surplus was during JFKs presidency) On the down side, the assault on our right to keep arms was a steady pace – first the Brady bill on handguns, which did not prevent non-criminals from buying handguns just instituted a waiting period. A good effect of this, however minimal, is that someone who is enraged and went to buy a gun to kill someone he or she was angry at, had enough time to cool off and consider the step.

Locally in northeast PA this is rather a meaningless gain, since the most popular method of murder here is by beating to death. At least according to statistics, and stats don’t lie! They may be skewed, twisted, distorted, and bent to fit almost any particular view or theory, but they don’t lie. Is this local penchant for beating to death a reflection on our Appalachian heritage perhaps? I leave that question to the sociologists, the same folks who would take away all of the firearms in the land and leave us defenseless to the all powerful police state.

There was no background check, so the law seemed otherwise just a stupid law to make it more difficult for honest gun nuts to buy more guns. Then came the assault gun ban. The media hyped the argument as “why would anyone have any legitimate need for an assault gun?” well how about defending your family and home from the lawless, or as a last ditch self defense against our own government, if it were ever to become a police state/dictatorship? Most of these “assault guns” also make superb hunting rifles, so they made the argument hinge on the bayonet. Why would any hunter need a rifle with a bayonet? Well it is unlikely, but logically it could be used as a last ditch weapon against a charging wounded bear, elk or moose, and again as a home defense weapon of last resort. The old saying goes, the bayonet is “always loaded”. However, bayonets are so rarely used in the commission of crimes that finding any data at all on them is difficult. They are a positive hindrance to the ordinary criminal, making his weapon that much longer and more unwieldy, less easy to conceal. Then too, the media and Democrat party kept presenting the assault rifles as weapons of crime – yet the truth is that assault rifles were almost never used for crimes; they are large and heavy, not easily concealable and extremely loud if fired – not the sort of weapon a criminal would want! They even linked them to machine guns, ignoring the fact that since the 1968 law requiring background checks for machine gun purchases, there has been only a single incident in which a machine gun was used in the commission of a crime – (despite what Hollywood portrays) and that was committed by an off-duty police officer! So my disenchantment with the Democrats grew and grew, while at the same time the government instituted draconic regulations on prospecting and mining, making it virtually impossible at one point to do anything beyond camp out and look for the minerals with your eyes. Even the camping out was restricted, - you could not camp within 500 feet of a water source, and could not remain in one spot for more than two weeks! (Beth and I lived on our mining claim, right at the mine in the Mojave desert for six or seven months, all the while actively working the mine – so a two week period was ridiculously short.) Even prospecting a particular site might take several months to find the ‘paystreak’ and begin to mine it. (Check out the old records and you will find many reports of so-called “Lucky Swedes” who picked a spot and dug for weeks or months without finding so much as a spot of color, only to finally dig down deep enough to find the paystreak.) So despite the fact that the country was doing quite well economically, on a personal level it was hitting us fairly hard.

Then the Clinton years ended, and we had no third choice to vote for – only Bush jr or Gore. The Reform party threw their support for the Libertarian candidate, a decent enough fellow and admittedly some of the Libertarian ideals are right up my ally – such as preserving our individual rights and legalizing marijuana (a stupid waste of money and resources enforcing a silly prohibition in my view – in my opinion marijuana should be legalized and taxed, freeing up vast resources to fight the truly dangerous drugs as well as removing a considerable number from our prison systems) but on many other issues I could not support; so I voted for a Democrat for the first time since Carter, and felt that he would not be quite so anti-mining as Clinton since he personally owns a large silver mine in the west, and he claimed to be a gun rights supporter. I had to take a deep breath before marking my ‘X’, because if he proved to be another anti-mining, anti-gun leftist I could blame myself for putting him in office.

The election was a farce – and Bush was declared the winner despite the fact he had not won the popular vote. The ballot scandal and disenfranchisement in Florida was so ridiculous that the entire state’s votes should have been thrown out, including their electoral college votes, but we ended up with Bush, the junior in power along with one party rule in both the senate and house of representatives. Why they did not hold a new election in Florida is beyond me, this would seem to have been the logical recourse when the stakes were so high, but…

For the first nine months, while we did see a relaxation of the ridiculous regulations against mining from Clinton (a tiny battery powered panning machine, the size of a dinner plate, which literally has to be spoon fed the ore, was classified as “mechanized equipment” and on the same regulatory level as the largest earth moving bulldozers for example) and a sensible instant background check for gun purchases, we also saw a collapse in the stock market. We did not have a big stock portfolio and had already taken most of it out (with respectable profits) but many people were literally wiped out including friends of ours. The Republicans also went right back into form, instituting a ‘refund’ of our ‘overcharged’ people, the single largest tax dividend benefit for the wealthiest one percent of the population in history, thus wiping out the budget surplus in a single stroke, literally overnight and swiftly dumping our national finances into what has developed into the largest budget deficits in history. Then came the terrorist attacks on 9-11. I was personally enraged – having witnessed the attacks as so many people did on live TV as they happened – and here was the Taliban government in Afghanistan openly protecting Bin Ladin and his organization “Al Qaeda” (which simply means “the firm”). Pretty much every nation on earth lined up to assist the United States in the war against terrorism, including such unlikely allies as Russia and even Red China! Never before has the United States had such a vast alliance, and even our long time (but relatively timid) allies Germany and Japan sent troops to fight in the wilds of Afghanistan alongside our American and British allies. I became convinced that we do have the ‘right man’ in the Presidency after all, if he can pull such disparate countries together in such a righteous war.

The war went swiftly, with our Afghan friends (yes we had quite a lot of true friends there, who had fought against the Communist Russians as our virtual surrogates and suffered under the Taliban rule) helping to quickly overrun the country and chase the Taliban and Al Qaeda into the mountains. Then (somehow) Bush dropped the ball, and Bin Ladin escaped from Tora Bora while he dithered. In retrospect, one wonders if this were not a deliberate act, in order not to kill the Boogeyman who is so useful for instituting draconian measures and destroying the liberties of Americans in the name of “protecting” us from his evil minions. I hope Bush will prove me wrong and will capture Bin Ladin, but I doubt it will ever happen.

We did not have time to fret over it, after all in war you cannot expect to win every battle and it is especially hard to find and kill one particular man in such a vast wilderness, and besides we began to hear of the emerging horrific threat in Iraq. Why, Saddam was building all sorts of evil weaponry, from nerve gas to anthrax to nuclear weapons, working in mobile tractor-trailer labs; we cannot afford to wait until these weapons are used against us, Bush and his cronies loudly proclaimed, or we will see confirmation in the form of a mushroom cloud. Literally, the term “mushroom cloud” was used by Bush, Rice, Cheney and Rumsfield. I never heard Powell use the term, but he did skirt pretty close to it.

So with the drums beating loudly, the invasion was launched. No huge month-long buildup of forces, no preliminary bombing to soften up the defenses, just a headlong rush (with a force that appeared to many military analyzers to be far too small to do the job safely) – we must seize those weapons before they can be used, after all so - risks and casualties be damned. I was a bit shocked that the size of our invasion force was sooo small – I am no ‘general’ but have played enough wargames to know you must have enough force to accomplish the task and still protect yourself, especially your supply lines even if you ignore the risks to your flanks. Well even though outnumbered our forces and our valiant British allies tore through the Iraqis so fast it was dizzying. I watched with baited breath while “embedded” reporters covered the battles on the small, tactical scale – one tank versus one tank and a handful of men against a handful of men; I sat up until four in the morning watching a tank battle, live. I could not believe the courage and fortitude of our soldiers. The invasion reached a critical stage when the famous 7th cavalry found a gap in the enemy line near a big reservoir and punched through it. Any Iraqi general worth his salt would have picked this moment to launch his counterpunch, against that narrow ‘neck’ near the reservoir, and we would have another ‘Custer’s last stand’ with the 7th cut off and surrounded. But Saddam was in charge, and he did nothing whatsoever, except to have his mouthpiece (the always amusing and luckless ‘Bagdad Bob’) proclaim to international TV that no Americans were in Iraq, much less Bagdad. Well he had to cut off his broadcasts shortly after, as American tanks of the 7th Cavalry came charging through first the airport, then right up the main streets of Bagdad. I almost felt bad for Bagdad Bob, he was really funny! I swear that during his last broadcast, we saw one of the 7th’s tanks go tearing down the road behind him.

This invasion had cost us some allies, most all of them in fact. Only the British stood by our side, and a sprinkling of others with almost negligable military forces so little effect on the war. A great anti-French crusade was taken up on the media, since they had refused to help us, after we had saved them in WW2. Well we ought to study our history a bit more – for one thing, we didn’t ‘save’ the French for over four years; in fact when the Nazi war machine was rolling over the French countryside on to Paris, we were sitting around watching on the sidelines. However, all that France had to say was that they did not believe that Saddam had any ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and did not believe our CIA intelligence which “proved” that he did.

Well time has been sliding by, and sure enough, it turns out that Saddam really didn’t have any weapons of mass destruction and our now-alienated French allies were right. Bush and his cronies claim they were fed bad intelligence; while we are stuck in Iraq for years to come; not to mention the cost in American lives every day. We cannot back out of the mess now – and meanwhile back in Afghanistan, the war there drags on endlessly with little result; Bin Ladin is God-knows-where and Bush seems to have little interest in him. The fellow who organized and ordered the mass attack on 9-11, along with his Taliban toadies, are free to hide out in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan to plot their next attack. If we had committed the forces we now have tied down in Iraq (almost 90% of our military) to Afghanistan, they could almost link arms and walk across the whole country to catch the SOB and his pals, but instead they are tied down in a guerilla war suffering casualties with no real ‘enemy’ to fight back against.

Our president got us into a war, invading a country which had never attacked us; then claims it was all due to “bad intelligence”; along the way we heard about the horrors of prisoners being tortured, by US! If memory serves, they had war crimes trials after WW2 and some people were hanged for torturing prisoners of war, but for our leaders well, it is “okay” since they all must be ‘terrorists’ and we can’t tie the hands of our military! Why, we must go to any ends to prevent future attacks! The ends justify the means, right? While Bush has all this going on, he tries to destroy social security by gutting its future income and funneling this money into his pals, the ultra rich via the stock market. This is a flop, but a new interpretation of the law of eminent domain is pushed through allowing anyone with more money than the victim to sieze their property. Whee, life in the land of the rich and privileged! Whoops.

Oh well, guess I better shut up before I am arrested for thinking that we need change in our government. I do now want more and more weapons though, the bigger the better as they used to say. Hey I am a collector, a former licensed gunsmith etc and would not use them in any way illegal – and if this makes the police state nervous that is just gravy.

Since this was written, we have had still more misfortune in our land; a massive hurricane named Katrina devastated New Orleans, enough that the levees broke the following day flooding the entire city and surrounding areas, causing such suffering and death that it bothers me even to talk about it. The rescue attempts by the FEMA fumblers and lack of any National Guardsmen to help and protect the victims were shockingly slow and feeble, causing still more suffering and death as well as financial loss. Two days later, President Bush finally ends his vacation and flies to to site – and what is the first thing he checks? Why, the oil refineries of course! What a leader. The FEMA handling was so bad that the director resigned, and really the president ought to resign too – he has failed yet again in his job of protecting the people, which is the number one priority job of being President. Of course this would only put another oil baron on the throne of the USA, but even he appears to have more compassion and competence than Bush. Along the way, with the refineries knocked out, the oil companies found yet another excuse to raise fuel prices to ridiculous levels – with gouging a foregone conclusion. I saw with my own eyes, fuel prices of $6 a gallon and even over $7 a gallon. The prices have since fallen some (after a lot of investigating got started into the reported gouging) to less than $3 a gallon in many areas. We are to now “get used” to the new level of prices, but this is only until the next excuse to raise them to yet another ridiculous level.

At least people are now starting to look more seriously at alternative, renewable fuels. Of these, hydrogen appears to be the most dangerous and requiring the greatest effort and technology, so that will be the most popular although it is the worst choice on many grounds. The vegetable oil replacement for diesel fuel could appear in the market, and alcohol is possible too – though it is less efficient for mileage, alcohol causes less wear and tear to engines, plus could be much more cost efficient.

Then there are alternative technologies for the home, such as solar heating, which is a proven performer. With fuel prices shooting for new highs, solar heat is even more attractive than ever. Steam power is another possibility which has been ignored for many years, yet is a real technology which we could adopt on a larger scale without going back to stone age living; or rather third world lifestyles which we are already well into.


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