Are you tired of hearing, viewing and reading about this yet? If you are, then you should skip this post. But let me try a multifaceted approach that may overcome your reluctance. There is legality and there is morality. There is politics and pragmatics. There is truth and there are lies. There are causes and there are consequences (effects). Finally, there is the opportunity for national self-reflection–if one can get beyond the self-protective rationalization. Continue reading The Torture Report
I was in my cubicle, in the Fairfax County Government Center, 30 miles from the Pentagon. I was hard at work on the FY 2003 budget for my agency, the Division of Solid Waste, Collection and Recycling. Then came news of the first attack. Only nobody knew it was an attack when the first plane hit. Only after the second came, did that become clear. The director was out of the office so somebody turned on the TV in his office (there for viewing Board of Supervisor meetings, etc., not for soaps). I wandered in and out, while others spent much time in there. Then came news of the other hijacked plane, heading for a destination unknown, but in the DC area. I went back to work; the budget had a deadline and it was my job. Then came the blast at the Pentagon. Right where my wife of nearly 21 years would have been working had she got the promotion she bitterly resented not getting a few Continue reading Remembering 9/11
I come late to the party, honoring the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. I won’t waste space here reinventing what news and commentary you can find elsewhere. I do want to mention the sad irony of the recent report of the Senate Armed Services Committee on detainee abuse under the Bush administration. The senators blame Donald Rumsfeld and the White House for countenancing and actively encouraging the torture of high-level detainees. On this point, among others, John McCain and Barack Obama had no differences during the campaign. January 20th cannot come too soon, to right the wrongs of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, etc. By denying the humanity and denying the rights all humans should be afforded, we are no better than the criminals, the terrorists or other evildoers we mistreat. But we need to move well beyond self-reflection and correction to stop coddling China, ignoring Darfur, and generally speaking–acting not simply on the basis of our American economic self-interest but on the basis of recognizing and supporting human rights everywhere. As an elective democracy, it is important to remember that the American people are sovereign. Presidents, congressmen and senators are elected to do our bidding. At the same time, we are all equally citizens of the world, with the opportunity to express ourselves and communicate with our fellow human beings wherever they may live around the globe.
What news will come from the MastersButtheads of the Universe today, a continuing fall in the global economy perhaps? Maybe the MBAs should have “learned to play the guitar,” as Mark Knopfler suggests, instead of learning to play the market. At least then the suffering we are enduring would have been limited to our ears instead of our financial well-being. They have succeeded in getting money for nothing far in excess of what any member of a band might get (except maybe Mick Jagger and friends).
Nichiren says, “When great evil occurs, great good follows.” (WND, 1119). So something good can come from this, amidst all the political posturing and finger-pointing. It’s not inappropriate, rather it’s essential to look at the causes of this collapse if the effects are to be avoided in the future. When you have politicians enabling, through a laissez-faire approach to the financial sector, these Buttheads of the Universe to take free-market capitalism to its most extreme the outcome is certainly foreseeable. Not, of course, to George “Herbert Hoover” (or maybe we should call him Beavis) Bush and his friends in the Republican party. Government regulation has a place, to protect citizens and taxpayers from the worst excesses of human nature. We have laws that punish criminals. We also have regulations and regulators to help prevent crimes. It may not be possible, practical or sensible to try to protect everyone from greed and stupidity, but it certainly is reasonable to have more oversight and control of the financial sector than we have had in recent years.
It could be the slogan that was, “let capitalists be capitalists.” It likely will be again, soon enough. But the “bailout” is coming soon with restrictions that Wall Street and others haven’t seen for awhile. Don’t hold your breath that the pending legislation will reverse much of the effects of deregulatory fervor that swept the Congress and the White House over the last 20 years. Don’t expect any significant reregulation either. But it is interesting to note that to the extent Dubya had an ambition to achieve more than his father, he will have succeeded in ways he never imagined. George H. W. Bush left office with a huge deficit and an economy in the doldrums. Dubya came into office in 2001 with a budget surplus and a reduced national debt; he will leave with an economy in shambles, a gigantic deficit and a major increase in the national debt. Tax cuts, increased spending without revenues to support it and “letting capitalists be capitalists” is demonstrably not the answer to improve the American economy.
Obama will tell you it’s Bush and his buddy McCain that helped make the current money morass happen. He is not entirely wrong but he is not entirely right either. Congress facilitated the mess by repealing the Glass-Steagal Act that kept the insurance, investment and banking businesses firewalled from one another. Institutional investors, including the pension funds that hold our retirement funds, could have exercised more of their clout in the proxy battles and the board rooms to hold management’s feet to the fire and restrained the most egregious excesses–but they didn’t. From a Buddhist perspective, to determine the causes made in the past one has only to look at the effects received today. So if we are suffering financial harm today, what did we do in the past? Well, some of us were also greedy. Some of us have cheated on our taxes, padded our resumes, paid for term papers written by others, goofed off and gotten over at work, etc. OK, so some of us may appear blameless. Nonetheless, we are suffering now. Take it as an opportunity to make the future better and take comfort in knowing that cause effect will work it’s way into the lives of the executives and the politicians who helped create this mess. We may need to help that along–in terms of the November election and the choices we make in investing our money, borrowing, etc.
What bothers me the most about the memos that this bozo (who actually is a law professor at Boalt Hall, UC Berkeley; ugh, boy would I have some serious dialogue in his class) wrote saying essentially that whatever the president decides is OK during a “time of war” is legally OK. Rape, murder, Vlad the Impaler style of message sending–hey, it’s war and he is the president! Where were the proctors when Yoo took his bar exam–off tooting coke? This guy must have learned sophistry at the knee of William Rehnquist. Is this a reverse quota affirmative action–no not his ethnicity, his neocon craziness. Continue reading John Yoo and Imperial Presidencies