Monday, August 15, 2005

Worst President Ever???

<— Worst Ever? —>

(um...we report, you decide)

Today we welcome Mr. Terence McKenna back to the blog, as we try to decide who wins the palm for most incompetent and destructive President in the history of this great nation. There are several contenders, and as always we welcome feedback that contains your vote.

First, I want to post this note that I got from Freya about yesterday's entry. It is a reminder that, when it comes to the most important questions (which are usually posed by children), there are many right answers. Freya's response is one of them.

I had a terrible fight with my mother once, during the start of a 4th of July parade, in front of about 300 people. My youngest son had asked why everyone stood when the flag passed. I told him that he could stand or not stand if he wanted to. That the American flag "says that everybody here has a choice and we love it so much, most of us choose to stand...". My mother then decides to brainwash my flesh and blood and told him that no, we have to stand if we are "good Americans" and that he is a "bad boy" if he doesn't..."get up".

Thus the fight ensued.

Thank you very much for posting your insight on our 'tradition' of the Pledge of Allegiance in classrooms. Hopefully, it wil encourage people to THINK.

And now, Mr. McKenna, the blog is yours:

I just finished a short biography of General Grant that focused on his presidency. For those who don't follow such things, Grant's presidency has long been considered one of the worst, the very embodiment of the excesses of the gilded age. I wonder if future generations will look at the administration of George Bush Jr. as the embodiment of our excesses.

All of Bush's policies are suspect. But for today's blog, let's focus on 2 issues that continue to loom large in news and punditry: energy and national security.

GW did not create the current energy crisis, but the business interests that support him have long supported the over-reliance on the free market that has led to our current dilemma. It could have been different. Had the Congress passed improved mileage standards-let's say 20 years ago-and had we found some way to restrict suburban sprawl, we'd have real options now. The Europeans have long prepared for today's oil shock with high energy taxes. In European cities and towns, a person can survive without a car, and their heating standards are modest compared to ours (they put on a sweater when cold, we turn up the heat). Their single useful energy measure, the CAFÉ standard, is 30 years old.

But our new energy bill does nothing to lessen the demand for more oil; to the extent that it succeeds, we will only end up guzzling even more oil. Time is not on our side: 30 years ago, the US was more centralized. You who live in the NYC area may not know it, but in the rest of the US, vast corridors around our cities have been developed into impenetrable suburbs. So where 30 years ago, we could have grafted mass transit on top of existing housing, for many suburbs, this is now impossible.


National security is another area where we blithely continue with policies. The current War on Terror is just a cover for what the US has been doing since WW2. At first (in Korea and Viet Nam) we fought with our own troops, then we decided to use surrogates - the war in Angola is one example, the fight against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua is another. The terrorists that we are fighting now are the very spawn of the Mujahidin that we funded in Afghanistan. If we examine our successes we see little evidence of our benefiting from years of aggression. For example: South Korea may be counted a success, but it took 4 decades of support to turn it from a right wing military dictatorship to an industrial state with elections (is it a democracy? probably) - but we also have an embittered and militarized North Korea whose only cash product is weapons. Who can say that doing nothing 55 years ago would not have been better for all of us? And for all of our troubles in Nicaragua (remember Iran Contra) we have one of the poorest nations in the region, one saddled with debt and with an extremely unjust distribution of wealth. For comparison: infant mortality in Nicaragua is 29.1 per 1000 births, in Cuba it is 6.3 (in the USA it is 7.0 - way to go USA!).

With Iraq, we are back to using our own troops (for all of the talk of coalition forces, this war is an American parade). But the failure is the same. We can't seem to learn that it is near impossible to control human behavior or history. And by and large, people don't like being led by foreigners. Nor do they want to be preached to. So maybe it's time for a little benign neglect with regard to world affairs. Let's just let people be. (Yes, a lot of evil will be done, but evil and good abound in human affairs - and will continue to do so whether the US is involved or not).

If we really want to influence human behavior, we should redirect our efforts to the home front - and start with making it hard to own gas guzzling cars and harder to construct energy consuming suburbs.

—T. McKenna

Incidentally, on the matter of Homeland Security: see this article for an illustration of how out of touch with reality the Bushies are these days. Note that the judge who delivered the decision stopping the Administration from suspending labor rights for so-called "operational urgencies" is, in fact, a Bush appointee.

Now when your own picks for the judiciary are starting to behave like the "activist judges" that the Bushies love to hate, you know that it's time for a reality check.

But we all know that these people are incapable of any relationship with reality. Last year, the tune was, "wait till the Iraqi elections—everything will be better after then." Right now, the story is, "just wait till the Constitution is done, and see how much better things become." Next we will be fed, "as soon as the next set of elections happens in December, we're going to see the insurgency disappear and all our sacrifices will be proven worthy."

It's a different story every day, a different set of delayed expectations every month, while the death tolls for both soldiers and civilians mount. So our job now is to join Cindy Sheehan and countless other Americans (62% of us, according to the latest polls) in insisting that this war is wrong, always was, and needs to be ended immediately.

It would also help for as many of us as possible to add to the crescendo on the matter of impeachment. When a group of madmen are this divorced from reality, this steeped in crimes against humanity, this embedded in a nest of lies and distortions—ridding the nation and the world of them with the full force of Article II, Section 4, of the U.S. Constitution is the only sensible option left.

For more on the disarray and derealization of the Bushies at this moment, Frank Rich's column in Sunday's New York Times ("Someone Tell the President the War is Over") is a delightful must-read.

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