A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

My Apologies...

...for the blogging haitus. I am a poverty stricken man. This means I live on the edge of crisis 24/7. I mentioned below that I was able to go to my monastery only through the generosity of a friend in the Dharma. What I had to contribute to the process was time that I would normally be working and making money. The result has been several days of crisis, threats of utility shutoff, and the need to accept more hours of continuous works than my bipolar condition can put up with for very long. I hope to be able to drop a couple more posts up today and tomorrow.

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Saturday, July 09, 2005

Pope Benedict And Me, Part I: The Sleep Of Reason

As I promised in a post below, I have obtained the definitive collection of the writings of Pope Benedict XVI on the dialog with non-Christian religions, Truth and Tolerance. I am diligently reading it, and will share with you my impressions in a new series of posts. I would encourage anyone with any interest in religion to obtain and read this book, for what the Pope thinks about the other religions of the world is by no means a small matter in a world torn, as ours is, by much religious strife, and much strife between the religious, the areligious, and the anti-religious.

The most important thing to note in Benedict’s book at the start is that, as Cardinal Ratzinger, Benedict was writing to Christians generally, and to Catholics in particular, concerning what they should think about dialog with other religions. He was not writing to Hindus, Buddhists, or Muslims, and he certainly wasn’t engaging in the dialog he was writing about. As Cardinal Ratzinger, and as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, there was no reason to expect him to do either of these. And, as we will see the next essay, I strongly suspect that as Cardinal Ratzinger he engaged in very little ecumenical dialog. But as Benedict XVI he must do this to some greater or lesser degree as a part of the job. Hence, from the Buddhist vantage point, Truth and Tolerance leaves many practical questions unanswered about how Pope Benedict will conduct that dialog.

It must be remembered here that there was no real difference between John Paul II and Benedict XVI about Catholic dogma, doctrine, or belief. Some of my co-religionists, at least, fail to consider this when evaluating what are essentially rumors at best and libels at worst about what Benedict thinks of us. I think some Christians fail to consider this also.

The dialog John Paul sustained with us during his Papacy had little to do with the central issues of belief, and much to do with how we are to get along with one another in a world where nobody’s religion is going to magically disappear. He talked with us, not to us, and most certainly not at us. And he went out of his way to reach out beyond the confines of the Vatican and the press of State and Church business, to explore the world and speak with the world, as much as to the world, and clearly not at the world. In Ratzinger’s phrase, John Paul largely talked with us about tolerance, not truth.

So the questions we Buddhists have, first, is whether Benedict will also proactively reach out, as did John Paul, and will he be talking with us, to us, or at us, if he does. Those of us Buddhists with a fair amount of balanced experience with our practices, will certainly try to remain friendly and tolerant in any case (though the less experienced among us may develop some aggression with being talked at). But we are realistic about the fact that being talked at is by no means “dialog”, and that being talked to is also not dialog, unless we are also being listened to. This is the heart of “tolerance”.

As to the component of “truth” in Truth and Tolerance, we Buddhists have a long history not only of dialog with other religions, but quite spirited debate with them in such cases when we can get them to share a set of rational and reasonable principles for such debate with us. On those grounds, I doubt that we have anything to fear from Benedict’s presumptive assertion of the truth of Catholic belief in any dialog he may now have with us.

The real difficulty for we Buddhists, however, is that the view of Benedict may very well be so fundamentally anti-rationalist that it renders any dialog at all impossible. His third conclusion in his essay “Truth—Tolerance—Freedom”, the final essay in Truth and Tolerance, is not reassuring in this regard:

We must also bid farewell to the dream of the absolute autonomy of reason and of its self-sufficiency.

Earlier in the book (“New Questions That Arose In The Nineties”) he had carried his criticism of reason, from the vantage point of Christian faith, even further, to establish why the notion of the autonomy of reason must be abandoned:

For human reason is not autonomous at all. It is always living in one historical context or another. Any historical context, as we see, distorts the vision of reason; that is why reason needs the help of history in order to overcome these historical limitations.

From the Buddhist point of view, to say this is essentially to say that any real dialog between Benedict and us can, at best, be a dialog of tolerance only, and not of truth. For if reason is so historically dependent that it cannot function as a neutral medium of argument, there must be a Christian reason that is different from a Buddhist reason and, therefore, effective debate between the two points of view, in the interest of establishing truth, must be impossible. And Benedict, who, so to speak, wishes to have his truth and dialog too, is probably not going to get this under those conditions.

Now such an absence of true dialog, in itself, might not trouble some of my Christian readers, but Benedict’s view also has some very peculiar and disturbing consequences even within the historical context of the philosophy in Europe and the European diaspora. Consider the problem of mathematics. The dominant trend in the philosophical study known as the Foundations of Mathematics has been the attempt to derive all Mathematics, in one fashion or another from the purely formal aspect of reason known as Propositional Logic, under the assumption that the formal truths of Logic are historically neutral. This is known as mathematical Logicism.

The roots of this notion reach back to Aristotle and the definitive articulation of it took place at the turn of the 20th century in the work of Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell, with the corrective establishment of the limits of derivation of Mathematics from logic being articulated by the somewhat later work of Kurt Godel.

This field is far more complicated than we need to go into in detail, but the summary of the matter by R.B.Jones can be used to make the dilemmas of Benedict’s position clear:

Notwithstanding the arguments against logicism, no alternative account of the status of mathematical propositions is convincing. Philosophers throughout history have claimed that propositions such as: 1+1=2 are necessarily true.

This necessity flows from the meaning of the terms employed in the proposition. To the present day Mathematicians continue to work with methods which are appropriate only to the establishment of a priori, necessary truths.

As far as this Buddhist can see, if reason is not neutral and independent of history, as Benedict asserts, there can be no logically necessary a priori truths, and, therefore, no reliable Mathematics, whatever. One plus one can then be whatever the historical context makes of it, and, potentially, may be different for me as a Buddhist than it is for Benedict as a Catholic.

This strikes me as throwing the baby out with the bath water. Benedict feels that:

Because the claim to know the truth is widely regarded nowadays as a threat to tolerance and freedom, this whole question had to be taken up.

This may be so in relation to the “relativist” theologians he is at pains to combat, it may be so in relation to the secular culture of Europe and the European diaspora, or it may be so in relation to certain theological positions within his own Church. But it is certainly not so in relation to Buddhism. We have some claims to knowledge of the truth ourselves, so Benedict’s claims do not really bother us at all.

But his position regarding reason implies that the only possible truth that can be asserted is “revealed” truth granted to us by God. So since it has been revealed to him and not to us, how much is there, really, for us to have a dialog about?

In the next segment of this discussion, we will examine how much Benedict knows about our claims to know truth and how and why they differ from his own.

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Thursday, July 07, 2005

And Now For Something Completely Different

I haven't written in some time about my bipolar condition. The medications have calmed me down considerably and evened out the highs and lows. This has come at a cost. The brain fog that the medications induce is great. It is harder to get fully awake in the morning, and too much concentrated brain work in too short a space of time causes a serious function crash.

Since I last wrote seriously about my condition, I lost a temporary job because of this. I signed on to work eight hour shifts for 3 consecutive days without a break, instead of 6 hour shifts over the same schedule, because I really could have used the money. The money was really good, but the task was very mentally demanding. Trying to work 8 hours at a stretch was a mistake. With the drugs, I have, I discovered, no more than 20 hours of work at that concentrated level before my performance deteriorates precipitously. After that, I must have a minimum of a one day break to return to full function.

During the last four hours of the 24 that I was trying to do for this company, the function crash occurred, and my performance deteriorated so swiftly and so completely that by the end of the project I had failed to meet the minimum overall standards to be invited back. Such is the roller coaster that the morale of a mental health client is always riding. You feel better and you try to push beyond your limits, you fail, and then you must deal with the objectively induced depression (as opposed to the mere brain chemistry depression). It has taken me several weeks of dealing with this before I could even attempt to write about it.

How can you tell the difference between the two, you might ask? You can be pretty sure you have a brain chemistry problem of some sort if you are not depressed about anything particularly: if the depression is severe, extended, free-floating, and tied to no objective event. I knew for years that I was clinically depressed, but establishing the bi-polarity was much harder. The highs simply don't appear to be a problem and you and the GP end up medicating the depression only.

Bipolarity can be diagnosed fairly readily if your high is so great that you become delusional. Unfortunately, at this level of crisis, the transition to treatment, and then from treatment to functional recovery can be extremely, and unavoidably, destructive to the individual involved. In the treatment phase, it usually involves at least some physical restraint or confinement and forced medication.

The scars of this, and the lingering resentment that it leaves the patient with, often result in the patient's non-compliance with the need to medicate in the recovery phase, a relapse into delusion, and the need to put the individual under court order to take the medication when recovery is attempted once again, after a second confinement.

But even this, at least, can eventually have a good outcome, though the road to it can be rough. A bipolar such as myself, though, who never loses grip on reality can subsist for years being medicated incorrectly for depression alone. One indicator of this, which I learned after finally being diagnosed, is when several specific anti-depressives in succession simply cease to work to relieve the depression.

The non-delusional bipolar individual can, as I did, run through an entire spectrum of medications, one after the other, with the GP, only to have all of them fail in the end. Apparently, what occurs is that the manic and the depressive phases each act as a compensating feedback mechanism for one another. If you intervene chemically with only the depressive half of the problem, this feedback process slowly adjusts the brain chemistry to adapt to the intervention and resume the depression that compensates for the mania.

If you are depressed, under medication, and finding that several different medications consistently lose their potency to combat your feelings, ask your GP about a self-reporting set of oral questions which can indicate the possibility of a bipolar condition, and make every effort to get a referral to a medical professional specializing in psychiatric medicine if this questionnaire comes out positive.

Whatever the drawbacks of medication, I can testify that the unmedicated alternative is far worse, particularly when, as in my case, it goes on for years with repeated failures to treat the depressive condition reliably. I made it through, but only because I started out with a will of iron and an active religious life. I very greatly fear that many others don't make it and are eventually pushed into either overt or covert suicide. I came close.

I will say no more about it, but I came close.

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Wake Up And Smell The Coffee

The real front of the War On Terror is in London, not in Baghdad. Nothing you are doing in Baghdad, none of the insane amount of money you are spending there, and no scrap of the "noble cause" of bringing Democracy to the Middle East has any impact whatever in the War On Terror.

Neither the insurgents in Iraq, nor the foreign nationals fighting beside them have anything to do with the War On Terror, except to use Iraq as a training ground for honing skills in the application of explosives, and getting some combat experience.

The real bases for terror are elsewhere, probably in Iran and western Pakistan, perhaps in Saudi, and you have so tied up our army with the foolishness in Iraq that we really can't do a damn thing about them, even if we find them. And, no, aerial bombardment of a few camps is not doing a damn thing about them, just in case you happen to find them.

The real cells for terror are in Europe and elsewhere, as are the real targets. The only way to address them is to rebuild the world cooperation which you so wantonly destroyed by invading Iraq.

The real tactics of the enemy in the War On Terror is to strike the target of opportunity which you are not guarding. It will not be conferences of government leaders, unless you stop guarding them. It will not be hijacking of airplanes to fly into buildings, unless you let airport security and fighter plane coverage get lax. And it will not be anything that is not either symbolic, as was the WTC, or full enough of people to generate massive casualties.

There will not be enough room to make small conspiracies to go after anything less under the current security climate. Big, unguarded, targets by a small number of serious conspiracies with much fewer people in the know is what we face. And what we just didn't prevent in London.

You had this to say at Fort Bragg last week:

Our mission in Iraq is clear. We're hunting down the terrorists....Some wonder whether Iraq is a central front in the war on terror. Among the terrorists, there is no debate. Hear the words of Osama Bin Laden: "This Third World War is raging" in Iraq.....The terrorists know that the outcome will leave them emboldened, or defeated.

It was a stupid thing to say, as today's events have just proved. It was a stupid thing to say even without today's events. Your failure to follow up properly in Afghanistan because you wanted to invade Iraq is a primary reason why the world still has Osama Bin Laden to listen to. Invading Iraq was a stupid thing to do. Not only that, in the bargain, you lied, deceived, and connived to do it, and you and your cabinet also did it stupidly and badly. Hence this mess.

You are losing the War On Terror for us.

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If You're Going To Write, Have Something To Write About

I really don't, which is why this blog has gotten a little thin. Nobody of consequence is actually doing anything worth expressing an opinion about. George Bush is falling off a bicycle in Scotland instead of nominating a Supreme Court justice or appointing a UN ambassador by fiat while the Senate is in recess. The Senate is in recess and can't do anything spectacularly boneheaded. After all, they already passed CAFTA. Karl Rove might be indicted in the Plame affair, or he might not. People are still being killed in Iraq and elsewhere without any tangible result one way or the other which would change the situation. Nobody is paying any attention to the grave danger of Bird Flu, least of all George Bush, the Senate, John Bolton, Alberto Gonzalez, Karl Rove, or anybody trying to keep from being killed in Iraq or elsewhere.

I have strong opinions, but what am I to do with them under the circumstances? Really.

So I suppose I'll have to write about the jailing of Judith Miller for contempt of court. Do I think it will harm American journalism or erode freedom of the press? Not materially, unless prosecutors begin to abuse the grand jury system even more than they now do. But that is a definite possibility.

What most Americans do not understand is that the grand jury system is probably the greatest failure of the founding fathers to secure your rights and my rights from an oppressive government. A prosecutor can subpeona you to appear before a grand jury, under oath, and ask you anything on earth about anything whatever. There are no standards in our law about what is a material and relevant question for a grand jury. Everything is fair game. The only limit to this is your constitutional protection against self-incrimination, and even that will not protect a scrap of your personal privacy if you are granted immunity from prosecution.

So, since the Supreme Court dodged the issue, which it can do indefinitely since there is no principle of constitutional law involved, journalists will, de facto, be under the same intrusive level of scrutiny as everyone else. Maybe this is minus for freedom of the press, but it is certainly not a minus for honest, intelligent, and full coverage of the news.

The abuse of journalistic anonymity by everyone with any measure of political clout is a far more corrosive thing to journalism than the jailing of Judith Miller, as the progress of the Valerie Plame affair makes perfectly clear. And Robert Novak, by publishing Plame's name, based on a source which he is still keeping anonymous, at least to us, is precisely what is most wrong with American journalism.

Novak's action is far greater breach of the public trust in journalists than the decision of Time magazine and its reporter (who now can be safely treated as anonymous himself, since he is no longer functional as a journalist in the affair) to reveal the information the prosecutor demanded.

What is now missing from almost all American journalism, and, particularly, journalism oriented toward Beltway issues, is the gumshoeing necessary to ask the right questions of any source, anonymous or not. Without the right questions you are simply at the mercy of their version of events and are a mere stenographer instead of a reporter. No one doing Washington journalism can take the time to investigate anything before publishing the most suspect anonymous rumor. If you want to see the difference, compare how the New York Times covers the New York State news in Albany to the national news in Washington.

The reason for this, of course, is the competitive immediacy of television news. Of course, strictly speaking, I don't regard most television news as real journalism, particularly the cable news networks. They are entertainment at best, and mere illustrated wire coverage, with less depth than the actual wire itself, at worst. This was not always so. CNN used to do some real journalism, when it was owned by Ted Turner, back during the early nineties. The broadcast network news is mere informed political opinion. And Fox News, always the spectacularly special case, is badly informed political opinion.

The only exception to this in Washinton coverage, as far as I can see, is Knight Ridder Washington Bureau, which concentrates almost exclusively on background analysis to feed to the Knight Ridder Newspaper chain, and so does two things which other Washington correspondents almost never do. They talk to middle-level spokespersons, anonymous or not, and they do the research in the public record so they can ask pointed and relevant questions.

The middle level spokespersons (often Civil Servants or career military officers rather than political appointees) generally have no political ax to grind, hence no motivation to abuse anonymity. And they usually really know what they are talking about, which is not always the case when the source is a political appointee.

So I suppose Judith Miller is a brave martyr to our right to know. But a minor martyr at best. For until the coverage is better, until the reporters are relieved of the insane 24/7 deadline pressure before they completely forget the need to do anything but act as a feed for anonymous sources or wire services, whatever our right to know, we will not know anything but what someone with an axe to grind wants us to know, unless we look for it in the public record ourselves.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Oh, Really.

There is a new book out on the conservative side of the political spectrum with a title that is the best bit of evidence I can adduce about the absolutely despicable attitudes and reprehensible behavior of so many of the conservative opinion: 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America.

You can read the list here.

I support liberal public policy, in case you hadn't guessed. The title of this book presents the content not as a refutation of my views nor as the presentation of views which the author argues are better than mine. It is essentially a personal attack on the integrity, the motives, and the ethics of anyone who holds such liberal views, and this is the case even if someone like myself is not of sufficient public prominence to make the top one hundred.

The list, after all, can be extended indefinitely to 10%, 30%, or even 50% of the country, since 50% at least tried to screw up America by voting for a Democratic presidential candidate. Sooner or later I would find my place on this expanded list, too, as sure as water seeks its own level.

The list is not about people who are wrong about public policy, or even wrong about private conduct. It is about people who are destroying the country they live in because they hold certain opinions. In other words, it is about calling people criminals and traitors for what they believe. Now the only sensible things to do to criminals and traitors is to either incarcerate them or execute them, so the ultimate point of such rhetoric is plainly to advocate this.

Such are clearly the implications of the title.

I haven't read the book, you point out? Frankly, I don't give a damn what is in the book. The brutally and deliberately insulting title would put the book beyond the realm of reasonable public discourse even if it contained the secret to eternal youth, endless wealth, and perfect happiness.

Why such behavior is reprehensible is that it is a personal attitude toward political adversaries that is essentially Fascist: agree with me or you are a criminal and a traitor.

What is despicable about so many of the conservative shade of opinion is that they refuse to repudiate such an attitude, and such personal vilification, toward the people who hold other views. Moreover, they have indulged in such Fascist rhetoric for my entire lifetime. One of the most popular conservative political books of my childhood was entitled None Dare Call It Treason. And, these days, a great many of my conservative fellow citizens actively encourage or participate in a constant barrage of ad hominum personal attacks on anyone who disagrees with them.

Now on this blog I have not hesitated to call public liars by name, if I have evidence that they have lied. And I have done so to some of the most august in the land. I have also not hesitated to call fools by name if I think that either their beliefs or their actions are folly. I don't intend to stop doing so. I have, finally, not hesitated to suggest that certain specific named individuals are ethically and criminally corrupt if the evidence on the public record clearly implies this. I don't intend to stop doing this, either.

One thing I will not start doing, however, is attacking the integrity, the ethics, or the motives of anyone who merely holds an opinion that I don't agree with. The people who disagree with me are merely wrong. Sometimes the reasons they give for their opinions are either willfully obtuse to evidence or blatantly erroneous in reasoning. Sometimes the opinions are based on faulty premises, even when reasoned well and supported by evidence. Hence the people who hold them are in error.

But they are not criminals and they are not traitors. They are not destroying America by having opinions or exercising their right to participate in our politics. They are merely in error. Nothing more. And they deserve every right that I have to believe as they choose and participate as fully in our political process as the law allows, whatever their opinions, even if they are wrong opinions.

If you happen to read this, I suggest that you go read as many of the blogs of people who strongly disagree with my opinions as you can. Having done this, ask yourself which of them would ever write the two paragraphs immediately above if the occasion warranted it.

I, at least, would measure the worth of what they have to say by the answer to that question.

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Monday, July 04, 2005

That This Nation, Under God, Shall Have A New Birth Of Freedom

So what of America's 229th birthday? The words of Thomas Jefferson will be foregrounded once again. They always are, like the fireworks and the flags, or like turkey at Thanksgiving. But we know those words. We have had them drummed into us. We know them too well to give them much real thought. And no one, or almost no one, will think about them for what they are, a radical, and possibly anti-Christian, philosophical statement, a special pleading for freedom in the absolute, and not a program for just government, which is always freedom restrained by law.

Freedom restrained by law admits of no absolutes. Seen from a wider perspective than Jefferson's the story of America is how we have come to terms, or failed to come to terms, with that fact. Hence the inherent wistfulness in the quotation from Lincoln which titles this post.

In the heat of grievances against unjust government from England, the absolute philosophical statement of inalienable rights derived from God, of necessity, dodged the question of when does liberty become licence. Jefferson's statement of rights conveniently ignored the doctrine, equally deducable from the Christian background of the Libertarian foreground, of the inherent sinfulness of mankind. For if only God is right, and we are inherently wrong, why should mankind be free? This is why, privately, a much older Jefferson than the fiery young redhead of 1776 trembled with the thought that God was just.

Well, when does Liberty become licence? George Orwell, with his pithy turn of phrase, got it right. When all of us are created equal but some are more equal than others. George Orwell, by the way, is one of the most honest of men who have actually faced and analysed the paradox of Liberty vs. Licence, and his honesty, more than anything, is what we are in crying need of today, if we are not to lose our liberty to bad faith wrapped in the Stars and Stripes.

In practice the hedge against licence in the demand for liberty is equality under law. All of us may, as Jefferson has it, be created equal. And the reason that we are equal may be, as G.K. Chesterton stated, the reason that all British pennies were equal--because they all bore the image of the King. But the pull of some are more equal than others is a heavy one, even in the land of Liberty and Justice for All.

The hundred years between Gettysburg and March on Washington did not match Lincoln's hope of a new birth of freedom. The honesty we truly need to keep what freedom we still have must start from the willingness to admit this fact. America has had two golden ages of both liberty and equality, one from 1820 to 1850 the other from 1965 to 1985. In between, liberty has degenerated into licence because equality has been snuffed in both the interests of the wealthy and the rabid factional hatred of those whose conscience would not permit them to believe that America had already become the New Jerusalem.

Orwell is again helpful here:

Whitman was writing in a time of unexampled prosperity, but more than that, he was writing in a country where freedom was something more than a word. The democracy, equality, and comradeship that he is always talking about are not remote ideals, but something that existed in front of his eyes. In mid-nineteenth-century America men felt themselves free and equal, WERE free and equal....There was poverty and there were even class distinctions, but except for the Negroes, there was no permanently submerged class. Everyone had inside him, like a kind of core, the, knowledge that he could earn a decent living, and earn it without bootlicking. When you read about Mark Twain's Mississippi raftsmen and pilots, or Bret Harte's Western gold-miners, they seem more remote than the cannibals of the Stone Age. The reason is simply that they are free human beings.

Of course, it was only white men who were free and equal between 1820 and 1850, not women, not blacks, not the indigenous natives, but the freedom and the equality for them were real and not poisoned by faction, as they were after the Mexican war. And for our second golden age we can let Dr. Martin Luther King speak, who was one of the few of us as honest and as insightful because of his honesty, as Orwell:

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

The twenty years of commitment to equality, as well as liberty, which followed speak to the historian in me, as well as the man who grew from boyhood to full maturity during them, as the apogee of the American achievement. They are gone. We have not returned to the licence of slavery or Jim Crow, but we have returned to the fact that some are more equal than others if they have enough surplus income to invest in common stocks, rather than relying on mere wages, as they were between 1870 and 1940. And we are returning to the factional hatred, in the name of "patriotism" and "defense of freedom", of those who would protest this fact.

Where are we headed? Where I hope we do not arrive--at the destination of the authoritarian, military garrison, democracy of Israel, where torture of enemies in the name of "security" is a commonplace; at the rigid "some are more equal than others" economy we have been building for the past 25 years; and at the totally police surveiled and government spied upon public world of Britain.

If this is our future, the words, once again, of Orwell in 1940 about that world of Britain will be equally applicable, with adaptation, of course, to us:

England is a country in which property and financial power are concentrated in very few hands. Few people in modern England own anything at all, except clothes, furniture and possibly a house...

The liberty of the individual is still believed in, almost as in the nineteenth century. But this has nothing to do with economic liberty, the right to exploit others for profit. It is the liberty to have a home of your own, to do what you like in your spare time, to choose your own amusements instead of having them chosen for you from above....

It is obvious, of course, that even this purely private liberty is a lost cause. Like all other modern people, the English are in process of being numbered, labelled, conscripted, ‘co-ordinated’. But the pull of their impulses is in the other direction, and the kind of regimentation that can be imposed on them will be modified in consequence. No party rallies, no Youth Movements, no coloured shirts, no Jew-baiting or ‘spontaneous’ demonstrations. No Gestapo either, in all probability.

Like it or not, this is the world that Margaret Thatcher, John Major, and Tony Blair between them, have made Britain into. And for us the words of the old song will belie the dream of Dr. King:

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.
Nothing ain't worth nothing, but its free.
But feeling good was easy, when Bobbie sang the blues.
Feeling good was good enough for me.
Good enough for me and Bobbie McGhee.

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