The Tao of Politics

One of my main concerns is: how can I make a difference? There are thousands of political blogs out there. It’s easy to get lost in that ocean. So I may blog about politics on occasion, or I may blog about health issues, depending on where my interests lead me, and where I feel I can contribute something of significance.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Don’t Rush the Process

Iraqi National Security Advisor Mowaffak Al-Rubaie said on Wolf Blitzer today that any delay in the political process in Iraq (over the drafting of the Constitution) will play into the hands of the terrorists. That may be true, especially in the short run, but hastening the political process and producing a flawed Constitution also plays into the hands of the terrorists, especially in the long run, by providing seeds for disagreement and conflict among Iraq’s diverse ethnic groups.

We owe it to the Iraqi people, and to the brave Americans who have died in the war, to get it right in Iraq. And that means, get it right for the Iraqis, all the Iraqis: Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. It doesn’t mean creating a Little America in the Middle East.

Saturday, July 30, 2005


In the current impasse between Congress and the White House, President Bush's exercising his recess appointment prerogative, and installing John Bolton as U.N. Ambassador is certainly one way for the conflict between yin and yang to resolve itself. The result is neither unnatural nor unexpected, but it is rather a little disappointing, as we would have wished for better from all parties involved.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Hooray for the IRA

Wow, who said there was no good news anywhere? The Irish Republican Army is renouncing violence and is also disarming. In a world in which entrenched violence sometimes comes to seem inevitable, finally a step in the opposite direction, in the direction of entrenched peace.

Today is a happy day, but the world is still a violent place and there is much work yet to be done. But we have begun.

Iraqi Constitution

James L. Tyson wrote an article in 1996 to the effect that imposing American-style Democracy in Third-World countries may be harmful. To read a fuller version of this article click here.

The gist of the article is that when a country has several large ethnic groups, with different languages and different cultures, sometimes the American model doesn't work very well. The author offers the Swiss model of government as an alternative. Switzerland has French, Italian, Swiss and German populations, yet they all seem to live in peace and relative harmony. The author suggests that countries like Iraq, with its Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds, may work better also with a Swiss-style government.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Right Side

I don’t know. Do you ever get the feeling that you have no control or influence over anything? You can loudly say that we should pull out of Iraq, and the other side, those who are in power, will oppose us, loudly saying that we won’t set a timetable; we’re there until the job is done, and we’ll stand down as they stand up, etc. Then one day (today) the Iraqis say they want us to leave, so our government says, OK, if that’s how you feel, is next summer soon enough?

So where does that leave us? See, the other side still gets to say it’s their idea, and that they’re not doing it because of us or because of opinion polls, or because of political considerations, although you can’t convince me that the latter is not true; and you can’t convince me that the Iraqi request for us to leave isn’t part of the Bush exit strategy. Call me cynical, but I somehow see Karl Rove’s devious influence somewhere behind all this.

Well, the news that we will be pulling out of Iraq before the end of this century should be greeted by our side as great news. Of course we can’t get back our 1700+ dead soldiers. We can’t get back the countless dead innocent Iraqi citizens. We can’t get back the billions of dollars that Iraqi oil revenue was supposed to help pay for. But we are finally getting what we asked for. Our men and women will no longer be in harm’s way, and we can stop pouring money into this ill-conceived enterprise. Besides we don’t really want any credit for being on the right side anyway.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Encore Terror

Tony Blair articulated a hard line stance against terrorism today, stating that we should not give one inch to the terrorists. So let’s see, where does that leave us? Hard line on one side, hard line on the other, a lot of innocent people blown up in the middle, the workings of yin and yang.

Yes, we should have a hard line against the terrorists. They’re at war with us, and we’re at war with them. Let’s have a war. The sooner we do it, the sooner it will be over.

In related developments, the Muslim world has a lot of grievances against the West. The West has grievances against the Muslim world. I think the two sides should air those grievances and seek to improve relations. Oh, and maybe the Muslim world can help in the war against terrorism.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Roots and Solutions

They were discussing terrorism on MSNBC’s noon edition of Connected today. Craig Crawford asked one guest, Nile Gardiner, “Are we doing enough to deal with the root causes which seem to create the jihad and suicide bombers that become pawns in the hands of the terrorist leaders?”

Mr. Gardiner responded: “We are dealing with an evil ideology, a perversion of Islam which feeds on hatred and anger among a small minority of Muslims across Europe. But we simply cannot appease this ideology, and I don’t think that we should be entering into a major debate about addressing the root causes. We’re dealing with an enemy that simply cannot be negotiated with or reasoned with, but it simply has to be destroyed.”

Wow, that’s a happy picture. You could tell that Crawford was left virtually speechless by such a bleak appraisal.

In response to the above statement, first I would say that if the enemy cannot be negotiated with or reasoned with, and if the United States cannot be negotiated with or reasoned with, then where does that leave us? With a long, protracted struggle, and with much suffering and death. The American government may want this, but I don’t think the American people do.

Second, I don’t think that examining the root causes necessarily leads to appeasement. That would be a fallacy in reasoning. By examining the root causes of terrorism, and by working with the majority of Muslims (instead of the small minority that’s causing all the problems) you might actually improve our world and their world from the ground up. And the Muslim majority might actually put pressure on the minority to stop their evil acts. Why not try?

You cannot defeat terrorism by just trying to stop or kill suicide bombers, because you cannot stop them all. There needs to be a balanced approach to the problem of terrorism, one that involves the Muslim community in seeking a solution.

Bin Laden vs. The West

I was reading an article today in the Raleigh News and Observer about Professor Bruce Lawrence of Duke University who is compiling and publishing the speeches of Osama bin Laden. The book, due out in the fall, will be titled Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden.

There was an interesting statement in the article. Bin Laden says, “There can be no dialogue with occupiers except through arms.” So here you have a classic example of yin/yang: bin Laden determined to force the West from Muslim lands through the use of arms, bombs, terror, etc., and the West determined to remain in Muslim lands.

That seems like a problem without a solution, especially since none of the involved parties seem inclined to work toward a solution. However, I am sure there will be an end to all this strife eventually, just like most things, but the end is not in sight, the result is not predictable, and there will be a lot of suffering and dying along the way. It makes me sick, not only for today, but also for the future. God help us.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Bush the "Leader"

President Bush's job approval rating is very low these days. I was wondering, what is his job description and what does he do all day? If someone could tell me I'd appreciate it.

He doesn't strike me as a good manager. Someone the other day was talking about the Karl Rove controversy, and they said something like, the President should call his staff into his office and demand that everyone come clean, or something to that effect. And the thing is, I cannot imagine George W. Bush acting like a responsible manager and calling anyone into his office. I cannot imagine his spending much time in his office. I can imagine Dick Cheney calling him into his office. I can imagine his having meetings, though, maybe in the Oval Office, maybe somewhere else, but he just doesn't strike me as the kind of guy you'd really trust to run things. You'd rely on others to do that. He'd just show up occasionally, whenever a decision needed to be made. Is this good or bad? I think Bush is credited with a lot more leadership than he really has, and he has chosen some capable people to mind the store, but I yearn for a strong President again like FDR, JFK, or LBJ. When they were in office you had the feeling that someone was in charge who was working hard every day to make this a better country for all the people. I don't have that same feeling today.

Terrorism Focus

As long as our efforts are focused on trying to stop one terrorist with one bomb, or a group of terrorists with several bombs, those efforts will fail, at least occasionally, and the world will continue as it is now. Some of our efforts need to be focused elsewhere.

Any ideas? Does anyone want a lasting solution to this problem? How about focusing some of our attention on the root causes of terrorism?

Working for Peace

The world is not a very peaceful place right now: car bombs in Iraq, Subway bombings in London, bombs in Egypt, Turkey, Spain, elsewhere almost daily; War raging in Iraq and Afghanistan, American soldiers dying, Iraqi citizens dying, innocent Brazilian man shot five times in London, chaos and fear seeming to be the norm. Is this the way we want the world to be? Is this as good as it gets? Does it get worse from here on out or can we make it better? Doesn’t everyone want peace? Isn’t there some way to stop all the insanity? Isn’t there any way we can work for peace?

Friday, July 22, 2005

What Battle?

Most of the media articles about the nomination of John G. Roberts to the U. S. Supreme Court characterize his upcoming confirmation process as a “Battle.” I am sorry, but I just do not see a battle materializing over this nomination. The battle may develop later, but right now we seem to have a qualified nominee who will be confirmed by the Senate with very little resistance. Of course one never knows what will happen in the Judiciary Committee, on the floor of the Senate, or among various opposition groups, but I think any opposition will be ineffective and there will not be any delay in Mr. Roberts’ assuming his duties by the first Monday in October. Those who are looking for a battle will not find one.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Same Variety, Different Gender

President Bush reached out to his conservative base tonight by nominating John G. Roberts to succeed Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the United States Supreme Court. The Tao of Politics had speculated that Edith Jones would be chosen for this position, but the choice of Roberts in no way invalidates our reasoning. We were expecting a female conservative. It turned out to be a male conservative. The right should be happy. Alberto Gonzales should be happy as well, because we expect him to get his turn when Justice Rehnquist retires. All in all it has been an exciting day. Stay tuned.

Edith Jones, For Political Reasons

President Bush will name Edith Jones tonight to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, mainly for political reasons. The President is in trouble in many areas: his approval ratings have reached low levels due to factors such as the War in Iraq and the Karl Rove controversy. He will not want to also anger the far right by choosing a moderate, therefore he will choose a strict constructionist, namely Edith Jones.

One of my basic assumptions about this President is that he is good at politics but not good at government. I think he will treat this nomination the way he treats most decisions: how can it help him politically? If he chooses a moderate it can certainly harm his already precarious position. Just look at the uproar from the far right over the Terry Shiavo case. And don’t think Bush hasn’t received any telephone calls from them during this process. The reason I don’t think he’ll choose Alberto Gonzales is that the important thing here is to placate the right. He can appoint Gonzales when Rehnquist retires. If he nominates Edith Clement now, that leaves Gonzales out of the loop, because the pressure will be irresistible to nominate a hard-liner next time. Also, if Bush nominates a moderate now, there is likely to be a political war, mainly from within his own party.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Nuke Mecca?

There is a great deal of discussion online about one possible solution to the problem of terrorism: threaten to blow Mecca off the map unless the terrorists stop their attacks. (Go to Google and type in “Nuke Mecca” and see how many web pages you get.) That suggestion, a sort of making them an offer they can’t refuse, is certainly one end of the spectrum. Of course the other end is doing nothing, turning the other cheek so to speak. I don’t think either of these extreme approaches, yin or yang, is the answer. I’m not even sure that somewhere in between is the answer. I’m not sure there is an answer, but we can still ask questions. One thing I do believe is that the Islamic community could take a more active role in preventing suicide bombings. Families of suicide bombers could be more active in preventing the suicides of their loved ones. Communities could stop tacitly allowing the kinds of organizations that recruit these bombers to exist, much less to flourish. As long as the Islamic community is soft on terrorism, America must be hard.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Mehlman vs. Wilson

Ken Mehlman was on Wolf Blitzer Reports the other night talking about the Karl Rove controversy. Joe Wilson was interviewed extensively tonight by Wolf. The two interviews/appearances/performances could not have been more different. They were like night and day, yin and yang.

Mr. Mehlman must have had a list of talking points, because every time Wolf asked him a question, Mehlman proceeded to change the subject and reiterate almost exactly what he had said before, over and over, I thought ad nauseam. By contrast, I thought Joe Wilson tonight was very forthright in his answers. He offered a lot of information, some new, (Karl Rove spoke to Chris Matthews and said that Wilson’s wife was fair game?) and was very cooperative.

I despise talking points and spin. Tonight’s interview with Joe Wilson was a breath of fresh air to me, and renewed my hope that political dialogue in this country can be meaningful instead meaningless and irritating.

The Old Switcheroo

Monica Crowley of MSNBC's Connected says we should not condemn Karl Rove until all the facts are in. This reminds me of the situation that existed with regard to WMDs: we were not allowed to discuss them until all the evidence was in. Once all the evidence was in, and no WMDs were found, we still weren’t able to discuss it because they had changed the subject. They are using the same tactic now.

OK, if we wait until all the facts are in with regard to Karl Rove, and if it shows there was wrongdoing, is it all right to condemn him then?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Growing Deficit

Hooray! The federal budget deficit is due to shrink by about $100 billion (New York Times, pg A1, 7/13/05). But there is still a deficit, and it is still huge. In talking about a budget deficit we get to ask ourselves what kind of scenario we would prefer, unlike many other processes in which we are forced to take what we get. For myself, I prefer smaller deficits and more fiscal responsibility. Apparently our President prefers otherwise.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Big vs. Little

Why is the United States picking on poor little Cyprus? Product placement. It seems that Cyprus wants to put American genetically modified food on shelves separate from all the other food. The U. S. says that would stigmatize the gm food and “harm bilateral ties.” So America is flexing its muscles to make Cyprus stop this segregation of the food. See the following news story:

I don’t know if I agree that putting the gm food on a separate shelf would necessarily stigmatize the food. If the genetically modified food is so good, then why not put it on a separate shelf so that people can find it easier? It seems as if you wouldn’t want people getting the non-modified stuff by mistake. But seriously, all this brouhaha is not about the science, and it’s not about health, and it’s not about nutrition. It’s all about commerce and money. The corporations don’t want us to think about that, though.

“Advocates of biotechnology say that (gm food) . . . will help eradicate world hunger by improving the food supply.” First, is it really improving the food supply or is it just changing it so that it can be patented and controlled by large corporations? I think it is the latter. And second, you can help eradicate world hunger by getting food to people. In some ways it doesn’t matter which food. I would maintain that a failure to get the food to the people is the main cause of world hunger, not that there is something wrong with the food and that it needs to be tinkered with by scientists and CEOs. Also, I think people should be able to choose what food they eat, and they shouldn’t be made to eat gm food if they don’t want to.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Washed Up?

The President must really be in trouble when Elizabeth Dole has to devote an entire newsletter to trying to counter the perception in this country that George W. Bush, several months into his second term, is "washed up." She compares Bush to Ronald Reagan at a similar point in his second term. First let me say that George W. Bush is no Ronald Reagan. Also, a President can only mislead the American people for so long before they wise up. Furthermore, when historians come to evaluate this Presidency, he won't be able to hide behind an enemy then. Eventually his tenure in office will be judged on its own merits or lack thereof.

Extremism = Balance?

At least one conservative Senator is using the notion of “balance” to justify appointing a strict constructionist justice to fill the spot of the retiring Sandra Day O’Connor, a moderate. Senator Charles Grassley, (R) of Iowa today on the noon edition of MSNBC’s Connected said there were currently four liberal justices, two moderates, and three conservatives. With the retirement of O’Connor, this is an opportunity to have four liberals, four conservatives, and one moderate. He says, “What we’re after here is not moving to the right. We’re after bringing balance to the Court.” Of course you’d have to move to the right in order to achieve that “balance.” It is an idea that I think George Orwell would be proud of.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Enemy as Ally

It is difficult, if not impossible, for the left to criticize the right these days. The right hides behind the issues of terrorism, homeland security, the war in Iraq, support for our troops, and other similar concerns. Any attempt to criticize or question them is portrayed as giving comfort to the enemy. Any dissent or discussion is portrayed as unpatriotic. The Democrats need to come to terms with this phenomenon. As long as the Republicans have an enemy to hide behind, the Democrats will be locked out of positions of political power and leadership. Some ways in which the Democrats can deal with this:
  • Let the American people know that they can protect us as well as or better than the Republicans can.
  • Take a strong stand on terrorism.
  • Explode the myth that our country and our citizens are safer today than they were before Iraq.
  • Continue to reveal the truth about the psychotic economic policies of the Bush administration.
In some ways, sad to say, maybe the Democrats need to learn to hide behind the enemy too.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Burning Issues

Sometimes it seems as if it is the United States versus the rest of the world, and it certainly has seemed that way at times on the issues of global warming and the Kyoto Accords. But now the United States seems to find itself on the same side of some energy issues as do the emerging economies of India, China, and Brazil in burning all we can burn without regard for the rest of humanity. That’s a great side to be on.

Briar Patch

I don’t know why I’m so suspicious of Alberto Gonzales, but all the moaning and groaning from the far Right over the possibility that he might be nominated to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court reminds me of Brer Rabbit’s protestations: “Please don’t throw me in the briar patch!” Now the Right is protesting, “Please don’t give us Gonzales!” Does something ring a little phony here? Maybe, maybe not, but now that I think about it I do know why I’m so suspicious of Alberto Gonzales: he’s a close, close friend of George W. Bush. I don’t trust this President, and in some ways I don’t trust the process of choosing a new Supreme Court justice, or the potential outcome of that process.

Friday, July 08, 2005


Sometimes I wonder how much of the world's turmoil is a result of conflicts between yin and yang, and how much of it is really a result of conflicts between yin and yin or yang and yang. I have a feeling that there is more of the latter two instances than we realize or acknowledge, and therefore less of the former, even though it might appear to be otherwise.


It seems that yin and yang are at it again, first with the conflict over the U. S. Supreme Court vacancy, and now with Terrorism versus the Free World in the London Subway Bombings of 7/7/05.

One interesting thing about the conflict between yin and yang is that both yin and yang think that they alone will prevail. That may happen, but it doesn’t happen invariably; or, I would dare to say, even often.

Even if the West were to somehow win against Terrorism, it stands to lose much of what it values most along the way.