Saturday, March 6, 2010

Blog # 130: “Peace in the World, Or the World in Pieces”

Father of the Bomb

This week Little Eddy’s Blog would like to honor the memory of Albert Einstein, whose mathematical formula had made the development of atomic weapons possible, and who during World War II had petitioned President Roosevelt for atomic development after rumors abounded that Germany was developing the weapon. It turned out that Germany was instead developing long range rockets.

After the development of the bomb Einstein was vilified in the American media in the late 40’s and 50’s because of his campaign attempting to put the atomic genie back in the bottle. He had grave fears that politicians and the military would use the weapon needlessly.

Einstein had been absolutely right. With the bomb’s use against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, America is the only nation in the world to have used atomic weapons against people. And after the carpet bombing of Industrial Tokyo the Japanese had sent out peace signals, causing the military to rush to explode the bombs before peace was declared so as to be able to accurately assess its value as a weapon of war. And in order to properly gauge its maximum effect, both bombs were detonated at 8 am when a maximum of the inhabitants of both cities would be outdoors walking either to work or to school. To access the 20th Century’s most remarkable piece of Journalism and experience the bomb for yourself, go here

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Will Democrats Live Up to GOP Prophesy

Well, you have to give the Republicans this, they can sure as hell speak with one voice. And from the looks of it, their incessant droning is beginning to have an effect on certain parts of the electorate, and particularly those independents whose votes are increasingly necessary to swing an election. However, this is now, it is not November. The American voter rides the waves of a never ending audio tsunami, thanks to the combination of 24 hour television news channels and right wing talk radio, a combination which crashes into our senses minute by minute 24/7.

Obviously, you Democratic incumbents are deathly afraid, as well you should be. But do not listen to Republicans, their advice is meant not to heal your wounds, but to seal your doom. Your best and only hope is to get as much as you can done in Congress, health care reform, job creation legislation, etc. and then run like hell next fall from your newfound position of strength. Right now people are fed up with Washington because nothing ever gets done. Prove them wrong, then see what happens.

Of course if the voting was now you wouldn’t stand a chance in hell. But eight months from now is a lifetime. Time for more of the Democratic backed stimulus bill to give the job market a lift and cause the unemployment rolls to further shrink. And surely those grumpy voters who are currently dissing health care reform, once it is passed and the majority of you who are faced with the newly acquired stability of not being kicked off the insurance rolls for getting sick, surely they will thank their Democratic Congress Persons for ramming through their protection without a single Republican vote.

After all, GOP opposition is nothing new. Republicans bitterly opposed all previous programs which extended a safety net for ordinary taxpayers. Programs like Social Security, like Civil Rights Legislation, and Medicare, so the present day Republican opposition is nothing new. It is only their newfound discipline which we find impressive.

And so take heart, ye Democratic candidates of little faith. Providing you don’t wilt on the vine, but rather get something done, time will come to your aid. Our best advice, show the world that you can govern the country by getting off the fence before it makes an indelible mark on your underside.

And don’t forget to give one another one of those much needed spinal implants. Otherwise, the Republicans will prove to have been right all along, that you Democrats, the party of Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, are incapable of running the country in the 21st Century.

Do us all a favor, Dems, get to work, pass those bills and prove them wrong. For what it is worth, we promise that the voters will show their appreciation next fall.§

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Dobbs Fan Club email?

Guess who bobbed up in my email box. Would you believe Lou Dobbs? My former nemesis who practically single-handedly drove me from CNN to MSNBC, had an email message show up in my G-mail box reminding me that he appears daily on his radio program, tightly wrapped in a mantle he labels “Independent,” and inviting me to his website to find out just where and when he can be found.

Needless to say, my rush to his website and to my radio, for that matter, will only slightly exceed my enthusiasm to rush towards the Rush with the capitalized first letter. You might say my radio talk show days are Limbaughed, as in limbo, numbered or nonexistent. And you would be so right.

Our guess is that Mr. Dobbs is beginning to feel lonely since being forced by his own stubbornness to resign his CNN stint. In spite of that meal he reportedly shared with Fox News honcho, Roger Ailes, Mr. Murdoch’s Cash Cow must not have rushed forward to pull Mr. D. into their unmatched lineup of tilted “experts” and skewered news anchors, and Mr. Dobbs probably misses the lights and cameras of television. Particularly that little red LED that indicates that a camera is on and is pointed at you.

Fortunately for him, radio is far less picky about things like floating weird ideas as fact and marking such news stories as worthy of airing. Unlike CNN, talk radio is classified as “entertainment” and consequently anything goes. And so Mr. Dobbs who finally walled himself out of CNN, can rant anew compliments of AM radio.

However, it does occur to us that if we are on Mr. Dobbs’ mailing list as a fan and/or supporter, his list is indeed in bad shape. Mr. Dobbs concludes his email with a request to “send this to a friend.” Mr. Dobbs, if I was to do that I’m afraid they would no longer count me as a friend.

And may we further add that it was a long wait, but it looks like John King, an anchor who knows a thing or two about the news and who knows and respects the value of journalistic principles, will finally succeed Dobbs in that 7 pm (EST) time slot.§

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The Evolution of My Breakfast

Next comes a topic that I’m sure you’ll be interested in, the evolution of my breakfast. Why breakfast, you might ask? Well, I was told that’s what we do here in the world of blogs. We report on our meals, among other little niceties of our lives.

At any rate when I settled down in my new house back in May of 2000, I decided to simplify my breakfast menu and pare it down to one basic meal which would consist of a bowl of Irish oatmeal plus two cake doughnuts which I would wash down with black, unsweetened coffee, with a different flavor for each morning of the week. (This was so that I could remember what each day was by simply remembering which flavor coffee I had had that morning.)

And it so came to pass that I mixed one half cup of McCann’s Irish Oatmeal with one full cup of milk, which after cooking for five minutes, stirring occasionally, I flavor with honey and ground cinnamon and nutmeg. However after a time as I quit driving and as such was unable to find my daily cake doughnuts, I changed the second part of my menu to two pieces of toast.

I chose the oatmeal because it is supposedly heart friendly, and mainly because I did not want to have to figure out each morning what I wanted for breakfast. I’m terribly lazy that way. Four drops of honey adds a diabetes friendly sweetener, and I use cinnamon and nutmeg as flavoring because I had them on hand to flavor artichoke leaves, which I had to give up when I lost my two upper front teeth and could no longer properly scrape the leaves.

However, I later read that cinnamon was valuable for taming cholesterol and additional studies showed that it is also valuable in fighting Type 2 diabetes by lowering blood sugar. And so after reading that (which if you’re interested you can read for yourself by pointing your cursor and clicking here) I extended cinnamon’s use on my morning toast.

Since then I have improved on my breakfast in two additional ways. First off I added a banana a day, diced into pieces and spread out on the oatmeal. And I have recently added yet another addition, two or three fresh strawberries, depending on their size, equally diced and distributed. As a result, what used to be a bland, unimaginative breakfast has evolved into a delightful meal that I daily look forward to, and which makes a memorable start of my every morning.§

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Mr. Goodhair Strikes Again!

Texas Governor Rick Perry, Mr. Goodhair as the late Molly Ivins used to call him, bulldozed over Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson in the GOP primary, in spite of the fact that tea party candidate Debra Medina was crowding the governor’s right flank. Getting slightly over 50% of the Republican primary vote assures that Perry will face off against former Houston Mayor Bill White, who was by far the winner of the Democratic primary.

Although the Texas result seems to portend a GOP victory come November, keep in mind that it is the fringe that wins you the Republican primary, but that’s no indication as to where the rank and file voter will come from via November. Texas has been a Democratic state in the past, and after the successive governorships of George W. Bush and Rick Perry, perhaps reason and honesty will return to the voting booth again come November, and a governor of Bill White’s stature can prevail. At any rate, it doesn’t cost us a cent to dream.§

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Camp Philosophy Mirrors Nation’s Philosophy

When Bob Stein sent me the account of the memorial service for the late John Seeger, who lived to age 95 and who with his late wife Eleanor had built Camp Killooleet into a rare jewel among children’s camps, in his email Bob had included the email address of one Michael Sherker, a cheerful, rotund, portly individual that I had met the first summer I worked at the University Settlement Camp, and who I had worked alongside for many years to come. I was 26 that first summer, and as I remember Mike was sixteen.

Mike is an artist, but taught shop at Camp. Being an artist, he would frequently improve on the work of his campers, preferably when they weren’t looking. He couldn’t stand to have a piece one of his campers made that didn’t live up to his high standards. Mike was also a first class singer and musician, playing 5-string banjo and singing along at the evening camp sings with his overpowering tenor voice.

Mike was, at the very least, a character. For instance, he was a large man with an appetite to go along with his size. His idea of a snack between Settlement camp meals was to consume a small chicken purloined from the camp collection of farm animals. After he had first killed and de-feathered his bird, he had somehow charmed the Camp’s tyrannical cook, Mr. Bent, into letting him use the kitchen facilities to cook his meal. Unlike many of us, Mike certainly had no illusions as to where our food comes from.

After three years at the Settlement Camp I moved on to Killooleet for reasons I described in recent weeks, and after a couple of years Mike also moved to Killooleet. At any rate, Mike and I recently exchanged emails, but it wasn’t he that I primarily wanted to talk about in this week’s blog, but what I feel is a fundamental difference in philosophy between those first two camps I worked for, which is very similar to the divide that to this day strongly separates many Americans. It is the use of punishment as a tool to attempt to regulate behavior.

Using Punishment as a Tool

Sol E., who was the director of the Settlement Camp, used conflict to help control both the campers and the counselors. There was a great deal of animosity in that camp. Granted the camp was overly large, with probably a minimum number of counselors to handle all of the children. And a core group of the campers came from the Settlement House neighborhood in New York, which was a famously poor neighborhood, with children whose code was not to rat on one another.

Nevertheless in my opinion it wasn’t necessary to use techniques such as punishments to set examples to keep children in line. Also the tensions weren’t only between campers and the director. Many counselors too seemed to be aligned against the powers that ruled, tensions which occasionally erupted into an incident.

The most humorous incident came on the morning when the record player and bugle record which were used to wake up the camp first thing every morning, was discovered to have disappeared. It was found before a day had passed, but that morning had required staff going from cabin to cabin waking up the camp by word of mouth.

The Settlement Camp had a core of the counseling staff who were medical students in New York City. They drank a version of 200 proof alcohol, the kind only medical students seem to have access to, and as a result they partied excessively hard. One night the head counselor, a fellow named Eddie R., had passed out on his bunk, and his mischievous fellow med students heisted his bed to the ceiling, and with ropes affixed it there, with a thoroughly plastered Eddy flattened and sound asleep on it. I suppose the idea was when Eddie woke up he would roll out the six or so feet to the floor, thereby breaking an arm or leg or worse.

I saw Eddie’s bed tied to the ceiling that night with him in it, but I never find out how it all turned out. However, since Eddie was unhurt the next day I assumed that some kind soul must have apprised him of his situation, undoubtedly curing his hangover almost instantly. But the incident always remained to me as an example of the heinous tensions which ran through the camp, as well as the outrageous things people will do when under the influence of such a strong alcohol.

As I have explained before there were two incidents which had soured me on the Settlement Camp. One had consisted of restricting my group to their cabin except for meals for the last four days of a camp trip because one boy had carved designs on a window sill. The carving wasn’t obscene, and though granted it didn’t look as good as that part that wasn’t carved on, nevertheless it had caused no structural damage, and I felt that restricting all of the boys to the cabin for those four days unless the guilty party ‘fessed up, or someone came forth and exposed him, was a sorry way to end a three week trip for the thirteen boys who had done nothing. And I am not all all sure that the guilty party deserved the expulsion he would have received had he stepped forward or had he been identified.

In the other case a camper from the Settlement neighborhood in N.Y., a personable lad who was a leader type among the older boys, was caught walking back from the girls’ cabin after a coed dance, and he was promptly sent home several days early as an example of what happens to those who dare to deviate from the rules. The lad had a girlfriend from the city, who did happen to also be a camper that trip. And after the coed dance, arranged to let the older kids begin to socialize, he must have slipped away from his group to walk his girlfriend home. There had not been time enough for any sexual contact beyond a kiss or two. Big deal in my opinion, but my opinion didn’t matter. It was a flagrant violation of the camp rules according to Sol, and punishment consisted of sending him home early.

In both cases I felt the punishment was extreme, and when I complained to Charles Cook, the director of the Settlement House and its Camp, I was told that Sol E. had a masters in social work from Columbia University, consequently Sol knew best, and that was that. I later found out that Sol had simply submitted a treatise written by another candidate who had dropped out of the program, and it was someone else’s work that had given Sol his degree, but Charles Cook stood foursquare behind his camp director, and Sol’s feet were securely set in grade-A concrete. And Cook assured me when told I was going to Killooleet that I would find out that the use of fear and intimidation was the only way to run a camp.

Needless to say, I found nothing of the sort when I went to Killooleet. Just the opposite, the atmosphere set by John and Ellie Seeger was the antithesis of conflict. It was a structure rooted in peace and one which was centered on the children, and which trusted the counselors to use their heads in dealing with them. And it showed without the slightest doubt the fallacy of Sol’s philosophy, for it was most definitely not necessary to have conflict the engine of your regime.

However, governments throughout the world depend on this philosophy, even including some, like Israel, which call themselves democracies. I used to sing a talking blues about our use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which ended with the line, “peace in the world, or the world in pieces.” Truer words were never spoken, and they apply to small groups of people, like children’s camps, as well as larger groups, like nations.

Police Occasionally Abuse

Police Departments occasionally abuse someone, and then harass him again and again as if to justify their initial abuse. In Houston two police officers confronted a young hispanic man who had been a military veteran, who they had handcuffed and then thrown off a bridge to his death into Buffalo Bayou. Afterwards following the extremely bad publicity the department suffered over the incident, police pursued the man’s brother in a car chase which had ended in his death. And still not satisfied, they continually harassed their father until he moved back to Mexico.

Rodney King, famously abused on videotape by the Los Angeles police department, was followed and harassed again and again, until he finally expressed his frustration which echoed throughout the world as he said, “Can’t we all just get along?” The L.A. police pretty well left him alone after that statement went out to the world, for it spoke a message far louder than its individual words.

Vietnam Was Wrong?

What much of the country won’t admit is the simple fact that the Vietnam War was wrong. President Eisenhower himself admitted that they never allowed the elections in South Vietnam called for by the Geneva Conventions which had settled the war with the French, because in Eisenhower’s words, “80% of the South Vietnamese people would have voted for Uncle Ho.” (Ho Chi Minh) Now I ask you, who in their right mind really thinks American boys should be involved in a conflagration where 80% of the population was rooting for the other side? No wonder our troops ended up offing a number of their own officers.

The illusion that if communism took over one country in southeast Asia, the entire region would fall was the hallucination of the Dulles brothers, John Foster Dulles (Secretary of State) and Allen Dulles (head of the CIA) both of whom served under President Eisenhower. Between them they devised what they called the Domino Theory, the fantasy that one nation falling would mean all would follow. This was the engine which drove both the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Because of that myth Korea had ended at the same parallel where it began, and in Vietnam we flat out lost and were forced to leave en masse. It would be nice if we as a nation could have learned our lesson, but some thirty years later we let yet another president talk us into invading Iraq over the false intelligence that it harbored Weapons of Mass Destruction.

No less than Karl Rove, political advisor to George W. Bush, has admitted in his new book that if the administration had not falsely touted the presence of WMD in Iraq, Congress would have never gone along with the invasion. What he doesn’t deal with, however, is why his boss, George W. Bush, was focussed on invading Iraq from Day One of his Presidency.

Some speculate it was because Saddam Hussein had plotted to murder his father during a visit to Kuwait after he had left office. If true, this is certainly a commendable paternal sentiment, but hardly an excuse to invade a nation which had been absolutely no threat to us. Weapons Inspectors were on the verge on determining that when Bush hastily called them home. Will history list George W. Bush as the Captain Ahab of our presidents?

A War Every Twenty Years?

It sometime seems like we have to have a war every twenty or thirty years whether we need one or not. The military feels the need to assert their presence, and the military/industrial complex needs the government to fund all of those outlandishly overpriced military purchases. The truth is if we as a country seriously wanted peace we would weaken the power of the Presidency to the point where only Congress could start wars. That is what the constitution calls for, and if it depended on passage through the Hallowed Halls of Congress you know full well that with Congress’ track record it would take a Pearl Harbor Plus for a Declaration of War to make it to the President’s desk for his signature. None of this having a President trump up a war if the Congress had to initiate it.

However, that is certainly not what’s happening. Even under the more even-keeled leadership of President Obama, Presidential power is being strengthened, not diminished. You would think after three useless wars begun under false pretenses that we as a nation would have learned a thing or two, wouldn’t you? Personally I wouldn’t bet any money on it.§

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And so a rant happy Little Eddy runs yet another weakly blog into a cyber ditch. We enjoyed having you visit, and invite you back again anytime next week, when we will put up an entirely new and hopefully equally outrageous blog. Meantime, everybody email your favorite Democratic Congress Person and urge them to get off their Capitol City Rotundas and get something done up there.

And this, as the saying goes, is all (s)he wrote. Don’t forget you ex-campers should ferret out your favorite memories of your children’s camp days and email them to us at: And do surf your way back our way anytime next week. Meantime, bye now.

The Real Little Eddy §

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