Friday, October 24, 2008

"Real Change Trickles Up"

I was both challenged and inspired by an Oct. 18 post on Huffington Post called "Real Change Trickles Up", by Eugene Jarecki - (see the post, Jarecki opens by writing:

"I'm compelled to remind myself amid this economic emergency that crises can indeed be therapeutic. When the body politic of the American system takes a shock like that currently affecting the country, pain, as it were, can lead to gain. But only in the right circumstances. What are these? And what can we do in November and beyond to reap any benefit from the problems we face?"

He further writes:
"...we all implicitly know that real change - like economic prosperity -- is not trickle-down; it comes from below, requiring massive investment and sacrifice by everyday people that goes far beyond the effort of casting a ballot. Don't get me wrong. Voting is essential. But unless we see our vote as part of a commitment to involve ourselves consistently and unrelentingly in the political process, our vote is wasted."
(Read Jarecki's full post to find out more about why).

I confess that for many, many years of my life, I pretty much saw "voting" as the biggest thing I could do to participate in the political process (aside from running for public office, which I never did).

Jarecki further writes:
"To be fair, modern life is hectic and leaves us little time to attend to even the most basic elements of health and survival, let alone the kind of far-reaching effort needed to reform a nation from below. Yet I would argue that we all have our own version of spending amounts of wasted time watching American Idol, NFL highlights, or aimlessly surfing eBay. And so long as we have the time for such pursuits, we don't have the luxury at this critical historic crossroads not to take the time to devote to the health of our republic. Our survival as a people and as a majestic idea in the history of the world is at stake. But what can any one of us do?"
(Again, read the full post to find out what his answer is).

For my part, I'd say that what Jarecki writes is really "where the rubber meets the road" for any of us, myself included. It's not that no one should take time out for relaxation, fun, etc. There is a legitimate place in our lives, I think, for just "wasting time" as part of refreshing and re-charging ourselves. Having said this, I am in the process of taking a hard look at my own life to ascertain how I can help contribute to CHANGE in my country, and assessing how much time investment that will take, after legitimate, reasonable needs for spending time on relaxation are met. I dare say every American should make this same self-examination. Jarecki is, I think, exactly right in what I think he's trying to communicate: most Americans, on most days, do little to nothing to educate themselves on what's going on in their country --in terms of social and/or political challenges-- much less take ACTION about these. I myself spent the vast portion of my life up until now in the same condition.

I have found that it's very important to take the necessary time to first educate myself as a necessary pre-condition to talking to others (to influence or change their views). Sometimes, this can take many hours. A few examples: trying to figure out not only whether the United Nations Security Council did or did not authorize the United States' invasion of Afghanistan, but when? (Can I just call or email the UN?) Or, understanding the S.O.F.A. (Status of Forces Agreement) in Iraq, and what that means for America's future; learning how the way the US military is conducting it's "war on terror" in Afghanistan affects civilians in that ravaged country. I have found that even with the internet, educating myself about these things takes time and patience. After becoming educated comes the necessary task of trying persuade my legislators to do the right thing and to persuade my fellow Americans to persuade THEIR legislators to do the right thing.

If any of us who are average citizens who care about influencing the way the public thinks, and then influencing how politicians act, cannot or will not take the time for stuff like this, I don't know how we can expect to see real, lasting "change".

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Hello fellow blog-readers! My name is Joe and I am a member of the Voices for Peace Institute in Eau Claire, WI. I work with Lou and we live in the same neighborhood. The Voices for Peace Institute has a simple mission: to lead our neighbors to the belief that we do not need war to solve our problems. I think this is a pretty simple idea.

The two wars we're engaged in right now are quagmires in their own rights. Ending them responsibly will require serious thought, and hopefully President Obama will take some time, along with diplomats, leaders, and military advisors, and plan our exit strategy carefully. I think war is a lot like a stab wound: the knife cuts on its way in and on its way out.

Ending the war has to be a bipartisan solution. This does not mean bending over and accepting all options. It means that we're going to have to find the middle way. What that way is, I don't know. But we are reaping the consequences for our thoughtless actions right now, in the form of blood from all sides. Neither side wants more bloodshed. Neither side wants the spectre of losing a war. Finding a way to balance those two tenets will be a challenge, but it can be and will be done. Someday, I hope to tell my future children about these wars, in the hopes that they will stand with me in opposing the next military blunder that we're getting goaded into.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

FCNL - "President Bush Asserts Right to Control Iraqi Oil"

In an Oct. 16 press release the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) wrote:

"President George W. Bush this week rejected a Congressional effort to bar the U. S. military from controlling Iraq’s oil resources.

Before signing a bill authorizing military funding earlier this week, the president issued a 'signing statement', saying that he would not be bound by a provision in the bill prohibiting expenditure of funds “to exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq" (see

The FCNL's online aforementioned press release provided a link to said signing statement (, as well as the language of the the legislation (

I was struck, in reading the signing statement, how oblique it was (you'll have to read it for yourself to see what I mean), and yet, the import of it seems to be that even though Congress' defense spending bill, in terms of military spending in Iraq, prohibits using the funds for the purposes of exercising "United States control of the oil resources of Iraq" this is understood by those who know about these things (such as the FCNL) to in fact mean something like: "Though you, Congress, have passed this legislation, and have made specific requirements about the use of the military funding it authorizes", I, as President of the United States, don't have to be bound by this or that requirement that appears in the spending authorization, if I believe it could inhibit my doing what I need to do, as President."

The statement is, as I've said, not nearly so straightforward, though. Rather, it's as if the President is afraid to come right out and say, in terms anyone could understand: "I'm not going to obey Congress in this", but in fact, he won't obey, and says so, but does it in a way reminiscent of Bilbo Baggins' farewell speech, in which he tells his well-wishers: "I don't know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve."

I have heard from many that President Bush has done many, many "signing statements" (upwards of 1000?), and indeed I only learned what the import of a "signing statement" by a President is, during the Bush administration.

As someone living in west-central Wisconsin; the part of these United States which Sarah Palin probably considers part of the "real America", the part of this country in which Palin would likely say that "they grow good people", I am baffled by the whole concept of "signing statements". Really. I mean, isn't the whole purpose of Congress to do things like pass stuff like spending authorizations for the military?

How can it be that the President will just say: "I'm not going to follow the will of the American people as expressed by legislation passed by people Americans have elected to do things exactly like pass legislation about military funding and HOW that funding is to be used?