The Conversation: Making Sense of These Times
A Mighty Companions Project


Most Recent Entry:
Maireid Sullivan responds to our June 6 Update

Holley Rauen, [an old friend, the ex wife of the man who lost his legs sitting on a train track making a social protest]:

She emailed me, urging me to join in the Iraq protest organized by the Not in My Name project [].

Suzanne responds:

The Not in My Name statement says, "We believe that questioning, criticism, and dissent must be valued and protected. We understand that such rights and values are always contested and must be fought for." That's endorsing endless war, just like they're trying to prevent. I've emailed them to try to get that last sentence off.

Holley responds:

I had to think about your response for a few days before writing back. At first I was a little miffed and was thinking that you put yourself too much above the rest of us and judge me for being a political activist. I do not believe that speaking out when there is injustice and saying NO to war perpetuates more "endless war."

But, you are referring to this one sentence, right? "We believe that questioning, criticism, and dissent must be valued and protected. We understand that such rights and values are always contested and must be fought for." Is the language you are objecting to the use of the word "fight?" Or is it saying our right to dissent will always be contested? How would you rephrase this statement in a new way? I think that it is really great that you took the time to email these folks and try to raise their consciousness a little...I am sorry that they did not listen to you.

I have mixed feelings at these demonstrations. I feel moved by conscience to say NO to all that Bush is doing. So I get out there to add to the numbers. I did the same, as you know in the 80's when my husband lost his legs protesting against arms shipments to Central America. I protested against Vietnam War in the 60s as well. I went on strike with my union. These are actions of deep conscience that may have made a difference.

So now what can I do as I see the Military-Industrial war machine raise its ugly head more than ever? I write and email my representatives in Congress. I continue to network and reach out to people to educate and raise consciousness, I am working on my own self. But it is not enough. I fly my Peace flag.... I really believe in the power of non-violent resistance and our own countries rich tradition of non-violent resistance to war and injustice. That's why I still let myself be seen in the streets when I am so moved. The more radical folks (Like the WTO protesters) that throw things and destroy property etc at demos are not helping the majority of "We the people" in our cry for Peace. It is an issue in the community. So, I am asking today. What more can I do. How can I be a stronger channel for transformation, conservation and love? Make love, Not War???

Keep the conversation going:>)

Suzanne responds:

I don't have any problem with political activism. My whole website is that. I've always thought my time was better spent fomenting dissent rather than parading it -- it's not a judgment, just a use of time.

You ask, "What more can I do? How can I be a stronger channel for transformation, conservation and love?" These are the torture questions. When you see insanity so clearly displayed, the frustration is unbearable. No matter what their motives, like getting elected, can't politicians see how we wake the sleeping giant by backing him into a corner, where he'd use biological weapons if he had nothing to lose? We are watching the ship of state heading for the iceberg.

The Not in My Name people are doing a real job. It's the most organized wing of protest. Were there one place where everyone would put their efforts, I think that could be the best chance to have all the effort be meaningful. I wish they would have been open to a dialogue about that sentence.

Holley responds:

"I've always thought my time was better spent fomenting dissent rather than parading it -- it's not a judgment, just a use of time." I love it! Indeed your website is a type of activism. I hope to bring more people to it and I do thank you for this discussion, your reply and humility. I understand more clearly what you are saying and I agree. I share the "torture" question with you...What more can I do? We are all learning indeed. Thanks again, for the conversation.

Robert White writes [Re our Five Star Piece, Axis Of Evil – in Washington, D.C.]:

This piece, in addition to being wide open to challenge on multiple points of fact and tone, represents to me the final 'tipping point' for The Conversation from pro peace to anti Bush. That is regrettable and sad.

As I believe you know, I am not pro Bush, nor am I happy with his using this tragedy as an excuse for further eviscerating our Constitution and restricting our freedom. I am even less happy with the far left using the tragedy for political gain through exaggeration and just plain dishonesty. It is also hypocritical for those who've abused the Constitution and pushed for the expansion of the federal government far beyond constitutional guidelines to now complain that our freedoms are being eroded. The horse left that barn a long time ago with the left's enthusiastic support.

And, I love that you're creating this forum, but feel you're about to lose any credibility with any except with those that have already drank the liberal kool aid. Is your commitment to peace or to partisan politics? If it is to peace, then a broad coalition of people must be engaged and their hearts and minds transformed. In that context 'Uncle Ed's' piece – without a counterpoint – is both ineffective and irresponsible. If your commitment it is to support partisan politics, then I have little or no interest in that kind of conversation because it hasn't worked for average people and it won't. You would get to be 'right' with an ever diminishing number of elites/intellectuals and further dishonor those who have needlessly died from terrorism during the past five years.

With love and respect...

Suzanne replies:

Final? No, Robert, never. We are "making sense of these times." I'm open. Give me a clue about the points you would challenge – reading the piece again it all makes sense to me. However, "anti Bush," which is a legitimate accusation (which I equate with pro peace), isn't the only antiness in the brew of what I think is poisonous to the principles of Democracy (as you suggest) that we both hold dear.

Look at Geov Parrish's column today: "Deeper than Whitewater." Bush is just the latest in the corruption game. Nader had it right (though I question his playing God with his perceptions). But, as the Dalai Lama just said, in a major address on the 43rd Anniversary of The Tibetan National Uprising Day, "I have always considered the present and future more important than the past." Maybe our disagreement about exactly how bad it is isn't as important as our looking to what's better.

Here's a little more of the Dalai Lama talk:

"The world is greatly concerned with the problem of terrorism as a consequence of September 11. Internationally, the majority of the governments are in agreement that there is an urgent need for joint efforts to combat terrorism, and a series of measures have been adopted.

"Unfortunately, the present measures lack a long-term and comprehensive approach to deal with the root causes of terrorism. What is required is a well-thought-out, long-term strategy to promote globally a political culture of non-violence and dialogue. The international community must assume a responsibility to give strong and effective support to non-violent movements committed to peaceful changes. Otherwise, it will be seen as hypocrisy to condemn and combat those who have risen in anger and despair but to continue to ignore those who have consistently espoused restraint and dialogue as a constructive alternative to violence.

"We must draw lessons from the experiences we gained. If we look back at the last century, the most devastating cause of human suffering has been the culture of violence in resolving differences and conflicts. The challenge before us, therefore, is to make this new 21st century a century of dialogue when conflicts are resolved non-violently."

So, as my outrage at this administration may be greater than yours, I think, at a significant level, that it's a "so what?" Life or death for humanity is unthinkably real. What Bush is doing, I believe is horrendously dangerous. Don't you agree? And what are we to do about it?

I'll put our exchange in the next Update I send to the very good people who've signed on our list, inviting their opinions. Nothing satisfies me more than a meaningful exchange for which everything else that's posted is fodder.

Have you seen the sad, sad elegy, "Letter from Ground Zero", that Jonathan Schell has in the April 1 issue of "The Nation?" I was thinking it was too soft and personal to post, but in fact it is haunting me. This is what we can be crying about together, that goes beyond political argument and into our souls that need to guide us now.

Jeanne Blum, Author, Woman Heal Thyself writes [Re Arianna Huffington's Poverty, the President and the Pest:]:

Re Poverty in the USA: As a non-American, looking in from the outside, I have always been appalled by, and outspoken about, the fact that America would send billions of dollars overseas – at the drop of a hat, with a multi-trillion dollar deficit – to any third world country that asked, and yet at 'home' children were hungry, illiterate, living in sub standard shacks, people were sleeping in cars or worse.

Suzanne replies:

Better "both and." Stop investing the ranch in the tools of destruction and put the money to making this a better world. If we did that, we wouldn't need arms – everybody would be happy and peaceful. Have a look at a short piece I wrote: "Making War Unthinkable." What do you think?

Jeanne responds:

Nice piece, yet I don't think you want to suggest that the world actually model itself on the USA. Jesus, what an insult to Europe in more ways than one. If anyone wants to model anything, model it on the EEC countries. They have done it. They are not at war. They are not trashing Afghanistan and killing people so Bush can do his pipeline and all the other covert stuff the Bush family is involved in. The World Bank scandal. The Enron scandal. The EEC has done it, and the USA is light years behind anything they are doing, very peacefully, here in Europe.

Allan Savory, Founder, Savory Center for Holistic Management, writes [Re Arianna Huffington's Poverty, the President and the Pest:]:

It would be truly good news if Bush (and his advisors) did understand the need to address poverty world wide and most of all its root causes. But would it help? I am afraid if we look at some hard facts we soon realize that with the prevailing expertise it would not help. I say this because the root cause of poverty is closely aligned to the health of the environment. Poor land always leads to poverty and violence as I have outlined before.

Currently in the U.S., good people donate over $200 billion a year to charitable organizations to address social and environmental ills. Despite this massive annual investment, the situation is not improving but getting worse. Globally, far greater sums are invested annually in trying to deal with poverty and environmental degradation (desertification in particular) but it is getting worse not better. If Bush put in untold billions now it would not change the situation. If what we are doing is not working, I am afraid doing more of it does not lead to success.

For me to point out the obvious like this would not be helpful unless there was a simple and constructive answer. The whole situation becomes completely different wherever people actually address the root cause of such problems – as the Bush people could do easily if only there was some way of getting new thinking onto their radar. I am attaching a talk that I will be giving shortly to the Albuquerque Lawyers Club in which I have tried to spell it out simply. This is somewhat similar to the talk I gave recently at the University of Sydney in Australia but spelled out a bit more simply.

Suzanne responds to Allan:

When I read this email, I was going to pass it back to Arianna, highlighting some of the talk. But when the talk so clearly presented the problem – that solutions don't work, with the graphic Texas example – but then went on to identify the cure as better decision making, I felt that something vital had been left out. You'd have to go into your body of work to see the examples, it seems to me – if I have it right, what is fundamentally wrong is the idea we hold, that indeed needs better decision making, that overgrazing is the problem. Unless I read this speech too quickly, you don't mention that getting the animals off the land in the climate situation in Texas is what's wrong. I presume there are different decisions for different climates, but unless you go on to give a concrete example, I don't think this speech is as compelling as it needs to be to get Arianna to take it on as a cause. Getting someone like her to do it could be a breakthrough, and I'll work on that, but am concerned that this is missing something. Here's what I was writing to her before I finished reading the speech:

This guy is onto something. Attention needs to be paid. But it goes beyond being smart for a panel. [Arianna was on a panel for global warming.] He has a key to our salvation.

Here's a paragraph that sets up his unique contribution:

"This cause of worldwide biodiversity loss I am sure the Bush and Blair Administrations are not even thinking about as they launch us all into an ever-escalating military quagmire. And if they did understand the need to deal with root causes, all their advisors would assure them that we knew the causes but that no government had either the power or money to be able to deal with them."

And then, a little further on, he says:

"Yes, these things are beyond the power and money of governments to address. But what if all the experts were wrong? Remember we once had equal certainty that the world was flat and would tolerate no other view. Frankly we have another such situation today."

What follows is of vital importance that will change everything held in the prevailing view...

Allan responds:

Thanks for comment which will make me re-look at my speech. My wife often tells me I have a sort of shorthand that leaves people behind! Bear with me here as I use you as a sounding board to see if it can help me simplify and clarify my explanation.

The bit in your message that throws me is, "But when the talk so clearly presented the problem – that solutions don't work, with the graphic Texas example – but then went on to identify the cure as better decision making, I felt that something vital had been left out. "

The point I was trying to make was not that solutions don't work. But that all the things experts blame for land deterioration and its many symptoms (poverty, violence, etc.) are not what is causing it. It is not due to overgrazing, overpopulation, lack of capital, etc.

If for some strange reason I was hitting you on the head with a club you would get a headache. It would not help your headache or cure it to take aspirin, then codeine, then Tylenol and so on endlessly as long as I was still hitting you on the head. If on the other hand you stopped me hitting you on the head you would probably need the first aspirin at most and no more – because you had addressed the cause of the headache.

Then I went on to explain that we have been able finally to identify what was and is causing biodiversity loss and all its many symptoms. That cause is a universal human decision making framework that we were not conscious all people through all time and cultures shared. So to make better decisions will also not work in the long run if they are based on the same framework! One has to actually change and use a holistic framework and then even fairly poor decisions still have a profoundly different result as we are experiencing. This holistic framework that we have had under development for many years is resulting in reversing the situation wherever used.

Gradually the holistic framework is growing in acceptance and expanding and eventually it will be mainstream several hundred years from now (or humans will have passed on into obscure extinction brought about by biodiversity loss and its many effects on our environment, and thus us, ultimately).

The only way I know that we could possibly speed the process of acceptance of such new knowledge is in times of crisis or adversity (when bureaucracies are under pressure to perform and thus more open to new knowledge). And thus I went on to not expect people to understand or buy into something new but rather to say what I would do, were I Bush. And that is purely to expand the NSC. That alone would lead to government beginning to be exposed to new thinking – not only holistic formation of policies, but the many other people thinking so differently from government and its military/industrial mind – the likes of Benjamin Barber, Joe and others who you are linking – with a deeper understanding of the functioning and effects of complexity.

From what you are saying, it seems I might have to go on and explain that humans always make all conscious decisions and all governments form policies using the same framework. The framework is simple – we make all decisions toward achieving some objective or goal. We all do so by making the decision on any action or any policy on one or more of the following: past experience, research results, expert opinion, peer pressure, expediency, cash flow, cost effectiveness, cultural norms, compromise, fear, intuition, and so on endlessly. (We cannot find an exception – a simple family, single person, dictatorial government, democratic government, sophisticated scientific team all use this simple framework: all actions toward an objective or goal and decisions made through one or more factors as in the examples.)

Once this fact (and the faults in that human decision-making framework) are understood, there is suddenly no mystery to the fact that despite $200 billion a year invested in charitable organizations to deal with social and environmental ills, things are getting worse. No matter how many billions the US spends on flooding and soil erosion, it is getting worse. If Bush responds to pressures to address poverty (which increasing numbers of people seem to be telling him he needs to do) by providing billions more dollars for USAID it will be no more successful than the present $200 billion a year to deal with social environmental problems in the US. It cannot be effective in addressing poverty until it addresses the cause – the use of the universal framework with policy and actions aimed at objectives/goals and with decisions based upon expert advice, research results, past experience, cost effectiveness, etc. If on the other hand USAID were to spend money on policies and actions that were socially, environmentally and economically sound – both short and long term as happens when the holistic framework is used – we would see poverty addressed and prosperity beginning to emerge.

Somehow I have, it seems, missed getting this over – so I will, thanks to you, try again. As you see this has almost nothing to do with overgrazing. That is why I point out to the Lawyers that the grazing issue in the West is but the tiny tip of the biggest iceburg imaginable! Thanks for you patience on this one, Suzanne, and letting me bounce it off you as a good critic.

Suzanne replies:

All your build-up feels like it needs specific examples of how different decision making gets different results. Otherwise, it's too much like saying we need something different to people who have no idea how to make that something. It's easier to get agreement on what doesn't work and hasn't worked, and even on the idea that if we had a different way we'd get different results – but then I can see people tearing their hair, cause if they knew how to do decision making better, they would.

I was very struck by the the fact that overgrazing was not the problem in the desertification case history you gave, but that it had resulted from taking the animals off the land. If that wisdom was arrived at by a better decision making apparatus, then you have a clear example rather than just an impassioned plea. Also, you have a whole field of organizational development out there, presumably teaching business how to operate holistically. If you are making a plea for the field, so be it, but if you are advancing your unique ideas, or even the results you get from your practicing what you are preaching, that needs to be clear.

If I've got it right, you are arguing for the conscious, enlightened, progressive position, but your wonderful contribution is not just that you are doing it philosophically, but pragmatically. You can show not just that things needs radical re-working, but how to do that. Yes?

I am not the be all and end all. You are not even in my field. So I don't want you to give me the authority to lead you astray. If indeed I can be helpful, that is my great pleasure, but filter everything I say through your own clear lens.

Allan responds:

Absolutely correct. Not only am I "not just...doing it philosophically, but pragmatically," I want to show that the different way is profoundly simple.

Thanks again for taking the time to respond. Don't worry about me giving you authority to lead me astray or my not filtering through my lens. Most people I address have some idea of our work and most I address in talks and with the aid of such things as power point, slides, etc. And in that case it is relatively easy to quickly get people to see the main points:

1. That while people have always made decisions in many ways - and there are many businesses, etc. teaching decision making and so on – all were unaware that they use the same underlying framework.

2. That there are serious faults in the universal human decision making framework – and it was these faults rather than lack of knowledge, bad people, greed or whatever that has led to almost all human problems of today.

3. That we have had a different underlying framework under development for years that very quickly reverses most problems and that making decisions (or forming policies) is easier and quicker.

Where you have helped me already is that you are trying to understand over written word and this is not at all your field as you say. You have already jolted me into the realization that I have to simplify, simplify, simplify – not the process...that is already very simple, but the way to get people to understand the need and that is the hardest part. Most people are looking for technological solutions, human behavioral change, spiritual salvation or whatever – they simply are not looking for a simple way to make all conscious decisions in all walks of life in their own self interest (an enlightened self interest).

I will now redo that talk to those people completely new to this idea and with whom I will be using no aids.

Suzanne replies:

You know, Allan, I think it all comes down to your being clear about what holistic decision making is. Everything else is fine – it's all easy to follow and compelling. But then when it should pay off, you get a label instead of an understanding of what the process is. Keep me plugged in...

Arjuna da Silva writes:

Great selections! Thanks so much! Yes! Moore, Kucinich, Lee. Who else? Let's name them. My friend John Sears had the vision that we would "elect" or select a board of advisors from among those well known (or movers and shakers behind the scenes) who can be trusted to lead a better way.

Suzanne replies:

You know, I got impelled to do this Website because there were clear and passionate progressive voices. Is there an idea germinating here? There still is no organizing vehicle where we can go from being gadflies into becoming a force. That's what some conversation on my site is dealing with. All I know how to do is put the word and the question out there. Now, at least I have a body of people following the action – 76 subscribers and adding more daily – many of whom are the writers on the site. Anything more that can move the action along and coordinate it is deeply to be desired. I just started where I started to do what I could do. I think one virtue is that I have nothing to sell and am not dependent on what I do to make a living.

Suzanne writes to William Rivers Pitt, author of three of our Five Star Pieces:

How do you know so much? I am dumbfounded at how penetrating you are – not just at making sense of what is known, but in incorporating things (like what people are thinking) that seem like they would not be known. So how do you know? And, if Bush were steering the ship like an adult, what would he do?

What I know how to do is cross connect smart people, most of whom it seems are talking to audiences and not to each other. Hopefully this can ignite some sparks of solution.

William responds:

I know so much because I'm an internet junkie who spends a ton of time on forums like Democratic Underground and CapitolGrilling, vacuuming up data. I also have a smart mother who taught me right. :)

As for your question, re Bush:

1. He'd have engaged in the Middle East on day one of his administration. Period.

2. He'd be trying to get to the roots of terrorism – poverty, religious extremism, oppression – rather than simply killing people, bombing villages and thereby making more terrorists.

3. He'd seek compromise from the Democratic Senate on issues they can both win on (tax cuts, education, salvaging social security).

What he can do now is to send Clinton (who still has enormous pull over there) to the Middle East. The other smartest thing would be to send Powell with an agenda immediately. The dumb thing would be to send Powell next week with no agenda.

Guess which one he'll do?

Suzanne replies:

I think that Clinton idea is brilliant. Now, there's something outside the box, in which this mortal combat feels unsolvable. And, in addition to the unique position Clinton holds as having been able to arbitrate in the Middle East, that also would be a leap into the bi-partisanship that, on our side, would be so propitious. Is Clinton's involvement on any table besides yours? Leaps are what are needed here, as everyone still continues to crawl.

William replies:

His name has been bandied about by pundits and some folks in the media, but not by any administration people. Frankly, I think Bush would rather set his own testicles on fire than send Bill to the Middle East. The juxtaposition of competence to incompetence would be staggering...and the wingers'd have to admit that Bill was a pretty goddamn good President after all.

Bush will send Carter instead, who will fail. Etc.

Suzanne replies:

My logic says that it isn't that "the wingers'd have to admit that Bill was a pretty goddamn good President after all" (a whole other can of worms), but that it would bring the Democrats into a viability that they don't have now. Still too endarkened out there for bipartisanship, even if it means the salvation of humanity.

How much do you know about crop circles (speaking of salvation of humanity)? I know a lot. This summer, thanks to documentaries, we will know we are being visited. It's my great hope for shifting consciousness – something way outside the box. If we are all junior to something greater than we are, will we be able to continue our smaller game of warring parts?

William replies:

The only thing I know about crop circles is that Mel Gibson is making a movie about them. That, and some Brits in England admitted to making a bunch of them not long ago. I'll be interested to see those documentaries.

Suzanne replies:

Stay tuned...

Two authors of Five Star Pieces, who are Listmembers, engage. Ed Herman, long time leading light in the dark, writes, re our William Rivers Pitt conversation:

I'm amazed to read the suggestion that Clinton was a good president and would make a fine emissary to the Middle East. On his greatness as president, he had the following accomplishments:

1. The 1996 Personal Responsibility Act that ended "welfare as we know it," but also ended any federal commitment to poor people; and was a hugely reactionary act done for vote-getting advantage, that a Republican president would have had trouble getting passed.

2. Put up a health care reform bill that was unworkable and failed of passage, but gave a great impetus to the privatization of medical care via HMOs.

3. Got through NAFTA and the WTO, opposed by 80% of the people who voted for him, but loved by the TNC community and people who slept in the Lincoln bedroom.

4. Kept Star Wars in budget and otherwise took quite good care of the military industrial complex, even if W is doing better here.

5. Apart from taking care of the MIC, Clinton starved the civil budget and put all his fiscal marbles on balancing the budget and reducing the debt, and this Herbert Hooverite program is now institutionalized in his party.

6. He welcomed Suharto in DC in 1995 as "our kind of guy," kept giving him military aid even into the period when his military was subverting the East Timor independence election. He allowed far more East Timorese to be killed before that referendum than were killed In Kosovo in the year before we bombed Yugoslavia, without his lifting a finger – eventually, with a huge international outcry, after 5000+ deaths and huge destruction, he asked the Indonesians to leave. No war crimes tribunals there however.

7. His policy toward Iraq was genocidal – and in a famous line, his Secretary of State, asked on national TV if 500,000 dead Iraqi children from his sanctions (and regular bombings) policy was worth it, said: yes it is worth it. Perfect continuity with the Bush policies. If William thinks this policy is fine, he should ask himself how come we supported the same Saddam for years, before he refused to obey orders in 1990.

8. His Balkans policy was in my opinion monstrous – and I think he eventually went to war not to save Albanians but to show US muscle, to demonstrate Nato's relevance at its 50th birthday, to divert attention away from Monica, and for other reasons that have nothing whatever to do with humanitarianism. In fighting here he used Turkey as a base – a country whose generals did far more ethnic cleansing of Kurds than Milosevic ethnically cleansed Albanians. Clinton poured aid into Turkey as ethnic cleansing there advanced throughout the 90's.

9. Clinton gave virtually unconditional support to Israel – Oslo was a disaster, giving the Palestinians nothing and making the pathetic Arafat into an enforcer of a completely unacceptable state of affairs. As the Israelis took advantage of this agreement and built new settlements and roads in the occupied territories, and ousted thousands more Palestinians, Clinton didn't lift a finger. Gore got a huge Jewish vote in 2000 because Clinton-Gore had delivered – although they now find that Bush is competitive in giving the Israelis all they want.

In sum, Clinton was a terrible president – George W is beyond terrible, frighteningly terrible, but that is the alternatives that our plutocratic system affords us. But frightful doesn't make terrible good.

Suzanne responds:

Halt. Stop. Don't go there. Just when we're falling in love. I was a Clinton foe – archives on my site pre 9/11 are full of my polemics. But, at this juncture, since he got the two sides talking, maybe he could break the Middle East stalemate – and it would be symbolic of a bipartisanship that could be a beginning of what we need at home. No merit to this?

In the meantime, here's my intro to the post of the Geov Parrish column, "Deeper than Whitewater: Clintonís Real Crimes Continue into the Bush Administration," from March 21. (And thanks for the laundry list – it goes in my ammunition stockpile.)

"Although for my taste, the lying Clinton also was beyond the pale, I'm with Geov here. He points out how that flap took our attention off what Clinton did – 'the result of intentional public policies, embraced, for the most part, by both parties, the Clinton's and their appointees as well as the Bushes' – that was far more hurtful to us...for all of the non-policy related embarrassments Clinton's Republican persecutors howled about, they were conspicuously silent on the real crimes – the sorts of betrayals of public trusts that are, along with the necessary arrogance and ego, hallmarks of just about anyone who manages to rise to high political office in the United States. Simply put, you can't work the system in America unless you've been bought and sold so many times you no longer stand for anything except the expansion of your own power. And Clinton was a master at it.'"

How's about a cuddle? [Link to Five Star Piece, "Firm Boosts Profits by Asking Staff to Cuddle" for this to make sense.]

William Rivers Pitt, Five Star writer extraordinaire, chimes in:

I'd have to agree [with Ed] here. Clinton was undoubtedly the best Republican President we've ever had, with a few significant differences (Earned Income Tax Credit was a MASSIVE tax cut for regular folks, etc.) BUT his knowledge and diplomatic clout in the Middle East make him the best option we have for a brokered peace.

If you wait for the perfect person to come along and help solve the problem – a person of unassailable character, perfect liberal pedigree, enough clout to get the job done - everyone will be dead over there and you'll still be waiting. Noam Chomsky's phone won't be ringing for a long time. Bill is the best option for a tough job, your issues with his administration be damned.

That vein of inspired pragmatism really hasn't yet taken hold on the Left, it seems. I wonder why we're on the outside looking in at a bunch of psychopathic conservatives?


Wade Frazier jumps in:

I understand what Will is saying about pragmatism. I think Ed would speak about pragmatism too. Ed does not think that Noam will be drafted to go speak with Sharon. I think Ed is more like, "Clinton is a crook, a big one, and do not think he is anything but that. If you want a major war criminal to go and try and diffuse a war situation, well, go ahead, but he was the world's greatest active war criminal just before he stepped down as president, and U.S. support for Israel and its Middle East policy led directly to what we are seeing there today." I do not want to speak for Ed here, I am guessing, but it is largely what I would say. Chomsky is always about what is practical, and I think Ed would also have "practical" advice.

I think the "pragmatists" believe that relying on the devil you know is the best option, because his horns are not as obvious as Bush's. It is a lesser evil argument. The "liberal" perspective generally sees the Israel/Palestinian situation framed as a conflict by Palestinians and Israelis, both sides doing damage to the other. It is a false picture to a large extent. For a more accurate perspective, just read what an Israeli military official was saying recently, about how the Nazi strategy used to liquidate the Warsaw Ghetto was what Israel should be studying, in order to put down the Palestinian "rebellion" properly. The Warsaw Ghetto is an apt comparison. The last remaining Jews there had literally nothing to lose, and they put up what resistance they could, with a few pistols and desperation. The Palestinians are in a similar situation. They have been "ghetto-ized" by Israel for many years, which no credible observer can deny. So, as Israel has been slaughtering them with impunity, rolling their tanks through Palestinian homes, desperate people are strapping bombs on themselves and doing what damage they can. There are now hundreds of Israeli soldiers who refuse to fight the Palestinians, one Israeli soldier accurately calling the Israeli military "Judeo-Nazis." So "brokering" a meaningful peace largely means having the Judeo-Nazis withdraw and take down the ghetto walls. Blaming the Palestinians for fighting back is like blaming the Warsaw Ghetto Jews for fighting back. As one Jewish friend recently told me, the Jews have learned one of humanity's most ancient lessons: "Do unto others as was done unto you."

Ed Herman responds to Will and Suzanne:

Friends: I have to disagree with you on this point, as I don't believe the problem to be addressed suffers from a lack of folks who can negotiate well – it is the refusal of the U.S. to stop giving the Israelis full backing in their policies of encroachment and denial of Palestinian claims. The U.S. has never been anything like an "honest broker," and the world awaits either for it to change or for the international community itself to step in and force a resolution. Take even the question of placing peace monitors in the occupied territories. The U.S. has even vetoed that, up to this very moment. In brief, we don't need a genius of a negoiator, we need a basic policy change. And unfortunately, the political and media environment right now is not promising in this regard.

Suzanne, don't fall out of love yet. This is a friendly dispute among allies.

Suzanne replies:

Well done – glad you don't get in a huff. I think these exchanges are what's missing out there – lots of smart spouting, but no going toe to toe. It's really why I did the site – slow to build to it, but it's getting there now. Many, many thanks for contributing. You class up my act.

Wade replies:

Yeah, that is about what I expected Ed to say. Those voluntary human shields from the West in the Occupied Territories may do more good than all the U.S. politicians put together.

If humanity survives, Ed will be seen as one of those who helped turn the tide. As far as American dissidents go, Ed is top shelf. There are very few like him. When he and Chomsky talk, I listen. I cannot properly relate how honored I am that I got you and Ed dialoguing.

Will replies:

*That* is totally accurate, Ed. But I am not holding my breath for a political paradigm change after 50 years of support (so as to have a military hedge in the region).

In the absence of that paradigm change, we need someone who has the clout to go over there and get people to stop shooting at each other. I nominate Bill. :o)

Wade writes:

On Ed and Clinton, the terrible versus frightening analogy is understandable. Ed has been a radical dissident for a long, long time. He and Chomsky wailed on Carter for his support of the Indonesian genocide in East Timor during the 70's, and the Carter administration was on the front end of what Reaganís boys did to El Salvador. Ed and Chomsky believe that by the Nuremberg standards, every post – WWII president should have swung from a noose. This is a big difference between folks like Ed and the liberal left. Saying that Clinton was better than the Bush boys is like saying Marcus Aurelius was better than Commodus. For the millions of people ground under the Roman boot, you could not convince them that one was better than the other. To people such as Ed, it matters little who is the American president, as the system is evil, and while a president may make some headway toward something better, none of them are nice guys. You cannot get that far in American politics and still be one. I think he would say something like "Ah, they are all a bunch of crooks." And he would be right.

I respect what you are doing, Suzanne, and it is hard to try bridging those kinds of worlds.

Suzanne responds to Wade:

This whole Israel/Palestine thing is a mind boggle – shaking us up good. Liberals are on automatic in support of Israel (more so than seeing "the Israel/Palestinian situation framed as a conflict by Palestinians and Israelis, both sides doing damage to the other"), but what is happening demands a total reorientation. Not that anything is good in hell, but, since things have been so stuck for decades, my intuition is that there is good in being forced to re-think everything. Who would have thunk this, with the brutality being so inhuman from the most civilized of people? I wonder if there's some parallel to people who are abusers having been abused (your "Do unto others as was done unto you") – backwards to logic, where people who would have seen how horrible abuse was would never have perpetuated the pattern. I gather Sharon may not retain power, but does he even have substantial minority support? (Or is there more Jewish support for the even greater brutality that could follow him?) God, the world has gone mad. Or, at least it has come out of clarity about who the good guys are and who the bad guys are – the "Jewish refusenik" piece I posted is the "Israeli military 'Judeo-Nazis'" idea you mention. Yes, "Blaming the Palestinians for fighting back is like blaming the Warsaw Ghetto Jews for fighting back," and, of course we can extend that to the Arab world's suicide bombers – a graphic opportunity for us to observe our own syndrome. This is the fundamental lesson that smart people saw after 9/11, but that the administration ignored, choosing aggression over dealing with cause, which leaves the danger to us unabated. We can't stamp out terrorists, but we can look to preventing them from arising. How can the government not get it?

Wade responds to Suzanne:

Yes, we can say the "liberals" are unthinkingly supporting Israel, but I think even they may be having second thoughts by now. They need to throw away everything they think they know about the region, and what has been happening there. The New York Times, with its huge Jewish readership, has been libeling the Arabic people for a very long time, which I deal with some in my media essay at:

On a mystical level, I imagine you are aware that the Palestine region is considered a kind of dimensional window, and the endless battles over that part of the world have more than oil or Crusades or the Jewish Holocaust to them. To a degree what will happen in Israel may be the world's fate, so yes, this may have a lot more to it than meets the eye, on an energetic/spiritual level. I am praying. On the "civilized people" angle, it probably would surprise most Americans, but a hundred years ago, Germany was considered the most enlightened nation in Europe.

Suzanne replies to Wade:

Yes, it is astonishing that everyone is re-thinking. Maybe the good thing is that everyone has to come out from positions to deal with more nuanced reality – dualitic thinking doesn't do it anymore. That Middle Easy always has been predicted as an ultimate engagement – perhaps the opposition of ultimate extremes.

Lots of Jews in old Germany.

Wade responds to Suzanne:

My war essay, that I will not be able to finish in this round, but I will put up scraps of it, deals with the Jewish Holocaust and the journey the Jews took, and how what happened in WWII had complicity from the entire West. Germany has kind of been scapegoated on that issue. Hitler was the epitome of the Western mind, not an aberration. There were a little less than 400K Jews in Germany (down from 525K in 1932), and about 3 million each in Poland and the USSR in 1937. Long, hard journey for those people. Israel was born from the brutal treatment that Jews got in Europe. Europeans have an immense accounting to answer for, globally, as does the U.S. The upshot of my work is beginning to pay it off, and improving the lot of every person on earth. You can call me Wade Quixote.

Arjuna Da Silva writes:

So, now that Bush is wagging his finger at Israel and all of a sudden we're the peacemakers (while Afghans gasp for air and Moslems everywhere lurk in shadows), what do you think will happen? You know the Hopi have some predictions about this period of time that kicks off in the Middle East, don't you?

Suzanne replies:

Given the available level of consciousness, these hard core people are not going to change, and we cannot blow up all the enemies. People can't pull out of this. Over time, they could. But there isn't time. Who can organize a positive emergence? I pray the crop circle phenomenon will save us. Although not predictably likely, still it is a possibility. I do not know any other.

Arjuna replies:

Nader wrote in The Progressive about the smoldering of Enron, and how important it is to organize as citizens for corporate accountability. The languaging of all this needs to change because it sounds too pat and cliched to get this culture's attention. What could we do to rename the key elements of the problem? Crime in the Suites is good. What else?

Maireid Sullivan writes:

Just a quick comment on the article regarding the Crusades [The Real History of the Crusades, Thomas F. Madden, on our In Depth Reports page]. This is a Catholic sponsored website. This is the Catholic version of the Crusades. It is not an untrue version but it is certainly incomplete. It is so easy to use one part of history to revise all of history. A full view requires extensive reading on many levels and from varying sources. Let me recommend a GREAT, FUN and informative read on early European history, The Knight The Lady and the Priest by Georges Duby, Random House, 1985. He is a French anthropologist and this is a translation from the French. I am recommending it because it goes into great detail, novelette style, to show how the Church and State battled each other for supremacy – and the consequent separation of Church and State. It's a juicy story. E.g. did you know that at that time the Church owned over half of Europe and, therefore, royal families had to completely change their rules on inheritance of property and marriage in order to keep the property intact? First born sons were the only ones who could inherit – or even marry!! The consequence was that there were a LOT of single men and women running around – entering convents and entering service as knights to the kingdom that would take them. A consequence, again, is that these knights needed to win the favour of their lords, hence their praise, in what we now refer to as the era of Courtly Love, of the ladies of the court – simply to win favour at court. (The ladies, of course, express themselves sincerely in their poems and songs of love, which you can read in tidy little books like Meg Bogin's The Women of the Troubadours, WW Norton & Co., 1980.)

The point is that Europe was in complete upheaval and in need of a unifying cause when the Crusades became a political necessity!!

Keep up the terrific work!

Suzanne responds:

This response is much appreciated – bless the Net for how it keeps allowing complete pictures to emerge. Glad to have your knowledge contributing to us. Your Catholic background gives you special credence in calling for greater understanding, since it's the Catholic version you call incomplete. For the sake of becoming a sensing body here, do say more about what people would learn, by reading your recommendations, about what's omitted in the story we posted.

Maireid responds:

You asked me to elaborate on the insight to be had from reading The Knight, The Lady and Priest. It is just too much to get into in a short comment, but, the important factor to look at is that at the time of the first Crusades, all of Europe was expecting the "Second Coming" of Christ. (Remember the peak anticipation over Y2K – then think many times more powerful – the end of the world!) The RC Church had been using this to focus people's minds on the mortality of life and the immortal soul, thus bringing everyone under the control of Church politics, naturally. Everyone was preparing for "lift off." But, it didn't happen at the turn of the first millennium. They then decided that they had to reclaim Jerusalem, so that the Coming could happen there. Everyone wanted immortality above earthly delights. It was the new fashion – even Kings were convinced that they would lose their power if they appeared to ignore their immortal souls. Penance and extreme sacrifices were made to prove themselves worthy of heaven. And, they all had to travel to the east to capture Jerusalem to enable the "lift-off." The details are gory, but, the parallels are interesting. The book is worth reading because it tells the story of the leading characters in this drama, showing how the politics played out.

Linda Smith wrote...

What an astounding, unforgettable day, Suzanne; I just stumbled onto your website. I have not been so overwhelmed since August, 1990, when I walked in a crop circle at Alton Barnes. After I was able to get away from the skeptics and fun-seekers I wandered to the very top of the circle where I was knocked--almost literally--sideways by two realizations: 1) We are all One; 2) Time is a circle. (The first is self-evident, but I'm still working on the second...)

Thank you for being. And leading.

Linda Smith
Suzanne responds:

Music to my ears, Linda. We are the lucky ones, who have tuned into perhaps the only magic happening on the planet these days. The circles are such a hopeful possibility that all of humanity could be enthralled by, and how shortsighted this endangered species is to focus on doubt rather than opening to awe. The evidence, even without the personal blast you got, is enough to energize curiosity, but we are so perverse in this rational reality of ours that we shoot ourselves in the feet instead. Happy to hear from you with any further thoughts and observations.

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Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts...they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun, but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric...
-Edna St. Vincent Millay-

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