Sunday, May 24, 2009

"Favorite Books" -- Reaching Out To Our Military

This post roughly describes a new connection between civilians and the military. Memorial Day has everything to do with the living, not just the dead. 95

Sometimes we feel “out of the loop” when we are offered the standard invitations to contribute to the USO. Our small check to purchase toothpaste or shampoo seems dismally paltry when we compare it to the incredible sacrifice the recipient is making for us and our country. It seems discouragingly impersonal and even stingy.

As voters we have acted forcefully to rectify the infuriating inattention which marked the lack of body armor and the trips to Iraqi landfills to find material to fortify vehicles against IED’s. That official “lack of concern” has passed into history along with the entire flock of elitist ideologues who foolishly thought we would ignore it.

Those soldiers and Marines are Americans, sons and daughters who would be getting jobs and going on dates if they were not in the military. They are not second class in any possible way, and here is one voter who will never allow future draft dodging effeminants to treat them as such ever again.

Yet, what can we do? How can we communicate our gratitude and our present concern about every one of them every day when they are so far away? Somehow, the toothpaste and one or two USO comedians during a term of enlistment seems to fall terribly short.

There may be a workable addition which could make a small difference in the daily lives of those service members, and if that is the case, we here in civilian America should get right on it.

The plan? “Favorite Books.”

We all have a favorite book of some sort. It might be a detective fiction, a text on some history or an account of some inventor’s life. It might be science fiction, poetry or some drippy romance. It doesn’t matter too much. What does matter is that it is personal. That book is exactly what we think of as a great book whether it is simply a super-entertaining page turner or a soul adjusting life changer.

We’re not talking about cases of untouched volumes vomiting out by a weird political party or some aggressive religious proselytizer. We are talking about individual copies of our favorite book, sent one at a time to an unknown American somewhere working long boring days and still risking everything for us. Granted, he or she might prefer something else, but that’s not the point. The point is that we have removed this special book, probably a paper bound pocket edition, from our book shelves and sent it directly to its new owner.

We have written a short note -- with a pen or pencil in our own hand -- about why we enjoyed it so much and offered our sincere hope that its next reader will, too. We can include our address if we like, mentioning that we’d be pleased to correspond about the book or anything else that comes up in the life and duty of someone so far from home. However, most important, every one of these books is a personal message.

“We’re thinking about you.”

“We hope that this book that we liked so much is a good, solid distraction from whatever may be burdening your spirit, an entertaining and satisfying break from your daily schedule.”

“Maybe you can think about us, too. Even if you’re lonely or bored, you can always remember that we always remember you. Every day.”

Now, the Defense Department can buy boatloads of books for the small price of a few cases of ammunition, but those books are going to be selected by some anonymous procurement officer somewhere. Sure, he may get some direction as to what to buy, but no matter how conscientious he is, his books won’t be a match for our books!

The USO is already prepared to gather books here and make sure that they arrive there. The Defense Department is certainly capable of making sure there is a small book shelf to hold them. DoD mail services can rotate available books, although no one will be cut up and bleeding if a soldier in some distant place keeps one for himself. A special book. A book with a special note inside the cover from some unknown civilian back home. Some book that has a special meaning for him. Some book he wants to lend to one of his fellows he thinks might like it.

There is some kind of fundamental difference between a nice new copy of some book which, theoretically, should be popular and a worn out favorite with a personal note about how much the previous owner enjoyed the story and how sincerely that previous owner hopes his favorite will provide the same special joy to its next reader.

I already have a list of my favorites ready to go. They all gave me a great read, some really serious hope for the future and some valuable ideas I have carried with me long after I finished them. I can look at them on my book shelf, fondly tucked in some little cranny, ready to be lent to someone I encounter -- perhaps some friendly visitor to my apartment after our conversation wanders to some relevant point. I’m sitting there with my coffee when I grow excited about the common thread of our talk and what I gained from my book, and out of the blue, I want that visitor to have the same opportunity.

If any MeanMesa visitor knows the way to relay this idea to the USO, get with it! I suspect that there are many avid readers among us, each armed with a favorite or two, who are ready to jump right in! There is nothing about playing and replaying video games or listening to endless doses of Rush Limbaugh on Armed Forces Radio which validates anyone's military service. There is nothing about the enforced ranting of Christian evangelical officers which is included in the oath these brave Americans took when they raised their hands.

My favorite books offer a very concrete alternative to these rude impositions. I'll bet your books do too!

Armed Forces Radio actually does a pretty good job. To get acquainted with what a service member might tune into on a typical day, take a look at what is offered:

and for a more in depth view of what the USO does -- everyday --look at their web page:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Absolutism: Turning Obama into a Toothache

Fighting, tooth and nail, for our god-given right to answer the wrong question with the wrong answer.

One hundred days should have been enough time to fix the depression, win the wars and save the country. 94

Maybe we know someone who, when approaching even the most mundane sort of every day challenge, slips into a frenzy of impossibilities and hopelessness at the drop of a hat. Oh, yes. Outcomes are solarized into precisely two shades, blissful, unimaginable perfection or utter catastrophic mortal failure. The sleeping, lazy mind eliminates the continuum between the possibilities, the continuum in which most of actual reality seems to reside. H-bombs and ebola, thankfully, are denizens only of the sensational media for us in this country. Likewise, aside from a perpetually narcotic, orgasmic religious atrophy of some sort, we seldom encounter outcomes which have not even the slightest shade of gray in their, well, “perfect wonderfulness.”

Yet, we are invited daily to wander into the adoption of perfect scenarios for all sorts of things, most of which none of us would rationally expect in a more reasoned moment. Baking a perfect batch of cookies is one thing -- we can buy the best ingredients, measure all the recipe twice or three times and calibrate the heat of the oven to a tenth of a degree with an electronic thermometer. One the other hand, is it reasonable to expect, or even hope for, the same kind of numbing control on more dynamically variable causes? Causes such as foreign policy? Causes such a bailing out the banks? Causes such as performing to every dot and ticker each feature of a campaign once the campaigner faces the reality of his office?

As a culture now drenched in tragic codependency, we have an insatiable appetite to control everything, to know everything in advance and to enjoy outcomes entirely predicted and guaranteed, realized through “purified” approaches so sterile they would be welcome in a surgical operating room. We coast ahead, stupefied and disappointed, when our dreams and insistence on a course of events totally devoid of risk are brutally “cluttered” by the events and complications they encounter in the abrasions of the real world.

Progressive or reactionary, it doesn’t seem to matter too much what the position might be, its clearly necessary deviations from its initial pristine representation can be nothing other than outrages and insults to its original supporters. After all, they were the ones who so bravely risked embarrassment when they supported it in the first place. Now, once this brilliant idea has been horribly soiled and disfigured by “outrageous fate” during the course of its striving to become a living, breathing actuality, that is, soiled by the complexities of the uncertainty of its environment, all these “fair weather patriots” and other “eager beavers” dive headlong into victimhood. And the most infuriating kind of shallow criticism. Glazed eye, ideological tactics vomited out to momentarily sway voters. Anything goes.

What’s the point?

Like it or not, the last few elections have painted the American population as something unpleasantly close to a 50% -- 50% mix, but the allegations as to the meaning of that ratio may have been subtly managed to our national disadvantage, that is, they may have been presented as something they actually weren’t.

Clenching our “party absolutism” as tightly as a cornered psychopath we breathe dangerous generalities into what may well be the wrong political metric to rationally describe the state of national opinions. We divide ourselves, quite conveniently for the simplistic pundits, into two camps with only a shell pocked wasteland between them. At least, that is the scene to which we are introduced in childhood and sustained upon throughout our political lives.

In fact, the Republican Party cannot be defined as simply favoring torture and looting, and the Democrats similarly as “soft on defense” and “strong on tax and spend.” Not only are these suspiciously short lived caricatures supported intermittently during moments of political opportunity, they seem to be little more than awkward invitations to addictive, imaginary conflict, concept-wise. They have proved themselves, of late, to be destructive and divisive, and, more interestingly, essentially without purpose or constructive motivation. There is no particular political goal beyond the superficial moment itself, an American phenomenon which is most profitable when it is most partisan.

Headline news-wise, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

With voters prepared the way we have been prepared, the fickle victory of any election is as fleeting as a single success on the gridiron. When the darting fits of our eight minute attention are successfully redirected, again, by those same pundits, that last election becomes as immaterial as a decisive field goal. “Glorious, but gone. Over. History.”

We are flooded with examples of this “shell in the chamber” absolutism. The Rep’s want the government out of the hair of banks so they can pay their CEO’s as much as they want. The Dem’s want them nationalized so their executives are incentivized to act more prudently. The Rep’s are certain that every strategic aspect of the nation’s defense could be well served by secrets extracted from screaming, dying torture victims. The Dem’s want to be idealistic. They say the Rep’s are brutal thugs. The Rep’s respond that the Dem’s are silly pollyannas.

The Rep’s claim that paying for universal health care will wreck the economy. The Dem’s argue back that for-profit health care is wrecking the economy already. Both sides saturate their positions with very much less than honorable rhetoric -- advertising gimmicks. They have thrown everything imaginable into this pot of soup while carefully avoiding firm estimates of cost or constructive plans about how to pay for it.

The Rep’s want our armies in Iraq and Afghanistan to “march all the way to victory.” The Dem’s assume that the entire affair has been so fatally botched that no amount of lipstick can rehabilitate the dismal history of it. Facts mean nothing. Concrete accomplishments are either disregarded or exaggerated. Voters seem much more interested in the political “basket ball game” for domestic dominance than in the rather troubling aspects of possible outcomes.

Without the perspective of history (the U.S. is now 40th in the world in literacy), an alien on our shores would assume that the country is only a gnat’s sneeze from a repeat of the gunfire which marked the Bolshevik Revolution. Listening to the pundits, one might conclude Republicans and Democrats both have a wet dream of utter annihilation, a cleansing pogrom of all opposition ruthlessly conducted on every street and directed by talk show hosts as generals.

This list stumbles ahead daily. We can add abortion, bipartisanship, the CIA photos, the budget, Pakistan and Gaza, and the stimulus package. All the players are waiting in breathless anticipation to engage in every debate. Their positions have been assigned and accepted. After all, there are only two possible choices.

The media has literally exhausted itself (at least the last remnant of its credibility) while very responsibly and objectively persuading us that there are two sides to every issue, and that those sides are so close in their respective validity that anyone who is not torn by indecision and exception is no more than an uninformed, thoughtless brute. The broadcast premise is that there are precisely and exclusively two sides to all the selected and approved issues, Rep’s and Dem’s. Unapproved debates about other unadopted and unpublicized topics are strictly reserved for the “out fielders,” that is, dreamers and other ridiculous futurists who simply want to waste time on something besides the endless, numbing, narcotizing “partisan” debate.

The media polls, objective analysts with their fingers on the “pulse of public opinion,” relegate such independent thinkers to the tin foil hat section. “Every important thing we need to think about has exactly two convenient sides and has been well defined by the entirely unbiased editorial staff of our network or newspaper or both. Everything else has simply been injected into the mix to ‘muddy the water’ and ‘confuse’ the voters. So, sit down and tune in. We are getting ready to help you know just what to think about everything that is important.”

The Rep vs. Dem spitting match has veiled the real faces of the actual sides long enough. Here is the astonishing news for those still sloppily languishing in the “There have to be two sides to everything” Kool Aid pool. The universe, this world, this country all exist in a continuum of possibilities. If every absolutist position of any current player in our politics were to be fully actualized, we would face the choices of staggering around with a new dynastic, oligarchic royalty at war with everyone we hadn’t nuked yet, or else street fighting outside the Dollar General store, trying to rob each other for the price of a can of corn.

We have been hypnotized by this vacuous two party model long enough. It has grown so rapacious now that none of the players can even think a coherent thought about something as supposedly universally central to the values of each side as, say, the good of the country.

We’ve been set up.

At least the conflict to which we are so addicted is a set up. The thrall of our culture, especially as it manifests in our media, has become so threatening, penetrating or compelling that we simply haven’t time to ponder ideas about good political and national management. The most voracious of the combatants finds himself in the embarrassing state of being unable to coherently even express the axioms of his position’s political beliefs. Utterances which might have been constructive comments had they been thought through become inane accusations, most successful only when they evoke an accompanying chorus of similar inane accusations.

Still, although somewhat suspicious, we remain locked under the finite limits of our established two party politics. No tin foil hats for us!

Is this some sort of dramatic, Malthusian exaggeration? Let’s take a test. It will be a self-graded essay test where each question must be answered in a “terse and laconic” paragraph. Here come the questions.

1. What are the simplest, most fundamental values of the Republican Party?
2. What are the simplest, most fundamental values of the Democratic Party?
3. What are the simplest, most fundamental values of the United States?
4. Exactly what qualifications would you require for a really great President?
5. In the biggest “big picture” possible, what are your hopes and ambitions for the country?

How did you do? Did your answers fit closely to any available example of political rhetoric? Are there voices discussing the topics you listed in answer to these simple questions? Or, are the voices all too focused on something too similar to a football game to merit the influence they are having over your opinions? Over your political activities? Over your dreams for the future?

Considering your answers and the discourse and debate in the country, are we on a relevant track? One that is likely to create the ideas we need to get out of this mess?

The solution, our tomorrow, our children’s future will be based on sincere, mature selections of various positions in the continuum of possibilities. We simply have to stop indulging in endless ideological nose bleeds sponsored by those who profit from our mindless adversarial indulgences. Instead, we will need to learn to accept and support some workable, “middle of the road,” negotiated strategies for our own good -- both of the sides in conflict have their “own good.”

The goal of Obama’s Presidency runs far beyond the sole aim of vindicating as non-hypocritical lockstep with everything he offered in his campaign. It has to do with applying the very best choices available to the challenges he faces. That latter fact will determine both the degree of our nation’s success and the tone of history’s treatment of his administration.

He is searching very thoughtfully for a path which can embrace all the sides of us. Yes, of course, elections have consequences, but if all those who voted for John McCain look carefully at the course Obama has set for us, they will see that they are included. The childish dogfight is over. We can’t afford any more of it.

We certainly don’t need to spend all of our waking time listening to well practiced instigators -- pundits or politicians -- arguing decisions about choices we don’t actually have. We can hardly afford any more of that, either.

Does anyone else suspect that maybe the actual struggle isn’t between Rep’s and Dem’s at all? Hardly any member of either party could get a passing grade reciting the essential positions of those parties or the contemporary relevance of their historical foundations. The threatening -- and exhilarating -- and non-optional challenge in the opportunity of the moment cannot be met by a mindless participation in the prepackaged, semiliterate “burning issues of the day” provided by such clearly defective players as our media and political ideologues. The new “sides” are denoted by traits such as nationalism, idealism, optimism, tolerance, sincerity, maturity, positive activism, involvement and cooperation. We have some gravely serious rebuilding to do.

Our country isn’t divided 50% -- 50% at all. We have far more in common than in dispute. We can do much better than this. We can do so much better than this that the entire world will be stupefied by our example. By our new hope.

We now have the leader. The question is, “Will we follow?”

Interested in knowing more about some outrageous pundits?

and, of course,

Thursday, May 7, 2009

U. S. Senators Forced into Frightening Health Risk!

The following news snippet appeared last week. MeanMesa's attention was brought to it by comments on the Ed Schultz radio show, May 7th (1350AM, Albuquerque, "The Ed Schultz Show," 10AM to 1PM weekdays)93

Protesters disrupt Senate health care hearing

May-5-09 8:51am

Protesters pushing for a government-run health system have been thrown out of a Senate hearing room after disrupting the meeting.

It happened at the start of a Senate Finance Committee session on overhauling the health care system to cover some 50 million uninsured Americans.

Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., has said that a so-called single-payer system — one that's run by the government — is not on the table. Many liberals favor that approach but Baucus and others say it's not practical or politically feasible.

Single-payer supporters repeatedly interrupted as Baucus tried to convene Tuesday's hearing.

When one protester shouted "we want a seat at the table," Baucus responded, "We want police."

Capitol Police removed eight people.

Democratic Senator Max Baucus of Montana. Senator Baucus's current term expires in 2009.

By now we have all watched the Senate long enough to understand the terrifying gambit our democratic system places on Senators. The health care question is a great example.

Of course, there is the voting population which is painfully aware that any approach to health care which excludes the single payer option will never amount to anything other than more of the same. Wallowing under a patiently and carefully crafted umbrella of Senatorial protection, the entire health care industry franchise has every intention of extending its incredibly profitable extraction scheme well into the future. That is, well into our future.

Down here on the “receiving end” of the current health care outrage, we know about the constantly increasing prices for coverage, the ever more rapacious denial of “preexisting conditions,” the total control over treatment in the hands of the corporate bureaucrats who make the decisions about what treatment will be available.

40 or 50 million of us know what it feels like to have no health care coverage at all.

Even those who are “covered” know that any kind of health emergency can plunge them into bankruptcy. Yet, that flow of “profits” to the health care providers, the HMO’s and the pharmaceutical giants must not be interrupted, must not be interfered with in any way. Our lot in this disaster is to simply keep paying and paying or simply suffer silently through illness and injuries. Too often, even for the “covered,” it amounts to both.

The industry has paid billions in campaign contributions to reinforce this strangle hold and the guarantee the “profits” it will inevitably provide to them. Now, the “rooster is home to roost.” The Senators who have received such extravagant largesse are now on the spot to perform their part, to provide the services they have been paid so well to render.

Here’s what these poor, belabored Senators now must face.

On one side, there is the immense money for campaign contributions from their “friends” (masters?) in the industry. The idea here is that enough money will keep getting them elected regardless of how unrepresentative their Senate votes might be on the matter. On the other side, there are all these voters who can’t count on access to the health care system because they have crappy coverage or no coverage at all. The problem is, although all these health care victims can’t provide campaign financing, they can provide votes.

If you are one of these Senators, the beautiful song from reelection heaven is a chorus of uninformed voters.

The gambit for the Senators? Can enough campaign contributions overcome not enough votes? Oh, dear.

Of course we expect greedy neo-con reactionaries to be against anything that might injure their corporate sponsors. There is no reason for us to whine with expectations of them actually representing the needs of their constituencies. The neo-con approach promises that enough campaign spending will bury any serious issues and replace them with tried and true hillbilly favorites such as god, gays and guns. That gamble is based on reaping the advantage of an under-informed or un-informed electorate which can be maintained in that state by constant inebriation with endless rounds of free reactionary KoolAid. This has been the quite successful strategy of both the stinky Senate bigots from the south and their proteges peddling the same gaseous lies in the north.

These crooks have managed to convince their constituencies with relentless, frenzied lies that:
health care is way too expensive
universal health care is a nightmare of lethally bad service
government bureaucrats will decide if they can get care or treatment
that poor people just want to go to the Doctor because it will be free.

Now, however, President Obama has “soiled the pot” for Democrats in the Senate. He has raised the unruly possibility of actually providing actual health care for the entire country. For the broke, nearly “over the edge” urbanites. For the presently uninsured. For the “wrong colored.” For those too poor to purchase Senators. For everyone.

Reactionaries and neo-cons claim that they don't actually ever get sick because they always seem to be able to "lift themselves up by their bootstraps" in time for more tax cuts. That is because, uh, they are so superior. No problem. Obama wants them to have health care, too.

Well, Senator Max Baucus, having no single payer voices at the table during your health care hearings was already an outrage. The arrest of any citizen in the audience who asked why you did that was even more of an outrage. Too bad your health insurance benefactors didn’t pony up a little extra cash to buy off Ed Schultz. The “fat redhead” is getting ready to feed you a delicious recap of all this on his radio and television shows.

Ahem, it’s already reached MeanMesa.

The Senate reactionaries can’t do anything else besides what they’ve been paid to do. Of course there’s going to be a scrap. As voters, our job is to keep a list of which Senators voted for what we want and which Senators voted for more profits from their campaign contributors. Will they pick “cash” or “votes?” Or, will they keep thrashing along on a wet dream that, if only they manage us a little better, they can have both?

In 2006 and 2008 we met the Republicans.

In 2010 and 2012 we will meet the incumbents.

Gosh. I wonder how that’s going to turn out?

For a recap with plenty of statistics, check out:

and the article cited for the account of the hearing:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Obama's Foreign Policy for the 21st Century

How Can We Help You?

After decades of exporting U. S. Army's School of the Americas’ grads to our “friends,” why have those countries become so ungrateful for all the secret police, intelligence officers, death squads, authoritarian armies and crooked dictators? Did we win their “hearts and minds yet?” 91

Having only just emerged from the gravest threat ever to the Rule of Law here in the United States we can turn our thoughts outward to the same nightmare actually realized in other countries throughout the world. In the United States, when we see injustice and the deliberate castration of our Constitution, we can squawk, and squawk very loudly -- especially on our way to the polls! Unhappily, in much of the rest of the world the response to such insults is a well reasoned silence.

Not by coincidence, the nations where this “well reasoned silence” is the loudest tend to be precisely those same nations which currently present the most puzzling foreign policy challenges. Such a simplistic generalization is quite a claim. But, if that argument is valid, what has brought us (Try it out. In this instance, “US” means “humanity,” all the people in the world, not an abbreviation for the “United States.”) here? What was the part of the United States in the creation of this mess? What can correct it and restore our honor?

Two troublingly similar, destructive engines seem to have been at play in the creation of all these embarrassments. Although the complexion of both suspects might be quite individual, the foundations of power and mischief employed by both are quite similar. What we face is the final toxic remnant of power and control ruthlessly extracted from the “fear franchise.” The result of this numbing extraction of human life force has been, so far, both relentless and perpetual. The sponsors -- that is, the two suspects mentioned here -- seem to remain locked in the frenzied promotion of the myths of what’s left of 1.) the Cold War, and, 2.) the most aggressive modern hybrids of all religions throughout history, Islam and Christianity.

A little history from MeanMesa:

We’ll take on the second item first. We can rightly term the religionist aspect of this “fear franchise” the IslamoChristian extremist terrorists. Strange name? Naturally, we will expect the soldiers on both sides of this unfortunate throw back to terrorize each other, but should we tolerate them as they terrorize the rest of the world, too?

To date, of course, the Christian terrorists have been far more successful in the horrific slaughter thanks to their great wealth and corresponding military potency. It is a “dance contest” where contestants on one side strap dynamite to their bellies while the other side shows up in F-15’s, but on both sides all are on their path to a “heaven of vindication,” filled to the gunnels with the patriotic and the pious. By the way, this was the exact same “great wealth” that the Islamic terrorists had hoped to use for their own “projects,” but the Christians got it first, so they are, at least temporarily, the “big dogs,” if not the “chosen ones.” Could even their god be so fickle?

“Never saw us coming? Too bad for all you unbelievers. Now, let’s talk peace.”

Regardless of side, the religionists “fight the good fight” against Satan, heretics, infidels, the fallen and any other proclaimed enemy. Of course, the whole affair is an obstreperous medieval holdover, but there is no shortage of volunteer blood in teenagers paralyzed by every convenient temptation from dogmatic illiteracy to a stubborn unwillingness to actually think about anything.

Here, we can point our righteous finger of judgment to all those horrid madrases where the young Islamic bomb boys are pumped full of crazy anti-Christian ideas. But also here, we must not point our righteous finger of judgment at what goes on, for example, in the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, where military officers who actually behave as little more than the cheapest kind of “dirty shirt preachers” and other hillbillies force their out dated religion on cadets who are unable to resist their “message of supreme truth.”

Yeah. These guys are good. On both sides. Sure, part of the issue is the guarantee of a constant flow of controllable, obsessively energized, unthinking cadre, but the other part of the issue is the question of precisely what sort of weapons will he carry. On the second count, of course, the rich guys win -- or, at least, they think they should, or, uh, they think they are, regardless of who may, at the moment, be more violently terrifying.

For those among us who might be more cynical, we see some underlying “feet of clay” in all this high borne, righteous violence. For example, there always seem to be matters of masculine uncertainty below the bellows of every burka and new marketing opportunities in the aftermath of every application of holy, cleansing, high tech fire power.

This serves as a suitable buffer as we ease our discussion on to the second suspect, that is, the apparently endless shadow of the Cold War. The lingering thrall of that “fear franchise” seems to survive regardless of any scope of changed conditions. Ideologues are cursed to follow in lock step in their pursuit of Ouspensky’s condemnation of “mechanical intellect,” unable to adopt any new frame of reference even long after circumstances have changed.

For the terrifying decades of the U.S. -- Soviet “H-Bomb Era,” the United States had a rather homogeneous entreaty to all potential global players. One important aspect of that was our post-colonial-pragmatic version of what was called “training.” Now, years later, this “training” still has legs, still haunts us and has come home to roost. In fact we still promote this unusual “training” of ours when we address conundrums such as Iraq and Afghanistan. To any government seeking our assistance, no matter how repressive, we offer “training.”

During the Cold War the United States and the Soviets felt duty-bound to show up in every dirty little corner of the world to promote their respective hegemonies. Predictably, when one side showed up, the other was soon to follow. No blood sacrifice was too great to, uh, prevent the dominoes from falling! In those cases when one of these “distributed,” global competition arenas descended to an intractable state, that is, when the host-victim populations divided themselves into interest groups supporting one side or the other, both of the major players immediately offered “training.”

The pitch?

“If you want us to be more loyal, less violent, more predictably allied and more controlled, train our secret intelligence service so we can reliably strangle all dissent before it becomes an international crisis and train our military so, rather than being threatened by our neighbors, we can intimidate them instead, thus, of course, avoiding any distraction of an international crisis.”

If that was the pitch, what, exactly, wasn’t the pitch?

What we never said and what we never heard from any of these tin hat autocrats was “Train our judges so we can establish the Rule of Law.” Why would we expect them to bother with such a little nuisance when they could coast into an elite dictatorial aristocracy well lubricated with “walking around dollars” from our State Department? After all, in those days avoiding the prospect of The Republic of AlmostSomewhere sliding into the grip of the Red Devil was a real bargain at almost any price! If that “price” including a judicious overlooking of a few Rule of Law problems, so be it.

Now, President Obama, to some 21st century solutions.

In the conflicts of our modern day we see a sickening repetition of the same problem. It arises from a common complaint. After our U. S. Army’s School of the Americas provided the “training” for ever more efficient and ruthless secret police, military intelligence and “public opinion control” experts for these friendly, enlightened, pro-western dictators of the last century, conditions changed. That approach, although tediously short sighted even then, is now outrageously out of focus compared to its legitimatizing sort of out of focus” status while it was being executed as Cold War policy.

The modern complaint is about the Rule of Law much more than anything even similar to the Soviet Menace. Pakistan is a good example, although there are many.

The official shift of the border provinces to Sharia Law had immeasurably more to do with a dangerously unreliable judicial system than with Islamic piety. The residents of those areas were previously expected to wait years for the services of a corrupt judge and then, finally, consider it Law and Order. The substantial result of that ridiculous system was essentially lawlessness. The move to the horrors of ancient Sharia was a very practical adoption of what was, although admittedly seen by the locals as a descent from the high born promise of modern law, an alternative which could, at least, provide some sort of order in the lawless mayhem.

Why did the fledgling government of Pakistan “cave in” to such a proposal?

There seem to be two prevailing reasons, and they are not “prevailing” only in our example of Pakistan. Happily, these two prevailing reasons seem to have approximately an identical solution. Also happily, that solution is one which we can afford at an incredibly lower rate of investment than our current military suppression approach. We can also, probably, expect far better outcomes if we make certain that our plan is thoughtful, effective and rational, that is, if our plan is not a repeat of the old style, violent American arrogance and greed.

The first reason is corruption. In the hinterlands of Pakistan, the border provinces, have been subject to almost total war lord rule. The exceptions, drug lords and corrupt judges, are equally unpalatable. Judicial appointments there are not unlike a Roman Emperor giving Africa or Spain to his favorite noble cronies. Loyalty to a national constitution is gleefully cast off in favor of some real profit opportunities. Understandably, when the local folks with real grievances grew tired of such an affront substituting for justice, the Sharia idea started to look better and better.

The second reason is money. It costs a lot of money for a country such as Pakistan to establish and maintain an operational judicial system. When difficult, lawless places such as the border provinces are considered, the potential vote count hardly justifies the extraordinary expense. Even that measure may be generous, that is, it may be optimistically presuming too much democratic responsibility at this point.

The same outcome arises everywhere. In Kenya, when election results were unbelievable to the masses, they grabbed their rifles and machetes instead of looking to their courts. In the Congo, insurgents rely on the well established idea among the population that no solution can be found in the nation’s court system, making the brutal, violent revolution start to make sense. In Zimbabwe, no outrage is obvious enough to spark confidence in relief from the nation’s courts. In Saddam's Iraq and the Ayatollah’s Iran, the same pattern prevailed or continues to prevail with the same predictable results.

The traditional American response to such problems has been to consistently “beef up” the suppression forces of governments we like and to aid the insurgents in their chaos against governments we didn’t like. We never seemed to miss the robust, coincidental economic opportunities, either.

“Training” opportunities at places such as the School of the Americas paid tangible dividends to U.S. “entrepreneurs” who were well enough connected to reap their rewards. Now, all those wealthy elitists have died, safely leaving their prizes and rewards to their trust funded off spring and the political calamity of their greed to the rest of us.

Given the state of both the world and this country, it is clear that these economic terrorists will do anything for cheap labor. A year after the unemployment benefits run out, desperate American workers will take any job at any price, obey orders and accept almost any conditions. After a war of insurrection has paralyzed a third world economy for a decade or so, foreign workers can be satisfied with -- very profitable -- subsistence wages and conditions. Distatorships are only bad for business if one doesn't own the dictator.

Americans need to put the School of the Americas out of business.

We need a 21st century version of the School of the Americas. One which will provide whatever assistance we can offer to the establishment of the Rule of Law wherever it is needed. If our ambitions for world peace and prosperity are finally real, if we have matured enough to put our claim of idealism on the road, this will be where the "rubber meets that road." This is a rational approach to an effective foreign development policy -- one that might very well accomplish the goals we say we stand for.

The details might vary with the countries of origin for the students in such a place, but we have handled more complicated problems in the past. Surely, there are some constants in the application of law and the provision of justice no matter where the court house might sit. We should be able to train judges and lawyers in some beneficial way regardless of the nature of the laws they will uphold when they return home. We need to change the paradigm sufficiently so the graduates of such a school don’t simply apply for a visa and start looking for office space in Manhattan.

We have enough ideals and commitment to change the paradigm. We are already spending fifteen times the amount of money it would require to bring hope by establishing justice instead of trying to suppress violent reactions to corruption all around the planet. Will it be bombs or verdicts? What exactly are we trying to accomplish?

Developing countries need the same things we do. Honorable judges to save the democracy. Dedicated prosecutors to end corruption. Successful defense attorneys to protect the people.

It’s an old saying, but it seems pretty darned durable. “If you want peace, work for justice.”

For some interesting reading about the U. S. Army's School of the Americas: school of americas watch us army school of amercias

and, for an overview of recent Taliban advances, Sharia Law and Pakistan's democracy, CBS 60 minutes: