28 October 2008


[from salon...]

The Republican shipwreck

The mighty right-wing Titanic is sinking, and McCain is desperately blaming Bush. But the problem isn't the captain -- it's the ship.

By Gary Kamiya

Oct. 28, 2008 |

The modern conservative movement is dying in front of our eyes, and its death throes aren't pretty. As John McCain heads for likely defeat, the GOP is eating itself. Right-wing politicians and pundits who never criticized Bush in eight years are suddenly jumping ship like rats, while bitter-end loyalists angrily accuse them of being "pathetically opportunistic." After months of veering from one tactic to the next, McCain has finally settled on one message for his campaign, but it's absurd: claiming that the party whose signature is tax cuts for the rich is really on the side of Joe the Plumber.

Meanwhile, 3.1 million real Joe the Plumbers across America are sending Barack Obama hundreds of millions of dollars, a torrent of cash that is helping to flush the GOP down the national toilet.

Right-wing hacks like Palin and Minn. Rep. Michele Bachman respond by doing the only thing they know how to do -- attack, demonize and divide. They wave the flag like a cutlass, dividing the country up into "pro-America areas" and "anti-America" ones. But this old pseudo-patriotic trick that has served the GOP so well for so long doesn't work anymore. In a development that showed just how much the political landscape has changed, the attack dogs have been forced to apologize -- something neither Bush nor his party nor conservative pundits ever did while they were trashing the country during the last eight years.

McCain's choice of the insultingly unqualified Palin to be his running mate was right out of the GOP's old culture-wars playbook, but it has backfired disastrously. The changing demographics of the country are working against the right wing. The party is lost, and it doesn't have a clue what to do next.

There's something surreal about how fast the GOP has gone from arrogant triumphalism to its death throes. Just yesterday, the GOP's mighty Titanic was cruising along, its opulent decks lined with fat-cat financiers and neoconservative warmongers, all smoking cigars, drinking champagne and extolling the deathless virtues of their fearless captain. The compliant media issued glowing dispatches. Karl Rove cackled with glee as he plotted out a permanent Republican majority.

Then the luxury liner hit an iceberg known as reality. The biggest damage was done by the Wall Street crisis, which happened just in time to tilt a close race toward Obama. But the economic meltdown was only one of the disasters for which the GOP is largely responsible. The war that was going to establish American hegemony forever turned out to be one of the worst foreign-policy blunders in our nation's history. The GOP's free-market idolatry led to the gravest financial crisis since the Depression. Its ideological insistence on cutting taxes for the richest Americans ran up a record deficit. Its embrace of torture and denial of due process assaulted the Constitution and eroded America's moral standing. Its doctrine of the "unitary executive" concentrated unprecedented power in the hands of the executive branch. Its anti-scientific denial of global warming endangered the entire planet.

It's a historic shipwreck, and the American people are diving off the foundering GOP hulk in droves.

In desperation, McCain has tried to blame everything on the ship's captain. Last week, he launched a bitter attack on Bush. In an interview with the Washington Times, he accused Bush of running up a ruinous debt, failing to fund his vast Medicare expansion, abusing his executive powers, failing to regulate the financial sector, ignoring global warming and mismanaging the war in Iraq. "We just let things get completely out of hand," he lamented.

But the problem isn't Bush, it's American conservatism itself -- or at least the debased, intellectually bankrupt and utterly failed thing that American conservatism has become. For McCain to truly renounce Bush, he'd have to renounce the tax-cut ideologues who have bankrupted the country. He'd have to renounce the neoconservatives who led us into a catastrophic war. He'd have to renounce the culture-war attack dogs like Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin who have coarsened conservatism's soul.

In short, he'd have to renounce the Republican Party -- and himself.

Yes, there's some part of McCain that stands apart from the disaster that his party has become. In the past, he has courageously taken principled stands on issues ranging from taxes to immigration to torture. He has some laudable independent instincts. His barely concealed rage and frustration, as he watches himself being pulled under by the enormous suction of the sinking GOP ship, bears witness to this. But his occasional maverick stands cannot change the fact that on the key issues, McCain is a faithful supporter of George W. Bush's policies. As Obama ads incessantly remind voters, McCain himself boasted that he voted with Bush 90 percent of the time. It's too late for him now to suddenly pretend that he represents anything other than more of the same.

Some conservatives have tried to argue that Bush betrayed true conservatism by running up a ruinous deficit and expanding entitlement programs like Medicare. They compare him unfavorably to Ronald Reagan, modern conservatism's patron saint. But this revisionism gets the historical record wrong. The truth is that Saint Reagan expanded entitlements, grew the federal government -- including a $165 million bailout of Social Security -- and raised taxes. The right-wing myth of Reagan as an anti-government, anti-tax purist is just that: a myth. The same is true for his anti-Communism. Reagan talked a tough game, calling the USSR an "evil empire" and rattling his saber, but usually behaved pragmatically. When his ill-considered intervention in Lebanon failed, he wisely pulled U.S. troops out. In short, Reagan's ideology and his practice were often at odds.

The dirty little secret of modern conservativism is that Bush is more like "Reagan" -- the mythical Reagan, that is -- than Reagan himself ever was. Bush actually did what Reagan just said he was going to: He cut taxes for the wealthy, handed over the keys to the economy to corporate interests and deregulated everything in sight. His most glaring and destructive imitation of the mythical Reagan was his catastrophic decision to invade Iraq. Fatally, Bush really believed his own Churchillian rhetoric. He decided the fight against Islamist terrorism was an epochal showdown of good vs. evil -- and unlike Reagan, he proceeded to act militarily on this grandiose belief. (Yes, Reagan illegally tried to overthrow the Nicaraguan regime, but the Iran/Contra scandal that tainted his legacy wouldn't even make the Top Ten list of Bush's misdeeds.)

This is why, to this day, the Republican Party and the mainstream right wing has never repudiated Bush. (To their credit, "Paleoconservatives" like Pat Buchanan and right-libertarians like Ron Paul and Antiwar's Justin Raimondo broke with Bush on Iraq, but they are marginal figures on the right.) How can conservatives repudiate someone who put into practice all of their most cherished ideas? To criticize Bush on substantive grounds, they'd have to explain not only why his policies violated conservative orthodoxy, but why they never once made that argument for the last eight years. They can't do either, which is why they are forced to take the evasive, intellectually dishonest line of blaming Bush's failures on his arrogance and incompetence. Of course Bush was arrogant and incompetent, but those shortcomings don't explain his failed presidency. He failed because he acted on the extreme right-wing ideas that Reagan only paid lip service to.

The right wing is running as far away as it can get from Bush, but it still shares his beliefs. That's why it cannot and will not muster any real arguments against his policies.

This explains both McCain's impotent campaign and the failure of the right-wing brain trust to understand the disaster that has befallen the GOP. With very few exceptions -- most notably David Brooks, who on Sunday called for the GOP to reinvent itself as a "progressive conservative" party in the tradition of Alexander Hamilton and Teddy Roosevelt -- the right-wing intelligentsia is still reciting its worn-out ideological mantras, claiming that an Obama victory would mean the death of "freedom," the triumph of socialistic "big government" and abject surrender to our enemies.

For example, in a Weekly Standard column titled "McCain versus the juggernaut," neoconservative pundit William Kristol warned that an "Obama-Biden administration -- working with a Democratic Congress -- would mean a more debilitating nanny state at home and a weaker nation facing our enemies abroad." It takes a deep obliviousness to reality for an ardent Bush supporter to be sounding the alarm about the "nanny state" at the same time that his beloved president and party are solicitously spoon-feeding their wailing Wall Street brat out of a $700 billion jar of Gerber's. As for Kristol's claim that Obama would be "weaker" in facing our enemies abroad, if the great "strength" shown by Bush is the alternative, "weakness" looks good. Bush's "strength" led him to wage an unnecessary and disastrous war that has empowered Islamist terrorists and made America much less safe. That's why al-Qaida supports McCain: A continuation of Bush's policies is its best recruiting tool.

Then there's Peggy Noonan, who writes herself into a typical cloud of lyrical nonsense in a Wall Street Journal column. Striving to hit a Whitmanesque note in praise of the 52 million Americans who say they support McCain, she writes, "They are the beating heart of conservatism, and to watch most television is to forget they exist, for they are not shown much, except at rallies. But they are there, and this is a center-right nation, and many of them have been pushing hard against the age for 40 years now, and more. For some time they have sensed that something large and stable is being swept away, maybe has been swept away, and yet you still have to fight for it. They will not give up without a fight, and they will make their way to the polls."

The "age" that our allegedly "center-right nation" has been "pushing hard against" is relativist, secular, progressive, scientific. And the "something large and stable" that's being swept away is tradition, patriotism, morality, family values, community, God. Noonan believes that conservative Americans have been waging a heroic battle for these Republican-associated virtues for decades. But she never quite reconciles the fact that the last 40-plus years have been dominated by Republican presidents and policies. Apparently "the age," like a Spenglerian villain, works its evil, values-corroding magic independently of whatever party is actually in power. For Noonan, of course, it has to -- because if it didn't, then Republicans would be just as much or more to blame for the corrosion of tradition and morality as Democrats.

And Kristol and Noonan are the restrained face of the conservative reaction. More typical of the Limbaugh-inflected (or infected) movement as a whole is the apocalyptic attitude of right-wing columnist Mark Steyn, who thundered that an Obama victory "would be a 'point of no return,' the most explicit repudiation of the animating principles of America."

The ludicrous hyperbole of such Jeremiads is self-refuting. Americans are desperate to fix their economy, end a ruinous, endless war and restore a sense of common purpose to civic life. As they face these challenging real-world goals, the abstract buzzwords trotted out by the right ring hollow.

The emptiness of these arguments reveals that American conservatism no longer has any purpose except perpetuating its own power and concentrating as much wealth as possible in the hands of the already wealthy. Its internal contradictions can no longer be glossed over. It poses as the guardian of tradition and morality, but its obeisance to an amoral free-market ideology is far more destructive of tradition than the regulated capitalism championed by liberals. It preaches small government, but insists that abortion rights, recreational drug use and gay marriage fall within the purview of the state.

This is not a "movement" that means anything that anyone can explain. As Christopher Buckley, the son of the late William F. Buckley, intellectual father of modern American conservativism, put it in a much-discussed piece in the Daily Beast announcing his support for Obama, "I no longer have any clear idea what, exactly, the modern conservative movement stands for. Eight years of 'conservative' government has brought us a doubled national debt, ruinous expansion of entitlement programs, bridges to nowhere, poster boy Jack Abramoff and an ill-premised, ill-waged war conducted by politicians of breathtaking arrogance. As a sideshow, it brought us a truly obscene attempt at federal intervention in the Terry Schiavo case."

The GOP stands at a crossroads. Republicans can pretend that nothing has really changed, that this is still a "center-right" nation, and that only an ill-timed economic meltdown cost them the White House. This means leaving their party in the hands of the "movement conservatives" who have dominated the GOP for decades: the demagogues of reaction and resentment, the Christian rightists, the "values" voters, the anti-tax, anti-government zealots, the nativists, anti-rationalists and anti-secularists. The culmination of this approach would be to nominate Sarah Palin as their presidential candidate in 2016. Or they can move to the center, accept that progressive taxation is not just necessary to run a country but that it is a legitimate part of the social contract, accept that markets need some regulation, and try to reach out to all Americans, not just their base.

If Republicans choose the first option, the GOP will be taking the first steps toward becoming a marginal party, one that will eventually end up an object of curiosity in the historical display case along with such extinct specimens as the Know-Nothing Party. If they choose the second, they will not only save their party, they could help heal the grievous wounds their divisive politics have inflicted on the country.

If conservatives' track record over the last 40 years is any guide, they will choose the first. And I won't be putting any flowers on their grave.


24 October 2008

this was not a question to which "i don't know" was an acceptable answer...

i remember this one morning my freshman year in college better than any other from that period of time.

i was home sick with the flu and watching cnn. there were two major stories that they were following, the first was that bill cosby's son ennis had just tragically been found dead, killed in a carjacking. the other was that an "abortion clinic" had been bombed in atlanta. i remember watching the aerial helicopter footage and thinking that there was something vaguely familiar about the building that had apparently been attacked.

the more i watched, the more it was on the tip of my tongue that i just knew the building they were filming. it was so familiar to me. only when cnn switched the caption from "bomb goes off in atlanta, ga" to "bomb goes off in sandy springs, ga" did it all come together: the non- descript office building they were filming was my dentist's office, a place i'd been going to twice a year for almost all of my life. [apparently there was an abortion clinic in the same building.] i called my family and everyone was fine-- no one had been to the dentist that day. but still it was incredibly shocking to me [previously i frankly hadn't paid it too much mind-- this was just months after the centennial park bombings during the 1996 olympics] and it put the family tragedy that was the ennis cosby murder into an entirely new perspective.

[from daily kos...]

Palin: 'I Don't Know' If Abortion Clinic Bombers Are Terrorists

Fri Oct 24, 2008 at 09:45:02 AM PDT

The buffoonish nature of Sarah Palin's vice presidential candidacy has mostly been a disaster for the McCain-Palin campaign, but it is has delivered at least one benefit: her foibles have helped obscure the true nature of her right-wing extremism.

But now, Sarah Palin's self-destructive behavior is threatening to expose even that. In an interview broadcast yesterday on NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams asked Palin whether she felt abortion clinic bombers were terrorists.

Amazingly, she said that she didn't know. MSNBC reports (emphasis added):

Palin resisted the suggestion that if Ayers was a "domestic terrorist" — a standard line in her campaign addresses — then so were conservative religious activists who bombed abortion clinics.

"I don’t know if you’re going to use the word ‘terrorist’ there," she said.

Here's the video:

Links: This Post | Extended Version | YouTube | Digg

::: :::

Palin's answer is perhaps the single most incredible thing I've heard from any candidate during this entire general election campaign, and I don't make that statement lightly.

What makes it so incredible is that Sarah Palin was responding to one of the easiest questions that has been posed during this entire campaign. Her answer should have been simple: of course they are terrorists.

Instead, Palin balked, saying that while bombings were unacceptable, she didn't know if they were acts of terrorism. As Meteor Blades put it, Palin's answer was an obvious wink and a nod to right wing extremists, with whom she shares radical views, including opposition to reproductive freedom even in cases of rape or incest and advocacy of protests designed to disrupt access to abortion clinics.

This was not a question to which "I don't know" was an acceptable answer. There is no excuse for it, and it puts Sarah Palin well on the margins of this nation's political spectrum.

::: :::

There are now just eleven days left in this campaign. The flow of information is so overwhelming that it is impossible to keep up, and because of that, something like this could easily pass on by without notice -- unless we decide to make a stand.

So what I'd like to ask you to do is to take a couple of minutes out of your day to send this video (links above) to a one or two or three or more of your friends and family members. If you happen to know any reporters, or even bloggers, so much the better. Whatever you can do to spread the word will help make sure that Sarah Palin is forced to explain why she didn't know whether clinic bombers were terrorists.

A clear majority of people already realize that Sarah Palin is not qualified to be president, and with the revelation of the $150,000 shopping spree, they are learning that her "just a hockey mom" image was a total fraud.

Now it's time to finish the job and expose her extremist right-wing ideology once and for all. If enough people find out about this moment, I think we can do it.


22 October 2008

truly i've never related to anything more in my life, ever...

[by larry david in the huffington post...]

I can't take much more of this. Two weeks to go, and I'm at the end of my rope. I can't work. I can eat, but mostly standing up. I'm anxious all the time and taking it out on my ex-wife, which, ironically, I'm finding enjoyable. This is like waiting for the results of a biopsy. Actually, it's worse. Biopsies only take a few days, maybe a week at the most, and if the biopsy comes back positive, there's still a potential cure. With this, there's no cure. The result is final. Like death.

Five times a day I'll still say to someone, "I don't know what I'm going to do if McCain wins." Of course, the reality is I'm probably not going to do anything. What can I do? I'm not going to kill myself. If I didn't kill myself when I became impotent for two months in 1979, I'm certainly not going to do it if McCain and Palin are elected, even if it's by nefarious means. If Obama loses, it would be easier to live with it if it's due to racism rather than if it's stolen. If it's racism, I can say, "Okay, we lost, but at least it's a democracy. Sure, it's a democracy inhabited by a majority of disgusting, reprehensible turds, but at least it's a democracy." If he loses because it's stolen, that will be much worse. Call me crazy, but I'd rather live in a democratic racist country than a non-democratic non-racist one. (It's not exactly a Hobson's choice, but it's close, and I think Hobson would compliment me on how close I've actually come to giving him no choice. He'd love that!)

The one concession I've made to maintain some form of sanity is that I've taken to censoring my news, just like the old Soviet Union. The citizenry (me) only gets to read and listen to what I deem appropriate for its health and well-being. Sure, there are times when the system breaks down. Michele Bachmann got through my radar this week, right before bedtime. That's not supposed to happen. That was a lapse in security, and I've had to make some adjustments. The debates were particularly challenging for me to monitor. First I tried running in and out of the room so I would only hear my guy. This worked until I knocked over a tray of hors d'oeuvres. "Sit down or get out!" my host demanded. "Okay," I said, and took a seat, but I was more fidgety than a ten-year-old at temple. I just couldn't watch without saying anything, and my running commentary, which mostly consisted of "Shut up, you prick!" or "You're a fucking liar!!!" or "Go to hell, you cocksucker!" was way too distracting for the attendees, and finally I was asked to leave.

Assuming November 4th ever comes, my big decision won't be where I'll be watching the returns, but if I'll be watching. I believe I have big jinx potential and may have actually cost the Dems the last two elections. I know I've jinxed sporting events. When my teams are losing and I want them to make a comeback, all I have to do is leave the room. Works every time. So if I do watch, I'll do it alone. I can't subject other people to me in my current condition. I just don't like what I've turned into -- and frankly I wasn't that crazy about me even before the turn. This election is having the same effect on me as marijuana. All of my worst qualities have been exacerbated. I'm paranoid, obsessive, nervous, and totally mental. It's one long, intense, bad trip. I need to come down. Soon.


thought this was pretty funny...

[from fuckjohnmccain.com...]

My friends, I have the experience, I have a plan, I have a big stick, and I walk softly with Ronald Reagan. And Roosevelt and Lincoln are here, too, and a lot of other qualified Americans, who are good Americans, and who know how to fix the problems in America that America has. And might I just mention that I know how to reach across the aisle and say, with full confidence: Fuck John McCain.

Let me say that again. Fuck John McCain.

I know, I know, all the big pundits are piling on now, talking about how he's changed and this isn't the guy they remember from back before he sold his soul to run for President. Here's the problem: McCain has been a complete dickhead his entire career. Starting the very first night he was elected to the Senate, when he screamed at one of his volunteers because the podium he was supposed to speak at was too tall. Pure class, right there. And if that's how he treats people who give up their weekends to work for him without pay, imagine how he's gonna treat the rest of us.

You know what we need for our next President? An unstable asshole. That is a brilliant fucking idea. How about we pick some slob whose idea of etiquette is shoving a ninety-two-year-old on the Senate floor. What could go wrong with a guy like that? I can see the commercials now: John W. McCain, an Unstable Man for Unstable Times.

Or how about we get a guy who's so unable to control his temper that on diplomatic missions he tries to wrestle the foreigners he's supposed to be meeting with. I'm starting to think that the only reason he doesn't want to meet with Ahmadinejad is that he's not sure if he can take him in a fair fight.

[We'll pause here in case the Senator himself is reading along. Gotta give him time to triprepeatedly – over the name of a foreign leader who comes up, oh, every ten minutes in his own fucking speeches. Tell you what, if we're going to spend an hour and a half watching you pace back and forth like Gary Busey on a meth bender, do you think you could spend five minutes of your debate prep memorizing the name of your nemesis? We've got things to do over here, motherfucker. We can't spend all night watching you tamp down your Tourette's.]

Ok, all caught up Senator? Good, now where were we? Oh yeah, a fair fight.

Like this motherfucker would ever fight fair. Can you say "Obama pals around with terrorists"? Fine, you wanna be that way? How about we start spreading a rumor that you're "proud" of your friend who broadcast instructions on how to kill cops? Or we could imply that your website has an endorsement from a guy who sold fifty million dollars worth of missiles to the evildoers in Iran (again with Iran, have you figured out how to pronounce that guy's name yet? No? Good show, Mr. Foreign-Policy-is-My-Strength) and then turned around and gave that money to a group that raped and killed hundreds of men, women and children. What's that? They were freedom fighters? Uh, no. If your friends are going to go around murdering nuns, we're going to go ahead and call them terrorists. They can be Freedom Terrorists if you want. And what the hell, let's go ahead and say that you made a personal donation to those motherfucking terrorists while they were on their killing spree.

Pretty mean, right? Also, pretty fucking specific, because that shit is what we call facts out here on Main Street or Average Avenue or fucking Salt of the Earth Speedway or whatever neighborhood you're pretending you've been anywhere near since you married into more money than God had before Fannie and Freddie foreclosed on paradise.

Money, by the way, made on illegal liquor sales, and not during prohibition, when it was cool like that. How do you get out of that kind of trouble? If you're Cindy's daddy, you lawyer-up with future Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist and he gets you off. Does it worry anyone else that every right-wing debacle in the last fifty years involves the same twelve assholes? Need another example? Remember the fuckwads who put out a push-poll claiming McCain had an illegitimate black child back in 2000? The same guys McCain said had a "special place in hell"? Hell, apparently, is the McCain campaign, cause he fucking hired them.

Which I guess isn't that surprising, since McCain has changed positions more times than Jenna Jameson in a double feature. But not on important issues. Just stuff like privatizing Social Security, the Bush tax cuts, coastal drilling, ethanol, gay adoption, affirmative action, the estate tax, torture and negotiating with Cuba, Hamas, and Syria. But at least he stood firm in opposing the lobbying reform, campaign finance and immigration legislation written by... Senator John McCain (R-Hanoi).

This guy's not a maverick, he's a fucking weathervane.

Oh, but there are "advantages to experience and knowledge and judgement"? I know you don't know how to use a Google, but those of us who do have a pretty easy time finding some major judgement fuck-ups in your past, Mr. Experience Man.

Let's just put it this way: if I was a gotcha journalist, I think by now I'd have stuck a mic in McCain's face and asked what he was thinking when he said, just a few weeks after Al Qaeda held their coming out party by bombing two US Embassies in 1998, "You could say, look, is this guy, Laden, really the bad guy that's depicted?". Yes, Bin Fucking Laden. Post terrorist attack: 'Is he really that bad? '

Go ahead, you know you want to go back and read that again. Take your time, I'll wait. All done? Now, tell me, where the fuck were the questions about that, Brokaw? Way to hold his feet to the warm, toasty fire.

But at least he was right about that surge thing. I mean, he and Bush got almost everything else wrong, but they backed the right horse this one time. Except (and if you've been getting your war news from any channel that spends more on graphics than foreign correspondents, you might want to hang on to something here) the surge isn't the thing that's turned down the American death toll in Iraq to "only mildly horrific."

I know! I was surprised too, until I took ten seconds to look it up for myself. Bush misleads the media and they totally fucking fall for it, and then they feed it to the public who buys it hook, line and sinker. Who'da thunk that'd work? Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, fool me twenty seven times and apparently we're plum out of shame and we've moved on to... hey, was that a Friends re-run you just clicked past, dude? Go back! This is the one where a group of mid-twenties New Yorkers live in apartments the size of small aircraft carriers and nobody says a word about it through the entire show. It's fucking hilarious.

Hmmm? Oh yeah, Iraq. Nothing else has been going on there that could have made those insurgents stop shooting at our soldiers, right? Well, nothing besides the fact that we started paying them not to shoot at us. From where I'm sitting this is a major breakthrough in military strategy. Instead of getting shot at now, we've got ourselves on a ceasefire payment plan. And then, if we ever cancel our subscription, they'll have twice as many guns. There's no way that fucking plan could backfire. Unless we run out of money, I guess.



Well, anyway, at least things are getting better, right? I mean, you said you walked around Baghdad "with no body armor on," so those Iraqis must be as safe as a tofu burger at a Palin rally. Yeah, except unlike the average Iraqi, you had a hundred soldiers and five helicopters guarding your ass. Oh yeah, and fucking body armor. Exactly how out of touch do you have to be not to notice that you're wearing Kevlar?

But at least we don't hear much about that ugly ethnic cleansing stuff anymore. We must have had something to do with putting a stop to that. Right — we let them fucking finish. All cleansed! Nothing succeeds like success, huh?

And since the surge is working so well, let's export it over to Afghanistan. That country's all Arab-y, it'll probably work there too, right? Exactly which class at Annapolis was it where they taught you that a tactic that works in urban warfare is a good one to try out in the fucking mountains? It's practically the same terrain, just flipped forty five degrees and with goats instead of... well, instead of everything.

Wait, you don't think that's why the commander of US forces in Afghanistan himself says this isn't the right plan, do you? I know all you Republicans like to say that soldiers make good Presidents, but do you think maybe we could amend that to soldiers that don't completely suck at being soldiers? Seriously, after crashing three airplanes, who the fuck gave this asshole his wings back so he could fly off on real combat missions? Oh right, dear old dad. What's it like having a father who's so powerful you can fuck up over and over and never pay the price?

Wait a minute, that sounds so familiar...

Anyway, did you hear that McCain was a war hero, too? Yes indeedy, he sure is shy, but if you're willing to ask him a question about any other topic, he'll be happy to tell you all about it. I guess that's why you get more donations from soldiers than That One, right? No? Don't worry dude, the troops in the field always send more money to the guy they don't want to be their next Commander in Chief. It's strategic. I think they call it a "Surge," or something.

But you'd be winning right now if Obama would have just done eighty seven town hall debates with you? Yeah, cause you really connected during the one you got. You know what you should do? You should get your wife's company to sponsor some more debates! They could put up the cash, and give out free beer and auction off prizes and stuff, and maybe you could get other rich people to pitch in if you, like, promise to make their dad King of the Economy and mention his name over and over during the debate.

Damn! You already did that, didn't you? How'd that work out for ya?

(Jesus Christ with jimmies, how fucking sad is it that you learned, just now, from me, that the money funding McCain's housing habit comes from the same place as the money that got the press sloshed at the debates. It's fucking sad, dude. It's as sad as it would be if the only guy asking McCain tough questions in this election was a late night talk show host. Fuck. fuck. fuck.)

You'd think with Budweiser sponsoring the real debates you wouldn't need to set up your own homestyle versions where your – how do we put this – touched supporters can embarrass the fuck out of you by saying out loud what your ads only imply. (And maybe all the white folks could be a little less shocked! shocked! that there's still fucking racism in America? It's embarrassing. Pretend like you were paying attention for the last two hundred years, could ya?)

Oh, and while we're talking about your rebel rallies, you might want to get your supporters to ease back on questioning your opponent's religious beliefs. Otherwise we're going to have to bring up that thing where you say you're a Baptist, but you've never been... wait for it... baptized. For shizzle.

And despite the fact that they never ask you about any of this shit, you still feel the need to complain that the media elite aren't treating your campaign with enough fucking deference? What kind of pussy runs away from a sit down with Larry King? What are you, afraid he might ask you one of those probing questions, like "We're back with the maverick John McCain. What do you make of this new Britney video, Senator?"

Awww, did the mean media people hurt your feewings, Johnny-wonny? Did they make fun of your stwaight tok expwess? Do you need mommy to kiss it and make it all better? Maybe she can buy you a wittle hospital to go with your eight houses, you fucking crybaby.

And now, after the last two "elections," we have to listen to you cry about fucking voter fraud. Ok, first off, it's not voter fraud, it's some guys trying to make a buck by copying a few names out of the phone book. Well, ok, to be fair there is some organized voter registration fraud going on. I'll give you that. Wait, remind me who got arrested for that, again? Oh yeah, Republicans. It takes some serious balls to point fingers while you're in handcuffs, asshole.

Look, we don't really have time to listen to you bitch anymore, ok? We're slow, but after two shady elections we've figured out that in order to win this thing we have to get more votes than you fuckers can steal. What's that? You want to introduce us to McCain version 9.0? Later, dude, we have to go vote for our country first.


20 October 2008

interesting essay...

[from daily kos...]


Sun Oct 19, 2008 at 10:45:00 PM PDT

The Mount Washington Hotel is a sprawling white structure that dates from the turn of the Twentieth Century. Sitting at the foot of the tallest (and windiest) mountain in the Northeast, the hotel today is usually occupied by visitors to a nearby ski lodge, or those that come to enjoy the grand architecture and grander view. But what makes the Mount Washington Hotel famous is something that happened there in 1944. That's where, with World War II still raging on both fronts, 730 delegates from the Allied Nations sat down to a conference that still bears the name of the town nearest that old hotel -- Bretton Woods.

The Bretton Woods conference was not about bombs or planes or soldiers, at least not directly. It was about economics. At the time, the rules that bound those nations together economically consisted of a few broadly acknowledged international agreements, a rat's nest of often conflicting treaties between individual nations, and a mass of tradition. Solving this wasn't just a matter of working out a "free trade" deal. The basic nature of global capital had been called into question by countries that had manipulated the value of their currency to bludgeon a competitor. The rampant inflation that struck many countries during the Great Depression had made transactions between nations essentially worthless. How could you loan money to a state that could pay you back in mounds of devalued bills? How could you compete with a nation that moved its currency's worth up and down to keep trade flowing in one direction? The delegates were intent that the system be rebuilt with more security and predictability.

Out of that conference came the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, agreements on monetary standards, and much of the system that drives the world's economy today. If the Potsdam Conference shaped the political boundaries of the world following World War II, Bretton Wood defined the economic boundaries of the world outside the Iron Curtain (and for everyone once that curtain was lowered).

All of the decisions that came from that conference were designed to fit within an agreed upon framework: they would allow the market to work with minimal government intervention, they would limit barriers to trade, and they would accept the intervention of the newly created agencies to regulate national finances. The Allies agreed on this not because it defined the universal principles of all the nations involved. Many of the delegates gathered there would have preferred more regulation of markets, more state involvement in financial systems, more flexibility in protecting local markets, and less control from the new agencies. But they signed the agreements – because the United States asked them to.

The Allied Nations at that point were fiscally and physically exhausted. They were also genuinely grateful. When the conference was held, the Normandy Invasion was only a month in the past. In many cases, their survival as nations depended on the continued intervention of US military forces. There was also the example of the Great Depression and the political turmoil it had spawned. None of them wanted to repeat that experience in the aftermath of World War II. The United States demanded a position of international economic leadership, and a weary world handed it over.

The soaring industrial power of the United States that advanced so quickly during the war years, served as the centerpiece of a world wide expansion in the decades that followed. While the east bumbled along under Soviet mismanagement and corruption, the west experienced a period of unprecedented growth. The Breton Woods System, designed around what the United States wanted from the world, worked splendidly for almost three decades – until it was smashed by the United States.

What might have been the most important part of the system designed at the Mount Washington Hotel was the requirement that all national currencies be "convertible." That is, that they could be exchanged for an equal value of gold. That one step kept nations from assigning an arbitrary value to their currency to invalidate debts or manipulate trade. For the United States, the value of the dollar was pegged at $35 to an ounce of gold. But the supply of dollars grew at a rate much more quickly than US holdings of gold. The system that was designed to stabilize currencies was itself becoming more and more unstable. Several other currencies were forced to devalue themselves against gold while the US held stubbornly to the $35 price even though it didn't hold nearly enough gold reserves to meet its obligations under Bretton Woods.

Throughout the 1960s, the growing gap between US gold holdings and US dollars floating around the world placed an increasing strain on the system. By 1968, that strain was too great to sustain. While the United States was distracted by escalating violence at home and the escalating war in Vietnam, the economic action that year was in Rio de Janeiro. That's where the IMF created a new type of document in which nations were required to hold their US debts. These instruments could not be exchanged for gold, to keep nations from demanding some of the US reserves. These documents became a kind of "paper gold" used to prop up the system. The gratitude of the western nations was starting to run thin.

By 1971, the United States was, for the first time since World War II, running a trade deficit. Inflation was kicking into high gear. The war in Vietnam was exploding the federal budget. In a single year, the numbers of dollars floating on the world market went from about twice as much gold as we held in reserve, to five times as much. International confidence in the dollar collapsed. On August 15, 1971, Richard Nixon changed the world. Americans who lived through the period remember the ninty day freeze Nixon placed on prices and wages in an effort to stem growing inflation. They're less likely to remember that Nixon imposed a 10% tariff on all imports in an effort to top the growing trade deficit. On the same day, he also put an end to the paper-thin illusion that US currency was still backed by gold. From that point on, the dollar would be allowed to float on the market. So would gold. Those holding US notes would have to deal with the market to determine their value.

In one day, Richard Nixon had completely reshaped the world's economy, and he did so without consulting with either foreign leaders or the institutions created at Bretton Woods. Within a year, the price of gold in dollars had doubled and was still rising. New agreements signed at the end of 1971 left the dollar as the world's "reserve currency." In essence, the US economy was left as the system by which all others were valued. The US had become like AIG – too big to fail. And no one was happy about it.

A year before those agreements, Nixon gave a speech in which he defended the US position in the world, railed against the protests at home, and demonstrated a level of paranoia all too familiar in this "Age of Terror."

"My fellow Americans, we live in an age of anarchy, both abroad and at home. We see mindless attacks on all the great institutions which have been created by free civilizations in the last 500 years. Even here in the United States, great universities are being systematically destroyed. Small nations all over the world find themselves under attack from within and from without.

If, when the chips are down, the world's most powerful nation, the United States of America, acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world."
--Richard M. Nixon

Nixon's worry about the "pitiful helpless giant" has been used over the nearly forty years since by those who defend vigorous American military actions abroad. But it has certainly been applied equally in the economic arena.

For our allies, the United States has seemed anything but helpless. Too often they've seen as more as a ravenous Cyclops, seeing only what's good for us without regard to the broad long-term consequences of our actions.

Certainly this has been true of the Bush administration. Far more than any president since Nixon – whose administration "gifted" its ideological follower with such luminaries as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld – George W. Bush has evinced a philosophy in which being self-centered is a virtue. Bush has trumpeted American exceptionalism on the battlefield and in the boardroom. When our allies signed onto the Kyoto Accord, the United States refused to participate, with no excuse but that our own short term economy is more valuable than the consequences to the globe. After proclaiming that he would demand that the members of the United Nations Security Council "put their cards on the table" in a vote over Iraq, Bush backed away without a vote. Which didn't stop him from carrying on with his invasion.

Under Bush, the United States hasn't just looked only to its own interests, it's held anyone who even considered the consequences of our actions on the world outside our borders under suspicion. A lack of international knowledge was elevated from a shortfall to an asset. A leader who can inspire the hopes of those nations we consider allies by definition can't be wholly American. Ignorance isn't just bliss, it's required. This is a philosophy rushing toward its ultimate expression in the nomination of Sarah Palin, where never having given a moment's thought to any nation but our own is equated with patriotism.

No modern Odysseus is required to test the Cyclops when the creature is voluntarily blind, but the world will not suffer us to lumber on unchecked.

If you were to pick up a paper and find yourself looking at foreign leaders proclaiming that the world needed to be protected from "infection" by the American system, that the United States needed to be "contained," that the United States was the source of disaster in their own land, you might be forgiven for thinking that you're listening in to Tehran or Moscow. But that's what the leaders of our greatest international friends have been saying. At home, we may have some doubt about the causes of the financial calamity we're now experiencing, but our allies have no doubt as to its origin.

"The United States is solely to be blamed for the financial crisis. They are the cause for the crisis, and it is not Europe and it is not the Federal Republic of Germany."
--German finance minister, Peer Steinbr├╝ck

While we are fretting about our plans to restore the broken economy, there's one point that isn’t making the debates, and only rarely making the news. In many ways, we will no longer be the masters of our own economic ship. The factors that will most affect us in the future may no longer be under our control, or in the hands of those inclined to place our needs very high on their list of concerns. In a study conducted by the Guardian newspaper, not one country could be found – not France, not Japan, not neighboring Canada, not our "special friends" the United Kingdom – where a majority of the people viewed their relationship with the United States as "friendly." More than the losses in Iraq, or the dollars going to the bailout, this may be the biggest cost of the last eight years. The conservative philosophy that America has an inalienable right to unilateral action has certainly earned our nation an exceptional position around the world – we're seen as exceptionally dangerous.

After sixty years of Bretton Woods, the world is looking for a less dollar-centric alternative to our current fiscal system. And they're not begging for our permission. This past week has seen French President Nicolas Sarkozy demanding a new global summit to "recreate the capitalist system," and it's seen finance ministers from India to Africa scoffing at the idea that the United States can lecture them on how markets can be run.

Conservatives have made it fashionable to sneer at the rest of the world. That attitude hasn't gone unnoticed, and anyone looking for some lingering attitude of gratefulness and compliance is about to be disappointed.

We think of ourselves as a benevolent giant, more akin to the Jolly Green fellow than the character at the top of the beanstalk. But whether it's malevolence or merely carelessness, the inhabitants of the valley are tired of being stepped on. They're sharpening their sticks. We view ourselves as "first among equals," but even our closest allies are bitterly aware that there are no equals as long as there's a first.

As the world meets in global summit to "rebuild capitalism," the United States may host the event, but don't expect the rest of the world to turn to America for ideas. Instead, they will try and sort out if we are AIG -- salvageable, and possibly too large to fail -- or Lehman Brothers -- a former titan allowed to crash on the rocks. Whatever emerges from this summit, it's going to be a very different world than the one we've lived in since that meeting at the Mount Washington Hotel.

"Europe wants the summit before the end of the year. Europe wants it. Europe demands it. Europe will get it."
-- French President Nicolas Sarkozy


19 October 2008

greenwald strikes again...

[from salon...]

Colin Powell condemns the ugliness of the Republican Party

(updated below)

I'm anything but a fan of Colin Powell, and have no idea what impact (if any) his Meet the Press endorsement of Obama will have (full video is below), but I was really glad to see him make the following point in explaining why he has rejected McCain's candidacy:

I'm also troubled by, not what Sen. McCain says, but what members of the party say, and it is permitted to be said such things as: "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is: he is not a Muslim. He's a Christian. He's always been a Christian.

But the really right answer is: What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is: No, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim-American kid believing he or she can be President?

Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion: he's a Muslim, and he might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

Powell went on to say that he "feels strongly" about that point, and cited a photo essay he saw regarding U.S. troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan which included a photograph of a mother in Arlington National Cemetary with her head on the tombstone of her 20-year-old son, who was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star and was killed in Iraq, and the photograph showed the headstone adorned with the "crescent and star of the Islamic faith," and his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, a Muslim-American (I believe this is the soldier to whom Powell was referring).

There has been much condemnation over the "Obama-is-a-Muslim" line of GOP attack, but almost all of it has been on the ground that the attack is factually false as applied to the Christian Obama, not on the ground that it is a reprehensible and dangerous line of attack even if it were factually true. Powell bears much of the responsibility, and always will, for the horrific U.S. attack on Iraq (one which, just by the way, resulted in the deaths of at least hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims), but he deserves credit for using the platform he had this morning to go out of his way to make this vital point when doing so was not necessary (and perhaps not even helpful) in advancing the cause of his endorsement of Obama.

That being Muslim or Arab is a mark against someone's character is now so ingrained in our political culture that it is hardly noticed any longer. When John McCain, at that rally in Minnesota last week, sought to chide his supporter for asserting that Obama is an "Arab," McCain did so by pointing out that, in fact, Obama is a "decent family man" -- as though that proves that he's not "an Arab because "decent family man" is the opposite of "Arab":

Later, another supporter told McCain, "I don't trust Obama...He's an Arab."

McCain stood shaking his head as she spoke, then quickly took the microphone from her.

"No, ma'am," he said. "He's a decent, family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with." '

It's debatable whether McCain actually intended to express the point that way -- whether he intended to imply that the opposite of "Arab" is "decent family man" and "citizen" -- but regardless of McCain's intent, that was how the point was expressed, and it received little attention.

A major enabling factor in convincing the population to support unnecessary and brutal wars -- and to perceive the "need" for endless expansions of federal surveillance and other police powers -- is the demonization of large groups of people both inside and out of the country. The Right's ongoing, intense obsession with demonizing Muslims and Arabs is, for that reason, not only repulsive but also quite destructive. The core of the Republican Party has degenerated into the unrestrained id of its worst impulses, and it was good to see Powell specifically cite (and condemn) those elements as a principal reason why he is turning away from the party he has served for so long, and instead supporting the Democratic nominee.

* * * * *

On a not entirely unrelated note, the attempt in California to pass a referendum banning same-sex marriage, and thus strip marital rights from hundreds of thousands of citizens who were granted those rights by the California Supreme Court earlier this year, is looking stronger and stronger, largely as a result of huge amounts of out-of-state money from the Mormon Church and other religious fanatical groups which realize that denying same-sex marriage rights to California citizens will set back the cause of marriage equality by years, if not decades. The campaign in opposition to that pernicious referendum is sorely in need of more funding, and those inclined to donate can do so here.

UPDATE: In comments, Hasan Z Rahim, a Muslim American, writes:

In the more than two decades that I have been working at various high-tech companies in Silicon Valley, I have never encountered any prejudice at the workplace because of my race or religion. But lately a thought has been steadily creeping into my mind: If I were to run for public office even, say, at the local school board level, would my name become an albatross around my neck?

I have been thinking about this since John McCain and Sarah Palin began encouraging the use of Barack Obama’s middle name – Hussein – in their rallies to suggest that he was the Other, and therefore is “not a man who sees America the way you and I see America.” The mindset of many Republicans unfortunately seem to be this: American Muslims can rise in their profession and shine in their fields, but if they to aspire to high public offices, they must be prevented by any means necessary since they pose a threat of one kind or another to America. The implication is that being a Muslim is somehow un-American, a real show-stopper to running for the presidency. It's a reincarnation of McCarthyism in the 21st century. Does it say anywhere in the U.S. Constitution that even if you are born in America, you cannot run for the presidency if you happen to be a Muslim? You can count on your fingers the number of Muslims holding high public offices in America. One of the most notable is Keith Ellison, a converted Muslim Congressman from Minnesota, who is known not for the legislation that he helps frame and pass but that he is a Muslim who took the oath of office holding a Quran that belonged to Thomas Jefferson.

Against this context, I am heartened by what Colin Powell said in his vigorous endorsement of Obama. As the moving story of the young fallen soldier Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan shows, demonizing an entire faith is unjust and un-American.

He's describing the toxic mentality which the GOP has spawned, which the McCain campaign has attempted to exploit, and which Colin Powell today -- regardless of his motives (which can be questioned) and past sins (which are substantial) -- repudiated in a way that no figure of national political significance has, at least not in such a prominent venue.


17 October 2008

i feel bad for joe the plumber. i do. i really really do...

[from daily kos...]

McCain's still hasn't gotten the hang of this "vetting" thing

Fri Oct 17, 2008 at 08:09:35 AM PDT


John McCain hung his final presidential debate performance on an Ohio plumber who campaign aides never vetted.

A day after making Joseph Wurzelbacher famous, referencing him in the debate almost two dozen times as someone who would pay higher taxes under Barack Obama, McCain learned the fine print Thursday on the plumber’s not-so-tidy personal story: He owes back taxes. He is not a licensed plumber. And it turns out that Wurzelbacher makes less than $250,000 a year, which means he would receive a tax cut if Obama were elected president.

Yeah, kind of a big "whoops", huh?

McCain likes to say that he isn’t George W. Bush – and in this case of bungled public relations, it is clear he is not. The famously-disciplined Bush campaign operation would likely have found the perfect anonymous citizen to illustrate a policy proposal, rather than spontaneously wrap itself around an unknown entity with so many asterisks.


While the arc of Wurzelbacher’s breakneck trip through the news cycle – from private citizen to insta-celebrity to political target – offers a curious insight into the political media culture, it also appears to offer a glimpse into the McCain campaign’s on-the-fly decisionmaking style.

A McCain source said Thursday that the campaign read about Wurzelbacher on the Drudge Report, while another campaign aide confirmed that he was not vetted.

Ahh, that explains it all -- mix Drudge's carelessness with the facts with McCain's refusal to think before he acts and you have quite the explosive mix. It didn't take much shaking to have it explode in McCain's face.

Joe The Plumber: Obama's Plan Will Cut My Taxes

Fri Oct 17, 2008 at 09:34:58 AM PDT

Here's how pathetic McCain's "Joe The Plumber" gambit is: despite the fact that Joe is a raving right-wing loon who thinks McCain is too far to the left, even he admits that Barack Obama's tax cut plan will lower his taxes. Watch as he (reluctantly) rebuts McCain's lies in this mock mini-debate:


15 October 2008

9:39 PM — And the squigglies tank. And finally, Obama laughs at McCain.

[from wonkette...]

9:00 PM — Oh, hey, it’s that nice old Bob Schieffer fellow. What kind of incredibly awkward and unwarranted attack will McCain make on this kindly CBS anchorman?

9:00 PM — It was super nice of McCain to loan Chris Matthews one of his old gay sweaters.

9:00 PM — “Grumpy old man in slippers.” — Joe Biden, describing Walnuts today.

9:00 PM — Oh dear christ, Olbermann and Matthews were just cackling and listing all the comical mean old men McCain reminds them of: Mr. Wilson from Dennis the Menace, Grandpa Simpson, etc. And with that, the 49th and final presidential debate! Oh and here is our slapped-together drinking game!

9:01 PM — Hello Bob! What are the rules? “Simple.” How long are the dealies? “Nine-minute segments.” Then what? “Then we’ll have a discussion.” Let’s roll, biatches!

9:02 PM — A warm greeting between the candidates, if by “warm,” you mean McCain gritted his dentures and faked a smile while shaking Obama’s hand.

9:03 PM — The economies are bad, oh noes! What will you people do? McCain is already busily scribbling notes, and now does his usual mention of whatever old politician is in the hospital tonight.

9:04 PM — Ha ha, McCain “won’t repeat” the parts of his economic policy that Bob mentioned, although he didn’t really list McCain’s economic policies. Anyway, McCain doesn’t know “his” policies, but he can mention this dingbat “I will buy your home” plan.

9:05 PM — Obama: “Worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.” Bailout plan that “Senator McCain and I both supported” is a first step, etc., but the MIDDLE CLASS needs a rescue plan.

9:06 PM — Jeez, how did Walnuts again miss the chance to get in a “middle class” reference? Obama will have a dozen “middle class” mentions before this answer is over!

9:07 PM — We’ve switched to CNN so we can watch the squiggly meter which shows what the undecided bitters think of this. Ladies Love Cool Barry, as usual, but the men are close, and they are super positive.

9:07 PM — “Would you like to ask Senator Obama a question?” McCAIN: “No.” And onto some story. The squiggly lines just go straight down. Oh lord.

9:08 PM — Flatlining.

9:08 PM — Oh lord. Gibberish already, stumbling, talking to the camera, “What you want to do?” Huh?

9:09 PM — “Heh heh.” DRINK!

9:10 PM — The squigglies stay low until Obama says “95% of you out there will get a tax cut.” Ding ding ding the nice man will give you moneys!

9:10 PM — Then Obama corrects the Joe the Plumber story, and the squigglies go up up up, even though it is confusing, to this editor, who is trying to type, after all.

9:11 PM — Yellow teeth, snarling, creepy chuckling, “class warfare.”

9:11 PM — Add “Joe the Plumber” to the drinking game! That’s what, 15 drinks? Be careful out there.

9:12 PM — “Ordinary families” and the squiggly rises!

9:13 PM — Ireland! Drink, just because. God, he loves saying Ireland. McCain, we mean.

9:13 PM — McCain doesn’t seem to realize that “spread the wealth around” doesn’t actually sound so bad to, you know, 95% of people. How would he know this?

9:14 PM — Bob the Builder: “Aren’t you both ignoring reality, won’t some of the programs you propose have to be trimmed or cut back?”

9:14 PM — Boring yet important Barry talk on health care, Medicare, health insurance, etc. He sounds serious and stable, the squigglies skyrocket, “We’re not going to be able to go back to our profligate ways.” Squggly goes down a bit, as nobody knows what that word means.

9:16 PM — McCain: “Let’s get back to me talking about this I’ll-buy-your-mortgage scheme.”

9:17 PM — “What will you cut?” Don’t make Bob Schieffer mad, Walnuts!

9:17 PM — He lists a bunch of types of energy sources, women are going down down, “I know how to …” Then, again, the TOTAL SPENDING FREEZE, squigglies go down down down. Sugar cane! Brazil! “I know how to save billions” … men squiggly rises, then goes down as … it turns to gibberish.


9:19 PM — Sara, where is the overhead projector link please?

9:19 PM — Obama: “Earmarks are the centerpiece of Senator McCain’s campaign. Earmarks make up half of one percent of federal spending. Bush spent all our monies!”

9:20 PM — Here, here is the tale of the “overhead projector,” which first of all has yet to be replaced. And second, uh, hey, science museum, public planetarium, education, for kids?!

9:21 PM — God, this fucking jabbering over the energy bill and whatever. Cutting spending.

9:23 PM — McCain will not look at Obama when he speaks. He seethes!

9:24 PM — “I got the scars to prove it,” says McCain with a cackle, and the squigglies go down, down in the tank.

9:24 PM — “Senator Obama, your argument that you’ve stood up to your party is not very convincing.” Mincing smile. Down go the squigglies.

9:25 PM — Bob: “Are you willing to say the shit your campaign says, but to each other’s face?”

9:25 PM — McCain: “It’s Obama’s fault for not having 10 town hall meetings with me.”

9:25 PM — John Lewis! Segregation! George Wallace! “That to me was so hurtful.”

9:27 PM — So, will John McCain say anything to Obama’s face? No, but he will look in the other direction, say “You didn’t keep your word,” “You didn’t tell people the truth, because you didn’t.”

9:28 PM — Barry will not go for the kill, because he doesn’t have to. But, “100% of your ads, John, have been negative.”

9:29 PM — McCain, weird smile, “That’s not true.”

9:29 PM — And back to economic polices, the economic crisis, squigglies go up again!

9:31 PM — Oh, first, John Lewis: Obama says John Lewis was troubled because Palin’s supporters were yelling “terrorist” and “Kill Him!” at Obama’s name. “Congressman Lewis’ point was we have got to be careful with our supporters.”

9:32 PM — And the American people have become so cynical about our politics, blah blah &c.

9:33 PM — McCain is FUMING! The skeletor face.

9:33 PM — McCain: “I’m proud of the people who come to my rallies.”

9:33 PM — They are patriotic! When they say “Kill him!” And … stunned silence.sss

9:36 PM — Oh shit, now it is all here, ACORN, “washed up terrorist,” “destroying the fabric of democracy,” “all of these things need to be examined.”

9:36 PM — Obama: “Mr. Ayers has become the centerpiece of McCain’s campaign these past three weeks. Forty years ago, when I was eight years old, yadda yadda, and 10 years ago, we served on a school board CREATED BY RONALD REAGAN, somehow, and the Republicans. All Republicans. Mr. Ayers is not involved in my campaign, hasn’t been involved in my campaign.”

9:37 PM — “ACORN … paying bums to register votes, people just filled in names to get paid. I represented them alongside the U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT. The reason it’s important to get the facts out, I associate with Warren Buffet, and Paul Volcker, and Joe Biden, and Dick Lugar (GOP!), and NATO, the supreme commanders.

9:39 PM — And the squigglies tank. And finally, Obama laughs at McCain.

9:31 PM — Obama says, Hey man I cannot be responsible for the comments of John Lewis, an American hero whom we both admire! Oh and now he is pointing out what a sorry sack of poo Sarah Palin is. People are cynical, tit for tat… now he is bringing it back to the boring boilerplate.

9:33 PM — “Let me just say categorically, I’m proud of the people that come to our rallies.” Oh good Lord. “The most dedicated, patriotic men and women…” Yes, too bad they’re being videotaped.

9:34 PM — John McCain is so steamed because he’s been terribly busy repudiating things all over the place, and Barack Obama has not been repudiating things nearly often enough.

9:35 PM — Well America, there you go. Four minutes of frisson in the middle of 90 minutes of dull, dull debate. But wait! Ayers, Acorn!!! He got ‘em both out!

9:36 PM — “He engaged in despicable acts.” Mmm, sounds sexy! Tell us more about these despicable acts. Now, on to Acorn, the terrorist organization that registers people to vote sometimes. Subverting democracy!

9:38 PM — Eek, look at McCain’s creepy unblinking death stare!

9:39 PM — Hey speaking of associations, what about that Charles Keating guy that Grampy used to “pal around with”?

9:40 PM — Obama, tell us why Joe Biden is better than Sarah Palin. Without being sexist. Man, the uncommitted voters of Ohio do not seem to be liking Barack Obama so much tonight. Where’s the love, Ohio?

9:41 PM — “The Violence Against Wimmins Act.” Women’s? Blah blah blah, boring boilerplate recapitulation.

9:42 PM — The voters of Ohio REALLY do not care for Sarah Palin. Not the women, anyhow. Broads hate this Palin character, good LORD. Are all the lady voters in Ohio suddenly dead or asleep or something? John McCain cannot even pronounce “breath of fresh air” correctly. “She understands that autism is on the rise.” Yes, that is a very important quality for a vice president to possess.

9:44 PM — Barack Obama offers comically faint, vague praise for Sarah Palin. “She has two eyes…and the full complement of other sensory organs, which is great…” And Obama clumsily pivots to economic garbage.

9:45 PM — Cockamaimie! Drink!

9:46 PM — “Let’s talk about energy and climate control.” “Climate change,” says McCain, angrily.

9:48 PM — Gaack, that same dumb list of different technologies. McCain loves that list, because he has memorized it, and it takes up time. Otherwise none of that response made sense, or was even in English.

9:49 PM — Obama: Treat our oil fields like vacation days: use ‘em or lose ‘em. We can’t drill our way out of the problem…Now here comes his list of technologies, which includes geothermal, whee! P.S. NAFTA SUX.

9:51 PM — South Korea needs more crappy American cars.

9:51 PM — McCain does a close reading of Obama’s response with a canned bit about how he’s eloquent but he lies with his words. Barack Obama has never traveled south of our border, whereas John McCain is secretly Panamanian and had sex with some hot Brazilian model back in the 1930s!

9:54 PM — Yes Barack, we need a president who will enforce unfair trade agreements. Amazingly, John McCain does not snicker and correct him on this.

9:55 PM — Barack Obama wants to sit down without preconditions and meet with the terrorist Hugo Chavez!

9:56 PM — Here we go, the healthcare question that they have all been so eager to answer. Obama doesn’t really answer the “cut costs or expand coverage?” question, but offers up some anecdote about ladies in Toledo who appeared to be in their 50s. Actually, they were in their late 20s, but they have spent their lives in Toledo. (Cue angry emails from Toledo readers.)

9:58 PM — McCain widens his eyes when he says “working families,” like it either pains or disgusts him to say these words. He hates obese people, too!

9:59 PM — Oh hey it’s a shoutout to “my friend” Joe the Plumber.

10:00 — McCain’s health plan: make less fatties.

10:01 — HAHAHAHHA here comes Joe the Cummer again, John McCain wants to help Joe the Cummer have more employees, for cumming.

10:01 — Oh wow, Barack Obama says Joe the Cummer will have to pay ZERO in penalties if he doesn’t offer his employees health care. McCain stares at him like, “ZERO DOLLARS, HENNGHHHH?” And Obama says yes, because my plan excludes penalties on small businesses, such as professional cumming.

10:03 — McCain: “Hey Joe, you’re rich, HENNGHH, congrats, now Black Beauty over here wants to, uh, spread your wealth around, HENNGHH?” Has John McCain ever heard of a progressive tax system, which is what we have and what everyone has? Maybe everyone should pay zero taxes! Then we can just, uh, save America that way, with the no tax thing. HENNGHHHH?

10:05 — Joe the Cummer is cumming so much now, with all the attention he’s getting! His name is Rich Lowry, and he is the plumber of the toilet that is the National Review.

10:08 — Look everyone, it’s Joe the Plumber, we found him on a porn site for donkeys:

10:09 — John McCain would hire LITERALLY FUCKING ANYONE to the Supreme Court, no Litmus Tests for liberals, but he wouldn’t, uh… maybe… eh… well it’s a tough question… carry the zero… he would half-nominate someone who may have supported Roe v. Wade ever or never.

10:11 — Joe the Plumber, we found his website — traffic must be SKYROCKETING.

10:12 — McCain was born as a failed abortion, McCain says about himself. Would’ve worked better nowadays, but back then abortions were done with onions and a lot of them failed.

10:13 — Obama voted present for killing babies and such, why would he do that?

10:14 — Obama: When I voted present that was really a SECRET MAGICAL UNICORN VOTE for actual global peace and happiness, so fuck you Senator McCain.

10:15 — McCain: When the black talks about provisions for “saving the mother’s life” for opposing abortion bans, he doesn’t understand that all women are dumb sluts.

10:16 — LAST QUESTION OMG we’re so early no?

10:18 — It is about education. Eh. Higher education. Obama talks about his thing to give college kids money if they put Country First. Screw college. More people have college degrees now than ever, and look how that’s worked out. Our biggest achievement in the last ten years has been credit default swaps.

10:20 — McCain wants to BUS THE BLACKS into white neighborhoods with their fancy gay vouchers! Now who does that help? Hitler. It helps Adolf Hitler.

10:22 — Fixy the educations, fixy fixy fixy. What does Joe the Plumber want to do about want to do about vouchers? He doesn’t want to pay the Obama “Money Tax,” alright!

10:24 — McCain explains how vouchers helped the Washington D.C. school system. You remember that, and how it fucking was worthless saved America, don’t you Senator Obama?

10:25 — Obama says no vouchers bitch.

10:26 — McCain: “You listening to this idiot, HENNGHH?”

10:27 — Important Closing Statements. McCain spits his poo first.

10:28 — McCain: We have to fix all of this country’s problem. I recommend Joe the Plumber to fix them, we’ll write up a contract. But My Friends, Joe the Cummer, Plumber, needs a new caulk gun for his cumming. And he can’t do that with the Obama Money Tax. Fuck all this shit. Bye.

10:30 — Obama: We have to invest, baby, invest. Invest in money. Invest in the various taxes. It’s not going to be easy. Now watch me slam-jam this trash can on old Schieffer’s head. [Does so]. Look, look at how stupid Schieffer looks now. Bye.

10:31 — Bob Schieffer tells everyone that his mom is making him vote.

10:32 — McCain tells Obama “good job.” Meh. This is over. Bye kids!


13 October 2008

today's prayer...

happy columbus-- or is it indigenous people's-- day.

Columbus, The Indians, and Human Progress

by Howard Zinn

Arawak men and women, naked, tawny, and full of wonder, emerged from their villages onto the island's beaches and swam out to get a closer look at the strange big boat. When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. He later wrote of this in his log:
They ... brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells. They willingly traded everything they owned... . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features.... They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane... . They would make fine servants.... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.
These Arawaks of the Bahama Islands were much like Indians on the mainland, who were remarkable (European observers were to say again and again) for their hospitality, their belief in sharing. These traits did not stand out in the Europe of the Renaissance, dominated as it was by the religion of popes, the government of kings, the frenzy for money that marked Western civilization and its first messenger to the Americas, Christopher Columbus.
Columbus wrote:
As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.
The information that Columbus wanted most was: Where is the gold? He had persuaded the king and queen of Spain to finance an expedition to the lands, the wealth, he expected would be on the other side of the Atlantic-the Indies and Asia, gold and spices. For, like other informed people of his time, he knew the world was round and he could sail west in order to get to the Far East.

Spain was recently unified, one of the new modern nation-states, like France, England, and Portugal. Its population, mostly poor peasants, worked for the nobility, who were 2 percent of the population and owned 95 percent of the land. Spain had tied itself to the Catholic Church, expelled all the Jews, driven out the Moors. Like other states of the modern world, Spain sought gold, which was becoming the new mark of wealth, more useful than land because it could buy anything.

There was gold in Asia, it was thought, and certainly silks and spices, for Marco Polo and others had brought back marvelous things from their overland expeditions centuries before. Now that the Turks had conquered Constantinople and the eastern Mediterranean, and controlled the land routes to Asia, a sea route was needed. Portuguese sailors were working their way around the southern tip of Africa. Spain decided to gamble on a long sail across an unknown ocean.

In return for bringing back gold and spices, they promised Columbus 10 percent of the profits, governorship over new-found lands, and the fame that would go with a new tide: Admiral of the Ocean Sea. He was a merchant's clerk from the Italian city of Genoa, part-time weaver (the son of a skilled weaver), and expert sailor. He set out with three sailing ships, the largest of which was the Santa Maria, perhaps 100 feet long, and thirty-nine crew members.

Columbus would never have made it to Asia, which was thousands of miles farther away than he had calculated, imagining a smaller world. He would have been doomed by that great expanse of sea. But he was lucky. One-fourth of the way there he came upon an unknown, uncharted land that lay between Europe and Asia-the Americas. It was early October 1492, and thirty-three days since he and his crew had left the Canary Islands, off the Atlantic coast of Africa. Now they saw branches and sticks floating in the water. They saw flocks of birds.

These were signs of land. Then, on October 12, a sailor called Rodrigo saw the early morning moon shining on white sands, and cried out. It was an island in the Bahamas, the Caribbean sea. The first man to sight land was supposed to get a yearly pension of 10,000 maravedis for life, but Rodrigo never got it. Columbus claimed he had seen a light the evening before. He got the reward.

So, approaching land, they were met by the Arawak Indians, who swam out to greet them. The Arawaks lived in village communes, had a developed agriculture of corn, yams, cassava. They could spin and weave, but they had no horses or work animals. They had no iron, but they wore tiny gold ornaments in their ears.

This was to have enormous consequences: it led Columbus to take some of them aboard ship as prisoners because he insisted that they guide him to the source of the gold. He then sailed to what is now Cuba, then to Hispaniola (the island which today consists of Haiti and the Dominican Republic). There, bits of visible gold in the rivers, and a gold mask presented to Columbus by a local Indian chief, led to wild visions of gold fields.

On Hispaniola, out of timbers from the Santa Maria, which had run aground, Columbus built a fort, the first European military base in the Western Hemisphere. He called it Navidad (Christmas) and left thirty-nine crewmembers there, with instructions to find and store the gold. He took more Indian prisoners and put them aboard his two remaining ships. At one part of the island he got into a fight with Indians who refused to trade as many bows and arrows as he and his men wanted. Two were run through with swords and bled to death. Then the Nina and the Pinta set sail for the Azores and Spain. When the weather turned cold, the Indian prisoners began to die.

Columbus's report to the Court in Madrid was extravagant. He insisted he had reached Asia (it was Cuba) and an island off the coast of China (Hispaniola). His descriptions were part fact, part fiction:
Hispaniola is a miracle. Mountains and hills, plains and pastures, are both fertile and beautiful ... the harbors are unbelievably good and there are many wide rivers of which the majority contain gold. . . . There are many spices, and great mines of gold and other metals....

The Indians, Columbus reported, "are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone...." He concluded his report by asking for a little help from their Majesties, and in return he would bring them from his next voyage "as much gold as they need ... and as many slaves as they ask." He was full of religious talk: "Thus the eternal God, our Lord, gives victory to those who follow His way over apparent impossibilities."

Because of Columbus's exaggerated report and promises, his second expedition was given seventeen ships and more than twelve hundred men. The aim was clear: slaves and gold. They went from island to island in the Caribbean, taking Indians as captives. But as word spread of the Europeans' intent they found more and more empty villages. On Haiti, they found that the sailors left behind at Fort Navidad had been killed in a battle with the Indians, after they had roamed the island in gangs looking for gold, taking women and children as slaves for sex and labor.

Now, from his base on Haiti, Columbus sent expedition after expedition into the interior. They found no gold fields, but had to fill up the ships returning to Spain with some kind of dividend. In the year 1495, they went on a great slave raid, rounded up fifteen hundred Arawak men, women, and children, put them in pens guarded by Spaniards and dogs, then picked the five hundred best specimens to load onto ships. Of those five hundred, two hundred died en route. The rest arrived alive in Spain and were put up for sale by the archdeacon of the town, who reported that, although the slaves were "naked as the day they were born," they showed "no more embarrassment than animals." Columbus later wrote: "Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold."

But too many of the slaves died in captivity. And so Columbus, desperate to pay back dividends to those who had invested, had to make good his promise to fill the ships with gold. In the province of Cicao on Haiti, where he and his men imagined huge gold fields to exist, they ordered all persons fourteen years or older to collect a certain quantity of gold every three months. When they brought it, they were given copper tokens to hang around their necks. Indians found without a copper token had their hands cut off and bled to death.

The Indians had been given an impossible task. The only gold around was bits of dust garnered from the streams. So they fled, were hunted down with dogs, and were killed.

Trying to put together an army of resistance, the Arawaks faced Spaniards who had armor, muskets, swords, horses. When the Spaniards took prisoners they hanged them or burned them to death. Among the Arawaks, mass suicides began, with cassava poison. Infants were killed to save them from the Spaniards. In two years, through murder, mutilation, or suicide, half of the 250,000 Indians on Haiti were dead.

When it became clear that there was no gold left, the Indians were taken as slave labor on huge estates, known later as encomiendas. They were worked at a ferocious pace, and died by the thousands. By the year 1515, there were perhaps fifty thousand Indians left. By 1550, there were five hundred. A report of the year 1650 shows none of the original Arawaks or their descendants left on the island.

The chief source-and, on many matters the only source-of information about what happened on the islands after Columbus came is Bartolome de las Casas, who, as a young priest, participated in the conquest of Cuba. For a time he owned a plantation on which Indian slaves worked, but he gave that up and became a vehement critic of Spanish cruelty. Las Casas transcribed Columbus's journal and, in his fifties, began a multivolume History of the Indies. In it, he describes the Indians. They are agile, he says, and can swim long distances, especially the women. They are not completely peaceful, because they do battle from time to time with other tribes, but their casualties seem small, and they fight when they are individually moved to do so because of some grievance, not on the orders of captains or kings.

Women in Indian society were treated so well as to startle the Spaniards. Las Casas describes sex relations:
Marriage laws are non-existent men and women alike choose their mates and leave them as they please, without offense, jealousy or anger. They multiply in great abundance; pregnant women work to the last minute and give birth almost painlessly; up the next day, they bathe in the river and are as clean and healthy as before giving birth. If they tire of their men, they give themselves abortions with herbs that force stillbirths, covering their shameful parts with leaves or cotton cloth; although on the whole, Indian men and women look upon total nakedness with as much casualness as we look upon a man's head or at his hands.
The Indians, Las Casas says, have no religion, at least no temples. They live in
large communal bell-shaped buildings, housing up to 600 people at one time ... made of very strong wood and roofed with palm leaves.... They prize bird feathers of various colors, beads made of fishbones, and green and white stones with which they adorn their ears and lips, but they put no value on gold and other precious things. They lack all manner of commerce, neither buying nor selling, and rely exclusively on their natural environment for maintenance. They are extremely generous with their possessions and by the same token covet the possessions of then; friends and expect the same degree of liberality. ...
In Book Two of his History of the Indies, Las Casas (who at first urged replacing Indians by black slaves, thinking they were stronger and would survive, but later relented when he saw the effects on blacks) tells about the treatment of the Indians by the Spaniards. It is a unique account and deserves to be quoted at length:
Endless testimonies . .. prove the mild and pacific temperament of the natives.... But our work was to exasperate, ravage, kill, mangle and destroy; small wonder, then, if they tried to kill one of us now and then.... The admiral, it is true, was blind as those who came after him, and he was so anxious to please the King that he committed irreparable crimes against the Indians....
Las Casas tells how the Spaniards "grew more conceited every day" and after a while refused to walk any distance. They "rode the backs of Indians if they were in a hurry" or were carried on hammocks by Indians running in relays. "In this case they also had Indians carry large leaves to shade them from the sun and others to fan them with goose wings."

Total control led to total cruelty. The Spaniards "thought nothing of knifing Indians by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them to test the sharpness of their blades." Las Casas tells how "two of these so-called Christians met two Indian boys one day, each carrying a parrot; they took the parrots and for fun beheaded the boys."

The Indians' attempts to defend themselves failed. And when they ran off into the hills they were found and killed. So, Las Casas reports, "they suffered and died in the mines and other labors in desperate silence, knowing not a soul in the world to whom they could turn for help." He describes their work in the mines:
... mountains are stripped from top to bottom and bottom to top a thousand times; they dig, split rocks, move stones, and carry dirt on then: backs to wash it in the rivers, while those who wash gold stay in the water all the time with their backs bent so constantly it breaks them; and when water invades the mines, the most arduous task of all is to dry the mines by scooping up pansful of water and throwing it up outside....
After each six or eight months' work in the mines, which was the time required of each crew to dig enough gold for melting, up to a third of the men died.

While the men were sent many miles away to the mines, the wives remained to work the soil, forced into the excruciating job of digging and making thousands of hills for cassava plants.
Thus husbands and wives were together only once every eight or ten months and when they met they were so exhausted and depressed on both sides ... they ceased to procreate. As for the newly born, they died early because their mothers, overworked and famished, had no milk to nurse them, and for this reason, while I was in Cuba, 7000 children died in three months. Some mothers even drowned their babies from sheer desperation.... in this way, husbands died in the mines, wives died at work, and children died from lack of milk . .. and in a short time this land which was so great, so powerful and fertile ... was depopulated. ... My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature, and now I tremble as I write. ...
When he arrived on Hispaniola in 1508, Las Casas says, "there were 60,000 people living on this island, including the Indians; so that from 1494 to 1508, over three million people had perished from war, slavery, and the mines. Who in future generations will believe this? I myself writing it as a knowledgeable eyewitness can hardly believe it...."

Thus began the history, five hundred years ago, of the European invasion of the Indian settlements in the Americas. That beginning, when you read Las Casas-even if his figures are exaggerations (were there 3 million Indians to begin with, as he says, or less than a million, as some historians have calculated, or 8 million as others now believe?)-is conquest, slavery, death. When we read the history books given to children in the United States, it all starts with heroic adventure-there is no bloodshed-and Columbus Day is a celebration.

Past the elementary and high schools, there are only occasional hints of something else. Samuel Eliot Morison, the Harvard historian, was the most distinguished writer on Columbus, the author of a multivolume biography, and was himself a sailor who retraced Columbus's route across the Atlantic. In his popular book Christopher Columbus, Mariner, written in 1954, he tells about the enslavement and the killing: "The cruel policy initiated by Columbus and pursued by his successors resulted in complete genocide."

That is on one page, buried halfway into the telling of a grand romance. In the book's last paragraph, Morison sums up his view of Columbus:
He had his faults and his defects, but they were largely the defects of the qualities that made him great-his indomitable will, his superb faith in God and in his own mission as the Christ-bearer to lands beyond the seas, his stubborn persistence despite neglect, poverty and discouragement. But there was no flaw, no dark side to the most outstanding and essential of all his qualities-his seamanship.
One can lie outright about the past. Or one can omit facts which might lead to unacceptable conclusions. Morison does neither. He refuses to lie about Columbus. He does not omit the story of mass murder; indeed he describes it with the harshest word one can use: genocide.

But he does something else-he mentions the truth quickly and goes on to other things more important to him. Outright lying or quiet omission takes the risk of discovery which, when made, might arouse the reader to rebel against the writer. To state the facts, however, and then to bury them in a mass of other information is to say to the reader with a certain infectious calm: yes, mass murder took place, but it's not that important-it should weigh very little in our final judgments; it should affect very little what we do in the world.

It is not that the historian can avoid emphasis of some facts and not of others. This is as natural to him as to the mapmaker, who, in order to produce a usable drawing for practical purposes, must first flatten and distort the shape of the earth, then choose out of the bewildering mass of geographic information those things needed for the purpose of this or that particular map.

My argument cannot be against selection, simplification, emphasis, which are inevitable for both cartographers and historians. But the map-maker's distortion is a technical necessity for a common purpose shared by all people who need maps. The historian's distortion is more than technical, it is ideological; it is released into a world of contending interests, where any chosen emphasis supports (whether the historian means to or not) some kind of interest, whether economic or political or racial or national or sexual.

Furthermore, this ideological interest is not openly expressed in the way a mapmaker's technical interest is obvious ("This is a Mercator projection for long-range navigation-for short-range, you'd better use a different projection"). No, it is presented as if all readers of history had a common interest which historians serve to the best of their ability. This is not intentional deception; the historian has been trained in a society in which education and knowledge are put forward as technical problems of excellence and not as tools for contending social classes, races, nations.

To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to de-emphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice. It serves- unwittingly-to justify what was done. My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality. But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all)-that is still with us. One reason these atrocities are still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth. We have learned to give them exactly the same proportion of attention that teachers and writers often give them in the most respectable of classrooms and textbooks. This learned sense of moral proportion, coming from the apparent objectivity of the scholar, is accepted more easily than when it comes from politicians at press conferences. It is therefore more deadly.

The treatment of heroes (Columbus) and their victims (the Arawaks)-the quiet acceptance of conquest and murder in the name of progress-is only one aspect of a certain approach to history, in which the past is told from the point of view of governments, conquerors, diplomats, leaders. It is as if they, like Columbus, deserve universal acceptance, as if they-the Founding Fathers, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, the leading members of Congress, the famous Justices of the Supreme Court-represent the nation as a whole. The pretense is that there really is such a thing as "the United States," subject to occasional conflicts and quarrels, but fundamentally a community of people with common interests. It is as if there really is a "national interest" represented in the Constitution, in territorial expansion, in the laws passed by Congress, the decisions of the courts, the development of capitalism, the culture of education and the mass media.

"History is the memory of states," wrote Henry Kissinger in his first book, A World Restored, in which he proceeded to tell the history of nineteenth-century Europe from the viewpoint of the leaders of Austria and England, ignoring the millions who suffered from those statesmen's policies. From his standpoint, the "peace" that Europe had before the French Revolution was "restored" by the diplomacy of a few national leaders. But for factory workers in England, farmers in France, colored people in Asia and Africa, women and children everywhere except in the upper classes, it was a world of conquest, violence, hunger, exploitation-a world not restored but disintegrated.

My viewpoint, in telling the history of the United States, is different: that we must not accept the memory of states as our own. Nations are not communities and never have been, The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, most often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.

Thus, in that inevitable taking of sides which comes from selection and emphasis in history, I prefer to try to tell the story of the discovery of America from the viewpoint of the Arawaks, of the Constitution from the standpoint of the slaves, of Andrew Jackson as seen by the Cherokees, of the Civil War as seen by the New York Irish, of the Mexican war as seen by the deserting soldiers of Scott's army, of the rise of industrialism as seen by the young women in the Lowell textile mills, of the Spanish-American war as seen by the Cubans, the conquest of the Philippines as seen by black soldiers on Luzon, the Gilded Age as seen by southern farmers, the First World War as seen by socialists, the Second World War as seen by pacifists, the New Deal as seen by blacks in Harlem, the postwar American empire as seen by peons in Latin America. And so on, to the limited extent that any one person, however he or she strains, can "see" history from the standpoint of others.

My point is not to grieve for the victims and denounce the executioners. Those tears, that anger, cast into the past, deplete our moral energy for the present. And the lines are not always clear. In the long run, the oppressor is also a victim. In the short run (and so far, human history has consisted only of short runs), the victims, themselves desperate and tainted with the culture that oppresses them, turn on other victims.

Still, understanding the complexities, this book will be skeptical of governments and their attempts, through politics and culture, to ensnare ordinary people in a giant web of nationhood pretending to a common interest. I will try not to overlook the cruelties that victims inflict on one another as they are jammed together in the boxcars of the system. I don't want to romanticize them. But I do remember (in rough paraphrase) a statement I once read: "The cry of the poor is not always just, but if you don't listen to it, you will never know what justice is."

I don't want to invent victories for people's movements. But to think that history-writing must aim simply to recapitulate the failures that dominate the past is to make historians collaborators in an endless cycle of defeat. If history is to be creative, to anticipate a possible future without denying the past, it should, I believe, emphasize new possibilities by disclosing those hidden episodes of the past when, even if in brief flashes, people showed their ability to resist, to join together, occasionally to win. I am supposing, or perhaps only hoping, that our future may be found in the past's fugitive moments of compassion rather than in its solid centuries of warfare.

That, being as blunt as I can, is my approach to the history of the United States. The reader may as well know that before going on.

What Columbus did to the Arawaks of the Bahamas, Cortes did to the Aztecs of Mexico, Pizarro to the Incas of Peru, and the English settlers of Virginia and Massachusetts to the Powhatans and the Pequots.

The Aztec civilization of Mexico came out of the heritage of Mayan, Zapotec, and Toltec cultures. It built enormous constructions from stone tools and human labor, developed a writing system and a priesthood. It also engaged in (let us not overlook this) the ritual killing of thousands of people as sacrifices to the gods. The cruelty of the Aztecs, however, did not erase a certain innocence, and when a Spanish armada appeared at Vera Cruz, and a bearded white man came ashore, with strange beasts (horses), clad in iron, it was thought that he was the legendary Aztec man-god who had died three hundred years before, with the promise to return-the mysterious Quetzalcoatl. And so they welcomed him, with munificent hospitality.

That was Hernando Cortes, come from Spain with an expedition financed by merchants and landowners and blessed by the deputies of God, with one obsessive goal: to find gold. In the mind of Montezuma, the king of the Aztecs, there must have been a certain doubt about whether Cortes was indeed Quetzalcoatl, because he sent a hundred runners to Cortes, bearing enormous treasures, gold and silver wrought into objects of fantastic beauty, but at the same time begging him to go back. (The painter Durer a few years later described what he saw just arrived in Spain from that expedition-a sun of gold, a moon of silver, worth a fortune.)

Cortes then began his march of death from town to town, using deception, turning Aztec against Aztec, killing with the kind of deliberateness that accompanies a strategy-to paralyze the will of the population by a sudden frightful deed. And so, in Cholulu, he invited the headmen of the Cholula nation to the square. And when they came, with thousands of unarmed retainers, Cortes's small army of Spaniards, posted around the square with cannon, armed with crossbows, mounted on horses, massacred them, down to the last man. Then they looted the city and moved on. When their cavalcade of murder was over they were in Mexico City, Montezuma was dead, and the Aztec civilization, shattered, was in the hands of the Spaniards.

All this is told in the Spaniards' own accounts.

In Peru, that other Spanish conquistador Pizarro, used the same tactics, and for the same reasons- the frenzy in the early capitalist states of Europe for gold, for slaves, for products of the soil, to pay the bondholders and stockholders of the expeditions, to finance the monarchical bureaucracies rising in Western Europe, to spur the growth of the new money economy rising out of feudalism, to participate in what Karl Marx would later call "the primitive accumulation of capital." These were the violent beginnings of an intricate system of technology, business, politics, and culture that would dominate the world for the next five centuries.

In the North American English colonies, the pattern was set early, as Columbus had set it in the islands of the Bahamas. In 1585, before there was any permanent English settlement in Virginia, Richard Grenville landed there with seven ships. The Indians he met were hospitable, but when one of them stole a small silver cup, Grenville sacked and burned the whole Indian village.

Jamestown itself was set up inside the territory of an Indian confederacy, led by the chief, Powhatan. Powhatan watched the English settle on his people's land, but did not attack, maintaining a posture of coolness. When the English were going through their "starving time" in the winter of 1610, some of them ran off to join the Indians, where they would at least be fed. When the summer came, the governor of the colony sent a messenger to ask Powhatan to return the runaways, whereupon Powhatan, according to the English account, replied with "noe other than prowde and disdaynefull Answers." Some soldiers were therefore sent out "to take Revenge." They fell upon an Indian settlement, killed fifteen or sixteen Indians, burned the houses, cut down the corn growing around the village, took the queen of the tribe and her children into boats, then ended up throwing the children overboard "and shoteinge owit their Braynes in the water." The queen was later taken off and stabbed to death.

Twelve years later, the Indians, alarmed as the English settlements kept growing in numbers, apparently decided to try to wipe them out for good. They went on a rampage and massacred 347 men, women, and children. From then on it was total war.

Not able to enslave the Indians, and not able to live with them, the English decided to exterminate them. Edmund Morgan writes, in his history of early Virginia, American Slavery, American Freedom:
Since the Indians were better woodsmen than the English and virtually impossible to track down, the method was to feign peaceful intentions, let them settle down and plant their com wherever they chose, and then, just before harvest, fall upon them, killing as many as possible and burning the corn... . Within two or three years of the massacre the English had avenged the deaths of that day many times over.
In that first year of the white man in Virginia, 1607, Powhatan had addressed a plea to John Smith that turned out prophetic. How authentic it is may be in doubt, but it is so much like so many Indian statements that it may be taken as, if not the rough letter of that first plea, the exact spirit of it:
I have seen two generations of my people the.... I know the difference between peace and war better than any man in my country. I am now grown old, and must the soon; my authority must descend to my brothers, Opitehapan, Opechancanough and Catatough-then to my two sisters, and then to my two daughters-I wish them to know as much as I do, and that your love to them may be like mine to you. Why will you take by force what you may have quietly by love? Why will you destroy us who supply you with food? What can you get by war? We can hide our provisions and run into the woods; then you will starve for wronging your friends. Why are you jealous of us? We are unarmed, and willing to give you what you ask, if you come in a friendly manner, and not so simple as not to know that it is much better to eat good meat, sleep comfortably, live quietly with my wives and children, laugh and be merry with the English, and trade for their copper and hatchets, than to run away from them, and to lie cold in the woods, feed on acorns, roots and such trash, and be so hunted that I can neither eat nor sleep. In these wars, my men must sit up watching, and if a twig break, they all cry out "Here comes Captain Smith!" So I must end my miserable life. Take away your guns and swords, the cause of all our jealousy, or you may all die in the same manner.
When the Pilgrims came to New England they too were coming not to vacant land but to territory inhabited by tribes of Indians. The governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, created the excuse to take Indian land by declaring the area legally a "vacuum." The Indians, he said, had not "subdued" the land, and therefore had only a "natural" right to it, but not a "civil right." A "natural right" did not have legal standing.

The Puritans also appealed to the Bible, Psalms 2:8: "Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." And to justify their use of force to take the land, they cited Romans 13:2: "Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation."

The Puritans lived in uneasy truce with the Pequot Indians, who occupied what is now southern Connecticut and Rhode Island. But they wanted them out of the way; they wanted their land. And they seemed to want also to establish their rule firmly over Connecticut settlers in that area. The murder of a white trader, Indian-kidnaper, and troublemaker became an excuse to make war on the Pequots in 1636.

A punitive expedition left Boston to attack the NarraganseIt Indians on Block Island, who were lumped with the Pequots. As Governor Winthrop wrote:
They had commission to pat to death the men of Block Island, but to spare the women and children, and to bring them away, and to take possession of the island; and from thence to go to the Pequods to demand the murderers of Captain Stone and other English, and one thousand fathom of wampum for damages, etc. and some of their children as hostages, which if they should refuse, they were to obtain it by force.
The English landed and killed some Indians, but the rest hid in the thick forests of the island and the English went from one deserted village to the next, destroying crops. Then they sailed back to the mainland and raided Pequot villages along the coast, destroying crops again. One of the officers of that expedition, in his account, gives some insight into the Pequots they encountered: "The Indians spying of us came running in multitudes along the water side, crying, What cheer, Englishmen, what cheer, what do you come for? They not thinking we intended war, went on cheerfully... -"

So, the war with the Pequots began. Massacres took place on both sides. The English developed a tactic of warfare used earlier by Cortes and later, in the twentieth century, even more systematically: deliberate attacks on noncombatants for the purpose of terrorizing the enemy. This is ethno historian Francis Jennings's interpretation of Captain John Mason's attack on a Pequot village on the Mystic River near Long Island Sound: "Mason proposed to avoid attacking Pequot warriors, which would have overtaxed his unseasoned, unreliable troops. Battle, as such, was not his purpose. Battle is only one of the ways to destroy an enemy's will to fight. Massacre can accomplish the same end with less risk, and Mason had determined that massacre would be his objective."

So the English set fire to the wigwams of the village. By their own account: "The Captain also said, We must Burn Them; and immediately stepping into the Wigwam ... brought out a Fire Brand, and putting it into the Matts with which they were covered, set the Wigwams on Fire." William Bradford, in his History of the Plymouth Plantation written at the time, describes John Mason's raid on the Pequot village:
Those that scaped the fire were slaine with the sword; some hewed to peeces, others rune throw with their rapiers, so as they were quickly dispatchte, and very few escaped. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fyer, and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stincke and sente there of, but the victory seemed a sweete sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to inclose their enemise in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enimie.

As Dr. Cotton Mather, Puritan theologian, put it: "It was supposed that no less than 600 Pequot souls were brought down to hell that day."

The war continued. Indian tribes were used against one another, and never seemed able to join together in fighting the English. Jennings sums up:
The terror was very real among the Indians, but in time they came to meditate upon its foundations. They drew three lessons from the Pequot War: (1) that the Englishmen's most solemn pledge would be broken whenever obligation conflicted with advantage; (2) that the English way of war had no limit of scruple or mercy; and (3) that weapons of Indian making were almost useless against weapons of European manufacture. These lessons the Indians took to heart.
A footnote in Virgil Vogel's book This Land Was Ours (1972) says: "The official figure on the number of Pequots now in Connecticut is twenty-one persons."

Forty years after the Pequot War, Puritans and Indians fought again. This time it was the Wampanoags, occupying the south shore of Massachusetts Bay, who were in the way and also beginning to trade some of their land to people outside the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Their chief, Massasoit, was dead. His son Wamsutta had been killed by Englishmen, and Wamsuttas brother Metacom (later to be called King Philip by the English) became chief. The English found their excuse, a murder which they attributed to Metacom, and they began a war of conquest against the Wampanoags, a war to take their land. They were clearly the aggressors, but claimed they attacked for preventive purposes. As Roger Williams, more friendly to the Indians than most, put it: "All men of conscience or prudence ply to windward, to maintain their wars to be defensive."

Jennings says the elite of the Puritans wanted the war; the ordinary white Englishman did not want it and often refused to fight. The Indians certainly did not want war, but they matched atrocity with atrocity. When it was over, in 1676, the English had won, but their resources were drained; they had lost six hundred men. Three thousand Indians were dead, including Metacom himself. Yet the Indian raids did not stop.

For a while, the English tried softer tactics. But ultimately, it was back to annihilation. The Indian population of 10 million that lived north of Mexico when Columbus came would ultimately be reduced to less than a million. Huge numbers of Indians would die from diseases introduced by the whites. A Dutch traveler in New Netherland wrote in 1656 that "the Indians ... affirm, that before the arrival of the Christians, and before the smallpox broke out amongst them, they were ten times as numerous as they now are, and that their population had been melted down by this disease, whereof nine-tenths of them have died." When the English first settled Martha's Vineyard in 1642, the Wampanoags there numbered perhaps three thousand. There were no wars on that island, but by 1764, only 313 Indians were left there. Similarly, Block Island Indians numbered perhaps 1,200 to 1,500 in 1662, and by 1774 were reduced to fifty-one.

Behind the English invasion of North America, behind their massacre of Indians, their deception, their brutality, was that special powerful drive born in civilizations based on private property. It was a morally ambiguous drive; the need for space, for land, was a real human need. But in conditions of scarcity, in a barbarous epoch of history ruled by competition, this human need was transformed into the murder of whole peoples. Roger Williams said it was
a depraved appetite after the great vanities, dreams and shadows of this vanishing life, great portions of land, land in this wilderness, as if men were in as great necessity and danger for want of great portions of land, as poor, hungry, thirsty seamen have, after a sick and stormy, a long and starving passage. This is one of the gods of New England, which the living and most high Eternal will destroy and famish.
Was all this bloodshed and deceit-from Columbus to Cortes, Pizarro, the Puritans-a necessity for the human race to progress from savagery to civilization? Was Morison right in burying the story of genocide inside a more important story of human progress? Perhaps a persuasive argument can be made-as it was made by Stalin when he killed peasants for industrial progress in the Soviet Union, as it was made by Churchill explaining the bombings of Dresden and Hamburg, and Truman explaining Hiroshima. But how can the judgment be made if the benefits and losses cannot be balanced because the losses are either unmentioned or mentioned quickly?

That quick disposal might be acceptable ("Unfortunate, yes, but it had to be done") to the middle and upper classes of the conquering and "advanced" countries. But is it acceptable to the poor of Asia, Africa, Latin America, or to the prisoners in Soviet labor camps, or the blacks in urban ghettos, or the Indians on reservations-to the victims of that progress which benefits a privileged minority in the world? Was it acceptable (or just inescapable?) to the miners and railroaders of America, the factory hands, the men and women who died by the hundreds of thousands from accidents or sickness, where they worked or where they lived-casualties of progress? And even the privileged minority-must it not reconsider, with that practicality which even privilege cannot abolish, the value of its privileges, when they become threatened by the anger of the sacrificed, whether in organized rebellion, unorganized riot, or simply those brutal individual acts of desperation labeled crimes by law and the state?

If there are necessary sacrifices to be made for human progress, is it not essential to hold to the principle that those to be sacrificed must make the decision themselves? We can all decide to give up something of ours, but do we have the right to throw into the pyre the children of others, or even our own children, for a progress which is not nearly as clear or present as sickness or health, life or death?

What did people in Spain get out of all that death and brutality visited on the Indians of the Americas? For a brief period in history, there was the glory of a Spanish Empire in the Western Hemisphere. As Hans Koning sums it up in his book Columbus: His Enterprise:
For all the gold and silver stolen and shipped to Spain did not make the Spanish people richer. It gave their kings an edge in the balance of power for a time, a chance to hire more mercenary soldiers for their wars. They ended up losing those wars anyway, and all that was left was a deadly inflation, a starving population, the rich richer, the poor poorer, and a ruined peasant class.
Beyond all that, how certain are we that what was destroyed was inferior? Who were these people who came out on the beach and swam to bring presents to Columbus and his crew, who watched Cortes and Pizarro ride through their countryside, who peered out of the forests at the first white settlers of Virginia and Massachusetts?

Columbus called them Indians, because he miscalculated the size of the earth. In this book we too call them Indians, with some reluctance, because it happens too often that people are saddled with names given them by their conquerors.

And yet, there is some reason to call them Indians, because they did come, perhaps 25,000 years ago, from Asia, across the land bridge of the Bering Straits (later to disappear under water) to Alaska. Then they moved southward, seeking warmth and land, in a trek lasting thousands of years that took them into North America, then Central and South America. In Nicaragua, Brazil, and Ecuador their petrified footprints can still be seen, along with the print of bison, who disappeared about five thousand years ago, so they must have reached South America at least that far back

Widely dispersed over the great land mass of the Americas, they numbered approximately 75 million people by the rime Columbus came, perhaps 25 million in North America. Responding to the different environments of soil and climate, they developed hundreds of different tribal cultures, perhaps two thousand different languages. They perfected the art of agriculture, and figured out how to grow maize (corn), which cannot grow by itself and must be planted, cultivated, fertilized, harvested, husked, shelled. They ingeniously developed a variety of other vegetables and fruits, as well as peanuts and chocolate and tobacco and rubber.

On their own, the Indians were engaged in the great agricultural revolution that other peoples in Asia, Europe, Africa were going through about the same time.

While many of the tribes remained nomadic hunters and food gatherers in wandering, egalitarian communes, others began to live in more settled communities where there was more food, larger populations, more divisions of labor among men and women, more surplus to feed chiefs and priests, more leisure time for artistic and social work, for building houses. About a thousand years before Christ, while comparable constructions were going on in Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Zuni and Hopi Indians of what is now New Mexico had begun to build villages consisting of large terraced buildings, nestled in among cliffs and mountains for protection from enemies, with hundreds of rooms in each village. Before the arrival of the European explorers, they were using irrigation canals, dams, were doing ceramics, weaving baskets, making cloth out of cotton.

By the time of Christ and Julius Caesar, there had developed in the Ohio River Valley a culture of so-called Moundbuilders, Indians who constructed thousands of enormous sculptures out of earth, sometimes in the shapes of huge humans, birds, or serpents, sometimes as burial sites, sometimes as fortifications. One of them was 3 1/2 miles long, enclosing 100 acres. These Moundbuilders seem to have been part of a complex trading system of ornaments and weapons from as far off as the Great Lakes, the Far West, and the Gulf of Mexico.

About A.D. 500, as this Moundbuilder culture of the Ohio Valley was beginning to decline, another culture was developing westward, in the valley of the Mississippi, centered on what is now St. Louis. It had an advanced agriculture, included thousands of villages, and also built huge earthen mounds as burial and ceremonial places near a vast Indian metropolis that may have had thirty thousand people. The largest mound was 100 feet high, with a rectangular base larger than that of the Great Pyramid of Egypt. In the city, known as Cahokia, were toolmakers, hide dressers, potters, jewelry makers, weavers, salt makers, copper engravers, and magnificent ceramists. One funeral blanket was made of twelve thousand shell beads.

From the Adirondacks to the Great Lakes, in what is now Pennsylvania and upper New York, lived the most powerful of the northeastern tribes, the League of the Iroquois, which included the Mohawks (People of the Flint), Oneidas (People of the Stone), Onondagas (People of the Mountain), Cayugas (People at the Landing), and Senecas (Great Hill People), thousands of people bound together by a common Iroquois language.

In the vision of the Mohawk chief Iliawatha, the legendary Dekaniwidah spoke to the Iroquois: "We bind ourselves together by taking hold of each other's hands so firmly and forming a circle so strong that if a tree should fall upon it, it could not shake nor break it, so that our people and grandchildren shall remain in the circle in security, peace and happiness."

In the villages of the Iroquois, land was owned in common and worked in common. Hunting was done together, and the catch was divided among the members of the village. Houses were considered common property and were shared by several families. The concept of private ownership of land and homes was foreign to the Iroquois. A French Jesuit priest who encountered them in the 1650s wrote: "No poorhouses are needed among them, because they are neither mendicants nor paupers.. . . Their kindness, humanity and courtesy not only makes them liberal with what they have, but causes them to possess hardly anything except in common."

Women were important and respected in Iroquois society. Families were matrilineal. That is, the family line went down through the female members, whose husbands joined the family, while sons who married then joined their wives' families. Each extended family lived in a "long house." When a woman wanted a divorce, she set her husband's things outside the door.

Families were grouped in clans, and a dozen or more clans might make up a village. The senior women in the village named the men who represented the clans at village and tribal councils. They also named the forty-nine chiefs who were the ruling council for the Five Nation confederacy of the Iroquois. The women attended clan meetings, stood behind the circle of men who spoke and voted, and removed the men from office if they strayed too far from the wishes of the women.

The women tended the crops and took general charge of village affairs while the men were always hunting or fishing. And since they supplied the moccasins and food for warring expeditions, they had some control over military matters. As Gary B. Nash notes in his fascinating study of early America, Red, White, and Black: "Thus power was shared between the sexes and the European idea of male dominancy and female subordination in all things was conspicuously absent in Iroquois society."

Children in Iroquois society, while taught the cultural heritage of their people and solidarity with the tribe, were also taught to be independent, not to submit to overbearing authority. They were taught equality in status and the sharing of possessions. The Iroquois did not use harsh punishment on children; they did not insist on early weaning or early toilet training, but gradually allowed the child to learn self-care.

All of this was in sharp contrast to European values as brought over by the first colonists, a society of rich and poor, controlled by priests, by governors, by male heads of families. For example, the pastor of the Pilgrim colony, John Robinson, thus advised his parishioners how to deal with their children: "And surely there is in all children ... a stubbornness, and stoutness of mind arising from natural pride, which must, in the first place, be broken and beaten down; that so the foundation of their education being laid in humility and tractableness, other virtues may, in their time, be built thereon."

Gary Nash describes Iroquois culture:
No laws and ordinances, sheriffs and constables, judges and juries, or courts or jails-the apparatus of authority in European societies-were to be found in the northeast woodlands prior to European arrival. Yet boundaries of acceptable behavior were firmly set. Though priding themselves on the autonomous individual, the Iroquois maintained a strict sense of right and wrong.... He who stole another's food or acted invalourously in war was "shamed" by his people and ostracized from their company until he had atoned for his actions and demonstrated to their satisfaction that he had morally purified himself.
Not only the Iroquois but other Indian tribes behaved the same way. In 1635, Maryland Indians responded to the governor's demand that if any of them lolled an Englishman, the guilty one should be delivered up for punishment according to English law. The Indians said:
It is the manner amongst us Indians, that if any such accident happen, wee doe redeeme the life of a man that is so slaine, with a 100 armes length of Beades and since that you are heere strangers, and come into our Countrey, you should rather conform yourselves to the Customes of our Countrey, than impose yours upon us....
So, Columbus and his successors were not coming into an empty wilderness, but into a world which in some places was as densely populated as Europe itself, where the culture was complex, where human relations were more egalitarian than in Europe, and where the relations among men, women, children, and nature were more beautifully worked out than perhaps any place in the world.

They were people without a written language, but with their own laws, their poetry, their history kept in memory and passed on, in an oral vocabulary more complex than Europe's, accompanied by song, dance, and ceremonial drama. They paid careful attention to the development of personality, intensity of will, independence and flexibility, passion and potency, to their partnership with one another and with nature.

John Collier, an American scholar who lived among Indians in the 1920s and 1930s in the American Southwest, said of their spirit: "Could we make it our own, there would be an eternally inexhaustible earth and a forever lasting peace."

Perhaps there is some romantic mythology in that. But the evidence from European travelers in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, put together recently by an American specialist on Indian life, William Brandon, is overwhelmingly supportive of much of that "myth." Even allowing for the imperfection of myths, it is enough to make us question, for that time and ours, the excuse of progress in the annihilation of races, and the telling of history from the standpoint of the conquerors and leaders of Western civilization.