Friday, March 30, 2012

March and Vigil Against Violence

Earlier this week, an eleven year old and a twelve year old girl who were playing inside their house in East Chicago were struck by bullets fired from outside. Both are in serious condition. Last night, 13 people were shot in Chicago. Two have died. Similar violence occurs on a daily basis all across our country. We can stop it.

Please join me in Chicago for a march and vigil against violence this Monday, April 2. The schedule is as follows:

5:30 pm – Assemble at St. James Episcopal Cathedral at Huron and Wabash.
6:15 pm – Arrive at the Daley Center at Washington and Dearborn
7:00 pm – Arrive at Old St. Pat's Catholic Church at Adams and DesPlaines
8:15 pm – End with a final vigil at 8:15 at Stroger Hospital at Harrison and Wood.

People can march the entire route or any portion of it, or just join us for the vigils at the stopping-points. A limited number of bus seats will be available to help transport those who cannot walk. Advance registration is required for bus seats. The event is sponsored on an inter-faith basis by several area institutions. More information is available at

Those who live in the areas that are most affected are looking forward to participation from people who live in areas that are relatively more safe.

Please contact me if there is any way I can help you with regard to this effort.

Thank you, and greetings of peace.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Only an idiot would doubt that the government has the power to require people to buy health insurance. Apparently there are several on the Supreme Court.

The government can draft people into the Army; charge for driving on toll roads and bridges; charge admission for public parks; tap phones; seize computers; freeze bank accounts; imprison, torture, and assassinate people; require people to wear seatbelts, helmets, life jackets, steel-toed shoes, hearing protection, safety glasses, and electronic monitoring devices; force people to take medications; prohibit them from growing certain plants; require people to take blood and breath tests; make people neuter their dogs and cats; require people to file tax returns and retain records; cross the street only at corners; answer questions; take tests; remove their shoes; and, well, just about anything it wants.

So why all the fuss about requiring people to have health insurance? There are two answers. The first answer is that the doctors, hospitals, drug companies, insurers, and others who make a fortune from the present system don't want to get off the gravy train. They recognize that Obama's plan is intended as a step in the direction of public health care like the rest of the world has, and they know that the rest of the world gets better care than we do for far less money. By stopping the Obama plan, they hope to delay the inevitable change to a system that will deliver care more efficiently, because that efficiency will be at their expense.

The second answer is that in their eagerness to thwart Obama, some people who aren't making money off the present inefficient system have been easily influenced by the millions of dollars that the doctors, insurers, etc. have been spending to mislead them into thinking that a healthier country is bad for everyone.

One of the fundamental principles of our present health care system is the idea that doctors know best what is good for patients. We are told not to take over-the-counter medicines without first asking our doctors if it is OK, even though in many cases, the pharmacist could give us better answers than our doctors can. We are told not to exercise without checking with our doctors, even though every doctor encourages patients to exercise. Doctors are national father figures, and we are expected to obey them.

Doctors know a few things about practicing medicine, but they know almost nothing about insurance. Doctors don't even know what an X-Ray, colonoscopy, MRI, blood test, medicine, or most other things that they prescribe costs their patients, let alone how much your insurance company will pay. Doctors know virtually nothing about what patients go through in dealing with their insurers, or what their patients' insurance premiums cost them. But when doctors and the rest of the medical establishment tell people that public access to affordable health care would be bad, it is hard for a lot of people to accept that the advice they are getting is intended to protect the privileged and wealthy medical establishment rather than to help their patients.

Eventually America will get public health care. We can't afford not to. We will love it and wonder what took us so long. The rest of the world has trouble figuring out what we are waiting for. They have shown us that public health care works better than what we have. Could we really be so stupid, or so stubborn? Don't ask our Supreme Court. They're still trying to decide which feet to put their right shoes on.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Making It Personal

Plenty of people have been saying that if we still had a draft, we wouldn't be so quick to start wars. I have argued against a draft, for a lot of reasons. I figured that even without a draft, people would be able to look at the problems our wars have caused and conclude that we should stop making wars. Gradually, that seems to be happening. Most Americans were glad when they were told that the war in Iraq was ending, they are ready to be done with the war in Afghanistan, and they aren't enthusiastic about starting a new war in Iran, no matter how much pro-war propaganda is thrown at them. But on the other hand, the country still goes along with all the war making, so I guess people really don't care that much.

A draft would probably change the public's attitudes about our wars. People would feel the effects of war more if their own loved ones were sent to experience the psychological and spiritual horror of war, and maybe be injured or killed.

Recently, someone who is very dear to me learned that she may soon be deployed to Afghanistan. She didn't think she'd ever have to go. She doesn't want to go. She only joined the military to get her college paid for. She was told she would be assigned to work in a research lab stateside, which she was. But now they have decided they need her in Afghanistan.

It is hard enough to see hundreds of thousands of strangers sent off to war. It is all so senseless and inhuman. But to see someone I know being forced into participating in the effort has left me angry and hurting. I know that she signed the contract, but I do not feel that she or anyone else should have been put in the position of having to enlist in order to get an education. And since I don't feel that our country should be fighting in Afghanistan, I don't feel that it is a contract that any court should enforce. Would any court say that a person is obligated to fulfill a bargain with the devil?

Maybe I have too much faith in people's sense of compassion and empathy. Maybe the only way to get people to speak out against wars that are fought on foreign soil is to bring the war home to them by drafting their loved ones. Maybe if more people felt the pain I am feeling, more of them would be on the protest lines and in the voting booths trying to put an end to the wars.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Big and Little Questions

Did a hate group really swing the election, again? Did the Democrats nominate a Republican? Is there any stopping the Rahm and Madigan machines? Should progressives bother with the Democratic party? Do the bankers control everything? Should people protest the NATO summit? Why did almost no one vote? Why can't Obama be the Obama we thought we voted for? Are online ads, robocalls, or cable TV ads effective? Is there any way to reduce the influence of money on elections? Is it more productive to focus on causes than elections? Can we ever get a viable, enduring third party? Will the US have the kind of violent uprising so much of the rest of the world has seen? Should we? President Romney, really? How is the weather in Canada these days? Costa Rica?

I am discouraged, but I haven't given up. I had the privilege of working with a great bunch of young people who are gaining the skills that the country will need if we are to be a democracy. I didn't have to deal with any cynical political consultants. I backed a candidate who remained true to his principles throughout the campaign. I saw a lot of friends from prior efforts who are still involved.

A minister I talked with the other day said that the important thing isn't whether you reached Heaven or Hell, but what you do in your life that might get you to either place. It's probably true in politics, too, that the effort is what is important. Still, some better results a little more often would be nice, too.

I will be at the unity rally, expecting lots of talk about lots of things that divide us from Republicans, and very little attention being paid to that which could unite us all. Maybe that is best. When Republicans talk about what we all have in common, they usually end up talking about uniting the people they think are like themselves and converting, imprisoning, deporting or killing everyone else.

How many cancers and deaths will result from the Japanese nuclear reactor failures? From the Gulf oil spill? How many people will be impoverished by genetically engineered foods? By international financial manipulation? Can humans survive global climate change? Should we? Why can't we have wind-generated electric energy? Will the military ever stop terrorizing and killing people? Whose baby has to die before we get universal health care? Does anyone really believe that guns don't kill people? That corporations are people? That marijuana should be illegal? That making abortions illegal will eliminate abortions? Will we ever overcome racism?

A sixteen-year-old campaign volunteer asked me a bunch of questions about political campaigns. His questions were better than most of what we heard in a whole season of Republican presidential debates. I think it is because he wasn't overly deferential, he wasn't trying to impress anyone, and he really wanted to learn. How refreshing.

Having sifted through many theories, I still cannot understand why people who are suffering because of particular political policies vote for the very politicians who support those policies. There can't be that many stupid people, can there?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Before You Vote

On Tuesday, Democrats in the 10th district will choose a candidate for Congress. I am supporting Ilya Sheyman because he will be an outstanding congressman who will aggressively and effectively promote the progressive agenda which I believe this country needs.

Unfortunately, this contest has turned into something that neither Ilya or I expected or wanted it to be. It has turned into a contest between Ilya, who represents the future of the party and the country, and his main opponent, who represents the timidity that has kept us from achieving our goals at the national level.

Ilya is supported by Russ Feingold, Howard Dean, Larry Suffredin, Daniel Biss, and Robyn Gabel, people who have fearlessly stood at the forefront of the progressive movement among Democrats. His opponent is supported by some of the national leadership of the right-leaning wing of the party, and by a handful of retiring local lawmakers.

Ilya wanted the campaign to be about ideas and values that will move this country forward. His opponent has turned it into a campaign about trying to trick Republicans into voting for a moderate Democrat instead of for Republican Bob Dold. As President Harry Truman said, that never works – Republicans will always choose the real Republican over the Democrat who is trying to appeal to Republicans.

The strangest thing about the campaign is that Ilya's opponent, who spent the entire campaign claiming to be just as progressive as Ilya, has now, in the final weeks, turned his campaign into an attack on Ilya for being too young and too liberal. He has called the progressive groups which support Ilya, which include MoveOn, the National Organization for Women, and the Sierra Club “outside special interests” and “extremists.”

Ilya's opponent has also attacked Ilya for sending out negative campaign literature and robocalls – even though the literature and calls were not sent by Ilya's campaign at all, but by a respected independent liberal group, MoveOn, which wanted to help Ilya but which did not understand the distaste the voters in this district have for negative campaigning. By law, Ilya's campaign was not allowed to even know about MoveOn's efforts, and in fact Ilya's campaign scrupulously followed the law. If it could have, I am sure Ilya's campaign would have asked MoveOn not to take such a negative approach. Ilya's campaign has not sent out a single robocall.

What Ilya's campaign did was tell the truth – that while Democrats worked to elect a Democrat in the district, year after year his opponent donated thousands of dollars to Republican Mark Kirk to help him get re-elected. Ilya's opponent has admitted that he made those donations. He has also admitted that he donated to a bunch of right-wing Republicans all over the country. He said he did it because they were good for Israel. He hasn't answered the charge that he is a single issue voter and contributor who seemed to have no concern that his donations were setting back innumerable causes, including women's health.

Nor has Ilya's opponent explained why he would think that Kirk would have been any better for Israel than any of Kirk's Democratic opponents. He has not explained why he supported Kirk and the other Republicans when they were helping Bush take our country into war and destroy our economy. All he has done is to complain that by telling the truth, Ilya has been negative. When someone said to Harry Truman, “Give 'em hell, Harry,” Truman replied, “I don't give them Hell, I just tell the truth about them and they think it's Hell.” All Ilya has done is to tell the truth.

I did not want to even address the “negativity” charges, but as we learned when John Kerry was Swiftboated, unfair charges can mislead the voters if they are not answered. I understand that Ilya's opponent does not have any experience in politics, and I will assume that he has simply taken bad advice in making the charges. But it is going to be difficult to unseat the current congressman, and we do not need a candidate who is unprepared to make sound decisions.

I hope this email does not contribute to the dissatisfaction that some people are feeling about the campaign, and I do not want anyone to refrain from voting because they think the rhetoric has become too heated. This has, until just these last days, been a very positive campaign all around. If mistakes were made, we must be mature enough to overlook them, and cast our votes based on what is real and what is important, not on matters of style. This has been a vigorous primary, and we should be proud of the efforts the candidates have made on our behalf. We are all going to have to pull together after the primary. Please, cast your vote for the candidate whom you believe will go to Washington and work hard to set this country on the right course. I think that person is Ilya.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Re-evaluating Ilya

Enough of the robocalls, mailings, poll results, endorsements, fund raising totals, accusations, and denials. Enough of inside baseball. A congressional campaign is not a sport; it is serious business. Voters want to know what the candidates stand for and what they will do. They want to be able to judge the candidates' characters, commitment, and abilities.

Very early in this campaign, I endorsed Ilya Sheyman. Since then, candidates have entered and left the race. I have listened to them all, and read all of their websites, mailings, and everything I could find that has been reported in the media and discussed in the blogs. I have talked with supporters of all of the candidates and with all of the candidates themselves. I have gotten to know many of Ilya's volunteers and campaign staff, and I have watched him at numerous debates and other events.

I am just as enthusiastic now as I was 12 months ago to have Ilya representing me in Congress. For me, the real question is who do I want, not who do I think can win. The truth is that with the district we now have, even though some of the candidates are saying they are the only ones who can win, there is no one candidate in the primary who is the only one who can win.

But the election isn't about who I want. It is about who the majority of voters want, and some of them undoubtedly want the country to take a different course than I do. I want everyone to have health care.
Not everyone agrees with me. A lot of people still think that whether you get to see a doctor should depend upon how much money you inherited, or where you work, or what pre-existing conditions you were blessed with.

I don't want us to attack Iran. Plenty of people do. They want us to control Iran's oil, or they hate Muslims, or they just want us to attack because that is what they think Israel wants and for them Israel is more important than anything else, even innocent people's lives.

I want rich people to support our government and our society by paying their share of taxes. Lots of rich people don't want to pay. Some of them are Democrats, and some of them pretend to be Democrats. But their wealth overrides everything else.

I want Social Security and Medicare to be preserved intact. There aren't a lot of absolutes in politics, but for me, whether to protect the source of security for elderly and disabled people is not open for discussion.

I want us to stop imprisoning people without trials, assassinating political opponents, spying on everyone, and generally denying people their rights. The President has disappointed me on these things, and I want someone who will stand up to the President.

I don't know for sure that Ilya and I agree on all of these things and on all other issues, but I know that for the most part, he and I see eye to eye. Only a certain kind of person goes to work as an organizer for progressive, grass-roots organizations like MoveOn and Democracy for America, as Ilya did. Only a certain type of person stands on the picket line with teachers when his job wasn't in jeopardy and he didn't have kids in the school, as Ilya has.

Only a certain type of person insists on making marriage equality a central issue in his campaign as a matter of principal, when it isn't an issue that people were asking about and it doesn't affect him personally. Ilya did. Only a certain kind of person volunteers to help people who have been released from prison, when most politicians are terrified of being called soft on crime. Ilya wasn't afraid to stand by people in need, even if they had made mistakes in the past. Only a certain kind of person champions the rights of immigrants at a time when they are being blamed for taking away American jobs. Ilya, an immigrant himself, took a stand.

Ilya is a man of principal. He is tough. He is smart. He is determined. He has shown in his campaign that he will stand up to political bosses and powerful special interest groups. He has chosen the path of public service at the outset of his career, and not just as something to do after spending a lifetime trying to accumulate wealth. He is an idealist and a realist and is remarkably capable.

This election, I get to vote for someone who really has the potential and the drive to make a difference. I know how difficult a task he will have if he is elected. He knows, too. And yet, he is eager to try.

I'm still for Ilya.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Pro-Choice Shock

I read a shocking pro-choice document. It said that women should choose for themselves whether or not to use birth control or have abortions. If the document had been published by Planned Parenthood, it's pro-choice message wouldn't be surprising at all. But the document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship was published by the Catholic Church. I found it in a literature rack in the foyer of a Catholic church I visited on Sunday, and it is available online at

The publication was a booklet that talked about how Catholics should be engaged in governing our society. It said that on issues such as war, torture, the environment, abortion, and many others, Catholics should become informed and should participate in the public decision-making process, including elections. It also says that Catholics should respect the choices that other people make.

The booklet had an obviously religious orientation. It said that Catholics should be guided by their faith in making decisions about all of the issues of the day. It said that, as part of living their lives according to the teachings of Jesus, they should make choices about public policies that are consistent with God's will. Nothing that was said would seem out of place in most Christian churches. Nor would these central teachings of the booklet seem inappropriate in Jewish or Muslim congregations either, if the references to Jesus were simply removed.

The only surprising thing was the clear emphasis on the individual's right and responsibility to make choices. Actually, there is nothing surprising about that at all, if one considers the orientation of the modern Catholic Church in America. Personal choice is, as far as I can discern, a central tenet of that religion.

But I was surprised, because that profound message which says that personal choice is a religious obligation is not what so many of the vocal critics of abortion, including some Catholics, emphasize. Instead, what these people tend to advocate is that laws should be passed that will prevent women from making their own choices.

We are being told by many anti-abortion advocates that not only should women choose not to have abortions, but that abortion should be illegal or impossible for poor women to get. That message is not contained in the booklet I read. To be sure, that booklet had a lot to say about abortion being wrong and against God's will. It said that people should not have abortions. But it did not say that Catholics should try to prevent anyone, even other Catholics, from getting abortions. Rather, it emphasized that Catholics should recognize the dignity of all people and the sanctity of all life.

There is probably some tension between the strong anti-abortion message of the Catholic Church and the strong overarching message which that same church has adopted, which demands that individuals make their own choices. I am hardly the one to suggest how this tension can be resolved. I am just someone who wandered into a Catholic Church and was intrigued and delighted to be reminded of the rich, complex, and deep body of teachings of that church. I left with hope that some day we will all be able to discuss the important issues of the day and reach resolutions which will afford everyone the respect which the Catholic bishops argue for. I think they are telling us that we are the ones who will have to choose to find this peace among ourselves.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Good News, Bad News

There is no substitute for going door-to-door and talking with the voters if you want to find out how people feel, so that's what I did yesterday. With a primary election coming up in ten days, I was trying to drum up support for a candidate. What I learned was surprising.

Over the past several years when I have done similar canvassing, I have run across a high percentage of agitated, angry people who were quick to complain about the government or the political parties or particular politicians. When I was going door-to-door a few months back to gather signatures on petitions, it seemed like I was met by people at nearly every other house who were angry and frightened because they or someone close to them had just lost their job. In previous years, people would bend my ear telling me about the terrible things that the government was doing. But not this time.

This time, there was almost no anger. People seemed satisfied with the way the country was being run and the way their lives were going. They listened to my pitch and when I asked them what issues they were concerned about or what questions I could answer about my candidate's positions, they not only didn't have much to say, they were polite and they smiled at me. No one shouted at me to go away.

Of course, I was only walking in one neighborhood, and it was only one day, and for a lot of other reasons, I may not have gotten an accurate idea of the mood of the electorate. But to the extent that I did, it could be very good news for President Obama. If people are happy, they will probably reelect him. On the other hand, they will probably reelect almost all incumbents, too, and that means Obama will still be saddled with a Congress that won't let him get anything done. That's the bad news.

If people really are no longer steaming mad about what the politicians are doing, it also means they probably won't even bother to come out and vote. This will give an advantage to candidates who are able to turn out voters who are strongly committed to them, and a disadvantage to other candidates who don't have that capability. It will also give an advantage to candidates with an upbeat message and a delivery that matches the voters' moods. The candidates who will have the most trouble are those who planned their campaigns months ago when people were angry, unless those candidates can re-tune their campaigns. Candidates with a narrow repertoire will also have trouble.

Of course, the electorate is fickle and conditions change, so by the time the November general election comes around, the voters may be mad again. Candidates will have to keep taking the pulse of the voters and adjusting their campaigns to meet the voters' needs.

This isn't to say that candidates will need to flip-flop on the issues. Quite the contrary. The candidates who will succeed are those who will remain consistent in their core beliefs and who will be able to demonstrate that their positions are relevant in changing circumstances. Those candidates will be perceived as having solid values, an understanding of the issues, and strength. The politicians who will fail are those who either are incapable of changing, or who are so quick to change direction that they will be seen as going whichever way the wind blows.

It won't be easy for the candidates, but it shouldn't be. They should have to be responsive to the moods and needs of the voters. But on the other hand, it won't be that hard, either. All the candidates will need to do is make sure they are listening to the voters.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


MoveOn PAC mailed a flyer to voters in Illinois' 10th District saying that Brad Schneider, who is running in the upcoming Democratic congressional primary, is really a Republican. They cite as proof Federal Election Commission reports showing that Schneider repeatedly contributed to Republicans both in the district he is running in and across the country. His contributions totaled thousands of dollars. The flyer also pointed out that official voting records show that Schneider voted in Republican primaries in two recent elections.

Schneider admits that he contributed to all the Republicans and that he voted in one Republican primary. He says the official voting record is wrong about the other primary. He says, however, that he is not a Republican, and he is saying that people are spreading lies.

It should be noted that Schneider's opponents haven't gone as far as MoveOn PAC has by saying that Schneider is a Republican. None of his opponents has done anything other than point out the facts of Schneider's contributions and primary voting record.

The question, therefore, is whether MoveOn PAC, in saying Schneider is a Republican, was expressing an opinion or was making a statement of fact. If MoveOn PAC was giving its opinion, it wasn't lying. An opinion is just a belief. A lie is an intentional misstatement of fact.

Schneider's assertion that MoveOn PAC is lying seems to be based on the notion that MoveOn PAC is not entitled to have an opinion about whether he is a Republican, and that only he can answer that question.

In one sense, Schneider is correct. He can consider himself to be a Democrat even if he votes for Republicans, contributes to them, and votes in Republican primaries. But that would be like someone considering himself to be Jewish even if he goes to mass and takes communion every Sunday in a Christian church.

Of course, Schneider can think he is acting like a Democrat. But other people are entitled to their opinions, too. Schneider, for example, brands Bob Dold as a Tea Party Republican even though Dold has never said that is what he is. If Schneider is justified in judging Dold based on Dold's voting record, MoveOn PAC can just as legitimately judge Schneider based on how he has behaved.

The biggest clue about whether Democratic voters should believe that Schneider is a Democrat is that Schneider doesn't seem to understand why Democrats are upset that he has been voting for and contributing to Republicans. If he had any real involvement in Democratic campaigns, if he really identified as a Democrat, if he had been supporting Democrats instead of Republicans, he'd know.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Used God Salesmen

I have met a number of clergy representing a range of faiths as I pursue the cause of reducing the violence in our world. It has been a wonderful experience. The clergy I have talked with are great listeners, they are concerned about people, they have great depth of experience, and they are refreshingly candid about what they and their congregants are able and willing to do.

I should not be surprised. These are people who, I am sure, went into their line of work because of their feelings for people and their desire to be helpful, and they prepared for their work through study and mentoring.

But the public's opinion of clergy is not at a particularly high point. There have been clergy financial and sex scandals, and clergy who have sought to elevate themselves by appropriating their religions for political advantage. And then there are the clergy whose outlandish and offensive pronouncements degrade the image of clergy.

Just yesterday, one nationally recognized preacher said that the tornadoes that just injured and killed people across a wide expanse of the U.S. wouldn't have happened if people had prayed more. There may be a valid theological basis for his view, but it was phrased in such an insensitive way that many people will think he was saying that God sent tornadoes to punish people whose religious practices were insufficient. That is exactly the way the statements were reported in the news. This blaming of the victims for their own suffering will not be well received by people who heard on the news that one of the victims was a year-old baby. Was the child not praying enough?

Over the years, lawyers, insurance salesmen, used car salesmen, and others have all had to contend with poor public perception. It isn't fair to the majority of honest practitioners in these professions, but there isn't much they can do about it. There will always be bad apples whose misdeeds will spoil the reputations of others. Some people will try to avoid having to use a lawyer or buy a used car or insurance, out of fear of being victimized by unscrupulous practitioners, but most people will just try to find the good ones to deal with.

Probably a lot of people will react the same way and try to avoid unsavory clergy. But some people will decide not to have anything to do with clergy at all, because the reputation of their calling has deteriorated. There is plenty of evidence that a lot of people have already taken this step, including declining membership and attendance at many churches. There are many reasons participation in religious institutions has gone down, but whatever the reason, to the extent that it results in people having less contact with clergy, people stand to lose something precious. I don't mean to suggest that everyone needs to subscribe to a religion, but I can't think of any other institution in our society which provides comparable spiritual guidance.

Clergy are keenly aware that their popularity is not what it once was, and yet I haven't noticed them trying to defend their own reputations. I think it is because they just aren't oriented that way. Their concern is for the welfare of others, and their respect for other people's religious beliefs makes them extremely reluctant to criticize even the most outrageous of their colleagues. It could also be that they are embarrassed by what some of their fellow clergy have been doing and they just don't want to talk about it.

Perhaps the biggest reason, though, that so many clergy simply go about their work without protesting the damage to their profession is that they are people of faith. They believe that if they do what is expected of them, things will turn out all right. It may seem like a naïve outlook in this harsh world, but it is an outlook that reflects well the teachings that they are trying to impart.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Overturn The Table

When asked whether the U.S. will attack Iran, President Obama says that he is leaving all options on the table. It is exactly what President Bush said before he ordered the attack on Iraq.

Obama is not alone. Virtually every U.S. politician who has been asked about attacking Iran has said the same thing. Apparently, none of them learned anything from our disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are ready to start another war, and once again, it would be a mistake.

Before the first shot was fired on Iraq, we were told that we should attack Iraq because it had weapons of mass destruction. Then we were told that Iraq was developing the weapons. Then we were told that we shouldn't wait for Iraq to develop the weapons, because it had the capability of developing them. Then we were told that we shouldn't wait for Iraq to develop the capability to develop the weapons. Then we just attacked.

This time the rhetoric has taken the same course. Once again, we are pre-positioning troops and war material. Once again, we are being told that Israel is threatened. Once again, we are being told that we could launch a precision strike, with little or no risk to civilians. Once again, we are told it has nothing to do with oil. Once again, we are being lied to.

There are differences. When we launched the previous wars, our economy was in good shape and our government had surpluses. The wars were started in part to eliminate those surpluses, so that our government would be forced to cut back on non-military social programs that the Republicans didn't like. This time, our economy is weak, and our government has deficits and debt. We haven't even started paying for the last two wars, which were financed with borrowed money, so it is hard to see how we would pay for yet another war.

Last time, hundreds of thousands of Americans protested in the streets. Bush said he wouldn't listen to them. This time the number of protesters is much smaller. People have given up on the notion that their government will listen to them.

A Republican president started the last two wars. A Democratic president is threatening to start the next war. Both times, Lockheed Martin, General Electric, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Northrup Grumman, Boeing, and countless others weapons makers could be counted on to do whatever was needed to move the politicians into a war that would make the arms merchants billions of dollars.

Even though an election is not far off, there are no alternatives for the voters. There isn't a credible candidate in either the Republican or Democratic party who has expressed any hesitation about attacking Iran, and there is no viable third party option.

The situation is grim. We need leaders with the courage and wisdom to take certain options off the table. All we have now is politicians who are so thrilled to be able to sit at the table that they are willing to play the rigged hands they are being dealt and listen to the shills who are whispering in their ears. Time to overturn the tables. There is precedent for it.