Saturday, May 19, 2007

More Gridlock?

Sorry, Katrina, I'm going to (gently) critique something you posted about.

This morning, Reuters posted a substantial "think-piece" about the prospects of a legitimate third party run for the White House by Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Republican of New York City.

I think it's safe to say a few things:

1) This would be a welcome development for those of us who are tired of the same two parties dominating the political landscape, year in and year out.

2) Michael Bloomberg is a Republican in name only, having swapped affiliations in 2001 when he saw a golden opportunity to skip a primary and run directly in the general election. Effectively, the Dems exhausted their legitimate chances by holding a fairly raucous, nasty primary, which also drained their coffers. Against a billionaire, this is a no-no.

3) The ticket is doomed to failure, even if it wins.

On this last point, think about Ross Perot. The last independent candidate who had a legitimate shot at the White House, he ultimately revealed his vanity and psychosis during the 1992 campaign (and quickly withered on the vine in 1996).

Now think about Ross Perot winning, and trying to govern. He would have gotten nothing in terms of compromise from Congress, and that was before 14 years of Republican hackery created a monstrously bloated collective partisan ego that is our Congress.

You begin to see the problems with a Bloomberg/Hagel, or Hagel/Bloomberg ticket. Further evidence, specifically Senator Joe Lieberman's re-election in 2006, suggests that Hagel would be ostracized by his current party, as would Bloomberg.

For Bloomberg, this would be less of an issue, since he has never been seriously considered anything but a convenient nuisance by the GOP elite, as Republican mayor of the city devastated by Al Qaeda.

For Hagel, who would be selling his ability to work with Congress and his legislative experience during the campaign, this would be disastrous. Republicans would shun him, and Democrats would be uneasy about welcoming any of his thoughts.

The last five election cycles going back to 1988 have demonstrated that Americans have flirted with gridlock, and found it wanting. Specifically, Americans have elected incompetent Republicans at the adminstrative and legislative levels, who have basically vowed to pray our problems go away, while lording tax cuts on their benefactors. This problem that Unity '08 proposes to solve may already be correcting itself.

And even for Mike Bloomberg, a billion dollars is a lot to spend for an object lesson.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Fund Raising Appeal

NOTE: This will be stickied until May 18. Please scroll down to view current topical posts

It's time again. Free Speech TV, available nationwide exclusively on DISH Network (please stop paying money to warmongers like Time-Warner and Comcast, and get DISH Network...they also have Al Gore's "CurrentTV", as well as "LinkTV"), is one of the few independent progressive TV outlets in the nation.

As such, it deserves our full-throated (and open-walleted) support during this, its thrice-yearly fundraising drive.

Please click on the Free Speech link above or in my blogroll to peruse the listings of this great network, and to donate, and thank you for your time.

Just one example of their programming:
NOTE: Before you click to watch, the film runs an hour and 49 minutes. But it will be the scariest, most enraging hour and 49 minutes of your life


Friday Music Blogging

The Hooters - Satellite

(Crappy quality video, sorry. Sony is cracking down on YouTube)

Two things to say about this piece:

1) I post it in memory of Jerry Falwell. May the hatred he rained down on this planet die along with him.

2) Hooters (now, officially, The Hooters) was one of the most underrated bands of the 80s, in my opinion, and I suspect a lot of that has to do with their blatant political message in their songs. Go pick up an album by the band. You'll be pleasantly surprised.

Friday Kitten Blogging

Get oUd maH faze, man, ur harshin' mUh mello...

Here We Go Again

The linkage between this story and Iraq is immistakable to all but the morons who support both:
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Israeli planes pounded Hamas targets and rival Palestinian factions exchanged bursts of automatic weapons fire outside Gaza City's Islamic University Friday. The volatile mix of Israeli strikes and Palestinian infighting plunged Gaza deeper into chaos.

Five Palestinians were killed in a single airstrike by Israel, which said it was responding to Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel -- a campaign that showed no sign of subsiding Friday. Hamas fired three rockets at the town of Sderot, where three people were injured by shrapnel and several others were treated for shock.
First, I'm not suggesting Israel sit back and allow Hamas to lob missiles into the south (although that plan might merit a little consideration, since decades of returning fire seems doesn't seem to be doing much).

I want to focus on another aspect of this story, one that isn't getting much coverage. There has been, I believe, a deliberate confusion in the coverage of the Middle East, a "no forest for the trees" aspect.

When a painter paints a picture, he tries to make sure that he has as much detail as he possibly can in his landscape, to bring a sense of reality to his image. This means getting in close, and being precise.

But the painter takes a step back every so often to look at the totality of his work. Likewise, I think the United States has to do this when it comes to the Middle East, as well.

There is a strategy being deployed, of course, no matter what the underlying stimulus is. It's fairly obvious that, in an attempt to extend hegemonic influence over the Middle East, the US is trying to impose western democracy on an eastern culture. This requires, demands, the unconditional support of Israel, as well as the continued torture of Iraq as a sovereign entity.

To assume, however, the United States and her allies (such as they are) are the only combatant with a regional strategy is foolish. I believe that the Muslim world sees a strategic opportunity now to chip away at American influence in the region and destroy Israel in one fell swoop.

In this, they have an enormous advantage and a tool that America has shown little effectiveness fighting against.

The advantage is outnumbering and outflanking Americans and Israelis. Strategic positions in the region are completely controlled by Muslims, and even if by some miracle, we were to succeed in establishing a functioning democracy that treated everyone fairly in Iraq, this would not change, and it wouldn't be long after we tore down our tents that Iraq would be inundated with other armies, much like Saigon after the Vietnam war.

The tool the Muslims have, which is an outgrowth of this regional strategic advantage, is mobility.

We've seen this employed already in Iraq. Bush "surges" in Baghdad, so the insurgency maintains some constant pressure there to pin down the surge, and then opens up new attacks in Anbar, Basra, and the Kurdish territories.

If you study the Israel-Hamas/Hizbollah conflict of the past few years, this is precisely what is happening in Israel: a continual pounding of the Israeli borders, probing for weaknesses. And eventually, they will find one.

One other note about Iraq and how our failures there will effect Israel: as with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s repelled by the mujahedin, the insurgency is taking much comfort over the fact that, right now, they're running even with the vaunted American army, the greatest military force in the history of the planet.

Does anyone, in or out of the White House, not see the implications of this? I mean, it is happening already, to be sure, but what's to stop Al Qaeda and its allies (and whatever power is supplying support) from pulling the same tactics in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and the Golan Heights?


So long as no particular state can be associated with the violence and attacks, there will literally be a billion people signing up for suicide bombing runs, and planting IEDs, and firing upon Israeli civilians, because what's the United States going to do? Occupy Israel as badly as they've occupied Iraq?

I think by looking at this analysis in the harsh light of day, we can begin to grasp why there is this sense of desperation about Iraq fomenting throughout the White House: if they screw this up, if they can't find a strategy to defeat the insurgency that can be transported to Israel, then not only will they have lost Iraq, but they would go down in history as the administration that lost Israel, as well.

Ironic, considering the fact that among the neo-cons who proposed this debacle are several staunchly pro-Israel Jews...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Last Honest Republican

Clearly, at least to some degree, the "consent of the governed" was becoming a commodity to be purchased by the highest bidder. To the extent that money and the clever use of electronic mass media could be used to manipulate the outcome of elections, the role of reason began to diminish. -- The Assault on Reason, Al Gore
During the Clinton remember, the days of wine and roses?...there was a clear separation between the political wing of the White House and the Department of Justice, embodied by the first woman (and longest-serving) Attorney General, Janet Reno.

When she could have taken the easy way out to let Clinton wriggle off the hook in the Lewinski scandal with a minor and perfunctory (and probably more productive) inquiry, followed by a "Who the hell cares? Let's work on terrorism!" report, Reno went out of her way to ensure that the investigation was thorough, naming not one, but two right wing Republican knuckleheads as special prosecutor.

Now, imagine if Monica Lewinski had blown George W. Bush...

Integrity seems to have a dear price in this administration, which is why I think it's important to point out when someone has consistently acted with integrity and on principle. Introducing James Comey:
As deputy attorney general in 2003, he appointed his old friend Patrick J. Fitzgerald as independent counsel in the C.I.A. leak case, leading to the perjury conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr.

In 2004, he backed Justice Department subordinates who withdrew a legal memorandum justifying harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists. This spring, more than a year after leaving the government, he publicly praised several United States attorneys who had been dismissed, undermining the administration’s claim that they were removed for poor performance.

Finally, at a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Mr. Comey gave a riveting account of how he intervened in 2004 at the hospital bedside of Attorney General John Ashcroft to prevent two top White House officials from persuading Mr. Ashcroft to reauthorize the National Security Agency’s domestic eavesdropping program. The Justice Department had ruled that the program would not be lawful without certain changes, and President Bush subsequently directed that the changes be made.

Colleagues say Mr. Comey is, even now, a reluctant critic of the administration he served. But they say he feels strongly that there was no justification for the purge of prosecutors and remains furious about what he saw in 2004 as an improper attempt by the White House to bypass the Justice Department.
Every once in a while, a Republican comes along who espouses principle above expediency. Comey is one. Elliot Richardson was another.

Isn't it funny, tho, how you never hear about "Democractic men (and women) of principle"? Maybe that's because Democrats assume that principle, generally, trumps political expediency. This is not to give them carte blanche, no way, but to point out that, on the whole, Republican administrations (and now, Congresses) are far more corrupt and corrupting than Democratic ones.

If the past six years have taught us anything, it's that Republicans simply can't be trusted with the keys to the car. Name one senior Bush Cabinet official who hasn't been embroiled in some major scandal, right up the UN Ambassador, John Bolton! The leadership of the House and Senate was another place where the pockets of wealthy donors were lined tenfold beyond the pockets of the legislators they bought off.

It will take decades, decades, to uncover and undo the damage of allowing lobbyists to write legislation designed to protect the average citizen from the predations of Corporate America. My great fear is that Democrats will succumb to the same temptation, now that the barn door is open and the first horse has strolled off the ranch.

Think about the rape of environmental, consumer protection, & civil rights legislation:
Rich, a former chief of the voting section in the civil rights division who worked at the Justice Department for 35 years before leaving in 2005, says that from 2001 to 2006, no voting discrimination cases were brought on behalf of African-American or Native American voters. Instead, he alleges, U.S.attorneys were told to give priority to voter-fraud cases, which civil rights groups have long contended are actually meant to depress voter turnout in minority communities.
The Justice Department has become a repository of political hackery and is in no way, shape or form providing the single fiduciary function that any government of the people, by the people and for the people should provide: shelter from the gouging and scaveging of far larger, far wealthier, entities whose very survival relies on the sweat of your brow and my brow.

The social contract with governments, that we consent to be governed, is made in exchange for the protections of our civil rights, more loosely defined as that wonderful phrase in the Declaration of Independence: "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Rights bestowed on all of us, not just those who can afford a ticket to the Inaugural Ball. Rights that are all but natural rights of human beings, just by being born. Rights that are yours and mine.

We could think of government in classical psychological terms as the ego between the id of commerce and the superego of the will of the people. A moderator between the rapacious commercial interests engaged in making a profit, and the greed of people who see a richer target in the concentrations of wealth that are businesses and want to take it for all its worth. This is why we have both civil and criminal codes that can be enforced in both directions.

But lets face facts: people are like ants at a picnic in this instance and can be squashed easily under the wheels of commerce no matter how many people are trying to take what they perceive is theirs, so government's real job is to protect you and I from the nebulous "them," making sure that business abides by the same criminal laws that you and I would get dragged into court for: littering, assault, theft, among others.

When commerce turns against us, our recourse is to petition our government.

However, when government turns against us, we have no recourse. It's a handicap wrestling match, two on one, and unfortunately, we're still ants.

The one illusion that we can cling to right now is, in less than two years, we can get rid of these assholes, and find a new set of people to take up the shield for us. I say that's an illusion because there's no guarantee that the next regime won't be as bad or worse, than the Bush junta.

Men and women like James Comey, like the 9/11 widows, like Janet Reno, like Patrick Fitzgerald, may be our last best hope for a free future.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

Monty Python explains Mark Foley and the Republicans

Plant The Seed. Forget To Water

Each morning, now that the weather is nice, I walk about a mile and a half to a nearby train station to commute to work. It's really a very pleasant walk (altho wearing a suit each day, now that the weather is getting more sultry, makes for some unpleasant aftereffects).

I pass plenty of schools, bright young faces, happy for the moment's freedom in the sunshine. I pass a few convenience stores, the inner city version of a "7-11", bustling with laborers picking up a coffee and donut for the morning.

And I pass relics and remnants of a past age. Among these, I stroll past three buildings that, within my adult lifetime, were movie theatres. Now, they are warehouses or retail strips with apartments overhead, but at one time, they were minipalaces dedicated to showing movies and entertaining audiences.

There aren't many of these left in the world today. One or two in Manhattan and of course, the famous (Grau)Mann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Other than that, they've been divvied up into minitheatres, or sold and converted to other uses.

People's tastes change. Their habits change. Their opinions change. For lack of a blockbuster, gotta-go-see movie, most people are content to wait for the DVD, or worse, for cable to show the film. They won't make the effort to go and do something unless there's more bang for the buck.

I say all this, because in Time Magazine this week is a fascinating piece about democracy. Entitled Is Freedom Failing?, author Peter Beinart makes the case that the spread of democracy that we saw in the late 80s and early 90s, due in large part to the fall of the Soviet Union, is contracting quicker than Bush's legacy. An example:
In 1999 Nigerians did something remarkable: they elected a President. After 16 years of military rule and four decades of political and economic failure, Africa's most populous country held a free election. "Globally, things are going democratically," a Lagos slum dweller told the New York Times. "We want to join the globe."

It was a good time to get on board. The percentage of democracies in the world had doubled since the 1970s, to more than 60%. Many of the remaining autocracies--pariah states like North Korea, Burma and Iran--seemed to be living on borrowed time. In ideological terms, as Francis Fukuyama famously declared, history was ending--and Nigeria didn't want to be left behind.

That was then. But when Nigerians went to the polls again last month, democracy lost. In an orgy of ballot-box stuffing and violence, punctuated by an attempted truck bombing of the electoral-commission headquarters, the ruling party won what some observers thought was the most fraudulent election ever in Nigeria--which is saying something. Once again, Nigeria is catching a wave. From Bangladesh to Thailand to Russia, political freedom is in retreat. In a book due out this fall, Hoover Institution political scientist Larry Diamond notes that "we have entered a period of global democratic recession."

Several reasons, of course. Nigeria, like Russia and Iran, is heavily dependent on oil revenues. When oil prices are low, dictators have less power to control their populace and freedom can take root. When oil prices rise, more money means more oppression.

The biggest reason democracies are failing now is the one thing you might expect, and ironically, shouldn't have expected: Iraq. The failure of the United States to establish a democracy in a country that has long lived with tyranny is a glaring one, and does not give comfort to freedom fighters in other parts of the region.

Indeed, we rely heavily on autocracies and tyrannies to keep the Middle East as a whole from devolving into chaos. Look at Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. Even Syria and Iran are buffers against the collapse of the Middle East.

But the overarching reason? People change. The fruits of democracy are hard to fight for, and seeing the example of the chaos in Iraq does not help others, like the Nigerians, like the Burmese, to keep on keeping on. Moreover, the fruits of democracy are fleeting in countries: no nation is more than three meals from a revolution, not even America.

You can't just drop seeds and hope they'll take root. You have to nurture them along until the roots are so strong that the tree stands on its own merits. Fighting a war for democracy in some other country is insanity at its most basic level. If we want to create a democratic tradition, if we want people around the world to be truly free, we have to offer assistance that keeps them free.

Troops aren't the answer, and in this case, I agree with Barack Obama: we ought to be doubling our foreign aid, taking away from our war efforts and investing in countries where democracy has already taken root but is in danger of collapsing.

We could start here in the US, of course.

Rather than spreading hatred for our ideals and our nation, we ought to be showing folks how democracies work. And we ought to be taking the time to make sure ours works, too. September 11 was a golden opportunity to show that a free nation can take a body blow like that, and not come up punching, but ready to punch, ready to fight for our rights and our beliefs and our freedoms.

Ironically, the attempt to spread freedom has revealed a powerful flaw in our own freedoms: when people stop caring because they're afraid, they won't make the effort anymore.

Unfortunately, you can't TiVo freedom.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

True Christians Everywhere Shrug And Smile

Television evangelist Falwell dies at 73

LYNCHBURG, Va. - The Rev. Jerry Falwell, who founded the Moral Majority and built the religious right into a political force, died Tuesday shortly after being found unconscious in his office at Liberty University, a school executive said. He was 73.

Ron Godwin, the university's executive vice president, said Falwell, 73, was found unresponsive around 10:45 a.m. and taken to Lynchburg General Hospital. "CPR efforts were unsuccessful," he said.

Godwin said he was not sure what caused the collapse, but he said Falwell "has a history of heart challenges."
TRANSLATION: The internal organ that most humans call a heart was, in Falwell, a shriveled raisin.

Seriously, could there be a more poetic end to this man?

(h/t to Susan)

The Hunger

Question: What is the single greatest tragedy to befall humankind?

The Holocaust? Darfur? The tsunami of Christmas 2004?

I believe the greatest tragedy to befall humankind is the creation of "want".

I was watching the Today Show this morning, and as part of the set, the staff constructed a 40 foot long aqarium, in which they placed the usual suspects for a North American reef: surgeonfish, a moray eel, a stingray, a couple of horseshoe crabs, and a black tip reef shark, along with a plethora of other reef fish that, to put it bluntly, are herbivorous. Bait, in other words.

You might think that this would make for some compelling television. After all, Shark Week on The Discovery Channel gathers some of their highest ratings each year. People like to tune in to see nature in the raw.

Surprise, surprise: no one got eaten. Why is that?

Animals eat when they need to eat. Period. There's no forethought that, gee, in five hours, I'm going to be hungry so let me pre-feed. Animals live in the moment, mostly because otherwise their watches would be wrong.

Only humans seem to demonstrate the capacity to think about the future, and to plan for an abstract event. Similarly, and I think hand in hand, humans devised a clever precept: "want."

Humans have the same basic physical needs as any animal: food and shelter (we need clothing too, but that's more because we find hairy backs repulsive), and procreation of the species. Once you've satisfied those basic needs, the human mind can kick in and explore its environment. It's this "mind" place where things get tricky. Suddenly, we've constructed a mass of neuroses and paranoids: does he like me? Will she have sex with me? Can I keep this job? What about the people dying in Iraq?

Does any of this matter? Well, yes, some of it does: global warming is a very serious threat to the sanctity of both food and shelter. So is having sex and passing along your genetic material, which means a bigger shelter and more food.

Most of our day to day concerns are pretty abstract, though, and speak more to the comfort of our existence as opposed to the singluarity of it. Just look at any war if you want an example.

There's a book and a movie that are very popular now called The Secret. I confess, I spent ninety minutes and downloaded the program. It's pretty interesting stuff, all about the power of intention and how just asking for what you want can bring it to you, if you clear negative thoughts from your life.

And that's where I started laughing and haven't stopped. "Negative thoughts" are....what, precisely?

For isn't "wanting something" in itself a negative thought? Life is, after all, a zero sum game, and for every Nintendo Wii I buy, that's a) one less Wii for others to own, b) all those lost resources and clean air and water spent to provide me with that Wii (plastic doesn't grow on trees, you know!) and c) money spent that could have been spent elsewhere or better still, saved for a real need.

Now, I know what Rhonda Byrnes (and her carafe of teachers) means: negativity=hatred, to be replaced by love. And yet, it's still about want. It's still about that mass of neurons called a "mind". It's still about ego. And it's still about weakness, a desire that is overpowering your better sense.

The secret of The Secret is that by disciplining yourself to let go of what is holding you back, you will magically (and I do mean magically) find yourself being what you want to be and having what you want to have.

OK, nothing wrong with that, except...what do you want to be? What do you want to have? Is being rich, or having an Academy Award, or marrying the most beautiful mate, something you really want?

And if it requires a carrot at the end of a stick for you to undergo the self-examination needed to find out what you want and to put aside the things that hold you back, then what kind of discipline are you really pursuing? Emotional brainwashing?

It sounds like this to me. Humans are, well, human. We're all kinds of feelings and emotions. We're "beings". And this kind of stuff is about "doing". And it scares me a little to see that we're encouraging this in a society that needs less wanting and more being. All around us is a world that cries out for our participation, and yet here we are, cocooning ourselves in a blanket of self-indulgent pseudoscience, and pulling the covers over our heads. And paying for the privilege of doing so.

Better we should get out in the world, and as our long-dead ancestors risen from the veldts of Africa did, explore. In the exploration, we will discover who we are.

And what we want.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Monday Monologging

"People will come" - Field of Dreams

I Promise, The Last Rudy Post For A While...

After all the hoopla surrounding the March 31 fundraising reports for the first quarter of 2007, comes this little notice:
WASHINGTON -- Rudolph Giuliani has so far signed up only about a quarter of the major Republican donors he set out last November to enlist as fundraisers for his presidential campaign, records show.

Giuliani's failure to recruit most of those on this early "wish list" is revealed by his early presidential campaign-strategy documents leaked in January.

That anemic track record serves as another indication that key conservatives aren't yet sold on Giuliani, experts say, a problem that could become exacerbated by his recent decision to acknowledge his support for abortion rights.
The news could be worse: he corralled 24 of the 89 he acknowledged he needed, but lost only 21 to either Mitt Romney or John McCain, meaning 44 others, about half, have refused to publicly commit to any candidate.

This is not small potatoes money: these are donors who can reliably raise some $200,000 minimum each for any particular candidate they choose to lavish their attention on. It's still early in the campaign, but the campaign itself has been an anomaly in how early it has turned into a full-bore run for the tape.

Sorry. I've been promising myself I wouldn't report the race like it was a horse race and run poll after poll past you. I had a brain cramp here.

The trouble Giuliani had all along, and really should have acknowledged before setting such a far-fetched goal of obtaining the "89", is that apart from his public persona during the aftermath of 9/11, no one really knew him or understood who he was and what he stood for.

People who are going to pony up in excess of $10 million dollars in toto are going to want assurances that their voices will be heard in the White House, so at the very least, you have to pay a little lip service to tax cut, pro-life, and "American values" positions, none of which Rudy has a particularly strong record on.

That these heavyweight donors stood off to the side while waiting for him to flesh out his stances is not surprising. I should expect that by June 30th, many more will have committed. I'm betting that another half, say 22, will commit but will be split pretty evenly amongst the three top candidates.

There's something at stake for the donors, as well: back the wrong horse, and you have to work twice as hard to curry favor with the winner, and get your voice heard.

There's a cottage industry in "access", sadly it's determined not by need but by resources.

The person who stands to lose the most the quicker more donors jump in is, of course, the candidate who isn't even in the game yet, but I believe that ultimately, the field of candidates from both parties that we see will not generate both party Presidential candidates (save possibly for Hillary, should she survive the primary season, something that's more likely as California, New York, and New Jersey accelerate their primaries).

Who this really hurts is someone like Fred Thompson, who will have to either somehow make enemies all over the party to grab some of these donors, or will have to make do with "populist" fund raising tactics, like Barack Obama or Howard Dean did, but that will also mean staking out some pretty shaky positions slightly away from the inevitable party platform of pro-life, pro-war, pro-Bush.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day Music Blogging

For Mom

Ancient Hegemony

It's easy to depersonalize early American history, particularly the Colonial times, when you consider just how foul the invaders were towards the native Americans.

Sometimes deliberately, as our near-genocide of "Injuns" as we expanded westward would have to be classified. Sometimes, inocuously:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - For most U.S. citizens the 400th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in America is a time to celebrate pioneers who crossed the ocean in sailing ships and braved hardships to forge a nation.

But for American Indians whose ancestors lived in America when the English adventurers slogged ashore on Jamestown Peninsula in what is now Virginia, it is at once a reminder of their long struggle to overcome persecution and prejudice and a chance to reintroduce themselves to the world.

"We're celebrating 400 years of survival in a fairly hostile environment," said Anne Richardson, chief of the Rappahannock, one of several Powhatan tribes involved in the commemoration events this month that included a visit by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.
You remember Jamestown, of course: Pocahontas, Powahatan, John Smith, all that lot? A chamring, Disneyesque tale of war averted by a child?

The war wasn't averted, however. It transmogrified to an economic war, and the white man still won, depsite thousands dying nearly endlessly, as wave after wave of ships brought new settlers, new crops and new pestilences to the New World.

National Geographic magazine this month has a stellar article on this aspect of the conquest of America:
It didn't take long for the settlers' early dreams to evaporate. One after another, business schemes failed, and those who had envisioned riches turned to praying for survival. Many colonists perished within months of stepping ashore. Three out of four who came to Jamestown between 1607 and 1624 died from disease, hunger, and conflict with the Indians.

Until recently, their tales were told only through written accounts of a literate few. Since 1994, Historic Jamestowne archaeologists led by William Kelso have dug up a fuller story: a million artifacts that reveal in minute detail the lives and deaths of settlers, both elite and ordinary, as they struggled to establish a colony that would become the first permanent English settlement in North America—and the birthplace of the United States.
For example, did you know that American earthworms were non-existent before Jamestown? That tobacco as we know it, that all-American crop that created the eventual economic boom that gave Europeans their foothold here (and ravaged Indian populations, as hunting forests were cleared wholesale for planting Sir Walter Raleigh's "discovery") was actually imported?

In a day and age when we are invading yet another country of "brownskinned people," the lessons of Jamestown ought not to be too far from our minds.

But sadly, they seem to be...