The Ballad of Harrie and Bushie

The Ballad of Harrie and Bushie

(Various verses, based on Frankie and Johnny, gleaned from the ‘net…. ) 



Bushie and Harrie were pardners

Oh lordy, how they cleared brush

They swore to be true to each other

Then Bushie gave her the brush

He was her man

But he done her wrong


Harrie’s a nice southern lady

Bright as a shiny new dime

Always did good in her law school

Harrie she worked overtime

She's a big-hearted gal

She couldn’t do no wrong


Bushie said Harrie’s my pit bull

Good dog in big size six shoes

Harrie did all Bushie asked her

Now she’s left singin’ the blues

Bushie was her man

But he done her wrong


Bushie told Harrie he picked her

Now Harrie, she wanted it bad

All of her life she’d been lonely

All of her nights had been sad

Harrie knew her man

He wouldn’t do her no wrong


Well Harrie, she knew her business

Worked all her life to make good

But Limbaugh and Kristol they nixed it

They wanted their boys from the hood

They didn’t want Bushie’s gal

They said he got it all wrong


Now Bushie he looked at Roe v. Wade

Then o’er on his back Bushie rolled

He put his right hand on the Bible

Swore now he would do what he’s told

Oh, he’s a new man

And he's doing her wrong


Bushie told Harrie, I’m leavin’

I’ve stood by your side for too long

Don’t you wait up for me, honey

‘Cuz early next mornin’ I’m gone

I know I was your man

But now I’m doin’ you wrong


Poor Harrie she took care of Bushie

Worked nights ‘til quarter to three

Now Harrie's alone in her office

Playin’ Nearer My God to Thee.

He was her man

But he done her wrong


I couldn’t tell you no story

I wouldn’t tell you no lie

Ol’ Georgy Porgy ain’t studyin’ no justice

He just wants his puddin’ and pie

He's done kissed that girl

And now he’s makin her cry


Now women, this is my story

This is the point of my song

That mean sorry Bushie’s a cold-hearted man

To do his poor pardner so wrong

Yeah, he done that gal wrong

Will he do us all wrong?



(I agree with President Bush that Harriet Miers has had a distinguished legal career against high odds, and is an admirable, caring woman whose experience and character would have uniquely and valuably contributed to the court and the nation. She should have had a chance to present her case to the nation during the hearings. If President Bush believed that the nomination was his prerogative, and if he felt Miers was right for the court, he owed it to all of us and to her to stand by his convictions, and to stand by his friend….


Let me know if you hear of any other good stanzas?





Harsh or Happy Realities?

I’ve accepted that I’m going to keep on making mistakes forever. The rest of the world will too. So my life will always be challenging, and the world will often be chaotic.


On the other hand, I’ve also come to realize that in any present moment I can always choose to see myself, others, and the world through spiritual eyes–peaceful, accepting eyes–and this small choice will change both my own reality and any reality “out there” in happy and often unknowable ways.


What does it mean, to see the world through spiritual eyes? It means to look for and see only the good. It means to let go of past mistakes, ours and everyone else’s, as well as future fears, and instead, focus, here and now, on the good that is right before us.


There’s a spiritual trick to all this, though. Whenever we react negatively toward ourselves and others—as we all often do, almost continuously, in fact, because we’re well-trained judgment machines—whenever we’re feeling judgmental and resistant, we can ask our favorite higher power to help us see that person or situation differently. If we’ll look, listen, and wait for our answer, we’ll soon see with new eyes, new sight.


Using this approach, I create every day, for myself and for others, a different, better reality than I could create alone.


As more and more people realize that acceptance of whatever and whoever we see is our primary work in this world, we can all relax. Instead of mirroring a fearful collective craziness, we’ll reflect the higher eternal truths and realities we all recognize during transcendent moments, when we know without question the love of God and the beauty and unity of his creation—however differently we explain such truth.


So, does seeing with new eyes mean we should we all fall into denial? Avoid looking at the bad stuff in our lives, and give up on changing or improving it? No. Asking for help in seeing things differently allows us to look more closely at all that is frightening and difficult in our lives—and this time, with acceptance and forgiveness. God will transform all of it into something useful and good.


Life will always bring up an endless stream of personal judgments and resistances begging for transformation. Although we’ve all made mistakes, none are so dark they can’t be made light if we so choose. All our relationships can be changed, all our sadness, our hard lessons turned to good purpose and peace.


Each of us is powerful far beyond anything we now believe. We’ve already shown ourselves powerful enough to project a whole world—a terrible one. And to see ourselves as hopeless cases. And everyone else as no better than we. Usually worse.


If we want something to be true, even if it’s some cruel reality we’ve settled on as the only kind we can rationally and honestly imagine, then soon enough we’ll find the evidence necessary to reinforce even such a sad belief system. We’ll no doubt react indignantly and angrily to the fearful world we’ve surrounded ourselves with, but we’ll continue to look for, reinforce, and initiate evidence for it, until eventually we make for ourselves not only a personal state of near-insanity, but a planetary madhouse as well.


Instead of resigning ourselves to chaos and despair, however, we can use our awesome creative power to turn things around. We can courageously drop our defenses and barriers to caring. We can turn the insanities of this world into happier realities by using our awesome power to see and create a different, better world for all.


I could not have imagined how lovable my former “enemies” could become—all my crosses-to bear, even my own useless ugly self—until I chose to see each person and each situation differently, with eyes that let the past go, let mistakes go, overlooked shortcomings and fear, and saw only good.


To be sure, I often forget to choose to see differently, moment-to-moment–that’s where the “I’ll never get anything right” part comes in….  Yes, I’ll keep on making mistakes, and add to the drama and confusion instead of transforming it—and so will everyone else. God had his reasons for making humans fallible, but he also made us capable of learning and loving.


When I look on others with loving, spiritual eyes, I give them an amazing gift—the gift of seeing themselves completely differently—more loving, more beautiful and good than they ever realized. My accepting vision accurately reflects back to them the truth about their deepest nature, which is no less than the most thoughtful present anyone can ever give to another human being.


We all wish we could receive only such loving gifts from one another. We appreciate it so much when others give us the benefit of the doubt, choose to see us in our best light and as our best-possible selves. What other kind of help could encourage us so much to become the best people we can be?


The gift of seeing our own strengths and goodness is not one we can easily give ourselves. It takes another person choosing to see us lovingly, to see our own selves at our best. Most often, we only know our love and power when it is reflected in the appreciation that is shining in the eyes of another, in response to our own similar gifts to them.


What a delightful moment-to-moment reality this can be: whenever we choose, we can see the best in others, see ourselves lovingly reflected in their eyes, and offer one another a new reality, a chance to see ourselves anew. Genuine mutual admiration societies are happy places, just as relationships based on fearful judgments are hotbeds only for more fear and sadness.


On an eternal scale, seeing everything spiritually is what we’re here for. God created each of our lives, and this wonderful planet, this universe, as his great gift to us, for our delight, but also for his. Our mission, should we decide to accept it, is to love his gift—our world, ourselves, each other—in each moment of eternity, asking his help to see his creations freshly each moment, through accepting, spiritual eyes.


We do not live in a “same-for-everyone” reality that is somehow “out there”—No. Instead, each of us uniquely reflects what’s “in here”— whatever belief systems we’ve chosen to embrace about how the world works. Yet, although we each experience our individual realities differently, eternal spiritual reality doesn’t change. The ultimate truths about what lasts eternally—God’s goodness and love for his creation—are truly beyond our mere human brains’ explanatory abilities. But even if we can’t explain it, we can experience eternal truth whenever we choose to.


Spiritual realities aren’t intuitively obvious in most day-to-day lives. We’re so used to our familiar, if less-than-pleasant, mundane realities that we overlook other perspectives. We're like goldfish swimming around and around in our bowls. We don’t even notice the water we're in because it’s always just sort of been there. We’re unwilling to create waves in our already turbulent inner lives by considering a radically different worldview.


If we’ve concluded that we’re pretty much alone in a meaningless universe, in competition with everyone else, forced to fight for every inch until we die, we can find all the evidence we need to continue to reinforce that belief system in everything we do, in everyone we meet, in everything we learn. As necessary, we’ll project what we believe onto our experiences, and act in ways that fulfill our prophecies.


Life becomes more and more difficult, interspersed with peaceful moments of refuge and transcendence when we intuit a world that makes more sense. But we keep turning back to what we know, or to what we think we know. We hang on to our tough-guy philosophies “for dear life,” because, no matter how hopeful alternative views may appear, no matter how hard our present lives are, we’re—sort of—used to them already. Our cold approach to life feels familiar, and what is familiar feels safer than launching into an unfamiliar world of ideas and relationships, into uncertain territory that turns our whole way of looking at life upside-down.  


Even if we don’t have a lot in our lives right now, at least we have what we know. Or we sort of have what we think we know. Or at least, we don’t have what we don’t know…we think. And for that small shred of certainty, we’re willing to sacrifice all other possible alternative realities. Too exhausted and beaten down from upholding our chaotic, leaky thought systems to try anything new, we settle for “being right” about what we already think; we cling desperately to our little lifeboats of certainty in our personal storms.


Thinking our belief system the least-worst option, we “right”-eously keep choosing to see a chaotic world full of unacceptable players—ourselves included—as more predictable, reliable, more controllable than any as-yet unknown, different worldview might be. Somehow, someday—we hope—we’ll learn how to manage the mean world we’ve chosen. Someday, surely, we’ll get used to it, learn how to deal with it—once we’ve figured out the rules.


But there are no rules for a spiritually empty world, a loveless, meaningless void. Life sucks and then you die. As life’s difficulties multiply, it becomes ever more important to be right about the way we’ve always seen things, because as long as we can keep on pounding away at what we think we know, as long as we can keep on looking into the same dark corners for the cheese that isn’t there anymore, as long as we can keep piling up the evidence that says “I’m right”—only then will we feel we have some chance of muddling through at least until we die–which is all that anyone can do anyway, no matter how we look at things….


Yet, over the course of a lifetime . . . some people seem generally contented, happy, resilient, positive, cheerful, optimistic, while the rest of us become more and more miserable. Why is that?


Tough-minded pragmatic stoics have lots of plausible theories to explain this phenomenon, theories which fit semi-satisfactorily, if not cozily, into their unhappy belief systems.


But what if the differences in the lives of accepting people, and resistant, fearful people, arise in large part mostly from their different choices about what they want to see, about what reality they choose to create, in the world, in their relationships…?


We can all choose to undertake a completely new life-task, a purpose different than any we’ve chosen before. And that new choice of purpose will make all the difference. We can choose to see the world, ourselves, and others as acceptable and lovable, through spiritual eyes, asking for the help we need to see each moment’s challenges, one by one, differently.


Yes, we’ll keep on making stupid mistakes—forever—and everyone else will too. Because we’re human, we’ll often forget to ask for help, or forget to act on it. But seeing through visionary spiritual sight isn’t as difficult a change as you might think. God only requires from us a tiny bit of willingness. He will handle all the rest.


He’ll take each mistake we offer him, all our sad stuff, and transform it—all of it—into something useful and good. Someday, too, he’ll take the new improved world we’ve made, all the happier realities we’ve created, and work the same wonderful transformations with it. We can’t do everything that’s needed, powerful though we are, but we can do what we can do—our small parts—and leave the rest up to him.


When we choose to see through spiritual eyes, the whole world quite miraculously will become a happier, more peaceful place, both for ourselves and for everyone else. Each time we remember to ask to see whatever comes our way differently, we take the small necessary step to change both what's “in here” and “out there.” As we invite God to do his mysterious work, we change reality.




E.P. Harmon welcomes your comments!





Of Mice-Like Men: Libby and Cheney

My country—the richest, most powerful country in the history of this planet, is currently in the hands of men who conceive of life, power, and politics in the meanest, smallest, most fearful, vengeful way imaginable.


Consider this quote in yesterday’s Washington Post (Sunday, October 23rd), from an article about I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and Dick Cheney:


“Libby greatly admires the work of Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and military historian who posits that warfare is an inevitable part of civilization, evil is a basic condition of humanity, and tyrants must be confronted by the harshest possible means. (In late 2002, a few months before the Iraq invasion, Cheney—also a Hanson devotee—invited the historian to the vice president’s mansion for a small dinner gathering that included Libby.)…Hanson’s stark perspective comports with Libby’s view on Iraq. He was among the administration’s fiercest proponents of the invasion, and his office prepared a 48-page document of intelligence on Iraq’s WMDs for Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech to the United Nations in February 2003. (Powell couldn’t confirm a lot of the data and wound up not using much of it.)”


Humanity's greatest courageous and visionary leaders have historically appealed to and built upon the best that humanity is capable of, instead of looking for or reacting to the worst. How did our great country get put in charge of tiny, scared, quaking little mice?


I’m sure Libby and Cheney love their country, mean well, and work hard from within their narrow, frightened versions of how the world works, but they are benighted, misinformed, misguided, and do not boldly make policy or decisions based on the highest ideals and values that hold us all together and make our fragile planet go 'round.


We all must suffer some injustice, but we don't have to add to its sum. We can risk peace, not war.


I can only hope our most democratic processes soon remove from positions of influence forever, Libby, Cheney and other leaders who govern as they do.


Please send comments to

Thanks, Eppy Harmon







Do You Know This Man?

Click on my latest posting, a quiz/drawing/political cartoon called “Soldier,” on the left side of this blog…. So what do you think?

Thanks, eppy




Buzzards, Crystal Moments, and Matters of Life and Death

I memorized a poem as a schoolchild, about a boy walking through woods, who sees a deer suddenly flash past, pursued by dogs. “Life and death upon one tether,” the poet wrote, “and running beautiful together.” I thought of that poem yesterday as I enjoyed my yoga routine on the deck in the early fall sunshine. Unknowingly, I too was marked for death, although my thoughts were light, uplifted by exercise, meditation and blue sky.


I lay on my mat, eyes closed, stretching up first one leg and then the other, wriggling my toes, waggling my feet to loosen my ankles.


I lifted up my eyes to see four buzzards circling high above me, puzzled as to whether this hapless human below them—obviously writhing in her final death throes—would meet her demise sooner or disappointingly later.


The arrival of my aspiring buzzards reminded me of another time, when I found a dead doe strangled by baling wire on my father’s Texas ranchette. Her fawns and the other members of Dad’s wild, corn-fed herd kept respectful watch nearby—curious, accepting—as I raged, anguishing over what I judged to be her arbitrary, meaningless and cruel fate, aching that I hadn’t seen her in time to save her.


I called the sheriff’s office to pick up the corpse.


Next morning, although the sheriff hadn’t yet arrived, the buzzards had. Forty turkey buzzards quarrelsomely gorged themselves ‘til they couldn’t fly, putting on quite a show across the front lawn. At first I hated them, but soon watched with fascination this exotic display of life and death so beautifully tethered. The buzzards ate to live; they too had young to feed. They did their buzzardly parts that day, and eventually, my dad and I, and the deer herd, wandered off to do ours.


I used to create elaborate plots—deals, really—intended to deflect similarly horrible and pointless fates for myself and my loved ones, hoping to manipulate or trick my strange, unfriendly, exacting god into somehow liking me more than his other less-lucky, ill-starred creatures (poor bastards!) As if death and eternal suffering could plausibly be just punishments meted out by a loving god to all but a favorite few….


My poor doe had done nothing to deserve her unkind fate except to share equally in the impartial mortality that is part and parcel of the gracious gift of earthly territory all creatures are heir to.


Back on the deck yesterday, my four buzzards continued their high, slow cycles. Then there were five of them, and eventually a sixth who startled me by swooping down low over my roof to study me fixedly with a red, dispassionate eye. Evidently content that my time had not yet come, my ugly friend floated upwards to inform his companions grumpily—(“Nope, not yet!”)—and they wheeled lazily away, sparing me for yet another day in paradise.


This morning, swinging in my hammock, looking up through the trees, I see two more buzzards in the distance. The fact that I’m seeing more buzzards these days must mean something….


Perhaps it means that I’m sharing more time outdoors with them in peaceful awareness, seeing this world (and whatever may come after) through freshly accepting, non-judgmental eyes, a dreamy new lover discovering for the first time the everyday abundance of wishing-dandelions and shooting stars.



(I wrote this little essay a while back….. Here, copied off the net, is the crystallizing poem which inspired me…)  


Crystal Moment
by Robert Peter Tristram Coffin


Once or twice this side of death
Things can make one hold his breath.

From my boyhood I remember
A crystal moment of September.

A wooded island rang with sounds
Of church bells in the throats of hounds.

A buck leaped out and took the tide
With jewels flowing past each side.

With his head high like a tree
He swam within a yard of me.

I saw the golden drop of light
In his eyes turned dark with fright.

I saw the forest's holiness
On him like a fierce caress.

Fear made him lovely past belief,
My heart was trembling like a leaf.

He leans towards the land and life
With need above him like a knife.

In his wake the hot hounds churned
They stretched their muzzles out and yearned.

They bayed no more, but swam and throbbed
Hunger drove them till they sobbed.

Pursued, pursuers reached the shore
And vanished. I saw nothing more.

So they passed, a pageant such
As only gods could witness much,

Life and death upon one tether
And running beautiful together.





Lead Me On, Oh Great Commander in Chief. But Whither?

My favorite new show, Commander in Chief, shows promise for extending West Wing’s visionary qualities, and then some. Too bad Commander also bodes equivalent stumbles along the same dark lines of its predecessor—too much emphasis upon the quick use of military force to resolve diplomatic crises.


Military force doesn’t solve problems, it creates them. Will Geena Davis, aka President Mackenzie, learn this while in office? Will Commander showcase the long list of options any nation has to throw at problems, other than the show and/or use of force? Will Commander de-emphasize testosterone-filled approaches, and demonstrate instead the range of strengths any leader, male or female, can find in more “feminine” approaches? The show's producers will be glad to know that I'm awaiting their answers in great suspense….


And what if Geena does experience a direct provocation by another government? Why not try really clever media coverage…. What if the American public insists on revenge and retaliation? Try education, forbearance, charity…. What if Americans die? Try rituals of national mourning for fallen martyrs, or any one of the other thousand approaches to diplomacy…. What if there’s a terrorist attack by a known force? Try investigations, and high-level meetings….


And keep on trying. Peace and democracy aren’t missions that can be accomplished. They’re missions that never end. You can’t end a war against an abstract noun. Besides, there will always be one more bomb-throwing terrorist to provide an excuse for one more retaliation. I hope Geena teaches us that sometimes you just have to endure a certain amount of injustice—but you almost never have to add to it.


What if a woman who is convicted of adultery is about to be buried to her neck in the sand and then stoned to death? Geena could have focused overwhelming international attention on that country’s leaders, and then shipped in thousands of well-paid, white-clad, unarmed international forces of young innocent collegiate pacifists, silent disapproving witnesses to evil deeds, all willing to die for their ideals—just as our current youthful military volunteers are willing to die for theirs.


What a moral message this would send! What culture could continue to kill unarmed, disapproving children while an international press looked on? Maybe the poor adulterer would die, but maybe no other adulterers would, the next time. Geena's point would be made, her lesson taught, her stance clarified, her insistence noted. Conversations would be started. Maybe minds would even be changed.


We don’t have to do away with our military forces. We can still use them to defend our country from those who would invade our shores or climb with their guns through our windows (I haven’t seen much of this lately, but it could happen…) We can still call up our national guard for times of natural catastrophes.


A new, improved Commander in Chief would have a few long-simmering unsolvable conflicts aggravatingly popping up throughout the show’s lifespan. We could watch these conflicts wend their ponderous and circuitous diplomatic ways through the series, in alarming fits and infuriating starts, week after week, year upon year—and each time, see Geena turn down the easy options of violence. We could grow to love the wisdom and expertise of her trusted diplomats, who have already spent half their lives preparing to tackle just such thorny problems, and who will spend the rest of their lives patiently addressing them, instead of mucking them up with ever more violence, leading, of course, to ever more hatred… and violence…and more hatred…and more violence.


I don’t want to see any more episodes in which Geena impresses me with fast, decisive, tough and completely hokey short-sighted violent “solutions” which only postpone and ultimately exacerbate the original problems (remember Iraq?) I want to see her impress me with her wisdom, vision, and forbearance. I want to see deliberate, consensus-building, thoughtful international answers bearing the weight of the whole world behind them.


I’d like to see well-written episodes dealing with moments of national hysteria over provocations, complete with their inexorable drumbeats in favor of retaliation, revenge and war, and then I want to see Geena demonstrate some of the myriad, no, infinite alternatives to loutish thuggery. Isn’t that what leadership is? Or is it really all about one's readiness to whip out one's six-guns and shoot ‘em up? I don’t think so. C’mon, TV producers, make my day….


I’d like to see Geena diplomatically rebuild a couple of really shaky international relationships, offer aid to one of our so-called enemies in their moment of need, implement fair trade rules for globalization…. I want to see her lead, and become even more visionary than she already is.


Some day, when Congress gets around to legislating a cabinet-level Department of Peace (H.R 3760 and S. 1756), I look forward to seeing the show belatedly renamed “Commander in Peace.”


Some day perhaps we’ll see Geena back again, a full-lipped, swivel-hipped Indian-style crone, still leading her tribe patiently and diplomatically past each new day's conflict toward the greater safety, prosperity and contentment that await us all on the other side.




A History of Violence Offers Hope For A Less-Violent Future

A History of Violence is a very good movie. Yes, the violence is graphic and hard to take, but that’s a positive thing in a movie intent on provoking thought and dialogue on the subject of violence. So, for you many testosterites (both male and female) who depend for your jollies upon superhuman heroes gloriously avenging the depraved acts of craven evildoers—and if you also happen to be married to a Quaker spouse—this is the family movie for you. If you gotta have gore, at least this gore isn’t simplistic; it’s powerful, purposeful, effective gore.


I was gripped and thoroughly entertained by A History of Violence. The production displayed a beautiful Casablancan integrity–nothing superfluous, nothing left out.


The movie’s many surprising moments of really funny dark humor were a nice added kick. At its blackest, life is ridiculously insane, and laughter covers the sad eyes of clowns; it's never either/or. Shakespeare knew this. So, this sad, funny, violent movie makes perfect sense as it moves along inexorably, belly laughs preceding abject tragedy setting up comic tittering introducing disaster….


History is also authentically moving, a tricky thing to do considering the thin fine line between effective emoting and hokey schmaltz. It’s a rare treat to have my jaded heartstrings expertly twanged by a good script in the hands of an inspired director leading brilliant actors.


History’s clarion response to the long-standing ethical question: When is violence morally justified? Only when you or someone you personally love is directly, persistently and seriously threatened. History’s imperfect characters conscientiously persevere in minding their own business, and endure the injustice of repeated outrageous attempts to provoke them to retaliatory violence–without adding to it–demonstrating the multitude of non-violent options available to unwilling participants.


I also appreciated the movie’s generous advocacy for second chances, and third ones, and however many it takes. In this movie, people who make big mistakes (no matter how big) receive support, not punishment–at least so long as they convincingly demonstrate conscientious intentions and results over time. History’s message–that sometimes motivated people can and do change—isn’t heavy-handedly religious; Tom admits that even after three long years in the desert, he wasn’t really born again until he met his wife. We all need both God and man to lift us up over our barriers to caring.


The very explicit but lively and original sex scenes were touching and memorable, and essential to the movie’s theme, since affection, loyalty, intimacy, and sexuality are often all that hold humanity to sanity and purpose.

I enjoyed watching Tom, like Lady Macbeth, futilely attempt to scrub the blood from his hands, and then receive the grace to be washed clean, rebaptised—forgiven–probably for the seventy-times-seventh time.


I wish the writers had clearly disavowed any hint that a schizophrenic split-personality-thing might be going on. For a confused moment I thought the story was bending that way, which would have disappointed me. I was relieved when it turned out to be about one man’s honest efforts at transformation.


Tom’s brief but telling dialogue with his brother offered a perfectly adequate argument for his stunning attempt to climb up from the horrendous dark pit of his childhood environment.


The movie offered several intriguing mini-plots—one for each character—most of them feel-good stories anyone could relate to. When Tom’s son finally got around to soundly beating up the kids who had continually attacked him, our theatre audience cheered. And when our thoroughly besmirched and discredited, yet undeniably righteous champion returned home, his family’s acceptance felt honest and right.


So why is it that we Americans still feel comfortable flinging our invading armies into the far corners of our empire, to threaten the persons and homes and families and livelihoods of complete strangers who are quietly trying to get ahead, in the lands of their ancestors? Where do we get off invading other countries, tearing up their infrastructure, disrupting their social fabric, blowing up their children? A History of Violence should make perfectly clear that people (of all creeds) who are doing their best to care for their families deserve to be left alone.


If my gentle reader still holds a belief that our superior culture justifies empire-building, I suggest you go back to your Bible, perhaps starting with the part about the kindly Jewish itinerant rabbi, Jesus, delivering his Beatitudes and his Sermon on the Mount. As A History of Violence demonstrates: fighting for peace on this incredibly small, interconnected and fragile planet–unless the bad guys are really climbing in your window—makes about as much sense in the real world as it does in the movies.




James Agee Does Bill Bennett

If Bill Bennett had just said, “abort every baby” or even “abort every white baby” instead of “abort every black baby,” he could have made his point just as well without coming across like a totally insensitive Ku Klux Klanner.


On the other hand, this whole controversy boils down to: How are we treating all the babies who are born into our culture? Not to mention, our planet?


Here’s what James Agee had to say about the matter, back in 1939:


“In every child who is born, under no matter what circumstances, and of no matter what parents, the potentiality of the human race is born again. And in him, too, once more, and of each of us, our terrific responsibility towards human life; towards the utmost idea of goodness, of the horror of error, of God.” (from Let Us Now Praise Famous Men)



(I would like to add that I think Bill Bennett a fine, admirable person who has worked hard and taken many personal risks in his life in order to add beauty and goodness to the world. Like all of us, he's entitled to mistakes and shortcomings, none of which are important. When someone has such long suits, and works so hard to make the most of them, sometimes their (our) short suits seem (in contrast) very short. I thank the world for Dr. Bennett's gifts and life, wish him well, and trust that he won't be daunted by his recent negative publicity….) Keep up the good work, Dr. Bennett!




What Went Down In the Miers Nomination, and What's Up Next in the Hearings?

Bush’s advisors must have momentarily forgotten that their boy-king doesn’t read the newspapers; probably Bush overlooked how desperate right-wingers were to nominate their very own reactionary Supreme being. His advisors also apparently lost track of who it was that first inserted into Bush’s stump speeches all that stuff about nominating a Scalia/Thomas-lookalike. Bush aspired to highest office with hardly a clue about how to thoughtfully select a Supreme Court nominee. With little previous interest in the fine details of constitutional law, he lacked the legal sophistication to distinguish a Scalia from a William O. Douglas.


Upon gaining the presidency, however, Bush quickly turned to his small inner circle for the necessary crash courses on foreign policy (Rice) and law (Miers), just as he once turned to his boyhood hero, Cheney, for instruction on how to select a running mate. It’s very likely that, just as Bush learned everything he needed to know (we hope) about geo-strategy from Rice, he has Harriet Miers to thank for his insights into the workings of the Supreme Court.


So, based on recent evidence, what did Miers teach George W. Bush?


That selection of a Supreme Court justice is a uniquely personal presidential prerogative, as well as a weighty responsibility…


…And that someone with the very specific qualities of say, a John Roberts—someone not a partisan ideologue, who loves the law, who is well-trained, accomplished and respected, moderate in temperament and above reproach in his personal life—would be an admirable choice.


Miers would also have taught Bush that conservative presidents can reasonably appoint conservative justices, that litmus tests aren’t appropriate, that candidates don’t have to answer questions about their personal and political opinions, and that good justices set aside their own biases, and seek, with each new case, to determine the current law of the land.


Bush might also have learned from Miers that, for every thorny case before the Supreme Court, a reasonable legal argument could be made on either side, and that a wise justice resists radically changing accepted law, but rather leaves major legal shifts in direction up to elected lawmakers. If Bush took in the highlights of the Roberts’ proceedings, he no doubt enjoyed hearing distinguished colleagues from both parties echo and affirm his own newly-acquired legal convictions.


No minority candidate with anything like Roberts’ sterling qualities appeared on the shortlists, so Bush must have gratefully embraced the idea that Miers would be a good compromise—for the same reasons he believed Roberts to be a sound nominee. Bush probably thought he was cleverly cutting a Gordian knot in  nominating Miers—a woman who (he imagined) would distress no one. Bush’s advisors erroneously had assumed Bush had shortlisted Miers as a professional courtesy, and would not forget where his bread was buttered.


Yet Bush has always elevated his most-trusted teachers—Rice, Cheney, and now Miers—because each has taken advantage of their considerable opportunities not only to shape their belatedly conscientious pupil’s thinking, but to successfully persuade his eager blank-slate brain of the soundness of their ideas. Considering our president’s infamous youthful lack of intellectual curiosity and indifference to exploring alternative viewpoints, it’s doubtful he realizes even now that his newly-received pearls of wisdom may in fact be debatable matters of opinion, rather than revealed truth.


It’s curious that presidents can be elected with no rigorous public hearings at all (one cannot count elaborately orchestrated debates), yet these same presidents are the very ones given the heavy responsibility of wisely nominating lifetime Supreme Court justices who must jump through elaborate hoops to get themselves confirmed.


During the upcoming hearings, Democrats will pacify their constituencies by expressing grave concern over Miers’conservatism, when in truth they’ll be kissing the very ground beneath her feet in gratitude that they weren’t handed a Scalia/Thomas clone. Democrats may even, with some reason, harbor just the teensy-weensiest outside hope that Miers will turn out to be a malleable stealth centrist.


It’s both admirable and tragicomic that President Bush so often accidentally buys into the public storylines his cronies elaborately create as cover stories to paper over their less admirable ulterior motives. With respect to Iraq, for instance, Bush actually convinced himself for awhile that his war really was all about democracy, rather than oil, giving his polpals fits as he briefly tried to run the occupation with that primary goal in mind. Now he's gone and gummed up his Supreme Court nominations by equally stupidly buying into the foolish pretense that he was actually supposed to nominate a fair judge.


Bush used to submit more humbly to his advisors’ supposed expertise. These days, Bush is apparently contemplating the possibility that he may after all have some small capabilities and experience, and is, indeed, in fact, the president, entrustable tentatively with a few independent decisions. I hope Bush shrugs off all his discredited advisors soon; just as he once picked up several useful approaches from West Wing reruns, I hope during his lame-duck years, Geena Davis will rub some of her moxie off on him, and make him surprise us and himself by going with his gut, jumping right on in—sans old advisors—to do a few things for his fellow citizens, just because they’re the right thing to do.


Will Miers be able to handle the tricks and traps that crafty old senators will throw at her with the intention of engineering a nomination do-over? If she’s Supreme Court material, she'll prove herself no slouch by winning over the American public, despite Republican machinations. In fact, the only scenario I can see for the GOP pulling out this big bad ol' disaster to their diehard constituents' complete satisfaction, would be for them to take a contract out on a couple of the current court liberals. Their fates rest….


During the upcoming hearings, the GOP will be constrained from coming right out and saying what they really wanted to do, which was to put in place an ideologue whom they could trust to consistently seek out whatever constitutional pretexts were necessary to legally lead the country back to the stone age. They’ll be forced instead to mumble lip-service courtesies to Bush’s candidate, even while scheming to blow her out of the water and replace her with some right wing nut. Democratic senators will also be squirming as they assume the distasteful duty of backhandedly persuading everyone to confirm an avowedly conservative nominee.


I hope Miers gets a fighting chance during the hearings to have the American public eating out of her hand before Christmastime. I also hope she gets a new haircut. (I’m not being sexist. John Warner needs one too.)