Michael Butler

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 represents a body of creative work that is aimed toward the highest service of humankind.   It is the synthesis of practical solutions and visionary ideals — creativity that requires organizational structure
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"...The goal worth striving toward, the ultimate meaning of this struggle, is that fragile "movement toward freedom" in every human heart...a.turning toward light that has, over centuries, built an engine of global development called "Democracy..."
Michael Butler,  Riding The Wave Of Change: Beyond Midterm Elections 2006

Poems 1972-2007

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WELCOME to Michael Butler's SYNTHESIS INSTITUTE homepage: offering emblems of artistry, spirit, and political activism — a small sampling of rich creativity won through more than 30 years of living on about $5,000 per year (no, that is not a typo).  Struggle has been the cost of remaining true... a path of lifelong learning. I've accomplished amazing things with very little; but it is for what I can do now to create lasting benefit for others that I present this website — including practical projects and problem-solving initiatives that your help can make possible.


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Today's Headline:
"Religious Leaders Propose A Way To End The War In Iraq"

Sampling Of Articles On Politics And Social Change


Synthesis Institute Overview


Bio in Brief

Give Of Your Self
Tiananmen Square, June 1989


"My New Year's Revolutions
Conference On Global Living
  • Institute For Optimal Psychophysical Development
Middle East Peace Objectives


Five Articles About:

A National Spotlight On The Media

U.S. Iraq War Policy

Issues Before And After Midterm Elections
Campaigning For Ralph Nader In 2004




In The Right Spirit:
Religious Leaders Propose A Way To End The War In Iraq

by Michael Butler / 1.23.07

MB photo
Some of the work of Rabbi Michael Lerner crossed my desk this week.  Lerner is the editor of Tikkun Magazine, and national chair of an interfaith movement called the Network of Spiritual Progressives.  Together with other clergy, he is preparing to launch an ad campaign headlined, "Religious Leaders Propose A Way To End The War In Iraq."

It is a simple Three-Point Plan grounded in Christian and Jewish scripture; but more importantly, it is in the right spirit to promote constructive healing of the devastation wrought by American intervention in Iraqi society.

It represents the beginnings of an attitudinal shift required by America's leaders if we are to have any hope of repairing the upheaval, widely felt throughout the Middle East, caused by America's actions.

It is the shift called for by voters in the 2006 Midterm Elections, who crossed all party lines and affiliations to deliver a profound rejection of Bush policies: a declaration that Bush has taken the wrong direction in Iraq, the wrong direction in the "War on Terror," and the wrong direction for the American nation.

Though Americans remain somewhat untouched by the horror, the Bush administration has been the architect of a tragedy greater than Watergate, worse than Vietnam and even approaching the scale of the American Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

It is this tragic confluence that the work of Rabbi Lerner and his co-sponsor, Baptist minister and evangelical author Tony Campolo, is geared to address.  They begin with a call for "repentance."  While the word may conjure an image of weakness for some, it represents moral fiber and backbone that, so far, hardly any American political leader has shown the courage to assume.

And it is exactly where the heart of America resides.  Sixty percent of the American people view the invasion of Iraq as a "mistake."  Real leadership now should not be embroiled in discussions about the tactical value of withdrawal versus escalation, but about how to take responsibility for the mistakes of the Bush administration, how to restore America's standing in the world, and how to put forward foreign policy objectives that can help build global community.

Rabbi Lerner and Reverend Campolo offer both spiritual insight and a practical path for a "strategy of generosity" to replace the misguided "strategy of domination" currently embraced unthinkingly by Democrats and Republicans alike.

They call for Congressional leadership to stand up on behalf of the American people, if the Bush administration cannot or will not take responsibility for its own destructive failings.

Secondly, they have the vision to entirely bypass the withdrawal-versus-escalation debate.  Since the day that Saddam Hussein was overthrown in April 2003, it has been abundantly clear that the United States cannot and should not have attempted to impose an occupying authority over the Iraqi people.  The only issue is: if not the United States, who can help provide security in Iraq?  And how can they be convinced to take the lead?  Lerner and Campolo wisely recognize the cultural, linguistic and religious affinities of Iraq's neighbors, and the potentially valuable role of the Arab League.

Finally, they call for a moral, spiritual and continuing financial commitment by Americans, not only to the Iraqi people but toward all our fellow human beings on this planet.  Quibble with the dollar amounts and percentages if you must, but recognize that their recommendation is in the right spirit to advance the progress of humanity, to overcome the terrible cost that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq has inflicted upon the world, and to rebuild the greatness of the American nation that has been squandered by lackluster leadership.

I urge everyone who reads this to add your signature to the proposal by Rabbi Lerner and Reverend Campolo, and to contribute toward spreading their message, if you can.

Then, perhaps, our leaders will hear the voice of the people, to act as America should have done in April 2003, and as the true heart of America would have spoken at the hour of the Fall of Baghdad:

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in: to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." (Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address)

This is a spirit Americans once knew; and it is the true 'way forward,' to find that voice of strength within ourselves, again.

Religious Leaders Propose

I — The war is wrong!  The remedy for wrong-doing begins with repentance; therefore we propose that the President go before the United Nations and confess that based on reports from intelligence experts, he believed that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  He should explain that this was why he called for an invasion of Iraq.  Those reports were wrong and hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been killed and entire cities have been devastated.  For the sufferings and deaths that have come from this invasion, he should ask for forgiveness on behalf of himself and the American people who overwhelmingly supported this great wrong.

The scripture declares:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (II Chronicles 7:14 KJV)

It is right for a religious president to live out this prescription and declare that it is not a sign of weakness to confess a wrong-doing.  We believe that it is only the spiritually strong who are able to do this.  We believe that such a confession will go far to restore the stature of America as a truly moral nation.  And in repenting on behalf of all Americans, including those who are not religious, the president should acknowledge that this entire society has mistakenly adhered to the view that safety and security can be achieved through domination or control of others, but that a better path to safety and security is to treat others with generosity, care, and genuine concern for their well being.

In the case that the President is unable or unwilling to pursue this path, we urge the Congress to pass a resolution rejecting the strategy of domination and embracing the strategy of generosity, and calling upon the world's peoples to forgive our society for the destructive path it has followed.  It should then send representatives to address the United Nations and convey this appeal for forgiveness on behalf of the American people.

II — We should call upon the Arab League to replace the U.S. and British forces with Arab soldiers.  Fellow Arabs know the language, understand the culture, and especially the Religion of the people of Iraq far better than do our own soldiers, who are usually perceived as modern-day imitators of the Crusaders who once devastated Muslim countries.  The U.S. and Britain should withdraw our forces as Arab forces take our place, give our bases to these forces, and require that any US corporation operating in Iraq give at least the majority of its profits to the task of Iraqi reconstruction.

III — We call upon the United States to commit fifty (50) billion dollars to rebuilding Iraq.  True repentance requires the works of repentance.  It is not enough to simply say, "We're sorry!"  This financial commitment is little compared to the two (2) billion dollars a week the war is presently costing.  This plan should be part of a larger Global Marshall Plan which the U.S. announces — to commit at least 1% of the Gross Domestic Product of the U.S. each year for the next twenty years toward the goal of eliminating global (and domestic) poverty, homelessness, inadequate health care, inadequate education, and for repairing the environment.  This provides a major step toward a Strategy of Generosity which is the key to rebuilding respect and trust in the United States.  It is this kind of generosity which is required by the Scriptures of all the Abrahamic religions and should be pursued not only because it helps increase American security and respect for America around the world, but because it is morally appropriate and religiously mandated.

Circulated by:
Rev. Tony Campolo, an ordained minister in the American Baptist Church and President of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education and author of Letters to a Young Evangelical (Basic Books, 2006).

Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine, national chair of The Network of Spiritual Progressives
and author of The Left Hand of God (Harper Collins, 2006).


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A Sampling of Ten Published Articles on Politics and Social Change...Follow Links to Read Full Text.

Toward A New Patriotic Consensus:
Beyond The Iraq Study Group Report

by Michael Butler / 12.12.06

Listening to the reaction last week from pundits, press and politicians to the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group report, you would think the judgment of history had now been rendered upon the United States' invasion of Iraq.   All around the world, commentators gladly took to writing "failed policy" on George Bush's tombstone; and those who had stood in opposition, like soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, were feeling "vindicated."

Underscored by the ISG's bleak assessment, the reality is that Bush has done more since 9/11 to facilitate the long-term objectives of worldwide jihadists than any al-Qaeda operative could have accomplished without America's unwitting complicity.   By the misapplication of military force, and failure to exercise constructive leadership on political, diplomatic, economic, cultural and other fronts, Bush has contributed enormously toward giving solidarity to a diverse number of Islamic-affiliated "terrorist organizations" or resistance movements, and ensuring their continued viability for a generation to come.

Read more, and leave comments on this article...

Riding The Wave Of Change:
Beyond Midterm Elections 2006

by Michael Butler / 11.14.06

Now that the 2006 Midterm Elections have delivered their verdict, a faint sliver of light appears at the end of the tunnel: a distant hope that the American ship of state will right itself, and the tensional integrity of Democrat-Republican collaboration will define a course that avoids the shoals of history we've been charging toward.

America has been profoundly strengthened by this turn of events.  A government that was "standing on one leg" with a crippled Congressional leadership has now been given restoration of functioning to all its parts.  Indeed, Election 2006 may well have been the very last opportunity to sound a wake-up call for the Bush administration, to turn their steps away from a path toward worldwide conflagration.


Midterm Elections 2006: Can Democrats Sober Up George Bush and the Republican Party?

by Michael Butler / 10.23.06

The American political system, under the divisiveness fostered by George Bush, has reached a state that can charitably be termed "crisis;" and in this case, the inherent opportunity that goes with the condition seems very real.

In answer to the situation, I've drafted an introductory outline of "The Campaign For Democracy: An Alternative Strategy To The War On Terror."

I want to encourage Democrats — and everyone else — to get their thinking outside of the box that Bush has built for us all.  Five years after 9/11, where are we?  Where is the frontier in the "War On Terror?"  The Midterm Elections are almost here; and after that, the Iraq Study Group led by James Baker and Lee Hamilton will present its findings.  Barring some catastrophe, these are the next events that have greatest potential to materially affect policy.


The Need For Immediate Change
In U.S. Policy On Iraq

by Michael Butler / 10.23.06

On September 13, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke at a press conference in New York, where he delivered his assessment of America's current situation in Iraq.

"America cannot stay in Iraq," he said simply, "and America cannot leave."

What this means is that America MUST leave Iraq, and sooner rather than later — the sooner the better, because every day more harm is being done than good.

But — to the extent we can control circumstances — how we leave, and what we leave behind, are absolutely vital questions.  This is the real issue, the thorny dilemma: how to assume responsibility for Bush's many mistakes?


The Campaign For Democracy:
An Alternative Strategy To The War On Terror

By Michael Butler / 10.2.06

"The Campaign For Democracy" was written in anticipation of the 2006 Midterm Elections to suggest specific changes in direction for American policymakers.  The points of criticism and ideas for action remain useful, and serve as inspiration for the "Freedom Fighters" network.

The events of September 11, 2001 were a dagger in the heart of American optimism, and a body blow to the United States Constitution — a shock from which the republic is still reeling, that may yet engrave the defeat of the American democratic experiment.

To defend our country, to defend our values, to stand up for all that we know to be true and good about America, it is time to drop the rhetoric of the "War on Terror."   It is time for comprehensive rethinking of American policy in Iraq, and a change in the direction of America's efforts in the broader campaign against Islamic militancy, both at home and abroad.

We need to use language that helps us remember who we are fighting, what we are fighting for, and to understand the best and smartest ways to fight.   We need to join together, as Americans and with other nations, to oppose the tyranny of the minority, the tyranny of anti-democratic forces in our own society and in worldwide threats against us.   We need strong, outspoken leaders and forward thinkers to assert a "Campaign For Democracy."


As The Dust Settles And The Smoke Clears In Lebanon

By  Michael  Butler / 8.15.06

As the dust settles and the smoke clears in Lebanon, Israel enters a time of introspection and some recriminations.  Israelis widely believe that the stated aims of their military operation are unfulfilled; and with the sense of isolation experienced as a nation under siege, they blame themselves for this failure.  It is a viewpoint which assigns themselves the total responsibility for their own destiny — as if they, and only they can marshal the forces required to command other nations and the non-state actors surrounding them to obey the dictates of their will.

Perhaps there is something in this mindset which has helped contribute to Israel's manufacture of its own problems.  The policy of unilateral withdrawal, for example, which on the surface appears to affirm a laudable goal of land for peace, in fact has left a power vacuum behind the Israeli retreat which has only served to empower Israel's enemies.  Israel has consistently failed to to empower neighboring governments — the Palestinian Authority on the West, and Lebanon in the north — to assume security in the territories it has left behind.  Even the most basic discussions about which roads are being returned would have gone a long way to help begin building good neighborly relations; but the failure to negotiate has served as an act of indirect hostility.


Election 2006 and the Iraq Fiasco: Leadership,
Not One-Upmanship, Will Bring America Home

By  Michael  Butler / 8.12.06

As a campaign representative for Ralph Nader in the Presidential Election of 2004, I spoke out strongly against the policies and the proposals of both George Bush and John Kerry.

During the final five weeks before Election Day, I was on the road through Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota — three strikingly "red" states — telling high school and college students, print journalists, television reporters and radio talk show hosts how the "visionless quest" of George Bush was "bringing this country to its knees."

"Ya can't lead if you're not consistent," George Bush would say. "We have to stay the course."  And the country followed him.

But if you can't see where you're going, you shouldn't be allowed  to lead.

I will say this point blank.  Quagmire leads to fiasco; and fiasco leads to conflagration.  It doesn't have to be this way; but so far, all the cumulative experience of holding the Presidency in Republican hands for most of the past four decades has not given the Bush administration the intellectual resources to sidestep a quagmire which, on current course, is aiming toward unhappy conclusions that will make America's defeat in Viet Nam look like the cakewalk we wish for.


The Turning Tide: From Cindy Sheehan's Encampment In Crawford To The Woolsey Hearing In Congress

By  Michael  Butler / 9.21.05

Cindy Sheehan gets attention.

The mainstream American media was hardly covering the Peace Movement at all, before Cindy Sheehan came along.  The voices of literally millions around the world who had spoken out in opposition to the war had been marginalized and discredited. A majority of the American public had come to believe that the U.S. occupation in Iraq was heading ever deeper into a wrongheaded mess, but the defenders of "staying the course" owned the airwaves, the editorial pages, and the electoral process.  Then, like the lone protester at Tiananmen Square facing down a tank with one hopeful flower, Cindy Sheehan stood up to a bullying President, and made herself a symbol that the media could recognize.

You have to give her credit for getting noticed.  No doubt, her confrontational attitude is part of the reason.  "How in the world is anybody still sitting on that fence?" she asks.  "If you fall on the side that is pro-George, and pro-war, you get your ass over to Iraq, and take the place of somebody who wants to come home.  And if you fall on the side that is against this war and against George Bush, stand up and speak out. But whatever side you fall on, quit being on the fence."


In Maryland, Kevin Zeese Takes On The Power Brokers

By Michael Butler / 10.7.05

The most credible case to come along in many years for a non-major-party candidacy in a U.S. Senate election is standing right now in Maryland, "The Free State."

Kevin Zeese, the outspoken Director of the campaign at DemocracyRising.US for a responsible end to the American occupation in Iraq, national leader in the movement to impeach George Bush, recognized authority on drug policy, public health issues and election reform, former Press Secretary to the 2004 Presidential Campaign of Ralph Nader, is gathering all the voices of the Unrepresented Majority to claim a place on Capitol Hill.

His "fusion campaign" linking members of the Green Party, Populist Party, and Libertarian Party is unique in Maryland history.  These are, of course, a diverse lot; but Zeese offers a cross-ideological stance that upholds the core values of each group.  He is an opponent of the Patriot Act, and an advocate for the basic freedoms that "unleash the creativity, entrepreneurship and greatness of Americans" championed by the Libertarians.  His entire career has supported the calls for economic justice, closing tax loopholes, an end to corporate welfare and fairness for working families carried forward by Populists.  And he presents the ten key principles of the Green Party as "a common sense outline of where the country needs to go."


Why Ralph Nader Was The Logical Choice In 2004

By Michael Butler / 10.13.04

Excluded from the first Presidential Debate on September 30, Ralph Nader appeared on the CNBC talk show "McEnroe."  Ralph was asked whom he would vote for in a two-way race, if he were not a candidate.  "Kerry is better than Bush," he stated simply.  "But Kerry is not good enough."

Any perceptive person must acknowledge that there are differences between the two candidates, and between the two parties they represent.  But as Nader points out, the American government is now in the grip of big business special interests who effectively write their own legislation and set policy to their own liking, with full complicity of both parties, at the cost of worker’s rights, civil liberties, environmental quality and the continuing erosion of basic living standards for a majority of the American people.

Historically, third parties have spurred the major parties to embrace the concerns of the disenfranchised and to address new issues.  But this mechanism no longer works because the fundamental issue is now the two-party system itself.  The two-party system has a corrupt monopoly on American government, the media, and even the thinking of millions of people who have been duped into believing that they are truly free.