Random Thoughts on
Love and Fear
(and anything in between)

December 27, 2005

There’s An Opera Out On The Turnpike

In addition to "Born to Run", there's another piece of musical history celebrating its 30th anniversary -
I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouch, scaramouch will you do the fandango
Thunderbolt and lightning - very very frightening me
Gallileo, Gallileo,
Gallileo, Gallileo,
Gallileo Figaro - magnifico

But I'm just a poor boy and nobody loves me
He's just a poor boy from a poor family
Spare him his life from this monstrosity

Easy come easy go - will you let me go
Bismillah! No - we will not let you go - let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go - let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go - let me go
Will not let you go - let me go
Never let you go - let me go
Never let me go - ooo
No, no, no, no, no, no, no -

Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia let me go
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me
for me
for me
I made a number of people feel old today (including the Cautious Wife) when I told them about this.

What is it about this song? You feel that you should be embarrassed to admit that you enjoyed it (or, still enjoy it). Yes, it's probably meaningless, but what the heck, it was (is) still a lot of fun.

And what's wrong with that?

December 21, 2005

And A King Ain’t Satisfied
Till He Rules Everything

As you know (since you are reading a blog), the President has admitted that, despite what Federal law requires, he has issued orders for electronic surveillance of Americans in their communications with people outside of the country, with no warrant or other compliance with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). These are some of the ways he tried to explain himself at his Monday press conference -
As President and Commander-in-Chief, I have the constitutional responsibility and the constitutional authority to protect our country. Article II of the Constitution gives me that responsibility and the authority necessary to fulfill it. And after September the 11th, the United States Congress also granted me additional authority to use military force against al Qaeda.

After September the 11th, one question my administration had to answer was how, using the authorities I have, how do we effectively detect enemies hiding in our midst and prevent them from striking us again? We know that a two-minute phone conversation between somebody linked to al Qaeda here and an operative overseas could lead directly to the loss of thousands of lives. To save American lives, we must be able to act fast and to detect these conversations so we can prevent new attacks.

So, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, I authorized the interception of international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. This program is carefully reviewed approximately every 45 days to ensure it is being used properly. Leaders in the United States Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this program. And it has been effective in disrupting the enemy, while safeguarding our civil liberties.

THE PRESIDENT: I think I've got the authority to move forward, Kelly. I mean, this is what -- and the Attorney General was out briefing this morning about why it's legal to make the decisions I'm making. I can fully understand why members of Congress are expressing concerns about civil liberties. I know that. And it's -- I share the same concerns. I want to make sure the American people understand, however, that we have an obligation to protect you, and we're doing that and, at the same time, protecting your civil liberties.

Secondly, an open debate about law would say to the enemy, here is what we're going to do. And this is an enemy which adjusts. We monitor this program carefully. We have consulted with members of the Congress over a dozen times. We are constantly reviewing the program. Those of us who review the program have a duty to uphold the laws of the United States, and we take that duty very seriously.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Getting back to the domestic spying issue for a moment. According to FISA's own records, it's received nearly 19,000 requests for wiretaps or search warrants since 1979, rejected just five of them. It also operates in secret, so security shouldn't be a concern, and it can be applied retroactively. Given such a powerful tool of law enforcement is at your disposal, sir, why did you see fit to sidetrack that process?

THE PRESIDENT: We used the process to monitor. But also, this is a different -- a different era, a different war, Stretch. So what we're -- people are changing phone numbers and phone calls, and they're moving quick. And we've got to be able to detect and prevent. I keep saying that, but this is a -- it requires quick action.

And without revealing the operating details of our program, I just want to assure the American people that, one, I've got the authority to do this; two, it is a necessary part of my job to protect you; and, three, we're guarding your civil liberties. And we're guarding the civil liberties by monitoring the program on a regular basis, by having the folks at NSA, the legal team, as well as the inspector general, monitor the program, and we're briefing Congress. This is a part of our effort to protect the American people. The American people expect us to protect them and protect their civil liberties. I'm going to do that. That's my job, and I'm going to continue doing my job.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I wonder if you can tell us today, sir, what, if any, limits you believe there are or should be on the powers of a President during a war, at wartime? And if the global war on terror is going to last for decades, as has been forecast, does that mean that we're going to see, therefore, a more or less permanent expansion of the unchecked power of the executive in American society?

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I disagree with your assertion of "unchecked power."

Q Well --

THE PRESIDENT: Hold on a second, please. There is the check of people being sworn to uphold the law, for starters. There is oversight. We're talking to Congress all the time, and on this program, to suggest there's unchecked power is not listening to what I'm telling you. I'm telling you, we have briefed the United States Congress on this program a dozen times.

This is an awesome responsibility to make decisions on behalf of the American people, and I understand that, Peter. And we'll continue to work with the Congress, as well as people within our own administration, to constantly monitor programs such as the one I described to you, to make sure that we're protecting the civil liberties of the United States. To say "unchecked power" basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the President, which I strongly reject.

Q What limits do you --

THE PRESIDENT: I just described limits on this particular program, Peter. And that's what's important for the American people to understand. I am doing what you expect me to do, and at the same time, safeguarding the civil liberties of the country.
At no point is a judge mentioned, in this process. There's a reason for that - the Administration apparently decided that they did not need judges, or warrants, or any other procedures specifically called for in the law. FISA allows warrantless interceptions of communications, but only if they involve foreigners or foreign governments, and only if it is clear that people in America will not be the subject of the communication.

As Steven Hart has pointed out, this incident may be separating the "real" conservatives from those he calls the "royalists" (who apparently support everything and anything the current President decides to do). One of the "non-royalist" or "real" conservatives noted by Mr. Hart is Bruce Fein, a former Reagan administration official, who wrote the following -
According to President George W. Bush, being president in wartime means never having to concede co-equal branches of government have a role when it comes to hidden encroachments on civil liberties.

Authorized after the September 11, 2001 abominations, the eavesdropping clashes with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), excludes judicial or legislative oversight, and circumvented public accountability for four years until disclosed by the New York Times last Friday. Mr. Bush's defense generally echoed previous outlandish assertions that the commander in chief enjoys inherent constitutional power to ignore customary congressional, judicial or public checks on executive tyranny under the banner of defeating international terrorism, for example, defying treaty or statutory prohibitions on torture or indefinitely detaining United States citizens as illegal combatants on the president's say-so.

President Bush presents a clear and present danger to the rule of law. He cannot be trusted to conduct the war against global terrorism with a decent respect for civil liberties and checks against executive abuses. Congress should swiftly enact a code that would require Mr. Bush to obtain legislative consent for every counterterrorism measure that would materially impair individual freedoms.

The NSA eavesdropping is further troublesome because it easily evades judicial review. Targeted citizens are never informed their international communications have been intercepted. Unless a criminal prosecution is forthcoming (which seems unlikely), the citizen has no forum to test the government's claim the interceptions were triggered by known links to a terrorist organization.

Mr. Bush acclaimed the secret surveillance as "crucial to our national security. Its purpose is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, our friends and allies." But if that were justified, why was Congress not asked for legislative authorization in light of the legal cloud created by FISA and the legislative branch's sympathies shown in the Patriot Act and joint resolution for war? FISA requires court approval for national security wiretaps, and makes it a crime for a person to intentionally engage "in electronic surveillance under color of law, except as authorized by statute."

Mr. Bush cited the disruptions of "terrorist" cells in New York, Oregon, Virginia, California, Texas and Ohio as evidence of a pronounced domestic threat that compelled unilateral and secret action. But he failed to demonstrate those cells could not have been equally penetrated with customary legislative and judicial checks on executive overreaching.

The president maintained that, "As a result [of the NSA disclosure], our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk." But if secrecy were pivotal to the NSA's surveillance, why is the president continuing the eavesdropping? And why is he so carefree about risking the liberties of both the living and those yet to be born by flouting the Constitution's separation of powers and conflating constructive criticism with treason?

And by the way, Mr. Fein is a man of strong opinions with respect to Presidential misconduct. This is what he had to say in 1997, regarding then-President Clinton's fundraising activities -
President Clinton's conceded shameless and calculated exploitation of the White House to extract, entice or reward partisan political contributions is an impeachable offense under Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde of Illinois should commence an impeachment inquiry aimed toward indicting the president for the "high misdemeanor" of gross betrayal of the public trust by systematically employing the perquisites of office (and perhaps prerogatives over foreign policy toward China) for private financial advantage.

The architects of the Constitution were masters of human nature and history. They understood the propensity of the powerful, especially a chief executive, to circumvent the law or to wield official discretion in ways that dangerously subvert public confidence in the integrity and legitimacy of government.

In other words, impeachable offenses were envisioned as political crimes against the nation, which might or might not be indictable under the criminal code. The House Judiciary Committee voted articles of impeachment against President Nixon, but his unprecedented resignation ended any further proceedings. The vast scholarly and political debate that emerged from the Nixon impeachment proceedings yielded an overwhelming consensus that removal of a president from office would be proper for grave political misconduct (not mere foibles) that tears at the social tapestry of trust, honor and fairness.

So, to sum up. If one is of the view that circumventing a clear law, in order to engage in secret surveillance and searches of Americans, is a "grave ... misconduct ... that tears at the social tapestry of trust, honor and fairness", what's the next step?

December 15, 2005

Merry Christmas, Baby

I have been reluctant to post about the so-called "War on Christmas". That's the phony controversy that Bill O'Reilly, John Gibson, and those other folks at the Fox Bigotry Channel (FBC) are thumping this year, with the help of some of the usual suspects.

It's depressing, actually. These folks want to make a buck, so they have found a way to make people angry, just because some innocent and friendly clerk in a store says "Happy Holidays". In so doing, they are just trying to suck a little joy out of the season - as if what happens at the mall is actually important.

Well, as Charlie Brown says in my favorite Christmas special of all time, "I'm not going to let all this commercialism ruin my Christmas!" And, to the rescue, comes Representative John Dingell, who provided the following today on the floor of the House of Representatives, in response to some resolution proposed in order to capitalize on the hatemongering from the aforementioned FBC -
Congressman John D. Dingell (MI-15) recited the following poem on the floor of the US House of Representatives concerning House Resolution 579, which expressed the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected. “Preserving Christmas” has been a frequent topic for conservative talk show hosts, including Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly:

'Twas the week before Christmas and all through the House,
no bills were passed `bout which Fox News could grouse.
Tax cuts for the wealthy were passed with great cheer,
so vacations in St. Barts soon should be near.

Katrina kids were all nestled snug in motel beds,
while visions of school and home danced in their heads.
In Iraq, our soldiers need supplies and a plan,
and nuclear weapons are being built in Iran.

Gas prices shot up, consumer confidence fell.
Americans feared we were in a fast track to ..... well.
Wait, we need a distraction, something divisive and wily,
a fabrication straight from the mouth of O'Reilly.

We will pretend Christmas is under attack,
hold a vote to save it, then pat ourselves on the back.
Silent Night, First Noel, Away in the Manger,
Wake up Congress, they're in no danger.

This time of year, we see Christmas everywhere we go,
From churches to homes to schools and, yes, even Costco.
What we have is an attempt to divide and destroy
when this is the season to unite us with joy.

At Christmastime, we're taught to unite.
We don't need a made-up reason to fight.
So on O'Reilly, on Hannity, on Coulter and those right-wing blogs.
You should sit back and relax, have a few egg nogs.

'Tis the holiday season; enjoy it a pinch.
With all our real problems, do we really need another Grinch?
So to my friends and my colleagues, I say with delight,
a Merry Christmas to all, and to Bill O'Reilly, happy holidays
And yes, the last line is my favorite.

(Found on Demagogue via Atrios)

December 11, 2005

"I Can't Seem To Find My Way Back To The Wood"

There's nothing like having an international mega-corporation do something that makes me sound like an old fart, but here goes anyway ...

"What the heck is the matter with you people?"
Maybe it's just the impossibly cozy nature of the 'hood, but for 80 years there has been no change in the resident line-up of the Hundred Acre Wood.

Guess who's coming for honey? As part of a barrel-full of Winnie the Pooh anniversary events, Disney is working on a new animated series that will replace Christopher Robin with a 6-year-old girl.

To quote one loquacious Rabbit: "Oh my, oh my, oh my goodness!"

Although the bear's party fare includes much Disney hoopla — anniversary-themed goods, Disney Channel marathons and a stage show that kicks off today in New York — the real bother is sure to be over tinkering with a classic.

Details are sketchy on the as-yet-nameless new arrival, who will make her debut in the 2007 computer-generated series My Friends Tigger and Pooh. Disney execs say the idea is to bring an older audience to an iconic franchise born when British author A.A. Milne began musing about the imaginary world of his son, Christopher Robin.

"We got raised eyebrows even in-house at first, but the feeling was these timeless characters really needed a breath of fresh air that only the introduction of someone new could provide," says Nancy Kanter of the Disney Channel.
This is from a news release from folks who (unlike others) are proud to say that they are from Mickey Mouse News.

I'm sorry, but I cannot fathom a mindset which reaches the conclusion that "timeless characters" are something which "needed a breath of fresh air".

Here's a little news for the folks at the Mouse Factory (who through cruel fate are the custodians of all that is Pooh) - the stories are constantly new. There are always new children to sit on someone's lap, and open a book, and begin to read -
HERE is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.

And then he feels that perhaps there isn't. Anyhow, here he is at the bottom, and ready to be introduced to you. Winnie-the-Pooh.

When I first heard his name, I said, just as you are going to say, "But I thought he was a boy?"
"So did I," said Christopher Robin.
"Then you can't call him Winnie?"
"I don't."
"But you said--"
"He's Winnie-ther-Pooh. Don't you know what 'ther' means?"
"Ah, yes, now I do," I said quickly; and I hope you do too, because it is all the explanation you are going to get.
Sometimes Winnie-the-Pooh likes a game of some sort when he comes downstairs, and sometimes he likes to sit quietly in front of the fire and listen to a story. This evening--
"What about a story?" said Christopher Robin.
"What about a story?" I said.
"Could you very sweetly tell Winnie-the-Pooh one?"
"I suppose I could," I said. "What sort of stories does he like?"
"About himself. Because he's that sort of Bear."
"Oh, I see."
"So could you very sweetly?"
"I'll try," I said.
So I tried.

Once upon a time, a very long time ago now, about last Friday, Winnie-the-Pooh lived in a forest all by himself under the name of Sanders.
Well, you get the idea.

And the point, in case you still don't realize it, is that these "timeless characters" are either (a) brand new to the kids who discover them (or, more likely, who their parents share them with) or (b) comforting and familiar memories for old farts. The folks at Disney have to realize that if they feel the need to make new animated features, they have to maintain some shred of a connection to the original. Not every kid is lucky enough to meet Winnie, Piglet, Owl, Eeyore, etc. for the first time in a book. And I don't know why anyone would do something to cause a child to look up at his parent, and say, "Who's that kid Christopher Robin in this book? Where's that little girl who was in the cartoon?"

I'd hate to think that Disney would embark on a plan to create a generation of kids who would not grow up to know the meaning of this song (Oh, click the link before reading further, and turn your sound up) -
Christopher Robin and I walked alone
Under branches lit up by the moon
Posing our questions to Owl and Eeyore
As our days disappeared far too soon
But I've wandered much further today than I should
And I can't seem to find my way back to the woods

So help me if you can, I've got to get
Back to the house at Pooh Corner by one
You'd be surprised, there's so much to be done
Count all the bees in the hive
Chase all the clouds from the sky
Back to the days of Christopher Robin
...And Pooh.

December 08, 2005

"But Saviors Don't Last Long ..."

Twenty-five years ago tonight, I came back from studying, to my apartment on campus, where my roommates were watching "Monday Night Football." And, they told me.

This is the song that's been in my head all day -
Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup,
They slither while they pass, they slip away Across the Universe.
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind,
Possessing and caressing me.

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes,
They call me on and on Across the Universe.
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box,
They tumble blindly as they make their way Across the Universe

Sounds of laughter, shades of earth are ringing
Through my open ears inciting and inviting me.
Limitless, undying love, which shines around me like a million suns,
And calls me on and on Across the Universe

Jai Guru Deva Om
Nothing's gonna change my world
I always thought "classic" recorded version was too too over-wrought, but the words still came through, and that’s why I think it stands out among the Beatles' songs.

Today, a lot of people are reflecting about something and someone lost - but what can you do? I don't think endless re-playings of "Imagine" are as applicable today, at least if you listen to the lyrics. For each of us, in different ways, people live on. Knowing that, our job is to figure out what to do with ourselves.

What's with the title of this post, you ask? It's from a song I heard performed for the first time just two weeks ago, at the last Springsteen solo show (oh, come on, it's okay to mention him in this post). It's an old lyric, last performed decades ago, that I previously knew only in written form. I thought of it today, also, in reflecting about how much, of ourselves, we invest in our performers -
The lost souls search for saviors
But saviours don't last long
Those aimless, questionless renegade brats
Who live their lives in songs
They run the length of a candle
In a goodnight whisper and a puff they're gone
We can let a performer (or any person) inspire us, but we can't let them be a replacement for us. If we just sit around remembering someone, who once sang "War is over, if you want it", and do nothing else, we're really not keeping him alive, are we?

December 04, 2005

Really Random Thoughts

First off - what is the big deal with this Jennifer Anniston thing? Her husband apparently chose a "simpler" way to go - too bad for him. Among the choices we make in life, he chose poorly. The Cautious Man is spoken for, but I tip my hat to the dude who steps up.

Another random thought - I saw a Springsteen calendar today as I trudged through my Christmas shopping. Seriously, even I would not purchase this item, because while I have a deep respect and affinity for the man's music, I do not need multiple pictures of him on my wall as a result.

November 17, 2005

Good Rockin' Tonight

The staff here at A Cautious Man had a great time tonight, and last night too, at Bruce Springsteen's solo performances here in New Jersey. Tonight's show was the first time we ever heard the song that inspired our title performed live. Thanks to Dave for needing someone to tag along to the show tonight.

November 16, 2005

Armchair Warriors Often Fail

Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska (decorated Viet Nam veteran) once again is showing that not all Republicans are completely in the tank for the Administration and its war policy. He gave quite the speech yesterday at the Council on Foreign Relations. While most people may focus on his direct rebuttal, of the President’s attempt to insulate himself from criticism about Iraq, Senator Hagel also had some interesting things to say about the issue of a President’s war powers, and about who should decide to send troops into a war.

But first, the pointed reply to the theme of the “It’s Not My Fault Tour” -
The Iraq war should not be debated in the United States on a partisan political platform. This debases our country, trivializes the seriousness of war and cheapens the service and sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. War is not a Republican or Democrat issue. The casualties of war are from both parties. The Bush Administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them. Suggesting that to challenge or criticize policy is undermining and hurting our troops is not democracy nor what this country has stood for, for over 200 years. The Democrats have an obligation to challenge in a serious and responsible manner, offering solutions and alternatives to the Administration’s policies.

Vietnam was a national tragedy partly because Members of Congress failed their country, remained silent and lacked the courage to challenge the Administrations in power until it was too late. Some of us who went through that nightmare have an obligation to the 58,000 Americans who died in Vietnam to not let that happen again. To question your government is not unpatriotic – to not question your government is unpatriotic. America owes its men and women in uniform a policy worthy of their sacrifices.

Today, the Senate engaged in a legitimate debate over exit strategy in Iraq as the Senate considered and voted on two Senate resolutions. This is a significant step toward the Congress exercising its Constitutional responsibilities over matters of war.
Senator Hagel continues, later in the speech, to address the issue of Congress’ “Constitutional responsibilities over matters of war” -
The Constitution also establishes Congress’ authority and responsibility regarding decisions to go to war. The course of events in Iraq has laid bare the failure to prepare for, plan for, and understand the broad consequences and implications of the decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein and occupy Iraq. Where is the accountability? In the November 8 Washington Post, Leslie Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, wrote,

"Our Founding Fathers wanted the declaration of war to concentrate the minds. Returning to the Constitution’s text and making it work through legislation requiring joint deliberate action may be the only way to give the decision to make war the care it deserves."

The American people should demand that the President request a Declaration of War and the Congress formally declare war, if and when the President believes that committing American troops is in the vital national security interests of this country. This would make the President and Congress, together, accountable for their actions – just as the Founders of our country intended.
I think that’s powerful stuff. One of the issues the Iraq conflict has raised is, once again, that of the power to make war, and to decide to go to war. If a President were to have the same point of view as Senator Hagel, there could be a serious, and overdue, examination of a President’s assertion to unilaterally initiate a war.

One more thing, just to flash back, Senator Hagel also seemed to be one of the few Republicans who was talking sense on the eve of the Iraq invasion, back in February of 2003 -
Today, America stands nearly alone in proclaiming the urgency of the use of force to disarm Saddam Hussein. In Europe and in many corners of the globe, America is perceived as determined to use force in Iraq to the exclusion of world opinion or the interests of our allies, even those allies who share our concerns about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs. America must balance its determination with patience and not be seen as in a rush to war. As David Ignatius wrote in a recent Washington Post column, "A nation heading into war needs prudence and good judgment. America's best generals, people such as Grant and Marshall and Eisenhower, were at once cautious and decisive. Their greatness lay in the fact that they never lost sight of the long-term interests of the United States."

America must steer away from actions that could produce the unintended results of fracturing those very institutions that have helped keep peace since World War II. Allowing a rush to war in Iraq to create divisions in those institutions and alliances that will help sustain American security and world stability is a short-sighted and dangerous course of action.

We should put aside the mistaken delusion that democracy is just around the corner. Or that by force of arms we can remove Saddam and simultaneously place Iraq on the path to democracy by overlaying a blueprint for democracy on the region ... a so-called "Democratic Domino Effect." The spade work of building a free Iraq will take time. General Anthony Zinni, special adviser to the Secretary of State and former Commanding General, U.S. Central Command, reminded the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week that, with regard to Iraq, "there will not be a spontaneous democracy so the reconstruction of the country will be a long, hard course regardless of whether a modest vision of the end state is sought or a more ambitious one is chosen." The end of Saddam Hussein's regime will be all to the good, but building nations and democracy in the Middle East or anywhere is complicated and difficult, and success is never assured. We can try to help create the conditions for democratic change. But we must assume that it will not come quickly or easily.
I think we’ve forgotten that there was bipartisan unease with the President’s eagerness to initiate an invasion. “Everybody” may have been worried about Saddam Hussein, but not “everybody” felt that an immediate invasion was necessarily the right cure.

And that’s the point of the criticism, of how America got into this war.

November 15, 2005

"The American Way So That Truth Will Out"

The discussion continues, about who may have been a little too aggressive when trying to get the Iraq invasion to happen. A lot of people are writing much more informative things about President Bush’s current “It’s Not My Fault Tour – 2005”. This is my two cents’ worth.

Yesterday, the President gave another speech, on a military base in Alaska, attacking his critics. He’s revisiting old lines from past speeches, poor guy – he really needs a new writer. Interestingly enough, as he travels around arguing that people are rewriting history by claiming that he was misleading people about Iraq – he’s, well, rewriting history and misleading people. For example, this is how he describes the start of the war -
After more than a decade of diplomacy, we gave Saddam Hussein a final chance to comply with the United Nations Security Council resolutions, ordering him to disclose, disarm, or face serious consequences. When he refused, we had a choice: Do we take the word of a madman and forget the lessons of September the 11th, or do we take action to defend our country? Given that choice, I will defend America every time.
As pointed out here before, the reason the U.N. weapons inspectors ultimately left Iraq was that President Bush was about to launch a war to, well, enforce the inspections (or something like that). As reported by Fox News on the eve of war -
U.N. weapons inspectors climbed aboard a plane and pulled out of Iraq on Tuesday after President Bush issued a final ultimatum for Saddam Hussein to step down or face war. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday ordered all U.N. inspectors and support staff, humanitarian workers and U.N. observers along the Iraq-Kuwait border to evacuate Iraq after U.S. threats to launch war.

After failing to secure U.N. authorization to use force to disarm Iraq, Bush gave Saddam 48 hours to step down or face war in a speech Monday night.

U.N. weapons inspectors arrived in Baghdad for the first time in four years on Nov. 27, 2002, and resumed inspections two days later. During four months of inspections, arms experts traveled the length of the country hunting for banned weapons of mass destruction.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix has said that during those inspections, inspectors never found any "smoking gun."
At another point in his speech yesterday, the President said he can respect those who disagreed with him all along, and decried those whom he said were playing politics with the war -
Some of our elected leaders have opposed this war all along. I disagreed with them, but I respect their willingness to take a consistent stand. Yet some Democrats who voted to authorize the use of force are now rewriting the past. They are playing politics with this issue and they are sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy. And that's irresponsible.
As has also been discussed here before, the President did not have that same respect for different opinions, and he played politics with war, when he was trying to badger the Congress into giving him authority to invade, if he so chose. As he said in response to a question in September of 2002 -
Q Mr. President, thank you. Are you concerned that Democrats in Congress don't want a vote there until after U.N. action? …

THE PRESIDENT: … And the first part of the question was, Democrats waiting for the U.N. to act? I can't imagine an elected United States -- elected member of the United States Senate or House of Representatives saying, I think I'm going to wait for the United Nations to make a decision. It seems like to me that if you're representing the United States, you ought to be making a decision on what's best for the United States. If I were running for office, I'm not sure how I'd explain to the American people -- say, vote for me, and, oh, by the way, on a matter of national security, I think I'm going to wait for somebody else to act.

And so I -- we'll see. My answer to the Congress is, they need to debate this issue and consult with us, and get the issue done as quickly as possible. It's in our national interests that we do so. I don't imagine Saddam Hussein sitting around, saying, gosh, I think I'm going to wait for some resolution. He's a threat that we must deal with as quickly as possible.
So, let’s re-cap. The inspectors were in Iraq, and the President decided to invade anyway, based on a resolution which he obtained from Congress in the middle of the 2002 elections. Yesterday, the President repeated that his decision to invade was authorized by that Congressional action -
Reasonable people can disagree about the conduct of the war, but it is irresponsible for Democrats to now claim that we misled them and the American people. Leaders in my administration and members of the United States Congress from both political parties looked at the same intelligence on Iraq, and reached the same conclusion: Saddam Hussein was a threat.
But, the decision to invade, even though there were inspectors on the ground in Iraq, was the President’s alone. The Congress was irresponsible in giving him the authority to make that final decision to go to war, requiring only that he send a letter saying that he thought it was necessary to invade -
March 18, 2003

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

Consistent with section 3(b) of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107-243), and based on information available to me, including that in the enclosed document, I determine that:

(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and

(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.


Did you catch that? The President said based on information available to him, only some of which he provided to Congress, it was time to invade. And, we all know how true either (1) or (2) turned out to be.

So, should everyone say, "Okay, Mr. President, we'll stop asking questions"? Don't think so. As noted here before, maybe the best response to anyone, who opposes looking into how America stumbled into this war, is a statement from Mr. Springsteen on his tour a couple of years ago -
"The question of whether we were misled in the war with Iraq is neither a liberal or conservative question or Democratic or Republican question. It's an American question. And protecting the democracy we ask our sons and daughters to die for is our responsibility and it's our trust. And demanding accountability is our job as citizens. That's the American way so that truth will out."

October 30, 2005

"I Woke Up Last Night Shaking From A Dream
For In That Dream I Died"

Before we move too far down the road discussing the indictments of high government officials, the mishandling of the war and the weather, or even a new Supreme Court nominee, let's take a moment to feel a little sorry for Harriet Miers. How must it feel, to know that when you come to the end of a hopefully long and productive life, the headline on your obituary will be - "Withdrew Nomination for Supreme Court". Your whole life, reduced to that one time you were on the wrong side of a political scrum ...

Even though she is a top White House official, she's really a victim of the drive-by governing style of the President. Face it, she was done in by the "conservatives" who didn't think she was enough of a firebrand. The Administration went ahead without gathering all the facts, without checking with the experts, and blindly ignoring the warning signs. Sound familiar?

Of course, as the "Plamegate" story reminds us, there are other victims of the Administration, some deliberately so. We're all interested in hearing why it was so important to destroy the career of a CIA operative, just to do political damage control. And to what end, to defend or to conceal how the Iraq War was initiated?

Having started this particular random thought, I realize that while Ms. Miers has definitely had a bad week, she'll get over it. After all, the publication of her obituary remains in the far future. On the other hand, there have been thousands of obituaries already published, of other victims of the deliberately ignorant (at best) and/or coldly venal (at worst) decision-making at the White House.

October 29, 2005

Bad Scooter Searching For His Groove

If anyone tells you that the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is nothing, because he was not indicted for disclosing that Valerie Plame Wilson was a CIA officer, tell them to pay attention to what United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald had to say yesterday. First, it seems that "Scooter" himself thought that he had done something wrong, because he made up stories to deflect attention from himself, to blame other people, and to keep from disclosing that he had aggressively been "outing" Ms. Plame. He wove an elaborate tale, and he told it again and again, even under oath -
When it was clear that Valerie Wilson's cover had been blown, investigation began. And in October 2003, the FBI interviewed Mr. Libby. Mr. Libby is the vice president's chief of staff. He's also an assistant to the president and an assistant to the vice president for national security affairs.

The focus of the interview was what it that he had known about Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson, what he knew about Ms. Wilson, what he said to people, why he said it, and how he learned it.

And to be frank, Mr. Libby gave the FBI a compelling story.

What he told the FBI is that essentially he was at the end of a long chain of phone calls. He spoke to reporter Tim Russert, and during the conversation Mr. Russert told him that, Hey, do you know that all the reporters know that Mr. Wilson's wife works at the CIA?

And he told the FBI that he learned that information as if it were new, and it struck him. So he took this information from Mr. Russert and later on he passed it on to other reporters, including reporter Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, reporter Judith Miller of the New York Times.

And he told the FBI that when he passed the information on on July 12th, 2003, two days before Mr. Novak's column, that he passed it on understanding that this was information he had gotten from a reporter; that he didn't even know if it was true.

And he told the FBI that when he passed the information on to the reporters he made clear that he did know if this were true. This was something that all the reporters were saying and, in fact, he just didn't know and he wanted to be clear about it.

Later, Mr. Libby went before the grand jury on two occasions in March of 2004. He took and oath and he testified. And he essentially said the same thing.

He said that, in fact, he had learned from the vice president earlier in June 2003 information about Wilson's wife, but he had forgotten it, and that when he learned the information from Mr. Russert during this phone call he learned it as if it were new.

When he passed the information on to reporters Cooper and Miller late in the week, he passed it on thinking it was just information he received from reporters; that he told reporters that, in fact, he didn't even know if it were true. He was just passing gossip from one reporter to another at the long end of a chain of phone calls.

It would be a compelling story that will lead the FBI to go away if only it were true. It is not true, according to the indictment.

In fact, Mr. Libby discussed the information about Valerie Wilson at least half a dozen times before this conversation with Mr. Russert ever took place, not to mention that when he spoke to Mr. Russert, Mr. Russert and he never discussed Valerie Wilson or Wilson's wife.
Now, you may ask, even if he was not indicted under the strict standards of the law against outing a covert agent, did Mr. Libby actually do something wrong? Again, listen to Mr. Fitzgerald -
Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer. In July 2003, the fact that Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer was classified. Not only was it classified, but it was not widely known outside the intelligence community.

Valerie Wilson's friends, neighbors, college classmates had no idea she had another life.

The fact that she was a CIA officer was not well- known, for her protection or for the benefit of all us. It's important that a CIA officer's identity be protected, that it be protected not just for the officer, but for the nation's security.

Valerie Wilson's cover was blown in July 2003. The first sign of that cover being blown was when Mr. Novak published a column on July 14th, 2003.

But Mr. Novak was not the first reporter to be told that Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson, Ambassador Wilson's wife Valerie, worked at the CIA. Several other reporters were told.

In fact, Mr. Libby was the first official known to have told a reporter when he talked to Judith Miller in June of 2003 about Valerie Wilson.


I can say that for the people who work at the CIA and work at other places, they have to expect that when they do their jobs that classified information will be protected. And they have to expect that when they do their jobs, that information about whether or not they are affiliated with the CIA will be protected.

And they run a risk when they work for the CIA that something bad could happen to them, but they have to make sure that they don't run the risk that something bad is going to happen to them from something done by their own fellow government employees.

I will say this: To the CIA people who are going out at a time that we need more human intelligence, I think everyone agrees with that, at a time when we need our spy agencies to have people work there, I think just the notion that someone's identity could be compromised lightly, to me compromises the ability to recruit people and say, Come work for us, come work for the government, come be trained, come invest your time, come work anonymously here or wherever else, go do jobs for the benefit of the country for which people will not thank you, because they will not know, they need to know that we will not cast their anonymity aside lightly.
Come to think of it, is it really so surprising that an Administration official would violate the secrecy of a CIA officer, and lie about it? These people thought nothing of making things up, in order to precipitate a war in which thousands of Americans, and tens of thousands of Iraqis, have lost their lives. What's one more little fib?

To read Mr. Fitzgerald's full remarks, look here (Link to NY Times; you can log in as "Cautiousman" with the password "Cautious").

October 25, 2005

Just Another Roll of the Dice

He’s been a losing gambler, just throwing snake eyes. Sitting at the craps table of the Iraq Casino for over two and a half years. Every day, every month, every year he tosses more and more bloody chips onto the table. But all of his elevens and sevens have been coming up sixes and nines. And as of today the house has collected 2000 of those chips, and they’re not coming back.

And what lesson has he learned?In other words, it’s never too late, America. Come on, the tables are waiting.

He tells us that we can win it all back, if we just keep on throwing down. You may think that this is classic addictive behavior, to continue on as the losses mount up, but of course he disagrees. He tells us that everything that we’ve lost so far will have been in vain, if we don’t keep putting more chips down onto the blood-soaked felt of this craps table. Every one of those chips is a person, with a family, but we can't pay attention to that now. We’re playing for all of the stakes, so all you high-rollers lay down your bets, and he’ll raise them.

Just another roll of the dice.

October 17, 2005

If there’s something you need
That you just don’t have
Well just don’t sit there
Feeling bad

Okay, so I haven't posted a lot, lately. I've thought of a lot of clever, insightful, and interesting things to say (trust me on this), but I just haven't put fingers to keyboard that much.

So, today, I was chided by not one, but two different people, about the fact that if I have something to say, I better get up and say it. One told me directly, both electronically and in person. The other didn't say it to me personally, but told those of us who attended his talk this evening about the importance of getting up and speaking out.

The first is the Curmudgeon, whose reappearance I noted in my last post. That would be, that last post I made nearly three weeks ago. So, maybe he had a point when he visited the comments section of that last post and wrote: "What - I'm back, so you've taken a powder?" He repeated his chiding in person this evening, when we both attended a talk in our town, by Scott Ritter. That's the same Scott Ritter who was described as follows in a Time Magazine profile in September of 2002 (remember 'way back then?) -

Never mind the naysaying European heads of state, the anxious Arab leaders or the skeptical senators — the unkindest challenge to President Bush's plans to take out Saddam Hussein this week came from erstwhile true-blue American hero Scott Ritter. Familiar to Americans as the rock-jawed Marine intelligence officer who stood up to Saddam's bullies in 1998 while serving with the UN inspection team, and got himself singled out for expulsion even before UNSCOM was withdrawn, Ritter was back on America's TV screens this week, but with a dramatically different message: President Bush had no proof of any new weapons of mass destruction threat emanating from Iraq, Ritter says, and he was lying to the American people to get them to go to war. Once a favorite guest of hawkish Republicans who regularly invited him to testify at congressional committees about the dangers of turning a blind eye to Iraq's weapons programs, this week Ritter was instead addressing the Iraqi legislature, decrying his own country's claims — and warning that readmitting inspectors was the only way to avoid a war.
Mr. Ritter's talk did not just focus on the past, but he did point out that we have to learn from those mistakes of the past, in order to have a cear-eyed view of how to deal with the mess created by the Iraq invasion.

As part of that talk, he made it clear how important it is that we make our voices heard. After hearing him speak, I realize that there's nothing like having a complete grasp of your subject, an unshakeable belief in the need to speak out, and a steely glare that can face down any heckler (as he pummels him with more facts, of course). When asked what people should do, his answer was very simple - do something. Get out there. Make a statement. Don't wait for the Republicans, for the Democrats, for the New York Times, or for anyone else to talk straight. If more people did that, who knows what could happen?

Anyway, I bought a couple of copies of his new book (to read and to pass on), and took his admonition to heart. We all need to get out and make our voices heard - and no matter how many people we may reach, it helps to keep passing it on.

September 29, 2005

Not Fade Away

Proving that it's never too late to get back to your blog -

The Curmudgeon's back in town.

As Victor Laszlo said to Rick - "Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win."

September 14, 2005

"Waitin’ For When The Last Shall Be First And The First Shall Be Last"

I've been staying up late the last couple of nights (and tonight, actually) watching "The Daily Show" and their series "Evolution Shmevolution". As an extra benefit, on Tuesday's show Jon Stewart interviewed Kurt Vonnegut. Well, it was more like Jon and us listening to some verbal gems from a still-cool old guy. Mr. Vonnegut had more thoughts, on a hand-written list he brought out that he called "Liberal Crap I Never Want To Hear Again", but they ran out of time on the show. However, they promised to post it on the Daily Show website, and they were true to their words. So, for those who need a reminder of the gap between our ideals and how we always seem to act in real life -

Give us this day our daily bread. Oh sure.

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Nobody better trespass against me. I'll tell you that.

Blessed are the meek.

Blessed are the merciful. You mean we can't use torture?

Blessed are the peacemakers. Jane Fonda?

Love your enemies - Arabs?

Ye cannot serve God and Mammon. The hell I can't! Look at the Reverand Pat Robertson. And He is as happy as a pig in s**t.

September 13, 2005

There's A Joke Here Somewhere, And It's On ...

There are some news stories where the punch line just jumps out at you -
Ft. Monmouth analyst faces spy charges

FBI says its own man was stealing U.S. secrets for Philippine officials

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Star-Ledger Staff

An FBI intelligence analyst who previously worked for Vice President Dick Cheney was charged yesterday with stealing classified documents at Fort Monmouth and passing them to high-level officials within the Philippines government.

Federal prosecutors said Leandro Aragoncillo, 46, a highly decorated former Marine living in South Jersey, downloaded at least 100 classified or secret documents from the fort's FBI computer systems between May and August and e-mailed them to officials in the Philippines
The full story is at this link.

A Filipino from Southern New Jersey, implicated in a larger spy ring? America must deal with this threat, but how? Maybe Michelle Malkin has a helpful suggestion?

(Ms. Malkin montage courtesy of Dr. Laniac's Laboratory)

Edited to add - Greetings to visitors from Tbogg and The Opinion Mill!

September 08, 2005

Shelter From The Storm

It's really overwhelming, isn't it? There is so much that is needed, and will be needed, by the people victimized by Hurrican Katrina. Like you (since you are reading this because you're on the internet) I've been stunned by the contrast, between (on the one hand) the sheer incompetence, or negligence, or callousness, which has contributed to the suffering, and (on the other hand) the heroic efforts made by individuals who stepped in to help their fellow human beings.

There will be enough to talk about regarding this disaster, those who contributed to or alleviated the suffering, and those who will try to use this (for good or ill) to advance a cause they believe in. But, for now, the only important thing is to contribute in some way, to help those who bore the brunt of this catastrophe.

There are so many ways to help, which is probably a testament to the good hearts of Americans. In addition to whatever ways to help you may find in your community, in your profession, or wherever -

The American Red Cross - That's a no-brainer.

National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) - Seems to be a good clearing-house for legitimate charities providing aid in these circumstances, which was recommended by FEMA, at least until it changed its webpage (after the list with Pat Robertson's charity near the top, but before stressing the more military-minded USA Freedom Corps) - Pick a charity from NVOAD's list, and you probably can't go wrong.

One of the charities in NVOAD, which has a lot of connections in the affected areas - Catholic Charities USA

And, what the heck, the two ex-presidents' Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund

A little more out-of-the-way, but still worthwhile - the Jazz Foundation of America's Fund for New Orleans Musicians. As they point out on their webpage -
We will be addressing the longer term needs of these jazz and blues artists who will have just lost everything.

We will be raising funds and distributing money for the musicians to get a new apartment or room for rent: by giving a first month's rent, possibly more, for them to start over, a place to live. ...

As well, we will be attempting to help New Orleans musicians by replacing the thing that matters most and the only way they can ever work again: their instruments.
To those who lost their instruments, like drummers and bassists who could not carry their heavy equipment, and guitarist with their amps, we will be making an effort to work with manufacturers and music stores to replace those instruments for as many as we possibly can.

Remember, New Orleans was only "New Orleans" because of the musicians...
And, finally, you can contribute to disaster relief by purchasing one of these t-shirts, from a fellow from my locality. They feature some choice quotes, including "Brownie, you're doing a great job" and "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees".

But, however you contribute, in whatever way, it's needed, and every bit helps.

August 23, 2005

Family Values

Hey, Pat Robertson sure made a splash in the news today -
Conservative U.S. evangelist Pat Robertson called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, but top U.S. officials denied on Tuesday that any such illegal act was being contemplated.

Venezuelan officials said Robertson's remarks were "a call to terrorism," and demanded President George W. Bush condemn his political ally and fellow Christian conservative. But Chavez, who was winding up a three-day visit to communist ally Cuba, told reporters he didn't care about Robertson. "I don't even know who this person is."

Robertson, the founder of the Christian Coalition and a presidential candidate in 1988, said Chavez, one of Bush's most vocal critics, was a "terrific danger" to the United States and intended to become "the launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism."

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson said during Monday broadcast of his religious "The 700 Club" program.
He made the remarks on his daily program, "The 700 Club". That show is carried during the day, and at night, on the "ABC Family Network".

I guess the "Family" in "ABC Family" is the Corleone family. Seriously, though, isn't there some way to get this offensive person off the public airwaves?

August 18, 2005

Candles Lighting The Way

The Cautious Wife and I attended a peace vigil last evening. It was held in support of Cindy Sheehan. Here in our town, we also remembered Corporal Augie Schroeder (see previous posts, below). Here are some pictures, courtesy of our local peace organization, South Mountain Peace Action -

It was very simple, with a silent reflection on those who have lost their lives. A local folk singer led the crowd in a few songs, such as "This Land is Your Land", and also the following -

Lo yisa goy el goy cherev
Lo yilmedu od milchama
Lo yisa goy el goy cherev
Lo yilmedu od milchama

A participant stepped out of the crowd, to join in with the translated lyrics (from Isaiah Chapter 2) -

And every man ‘neath his vine and fig tree
Shall live in peace and unafraid
And every woman ‘neath her vine and fig tree
Shall live in peace and unafraid

And into plowshares beat their swords
Nations shall make war no more
And into plowshares beat their swords
Nations shall make war no more

August 17, 2005

Next Stop

The other day I remarked about the parents of a young marine who graduated from my local high school, and who was killed recently in Iraq. His father had asked a friend to pass this on to the community through a local internet message board - "Also, we want them to know that the question is not why, but what next." It seems that "next" has arrived. From the Associated Press comes this story -
The day after burying their son, parents of a fallen Marine urged President Bush to either send more reinforcements to Iraq or withdraw U.S. troops altogether.

"We feel you either have to fight this war right or get out," Rosemary Palmer, mother of Lance Cpl. Edward Schroeder II, said Tuesday.

Schroeder, 23, died two weeks ago in a roadside explosion, one of 16 Ohio-based Marines killed recently in Iraq.

The soldier's father said his son and other Marines were being misused as a stabilizing force in Iraq.

"Our comments are not just those of grieving parents," Paul Schroeder said in front of the couple's home. "They are based on anger, Mr. President, not grief. Anger is an honest emotion when someone's family has been violated."


The Ohio couple have long opposed the war and tried to dissuade their son from joining the Marines, but have made their views public only since his death. On Tuesday they urged Americans to voice their opposition to the war.

"We want to point out that 30 people have died since our son. Are people listening?" Palmer asked.

More than 1,800 U.S. servicemen and women have been killed in the war.

On Monday, dozens of people, including several holding large American flags, lined the streets leading to the funeral for Schroeder, known to friends and family as "Augie" based on his middle name, August.

"Yesterday, it was Augie's day and we didn't want to intrude upon his day with politics," Palmer said. "We have to move on and keep his spirit alive by helping to protect his buddies who are still out there."

The couple applauded Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a fallen soldier who has camped out in protest near Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, for bringing the war to the public's attention.

"We consider her the Rosa Parks of the new movement opposing the Iraq war," Palmer said.

August 14, 2005

Built Her Straight Out of Scratch

As I've mentioned here before, I drive a Prius. For those who don't, sorry about those gas prices.

From Jeff Jarvis, I learned about these guys hacking their Prius, taking fuel economy to another level -
It looks like a typical Toyota Prius hybrid, but in the trunk sits an 80-miles-per-gallon secret — a stack of 18 brick-sized batteries that boosts the car's high mileage with an extra electrical charge so it can burn even less fuel.

Gremban, an electrical engineer and committed environmentalist, spent several months and $3,000 tinkering with his car.

Like all hybrids, his Prius increases fuel efficiency by harnessing small amounts of electricity generated during braking and coasting. The extra batteries let him store extra power by plugging the car into a wall outlet at his home in this San Francisco suburb — all for about a quarter.

He's part of a small but growing movement. "Plug-in" hybrids aren't yet cost-efficient, but some of the dozen known experimental models have gotten up to 250 mpg.

By Some Kind Of Magic

This post will start with the "blinking statue" from Hoboken, NJ, but eventually get around to "Intelligent Design". Bear with me ...
HOBOKEN, N.J. - For more than 25 years, Julio "Sly" Dones tended his cobbled-together collection of religious relics at Third and Jackson Streets, unknown to all but those who had reason to happen past.

But this week, people who had no business in Hoboken, let alone a gritty section of this North Jersey city, were steering down Jackson in search of a miracle. Hundreds of them - a constant flow - at all hours of the day and night.

What they came to see was a crumbling plaster statue of Jesus - with wires poking skyward where fingers once were - that Dones, 52, said he fished a year ago from a Jersey City trash can. They came because the plaster Jesus' right eye, once not visible, can now be seen.
The pastor of my Catholic church had an interesting observation about phenomena such as this, along these lines - For some reason, many people who consider themselves to be religious, react more to these stories, than to the everyday existence of their Church, their community of believers, or their sacraments. Even Mr. Dones of Hoboken, who apparently spent decades trying to bring a little bit of hope to a seedy area of his town, does so without being noticed until his "miracle".

And, that makes me think of these "Intelligent Design" people. Instead of considering that the God they believe in could have created a universe where natural processes come together to result in intelligent life (an amazing thing if you think about it), they insist that there's some "trick" that had to have taken place. They insist that somewhere we can see the "seams", where creation came together, where something not "natural" can be seen and therefore "prove" the existence of God. And, they argue that opposition to them is somehow opposition to people of faith. They even managed to get a Catholic Cardinal to write a piece which implied that their view was correct.

I have some folks who would disagree. For example, Kenneth R. Miller, Professor of Biology at Brown University, and a Catholic -
Words matter, and they matter most of all in the context in which they are to be read and understood. On July 7, 2005, the New York Times published an opinion piece, "Finding Design in Nature," purporting to offer “The official Catholic stance on evolution.” The author of that piece, my fellow Catholic Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, got the theology exactly right, but erred dramatically in his take on the science and the politics of the “design” movement as it exists in the United States. Knowing how the good Cardinal's words will be misused by the enemies of science in our country, it is important to set the record straight.

Science is, just as John Paul II said, silent on the issue of ultimate purpose, an issue that lies outside the realm of scientific inquiry. This means that biological evolution, correctly understood, does not make the claim of purposelessness. It does not address what Simpson called the “deeper problem,” leaving that problem, quite properly, to the realm of faith.

Cardinal Schönborn also errs in his implicit support of the “intelligent design” movement in the United States. The neo-creationists of intelligent design, unlike Popes Benedict and John Paul, argue against evolution on every level, claiming that a “designer” has repeatedly intervened to directly produce the complex forms of living things. This view stands in sharp contradiction to the words of a 2004 International Theological Commission document cited by the Cardinal. In reality, this document carries a ringing endorsement of the “widely accepted scientific account” of life's emergence and evolution, describes the descent of all forms of life from a common ancestor as “virtually certain,” and echoes John Paul II's observation of the “mounting support” for evolution from many fields of study.
And (and I love this one) George Coyne, S.J., the Director of the Vatican Observatory -
There appears to exist a nagging fear in the Church that a universe, which science has established as evolving for 13.7 x 1 billion years since the Big Bang and in which life, beginning in its most primitive forms at about 12 x 1 billion years from the Big Bang, evolved through a process of random genetic mutations and natural selection, escapes God’s dominion. That fear is groundless. Science is completely neutral with respect to philosophical or theological implications that may be drawn from its conclusions. Those conclusions are always subject to improvement. That is why science is such an interesting adventure and scientists curiously interesting creatures. But for someone to deny the best of today’s science on religious grounds is to live in that groundless fear just mentioned.

This stress on our scientific knowledge is not to place a limitation upon God. Far from it. It reveals a God who made a universe that has within it a certain dynamism and thus participates in the very creativity of God. Such a view of creation can be found in early Christian writings, especially in those of St Augustine in his comments on Genesis. If they respect the results of modern science and, indeed, the best of modern biblical research, religious believers must move away from the notion of a dictator God or a designer God, a Newtonian God who made the universe as a watch that ticks along regularly. Perhaps God should be seen more as a parent or as one who speaks encouraging and sustaining words. Scripture is very rich in these thoughts. It presents, indeed anthropomorphically, a God who gets angry, who disciplines, a God who nurtures the universe, who empties himself in Christ the incarnate Word. Thus God’s revelation of himself in the Book of Scripture would be reflected in our knowledge of the universe, so that, as Galileo was fond of stating, the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature speak of the same God.
The point of this post is not to convince anyone that God exists (or, that God does not exist). The point of this post is just to note that, in my opinion, it is the "Intelligent Design" people who need to think about how much faith they actually have. Do they need a "blinking statue" to prove that God exists? Maybe they could consider that, for a religious person, the evolution of the universe, from random atoms into intelligent life, is a pretty neat miracle after all.

In Which A Cautious Man Finds Evidence of Intelligent Design ...

That is, an unseen hand guiding creation in the world around us. No, I am not talking about evolution and creationism - I'm talking about the Internet. Specifically, I'm talking about the Unseen Hand that "scrubbed" Senator Rick Santorum's official Senate web site. Recently, it has been observed that Senator Santorum made a statement in an NPR interview that he disagreed with the President's position, that "Intelligent Design" should be taught alongside evolution -
Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, a possible 2008 presidential contender who faces a tough re-election fight next year in Pennsylvania, said intelligent design, which is backed by many religious conservatives, lacked scientific credibility and should not be taught in science classes.

Bush told reporters from Texas on Monday that "both sides" in the debate over intelligent design and evolution should be taught in schools "so people can understand what the debate is about."

"I think I would probably tailor that a little more than what the president has suggested," Santorum, the third-ranking Republican member of the U.S. Senate, told National Public Radio. "I'm not comfortable with intelligent design being taught in the science classroom."
He had a different opinion in an Op-Ed he wrote for the Washington Times in 2002. That piece is hard to find online, since the Senator removed it from his Senate web page. But, the Google cache shows that the article was there as recently as December 4, 2004. This was the Senator used to tell people about "Intelligent Design" -
The theory of intelligent design, which predates ancient Greece, contends that nature shows tangible signs of having been created by a pre-existing intelligence. This is in contrast to Charles Darwin's theory, which assumes all physical and material reality has gradually evolved through pure chance and natural selection, whereby the fittest members of each species survive and reproduce.

Critics of intelligent design, such as the newly formed Ohio Citizens for Science, claim that intelligent design is not a viable scientific theory and should not be taught in the classroom. They fear it is creationism in disguise, and hence, propagates religion in public schools. Despite a recent poll that shows overwhelming support for including the theory in the new teaching standards, these critics continue to resist its adoption.

This opposition to intelligent design is surprising since there is an increasing body of theoretical and scientific evidence that suggests an alternate theory is possible. Research has shown that the odds that even one small protein molecule has been created by chance is 1 in a billion. Thus, some larger force or intelligence, or what some call agent causation, seems like a viable cause for creating information systems such as the coding of DNA. A number of scientists contend that alternate theories regarding the origins of the human species - including that of a greater intelligence - are possible.

Therefore, intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes.
Now, all the Senator allows on his website is a more stealthy, "teach the controversy" opinion piece -
Darwin’s theory of evolution should not be taught as absolute fact in the science classroom. Instead, it should be taught as the leading and dominant scientific theory explaining the origin of species, but also as a theory subject to significant limitations, failed predictions, and important criticisms. We should encourage schools to teach better science and to teach more about evolution, including the gaps and controversies surrounding evolution. We should not be afraid to teach children what we know and what we have not yet discovered in science, and we should certainly not deny our children the truth about controversies surrounding science. By teaching the controversy, we remain true to science and yet sensitive to the ideas and interests of many parents and children.
Although, in both his "pro-Intelligent Design" piece, and the more slippery "teach the controversy" piece, the Senator invokes the name of Ted Kennedy as somehow supporting his position. That claim is based on a vote on what is known as the "Santorum Amendment" to the No Child Left Behind Act. It had that innocuous sounding, "teach the children well" sort of language, but has been used as a justification for trying to drive the Intelligent Design bandwagon into science classrooms. The "Santorum Amendment" was not made part of the final NCLB act, by the way.

What is the Senator up to? I don't know. But, I do know that thoughtful people need to be on the watch for stealthy attempts to sneak fake science into our science curriculums. I leave you with the words of author Chris Mooney, whose book "The Republican War on Science" will be published this September -
ID proponents have also teamed up with conservative Republican legislators to further advance their agenda. ID’s most significant supporter has been Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. In 2001, Santorum teamed up with ID supporters to slip “teach the controversy” language into the No Child Left Behind Act. Singling out evolution in particular, Santorum’s amendment to the Senate version of the bill stated that “good science education should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science.” This may sound innocuous enough, but when you learn that the language comes in part from ID movement progenitor Phillip Johnson, who believes that “Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence,” you see where Santorum is headed.
Read the whole thing.

August 13, 2005

Young Lives Over Before They Got Started

From my local paper -
For years, the war seemed so far away. Since March 2003, when American forces invaded Iraq, the communities of South Orange and Maplewood have managed to survive without having to make the sacrifices that others around the country have been making.

Although they may have felt the pain of war very close to their heart, or were deeply affected by every headline or television segment on the war, still, members of the community remained somewhat sheltered.

But things changed last week. Lance Cpl. Edward "Augie" Schroeder, a former South Orange resident and a 2000 graduate of Columbia High School, was one of the 14 Marines killed in Iraq on Aug. 2, when a powerful roadside bomb destroyed their amphibious assault vehicle near the Iraqi-Syrian border.

Schroeder's parents, Paul Schroeder and Rosemary Palmer, moved to Ohio from South Orange after Schroeder's graduation from Columbia.

He attended Ohio State University before joining the Marines in 2002 in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.

"It was hard to go home and tell my son that the little boy he used to play with isn't here anymore," said Cindy Espersen, family friend of the Schroeders and CHS guidance counselor. Schroeder and her son were childhood friends.

Any bright, loving child growing up in a community the size of South Orange and Maplewood will touch the lives of many people in it. Schroeder seemed to be special, however, touching so many and so deeply.

The impact of his life, although painfully short, was evidenced at a memorial service in his honor at Morrow Memorial Church in Maplewood on Aug. 4.

The chapel overflowed with people wishing to recall memories and pray for Schroeder. They said he was funny, loving, creative and devoted.
And, from the Associated Press -
CRAWFORD, Texas - The mother of a fallen U.S. soldier who is holding a roadside peace vigil near President Bush's ranch shares the same grief as relatives mourning the deaths of Ohio Marines, yet their views about the war differ.

"I'm angry. I want the troops home," Cindy Sheehan, 48, of Vacaville, Calif., who staged a protest that she vowed on Sunday to continue until she can personally ask Bush: "Why did you kill my son? What did my son die for?"

Jim Boskovitch, father of slain Cpl. Jeffery Boskovitch, 25, of North Royalton, Ohio, is supporting the U.S. military action in Iraq.

"I firmly believe, and I would echo my son's feeling on this, it is very, very important for our country to remain steadfast and complete the mission that they set out to accomplish," Boskovitch told ABC on Sunday.

Boskovitch is among several families mourning Ohio Marines who suffered heavy losses in three attacks starting July 28, when two were killed in a gun battle. On Monday, five were killed in an ambush. Nine were killed Wednesday when an armored vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.

Rosemary Palmer, the mother of Lance Cpl. Edward Schroeder, 23, another Ohio Marine killed in Iraq, sided more with Sheehan. If the United States continues its current course in Iraq, the death toll of U.S. troops, now at more than 1,820, will only grow, she told ABC.

"We either have to have more people there to do the job and better equipment, or we have to leave — one or the other," she said.
I don't know if Corporal Schroeder's mom is now considered "fair game" by Bill O'Reilly, Michelle Malkin, or anybody else who thinks that it's socially acceptable to call Cindy Sheehan nasty names. In any event, this is what his dad asked a friend to pass along, on the local Maplewood and South Orange internet message board -
I want people to know how much they are appreciated by us. In the last 48 hours we have learned more about Augie than we knew. He now seems larger than life to us (though it isn't easy to forget the dirty socks stuffed under the couch).

Also, we want them to know that the question is not why, but what next.

August 10, 2005

Jersey Girl?

Michelle Malkin, a feature performer on Fox Bigotry News, has a post on her blog (entitled N.J. & SLEAZE: PERFECT TOGETHER) about some political doings in my state of New Jersey. She notes two items - the steering of 9-11 funds to Democratic districts, and a loan (converted to a gift) from Senator Jon Corzine (now the Democratic candidate for Governor), to a woman who he used to date (and who heads a state workers' union).

As to the former, it should be investigated. Although, it just so happens that the "Democratic districts" are the places which have the international airport, the seaport, the oil and chemical plants, the financial areas which the Administration identified as targets last summer, and the immigrant neighborhoods which are of more interest to the FBI than the typical suburban cul-de-sac. Query - where else would this money be spent?

As to the latter, the Repubican gubernatorial candidate has jumped all over this. Despite the fact that one may wonder why a candidate giving money to someone qualifies as "sleaze" (I thought it was supposed to work the other way around), the Senator apparently reported the gift on his taxes, didn't keep it a secret, and had no dealings with the woman or her union during the time they were dating. I know Republicans love a sex scandal (or, as the Capitol Steps would say, "a skex sandal"), but this particular item may have some "skex", but not really any "sandal".

Normally, I would not bother to address a tawdry subject such as this, but I was drawn to Ms. Malkin's approach to these stories. In addition to the obligatory "Perfect Together" reference, she adds in her post -
They don't call my native state the Armpit of America for nothing.
Now, let's leave aside the fact that the "Google" search she links to produces sites which question, make fun of, or otherwise treat ironically the title, "Armpit of America". Her reference brought to mind what I believe was the last time Ms. Malkin focused on her "native state" - the murder of an Egyptian Christian family in Jersey City. Before the perpetrators were arrested, Ms. Malkin gleefully stoked the flames of racial and religious hatred, asserting that this Christian family was the victim of Muslim assasins. In fact, while during the investigation local officials cautioned people not to jump to conclusions, she mocked them and accused them of some sort of "political correctness" for not pursuing the "jihadists" who she concluded had committed the crime. Even when the truth came out, she continued to imply that there were legitimate unanswered questions.

The discredited story line in the tragedy of the Armanious family, was consistent with Ms. Malkin's whole body of work. Her book last year, in which she attempted to justify the unjustifiable race-based internment of Japanese citizens during World War II, is simply the most extreme example of an obvious attempt to gain the favor of the bigots of this world in exchange for a paycheck.

In any event, she seems ashamed of her Jersey roots. Fortunately, I am a Jerseyan born, raised, and now resident by choice. Therefore, by the power vested in me as a True Jerseyan (or is it "Jerseyite?"), I hereby relieve Ms. Malkin of any connection to the Garden State. Believe me, we're much better off without being associated with her brand of opportunistic bigotry.

And, if she ever stops by here - "You're welcome!"

August 09, 2005

Souls Of The Departed

Among the Marines from Ohio who were killed in Iraq last week, was a kid named Edward August "Augie" Schroeder. He grew up in my community in New Jersey. He graduated from our high school in 2000; my own son graduated from that same school last year. I did not know him or his parents personally, but many of my friends and neighbors did. Like my own son, he was a Scout, a town pool lifeguard, took part in assorted extracurricular activities, and was active in his church's youth group. In his yearbook portrait (at this AP online profile), he looks just like a lot of the kids of our friends, and like our childrens' classmates. Heck, my son has a similar haircut in his yearbook picture. A lot of us see our own children, when we look at his picture.

He died while riding in a lightly armored, amphibious vehicle in the middle of the desert.

Whether they knew him personally or not, his death has profoundly grieved the people of our community.

August 06, 2005

There's A Joke Here Somewhere ...

... but maybe it's not that funny.

I kid you not, but the other day the charming Administration-supporting website WorldNetDaily.com posted a come-on for one of their subscription letters (the "G2 Bulletin") which claimed that August 6 is a favorite day of Osama Bin Laden. WND claims that is because that was the date of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. But, can't we think of another reason why August 6 holds a special place in OBL's heart? -
... the day President Bush received a President’s Daily Brief (PDB) entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.” There are many eerie similarities between now and August 6, 2001. Chief among them is that the threat of terrorism remains high, President Bush is at his ranch in Crawford, and Osama bin Laden is on the loose looking to inflict greater terrorist damage.

Bush candidly acknowledged that he was not thinking about a terrorist strike on the U.S. during the hot, pre-9/11 days at his Crawford ranch. He told Bob Woodward: “I was not on point…I have no hesitancy about going after him. But I didn’t feel that sense of urgency, and my blood was not nearly as boiling.”
See the rest of the post at ThinkProgress.org. Then think about how lucky the 9/11 planners were that the U.S. President was so detached, that we lost the chance to possibly prevent that horrific attack.

Yeah, August 6 sure is a red letter day on OBL's calendar.

August 04, 2005

"For It Means Destruction Of Innocent Lives"

Something to ponder regarding wars past and present, from the U.S. Catholic Bishops -
At this time of remembrance, we solemnly recall the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These bombings, like other acts of total war in that conflict, brought indiscriminate destruction and death to civilians and soldiers alike. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are permanent reminders to the entire human family of the grave consequences of total war.

No matter how noble the ends of a war may be, they cannot justify employing means or weapons that fail to discriminate between noncombatants and combatants. As the Second Vatican Council declared, “Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation.” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 80)

In our day, the threat of global nuclear war may have receded, only to be replaced by the prospect of nuclear terrorism. Terrorist attacks on innocent civilians are a crime against God and humanity and merit the same unequivocal condemnation of all acts that fail to discriminate between combatants and noncombatants
(Found via Bill Cork's Tischreden)

[Edited on August 9, to add the following] Just one detail from a news item about the 60th Anniversay Commemoration today in Nagasaki -
Tuesday’s remembrances began just after sunrise, hundreds of Catholics joined in a special Mass at Urakami Cathedral, which at the time of the bombing was the largest in Asia with 12,000 parishioners — 8,500 of whom are believed to have been killed.

When the cloudy sky lit up in a sudden flash at 11:02 a.m. in 1945, two priests were hearing confessions inside the cathedral and 30 faithful were inside. Everyone in the church died and the statues around them turned black because of the intense heat.
I'm not pointing this out because I think it was worse to drop the bomb on Catholics in church. But, maybe a detail such as that helps to remind people that the victims of that bombing (no matter what their race or religion) were really not so different from ourselves. They got up in the morning, and went to work, to school, or to church, and in the ordinary details their lives would have been similar to an American's.

In a war, there is a tendency to view the enemy as the "Other", as someone who is not like us. It happened in World War II (so much so that American citizens of Japanese origin were herded into camps), and it happens today in the War on Terror (or whatever its called). Listen to some of the characters on the Fox Bigotry Channel if you need further proof.

August 03, 2005

Back In The U.S.A.

Hey, we're back. London is an amazing city, and its people are wonderful. Given recent events there, residents could be forgiven for being on edge. Nevertheless, the city and its people carried on, even working around the closures of some lines and stations on the extremely essential Underground. We had a great time.

Now, I read that today our U.S. Department of State has decided to issue a travel advisory about London -
This public announcement is issued to alert Americans to ongoing security concerns in the United Kingdom. This public announcement expires on November 3, 2005.

National and local authorities in the United Kingdom continue their investigations of the London bombings on July 7 and the attempted bombings on July 21. The London Metropolitan Police made several arrests, but also stated “the threat remains, and is very real.” The police have increased their uniform and undercover presence on the London public transportation system.

U.S. citizens are advised to maintain a high level of vigilance, take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness, and exercise caution in public places or while using public transportation.
Between that warning, and the "be scared of everything everywhere" warning of the State Department's "Worldwide Caution", you'd think that they didn't want us to go anywhere, but just cower at home and watch the latest "news" on the Fox Bigotry Channel.

I think it was better to go to London, ride the Underground, and carry on with life.