A Cautious Man
April 29, 2007
Sunday Night Springsteen
This week, there is much talk in Washington D.C. of what constitutes "surrender".

What some call "surrender", others would call "cutting your losses".

This is a song that notes what happens, when America is essentially occupying a country, and fighting the people who live there, and who will still be there, no matter when we decide to bring our troops home. As summarized in this simple, but haunting verse:
I had a brother at Khe Sanh
Fighting off them Viet Cong
They're still there, he's all gone
Born in the USA.

(There's a Spanish television announcer at the start, but wait a minute for it.)

April 26, 2007
"So you keep a little secret down deep inside your dresser drawer ..."
Yes, I know there are more important things in this world, but this story about GOP Presidential candidate/former governor Huckabee's son just bugged me.
Mike Huckabee's son, David, 26, was arrested at the Little Rock National Airport about 5:30 a.m. this morning for having a handgun in carry-on luggage while preparing to board a plane. The gun was found during routine security screening.

"It was a mistake," said police Lt. Terry Hastings. "It happens all the time. He just forgot he had it." He said airport security said such forgetfulness occurs three or four times a year at the airport.

A friend quotes David as saying it was a "stupid, stupid mistake." Young Huckabee, who travels in the mortgage business, often carries a gun with him on the road. He usually travels by car, but told a friend that he threw his computer case (and gun) in a bag when he got up at 4:30 a.m. for an early morning flight and simply forgot about the gun.

Look, you want to argue about being able to carry concealed? Fine, I can respect that. I disagree vehemently, but I can accept that you have a different view.

But, "I forgot I had a gun"? Give me a break. If you really can't keep track of where your loaded pistol is, that is not a comforting thought.

April 12, 2007
So It Goes
Kurt Vonnegut passed away, we heard today. As a result, I'm sitting here with my pile of Vonnegut books. From his last book of essays, "A Man Without A Country", page 80 -
I am, incidentally, Honorary President of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in that totally functionless capacity. We had a memorial service for Isaac a few years back, and I spoke and said at one point, "Isaac is up in heaven now." It was the funniest thing I could have said to an audience of humanists. I rolled them in the aisles. It was several minutes before order could be restored. And if I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, "Kurt is up in heaven now." That's my favorite joke.

So, Kurt is up in heaven now.

April 09, 2007
Brilliant Disguise
I just watched Glenn Beck (CNN Headline News) on the Anderson Cooper "360" show, criticize Don Imus. I have a kid at Rutgers, but even if I didn't, I'd wonder why it was "okay" to verbally abuse a group of college athletes, just because they were non-white. That being said, the sad part about this whole episode is the fact that the aforementioned Mr. Beck is using this to justify every cheap racist thing that he's ever done.

If anyone cares, my own opinion -

No, dickhead. The fact that you're trying to use this to defend yourself only shows what an a$$hole you really are.

At least Imus is trying to apologize. You're just a schmuck.

April 08, 2007
Sunday Night Springsteen
The "I ain't here on business, I'm only here for fun" edition.

This past week the Cautious Wife and I attended a fundraiser at Carnegie Hall for the Music for Youth Foundation. It featured some terrific (mostly) young musicians in a tribute to the music of Bruce Springsteen. I wanted to go because, well, I'm a sucker for stuff like that. There's a great summary of the evening on this NJ.com blog.

Some examples of the best performances - Pete Yorn performed "Dancing in the Dark", noting that it's not really a "happy" song, despite the bouncy music in the original (not to mention the unfortunate Bruce-dances-with-Courtney-Cox music video, which itself demonstrates that the 80's affected everyone).

The quality of this video isn't the best, but you'll get the idea.

Folk music legend Odetta was on the bill, and I just couldn't figure out what she would do. She surprised everyone with what even Mr. Springsteen would call the best version ever of "57 Channels (And Nothin' On)".

And at the end, the announcer asked if there was one wish she could grant the audience, what would it be?
And Bruce came onstage to a standing ovation.
"The good news is I'm still alive!" he said.
"It's like I'm invisible and floating high above the room and hearing all these people talking about you. It's like a funeral.
"Thank you to all the artist for showning up."
He said he liked the version of "57 Channels" Odetta did. he talked about meeting her when he was 23 at Max's Kanas City.
Bruce was wearing a black sport jacket and blue jeans.
He did an acoustic version of "Promised Land" which was a little bit different from the way he had been doing it at the end of the "Devils & Dust" shows.
Bruce then played an acoustic version of "Rosalita."
Toward the latter part of the song he stopped playing and said:
"Well, it's getting late, unfortunately. And this song is really long. Man, I wrote a lot of lyrics back then! Anyway, you don't really want to hear the rest of the story. You know the damn story already. Rosie rode off with our hero . . . they got married . . . and they lived pretty much happily ever after, more or less . . . despite what you might read in one or two tabloid stories. Our hero got himself a band . . . Made a fortune and became a star and made a whole lot of people happy with his songs. . . and then he started to get sort of happy himself. So he broke up the band, and started writing a bunch of songs about being happy. And no one liked them. So he got the band back together. He wrote some new songs. These ones were about being sad. Everyone loved them. And the years went by. Our hero put on a few pounds. His hair started to get some grey in it - at least when he wasn't touching it up. The United States turned into a kingdom. The whole damn planet got so pissed off about the whole thing that it just started getting hotter and hotter. Some babies came. And then they turned into children. And then they turned into...something else. And our hero came one night to the biggest city in the world. And he found himself onstage at the fanciest music house in the whole world. I know you're thinking this story is bullshit. I know it doesn't really happen like that. But tonight, I'm telling you, it's all true. So we might as well just cut to the chase already!"

As he then finished the song, he invited all the other performers out onto the stage. Since the house band knew "Rosalita", they all performed it, again. But, the honoree made a point of letting the other artists do most of the lead singing. They acted like they were kids again, singing along to the record. It was kind of sloppy, but well ...

And they were all having fun, as did we.

Rise Up
There's an unfortunate tendency, on the part of some of my favorite progressive bloggers, to forget that religious belief and liberalism DO actually go together. So, since it's Easter, that means that it must be time to make fun of the Christians. See, for example, the master of snark, here (You may be offended).

Don't worry, I'm not going to go all Bill Donohue now, or anything like that. Christians remember (or, at least ought to, if they pay attention in Church) that this is the same reaction that the first witnesses received, when they tried to tell their story -
Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others.

The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles,

but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them.
I guess what I'm trying to say, is that from the beginning, the first Christians knew that they were telling a story that others found hard to believe, and actually mocked. Christianity here in the United States has gotten too complacent, so that lots of prominent "spokesmen" get offended if anyone questions their beliefs. But, it's always been that way, folks, so get over it.

Oh, and Happy Easter.

April 07, 2007
What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?
This fantastic guest column in today's New York Times by Robert Wright has stirred me from my posting lethargy. Here's a snippet so you get the drift (note, if you need to log in to read the whole thing, you can use "Cautiousman" and the password "Cautious") -
The religious left — yes, there is such a thing — complains that Mr. Bush ignores the Bible’s moral injunctions. But leave morality aside. If he could just match the Bible’s strategic savvy, that would make a world of difference.

Consider a teaching of Jesus that seems on its surface devoid of strategic import. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Last fall I was privileged to be asked to offer one of the readings, at our community's observance of the fifth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. I was asked to share something from the Christian tradition, and I could think of nothing better than the same passage cited by Mr. Wright (from chapter 12 of Paul's Letter to the Romans)-
Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all.
If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.
Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."
Rather, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head."
Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.
Basing his argument on this idea, Mr. Wright drives his point home effectively -
Of course, Mr. Bush is more in the shoes of the Roman emperor than of Paul. America isn’t a small but growing religious movement. It’s a great power threatened by a small but growing religious movement — radical Islam. But the logic can work both ways. Great powers, by mindlessly indulging retributive impulses, can give fuel to small but growing religious movements. If you want to deprive jihadists of ammunition, make it hard for them to persuade others to hate us.

Right after Paul espouses kindness to enemies, he adds: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Sounds like naïve moralizing until you look at those Abu Ghraib photos that have become Al Qaeda recruiting posters.

Mr. Bush says his favorite philosopher is Jesus. One way to show it would be to spend less time repeating the mistake of the Romans and more time heeding the wisdom of Christ.
Amen, brother, Amen.

Tougher Than The Rest?
I'm really tired of Rudy Giuliani and his "one note" campaign. This article in today's New York Times shows how he has nothing constructive to offer. He's running on his reputation as being Mayor of New York on 9-11, and is offering a hodge-podge of right-wing ideas coupled with "toughness":
But Sept. 11 was a constant backdrop, and as Mr. Giuliani promoted his vision of a forceful foreign policy that calls for the United States to continue slugging it out in Iraq, he let his audiences know that his was an outlook forged by fire.

“What they say in Washington is not going to affect the fact that there are terrorists around the world that are planning to come here and kill us,” he said in Iowa, in the most spirited part of his newly honed stump speech.

Pointing his finger and bouncing up and down on his toes, he declared, “It is something I understand better than anyone else running for president.”
What makes him qualified to "understand better" about dealing with terrorism? All of us in the New York area had to deal with 9-11. Lots of us know people who perished on that day. Even in the suburbs, we helped our friends and neighbors who ran from the collapsing towers. Public officials of all stripes, in ways large and small, showed strength in the face of such terrible events.

What part of Mr. Giuliani's background makes him "better"? Was it the way he left his police and firefighters unprepared to even communicate with each other? Was it the way he put New York's emergency center right at the city's biggest target? Was it the way he tried to delay the election of his successor? Was it the way he ordered the rubble of the Twin Towers to be bulldozed, instead of allowing the search for remains to continue?

He says he'll be tough on foreign policy, citing the time he barred Yasir Arafat from a United Nations concert - which is really an example of showboating, not of diplomacy. And here's what we could look forward to under President Giuliani:
At a house party in New Hampshire on Monday, he said the United States would most likely be fighting in Iraq for a long time, “unless there is some kind of miracle.” He attacked the “dangerous and irresponsible” Democratic effort for a withdrawal timetable.

And speaking at a high school in St. Petersburg, Fla., he maintained that the struggle would be over only “when they stop planning to come here and kill us.”

Mr. Giuliani spoke of what else he means when he says America needs to be on the offensive against terrorism. He would resist efforts to water down central provisions of the USA Patriot Act. He favors legal but aggressive eavesdropping. He backs intense interrogation of suspects, though not torture.
This is a recipe for endless warfare and fear-mongering, not a strategy to actually make America safer.

The solution is not to treat the terrorists as if they were just like the squeegee men he once chased off city streets, only better-armed.


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