Archive for May, 2009

The Folly of Our Leadership

May 31, 2009

Frank Rich of the New York Times has been reading my posts again.  All egotistical flattery aside, our ideas are in sync because they are the obvious truth.   So very obvious, in fact, that everyone and Yo Mama have the very same thoughts.  No secret there.

The folly and intellectual laziness of people still astounds me.  At the heart of Dick Cheney’s foray into the media this month is the fact of revenge.  His main objective is to continue the Bush/Cheney scare tactic of a repeat 9/11 performance in order to obtain the political ends the GOP desires.  Those wants, such as lower taxes, obstruction of individual rights, lower taxes, invasion of privacy, lower taxes, benefits for the rich over all the other economic classes and lower taxes, often bear no correlation to the prevention of terrorism.  As I said in an earlier post, Cheney would feel vindicated if there was another major terrorist attack on our soil.  It is more important for him to be “right” than for peace to prevail.

Frank Rich is also correct that the cradle of worry should be Pakistan.  May I add to that Iran and North Korea?  The common denominator of these three countries is the threat (an actuality in Pakistan) of nuclear arms.  All three nations have corrupt, unstable governments whereby an atomic warhead can very possibly fall into the wrong hands.  President Obama, upon taking office, made his plea for global nuclear disarmament clear.   However, the topic was not sexy enough and the current bevy of pressing issues quickly overtook this essential tenet.

As an aside, I can not for the life of me, reconcile the actions of nuclear armed nations “outlawing” non-nuclear governments from obtaining the technology.  Are the U.S., Israel, Russia, China, more peace-loving, politically sane and less power hungry than Iran or North Korea?   History would prove that untrue.  If it is forbidden for some countries to develop the bomb, then the entities that already have the bomb must disarm immediately.

Pakistan is the main worry now.  Afghanistan not so much: the terrorists in Pakistan were born in Afghanistan, their loyalties remain to that country but the geographical borders between the two countries do not exist in reality.  The mountains and rough terrain muddy what the maps say exist.  Attention must be paid to Pakistan because they are a nuclear nation and the political unrest there has the power to unleash chaos, which could morph into a nuclear weapon being stolen and used by the extremists.  So President Obama is correct in amassing policies and procedures to rein in the dangerous factions in Pakistan.  That must be our first priority.  Even  though Iran and North Korea may not be atomically armed yet, they too must be watched closely, for they also encompass a shaky political structure that can fall victim to the destructive aims of terrorists.

Furthermore, the Democrats who sided against the closing of GITMO are equally culpable in their contribution to this game of fear and succumbing to the least common moral denominator.  Fear mongering is so much easier than using ones brain to design a more effective solution.  Lazy bastards.

What can the world do?  Frank Rich echoes my thoughts again: we must act using our hearts and minds.  Feed the people, give them shelter and education, guarantee their human rights.  With these practices in place, there will be NO NEED for terrorists.  However, until we can attain that stasis, we must protect ourselves.  This is the fly in the ointment.  The yardstick, whether for global harmony, political power or individual financial gain, must become a fair and just belief system rather than a map for what one has, such as power and lucre.  The world at large has vacated their senses, if they ever had any sense in the first place.

Read Frank Rich carefully this morning.  If the next step in the narcissistic political battle field escalates to a nuclear attack, we all lose.


I have received an illuminating comment on this post in my Daily KOS diary.  I include it here:

You make some fine points.  However I believe that you have swallowed the propaganda with regard to several of the countries you cite as being unstable. For some of them “instability” is the cultural norm, externally imposed stability is the danger.

When discussing Pakistan and Afghanistan, one must recognize that they are tribal societies first and nation states second. When one bombs Pakistanis or Afghans, from the victims point of view, one is bombing their tribe, and that tribe as a whole will react regardless of which country they actually live in. This is why their border is so porous; there is little difference between the populations on either side of it. The border is a mere technicality of more interest to those doing the bombing than those who are being bombed.

Pakistan and Iran are more developed nation states than Afghanistan, but this is largely because their modern identities were developed in opposition to what they perceive as colonization by foreign powers. With Pakistan that would be Britain/India, with Iran it would be the United States. Their fundamental tribal basis is incredibly stable and is only made stronger by foreign intervention which tends to make the various tribes more cooperative.

The paternalistic attitude we take toward them with regard to propping up authoritarian rule in their country has blowback as can be seen in the Russo/Afghan and U.S./Afghan wars and the revolution against the U.S. backed Shah, not to mention the U.S. supported regimes in Iraq.

Your statements as regards Iran’s efforts to get the bomb have been repeatedly knocked down by intelligence services worldwide, though they also say that continued harping on the subject and aggressive stances towards them will ensure their ultimately seeking it if only as a deterrent/bargaining chip.

proliferation of nuclear weaponry has proven to be the sole point upon which the west will bargain. North Korea has proven this conclusively and has milked it through escalation for decades…as has Pakistan vs. India. Point being, there is a major difference between the motivations of the populations and the state actors which purport to lead them. This is what gives the impression of instability. They are in fact very stable countries within their own contexts, foreign as they may seem, And aggression or paternalism on our parts only makes both factions more likely to escalate.

we must act using our hearts and minds.  Feed the people, give them shelter and education, guarantee their human rights.  With these practices in place, there will be NO NEED for terrorists.

is absolutely correct. The militaristic stances we have taken in order to achieve our own narrow goals for the last seventy years, and longer if Britain, Russia and France are taken into account, have created the problems we see today. When you say:

So President Obama is correct in amassing policies and procedures to rein in the dangerous factions in Pakistan.  That must be our first priority.

You are essentially ratifying the status quo, which I sincerely do not believe will be of any real use if what we are interested in is resolving the problems we face with regard to extremism in the M.E and S.E Asia.

Sorry this turned into a novel.

And here is my response:

Thank you for your insightful comments.  We probably agree more than we disagree.

However, regarding the political stability (or lack thereof) in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I beg to differ with you.  Alliances within tribal entities are very secure.  However, within the confines of an overall national governing structure, tribal politics fall apart and serious hostilities can erupt.  Each tribal faction has there own little war with the next faction. So even though the tribes may provide some internal stability, that stasis does not apply to a national government or the international arena.

Regarding the stability in Iran, even my son astutely pointed out to me that there is a stable government in Iran.  Once again, I beg to differ.  Certainly the leader of Iran, an elected official no less, Ahmendinijad, is NOT the vision of stability.  He is a madman.  What other explanation could there be in response to his cry for action to wipe Israel off the face of the earth?  That’s stability?  And what of the electorate who elected him?  That’s stability?  No way.  Internal national security can not exist if it is a threat to international security.  If a nuclear device were to be detonated, would we be able to erect our territorial fences to prevent the toxic poison from entering our space?  No way.

I understand and acknowledge our paternalistic advances in countries that we have no right to interfere with.  That is an obvious given.  However, in view that a few extremist governments, either already possessing a nuclear capability or just on the verge of it, are a real threat to the entire world, we must find a better way, using our hearts and minds, to disarm them.

And more back and forth:

I hear you and I am quite sure that our agreements outnumber the disagreements, however I think the main disagreement is too fundamental not to discuss.

Alliances within tribal entities are very secure.  However, within the confines of a national governing structure, tribal politics fall apart and serious hostilities can erupt.

I tried to make this point here:

Point being, there is a major difference between the motivations of the populations and the state actors which purport to lead them. This is what gives the impression of instability

Probably not well. However, I maintain that aggressive militarism and self righteous, often false, propaganda with regard to such countries is not our friend because it tends to make the competing factions cooperate to a more extreme end than would otherwise be the case. You made my case for me by using Achmidenijad as an example:

Certainly the leader of Iran, an elected official no less, Ahmendinijad, is NOT the vision of stability.  He is a madman.  What other explanation could there be in response to his cry to action to wipe Israel off the face of the earth?

It is perfectly simple: they have been messed with by foreign powers, including Israel, for over seventy years. As regards Israel: Iran has the largest population of Jews in the middle east, yet Iranian Jews encounter few difficulties in their daily lives. The Persian peoples have traditionally been an extremely religiously sophisticated group. Their stance with regard to Israel has little to do with the Jewish faith, they cannot be fobbed off as anti-semites, there is something more at work here and I believe that the protected status of such an aggressive power as Israel in their backyard has a lot to do with it. See how the tribal and state interests coalesce in a more extreme form than they otherwise would in a different scenario?

Further, Iran has given incredible amounts of aid to the U.S. and its’ coalition partners with regard to our effort in Afghanistan, yet we have infiltrated them with factions hostile to their regime. How can such overt slaps in the face not be considered a factor in the radicalization of the Iranian regime?

Your son is right, the primary reason that Iran is as stable as it is is because they are drawn together in the face of what is perceived a greater enemy than conservative, nutcase Presidents; the Great Satan (U.S.) and its’ indefatigable efforts to undermine their leadership. We cannot say, at this point, that we do not understand that particular dynamic here, why would it be unreasonable elsewhere with far more historical reasons?

Note that the Iranian people’s enmity has not, until recently, extended to the U.S. people, just its’ government. This is an insight that we should be well aware of when advocating for a status quo solution.

My response:

Your comments on Iran are well-taken and I think you are correct. But can you explain to me, because I do not get it, how a seemingly mature nation like Iran can elect a leader like Ahmendinijad?  Are you ascribing all of his zealotry and hatred to a national response of retaliation due to outside influences?

If so, the thrust of my argument, for using our hearts and minds,is even more important.

And finally, more from my interested party:

Are you ascribing all of his zealotry and hatred to a national response of retaliation due to outside influences?

By comparison, the revolution was only thirty years ago; the coup around fifty. It will take time for their wounds to heal. We should respect that.

Exactly!  Few here could possibly recognize the very real trauma of having one’s elected leadership replaced in a coup instigated by a foreign power and then being ruled by so authoritarian a personage as the Shah. Reja Pahlavi was every bit the butcher that Saddam was (yet another one of our creations). We do not often hear what his reign was actually like…it wouldn’t put us in a favorable light.

The revolution by fundamentalist Muslims in Iran was easily forseeable given the type of country it was, yet one never hears that other side of the story. Instead, we hear a lot about the hostages, nothing about why they were taken hostage. Convenient, eh? When in peril, even a perceived peril, a people, any people including ourselves as we now well know, will seek freedom from that threat(however that term may be defined within the context of its’ own culture) in the most brutal way necessary.

Iran as a culture may be thousands of years old, but as a state it is, comparatively speaking, brand new with virtually all of its founders intact. The revolutionary rhetoric is not surprising, though actions based upon it in the absence of a real threat would be. These folks ain’t stupid…just like Kim Jong Il. Given Iran has essentially been surrounded by what their leadership perceives as an aggressive threat, the surprise is how helpful they have been in spite of their harsh rhetoric.

During the (from their perspective) relatively benign Clinton Administration they were slackening up on their more authoritarian tendencies with regard to their own people and the west, under Bush we got Achmadinejad. Their President, who is surprisingly powerless under their form of government, may have been popularly elected but he is not popular. Don’t bet, however, that in the face of a real threat each and every one of his constituents wouldn’t haul out their pitchforks and follow him wherever he might lead.

If so, the thrust of my argument, for using our hearts and minds,is even more important.

This is, indeed, critical for our understanding of how to handle all such countries, in my view.

I just thought of the perfect example. Persia is a VERY conservative culture which does not take slights well. Within the tribal system, where most cultural knowledge is passed down verbally, they are still angry at Alexander the Great and memorize epic poems about him. Alexander the Great! Nearly four thousand years ago!

The Tow Truck, Torture and the Court

May 29, 2009

My wonderful weekend wedding magic ended abruptly at 8:00 A.M. on Tuesday.  First the tree guys arrived to cut back my very own piece of Virginia jungle.  Then the window washers arrived to clean my access to the outside world, which my fine feathered friends use as their toilets.  Then my car died.  Reality is sobering at best and, at worst, sucks eggs.

The thermometer light went on, in RED.  Unlike a similar experience I had over 30 years ago and chose to, in my exuberant youthful optimism, ignore and thus the engine completely melted down, I pulled over at  the side of the road within 30 seconds of this warning indicator going on.  After waiting two hours for the tow truck to arrive, I settled down in the cab of the truck with the driver and commenced delving into his life and political beliefs.

This man was somewhere in his forties, African-American, a very hard worker and a dedicated, stable family man.  My powers of discovery and observation served me well on this 45 minute drive to the dealership.  President Obama had just appointed Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme court that morning, so I asked the driver, allow me to call him “Gordon”, how he felt about that choice.   Silence.  Then I probed even further: I asked him his opinion of our president.  He responded that all the lawmakers and politicians are thieves and crooks, Obama included.   Uh-oh.  So I asked him why he felt that way.  He was so against the tens of billions of dollars allocated to the banks, auto companies, etc. instead of being handed over to him, one of the “little people”.  He firmly held that the way to a better economy was for the government to dole out all that stimulus and bailout money to you, me and especially, him.  That, he said, was the only way to truly stimulate the economy.

Gordon had my sympathetic ear for about two minutes.  Then we continued to discuss the abuses of large corporations and big government.  For those  few minutes, I also believed his economic theory.  Poor man: here he is just giving me a ride to my car dealership and I hook him into all of my political nonsense.  So I continued by acknowledging that yes, many financial, corporate and governmental entities are corrupt, greedy and immoral.  However, I added, so are many of the “little people”.  Their hardships were precipitated by their accepting mortgages that they knew they could not afford, demonstrating irresponsibility in managing their credit limits  and their incessant crying  for entitlements and personal bailouts added to the exact same scenario on an individual level that happened on a corporate level.  Gordon was again silent in response to my comments.

So since my ride with Gordon, I have been thinking about his proposal of paying out large, taxpayer dollars to each and every citizen versus investing in the larger infrastructure.  Either way, we are using taxpayer dollars to “save” our economic framework.  Gordon could not see this fact, and insisted that the only way to benefit Americans was to give them money directly.

Gordon’s plan and Obama’s plan have the same ends; it is just the means that differ.  After much thought, I agree with the larger plan because if the infrastructure of our economy goes to hell in a hand basket, the individual will not be able to stimulate any economy, much less one that is dead in the water and dismantled.  Gordon was blind to this plan for the greater good over individual gain.  I understand his position completely; I just disagree.

As ugly, bad and corrupt as our system appear to be sometimes, if we do not prop up the entire framework, such as jobs creation and retention, there will be no getting out of the hole.  But with Gordon sitting on a pile of bills totalling $9000 (Am I good at getting information from people, or what?), I understand his lament.  In retrospect, Gordon deserved much more than $9000 for having to listen to me on that tow ride to the dealership.

I have a couple of other incomplete issues that I must bring to your attention.  In one of my posts last week addressing President Obama’s speech and Dick Cheney’s separate speech, both however, on the philosophy and procedures of detainee practices, I said that I would get back to you on the finer points.  Rather than listen to me, I have an article from this week’s “New Yorker” authored by Jeffrey Toobin that summarizes the ideological differences between these two men:

Guess in which camp my heart and mind rests?

The other issue that I want to discuss further is the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor.  I present you with two Op-Ed articles from the “Washington Post” today for your enlightenment.  After all, what value does a weekend have without assorted and meaningful reading?  The first is by Charles Krauthammer, the conservative commentator.  In this piece today, I find him to be the model of reason and tolerance:

But wait.  Right under his article, is another piece, by Eugene Robinson, the progressive if not downright liberal thinker, on this same subject of Sotomayor:

On one hand, compatible with Krauthammer’s stance that the fireman Ricci was treated unfairly in being denied his well-earned promotion, I find my sense of fair play to be terribly offended.  On the other hand, Robinson’s opinion made perfect sense to me.  So study these two articles this weekend and give me some feedback.  Whatever your and my opinion may be, I firmly believe that Sotomayor was a solid pick for Justice of the Supreme Court.  And do not be foolish enough to pride yourself that Sotomayer, once on the bench, will deliver consistently for the liberal side.  She is much more moderate than that.  This was the most conservative choice President Obama could have made and we might be in for some judicial surprises once she is confirmed.  Enlighten yourselves:

So have a good weekend.  Forgive me all the assigned reading, but we must always enrich our minds.  A vegetative state has no worth.  Couch potatoes can not help themselves, much less anyone else.  Get on it.

Bravo For the Bench Choice

May 26, 2009

The GOP’s stupidity is unrelenting.  They believe that President Obama should wait until August to select the next Supreme Court justice.  Sure, morons:  then you guys can recess in September, regardless of whether or not the confirmation process is sufficiently complete, and create a boondoggle in President Obama’s administration.

Fuhgettaboudit!  President Obama  is so much smarter than that, plus he is much too disciplined a planner to ever allow that to happen.  He would never allow such an important appointment to go down until the last minute.  Plus, he is showing respect for the job and the candidate by having the foresight to allow the appointee some time to acclimate to her new surroundings,  the caseloads and the nuances of the job.  The GOP STILL is in denial about the wisdom, persistence and common sense that our president embodies.  They went public yesterday with their argument that an appointment should not be made until August and followed that potentially chaotic decision with the thought that any nominee could do the required case reading while going through the confirmation process.  Stupid idiots.  Have they no regard for preparedness?  Paul Krugman, in his Op-Ed piece (“State of Paralysis”) in the New York Times on May 24, 2oo9, speaks to the literal death of the GOP:

To be blunt: recent events suggest that the Republican Party has been driven mad by lack of power. The few remaining moderates have been defeated, have fled, or are being driven out. What’s left is a party whose national committee has just passed a resolution solemnly declaring that Democrats are “dedicated to restructuring American society along socialist ideals,” and released a video comparing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to Pussy Galore.

Many savvy heads believe that it will take the Republican party at least  ten years to recuperate and make a comeback.  I say that we must be very careful; a knee jerk response to any event could create a backlash against those in power and could very well provide for a revival of the right wing morons.  We need to tread carefully and always be cognizant that the Democratic occupancy of power is a tenuous thing, one that must always be cultivated, treated with respect and carried out with its primary concern being for the benefit of our citizens.  If we become lulled into complacency and, worse yet, hubris, the first thing you know the GOP will swoop in and wrest the reins of power.

President Obama has just named the new candidate for the Supreme Court:  Sonia Sotomayor.  Her familial history mirrors that of President Obama.  Her parents immigrated from Puerto Rico and settled in the South Bronx, right near Yankee Stadium, an area which at that time, was a hotbed for criminals and drug traffickers.  Her father died when she was just a child and her mother worked two jobs and stressed above all else the value of education.  Familial adversity, health setbacks (she has been a diabetic since age eight) and a rough and tumble childhood neighborhood be damned.  Her mother made sure they rose above all the obstacles, that their beginnings would not bar a happier ending.  Sound familiar?

Judge Sotomayor graduated first in her undergraduate class at Princeton and was editor of the “Yale Law Journal” while studying  there for her law degree.  All the Republicans have had to say so far on this appointment is that Judge Sotomayor legislates from the bench.  Needless to say, they would have attached any old negative comment to our President’s bench choice.  Remember: their party is the party of “No” and their agenda is distraction, distraction and distraction from taking actions that would benefit the citizenry, not just the elite.  Only an anti-abortion, independently wealthy, male, white, religious zealot would have filled the bill for the Republicans.  The ultimate irony is that it was Bush the First who put Sotomayor on the bench, the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in 1992,  in the first place.  Kind of funny when you realize it was also Bush the First who nominated Souter to the Supreme Court.  There has been no recognition from the GOP regarding her journey of going from a very poor, hard knocks childhood to the pinnacles of academic excellence and professional success.  Of course there wouldn’t be:  look at George W. and John McCain, the latest Republican leaders.  Both of them were legacy admissions to their Daddys’ colleges, George W. to Yale and McCain to the Naval Academy.  Moreover, both men are damn proud and vocal about their uninspired graduations near the bottom of their classes.  Excellence?  They wouldn’t know what excellence was if it kicked them in the ass.  Ditto for the Republican party.  We already did “stupid” for eight years and it was a disaster across the board.  Stupidity breeds stupidity.

So hats off to President Obama.  He promised us a nominee who would be compassionate and empathic  to the human condition while still having the intellect and common sense to judge legal matters that go to the very heart of our Constitution.  It is a compliment to Justice Souter, a man who believes that the judicial branch must always be a safe haven from prejudice, politics and special interests, i.e. the judiciary must be independent, for it is from that branch of government that all of our freedoms flow.

President Obama did not kick the can down the road, as have all of our previous administrations on issues as the shortcomings and demise of Social Security and Medicare, regarding the subject of human worth and decency.  If Judge Sotomayor’s concern for the next person gets her labelled a “legislator from the bench” (Oh my, how cutting a remark is that?), so be it.  We all knew that, within the the stupid and ignorant framework of the GOP, the opposition would come up with something irrelevant and extraneous, if not downright made up.

Bravo, Mr. President.  Your quest for intelligence, persistence and the greater good continues.

Wedding, “Safe Place”, Photos

May 25, 2009

two of a kind


DSC09018the ring bearer and flower girl

at your service, M’aam

DSC09025my kids:

Chuck & Maribel


my kidlets again

DSC08993DSC08992Serenajo & MaribelDSC08999 proud aunt and uncleGetAttachment.aspxThe 3 Musketeers from JHS 141

IMG_6656Coogs and Esevan (my sister’s boy, the Birthday Kid)IMG_6566

IMG_6583Ms. Linz and Chrisetta, with Petah


Yo Mama and Maribel


Mr. and Mrs. Yo Mama


I will be continuously updating this post with new photos.  Check back often to this specific blog.

Ode to the Bride and Groom: Make a Safe Place

May 25, 2009

It is official; the numbers came out today.  Over 52% of Americans now own high-def televisions.  Plus, the average American household owns no less than 23 consumer electronic devices. Ain’t that wunnerful?  Progress or arrested development?  Enlightenment or hibernation?

This morning in the Washington Post, there is an article by Fred Hiatt.  He speaks of the wisdom of Supreme Court Justice Souter.  Justice Souter gave a talk to a small audience stressing the importance of history, law, democracy and above all, an independent judiciary.  Please take five minutes to read this.  It explains why the judiciary, in permitting us the freedom to be safe, is the bedrock of our nation:


Souter made his case based on the need for a “safe place”, i.e. the judiciary branch of our government, which allows our ideals and hallmarks of freedom to flourish.  This branch of government is the home place, the harbor, the pillar of our constitution,  from which all other democratic grand rights flow.

Although not expanded in the Post article, I find this safe harbor theory especially applicable to all of us, on an individual level.  This weekend, I had the great fortune of attending the magical wedding of my niece and my new nephew.  The bride looked like a dreamy renaissance portrait by Leonardo da Vinci.  This couple, setting out in the world with a new beginning, has the chance to make a difference.  However, not by tuning out the world on their HDTV, or losing themselves in an isolating, electronic world, but to ENGAGE in each other, their children and the world at large.  My favorite moment at the wedding was when the groom made the briefest, yet most direct,  focused and heartfelt toast — to his bride and both sets of parents: gratitude on the most basic level, values stripped of all pretense and a dedication to the here and now.

To ensure that our most important values go forth, each person must start with themselves and their families, especially with the children.  The passing on of universal freedoms must always be attended to or else, they may be whisked away from us.  Their great value must be cherished and taught to each upcoming generation, lest our appreciation for them vanish.  These ideals of a free life provide us with our own “safe place”.  In order for personal productivity to flower and translate into global good, each and every person must have the advantage of their own safe haven.

My hope is that Justice Souter’s replacement on the Court will be as wise and and, if you will, “odd”, even if the labelers choose that inappropriate adjective  to describe Souter’s persistent efforts to maintain rights for every person,  as Souter has been.  If I prayed, my personal desire would be that every child is well-loved, well-educated and well-prepared to pass those values on to the next generation.  Each of us  has the responsibility to find and make a safe place for our families.  Perhaps then peace will follow.

On this Memorial day, wouldn’t it be nice if we woke up and the idea of war WAS just a memory?  Maybe by next Memorial Day we will arise and find that our safe refuge has spread a little more farther out into the world.  The bride and groom, you and me,  have a lot of work yet to do.


If I had any iota of technological capability, I would attach some  photos from the wedding.  Please check back: I hope to get some computer counseling and have those pictures for you soon.

Build It And They Will Come

May 23, 2009

Is America and their lawmakers, in all of their infinite wisodm, so out of touch with reality that they actually believe the GITMO detainees would immediately break out of any prison here in the lower 48 and run a rampant rage to destroy each and every town, city and state?  I just don’t get it.  Here we have the most violent criminals in our own prisons, regular old murderers, rapists, thieves and any combination thereof, but all of a sudden our Congressmen do not want to subject their constituents to the possibility that these detainees will bust out and kill us all.  Whew!

Next thing you know, our tax dollars, which at this point have been spent ten times over what we actually have, will be used to build a state of the art, maximum security prison to house these suspected terror mavens.  It is clear to me that the penal institutions we have now are secure in holding our criminals at bay from society.  They house the most violent , vicious renegades from society.  However, our officials are telling us the opposite, that none of our prisons are safe enough to hold these GITMO detainees.  What is really going on here?  Could it be, Heavens to Betsy, that each politician and small town in America are actually seeking a payoff for housing the detainees?  That could not possibly be the case, could it?  After all, everything is for sale in America, for the right price.  Everyone can be bought if the magic number of dollars is brought to the table.

I suppose our run-of-the-mill criminals that we currently house in the largest penal system in the world are considered gentle lambs when compared to the GITMO detainees.  What a farce!  Homicidal maniacs, violent sex offenders, pedophiles, robbers, and let us not forget our classy white collar criminals, are all kept locked up safe and sound in our massive prison system.  These Congressmen are  once again, playing to their own agenda.  Why haven’t the powers that be become so riled up over our own homegrown criminals? Why the sudden hysteria to these supposed terrorists when we have the most dangerous, the largest population, of  domestic “terrorists” right in our back yards already?

Political capital.  This public and legislative outcry is just another opportunity to milk the system.  Watch closely: those GITMO detainees that have been classified to remain in detention will be moved somewhere in this country.  Please observe the largess, whether it be in the form of money, tax breaks, construction contracts, etc., that will precede this transfer.  The greater the fear mongering and false outrage over these detainees, the higher the payoff will be.

Who said there is no method to this madness?  Get the people good and angry, and then go for the jugular by demanding the largest ransom payment possible.  Build it and they will come — WITH BELLS ON — as long as the price is right.

Isms and Rice

May 22, 2009

I know I am all over the place, scattered, but hey, I am in the Big Apple for the weekend and this city just befuddles me.  I can not believe the noise level, with all the mega air conditioning units booming, plus the sound volume of the traffic, and all the other city noises added to the mix. I am off kilter and thus, so are my posts here.  I will adjust.

Regardless of all the distractions, there are a few articles that you should read over the weekend.  First is today’s comments by David Brooks of the New York Times:

His thoughts are indeed perceptive and I agree with him.  It still amazes me as to why Cheney has been so vocal over the last couple of months about his tenure with Bush.  Last night, while mulling over this dilemma , I came to the conclusion that Cheney was at odds with Bush for the last few years of their administration.  Most important, Cheney wants HIS  policies, those made during the first term, the ones usurping executive power over international and domestic law, to be his legacy.  So indeed he is fighting for his place in the history books, although his battle is one, as usual, of instilling fear and “Watch out, I told you so”.  He is attacking our new President as a defense mechanism “just in case” another terrorist attack will occur.  Plus, and this goes almost without saying (but let me say it anyway), Cheney is the classic narcissist and needs to validate himself by being “right”.  Consider his recent actions as his personal, and continuing, power grab.  It is as if he is hoping for another attack just so he can be proved a sage in his terrorism forecasts.  The big irony here is that he is totally missing the point (which, by the way, President Obama “gets” perfectly) that by being so hostile and incendiary to foreign entities, as well as to cooler heads here in our own country, not to mention international and domestic laws, Cheney is guaranteeing even more retaliatory antagonism and possible terrorist responses.  Terror breeds terror.  Ugly begets ugly.

The second article, by Ed Cohen in yesterday’s New York Times, is a treasure.  His piece is much more global in nature and scope.  It is imperative for people all over the world to have the basic human rights of freedom of speech, religion and individuality.  The only way to ensure that those rights are delivered, is to make absolutely certain that every person has access to shelter, food, health care and education.  If these basic human needs are met, there will no longer be a cause for war.  I said in a much earlier post, probably well over a year ago, that instead of bombs and guns being the driving forces of foreign policy, the world needs food, shelter and medical access.  THAT is the way you win over your friends and enemies; THAT is the way people can coalesce instead of attack each other.  Every human being needs to feel safe and secure, and BE safe and secure.  If we observe that even one person is not being taken care of, that is a reflection on all of us as inhabitants of this same planet.  The abuse, maltreatment and neglect of children are the ultimate disgrace in our attempts for power and prosperity.  Power plays can not exist if we swear off denigrating, either physically, spiritually, economically or politically, other individuals.

The human race needs to rally, to let a hue and a cry go forward, loud and clear.  No fancy-schmancy rhetoric, no political ideology and no personal grab for power and money can justify even one person not having enough to eat, a safe place to sleep and a chance for an education.

Give the people their rice.  The contentment and peace that will follow will amaze us all.

No Doubt

May 22, 2009

I have done a cursory (very) reading of President Obama’a speech at the National Archives today  and I have listened to his message played back on television.  I need to spend more time on it.  Further, I haven’t even gone near Dick Cheney’s “response” yet.

So far, from what I heard of the rerun of our President’s comments, I was floored.  He seems so truthful and reasonable.  His belief in the law is steadfast.  However, Cheney’s insistence that the Bush /Cheney administration abided by the “law” appears to me to be twisted , i.e. that they altered and misinterpreted the law to get their own aims through.  Am I off on this?  Am I the only one who believes what Obama says?  Am I a naive nincompoop, or are my instincts correct that our President is a forthright person who has no intention of duping American citizens, lying to us and jeopardizing our national security just to get a personal agenda of ambition passed?  Are my instincts wrong that our former top leaders did exactly that?

I need a few days, as I am out of town at the wedding of one of my most favorite people.  I will tell you one thing:  it is nice and comforting to have a leader as our President in office who has instilled in me a feeling of trust and honesty and for the first time in a very long period, I do not feel like our country is teetering on insanity in government.

Oh yeah — that is, if you consider it sane to attach an act that allows loaded firearms in our national parks to credit card reform legislation.  But hey, that’s democracy.  It is often messy, muddled and far from perfect.

Seems Andrew Sullivan is in the same boat as I am — on vacation.  His brief article echoes my thoughts.  Sullivan also follows his comments with the full script of President Obama’s speech.  Knock yourself out:

More later.  Have a good weekend, and I hope it is memorable.


May 20, 2009



Use your imagination and childhood television memories to figure out this puzzle.

I am off to my ever-lovin’ niece’s wedding this weekend.  I am so excited — I am about to bust a gut.  See you next week.


Yo Mama

Reconciliation, Not Recalcitrance

May 18, 2009

Once again, President Obama impressed me at the graduation ceremony at Notre Dame University.  Abortion was the issue of the day, and he faced it squarely and directly.  His message was one of reconciliation; each person must be allowed their own beliefs as dictated by our Constitution.  However, there must always be room for reasoned dialogue.  Without open minds, empathy for the other side and a dedication to keeping the channels of discussion open, peace and prosperity will fall by the wayside.

President Obama was consistent in this message.  His adherence to reason, dialogue and persistence are earmarks of his own self and his leadership.  Even though I was not surprised by his comments, I was still (wonderfully) reminded about how he sticks to his guns on content and process.

As impressed as I was by President Obama’s remarks, I was amazed at the introduction by the university’s President, Rev. John Jenkins.  His thoughts were truly remarkable, delivered with much emotional fervor, gratitude and an honest attempt to make his guest welcomed.  Please take the time to read Rev. Jenkins’ words:

President Obama, Fr. Hesburgh, Judge Noonan, Members of the Board of Trustees, Members of the faculty, staff, alumni, friends, parents, and most of all – the Notre Dame Class of 2009:

Several autumns ago, you came to Notre Dame from home….now Notre Dame has become home. And it always will be. For home is not where you live. Home is where you belong. You will always belong – and I pray you will always feel you belong – here at Notre Dame.

You are … ND.

In my four years as President of your University – I have found that even among those who did not go to Notre Dame, even among those who do not share the Catholic faith, there is a special expectation, a special hope, for what Notre Dame can accomplish in the world. They hope that Notre Dame will be one of the great universities in the nation, but they also hope that it will send forth graduates who — grounded in deep moral values — can help solve the world’s toughest problems.

Their hope is in you, the graduates of 2009.

That is a good place for hope to be. I have great confidence in what your talent and energy can accomplish in the world. But I have a special optimism for what you can do inspired by faith.
It is your faith that will focus your talents and help you build the world you long to live in and leave to your children.

The world you enter today is torn by division – and is fixed on its differences.

Differences must be acknowledged, and in some cases cherished. But too often differences lead to pride in self and contempt for others, until two sides – taking opposing views of the same difference — demonize each other. Whether the difference is political, religious, racial, or national — trust falls, anger rises, and cooperation ends … even for the sake of causes all sides care about.

More than any problem in the arts or sciences – engineering or medicine – easing the hateful divisions between human beings is the supreme challenge of this age. If we can solve this problem, we have a chance to come together and solve all the others.

A Catholic university – and its graduates – are specially called, and I believe specially equipped, to help meet this challenge.

As a Catholic university, we are part of the Church – members of the “mystical body of Christ” animated by our faith in the Gospel. Yet we are also – most of us – citizens of the United States – this extraordinary evolving expression of human freedom. We are called to serve each community of which we’re a part, and this call is captured in the motto over the door of the east nave of the Basilica: “God, Country, Notre Dame.”

As we serve the Church, we can persuade believers by appeals to both faith and reason. As we serve our country, we will be motivated by faith, but we cannot appeal only to faith. We must also engage in a dialogue that appeals to reason that all can accept.

When we face differences with fellow citizens, we will be tested: do we keep trying, with love and a generous spirit, to appeal to ethical principles that might be persuasive to others – or do we condemn those who differ with us for not seeing the truth that we see?

The first approach can lead to healing, the second to hostility. We know which approach we are called to as disciples of Christ.

Pope Benedict said last year from the South Lawn of the White House: “I am confident that the American people will find in their religious beliefs a precious source of insight and an inspiration to pursue reasoned, responsible and respectful dialogue in the effort to build a more humane and free society.”

Genuine faith does not inhibit the use of reason; it purifies it of pride and distorting self-interest. As it does so, Pope Benedict has said, “human reason is emboldened to pursue its noble purpose of serving mankind, giving expression to our deepest common aspirations and extending … public debate.”

Tapping the full potential of human reason to seek God and serve humanity is a central mission of the Catholic Church. The natural place for the Church to pursue this mission is at a Catholic university. The University of Notre Dame belongs to an academic tradition of nearly a thousand years – born of the Church’s teaching that human reason, tempered by faith, is a gift of God, a path to religious truth, and a means for seeking the common good in secular life.

It is out of this duty to serve the common good that we seek to foster dialogue with all people of good will, regardless of faith, background or perspective. We will listen to all views, and always bear witness for what we believe. Insofar as we play this role, we can be what Pope John Paul II said a Catholic university is meant to be – “a primary and privileged place for a fruitful dialogue between the Gospel and culture” [Ex corde ecclesiae, 3.34].

Of course, dialogue is never instantaneous; it doesn’t begin and end in an afternoon. It is an ongoing process made possible by many acts of courtesy and gestures of respect, by listening carefully and speaking honestly. Paradoxically, support for these actions often falls as the need for them rises – so they are most controversial precisely when they can be most helpful.

As we all know, a great deal of attention has surrounded President Obama’svisit to Notre Dame. We honor all people of good will who have come to this discussion respectfully and out of deeply held conviction.

Most of the debate has centered on Notre Dame’s decision to invite and honor the President. Less attention has been focused on the President’s decision to accept.

President Obama has come to Notre Dame, though he knows well that we are fully supportive of Church teaching on the sanctity of human life, and we oppose his policies on abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

Others might have avoided this venue for that reason. But President Obama is not someone who stops talking to those who differ with him.

Mr. President: This is a principle we share.

As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wrote in their pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes: “Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.”

If we want to extend courtesy, respect and love – and enter into dialogue – then surely we can start by acknowledging what is honorable in others.

We welcome President Obama to Notre Dame, and we honor him for the qualities and accomplishments the American people admired in him when they elected him. He is a man who grew up without a father, whose family was fed for a time with the help of food stamps — yet who mastered the most rigorous academic challenges, who turned his back on wealth to serve the poor, who sought the Presidency at a young age against long odds, and who – on the threshold of his goal — left the campaign to go to the bedside of his dying grandmother who helped raise him.

He is a leader who has great respect for the role of faith and religious institutions in public life. He has said: “Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square.”

He is the first African American to be elected President, yet his appeal powerfully transcends race. In a country that has been deeply wounded by racial hatred – he has been a healer.
He has set ambitious goals across a sweeping agenda — extending health care coverage to millions who don’t have it, improving education especially for those who most need it, promoting renewable energy for the sake of our economy, our security, and our climate.

He has declared the goal of a world without nuclear weapons and has begun arms reduction talks with the Russians.

He has pledged to accelerate America’s fight against poverty, to reform immigration to make it more humane, and to advance America’s merciful work in fighting disease in the poorest places on earth.

As commander-in-chief and as chief executive, he embraces with confidence both the burdens of leadership and the hopes of his country.

Ladies and Gentlemen: the President of the United States.”

Pretty inspiring and awe-inducing, no?  Rev. Jenkins is on the same page as our President.  Both of these men stress values, such as reason, faith tempered by individual cultures and reconciliation over blind adherence to one specific ideology.  What good is an unbending belief system if it creates strife and war?  No good at all.

To me, abortion is horrific.  My primary repulsion is that too many people use abortion as a means of birth control.  But rest assured, the overwhelming issue is that each and every woman have the right to a private, personal and safe choice.  Surely if men were the ones to incubate human life, this abortion issue would be moot.  Even Sarah Palin, while in all of her glorious stupidity and blind devotion to strict, hard dogma did not even realize what it was she was promoting, said a few months ago about her decision to have her baby, a Down’s Syndrome infant, that after careful thought of having an abortion, she made the “personal” decision to have the baby.  That is precisely what American women have been fighting for all along: the right to make a very heart-wrenching but personal and private decision about their own lives.  Dumb Sarah did not even see the forest from the trees in recognizing her freedom to choose what was best for her.  If it was up to her, she would take away our right to decide for ourselves.  I guess Palin believes the individual right to choose is valid if and only if we choose HER way.

I am not a religious person and often, become angry at the hatred and wars that religion has caused since the beginning of time.  Yesterday’s ceremony at Notre Dame gave me hope though, that reason and reconciliation can win the day.  The secular world and the religious arena need not be at odds with each other.  The platform may have been local, but the message was global.

Both President Obama and Rev. Jenkins set the example of showing us that recalcitrance is NOT the answer to promoting human decency and world peace.  For the benefit of the greater good, tolerance and cooperation must always trump prejudice and genocide.  NO belief is tantamount to the destruction of human life.  That path is self-defeating right from the get-go.  The correct path, the only way that might sustain harmony for humanity, is to keep all the doors open to the diverse ideas and practices that our world embodies.