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Friday, October 31, 2003

If it’s Friday at the whatsallthisthen commentary blog, it must be time to comment on the comments of the President.

Not that that’s a rule, mind you.

But when an entire week has passed and he’s had a rare press conference and uttered so many gems and I haven’t acknowledged a single one of them and it’s Halloween - well, what choice do I have, really?

Once again, the week provided us with yet another glimpse into the Bush administration’s version of reality.

Vicious attacks, on US forces, on Iraqi police stations, on Iraqi civilians and on international organizations - this week it was the Red Cross - increased in number and intensity over the course of a few days.

And the President knows why. And he told us.

Not just that we’re still fighting the ground war in Iraq. Not that Saddam Hussein loyalists have never given up and are doing what they know how to do - terrorizing the population. Not that Americans are now targets for terrorist nuts of all stripes who are happy to commit suicide and take some of us with them. Not that we made it easy for them to do just that by gathering en masse in their back yard. (The President was right when he said that Iraq was now a terror center. We’re the Mountain victims that came to the Mohammed killers).

But according to President Bush, none of those things are why the attacks are increasing - the latest figures reported are 33 attacks a day. It’s because we are doing well over there!! That’s why they’re attacking us. The more "success" we have, the more they attack us. In fact, the attacks are proof that we are succeeding in our mission!!!

After all this time, I’m not sure just what our mission is or was to begin with. What we are hearing more and more is that a decision was made to invade Iraq and that so called intelligence was then trimmed and shaped to create a compelling reason to carry out that decision. Georgie Anne Geyer has a current interesting column on the subject. Worth reading.

But it was pretty obvious in the weeks and months leading up to the invasion. There was nothing that Saddam Hussein or anyone else could have done to stop it. The massive Iraqi report on their weaponry that they produced in response to the UN demands, was dismissed out of hand, as were the reports of Hans Blix and his inspection team. The invasion was inevitable.

So now we’re there and we’re facing huge problems and no matter what the right wing pundits say about news being "filtered" to conform to some imagined liberal agenda, there’s lots of terrible things happening in Iraq just about every day that we simply have to face up to. There’s no way they can be "balanced" by so called good news. If a murder is being reported on the news, the shock and horror of the event isn’t lessened by also reporting that a lot of people didn’t get murdered.

The Bush administration is not unlike all previous administrations in trying to present bad news in the best possible light, but one would at least hope that they wouldn’t do it by spouting absolute nonsense.

At least when the President said that the White House had nothing to do with the "mission accomplished" sign on the USS Abraham Lincoln , and it turns out that the White House actually made it, he could claim lack of knowledge. One can buy the idea that a President doesn’t get filled in on every little detail of what White House aides are doing.

But that’s different than saying silly things and asking us to accept them as reality.

The increased frequency and intensity of attacks in Iraq is proof that we are being successful?

Give me a break!!

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Writing in his blog on October 27,2003, Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune decried the "warm embrace" that is being given to Kobe Bryant by his fans as he awaits trial for rape.

Zorn finds it unseemly. A little more than unseemly.

I tend to agree with him.

On the other hand, Bryant hasn’t been found guilty of rape, and maybe these fans just think he’s been unjustly accused and want to cheer him up.

Unjustly accused or not, I would imagine that Bryant needs all the cheering up he can get. Despite the legal presumption of innocence folderol , he’s going to have a hard time winning out in a "he said- she said" battle.

Whether he’s guilty or not, the rules of the court are such that the odds are stacked against him, indeed against anyone accused of rape where the issue is one person’s word against the other.

Bryant may be able to hire high powered attorneys and his fans might gather outside the courthouse and cheer his entrances and exits, but inside the court, his accuser enjoys certain protections that prevent him from casting doubt on her version of what happened between them.

Let’s be clear on one thing. I’ve commented on rape before when discussing the "no means no" edict. It’s a horrible crime and deserving of the most severe punishment.

But when two people are fooling around consensually and it ends up in an act of coitus as a result of the male being forceful and persuasive, even though the female does actually say no - maybe even no,no,no, the question of whether or not it can be classified as rape is subject to very broad interpretation.

Those of us who can think back to our youth and some of our early sexual encounters that resulted in coitus, can probably recall the mental and physical struggles of being highly aroused and in the throes of sexual desire, while lots of "no we shouldn’t" and other expressions of doubt and resistance were being verbalized, maybe by both parties. But afterwards, there were no accusations of rape, though technically, using the "no means no" formula, there could have been .

But whatever happened between Bryant and his accuser, once the two face off in court, he can be accused of just about anything, but all she can be accused of is lying.

Rape shield laws prevent the defense from revealing anything about the sex life of the accuser. The woman can be a prostitute who took care of six Johns before she had sex with the rape defendant, but the defendant can’t point out that slightly relevant fact to the jury.

O.K. I’m being flippant about a busy prostitute bringing a charge of rape, but the principle applies.

Bryant’s attorneys can’t bring up the accuser’s sexual or mental history. The court doesn’t allow it.

During the preliminary hearing, there was outrage expressed at the suggestion of Bryant’s attorney that his accuser’s alleged vaginal bruising could have come from a sexual encounter with another person. But even though she was able to bring it up at the preliminary hearing and it was widely reported in the press, the question won’t be allowed at trial and I don’t see how that’s fair.

The so called "strong" case that the prosecutor plans to present, uses physical evidence to support the alleged victim’s claim of rape. The defense wanted to ask if vaginal bruising could be caused simply by heavy sexual activity. But they can’t ask the accuser if she had intercourse with someone else earlier in the day, or the day before - or with another man after the alleged rape took place.

They also may not be able to ask if she is or was being treated for depression or if she ever tried to commit suicide or if she ever accused anyone else of raping her, whether it was an accusation filed with the police or just expressed to friends or anyone who would listen. I’m not sure of this but the rape shield laws prevents questioning about an accuser’s past sexual and psychological history.

But I think there’s a larger issue here that most people don’t ever have to deal with, and that’s the rules that govern what goes on in any trial or in any courtroom procedure.

We’ve probably had a glimpse of it while watching some courtroom drama on television. A defense attorney asks what seems to be a logical and revealing question of a witness, upon which the prosecuting attorney objects and the defense attorney triumphantly announces that something the prosecutor brought up "opened the door"to the question being asked.

It seems to me that the rules of what can and cannot be said in court cases do more to obscure the search for truth than to shed light on it.

How often have we read of widely publicized cases where arguments have raged over information that is admissible or inadmissible?

In the current trial of former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski for example, the judge allowed the jury to see parts of the videotape of his multi million dollar birthday party for his second wife, but disallowed the showing of other parts. The parts that the jury couldn’t see were as relevant as the parts they were allowed to see, just a little more ostentatious. But the judge agreed with the defense attorneys that the juicier stuff would prejudice the jury. As if the whole idea of millions of company dollars being spent on such an event wouldn’t!

Every fact that would help decide who is telling the truth in the Kobe Bryant case should be allowed to be considered by the jury, and at the very least, it should include an opportunity to know as much about the accuser as they will surely learn about the accused.

The aim of this or any other trial, should be to arrive at the truth.

And the rules shouldn’t be allowed to get in the way.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Since 1993, the Illinois Secretary of State "license for bribes" scandal has been unfolding in the courts and in Illinois newspapers.

It was a scandal that kept Governor George Ryan from running for reelection . It was under his watch as Secretary of State that the selling of truck driving licenses by license facility employees to less than qualified drivers took place, and a few of the people involved are now serving jail time.

Though there may yet be more criminal indictments - interest in and stories about the scandal are slowly fading. Eventually, they’ll be little more than a distant memory.

But there is another driving scandal that is ongoing - not just in Illinois but across the nation - and it’s one that shows no sign of letting up. If anything, it seems to be getting worse, almost by the day. Yet it attracts almost no interest from the news media or from law enforcement authorities.

I’m speaking of the drivers of the nation who have legitimate driving licenses - that is, they didn’t have to pay or bribe anyone to get them, but who have no business driving as much as a kiddy-car at an amusement park.

You’ve seen them on the road.

Invariably, they are gripping the steering wheel with white knuckled hands, even when waiting at a stop sign or a red light. They give the impression that if they were to let go, the car would careen out of control.

They don’t understand the concept of lanes. They drift from side to side so that trying to pass them becomes an adventure.

They understand neither speed minimums or speed maximums. Whatever their speed selection, its result is to drive other motorists to distraction.

Their perception of how far they should stay behind the car in front of them ranges from too far to way too far.

Waiting to make a left turn at a green traffic light or after stopping at a stop sign, they refuse to move out into the intersection until there is absolutely no traffic approaching from the opposite direction, and of course, when they do make the turn, the light has changed and no one else can turn. And they have absolutely no idea why you’ve been honking at them like crazy.

They’re almost as hopeless making a right turn on red, and invariably, when making anyright turn, they pull to the left first. I guess they reason if that's good enough for a bus or an eighteen wheeler, it must be right for their little cars.

Their vehicles are rarely involved in accidents, but they are the cause of countless accidents.

These are the virus carrying nincompoops that infect perfectly decent and law abiding people with road rage. And they are all ages, not just doddering old gray haired farts.

Rush Limbaugh would probably call all of them liberals. (Sorry, I miss not having Rush to make fun of but I’m sure he’ll be back soon with lots of blog fodder).

How on earth did such people acquire driving licenses and how in the @#5$!!*&% do they hang on to them?

The answer to the second part of that question is simple. Like doctors who get awarded their medical degrees and can practice forever without ever having to renew their license to practice , once a driver gets a license, he or she no longer has to prove that they know how to drive.

Yes, there is the business of having to renew your license every few years, but that is usually a matter of routine, perhaps involving a simple eye test, but little more.

How they acquired their licenses in the first place is a large part of the scandal.

Over in England, they drive on the wrong side of the road and have to deal with crazy things like roundabouts, but they make sure that people can handle these obstacles to safe driving by having a challenging road test for anyone desiring the privilege of acquiring a driver’s license - and even if you are able to pass - and plenty of people fail the first time round - your driving privileges are probationary for two full years!!

On top of that, vehicles have to be inspected annually for road worthiness. If they don’t pass, you’re off the road.

In the U.S. , if you’re able to drive round the block, keep to the posted speed limit, keep you hands on the wheel at ten and two o’clock, signal when you want to change lanes or turn a corner, check your rear view mirrors and over your right shoulder appropriately, and brake without sending the examiner through the windshield, your license is pretty much assured.

In some areas, tests are conducted in a closed-in testing facility, bearing as much likeness to city and highway driving as sand lot football scrimmage is to the super bowl.

And unless you commit multiple, serious driving offenses, your license is safe and you can keep driving and driving drivers who know how to drive nuts.

But there is a way to cure the scandal.

Pass a nationwide law allowing police to issue a ticket to drivers committing any of the offenses listed above, requiring them to take a rigid road test within 30 days. Heavy city driving. Highway driving. The whole ball of wax.

If they pass, they keep their license. If they fail, they’re off the road.

Of course instant execution would be a more efficient way of getting them off the road, but that might be hard to get past the liberals in congress.

I’m not even sure Rush would approve.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

You have to wonder if there will ever be a solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that both sides can accept and live with in peace.

So many plans have surfaced and held out hope, only to fall by the wayside in one eruption of violence after another.

The latest victim of this continuing insanity is the so called road map. If anyone thinks the goals it sets out are still achievable, they too have been stricken with the same madness.

We’re back to square one.

Yet well meaning people continue to try from both sides, even though they don’t have the endorsement of their respective leadership.

The so called Geneva Peace Plan, being promoted by Israeli and Palestinian politicians has already been rejected by Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat greeted it with his usual noncommittal comments about his desire for peace.

Another current plan, conceived by Ami Ayalon, former chief of the Israeli Navy and General Security Service (Shin Bet), and Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, president of Al Quds University in Jerusalem, who has held key positions in Palestinian politics, is The Peoples’ Voice.

They’re gathering petition signatures and taking on members and planning rallies and I wish them luck, but based on past history, their reasonably good ideas will likely go nowhere.

Still, people with hope keep trying.

I became so frustrated with the whole situation that, as readers of this blog know, I sat down on October 10 and proposed my own solution to the conflict that I think makes sense. It was somewhat tongue in cheek but if the two sides could adopt it or something very close to it as broad general principles on which a final settlement could be based, and sign an interim peace agreement recognizing the sovereignty of two states, real peace would be in their grasp.

I sent the idea around to a few sites - a couple of newspapers, some organizations, including the Electronic Intifada - and to The Peoples’ Voice, who sent me the following response.

Dear Jeff

I would like to thank you for your interest in the "Peoples' Voice" and for your interesting analysis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I agree on almost all of your points but I do think you are disregarding the hundred or so years of animosity between the two sides. Another thing is that your analysis lacks the option of territorial swapping; meaning Israel would probably annex a few neighborhoods in Jerusalem, the Ariel corridor and Etsion settlements, with the Palestinian expectation of reimbursements of lands in return.


Tal Mordoch
The Peoples’ Voice

The Peoples’ Voice ideas come the closest to what I proposed if sane minds could prevail, even though they want to throw in complications of land swaps and dismantling settlements and moving people around.

At least they didn’t echo the Sharon line that nothing can happen until the Palestinians "dismantle" the terrorist groups. That’s asking for a Palestinian civil war and the chances of that happening are slim and none.

So do any of these plans stand a snowball in hell’s chance of succeeding?

Not if you listen to the hawks on the Israeli side and the crazies among the Palestinians.

But the Israeli hawks and the Palestinian crazies want the impossible and the impossible cannot happen.

Israel isn’t going to dissolve its sovereignty. The Palestinians aren’t going to leave and concede the west bank and Gaza to a greater Israel. Military control by one people over another cannot go on forever. There will never be a one state solution.

So the only thing left is a peace plan that pulls in all the factions.

We have to keep trying.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Last Friday I wrote about rounding out the "duo of the inevitable" of death and taxes and I picked personal injury lawyers who miraculously appear on the heels of any tragedy resulting in death or injury.

I could have picked a couple of other candidates.

Jesse Jackson, showing up for the cameras after such a tragedy - or after any issue of controversy that brings out the television cameras. (And he was indeed on camera in Chicago after the fire I wrote about on Friday).

And, week end editorials, op-eds and Sunday morning news shows providing fodder for this or any other commentary blog. And this past week end was no exception.

Reading all of the words of wisdom in my Sunday newspaper and listening to the learned cabinet members, senators, congressmen and various experts on the talk shows, sometimes makes me feel a little out of my depth writing commentary about the things they comment on.

But then I have to remind myself that even if they have access to knowledge that I couldn’t possibly have, their commentaries are just opinions, just as mine are, and as far as I can tell, mine are just as valid.

Colin Powell was on meet the press. The problems of Iraq were discussed. The al-Rashid hotel where Paul Wolfowitz was staying had just been attacked with rockets. Wolfowitz escaped unharmed, though an American soldier wasn’t that lucky.

American officials are saying that Wolfowitz wasn’t the target - that such an attack would have taken two months to prepare. If that’s the case, and not a whisper slipped out about it, then our intelligence in Iraq has to be close to worthless.

I would tend to believe that whoever was behind the attack was ready to launch it at any time a juicy target came into view - and Wolfowitz would certainly fit that description.

But Powell wanted to talk about how Wolfowitz had been greeted as a hero, a liberator, in the three days he had been in the country.

And then he offered the inevitable piece of claptrap that is supposed to convince the American people of the nobility of our cause and the wonderful progress we are making. A bridge somewhere had been opened. That was the good news from Iraq. That was the news that President Bush says we need to hear instead of our service people getting killed and maimed.

Don’t they realize that that’s not "good news" to ordinary Americans who are agonizing over the dangers facing our troops and of the incredible amount of taxpayer dollars that will be poured into Iraq for years to come?

Is it possible that these people just don’t get it or do they think we are so malleable that we can be coerced into believing that things are really going well and that we are achieving our mission in Iraq with this kind of spin ?

Our noble mission wasn’t to go to Iraq and open bridges or repair electric generators or set up soccer fields or in any way to become involved in nation building.

We were told that it was to relieve Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction that were threatening the peace of the world. And of course to overthrow his regime, so that good Iraqis could take over and run the country and no longer threaten the peace of the world.

We didn’t find any weapons of mass destruction and we haven’t found Hussein and our service personnel are being killed every day. And the war that was "over" - or at least the major fighting that was "over" last May, is reaching new levels of intensity every day.

And we’re supposed to take heart from "good" news??

The week-end BBC news interviewed someone from a Washington think tank about the al-Rashid attack. This fellow - I didn’t catch his name - said he didn’t know who was behind the attack. No one knew. But he knew why the attack took place and proceeded to explain why.

I would imagine he’s in great demand by the homicide divisions of police forces around the country. After all, if you know why a murder was committed, you’re half way home to discovering who did the dastardly deed.

The week-end papers also brought an op-ed piece by a retired army Colonel, questioning the Stars and Stripes report of low morale among the troops in Iraq.

In a classic case of shooting the messenger, the former Colonel questioned the paper’s knowledge of soldiers and soldiering, the caliber of their reporters and their survey methodology.

He didn’t list any degrees in journalism or experience in polling that he possessed, but he concluded that Stars and Stripes was wrong and that morale was generally high.

And he cited as the best possible proof of that conclusion, the statement of Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, the commander on the ground in Iraq, that troop morale was not low.

And he said that he had known the General for 30 years and that the General would never lie.

I don’t know what polling methods General Sanchez used to reach his conclusions. Maybe he just asked the officers that report to him and they told him everything was A.O.K. Maybe he went round from unit to unit and asked individual soldiers if their morale was high or low.

Or maybe he used the method that was used in an army prison camp where, as a very young man, I was once confined for 28 days for being absent without leave. (That length of sentence in the military was known in those days as "a shit, shave and a haircut." Most of my fellow inmates were there for a much longer time).

About once a month, the entire prison population was made to assemble on a huge barracks square to be inspected by a visiting officer. During this gathering, a military police staff sergeant would step forward, and bellow, in a voice that would wake at least the recentlydead… "ANY COMPLAINTS."

You could imagine how many people stepped forward.

And you can imagine how a soldier in the field might respond to a reporter who has no power to affect his immediate future one way or another, and a senior officer who holds sway over every aspect of his life.

But the Colonel writing this op-ed piece said that Stars and Stripes asked the wrong people the wrong questions at the wrong time and so they were wrong, wrong, wrong in their conclusions.

Now how can you argue with that kind of logic?

Friday, October 24, 2003

Most people are familiar with the duo of the inevitable - death and taxes. But what would be the most appropriate choice to create a trio of the inevitable?

I suppose it would depend a great deal on where people live and their life experiences, but there probably are some universal choices on which people from the far corners of the earth would agree.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict looks like a good choice. It hasn’t been around for that long, but it certainly looks like it has staying power.

Searching around the web, I found a variety of suggestions, mostly plebeian. The inevitable need for reading glasses, for example.

Then there are the religious inevitabilties beyond death, and that would mean judgement day.

Being in the wrong place at the wrong time is one most people could relate to.

Go to google and type in "as inevitable as death and taxes" and you’ll get over 500 hits.

I didn’t find my personal choice there, but maybe google will add it in the future and it will rise to its deserved position of the number one inevitability to round out death and taxes.

And my choice would be lawsuits, filed within days - on occasion as soon as within 24 hours - of any major incident resulting in injury or loss of life.

One week ago today, there was a fire in a Cook County Administration building in downtown Chicago. Six people lost their lives and many others were injured.

I would assume that the spouses, parents, children and friends of the dead and injured, are still reeling from the shock of their losses and in deep mourning on this day, seven days after the event.

But through their grief, they are most likely also angry. It shouldn’t have happened. The building was a modern high rise. It didn’t burn down. The fire was confined to a relatively small area. But apparently there was confusion about whether or not the building should have been evacuated, and stairwell doors were locked, trapping some people who were trying to leave by way of the stairs.

There were lots of questions about how it happened and whether or not the building should have been safer and whether or not the rescue responses were all they should have been. Investigative committees have already been appointed. The governor of the state has appointed his own investigator. There probably was fault.

But before any members of official bodies of inquiry were announced, before the reality of what had happened had sunk in, before survivors had begun to come to grips with the deaths of their loved ones, the march of the lawyers had begun.

I’m not sure just how swiftly the first lawsuit was filed, but it was within a day or two, and as inevitable as death and taxes, we had the spectacle of a well known personal injury lawyer pontificating about "preserving the evidence" and speculating about what went wrong and who was to blame.

That we are the most litigious society on earth is no excuse for the disgusting spectacle of the personal injury lawyers who appear miraculously on these occasions, almost before bodies are cold, posturing in front of television cameras, spouting one shibboleth after another like ravenous birds of prey circling a find of carrion.

Inevitably, they are disgustingly rich attorneys, having made their millions from the tragedies of others at 30 to 40% contingency fees from lawsuits filed against deep pocket defendants.

And no matter what they say about righting wrongs and assuring that certain tragedies won’t recur in the future and pressuring corporations to change their ways for the good of society at large, their motivation is one thing and one thing only. Money.

It’s a revolting spectacle.

One wonders how these lawyers hook up with grieving survivors so quickly.

If you have just lost your wife or husband or son or daughter or father or mother, would you start thinking about how much money you could collect within a day or two of your loss? Would you be on the phone within hours of the tragedy, trying to find out who was the best personal injury lawyer around and how you get in touch with him?

Yes, perhaps you would eventually conclude that someone should be made to answer for what happened and perhaps the only way they could be made to answer would be with monetary compensation.

But would you have a lawsuit in the works in the first 24 to 48 hours?

Most likely, left to your own devices, you wouldn’t, but the legal barracudas would - and they would convince you that you and they need to act immediately. If you want to collect some money, you’d better act quickly. You can pick up on your grieving later.

It’s pathetic.

Unfortunately, we do need personal injury lawyers. Where there is obvious fault, there isn’t any reliable system in place that would allow victims with injuries and survivors of injured or deceased victims to be properly compensated monetarily.

But after watching the swarm of P.I. lawyers that are drawn to these tragedies almost as they happen, like bees to honey or vultures to rotting corpses, I sure wish there was.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

October 23, 2003

I don’t know about you, but I miss the days of Baghdad Bob and his fabulous announcements about the progress of the Iraqi war. Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf , Saddam Hussein’s Minister of Information, was arrested back in June, by - as one web site put it at the time - "non-existent U.S. Forces."

I fully expected that he would show up on some kind of nutty American television show. Maybe something like "The Iraqi Millionaire." Thirteen weeks of being pursued by a group of veiled women, only to have them learn in the final episode that he’s really broke and facing 20 years in the hoosegow, upon which they all remove their veils to reveal that they’re really a bunch of ugly old men.

But it hasn’t happened. There hasn’t been any news about BB since they stopped him at a Baghdad Roadblock and squirreled him away to parts unknown.

Of course he did spawn a host of web sites. Too many to list here, but just go to google, type in Baghdad Bob and enjoy a few laughs.

I’m not sure that we can greet BB’s temporary heir apparent with the same sense of amusement, even though his pronouncements are just as nonsensical. The trouble is, they are also insidious,

Malaysia’s outgoing Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad - that is, he’s about to leave, not that he has an outgoing personality - is the addle brain who announced to the world recently that it is ruled by Jews. Not directly. He didn’t make that claim. No, they do it by proxy, They get other people to fight and die for them.

He said all of this at the recent meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit, and the audience, including such notables as Syria’s Bashar Assad, Morocco's King Mohammed VI, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf , Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Qatar's Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Russian President Vladimir Putin, gave him a standing ovation.

I don’t know if everyone in the audience stood and applauded or if any of them laughed, but there weren’t any news reports of people walking out of the conference in disgust. They seemed to be comfortable with the ideas MM was espousing.

In that sense, they had, in that moment, a kinship with the world’s anti-Semites, who of course do not need anyone to tell them about the power and the evil of the Jews.

Still, I’m sure the anti-Semites were happy with his statement, and would be even happier if they could back it up by pointing to some irrefutable proof of this world wide domination by proxy. I imagine they were delirious when the subject of the Israeli Security Fence came up for discussion and vote at the U.N General Assembly.

Here you would see the power of the Jews - and sure enough, the outcome was that Israel would continue to build the fence. Of course, that was Israel’s decision and that was after the General Assembly had voted to condemn the barrier and demanded that construction be halted. An almost unanimous vote. Only three nations voted with Israel.

So how did that jibe with the Jews running the world by proxy and getting people to fight and die for them idea?

To the uninformed, it would seem that the U.N. vote and many others like it in the past, was pretty strong proof that far from Jews ruling the world by proxy, most of the world is antagonistic towards Jews.

But to the informed yahoos of the world, the answer is right there, staring us in the face.

Apart from the known fact that there never was a holocaust, and even if there was, the Jews paid poor Christians to go and get gassed in their place, a careful analysis of that U.N. vote on the Israeli fence, reveals the depth of slyness of the world Jew leaders.

They don’t want what they’re doing to be too obvious, so they work their proxy magic through a limited number of the world’s nations.

This vote revealed it all and now the world knows. It is being ruled by the Jews of the United States - no big surprise here - but the real proxies through which the Jew masters wield their power, are Micronesia and the Marshall Islands!!!

Surprised? I’ll bet you are. That’s how sneaky those Jews are. They pick nations that almost no one knows anything about and maybe haven’t even heard of, to rule our lives and recruit us to fight and die on their behalf.

Isn’t this an informative blog?

Mahathir Mohamad retires at the end of this month.

October 31.


Appropriate, wouldn’t you say??

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

The word most often used when discussing the state of health care in this country is "crisis."

I think it’s the wrong word and it may be one of the reasons why we don’t come even close to chipping away at the problems that make up the "crisis."

I think the more appropriate word is scandal.

That this, the richest nation in the industrial world, does not have a plan in place that affords health care to all of its citizens that is not governed by the desire for profit or a patient’s ability to pay, is scandalous.

But that’s a subject for another day. We don’t have one and we have to deal with what we do have.

Today, as we approach the final two months of the year, millions of American are being faced with the annual increase in the cost of their health care.

Insurance premiums have been raised - as usual. For many working people who may have been lucky enough to get a minimal salary increase during the year, the increase in their share of health insurance more than wipes it out - it leaves them with less take home pay!!

Drug costs continue to soar and those who have insurance that includes drugs, find themselves paying an ever higher co-payment.

It all just happens year after year, without anyone seriously asking why???

We hear vague discussions of medical equipment costing more and malpractice insurance costing the doctor more and the need for pharmaceutical to spend millions on research, but there are never explanations of precisely how and why this is all happening.

As with the cost of prescription drugs for example.

Have all of the world’s pharmaceutical companies been compelled to invest billions and billions of dollars more than their normal annual expenditures for research for the past three or four years?

If not, what explanation is there that makes sense for the price increases for so many drugs that have taken place every year for the past few years - some of them doubling and tripling over a short period of time?

Since there’s no National Health Plan and no Federal price controls in place , there is no official body to question or slow down these unconscionable increases in costs. The pharmaceutical companies can charge what they like and they do!!

Members of congress can posture and rant and rave all they like, but they exercise no control over the pharmaceutical industry, and the possibility of enacting price controls in the foreseeable future is zero and minus zero. And meanwhile, pharmaceutical money continues to pour into the fund raising coffers of our elected officials.

It is estimated that more than 30% in the overall increase in healthcare costs over the past few years can be attributed to the increases in drug prices.

It is an industry run amok with greed, and the only way to slow it down is not available to the consumers that use its products. We can’t take our business elsewhere because there’s no "elsewhere" to go. To use a common colloquialism, they have us by the short hairs.

Witness the full court press the pharmaceutical industry used to attack the proposal to allow drugs to be imported from Canada, where they are still highly priced, but with price controls in effect, a lot less than in the United States.

Witness the extreme lengths to which pharmaceutical companies go to prevent cheaper generic drugs from coming to the market place, coming up with gimmick after gimmick to extend their patents.

There are people battling these drug companies by trying to spread information, and some states are trying to do things to ease the burden. Take a look at what the state of Maine does- and while you’re there, scroll down to some figures showing the profits these companies rake in and look at the difference between what they spend on research and development and what they spend on promoting their products.

"Ask your doctor if drug XYZQ is right for you." If it doesn’t make your blood boil, you’re anemic.

And for up to date information on drugs and other health care matters, the Families USA site is worth looking at from time to time.

Coincidentally. before I sat down to write this piece, I caught the ABC news with Peter Jennings, and he had a segment on drug costs. As an illustration of how cockeyed they are in the U.S. compared to the rest of the world, he highlighted the case of Campath, a new drug for the treatment of B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The cost for a prescribed amount of this drug in the U.S. is $2400 and in Italy $500!! In Canada, the price is a median of prices in all countries where it is sold and the Canadians arrived at $663.

What can we do about this ridiculous situation?

It isn’t enough for our elected officials or major employers to bemoan the skyrocketing drug costs in this country, and it is downright criminal to suggest that the "market place" should govern drug prices. I’ll buy that argument the day that the first pharmaceutical company starts a price war with one of its drugs that’s basically the same as one manufactured by a rival company. It isn’t going to happen.

I see only two ways - maybe three, that these crazy drug prices can be reined in. One is the Canadian model of price controls. That’s the remedy that has a zero to minus zero chance of being enacted. (Still, I got a charge out of the Canadian official who was part of the Jennings report this evening. He said there was no way Canada was going to believe that there was the kind of money spent on research and development that could justify what an American Pharmaceutical company would like to charge, so they decide what a reasonable price should be, and that’s what Canadians pay).

The second is to enact a National Health Insurance plan which would include prescription drug benefits and limit the retail price of all drugs - a sort of back door price control system

The third is one that I never thought I would suggest, even in jest. Most of the time, I feel about lawyers that way Shakespeare spoke of them in King Henry the Sixth, Part Two. But maybe the way to deal a body blow to the wealthy, gouging drug manufacturers, is to file a class action lawsuit against all of them, alleging excess greed to the detriment of the health of the nation.

Heck, if we can use the courts to decide something as momentous as choosing the president of the United States, putting a curb on rising drug prices should be a walk in the park for the judicial branch of government.

I’ll talk more about other aspects of health care costs that are almost as ridiculous on another occasion.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I always like to know if it’s going to rain tomorrow. Or if the temperature is going to go up or down twenty degrees.

I’m no fashion plate, but with that kind of advance information, I can at least choose the most appropriate clothing for the day.

But I can do that without knowing where the rain is coming from, or where it’s going next, or why the temperature will be changing tomorrow.

I’m old enough to remember pre-television days, or at least a time when very few people had television sets.

In those days, we’d get our weather forecasts from the newspapers or from the radio, and if it was from the radio, it would be short and to the point. Of course, the more intrepid among us wouldn’t rely on either. The Farmer’s Almanac and a wet finger up to the wind, told them all they needed to know.

The advent of television has changed all of that. Weather reporting isn’t just weather reporting anymore. It’s big business. On cable, we have all weather channels and on the Internet, all weather sites.

But most of us get our weather while watching local television news, and no local television news department in a major or even a secondary market, is complete without at least one full time "weatherman" (or lady). - and the major markets usually have several. And no local television newscast is considered well rounded unless there is a weather segment of considerable length.

It isn’t enough to tell us what the local weather is, what it will be tomorrow and the next couple of days. That could be done in a matter of seconds!!!

An example:

"It was a nice day today, The temperature got up to 80 and there was little humidity. About 60 for a low tonight and then around 80 again tomorrow and the next day. It’ll cool off a little on Wednesday and there may be some morning rain but it shouldn’t be any more than a shower or two and it should be moving out by late morning."

But if you did it that way, what would you do with all those wonderful computerized images that you can project, with wavy lines and water droplets and miniature suns and little moving clouds and temperature numbers and rainfall numbers and dew point readings and barometer readings and records for this date and normal everything for this date and on and on into the night?

It’s not unlike the many companies and government offices that have installed branches of voice mail hell. The technology is here so we’re damned well gonna use it.

But it goes far beyond that. Now the people who tell us about the weather, aided by all of this gadgetry, have become media stars and are promoted that way to the public.

Chicago’s WGN television station, which can be seen on cable from coast to coast, has one of the biggest stars in Tom Skilling. (For a while there, his brother, former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling, was being seen on the tube almost as often as Tom - but that’s another story for another time).

Tom has been with WGN for some 25 years and in addition to his television gig, he has a full page in the Chicago Tribune every week day, filled with weather news and information from around the world.

I don’t know what kind of a contract he’s working on at the moment, but I recall that a few years ago, when his contract was up for renewal, there was almost visceral panic emanating from the executive offices of WGN over the possibility that he would, gasp - move to another station!! There were indeed other stations that were trying to lure him away. I’m not sure what they were offering. Maybe his own weather show. Not part of the news. ALL weather!!!

If he was being enticed by that kind of offer, it must have been hard to resist, because if you’ve seen Skilling perform, you know that he lives, breathes and sometimes even looks like the weather.

Tom doesn’t just tell the audience what the weather is and what it will be tomorrow and the next day. He issues professorial meteorological lectures on each weathercast, using all of the gimmickry available to him. And he does it with a level of enthusiasm that approaches orgastic fervor. One gets the impression that to Tom, the rest of the newscast is little more than a necessary intrusion.

World war three - or four? How could that be more important than the WEATHER???

This is not meant to be a criticism of Tom Skilling. He simply does what WGN allows him to do, and that is to rattle on and on and on, and the viewing public has somehow been persuaded over the years to accept the idea that the weather forecast has to be an elaborate production of interminable length, overflowing with technical information, 90% of which contributes nothing towards the knowledge that they wish to obtain. Or at least that I wish to obtain.

What’s the weather going to be tomorrow Tom? What should I wear?

Monday, October 20, 2003

I’m not sure how well informed I would be without the week-end news and information programs on television.

This week end, I am particularly indebted to NBC for answering two burning questions.

The first - if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a noise??

That surely was the underlying question to which NBC’s early morning week-end offering provided an answer with it’s reporting of a major news story about a school bus that veered off the road and went into a ditch.

Or something like that. On a road somewhere. Frankly, I don’t remember where or exactly where the bus ended up. I was doing Sunday morning word puzzles and wasn’t paying close attention.

But I got the gist of it. A bunch of kids on board, but no one was hurt. A minor accident.

But NBC was reporting it as a major news event, interviewing a local gendarme and showing pictures.

Ah… that was the story. Pictures. There was a video camera on the bus, pointed toward the rear. At all the kids. And as the bus swerved, to avoid an oncoming vehicle according to the bus driver, the camera recorded the kids being tossed from side to side and acting scared.

It didn’t matter if the tree fell or not, or if anyone heard it.

There was video and that made it not just real, but a news story!!!

I didn’t time the piece. It may have run as long as ten minutes. A story about nothing. But there were pictures.

So maybe the real question that NBC asked and answered this week end was - if anything happens anywhere and there’s no camera to record it, did it really happen? Or to put it another way - if anything happens anywhere and there is a camera to record it - it didn’t just happen, it can qualify as news!!!

Oh yes. I looked through newspapers over the week-end and today to fill in the details - where it happened, what time Johnny Cochran filed the law suit etc., but not a peep. Not one single word. Just shows you, if you don’t watch television, you just don’t get all the news.

The second question was answered by none other than Bill Safire, appearing on Meet The Press.

President Bush has been saying that good news out of or about Iraq is being "filtered" by the news media. I wasn’t totally sure what that meant until this past Sunday.

Safire and other panelists on Meet The Press were discussing the Iraq situation and the survey by Stars and Stripes that showed a high percentage of low morale among our forces in Iraq. Safire had some analysis of that report but quickly segued to some really good news that he said no one seemed to want to talk about, and that was the unanimous adoption of a US sponsored resolution dealing with the future of Iraq. Safire called it a huge victory. A triumph!!

The fact that most observers, including Safire’s fellow panelists, look upon that resolution as more symbolic than substantive, with no other countries racing to provide troops or money, was, to him, an example of news filtering!!.

In other words, news filtering doesn’t refer to the non reporting of news, but to how it’s reported. Cheerfully, triumphantly, sadly, disagreeably. What the Bush administration and Mr. Safire seem to be saying is that these emotions are news qualifiers, and if what they consider to be a wrong qualifier is used, that’s filtering.

Now we know.

Take note Mr. Jennings and watch those raised eyebrows.

Friday, October 17, 2003

As anyone who has read this blog knows, I have nothing but contempt for the hate groups that use our guarantees of protection of free speech to spread their disgusting garbage. The Ku Klux Klan. The American Nazi Party. And others of that ilk.

If you haven’t already done so, read my comments of May 29, 2003. It will tell you where I stand.

Nonetheless, I am troubled at the way the government has gone after Matt Hale, leader of the anti-Semitic, anti-Black, World Church of the Creator, because I see it as part of a disturbing pattern.

Right now he is sitting in jail, waiting trial on charges that he solicited the murder of a U.S. District Judge. From what I’ve read of the case, his indictment was more or less based on a recorded telephone conversation that took place between Hale and one of his followers who alluded to the possibility of harming the judge. But on that recording, Hale said he could have nothing to do with such a plan, hardly evidence of him soliciting murder.

Now, the government is trying a new tactic.

One of Hale’s followers went on a murderous rampage in 1999, killing two people and injuring nine others in Illinois and Indiana before taking his own life. Because he had a close relationship with the killer, the government now wants to allege that Hale had foreknowledge of that rampage and they want to include that allegation as part of his trial for solicitation of murder.

As despicable as this guy is, I have to agree with his attorney who called the filing of the allegation "ridiculous" and the government’s murder solicitation case "incredibly weak."

They just want to put this guy away and I’m one hundred percent in favor of that, but it seems that they want to do it without evidence of a crime being committed.

That bothers me, but I’m even more bothered when I couple what the Federal authorities are doing in the Hale case, with cases like that of Zaccarias Moussaoui and Jonathan Pollard and who knows how many others.

Moussaoui is the lone person charged in connection with the 9/11 attack,. He says three al-Qaida prisoners we are holding can prove he had nothing to do with it and he wants to call them as witnesses. The government has refused to produce them and because of this, the judge in the case has ruled that prosecutors cannot seek the death penalty and they cannot argue that the defendant was involved in, or had knowledge of, planning the attacks. Those rulings have been stayed while the government appeals. But even if Moussaoui wins in the federal courts, the government has the option of convicting him in a military court. Meanwhile, he sits in jail.

Jonathan Pollard is in jail for life after pleading guilty to espionage. However, as I noted here on September 4, 2003, the life sentence was not because of his guilty plea but because of a written report detailing allegations of severe damage done to US security that was given to the judge by Casper Weinberger at the time of his sentencing. Pollard now wants access to the report so that he can perhaps defend himself against the allegations it contains, and maybe get out of jail before he dies there. The Government is refusing to turn it over, citing national security. The case is pending. Meanwhile, he sits in jail.

The disturbing pattern that I see here is this.

If the government wants to put you in jail and keep you there, they can do it whether there is evidence of a crime or not. And with the advent of the Patriot Act, they don’t even have to cite probable cause.

Federal prosecutors can indict anyone with impunity, simply by alleging that a crime has been committed, and at trial, or awaiting trial, the government may be able to prevent you from presenting evidence of your innocence, citing "national security" or some other excuse.

Sure, it isn’t likely that this sort of thing will happen to the average citizen, but as long as it can happen and is happening to anyone, we are not quite the free country we think we are.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

I can imagine how many bloggers are writing about the outcome of the National League championship this morning.

Probably thousands. Maybe hundreds of thousands.

Cubs fans. Marlins fans. Gloating White Sox fans. Legend fans. Goat fans. Curse fans. Just baseball fans.

I’m not really a fan, so it’s hard for me to add to the outpouring that I’m sure is underway. Still, I am a Chicago area resident and I am saddened by the loss, so I feel the need to say something!

I took a look at my post of April 4, 2003 (New Baseball Rules), to see if my idea of accumulating "reserve runs" that could be applied to a team’s score under certain circumstances would have helped, but it didn’t work out. The Cubs would still have lost.

I counted up the cumulative seven game score, hoping to find solace there. But the Marlins won, 43 to 42.

So there’s nothing left but to look on the bright side of life.

Here’s a "top ten" list that was sent to me some time ago. I can’t think of a more appropriate time to share it with anyone in baseball mourning today…….


10th - "Scattered @#$%ing showers, my ass!" (Noah, 4314 BC)

9th - "How the @#$% did you work that out?" (Pythagoras, 126 BC)

8th -"You want WHAT on the @#$%ing ceiling?" (Michelangelo, 1566)

7th - "Where did all those @#$%ing Indians come from?" (Custer, 1877)

6th - "It does so @#$%ing look like her!" (Picasso, 1926)

5th - "Where the @#$% are we?" (Amelia Earhart, 1937)

4th - "Any @#$%ing idiot could understand that."(Einstein, 1938)

3rd - "What the @#$% was that?" (Mayor Of Hiroshima, 1945)

2nd - "I need this parade like I need a @#$%ing hole in the head."
(JFK, 1963 )

And, until yesterday, the Number 1 most appropriate time for using the "F" word...

"Aw c'mon. Who the @#$% is going to find out?" (Bill Clinton, 1997)

And if that doesn’t bring a smile to your face, try to dream up an all time, Jewish All Star baseball team. If you strike out the answer is right here.

We’ll get ‘em next year.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

The other night, conservative or right wing talk radio was one of the topics on the PBS News Hour and one of the questions raised was why there is so much of it and why so many people listen.

One of the talk radio hosts suggested that it was because it provided a balance to the "main stream liberal media" that wasn’t available anywhere else, and that was why people tuned in.

There was also discussion of the absence of "liberal" talk radio and the fact that several efforts at syndicating a left leaning radio talk show had failed.

Still, there are plans afoot to launch a "Liberal Radio Network" to counteract the noise from the right.

I predict it will fail.

It will fail because although a majority of Americans are reasonably sane and reasonably fair minded, not enough of them are likely to want to listen to hour after hour of discussion daily that focuses on a liberal perspective of events.

Not that it wouldn’t be interesting or educational or amusing. But it would lack the ingredients that have catapulted right wing radio into the stratosphere.

Rabidity. Unreasonableness. Unrelenting, vicious, blind partisanship. And freely expressed contempt and loathing for those with opposing political or philosophical views.

And it would lack the audience to whom these essential ingredients appeal. Those who believe that millions of their fellow citizens are little more than blood sucking traitors to the true America and the true American dream. And never get tired of someone telling them that, day after day.

I don’t think too many people to the left of center politically, would listen for very long to a program spewing nothing but hatred of people to the right of center, so that tactic would never work for a "liberal radio network." And the kind of program they might listen to wouldn’t be the kind that attracts the audience numbers that Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity enjoy.

There are doubtless reasonable people who listen to the likes of Rush Limbaugh and agree with the general thrust of what he says because they are traditional conservatives, but don’t necessarily go along with much of the garbage he spews.

But the Limbaugh audience is also made up of people who would have been comfortable living in Germany of the nineteen thirties, sitting around their radios and nodding in agreement as the voice of Joseph Goebbels tells them that all of their troubles were caused by the Jews.

These are people equally comfortable with the notion proposed by their radio idol, that all that is wrong in this country can also be placed squarely at the doorstep of a single group of people. Those traitors to all that is sacred and American - the liberals!!!

Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune, had a few critical things to say about Rush Limbaugh in his blog the other day and it evoked a response from a reader which I am sure he won’t mind me reproducing below.

You and your defense of liberals, liberal ideology, and the liberal way of life deserves to get your mother and sister raped by a three time loser who was out on a "technicality," an AIDS infested needle in your arm, and your dog--if a dog would ever lower itself to be seen in your company--run over thrice by a repeat drunk driver who society didn't castrate, strangle, and cook in the gas chamber when it had the chance because some liberal do-gooders got him off. This pathetic society and all its ills are the creation of YOU and YOUR inferior kind. Go to hell.

I’m not saying that all of Rush Limbaugh’s listeners think like this, but if enough them do, it isn’t hard to understand how he has been able to reach out and evoke figurative sig heils from them for three hours a day, two hundred and sixty days a year.

You’re just not going to get large numbers of liberal Democrats to learn to sig heil any radio program or any radio personality. Or non liberal Democrats. Or middle of the road independents for that matter.

The bottom line of the argument is this. The audience for right wing talk radio will be affected not one whit by the appearance of a liberal radio network. Those who would approve of the effort or the content of a liberal radio network , probably wouldn’t listen regularly or in large numbers, but neither are they affected one whit by right wing talk radio.

So why spend the money? Save it to help elect a few liberals to congress and give Rush Limbaugh conniption fits.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

People who have been reading this blog and who don’t know me personally, may have arrived at the conclusion that I am a Democrat - maybe even a liberal Democrat.

They may have arrived at that conclusion because I have been critical of some conservative broadcasters and columnists, along with some prominent Republican politicians from President Bush on down.

But my criticisms have not been because I subscribe to any particular political ideology. I don’t. Although I probably support Democratic candidates more often than Republicans, I consider myself an independent and I try to vote for the best candidate regardless of party affiliation.

No, the reason I jump on conservatives with obviously identifiable regularity, is that that they do and say the most ridiculous things with the same degree of regularity.

When Rush Limbaugh announced that he would be leaving his radio show for five weeks of rehabilitation and that guest hosts would be filling in, I did not for a moment expect that there would be any slow down in the nonsensical utterances that ditto-heads accept as wisdom.

I wasn’t disappointed.

I had to go to his web site this morning to remind myself of the name of yesterday’s guest host , but I had no problem remembering the brief segment that I heard in my car before I’d had all I could take and switched to a music station.

The guest host, whose name is Tom Sullivan, was talking about Schwarzenegger and his wisdom!!!

According to Sullivan, whatever the amount of the California estimated budget deficit, the Terminator’s idea is to go to Wall Street and float a bond issue for that amount. The action man would do this on the assumption that the combination of an improving economy and the spending cuts that he would impose, would put the state in a fine position to redeem those bonds when they came due.

Brilliant thinking. Borrow money. Now why couldn’t a Democrat have thought of that?

But, said Sullivan, that is only the tip of the iceberg of the Terminator’s brilliance. He knows the California legislature is controlled by those dull thinking Democrats, so his idea is to abandon all thought of asking them to join with him in this endeavor, and to go to the people for their approval and support.

Brilliant. Government by referendum. Why couldn’t the Democrats have thought of that?

While Sullivan didn’t take this concept to its logical conclusion, I have no doubt about the next expression of governance brilliance that the Terminator is likely to reveal.

I fully expect Arnold to propose a California proposition to end all propositions - PTEAP, pronounced "peeteep."

Proposition PTEAP, (California propositions usually have numbers, but a lettered proposition would be more suited to the Terminator’s movie background), would ask the voters to abolish the California legislature and have all future laws passed by referendum only. Because of the number of new laws that the new Governor expects to propose, they would be grouped together in bundles of ten or twenty, and state wide voting would take place on the second Tuesday of each month, except for months in which a premier of a major studio motion picture is scheduled, in which case the following month’s vote would be on twenty to forty proposed laws.

I don’t know how many millions each referendum would cost, but I assume the grand plan would be to float a monthly bond issue for whatever amount is needed.

I also don’t know exactly how Arnold would handle the situation if there wasn’t enough cash in the treasury to pay off the bonds as they became due, but if the worst came to the worst, he could always go back into the past and alter history to record that the bonds were never issued in the first place.

You think that’s crazy?

Hey - Arnold Schwarzenegger is the Governor of California!!!!!!

More on the news Bush wants reported

It seems that the new Bush doctrine on news reporting is reminiscent of another era - that of the Nixon years and those " nattering nabobs of negativism" who insisted on reporting bad news even in those halcyon days of the Republic.

I heard him say last night that there was just too much emphasis on violence in Iraq.

That puts me in mind of yet another era - that of my early childhood. I guess anybody’s childhood. When we played peekaboo games. Hiding under a blanket. "You can’t see me ‘cos I can’t see you."

Now if only Peter Jennings and company can remember that…..

Monday, October 13, 2003

Almost a half century ago, I sat riveted to my tiny black and white television set, watching the drama of the Army-McCarthy hearings unfold. The moment that sticks most in my memory and very likely in the memory of many who watched, was when army counsel Joseph Welch , reacting to implications that a young member of his law firm was a communist sympathizer, turned to Senator Joe McCarthy and said " Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

Over the years, the comment somehow became misquoted and in many cases changed from "have you no sense of decency" to "have you no shame?" Actually, that’s how I remembered it until I referred back to some original transcripts of the hearings.

But the meaning was clear and it was the meaning that came to mind as I read my morning newspaper and listened to the news today.

President Bush, having already made a series of speeches designed to persuade the American people that our Iraq policy of preemptive invasion and regime removal was correct and that our post war rebuilding efforts are going well, is now going to grant interviews to regional television organizations to explain just how well we are doing.

I can understand the government spin. As nasty a person as Saddam Hussein was and as horrible as his regime might have been, it has nonetheless become increasingly clear that the stated reasons for invading were not completely truthful and the aftermath of that invasion is not going well.

Now they have to justify the enormous cost in lives and money and so the administration spinners, from President Bush on down, are taking to the hustings and to the airways, day after day, to tell us that we did the right thing in invading Iraq and that there are lots of good things happening over there , but they’re just not being reported.

And the words echo in my mind.

Have you no shame sir?

Does the administration think that Americans are idiots who will accept a public relations version of reality over reality itself?

The administration complaint is that "good" news out of Iraq is being "filtered" and so the President himself feels compelled to hit the road to set the record straight.

I remember many years ago, more than one person in broadcasting had the idea of doing "good news" newscasts. Just positive stuff. The kind of news that was designed to leave a warm glow in your heart. I think it was being experimented with about the time that "happy news" began on television. Regrettably, "Happy News" is still with us on local television, so called newscasters giggling and swapping jokes in between reading their news scripts. But the "good news" idea died a merciful death.

I’m no great news expert, but it was always my belief that "news" was made up of occurrences that were out of the ordinary. It certainly can be good news, if the basic criterion is met. The successful separation of the conjoined Egyptian twins for example. It was good news, but out of the ordinary. But you surely wouldn’t consider it newsworthy for the lead story on a major television newscast to be that "Two Hundred and Ninety Two Million Americans were not murdered today." In fact, you’d think that the network had been taken over by madmen.

Apparently, President Bush thinks that all of the American news media have been taken over by a bunch of filtering anti-administration liberals. It’s not clear if it’s the reporters in Iraq who are not providing the domestic newspapers and broadcasting stations with stories about all of the good things going on in that country, or if it’s the editors back home who are filtering out those stories and just letting the bad news come through.

We’ll know pretty soon, after the interviews. But I certainly hope that we’re not going to be told that the "good news" is that there’s more electric generating capacity in Iraq than before we invaded, or that Iraqi police are being trained to do police work , or that we’re helping to build soccer fields or repair oil lines.

Those are the everyday occurrences that go on in countries around the world, and the fact that we are involved with them in Iraq doesn’t make them "good news" for a single minute.

Our invasion of Iraq has landed us in a mess, and we will be paying a high price for years to come.

"Good" news out of Iraq will be when there is no longer a war being waged in the streets, when the Iraqis have created some form of constitution and elected a government, when they begin paying for the cost of rebuilding their country and when our troops are steadily being withdrawn and coming home.

Until then, I expect that our news services and those of the BBC and other major news organizations, will be reporting what is news. The unrest. The sabotage. The bombings. The murders of American and British service personnel. The ever lurking threat of Islamic fundamentalism. And any of the "good" items mentioned above. When they occur.

While I was reminded of those long ago words of Joseph Welch by recent news announcements, I don’t for a moment think President Bush is lacking in decency. But if he thinks what is being reported out of Iraq needs to or can be "balanced" by human interest stories or stories about infrastructure improvements, then I guess maybe he does indeed have no shame.

Friday, October 10, 2003

I had a dream.

The Prime Minister of Israel came upon my blog site and read the few things I have written about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict since I began this weblog in April, 2003.

Although he didn’t agree with everything he found here, he nonetheless recognized the depth of my wisdom on all matters of human affairs and came to the realization that I and I alone was the person who could provide the formula for peace between the warring parties. He thus implored me to present my solution to which he pledged to abide if the Palestinians would also accept me as the final arbiter of all disputes.

I am flattered by his faith in my Solomonesque abilities and I will do my best to be fair to both sides.

Here goes.

Palestinians. You have a state. Territory west of the river Jordan and all of the Gaza strip.

Sovereign. Immediately.

No Palestinian army, navy, air force or national air line. Yours will be a completely demilitarized state. A police force only. Israel will guarantee your military security and El Al will serve as the national air line of both nations.

You decide on what form of government you want for yourselves as long as it is secular. An Islamic government is prohibited.

Capital in East Jerusalem - or anywhere else on the west. bank or Gaza that you select.

Ambassadors to be announced and credentials presented as quickly as possible.

You will dissolve the Palestine Liberation Organization and declare all parts of its covenant null and void and totally disavowed by the new Palestinian state.

You will declare Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Hisballa and similar organizations to be illegal and move to disarm and disband them immediately.

You will totally disavow the concept of "right of return."

You will cease to call any of your Palestinian population centers "refugee camps."

You will no longer refer to or celebrate "Catastrophe Day."

All anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish incitement at all levels of Palestinian society will cease immediately.

The official borders between your state and Israel will be worked out in peaceful negotiations. There is no rush, because there will be…..

Open borders between the two states. Citizens of both states may travel freely across their borders.

The Israelis living in so called "settlements" on the west bank and Gaza, will be allowed to continue to live there in peace if they so elect, and will be encouraged and will be expected to interact economically and socially with the surrounding population and the Palestinian population will be encouraged to reciprocate. They may remain as resident aliens or may apply for Palestinian citizenship. Either way, they will be required to obey the secular laws of the Palestinian state.

Palestinians wishing to reside in Israel proper, may apply for alien residency. Because of the existing large Arab population of Israel, only limited numbers of Palestinians may be granted such residency, and they must be able to provide evidence that they have a place to live that does not violate housing codes and that they have a job or other means of support so that they will not become a burden to the state. And of course they will have to abide by the secular laws of Israel.

Although there will be these minimal limitations on Palestinians wishing to live in Israel, there will be no application of any kind of reciprocal formula of the same ratio of Jews to Arabs in Israel proper, as the current ratio of Arabs to Jews in the west bank and Gaza.

Each population will elect its own government officials. Citizens of Israel living in the Palestinian state will vote in Israeli elections only. Palestinians living in Israel as resident aliens, will vote in Palestinian elections only.

Israel and the new Palestinian state will engage in joint economic projects. Israel will invest in Palestinian enterprises and otherwise provide aid to help achieve economic viability for the new state. There will be free movement of workers, capital, goods and services, similar to the model of the Benelux Economic Union.

The two states will create joint commissions to work on and solve regional problems.

The two states will pledge that they will co-exist in friendship and mutual respect and that any and all future disagreements will be solved through negotiation and without resorting to violence.

However, recognizing that not all citizens will at all times obey the dictates of their governments, both sides pledge that they will crack down without hesitation on any individuals committing acts of violence against citizens of each other’s state and that when necessary, Israeli military forces may be used to enforce the peace that has been reached through the dictates and wisdom of this blog.

Now that wasn’t so hard was it?

What was the problem getting here?????


Thursday, October 09, 2003

I’ve been trying to think of what to make of the situation we have arrived at in the Middle East and I must admit I see no light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

I don’t even see a tunnel.

But I do see a dark situation being made even darker by the constant flow of rhetoric coming from both sides of this tragic struggle.

A couple of days ago, a relative forwarded me a letter entitled "A Japanese View of the Palestinians" written by someone named Yashiko Sagamori, and asked me to forward it to others and to ask them to do the same.

The letter was apparently written in response to someone who had penned something supportive of the Palestinians and challenged that person and those who believed in a national Palestinian identity, to answer a series of questions designed to prove that there was no such thing!! It, and many other pro-Israel writings by this individual can be found all over the Internet.

Yashiko Sagamori is an apparent alias for someone who says , on her web site, that she is American (not Japanese) and the child of a Jewish mother. She doesn’t provide any other details about herself, but on one web site she is identified as "candidate for Secretary of State of California" and on others as "a New York IT consultant." Type in the name on Google and you’ll get a host of hits.

But the identity of the letter writer is less important than what it and similar writings that can be found on the Internet seem to be saying to us, and that is that there is something to be gained by attacking the legitimacy of the Palestinians. But what?

We can agree with everything Sagamori says about the absence of any history of Palestine as a nation, but the fact remains that there are millions of Arabs living on the west bank and in Gaza and in other Arab countries, who consider themselves "Palestinians" and who want to live in their own sovereign nation and that is what we have to deal with.

Maybe "dealing with it" requires the building of a fence and harsh responses to suicide murderers and attacks upon countries that support and harbor terrorist organizations. Maybe none of these things will move us any closer to a solution to the mess.

I don’t know what the ultimate solutions will be to what at this moment appears to be an unsolvable problem, but denying the legitimacy of each other’s peoplehood will contribute nothing toward those solutions.

I declined the invitation to send the Sagamori letter to others, though I provide a link here so that it can be read by readers of this blog.

I think it should be read but not looked at as some kind of a triumphant flourish. The answer to what Sagamori implies is the same as we give to those who imply Israel has no right to exist.

The Israelis aren’t going away.. Those calling themselves Palestinians aren’t going away.

If you go to Google and type in "who are the Palestinians" in quotes, you’ll get Sagamori’s view but also many equally compelling sounding arguments that refute her contentions.

You’ll get the same strong and compelling arguments from both sides on the question of settlements.

But whatever the claims or denials of legitimacy on whatever issue from both sides, nothing will be solved by rhetoric, however logical it may sound.

We have to deal with the fact that both peoples are here to stay and we have to find ways for both to survive and it seems to me that rhetoric of this nature just gets in the way.


Wednesday, October 08, 2003
Some follow up thoughts on the Terminator victory…..

Maybe Martin Sheen should switch his party affiliation on The West Wing and then make a run for the real presidency.

I think he could win. People are already used to him being President - just as they have been used to Arnold solving the most difficult problems imaginable in a hundred minutes - a hundred and thirty minutes tops!! (Why else would they have voted for him)?.

But first he’d have to run one season on the air as a Republican President. People seem ready to accept actors for high political office - as long as they are Republicans.

Have there been any actor Democrats elected to congress - or to local councils for that matter?

It’s an interesting line of inquiry. There’s some sort of social phenomena at work here but I’m not quite sure what it is.

Some right wing radio gabbers are gloating over the Terminator victory, saying it’s a defeat for the liberal media which was "out to get" Arnold. That, coupled with the recent poll indicating that more Americans actually believe that the "media" are too liberal than think otherwise, is giving these Attilas of the airways a field day.

I haven’t heard any avowed members of the broadcast branch of this liberal media bemoaning their defeat in California. Could that be because there aren’t any to listen to????

Of course Peter Jennings will make his liberal views known tonight.

He’ll do it with those well known liberal weapons - the raised eyebrow and the nuanced tone......


A few weeks ago, when Jim Lehrer announced that the Weekly Standard’s David Brooks would be taking a leave of absence from his Friday appearances on the PBS New Hour in order to "prepare" for his new gig, writing two columns a week for the New York Times, my reaction was whahhh??? Why would anyone need weeks to get ready to write a contemporary column? Unless of course, one is blessed with the gift of prescience.

Maybe David knew what was coming. Maybe he knew that it would take weeks to prepare to write about the madness that took place in California - excuse me - Caleefornia, last night.

I had no such preparation, so I must admit that I am at a loss to find the right sequence of words to convey uncontrollable, hysterical laughter, feelings of shock and disbelief and the sudden realization that in my dissertation of October 6, 2003 about why aliens do not visit earth, I had left off perhaps the primary reason - the state of Caleefornia.

Last night I went to bed early, hoping that the morning would bring news of a Cubs win over the Marlins and that sanity had prevailed in California.

What a double whammy.

The people of California have been the butts of jokes for years - and not just on the late night television talk shows. I used to think that it was all exaggeration - after all, exaggeration is a cornerstone of comedy. But now I’ve come to realize that comedians who tell California stories, haven’t been exaggerating at all. They’ve actually been tempering the truth.. Californians are nuts. Nutty as fruitcakes.

The Terminator as governor of California would make a good comedic movie, but do the people who went to the polls and voted yesterday, understand that they were not extras in a movie? That their votes actually would recall a governor who had more or less just been elected and install a movie performer who had never before run for or worked in any political office and whose campaign consisted of scripted generalities that required David Brook’s presumed gift of prescience to know what plans he had for running the state and bailing it out of it’s multi-billion dollar deficit?

There are people in the western, civilized world, who think the American political system is cockeyed. They do not understand the idea that any native born individual of appropriate age, without any prior experience in government, can declare himself or herself a candidate for the Presidency of the United States and get elected!! And I’m sure they will never understand what happened in California.

In England, from where our common law originated, the opposition of the party in power maintains a shadow cabinet, so that if power changes at election time, the electorate knows who will occupy the office of Prime Minister and other cabinet positions, months or even years in advance of the election.

There are no sudden surprises. No unlikely candidate coming out of the woodwork and blowing all the other candidates - including the legitimate ones out of the box.

It sounds sane, but then it wouldn’t make much of a movie, would it?

Screenwriters, I am sure, are already working on the script that will memorialize the next three years of California political history. It could work as a comedy or maybe a tragedy.

Either way, I would recommend Jesse Ventura to play Schwarzenegger.

He’s been an actor in the ring, so he’s not without experience. He’s big and strong and it shouldn’t be hard to teach him how to speak with an accent. It would be perfect typecasting.

Arnold couldn’t play himself. It wouldn’t be believable.

But I think he’d be great playing Ronald Reagan for the foreign market.

The Terminator meets Bonzo.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Because there’s so much dark stuff in the news…..a lighter moment…

Speaking of nutty words, (I think "Arkantexolina," my invented word of yesterday’s post qualifies), a friend sent me the following from the Washington Post's annual Style Invitational, which asks readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are this year's winners:

1. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

2. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

3. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

4. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

5. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

6. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

7. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

8. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

9. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.

10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

11. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

13. Glibido: All talk and no action.

14. Dopeler efect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.

And the pick of the literature!

18. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

There’s also a Washington Post competition for coming up with alternate meanings for various words, and the same friend sent me some of this year’s winners from that contest which I’ll include in a future post when I’m pressed for time or feeling lazy and not in the mood to write any original thoughts.

Monday, October 06, 2003

On Friday I said I didn’t think I would be doing a follow up on l’affaire Limbaugh and here I am writing about it for a third time. Briefly though.

It was discussed in a lot of columns over the week-end and again today. On television too.

Some discussed it, at least in part, as a sports story. All touched on the so called racial comments.

One columnist mentioned Limbaugh’s use of the word "ax" instead of "ask" when speaking about some African American issues, the implication being that it is racist, if not in intent, then certainly in impact. More than one person mentioned that Limbaugh once told an African American caller to "take that bone out of your nose and call me back." I wasn’t aware of that piece of idiocy, but I can hear him saying it.

Limbaugh may be a racist, but I don’t think these kinds of remarks are necessarily evidence of racism. Rather, I think they are his distorted idea of injecting humor into his ridicule of just about everyone who is not a Limbaugh clone.

If Limbaugh is a bigot, he in an equal opportunity bigot. For sure he is an equal opportunity idiot.

Yes, when he mentions Jesse Jackson’s name, he draws out the "reverend" with an affected patrician sneer. It’s his version of ridicule. It probably comes across as being racist. It isn’t funny.

But he will just as often do the same thing when he’s talking about one of those dangerous white, anglo-saxon "liberals." He’ll speak about them or read their words in some ridiculous mocking tone - sometimes inserting sobs and other crying sounds.

It isn’t funny there either.

I still think that what happened on ESPN is no different to what happens on his radio show, which is more about setting up straw men so that he can knock them down, than about racism. There was nothing wrong with him criticizing McNabb as a player. There’s a lot wrong when he claims to know that the desire of "the media" is to see black quarterbacks do well, just so that he can attack one of his favorite targets - that horrible scourge of the nation - the liberal media!!!

I’m sure I’ll talk about Limbaugh again, but not on this issue. I’ll let others carry the ball. I hope they score a touchdown - with two extra points.


I had planned to make some comments today about the Israeli/Palestinian situation. I had some thoughts about the fence. I had some thoughts about the two state solution, the bi-national one state solution and about the kind of bi-national two state solution that could work if enough sane people can maintain control from both sides. But I am too heartsick over the latest insanity. A 29 year old lawyer. A person of some presumed intelligence. Yet she thought she was accomplishing something by committing mass murder of innocent people using suicide as her weapon. How do you make sense of such acts of madness? How do you reason with that kind of mentality? Obviously you can’t, which is why the inevitable responses are taking place and peace looks like a far off dream.

I've added two Israeli links today that I think will provide a snapshot of Israeli opinion when things like this happen. Israpundit has a huge number of links to news and information sources about Israel and Middle East problems. "Not a Fish" is the blog of an Israeli lady who describes it as "the meaningless chatter of your regular split personality Israeli mother trying to make sense of current insanity." It's hardly meaningless. It's informative and touching. Read their thoughts about the current madness. Mine will come later.....

But for today, some other thoughts about madness and a sort of follow up to what I wrote on Saturday…..


One recurring theme in science fiction is the universality of the English language and the concept of world government.

In television shows and movies, populations of worlds in far off galaxies miraculously speak the English language when our intrepid explorers come across their worlds.

O.K. If it’s a French film or a German television show, the aliens speak those languages, but I’m sure you get the point.

Sometimes, a "universal translator" is written into the story so that reality doesn’t have to be stretched too far, but just as often, the characters are presented with certain accents to give them distinctive flavors. Upper class English accents for example, is a favored device to portray a scientist or a political leader.

Although we are sometimes presented with story lines concerned with conflict and despair, most of the worlds that are visited are peaceful and ruled by governing councils - usually groups of wise men, often dressed in flowing white robes.

I don’t recall any science fiction adventure that involved a group of explorers discovering and landing on a world with 191 nation states with that many or more governments, populated by people speaking 6800 different languages and with a couple of dozen on and off armed conflicts being waged between some of those nation states and in some cases between people living in a single nation state.

No self respecting science fiction writer would want you to buy into a story that started off with a mess like that.

Which is maybe why superior beings from other planets haven’t been here to visit us lately, or at all. Because that "mess" describes the world we live in.

Sometimes I think that if there is a God who creates things, he created this planet as a galactic madhouse.

Our statistics not only include a population in 191 different nation states speaking 6800 languages, of which 2261 have written systems, but a history of people within those states murdering each other by the thousands annually, beyond the deaths caused by inter or intra state conflict.

Our statistics include peoples in some parts of our galactic madhouse/spaceship living in the lap of luxury, while others struggle to exist in abject poverty.

Our statistics include populations living with modern technology and under rationally enlightened rules of law written in modern times, and populations living in primitive conditions and under primitive laws written in ancient, unenlightened times.

Our statistics include huge populations believing in a deity, but divided in their beliefs about the nature of that deity and often warring with each other because of those differences in beliefs .

If you were a galactic explorer from a planet of superior beings populated by one people, speaking one language and ruled by a single panel of wise men in white flowing robes, would you want to pay a visit to the third planet from our sun - or give it a pass, maybe making a note to come back in a few thousand years to see if any order has arisen out of chaos?

I think the latter.

Other than the obligatory stop off to visit with Billy Joe Bob on the river banks of the Okefenokee river in Arkantexolina of course…..