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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

We now have an idea of the kind of testimony that Condoleezza Rice will be giving to the 9/11 commission.

The major bone of contention is what suggestions were given to her by Clarke and when, and what programs the White House put into effect and when.

Condy is already saying that what Clarke gave her in January, 2001, was nothing more than a "laundry list" of suggestions.

Clarke says that the plan that the White House adopted four days before 9/11, was essentially his January, 2001 "laundry list."

So how did it change from January to September? And from what to what? From a "laundry list" to a Nieman Marcus Catalogue?

Mr. Bush says he now wants Rice to testify publicly so that we can get to the bottom of what happened in the months and years leading up to 9/11.

In other words, show that it was all the fault of the Clinton administration. Just as the guy said in his letter to the Chicago Tribune yesterday. Letter not available on line.

Do you suppose that these letters not available on line are not really from ordinary newspaper readers? That maybe someone in the bowels of the White House is conducting a pre-Condy appearance campaign to lay the groundwork for a classic "Clinton Did It" maneuver?

Stay tuned. This could really get interesting.

Thomas Friedman can be entertaining when he appears on television to talk about his world travels.

His New York Times articles aren’t bad either.

Like his March 28th piece, indulging in some wishful fantasies.

There’s a lot there that I can agree with. Palestinians demanding that Hamas stop recruiting children as suicide bombers. Dick Cheney apologizing to the U.N. for being wrong about weapons in Iraq. Tom DeLay advocating a tax hike for the rich.

But we part company with his dream of Mel Gibson making a movie called "Moses" and donating all the profits to the Holocaust Museum.

Gibson’s already given us his movie version of one historical Jew and we know how that one turned out.

Do we really want to see him let loose on Moses? He’d probably have him setting up a toll booth at the Red Sea opening and making a handsome buck on letting all those fleeing Jews get across.

Thanks but no thanks Mr. Gibson.

God, let’s hope Gibson doesn’t read Friedman!!!

I listened on and off to the first couple of hours of the new "Liberal Radio Network" which debuted today.

I had to go back and re-read my prediction of 10/15/03 about this effort, though I remember very well what my conclusion was when I first heard of the idea. That it would fail. But I wanted to refresh myself on my reasoning.

I hope it won’t fail - and maybe it stands a chance. The first show, with Al Franken, did produce some reasonably un-slanted, worthwhile information, along with some bits of humor. He had Bob Kerrey as a guest, and Kerrey talked about the work of the 9/11 commission and what they were looking for and what they might want to ask Condoleezza Rice. And he didn’t sound in the least bit partisan. And he didn’t rant and rave and call those who have political opinions that differ from his, insulting names. And he didn’t attempt to define anyone.

Which means he would never be invited to be on with Rush Limbaugh.

The show needs to push the telephone number and generate a lot of calls. And Franken needs to be a bit outrageous. He’ll probably grow into it.

I know he had Michael Moore scheduled for a later hour. I didn’t listen. Too many other things to do. And I’m not a fan of Mr. Moore.

One neat touch was a phone call from G.Gordon Liddy, calling from his radio show. Apparently, he and Franken are friends!

One amusing postscript. I switched away from "Air America" and tuned in the local Chicago talk show that follows Rush Limbaugh. I listen to this show occasionally, but today, even though Limbaugh is off this week, I wanted to see if anyone would comment on the new network.

Sure enough, the kid who hosts this program - he’s somewhere in his thirties, but still a kid as far as I’m concerned, claimed to have listened to bits and pieces, and compared it to PBS programming.

He went on to say - and I have a hard time writing this while being convulsed with laughter - that Limbaugh is an all round radio guy - an entertainer - someone who makes you laugh. But that liberal radio program is all about politics!!!

Limbaugh entertains while Franken - and whoever else is on the new network - is all about politics!!

George Orwell lives, and he’s writing one liners for right wing radio stations in America.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Bruce Dold , the Chicago Tribune’s editorial page editor, should stay off of television. His prejudices are too close to the surface and they show. He either doesn’t know how to hide them or doesn’t care.

Either way, he doesn’t represent his employer in a very good light. Unless the Tribune echoes his narrow, conservative views.

He appeared on the PBS News Hour last night, along with three other editors from around the country. The subject was the 9/11 commission, the testimony of Richard Clarke, and whether Condoleezza Rice should testify publicly.

All four agreed that Rice should testify, but only Dold saw fit to add a gratuitous comment .She should testify and (or because), "she would wipe the floor with Clarke." Or words to that effect. Well, she will testify and we’ll see if she’ll "wipe the floor" with Clarke, or simply defend White House actions and decisions as she’s been doing everywhere else, without being under oath. I hope she’ll display more class than Mr. Dold in her demeanor and choice of words.

All four were asked how they reacted to Clarke offering an apology to the American people at the hearings. Only Dold had a disparaging remark. Clarke was "grandstanding."

And in an editorial, headlined Let Rice answer Clarke in today’s Tribune, the snide comments continued. Clarke is "anything but an impeccable witness." "Many Americans aren’t buying his story."

Two of the panelists on the News Hour thought that Clarke was credible, among other compelling reasons, because several other people at high levels of government have been saying essentially the same things for months.

But not Mr. Dold.

This is the same Bruce Dold who couldn’t understand why people were up in arms at the appearance of a blatantly anti-Semitic cartoon in the Tribune last May 30th , about which I wrote on June 3rd, 4th and 11th.

In one of those commentaries, I called Dold clueless, and implied the same in the others. I think he was blinded by a narrow set of ideas and principals through which he viewed the phenomenon of anti-Semitism. I think the same pertains with this current issue .I think his comments about the former White House anti-terrorism expert, have more to do with that same narrow set of ideas and principals through which he voiced his "understanding" of anti-Semitism, than it does with Mr. Clarke.

To top it off, an anti-Clarke letter from a reader appears opposite today’s editorials. This is the purview of "Voice of the People" editor, Dodie Hofstetter. I don’t know if she clears letters with Dold or if Dold has some influence over what letters to publish, but as is frequently the case, the Tribune turned a blind eye to a patently false statement and published the letter, which attacks Clarke and asserts that the 9/11 attack was "caused by eight years of meetings during the Clinton administration."

I would insert a link to the letter if it was possible, but of the seven letters published in Today’s Tribune, only six appear in the on-line edition.

Guess which one is missing!!!

I’ve written about this sort of thing before, and when I wrote it, it was somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

But the more I read the kinds of letters that are allowed to see the light of day in some of our major newspapers, and particularly in the Chicago Tribune, the more I come to believe that my commentaries on this subject are more prophetic than tongue-in-cheek!!

There are times when I really feel isolated.

As a blogger, that is.

I sat down at my computer the other day and clicked randomly on a blog, then on one of the links seen there, then to another and another.

Pretty soon, I was lost in a blogosphere maze. All the bloggers seem to link to each other and their postings were replete with links to other blog and non-blog postings, newspaper articles, commercial and non-commercial web sites and sundry Internet destinations.

I wasn’t linked to any of these folks and they weren’t linked to me. Neither were any of their postings referenced by me in any of my posts - and none of my brilliant commentaries were referenced in any of theirs.

Even though I’ve been at this since last April - almost a year, I haven’t really become a recognized blogger - one who is linked to and consorts with, a group of other bloggers.

But I do occasionally look in on some of the recognized, "group belonging" bloggers, and what I’ve started to do is pick out a blog that looks half way interesting and list a link to it here as an "audition," as I did the other day with Frank Lynch’s blog.

I read it for a few days to see what subjects are being covered - and how - and if I find it interesting and worth looking in on every once in a while, I might insert a permanent link on this page..

Not necessarily to become a "link blogger," but for convenience.

Anyway, today’s "audition" is a blogger who shows up as a link on quite a few other blogs, including an Israeli blog that I read - and that’s where I found one Diana Moon, who writes eclectically, likes to throw in oddball words and can’t be all bad because she is working to replace Mr. Bush. Which sentiment, you may have gathered, is reflected in this blog.

Monday, March 29, 2004

All up and down the blogosphere, in papers and magazines and on radio and television programs around the world, there is an explosion of Clarke-Rice punditry.

Here’s my tiny contribution - a series of random thoughts.

Condoleezza Rice wants to testify under oath. She really does. She wants to tell the whole story, She really does.

Does that bring anything to mind from the past? Does the name Oliver North ring a bell?

Condoleezza Rice appeared on "60 Minutes." To balance off Clarke from the previous week. Quid Pro Quo. She had absolutely nothing to say, the comment about wanting to testify notwithstanding. As usual, nothing was learned from her appearance. It was strictly PR. Defending the administration. Bush would never intimidate anyone. They had a plan. To ask if Iraq was involved was only natural. Bush wasn’t concentrating on Iraq. The focus was on Afghanistan. Etc. Etc.

The rabid right were livid about the "soft" questions Leslie Stahl asked of Dick Clarke on last week’s "60 Minutes," and apparently they made their feelings known with a raft of nasty e-mails.

Also, after that "60 minutes" program, conservative on-line pundits were asking why Clarke hadn’t appeared on "Face the Nation." Tim Russet wouldn’t toss him any "soft" questions. He’d really put him through the wringer.

He was with Russet for an hour yesterday. No questions threw him. He called Bill Frist’s bluff. Frist wants Clarke’s prior testimony before congress de-classified so that he can show inconsistencies between "then and now." Clarke called for all of his prior testimony - not just a line or two - to be de-classified, along with Rice’s testimony and e-mails he sent to her.

Once again, defenders of the Bush administration are reaching back to the Clinton presidency to defend their man. Hey - Clinton didn’t do anything about al-Qaeda - and he was in office eight years. We were only there 8 months!!

As though the discussion isn’t about the Bush approach to terrorism at all.

It’s like the guy who murders his parents and then asks the court for leniency because he’s an orphan.

Critics of Clarke are accusing him of all kinds of things. Arrogance. Partisanship. Anger at being "demoted." Money hungry. They attack him for writing his book.

But here’s the obvious question. If he hadn’t put what he had to say in a book, would anyone have paid attention to him? Would we be having this vigorous discussion? Would the world of punditry be having this much fun?

I rest my case.

As readers of this blog know, I am the antithesis of a theist.

That may be a convoluted way of saying that I’m an atheist, but I say it that way because I’m an atheist who would like to be wrong. I would love to be able to join the millions of people who believe that there is a God that created the universe and our earth and all of us, and that we don’t die and pass into oblivion, but "live’ after death and "ascend" to heaven, leaving our bodies behind to rot, or turned to ashes, or to disappear in some other way.

Try as I might, I can’t conceive of the existence of some supreme, immortal, sentient "creator" of all that exists. To me, there is not a shred of evidence that such an entity exists. I don’t consider ancient tales, superstitions and beliefs, upon which the religions of mankind are based, as "proof" of anything.

But hundreds of millions of people believe otherwise and live their lives according to those beliefs. In some cases, and history bears me out on this, those beliefs have caused irreparable harm. Wars have been waged. Millions have been slaughtered. All in the name of one belief or another.

In other cases, religious belief has made positive contributions to the world and to humanity.

All of that is by way of a preamble to commenting on the pledge of allegiance case now before the Supreme Court.

I do not support Michael Newdow’s arguments. I think he’s doing more harm than good. Just as religious belief sometimes does.

The pledge, with the "under God" phrase inserted, has become part of our American culture. The fact that it contains a reference to "God" is no more than a reflection of what a majority of people believe. That there is a God. It isn’t religious per se. It advocates no religious belief. It doesn’t require anyone to believe in God.

And it doesn’t do Newdow’s child any harm to recite the pledge this way if she is an atheist or is being taught not to believe in a deity. She is merely reciting it the way it is written as an expression of patriotism, not religious belief. As long as she understands this - what’s the harm? What is the infringement on her rights?

I went to school in England, a country that has an "official" religion, and where prayers and hymns are recited and sung in school. My "religious"/ethnic heritage is Jewish, but I had no problem joining in the singing of Christian hymns.

And no matter how anti-religious one might be in England, when it comes time to sing the national anthem, even English equivalents of Madeline Murray Ohare have no problem belting out "God save our gracious Queen, Long live our noble Queen. God save our Queen."

The verse - and its singing, transcend religious belief. Like the pledge of allegiance, it is an expression of patriotism and national pride.

I would tell Mr. Newdow to get a life, but he’s a doctor and a lawyer, so I guess you could say he’s already done that.

But still, he’s managing to find time for annoying silliness, so I’ll say something else.

Go to you room Michael. And stay there until you learn how to behave yourself.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Here’s something new. "Prominent" Palestinians who are urging restraint and an end to violence following the assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin. They took out a half page ad in a Palestinian paper to publicize their appeal.

Could this be the beginning of some rational thought among Palestinians with influence?

Could it be that respected members of the Palestinian community have come to the realization that only dialog can bring a resolution between the warring parties?

Did the Pope convert to Judaism?

Here’s some of the "peaceful" thoughts of "prominent" Palestinians that they published in Al-Ayyam.
"Despite being filled with pain, we call on our people to take the initiative from the hands of the criminal occupation gang, to repress their rage and rise once again in a peaceful and widespread popular uprising with clear goals and sound rhetoric."
In other words, stop the killing - not because it’s the wrong approach, but because it gives Israel an excuse to kill us.

The statement said that by doing this, "Sharon would be denied the opportunity of completing his aggression against our people and putting the finishing touches on his security plan."

No talk of going back to the negotiating table. No mention of the goal of a two state solution with mutual respect and recognition.

Just - let’s take the initiative away from the criminal occupation gang!! More Intifada, but without the suicide bombers. The same old, tired, macho rhetoric.

I suppose in the insane world that is the Middle East, some might look on any mention of non violence coming from the Palestinian side as some measure of "progress."

I look on the idea of a continuing "popular uprising" as a means of achieving a state and peace with Israel, as just another aspect of Palestinian madness.

I was surprised to see the 61-38 senate vote on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.

Although a number of states already have similar acts on the books, I would have to agree with opponents of the bill that it provides ammunition to those who would like to see abortion criminalized once again.. If a fetus can be considered a separate legal entity in a criminal case, the argument will go, why would it not have the same legal right not to be aborted?

I am personally against the idea of abortion, and I am for the right of a father to oppose his child being aborted. At the same time, I am for the right of a woman to choose to abort within proscribed time parameters.

If that sounds contradictory, so be it. It’s a complicated subject.

But I don’t see why it is necessary to make harm to a fetus during a criminal assault on the mother, a separate crime.

Why not make such crimes "special circumstances" crimes, without giving legal status to a fetus. We have "degrees" of crimes, including murder, so surely a category could be found for a crime that resulted in harm or death to a fetus, without enacting an "Unborn Victims of Violence" law.

Ohio Republican Senator Mike De Wine, the bill’s chief sponsor, can insist all he likes that it’s simply an anti-crime measure, but we know that the driving force behind it is not concerned with crime as much as it is providing ammunition for those who argue that "life" begins at conception.

One of our local, suburban newspapers, Skokie Life, has come up with an interesting idea. For the last two years, it has come out with a "no letter left behind" issue. Anyone who wants to, can send in a letter or a poem or whatever, and, provided it isn’t a plagiarized piece or is in some other way illegal, it gets published.

It’s a small paper, probably with a fairly small circulation and not a lot of people write. This year’s letters covered a page - with a spill over to a second page because of me.

I couldn’t resist and so I sent in one of my dissertations about "letters to the editor."

It looks better printed on paper, so if you’re in the neighborhood, it’s the March 25, 2004 edition of Skokie Life!!

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Negative ads are insidious things. They will often focus on someone’s vote or something someone said or did, making that person look like some kind of monster because there is no context to the presentation.

For example, showing a presidential candidate saying "I support the President" and then mocking him because he’s now attacking the President, makes the candidate look like a hypocrite. By the time a response gets issued or broadcast, pointing out that what was actually said was "I support the President when he’s right but in this instance he’s dead wrong," the damage has been done..

Although they’re not being aimed at a political candidate, the attacks being launched against Richard Clarke by the White House, are classic examples of how negative political ads work.

But there’s one difference between the effect of these attacks and those that are used during political campaign. Dick Clarke is all over the television tube, either testifying or being interviewed, and as fast as the White House puts out its distortions in an attempt to smear him, he is able to expose them as distortions.

A couple of examples.

At the 9/11 commission hearing yesterday, Jim Thompson, former prosecutor and former governor of Illinois, pulled an old prosecutor’s trick by holding up a copy of Clarke’s book in one hand, and in his other hand, a copy of a press briefing that Clarke gave in 2002, in which he praised the anti-terrorist activities of the Bush administration. Although he may not have used these exact words, the clear implication of Thompson’s question was " are you lying now or were you lying then?."

As a negative political ad, it would probably have had the desired effect. Wow. The guy says one thing one time and just the opposite another time. How can you believe someone like that?

Clarke of course explained the obvious. He was working for the President of the United States. He was asked to present the administration’s policies and actions in the most favorable possible light. He did what was asked of him.

White House communications director, Dan Bartlett, is as glib as they come. He was chosen to attack Clarke on the PBS News Hour last Monday, March 22. He talked about a meeting with Bush that Clarke had requested and that was finally granted. "Your would think," said glib Mr. Bartlett, "it would be about the al-Qaeda threat, but in fact he (Clarke) chose to use that time to talk to the President about cybersecurity."

As everyone now knows, Clarke, frustrated at having his urgent warnings and requests about an impending al-Qaeda attack ignored, had asked to be re-assigned to work on cybersecurity. The request was granted and, as Clarke explained in his 9/11 commission testimony, that was the scheduled subject of his meeting with Bush.

Here’s the pertinent exchange:

ROEMER: Well, let's say, Mr. Clarke -- I think this is a fair question -- let's say that you asked to brief the president of the United States on counterterrorism.
ROEMER: Did you ask that?
CLARKE: I asked for a series of briefings on the issues in my portfolio, including counterterrorism and cybersecurity.
ROEMER: Did you get that request?
CLARKE: I did. I was given an opportunity to brief on cybersecurity in June. I was told I could brief the president on terrorism after this policy development process was complete and we had the principals meeting and the draft national security policy decision that had been approved by the deputies committee.

But Bartlett twisted that around to imply that it was Clarke who eschewed the opportunity to talk to the president about terrorism and al-Qaeda and chose to waste time talking about something else.

Much more on who’s telling the truth and who is twisting and distorting facts, in a piece by Slate columnist, Fred Kaplan here

I’m "auditioning" blogs that contain more or less original commentary. Something close to what I do on this blog. I usually run across them when I’m doing a search and the search word or phrase kicks out a blog site. If I find some that look like they’re worth looking at more than once in a while, and aren’t too voluminous, I might connect to them with a link on this page, - to save me time and to invite others to pay a visit.

Today, I ran across the work of one Frank Lynch, who’s writing a book in between writing his blog posts. Or writing blog posts in between writing pages of his book. I’m not sure which. And I haven’t read enough to discover what kind of book he’s working on.

But I’m going to read him for a while and I’m sure I’ll find out. It better not be about Consumer Battles with Behemoths though…..

Anyway, here he is.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

I’ve said many times on this blog that peace between Israel and the Palestinians would have to wait until there was sane Palestinian leadership with whom a peace could be negotiated.

Some people would argue that more sanity is needed on the Israeli side as well, but I’ll let those people argue that notion on their own blogs.

What would a sane Palestinian leader look like?

First and foremost, he would have to be an educated man. Someone with college degrees. A professional man. A doctor perhaps. Someone who appreciates the sanctity of life. Someone who understands that nothing can be resolved by violence. That violence breeds violence.

But apparently not.

In the world of radical Islam, insanity and education are not mutually exclusive qualities.

The newly elected leader of Hamas, Abdel Aziz Rantizi , is a doctor. A pediatrician yet. A member of the profession to which we turn for the care of our most precious possessions - our children. Except that his practice is concerned not with the preservation of life but with the spread of death and destruction.

A practice in which he is joined by his fellow pediatrician, Ayman al-Zawahri, the al Qaeda master mind.

Is this or is this not a world gone mad?

How does a Rantizi meld his Hippocratic Oath with his allegiance to the Hamas charter?

And how does pediatrician Ayman al-Zawahri reconcile whatever version his Hippocratic oath might have been, ancient or modern, with his devotion to raining down death on his enemies?

As I’ve also said more than once before. It’s no wonder that they (the ET’s of the Universe) don’t come.

Speaking of the medical profession, to which of course, these two sub-humanoid monsters do not belong, I wonder how long it will take this nation to get it’s health priorities straightened out.

This morning, the 9/11 hearings share headlines with the "sky is falling" pronouncement that Medicare will run out of funds by 2019.

On my birthday last month, I was having a telephone conversation with my brother, who lives in England, and we talked about healthcare. Both he and his wife are seniors - as am I. Both have multiple medical problems. Both have had major surgeries. Both are covered by the UK National Health Service and by private insurance.

They have the option of seeing specialists or being hospitalized under either system, and there are advantages and disadvantages to both

One huge advantage that my brother revealed to me, is that prescription drugs, when prescribed by a doctor under the National Health System, are cost free to seniors. You take your prescription down to your local drug store - oops, excuse me, chemist shop, and pay nothing.

This on top of zero charges for hospitalization or doctor’s visits under the National Health Service.

The UK’s National Health Service has been in effect for more than fifty years. It has its problems. A lot of the National Health hospitals are old. You’re likely to share a room with four or more other patients. You may even be in a large ward with curtains as your only privacy. You won’t have a private phone. If you get a call, a phone will be brought to your bedside. You might have to wait a while to get an appointment to see a specialist. But that applies here too.

But everyone in the UK has access to medical care. You don’t have to have private insurance or have a fat bank account. The lack of funds or private insurance coverage will not keep you from consulting a doctor. Everyone can be seen and treated under the National Health Service.

And there are no frightening headlines in the paper saying that the service will run out of money by some nearby date.

We frequently hear criticisms of national health systems such as those of the UK and Canada.. But to my mind, those are countries that have their national priorities in order.

We need to stop criticizing and follow their lead. Stop playing games with Medicare and devising convoluted drug discount plans and kowtowing to the insurance and pharmaceutical companies - and enact a national health plan!!

It’s time. It’s way past time. All it needs is a president who has the guts to say so.

And now, as John Cleese used to say, for something completely different.

In the category of things that annoy. Or that I don’t understand. Take your pick.

Every once in a while I take a brief look at a sit-com and wonder what on earth the audience is laughing about. I sit there and listen to roars of laughter when absolutely nothing remotely amusing is happening or being said. I can only assume that the shows use laugh machines. And I switch it off or switch to another station.

In the same vein, I have been hearing and seeing commercials for some time now, for a one man stage show called "Defending the Cave Man." These ads, both for radio and television, use the same two lines taken from the show, each followed by those presumably manufactured roars of laughter.

One would think that these kinds of ads would be similar to the trailers for movies. The movie trailers show the most exciting or thought provoking snippets from the film, hoping that the audience would believe that the entire movie was like that.

To advertise a one man comedy stage performance, you would think that the promoters would select the absolute funniest lines from the show to induce you to rush to your telephone or computer screen to order tickets.

You’d think.

Here are the lines. Presumably the show’s funniest lines.

"When a woman says she’ll call you, she means when she gets home. When a man says he’ll call you, he means before he dies." (Hilarious laughter)


"A man doesn’t watch television. A man becomes the television."(Uncontrollable laughter).

I rest my case.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Yesterday, I said that in terms of who he has around him and advising him, the Bush presidency was a mirror image of his father’s presidency. The opposite of "this is not your father’s" - fill in the blank.

Now I can add a mirror image of his father’s vice-presidency.

The White House attack on Richard Clarke is now in full court press. It seems like every available talking head is being pressed into service. The former counter-terrorism expert who has served four presidents, is being accused of everything from partisanship to inefficiency.

But the accusation that I like best - I think Condoleezza Rice has said it, probably others, is that Clarke doesn’t know what he’s talking about because he was "out of the loop."

Ring a bell? Out of the loop?

Remember Iran/Contra? Remember who knew nothing about what was going on? Remember what excuse was offered for not knowing what was going on?

If you answered yes, Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush and, "I was out of the loop," go to the head of the class.

I wonder if George W told Condoleezza to use that expression to attack Clarke?

Maybe it’s a kind of family etymological heirloom, usable from both sides of the political grid iron. Sometimes for defense. Sometimes for offense.

But I think they’ll need more than a PR counter-attack. Their first two salvos have left them with egg on their faces.

They claimed that a "meeting" between Clarke and Bush the day after 9/11, never took place, but had to back down when reminded that there had been three other people present.

They said he was auditioning for a cabinet post in a Kerry administration. He has since stated categorically that he would accept no government post. He’s done his 30 years and he’s retired from government service. And I do believe that he’s a registered Republican!!!

Speaking of White House PR, I’m getting sick and tired of seeing the face and hearing the voice of Condoleezza Rice. Her frequent television appearances seem to be for no other purpose than to defend every Bush policy and every Bush action, using the same tired rhetoric about intelligence reports and weapons of mass destruction and danger to our life and liberty from a third world dictatorship.

There’s no information. The viewing public isn’t enlightened in any way. It’s all PR.

Who is Condoleezza Rice and why is she the Bush National Security Advisor?

Here’s a couple of views. That of the White House, and a somewhat different appraisal.

I’m not sure what good it does for people like me to write about the assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

Hundreds of thousands of words have been written and will continue to be written, but none of the words will change anything.

To the haters - the madmen of the world, what they write in their newspapers and their on-line sites will be what they think and what they believe. That Israel and the United States are evil and the enemies of Islam.

To those who understand the need to combat terrorism, wherever it rears its ugly head, there will be words of justification, but also questions about timing and the risk/reward ratio of these kinds of targeted assassinations.

But after everything has been written, nothing will have changed.

So why do I - and others like me, keep writing?

For those in the news business, it’s their job. For the rest of us - I don’t know.

The Internet and the birth and extraordinary growth of personal weblogs, has provided the opportunity for almost anyone to express an opinion on any topic - and possibly to have that opinion read by thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of people.

I don’t have that kind of audience, but still I feel compelled to offer my views to anyone who comes upon this weblog. I guess maybe it’s cathartic in a way. Less disturbing to neighbors than screaming at the top of my voice.

Maybe what will change will be that the more we are able to communicate with each other through this remarkable medium, the more that people will come to understand what the civilized world is up against and what must be done for our survival as civilized human beings.

In a way, the two topics covered yesterday and today, are intertwined. Richard Clarke has been all over the airways, being interviewed about what is in his book - and also, I presume, promoting his book.

He was asked by one interviewer, what he would do or would have done to combat terrorism, if he had been in charge of the effort.

His answer was, that apart from what we’ve done and what we are doing, we need to recruit allies in the Arab world and in non Arab Islamic counties, to start changing the mindset of future generations in the third world. Instead, said Clarke, we invaded an Arab country and are producing the opposite result.

He’s right of course, but where are the leaders of Arab and Islamic countries who understand that terrorism is their problem and not just ours, and if left unchecked, will descend upon them as it has upon us? And who have the desire, the guts and the ability to do what is necessary to start setting those changes in motion.

They’re just not there.

That’s the dilemma facing Israel. Not just the terrorist organizations. But a population raised on a diet of hate and mythology and so called leaders who keep feeding them that same diet.

The Israelis see no way to deal with such people. So they assassinate them.

I wish no harm to the nations around the world that were so quick to condemn Israel for assassinating Yassin. I am sure they think they were acting in their best interests. If they condemn the killers of terrorists, maybe the terrorists won’t come after them.

That’s about as cockeyed as the thought processes of the terrorists.

You see why I write instead of screaming? There’s no way my lungs could accommodate the depths of my frustration.

Monday, March 22, 2004

You have to wonder how many more books will be published before the poll numbers on President Bush begin to shift dramatically.

Or to put it another way, before those who voted for Bush realize that they and the supreme court elected the wrong man. And realize that they re-elected the Bush senior team that was kicked out of office in 1992.

Maybe it’s true that "this" isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile or all the other "not your father’s" quips, comparing the present to the past, but in the case of our sitting president, this is "your father’s" same old crowd of hawks - back in power and playing their Doctor Strangelove roles to the hilt.

Cheney. Rumsfeld, Rice. Wolfowitz. Powell. Some of the titles have changed, but it’s the same old team.

They might have been off doing other things for eight years, but you wouldn’t know it from the way they took up the reins of power again. They picked up where they left off without missing a beat. As though they’d never been gone.

Of course the White House will dispute what’s revealed in Dick Clarke’s book. It’s the same reaction you get when some television "investigative" talk show person has an accused killer as an interview guest and asks "did you kill so and so?"

Oh yeah. Absolutely. And Jimmy Hoffa too.

The truth won’t be revealed in denials. Nor in differing interpretations of conversations and actions taken or not taken.

You have to look at the weight of the mounting evidence. All that’s apparent and what is slowly being gleaned as disillusioned insiders begin to speak up. And perhaps what might be learned from testimony in front of the 911 commission and other ongoing inquiries.

But the denials and counter accusations will continue of course.

Just as they jumped all over Paul O’Neill, the right wing commentators are already attacking Clarke, saying that he was peeved at being demoted from a Cabinet to a staff position, and that’swhy he wrote this book.


The man is a 30 year veteran of government service in the field of anti-terrorism. A career man. He’s served three presidents. And they want you to believe that he’s making up stories about the President of the United States, cabinet members and senior White House aides out of spite??

Give me a break!

I’m sure the White House is praying that the Pakistanis really have Ayman al-Zawahri or Osama bin Laden or both, surrounded, and can maybe capture them or kill them off.

Nothing affects those poll numbers like the capture of one of these purveyors of evil. Look at the upward spike when Saddam Hussein was pulled out of his hole.

If only it translated into a safer world , as Mr. Bush keeps insisting is the case with Saddam gone.

Evidence to the contrary notwithstanding!!

Speaking of expected reactions, the killing of Ahmed Yassin has evoked condemnation from around the world..

Illegal!! Won’t help the "peace" process!! Will only lead to more violence!!

Oh yeah? And would the immediate future hold less violence if Yassin was still alive?

I don’t necessarily approve of the targeted killings. The cycle of violence is leading nowhere - and to a certain extent, the Palestinians have an advantage. Theirs is a culture of martyrdom and death. Israelis celebrate life. As long as the terrorist organizations can send suicide murderers into the midst of the Israeli population centers, the violence will continue.

But I disapprove more strongly of the hypocrisy of the world community.

Just the other day, someone sent me a copy of Anne Bayefsky’s article in Commentary Magazine, "THE UN AND THE JEWS.

This body and the majority of its members, will fall over each other to be first in line to condemn Israel for battling its enemies, but as Professor Bayefsky points out, getting it and them to say one bad word about anti-Semitism, which is on the rise around the world, is like asking them to commit hara-kiri.

Incidentally - and of course - the Arab press and official Arab voices, are in the lead in the condemnation race. But nothing could be more disgusting than the Electronic Intifada, which published the story of the assassination under a picture of Sharon and Bush, presumably taken at one of their meetings. The picture has nothing to do with the story. It has no caption or explanation. It is just there, above the story of the killing of Yassin. Bush and Sharon. Both with happy smiles on their faces.

That’s the Electronic Intifada’s version of journalism!!

Friday, March 19, 2004

I know you don’t have to be a great basketball player to coach a basketball team.

I know you don’t have to be a great actor to direct a play or a movie.

And you don’t need a lick of sense to become rich and famous.

But when it comes to leveling criticism at a Presidential candidate about his ability or willingness to keep this nation militarily strong, and to know when we should use military force in defense of the nation, it would carry a little more weight if the critics had ever looked down the wrong end of a gun.

Dick Cheney, who has made a career of hiding from public view, avoiding any kind of military service and using his government service and connections to rake in millions in the private sector, is the last person who should be talking about how a President Kerry might handle matters of national defense and international crises.

Isn’t it great how these well to do, fat-cat white men in business suits, with very proper ties, perfect creases in their pants, and beautifully manicured nails, can sit in their comfortable office suites, sip imported wine and plan how to send our young men off to fight the wars they dream up?

And then they become the experts on when and how to fight wars, and criticize anyone who may disagree with them. Particularly those who have actually looked down the wrong end of a gun in some far off battlefield.

O.K. Maybe they don’t have manicured nails and they’re all teetotalers.

But the Cheneys and Wolfowitzes of the world turn my stomach.

Here’s a pretty good list of prominent politicians and others who served and didn’t serve in the military. It’s pretty revealing.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I served three years and seventy seven days in the British army. A long
time ago.

Once again the Chicago Tribune is upsetting a lot of people because of a cartoon that someone calling him or herself an editor, approved for publication.

This one portrayed white Chicago firemen as racists in the style of Bull Connor, the racist cop who turned fire hoses and dogs on civil rights marchers in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1963.

All because of racists remarks heard over the fire department radio frequency.

And once again, the Tribune defends its selection of the cartoon - and of course, the cartoonist defends his work.

One complaining letter compared it to the anti-Semitic cartoon that the Tribune published last May 30 and about which I wrote on three separate occasions last June -
June 3rd, June 4th, and June 11th.

The Tribune sort of apologized for that one and a lot of firemen and their families are demanding an apology for this one.

I don’t blame them.

Of course, editorial cartoons are supposed to be exaggerations and are meant to provoke. But there’s a limit - a line that shouldn’t be crossed.

There’s something wrong about the judgments that are being made at the Tribune in their selection and approval of cartoons and their selection and approval of some letters that have appeared in the "voice of the people" section.

It’s as though they are divorced from what reasonable people instinctively recognize as being beyond the pale.

And when people at the paper defend what to me are indefensible lapses in judgment, they sound like prosecutors who insist that they were right, long after someone they convicted has been found innocent and released from prison.

The sort of people the Tribune often takes to task.

How did Robert Burns put it??

Oh wad some pow’r the giftie gie us,
To see oursels as others see us

Of course, Burns was talking about a louse!!!!

I can’t stand reality shows, yet I occasionally watch "Extreme Makeover." It’s kitschy , but it’s well produced and edited.

Still - I can’t help wondering. What happened to the makeover candidates that didn’t have an outcome worthy of a "reveal?"

Just saw in the paper that Genevieve died at the age of 84.

The one time regular guest on the Jack Paar show.

I met her once, years ago, working at channel seven in Chicago. She was booked on the Marty Faye show and I was the stage manager the night she made her guest appearance. She arrived while the show was on the air, and I sat her down in a comfortable corner to wait for Marty to introduce her. I think I asked if there was anything she needed or if I could do anything for her. It was a long time ago, so I don’t really remember. But I‘ll never forget what she asked me.

"When I go on," she said, "shall I kiss 'im darling?"

I think I told her to do whatever she felt comfortable doing and I don’t remember now what she did.

I got along pretty well with Marty Faye. Some people didn’t like his style, but he wasn’t a bad guy.

But I wouldn’t have kissed him for a year’s worth of winning lottery numbers - if there had been a lottery in the sixties.

But then I’m not French either.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

And a happy St. Patrick’s day to one and all from o’whatsallthisthen.

The Illinois 2004 primary is over and this state put John Kerry’s delegate count over the top.

To a certain extent, we can breathe a sigh of relief. We won’t be spared the nonsense that passes for campaigning between now and November, but at least there’ll be less people polluting the airways and our mailboxes with the nonsense.

For anyone who voted for a senatorial candidate, believing that he or she would:

  1. Get you a job. A high paying job at that.

  2. Keep jobs from going overseas.

  3. Cut taxes. We don’t need tax money to run the country. We’ve got credit cards. And the tooth fairy.

  4. .
  5. Get your prescription drugs for you at a much better price than you’re paying.

  6. Stop illegal immigrants from stealing the job that’s been promised to you.

  7. .
  8. Clear those self same illegal immigrants out of Soldier Field in time for the first Bear game of the 2004 season.

  9. .Do battle with and resist the attacks of "insiders."

  10. Expel all those "special interest" people from Washington, DC and give their homes to "working families."

  11. Restore integrity to the entire Federal government.

You have my sympathy. He/she lost and so did you.

And you shouldn’t be allowed to vote next November.

It warmed my heart to watch the candidate who tried to buy the election, go down to ignominious defeat. Some of his campaigning was as ludicrous as anything I’ve seen in recent years. Let’s hope we don’t hear from him again.

The one thing that I thought was the most interesting among all the claims and promises, was what was said about the cost of prescription drugs. The "trying to buy the election" candidate, thought voters would be impressed by his taking some seniors on bus trips to Canada to buy cheaper drugs.

Another candidate portrayed himself as standing on the US/Canada border and comparing the cost of drugs in the two countries. He promised that if elected, he would let everyone buy their medications from Canada I guess he got confused between becoming a candidate for the Senate and being anointed supreme dictator.

What’s interesting about the prescription drug ideas all of these Senatorial wannabes is that they all seem to concentrate on the idea of getting cheaper medications from outside of the United States. They don’t say much if anything about why these drugs can be purchased cheaper outside of the United States - which is because other governments won’t allow the pharmaceutical companies to charge as much as they like.

One would think that instead of promising to pass or introduce legislation to allow Americans to buy their prescription drugs from other countries, they would talk about US doing what these other countries are doing. Why not talk about putting pressure on the pharmaceutical industry or introducing legislation to regulate the retail cost of prescription medication in this country?

Of course, the pharmaceutical companies have a whole litany of reasons for why this would not just be a bad idea - it would virtually cripple the industry that brings us all of these wonder drugs that are enabling us to live longer and healthier lives. And of course they would trot out their army of lobbyists to remind legislators how much they need pharmaceutical money to fund their election and re-election campaigns.

But the answer to the skyrocketing cost of the medicines that we need to keep us alive, is to set limits on what they cost. I’ve written about this a couple of times before. On 8/5/03, and on 10/22/03. When candidates or legislators start to talk seriously along these lines, I’ll sit up and listen.

Until then, their blathering about the unconscionable cost of prescription medications should be treated for what it is - campaign rhetoric. Or as Shakespeare put it - a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

A word to John Kerry.

I said that you’d have a problem if you tried to use the idea of foreign governments wanting to see Bush replaced as a campaign issue. It was in my 3/9/04 comments.

Now it’s backfiring on you.. Ridiculing cartoons are appearing. You’re being challenged to put up or shut up. And of course you can’t.

You can be elected, but you have to read my blog and pay attention to what it says there.

I won’t tell you again.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

As readers know, this is not a blog displaying a multitude of links to other blogs and other sites of interest to me.

Only four links have been listed here to date, and one has just been removed because "Israeli Guy" announced yesterday that he is retiring from blogging, though he will keep the site and perhaps return from time to time.

Israeli guy had a substantial number of links on his site, and I once asked him why some of them were there, because they seemed far removed from his areas of interest and from his writings. I’m not sure that he gave me an answer that was understandable, but he did say that his was a "link blog," whereas mine was a "commentary blog." I don’t see why one couldn’t have both. If and when I find more blogs that I would be likely to peruse (quickly) more often than "once in a great while," then I might be inclined to link to them for the sake of convenience.

Anyway, I’m down to only two Israeli blogs. I will be looking for more, including any that I am impressed enough with to include as a link. Meanwhile, I’ll keep checking the two I have, to be kept informed, amused or aggravated by Israeli opinion.

The latter was my reaction when I clicked on Israpundit yesterday and read a piece of Israeli madness posted there.

Israpundit is a difficult blog to read. The number of daily posts are huge and scrolling from one to another proceeds at a snail’s pace. I don’t know why. I’m no techie. But I wish it would scroll like other blogs. I might read more of it, more often.

But back to the madness of the piece I read yesterday - and which you can read by clicking on the above link, which, unlike being in the blog itself, appears instantly (a little slower if you have a dial up connection).

What’s worrisome about this post is that it is not an anomaly. It may differ in specifics, but it mirrors the hard line view that I see again and again in the few Israeli blogs that I have visited.

The authors suggest that Israel retain control over Gaza and the west bank and allow Palestinian Arabs to live anywhere they like, as long as they renounce violence and agree to give up the right to vote.

And all of this will be ratified by the supreme court of Israeli tooth fairies and Jewish leprechauns.

That anyone would seriously suggest this as a solution to the clash between two peoples is ludicrous, but it is clear that the people suggesting it are serious and I suppose that the fact that it appears on Israpundit gives it some measure of authority.

I can understand the desires of such people, but it is of absolutely no value to indulge in impossible dreams. The Palestinians do enough of that for both sides. It’s also too late to waste time talking about what should or shouldn’t have been.

There should never have been any serious consideration of a Palestinian "state," other than a geographic entity affiliated with and dependent upon, Jordan. Or better yet, a part of a greater Jordan. And a Gaza affiliated with or a protectorate of Egypt.

Of course it would have been more desirable if there could have been an Israel more closely resembling Biblical Israel, but that would have yielded the same problem that the Biblical Israel proponents face today. A large Arab population. And what is abundantly clear, is that that population does not want to live under Israeli rule.

The situation that exists in Israel and its Palestinian Arab neighbors can, without exaggeration, be described as madness. I don’t know how it will ever be resolved.

But I do know that expending time and energy in proposing the sort of nonsense that is appearing on what I presume to be a well read weblog, only contributes to the madness, and I’m sorry to see it appearing there.


The Illinois primary election is over. I’ll have some comments tomorrow.

Monday, March 15, 2004

After the terrorist atrocity in Madrid, someone close to me sent me a commentary from two Spanish bloggers, found at this link.

Significant is their comment about the "anti-war crowd" hoping that it was the work of Al Qaeda, so that they could blame the murderous attack on their own government for aligning itself with the United States anti terrorist policies.

And of course, that government is now out of power.

How terribly sad an outcome. Instead of railing against the perpetrators of this horrible crime, a majority of Spanish voters made their feelings clear. They blame Jose Maria Aznar and his Popular Party for incurring the wrath of the terrorists!!!

Was there ever a more sickening synonym for appeasement??

One can sympathize with those Spaniards who opposed the Iraqi war and the minor involvement of Spanish troops. There is plenty of such opposition right here in the United States.

In the coming election, my preference is for the replacement of George W. Bush as President.

But if, God forbid, there was another attack here at home, similar to 9/11, I could never imagine the ousting of our leadership because it incurred the wrath of madmen and thus were "responsible" for the attack.

Such thinking is beyond convoluted thinking. It approaches the same level of insanity as that of the terrorists.

My sympathy goes out to the Spanish victims of these maniacs.

At the same time, my reaction to those who voted the Popular Party out of power, is shame on you.

And madness in Ashdod……

No matter what one may think of Ariel Sharon, it’s hard not to sympathize with the impossible problems that he faces in trying to deal with the madness that confronts him and his nation.

I can be critical of some of the military actions that he authorizes - and indeed have been on the pages of this blog. But I can understand that some are launched out of sheer frustration - a response to madness that is sometimes equally insane.

Attacking Gaza City in response to the latest atrocity for example. It accomplishes nothing, but I can understand why Sharon and others believe it must be done.

It was sickening, as usual, to see the videotape of the two teenagers, declaring loyalty to their "cause," before going off and sacrificing their young lives in order to kill a few Israelis and in so doing, to earn their passage to "paradise."

Even more sickening were the television images of the mothers of these misguided children, holding up their photographs and saying how proud they were of their accomplishment, and the pictures of thousands in Gaza, "celebrating" the atrocity.

How can any Israeli government deal with such madness?

I’m not sure that there’s any particular significance in the fact that Sharon and Ahmed Qurei were scheduled to meet shortly, but of course - and as usual - the murderous acts have had the effect of halting any chance to begin a dialogue between the two leaders.

And even if such a meeting could take place, what kind of leadership is represented by Qurei?

There doesn’t seem to be any Palestinian governmental authority as we understand the term. There are "factions," each with differing amounts of power and "authority."

Take a look at Danny Rubinstein’s "Talking Heads" commentary about the various factions in Haaretz yesterday.

I have no wise thoughts about how to resolve what appears to be unsolvable.

I only have mad thoughts. And I can’t even bring myself to publish them here. They’re that crazy. And that’s an illustration of the dilemma facing Sharon.

Maybe I will publish some of those mad thought later.. After I’ve had a few days to calm down.

Meanwhile, someone or some ones, needs to start pounding a message through the thick skulls of the Palestinian maniacs. There is no such place as paradise. The misguided nitwits who are blowing themselves to bits are blowing themselves into oblivion.

Of course, that would assume that these crazies listen to any voices other than their own.

Such as the on line "Palestinian Chronicle." Lots of "news" and opinion in today’s issue, but to the Palestinians, the atrocity at Ashdod isn’t worth a mention.

Friday, March 12, 2004

It’s getting harder and harder to know what or who to believe.

Aristide gets spirited out of Haiti and then insists that he was kidnapped by Americans.

US officials say nonsense. Colin Powell says nonsense. But then we remember his presentation at the United Nations on Iraq. Pictures. Irrefutable evidence. And apparently, nonsense.

So who or what are we to believe?

Over the week-end, I saw a report of a young Afghani who had been held at Guantanamo for two years. He claimed he was just a taxi driver. We claimed that he had terrorist connections. He denied it. Finally, he was told if he would sign something that more or less admitted what we were alleging, he could go home. He signed. They let him go. He’s back home. No prosecution. No military trial. No apology.

One of the victims of the Bush doctrine that says we can pick up anyone, anywhere in the world, allege that they are terrorists or have terrorist connections, and hold them in custody as long as we like, without anything resembling due process or the rules of the Geneva convention.

This is what Bush says makes us safer and makes him a strong leader.

It will be one of his major elections themes - maybe the major election theme coming from the Republican side. It should be rejected.

Back to Haiti for a moment. I caught a little of the congressional "questioning" of Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega on PBS radio the other day. They played a few minutes of "questions" being posed by black caucus members of the International Relations sub-committee for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

I put the words "question" and "questioning" in quotes because the part of the committee hearing that I heard, shed little light but provided fodder for the likes of Rush Limbaugh. Rush likes to play audio clips that he can ridicule and Charlie Rangel, Maxine Waters et al, provided him with a doozie if he latched onto it. I only listen to Limbaugh for a minute or two when I’m driving, so I’ve no idea if he used the material or not.

What these two and others did, was harangue Mr. Noriega with "questions" that were really statements and accusations, giving him almost no opportunity to answer. As soon as he began to answer a question, they would cut him off, accuse him of not answering and go on with the next "question." What they wanted was yes or no answers to "are you still beating your wife" questions.

I would think that the purpose of having someone come up to the hill to testify would be to glean whatever information he or she could impart to congressional committee members. This was obviously not what the black caucus interrogators had in mind with their "questions," and it’s a shame.

I’m not a supporter of Aristide’s right to remain in office in Haiti. I’m not opposed to him either. Frankly, I don’t know enough about that sad country to offer an opinion. The position of the haranguing black caucus members may be the right one, but they detract from it when they try to make their case by bullying a committee witness with questions that they don’t want or allow him to answer.


What is there that anyone can say about the latest terrorist horror?

We live in a world being shared by sane and mad people - and the mad people are everywhere. They are hidden from us and they are among us.

There is no way to recognize the degree of their madness until something like a 9/11 or now a 3/ll happens.

So what do we do?

The sane people can try to conduct a war against terror - the war in which our president says we are engaged. But is that a war that can be "won?"

There’s no such thing as "terrorist land " that can be defeated and its inhabitants subdued..

The most we can do is identify some of the terrorists and hunt them down and kill or capture them. Leaving hundreds, maybe thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands or even millions, unidentified and growing more and more sophisticated in their ability to acquire and use deadly weapons against whoever they determine are enemies of whatever it is that they believe in.

We can’t appease them by acquiescing to their demands, because, for the most part, there are no demands!!

I fear that terrorism in one form or another will be with us for decades, maybe for centuries to come. Perhaps until the time when the nations of the third world emerge from their religious, cultural, educational and economic stagnation, and are functioning on a par with the western world.

I don’t know whether or not you can breed insanity out of the world’s population, but I would venture a guess that without some form of world wide order, terrorism, happening somewhere in the world, will be something that we’ll have to learn to live with.

Until superior beings from another galaxy arrive and impose their version of world wide order

But, as I wrote last October 6, "why don’t they come" (third item), there’s little chance of superior beings wanting to have anything to do with this madhouse we call earth.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

It’s hard to take a day off from posting a commentary here as long as I insist on reading the daily newspapers. I was going to take a day off before I did my daily read and spotted this delicious letter.

I sent a reply to the Tribune. It won’t get printed, but who cares. I have my own publishing company right here.

To: Voice of the People
Chicago Tribune

Kudos to Susan Petrarca (Kerry’s Positions 3/11/04) and to the Tribune for printing her letter.

All that stuff about the opposition perpetrating a fraud on the American public and dissing the President.

She’s got it absolutely right.

Well, most of it

Except for maybe the first paragraph. And the headline.

And the timing.

I mean, Clinton’s been out of office for more than three years now, hasn’t he?

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Most Americans believe that world war two ended in September of 1945 with the formal surrender of Japan.

But did it mean that all Japanese had given up on the idea of conquering or in any way defeating the United States? Certainly not all Japanese soldiers. It took a while for news of the surrender to reach some of them, so as far as they were concerned, the war was still on, even though there wasn’t any enemy in sight. Others, even though they knew the war was over, refused to turn in their weapons and uniforms and go home. They went underground. And none of this was just for a few days or a few weeks or a few months. It went on for years!!. Some of them held out into the eighties!! And the war was over in 1945!!!

Or was it?

Fast forward to the twenty first century. It’s 2004. There’s a rumor being whispered that there may still be hold outs, and that they’re not holed up on some godforsaken island, but hiding here - among us. And not stragglers, like the poor souls on the holdout list, but organized groups, still fighting the war that we thought we’d won. And with weapons that we have yet to recognize and for which we have no strategic defense in place.

If we are not careful, we will find ourselves on the losing end of a war that we don’t even know is being waged.

But I, through a series of serendipitous circumstances, have, I believe, uncovered one of those organized groups. Maybe the organized group. And I have discovered the weapons that they are using to attack the soft underbelly of this unsuspecting nation.

Let me explain.

It was my birthday the other day. My two daughters got together and bought me a very nice Sony TV for my den. I had one there of course, but they bought me a much bigger one. I had an RCA VCR, so I programmed the Sony TV remote to operate the VCR. It worked fine.

Then I said, what the heck. As long as I have this fancy new TV, I’ll get a new DVD/VCR combo. And I did. I bought a Sony DVD/VCR combo. I didn’t have to program the TV remote to operate this new unit. It was a Sony. The instruction books said it would work on both units. But it didn’t. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the Sony TV remote to run the Sony DVD/VCR combo.

So I called the Sony 800 number and discovered that we were still at war. Not right away. It took two whole days to figure out what was happening. But now I’m convinced. We are in for the fight of our lives and the weapons that the enemy is using are insidious beyond belief.

At the other end of the Sony 800 number is a pre-recorded monster that purports to have a "conversation" with callers. "It" was very pleased that I had called. "It" was there to help me.

"It" asked a number of questions to which I gave sufficient responses to make "it" understand that I was calling about a problem with a device. "It" asked me to name the device.

I said, "a DVD/VCR combo."

"It" said, " did you say VCR? If so, say yes."

I said, "no, it’s a DVD/VCR combo."

"It" said, "I’m sorry. I did not understand your response. Did you say VCR? If so, say yes."

This went back and forth for several minutes , interspersed with me pleading to talk to a humanoid, to which "it" kept responding "I did not understand." I finally gave in and said O.K, yes, I’m calling about a VCR.

"It" asked for a model number. I gave one. "It" repeated the number and asked me say yes if "it" had it right. I said yes.

"It" then wanted to direct me to a menu of helpful hints, at which point I hung up.

I had been on the phone for perhaps ten frustrating minutes, conversing with a disembodied voice - an "it" that wasn’t there. Just a multitude of pre-recorded words and phrases designed to respond to some pre-determined stimuli. And if the stimuli were "wrong," "it" was designed to lead you through a maddening circular maze leading again and again back to your starting point. Where "it" said hello and how glad "it" was that you called.

I swear my hands were shaking, my brow perspiring and my pulse racing when I finally hung up the phone.

I went to the Sony web site. It was a visual replica of the disembodied voice. I waded through screen after screen trying to find an answer to my question

It didn’t exist.

By the time I gave up on the Sony web site - after maybe twenty minutes, I was muttering to myself and having odoriferous hallucinations. I slept badly that night.

The next day, I had an epiphany. There is - or was - a Sony repair facility in a nearby suburb, and it had - or used to have - its own telephone number that used to be answered by a humanoid.

I looked in the phone book, found the number - and called. Only it was no longer the number of a Sony repair facility. It was someone else’s number. But they had a number for Sony that I could call. It was an 800 number, but not the same number I had called the day before, so I assumed it was the new number for the local Sony facility that would be answered by a humanoid.

I called.

"It" answered. It said "Hello. I note you called recently about a VCR. Did you have another question?"

Or words to that effect. I was shaking too hard to allow myself to absorb the verbatim greeting. "It" knew me!! Without me saying a word.

I thought about it for a while before I had a second epiphany. And realized what I had discovered. That world war two never really ended. New waves of Japanese "stragglers" are continuing to do battle with us. But they are organized stragglers - organized into corporations.

They have new weapons. They don’t explode or burn. They don’t kill. They don’t maim.

What they do is sell us things that cause us to have questions, and then they lure us into inane telephone "conversations" with "it" in search of answers to those questions. And they lure us to their web sites and lead us into endless circular mazes that hold the promise of answers to our questions, but never deliver.

And they slowly drive us insane. And when we are all blithering idiots, hands shaking, brows perspiring, pulses racing, muttering to ourselves and suffering odoriferous hallucinations, they will simply take over. We’ll never know what hit us.

But it isn’t going to happen because I’m onto them. I know it won’t be easy, but by the power vested in me by the great and powerful BLOG, I will do battle with this relentless enemy and save my precious nation from ignominious defeat.

Take note, you straggling Japanese warriors. I know who you are.

Generals Nobuyuki Idei and Kunitake Ando. You may call yourselves Chairman and President of the Sony Corporation, but I know who you really are and what you’re up to. You and your Welsh born front man, posing as CEO of Sony Corporation of America. Shame on you Howard Stringer.

He’s the one you probably have masquerading as "it."

I’m on to all of you. So you’d better watch it. I’ll be calling again, and this time, I’ll the one who "may" be recording the conversation. But it won’t be for training purposes. I’ll be to nail your warring Japanese asses to the wall.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

I’m still giving thought to the idea of starting a blog that will monitor letters to the editor in various papers and expose lies, distortions and revisionist history along with the editors who allow such drivel to see the light of day. But start it or not, I’ll always use this blog to expose any such letters that I come across in my daily reads.

And on this blog, we also expose letters under the category of "just plain stupid."

Today, we have a candidate who qualifies for my proposal to require a basic intelligence and civics 101 test for anyone before they are allowed to vote.

Here’s what he wrote to the Chicago Tribune, and what an editor at the Chicago Tribune considered worthy of publication!!!

"Tax cuts to the rich," cry the Bush bashers. I don't know all the details of President Bush's tax cuts, and I seriously doubt the voting public does either. Regarding tax policy and choosing a president in November, however, I know this: I am not wealthy, yet Bush gave me $300 of my own money back. That is $300 more than I can expect from Sen. John Kerry".
Imagine for a moment that you’re someone working at the paper, maybe an assistant to "Voice of the People" editor, Dodie Hofstetter. One of your responsibilities is to pick out interesting and well written letters that make some contribution to the interchange of ideas, facts and opinions.

In order to do that, you have to read a lot of letters that are not interesting or well written and contribute absolutely nothing to intelligent public discourse. I don’t know about you, but coming across the above reproduced letter, I’m pretty sure my reaction would have been the same as it is when I see something stupid on television. I start talking to the television set!!!

And I would have said to the letter of the idiot who wrote it.. "daaaah, Mr. Letter writer. You must be a CPA from Arthur Anderson. With that kind of background and training, I suppose you’d rejoice if your wife handed you $300 that you’d given her a while back and wouldn’t bother to ask how she could manage to do it. Well I’ll tell you how. She got a cash advance on your credit card. But not to worry. She set it up so that your kids will pay it back when they get old enough. Maybe your grandkids too."

It’s the Republican mirror image of what they say they’re against - taxing and spending. They just substitute borrowing and spending..

O.K. The letter writer didn’t get it. He thinks that Bush should be reelected because of a $300 tax rebate that did nothing for the economy and added to the out of control and still growing deficit. If I’m the editor or assistant editor, the letter goes in file thirteen.

But what would possess Ms Hofsetter to publish such a letter? Could it be to give equal space to nitwits? Could it be to try to balance attacks on the rival presidential candidates, regardless of the inanity of the attack?

Or could it be that it gets published under the cover of "opinion," no matter how cockeyed, to which all free Americans are entitled?

Whatever the reasoning that allowed it to get into the paper, it does have a saving grace. It reminds us that there are plenty of people who will latch onto what they perceive as the truth of a single issue, and will cast their vote accordingly. And it’s a reminder that we must get to the polls to vote in the primary elections and absolutely in the general election.

One has to hope that there are enough of us to outnumber them. Otherwise, there is no hope!!!

Lots of people have lots of ideas for John Kerry, and some not too bad ideas come from unexpected sources.

She couldn’t make a dent among California voters, but not because she doesn’t have reasonably good ideas. It’s just that you can’t use anything as practical as ideas against a terminator.

Maybe Kerry can put some of them to good use. Six of them in fact From Arianna Huffington.

I can add one small piece of advice. I heard reports that some world leaders have been telling Kerry that they are pulling for a Bush defeat. That wouldn’t surprise me at all, but I would be surprised if Kerry actually tried to use it as a campaign issue.

The polls say that if the election were held today, Kerry would win fairly handily. But the election isn’t being held today.

The polls also say that Bush has a commanding lead among male voters. I don’t know why, but it’s apparently true.

And I would imagine that the last thing that would make those male voters turn away from Bush would be to hear that some goddamned foreigners want to see him kicked out of office.

To even suggest that foreign opinion of Bush should be considered by American voters is guaranteed to backfire.

There are enough people here who want to see him move back to Texas. Kerry’s job is to inspire those people to go to the polls and cast their votes.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Even though I’m no fan of Martha Stewart and whatever it is she does to make her millions, I feel somewhat sorry for her.

Unless Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum feels sorrier for her than I do, she will be spending some time in federal prison.

It’s sad, because all of her troubles were avoidable, as I pointed out in my comments of January 4, 2004. All she had to do from the very beginning was tell a version of the truth. It could have been her own, self serving version, which might have differed from other people’s. But as long as it didn’t include obvious lies, the Feds wouldn’t have been able to nail her. Or at least they wouldn’t have been able to win a conviction.

It’s too late now of course. The die is cast. There’s nothing she can do to undo the pickle she’s in.

But one thing she can do is not compound the problem, and from what I’ve been able to observe, she doesn’t seem to know how to stop enlarging the hole that she’s dug herself into. She’s learned nothing from what she’s just gone through.

Obviously, she will appeal. That’s her right. But when making that statement on her "Martha Talks" web site, she included a denial of guilt, shown in newspaper reports, but swiftly removed from her web site version.

Someone got to Martha and told her she wasn’t helping herself by continuing to make public statements about innocence. A pity they couldn’t get to her before she opened her big mouth. She’s a convicted felon and she’s going to do time, and everything she says publicly before sentencing is likely to be taken into account by the judge.

She has a lawyer. (She should probably get some new ones). But she should leave all the talking about appealing and prevailing to whoever will be representing her legally. They’ll be lawyers. They can say nonsensical things. It won’t hurt them. It’s expected of them. But more importantly, it won’t hurt Martha. It probably won’t help her either, but talk about "ultimately prevailing" coming from them, isn’t likely to add months to Martha’s stay in a Fed pokey.

It’s too late for Martha, but I invite anyone accused of insider trading, lying to the Feds, obstructing justice or any other crime, to feel free to consult with me before responding to the charges. My advice will save you a lot of grief. I could have done it for Bill Clinton. And I could have done it for Dick Nixon. The formula’s simple. It’s there in my January 4 post listed above.

I don’t know why people who are successful and otherwise intelligent, don’t seem to understand it, but if they’d like to get in touch, I’ll be glad to educate them. No charge. My gift to a kinder, gentler humanity.


As reader’s of this blog know, I frequently disagree with Charles Krauthammer. I even find myself disagreeing with him on Israel, of which I am a strong supporter. Charles doesn’t seem to be able to find fault with anything that Israel does, and I am often critical of Israeli policies and actions.

But today, I am somewhat in awe of the good doctor. He has penned a critique of Mel Gibson’s "Passion" that sets forth the problem with the film in the clearest and most understandable terms I have so far read. I recommend it to you.

Friday, March 05, 2004

An interesting column in today’s Chicago Tribune about a reporter who inserted some fiction into a news story, got caught and lost his job.

The misdeeds of this particular reporter probably weren’t as embarrassing or as damaging to the Tribune, as were the shenanigans of Jason Blair to the New York Times, but they were enough to get the guy fired.

The column was written by Don Wycliff, the paper’s "public editor," and included information on the lengths to which Tribune editors go to check on these sorts of things when they are alerted to a possible problem.

Still, as Wycliff points out, "no system of checks and balances, no matter how sophisticated or deeply ingrained, can catch every error, distortion or lie."

Fair enough.

On the other hand, obvious errors or lies or distortions shouldn’t require a sophisticated system of checks and balances to keep them out of the paper. If a reporter inserts a dateline of "Mount Trashmore" and identifies it as "the highest peak in the western hemisphere," any editor with more than eight hours experience would recognize it, either as a joke or as the work of someone geographically impaired. And it would never get into the paper.

But is that same kind of common sense and, when called for, sophisticated system of checks and balances , applied by all editors in all parts of the paper? I think not. I think there are some glaring exceptions, in the Tribune and in other major and minor newspapers around the country

In May of last year, I wrote about one section of newspapers where the appearance of errors, lies and distortions, is commonplace. I called it LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - A CRITIQUE

One of the points that I made in that on-line editorial, was that a paper will often print a "letter to the editor" disputing or disproving something that appeared in an editorial or in a news story, without offering any admission of error or defense of the original item.

For sure I have never seen any story about a reporter or editor being reprimanded or fired because of some error that was pointed out in a letter to the editor. One gets the impression that publishing such a letter is an acceptable quid pro quo for publishing a lie.

Another point that I made last May, was that a newspaper might publish a letter stating things that mirror an editor’s point of view, but that could never be published as a news story or an editorial.

For example, last June, the Tribune published a blatantly anti-Semitic cartoon, with created quite a brouhaha. There were letters to the editor. There were follow up editorials. There was a lot of mea culpa. And there was a column at that time by the Tribune’s public editor, Don Wycliff.

I wrote about it here for two or three days and I sent e-mails to Bruce Dold, editorial page editor and to Don Wycliff. Dold sent a response. Wycliff didn’t.

One of the things I pointed out to Wycliff relates to the point I am making today and can be found here.

But if you don’t care to click and wade through several paragraphs, the relevant comment was about a letter that the Tribune had published, containing the statement that Israelis had been slaughtering and dispossessing Palestinians with impunity long before there was a PLO, and that no letter refuting this obviously bigoted distortion of history, including one that I wrote, had ever been published.

I’m not saying that such a letter reflected the point of view of anyone at the Tribune, but still one wonders just how such a letter got through the cracks and why no letter challenging this ridiculous accusation ever saw the light of day.

The Chicago Tribune has been running a series of radio ads in recent times, featuring various reporters and editors speaking of the "passion" of their work. I’m not sure if Don Wycliff has voiced one of these spots, but I know that the "Voice of the People" editor, Dodie Hofstetter, has.

She spoke of the huge volume of letters that cross her desk and how she agonizes over which ones she selects to publish. She didn’t say anything about how letters get examined for obvious distortions or factually incorrect assertions, and it is not uncommon for those to appear under the passionate supervision of Ms Hofstetter.

I think maybe that Wycliff’s column and my re-reading of comments I made last May and June have given me an idea for another blog. If it doesn’t already exist, there needs to be a web site that identifies "letters to the editor" that include or consist of lies and distortions and that would refute them with verifiable, factual information.

And oh yes - that would identify the editors that allowed them to be published.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

I know that three days in a row on US politics is a bit much, but I just can’t resist the latest bit of intrigue in the Illinois Senatorial race.

On the Democratic side, we have a multi millionaire candidate who has been flooding the airwaves with ads, and consequently, if one can believe a poll taken a while ago, is leading all the other candidates, based solely on name recognition.

The guy has never run for office before so he’s never been scrutinized. Until now.

It seems he married and divorced his ex-wife twice, and the last time, she had an order of protection against him, calling him violent and saying that he had struck her and threatened to kill her. But she also has a big time state job, obtained on the recommendation of her allegedly violent ex-husband, who made large campaign contributions to the now governor of the state for which his ex-wife works. And now, she supports her ex-husband’s candidacy!!

The details of his last divorce had been sealed, and his opponents, sensing ammunition that could be used against him, pushed to have them unsealed, hence the revelations of violence and threats of violence.

Do you really want to send this man to the Senate, say his opponents. And they seem to be chipping away at his lead.

Over on the Republican side, the leader in the polls is another millionaire, and his opponents, looking for some way to cut into his lead, took a look at what was happening in the Democrat’s race and had an epiphany!! Their poll leader had also been divorced. And some of the details had been sealed!!!

And of course they want them unsealed.

But this is an entirely different kind of divorce from that of the poll leading Democrat. The Republican leader was once married to and subsequently divorced from SEVEN OF NINE!!!!

Now, everyone who pays attention to inter-galactic affairs, and I presume that to be anyone who is intelligent and informed enough to read this blog, knows that SEVEN OF NINE was captured by the Borg when she was a mere child, and integrated into the Borg collective society.

Years later, she was rescued as a fully grown Borg female by Captain Janeway and the crew of the Enterprise, and slowly nursed back to human health.

All of this is of course public knowledge. Any schoolchild can tell you where to find the history of the Borg and of Seven of Nine.

But what they can’t tell you, and what you will not find in any history book in any school in any country on this planet, is that during a time warp mission, while she was still implanted with critical Borg hardware and software, Seven, Janeway et al, returned briefly to earth and were forced to spent time in what was once known as "Chicago."

There, posing as an un-implanted humanoid, Seven of Nine took on a human name and met, fell in love with and married, the man who now wishes to become the Republican candidate for Senator from Illinois.

Once the time warp unraveled, Seven revealed her true identity to the candidate and explained why she had to leave. He, being politically minded, accepted the need to let his wife go, but persuaded her to along with a cover story to explain her disappearance.

They came up with the idea of "divorce," and until recent times, the story had held up well and there was not a hint of suspicion about the true identity of the woman who had masqueraded at this now political candidate’s wife.

But there was a problem that they had not anticipated. There had been a child born of this marriage, and he had been born while S of N was not yet totally disconnected from her Borg bio-implants!!! Federation law prevented Seven and Captain Janeway from taking this child aboard Enterprise when it was able to untangle itself from the time warp and return to its own time.

But they couldn’t leave the child in the custody of a 21st century human. Federation law wouldn’t allow that either.

They solved the problem by creating a bio-equivalent of Seven of Nine and ensconced her on the west coast of the United States, along with the child, who, until now, has been kept unaware of his heritage, which of course, is part Borg.

Now the opponents of the real Seven of Nine’s ex, want certain details of his divorce, which concern this part Borg child and which have up to now been sealed - to be unsealed..

They think this is a case similar to that of the poll leading Democrat and they are looking for the same outcome.

But if they keep pushing and are successful in un-sealing what no human is supposed to know, it could make Pandora’s Box look like an early edition play station.

The Borg are not of our time and we would have no defense against being assimilated into the service of the son of Seven of Nine if he becomes aware of who and what he is.

The decent thing of course, would be for that leading Republican to withdraw from the race immediately and save that other race, known as human.

But he won’t do it. He has been afflicted with a disease for which there is no known cure. Not in our time. Not in Seven of Nine’s time. Political ambition. He’s been afflicted, and try as he might - resistance is futile.

Just joking of course.

But we're talking about the kinds of nonsensical things that go on in political campaigns, so I guess joking about them is not just appropriate. It's probably the right thing to do.