What's All This Then?

commentary on the passing parade

Agree? Disagree? Tell me

My Other Blog

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Due to some very necessary surgical intervention. Though this may be a disappointment to some ….… I WILL be back. Sometime!!

Friday, January 20, 2006

As I said on Monday, sometimes there’s so much going on that we commentary bloggers have a hard time deciding what to write about on any given day. - And it’s even harder when you’re trying to take care of impending medical matters and you’re locked in a time consuming wrestling match with the annoying invader known as "winfixer" at the same time. I really don’t understand why these crooks who invade people’s personal computers can’t be hauled into a courtroom - either a criminal or a civil court. I mean, how much different is it than tapping your phone or installing some software into your phone system so that every time you pick up the phone to make or answer a call, you hear a commercial for some product? Or maybe a scary message saying that your phone system is corrupted and unless you switch to system "X" Osama Bin Laden will use your location as the focal point of his next attack against the USA.

All such activities by computer invaders and virus attackers should be categorized as serious felonies with serious consequences. I wasn’t kidding when I titled my August 13, 2003 comments Hang All The Hackers.

Having got that off my chest - though still stuck in my craw - on to other matters. Things that matter as much as or more than locking up computer crooks and throwing away the key.

I have a stop watch in my desk draw that gets used occasionally. Years ago, when I was actively producing audio programs - (see my career highlights at this site,) I used it daily. I’ve had it now for somewhere between 20 to 30 years and the reason I mention it here is because it has been running efficiently on its original battery - and that has at least some tangential connection to the subject of these comments.

We should have found an alternative to gasoline by now. Fossil fuels are finite. No matter how much oil we discover, it’s going to peter out. And with ever increasing demand from societies with growing need for the precious fuel, it will disappear faster than we once thought.

In many ways that will be a good thing. We and other western countries will no longer have to have an "oil based" foreign policy towards oil producing countries and we’ll be able to deal with some of then a lot differently than we do while our gas guzzlers clog our highways. But first we’ll have to have come up with some other way to run our cars and trucks and buses.

Gasoline companies of course have had little incentive to do anything but produce gasoline as long as the oil flowed day and night. Before nationalism took over in the Arab world, oil companies were all members of cash cow royalty - and even with the changes in who owns and controls what, they still reap enormous profits and will continue to do so as long the extraction of fossil fuels and the madness of the oil trading market continues.

I don’t subscribe to too many conspiracy theories and certainly not to the one that I’ve heard bounced around for years about the invention of a fuel substitute in the way of a pill that you just dropped in water to make instant gasoline. And of course the story was that the big gasoline giants were sitting on the invention so that they could continue to reap oil profits until the last drop of the stuff was squeezed out of the ground.

But now it seems that the conspiracy theorists may have been on to something. The answer to the eventual disappearance of gasoline may be Water!! Fuel for your gas guzzler produced from water!! Not a pill - but a fuel to run your car that is extracted from water. Hydrogen!! It can be done and the nation that is leading the way is Iceland!!

Of course it takes electricity to produce the hydrogen from water - but Iceland has plenty of ways to generate electricity and once hydrogen starts to be produced in large quantities, the gas itself can then be used to produce electricity that zaps the water to produce more hydrogen. Sort of like the mythological perpetual motion machine. It’ll take some decades, but Iceland plans to become fossil fuel free. Clean air and no need to kowtow to Arab sheiks or worry on a daily basis about how much more oil traders think we should pay to run our cars than we paid yesterday.

It’ll be interesting to see how we and other industrial nations respond to the Icelandic initiative. We can hope it won’t be to start trading in "water futures" - but it wouldn’t surprise me if the commodities industry found a way to influence the price of hydrogen fuel and started to reap profits from the daily fluctuations in hydrogen futures!!

Speaking of conspiracy theories, one could almost theorize that President Bush and Osama Bin Laden have made a deal to work together. We’ll continue not to find him and he’ll keep making threats against us.

As long as the world’s most wanted man remains at large, Bush can keep insisting that we are "at war" with "terrorism" and his Attorney General can insist that the illegal things he is doing in the name of fighting this "war" are legal and justified. And just at the moment when the issue is about to come to a head - when law suits have been filed against the administration challenging the alleged "legality" of wiretapping American citizens without a warrant and the Republican Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee says that hearings will be held on the matter and even uses the word "impeachment" - up pops a new (?) tape from good old Osama saying the same old same old - that plans are afoot to attack us again - and almost immediately an army of administration apologists flood the airways with "I Told You So" warnings of how we’re in such danger from this arch terrorist and why we have to renew the Patriot Act immediately and give George W Bush unlimited power to cut as many taxes as he can count with his fingers and toes.

And one of those powers that is being sought is to find out what searches I do on google!! Not me personally. Well - yes - me personally and everyone else who uses google to search for anything. The millions of us who use it every day. And if that doesn’t scare the bejesus out of you a hell of a lot more than the taped ramblings of an Arab madman, then - to paraphrase the words of Professor Harold Hill speaking to the citizens of River City - "either you are closing your eyes to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated by the presence of a snoop in your computer"

Apparently Yahoo has already opened it’s records to the snooping eyes of the government - but so far Google is resisting and I hope they keep on resisting. At least until we can get a change in the balance of power in Washington and call a halt to this creeping encroachment of our freedoms in the name of a war without end - a phrase that bothers me no end and that I think I’ll comment on this week-end.

One final comment about the Bin Laden tape. Or maybe a question. Could there be anything more ridiculous than the White House response to the threats and the offer of a "truce" if we’ll just get out of Iraq and Afghanistan? From cowboy Scott McLellan:
"We do not negotiate with terrorists, we put them out of business."

"The terrorists started this war and the president made it clear that we will end it at a time and place of our choosing."
Macho talk. I think Jon Stewart said it best on a Daily Show broadcast some time ago. "What are we - children??"

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I like Charlie Madigan. I don’t know him personally but I like the way he writes. Charlie is an editor at the Chicago Tribune. He’s also a fellow blogger, to which statement nowadays one might easily add - "isn’t everybody?"

In today’s Tribune, he writes about the idiots who ascribe all kinds of events to the will of God - or as he puts it "it’s God’s fault. " - and of perhaps the nations number one idiot, Pat Robertson, he says:
"He would have been perfect pre-Enlightenment, maybe in the 14th or 15th Century. He is about as relevant today as a codpiece."
Of course I agree. This idiot makes one idiotic statement after another. If he was in almost any other line of work, he would long since have been relegated to the unemployment office and morning visits to local soup kitchens.

But "Reverend" Robertson is in the "God" business. That and the con business which consists of telling viewers of his Christian Broadcasting Network how Godly a thing it is to send money so that he can keep doing God’s work over the airways. They do and he does and that results in an even nuttier expansion of the nuttiness that Madigan describes in his column. There are millions of people across the country who believe that Robertson is a "man of God" who speaks "God’s words" and no matter how crazy his pronouncements get and how many late night comedians tear him to pieces, the "believers" keep believing. His daily audience for his 700 Club broadcasts average a million households.

Those of us who regard ourselves as being sophisticated may call people like Robertson irrelevant and go about our sophisticated ways, but if we don’t pay attention to those millions who see nothing wrong with what the man says and does and indeed believe pretty much as he does, we are ignoring what I think is a growing danger to our beloved sophisticated way of life.

I’ve commented on it before - the growing desire of large numbers of religious Americans to move this country in the direction of some form of theocracy - or at least a marriage of democracy and theocracy in governance - from the very local to the ultimate Federal level - the White House. The problem with trying to slow it down or pulling its fangs, is that a majority of the rest of us - those who don’t want "intelligent design" taught as science or prayers to be recited in schools or religious edifices displayed in and on public buildings, are also deists. We believe in God. And so it isn’t that easy for us to dismiss or fight against the way someone else believes. We who are deists are - in no small way - as nutty as Pat Robertson.

Of course we don’t need to be a theocracy for people who believe as Pat Robertson believes to influence - no - control the nature of our governance. This is something I’ve also written about before. More than once. Try running for any elective office in this country and when asked to express religious views, say that you’re an atheist. You’ll get the atheist vote - maybe - but in a field of as many candidates as you’d care to name - you’d come in last. You know this is true. In the last election, Bush and Kerry were falling over each other in their protestations of faith and the role it plays in their lives.It was painful to watch.

And so it was a wonderful surprise to learn of the election of Michelle Bachelet as President of Chile. Not a surprise that Chileans had elected a women. Women have been elected head of democracies around the world before. England, Israel, India, Germany to name just a few. In that regard, the United States lags way behind. Past efforts of women to run for the US Presidency have been greeted with little more than polite snickers and the pundits can float Hillary Clinton’s name as often as they like - it won’t make any difference. We’re still not ready to take a woman seriously at the helm of our ship of state.

But the wonderful surprise about Michelle Bachelet was that in a nation of predominantly Catholic believers, she was able to campaign as an avowed agnostic and not have to declare how great a role her "faith" played in her life and how much it would "sustain" her as the nation’s leader. Those far away Chileans. Those church going South Americans. Who would have thought that they would set the example for the rest of the Americas. They have done what we in the United States can’t conceive of doing - at least not in the foreseeable future. But can you imagine what a burden it would lift from the shoulders of potential Presidential of Congressional candidates? Not to have to figure out how to pretend you’re something that you’re not while trying to appeal to the millions of voters whose beliefs permit a Pat Robertson to prosper?

Maybe the answer for candidates who want to run for national office but feel constrained by the need to declare themselves people of faith, is to spend some time in Chile to see how it can be done. Or maybe persuade some Chilean political strategists to come here and show us how to do it. For sure we need some help to get us out of the stranglehold that religion has on our political process.

Monday, January 16, 2006
After a couple of other things….

Sometimes there is so much going on that we bloggers devoted to more or less daily commentary on the passing parade have a difficult time deciding on what to comment - and this is one of those days.

A couple of things are stuck in my craw that I may elaborate on at some later date. One is the kid in Florida who came to school with a pellet gun made to look like a real gun and threatened to shoot fellow students and teachers. He also was making noise about wanting to die. Obviously a sick kid. Now a dead kid after being shot by a SWAT team.

I know that after past incidents where disturbed kids have actually killed people at school, police don’t want to take any chances. But this kid hadn’t killed anyone and even though he was brandishing what they thought was a real gun, you’d think that there would be people on police forces trained to find ways to remove the potential danger by methods other than deadly fire. It sickens me every time things like this happen.

Another annoyance was the non news "news" report about the raid in Pakistan that "may" have killed Osama Bin Laden’s number two man Ayman Al Zawahri. Remember the raids in Iraq that may have killed Saddam Hussein but did kill innocent civilians? That’s what happened in Pakistan and it’s small wonder that Pakistanis are furious with us. It’s bad enough that we caused the deaths of so many people without harming the terrorist target - but why on earth report the effort so blazingly if you’re not sure it was successful? Of course the story had to come out eventually - but for it to be reported as it was - that Zawahri may have been killed without knowing if it was true and before we knew what other deaths we had caused was, in my opinion, a premature and irresponsible release of information by authorities and irresponsible reporting by our news media. A "may of" isn’t a front page or lead TV news story and you would think the news media would have come to that conclusion after the debacles of a similar nature in Iraq.

Having got those items out of the way, let me say a few things about last week’s Alito hearings. As I said the other day, the whole thing was a charade - a political charade - with the Republicans committed to vote for their brother ideologist and the Democrats committed to proving that - or at least to trying to find out - if Alito’s politics dictate his judicial decisions.

The Democrats did a lousy job. They came across as a group of attack hounds, making long speeches and lacing their questions with accusations which made the judge look like a sympathetic figure. On the CAP issue for example, where Alito was obviously being less than honest. He "remembered" enough about his membership to put it on his application for a job with the Reagan administration and saying that he was proud of that membership - but at the hearings couldn’t remember a thing about it.

But still, it isn’t helpful to ask a question by saying something like "how could you have joined an outfit devoted to lynching blacks and sending Jews to gas chambers?" No, no one asked a question like that, but they did ask questions that began with an accusation. If they were skilled questioners - and some are lawyers - what’s wrong with simply asking "could you tell us why you joined CAP?" Or "could you tell us why you said that you were proud to have belonged to this organization on your application for a job with the Reagan administration?" And then proceed from there to bring out what you want to bring out. Not sounding like you’ve made up your mind about his answer before you hear it.

Here’s a couple of conclusions about the hearings. The Alito who appeared before the committee bore little resemblance to the Alito who had existed up to the moment he was selected by Bush to replace Justice O’Connor. Why the Democrats weren’t able to make that crystal clear is beyond me. On the abortion issue for example, his views have been stated unequivocally, but at the hearing he was allowed to get away with saying that he would view the issue with an "open mind" if it came before the Supreme Court. A mind that has been closed on the issue throughout his legal career including his fifteen years on the appeals bench - is suddenly open. At least long enough to avoid a filibuster. Disingenuous to say the least.

About the man himself. Bland. The quintessence of blandness. If he is passionate about the law, he certainly didn’t reveal that quality at the hearings. If he smiled or frowned at any time, it must have been at a moment when I looked away from watching the taped broadcasts of the hearings on CNN. I was reminded of the Bush-Kerry debates after the first debate. The Bush handler’s had him programmed to show no negative emotions. No anger. No disgust. No looks that said "You don’t know what you’re talking about you Eastern liberal idiot." And it worked for him as it did for Alito. But what struck me as something that must have bothered at least sone of the Senators was his sameness of dispassionate approach to the law whether the case involved petty theft or the death penalty. I could visualize this guy considering an appeal from a death sentence where evidence of innocence had arisen - and confirming the sentence because proper legal procedures had been adhered to by the prosecutors from arraignment through trial and all subsequent issues before the court. A little like the judge in California who has rejected an appeal to spare a 76 year old, blind, wheelchair bound inmate from being put to death tonight. His lawyers contended that it would violate the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment to execute someone this old and in this condition but the Judge said that such an argument has no relevance from a legal point of view.

I suppose it doesn’t, but wouldn’t you want a judge on the bench who would at least concede that it had some kind of relevance worth considering even if wasn’t from a "legal point of view?"

Another thing that bothered me about the hearings was that there was no real discussion of what it meant - from Alito’s point of view - to be a "conservative" as a judge. Obviously, he is a conservative Republican and was picked for that reason and not just or necessarily for his conservative interpretation of the law - if there is such a thing. I prefer to think of it as bias founded upon one’s political beliefs rather than a reading of the law that automatically differs from that of a "liberal" judge. I am reasonably sure that there are politically Democratic judges on the Federal bench whose "conservative" approach to judicial decisions could match those of many politically Republican judges - but Mr. Bush would never consider nominating a (shudder) Democrat to the high court!!

Finally, I was surprised and concerned that the Democrats didn’t make it clear during the hearings that President Bush did not consult with them before Alito was nominated - as contrasted with President Clinton who cleared his selections for the Supreme Court with Senators from both sides of the aisle - which may have been the reason why they sailed through the Senate with overwhelming approval - as Republicans keep pointing out when calling Democratic reluctance to do the same with the Bush nominees as "obstructionist" or "politics as usual."

It seems to me that if both branches of government - the Executive and the Legislative - want to keep this country on an even keel and represent the interests of all the people all - or at least most of the time, the business of nominating a judge for a seat on the Supreme Court would always follow the Clinton example and bring a nominee before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary who is completely acceptable to the majority and the minority - no matter which party occupies either position. The nomination would then come out of committee with a unanimous aye vote and most likely receive almost unanimous affirmation by the full Senate. And we’d have a judge whose decisions we couldn’t predict in advance because of his political beliefs.

But of course that would require a President who is a uniter - not a divider.

Friday, January 13, 2006
But it may not be what she says it is….

I’d only been at this blog business for three months or so when I felt compelled to comment about "Oprah" and her role in the world of publishing. The news then was that her "Book Club" was "returning" and in my post of June 20, 2003, I questioned why it was "news." It had been reported in newspapers and within television newscasts. And a few days later, on June 23, 2003, I tried to explain the "why" of Oprah Winfrey’s influence in the world of books, though I didn’t agree with or approve of it.

Now we have the story of James Frey and his super best seller work of fiction/non-fiction, courtesy of its selection by Oprah’s Book Club -and I am smiling quietly to myself as it unfolds on one talk show after another. What makes me smile the most is that Oprah is deeply involved in the ongoing discussion about the book’s veracity - as though she were a co-author or the publisher or otherwise more closely connected to it than just someone who talked about it on a television program. I find it hilarious.

I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of the book. It’s not something that I would be interested in which is why any listing on a best seller list or any news story about it would have escaped my attention - until this story of course. This one is appearing in sections of the newspaper that I do read and on television programs that I watch - either regularly or occasionally. .

I can’t comment on whether or not Mr. Frey is a con man who has written a "memoir" that’s closer to a work of fiction. He claims that only a handful of pages are involved in incidents and people that may have been "embellished" or fictionalized, but as the story in the Sydney Newspaper linked above points out, the information on those pages were all that could be checked. Everyone else that could verify or dispute what’s on the rest of the book’s pages is either dead or in prison. When the book was reviewed in the New York Times in 2003, reviewer Janet Maslin said that it had been reported that James Frey originally presented the material as a novel when he was looking for a publisher. Whatever works I guess. If it’s true.

Whether fiction or non-fiction or one masquerading as another, authors and publishers of course seek out every possible way to expose their works to the buying public and getting a book selected for exposure on the Oprah Book Club seems to be a guaranteed way of boosting sales - sometimes, as in the case of "A Million Little Pieces" - into the millions. The buyers of course are not necessarily regular book buyers or even regular readers. What they are are Oprah show watchers who will do their buying on Oprah’s recommendation - books or something else. It’s why Oprah is one of the richest women in show business. Advertisers probably fall over each other trying to position themselves on her show.

The idea of introducing a large television audience to the joys of reading and to great works of fiction or non fiction is a good idea. But it still bothers me that a book that has been thoroughly reviewed by people whose business it is to review books and that hasn’t achieved any substantial sales figures, can leap to the top of the best seller list overnight after a boost from Oprah Winfrey.

I don’t know whether or not Mr. Frey wrote a memoir or a work of fiction masquerading as a memoir and I don’t care whether or not Oprah believes in him or thinks his book was a worthy opus for her to have promoted even if some of its "facts" are not precisely factual. I find the whole thing somewhat amusing, but as I said in my comments of June 20, 2003, I just hope Oprah doesn’t start a Presidential Candidate Club.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

As readers of this blog know, I have from time to time deplored the changes that have occurred across the English landscape over the years - from tea shops that don’t serve tea to London Bobbies patrolling the streets with turbans where their helmets should be. You can read that one by clicking on the obvious blog post title on the left of this screen.

I lived in England as a child and went to school there - so there was an England that I once knew. But each time that I’ve gone back to visit over the years, I’ve noticed changes - and I haven’t thought of them as changes for the better. And as I say, I’ve written about them here on numerous occasions, the most recent comments appearing on December 13 of last year.

Now it seems that the British government has become aware of the changes that have taken place in the country - changes that have made England less "English" than it used to be and is trying to do something about it - and one of the things is to ask members of the public to identify English "Icons" - the edifices or traditions that make England "England."

You can read about it at this UK Government web site. You can even nominate and/or vote for icons at this site if you feel so inclined, though I would imagine the government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport would prefer only votes originating in England and may only count home generated votes.

On the other hand, the BBC, which is asking Internet users to select their preferences from the initial twelve icons, probably couldn’t care less where you’re from. Have fun. Vote away!!

It’s an interesting project and it will be interesting to see what the final groups of English "icons" will be. Here’s are descriptions of the first twelve chosen by the government. I doubt that the authorities are suggesting that these are the most representative of England’s icons. I know I can think of a dozen that could easily replace this dozen and would be widely accepted as highly representative of the spirit of the nation.

As I say, it’s an interesting project, but if the aim is to reflect the public’s concept of "Englishness" or to raise awareness of English culture, I’m afraid it won’t have much success. Through all of the changes that have taken place in England that I have noted in past blog comments, the "icons" that have been identified in the original dozen have remained intact - even the "cup of tea" that I once complained wasn’t available in a tea shop. It was an anomaly. The English still drink tea by the gallon.

But "Englishness" - if there is such a word - isn’t something that is identified by the artifacts of the country. They’re important to be sure. The castles, the ancient homes, the quaint villages, the churches and the pubs. But the true culture of the country is reflected by its people - and no selection of English "icons" by popular vote is going to make those who live there more or less appreciative or understanding of what it is to be English.

Unlike the United States, England, with its insulated population and history, wasn’t what one would think of as an ideal kind of nation to become a melting pot - but that’s what it’s become and it has yet to come to grips with the changed nation. In my youth, the sight of a black face was a rarity - an event - something to be pointed out to your friends or to be recounted later over a glass of beer. Most of the black faces belonged to members of visiting cricket teams from India or South Africa. You didn’t hear foreign languages spoken everywhere. There weren’t thousands of immigrants pouring into the country. There were probably more people going the other way - to Canada and Australia. You didn’t hear the wailing of the muezzin calling Muslims to prayer from the minaret of the local mosque. If there were any mosques in those days, they were well hidden from public view.

But all that has changed. It’s not the same country it once was and it’s having a hard time coming to grips with its new demographics and its new values. England had and still has an official religion - the Church of England - of which the reigning monarch has the title of Defender of the Faith, but it has little influence in projecting that image of "Englishness" that was once was once so easily recognizable.

The Royals probably do a better job of reminding us of the England that used to be - though with less noblesse oblige than in olden days - and I can visualize a day when even the Royals will be part of Britain’s past.

But they still have one thing going for them that hasn’t changed - even with their proximity to Europe - and that is the right hand drive cars using the left side of the road. If I was to pick the number one icon that represented "Englishness" to me - that’s what I would pick. That blithering wrong sided driving nightmare with its Belisha Beacons and its mind boggling roundabouts!!

As long as they are there there’ll always be an England and we won’t need any other icons to remind us.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I watched a little of the opening statements in the Alito hearings and not unexpectedly, when the gabfest switched from Republican to Democrat and Democrat to Republican, the impression it left was that the members of the opposing parties were there for entirely different purposes - the Republicans to more or less sing the judge’s praises and the Democrats to ask questions.

Of course the Republicans will ask questions, but it was pretty clear from their opening statements that they were ready to rubber stamp the President's choice. I haven't paid that much attention to the hearings of the Senate Judiciary Committee in past years, nor have I studied what went on before I was around, so I can’t say whether or not the situations were exactly mirrored at times when the Democrats had the majority and there was a Democrat in the White House - that they rubber stamped and the Republicans asked the probing questions.

In any case, it’s a sad state of affairs when members of the Senate approach their advise and consent duties from a purely partisan point of view as many of these eighteen senators seem to be doing. When it’s a question of a lifetime appointment to make decisions that will affect us, our children and our grandchildren, you’d think that partisan politics would be left at the committee hearing door and that the members would truly struggle to convince themselves that this man is worthy of confirmation - or not.

A couple of oddball thoughts came to me as I was watching the scene on CNN. Oddball thoughts often clutter up my generally cluttered mind. One was how many Americans those eighteen Senators on the committee represented - and this morning I did a quick check. These numbers may not be precise but in round figures, the ten Republicans on the committee represent a population of about 71,700,000 and the eight Democrats approximately 80,700,000. The Democratic population majority would be even larger except for the fact that there are two members from the same state - Wisconsin. Can’t count them twice - though there are some jurisdictions in the country where such arithmetic contortions are routine.

We are reminded again and again of the peculiar structure of our government where a majority of Senators can represent a distinct minority of the population and thus hold sway over who ascends to the Supreme Court to interpret the laws and establish legal precedents affecting the entire population - not just a minority living in less populated states.

The other oddball thought I had was how the Supreme Court, with the addition of Samuel Alito, might rule in a case under way in Italy. It may not get any further than a preliminary hearing scheduled for January 27, at which time a judge might decide that it’s a frivolous case and throw it out. But if it does go forward, I can see some avowed anti Catholic Church hater in this country bringing a similar suit which very likely - if it was allowed to go forward - would end up being appealed to the Supreme Court. One wonders then how each individual member would rule on the issue of whether or not Christ actually existed - which is what the plaintiff in the Italian lawsuit wants the court to determine. He says no way and he’s suing a Catholic priest and by extension the catholic church and challenging them to prove Christ’s existence.

No doubt if such a case ever reached the Supreme Court of the United States it would sorely tax the skill and wisdom of the nation’s top jurists. On the one hand would be the legal team claiming that Christ - and by implication - a "God" in human form - did exist and on the other the plaintiff’s attorneys who say - O.K. - prove it.

Such a dilemma. Here is a belief upon which whole structures of society have been built for centuries and the very existence of the God in human form upon which the belief is based is being challenged and the Court is being asked to rule.

What to do? There are no audio or videotapes of the alleged God in human form. There is no DNA available to test and even if there were, what could it reveal? We don’t have any "supreme being" DNA available for comparison.

There is no reliable historical documentation available - certainly none that could withstand vigorous legal challenge. We’re talking about a time long before the invention of the printing press. There were no news organizations with reporters able to confirm happenings through the testimony of multiple sources - and even if there were, how would they have presented their findings? The Court might rule that the Bible would be admissible as evidence based on the theory that millions of people believe it’s contents to be accurate. But how would it stand up against an immediate assault on it’s opening paragraphs - to say nothing of its assertions that historical figures lived hundreds of years and some sired children when they were a hundred or two hundred years old? The defendants might just as well offer copies of Alice in Wonderland in support of their assertion.

But of course this is the Supreme Court with a majority appointed by Ford (Stevens), Reagan (O’Connor, Scalia and Kennedy), Bush One (Souter and Thomas) and George W Bush - Roberts and if he’s confirmed - Alito, so we might assume that they would mirror the belief of the Presidents who appointed them, particularly the current President - and either rule for the defendant or, more likely, decline to take the case.

So we may have only the Italian effort to arrive at a non ecclesiastical court ruling on the question of whether or not an actual person named Jesus Christ ever existed. But since - unless and until it gets dismissed - such a case exists in a court somewhere - the current hearings on judge Alito provide an opportunity to get an insight into how our Supreme Court might rule if it was ever faced with a challenge to the preachings of the Catholic Church or any Christian denomination in this country.

Creeping theocracy is a phenomenon of twenty first century America - aspects of which could well become a part of cases that could come before the Supreme Court. So if I were sitting on that Senate Judiciary Committee examining the man who will likely tip the scales of the Court’s future decisions in favor of the mindset behind that creeping phenomenon - I would ask him what he thought of the merits of the Italian case - and if he wouldn’t answer, I’d filibuster the heck out of his nomination.

I don’t want anyone sitting on the highest court in the land who wouldn’t tell me whether or not he thought it would be appropriate for judges to rule on whether or not there is a God or if a Jesus or a Moses or any other Biblical character existed or are man made myths. If he can’t figure that one out to my satisfaction, I wouldn’t want him ruling on how often my village should pick up the garbage.

January 11, 12.30 p.m.

I just had to add some thoughts to the foregoing. Like so many other Congressional hearings, this one’s a charade. Unless Judge Alito suddenly begins to "Bork" himself he’s going to be confirmed. Of that there is no doubt. But since he has to go through the ritual of appearing before the Judiciary Committee and answering questions, he will say what he needs to say to assure his confirmation. If he thinks black people should be railroad porters and boot blacks - he won’t say it. And no, I’m not suggesting that he has any such thoughts. Nonetheless, there are times when it’s obvious that he’s lying and it’s painful to watch him do it.

I just want to record his response to two questions. One was from Russ Feingold asking about what went on during his rehearsals for his appearance before the committee. Among other things, Feingold asked if the question about the monitoring of domestic communication without court approval had been rehearsed - and Alito didn’t remember!! A question on everyone’s mind and one that was sure to come up at the hearings - and the judge didn’t remember whether or not it arose during his rehearsals.

The other was about his membership in CAP - Concerned Alumni of Princeton - a group that lobbied the university to accept fewer women and minorities. Alito couldn’t recall his membership even though he listed it "proudly" on a job application with the Reagan administration. He said he’d racked his brains about it but just couldn’t come up with any specific recollection of membership or those awful things that the group stood for.

The Republicans tried to help by asking him if he’d been a founding member or an officer of the organization and they seemed to be saying that because he wasn’t - his membership wasn’t such a bad thing. A youthful indiscretion maybe and thus not something that you’d specifically recall even with your brain racked and re-racked?

Well let’s just change the name for a minute from CAP to something else and see how it plays.

"Judge, on your application for a job with the Reagan administration in 1985, you say that you were proudly a member of Concerned Nazis of Princeton. What made you so proud of being a member of that horrible organization?"

"Senator, I’ve racked my brains over this and I just don’t recall being a member of the group, but I must have since I listed it on my job application."

"Weren’t you aware of what they stood for Judge? Doesn’t the name "Nazi" mean something to you?"

"Yes it does Senator, but as I say, I really don’t have any specific recollection of being a member."

And I guess they could sit there for the next month and he’s not going to remember anything about any past activity that could reflect badly on him and maybe threaten his ascendancy to the highest court in the land. And who can blame him? He knows he has a designated role in the charade and he’s playing it to the hilt.

I just think charades should be reserved as a parlor game to be played on rainy nights and not used as a rite of passage to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Monday, January 09, 2006
I’m not sure why but GOOGLE WORRIES ME!!!

I like Google. I use it for my home page. It doesn’t always zero in on what I’m looking for - but then, it isn’t an intelligent search engine - just a fast one. This isn’t the Enterprise with it’s talking computer that’s so bright it even knows where everyone aboard is at any given moment. It isn’t even Hal of 2001 A Space Odyssey.

But whatever its limitations - Google is unquestionably a behemoth as I said back in June of 2004 when I wrote a piece titled Beware the Google Juggernaut

Now we are apparently going to have a clash of the Internet Titans to see who will rule the world of cyberspace.

In the summer of 2004 I expressed concern about Google becoming too powerful. Many people were similarly concerned about the power of Microsoft and the company has had to face court challenges at home and abroad. I’ve become reasonably comfortable with Microsoft over the years - but there’s something about the ever increasing number and size of Google’s tentacles that leaves me with a very uneasy feeling.

I don’t know enough about the Internet and cyberspace and the world’s dependence on computers to put it into words. I just hope the people who run Google aren’t as bedazzled by their power as I am concerned about it.

On disparate views of Ariel Sharon…

The response to Ariel Sharon’s stroke has I suppose been predictable. The west is concerned. The Palestinians too - though only because they know they’ll have to deal with the devil they don’t know in the future rather than the devil they believe they do know.

The reaction of Palestinians that was brought to us through television images and newspaper articles was not unexpected - but still disappointing. To most Palestinians, Sharon is and was indeed a devil and a war criminal. The two conflicting views were well expressed in the print media this morning - one by staunch Israeli supporter Charles Krauthammer and the Palestinian/Arab world view by Rami G. Khouri, editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star.

What struck me as sad and an indication of how far apart Israelis and Palestinians are in their perception of the problems and how to solve them were the "man on the street" interviews of Palestinians in Jerusalem. One woman in particular who had no use for Sharon, looked upon him as some kind of monster for building the wall/fence that separated her from her husband. I don’t think I caught the reason why they were living on different sides of the wall, but there was no disguising her bitterness and the blame she assigned to Sharon for this disruption of her life.

But as I watched and listened to this scene unfold, my mind went back to a radio interview I heard with a female American reporter in Jerusalem. It was at a time when suicide bombing attacks were at their height and while the discussion between the reporter and the state side interviewer covered a wide range of topics, the attacks was the central issue on both their minds. Before the conversation ended, the state side interviewer cautioned the reporter to be careful and asked - wasn’t she afraid. "Not really" the reporter answered - "I’m staying in East Jerusalem.

The implication was crystal clear.

East Jerusalem, where no Israelis walk into crowded cafes or markets and explode bombs strapped around their waists. East Jerusalem, where no Israelis board busses and explode bombs attached to their bodies. East Jerusalem, where no masked Israeli gunmen suddenly appear and fire indiscriminately into a crowd.

There was no wall in those days but the reporter made it clear that she felt that East Jerusalem was a safer place for her headquarters than the rest of the city. Today she might feel differently because there is a wall. Today she might feel comfortable headquartering elsewhere in the city. And perhaps if the Palestinian woman who wished the ailing Ariel Sharon nothing but ill will because the wall that he authorized was disrupting her life could have spoken to that reporter, she might not have held the opinion that he and the wall were the personification of evil.

But I doubt it. There’s a very, very long and rocky road still ahead and a tough one to traverse by whoever lands the Herculean task of succeeding Ariel Sharon.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Continuing my sorting of past comments about Israel and/or Jewish issues, here is the second grouping of such comments from 2004. Once I add 2005, I will be placing links to each of these groupings over on the left side on my home page so that anyone who interested can bring up the entire year with one click. Here’s the 2004 selection:




















Friday, January 06, 2006

Usually, one waits until the end of a calendar year to look back and pick out various highlights. I was thinking of looking back at the comments I wrote here in 2005 to see if I might select the best and the worst or the funniest or silliest in various categories - but then I got totally distracted by the possibility that there might already be a lock on the above named (imaginary) award for 2006!!! 359 days early!!

It’s between two prime candidates - the Vice President of the United States and the increasingly bizarre acting religious broadcaster Pat Robertson.

It’s hard to figure out what happened to Dick Cheney. I have heard many people say that the Dick Cheney they used to know no longer exists. I heard Tom Oliphant yesterday say something to the effect that it was almost as though over the course of leaving government, becoming a multi - millionaire in the private sector and then returning to government - he had undergone a personality transplant.

Since the attack of 9/11 and even more since the Iraq invasion, he has said one incredibly disingenuous thing after another. In a court of law he would have been convicted of perjury many times over. But surely his comments of January 4 - in the midst of claims of a Presidential right to monitor the communications of American citizens without court approval - have to be the most dishonest among a string of vocalized dishonesties. So much so that in the aforementioned court of law, what he said the other day could easily be interpreted as an admission that he, the President and the entire administration, are guilty of dereliction of duty. They, who were sworn to protect the people of the United States, were laying down on the job when they should have been the most vigilant.

Look at what he said when speaking in defense of the President’s unchecked use of wiretapping and other monitoring within the United States.
"Another vital step the President took in the days following 9/11 was to authorize the National Security Agency to intercept a certain category of terrorist-linked international communications. There are no communications more important to the safety of the United States than those related to al Qaeda that have one end in the United States. If we'd been able to do this before 9/11, we might have been able to pick up on two hijackers who subsequently flew a jet into the Pentagon. They were in the United States, communicating."
"If we’d been able to do this!!" If you listen to Mr. Cheney and his boss speak of their right to use the National Security Agency to monitor Americans without court approval because of the President’s inherent power to do so under a variety of scenarios, the question screams from the heavens - why didn’t you?? You’re intimating that you knew of these two future hijackers but weren’t able to check on them?? Because some law prevented you from doing so??

It is almost as if Mr. Cheney is rehearsing for a possible stint as a substitute host of The Daily Show when Jon Stewart is on vacation.

Of course, with or without obeying the law and getting routine warrants within 72 hours of locking on to the communications of Khalid Almihdhar or Nawaf Alhazmi or Salem Alhazm or Hani Hanjour or Majed Moqed - Mr. Cheney didn’t mention which two - it could have been done. There was nothing to stop it. Except stupidity. Except hubris. Richard Clarke tried to warn officials of the Bush administration of the very real threat of a major terrorist attack before 9/11 - but he was ignored. None of the new power elite wanted advice from a holdover from the previous administration.

When Cheney makes the kind of statement that he did in his January 4 speech and doesn’t order it changed in the transcript that can be found at the VP’s web site, you have to wonder if he either doesn’t understand the impact of what he said or has become so brazen that he is comfortable saying anything he feels like saying to attack or otherwise disparage anyone who has the temerity to suggest that Emperor George is not fully clothed.

He is certainly a leading candidate for the above mentioned imaginary award. But the competition is tough. Pat Robertson is another who says one nutty thing after another in his own long running version of "Can You Top This." The day after Mr. Cheney had submitted his entry, the Reverend Pat, as though sensing that he might be falling behind in the race, charged in with his explanation of Ariel Sharon’s stroke. Not a Bill Frist kind of long distance medical diagnosis. There was no videotape of Sharon in the OR intensive care. Just the usual Robertson approach to differential diagnosis. Said the 700 Club Ringmaster:
"In the book of Joel, the prophet Joel makes it very clear that God has ‘enmity against those who divide My land.’ God considers this land to be His. When you read the Bible, He said this is my land. For any Prime Minister of Israel who decides he will carve it up and give it away, God said, "No, this is Mine."

"He was dividing God's land, and I would say, 'Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the European Union, the United Nations or the United States of America,'"
So now we know. If Ehud Olmert orders troops back into Gaza and declares the entire west bank a part of Greater Israel, Sharon will recover promptly. Otherwise forget about it. He’s a goner. You have to wonder why God kills off all of the other millions of us who die. Or does he just personally kill those who offend him and lets the rest of us go when our bodies give out? We'll have to ask Pat that question.

Pat Robertson once made a bid to become the Republican Presidential candidate. Can you imagine a world with Pat Robertson as President of the United States, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as President of the Iranian/Iraqi Alliance, Kim Jong as Supreme Leader of all Asia and Dick Cheney hovering in the background playing supreme puppeteer of the world?

To quote Charles Dickens via the words of Ebenezer Scrooge. "I’ll retire to bedlam!"


Thursday, January 05, 2006

As of the other day, Israpundit - to whom I link because of my interest in Israel, having relatives there and a grandchild who was born there - added this site to its blogroll - for which inclusion I am honored.

However, as I pointed out to Israpundit, I write an eclectic commentary blog and someone visiting here from its site might find days of comments about everything but Israel and Jewish affairs. So what I’ve decided to do is create some groupings of past comments precisely on those subjects so that they can be found and read easily should that be a visitor’s desire.

In some of these comments I may have been critical of some Israeli policies and politicians - but that mirrors Israel's democracy so it needs no apology.

For today, here’s a grouping of commentaries from the first nine months of my first year of blogging - 2003. I’ll probably create a single link to each of these groupings - but for now, here’s the first group.

April 21, 2003 ARABIC AKA’S









August 12, 2003 MORE ON THE NEVER ENDING CONFLICT(Israel/Palestine)









October 23, 2003 WORLD RULERS BY PROXY




December 4, 2003 THE MIDDLE EAST PR WAR



Wednesday, January 04, 2006

But they could have a beneficial outcome….

I know that the only jurisdiction that Congress has over the judiciary is the approval or rejection of Presidential appointments to the Federal bench - from the Supreme Court on down. There’s no question that the decisions of Federal judges who are appointed for life, have trickle down effects on many of us - and I suppose in some ways, their decisions affect all of us.

But most Americans are more affected by local courts - traffic court, divorce court etc., where judges are elected - elected by voters who often know absolutely nothing about them. Often a judge can get elected because of his or her name. It happens on a regular basis in Chicago where judges get elected and re-elected without a fraction of the voting public knowing anything about them . The Chicago preferences are for Irish named judges - and as I wrote here some time ago, one judicial wannabe thought that the way to ascend to the bench was to present himself to voters as an Irish-American - by changing his name from Rhine to O’Brien.

I don’t know how Judges ascend to the bench in New Mexico but having read his bio, I doubt that Judge Daniel Sanchez had to change his name from something else to get there.

But after hearing about his involvement with the crazed nut who hallucinated that David Letterman was ruining her life by sending her coded messages while doing his late night show, you have to wonder how he got there in the first place. He’s in the news - or was a few days ago - because he canceled a "restraining order" that she had somehow obtained against Letterman. If you read the story casually, you might conclude that that was a good thing. No way this nut should have been able to persuade any court in the land to issue such an order. Indeed, a judge looking over her complaints would likely conclude that she was in need of mental therapy of some kind and perhaps order her confined to a psychiatric facility for evaluation. But the problem with the story and with Judge Sanchez, is that he was the one who issued the restraining order in the first place!!

Here in Illinois, we have a county that has become infamous as the most desirable part of the country in which to file class action law suits. It is alleged that the judges there are more kindly disposed toward lawyers filing such suits than anywhere else in the country. I have no personal opinion nor any personal knowledge of such a condition - but you can easily form your own opinion by going to your favorite search engine and typing Madison County plus Class Action Lawsuits and read a selection of what pops up.

I don’t know if lawyers around the country are taking a close look at the counties in New Mexico where Judge Sanchez holds sway in the First Judicial District Court in that state - but I would imagine that it has already become a magnet for the nuts of the nation who believe that they are being stalked or otherwise being harmed by celebrities who they think know them personally because they believe that they know the celebrities personally !!! After all, don’t they come into their houses just about every day and don’t they just look you right in the eye and talk to you??

I suppose you might get a good old Irish judge to grant you at least a temporary restraining order in Cook County, Illinois - specially if you’re claim is that you are being pestered by a leprechaun - but if you’re problem is that Rush Limbaugh has infected your radio and you can’t get him to leave even though you’ve sprayed it inside and outside with bug repellent and other cleansing agents - Judge Daniel Sanchez may be your knight in shining armor. Maybe the counties over which he holds sway - Los Alamos, Rio Arriba and Santa Fe will become the Madison County of New Mexico for NRO’s - nutty restraining orders.

But maybe we shouldn’t come down too hard on Judge Sanchez. If indeed he has started a trend and crazies and their lawyers start descending upon those New Mexico counties in droves - they could change the political demographics of the state. After all, the total population of New Mexico is less than two million - it has one Republican and one Democratic Senator and of its three representatives, one is a Democrat. More importantly, Bush won the state by a fraction over Kerry and received a minority of all the votes cast in the last election - Bush 373,075, Kerry 364,822, Kerry plus all others - 373,255!!!

If the crazies and their lawyers hang around long enough to become residents and register to vote, New Mexico could easily become a BLUE state the next time round!! They may think they’re being hunted by a giant hedgehog (strictly for Monty Python fans) and want it restrained by Judge Sanchez - but that doesn’t mean that they’re nutty enough to vote the wrong way after eight years of equally nutty Republican domination in all three branches of government. Only blinkered far, far right wingers are that nutty!!


11.15 a.m.

Things you learn from your car radio - if the host is Jerry Springer….

I suppose it might have made my daily newspaper and/or the evening news - but so far, among the non Internet media, I’ve only heard about it from Springer - and on his radio program yet. Not his TV show.

Woman marries DOLPHIN!! In Israel yet. As if they didn’t have enough troubles. It’s the kind of headline you usually see on those tabloids at the supermarket check out counter - and that of course you don’t believe.

Springer was reporting the story as something particularly silly and on the surface I suppose I would agree with him. But on reflection, perhaps it isn’t quite so silly. Of course the woman - Sharon Tendler - didn’t actually "marry" a dolphin. It was just something she wanted to do to express her love for the animal that she’s known for fifteen years. The dolphin probably understands the woman’s love and maybe returns it. I don’t know enough about dolphins to make that a definitive statement but it’s a nice thought to have.

But when you think about it, the story isn’t really that strange - just a bit extreme. I was never a biological "Dad" nor my wife a biological "Momma" to our three dogs that we loved like children all the days of their lives - but that’s how we related to them - and we believe them to us.

I suppose if Sharon could have kept Cindy - (no, this is NOT a homosexual relationship - Cindy’s a male) - in a tank in her house or in her back yard, she wouldn’t have felt the need to ritualize her love.

But I can understand it. I’m an atheistically inclined agnostic but on many an occasion, when I’ve looked into the eyes and cuddled with Poolie or Cassie or Cody - I’ve always felt that they were the best argument for the existence of a God that I could imagine.

Monday, January 02, 2006
If it’s a late season football game, apparently nothing!!!

As I’ve written here before, football is not my bag. I made it pretty clear in my blog entry of December 10, 2003 in which I also referred to an embarrassing moment arising from my one time ignorance of the rules of the game. I know them now but my interest in the game is about the same - low level.

Nonetheless, I became mildly interested recently - or perhaps I should say annoyingly perplexed - at all of the focus on the "playoffs." Particularly so because the Chicago Bears, whose games my wife watches religiously on television, are in the "playoffs."

As I wrote in my December 10, 2003 post, I think the whole concept of a nation of almost 300,000,000 people having only 32 professional football teams employing only 1696 players is pretty bizarre. Compare that to the professional English Soccer Leagues for example where, in a nation of 60 odd million people, there are well over 100 teams employing lord know how many professional players playing an average of 40 regular season games a year.

But as I say, my current interest in the subject of American football is this whole business of "The Playoffs." Here’s a professional American sport where the total season consists of a handful of pre-season warm up games and a season of sixteen games!! And almost from the beginning of the "pre-season" matches, sports writers and commentators seem to be engrossed in speculation about which of these 32 teams will reach the "playoffs."

It gets to the point - as it did this last week-end - where regular season games get classified as being of zero importance except for those that may affect a team’s ability to advance to the "playoffs." The Chicago Bears last game of the regular season which took place yesterday, was classified thusly - as being meaningless because the Bears had already made the "playoffs."

And so two things happened. In its last regular season game, the Bears played mostly their "second stringers" and lost a game that they probably could have won with all of their best players on the field. And a headline in today’s Chicago Tribune reads - BEARS LOSE BUT WHO CARES? LET THE PLAYOFFS BEGIN!!! Well I don’t know about the Tribune employee who wrote that headline, but I would imagine that most of the people who attended the game cared about who won and who lost.

What on earth is going on here? The season is short enough already. Are those who write, talk about and comment on professional football trying to turn the sixteen game regular season into another "pre-season" series of games - the real season being the playoffs?? It sure seems that way.

I suppose it’s nice for the fans of the team that eventually triumphs in the final game of post season play - but surely the purpose of any game for those who attend or watch it on television is to enjoy the action. While rooting for your team of course.

But to consider any game as "meaningless" because it doesn’t affect either team’s role or non-role in the playoffs and to greet a loss with a "who cares" because that losing team is already in the playoffs is to demean the game itself.

My astute football loving wife assured me that the Bears’ loss was due to most of the "starters" being withheld from the game to protect them from possible injury so that they would be healthy for the first game of the playoffs. Apart from the fact that having the starting line up out of the game is a poor excuse for losing - an issue I’ve touched on in the past but might discuss in greater detail at some point in the future - what kind of a disservice is it to the fans attending a game and watching it on television, to virtually advertise that "we’re not going to put out our best effort because we’re saving it for the playoffs?"

As I’ve indicated, I’m not a fan of professional football, but even if there was the slightest chance of my becoming one, I’m not going to be lured by a sport that tells me that the only thing that’s important is having a chance to win the Super Bowl and that any individual game that doesn’t help propel you in that direction has no real importance as a game.

That’s what the Chicago Bears were telling everyone yesterday and what the Chicago Tribune was saying to the world today. WHO CARES? Not me friends - and if I had no other reason, you’ve just provided one to me.