Saturday, April 30, 2005

Hollywood Blacklist: Radoshes Answered

An intelligent response to the Radoshes' editorial I noted here is in today's Los Angeles Times. It has the virtue of being written by a screenwriter who wrote about the subject itself in a feature film.

The Radoshes promised "a cleareyed look" at the blacklist era, but they completely missed the point. The House Un-American Activities Committee asked us to believe that marginally organized artists actually posed a threat to the stability of the most powerful nation in history, simply by having opinions and expressing ideas. The Radoshes' rhetoric obscures the fact that HUAC's actions were indefensibly wrong, whether or not they were taken with patriotic intent. HUAC persecuted and punished those whose views the committee found unacceptable, not because this was right to do so, but simply because it could. Everything that's great about our wonderful, terrible, imperfect nation flows from the 1st Amendment. Opinions, ideas, beliefs — and the freedom to have and express them — are protected by the eloquent simplicity of those 45
words. Closing with a "maxim" they wrongly attribute to John Ford, the Radoshes still can't get close; the actual quote is, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend," and it's a line from Ford's 1962 film, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," written by James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck, from Dorothy M. Johnson's story.

Michael Sloane

Screenwriter, "The Majestic"


"The Majestic" is a 2001 movie set during the blacklist era.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

In another example of the battle of citizen protection vs. corporate greed, the EPA has withheld information of the amount of dollars companies could reap by reducing mercury pollution. As noted here there are reports that mercury produced by coal-fired power plants in Texas coincides with a 17% increase in childhood autism. Mercury has been taken out of many childhood vaccines as a preservative due to the possibility of its association with autoimmune diseases such as autism.

Critics said the report shows the Bush administration sought to minimize the benefits of reducing mercury pollution in order to justify not requiring power plant owners to buy the most effective technology for lowering mercury emissions. [Associated Press as reported at]
From Weapons of Mass Destruction, to the demise of Social Security, tax cuts for the very rich, and ignorance of medical care issues, the Bush people really get away with taking care of the few at the expense of the many. At what point does the Nation of Sheep get pushed far enough?

And Suddenly that Name Will Never be the Same…

“I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?" Joseph Welsh, Counsel for the U.S. Army, Army-McCarthy Hearings.
Arnold Schwartzenegger has crossed the line.

"I think they've done a terrific job," Schwarzenegger said of the "Minuteman" volunteers, who plan to expand to California in June. "They've cut down the crossing of illegal immigrants a huge percentage. So it just shows that it works when you go and make an effort and when you work hard. It's a doable thing."

The governor added that, "It's just that our federal government is not doing their job. It's a shame that the private citizen has to go in there and start patrolling our borders."

President Bush has denounced the Minuteman volunteers as vigilantes. Los Angeles Times by Peter Nicholas and Robert Salladay

Maria should be ashamed. With Arnold’s poll numbers plummeting, and his willing alienation of so many potential supporters, hopefully this ridiculous latest rhetoric will land him back in the movie business for good. “Terminator 4: The Rise of the Redneck.”

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Deal with the faults of others as gently as with
your own (Chinese proverb)

Now that it's clear that his controversial private-paid trips abroad will be put under a microscope in Congress, Tom DeLay is in serious danger of being declared in violation of House ethics rules, legal experts say. By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, Washington Post

Is it taking this long to get Delay in front of the Ethics Committee because the members don't like the scrutiny coming so close to themselves?

There's only one way to find out if a man is honest...ask him. If he says 'yes,' you know he is a crook. Groucho Marx

Your Big Plane from Blagnac

What's more amazing, the size of the new French Airbus A380 plane which has two decks, full bar, showers, a duty free shop, possibly a casino and more, or that news readers sometimes correctly pronounce Blagnac, the name of the airport from which it test flew yesterday?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

And God Said, “Let there be TIVO…”

President George W wants to hold a press conference tomorrow night during prime time. Thank God for TIVO, unless we get stuck watching one of my wife’s favorite decorator shows…then I’ll have to retreat to my son’s media room enclave to watch HIS TIVO of whatever he’s been recording lately, which usually is either bloody or American Pie. Or I could go to my daughter’s bedroom and check out the DVD A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS which I was under strict orders to get yesterday and forgot, so I was almost in big trouble, but I remembered today, and which I already took her to see at the theater--one viewing was enough for me.

Or I could read my latest favorite picture book, “National Geographics Mysteries of History.” I'm at the part where it says there were no slaves in ancient Egypt. Tell that to my rabbi. Not now, the rabbi when I was a kid--rabbis don't come cheap these days...

Or I could write another entry to this blog, or figure out a way to promote it so someone would read it. I just really don't want to watch my president try to make sentences with that shoulder-shrugging hands-outstretched awkward pleading look like a sick old uncle used to do when he was babysitting me when I was a child. "Please do what I ask," he'd say, and I would think to myself "what a crazy old bastard."

I gotta go—the dog needs to be let out!

We like to spend a lot of time in the pool in sunny Southern California. No, it's not Tom Delay enjoying the spa on Air Force One. It's a major hippo at the San Diego Zoo last week for Spring Break with our daughter!

Autism in the Amish—Ain’t No Such Thing

“…it was stunning that Julia Inion, the first autistic Amish person I could find, turned out to be adopted -- from another country, no less. It also was surprising that Stacey-jean launched unbidden into vaccines, because the Amish have a religious exemption from vaccination and presumably would not have given it much thought.”
You read it right—the closed Amish society, which does not vaccinate their children, has virtually no cases of infantile autism. Check it out: Part 1 The Age of Autism: The Amish anomaly; Part 2 The Age of Autism: Julia

Thanks to the NVIC (National Vaccine Information Center) for keeping us aware and informed!

You can Take the Bigotry out of the Coward…

“Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.” Bertrand Russell
Buzzflash’s morning email update has a link to an article in The Nation that is way worth reading even if you’re already up to “here” with the “Justice Sunday” rally. The more informed we are about the origins of this right-wing vitriol, the more we can intelligently counter it with higher aims. According to The Nation, Tony Perkins, Family Research Council President, and a main organizer of the event, has ties to white supremacist groups and individuals. There are some choice quotes, among them James Dobson:

“ ‘The biggest Holocaust in world history came out of the Supreme Court’ with the Roe v. Wade decision”

I am frightened that there are so many followers of this tripe. Its source is ignorance, so let’s remain informed, with the goal not anger, but truth.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

My wife the green thumb. 8 AM 4/25/05
Stop and smell the roses.

Monday, April 25, 2005

For “Secular Left” read…

I am sure O’Reilly critics and avid newsreaders will recognize certain buzz terms for what they really are: euphemisms for the real meaning. In the slow-rolling downhill slide to a resolution over the matter of whether to change congressional parliamentary procedure in order to more easily facilitate approval of Bush’s judicial nominees—in other words, whether to ditch the filibuster and vote simple majority yea or nay on the person in question—there are terms being used and repeated that become part of media vernacular, but not everyone may know their meanings.

For instance, republican senators argue that democrats are trying to block “faith-based” nominees for judicial posts. It might seem like they mean “religious” when they say “faith-based.” Nope—they mean “anti-abortion” which, through the chain of connections of meaning, is a person of faith, or Christian, who adheres to the biggest “faith-baser” of all, George W’s policies, of which abortion is a definite no-no.

Another term, “nuclear option,” is when the media tell us that the republicans may exercise a strange game of parliamentary technicalities which ends up calling for a vote on whether the filibuster--or holding up a call to vote on a question by keeping the debate going, and which must be ended by a 60-40 vote instead of a simple majority—is constitutional. After 200 years of tradition and filibusters, this is the time when Dick Cheney would ask this question. It’s called “nuclear,” because the democrats have threatened to figuratively “blow up” the legislative process in the senate, and discontinue its usefulness by not participating in any further debates or votes, unless it were an emergency, they say.

There’s “faith-based,” “nuclear,” and then the cool one is “secular left.” The press reports on the filibuster “nuclear” issue using that terminology to quote the Evangelical Christians, or right-wing “faith based” Christians, but again, “secular left” is a euphemism:

Evangelical leaders, angered by rulings on abortion and gay marriage as well as the Schiavo case, have set their sights on transforming courts they view as stacked against religion. They also are seeking to weaken what they call the "secular left," which they say targets people with religious beliefs from reaching the bench. [Los Angeles Times, 4/25/05]
One definition of secular:

Secular: an item that is free of religion.

“Left” or “liberal” has often been equated with Jews ever since the Bolsheviks revolted and the leaders were Jewish, and they followed Karl Marx, a Jew, even though the ethnic/religious element was not the chief issue.
“Faith-based” = religious = Christian; “Secular” = not Christian, or of course, Jewish. Jews do not believe in Jesus Christ as the deity, therefore narrow-minded people with a Christian background have sometimes looked upon
Jews as lacking in “faith.” Thus, "secular left" = Jewish.

Now that we have our terms explained, I will burst everyone’s bubble-of-expectation by prognosticating that Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid will find a “meeting of the minds” (another euphemism for “cover my ass”) with Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in order to avoid this incredible constitutional tangle, from which neither side can benefit. Check out my recent entry on John McCain. The filibuster works for both parties—republicans as well as democrats!

Watch for the next installment—the world Jewish conspiracy. The internet is already carrying a message about a foretelling of the end of the world from a Medieval Irish SAINT MALACHY who some say has been accurate up to and including the present. Usually, it’s the Jews who are behind the catastrophe, or in the middle of it without even trying.

Meanwhile, let’s not forget how polarized we are as a people and as a nation, which is reflected in the absence of cooperation in our legislative representatives.

The Hollywood Blacklist: One Version

Hindsight is 20-20 vision, and sometimes it’s a clarity of vision with a bias attached. There can be no doubt that the heroism label given to much of the Hollywood talent who were blacklisted in the 1950’s, due to the Communist, scare is misplaced or overdone. What is not true is that the review of that era needs a revisionist upgrade to say that all members of the Communist party in America, at that time and in prior years, were doctrinaire hard-core Bolsheviks hell-bent on overthrowing the government of the United States. Or that anyone who was a liberal and associated with a leftist philosophy should be treated as a pariah and their livelihood taken away. That would be equal to saying that Senator Joseph McCarthy was doing his patriotic duty when he held up a blank piece of paper before the press and claimed it had the names of 200 communists who worked in the government, rather than fulfilling a narrow opportunistic need to fake a cause.

“A Rewrite for Hollywood’s Blacklist Saga,” by Ronald Radosh and Allis Radosh in today’s Los Angeles Times op-ed section, is a case of just such a judgmental and erroneous attempt to replace the hazy mythology of that post-WWII time. The contention is that Hollywood liberals supported the Communist party line even though they gained a knowledge of what Stalin was about in Russia. That would be like claiming that Roosevelt went along with the Nazi program to kill the Jews because he refused to get the military involved in bombing train tracks leading to death camps, or even the camps themselves. The newsreel footage of actor Robert Taylor ranting at a HUAC hearing that actor Howard da Silva shot off his mouth a lot, was hardly as much finger-pointing at a possible espionage agent then it was dirty gossip which could and did derail careers.

The writers obviously have a feeling for the period, and include detailed views of reactions of some liberals against their peers, showing that the ideology was not all black and white, but shades of grey. Then they go sideways in excusing some of those who named names, and describing how the hard-liners brow-beat others to try to change the meaning of screenplays and books to fit a more communist orientation. Surely all of these events happened, but before I read the Radoshes editorial, I already knew there was good and bad on both sides. I don’t need a historical “rewrite.”

At least the writers conclude that the blacklist was a bad thing, and they use the famous quote of Hollywood Ten screenwriter Dalton Trumbo to show that in the end everyone lost out due to the fanatics on both sides:

The blacklist was an abomination. It was wrong to deprive artists of their livelihood because of their political views…In 1970, he [Trumbo] gave a startling speech when he accepted a career achievement award from the Writers Guild. "It will do no good to search for villains or heroes or saints or devils because there were none," Trumbo said that night. "There were only victims."
It just seems too simplistic and stark to treat this period of the beginning of the Cold War and the Red scare, and the blacklist, in only 750 words. The truth of what happened to the people involved is so much more detailed, and profound.

San Clemente Pier, February 2005--I took this at 5 PM; Hope it brightens your day.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Objectively Speaking, I Have an Opinion

Just when I was going to complain about the lack of objectivity in today’s media, most obviously print and TV journalism, I was confronted by a brilliant opposing point of view. It is in the op-ed piece written by the Publisher of The Nation, Victor Navasky in today’s Los Angeles Times. Titled, "Objectivity Is Highly Overrated," it describes a treatise written about the history of opinion journals starting in Europe, by a German author, and Navasky relates that work to today’s shouting talk shows and print journals including his own The Nation. What results is a very different outlook on what objectivity really is in terms of information and dissemination, and how opinions in the media have historically led to a closer version of the truth than “just the facts, Ma’am.”

Navasky quotes some fairly major brains in the field of history and journalism to make his point. One of his rhetorical question/conclusions is

“Suppose the information that democracy requires can be generated not by 'the facts' but only by the rigorous and vigorous policy debate and moral argument that journals of opinion were founded to provide?”
Regardless of your opinion on the subject of “fair and balanced” journalism as it may exist, Navasky’s opinion is highly worth reading.

Friday, April 22, 2005

John McCain and the Nuclear Option.
One Rational Voice.

I thought Arizona Senator John McCain was a bit of a loose canon, independent yes, but somewhat erratic and no doubt grossly affected by his years as a prisoner of war. However, lately the chatter about “nuclear option” and the possibility of it being exercised in the senate, has brought some interesting, appropriate and sober comments from the senator.

The “nuclear option” has nothing to do with terrorists or missing plutonium. It is a technical parliamentary maneuver promoted by Senate majority leader Frist. If enacted by the republicans in the senate, it could stop the democrats from filibustering, and halting, the nomination of certain judges whom they consider too conservative, and too religious-right oriented, to be acceptable. The core values in the controversy have more to do with the pro- or anti-abortion bias of the judicial nominee, but that blunt honesty is mostly skirted by the debaters and the media. They all hide under the softer wording of “faith” orientation, because they are hypocrites and assume the public is not paying close attention to the details. Orwell would be taking notes—“Are you pro choice for women regarding the right to have an abortion?” “Hell, I’m a man of faith.”

The main problem is that if the republicans succeed in ending the necessity of a 60-40 vote to end filibusters in the senate instead of a simple majority, the 200-year–old parliamentary tradition of filibuster would end. Then the democrats threaten to cease cooperation with their republican colleagues, except on votes relating to national emergency or national security. Once again, the polarized attitudes of this country’s citizens are reflected in the halls of congress.

Well, not entirely—the citizens are really interested in what affects them personally. Their elected representatives apparently really are concerned with who bought their election through campaign contributions, and other perks. Forgive me for generalizing, but our “public servants” are far from serving the public. How else can be explained our ridiculous expensive corrupt medical care system in our country, oil company profits amidst huge gas price increases, several hundred billion dollars, not to mention precious blood, being spent on foreign wars of no merit by our self-proclaimed “wartime president,” with the full blessings from congress?

This serves as an introduction to the comments of John McCain, a public servant who abides by his oath of office, as he answered some questions from Chris Matthews on Hardball recently:

MATTHEWS: We‘re not far from the nation‘s Capitol, where you work and fight. Do you think it‘s fair for the Democrats to stop all government business if the Republicans get rid of the filibuster in judgeships?
MCCAIN: No, I don‘t. And I think that they
MATTHEWS: Is it fair for the Republicans to get rid of the... filibuster?
MCCAIN: No. And why is it that after 200 years we now cannot settle the issue of judges? Well, it‘s a symptom of the problems we have with the bitter partisanship here in Washington...And, by the way, when Bill Clinton was president, we effectively, in the Judiciary Committee, blocked a number of his nominees.
MATTHEWS: ...bottom line, would you
vote with the people for the nuke—what is called the nuclear option, to get rid of the filibuster rule on judgeships?
MCCAIN: No, I will not... I will vote against the nuclear option.
MATTHEWS: So, you will vote with the Democrats?
MCCAIN: Yes, because I think we have got to sit down and work this thing out. Look, we won‘t always be in the majority. I
say to my conservative friends, some day there will be a liberal Democrat president and a liberal Democrat Congress. Why? Because history shows it goes back and forth.
MCCAIN: I hope it‘s 100 years from now, but it will happen. And do we want a bunch of liberal judges approved by the Senate of the United States with 51 votes if the Democrats are in the majority?
Second of all, we ought to be able to work it out. Third of all, I don‘t want to shut down the Senate.
MCCAIN: We‘re in a war. We‘re in a war. Shouldn‘t we be doing the people‘s business?

Shouldn’t they? With these all-too-rational remarks, I couldn’t agree more.

The Pope, Iraq, Passover & Freedom

The debate over whether the choice of Pope was a good one or not rages. Some of the arguments are profoundly intelligent on both sides, and some are irrational diatribes. An example of the latter is in a letter to the New York Times as quoted in World Peace Herald:

“Nazi pope a clear and present danger to the civilized world.”

An engrossing and well-documented piece by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen in today’s Los Angeles Times continues the warning of Ratzinger’s prior statements. Considering the title of Goldhagen’s book, A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair (Vintage, 1997), It is easy to imagine his take on the election of a German for the Papacy who was once a Nazi Youth member. However, it is worth reviewing his delineation of the background of European Catholic and Christian action against Jews which lead to the Holocaust, and that the church “avidly aided various aspects of the Nazi’s persecution of the Jews.” All of this activity has had its influence on post-War attitudes leading up to the present. As I wrote on April 20, anti-Jewish feelings and action in Europe is on the rise, with ignorance of the past responsible for much of the blame.

The ongoing stories about the new Pope coincide with the renewed activity of the terrorist insurgency in Iraq. The inhuman and bloody video posted on the web by the killers who shot down a helicopter yesterday, and then shot and killed the one survivor as he pleaded for help, displays the continuing evidence of how low the human spirit can sink. That there could be any idea in these terrorists' minds of justifying their actions with a cause is a dim glimmer that burned out long ago. They practice an unfocussed hatred that serves no purpose for them. Whether one supports the US-led Iraq invasion and occupation or not, there can be no rationale for these outrageous, immoral thugs who kill for the sake of killing alone.

The culmination of this week and its events, on Saturday night, with the beginning of the great celebration of freedom—Passover—seems fitting. In the final analysis, it doesn’t matter how we feel as individuals about the politics of our elected representatives, or big corporations, or the misfits and criminals in our society. We Americans live in freedom that never existed before our founding fathers proclaimed independence, and that freedom is still unique in the world. That is worth noting and celebrating, and that is the great lesson of the story of Moses--of slaves who wanted freedom, and became free. With all the subsequent problems described in the book of Exodus, and with all the problems we as a nation are confronted with today, the taste of freedom is something that anyone who was ever denied it, desires above all else in life. And our free society--however each of us wants to perceive its associated parameters of limitations, rule of law, and other restrictions--makes us most fortunate among, and a wonderful example for, the people of the world.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

What’s Up Doc—It’s All About the Money

If you’re involved in a conflict-of-interest dilemma, like taking money from those about whom you are supposed to be impartial, and you want help to keep doing it without questions of ethics or legality, who do you turn to for help? How about a law firm that is getting money from the same sources? They would have a pretty big incentive to do a good job for you. This is exactly what a group of doctors, who consult for the National Institute of Health, have done. The consulting work the doctors do for the NIH involves the development of new drugs for the marketplace. The pay is not high by medical standards. So in the past there have been several ways for these doctors to get permission from their employer, the NIH, to receive fees from the pharmaceutical companies. The additional fees from the drug companies would supposedly keep these doctors from leaving their posts due to insufficient compensation.

The amount of fees, and the cross-play between pharmaceutical giants trying to get a billion dollar drug into the market, and paying the doctor who is involved with that drug’s approval, has gone so far over the line of conflict of interest, that new measures are being set up to prevent such large monetary fees, and other perks, in the future. Therein lies the controversy, according to an article in today’s Los Angeles Times by David Willman.

There is a divestiture requirement, scheduled to take place in October, which says employees of NIH must sell any stock they have in biomedical companies. The Director of the NIH, Elias A. Zerhouni, is being asked to look into softening this requirement. The dissident doctors, known as the Assembly of Scientists, has hired a law firm at a favorable rate, Arent Fox, which also lobbies congress on these issues. This law firm takes fees from the same drug companies as the doctors, and their goal is to help the doctors maintain as much of their present fees and perks as possible.

Just so we are clear on how unethical this activity is, here is a quote from the article:

“The new conflict-of-interest rules stemmed from revelations that hundreds of NIH scientists took fees and stock from the industry totaling millions of dollars, and that most of the payments were hidden from public view. The payments raised questions about the scientists' impartiality in overseeing clinical trials or making public recommendations on the use of new drugs or other commercial treatments.”
How does this affect us personally? When I last had my dosage of mevacor, a cholesterol-lowering statin “wonder” drug, doubled, I asked my physician if there was any concern long-term regarding cancer or any bad side effects. He replied, and confirmed what I had been reading, that statins were great drugs capable of many positive medical results, even including preventing osteoporosis and other unrelated benefits. He said it seems that the current news on statins was the “more the merrier,” and even those not afflicted with elevated cholesterol should consider getting on the band wagon. Everyone should take one of the wonderful statin drugs.

This was at the same time that Dr. H. Bryan Brewer, Jr., was getting fees from the very drug companies he was working with on the statin drugs:

“…vascular-disease specialist Dr. H. Bryan Brewer Jr., accepted about $114,000 between 2001 and 2003 from four companies making or developing cholesterol medicines, according to NIH documents. As part of his official duties as a branch chief at the NIH, Brewer during that time helped draft national guidelines that urged more aggressive use of drugs to lower cholesterol. Brewer had entered his deals with the companies with the approval of NIH officials.”
The fear in removing the perks and fees is that these good doctors will leave their posts and less-qualified individuals will replace them.

The NIH also rubber stamps the vaccine program every year, despite my family’s personal experience with testimony at public hearings, along with hundreds each year, about the dangers of vaccines and the connection between vaccines and various autoimmune disorders including developmental delay and autism, among other diseases. The huge multi-billion dollar vaccine agenda allows for tremendous payments to all sorts of people involved with making sure it remains status quo.

I don’t offer any solution to this incredible corruption of our drug-approval and marketing system. I just know that awareness will bring attention, and ultimately a solution by experts. 15 years ago there was no awareness in the “air” about vaccines causing autism, and now it is a national issue because parents have become informed and knowledgeable. This story about the NIH doctors and their new law firm was on the front page today. That is the good news.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

From Reuters 4/20/05:
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A man who said he was a Vietnam veteran spat tobacco juice in Jane Fonda’s face at a Kansas City book signing, police said Wednesday.

I thought I was going to write about good old Tom Delay and the ethics soap opera and how the republicans who want to pass this ridiculous softening of the already soft ethics rules in order to accommodate old Tom were willing to bring him up right now before the panel on ethics issues, if only the democrats would go along with the softening of the ethics rules…That’s what I thought I was gonna write about, because I love how hypocrites’ minds work.

Then Jane got the chewing tobacco spewed in her face. I’m not sure how I’d feel if the spittee wasn’t someone I admired. I have a dear aunt through marriage who considers Jane Fonda a traitor. No telling what she thinks of me since I was one of them college hippy war protesters who had nothing better to do than skip classes and storm the corridors of congress to tell the legislators that the Vietnam War was immoral. A former high school classmate of mine, who became a legislative aid to my congressman from Connecticut, told me morality was not an issue on Capitol Hill—bottom line, boy! Bottom line. Forget that ethics bullshit we heard about in chapel at our old New England prep school—this is reality boy! Show Mr. congressman a way that getting us out of Vietnam will save us money and I will pass that along.

I admire Fonda as an artist, since I have a lifelong love of motion pictures, studied the process in graduate school, and know first-hand what it takes to make any film, let alone great ones like some she has acted in. I admired her tenacity to go, along with many others of lesser reknown and publicity, to North Vietnam during our interference there, and meet the leader Ho Chi Minh, who anyone of any education knows was the George Washington of modern Vietnam.

The fact that Ho came to US leaders after WWII looking for support as an ally, and was turned away out of hand, seems to escape the sound-bite miniscule media explanations of why there was a Vietnam War, and at the very least, why Jane Fonda wanted to go there. Granted she accepts blame for posing in the anti-aircraft vehicle which was used to shoot down US planes, a mistake which was bound to happen while the North Vietnamese used her presence to further their cause without concern for her personally. My problem is with anyone today not understanding the accepted historical fact that America’s role in Vietnam was a huge mistake, admitted to by its main architect, Defense Secretary under President Johnson, Robert Macnamara, and noted in all of the subsequent history of the times.

Now I do believe there are worse things that can happen in life, than having a guy spit chaw tabacki in my face. However, having seen baseball players up close in front of me excrete from their mouths the ugly, disgusting, brown junk that they have been developing over a period of time with their saliva, onto a dry area of the ground where its real clear and shiny-wet and gross, and then I dry-heaved because I can’t get this picture out of my mind of what that looked like--I can see that the display of displeasure, by spitting this gunk into another human’s face, including Jane Fonda’s, whom this guy really hates, is bad.

Somehow, the spitting, and the republicans making deals with democrats to get a member of congress who has probably violated ethics rules, if not the law, in front of their committee to answer questions, and watching Bush saying in a speech that he told a young person last week he wished he could lower the price of gasoline, but he just can’t do that--it all starts to blend together.

What stands out for me, probably because it is so immediately obnoxious and revolting, is the spitting by a guy trying to make a point, as if that would actually end the discussion and solve the problem—and this is high-tech, modern times, Christian era turn-the-other-cheek live-and let live third millennium 2005?

Then the spitter said,

"She spit in our faces for 37 years. It was absolutely worth it. There are a lot of veterans who would love to do what I did."

What great heights we have aspired to; look how far we have come. Not so great, huh.

Ignorance + Influence = Hatred

"That the Jews are connected with God in a special way and that God does not allow that bond to fail is entirely obvious. We wait for the instant in which Israel will say yes to Christ, but we know that it has a special mission in history now ... which is significant for the world."

-- from Ratzinger's book, "God and the World," published October 2000, as reported by National Catholic Reporter.

"Our Christian conviction is that Christ is also the messiah of Israel. Certainly it is in the hands of God how and when the unification of Jews and Christians into the people of God will take place."

-- from "God and the World," published October 2000, as reported by National Catholic Reporter.

Pope Benedict XVI on record describing Catholic stand on Judaism: typical condescending viewpoint that if a group doesn't accept Jesus Christ as God, it's only a matter of time until they do. In the meantime, it's OK to let these people live. Thanks.

This attitude of indulgence, short of actual tolerance, can only keep the status quo anti-Jewish sentiment alive in anyone who is inclined that way in the first place. 60-year anniversaries are being celebrated and planned in Europe to mark the liberation of Europe from Nazi control. As the end of concentration camps is noted, this survey appears in the current edition of Response, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's bulletin on the upsurge of anti-Semitism in Europe:

England: A shocking 60% of 35-year-olds and younger
polled in England have never heard of Auschwitz, and a Telegraph poll stated that only 17% of those polled knew that millions of people had perished in the Holocaust.

Sweden: A third of young people recently polled were skeptical that the holocaust really happened.

Germany: 62% of those polled are tired of hearing about the six million Jews killed during WWII, while 52% believe that
Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is not fundamentally different from the Nazi's treatment of Jews.

Holland: A recent report from the largest Dutch Jewish community organization noted that "there is less and less knowledge of the fact that six million Jews were murdered in WWII."

Canada: Less than a quarter of respondents to a new National Post poll could not say whether the Jews were to blame for the Holocaust.
Each of us can fight ignorance and intolerance by contributing to organizations who research and report on the truth and the location of hate groups and individuals: The Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Draw Their Fire—We’ll Cover Ya!!

Delay is under so much fire for ethics and possible legal violations, he must have been promised backing by the White House if he took the lead in going after judges for unfavorable rulings against the party line. Otherwise, why would he be taking center stage and attacking the Supreme Court, of all institutions, and a Reagan appointee, Justice Kennedy, in particular, unless he was assured powerful defending?

I’m not privy to the inside of higher DC goings-on, but all this ranting on the part of Congressman Delay, a polarizing figure without that big of a base, just looks like an obvious play for position. If he and the powers-that-be have misread the playing field, maybe all his noise will bring attention to the real problem, which is not “activist judges,” but meddling irresponsible members of congress.

We’re All Equal, Right? And a PS

At a time when the world needs tolerance, acceptance, and understanding, the Catholic Cardinals have elected as Pope a man whose “mission is to stamp out dissent, and curb the "wild excesses" of this more tolerant era.”

Due to the rapid choice, in only 4 ballots, of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI, the meaning of the consensus of the Catholic Church’s leaders cannot be minimized. The clouds forming above the Vatican may be a literal physical foreshadowing of what is to come from this new leadership of the world’s biggest religion.

PS: Chris Dickey's latest dispatch of his Shadowland Column is a tribute to Marla Ruzicka, volunteer aid worker killed in a suicide bombing in Baghdad a few days ago. The tragedy of her death reminds us of the heights to which the human spirit can attain.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Vigilance and more Vigilance

The Southern Poverty Law Center is devoted to fighting bigotry and hatred. Bulletins and information put out by the SPLC continue to keep track of hate groups and crimes, and violence-prone cells across the country. The Center also provides resources for schools to teach tolerance at any grade level. Morris Dees, chief counsel, has litigated and won cases against the most heinous and biggest hate groups and individuals in our nation’s history.

Even with the great achievements toward advancing the cause of acceptance and tolerance by the SPLC, it is always reassuring and confirming to see government law enforcement take a stand and reinforce measures of protection for us all.
According to ABC News:

“A secret FBI report, obtained by ABC News, identifies 22 domestic terror organizations as the current subjects of 338 active FBI field investigations. The Aryan Nations, and other white supremacist groups, are cited in the report for hate crimes, fire bombings, threats via mail, as well as robberies and murders. The National Alliance, one of the largest neo-Nazi organizations in the world, is subject to 51 FBI investigations alone, according to the report. In fact there are ‘ticking time bombs,’ said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, ‘who have the capacity, skill and hatred to carry out acts worse that what Timothy McVeigh carried out 10 years ago.’ "
One could conclude from this that there are dangerously-deranged people in our midst in this free society. And one could assume that they are the fringe lunatics who are readily apparent, and therefore easy to avoid. In that case--in what category do you put the United States Senate Majority Leader?
“Senator Frist is to appear on a telecast sponsored by the Family Research Council, which styles itself a religious organization but is really just another Washington lobbying concern. The message is that the Democrats who oppose a tiny handful of President Bush's judicial nominations are conducting an assault "against people of faith." By that, Senator Frist and his allies do not mean people of all faiths, only those of their faith.”
The biggest reason for the let-down in ethics and morality is because “We, the People,” let it happen! It’s really time we restored some sanity! This means that the very least little tiny thing each one of us can do, is speak up and speak out! When someone uses the “N”-word within earshot—let that person have it. If you’re harassed because of your gender or ethnicity, or you see it happening to someone else, say something. Otherwise, my fellow Americans, we are doomed to repeat the history of the ages, in which intolerance is the norm and might makes right.

Fresh Air, Anyone?

John Hawkins: Now I heard that you wrote an impassioned defense of tailgunner Joe in the book. Is that case? If so, why do you think Joe McCarthy has gotten a bad rap?

Ann Coulter: I know he got a bad rap because there are no monuments to Joe McCarthy. Liberals had to destroy McCarthy because he exposed the entire liberal establishment as having sheltered Soviet spies.
-From an interview in Right Wing News

Yeah, that’s why those “pinko commie” fellow senators censured him including stating the following:

“[McCarthy] repeatedly abused the subcommittee and its members who were trying to carry out assigned duties, thereby obstructing the constitutional processes of the Senate, and that this conduct of the Senator from Wisconsin, Mr. McCarthy, is contrary to senatorial traditions and is hereby condemned.”
Extremist wacko Coulter is on the cover of Time Magazine this week perhaps because of one of the premises of the lead-in to the article about her:

“She is quite possibly the most divisive figure in the public eye.”

While I can’t fault Time for trying to sell magazines, I wonder about this placement only a week after the cover was of the late Pope, and while picking a new Pope seems to be the big news this week.

One has to be vigilant. Education about, and awareness of, the blistering irrational speech in the air is important to maintain vigilance. The scary part is, how many of our fellow Americans are cheering on this kind of vitriol? Just when you thought Tom Delay was making bizarre inflammatory remarks in front of the NRA gathering last weekend, up comes Ted Nugent to one-up him:

“With an assault weapon in each hand, rocker and gun rights advocate Ted Nugent urged National Rifle Association members to be "hardcore, radical extremists demanding the right to self defense."
Speaking at the NRA's annual convention Saturday, Nugent said each NRA member should try to enroll 10 new members over the next year and associate only with other members. ‘Let's
next year sit here and say, 'Holy smokes, the NRA has 40 million members now,' he said. ‘No one is allowed at our barbecues unless they are an NRA member. Do that in your life.’ "

Then, if you’re Jewish, or any of a number of minorities other than white Christian, you might also want to watch your back as others who share Coulter’s outrageous viewpoint keep the fire fanned:

“After tangling with Bill O'Reilly last week, Rabbi Jack Moline became a target of attacks by right-wing radio talk show hosts. The leader of Alexandria's Agudas Achim Congregation represented the Interfaith Alliance on Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, calling the decision to lower U.S. flags to half mast to honor Pope John Paul II unwise. According to a transcript, Moline -- who twice expressed sympathy for the pope -- argued that the flag lowering could lead to other religions insisting that their leaders be similarly honored…a few hours after his appearance, he [Moline] began to get telephone calls -- such as one telling him that "it's too bad you weren't alive in the 1930s." Additionally, nationally syndicated right-wing radio hosts Michael Savage and Matt Drudge, as well as New York-based Mark Levin charged that the rabbi would be "responsible for an upsurge in anti-Semitism." "I was surprised by the vehemence with which my Jewishness was attacked," said Moline, saying the experience left him wondering whether Jews may overestimate their comfort level in the U.S.” (Washington Jewish Week, 04-14-05)[From an Interfaith Alliance Email]
All that hatred out there is enough to make your eyes water.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Vaccine Shortage? Bring It On!

“Memories are still fresh of 2001 and 2002, when the country did not have adequate supplies of five vaccines that together protect against eight diseases. That shortage did not lead to an increase in death or disease, but it did require physicians and clinics to ration and temporarily change the routine schedule of shots.”
This quote is from today’s Washington Post article titled, “Pediatric Vaccine Stockpile at Risk,” by David Brown. Take notice: no “increase in death or disease.” The scare this year from the flu vaccine shortage was also misplaced:

“After all the panic last fall over the vaccine shortage, the flu season is turning out to be milder than last year's severe bout…” [Associated Press: “CDC: Flu Season Less Severe Than Last Year,”]

There are also examples of people getting sick who got their shots. In Laguna Niguel, California, in 1992, there was a surge in reported cases of pertussis -- whooping cough, and the majority was in those children who had been vaccinated with the DPT shot.

The conclusion is, vaccines don’t work. If anything, they cause harm, which has been written about in this blog. To anyone still willing to be brainwashed by arcane remnants of science from the 1950’s, a time in which Senator McCarthy was calling fictitious people communists, when hula hoops were popular, and steak and potatoes for dinner was healthy—to those people who still want to believe that disrupting an infant’s immature immune system with injections of poisonous toxins – vaccines -- in order to bolster that undeveloped immunity—I am not going to appeal to them. To those who question the enormous vaccine program in the US—here’s the main reason to have doubts: MONEY.

It’s all about money and the bottom line, and not about our children’s’ well-being. Vaccine manufacturers, huge pharmaceutical conglomerates, have a product that the government wants every single child in America to get. Even General Motors doesn’t have that kind of sponsorship! But these companies—Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Chiron and others—have directors and investors who require a growing profit, and anything that prevents that growth has to be dealt with.

When you and I earn a dollar, it adds into our income total, and is taxable. When large corporations receive dollars, how it adds into their bottom lines is a game of bookkeeping that keeps our friends who are CPA’s in business. Sometimes a company can indicate revenue when they haven’t received the actual dollars yet, and sometimes they can avoid showing revenue as taxable even though they have received the money. Some companies even play games with the bookkeeping that may not be entirely ethical, or even legal.

According to Brown’s article on the pediatric vaccine stockpile shortage,

“No one has accused the vaccine manufacturers of wrongdoing.”

Wrongdoing about what? This “vaccine stockpile” is used by the government to forestall shortages in the vaccine supply at any given time in case of unforeseen calamities, such as huge amounts of bad batches or factory breakdown etc. The method of paying for, and allocating the income from, the sale of doses into the stockpile has become unprofitable, and in some cases, unwieldy to manage, for vaccine manufacturers. Therefore, these companies have stopped selling vaccine to the stockpile, producing a shortage, which is being reported as a problem by the media.

In fact, the only problem I see is the deceitful and unethical behavior of the vaccine manufacturers, which, if taken a step further, may incline us to believe they’re not on the up and up about the viability of the actual product they sell. I take medicine when I need it, and antibiotics if necessary. But it’s clearly time to re-evaluate what we are injecting into the little bodies of our developing children before the untold damage to generations to come is irreversible. And stop swallowing big corporate and big government bullshit hook line and sinker when it’s clear they’re not looking after our best interest.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Who is Sam Bodman and Why Should You Care?

Yesterday was tax day, April 15. The big news was that the stock market took its biggest dive in two years. Fear of a possible stall in the upward trend of the US economy took its toll on investors’ greed. To me, the real story lay in the report of remarks made by a cabinet member while we were all distracted by the “big” news. The Energy Secretary made the announcement in a speech to a group of “energy company officials, industry representatives and other energy experts,” that “Americans should expect high prices for gasoline and other energy sources in the years ahead.” This message might have gotten lost in the thunder of taxes and stocks, but there was more to it than just the secretary’s warning to grin and bear it.

The Energy head, recent Bush appointee Sam Bodman, gave his idea of what to do over the long haul to help the higher-price-of-oil situation. Was it to develop alternative sources of energy, like solar power, or wind, or tides? Was it to encourage cheaper methods of using power, like hybrid vehicles etc? Nope—in true Texas Bush fashion, he said simply what we need is MORE OIL:

“As a long-term solution, Bodman said Congress should pass comprehensive energy legislation that aims to boost domestic oil, gasoline, natural gas and other energy supplies. He also said the United States needs more investment in new oil refineries, nuclear power plants, pipelines and electric transmission lines.”
Yup, that’s just what we need — more nucalur power plants with more of that material we’re trying to keep from proliferating. And more oil from the big oil companies. More oil profits. More, more, more.
I recall in the dim past of last year reading that as the price of crude oil was approaching $50 per barrel, the oil companies would adjust the retail price of gasoline commensurately with that increase. Then I read that these oil companies were making windfall profits despite the increase they were paying for crude. There were senate hearings about this, and we don’t hear about those anymore. In fact, in an article called “Big Oil’s Burden of Too Much Cash,” Jad Mouawad writes

“Thanks to crude prices that averaged $41 a barrel in New York last year, the world's 10 biggest oil companies earned more than $100 billion in 2004, a windfall greater than the economic output of Malaysia. Together, their sales are expected to exceed $1 trillion for 2004, which is more than Canada's gross domestic product.”

I’m seeing a trend here: the media report, by rote, that crude oil prices are rising, retail gas prices go up, and the oil companies who refine the product are paying less of an increase for the crude than they are charging, percentage-wise, for the refined product. They’re making the big profit, which is going to their executives and shareholders—a relative few--and draining the consumer, who is pretty much everyone. Yet “everyone” sits by and watches this milking continue.

I could go on with this story of lines that we are fed by the oil industry and their bought-and-paid-for congressional and administrative reps. I could tell you how US oil production relates to Mideast oil production, that the biggest oil reserves in the world lie under Azerbaijan, where Rumsfeld just stopped off on his way back from visiting Baghdad. I could even quote experts about the inevitable eventuality of running out of oil, literally reading “empty” on the gas tank of the world, and how so little is being done too late by our “leaders” to avoid this calamity.

I could write about all of the above, but what’s really striking to me at this moment, after the announcement yesterday about let’s get used to high oil prices, is the background of this new energy guy. It’s not hard to check him out, since his nomination was fairly ridiculous to begin with. According to Dale Allen Pfeiffer in

“Sam Bodman was virtually unknown to energy industry insiders and to Washington energy policy specialists prior to his nomination.”
Among other pronouncements, Jason Leopold in states

“one of the President's most outrageous decisions (besides naming Alberto Gonzales, who concocted a legal case for torturing foreign prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, Attorney General) has got to be choosing 66 year-old Sam Bodman to serve as Secretary of Energy. This is a guy who for a dozen years ran a Texas-based chemical company that spent years on the top five lists of the country's worst polluters.”
So the Secretary of Energy had no energy background, and at least headed one of the biggest polluting entities in the country. And his effort to soothe his fellow Americans over the high price of oil was to say that we might as well get used to it for years to come. And no one in congress is challenging his remarks or asking for hearings into oil company windfall profits, or looking for other ways to solve the energy crisis than screwing up acres of wilderness in Alaska for a veritable teacup’s worth of new oil?

I understand that in representative government we have to allow our elected officials to take the ball and run with it. It’s kind of like the real estate agent who takes you around to look for a home to buy—the agent is paid by the seller, not the buyer, so who’s the agent working for, you or the one you’re buying the house from? Who are our elected representatives working for? Who contributed more to their campaigns? You, or big oil?

Friday, April 15, 2005

Rats! I Wanted To Go To Heaven Too!!

Larry King Live on CNN last night was titled, “What Happens After We Die?” One of my wife’s and my favorite spiritual spokespeople, Marianne Williamson, was scheduled, so we were sure to watch the show. While of course there was no answer to the show’s question of what happens after we die, I did learn something new, and offensively unfriendly, about evangelical Christians.

As King introduced his panel, they included,

“John MacArthur, evangelical Christian pastor of Grace Community Church in Southern California, best-selling author and host of the Global Medium Ministry Grace to You. Father Michael Manning, Roman Catholic priest, host of the international program "The Word in the World." Representing Judaism, Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Muslim scholar Dr. Maher Hathout, a retired physician and senior adviser to the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Marianne Williamson, best-selling author and lecturer on spirituality. And Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists.”

What was offensive, was that it seems that John MacArthur and his ilk believe that if a human being on earth does not believe that Jesus Christ is his or her God and savior, then when that person dies he or she won’t go to heaven:

MACARTHUR: Depending upon your personal relationship with Jesus Christ, which is according to the Bible the only way to enter heaven.

KING: So therefore a Jew or a Muslim or a Buddhist will not go to heaven?

MACARTHUR: Christian theology and
the scripture says that only through faith in Jesus Christ.

Even the Catholic priest took issue with this:

“…I think there is an important thing as a Christian for me to understand, in my understanding of Jesus, that although I believe Jesus is the son of god and he is the source of salvation of all, I believe that he can be able to be expressed in ways far beyond what I can understand. And so for me to condemn a person who loves the father -- a Jew or a Muslim that loves the father…” “…One of the most important things about religion is an encounter with God. It has to be a personal relationship with God. If I'm Muslim, if I'm Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, I encounter the Lord and this is real.”
Ultimately, it took Marianne Williamson to straighten the argument out:

“I believe that we're all the sons of God. And I believe Jesus was and is a fully actualized -- he was a fully actualized human being who now has the function of helping others, who choose -- who feel he is their way, to help them rise as well. But I was so glad to hear the father say that he had acknowledged as a Christian that there are those who experience that vortex as it were without the name Jesus on it. And I find it very unfortunate, and a slight offense, this notion that if someone does not proclaim the name Jesus, you're talking about Jews, you're talking about atheists, you're talking about agnostics, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, who somehow, even if they aren't babies, if they do not proclaim the name Jesus, to me that is an incorrect understanding of Jesus himself.”
So while we liberals are watching our political backside in the era of George W and company, let’s also be quite clear on what are the beliefs of Bush’s Christian base by which he is very influenced.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Something’s Rotten in the State of Ohio

There are a lot of rotten states around, including the state of mind of Tom Delay, or any Democrat who voted for the bankruptcy bill.
Or the crooked results of last year’s presidential voting in the state of Ohio. Erudite writer for Vanity Fair, Christopher Hitchens, happened to be in Ohio at the time of the election, and he wrote a piece dissecting the questions and possible answers of just how on the big fix was. Here’s how perplexed Hitchens became the more he looked:

“Whichever way you shake it, or hold it to the light, there is something about the Ohio election that refuses to add up. The sheer number of irregularities compelled a formal recount, which was completed in late December and which came out much the same as the original one, with 176 fewer votes for George Bush. But this was a meaningless exercise in reassurance, since there is simply no means
of checking, for example, how many “vote hops” the computerized machines might have performed unnoticed.”
Hitchens' article is an exercise in frustration, at the amount of chicanery going on and being gotten away with. I was reading some of the letters in the current issue of Vanity Fair about Hitchens’ article, and one idea really got me upset, not that it was a bad idea, but that I had not been more upset about it before. The letter-writer, Arthur Kingdom III, says,

“But while stories of election improprieties in Ohio have been circulating since the election, I certainly don’t see the Justice Department launching an investigation. However, when someone of the stature and mind-set of Mr. Hitchens calmly and astutely raises pertinent questions about Ohio, it gives us some hope. This really is a big deal…”
It really is a big deal, and after some initial attention given by Keith Olberman in his blog for, the media have dropped this story, and so have the dozens of lawyers and democrats who were getting on a band wagon to stir up some action. Granted there was a brave, bold move by Senator Barbara Boxer of California and others, to have the Ohio voting results not certified as the formality is required by congress. That attempt failed and even the notice it brought to the Ohio vote problem was not enough to cause further inquiry by any entity.

So, as Mr. Kingdom says, the manipulated voting results in Ohio, which determined the ultimate winner of the US Presidential election, are a “big deal,” and here I sit wondering who’s doing anything about it. That’s what’s really upsetting.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Finding meaning: Tragedy and Hope

While covering the death of a Pope in Rome, my dear friend, and Newsweek Paris Bureau Chief, Chris Dickey, suffered a bizarre accident. He was blinded by a malfunctioning light while delivering a report on one the of television outlets. His account of what happened, and what he was thinking while not knowing how badly he was hurt, is his great writing at its best--highly worth reading! We can all find a hook with which to identify, and learn something new about ourselves.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Oh God! Politics and Religion!

A question I’ve been hearing recently—at least for the last twenty years—is put very well, and clearly, and hilariously, by Jesse Kornbluth in his Swami Uptown blog:

“Why would Jesus--who embodied Love--decide to die to save only those who believed in him? Why would He condemn the majority of the Earth's population to eternal damnation? That ain't love. At all.”

George Carlin famously put it this way:

“Religion easily—has the best bullshit story of all time. Think about it. Religion has convinced people that there's an invisible in the sky. Who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn't want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer, and burn, and scream, until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you. He loves you and he needs money.”

Before I give you my two cents, I must insert here what seems like a non-sequitor but is actually germane. I wanted to discuss a highly intelligent, thoroughly-researched essay about the germination and execution of the legislation known as the Patriot Act, which I have mentioned before. My nephew, who attends an Ivy League University, wrote this award-winning work when he was in high school. One of the most telling sections of this great piece describes the tearing down of legal mortar built since the beginning of our republic:

“Despite the last 200 years of case precedent which expanded the interpretation of the Fourth
, the USA PATRIOT Act greatly expands the power of law enforcement and encroaches on those precedents. The act was passed through Congress with extreme haste, and debates on the act, which normally take place on the floors of the Senate and House of Representatives, proceeded behind closed doors and off the public record. The congressmen and senators were not even able to read
the text of the act before it was brought to a vote. The passage from conception to law for the USA PATRIOT act was one of the shortest ever in American history. The new powers granted by the act which violate the fourth amendment include: presidential power to confiscate any property under U.S. jurisdiction of a non-citizen who plans or carries out an attack against the U.S.; all judicial review of this evidence may be classified and be presented only to a secret
court; federal authorities may use, wire, oral, and electronic, taps and surveillance to produce evidence against those involved in plots with the threat of weapons of mass destruction or computer fraud; the government may direct or compel any person or institution to produce a person’s personal information who is subject to an investigation; greatly increased time periods on electronic
surveillance of any non-U.S. citizen; subpoenas for electronic information now include length, type, and duration of logon and service used, temporary internet connection number, and means and source of payment (credit card numbers and bank accounts); Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) can be forced to produce any information they have on a person if it is for the protection of life and limb;
the government can delay the notice to a person that they are the subject of a warranted search if disclosure of the search would have adverse effects on the investigation; the government can apply for a court order forcing businesses to produce records that are relevant to foreign intelligence and terrorism investigations; allows trap and trace devices, which track a persons electronic activity, to be used with a court order; trap and trace devices can trace all information pertaining to electronic communications except its content; all warrants issued for terrorism related activities extend nationwide; all warrants for electronic communication extend nationwide; U.S. law enforcement jurisdiction extend to any device outside the country owned or operated by a U.S. company which is used to harbor, transport, commit, or deliver a weapon that harms the U.S.; the attorney general can issue wiretaps without judicial consent; warrants, subpoenas, and court orders can be issued by a secret court which the public has no access to; the government can institute roving wiretaps where by anyone’s phone in the U.S. can be tapped.”

(Since there is no link available for this essay, anyone who would like a copy may email me and I will send it to them as an attachment.)

How this cogent argument is relevant to the ongoing questions of God and morality is, that after the argument presented above, my young relative concluded that the Patriot Act should be instituted by law, as it had been! He stated in the work that the law was temporary and up for renewal in three years—this year 2005—and, based on the need for some kind of additional protection following the terror of 9/11, he was in favor of trying it out. When I pressed personally for a further answer from his mother, my sister, she said my nephew just said one night at the dinner table, “I’d rather be bugged than bombed.” To which I refer you back to my prior discussion of the Patriot Act and my reference to what Benjamin Franklin said about a little liberty traded for a little safety: in that case you deserve neither.

Now about God. In the email I received from my nephew with his essay, which I so admire, he apologized for not writing “more I'm in the middle of a nasty complex paper on arguments for and against God's existence.” So there it is: God is directly involved in our deliberations once again. And I thought the argument over the Patriot Act was whether or not our form of government was going to continue to exist or not! I know well enough the academic brainy gesticulations college professors put on their students, so this “complex paper” of my nephew’s didn’t seem radial or out of the ordinary.
Pro and con discussions about religion are always interesting anyway, as long as they weigh more on the philosophical side than the “Jesus vs. Buddha vs. Muhammad” type of invidious assaults. Personally, I have been leaning toward a universal-tolerance vision which envelopes a single human race that is one with God. The Old Testament-New Testament ancient writings that come to us from out of the desert twenty-five hundred years ago are getting a little dusty. And that dust is piled on by the intervening meddlesome generations who have overlooked the spirit of the scripture in favor of analyzing the literalness of it.

So, to my nephew and anyone still reading, the Creator of the Universe, the definition of good, and love, would not punish, condemn, or even sit in judgment. My God would watch the children of God, and see what they were up to. Now just what are we up to if we’re going to live up to such an example of mercy and grace?

Monday, April 11, 2005

Delay and Clinton—Where are they now?

Several years ago: Congressman Tom Delay—wants Clinton convicted in his Presidential Impeachment trial. President Bill Clinton, impeached for lying under oath about having sex in his office.

Today: Congressman Tom Delay is a mess. Despite his being under fire for any number of breaches of ethics, if not the law, Congressman Tom, the majority leader of the House of Representatives, has called for a vote on the unbelievably unfriendly-to-us-citizens bankruptcy bill this Wednesday. It’s described in an email from Moveon.Org:

“…great majority of the families that declared bankruptcy last year did so because of a major life crisis—huge medical bills or layoffs—that threw them into a spiral of debt. Now, after a multi-year, multi-million dollar lobbying effort by credit card companies, Congress is poised Wednesday to approve a sweeping change in bankruptcy law that would make it impossible for folks who have been dealt a bad hand to get a clean start. The law actually gives credit card companies new ways to seize your home and car if you get into financial trouble. After accepting more than $620,000 from the lending industry to his various PACs, Republican Majority Leader Rep. Tom Delay has scheduled the vote for Wednesday.”

My point in bringing this to your attention is—Tom Delay was a major proponent and outspoken spokesman in the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. So what are these two guys up to these days?
Delay is in trouble within his own party for skirting ethics rules and possibly worse. Today’s headlines say Clinton is funding ten million dollars to help AIDS victims in poor countries.

Salk Didn’t Get the Nobel Prize

Tuesday, April 12, 2005 marks the 50th anniversary of the Salk's Polio Vaccine announcement. For anyone associated with the heartbreak and tragedy of vaccine injury, this is not an occasion to celebrate. The widespread disagreements over the safety of this medical invention began with the confrontations between Salk, the promoter of the "dead virus" vaccine, and Sabin who developed a "live virus" version, and concerns over it's safety continue today. I even came across this dubious verbiage in an article in the Orange County Register, "Vaccines are believed to have eliminated polio in the United States in the 1980s." The statement didn't say "absolutely eliminated polio," because there has never been proof that vaccines actually work. Even more alarming, the only cases of polio in the US in the past 35 years have been from exposure to the live virus vaccine, not "wild polio."

I can remember the fear in the 1950's of contracting polio, of warnings not to lie on the ground, not to go swimming in public pools. I am aware of the awful malady of children in braces, or crippled and lying in iron lungs in order to breathe. I have learned that disease epidemics ebb and wane, and the decline of polio cases actually started prior to the introduction of the vaccine in the mid-1950's. Diagnoses from 50 to 75 years ago may have mistaken Polio for other diseases.

I also know how statistics can be skewed to show a decline in polio cases after the release of the vaccine. Statistics can be twisted to "prove" any argument. In particular is the testimony of experts that indicates a willful bending of the numbers in order to promote the usage of polio vaccine, a medical cash cow that the government could require be purchased for every child in America.

There are volumes written about the many possible awful effects of the polio vaccine, including the potential of causing cancer later in life, contracting aids, and on and on. While you may be confronted with editorials and articles this week expounding on the "great breakthrough in medical history," keep in mind the other possibilities--ever wonder why Salk didn't get the Nobel Prize? Were the Scandinavians not up to the controversy? Maybe they were better informed.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Reason #1: Why I Don’t Miss CT

After the ghost of the dead king appears, remember when an officer in the palace guard says, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” in Hamlet? I think something is rotten in the state of Congress’s relations with the Pharmaceutical lobby.

Sarah Lueck, Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal, writes April 1, 2005,
'Bioshield' Drug-Patent Plan Draws Fire: Generics Makers Fight Extending Exclusivity Protection to Areas Outside Biodefense
In case you don’t want to buy a subscription to WSJ in order to read this article, you can read about Senate bill S.3 here where Barbara Loe Fisher of the National Vaccine Information Center describes the issue and the conflicts.

The Wall Street Journal article depicts a proponent behind the bill:

“The most contentious idea, called wild-card exclusivity, is being pushed by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat. Under his plan, a drug maker that successfully develops a product to prevent or treat a bioterrorism illness or emerging infectious disease could get six months to two years of additional patent life for any product it chooses. As supporters explain it, if Pfizer Inc., for example, invented an effective new antibiotic or joined forces with a smaller biotechnology company to produce a new treatment for botulism, it could get more time to sell blockbuster drugs such as Viagra or cholesterol-lowering Lipitor without competition from cheaper generic rivals. Blockbuster drugs, which usually have numerous patents, can generate billions of dollars a year in sales.”

I wonder how this will help me. If a drug like Lipitor is allowed to remain under the patent protection, and not be available as a generic, if I were prescribed this drug I would have to spend around $100 per month instead of $10 co-pay under my medical insurance plan. Since Lipitor isn’t an anti-terrorist drug (it’s used to lower cholesterol), and the drug that Lipitor’s manufacturer, Pfizer, would have to make in order to gain this patent extension doesn’t have to be anti-nerve gas or some such “real” anti-terrorist thing, just new, this proposed legislation only serves to cost me money and keep the pharmaceutical companies from losing their patent rights on “blockbuster” money-making cash-cow drugs.

So if something is indeed “rotten,” my question is, what’s Senator Lieberman’s incentive to promote this rot?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Delay No More

Jonathan Chait writes in the Los Angeles Times a nice encapsulation of the history leading to Congressman Tom Delay's recent troubles, which I mentioned here April 2. Chait's summation is exactly right, considering Delay's claims of borderline legality in his shenanigans:

"DeLay has yet to be judged, but this much is clear: If you constantly violate the spirit of the rules, it will be hard to avoid the charge that you violated the letter."

Falwell Falters

Reverend Jerry Falwell has been in the hospital recently for severe pneumonia. As the world reflects on the life and death of Pope John Paul II, a man of religious conviction and authority, let’s look at some recent history of Falwell, an American icon of religious authority, also in failing health. As Orwell showed in 1984, mere words can have a power that lead to terrible actions. This excerpt from a book I have written which is not yet published, titled Pardon My Prejudice: America’s Excuse for Bigotry, presents an awful example of thoughtless ignorant talk leading to real bad deeds:

[begin book excerpt] "The fanning of the flames of bigotry against Muslims in America since the events of September 11, 2001, comes partly from the statements made by influential well-known leaders of conservative Christianity, also referred to as the “religious right,” as in “right wing.” Included in this group is the Reverend Jerry Falwell. Not a recognized expert on Islam, Falwell gave an interview for 60 Minutes in October, 2002, in which he stated,

"I think Mohammed was a terrorist. I read enough…by both Muslims and non-Muslims, [to decide] that he was a violent man, a man of war. In my opinion…Jesus set the example for love, as did Moses, and I think Mohammed set an opposite example."

Falwell is the founder of The Moral Majority, a membership of millions of Americans who follow his right-wing Christian point of view, which is practically a formal doctrine. This “doctrine” includes his outlook that Israel must be a Jewish state, because according to him, the second coming of Christ can only happen under this specific circumstance. His idea also stipulates the exclusion of Muslims being in control of any Israeli “biblical” territory. Then, after the ultimate war of Armageddon, he believes Christianity will rule at which time all remaining Jews will convert to Christianity.

The fact that this point of view is supported by millions of Christians means that it can not be eschewed as some strange claim of a fringe group. The views of Reverend Falwell, Pat Robertson, and other leaders of the right-wing Christian “Moral Majority,” are interpreted by them as mainstream biblical fact; they believe this is what makes an honest, moral American.

The truth is, Falwell, Robertson and others of the religious right, only represent a minority of Christian Americans. Just as the extreme point of view of the religious right does not represent the belief of a majority of Christians, the same can be said about those who follow Islam. Not everyone who is of the faith of Islam can be categorized as extremist as depicted by Falwell’s comments on the 60 Minutes broadcast.

Regardless of religious faith, it is the fanatics who are dangerous, not the religion. When asked about Falwell’s interview, Ibrahim Hooper, the spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relation in Washington, DC, said:

“Anybody is free to be a bigot if they want to. What really concerns us is the lack of reaction by mainstream religious and political leaders, who say nothing when these bigots voice these attacks.”

It is one thing for Falwell to have a platform to promote bigotry, it is another problem to have silence from the majority who could speak out against this bigotry. His comments only polarize the country, pandering to the simmering hate that he claims he wants to quell. Really his intent was to provoke a racist and blaming atmosphere.

In a Los Angeles Times article almost two weeks later, the Executive Board of the National Council of Churches finally said “Falwell’s remark…was uninformed and dangerous. This council called on President Bush to repudiate Falwell’s words.” [LA TIMES 10/12/02]

They wanted the President to speak out against Falwell and bigoted statements like these. In fact, Falwell’s Moral Majority is Bush’s political base. George W. Bush listens to, and believes in, the Christian right wing in this country, even though they are a minority as small as one-fifth of all Christians.

After the interview on 60 Minutes, the effects of Falwell’s words were put into action. Conflict arose, and killing was the outcome.
The headline read, “Nine people dead” [LA TIMES 10/13/02]
Muslims were angered around the world due to what Falwell said about their founder and prophet, Muhammad, being a terrorist, and Hindu-Muslim clashes in India resulted in death. This incident took place the next day after Falwell’s remarks.

It is hard to "unring" a bell. It is hard to take back words. These statements incited global anger that resulted in people killing one another. Under enormous pressure, Falwell apologized for his remarks. He stated he meant no disrespect to “any sincere, law-abiding Muslim.” Still, his intent to justify his words displayed a lack of integrity.

An editorial by Benjamin J. Hubbard, describes the ripple effect words have. Hubbard is professor and chair of the department of comparative religion at Cal State Fullerton. He wrote,

“Evil and ignorant words—whether directed against a religion, a racial group or a minority such as gays and lesbians—have the power to incite hatred and violence. Falwell and his anti-Muslim ilk, and the world’s anti-Semites, need to consider the spiritual pain and potential verbal and physical abuse their words can cause to Muslims or Jews. Correspondingly, the courageous words and deeds of good people, in opposing ignorance and hate, have the power to blunt bigotry and
mend the world.”[LA TIMES 10/13/02]

If anything good can come out of this it is the idea that we have the power through our words to build bridges rather than create divisions. If a platform can be provided for bigotry, why not create a bigger stage for tolerance and acceptance? If the news media want to give a balanced point of view, then when an interview with Falwell is aired, why not also put on a spokesperson who can educate and inform with the truth." [end book excerpt]

In honoring Pope John Paul II, we can recall his reaching out to all religions of the world, and to all people. That memory can “have the power to blunt bigotry and mend the world.”

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Mandatory Schmandatory! Watch Your Ass!

Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder of National Vaccine Information Center, has a poignant and fact-filled warning for those of us at the mercy of the "mandatory" vaccine program. It comes in the form of an introductory email from NVIC regarding a " prevent cervical cancer and genital warts."

"In the past 50 years, there hasn't been a vaccine developed and produced by drug companies for children and adolescents that hasn't eventually found its way into state mandatory vaccination laws. The STD (sexually transmitted disease) vaccines now being developed by drug companies and promoted by the CDC's behaviorists and social engineers will target adolescents. During the past decade, many state legislatures have been successfully lobbied by Pharma and government health officials to allow state health department officials to add new vaccines to the mandatory list under rule making authority instead of by a vote of the legislature. Unless the people take back the power to influence the public health laws which govern them through their elected representatives, they and their children will be forced to take vaccines that unelected government bureaucrats tell them they must take."

How much less in control can we be?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Could Stewart Spin O'Reilly?

Jesse Kornbluth (Swami Uptown) has some nice quotes from Bill O'Reilly about Pope John Paul II when Bush was getting ready to invade Iraq. Evidently His Holiness wasn't on Bill's "nice" list at that time. Makes me wonder if O'Reilly were to appear on the Jon Stewart Daily Show, would he finally enter the no spin zone? There's more real "Fair and Balanced" reporting at the Comedy Central emmy-winning Daily Show than there ever is on The O'Reilly Factor. It seems like O'Reilly is entertainment with some facts, while Stewart is news with a lot of comedy. I stopped watching O'Reilly, and even the air around me is cleaner. That The O'Reilly Factor is the number one rated cable news show means the rest of us have to work to maintain the balance.

Nazis Warned of the "Non-Aryan" Conspiracy

Just when I thought I knew about all the issues of the Holocaust, a documentary movie comes along with a stunning telling of how the American film and television industries handled the Nazi persecution of the Jews. Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust, aired on AMC last night (April 6, 2005), and a review by Kevin Crust can be found in the Los Angeles Times. The key to this film’s importance lies in the depiction of how much was known, and how little was done, by Americans, both to help the Jews in Europe and to stop the spread of Hitler’s occupation.

I was shocked to see a full page headline in the New York Daily News, from 1940—over a year before Pearl Harbor and US entry into the war—stating that Jews were being rounded up and taken to concentration camps. It may not have been widely known, or too unbelievable at the time, that with the round ups came the murder of these people. I remember my dad telling me that in the early 1940’s, when he was a teenager, he didn't think anyone was aware of the killing of civilians going on in Europe. Actually, until watching the documentary, I did not recall that 1 million Jews were executed by firing squad by 1940. I thought most died in the camps.

Germany was a great revenue source for foreign film distribution prior to World War II. Therefore, references in the documentary show the studio heads, most of whom were immigrant Jews, capitulating to the Nazi wish that Jewish workers in the distribution centers in Germany be fired; in an effort not to offend the Third Reich, the word “non-Aryan” was substituted for the word “Jew” in the 1940 film “Mortal Storm” so that the racism was watered down.

While these facts are interesting, why do we need to know these details in order to better understand the events in Europe and the domestic response to these events? Steven Spielberg speaks over the frightening images on the screen, from newsreels and Hollywood feature films of the era. Despite the views of fearful and despondent people, he says that only an actual Holocaust survivor could truly understand the real horror. This and other commentary gives substance to Crust’s conclusion about the documentary director’s point of view:

“Anker seems to suggest that while it is important ‘how you bear witness,’ it is equally valuable that the stories be told, period. In an environment in which the perceived faults of a film or series can be debated, as with ‘Holocaust’ and ‘Schindler's List,’ their flaws are outweighed by the fact that they bring the stories to a younger audience.”

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

I’ve Got a Really Bad Feeling About This

Two famous quotes come to mind immediately when the subject of the Patriot Act, legislation passed after 9/11/2001 to make it easier for law enforcement to detain suspected terrorists, comes up. One quote is from a Founding Father of the United States, and the other is from an opponent of Nazism and holocaust survivor.

During an argument in the American Continental Congress regarding the use of the term “Tyrant” to describe King George in the proposed Declaration of Independence, a proponent for the removal of the word asked why Jefferson thought the English Monarch was a “tyrant.” Jefferson responded that the invasion of homes without a warrant, people held without being charged, and more usurpations of British freedoms on the colonists, made King George a “tyrant.” The delegate who wanted “tyrant” deleted from the document, agreed that the acts against British citizens in the colonies were indeed troublesome, but he said, “These are dangerous times.” To this remark, Benjamin Franklin noted,

“Be careful—anyone willing to give up a few liberties for the sake of some temporary safety, deserves neither liberty, nor safety.”

Franklin culled from 7 decades of experience both abroad and in America to come up with this profound warning.

Martin Niemöller was a pastor in Berlin who opposed Hitler’s actions. As Niemöller spoke later in life about the events of the 1930’s and 1940’s, he often told the following story:

“In Germany they came first for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me--and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

In fact, in these “dangerous times” now, the Patriot Act has not been used to try a single terrorist since it was instituted by congress in 2001 in response to the events of 9/11. It has actually been used to go after any of several possible perpetrators of crimes other than terrorism, because of its all-encompassing and convenient lack of civil protections, formerly guaranteed by the US Constitution.

Today, FBI Director Robert Mueller asked not only for the temporary Patriot Act, which expires at the end of this year, to be renewed; he also asked that the bureau’s ability to obtain records without asking a judge be expanded. The more sinister element, beyond the loss of civil liberties, is that this is happening at the same time as Bush gets the lowest popularity rating of a second-term president in history at 45% approval, and a majority of Americans – 53% to 45% -- say the Iraq War was not worth fighting. Trouncing Constitutional liberties at home makes it easier to control the restless masses, who are either fearful of another possible terrorist attack and therefore willing to go along with the attitude they would “rather be bugged than bombed,” as I once heard it put, or they are fearful of the threat of the Patriot Act being used against them.

Let’s not be deceived by any political squabbling takes place over whether to renew this hastily-shoved-through legislation, which was hardly even read by those who voted for or against it. Let’s not be lulled by the excuse that only people doing the wrong thing in the wrong place are going to have the Patriot Act used against them anyway. I don’t want them to come for me, and have there be no one left to speak. What Franklin also knew, was that hard-won freedoms, easily given up, are harder to win back.