Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Goldhagen on Pope Visit to Auschwitz

Not everyone was thrilled by the Pope's appearance at Auschwitz. In a cogent op-ed piece in today's Los Angeles Times, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen describes why the Pope’s speech at Auschwitz was off the mark, and incomplete. While it’s worth reading in its entirety, here are some exerpts:

The Holocaust wasn't Christian

…Benedict clouded historical understanding, evaded moral responsibility and shirked political duty.Benedict falsely exonerated Germans from their responsibility for the Holocaust by blaming only a "ring of criminals" who "used and abused" the duped and dragooned German people as an "instrument" of destruction. In truth, Germans by and large supported the Jews' persecution, and many of the hundreds of thousands of perpetrators were ordinary Germans who acted willingly.

…he then turned the Holocaust into an assault most fundamentally not on Jews but on Christianity itself, by falsely asserting that the ultimate reason the Nazis wanted to kill Jews was "to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith" — meaning that their motivation to kill Jews was because Judaism was the parent religion of Christianity.

As every historian, and even the casual student, knows — and as the church's historians ordinarily take pains to emphasize — the German perpetrators saw the Jews as a malevolent and powerful "race," not a religious group. Their desire to annihilate Jews had nothing to do with anti-Christianity.

Benedict's failure to say that Auschwitz was overwhelmingly a death factory designed for Jews, or that the Germans slaughtered Jews because they hated Jews, is part of his overall failure to confront the centrality of the Holocaust in the Germans' mass murdering. Benedict's historical fabrication to Christianize the Holocaust is also a moral scandal because it obscures the troubling truth about the Catholic Church: Its churches across Europe tacitly and actively participated in the Jews' persecution. Pope Pius XII, the German bishops, French bishops, Polish church leaders and many others, animated by anti-Semitism, supported or called for the persecution of the Jews (though not their slaughter). Some, such as Slovakian church leaders and Croatian priests, actively endorsed or participated in the mass murder.

In this and other ways, Benedict severed and obscured all connection between the Catholic Church, Christianity and the Holocaust, which is a huge step backward from the positions that John Paul II adopted.

…Whatever differences existed between Nazi anti-Semitism and its Christian anti-Semitic seedbed, anti-Semitism is the unavoidable causal, historical and moral link connecting the church, the Nazis and Auschwitz.

Since Vatican II, the church has forcefully condemned anti-Semitism, even declaring it a sin. Yet Benedict stood in Auschwitz negligently silent.

…he turns the clock back on what the Catholic Church had, in the decade before his papacy, been acknowledging: that the church must confront the anti-Semitism of its past, that many Catholics participated in the Jews' persecution; that the church should have aided the assaulted people more.

DANIEL JONAH GOLDHAGEN is the author of "Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust" and "A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Perspective and Reason

The events of the US Memorial weekend included continued shocking and sad news from Iraq. Two CBS newsmen were killed and a reporter was injured in a Humvee bombing. This event shone more light on the violence in Iraq, since there were several dozen other deaths due to combat at the same time.

A reporter, in Baghdad, on the Today Show answered Matt Lauer’s question of how this tally of casualties fits in with the overall picture—the answer is, while the media focuses on the injured and death of their own, the bombings and death tolls are business as usual in a country occupied by foreign US forces, with no downturn or end in sight.

Further weakness and misjudgment by Bush was clear in his handling of the threat of resignation by the US Attorney General and FBI head. They would have quit if documents and evidence seized from the House office of Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., as part of a bribery investigation, without giving House leaders advance notice, had been returned. Why would they be returned? Because some House leaders criticized the raid, saying it crossed the line of separation of powers between legislative and executive branches of government—even though the warrant for seizure was signed by the third, judicial, branch. So Bush had the evidence sealed for 45 days in order for everyone to cool down a reach an agreement. Today, hearings will be held on this issue:

Bush's directive to temporarily remove the documents from FBI custody was an implicit rebuke not just of FBI Director Robert Mueller but of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales—both of whom signed off on the search of Jefferson's office before it took place. "What is he [Bush] saying? His own Justice Department was wrong?" said one senior law-enforcement official who, like other senior officials NEWSWEEK spoke to, asked not to be identified because of the political sensitivity of the case. "People are livid about this."--Newsweek, June 5 issue

The idiocy of all sides’ handling of this case even brought together notorious left-wing spokesman James Carville with a right-wing radio host this morning. The two agreed that, after the finding of $90,000 in Jefferson’s home freezer, there might just be due cause to look further for evidence of wrongdoing. Carville explained in his usual dry southern drawl, that holding hearings on this matter, when all the other serious issues we face should be getting the spotlight, was absurd.

Perhaps today was the exact right time for this commentary to appear by the great playwright Edward Albee in the Los Angeles Times Op-Ed section:

Few Americans are educated in the ways government works — or does not work — and our passivity, our downright apathy, in the face of the headlong retreat from democracy in this country makes us wonder if perhaps the late Max Lerner was not right: We are a civilization in decline without ever having reached its zenith.

They tell us that in a democracy, we can have anything we want. True. But it is also true that in a democracy, we get exactly what we deserve. We'd better figure out what we deserve.

Yesterday I wrote about the Pope visiting Auschwitz, and I tried to find any meaning in it. It takes an objective and more seasoned mind than mine to give a concise answer, from the perspective of the overall—my Dad is mainly concerned with seniors getting the short end of the stick with the Bush drug plan, and how to end the misbegotten occupation of Iraq as soon as possible.

Here’s his email today about the Pope and other things:

"What to make of it---in the overall scheme of things --it don't amount to a hill of beans—

This pope spoke in German, the other in Polishand anti-Semitism still is on the increase.

So what does it mean Pious X11 closed his eyes to it while he had a chance to do something?

We have ethnic cleansing--mass murders starvation, floods and tsunamis.And worst of all the killing and maiming of our boys and their people daily.

Why doesn't the pope try to talk some sense today--and ask G W to withdraw(or at least try)?"

Why didn't someone as that question on the morning news?

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Pope & The Jews

The Pope visited Auschwitz today. That’s nice—he’s recognizing the indescribable atrocities this place symbolizes. Auschwitz is the biggest of hundreds of “death” camps around Europe which the Nazis ran in WWII in order to corral and murder as many Jews, and other non-combatant civilians who were “sub-Nazi” standard, as possible.

Jewish leaders are pleased at the Pope’s highlighting of the Holocaust. There are so many Catholics in the world—1.1 billion total—and there aren’t that many Jews in comparison—13 million, a fraction of a percent of the number of Catholics—it seems like the Jews could use all the friends they could get:

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Los Angeles, California-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Associated Press that Benedict's presence at the camp and his remarks were firm reminders that Holocaust deniers were not speaking the truth.

"He wore the uniform of the Hitler Youth. For him to now go there as the pope and acknowledge the horrors the Holocaust visited on the Jewish people and all mankind is important," he said.My Way News

Well, yeah, Rabbi Hier is right—any recognition of a major stain on human history such as the systematic industrial killing of 11,000,000 people is good—but what’s the remark about “Holocaust deniers were not speaking the truth?” Is that a popular media interjection, or how the Jews feel today? I have believed for years that these fringe-lunatic rabble-rousing “holocaust-deniers” were just that-fringe. Now the media implies that the head of the primo foremost Nazi-recollection/memorial museum and head hunter—that they’re glad the Pope went to Auschwitz so it proves that it all really happened?

Let’s recount: The Pope is the head of the Catholic Church, which is located in the Vatican, a tiny walled-off area within Rome that houses St. Peter’s Basilica, offices, chapels (like the Sistine) libraries, museums. It’s less than ¾ the area of the “mall” in Washington D.C which includes the Capitol, Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. The Vatican is a separate nation-state within Italy—it’s not part of Rome or Italy, it’s a country unto itself.

In this tiny so-called nation of the Vatican, there are enough riches in art and documents, that the individual elements could be called “priceless,” and the total is “totally priceless.” In lay jargon, this means “worth millions and millions of dollars, euros, yen, --you name it!”

The Sistine Ceiling, fresco painted by Michelangelo; The School of Athens, fresco painted by Raphael—either one on Ebay alone could fetch enough…let’s just say someone would be willing to pay enough for either to feed the entire world—hungry or not. 2 helpings, probably!

During WWII, Hitler made a pact with Mussolini, the big-time mafiosa wannabe who got to be in charge of Italy. Mussolini wasn’t paving the road to genocide alongside Hitler. He was more or less looking for a way to keep his place as numero uno Italiano.

Pope Benedict XVI also didn’t bring up the controversy over Vatican aid to Nazi victims in WWII:

He also did not mention the controversy over the wartime role of Pope Pius XII, who some say did not do all in his power to prevent Jews from being deported to concentration camps. The Vatican rejects that accusation.--My Way

Well, wouldn’t you?

All that wealth, located within this little confine within the city of Rome, ally to Germany in WWII—any false move and, what?—the German engineers and scientists come flocking down to Rome to figure out how to move all this wealth, art and architecture—out of Rome and back to Berlin, for the thousand-year Third Reich progeny to behold in their honor. Deport some Jews, or cost the church its untold wealth? Hmmmm.

What’s my point? You’ll be surprised.

“A shadow was cast over the papal visit by Saturday's attack on Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, who was to say Kaddish, or the Jewish prayer for the dead, during the ceremony led by the pope.

Schudrich told The Associated Press he was attacked in central Warsaw after confronting a man who shouted at him, "Poland for Poles!" The rabbi said the unidentified man punched him in the chest and sprayed him with what appeared to be pepper spray. He was not injured.

Police said they were treating the incident as a possible anti-Semitic attack.
Schudrich, said the most important part of Benedict's message "was his physical presence at Auschwitz" but that some Jews wished he had gone further by directly addressing anti-Semitism.

"It was a very powerful statement and the words that we heard were powerful, but I'm sure some felt a glaring omission ... on the question of anti-Semitism. Jews are very sensitive to that and we are used to hearing the words of John Paul II."--My Way

“Poland for Poles” is a symbolic statement from WWII when it meant “get rid of the Jews.”

Well, here’s my point. Words are more powerful than we know. As the Pope spoke in Auschwitz, it was cloudy and raining. He stopped to pray.

"To speak in this place of horror, in this place where unprecedented mass crimes were committed against God and man, is almost impossible -- and it is particularly difficult and troubling for a Christian, for a pope from Germany,"--CNN

Then the sun appeared, with a rainbow.

Now what the hell do you make of that!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Submitted for your Approval

Don’t look for any URL links here, or weighty references, or inside info—no, this is just what happened to me tonight, and the bigger meaning of it all.

I should have seen this coming. I should have kept up my guard.

Wife, little girl and I went to little girl’s 3rd grade open house at elementary school. Talked with some of the other parents, several of whom are friends. Little girl’s good little buddy wasn’t in school today. His mom said hi at the open house tonight—I asked why little buddy stayed home? Low grade virus—stomach upset for a few days, I’m tired haven’t slept etc etc, says his mom.

Then my little girl’s buddy’s mom said “so & so has chicken pox.” I perked up—who! I asked? Little girl’s buddy’s mom looked at me like a dog who’s heard a high pitched whistle—tilted head and ears up—“It’s going around the class, and the kids who caught it also got the shot” she said. I asked her which kid had chicken pox—I want my little girl to go play with that kid and hopefully catch chicken pox!

Now this woman is looking at me like I drank more than I needed to in order to come to the open house. We entered the Twilight Zone, where the main character knows the truth, and everyone else thinks this character is crazy. Just like in the Twilight Zone episodes where all the nuts are trying to appease the only sane one in the group--she maintained her cool and just said, “why do you want to do that—expose your child to chicken pox?” She didn’t know that my little girl hasn’t had the varicella vaccination—to “immunize” against chicken pox--which in effect is the injection of an attenuated herpes virus directly into a child’s blood stream--for that reason alone, it was worth not giving my little girl that injection.

I saw no way out other than to explain exactly my intention: I simply answered that if my child contracted chicken pox, a mild childhood disease with, percentage-wise, literally little to no adverse after-effects, she would have nature’s blessing of a life-long immunity—which no vaccine or man-made concoction could confer, let alone without the side-effects possible from any given subcutaneous inoculation.

Needless to explain here, that explanation didn’t go over at all. Or I should say, it went completely over this mom’s head. Interruptions and other conversation ensued, and I didn’t get the name or address of the chicken-pox infected child, and all in all, the evening went well. I think it went OK--unless my wife starts hearing that I’m that weirdo dad who is trying to find a way to give his kids chicken pox.

Well, yeah—chicken pox, mumps and measles if possible…I had all three as a kid and I’ll never get ‘em again.

By the way, just like the twist at the end of every Twilight Zone episode, there’s one here: all the kids in the class, and the school for that matter--coming down with chicken pox, which the parent told me about tonight—all of them were given the vaccine against chicken pox. Which means either the vaccine doesn’t work, or the kids got chicken pox from the actual vaccine—or both.

I vote for both. And I wouldn’t inject a herpes virus in my kid for any reason in the world. There’s the signpost up ahead..

Bird Flu Conspiracy Mongers

There are some bright lights out there. Mainstream Media (MSM) is not one. Bobbing-headed newsreaders on your local TV station are not. The FDA and CDC are not.

Todd Ackerman of the Houston Chronicle is. Barbara Loe Fisher (NVIC founder) forwards his article about the continuing conspiracy to promote fear of a bird flu pandemic, and she adds her notes in an email:

The bird flu hype has been fanned by public health officials using fear tokeep the public scared out of their wits about a bird bug. Capitalizing on the federal fear mongering are drug companies who have already gotten a freehandout from Congress to create money-making bird flu vaccine factories aswell as a free ride if experimental bird flu vaccines ever hurt anybody. Atrisk is not only the American taxpayer's wallet but also the public healthif a bogus bird flu vaccine is forced on every man, woman and child inorder to recoup Pharma's R&D costs and justify the taxpayer handout.

Ackerman makes several salient points. If you want to calm yourself completely about any threat of a bird flu pandemic, read the whole piece here.

Otherwise, here are some highlights, starting with that news story a few days ago about the Indonesians in a single family who all died from human-to-human transmitted bird-flu virus:

The most recent reported deaths attributed to H5N1 were those of six Indonesians, five of them in an extended family. The deaths, reported last week, initially were investigated as a "cluster" that health experts feared could mean the virus was mutating into a form more easily passed between humans. World Health Organization investigators have all but ruled out human-to-human transmission, saying the virus likely was caught from infected animals.

When was MSM going to tell us the second half of the scare story--that it was a false alarm?

The skeptics warn of the dangers of overreaction, citing 1976's swine flu debacle, when more than 40 million people received a vaccine against a new pig virus that, ultimately, never took hold. The virus killed one person, a military recruit whose speedy death ignited the crash program. But as many as 1,000 people who were inoculated developed a paralyzing nerve condition; 32 died.

But what if the bird flu really did take off (no pun intended)? After all there was the huge Spanish flu in WWI that killed so many people.

But Paul Ewald, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Louisville, said such pathogens would lose their virulence, a law of natural selection ignored by those who fear the worst-case scenarios.
"Everything we know about evolution says pathogens have to become more mild to keep their host mobile," Ewald said. "If they're so virulent the host can't pass them on, they don't survive."

The exception, he said, occurs in "disease factories" - environments where people immobilized by illness can easily transmit a virulent pathogen to new hosts - which is what happened on World War I's Western Front with the Spanish flu. Hospitals, trains and trenches packed with deathly ill and healthy soldiers facilitated the disease's lethal spread.

And the same old bottom line is hit by Ackerman at the conclusion of his discussion:

Some critics see a different "agenda" behind the public concern about bird flu - funding. Butcher says President Bush's $7.1 billion flu pandemic plan means a bonanza of grant money for researchers and the justification of the budgets and existence of agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the World Health Organization. ..

I'm concerned that the public discussion about bird flu, the new bug "du jour", is so weighted with end-of-the-world terms that it's causing a kind of hysteria," said Siegel, author of "Bird Flu: Everything You Need to Know About the Next Pandemic". "The greatest problem isn't influenza - it's fear of influenza."

Talk about fear of contagion--with the no-liability factor attached to the new batch of bird flu vaccine, I'll be staying the hell out of my local pharmacy the day they offer the discounted shots. Who knows what's gonna be in those vials they're opening?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Pop Quiz on Bird Flu Pandemic

OK class—time for a pop quiz. If you have been paying attention, you should be able to answer every question without looking at your notes.

1. True or false: The top 5 big pharma vaccine manufacturers were given $1 billion dollars to develop a vaccine for a possible bird-flu virus.

2. True or false: bird flu transmitted from human to human is already an epidemic.

3. True or false: the bird flu pandemic will take place right after the introduction of the new bird-flu vaccine.

4. True or false: there is no bird flu transmitted to humans--the vaccine companies want to make money and when their customers are fearful, they buy the company products—vaccines.

Need some help? Here are a few hints:

Every year your family doctor tells your family it’s a good idea to get the flu shot. Better to get the shot, than to get sick with the flu, or worse, if you are at risk as an infant or elderly, severe cases of the flu could even kill you. You pretty much trust your doctor, except when he says to cut back on salt and sweets, so you get the shot.

Sometimes, after you get the flu shot, you get sick anyway. You get aches and chills and fever and hell, it’s like the flu they described on the Today Show, so how come you got sick after you got the shot? Ask your doctor—he’ll tell you it really wasn’t the flu—it was a virus and there are so many, some can mimic the typical flu symptoms—but it would have been much worse had you not gotten that shot.

There is no current evidence the current flu shots work or reduce mortality rates. The primary risk for mortality is among the elderly who have weakened immune systems. Flu shots plus Tamiflu have not been proven to eliminate flu outbreaks in nursing homes.--Barbara Loe Fisher, NVIC

What am I saying—you can’t trust your doctor? You can trust your doctor—I listen to mine all the time. Except when it comes to vaccinations. They’ve been brainwashed, and so have we all. Anyone can read just a little bit further into the background of how flu shots are made, and how the flu virus works—there is no way an effective vaccine could work against the flu, even if vaccines were safe, which they’re not.

But even if they were—the flu virus is too ready to mutate in order to survive whatever assault is taking place on its ability to survive. Even if flu vaccines actually work in making some immune systems immune to the flu virus for which they were designed—guess what!!--too late—the virus has already changed, mutated and made itself immune to any vaccine that took months to develop against last year’s flu virus strain.

So the flu vaccine doesn’t work. Influenza cases come and go in any given year based on nature, the weather—whatever.

The US government grants $1 billion dollars to develop a possible vaccine against a possible illness—can you imagine any business as solid, profitable, or good as the pharmaceutical industry? The highest paid CEO’s in the US—drug company heads. Biggest K-Street lobby--they’re up there. They prey on our trust and fear—trust in modern medicine and many proven advances, fear of the unknown—a bird flu that’s gonna kill us all!

Time’s up—

Here are the answers:

1—True--yeah we know they got the $1 bil.

2—false. Epidemic bird flu is not here--It’s not an epidemic, and the latest news is right on schedule since yesterday. as the fear monger to get us primed to buy those bird flu shots when they come out:

Seven Indonesian Bird Flu Cases Linked to Patients (Update1)
May 23 (Bloomberg)
-- All seven people infected with bird flu in a cluster of Indonesian cases can be linked to other patients, according to disease trackers investigating possible human-to-human transmission of the H5N1 virus.
A team of international experts has been unable to find animals that might have infected the people, the World Health Organization said in a statement today. In one case, a 10-year- old boy who caught the virus from his aunt may have passed it to his father, the first time officials have seen evidence of a three-person chain of infection, an agency spokeswoman said. Six of the seven people have died.

You saw it in Bloomberg--must be happening now!

3—Well, True and False—the PERCEPTION of epidemic is spread in the media in sync with the recommendations to get that shot. However, Reuters had a headline today saying no bird flu soon:

Sick poultry and infected people, rather than migratory birds, are more likely to bring the H5N1 bird flu virus into the United States, although that was unlikely to happen soon, a leading virologist said.

4—This one’s a gimme (golf lingo for an easy put so you don’t have to actually hit the ball with the putter) OK – TRUE. Vaccine manufacturers do want to make money, and unless you’ve been off the planet recently and haven’t heard, a case in point would be the promotion of Vioxx, a drug to help relieve pain, which drug company Merck knew was unsafe and said so in secret intercompany memos. Merck put it on the market anyway, made millions of dollars, and a few people died from it--so Merck got caught in the deception of safety and now is in court for the consequences of its greed.

In other words, SURPRISE!--your safety is not the number one concern of drug manufacturers-their bottom line and profit margin is.

This test won’t be graded—I will recommend that you get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, and eat sensibly in order to avoid getting run down and becoming susceptible to any illness, including influenza.

And don't be afraid.

Monday, May 22, 2006

One Swallow Does Not Make a Summer-Aristotle

Thanks once again to the National Vaccine Information Center email notice for rooting out a telling article, which really is a commentary on another article. What am I talking about?

Remember the business a couple of weeks ago about the government plopping $1 billion on 5 big pharma companies for r & d on a possible bird flu vaccine? The potential of developing a vaccine to match a virus which mutates all the time makes this a study in successful lobbying and waste at taxpayer expense. The scare and media blitz about the coming flu epidemic were enough to make the powers that be at least seem as if they were moving on this issue.

Now there is hard evidence that there won’t be any bird flu, at least not the way scientists thought it would spread.

Migrating Birds Didn't Carry Flu


ROME, May 10 — Defying the dire predictions of health officials, the flocks of migratory birds that flew south to Africa last fall, then back over Europe in recent weeks did not carry the deadly bird flu virus or spread it during their annual journey, scientists have concluded.

International health officials had feared that the disease was likely to spread to Africa during the southward migration and return to Europe with a vengeance during the reverse migration this spring. That has not happened — a significant finding for Europe, because it is far easier to monitor a virus that exists domestically on farms but not in the wild.

The article sited by the NVIC was a larger commentary on the issue of who’s to gain and who’s to blame from all this bird-flu hype.

...But the tiny devil of cynicism that constantly whispers in one's ear makes one hope this bird flu thing wasn't all a concoction of the greed hounds who run huge pharmaceutical firms -- cloaked in the altruistic garments of public service and medical vision -- yet angle for research windfalls.--MOUNTAIN VIEWS: BIRD FLU FEAR BLOWN OUT OF PROPORTION, By John Hanchette Niagara Falls Reporter

But Mr. Hanchette, with all due respect to your hopes—of course it was!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Preakness Stakes

Jockey Edgar Prado immediately pulled up on Barbaro in order to minimize the injury he knew the horse incurred. Barbaro was a very good possibility to win the Triple Crown this year—thoroughbred racing’s ultimate prize, winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby, and he was racing in the Preakness today. He suddenly broke bones above and below his ankle, so his racing career is over, and now his owner and trainer pray for his very life, as do thousands who witnessed the event.

This is a touching story, of an injured animal and a rider who loves him. But there is more—why does the accident of a single horse strike such a chord in so many? After all, the owners are wealthy, the trainer is a professional, the jockey will ride again. The element of transcendence from sports story to human interest is in this description:

Prado, who just two weeks ago was celebrating an overpowering Derby victory aboard Barbaro, was in tears moments after he gingerly pulled up Barbaro in front of the grandstand and then jumped off to ensure that the horse didn’t aggravate the injury...

…The 39-year-old Prado may have saved the colt’s life by reacting instantly and keeping his mount balanced as he pulled up to prevent him from putting more weight on the limb than necessary. Once he got Barbaro halted past the Pimlico finish line, he jumped off and grabbed the reins to try and keep the horse from panicking and exacerbating the injury.

Herein lies a story of heroism, in the jockey immediately recognizing a calamity and reacting in order to save his horse, regardless of the race, the money--whatever. His immediate reflex was to save the life of the horse.

It is also the awareness of perfection in nature. What makes a horse stand out; what makes a thoroughbred race horse want to win; what makes the nature of an animal so strong that it self-destructs in the attempt for glory?

The thousands who saw the event were struck by the tragedy, and thousands wept over the injured horse’s dilemma. Why is the emotion of so many people captured by an animal? Barbaro is a symbol of wonder in nature—of a divine creation beyond the cerebral grasp of us mortals. Then there is the interaction of professionals who can train this great animal to be the best of all—the fastest horse on the planet at that moment. The breaking of that momentum—the interruption by chance—reminds us of the reality of life, that we are not privy to the divine plan.

A hero in the midst reminds us that we mortals are great and wonderful too! Sometimes heroes come out of nowhere. The jockey quickly working to save the life of the horse—that is the lesson here. The race is not the issue, the prize is not the only goal—the love we all share, and the love of life and of its utter sanctity—that makes a horse race, as they say. At least that’s what made today's Preakness.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

TWA 800, AA 77, 9/11 & Us

I’ve made my attitude about conspiracy theories clear over and over—I don’t like to generalize. In some cases of historical events, conspiracy questions are warranted, and have been proven sometimes. The King family has accepted that James Earl Ray wasn’t the only one involved in the murder of Dr. King. Several co-conspirators were hanged in the murder complicity of Abraham Lincoln.

Then there are the true believers, like the old African American woman I knew in college in Baltimore, during the moon shots of the Apollo program, who told me “they didn’t go to no moon! The government shot the whole thing on a sound stage. We can’t get to no moon!” I wasn’t about to argue--she was too convincing.

And there are the atheists, who find wing nuts at the helm of any talk of conspiracy, serving their own psycho-diabolical inner needs to justify the shit we’re in. One naysayer of 9/11 conspiracies, my friend Chris Dickey, of Newsweek, says in a phone commentary on the new 9/11 videos released today of the crash of AA flight 77 into the Pentagon, “Those who want to believe there is a conspiracy will continue to believe it, because they want to.”

When you watch the so-called videos, released under the Freedom of Information Act today to Judicial Watch , you see nothing new from the stills that have been out in the media of the surveillance cameras showing a quick streak and fiery explosion into the side of the Pentagon. If the official report concluded that a missile did this instead of a passenger airliner, that would be believable from the film/photos.

So what’s my point about 9/11, conspiracies, and these videos? One more quick story. TWA flight 800 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island shortly after takeoff, on July 17, 1996 at 8:45 PM, killing 212 passengers and 18 crew. I have a good friend who lives in Pennsylvania who flew secret combat missions in the Vietnam War, in fighter jets over North Vietnam. He was shot down on a mission and was rescued shortly after. He’s highly-technically oriented, and always has his good eye on what’s happening in the military world of flight development.

His first words to me after flight 800 went down were, “It was a missile.” He didn’t say it seemed like a missile, or it probably was a missile. He just stated a matter of fact, and we made the assumption that there was a major mistake made at some level of the military or whatever, and the cover up was in play. The statement “it was a missile” did not imply a conclusion of conspiracy to shoot down a civilian airliner. It didn’t imply anything other than the knowledge that the physical aspects of the crash could only have happened in a missile attack, not in an internal explosion on flight 800caused by a failure of gas canisters which became the official explanation.

What if the Pentagon explosion came from a missile? What if flight 77 went down in the Potomac, or even the Atlantic, never to be found? What if the intel powers that be found out that Al Qaeda not only used airliners as bombs that fateful day, but they had access to and used missile launchers and got lucky with one hitting it’s target—the Pentagon? What if our protective government doesn’t want the little people to know how big the attack was on 9/11, that the terrorists had missiles too, and there may be more around that they can’t find? Or maybe they don’t want to let us in on how badly they bungled the prior intel of what was going to happen?

All of this precludes any conspiracy on the part of the Bush regime to cause the events of 9/11—it does indicate a calamitous lack of competence on the part of the FBI, CIA and the rest of our intel sources. This isn’t so hard to believe—remember George Tenet’s smug sidelong to Bush about Saddam’s WMD, “It’s a Slam Dunk.” Well, it wasn’t, and 150,000 troops are coming and going out of Iraq in order to try to maintain some presence in the occupational aftermath of the US invasion due to Tenet’s elbow nudge.

I’m a long way from understanding what happened on 9/11. As I have said, there are those who know exactly what happened—the official version of the 19 terrorists with box cutters and an airplane manual in their laps; and there are those who also know exactly what happened—that the government covertly planned the whole shebang in order to reap the profits that wars bring, along with a bigger foot in the Middle East.

Neither of these views works for me. Bush, Cheney and company are not that adroit and too many loose ends hang open to have that kind of huge conspiracy actually work. Yet I’m still troubled by the idea that 19 guys on planes with box cutters caused all this devastation. Something happened on 9/11 that killed thousands of Americans and changed our society forever—I’d like to really find out the truth, and I know while Bush and his buddies are in control of the flow of information, we’re not going to find out.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Slavery: Backbone of America


Uncle Remus--Walt Disney's "Song of the South" 1946

Several years ago I suddenly came up with an idea that was so clear to me, I wrote a book about it. Pardon My Prejudice: America’s Excuse for Bigotry,* tells the tale through my eyes of how I see racism as the number one problem of American society.

Prejudice is an inborn human trait that somehow comes down to our civil frontal lobes from a primitive brain-stem need for protection. As higher forms of life on earth, we are capable of reading these primitive reflexes and subliminating them to our higher natures of tolerance and patience.

Bigotry is a learned expression of acting out on the base instincts of prejudice. When we stereotype the single trait of an individual as a generalized part of the character of a national or ethnic group, then we are lowering ourselves to our base makeup, and not rising to the superior level of our potential, which, while more difficult, yields better results.

We see the effects of racism in our common paths through every day, and we become inured to them. Remarks are made out of hand, overheard, actions are taken—it’s so pervasive we even make excuses for it. When an acquaintance once used the ubiquitous pejorative term for “African American” in my presence, not knowing that I would be offended, his wife shrugged her shoulders and simply said, “You’ll have to excuse him, he’s a bit of a racist.” I told the guy his language was out of line and he just shrugged it off as if I were expressing some sort of aberrant new idea—that using the “n” word in mixed company was as normal and appropriate as spilling water by accident so what’s my problem?

I was very pleased to read a review, in the New York Review of Books “They’ll Take Their Stand” in which George M. Fredrickson describes the delineation of the history of slavery in two new books. Pleased, in a horrific way, because not only am I on the right track about bigotry--I actually may have underestimated the importance of racial hatred in America:

Regarding the book, “Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World by David Brion Davis, Fredrickson writes

Davis convincingly demonstrates that slavery was central to the history of the New World. His chapter on the origins of the extensive enslavement of Africans and their transport across the Atlantic

Is meant to underscore the central truth that black slavery was basic and integral to the entire phenomenon we call “America.” This often hidden or disguised truth ultimately involves the profound contradiction of a free society that was made possible by black slave labor.

In case you think these are presumptuous conclusions from some whippersnappers showing off in college history 101--these authors have been writing about North American slavery and racism for decades. These thoughts are just the beginning of more profound ideas on slavery and its rationale for existence. In order for such a horrendous and inhumane activity, which was so big it is referred to as an “institution,” to continue unchallenged, Southern Americans had to believe Africans were inferior and righteously put into servitude, and Northern Americans had to agree to a great extent.

It’s fascinating to conjecture how this history affects contemporary daily society. It is more intensely urgent to find out how to “unlearn” future generations of this disgusting and destructive attitude.

I’m inclined to continue, but George W is about to deliver an East-Coast Prime Time speech on his proposal to appease his racist constituents who want better representation of armed defenders at the US Southern border. Never mind that the last batch of terrorists to wreak havoc within the US arrived in any of a number of ports of call other than scrambling across the US/Mexican desert in the middle of the night. Don’t pick at the details of from where the 5,000 National Guard troops are going to be squeezed to increase this border protection. Don’t laugh at the far right-wingers who think anything less than all-out war against Mexico is insufficient.

I don’t have the transcript from today’s Foxnews, but I will paraphrase a member of the Heritage Foundation which is a notorious right-wing data-bender. The quoted study proclaimed that, if the latest legislation proposed to help immigrants enter American society through assimilation and citizenship were passed, in the next 20 years there would be between 120 million to 193 million (Must be an accurate study because they aren’t rounding off 193 to 200) immigrants leeching into the good ole USA. This has to be a totally scary projection for the average American xenophobe who already could see it coming—the end of society as he (or she) knows it. More vague and more preposterous as a generality even I couldn’t dream up on the spot.

What you should be asking of your dear blogger is, of course, “What were you doing listening to Foxnews??”

I’m just glad Bush isn’t interrupting “prime time” on the West Coast, because “24” comes on at 9 PM and after a day filled with the reality of deception, immorality, incompetence, bad speech, I just want to relax and watch a TV show about a great fictional villain--Charles Logan--deceitful, duplicitous, immoral, incompetent--a really bad president.

*[My book hasn’t been published yet]

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Character Counts--Principles are "IN"

One of my idols, although he may even be younger than me, is Michael Josephson, whose motto is "Character Counts." Mr. Josephson made big bucks in the investment business, and decided to start a non-profit organization in honor of his parents, Joseph and Edna, called the "Josephson Institute of Ethics." His "ethics" business makes more money than his investment business!

The mission statement is "To improve the ethical quality of society by changing personal and organizational decision making and behavior."

Here is a letter, found by way of the Huffington Post, of which Mr. Josephson would be proud. It is quoted in full here, to demonstrate the pure motive of adhering to one's principles:

By Steve Almond May 12, 2006

An open letter to William P. Leahy, SJ, president of Boston College.

DEAR Father Leahy,

I am writing to resign my post as an adjunct professor of English at Boston

I am doing so -- after five years at BC, and with tremendous regret -- as a direct result of your decision to invite Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to be the commencement speaker at this year's graduation.

Many members of the faculty and student body already have voiced their objection to the invitation, arguing that Rice's actions as secretary of state are inconsistent with the broader humanistic values of the university and the Catholic and Jesuit traditions from which those values derive.

But I am not writing this letter simply because of an objection to the war against Iraq. My concern is more fundamental. Simply put, Rice is a liar.
She has lied to the American people knowingly, repeatedly, often extravagantly over the past five years, in an effort to justify a pathologically misguided foreign policy.

The public record of her deceits is extensive. During the ramp-up to the Iraq war, she made 29 false or misleading public statements concerning Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda, according to a congressional investigation by the House Committee on Government Reform.

To cite one example:
In an effort to build the case for war, then-National Security Adviser Rice repeatedly asserted that Iraq was pursuing a nuclear weapon, and specifically seeking uranium in Africa.

In July of 2003, after these claims were disproved, Rice said: ''Now if there were doubts about the underlying intelligence . . . those doubts were not communicated to the president, the vice president, or to me."

Rice's own deputy, Stephen Hadley, later admitted that the CIA had sent her a memo eight months earlier warning against the use of this claim.

In the three years since the war began, Rice has continued to misrepresent or simply ignore the truth about our deadly adventure in Iraq.

Like the president whom she serves so faithfully, she refuses to recognize her errors or the tragic consequences of those errors to the young soldiers and civilians dying in Iraq. She is a diplomat whose central allegiance is not to the democratic cause of this nation, but absolute power.

This is the woman to whom you will be bestowing an honorary degree, along with the privilege of addressing the graduating class of 2006.

It is this last notion I find most reprehensible: that Boston College would entrust to Rice the role of moral exemplar.

To be clear: I am not questioning her intellectual gifts or academic accomplishments. Nor her potentially inspiring role as a powerful woman of color.

But these are not the factors by which a commencement speaker should be judged. It is the content of one's character that matters here -- the reverence for truth and knowledge that Boston College purports to champion.
Rice does not personify these values; she repudiates them. Whatever inspiring rhetoric she might present to the graduating class, her actions as a citizen and politician tell a different story.

Honestly, Father Leahy, what lessons do you expect her to impart to impressionable seniors?

That hard work in the corporate sector might gain them a spot on the board of Chevron? That they, too, might someday have an oil tanker named after them? That it is acceptable to lie to the American people for political gain?
Given the widespread objection to inviting Rice, I would like to think you will rescind the offer. But that is clearly not going to happen.

Like the administration in Washington, you appear too proud to admit to your mistake. Instead, you will mouth a bunch of platitudes, all of which boil down to: You don't want to lose face.

In this sense, you leave me no choice.

I cannot, in good conscience, exhort my students to pursue truth and knowledge, then collect a paycheck from an institution that displays such flagrant disregard for both.

I would like to apologize to my students and prospective students. I would also urge them to investigate the words and actions of Rice, and to exercise their own First Amendment rights at her speech.

Steve Almond is the author of the story collections ''The Evil B. B. Chow" and ''My Life in Heavy Metal."
--Op-Ed Boston Globe

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

From Sploid's Pen to Swami's Relay & my Gut

I am always pleased when I listen to my gut and it's right. This happens now and then. If we all opened up and paid more attention to the little messages circulating in our semi and subconscious, especially in the dark when we go into that middle zone between dreaming and reality--we'd hear a lot of amazing truths.

One of the best bloggers, Swami Uptown on Beliefnet, has reiterated a story word for word from another sharp blog, Sploid. It is a fascinating and harrowing history of Porter Goss and the CIA from the 1950's. I just knew something was up with the timing of the resignation last week, and the quirky way it was handled in that it was obviously a sudden decision on who knows who's part. Not to be outdone by Swami's quoting of the post on Sploid, here it is as well:

Porter Goss began his career as a spook at Yale, where he was member of "Book & Snake," a secret society dating back to 1863. (Former defense chief Les Aspin Jr. and White House storyteller Bob Woodward are also members of this bizarre club, said to be more secretive than Skull & Bones, which infamously produced the Bushes and John Kerry.)
Goss has been directly involved with almost every atrocity committed by the American government since the late 1950s. From the Bay of Pigs to the Death Squads of Central America, Goss was always on the job. His fingerprints can even be found on the JFK assassination coverup. Someone tried to kill him in London back in 1970, but the
poison wasn't strong enough or maybe it just doesn't work on his kind.

He "retired" to Florida -- specifically, to a colony of CIA agents in Sanibel, Florida. It was here that Goss would launch his "political" career in the 1970s and cement his partnership with Democrat Bob Graham. Goss represented this congressional district -- Florida's 14th -- for 16 years, in which the multimillionaire Republican did little more than shovel money to the CIA and other intelligence operations.
Oddly enough, in this same 20-mile stretch of Florida gulf coast, most of the named 9/11 hijackers settled (including, notoriously, Mohammed Atta in Naples). Odder still, Atta and his buddies supposedly trained to be pilots at shady
CIA-financed pilot schools involved in the usual clandestine activities of money laundering and drug running. All the files and records from those flight schools were loaded onto a military cargo plane in the middle of the night of Sept. 12, 2001 -- with Jeb Bush aboard, of all people -- and flown to Washington, where they disappeared. So who really knows?!
All mathematical odds collapse in the presence of Porter Goss. He was in Pakistan weeks before the 9/11 attacks, planning a U.S. war in Afghanistan with Pakistani ISI chief Mahmoud Ahmad --
the same Ahmad who directly funded the Taliban and worked directly with Osama bin Laden.
On the morning of the attacks, the Republican congressman and "former" CIA agent and lifelong Florida politician
Bob Graham enjoyed breakfast with the same Mahmoud Ahmad, who was conveniently in Washington for high-level meetings on that infamous day.
It was Ahmad who arranged the transfer of $100,000 to alleged hijacker Mohammed Atta. This transfer was arranged in a top-secret conference room in the U.S. Capitol. The money passed through none other than
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the Pakistani intelligence agent and British "terrorist" and Afghanistan terror-camp administrator who reportedly killed Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. (The WSJ was the only major U.S. news organization pursuing the Ahmed-Sheikh-Atta connections, and Pearl was working on that very story when he was set up and kidnapped in Pakistan.)
Curiously enough, there is not
a single mention of Goss and Graham's breakfast with Ahmad in the 868-page investigation chaired by ... Goss and Graham.
And while Goss was fiercely against any investigation into the 9/11 attacks, once the investigation was in danger of becoming a reality, the lifelong spy Goss conveniently became the co-chairman of the
Joint 9/11 Intelligence Inquiry ... with none other than Bob Graham.
As busy as he was in the days before and after Sept. 11, 2001, he again showed remarkable personal strength by sponsoring the Patriot Act, a massive pile of new laws to strip Americans of civil and financial rights. This amazing collection of detailed new laws to return American intelligence to its pre-Watergate levels of domestic abuses was ready for Congress so quickly that a few have even suggested the entire thing was prepared in advance of the Sept. 11 attacks.
After finding no fault with the CIA, White House, Pentagon or any other intelligence agency, Goss must have been surprised when he was made the new CIA boss after the retirement of George Tenet -- who did such a good job that the president gave him a medal!

***Thank you, Swami and Sploid!!

Prescott Bush: Senator and Oil Man Extraordinaire

Sen. Prescott Bush, R-Conn, attemps to 'disassociate himself' from Missouri Sen. Stuart Symington during a hearing on Capital Hill in this Aug. 17, 1962 file photo. Government documents show that Bush, the grandfather of President George W. Bush, was one of seven directors of Union Banking Corp., seized by the federal government because of its ties to a German industrialist who helped bankroll Adolf Hitler's rise to power, government documents show. (AP Photo, File)--Common Dreams 10/18/2003

Little did I know over 40 years ago when I would see the friendly face of then CT Senator Prescott Bush on the old black and white TV in Hartford, that his grandson would be the megalomaniac war mongering POTUS today. Prescott Bush represented old New England values and qualities, as far as I learned, and the rest was no big deal until son George H.W. got to be head of the CIA and you know the rest.

Now the name Prescott Bush returns in a fanciful if not sinister story of grave-stealing and history:

HARTFORD, Connecticut (AP) -- A Yale University historian has uncovered a 1918 letter that seems to lend validity to the lore that Yale University's ultra-secret Skull and Bones society swiped the skull of American Indian leader Geronimo.

According to Skull and Bones legend, members -- including President Bush's grandfather, Prescott Bush -- dug up Geronimo's grave when a group of Army volunteers from Yale were stationed at the fort during World War I. Geronimo died in 1909.

So what, you ask? Well, nothing, I say--except the familiar recounting of past members of the Yale Skull and Bones society:

Only 15 Yale seniors are asked to join Skull and Bones each year. Alumni include Sen. John Kerry, President William Howard Taft, numerous members of Congress, media leaders, Wall Street financiers, the scions of wealthy families and agents in the CIA.

Members swear an oath of secrecy about the group and its strange rituals, which are said to include an initiation rite in which would-be members kiss a skull.--AP

What’s to be concluded from this bit of mythology-turned-fact—that there’s more than meets the eye about most of what we think we see? That’s good enough for me.

[Thanks to Rigorous Intuition for referencing the CNN article]

Monday, May 08, 2006

Look Out Mr. Bill! Oh Nooooooooooo

December 20, 2005 and February 9, 2006, this blog relayed the outrageous information that Senator Dr. Bill "grease my pockets" Frist and his compadre in ne'er-do-well Speaker Bill Hastert inserted a gift-of-a-lifetime for big pharma into a defense bill--in the middle of the night while literally no one was paying attention.

...a provision in the Defense Appropriations bill that granted vaccine manufactures near-total immunity for injuries or deaths (even in cases of “gross negligence”) caused by their drugs during a viral pandemic, such as an outbreak of the avian flu. The legislation was “worth billions of dollars” to a small group of drug makers.

The provision was inserted in the dead of the night, after House and Senate conferees had agreed the provision would not be included in the bill. According to Roll Call, the brazen move was completely

The article goes on to bring out the news that the legislation itself was written by--none other than the lobbyists themselves!

How did the industry get such VIP treatment from First and Hastert? Generous campaign contributions always help. Another key component: the vaccine industry was represented by a lobbying team that included three former Frist staffers and Dennis Hastert’s son, Joshua

And I thought Hollywood was nepotistic!

Closed Minds vs. Reality

The confluence of similar events at the same time can seem coincidental, but usually it’s not. The energy of the Universe ebbs and flows in meaningful patterns, not at random. Otherwise, how is the introduction of life explained? Or an invention from two minds oceans apart at the same moment?

A view of reality that insists that there is only coincidence through chance happenings, is from a closed mind. A worldview without flexibility goes against nature, because change is the essence of existence, and new information of what was previously unknown can initiate new consciousness—just a few hundred years ago, very sophisticated people thought the earth was the center of the universe.

Alternatively, never to accept anything as a fact, and to question every detail of life, is not to be open-minded, but psychotic. Nevertheless, even conspiracy-doubters would have to acknowledge the historical record of the plot to kill Lincoln and members of his cabinet, and no one knows if and what might have been Secretary of War Seward’s part in the machinations. Modern-day conspiracy theories abound regarding everything from Roosevelt’s prior knowledge of the attack on Pearl Harbor, to the assassinations of recent history, to the events of 9/11 and the possibility of government complicity.

It is possible to keep an open mind, sift through available evidence, and still not thoroughly be sure about what happened in any given event or series of events. Next time you see a police car in your neighborhood, ask your neighbors what happened, and each story will vary slightly, or completely, from what really took place. People debate the events of the life of Jesus as if he lived yesterday, and they argue the merits of whether Saddam really had weapons of mass destruction or not as if it happened long ago. One thing is for certain—the more debate there is, the closer to the truth we get. Suppression of information, such as the Bush administration withholding documents from the 9/11 Commission set up to determine the details of what happened, only leads to further rumor, vague speculation—anything but the truth.

There are issues swirling in the media and the internet and taking huge space on blogs. I was confronted by several articles all at once, and that’s where my awareness of intention and absence of coincidence kicked in. Hatred, doubt, fear all connect these stories.

Even an email, which quoted no source, turned out to be from an editorial in USA TODAY which is flying around the web in answer to the ubiquitous downloading of the film, Loose Change, which theorizes about government conspiracy behind 9/11.

In the USA TODAY piece, Conspiracy Film Rewrites Sept. 11: Alternative versions of terrorist attacks find niche on Web By William M. Welch, the point of view is to put Loose Change in a niche of radical expression by irresponsible young people exploiting the power of the internet for attention and dollars.

Most of what the film alleges is refuted by the evidence at hand. Anything not answered definitively by the government is interpreted by the film as proof of a coverup.

The use of an inherently imprecise word, most, is lost for those willing to believe the official line of the events of 9/11—that the US was attacked by 19 Saudi terrorist hijackers directed by Osama Bin Laden from overseas. In their closed minds, those who denounce that their was a government plot, or even government gross negligence, hear the word all instead of most. Then why not say “all of what the film alleges…?”

There may be relevancy to “some” of what is alleged about loopholes in the official story, and the meaning of those holes could be significant—if all the reports and documents were public. Maybe the entire scenario is far more complex than anyone yet has “alleged.” The government intelligence groups—CIA, FBI, NSA etc., which are still in a state of general upheaval, witness last Friday’s sudden exit of CIA head Porter Goss for reasons unclear—could have been privy to so much knowledge of ensuing plans for the 9/11 onslaught, and so totally blew it with inaction, that to their mindset, any public knowledge of this incompetence would be a disaster in itself. I for one would like to know that, if it’s true. But such immense bungling starts a new assumption of overwhelming coincidences, that so many intel observers knew so much and never put their information together.

This doesn’t diminish the gall of fudging the truth to congress in the well-known instance of former National Security Adviser to Bush, Condoleeza Rice, tongue-tied trying to explain what the memo from August, 2001--just 1 month before 9/11--titled “Bin Laden determined to attack inside the U.S” really meant--that it was "historical information" rather than an imminent threat. I'm pretty open-minded, but really!

With finger-shaking and tongue-clicking that there should be no questions asked about the great national tragedy of attack on domestic soil, truth--and thus potential protection from a future similar event through knowledge of what really happened—will not see the light of day. The dissemination of Welch’s clearly disdainful opinion about Loose Change through emails and blogs will help to keep complacent minds closed.

Think there’s going to be a bird-flu pandemic? Some experts are convinced there will be—and they’ve managed to brain wash Americans too. Last week the government allotted $1 billion to 5 big pharma companies for r & d on a possible vaccine for bird-flu. The previous entry in this blog refers to this as well. How do we keep an open mind on something so vital as our health, and not believe what medical experts, who certainly know more than the lay person, say?

Here’s why – in a headline, of one of the beneficiary companies of last week’s spec payola:

Panel Faults Pfizer in '96 Clinical Trial In Nigeria:
Unapproved Drug Tested on Children

By Joe Stephens Washington Post Staff Writer, Sunday, May 7, 2006

You don’t have to see the film Constant Gardner to know how immoral and unethical drug companies are. It’s also not an effect of my closed mind to assume it was easier for the Pfizer people to sleep at night after experimenting on black African children, rather than on white Americans.

That’s a disgusting, here’s more: the delineation of Mexican hatred right here in Orange County, CA, was artfully explained in an LA Times op-ed piece by GUSTAVO ARELLANO, a staff writer with OC Weekly, where he writes the "¡Ask a Mexican!" column:

Ask the haters, and many will insist that some of their best friends are Mexicans; it's illegal immigrants they despise. But the slope here between "Mexican" and "illegal immigrant" has always been a Slip 'N Slide. And even if immigration stopped tomorrow, Orange County would still look down on Mexicans.

Arellano can’t resist some of the ironic humor involved in irrational hatred, as he points out that the founder of the militia border vigilante group, minutemen, has a Mexican son-in-law. The last line of his remarks is worth reading for yourself, so I will simply say his concise history and point of view is stunning. Except for the white hoods with slits for eyes, or brown shirts and swastikas, the anti-immigration voices by whom I am surrounded should see themselves for what they are—the truth is obvious.

But let’s be open-minded here—it isn’t just white Orange County American citizens who know how to hate others who are not white Orange County American citizens. In a brilliant examination of anti-immigration in times past, Michael Powell of the Washington Post writes that nothing much has changed in 100 years, except the national origins of the hated:

Most of the concerns voiced today -- that too many immigrants seek economic advantage and fail to understand democracy, that they refuse to learn English, overcrowd homes and overwhelm public services -- were heard a century ago. And there was a nub of truth to some complaints, not least that the vast influx of immigrants drove down working-class wages.

That nub, by the way, is outweighed by the help immigrants have made in the US economy over the past 20 years. Statistics that prove this have been cited here. So what’s the good news in Powell’s column?

Yet historians and demographers are clear about the bottom line: In the long run, New York City -- and the United States -- owes much of its economic resilience to replenishing waves of immigrants. The descendants of those Italians, Jews, Irish and Germans have assimilated. Manhattan's Little Italy is vestigial -- no more than a shrinking collection of restaurants.

Now another wave washes over. Fully 38 percent of New York's 8 million residents are foreign-born, nearly the same percentage as a century ago.

"It would be easy to say the short-run costs of immigration outweighed the benefits," said Joe Salvo, a director at New York's city planning department. "But the benefits are longer term. We wouldn't be the superpower we are if we hadn't let them in."

That’s why we need to keep open minds—that’s what the several stories meant to me today. The absurdity of staking a claim to the truth by stating a position that is unprovable is the final story, one more that made the rounds as a background blurb:

Another UFO study: still no sign of aliens
LONDON, May 8 (UPI) -- Another UFO study, this by the British government, has concluded there is no proof that alien life forms exist.

This may come as a surprise to all those who insist they have seen extraterrestrials, actual space ships, or have been abducted by aliens. What is interesting is that the authors of the report remain anonymous, the report is six years old and was kept secret.

Since the report is focused on UFO’s in the UK, it’s possible the author(s) missed the bastion of submersible vessels which come and go in the mysterious deep trench between Marina del Rey and Catalina Island—at least according to last week’s open-minded, if somewhat skeptical, History Channel episode.

What’s my point? For our mutual protection, we need to remain skeptical of official versions of reality. Many people are comforted who think that they know exactly what happened on 9/11, and therefore the "powers that be" are working to build additional defenses against upcoming terrorist events. That closed-minded unwillingness to ask questions and remain even a little skeptical, can prevent the real protection that is needed.

The expenditure of billions of dollars to maintain a presence in Iraq, at the cost of paying too little attention to needs in the US—the willful ignorance of possibilities surrounding events--is a self-righteous mistake that we can’t afford to continue.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Porter Goss, Big Pharma, Iraq, Iran and the Money

Photo: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais


Porter Goss, CIA chief, was fired quit resigned today.

Shortly before he was put in the job in 2004 by George W, he had this to say about his qualifications (it's on film, for real. This isn't a "far-left" made up thing):

It is true I was in CIA from approximately the late 50's to approximately the early 70's. And it's true I was a case officer, clandestine services office and yes I do understand the core mission of the business. I couldn't get a job with CIA today. I am not qualified. I don't have the language skills. I, you know, my language skills were romance languages and stuff. We're looking for Arabists today. I don't have the cultural background probably. And I certainly don't have the technical skills, uh, as my children remind me every day, "Dad you got to get better on your computer."

Uh, so, the things that you need to have, I don't have.

-- Rep. Porter Goss, March 3, 2004, Washington, DC

He must've seen the light after only 2 years.

The involvement of a middle-echelon CIA agent, bumped up to 3rd in command after Goss took over, with former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., who was convicted and sentenced to more than eight years in prison for taking some $2.4 million in bribes, may have been an issue according to MSNBC. Can you believe Goss and Bush didn't bring that up at today's announcement?

Evidently the CIA guy was going to poker game parties at the Watergate complex in Washington, thick with cigar smoke, where he was friends with Cunningham and where prostitutes allegedly were present. Did Goss know about this? Based on his self-evaluation as a spy, maybe not.


While we're on the subject of money, 5 big pharma behemoths reaped a windfall government contract this week worth $1 billion.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded $1 billion to drugmakers, including nearly $700 million to GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and MedImmune, to help them develop a faster method of producing an influenza vaccine to better protect the nation against the possibility of a pandemic...

The money from the five-year contracts will be used to develop vaccines in cell culture, a faster process than the decades-old method of growing the vaccines in chicken eggs...

The virus is transmitted among birds and then spread to humans, but there is no proven transmission from human to human.--CNN 5/4/06

Not a bad haul on spec!


That $1 billion is a drop in the bucket compared to the $100 billion just emergency-allocated by congress to continue the ill-advised occupation of Iraq. In the Foreign Policy May/June issue, William Odom takes the stock Bush reasons for staying in Iraq and answers each point to show why leaving immediately would be to everyone's, including America's, advantage. (Lt. Gen. William E. Odom (Ret.) is senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and professor at Yale University. He was director of the National Security Agency from 1985 to 1988.)

Among dozens of good arguments, he concludes:

First, invading Iraq was not in the interests of the United States. It was in the interests of Iran and al Qaeda. For Iran, it avenged a grudge against Saddam for his invasion of the country in 1980. For al Qaeda, it made it easier to kill Americans. Second, the war has paralyzed the United States in the world diplomatically and strategically. Although relations with Europe show signs of marginal improvement, the trans-Atlantic alliance still may not survive the war.--Cut and Run? You Bet. By Lt. Gen. William E. Odom May/June 2006 Foreign Policy

What's the money angle here? Besides the general oil issue of the Middel East? It's Iran and oil--not nukes! Skeptical? Surprised? Think Iran wants nukes? Think they have the time and wherewithal to actually get nuclear weapons?

Check out the piece in the same Foreign Policy issue by my friend Chris Dickey, Newsweek Paris Bureau Chief and Middle East and Terrorist expert:

Iran is commanding the world's attention as the ayatollahs accelerate their race for the bomb. But the timetable for talks--or a nuclear crisis--is not being shaped by centrifuges, uranium, or reactors. It's about the security only a barrel of oil can provide.--The Oil Shield By Christopher Dickey May/June 2006 Foreign Policy

[UPDATE MAY 8, 2006: NEWSWEEK -- Why Iran Is Driving Oil Up:
"Tehran could calm jitters by toning down its nuclear rhetoric—if the regime didn't need the money more."]

From cigars and prostitutes to nuclear war threats, it's all about the money--always has been. It's embarrassing to think that my dog is smarter than people--he knows what's really important, at least by his actions--he's happy when he's treated nicely, and he loves people unconditionally. And he doesn't have any money.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Unrelated yet Part of a Whole

In the wake of the huge immigration rallies some stories have taken a back-burner position in the news:

Newsweek reports a new video game whose object is to kill as many illegal immigrants as possible.

"I certainly defend the game," says self-described white supremacist Tom Metzger. "I told a Mexican activist that he better be happy that we're just playing a game on a computer, because the temper of thousands ... is reaching the boiling point."

My son won’t be playing that one.

The mind-numbing overload of scandal cases makes the next story less than stunning just because it is a minor one of so many:

Dr. Lester M. Crawford, the former commissioner of food and drugs, is under criminal investigation by a federal grand jury over accusations of financial improprieties and false statements to Congress, his lawyer said Friday.—NY Times April 28, 2006

What makes me take notice is that even though the issues are complicated, this case shows that the implication of government complicity in business-for-profit is rampant.

The Times story, boiled down, is this: Crawford is under criminal investigation, which only became public when the Center for Reproductive Rights sued the FDA in federal court in New York for holding up release of the abortion pill plan B--and Crawford's lawyer had to disclose that he was under investigation for selling stock in 2004--or his wife sold the stock—it’s all very complicated. The interesting fact is that without the consumer lawsuit, the criminal investigation would not have come to media light.

Not to be confused with Plan B, Plan D continues to be a disaster in the making, while Bush and his health advisers tout its total success in helping defray drug costs for seniors.

Months after the government rolled out the most important new healthcare benefit for the elderly in decades, beneficiaries are still discovering new catches in the program's complicated inner workings — details that can defy the scrutiny of even the most careful consumers.Caught in a Tangle of Fine Print, LA Times, May 1, 2006

Just when John Q. Senior thought the government was helping him out, the private big-business drug makers found a way around having to charge lower prices for beneficiaries, based on a loophole wrinkle in the "formulary," or list of drugs, known as a “tier.”

While all plans have long lists of covered drugs, or formularies, many also have separate categories, or tiers, for some of those drugs — often those priced at more than $500 a month. Drugs in the upper tiers carry substantial extra costs for patients.

The coverage tiers are just the latest example coming to light of how some of the finer points of the plan don't become clear until seniors have signed up. Unless beneficiaries look closely at plan materials, they may not realize their drug is on a higher tier. Similar wrinkles have included restrictions on some mental health drugs, seemingly modest co-payments that cumulatively strain the budgets of low-income seniors, and coverage of intravenous drugs — but not the supplies and nursing assistance to administer them.- LA Times, May 1, 2006

You’d think an American senior citizen would have learned by now that life isn’t fair, and quit carping about the high cost of drugs to keep alive. Then again, you’d think the government would do its job and “promote the general welfare” of these citizens.

IN case you haven’t seen these pictures yet, this was in an email from The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC):

“These pictures were taken a few minutes after a press conference where Speaker Hastert preached to the American public about his commitment to lowering gas prices. As you can see, that's him a few minutes later and a block down the road getting out of the "prop" hydrogen car he drove up in and getting back into his luxury SUV. Photo credit: Associated Press”

These stories are not front-page, but they are related by an inherent importance to acknowledging the defects in our society. As we understand what’s wrong, we can work to fix it. This year, every member of congress is up for election. That’s the good news.