Wednesday, June 30, 2010


American Muslims want to open a mosque in lower Manhattan near ground zero and

two more in Brooklyn and Staten Island. In a nation where religious freedom is cherished,

in a country where tolerance is a key tenet, in a union where we pride ourselves on not having

the sectarian conflicts so prevalent in other parts of the world; the people of New York

welcomed the chance to open new houses of worship...right?

There have been community meetings about all the proposals. The New York Times

reports some people objected to increased traffic and parking concerns. However, the vast

majority of objections have been over concerns involving terrorism, Islam, and the connection

between the two. The most strident meeting was on Staten Island, where a Catholic parish

wishes to sell the convent to a Muslim group to be used for Friday prayer. According to the

Times, similar protests about new mosques have broken out in Tennessee, Wisconsin, and


About four hundred people showed up to protest opening the new mosque on Staten

Island. They accused the Muslim-American Society, the umbrella organization which finds

placement for new mosques, of being on the FBI terrorist watch list. (It isn't.) They demanded

the Muslims present condemn Hamas and Hezbollah. In response, the Muslim moderator

said he denounced any form of terrorism, all acts of terror by individuals or governments.

At one point, a Marine Lance Corporal just back from Afghanistan stood up. He was cheered.

He asked the Muslim panel if they would work to form a bond with the community? They

answered yes. He turned and asked the crowd the same question and they booed him and

shouted "No!'

Imagine a Jewish group wanting to open a new synagogue on Staten Island. There is a

meeting with a panel of rabbis. They are asked about their view on whether Jewish law is

better than democracy. Will they follow God's laws or America's laws? They are asked about

their view of women and how they are treated in orthodox communities where they are second

class citizens and are not allowed to pray in a minyan with men and do the rabbis consider

women to be equal to men? They are then asked to condemn Israel's recent attack on ships

trying to resupply Gaza and whether they were in favor or opposed to the assassination of

Yitzhak Rabin? Those asking the questions would be accused of rampant anti-semitism,

racism, and prejudice. They would definitely be denounced in the media and in some

communities, as narrow-minded bigots.

Suppose an evangelical Protestant group wanted to open a new church on the island.

Would it be appropriate to ask them if they favor the bombing of planned parenthood clinics?

Would they have to denounce the terrorism campaign being waged in this country against

doctors who perform abortions, a campaign with its roots in evangelical churches across

this nation? Should the people of Staten Island worry about doctors being assassinated while

standing in their kitchen or while they are ushers at their local church? Not in a million years

would anyone get away with questions like that because they would be accused of painting all

Christians with the same brush. We would be reminded how Christianity is not a monolithic

religion, how this is America where people are allowed to believe differently, where people are

allowed to disagree, and a place where no one is judged for the actions of a few extremists.

What if the Catholic parish selling the convent wanted to open a new school instead.

Would hundreds of angry protesters show up to try to stop it? Would they attack a panel of

bishops and priests demanding to know if they denounce child abuse and covering up sexual

scandals? Would the priests be asked their views on women who are denied the ability to be

priests and whom the Church does not believe should control their own reproductive lives?

What would the panel say about the rights of gays and lesbians? Would their children be

allowed to attend the school? Do the priests consider homosexuality to be a morally inherent

evil? What about the call to excommunicate any politician who is pro-choice? Does the Roman

Catholic Church believe in separation of church and state? And what about the six Catholic

members currently serving on our nation's highest court? Should they have been asked in

confirmation hearings if their personal religious beliefs will influence their interpretation of

our Constitution?

Compared to Muslims, Jews, evangelical Christians, and Catholics would face few if any

questions. The end result being, that it would be rare indeed for any of these groups to be

denied a new church, school, or synagogue because of their religion's faith and tenets.

The people who are angry, scared, or worried about the opening of new mosques are

hypocrites of the highest order. They make the Pharisees look like a picture of tolerance.

Oddly, their fear is well-founded, but misplaced. The real boogey-man they are frightened by

is fundamentalism. Fundamentalist Jews, Christians, or Muslims are a real threat to American

values. We have nothing to fear from Muslims, Christians, or Jews who practice their faith

based on tolerance, love, forgiveness, and care. However, we have everything to fear from

radically intolerant fundamentalists who believe they are right and everyone else is wrong.

America already has its own homegrown terrorists. Those illiterate Americans whose

theological education never went beyond Sunday school. The people in that audience which

met on Staten Island are no better than fundamentalists. To hear them tell it, it's always the

"other" religion that is the religion of violence, terror, etc.; while their radical belief is

somehow God's will and therefore acceptable.

The scene in New York shows once again that most Americans don't deserve America,

that most religious Americans are no different than the Pharisees of Jesus' time, and that they

are in direct line for judgment in how they have treated others. God's promise. And by the

way, the position of any Muslim on the legitimacy or continued existence of the state of Israel

has no place in the debate over a new mosque. This is America and Muslims have the right to

believe anything they wish vis-a-vis international politics. What do you think? I welcome

your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

Monday, June 21, 2010


Democratic Senator Carl Levin and Republican Senator John McCain are concerned that

the war in Afghanistan is not going well. They are two of the senators who pressured President

Obama to double down in Afghanistan and add 30,000 troops. They knew the government of

Hamid Karzai was corrupt. They knew his brother who ran Kandahar is a crook and a major

drug trafficker. They knew Karzai was not trustworthy and they knew this is a civil war and a

proxy war with Karzai getting assistance from India and the Taliban by Pakistan's intelligence

service. They knew we didn't have enough troops unless we ratcheted up the forces to Vietnam

levels. They knew 30,000 troops weren't going to overcome that problem. They knew the

Afghan army is a joke and the Afghan police are just organized crime in uniform. Now they

are outraged more progress hasn't been made and guess what their solution is? (Along with

the military in the form of David, I am the Messiah Petraeus.) They are starting the drumbeat

to prevent President Obama from beginning to withdraw troops in 2011. Yep, their answer to

success in Afghanistan is more war, more death, more money, and more disaster. It's the time

to get the hell out of Afghanistan.

Americans are dying in Afghanistan to prop up Karzai's government. In the last week,

the New York Times reports Karzai has told senior Afghan officials he doesn't think American

and NATO forces can beat the Taliban. If that isn't troubling enough, Karzai told two key

advisors he didn't believe the Taliban launched a rocket attack on a nationwide peace

conference. He suggested the Americans might have staged the attack to undercut Taliban

popularity. Soon after, the director of the Afghan intelligence service and the Interior Minister

resigned. The two most trusted Afghan ministers by America and NATO jumped ship out of


The American strategy has been to clear areas of the Taliban so the Afghan army can hold

it so Karzai can set up government functions. The Afghan army is useless. We are spending

billions to train them, but have had to cut basic training to only eight weeks; and many Afghan

soldiers are afraid to even tell their families what they are doing for fear of the Taliban. The

Taliban just assassinated an Afghan governor near Kandahar, a key man in America's plan to

stabilize the region. Since the military campaign against the city of Marja, the Taliban has

returned and is carrying out reprisals in the surrounding area and the Afghan army has failed

to stop them. A new British report accuses the Pakistani intelligence service of supporting

the Taliban as a hedge against Indian influence in Afghanistan.

Karzai is unhappy with the U.S. since Obama backed the conclusion of an international

body that Karzai attempted to steal last year's presidential election by stealing over one

million ballots. Karzai has done little to clean up rampant corruption and now analysts think

he may be trying to cut his own deal with the Taliban and with Pakistan, a deal the tribes in

the northern part of the country will never accept; thus pushing the country further into civil

war and instability. Meanwhile, young Americans continue to die at ever increasing numbers.

Levin and McCain clearly want more of our boys thrown into this insanity with their politically

motivated drumbeat to block any rational debate to withdraw them.

Will the American people go along with this again? How does this happen over and over,

war after war? In Iraq, the U.S. ambassador says the country is so dangerous and unstable his

people will not be safe if American troops are withdrawn. The great Iraq victory, which

Petraeus and McCain take credit for, is a nation which can't form a government, gives Iran

unprecedented influence, and the Kurds still want independence. Iraq is in critical condition

and once again there are voices crying to keep more troops there. In Afghanistan, things are

so bassackwards that General Stanley McChrystal is prohibited from referring to the military

assault planned for Kandahar as an "offensive". It certainly cannot be called a battle or attack

either so as not to offend anyone in the city. There is still no definition of victory or how we

measure success. President Obama's exit strategy is now under attack by old white men who

live and breathe to send young American's to their deaths in failed campaign after failed


Right now, the American economy is precariously balanced on the head of a pin. More

economic stimulus may be necessary, but there is no money to help out struggling states and

the unemployed because we are spending $10 billion a month, or more, throwing good money

after bad in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Taliban are not a threat to our national security, but

a weak economy is. We are clearly a society lacking priorities.

You watch. First it's Levin and McCain. Then it will be Petraeus haltingly hinting he

might like the troops to stay longer. McChrystal will "leak" his "opinion" that the job is not

yet done and if we don't stay the course then the lives lost so far will be for naught. With an

eye on 2012, the Republican leadership will ratchet up the terrorism threat and how soft

Obama is on our enemies. Hanbaugh and Co., who have never met a war they couldn't avoid,

but love watching other people's children die for their country will rev up the echo machine

telling Americans it's better to fight them there rather than fight them here. This is tired

politics with no hint of honest patriotism, endlessly repeated.

How about a different tune for a change? No more young Americans dying for nothing.

No more propping up corrupt governments whose own people hate them. No more acting

like sheep frightened into supporting a pointless war. No more bankrupting the nation and

no more senseless carnage. Bring them home!! Don't let the President be stampeded! Let

him know we expect him to live up to his word by bringing them home! Soon!!

If Dante is right, and there are seven levels of hell, save level seven for Levin and McCain

and Hanbaugh and the rest of those who will persist in extending this senseless war until the

American people finally rise up and say no more. What do you think? I welcome your

comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

Note: Sometimes more than one blog is posted per day, so please check previous postings.


According to recent surveys, fathers have enough ties, tools, and totes to last them.

Perhaps you were thinking dad needed a riding lawn mower (there is a new one for over

$10,000 with cup holders and a place for an iPod) or maybe a nice box of chocolate cigars.

Take it from me, the reason it is so difficult to get a Father's Day gift is because most dads

themselves don't know how to articulate what they truly desire.

All of my parental life, I worked odd hours. My schedule was almost always the opposite

of my wife's. At one point, I was commuting every day to Sacramento. At another point, I was

leaving the house at 5am and not returning until after 7pm. I worked nights and weekends.

My wife would work all day plus cook dinner for our children. She would read to them every

night a family favorite, Cheaper by the Dozen, while they ate. She got them ready for bed.

When I was home, one of my favorite duties was singing them to sleep. I sung the girls a

re-worked version of Goodnight Irene (inspired by the Weavers). Since my daughter's middle

name is Eileen, it became Goodnight Eileen.

In a totally sexist manner, I sang Take Me Out to the Ball Game to my sons. Years later,

when my daughter was back East at college, she would call me sometimes while I was at work.

She would be wound up, upset, or unable to sleep and she would ask me to sing to her. Don't

tell anyone, but I would put on commercials and then sing her a couple of verses until she

calmed down and say goodnight. For some reason, neither son has ever asked to hear Take

Me Out to the Ball Game again. Singing to them, hanging out with them, playing with them,

and attending their games, plays, recitals, and performances are my favorite memories. But,

the heavy lifting of parenthood fell on my wife. She was also tougher and more consistent.

Becoming a father forced me to expand my definition and capacity to love. It gave me a

key epiphany about God. When my oldest daughter was born, I loved her with my whole heart

and soul. When my second daughter was about to arrive, I started to worry. I loved my first

child so much. I loved her completely and unconditionally. I would give my life for her. I was

worried where the love would come from for a second child. She was born with jet black hair

and for the first and only time I got to name one of my children (Darcy!-a name suggested by

listeners that is Gaelic for raven-haired). The moment I saw her, my heart leaped and my love

for her knew no bounds. At that moment, it hit me like a ton of bricks. This is how it is with

God. God's love is infinite and boundless and is there for each of us. My capacity to love

expanded exponentially with the arrival of each of my children. Can you imagine what the

creation of each new person, since the dawn of time, has done to God's ability to love and Her

desire for us to be the most we can be? This so affected God that She ultimately introduced

us to Her Son Jesus, so we could all love each other with no limits. This epiphany is the gift

my children have given to me.

Father Joe Walsh says the key to life is forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness. Becoming

a parent taught me this. I understand the desire to be waiting, ready with open arms, to

welcome my children back under all circumstances. I now understand the father in the

Prodigal Son parable, and why he throws a huge party for the son who "...was lost and is now

found". As a parent, we learn that forgiveness runs both ways.

Some say children eventually see their father with feet of clay and as a flawed creature.

It's part of growing up. If so, I have given my children a crash course in flawed parenthood.

They have been hurt and embarrassed and forced to look at their dad warts and all. As their

father, I didn't love them enough to protect them from my stupid and risky behavior. Worse

still, they didn't get to discover this in private, but rather in front of everyone they knew or

who knew them. It would have been perfectly understandable if they had thrown me under

the bus and washed their hands of our relationship. I wouldn't have blamed them. Instead,

they have walked with me on this journey. They have stood shoulder to shoulder with me.

They have extended forgiveness. It goes both ways it about a parable about the

Prodigal Father?

My wife and children have taught me what family and parenthood and forgiveness are

all about. Once again, their love for me, their willingness to condemn the sin but not the

sinner, their capacity to grow in love, and give me insight into the same dynamic we have

with God. These insights are my family's gift to me.

So, while Father's Day will already have passed by the time you read this; perhaps the

mothers and fathers and our children can take the time to reflect. To all you dads, don't wait

until you screw up to appreciate and be grateful for how much you are loved. Love your

children enough to model for them how to handle adversity and how to live honorable and

compassionate lives. Marvel at the depth of your love for them and imagine how much you

are valued in God's eyes. Kids and dads screw up. Many aren't around enough. They get

caught up in "providing" when "loving" is what you want. Father's Day is merely a reminder

that every day should be filled with unconditional love. And that Love Lived is more

important and more powerful than a new propane, laser guided, rotisserie-equipped, four

burner (with warming drawer) barbecue. I wish I had learned all of this sooner, but it's better

than never learning it at all. I'm a fortunate man. Please comment at

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Every so often a pile of items stack up which haven't got the heft to warrant a long

commentary, but should be noted in passing...

YEAR OF THE WOMAN...When Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein were elected to

the Senate, it was called the Year of the Woman. This year, in California, women will run for

both the Senate and for governor. A woman will run for the Senate in Nevada, another will

defend her seat in Arkansas, and still another will run for governor of South Carolina. Given

that states continue to pass laws attempting to control a woman's body and mandate her

reproductive life, given that women continue to earn less than men in similar occupations,

given that corporate America and particularly Wall Street are still male-dominated bastions;

you would think women candidates would fall more on the progressive side of the political

spectrum. Yet there is not a single progressive woman among the group cited above. Perhaps

it is an example of true equality when women can be as rapacious, regressive, and repressive

as men.

PACKIN' THEM IN...It is expected that the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M,

Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado Universities will join the Pac Ten.

The Pac Ten would become a super-conference, divided into two eight-team divisions and

have a conference title game and everyone makes a lot of money. For some reason, I don't

like this idea at all. Perhaps it's because Texas and Oklahoma are two states we should have

allowed to secede. Perhaps it's because I am a CAL fan and this will make it more difficult to

get to the Rose Bowl. Perhaps it's because USC is about to get hit with sanctions for essentially

fielding a professional football team each Saturday. (How many of you think Pete Carroll knew

what was coming and that's why he jumped to the NFL?) Perhaps it's because it reminds me

again about the vast amounts of money the schools and coaches make off the backs of players,

most of whom are used up, discarded, and leave without a degree. How about play

college football, your playing career is over for any reason, and you have the right to stay in

school or come back, tuition free, until you get your degree no matter how many extra years

it takes.

PROPOSITION 14...So let me get this straight...fed up California voters have decided to

have open primaries where the top two vote-getters go on to the general election even if they

are in the same party and anyone can vote for anybody? I'm told that this is an example of

how frustrated voters are with political gridlock. In a state where Meg Whitman spent over

$80 million and Steve Poizner at least $25 million, where Carly Fiorina is considered a

formidable opponent to Barbara Boxer because Fiorina can spend millions of her own dollars,

in a state where to run statewide you must raise at least $20 million just to be competitive,

at a time when the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations can contribute as much as they

want to any candidate they wish; someone thinks this is a progressive political advance? This

is a recipe for the corporate and regressive takeover of the California political process. Well,

at least the voters got to vent.

OILS WELL THAT ENDS WELL...The government now estimates the oil gusher in the

Gulf is spewing at least 20,000 barrels a day and as much as 40,000 barrels. The Wall Street

Journal is reporting BP could declare bankruptcy or be purchased by Exxon or Shell; thus

avoiding having to pay billions of dollars in clean-up and liability costs. But for a college

student who is drowning in debt due to student loans and chained to his or her obligations,

bankruptcy is not an option. What a country!!

OH THE HUMANITIES OF IT ALL..the number of college students pursuing degrees in

Liberal Arts or the Humanities has dropped by over 50% in the last twenty years. The trend

has accelerated due to the latest economic meltdown. It would appear corporate America has

no place for someone who can read, write, think critically, and is familiar with history and

the mistakes made by American society. Another season of Survivor anyone?

TEA AND reports have elevated Sarah Palin to queenmaker

extraordinaire. She endorsed Carly Fiorina to run against Tom Campbell and Fiorina won.

Fiorina is in favor of the Arizona law giving police the power to stop and search anyone they

wish, is endorsed by Pete Wilson, is anti-choice, was fired from Hewlett Packard because she

illegally spied on fellow board members, and was dropped from John McCain's campaign

because she constantly opened mouth and inserted foot. Oh yes, least I forget, she was recently

caught by an open mike dissing Barbara Boxer's hair style as " yesterday". Sarah Palin,

who favors abolishing Social Security and the Departments of Energy and Education, endorsed

the Republican winner in Nevada to run against Senator Harry Reid. Go Sarah!! What do you

think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to


Admiral Dennis Blair has resigned as the Director of National Intelligence. General

James Clapper will be the new director, the fourth in five years. The position was created

in response to the attacks on September 11th. Congress wanted one person to oversee all

the various intelligence operations and coordinate all the streams of information.

The United States has all kinds of intelligence gathering going on at any one time. The

CIA, NSA, Pentagon, Homeland Security, and the FBI are just a few. After September 11th,

it was clear the right hand had no idea what the left hand was doing or, more importantly,

didn't want the other hand to know what they were doing. So Congress envisioned one person

who could see the big picture. One person would rise above the turf wars. One person who

could force agencies to share. This is what they said they wanted. In reality, they wanted

nothing of the sort. They created a position with no authority.

The Director of National Intelligence has no control over the budgets of the various

agencies he is supposed to coordinate; contrary to the fact that controlling the money is key

to the power in Washington. He does not have the power to hire and fire. In fact, he cannot

even order an agency to follow his directives. He is a bureaucratic eunuch!

I don't want to say I told you so, the time this idea was trotted out, I pointed out

that without control of the purse strings and personnel this position was a figurehead at best.

It was and is a waste of tax payer money. The only power the position has is power given by

the President. The President appoints the DNI as well as the heads of the NSA, CIA, FBI,

Homeland Security, and the Secretary of Defense. This is a recipe for internecine civil war,

with each agency vying for the President's ear. In Blair's case, he ran into CIA Director Leon

Panetta who undercuts him at every opportunity because Panetta has the President's ear.

Creating this position made a dysfunctional intelligence operation even worse than before.

Congress knew this and so did President Bush. Well, not President Bush as much as Vice

President Cheney. Cheney had his thumb all over the intelligence operations. He had his own

guy, little Dougie Feith, running an off-the-books intelligence shop in the basement of the

Pentagon. He easily steamrolled an inexperienced Condoleezza Rice, the National Security

Advisor. He made unprecedented numbers of trips to CIA headquarters to pressure analysts

to give the intelligence analysis he wanted. He had a weak CIA director in George Tenet, who

assured President Bush the evidence of weapons of mass destruction was a "...slam dunk".

He was even tasking the CIA to run down leads which would help build his case for war with

Iraq (Joe Wilson's trip to Niger). The last thing Cheney, Libby, Rice, Rumsfeld, Feith, Perle,

and Wolfowitz wanted was one central figure who could coordinate intelligence.

The irony is the attack on September 11th might have been thwarted if Bush or Cheney or

Rice had been interested. Bush got daily intelligence briefings from the CIA and FBI, yet

apparently never asked "...what's new?" His counterterrorism expert, Richard Clarke, was

begging for a meeting with "the principles" to discuss the threat of an al Qaeda attack. He

never got the meeting. CIA analysts were purported to have "...their hair on fire" from what

they were picking up about an attack. On August 6th, 2001, the CIA went to Texas and briefed

Bush that an attack could be imminent and bin Laden may already have his people in place.

They even said they could use airplanes for the attack. Bush thanked them, told them they had

"...covered their asses", and went off to play golf. There was no need for a Director of National

Intelligence. The evidence was there. They weren't interested.

In 2002, the head of the CIA European station told the Bush Administration there were

no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The CIA head was told they weren't interested in that

information anymore. The CIA also told him Iraq had not tried to get "yellowcake" from Niger.

Even the lapdog Tenet made Bush change a speech in Cincinnati in which he claimed evidence

of WMD's. However, in July 2002, Bush had already told Britain's head of M16 we were going

to war. All that needed to be done was to "...cook the books" to get the American people on

board (we know this from the Downing Street Memos).

The position of Director of National Intelligence should be abolished. It has no power.

The justification for such a position is less valid than rearranging the deck chairs on the

Titanic. It's like stacking those chairs in front of the lifeboats, an intentionally political

stumbling block to direly needed national intelligence. Unless Congress is willing to give

the director line-item authority over intelligence budgets, unless the President is willing to

make the CIA, Pentagon, etc. subservient to him, unless all kinds of turf is surrendered,

the job is a joke.

The intelligence failure of September 11th and the debacle that is the Iraq and Afghanistan

wars were not a result of lack of intelligence. They were a result of politics trumping truth, a

very difficult but not impossible obstacle for a truth-hungry citizen to overcome. The only way

any democracy can survive is for its individual citizens to be informed. If our politicians are

informed and deny us access to that information, we should simply quit pretending that the

United States is a democratic republic. Unfortunately, President Obama seems to be following

a similar vein as his predecessors, again mindlessly rearranging the deck chairs. What do you

think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Two hundred seventy-three young people from around the nation gathered in Washington,

D.C. recently to participate in the 85th Scripps National Spelling Bee. Whenever I think of

spelling, the word "boutonniere" jumps out because I can't spell it.

Once again, I had to look it up to spell it correctly for this piece. The last time I used

the word was probably at my wedding almost thirty years ago when I asked someone to help

me pin a gorgeous rose onto my lapel buttonhole at 7:30am, before the ceremony. Yes, my

family never fails to remind me my wedding was at 8am. I have no explanation...maybe it

allowed for more partying. Unfamiliar words are used to stump contestants in spelling bees.

If you have ever watched a spelling bee, you know the words chosen are words like

"sardoodledom". I tried to look it up in a very large and weighty Webster's dictionary, but

it was not there; and therefore, I have no idea what it means and that is my point.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Noah Webster published a speller and

a dictionary because he wanted to do away with the elitism of English dictionaries which

ignored the speech of common folk. Webster wanted a national language which would be

"...a band of national union". He saw a standard common English language as a way to

assimilate new immigrants into the country and create pride in the language.

The spelling bee is an exercise in memorization, pure and simple. Kids spend hours and

hours memorizing words they will never use throughout most of their lives. Most are not

learning what the definition of the word is; they couldn't considering the vast number of words

they must cover. Possibly, they may learn some basics about Latin roots and Greek prefixes

or suffixes. Ultimately, they try to expose themselves to the largest volume of words and

also strive to figure out how to sound out or deduce how to spell a word they don't know.

Rote memorization is something most of us know about. We had to memorize "The

Raven" or "Casey at the Bat" or maybe Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. If you went to a Jesuit

high school and got into trouble, you had to memorize the entirety of the "Hound From Hell".

Few of us can remember much of anything we were asked to memorize; and whether it was

poetry or The Preamble to the Constitution, fewer have any use for that information in our

daily lives. In the course of my education, I memorized poems, speeches, great American

writing, and even responses for the Latin Mass in order to be an altar boy. I have my doubts

that any of this intellectual discipline improved my grades or made me a better person.

While knowing how to spell "boutonniere" might serve some purpose, most of the words

used in this year's spelling bee are not from the language of the "common folk". There is

nothing unifying about knowing how to spell "sardoodledom" or any of the other myriad of

words which will be chosen for the contest. I am not impressed by twelve or thirteen year

old kids who are "trained" to spell words most of us will never use and few can define. You

want a real contest? Spell the word and define it. That would be tough and practical.

Don't get me wrong. Spelling is an important skill. I work every day with adults who

have no idea how to spell basic words, thereby inhibiting their ability to read and write and

get a job. In high school, we were given books variously titled "Enriching Your Vocabulary"

or "Building Word Power". We were expected to be able to spell ten new words a week,

define them, give antonyms and synonyms, and use the word in a sentence. It was valuable

for reading and writing and expanding our intellects. The words were common, maybe slightly

advanced; but they were words you would use in daily interactions with people, use in future

careers, and could be used as tools to creatively write and express yourself.

Our language should unify us. All Americans should be able to competently communicate

in both speaking and writing. Children should learn spelling and vocabulary despite their

assertion all they need to do is hit the spell-check button and everything will be fine. What's

worse, the National Spelling Bee is an exercise in the very elitism Webster deplored in 1783.

While the students who participate should be admired for all the hours they spent studying

words they will never use, their effort does not advance their use of English language skills

nor does it inspire the average American who watches the national news coverage and wonders

where on earth they find the words used and what language they are speaking. Now pardon

me while I try to commit "boutonniere" to long-term memory. What do you think? I welcome

your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to


There is no pro-life movement in the United States. There is a pro-birth movement,

which in 2010 has been very successful passing state laws to make it harder and harder for

a woman to get an abortion. Add to that the terror war and assassination campaign carried

on against doctors who perform abortions, and a woman's ability to choose and to control

her body and reproductive life is in great jeopardy.

According to the New York Times, 370 state bills restricting or regulating abortions recently

were passed. This compares with 350 bills passed in the previous five years. In Nebraska,

a woman can't get an abortion after twenty weeks of pregnancy, which is prior to the end

of the first trimester which violates the provisions of Roe vs. Wade (state law contradicting

federal law). In Oklahoma, a woman must get an ultrasound and be shown the fetus as well

as hear a detailed description of the fetus before she can get an abortion. In addition, the

doctor must answer thirty-six questions before performing the abortion including providing

reasons why the woman wants the abortion. A number of states are prohibited from offering

abortion coverage in any new healthcare exchanges mandated by new federal healthcare reform

legislation. My personal favorite is a new law which prohibits parents from suing a doctor

who fails to inform them about fetal abnormalities during pregnancy. Surprise!!

All of these invasions of privacy, violations of civil rights, paternalism, and denigration

of a woman's ability to know her own mind are gathered under the pro-life banner. Proponents

of this partnership of government and religious intrusion into the most intimate spaces of

a woman's life justify their actions because to them life is sacred. However, nothing could be

further from the truth.

The same people who yelled and screamed about government takeovers of healthcare, railed

against government regulating Wall Street, and warned about the government coming to

take your guns away are the same people who became outraged when the President revealed

the United States has over 5,000 nuclear weapons. They were outraged, not because they

could end life as we know it on this planet, but because the rest of the world should simmer

in respectful fear wondering how many times we can kill every person on earth. These are

the very same folks who claim "life" is sacred.

At the same time these 370 bills were introduced this year, state legislatures have cut

healthcare for the poor and needy. They have eliminated subsidized child care, thereby

forcing single parents back onto welfare. Oops, they changed that law in 1995; meaning they

can't go back to welfare, but also can't work either (Catch 22). In the states where most of

this legislation passed, they are at the bottom of the heap when it comes to offering pre-natal

care for poor and working-poor women. And once a child is born, these same people oppose

funding for Head Start, school lunch programs, after-school care, and subsidized housing,

as well as funds to give women protection from domestic abuse.

If all that were not hypocritical enough, these same "pro-life" folks who love to restrict

a woman's right to choose consistently support capital punishment and strongly desire to

restrict the type of birth control available to women, thus creating the need for more abortions.

What was it Jesus called the Pharisees? Whitened sepulchres...bright on the outside, but

dead on the inside? The U.S. pro-birth movement makes the Pharisees look like the very

paragons of virtue.

Abortions in America have been declining every year since 1990. According to the Alan

Gutmacher Institute, abortions are rising in only one group, poor women. Dan Quayle, an

ardent abortion opponent, publicly admitted he would help his daughter get an abortion if she

so desired. Former Congressman Bob Barr, a prominent leader of the pro-birth movement,

paid for his wife to get abortions. In the final analysis, new laws will come down hardest on

poor women, those with the fewest options to begin with. If these women and their families

want access to healthcare, pre-natal care, better schools, child care, food, and protection from

abuse, they are out of luck. No one is advocating the freedom to control the number of children

they bear or supporting their desire to raise healthy and nurtured children.

Much of the opposition to abortion is couched in religious terms. If confronted with the

choice of limiting pregnancy and producing healthy, productive, nurtured, and valued children

or getting them born and then abandoning them, what would Jesus do? We've come a long

way from those days when the U.S. Constitution stood firm against religious contamination

and bigotry. There was a day when every aspect of our daily lives wasn't fine-tuned by law

and court-administered shame. There was a day when reason and justice prevailed in our

courts. Those days are gone. What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals.

Please send them to

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


There used to be a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle named Art Hoppe. One of

his favorite vehicles for satire involved God and the angel Gabriel. Gabriel would be angry

over some new affront or outrage committed by humans who occupy that "little blue marble"

God created; and he would ask God for permission to blow his trumpet and end the world

once and for all. Despite making a good case, in the end God would refuse and a frustrated

Gabriel would slink away.

Maybe it's time to say "Blow Gabriel Blow". In Nigeria, a Pentecostal preacher named

Helen Ukpabio (Pentecostal as in Christian) says God has given her the power to tell whether

a child is possessed by Satan. She can discern whether an infant or a toddler is a witch or

warlock. This might all be amusing if not for the fact her teachings have contributed to the

torture and abandonment of thousands of Nigerian children, infants, and toddlers suspected

of being witches or warlocks.

According to the New York Times, a new documentary for HBO examines children

enduring horrific exorcisms including being splashed with acid, buried alive, or dipped in fire.

Many children are abandoned or expelled from their villages on the word of some person who

claims God spoke to them and told them to fight Satan.

Adding insult to injury, many of these messengers of God charge a fee to perform the

exorcisms with poor parents scrambling to come up with the money so their children are not

killed or thrown out of the village.

Ms. Ukpabio is not unique. Fundamentalism is dangerous and religious fundamentalism

is the worst kind. Maybe you're thinking that's just Africa and it's backward and those people

will believe anything. American fundamentalists travel to African nations encouraging them

to pass laws criminalizing homosexuality, a capital offense. Recently, two openly gay men

were sentenced to fifteen years in prison in another nation citing religion as the basis for their

punishment for their crime against nature. This is no game the fundamentalists are playing.

Fundamentalist Muslims justify killing by their reading of the Koran. Fundamentalist

Jews justify killing and prejudice by their reading of Hebrew scriptures. Fundamentalist

Christians justify the torture and killing of babies by their reading of the Bible. This Nigerian

preacher was invited to speak to fundamentalist churches in England and recently, in Houston,

Texas. She was asked to pass along her theology which no one is allowed to dispute (she has

gone to court in Nigeria asking for a restraining order prohibiting anyone from criticizing her

or her beliefs). American and English audiences want to hear what this woman has to say.

American fundamentalists are encouraging her and her beliefs.

By its nature, fundamentalism is anti-intellectual. It is anti-democratic and anti-

pluralism. Fundamentalism cannot tolerate dissent and it believes it is always right, insuring

that all critics and opponents must be wrong. There is no middle ground. Fundamentalism is

anti-American and causes people to check their brains at the church door and pick up their


There is no need for the existence or belief in Satan or the devil. Sin is caused by us. We

choose to bring evil into the world when we choose to de-humanize ourselves or others. Free

will gives us the option of choosing good or evil. The idea that God needed to create an entity

to tempt us into making sinful choices makes no sense. We are quite capable of being selfish,

arrogant, stupid, insensitive, and even murderous on our own.

I imagine Gabriel pursing his lips and getting ready to blow as he watches infants and

toddlers tortured or abandoned in God's name. I imagine his lungs filling with air as he

ponders the hypocrisy and ingratitude of those who have benefitted from this gift of life

given to us. He is glancing at God for permission to end this experiment because humans

have so bastardized the basic simple message to love one another, turn the other cheek,

forgive an in finite number of times, and take care of the least of your brothers and sisters.

If it were up to you, what would you tell him to do? What do you think? I welcome your

comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

Note: Sometimes more than one blog is posted in a day, so please look for previous blogs.


Rand Paul is the Republican nominee for the Senate in Kentucky. He ran on the promise

to "...take the country back". Now we know the answer to where he wishes to take it. Paul

has had an interesting post-election week. First, on Rachel Maddow's show, he said he did not

support the 1964 Civil Rights Act because it forces private businesses to end discrimination

against African-Americans and other minorities. Second, he defended BP saying that President

Obama had no right to insist BP be held accountable to pay for all the oil spilled in the Gulf

and the clean-up. Finally, he defended the Massey Energy Company whose mine exploded last

month killing 29 miners. Paul does not believe it is the role of government to affix blame or

demand accountability from private industry. In his mind, corporate America is beyond

reproach. He thinks it's un-American to criticize American business.

Dr. Paul is entitled to his opinion. He is in good company in the Republican Party.

Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, fondly yearned for a president such as Strom Thurmond,

who would have made sure segregation remained in place creating a calmer, more stable and

elite nation. Paul is an intellectual soul mate with Arizona Senator John McCain, who believes

the government should be able to stop anyone in his state and ask for their papers to prove

they are here legally. Paul will fit in nicely with Congressman John Boehner and his fellow

Kentuckian Senator Mitch McConnell who promised Wall Street if they contributed money

to the Republicans, they would protect them from increased government regulation.

BP had no emergency plan if their deep sea well exploded. The company knew it had

problems with the "blowout preventer" and hadn't even tested it at the depths they were

drilling. It has been criticized for sacrificing safety for profits in a number of reports. Massey

Energy miners say they had warned the company about gas buildup in their mines and safety

inspectors had found numerous violations of federal law in those same mines. Dr. Paul

believes to regulate or criticize either company is un-American. He believes the government

has no role in insuring safety in private industry nor is it the governments responsibility to

insure the fair treatment of workers. Dr. Paul believes the free market will solve all problems

and the government should stay out. He does not believe the Constitution gives government

any power over the private sector except in cases of national security or defense.

History proves Dr. Paul is on the wrong side of these issues. Until the early 1930's,

government did allow unregulated freedom in the business sector. For over seventy years,

Jim Crow laws flourished in the South with no government interference. Poll taxes and

literacy tests, approved by state legislatures, prevented most African-Americans from voting

or being elected. The Crash of 1929 was a direct result of banks and Wall Street engaging in

practices designed to cheat the average investor. Child labor was still common at the beginning

of the 20th century. It was the auto industry which for years fought to prevent seat belts and

and airbags from being required in American cars. When given the chance, business has always

put profit over all other concerns. Do you remember the Pinto? Rather than fix the problem of

exploding gas tanks, Ford calculated it was cheaper to be sued by those burned or the families

of those killed than it was to recall the car and fix the life-threatening mechanical problems.

Does the name Toyota ring a bell?

Dr. Paul actually blames the government for the economic collapse of the last two or three

years. There was too much regulation and the Federal Reserve caused the crisis by making

money to cheap. How could you expect business not to take advantage of such an opportunity?

It would be one thing if Rand Paul was viewed as an outsider or a part of the extreme wing

of the Republican Party. However, the opposite is true. His views represent the mainstream

thinking of the party today. Whether it's "Drill Baby Drill" or "Protect Wall Street at all costs"

or defending coal mine owners, Rand Paul is in step with his party.

A recent column in the Wall Street Journal opined that Obama and the Democrats made

a huge mistake attempting to solve "big picture" problems. Obama pressed for legislation to

stimulate the economy and stop the depression from getting worse. He passed healthcare

reform and will soon pass Wall Street reform. He signed a new nuclear arms reduction treaty

with Russia and convinced China and Russia to support sanctions against Iran. He may get

his wish and have Congress repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" very soon. The Journal sites these

examples as proof of Obama's bad judgement. He didn't focus enough on jobs and he caused

a backlash among Americans for whom the "big picture" is dogs playing poker, not government

solving problems. The end result is the election of Dr. Paul and others who want to take their

government back to a time when the robber barons were king and the worker was understood

to be a mere factor in a cruel and inhuman formula for profit. If we haven't learned anything

else, we know human beings are more than numbers on a balance sheet. The question remains

whether independents, women, and minority voters will want to go back with Dr. Paul and his

Republican friends. What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please

send them to