Monday, September 27, 2010


I am not the most technologically savvy person, even in my own family. I have never

tweeted, don't have a face for Facebook, and MySpace is quite limited at the moment.

However, I love cookies. My wife makes the most delectable chocolate chip cookies and

snickerdoodles from scratch. I am fond of vanilla wafers and Oreos and I love oatmeal-

raisin cookies. Now, I discover "cookies" can violate my privacy and allow companies to track

my activities online. Couldn't we change the name of these cyber-creations to Brussels sprouts

or liver?

Privacy is an endangered species. In the past, I have written about how your cell phone

can be used to track you; your OnStar car system can follow you; rental car companies have

put devices in the car to track your speed and other driving habits as well as location; and the

Fast Pass you use to cross the Bay Area bridges tracks you and the records can be subpoenaed.

On Facebook, you can click on "places" to let every burglar in the city know you aren't home

and now it turns out companies are using "cookies" to track you and even if you delete the

"cookie", a new version saves a small file on your computer to re-create the "cookie" and thus

your activities can be continuously tracked.

"Cookies" are supposed to be a convenience. They allow a site to remember you so you

don't have to log in information each time you visit. Courts have ruled websites can place

"cookies" on your computer. It turns out, they can also be used to track you across websites

producing a dossier of your preferences, where you window shop, what you purchase, and what

subjects interest you. This information is then sold to advertisers who can target you with ads

and special offers. It is also available to lots of other interested parties including the

government. The Wall Street Journal estimates "cookies" are the basis for a $23 billion online

advertising industry.

If this is not intrusive enough, mobile tracking is picking up steam aimed at people who

use smartphones. One company assigns a unique I.D. number similar to a "cookie" and if the

user deletes the number, it re-creates itself moments later. All your activity on the phone can

then be tracked and the information sold or used for other purposes.

We don't have a lot of privacy left. Between the Patriot Act, telecom spying, "cookies",

ID numbers, GPS systems, and the promise of cameras everywhere you go in your city or town,

there are few places left to be free from prying eyes. There are still a few hideouts; and

corporate America seems to want to eliminate these as well. The Fourth Amendment is almost

useless and so many people today don't seem to care. They argue if you haven't done anything

wrong, why should you care if you are being tracked or watched? The problem with this line of

reasoning is that the government determines the rules and what is acceptable now may not be

acceptable tomorrow. Even worse is a government which in the past has spied on and acted

against Americans engaging in legal conduct in order to intimidate and find ways to stop them

and move against them.

The Federal Trade Commission is supposed to issue new privacy guidelines soon. There

is also talk of creating a Do-Not-Track registry similar to the Do-Not-Call registry system used

against telemarketers. You need to be aware of these developments. You need to protect your

privacy. We need to oppose those who speak of national ID cards as a solution to the illegal

immigration problem (the Social Security card is already too much of a de facto national ID


Imagine all of this information, technology, and tracking systems in the hands of a

tyrannical government. Imagine a president who would use all of this to track political enemies

and crush dissent. Imagine a corporation which could use all of this to intimidate and trap

environmental or other activist groups opposed to their policies or actions. Is there anyone,

anyone reading this who believes this information would not be used against us?

Many times I have been advised to avoid cookies for health reasons. It turns out these

new "cookies" could be even more dangerous to our health and welfare. It's 10 o'clock, do you

know where your smartphone is? Does it know where you are? What do you think?

I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to


Afghanistan is rated one of the most corrupt states in the world. Government officials

at all levels require bribes and payoffs before any business can be done. The Afghan people

are caught between a corrupt government they despise and a shadow Taliban government

they fear. So, how will the average gum-chewing Afghan greet the news the United States is

no longer interested in high-level corruption, but will continue to oppose graft on the local


It appears Afghan President Hamid Karzai is miffed with us. One of his top aides was

arrested and Karzai wasn't notified beforehand. His brother, Mahmood, is a part-owner of

Kabul Bank which is in danger of failing because of corrupt lending practices and the U.S.

refuses to bail the bank out. His other brother, Wallid, is the "fixer" in Kandahar and is at

the center of a system of bribery and corruption including getting a piece of the opium trade

which helps to fund both the Taliban and al Qaeda. At least he is on the CIA payroll; but

President Karzai is angry about all the unfavorable press his brother and family and friends


The Obama Administration has announced it is going to leave the Karzais alone and focus

on local power brokers and corrupt officials (most appointed by the Karzai family). They

promise they won't ignore major corruption; but they will cut the Karzai family criminal

enterprise some slack. They promise to give him advanced notice before they move in on any

one in his government and get his approval. (You don't think he would tip off anyone, do you?

Her is our trusted ally, after all.) It seems the Afghan president is making noises about turning

to Iran or making a separate peace deal with the Taliban to protect his criminal siblings; and

Obama's advisors are so shaken by this possibility that they have agreed to stop pressuring

him to clean up his country.

So, now we will focus on low level corruption and be very discreet about not

embarrassing Karzai every time one of his clan gets caught with his finger in the cookie jar.

We will now go after local crooks and leave the big crooks to the Afghan president. In 2010,

our administration promises to insure U.S. taxpayer's money is fully accounted for unlike for

the last eight years or so. I wish I was making this up. We continue to re-arrange deck chairs

on the Titanic while the hole in the bow gets bigger and bigger.

Afghan financial institutions launder drug money for the Taliban and possibly al Qaeda.

This will continue. The Afghan government protects the opium industry. This will continue.

Afghan politicians will continue to loot the nation's treasury and Americans will pay for all of

this in blood and treasure. The local thugs are all appointed by the national crooks. The local

sharks serve at the pleasure of the national sharks. Obama officials insist this is not a retreat

from rooting out high-level corruption. O.k., so we will call it a strategic withdrawal from the

field instead.

In December, General Petraeus and Secretary of Defense Gates will review the counter-

insurgency strategy for President Obama before troops are supposed to be withdrawing in

July of 2011. You and I know exactly what will happen. In December, they will declare the

strategy sound; and then in July they will announce most troops will stay in the country for

the foreseeable future. Americans will continue to die and good American money will follow

bad as the Karzai crime family continues to steal from its own people and from us. I love the

smell of corruption in the morning. It smells like victory...doesn't it? What do you think?

I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

Sunday, September 26, 2010


You have to give the Republicans credit. If they retake control of the House of

Representatives. and possibly the Senate, it won't be because they hid their intentions.

They have been very vocal about the fact control will mean a direct assault on everything

President Obama achieved in the last two years, particularly his health reform plan. They

know they cannot repeal it. So, they are on the record as saying they intend to starve it to

death. They will force votes on repealing it; but they know those will fail and those votes

are really aimed ay the 2012 presidential race anyway. In the short term, they will use their

control over the appropriations process to deny money to the various bodies, boards, and

commissions necessary to regulate both healthcare reform and financial reform. (Wall Street

is pouring money into Republican coffers at unprecedented levels.)

In the area of healthcare reform, Republicans say they will block funding for the new

IRS agents needed to enforce some mandated tax increases. A new board to oversee which

Medicare procedures are the most cost effective and produce the best results would get no

money. Money to pay for a long term care insurance program would be denied. (I love that

one because so many Americans face financial destruction due to the cost of long-term

catastrophic health costs.) Republicans would also block funds to help states set up insurance

exchanges guaranteeing no competition at all for health insurance companies and no reduction

in premiums nor expansion of healthcare to 32 million more Americans.

The GOP doesn't stop at healthcare. Wall Street and business leaders have already given

them a list of regulations passed in the Financial Services Reform Bill that they want to stop

from being implemented. Once again, more regulation requires more oversight. Oversight

needs overseers and they have to be paid. No money, no oversight. Just as the GOP gutted

the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), as well as the Federal Reserve, it will now try

to prevent the new Consumer Protection Agency from coming into being and make it as

difficult as possible to regulate banks and commodity brokers, hedge funds, and future

speculation as well as Goldman Sachs and the boys. They don't try to hide any of this. They

brag about what they intend to do and how voters will reward them for their efforts. Oh, did

I mention they will also try to preserve the Bush tax cuts for the uber-rich even though they

would add billions to the deficit they care so much about reducing? Many of their young

Turks even threaten to shut the government down if they don't get their way.

Elections have consequences. The Republicans do not offer one single solution to a

sluggish economy or the lack of job creation. Their message is to turn back the clock to the

days of 2001-2009 when America was experiencing a "golden age" of prosperity. A healthcare

system whose costs are rising so fast they could sink the ship of state is in no need of reform.

A financial services industry which drove this country into an economic sinkhole is just fine as

it is. What they do propose is to try again to privatize Social Security and Medicare, cut

benefits, and turn everyone's retirement over to the casinos on Wall Street. They will increase

the military budget and continue wars which should be ended.

A lot of progressives are angry with Obama and the Democrats for good reasons.

However, you will not be able to say you didn't know the consequences of a GOP takeover of

the House. They are telling you straight up what they will do. You can't have your head in the

sand. Are you angry enough to let them implement their political "way-back" machine? Are

you frustrated enough to let Wall Street win again? Do you really want to fight the battle to

preserve Social Security and Medicare again? It isn't enough for you to vote. You have to talk

to neighbors and friends all over the nation and get them to turn out as well. I don't know if

it's too late, but I will give the Republicans credit. They are totally upfront about their vision

and direction for this country. Is it a vision you share as well? What do you think? I welcome

your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

Friday, September 17, 2010


An earthquake devastates Haiti and the world is moved to come to their aid. Billions

of dollars are donated. In less than a week, a celebrity telethon is organized by George

Clooney. Millions are raised. A tsunami hits southeast Asia. Once again hearts are touched

and billions donated. Presidents Bush and Clinton join forces to come to the region's

assistance. The worst floods in Pakistan's history have inundated large sections of that

country. Parts are totally inaccessible. Waterborne diseases are spreading and the death toll

is rising. The Pakistani government, like the Haitian government, is inept at delivering aid.

Yet, donations to help the people of Pakistan don't even come close to the amounts raised in

either Haiti or for the tsunami victims. Why?

Pakistan is a Muslim nation. Americans seem to have a negative view of Islam; although

if they knew as much about Islam as they do Christianity, they are not tremendously well

informed. Islam is not popular; but the victims of the tsunami were Muslim too and yet the

outpouring of sympathy and help was quick and substantial. Religion would not seem to be

a reason donations are lagging for the people of Pakistan. So, what is it?

I don't like Pakistan. A Pakistani scientist, A.Q. Quan, became the Johnny Appleseed of

the nuclear proliferation movement. He sold nuclear weapon technology to North Korea,

Libya, and other outlaw nations. He was never punished and is considered a hero in Pakistan.

Pakistan formed the Taliban to take over and rule Afghanistan in order to counter India's

influence in the country. Pakistan's intelligence service has close ties to terrorist groups and

has orchestrated attacks throughout Kashmir, as well as attacks on the Indian parliament and

the city of Mumbai. American intelligence agencies believe Pakistan has tipped off terrorists

so they can avoid U.S. raids or attacks. Pakistan gave bin Laden and Mullah Omar safe haven

in their country and Americans have died because of that sanctuary. Recently, Pakistan

arrested several top Taliban leaders. Allegedly, they were cracking down on terrorism and

helping their American allies. In reality, it turns out the arrests were for holding preliminary

talks with Afghan leaders about some sort of peace agreement. Pakistan does not want a peace

deal because it would benefit India. My feelings about Pakistan are not unique. Pakistan does

not evoke much sympathy in the West. It is a nation whose cooperation we have to buy. The

U.S. is much closer to India than to Pakistan. We have to bribe the Pakistani government to

go after al Qaeda. We have to beg them to shut down the terrorist safe havens. Pakistan has

nuclear weapons and we are frightened these weapons could fall into the hands of extremists,

so we are nice to them. We give them billions of tax dollars in aid. At the end of the day, most

Americans, and maybe most nations, say a pox on their house and hearts are hardened to their

plight. Is this the reason help for flood victims has been so slow in coming?

It's wrong. While Christians like to think of their religion being superior to Islam; the

essence of Christianity is the command to love God with all your heart, all your soul, and to

love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 25 says the key to salvation is what you do for the

least of your brothers and sisters. The hero of Jesus's parable about loving one's neighbors is

a Samaritan. Samaritans were hated by the Jews. Samaritans were religiously unclean and

heretics. Samaritans were the lowest of the low right there with lepers. Yet, it is a Samaritan

who cares for a Jew and saves his life. The question which prompted the parable of the Good

Samaritan was "...who is our neighbor?"

Christianity is the most radical philosophy of living ever articulated. To be a Christian,

and no one has to be one, you have to love your enemies, forgive an infinite number of times,

turn the other cheek, get rid of all of your possessions, take care of the weakest and least

among you, and take up your cross and follow Jesus. In a Christian universe, the meek inherit

the earth, peacemakers are blessed, and the poor in spirit earn the kingdom of heaven. How

does this jibe with the lack of sympathy and aid for the victims of the floods in Pakistan?

We are debating the nature of Islam every day in the news. Attacks are increasing on

mosques around the country. A proposed Islamic Center in New York is creating civil unrest.

A "Christian" minister threatened to burn copies of the Quran and fundamentalist Christian

leaders have labeled Islam a religion of violence. While casting aspersions upon the Muslims,

the "Christian" West has been unwilling to open their hearts or wallets to fellow human beings

enduring unspeakable tragedy and horror. How do you square that circle?

Only you know what is in your heart. Perhaps it is worth spending a few minutes

wondering why the humanitarian response to the disaster in Pakistan has been so muted and

reserved. Maybe you have a different answer. However, for those who want to say this nation

was founded on Christian principles, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting. What do you

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

NOTE: Often more than one blog is posted at a time, so be sure to check for previous blogs.


For about eight years, I taught Hebrew and Christian scriptures to high school

students. It was an opportunity to help them learn how to think about scripture. Why do

we read it? What are we looking for? Do we read it literally or does the context matter?

What does it mean to say the Bible is absolutely true, but not always factual?

One of the first lectures I would give would be on the nature of God. God, as creator,

created all "things". By definition then, God could not be a "thing". God must be "no-thing"

in order to be the creator. Oh, the weeping and gnashing of teeth from parents when their

young adolescent came home and told them God was nothing. All of this was good for students

and parents as it forced them to abandon cliches about God taught in Sunday school; and let

go all the ways we anthropomorphize (whew) God. The students also discovered mystics like

St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Avila who talked about ascending a mountain to find

God, only to find when you got to the top you found "nada". It has been said that God created

man and then man returned the favor. Yes, the calls to the school were swift and sure, but

not career ending.

The eminent scientist Stephen Hawking has a new book out in which he claims many

universes were created the same way ours came into existence. He says there is no need to

have a God as creator. All of these various universes rise naturally out of the laws of physics

and they don't need any "super" natural assistance by God to come into existence. For some,

this maybe a shocking conclusion and may sell some books. For me, it is cause to say,

"...therefore what?"

The universe is governed by the natural laws of physics, mathematics, and quantum

mechanics. The concept of anything being "super" natural is a contradiction in terms. "Super"

is used in this context as a euphemism for outside of or beyond nature. There is no existence

in any universe not governed by the natural laws as articulated by science. No matter what

the universe, the rules still apply. This also applies to God. When God acts in the universe,

the natural laws still apply. There are no exceptions. God cannot cause 2 plus 2 to equal 3

or change the speed of light. All "things" have a beginning, but God is not a "thing", and

therefore has always existed. Whatever the stuff of the "big bang" or the "big bangs", it is

not irrational to suggest all of that has coexisted with God throughout time. (Time itself is

a concept which really doesn't exist. Past, present, and future; all exist at the same moment.)

Hawking is suggesting universes can come into existence without any "super" natural help

from God. OK, so what? There is no conflict here. Believing God to be the source of physical

existence, positing God to be the source of life, even using terms like Creator for God, are not

precluded at all by Hawking's M-Theory or by string theory or the general theory of relativity.

There is no conflict between God's act of creation and the physical laws of the universe. They

can coexist quite nicely. As with Stephen J. Gould and Christopher Hitchens and others in

the Godless genre of writing, they are fighting a war against a fundamentalist view of God.

As smart as he is, Hawking makes the same mistake. If he read Alfred North Whitehead or

Charles Hartshorn, if he had the benefit of a teacher like Father Francis Baur, O.F.M. (as I did),

he would know about a theological world view called "process" theology. Cosmologists and

theologians have been thinking about all of this for a long time and long ago abandoned the

"super" natural God of the white beard for whom words like omniscient and omnipotent were

used. This is the God of those wishing to check their brains at the door and pick up their

crayons. This is the God of the Sunday school or Catechism or Catholic grammar school, but

not the God of thinking adults.

It does not require a leap of faith to believe in a God who creates and does so within the

physical laws of our universe or any other universe. It does not require one to abandon science

to believe God created "things" while remaining "no-thing". It is proof of how powerful and

ubiquitous these fundamentalistic childhood images of God are; to see the purported smartest

man in the world railing against them and making headlines by writing a book debunking the

God of our childhoods. A much better avenue of inquiry would be to ask yourself why God

created at all? What motivated the act of creation? What does it say about each of us to

acknowledge God choosing our existence? It would be fascinating to see Mr. Hawking struggle

with those questions. I struggle with them every day. What about you? What do you think?

I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to


Six federal judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals voted to prohibit a man who

had been kidnapped and tortured by the United States to sue the people who were

responsible. Five judges wanted to let the suit go forward. In their ruling, the six judges

agreed with President Obama and his contention that a lawsuit might reveal state secrets

which could harm national security. We can get into Obama's hypocrisy on this issue another

time. I am trying to figure out just what secret is so important that its protection means a man

so egregiously violated by our government will not be permitted his day in court. What secret

is so vital to our national security that serious human rights protections are suspended and

the criminals never brought to justice and held accountable?

If there were a trial, it would certainly come out our government engaged in tactics more

identified with the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, and Iran rather than a nation of laws.

Is this a secret? It is public knowledge, under George Bush, the CIA used American companies

to fly kidnapped victims to foreign countries so they could be tortured. The man who wanted

to sue was kidnapped, flown by an American subsidiary of Boeing to Morocco, where he was

handed over to be tortured. He was then taken to Afghanistan for more torture and eventually

ended up at Guantanamo. He is currently free in Britain because they decided there wasn't

enough evidence to try him for any criminal acts. None of this is a secret. Since it's already

known, how could a lawsuit hurt national security?

It is a matter of public record, the CIA was kidnapping people all over the world to

transport them to Eastern Europe, Egypt, Morocco, and even Syria, so they could be tortured

outside the purview of American law. A court in Italy convicted a number of CIA agents, in

absentia, of the kidnapping of an Italian citizen off the streets of Rome. A current law professor

at UC Berkeley's School of Law, John Yoo, wrote opinions advising President Bush he could

ignore any law or abrogate any treaty in his role as Commander in Chief. None of this

information is secret and it doesn't need to be protected. (That our taxes go to pay for

Mr. Yoo's salary should probably be kept a state secret.)

It is not a secret Bush and Co. set up a series of "black" prisons all over the world to

engage in illegal international crime. It is not secret many of the people they kidnapped had

not done anything wrong. A Canadian citizen was taken to Syria and tortured for more than

a year before anyone realized it was a mistake because his name was similar to a well known

terrorist. What is it these judges thought they had to protect? This country engages in

assassination of our enemies. We fly drones all over Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, possibly Iran,

Egypt, and other countries as well as our own border with Mexico. We now know Obama

thinks it's legal to kill an American citizen without a trial or conviction in violation of the

Fourteenth Amendment. The government illegally spied on us and American telecom

companies helped them. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have abused the

provisions of the Patriot Act, claiming national security as a defense. The Vice President

outed a covert CIA operative for political purposes and got away with it. Do our enemies

not know we listen in to every conversation, tap every computer, intercept their mail, and

issue orders for their death?

This government kidnaps and tortures people. Attorney General Eric Holder says we

don't do that anymore. Actually, he said we still kidnap, we just don't torture. Is that the

secret which needs protecting? Are they lying to us? Is it possible Obama hasn't changed

procedures to counteract what occurred under Bush/Cheney? Is it possible many of the worst

illegal practices initiated during the Bush years are still going on despite pronouncements

from the President?

Everything I have listed is public knowledge. There is enough there to easily win a lawsuit

against the company who provided the jets to transport the victims. What we know on the

record is enough to prove what the government was doing should be punished. So what is it

those six judges felt they had to protect? Since when is the judiciary, which is supposed to be

a constitutional check on executive power, in the business of protecting illegal and immoral

government actions? We have all been told no one is above the law in this country. We now

know that statement is not true. You can torture, kidnap, maim, steal, murder, and commit

all kinds of mayhem and use national security as a shield to protect against ever being held

accountable. It really troubles me what secrets are being protected by those judges. What is

the government up to? How comfortable are you when the courts give the government carte

blanche as long as they cite national security as a defense? Do you have any ideas what secrets

we are missing? What could they be doing which is more important than the rule of law?

What do you think? I welcome your comments. Please send them to


On Thursday, September 9th, a thirty inch natural gas main exploded in San Bruno.

Homes were damaged and destroyed and average folks tossed into a whirlwind of fear, shock,

anger, sadness and pain. Lives were lost, some quite young, and whatever the "plan" had been

for people living in the area, it changed at that moment.

On September 11th, 2001, thousands of lives were lost, tens of thousands directly affected,

and a nation thrown into shock. This wasn't an accident or natural disaster; it was a deliberate

action perpetrated by evil souls deluded into thinking they were acting in God's name. Just as

we remember that day nine years ago, the community in San Bruno will remember what

happened on that Thursday night in September and everyone will reflect on how their lives

were changed and how the "plan" is now different in some way.

There is a story in the gospels about a man who has a huge harvest and decides to tear his

silos down to build bigger ones to hold all his bounty. Jesus seems amused by his actions and

reminds his audience the man dies before the new silos are finished. Someone once told me,

" plans while God laughs."

A new program has made its debut on Showtime called "The Big C". It is about a teacher

who discovers she has terminal cancer and how this knowledge changes her. She doesn't tell

anyone. She changes priorities in her life, approaches her students and her job with new eyes.

She takes chances and makes choices she might have been afraid to make before. Her attitude

towards her husband and family takes on a whole different perspective. It's a classic take on

the question, "...if you knew you only had a week left to live, what would you do?"

When we are young, we think we are immortal. We take chances and foolish risks as we

see life as an endless series of events and possibilities. When I turned fifty, I went into a huge

depression realizing the majority of my life was over and I was on the downside of the curve.

For each person, the progression is different, but we all go through it. Unfortunately, I didn't

learn enough. It didn't hit me hard enough. I didn't come to appreciate all I had been given

and proceeded to make rash, reckless, and silly decisions more in tune with an adolescent

than a mature adult.

We are not guaranteed tomorrow. I don't want to get into a political screed on

September 11th and terrorism and Islam and an analysis on all the bad decisions we made as

a country after the events of that day. People went to work that day full of plans for the future.

People were just sitting down for dinner, or watching the first NFL game of the season, or just

arriving home from work in San Bruno when their world exploded in flames. If you had told

either group what was going to happen a day ahead of time, how do you think that knowledge

would have changed their "plans"? What about those who survived? Will these events change

how they view the future? Decisions which have been put on hold, abandoned, or ignored;

will they be revisited? There but for the grace of God go I; does this insight change how we

plan and act?

In my world time has stopped. It is as if it's a different dimension or as if I've gone

through a wormhole into a different space/time continuum. In this world, time has slowed

down to a crawl. In the real world, your world, your day is so crammed you wish you had

another hour or even an extra ten minutes. Here, anything which speeds up time is welcome.

You have planners and schedules and calendars and parent's meetings, school events, painting

and pulling weeds, and none of you get enough sleep. You put off until tomorrow anything
which doesn't need immediate attention. The things easiest to delay or push off until later are

usually the people in our lives. We put off the "date" night. We tell ourselves we will spend

special time with our children or loved ones eventually. We seek the path of least resistance;

and on that path people we love are willing to wait, so they do. Relationships require work,

friendships have to be maintained, and our loved ones need to be loved. Yet, there is always

"manana". The events in San Bruno and New York, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania,

remind us we aren't guaranteed tomorrow. I can tell you from personal experience, there is

nothing worse than taking your life and the people who love you for granted; and waking up to

have it all taken away by chance, accident, or your own foolish choices and sins. You suddenly

have crystal clear insight as to what is really important; but there isn't anything you can do

about it.

On the night of September 11th, 2001, I spent three hours talking politics and foreign

policy and asking why anyone would want to do this to us. I got into arguments. My patriotism

was questioned and cries of prejudice and bigotry were heard. My bosses called me up saying

this was a time for consolation and reflection and said I was committing career suicide. I was

wrong and they were right. It was a time to reflect and to remind those listening how elusive

the future really is. It was an opportunity to issue a wake-up call to all of us, especially me, to

live today; don't take anything for granted and be aware the end will come like a thief in the

night and we will never know when it will happen.

My heart and prayers go out to all those affected in San Bruno and on September 11th.

I am so thankful members of my family emerged shaken but unhurt. Please don't make the

mistake I made and put off until tomorrow the really important actions you should do today.

Kiss your wife, husband, or significant other. Hug and hold your children and loved ones. Tell

good friends they are loved and live with the guarantee nothing is guaranteed. I welcome

your comments. Please send them to


According to the Wall Street Journal, the Republicans want to "woo" voters into

voting for them in the November midterm elections. Pollsters are predicting the GOP

could regain control of the House and maybe even the Senate if enough voters can be

"wooed". What are these regressive architects using to seduce the average American

voter to go over to the dark side? NOTHING. The Journal says Republicans are looking

for a way they can make promises to voters without providing any details. (You can't make

this stuff up.) The plan is to take advantage of voter anger over high unemployment, massive

deficits, a sluggish economy, and the bailout of Wall Street while ignoring Main Street. At no

time, however, does the GOP want to say what they will actually do to reduce spending, create

jobs, cut the deficit, or solve any other of the nation's ills. Former GOP leader, Representative

Vin Weber says: "There's a pretty powerful argument that says why take a big risk with an

affirmative agenda when we've come such a long way; and let's not screw this details

about where we would go going forward." In other words, vote for us and we will tell you

later how we will fix things. It might work.

If you are not one of the great unwashed, easily wooed by over-promising and under-

performing, and would actually like to glimpse what the Republican agenda will be under

Speaker John Boehner; there are hints if you dig a little. Some of the Republican young Turks

are on the record and their agenda is clear. Representative Eric Cantor, second ranking

Republican in the House, is on the record supporting the privatization of Social Security by

creating private investment accounts. How much you receive upon retirement would depend

on how well Wall Street performs. Imagine being sixty years old with all your money in the

market in 2007. What would your nest egg look like today?

In a book Mr. Cantor co-authored, he supports not only privatizing Social Security, but

also supports his co-author's, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, proposal to turn

Medicare into a voucher program (anyone want to guess what the vouchers would be worth?);

and eliminating the home mortgage interest deduction among other proposals. A number of

Republican candidates for the Senate believe unemployment insurance is unconstitutional.

They all support more military spending and support extending tax cuts for the richest 1% of

American taxpayers. So it appears the regressive agenda, if given back control of Congress,

would be to privatize Social Security, gut Medicare, eliminate one of the largest tax deductions

middle America uses, while cutting taxes for the rich and increasing the military budget. Now

maybe you understand why former Congressman Weber wishes they would all shut up.

Seventy-five percent of the federal budget is composed of Social Security, Medicare,

interest on the debt, and the military budget. In the past, Ronald Reagan and his neo-con

acolytes have suggested ending Social Security and Medicare as we know it, while cutting taxes

for the rich and pumping up the Pentagon. It would appear Representative Cantor and his

buddies are singing the same old song; only this time they won't post the lyrics until after

voters have been "wooed".

The confidence and faith regressives have in their ideas is shown by their refusal to talk

specifics. While President Obama proposed and passed a healthcare reform, Wall Street

overhaul, and economic stimulus package (which independent experts say prevented a much

deeper and devastating depression), and currently is trying to jump start the Middle East

peace process; the loyal opposition says vote for us and we won't do what he does. Vote for us

and we will solve the nation's ills; you just have to wait awhile to find out the rich will be

richer, jobs will pay one-half of what they used to, and Social Security and Medicare will be

figments of your imagination. Have you been sufficiently "wooed"? What do you think?

I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to


As President Obama addressed the nation and declared the combat mission in Iraq

at an end; newspapers, magazines and the punditocracy raised the question "...was it

worth it?" The answer depends on what the definition of "it" is. Originally, "it" was an act

of self-defense. We had to invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of

mass destruction. We had to stop him from giving a nuclear or biological weapon to

bin Laden who would use it against this nation. In his 2003 State of the Union Address,

President Bush said we had to attack pre-emptively to prevent another attack on this country.

We couldn't wait for proof. The smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud over Manhattan.

The American people were told Saddam was in league with the perpetrators of the September

11th attack. Congress was told a vote against war was unpatriotic, soft on terrorism, and a

career killer. The corporate media told their employees not to question the President, his

motives, or his facts. We were marching to war to prevent an imminent threat to our national

security. This was a war of necessity, not choice. If "it" had been true, "it" might have been

worth the awful butcher's bill this war has rung up. However, "it" was a lie told to the

American people to get their support for a war of choice, a war of imperialism, a war for oil,

a war for Israel, a war to show a son can outperform his father, a war not to end all wars; but

rather one which sparked wars all over the world in its wake.

Was "it" worth it? In 1998, most of the Bush national security team signed a document

supporting the invasion of Iraq. Produced by the "Project for a New American Century", the

paper declared a war with Iraq would depose Saddam; thus removing a serious threat to Israel.

(The genesis of this project began in 1992 as a proposal written for and put forward by Israeli

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.) Conquering Iraq would open the oil fields to American

corporations as a lever against OPEC. Iraq would be used as a "strategic pivot" to extend

American influence throughout the Middle East. This idea was rejected by George Herbert

Walker Bush, who said Saddam wasn't worth the life of a single American soldier and who

observed the U.S. had no one to replace him and we would end up running the country. The

"Project for the New American Century" was also rejected by President Clinton.

Former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill wrote in his memoirs that one of the agenda

items at the very first Bush cabinet meeting in January 2001 was a discussion of plans for an

attack on Iraq. Counter-terrorism expert, Richard Clarke, wrote that he couldn't get anyone in

the Bush administration interested in bin Laden or the threat of al Qaeda. Attorney General

Ashcroft told Clarke not to bring up his name anymore. In January of 2002, Karl Rove met

with the Republican Governor's Association and told them the coming war against Saddam

was going to produce huge political benefits. The Downing Street Memos show the Bush

administration had already decided to go to war by spring of 2002, even while calling for

Saddam to open his country up to more inspections. The White House's Iraq Study Group

was formed to sell this war to the American people. We now know that "weapons of mass

destruction" was the vehicle they decided to use to scare America into supporting the war.

"It" was a lie from the very beginning. "It" was an act of American aggression plotted by

Wolfowitz, Cheney, Libby, Pearl, Feith, and Rumsfeld, disguised as an act of self defense.

The American people swallowed the lie hook, line, and sinker. Today, 60% of the American

people say the war in Iraq wasn't worth it. Then, over 60% believed Saddam had nuclear and

biological weapons and was intimately involved in the planning and execution of the attacks

on September 11th.

If you want to know if "it" was worth it, ask some of "its" supporters. Senator Joe

Lieberman says "...if we had withdrawn, it would have had a devastating impact on the entire

Middle East and our credibility in the world. I think "it" was worth it." Military scholar

Max Boot, of the Council on Foreign Relations, says "...years of effort toppled one of the world's

most dangerous and unpredictable dictators and prevented a terrible defeat...if al Qaeda and

the Shiites had succeeded in chasing us out." Former U.N. Ambassador and PNAC signatory,

John Bolton, says toppling Saddam was worth it, "...because it kept him from acquiring

nuclear weapons." Have you noticed a theme yet? "It" was worth it to save face and topple

an unpredictable dictator; and "it" stopped him from acquiring nuclear weapons in the "future".

"It" was worth it, not because of an imminent threat, not because our national security was

in danger, not because terrorists might acquire a nuclear weapon; "it" was worth it for every

reason except the ones used to sell the American people on going to war in the first place.

Imagine if "it" had not occurred. Almost 5,000 young Americans would be alive.

Hundreds of thousands of soldiers would not be wounded physically and mentally. One

trillion dollars would have been saved. Iran would continue to be intimidated by Iraq and

far less powerful in the area today where it extends its influence into Lebanon, Gaza, and Iraq

itself. As many as one million Iraqis would be alive, uninjured, and still living in their nation.

The American military would not be so broken as to be beyond repair in some people's minds.

Most importantly, if Bush and company were not so focused on Iraq, perhaps they would have

used American soldiers at Tora Bora and killed bin Laden, Dr. Zawahiri, and Mullah Omar;

cutting the heads of al Qaeda and the Taliban and Afghanistan would be a different place today.

I don't know how the American people, after being lied to about Vietnam, allowed the

Iraq lie to fool them again. We are easily scared and perhaps fear was what Bush exploited

expertly. The corporate media made a fortune off the drums of war and was too scared to take

on a popular president. Going to war should not be an easy and facile decision. It should be

an act of last resort. Our nation has been shaken to its roots by unpopular wars based on lies.

Was "it" worth it? "It" was a badly conceived, badly planned, and badly prosecuted affair

which strengthened al Qaeda, Iran, the Taliban, and weakened us. "It" was a war of choice

which was unnecessary. "It" was a crime against humanity for which no one will ever be held

accountable. I hope "it" is the last time the American people fall for another patriotic lie.

Was "it" worth it to you? What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals.

Please send them to


Afghan President Hamid Karzai's brother, Mahmood, wants the U.S. taxpayer to

shore up Afghanistan's largest bank while depositors frantically rush to withdraw their

life savings. Mahmood Karzai also happens to be the third largest shareholder in Kabul

Bank. Does this guy have "testicular fortitude" or what?

Kabul Bank is in trouble because it wasn't a bank at all. It was a pile of money made

to look like a bank. The top share holder took hundreds of millions of dollars and invested

them in real estate in Dubai. (Mahmood Karzai lived in a palatial home in Dubai purchased

by the bank's administrators.) The same shareholder spent millions bankrolling the

presidential campaigns of Hamid Karzai and Kabul Bank is suspected of helping another

financial institution to launder drug money for al Qaeda and the Taliban. When the real estate

market crashed in Dubai, so did the bank's assets. The Afghan government has forced out

the top two bank shareholders, but the bank doesn't have enough cash to cover a "run".

Enter Mahmood (if you look up in the dictionary the definition of chutzpah, you will find

my picture) Karzai. He says America could and should support Kabul Bank to the last penny.

Karzai says bailing out the bank sure would help and he has moved out of the mansion in

Dubai as a show of good faith.

The U.S. says it has no intention of propping up the bank. You can imagine Mr. Karzai's

surprise when he heard the American decision. He watched the federal government bail out

A.I.G., Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo; as well as Fannie Mae

and Freddy Mac along with General Motors and Chrysler. He figured since we were still so

addled to support and prop up his corrupt brother, we would be willing to prop up Kabul Bank.

Go figure.

Afghanistan is a cesspool of corruption with President Karzai and his family right in

the middle. No progress has been made in cleaning it up. Things have gotten worse. Karzai

freed a close ally who was arrested for soliciting bribes and allegedly laundering money for

the Taliban and al Qaeda. His brother, Wallid, is still running Kandahar and taking a cut of

the opium industry in the region (according to the CIA, whose payroll he has been on for

years). Karzai is driving opponents into the arms of the Taliban. People who fought the

Taliban in the past are now allies because of the corruption presided over by the Karzai clan.

Despite outright thievery and financial malfeasance, Karzai's brother had the temerity to ask

for the U.S. to bail out his bank. By any metric, Afghanistan is a disaster with Karzai at the

center of most of its problems. Are Americans dying to support this guy and his criminal clan?

He is the best recruiting tool the Taliban possesses. If only he had the testicular fortitude of

his brother and cleaned up the mess, thereby creating the possibility the nation might be

governable. NOTE: Pakistan recently arrested a number of prominent Taliban leaders

because they were talking about making peace with the Afghan government. Pakistan doesn't

want peace because it might allow India to become too influential in the region. What was

Cindy Sheehan's question again? What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals.

Please send them to

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Did you know the Roman Catholic Church no longer subscribes to the belief we all

descended from Adam and Eve? I didn't know it either. Not that I believed in Adam and

Eve literally, but I figured I was once again on the outside of Catholic teaching when I

concluded that the two founding parents were metaphors for a larger group of original

humans. Turns out I'm pretty orthodox.

In 2004, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the old Office of the Inquisition)

issued a document entitled "Communion and Stewardship". The document repudiates the

previous teaching of Pope Pius XII and the Church which stated Catholics must believe Adam

and Eve were parents of the human race. "Communion and Stewardship" accepts the

conclusion of genomics that the level of genetic variation present in humans today rules out

a founding population with fewer than several thousand individuals. In other words, no Adam

and Eve, rather thousands or tens of thousands of Adams and Eves.

This has profound implications for one of the key tenets of Roman Catholic theology and

to a lesser extent Christian theology. It completely changes the concept of original sin.

Original sin was invented by St. Augustine, among other, to answer a critical question. If

Jesus's death and resurrection redeemed the world, why should anyone belong to or need

a church? If we are all redeemed, why do we need Christianity? The answer is original sin.

Yes, Jesus redeemed the world. However, the first sin committed by Adam and Eve has been

and continues to be passed down for each generation through the act of concupiscence (sex).

Since every human is conceived through sexual intercourse, each human is stained by "The"

original sin. You need the Church to baptize you to wipe that "original" sin away.

If you are not baptized, you can't get into heaven because of the original sin on your soul.

This belief led to the concept of Limbo (also discarded by the way). If a baby dies before

baptism, the child goes to Limbo because original sin prevents entry into heaven. The doctrine

of the Immaculate Conception owes its existence to original sin. Mary was conceived without

original sin and thus couldn't pass it on to Jesus. If, instead of Adam and Eve, there were

thousands of Adams and Eves who committed "The" original sin, what if you were descended

from a pair of the good Adam and Eve's who didn't eat the apple or listen to the snake?

Original sin would not have been passed along to you, would it?

Catholic parents would freak out if their baby wasn't baptized within weeks of birth.

What parent would want to consign a child to eternal Limbo because Great Aunt Sally couldn't

make it out for the baptism for a couple of months? Baptism turned into a magic ceremony

which wiped out the evil sin and opened the gates of heaven. (Baptism was originally only for

adults...when children began being baptized due to these fears, it changed the sacrament

dramatically.) Do you remember the episode of All In the Family where Archie sneaks off

with his grandson to a church to baptize him because his children were against it? It was

because of his fear the baby might not get into heaven without it. It was total superstition.

Original sin never made sense to me theologically. In St. John's gospel, Chapter Nine at

the pool of Siloam, Jesus's disciples encounter a blind man. They ask Jesus what sin he

committed or his father committed to be cursed with blindness? Jesus responds telling them

"...the sins of the father don't visit the son". You can't inherit sin. Sin is a purposeful act we

freely choose to perform. Children can't sin. Certainly newborn babies can't sin. So, why

would they be punished for something they did not do nor can they inherit?

"Communion and Stewardship" was never publicized and certainly no one I know of ever

heard anything about it from the pulpit. Was this by design or just by accident? What is clear

is if there were no two original parents from whom we inherit all our genetic traits and instead

there were thousands of Adams and thousands of Eves; there is no possible way we inherited

an original sin committed by two of them.

The good news (gospel) is that Jesus's death and resurrection did redeem us all. You don't

need anything more. If you want to be a Catholic, Protestant, Jew or Muslim, it's up to you.

You can join the community which best suits you and which lives out the radical philosophy

preached by the little Jewish carpenter from Nazareth. Heaven is open to all and baptism is

not a requirement. What is required, according to Matthew 25, is to feed the hungry, clothe

the naked, heal the sick, visit prisoners, and do whatever you can do for the least of your

brothers and sisters. What is required is to love your neighbor, turn the other cheek, forgive

an infinite number of times, and reject much of the modern culture our children will inherit.

This is much more demanding than having some water splashed on your forehead or being

dunked in a river.

If you are a fundamentalist, locked into Adam and Eve, original sin,, in the words of

Emily Latella..."never mind". If you haven't checked your brain at the door and picked up your

crayons, the news is good. You don't have to be afraid, God loves us all. What do you think?

I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to


I have no grand insight for you today. I put pen to paper because I am feeling

nostalgic and deprived. I am one of those people psychologists rail against because

food has always represented more than nutrition. Food contained comfort. Food meant

family gatherings and community. Food was a way to celebrate good news and cope with

bad news. Certain dishes my wife would create became traditional around various holidays

and events. Each of my children has a favorite food and sharing it with them is always a

joyous event. I know, I know, this is why we are having a crisis of obesity in this nation.

I view food as more than a collection of heat units which fuel my body. I miss a lot of

different kinds of food and the people, events and memories different concoctions evoke.

My wife created items for different days of the year. St. Patrick's Day means lean corned

beef. Irish bread (Oh how amazing it is toasted the next day!), cabbage and puffy clouds of

mashed potatoes. Christmas produces a variety of quiches for breakfast and a special

tenderloin of beef and Yorkshire pudding for dinner. Summertime means she will go to

the farmer's markets and get fresh peaches or berries to make a cobbler and strawberries

to put into shortcake. If we are celebrating a birthday or family event, homemade chocolate

chip cookies are always present and if she is in a very good mood, she makes an item for

Sunday brunch called a Swedish Tea Ring which is to die for.

My wife loves to make and eat soups from scratch. Her potato-leak, turkey and chicken

soups have ruined my children. They can't go out and order soup from a restaurant because

it never lives up to what they get at home. She loves salmon and crab and makes the best

chili I have ever had. (hint: She puts cinnamon sticks into it.) My children have foods they

love and I love to share with them. Fajitas, meat loaf, buffalo wings, nachos, enchiladas, and

burritos are some. If we go to the Tennessee Grill on Taravel, my son Connor loves their

corned beef hash, as did my dad. My daughter Darcy loves Chinese food and Chinese chicken

salad. Caitlin loves to make and consume various quiches and stew served with sourdough

French bread. My son, Eamon, usually wants a bacon cheeseburger. It is impossible to not

think of them and the times we shared all of these various delights. As for me, I truly miss

waffles and a good steak. Hash browns from Sam's restaurant on Pine St. are so good. A hot,

fresh, turkey sandwich from the Arguello supermarket is fantastic and bacon makes anything

taste better. Moshe's Pipic on Hayes St. has great Polish hot dogs and Houston's on the

Embarcadero has apple-brown Betty for dessert.

For better or for worse, food is associated with so many more needs and desires than just

filling up the gas tank with correct nutrition. It probably isn't healthy and we are told we

should separate food as a reward or comfort from food necessary to keeping us alive. I cannot

do that and I'm not sure I want to. I love thinking about a donut from Bob's on Polk St. just

coming out of the oil at 1:30am or driving by Krispy Kream when the hot light is on. I cannot

go to a movie without having buttered popcorn and I may be one of the few people who knows

where all the Weinerschnitzels are in the Bay Area so I can order a Polish dog on rye bread.

What makes all of these longings even more acute is the fact I haven't had any of these

delights in a number of years now; and I miss my family and friends who used to share so many

of these joys with me. I told you I was feeling nostalgic. What about you? What food evokes

memories? What haven't you eaten in a long time that you miss? What did you eat at family

gatherings? If there was one item you could have right now, what would it be? I welcome

your comments. Please send them to