Saturday, August 28, 2004

Civil Liberties worry President

Executive Order Establishing the President's Board on Safeguarding Americans' Civil Liberties

A while back I posted comments here and on some other blogs that I was concerned about what I and others see as an erosion of our Civil Liberties. The President of the U.S. signed four executive orders yesterday which included this one on Civil Liberties. He is establishing a board to oversee and guide the various government agencies as they expand efforts on terrorism which have already led to civil rights abuses. I just hope it works.

The other three executive orders, which are getting more attention, have to do with establishing a centralized intelligence system. As I said in my review of the 9/11 Commission report published in the Billings Outpost and linked below, having a system in which intelligence agencies talk to each other and share information about perceived data, and where each agency can gather information about suspected terrorists from the others is the only way to hope to prevent massive terrorist attacks. This, however, will impact civil liberties as we have already seen occur.

Giving the CIA power to regulate and centralize the intelligence systems of the U.S. is what I understood was happening with the establishment of the CIA back in 1947 (believe it or not, I was interested in that sort of thing even then; I mean what kid didn't like to read spy novels coming out of WWII?). One of the intelligence officers who testified before the 9/11 Commission, according to its report, commented that the CIA director only had had that power only when a sitting president had endowed him with such authority. Otherwise, if a President had relied on other sources within government, the CIA director was just another head of department and not a specially effective one.

The Executive Orders signed yesterday also include establishing a centralized counterterrorism agency and this may be the most important. Although those orders do not seem to be on line yet (and maybe they are classified as of now), the goal seems to be to set up an area where the spooks will talk to each other and share information.

Now all we have to do is be concerned about the specifics and the details. The devil is, as they say, in those details.

Another 1968? - 264 arrested in N.Y. cycle protest - Aug 28, 2004

Well, it's started. Bicyclists? Not even real loud. Can we prevent another 1968-like police riot? And wouldn't the Republicans like that?

Friday, August 27, 2004

It's all about communications

The Billings Outpost

David Crisp accepted this for The Billings Outpost. Thought I'd also put it here.

Monday, August 23, 2004

The Vietnam era as I remember it

I want to talk about the Vietnam War to review in my own mind as to what I think about the 40-year-old war that has become an issue in this election. I was in the military in the late 1950s. In fact, despite my almost four years in and honorable discharge from the Air Force, I am not considered a veteran because I was in between the end of the Korean War and the beginning of the Vietnam war. With that out of the way, let’s look at the history of that war.

Most people think the Vietnam war and our involvement in it began in the late 1950s and early 60s. Actually, we became, to some extent, involved in that war from the start. President Harry S. Truman edged us into it by pledging support to the French, our WWII allies, in their battles against Nationalist forces in their overseas colonies such as those of Ho Chi Minh in Indochina. At the same time, Truman and Marshall set up the containment policy on communism that lasted for about 45 years and eventually led to the end(?) of totalitarianism in Soviet Russia and, I think, an easing of it in China. Under this policy, the beginning of what we called the Cold War, people who attacked our democratic friends, and later just our friends, democratic or not, were immediately classed as communists and needed to be deterred. The communists did support many of them. It was an easy path to us and our resources. As we saw in Cuba later, however, the USSR would push as far as it could and then provide moral support.

Ho Chi Minh, however, was a different kettle of fish. He feared his Chinese neighbors, unlike the North Koreans. He did seek help from the USSR which provided supplies around the horn as it were, since there was no land connection between the two countries except across China which refused to allow passage. We sent some supplies to the French, who because they had been conquerors of Indochina in the colonial era and did not realize, as the British eventually did in India, that the colonial era had ended, kept fighting to retain their colonies. They did have a puppet government in Saigon and after the defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1955, they pulled out, leaving that government in charge, with a promise from Dwight Eisenhower to help prop it up.

In the meantime we were having our own domestic problems. Racial issues, such as schools and Jim Crow laws were under discussion; the feeling of well being by the middle classes was beginning to get edgy over domestic policies and scandals in government such as the serious 10%ers who charged that to open gates to influence in the administration and the farcical case of Nixon’s dog. So we were not aware of what we were getting pulled into. By the time I was discharged in 1959, we were aware that U.S. special forces, mostly Green Berets and their Air Force equivalents, were being assigned to accompany South Vietnamese forces into battle as “advisors.” We told each other we didn’t want to go there. The advisors weren’t supposed to shoot but we always wondered what would happen if they were attacked and didn’t defend themselves.

The rest of the country paid little attention to Vietnam. We had Russia to worry about: Khrushchev pounding his shoe on the desk at the U.N. and threatening to bury us. Our CIA planners got their balls busted at the Bay of Pigs. Then came the Cuban missile crisis in which the two super powers stood eyeball to eyeball before someone blinked and Russia pulled back the missiles it had planned to install in Cuba. We saw it all. Our television screens were filled with black and white (before most TV was in color) film of the missiles on the decks of the transports and the missile sites being erected in Cuba taken by Air Force reconnaissance. We saw them in our newspapers and in our news magazines. I remember sitting in my car in the sunlight on the Rimrocks above Billings listening to the President warn the Soviets to pull back and wondering if I would be recalled to active duty (I was in the so-called ready reserve) as so many of the men I’d served with who’d been in WWII had happen to them for Korea. So we didn’t pay much attention to Vietnam. We in the news business, as I was then, saw the infrequent stories out of Washington that more men had been assigned to Vietnam but if we carried those stories they got little reaction. We’d survived the missile crisis, according to some recent sources the closest the U.S. ever came to a nuclear confrontation (some folks believe the world came closer to one several years back when India and Pakistan were squaring off).

Then we had our President assassinated and a new President who did in his first 100 days a great deal toward attacking racial barriers. This created tension in the country. Despite rulings and executive actions, the country had a great deal of trouble dealing with this issue. It was a focusing point. And we had already starting having sitins and protests concerning that issue. Police in Alabama, for instance, used water hoses and police dogs on marchers who were doing nothing but walking down a street. There were other instances of protests met with force and the country was already becoming uglier. In addition, we had the creation of “The Pill” which brought sexual freedom to women and changed the atmosphere of the workplace. We were having trouble adapting to that as well.

In Vietnam, a corrupt royal regime was milking peasants who wanted only to live their lives unmolested. The rich were getting richer and the poor had children, as the old song says, who starved. In 1964, the regime which we had been propping up for several years to one extent or another, was in severe danger of falling and letting the nationalists/communists take over. Actually, it did fall several times and we propped up a new ruler. Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara committed combat troops in 1964 to maintain the south’s government. A number of people in Congress and out were not happy with it, but the choice was made. Eventually, the South Vietnamese army virtually crumbled and we were in full charge of the fighting. We actually seemed to have the Viet Cong, the south’s opposition, on the run, and then the north sent in well-trained troops and regained much of the control of the countryside. We were a bit like the British troops in our own revolution fighting a guerilla enemy. We’d thrust salients into the countryside and win battles and withdraw into the cities or armored fortresses until the next patrol or major effort. In the meantime, we were bombing the north (and apparently some of the adjacent countries) in an effort to block the Ho Chi Minh trail and having some good results, although we never did cut the route entirely.

At home, the opposition was mounting. Some of the same people who had been protesting to improve civil rights began to suggest that the use of resources and attention to Vietnam was acting against resources we needed to improve living conditions here. In addition, Lyndon Johnson was saying that we could have guns, for Vietnam, and butter, for domestic issues. Inflation soared. A 10 cent can of Campbell's Tomato Soup, as an example might be 11 cents the next time you went to the store and 13 cents two weeks later and it didn’t stop. (These are not actual figures, but illustrate the general problem.) Our wages were not going up that fast. So the middle class was becoming disillusioned.

Johnson and McNamara got caught in lies and he resigned. The best hope to bring some peace to our world, many of us thought, was the attorney general, John Kennedy’s brother, Robert. Then he and Martin Luther King were gunned down. We had different attitudes about the war take center stage. Eugene McCarthy led the protesters’ viewpoint. Richard Nixon had a plan for settling the war with “honor.” Hubert H. Humphrey, many of us thought, would bring the focus back to domestic issues. Then came the tumultuous 1968 Democrat convention in Chicago. Today, many will claim it a riot by protesters. It was not. It seemed to be a riot by armored police who had personal attitudes to take out on the marchers, much like the Montgomery police did on the civil rights marchers. There was no excuse for what happened. Even so, the American people, I think, still supported the war. Then came Kent State University. In the spring of 1969, students were protesting the war and, as I recall, threatening to sit in at the campus president’s office. He called in the National Guard made up basically of untrained kids in uniform. The trained ones were in Vietnam. The marchers were heckling and throwing small objects, stones, perhaps, although that never really was proven. The soldiers had live ammunition and fired at the students, killing five.

That was really the end of the Vietnam War. From that point on the issue was never whether we were going to stay on, but when we would get out “with honor” since Richard Nixon had been elected. My newspaper publisher was essentially a conservative and a supporter of the war but, as I remember, he called me in on a Saturday to write the first editorial against the Vietnam war that we had ever printed. I also wrote a signed column that appeared in the same issue, calling on us to get out of Vietnam because it had become such a divisive issue in this country and we weren’t having much success in winning it.

I have read that veterans say that if we had not had the protests in this country following the Tet offensive that the North Vietnamese had been ready to sue for peace. I doubt that. They may have withdrawn into the north for a breather and a refurbishment of military strength. They had doubted since the beginning, even before protests, that we would stay the course. And we would have had to stay over there and prop up yet another South Vietnamese government without any indication of a good result. Much of what was going on in Saigon seemed to outside observers as if the rulers were convinced the war would end badly and were trying to take care of their postwar future. Sometimes we doubted that there even would have been a South Vietnamese government or army if we had not been there. However, I remain convinced that the American will to conduct that war ended at Kent State in the spring of 1969. We still fought, but there was a lot of bitterness about that. The protests escalated. But, by 1970, when John Kerry threw out his medals, the protests were just pushing a decision already reached. The only caveat was Nixon’s (and Kissinger’s) insistence on “honor,” something I would suggest Nixon never understood.

At times, I think we won our political objectives in that war. Our leaders told us about the domino theory that if Vietnam fell all of southeast Asia would as well. Containment eventually did bring down the Communist government in the USSR. And we did contain the communists in Indochina for something like 27 years. At other times I’m not so sure. Indonesia later became Communist without adding any strength to Russia or China. Now its Communist government is gone. Maybe Vietnam was not really an effective part of the containment strategy. Would a Ho Chi Minh victory have given the Kremlin Southeast Asia, as people argued at the time? Or would it only have strengthened Russia’s hand against China with which it was already having issues? Or would it have made no difference to anyone but the Vietnamese?

Friday, August 20, 2004

Defend your Constitutional Rights

Molly Ivins didn’t make it last night. Rather disappointing after waiting several months, but at least I didn’t have to take her books down to get them signed. But Greg Keeler was there and Matthew Rothschild, the editor of Progressive Magazine founded over 90 years ago by Wisconsin Senator Robert La Follette, took Molly’s place. He was an excellent fill in. The evening was sponsored by the Montana Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the outfit most of us will call upon if we get unfairly treated by government bureaucracy. And before you say you never will, remember that you probably don’t have the clout (or the money) to carry your case all the way through the courts. Even the American Nazi Party called on the ACLU to defend its right to peaceable assembly years ago, something I supported but I’m still not sure I was comfortable with. (Incidentally, I went through Skokie, Ill., about 5 p.m. the day that rally took place and it was the quietest town on a weekday that I’ve ever seen.)

Back to last night. Keeler, the musician from Bozeman, opened the program with songs that brought applause from the audience that maybe half filled the Alberta Bair Theatre and then some. Some of his titles indicate the temper of his songs: “Watch out for Beatnicks, Communists and Aliens”, based on the 1950s with updates to today and comments about visitors from space; “Watch out for Mr. Temper”, and Chicken Hawk with its unforgettable chorus, “you walk the walk and talk the talk, but you never fought a war” that targeted today’s leaders.

Then came Rothschild. He might not have been quite as funny as Molly would have been, but we laughed during his introduction as he made various comments, including one in which Molly has said, that when Baby Bush (my words) was in Amish country and said “he believed God was speaking through him” that she didn’t believe that God had that bad of a grasp on word construction, phrasing and punctuation (this is a paraphrase).

Rothschild talked a bit about Bush’s Iraq war and noted that the President has said God is on our side in Iraq. Since, Rothschild said, Osama Bin Laden also believes that God is on his side, it’s a tug of war and “It’s not the type of game the President of the United States should be playing.”

Then he got down to the meat of his talk about civil liberties. He said that as far as our Constitutional rights are concerned “this is the most dangerous crowd that’s been in the White House since Nixon prowled the halls.” And he added, “Cheney had his conscience surgically removed 30 years ago.”

He talked of the use of fear to answer all criticism and noted that Rumsfeld and others had been on Iraq’s case for years. And he noted that Ashcroft’s patriot act is already causing problems in the U.S., citing invasions by subpoena of students in Missouri, speakers in St. Louis, and demands for lists of participants in antiwar discussions at Drake University and (believe it or not) the University of Texas. (The Gazoo here had an article this morning where Ashcroft denies that this was interfering with rights, saying they had tips that the people involved were suspected of being or of knowing people who might cause violent demonstrations at the Democratic Convention. And I've got a bridge I'll sell you.) And Rothschild noted that if Patriot Act II is passed, natural-born American citizens can have their citizenship revoked if they are suspected of terrorism.

The Patriot Act is just one stick, Rothschild said. The other is by edict where the President has signed rules that allow for “order and safety at public demonstrations” which involve protesters at Bush and Cheney rallies being put behind bars for refusing to go to free speech zones designated for those who oppose the present policies. One person told the police who wanted him to move, “I thought America was a Free Speech zone” and wound up paying a fine for disorderly conduct. Like ancient kings, the President doesn’t want to be reminded that not everyone is on his side. (Seems to me we went there, did that and bought the T-shirt in the 60s.) There is a rule that if there is a war on terror, Rothschild said, then a protest against that war is an act of terror under the new rules.

He noted that some cities, counties and states have formed the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and order their police forces not to enforce the Patriot Act, including seven in Montana. (Billings is not one of them.) He also said that the federal government under the new terrorist act laws can come into your home, ransack it, go on your computer and find out what you have there and your e.mails and leave without telling you they were even there. (Is everyone out there happy with that?)

Rothschild said that there is in our country “a real hostility to our core constitutional freedoms.” And, he noted, “there is a real fear that Bush will steal the election.” He pointed to several references within the last few months about the possibility of martial law being imposed if there is another terrorist attack. He cited comments by retired general Tommy Franks, an aide to Condi Rice, and several others.

Someone pointed out afterwards that there had been a mention on NPR yesterday of WMDs in Iran, sort of like we heard about over Iraq. And at the reception, Rothschild also noted that he had omitted, not by design, any of the talk in D.C. about the possibility of canceling or delaying this fall’s election. Although it has dropped off recently, it was a very real discussion just a few months ago.

He concluded his formal talk: “We need to protect our civil liberties.”

And I’ll have to admit it was great being in the company of fellow liberals. They are by far nicer people that the conservatives I know personally and face to face.

P.S. It may be remedied Saturday or Sunday, but I thought it was interesting that The Gazoo didn’t carry a story about Rothschild’s talk in this morning’s paper. Sent an e.mail to editor Steve Prozinski, but haven’t heard back yet. As an update, the Gazette hasn't carried anything about it. That paper is getting worse and worse. It sells news space apparently to businesses and to people grieving for lost loved ones (the obit page) and doesn't give a damn what it covers.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Judges are activitists, so what's your point?

In this campaign season, I expect that we will hear a lot of railing against activist courts in Montana, particularly in the light of the vote we will have on same sex marriage. I wish it would go away. I am so tired of having to define people by what goes on between their waists and their knees. The whole issue is one of control, not of morals or traditions. And, I think, after having made the effort and spent the money to pass the thing, it will all be thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

But before and after that happens we, in Montana, will hear a lot about activism in the courts. It is interesting to me that activism, in that sense, seems to relate to the defending the rights of individuals against the tyranny of the majority. That is the same thing that the American Civil Liberties Union is concerned with. Apparently Americans would rather let their rights degrade under the feet of their neighbors than accept that each of us is an individual and should be treated that way. Or that we have rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

It always surprises me that most Americans know so little history. It shouldn’t because every survey says that they don’t, but it still astounds me. History is fascinating. It is astounding, for instance, how Jefferson got past his own thinking about limited government to go out and buy Louisiana. We can only wonder again, what would have happened if two brilliant men, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, has not been destroyed by a duel. How often are rebels’ abilities honed by the very rulers they are rebelling against: George Washington was a British (colonial) officer at one time. Andrew Johnson angered Abraham Lincoln when he showed up drunk at Abe’s second inaugural. And I had a history professor as a freshman at the University of Montana who shocked us wide-eyed rubes from the small towns (and from some of the bigger ones in Montana), when he referred to one of the European conflicts as the “War of the three Whores.”

History is the story of people and how they act. It is the dirty laundry, the gossip of the ages. Although it is based on Frances Marion, the swamp fox of the Revolution, the movie The Patriot is fiction, but it gives a real feeling for the pressures of the time, and the way war impacts the individuals. The slogan for the Revolution was not “no taxes” but “no taxes without representation” and that is a major change in meaning. That is history.

Tradition is not history. History is based on facts and they can extend for the known duration of the human race. Or they can be a month ago. Tradition is always limited in its views. For instance, we have been fulminating since the 1960s in this country on what makes up a marriage. The idea that people could get together in a commune and have a family in it was challenged by backers of the traditional “nuclear” family. Yet many people don’t realize that tradition is only a few centuries old. If you look at the link under “the history of marriage” on this blog, you realize that same sex marriage has a history that seems almost as long as that of man and woman. And man and woman is a history only because that seems to be the only way to conceive and rear children successfully. Although two female mice recently conceived a child without a male.

So, back to activist courts. In Montana we have had activist courts since we were founded. Most people don’t realize it because they were so used to seeing the courts go along with “the company.” If it wore the semblance of a corporation, it won in our courts. In recent years, our courts have been able to see beyond “the company” to where the right is. But I suspect with all the malarkey about activism in the courts, we may see some change to that in this election.

And the history of this country has been laid down by “activist” courts and many of us, I won’t say all because some people would rather have a dictatorial government, have liked the result, since most of our oxen were gored in one way or the other in the process. Even John Marshall, the great chief justice who laid the groundwork for the federal court system, was an activist in the first days of our country. He laid down the basis for the judicial review of legislation by the courts. And he was appointed by the first President Adams.

The Supreme Court later did some other sharp things that were not popular, that today would have been activism, such as setting out the basis for a national currency rather than a system of individual state currencies. It also ruled that states could not interfere with interstate commerce. It also did some stupid things: it ruled that Congress could not halt the spread of slavery into territories (in the Dred Scott case) and it also ruled in favor of southern Jim Crow laws. But both of those were later reversed. It finally ruled against separate school systems which had resulted in poor educations for both black and white. It prevented school children from being coerced into religious belief. It ruled against Executive Privilege in cases that did not involve the military or government security, which the current activist court has turned over. It has taken the side of the individuals to show displeasure with their government.

Looking at the history of the “activist” Supreme Court, we could say that it has done each time what it thinks would strengthen this country. In the first years, the court ruled for the central government in several key issues; later in the 19th Century it ruled against labor unions (wrongly) and against individuals challenging state governments. At one point it ruled that a corporation is legally a person. In the 20th Century it began the job of moving away from protecting the organization to protecting the rights of the individuals over the rights of those organizations.

Today, the “activist” courts have taken steps against the alienation of one group of people by men in reversed collars or with black books in their hands who stand for organizations that say they speak for a god. Each of them says he wants marriage to be what they say it is. Yet, one of those groups, the catholics, do not recognize a marriage by another group if it concerns one of its members who has been divorced, at least without a fee for an annulment. Yet a marriage is only what its practitioners say it is. Some people say they are without benefit of clergy or state official and they are. No matter what the state says about common law marriages, if a man and a woman file a joint federal income tax return they will have to have a divorce before they can again file separately. And marriage between a man and a woman is becoming rarer. More and more people are living separately.

So our society is moving in the direction of the individual rights which can be circumscribed by the state and federal governments (see the first 10 Amendments and the 14th) only within certain boundaries. We need the “activist” courts to make sure no one oversteps those boundaries.

History or Folk Lore

I went out to Best Buy with my son-in-law over the weekend. While he was shopping I was browsing DVDs. A packet of several disks caught my eye called Mysteries of the Bible. I thought it would be something along the history channel series of the same name. But the description of the contents didn’t seem to connect. Basically, it said that the archeological findings have confirmed the events of the Bible. And of course, that’s true. But if I had been reading it as a believer, I would have followed to a conclusion that the archeology also confirmed god. And that ain’t so.

The bible actually has two systems within it. It is the history and the literature/beliefs/folk lore of a people from their foundation as a separate entity in the tribes of Abraham out of Ur. As history it tells of events that were passed through an oral tradition sometimes strong and sometimes weak, as most oral traditions must be. As literature/beliefs/folklore it tells of how a god evolved from a personal spirit into the cultural glue of a people. History and mythology march along side by side in an oral tradition not even preliminarily codified in the written word until after 500 BCE and, more likely, around 200 BCE. It was not really finally codified in the written form it is in now until at least 70 years CE and later.

All archeology has done is confirm that some of the places mentioned in the bible did exist. The ruins have been found of places cited by the books. But the archeology does not confirm the existence of a god as believers would claim. All it says is that those who told the stories were placing them in known places. For instance, Jericho did exist. And it did seem that its wall was destroyed probably in an earthquake. But there is a dispute in the archeological world as to when it fell and if it occurred after the Israelites came into the promised land or much later. And, of course, no one has any real idea of when Moses came out of Egypt or who the Pharaoh was who died in the Red Sea (or the Sea of Reeds). Some people have even suggested that the Hyksos were involved in the story of Moses. Recently I heard a reference to a Ramses as the Pharaoh of the Exodus and I wondered where they got that. He is only called Pharaoh in the book and no one knows who he might have been. They Egyptians never wrote about the Exodus. Of course, they may have expunged that account from their clay bricks, as they were known to do when a government was overthrown.

Now, let us go a step farther. Everyone knows that 19 terrorists flew four planes into U.S. structures (and one pasture) on Sept. 11, 2001. Let us say that someone, maybe Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell, teaches his followers that his god was punishing the American people for some alleged fault. And they carry the story on with them, always ended the spoken or written version of the story of the Twin Towers by saying it was god’s punishment, it was the hand of god. (We know there were prophets of doom in the bible who kept warming the Hebrews of the hand of god.)

Our civilization collapses. Books are burned or their acid paper pages dissolve. Our electronic record keeping is lost to deterioration of media. (Is a computer disc liberal?) We have left only an oral tradition which includes the religious impulse we all have within us. Pearl Harbor, Vietnam, the Twin Towers, other events which carved great holes in our psyches are remembered as told by Robertson or Falwell. How many generations would it take for the simple version to become: The towers fell, it was the hand of god?

Archeologists might find traces of the towers. But would the archeological remains be proof of the hand of god? I think not.

Here we go again!

Archaeologists find John the Baptist's cave -

Looks as if the James bone box-kind of discussion is coming in again. Now they claim they've found a John the Baptist baptismal site. I think they'd better find better traces of what's here. The wall murals were done some 400 years after the event, give or take a bit. I think before anyone rushes off to make claims, they need some carbon dating and a few more artifacts. In our Sunday school and church texts he was always shown baptizing in a river. Were we wrong?

Sunday, August 15, 2004

I knew the rich were satanic

News: "richer"

Can you believe this? And Ireland used to be the poorest country in the European union.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Television you may have missed

Two limited summer television series ended Sunday and Monday nights. One was the 4400 on A&E and the other was the Grid on TNT. These were both excellent shows with some problems. In the 4400 a group of people who had disappeared over a number of years (4400 of them, to be exact) is abruptly returned to earth. Why? By the end of the series it is obvious they have been sent back for a purpose, but what is it?

The Grid shows the NSC, the FBI and the CIA along with Britain's MI5 and 6 chasing terrorists. As might be expected, the good guys win (that's us in the good old US of A) but the Brits have to put with some sarin incidents. One terrorist I had really hoped would turn out to be a double agent actually turned out to be a bad guy, but he didn't kill Americans or Brits, just Arab anti-terrorists so he might be reformed sometime in the future.

The series weren't perfect. Both of them seemed to be edited by the same man who was a graduate of the old Laugh In school of editing, lots of quick jumps, some that had to have identifications (in the Grid) as to where we were now. It seemed to me to be jerky, but I've read that a lot of people who grew up on television and MTV, in particular, don't have long attention spans so maybe he was addressing this. In the other case, both were a bit too predictable for someone who has followed both genres as long as I have. But that doesn't mean they weren't new to others. However, one scene in the Grid seemed straight of the last few minutes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Both of them left enough loose ends dangling that they may be brought back in mid-year, or next summer. If you can stand the editing, they are pretty good.

SUV to you too

I have a complaint and a suggestion. SUVs and pickups are just too darn big. They block us drivers of smaller cars from getting a clear shot at the highways. When I pull up in a right turn lane at an intersection, preparing to make a free right turn, invariably an SUV or a pickup pulls up in the lane to my left. That would be bad enough, but these drivers, who have a much clearer line of sight than we in smaller cars, always pull far enough into the intersection that I cannot see if anybody's coming in the lane into which I want to turn without pulling far enough out into the intersection that I'm likely to get hit. So I wait an eternity for the green light while other cars stack up behind me, also wanting to make a right turn because of one monster in the left lane that wants to go straight or turn left and has to wait for the green before it can do anything. In addition, when I am in a parking lot, such as Target or Costco, and park my car where there are similar-sized cars beside me, invariably when I come out my car is sandwiched between two monsters. So I back out without being able to see what traffic is coming down the aisle.

I don't think there is anything we can do about monsters at intersections except ask for a little more consideration. Please don't pull way out into the intersection when you can't make a turn. And my suggestion is that stores that have parking lots set aside space in them for parking SUVs and pickups and other space for parking cars.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Requiem for the 20th Century


1. Entrance

Eternal light gleams cold on them; cold
bluer than an ice pack's heart,
absolute blue. Yet, in the interstices,
Big Bang leavings heat a micro more than Nothing.
The dead wander these empty spaces.
The wreckages of planets and of comets,
of tygers and tiger moths
shapechange into butterflies and monarchs,
wind up the spirals of creation
until, in the deep holes of space,
Nothing again occurs.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Life, The Universe, and Everything: Islam vs. The West

Life, The Universe, and Everything: Islam vs. The West

This is a very interesting take on Islam.

Friday, August 06, 2004

More lies


The title says it all.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

They did lie and keep lying

AlterNet: War on Iraq: They Knew!

Why did the Bush administration like to us about the reasons for the Iraqi war? What were the real reasons behind the Iraqi war. This piece spells out the lies, but doesn't answer the key questions: What was the reason for invading Iraq? Why did we give up on Afghanistan and Al Qaeda? I keep repeating that in an era of lesser technical intelligence ability, we had proof that Russia was shipping missiles to Cuba. But we had no visual evidence presented to us by our leaders and when they told us that Iraq posed a serious threat to us, they provided no proof. We had proof at Pearl Harbor. We had proof at the 38th Parallel. We even had proof at Dien Ben Phu in Vietnam. Our allies were in trouble. We had proof when Hussein invaded Kuwait. But we were never presented any proof that he had weapons of mass destruction or ties to Bin Laden. And how anyone who had paid any attention to the politics of the Middle East could believe that Iraq under Hussein and Bin Laden or their representatives could have met in the same room without an explosion I don't know. Anyway, read this link. And then vote, if you want to, for a liar.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

The history of marriage

I can't add anything to this. But it's history, not confusion. Click on the counterpunch link for the full story.

This is for Pandora

My youngest brother and I went down memory lane about the cars our folks had when we grew up. I learned to drive on a 1936 green, stick-shift chevy that my folks had since it was new. It was kind of a lime green with a trunk that bumped out in the back and running boards. I remember on one trip we took that the guide at Gettysburg stood on the running board and steered us through the park. My folks drove that car to New York City when Dad was transferred from Fort Peck Dam with the Army Corps of Engineers and drove it back several times before WWII started.

I think I became socially attuned during the drives because we passed through what I now realize must have been Busby and Lame Deer (we also visited Mount Rushmore which wasn’t yet finished, but had a visitors’ center.) The Indian villages were slums of a kind I had never seen before. It scared me as well as making me wonder how people could live that way. Now I think I know. (I also remember getting on a Jim Crow bus in Washington, D.C., when I was eight and heading for the very back seat of the bus where I liked to sit and being called back and having everyone laugh at me. When it was explained to me why I couldn’t sit in my favorite seat I thought that was very unfair.) Dad drove that car back to Montana, starting on VJ Day when everything was closed so he had nothing to eat but a few snacks he found at a service station that remained open. My Uncle Paul, who’d been a mechanic in a WWII armored division that saw heavy fighting later fixed it up. He may have seen to it as well that we got new tires (recaps at that time.)

But back to learning to drive. My Dad would come up to Worden after work to pick me up after football practice and I remember one night after practice that Dad let me drive the old Chevy home (I had just turned 15 I think and I hadn’t had driver’s training yet, but I got it the next summer—our school system then was advanced that way). He told me to take what my brother remembers as the township road, which was a long and wide graveled road heading toward the river, and I was doing fine. But it was getting into dusk, so I had the headlights on and a car was coming toward us.

At that time, the dimmer switch was on the floorboard to the left of the clutch. I tried to find it with my foot and I couldn’t so I stuck my head down to look for it and promptly turned the wheel to the right. After a second or two, my Dad said something along the lines of “Chuck you might want to get back on the road.” I looked up and we were in the ditch heading for a mailbox. He may also have told me to do it gradually, that I don’t remember, but I do recall guiding us back on the road slowly and missing the mailbox. He never said anything to me and I drove until we had to get back on the road to go into Huntley. And I have just now started to wonder what the driver of that oncoming car thought.

Monday, August 02, 2004


Why is a question I don't like to ask, but I have to here. Why is that we seem to be drawing our so-called morality from the part of the country that historically may be considered to have the worst record of it? I'm talking about the southeast states where even after slavery, there were huge acts that we consider immoral today and where some of the rhetoric of today (think Trent Lott) may indicate there's not much difference in basic attitude. But the Baptist and other fundamentalist morality that seems to have a grip on much of the country today (by the polls of those supporting George W. Bush) has its roots in the Southern Baptists and other evangelicals who make up so much of southern mythology. I base my question on the bush polls because it seems to me they indicate the force behind his campaigns. And maybe that's my own naivete. I just can't believe the man comes across to anyone who is not looking to him religiously as anything but a phony.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

What about obligations?

Most of us feel plenty victimized in this world when our rights get stepped on. And most of us know what our rights are. They are spelled out in the first 10 amendments to our Constitution, and Congress has added a lot of laws to enforce them. But what about obligations? Do each of us have obligations? What would happen if we had a Bill of Obligations just as we have a Bill of Rights? What would you want in that list? We had an interesting discussion on this at the Billings Association of Humanists today. What would each of us include? What responsibilities do we have to ourselves? to society? to each other? What obligations do we have for honesty, citizenship, responsibility in the broader sense, etc.? For instance, if we don't wear a helmet, or a seat belt, what responsibilities do we have if we get into an accident and get hurt? What responsibilities do we bear toward what we use in common? We had some interesting answers. It is an interesting topic to think about.


Well, we did it finally. I went out to the west end a few days ago, after all the hype about Krispy Kremes, to buy some for Barb and me. I had almost bought some when we were in California in April, but gave it up since I figures the birthday celebration would make us sweet enough. Why waist the Krispy Kremes out there? So we waited until the place opened here and waisted ourselves at home. The Krispy Kremes were good (although they aren't real crispy when they are fresh and they get a little tough later), but I expect I won't make many trips out to the west end for more of them. They remind me a lot of the old Spudnuts that we had in Billings. But they stayed soft from the time of purchase until they were gone (although that might not have taken as long to finish as the Krispy Kremes did. I may be nostalgia, of which I've been accused lately, but it seems to me that the Spudnuts were bigger. I didn't put a ruler to either them or the new stuff, anyway. I was glad earlier that we had tried Starbucks out on the coast, so I didn't have to run out there and get some of that mud. I much prefer the stuff you get at Mountain Mud, or Perkins on 27th, or the Travel Cafe, or the new City Brew on north 27th street. I've been told that Starbucks uses a very dark roast and I guess I don't like my coffee that dark, just all day. Anyway, the Krispy Kreme adventure reminded me of the first time that I remember tasting doughnuts that were not the stale powdered sugar puffs that you got in packs of, I think, six from Sweetheart or one of the other bakeries that didn't come every day to the small towns around here. We were up in Charlo visiting my dad's parents who lived in the Northern Pacific station house there since he was the agent. Grandpa took my next youngest brother and me up to Polson to see the regatta, the only time I've ever seen the pumpkin seeds, the little speedboats, race around. I think Polson still has the regatta. Across the street from the park along the dam where the races took place, was a doughnut shop where you could stand on the sidewalk and watch the doughnuts being made. It seems to me that the dough came down a long stick, dropped off into boiling fat, when around a track and came out on the inside of the shop. I think I'd still be fascinated by one of those machines. Then we went inside and had a couple of doughnuts each and then went back to Charlo. I didn't make it back to Polson for several years and when I did, on my own, the doughnut shop was gone. But they were good in memory, and solid enough that you could dunk them in coffee or milk and chew, not drink.

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