Archive for the Republican Candidates Category


In 1948, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein wrote the unforgettable musical “South Pacific.” It starred Ezio Pinza and Mary Martin as lovers. Among the melodic offerings were such things as “Some Enchanted Evening,” and “This Nearly Was Mine.” Slipped into this epiphany was a song called, “You’ve Got to be Taught.” This little song was an anti-hatred offering. It has great meaning today, nearly 60 years later. Let me try to show you what I mean.

“You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.”

George Bush, Commander in Chief, Chief Executive, and Chief Decider for the whole world, speaks repeatedly of “the enemy.” I suspect that “The enemy” are the people opposing American forces in Iraq, but Bush never gives them a name. It is simply “the enemy.” We killed so many enemy soldiers today and we imprisoned some more enemies. I presume all of those are members of “the enemy” forces. But Bush never associates them with the name of a country or organization. They are just “the enemy.” I am an old soldier and I have trouble figuring out who is “the enemy.” Is “the enemy” people who disagree with Bush? Is the New York Times an “enemy”? Is “the enemy” all of the Arabs? In all of his pronouncements, George Bush has never named the enemy. We are simply asked to take it on faith that there is an enemy out there that we must wipe out. At this point, I am inclined to believe that the Arab race is in fact the enemy that Bush has in mind, but that is simply an old soldier’s intuition.

“You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.”

Richard Cheney, the Vice President of the United States, is often viewed as the man who led George Bush into invading Iraq. In his speeches to right-wing audiences and in his interviews with the most right-wing of all radio commentators, Cheney invariably refers to “radical Islamic elements who would establish a political caliphate extending from Spain through the Far East.” Now let us suppose that you are a 19- or 20-year-old American soldier in Iraq and you see an Arab come down the street. You do not speak his language and he does not speak yours. Are you going to thrust your rifle in his face and inquire of him, “Are you a radical Muslim element who is bent on establishing a caliphate from here to there?”

Of course, the Arab, not understanding your question, will shrug his shoulders, and under current conditions that makes him guilty and may cause him to have his head blown off. The American soldier may well think that he is carrying out the wishes of his commanders when he blows the head off of a young Arab man because he has failed to answer the question about being a radical Islamic Arab. It would seem, under the Cheney Doctrine, that every Arab is a radical one rushing headlong into establishing a caliphate. Being an Arab in Baghdad is just tough luck for our “enemies.”

“You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!”

Now let us consider that the young soldiers coming in to serve in the Army and the Marine Corps are taught by older soldiers who are not particularly literate. I can tell you this because I spent a good amount of time under those illiterate or nearly illiterate soldiers. They are the leaders who instruct our troops on who the enemy is. They are the ones who instruct the young troops to kick down doors and to humiliate the male members in front of their families.

And unfortunately, we recently learned that our troops are the ones committing the atrocities against the enemy which includes women and children. Simply put, the enemy is the Arab, those radical Muslim Islamists who wish to establish the caliphate. It must be the Arabs because they are only people opposing us.

The soldiers are melded into what is called a “comprehensive unit” and given a mission in Iraq to wipe out anything before them. In the Marine Corps, the motto is “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy.” When 19- or 20-year-old soldiers and marines get hyped up with this comprehensive unit business, and then perceive that the Commander in Chief and the Vice President have named a non-Christian enemy, it is fairly clear that the enemy is none other than all of the Arab race. So you see these young soldiers have got to be taught to hate. And it comes as no surprise whatsoever that our troops are involved in atrocities against Arab civilians. Hatred is a terrible thing and it is being taught to our young soldiers. Because of the leaders proclaiming that the enemy is our source of trouble, it is no wonder that these soldiers, imbued with the faith, find that every Arab needs to be killed. The original general in Iraq, General Tommy Franks, said repeatedly of Arab deaths that “We don’t do Iraqi body counts.”

Children who witness our conduct will hate us for the rest of their lives. And who can blame them?

I am an old soldier who understands a little bit about warfare and a little bit about hatred. I suppose for a long time, many of us came close to hating the Germans because of the operations of the Nazi war machine in WWII. Somewhere in the 1970s, I went to Munich with my friend Howard Davis, who likes to drink beer before noon. I do not care for beer, morning, noon, or night, but nonetheless we walked into this beer garden where there were tables about waist high where the beer could be placed and consumed while standing. A local came along and joined us. After a while he pointed to me and inquired, “Amerikanisher soldat?” I answered in flawless German, “Ja.” He then inquired, “POW?” Again, I answered in flawless German, “Ja.” He then went on to tell me in passable English that he had been a POW of the English for more than three years where he learned the English language. Before long it became clear that he was a very nice fellow. From that time on, whatever dislike I had of the German race tended to disappear. So you see the lesson in this case is that there is great merit in having beer gardens, even though I don’t drink much beer.

As a non-believer, for many years I have been an objective observer of the prejudices and hatreds that occur in religious organizations. The Moslems hate the Christians and the Jews and want to wipe them all out. I suspect that there is not much love lost on the Christian side as it relates to the Moslems. I am a fortunate guy in that my parents who attended primitive churches, such as the Nazarenes, the Pentecostals, and the Free-Will Baptists, simply referred to people in other faiths as those who could not join them in heaven. Significantly, my unschooled parents never taught me to hate. They felt sorry for all those Jews, Catholics, Episcopalians, et. al. who would not be admitted to heaven. But hatred was never part of that equation for me. But a good part of organized religion seems to be devoted to dislike or even unstated hatred.

So you see, hatred is a miserable human condition. It is a destructive condition but I fear that it is going to be with us for the rest of time. While it will be with us perhaps for many years to come, I suspect that Hammerstein and Rodgers were absolutely right when they contended in their little song that “You have to be taught.” That, my friends, is what George Bush is teaching. That, my friends, is precisely what Richard Cheney is teaching. And that, my friends, is what the Army and Marine Corps are teaching these young soldiers. In the long run, hatred will consume such soldiers.

In any case, it is instructive to review a song like “You’ve got to be taught.” It was written following the most horrible combat that the world had ever seen, that being WWII. Now, if you believe Mr. Bush and
Mr. Cheney, we are engaged in a war on terror. Again, as an old soldier, I suspect that when history is written, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney will be remembered for having taught us to hate. What a terrible epitaph.

June 26, 2006


First time I’ve heard it, but I’m a fan. I think “To hate all the people your relatives hate” is the line that stands out to me because it forces a “social” issue to be considered at a very personal level. “Society” isn’t the reason that you hate people — by and large, the culprits are probably your parents. Now that’s maybe a little bit different in the case of war, where dehumanization of the enemy is advanced as a military tactic to make it easier to pull the trigger, but I think your standard run-of-the-mill inherited hate is the more common problem.

It’s a sad irony that the start of the Caliphate that Cheney was talking about ended up forming out of the power vacuum we created with our series of cowboy invasions. And now Trump has just gotten it in his head that bombing things makes him popular, so god knows what comes next.


As most of you know, this old essayist and former solder has long believed that George Bush is a vile creature who is attempting to finish what Nixon started, which is to turn the United States into a Fascist theocracy. The litany goes on. A war brought on by Bush’s lying. The squandering of our treasury. The tax give-away to the wealthiest Americans. Running up debts that my grandchildren will have to pay. The attempted dismantling of social programs, such as Social Security, and Medicare. Then there is the Patriot Act under which Bush wants to read our incoming and outgoing mail to say nothing of snooping at libraries to see what books are read. There are also the Gitmo prisoners which a Department of Justice spokesman says we can keep locked up in “perpetuity.”

Simply put, Bush is a vile man who fled duty to his country in the Vietnam era by invoking his parents’ and grandparents’ influence to get him a safe slot in the Texas National Guard. If it had not been for his name, Bush would have been kicked out of the National Guard for dereliction of duty.

Bush’s vileness is exceeded only by Chaney, a loathsome creature. Chaney took five deferments to avoid military service saying that such service did not fit his “priorities.” Loathsome only begins to describe Chaney.

There is one other thought that should cause outrage among those who prize the rule of law. Bush contends that his presidency trumps all other considerations. It trumps, for example, established law. Bush becomes the Fascist dictator who decrees who shall be held in prison perpetually. All of this flows from Bush’s contention that he alone can name a citizen an enemy combatant which means imprisonment, no access to legal assistance with visits from family and friends banished. He has done this to Juan Padilla, an American citizen, for nearly three years now. When the courts, including the Supreme Court, rule against Bush, he stonewalls the rule of law and continues to hold that his bizarre dictatorship should prevail. He is supported by Alberto Gonzales who originated the concept. Bush, Cheney and Gonzales seek a return to the conditions that prevailed during the Middle Ages.

Aside from the myriad of Bush’s failings, there is an overwhelming belief in many American minds that Bush’s intellectual ability is severely limited. It is his paucity of intellectual ability that leads to his bullying. When he can’t do the bullying himself, he leans on gut fighters like Bernard Kerik, John Bolton and the thrice married Guiliani. Bush worships their bullying, mistaking it for toughness. An intellectually limited man such as Bush is unable to call on logic or reason. Perhaps we should feel sorry for dimwits who confuse bullying with reasoned thought. But this dimwit has killed 100,000 Iraqis to say nothing of more than 1700 Americans as well as dead troops from the so called Coalition. Being dumb is one thing. When thousands of people are murdered because of Bush’s ignorance, that is quite another.

As evidence of Bush’s intellectual limitations, you may notice that for every event, Bush has a script that he must read from. When he departs from his script, disaster awaits him. When he complained that the public “misunderestimates” him, he is on familiar ground. Earlier in June when Amnesty International said our prisoner of war facilities were a “gulag,” Bush and his lapel pin wearing flag pals went ballistic. They had a script that said, “Absurd.” Bush, Chaney, Rumsfeld and Madame Rice all read the required word, “Absurd.” Chaney adlibbed “Ridiculous.” Way to go, Chaney.

Ah, but soon Bush got tangled up in his jock strap. He attempted to become a lexicographer.

Leaving his script, he was attempting to say that prisoners at Gitmo hated us and would tell all kinds of lies if it hurt the U.S. Bush said about the prisoners, “People that had been trained in some instances to DISASSEMBLE – that means, not to tell the truth.” He got back on script by saying, “And so it was an absurd report. It just is. I mean it really is.”

When my bicycle needs fixing, it is DISASSEMBLED. When water won’t go down the drain, plumbers DISASSEMBLE the sink. When the lawn mower fails, it is DISASSEMBLED. My best guess is that the Yale and Harvard “educated” Bush was trying out a new word that was miles from his vocabulary. Perhaps the word he was groping at was DISSEMBLE, but he missed by a mile. No other public figure has such a desire to exhibit his gross ignorance.

There is no advertising salesman in the world who would ask the public relations authorities at Yale or Harvard to sponsor an ad saying, “We educated George Bush.” My guess is, that if such an ad salesman showed up on their campuses, he would be shot, and no jury outside of Mississippi would even make an attempt to convict them.

There is one other failing which Karl Rove and the White House inner circle must recognize. When Bush went to London at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth, he refused an invitation to address the British Parliament. He did so because of heckling remarks coming from the audience. Bush’s brain simply cannot stand interruptions and disagreements. He has no capacity to deal with dissenters as he reads his speech. It is all he can do to pronounce the words that are written for him. And those words are kept small so he can pronounce them. NUC-U-LAR, for example.

Obviously, after a night or so at Buckingham Palace, Bush refrained from walking the streets of London because he knew he would meet a storm of protestors. So the President of the U.S. visiting his ancestral home in England, slipped in and slipped out in a well guarded convoy to his tax supported aircraft. Obviously, he gave no press interviews because British journalists don’t lie down as in the United States. Bush’s trip to see the Queen was a mysterious affair.

Bush’s intellectual shortcomings are reflected in his campaigns and in his drive to upset the Social Security program. Attendance at a Bush rally is a matter that calls for strict controls. The invitees are exclusively Republican. They have been vetted and are prepared to ask Bush during the discussion period, “Mr. President, why are you so nice? And why is your wife so nice? And we love your daughters.” This garbage passes for political discourse. After each meeting, Bush who is preaching exclusively to the choir, pronounces the meeting a great success that will make our democracy stronger.

The simple fact is that Bush’s intellectual ability is so severely limited that he will avoid those who seek to ask him a real question.

Do you remember during the 2004 presidential debates, Bush wore a radio receiver on his body. He was so dumb that he had to have help in spite of the risk that the watching public would know about his ignorance.

Bush’s father was accused of waking up on third base and believing he had hit a triple. His son is quite a bit worse. By holding his “preach to the choir, Republican-only meetings,” Bush is very much like the baseball player who hits line drives and home runs in BATTING PRACTICE. Batting practice pitchers are always instructed to throw pitches down the middle of the plate so that the hitter can practice hitting to right, pulling the ball or he may want to improve his bunting. These are medium fastballs that are in baseball terminology, “grooved.” Curve balls, sliders and fade-away pitches are banished during batting practice.

Bush is like a batting practice hitter. Line drives to all fields off batting practice pitchers make Bush feel superior. Who said that a “C” minus student couldn’t be as good as the Phi Beta Kappa toadies. If Bush has trouble handling the medium speed fast balls, the pitcher slows it down. Bush hits to all fields. Bush says that he is better than anyone else. Ah, but when Bush goes up to the plate in a real game, he says “NUC-U-LAR” and “DISASSEMBLE” and “MISUNDERESTIMATE.” He strikes out!

The bottom line is that the current president of this country is a wealthy moron. Intellectually, he might be equipped to be a bullying patrolman in a rural town in Texas. Ah, but his gutlessness might even get in the way on such an assignment. Maybe he could qualify as a guard at a jail in the environs of Waxahachie, Texas, but no one can be sure. All we know is that Bush has no intellectual capacity to be the Chief Executive and the Commander in Chief of the American military. And that is the world’s hard luck.

That loathsome SOB Chaney is here to save the day. In the midst of all the bombings and deaths in Iraq, old loathsome has said, “The insurgency is in its last throes.” Bush never disagreed. There is one oversight in that the insurgents seem to have a dramatically opposite view. Perhaps if the insurgents could say “DISASSEMBLE” in Arabic, they might agree with Chaney. But the insurgents have a better grasp of their language than Bush and Chaney have of English.

Calvin Trillin, who writes poetry about current events had this to say about Chaney and the “last throes” in the July 4, issue of The Nation.


When rockets fly and battle smoke is thick
It’s good to hear from “Five Deferments Dick.”
He’s always sure. He knows what warfare is –
Enough to know it’s not for him or his.
Insurgents somehow, though they’re in the throes,
Kill more GIs – but no one Cheney knows.

Bush and Chaney who predicted that the Iraqis would welcome us with roses and chocolates, are now reduced to lamely contending that the insurgency is in its last throes. They might wish to tell a mother or a father or a wife or a sweetheart, that if we had avoided this ill conceived war, their soldier boy would not have died an agonizing death. As the born-again Bush would say, “We need to disassemble the last throes of this Holy war. Let us pray.”

June 20, 2005

Pop can always be counted on to put together a solid metaphor. I like the idea of a batting practice slugger. And yet, I’m compelled to extend it to our current Republican overlord. He shows up to batting practice (when he’s not at his country club in Florida), drops the bat on his own foot, blames the media, then storms off back to Florida. This most recent thing is a good example, where he wanted to distract the country from his administration’s increasingly obvious ties to Russia, so he accused Obama of wiretapping him. When no evidence could be found for this claim, the best he can do is to say that by “wiretapping” he didn’t mean “wiretapping.” Nobody made him tweet those tweets, just like nobody made him brag about sexual assault. He does these things unprompted but somehow continues to get away with them, usually by distracting everyone with yet another scandal. I wonder if that cycle is sustainable.


The breadth of the title of this essay might lead you to believe that it is a formidable undertaking.  But when taken by its individual parts it is not necessarily so formidable operation.  Let us take the pissant part to start. 

The word pissant is far from a vulgarity.  It identifies a living creature who has been condemned to blindness for all of its life.  The pissant is a gnat-like creature who seeks warmth, either from animals or from the human skin.  In terms of insects that fly, it ranks at the bottom of the aviary creatures.  My belief is that it ranks somewhere between the troublesome gnat and the bedbug.

Pissants exist in droves rather than in singularity.  As far as I can determine, the pissants have no function in this life.  Perhaps the main function is as an adjective used by such people such as my mother to describe a preacher as being a pissant one.  Bear in mind that my mother was a religious person but pissantry was a common part of the rural speech pattern.   My mother used “country speak” for much of her discourse.

At this point, I have told you all I know about pissants and pissantries.

The second part of this title has to do with politicians.  I would not want you to believe that all politicians are pissants.  But when push comes to shove, professional politicians all exhibit overt signs of pissantry to casual observers such as myself.  Nowhere is this tendency toward pissantry more evident than it is in the current negotiation over whether or not there will be a government shutdown.  Simply put, I suspect that professional politicians who regard decency as a fact of life will come to an agreement to avoid a government shutdown.

When the Tea Party people are added to the mix and tend to bind the hands of the Republican Speaker of the House, he has very little alternative but to accommodate them.  I am dictating these lines on Friday, April 8, which is the Ides of March or some other mythical creature but at midnight tonight the government will run out of money and will shut down.

The Tea Party folks are undisciplined and amateurish.  They are new to this game and they are headstrong in the power that has been allotted to them.  But they are a formidable force of the American electorate for one good reason.  Under the American system, we have primaries devoted only to one party or the other.  For example the primary vote involving the Republican Party is reserved for Republicans.  The same is true of the Democratic vote.  There is no crossover vote.  The primaries are held at unconventional times of the year and only the greatly interested tend to vote in them.  From this, the Tea Party people derive their strength.

For example, Dick Lugar, the senior Senator from Indiana, has been a stalwart on defense and foreign relations for many years.  But this year Senator Lugar is facing a challenge from the Tea Party that reflects on his voting patterns.  In the western part of this country, we have Orrin Hatch, who has been a Senator from Utah for as long as I can remember.  But Orrin Hatch is tacking to the right so as not to offend the Tea Party challengers.

Coming back to pissantry, there was an occasion when Dick Lugar proposed a bill that seemed to displease the former administration of George W. Bush.  When it came time to vote, Dick Lugar did not stand by his convictions but rather he voted against his own bill.  That signifies to me a preposterous degree of pissantry.

As you know, the Representatives in the House are forced to seek election every two years.  It now is clear that Speaker of the House John Boehner is tacking to the right to avoid a challenge in the next election of 2012.  This means that Boehner is standing on shaky ground as he negotiates the settlement having to do with not requiring the government to shut down this evening.

At this point it is quite clear that ideology is intruding its ugly head into this process of shutting the government down.  If the Tea Party representatives had their way, they would shut the government down merely to show their displeasure with the democratic process of funding the government.  As an added thought aside from shutting the government down, the Tea Party people would love to reverse every aspect of the social liberalism such as the right of women to control their own bodies.  In effect, they wish to do away with the Roe v. Wade decision and would define females as second class citizens.

The Tea Party and a high proportion of the Republicans want to control women’s bodies by failing to fund Planned Parenthood.  Planned Parenthood has been one of my favorite charities because it has to do with much more than abortions.  It also has to do with women’s health issues, particularly poor women.  If there is no Planned Parenthood, we will have more unplanned babies and hence more abortions.  The stupidity of this rider to the negotiations is atrocious.  But that is where we are, and Obama and Harry Reid are trying to do their best to lead us on an adult level of conversation.  I might add parenthetically that I am afraid that Obama will enjoy another period of ballessness and will admit the rider on the ban on Planned Parenthood. 

In summarizing my views about politicians, after a long period of observation since 1928, I conclude that not all politicians are pissants but as time has gone on, fewer and fewer of them escape this definition.  If I were asked, “Are all politicians pissants?” I would have to say that with rare exceptions, that is the state of the record.

Now we deal with cupidity.  Cupidity as defined by the dictionaries has much to do with the acquisition of wealth.  It is the acquisition of wealth by any means necessary.  The dictionary definition is, “an inordinate desire for wealth: avarice and greed.”  It is now clear that the Republicans, particularly as represented by the Tea Party people, wish to impose their will on the rest of the American electorate.  Obviously I contend that their desire for wealth also extends to the political spectrum.   Are all politicians guilty of cupidity?  Some are and some are not.  When push comes to shove, I would say that more often than not, politicians, particularly when they face a primary challenge, are much more inclined toward cupidity.

In this formidable essay, I have the feeling that we have not been fair to the pissants.  We lump them together with politicians and cupidity which gives the pissants a bad name.  And it follows forthwith that I formally apologize to all respectable pissants who may in the future buzz around my head.  I know that pissants are blind, but then, so am I.  So we are starting from the same place.  If you detect a degree of cynicism about politicians in my writing, you are probably right.  The American political system is screwed up beyond all recognition.  Perhaps if the American political system can be reconciled, which I doubt will ever happen, pissants and Uncle Ezra’s blindness may be addressed at that time.  But don’t hold your breath.


April 8, 2011
Essay 542


Kevin’s commentary: Read another of Pop’s essays concerning pissants here.

In any event, I’m not seeing any way around the current system short of appointing Ezra Carr as supreme dictator of these United States, which I feel is a position that he may not take. Perhaps he has learned from the recently-ex-Pope that taking positions of extreme power when you are rather advanced in age is a poor idea. But hopefully he has not.


Richard Cheney is the rotund and sparsely beloved Vice President of the United States. The civilized world regards him with no affection whatsoever.

During the last week of November, Mr. Cheney had a bout with atrial fibrillation. This is a cardiac condition that, if left untreated, could result in grave damage to the heart muscle and perhaps injury or death to the person who owns that heart muscle. Atrial fib is a common occurrence among cardiac patients. Once it is properly diagnosed it can be remedied by having a cardiologist apply an electric current to the heart and shock it back into its proper rhythm. To the person who owns a heart with atrial fib, the sensation is that of an engine missing fire on several cylinders and perhaps backfiring on some of the others. All things considered, atrial fib is not a desirable condition.

Mr. Cheney has had several bouts with atrial fib. The latest diagnosis was made and, after he was transported to a hospital and given the shock treatment, the rhythm in his heart was restored. From that point forward, we are told that his heart purred like a three-cylinder engine or like a Lawn Boy power mower. According to White House sources, the same people who brought you weapons of mass destruction and “mission accomplished,” Mr. Cheney went home from the hospital, shaved, and appeared in his office at his usual 7:00 AM starting time. It is quite likely that Mr. Cheney appeared at his office to guard against Congressman Henry Waxman making further inroads on the Valerie Plame CIA outing case. Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald had promised Waxman that he would give him the papers in that case. But we find now that Cheney and the White House have blocked that move.

In any case, Mr. Cheney, with his heart rhythm fully restored, resumed thinking about the war in Iraq. You may recall that at the beginning, Mr. Cheney assured us that we would be welcomed as liberators and further down the line, he counseled us that the insurgency was in its final throes. I suppose that a person in his position, with all the pressures on him, is entitled to make a few monumental mistakes. However, when Mr. Cheney entered the vice presidency, he found that the Bush administration started to pee away trillions of dollars that the Clinton administration had in the Treasury. Mr. Cheney assured the rest of us, including the financial community, that “deficits don’t matter.”

At the outset, I believed Mr. Cheney implicitly. I concluded that if deficits don’t matter, my quarterly payment of income tax to the government would fall in that category of non-applicable deficits. At the beginning, the Feds were polite to me, pointing out that if I did not make my contribution, they would be unable to pay salaries to the President and the Vice President and to members of Congress. The people at the Internal Revenue Service were not enthusiastic about my reference to Mr. Cheney’s “deficits don’t matter.” In the end, they proposed to send the FBI and the CIA to Short Hills to have me flown to Syria or Egypt, where waterboarding is merely the start of an “enhanced interrogation procedure.”

When my real estate taxes came due here in Millburn Township, I asked the tax collector, Jerry Viturello, “If deficits don’t matter, why am I making this payment to you?” He replied that if I failed to make the payment, the Millburn cops would be there shortly to have me thrown out on White Oak Ridge Road, a very busy street.

So you see that if deficits don’t matter, it must apply only to big shots, such as Mr. Cheney and his cohorts. After having been rebuffed by the federal government and by the Millburn tax collector, I called my old friend Jake Birdsall, who is the resident philosopher in the city government of a town called Peculiar, Missouri. Jake is a gravedigger by trade, but he lectures at the Peculiar County Community College on philosophy. I told Jake, the philosopher/gravedigger, all of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Cheney’s belief that deficits don’t matter. Almost immediately, Jake offered his cogent viewpoint to me. Jake said, “Any man who says that deficits don’t matter is as full of spit as a Christmas goose.” Obviously, I had to sanitize the operative word in the early part of that sentence because my essays are used as textbooks in the Peculiar County Seminary. We can’t have prospective men of the cloth uttering vulgarities that have been with us since the beginning of time. So the final word is that, as Jake framed it, “Anyone who says that deficits don’t matter is as full of spit as a Christmas goose.” Jake also pointed out that deficits have consequences, terrible consequences.

We are learning about those consequences right now. The value of our dollar is so low that we will soon be down there with the Mexican peso. The British pound that used to trade at one dollar and a half now costs us two dollars. The European Euro which opened at about seventy cents now takes a dollar and a quarter to buy one. The Canadian dollar, which in my lifetime has never exceeded seventy-two or seventy-three cents, is now worth ten or fifteen cents more than the American dollar. Jake the philosopher, is absolutely correct about Mr. Cheney being as full of spit as a Christmas goose. He is even more correct when he says that attitudes like Cheney’s are utter madness. Every time we buy gasoline, wine, cheese, or any other commodity, those consequences are obvious.

So much for Mr. Cheney, his atrial fib, and Jake’s assessment of his financial acumen.

At the moment there are two other individuals of American renown who come to mind at this sitting in the first week of December. The first is Senator Larry Craig, the Senior Senator from the great state of Idaho. I am sure that you are aware that Senator Craig has confessed to and tried to “unconfess” the act of making a homosexual pass at an undercover officer in a Minneapolis airport men’s room. When he tried to “unconfess” that act, he merely intensified the efforts of the Boise Idaho Statesman, a newspaper, to investigate whether he was in fact a homosexual. Please bear in mind that this corner here has no debate about homosexuality. They can lead their gay life and I can lead mine without interference from anyone. The point is that Senator Craig has uniformly voted against every bill that would even remotely benefit gay people. Simply put, Craig is a hypocrite in the extreme.

Now Craig has stirred up a hornet’s nest, and the newspaper from the capital city of Idaho has produced at least four or five men who have told the newspaper that they had sexual encounters with the great and glorious Senator Craig. They not only told of those encounters but they described the details, which would not make the approved reading list in the Peculiar County Seminary. In point of fact, Craig has been caught dead to rights. All of this simply goes to show that Jake, the gravedigger/philosopher, was absolutely right when he said, “Actions have consequences.” In the Craig case, those consequences might involve his departure from public life earlier than the January 2009 date that he had proposed.

There is one other thought about a man who has stirred up the newspapers and is now suffering the consequences. That of course would be Rudolph Giuliani. Mr. Giuliani, who is the reputed leader among voters for the Republican nomination for President in 2008, is in fact a sordid spectacle among New Yorkers who can remember his term in office. While he was in office, he had an affair with his so-called “public relations director,” whom he installed in a high-level position in the New York City Visitor’s Bureau. She remains there today. But beyond that, Mr. Giuliani entered into an affair with a woman who had a summer house in the Hamptons. The affair went on for quite some time and she is now his third wife.

Under the police laws of New York City, the mayor and his wife and children are entitled to round-the-clock protection by the police department. Mr. Giuliani has now stirred up the New York Daily News, a Republican paper, to the point where it is reporting on all of the events that took place during the grand affair with the current Mrs. Giuliani. Having twenty-four-hour protection by the New York City police department is not without some cost. While Mr. Giuliani was snuggling and cooing with Mrs. Nathan, his mistress, in her condo in the Hamptons, the New York City police detectives who accompanied him were collecting regular and overtime pay. According to receipts, those same cops were treating themselves to man-sized steaks and chops.

Obviously, the New York city police department became involved in substantial expenses while they were guarding Mr. Giuliani while he billed and cooed with Mrs. Nathan in the Hamptons. To cover these expenses, the costs were assigned to obscure New York City departments. For example, the Loft Commission had more than its share. The Loft Commission, I suppose, has to do with regulations concerning building lofts. Now that these expenditures have come to light, there is a scent of blood in the water. Rudy’s explanation for these expenses is thoroughly lame. He contends that the New York police department is slow in paying its bills but that the Loft Commission, for example, is quick to pay its bills. Hence he had the expenditures sent to that commission with the people who run lofts eventually trying to collect their money from the police department. Ray Kelly, the current Police Commissioner in New York, says that this is preposterous. Equally preposterous is Giuliani’s claim that it was the police department, not himself, that suggested round-the-clock protection for Mrs. Nathan shortly after this sordid affair began.

The point that is being made here is the same one with respect to Cheney and deficits and with Senator Craig and his hypocrisy. In the first place, “you don’t stir up a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.” Mark Twain made those remarks in the year 1900. They are as appropriate today as they were then.

Beyond buying ink by the barrel, there are consequences. Giuliani’s poll readings have been taking a beating in the race for the Republican nomination for the presidency. When the full extent of Giuliani’s gaffs become obvious to the rest of the United States, it is my belief that he will have a difficult time in becoming the Republican nominee for the presidency.

Before this essay ends, it should be pointed out that while he was romancing Mrs. Nathan, Giuliani held a news conference during which he fired his wife. Donna Hanover heard the news and was stupefied. But in fact he shed her as his second wife and took on the twice-divorced Mrs. Nathan. Losing a wife as lovely as Donna Hanover is another consequence of his actions.

Two other thoughts come to mind here. One involves the former police commissioner, Bernie Kerik, who is now under a sixteen-count indictment from the federal government. If there is a more disreputable character in this saga, it would be Bernie Kerik. But he has endorsed Mr. Giuliani’s story of assigning expenditures to an obscure commission within the city government. Curiously, the Comptroller says it just ain’t so.

Secondly, Mr. Giuliani has earned the endorsement of Pat Robertson, the preacher who says that he regularly talks to God. At the time of the September 11 disaster, Pat Robertson announced that God permitted the destruction of the World Trade Center because New York City permitted homosexuals to live their lives without discrimination from the authorities. According to Robertson, that’s why the World Trade Center was knocked down and why the Pentagon had its damage too.
Mr. Giuliani has gladly accepted the endorsement of Pat Robertson and even went to his headquarters in Virginia to get it. Does this man’s pandering have no limit?

There you have, in the cases of Cheney, Craig, and Giuliani, three instances where consequences have mattered. For every action, there is a reaction, which is the principle that brother Newton proposed at the beginning of time. Upon closer examination, this old former soldier and essayist must conclude that all three of those clowns are indeed as full of spit as a Christmas goose.

December 3, 2007
Essay 275
Kevin’s commentary: In an essay full of awful people, I’m glad we got to be introduced to the philosodigger/graveosopher. He seems like a great dude and I would have been happy for him to take over the the job of pretty much any politician mentioned above.


I hope that my readers will not think less of me when I offer a few words of praise of sanity in the American relationship with those who practice the Muslim faith. During the month of September, pious adherents of that faith are celebrating the month-long holiday of Ramadan. Ramadan requires that the faithful consume no water or food from sunrise until sunset. Additionally, they are barred from having sexual intercourse during those daylight hours. It goes without saying that a debaucherer such as myself could never succeed as a pious believer in the faith of Islam. But Ramadan will be finished by September 30 and then we will have to resume figuring out how we will live with those who aspire to a life in Paradise.

In recent years, the U. S. relationship with Islamic countries has become frayed largely as a result of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But more to the point is the thought expressed by some politicians that Americans have much to fear from those who believe in the Muslim faith.

Fear has been a centerpiece in the elections of 2000, 2004, 2006, and now in 2008. The central theme in this essay is the thought that those who practice the Muslim faith have one hell of a lot more to fear from the aggressions of the Americans than we have to fear from a Muslim takeover in this country.

If we start at the beginning, we will find that the prophet Mohammed was born in 571. One way or another he preached a faith that converted many to his line of reasoning. Today we find that there is belief in his philosophy among the Arab nations as well as many other nations and groups. It seems clear to an objective observer such as myself that when the Americans invaded Iraq, the Muslims considered it an attack on their faith. For years now, we have maintained a presence of more than 140,000 troops in Iraq and there is a promise by the Republican contender for the presidency that we will be there for dozens of more years.

In the meantime we are reminded endlessly by George Bush, Richard Cheney, and John McCain that we should all fear the “radical Islamic extremists” who are going to defeat our armies and do away with the American civilization. For a time Mr. Bush added the word Fascist at the end of the radical Islamic extremist charge, until he belatedly found out that the Fascist movement was established by none other than Benito Mussolini, the dictator of Italy, who was a practicing Catholic. So now we are warned, mostly by John McCain, of the radical Islamic extremist challenge that threatens to bring America to its knees.

May I suggest that there are many other reasons for the Americans to be brought to their knees, such as the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush administration. Then there are the housing crisis, the failures in the banking industry, the stock market slide, and the thought that Mr. Bush’s successor, Mr. McCain, seems to be more interested in lipstick and pigs than he is in governing.

For many years, we enjoyed a peaceful existence with those who subscribe to the Muslim faith. During World War II, there were pictures of Franklin Roosevelt entertaining King Saud of Saudi Arabia on a battleship. During that era, oil cost between $5 and $10 per barrel. When I flew in combat in North Africa, I carried a letter from the American government, written in Arabic and English, which was designed to persuade local Arabs to take downed American flyers back to American hands rather than to turn them over to the Germans. I have never known of a report that suggests that downed American flyers were ever turned over to the Germans by local Arabs; they were usually returned to American hands. Our relations with the Muslims were friendly, even through the administration of George Herbert Walker Bush’s presidency. The Clinton presidency had the same warm relations with the Islamic nations.

But now in the era of the radical Islamic extremist movement enunciated by Bush and McCain, we have oil in excess of $100 a barrel and we have made enemies throughout the Muslim world. A few of the Muslims are beheading our prisoners instead of returning them to friendly hands.

I suspect that I am as patriotic as any other American. It is quite true that I enjoyed the days when I could walk on the streets of Muslim cities without fear of being kidnapped or killed. That is probably no longer true. All of this has flowed from the thought that we have declared war on the Muslims by contending that a good number of them are radical Islamic extremists. The simple fact is that we can not go around the Muslim world and stick our fingers in their eyes and expect them to respect or love us. It has been my lot in life to enjoy the hospitality of Muslims living in Rabat in the west to Bahrain in the east. I have no intention of ever making a pilgrimage to Mecca. But I believe that fairness indicates that Muslims deserve our respect. If we attempt to recreate the Crusades of 1000 years ago, the Muslims will resist and will no longer be friendly to us. Perhaps when George Bush goes away, sanity may return once again in our relations with the Islamic nations. If John McCain succeeds George Bush, all bets are off. There will be prolonged warfare for the foreseeable future.

Again I hold that, as an objective observer and as an American as well, the Muslims have one hell of a lot more to fear from our aggression than we have to fear from their domination of the affairs of the great state of Texas for example. The sooner we leave Iraq, it is clear that our relations with the Muslims will improve. Our occupation there is self-defeating.

I hope that I have injected some sanity into this debate about radical Islamic extremism. As long as the current administration holds power, it is doubtful that sanity will prevail. But the celebration of Ramadan is supposed to redeem our souls. Perhaps with redemption we may also enjoy a degree of saner relations with the Muslims in the future.

September 9, 2008
Essay 337
Kevin’s commentary: People get riled up easily, and it’s much easier to generalize and hate than it is to learn and understand. This essay sends some mixed messages, though. I feel like not being categorically awful to people of a different faith isn’t important because of oil prices or because it makes us feel safe but rather solely because it’s the right thing to do.

Thank heaven McCain didn’t make it to the oval office.


In July of 1951, I accepted a transfer from St. Louis to Kansas City.  I knew that Kansas City had hot weather in July and other summer months, but St. Louis was no bargain either.  One of my colleagues told me that in Kansas City during the summer, it gets “hotter than the hubs of Hell.”  Another colleague told me that in Kansas City, it “gets hotter than a ‘by-god.’”  I had already been to Kansas City on a few occasions and I knew about the weather there during the summer, but this was a promotion and I knew that the new job went with the territory.  If it was hotter than the hubs of Hell, so be it.

Now, more than 55 years later, I am still learning about what goes with the territory as it relates to my radio listening and political speeches.  Last Thursday night, I made a terrible mistake in that I listened to John McCain’s speech accepting the Republican nomination for President instead of continuing to listen to a baseball play-by-play of the New York Mets.  It was a blunder of the first order.  On one hand, McCain urged me to go fight somebody on 30 some odd occasions and then he took something like eight minutes or thereabouts to talk about being shot down and serving as a prisoner of war.  In that section of his speech where he urged us all to go fight somebody, he left me slightly confused.  Presumably the object of McCain’s unhappiness had to do with the way things are in Washington.  This came at the close of McCain’s remarks and was delivered by his yelling at the audience.  People who write speeches call the conclusion of such a speech the “peroration.”  I gather that McCain was angry with lobbyists.  I thought to myself that I could return to my former offices on K Street in Washington and look up a lobbyist and sock him in the jaw.  But McCain has so many lobbyists on his payroll that it might be one of his lobbyists that I socked.  So I sit here today urgently prepared to fight somebody in accordance with McCain’s wishes but I don’t know who my opponent might be.

Shortly before McCain reached his peroration, he spent perhaps seven or eight minutes talking about being shot down and being a prisoner of war.  That part of McCain’s speech seemed to me to cross the line.  For a man to cite the unpleasantness of being a prisoner of war to ask for your votes offends those of us who have also been shot down and who have served time as a POW.  Beyond all that, it is an oxymoronic thought that because a man is shot down, he deserves your vote to be President of the United States.  Those two things simply don’t compute.

The question before the house is whether McCain has the competence to carry out the office of the presidency of the United States, not whether he was shot down or served a term as a POW.  The fact that he was shot down is irrelevant as it pertains to the American presidency.

If you look at McCain’s career, you will find that his grandfather and his father were both admirals in the United States Navy.  When it became time for this John McCain to attend a college, he was given a free ride at the United States Naval Academy.  When such a person graduates from the academy, he is obliged to serve a term in the active forces of the United States Navy.  It simply goes with the territory.

Then John McCain learned to fly a fighter plane and he should have known what the price would be if he were shot down.  On his 23rd mission, McCain was indeed shot down and taken as a prisoner of war.  That is entirely usual because it goes with the territory.  We were at war with the Vietnamese and they had McCain fall right into their laps.  McCain had to know that when you bomb people and machine gun them, they will be angry with you.  When they shoot your plane down, they will take you prisoner.  It simply goes with the territory.

Al Goebel, a former colleague of mine, had a pungent thought on this sort of subject.  Goebel was a pompous fellow who had flown B-29 aircraft with the 20th Air Force in the Pacific.  On one occasion, Goebel had remarked that when you put on that uniform, it wasn’t just for parades or to impress the girls.  It meant that from time to time people were going to shoot at you and that they might kill you or take you prisoner.  It simply went with the territory.  On this occasion, Al Goebel was entirely right.  But I will tell you that during the 30 years that I knew him, there were few other things that we agreed on.

Four days after the McCain speech, I am still baffled as to why this man would lower himself to recite his experiences as a POW in the thought that it would translate into votes.  I will stipulate that McCain is a brave man and that he endured unspeakable torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese.  What I will not stipulate is that his experience in that respect qualifies him to be President of the United States.  Again, it just doesn’t go with the territory.

Some of you may remember Bob Dole, who was the long-time Republican senator from Kansas.  Near the end of the Second World War, Dole was injured by German gunfire and was forced to spend more than two years in Army hospitals attempting to recuperate.  This happened in the Po Valley of northern Italy.  The fact that Dole was a hero was never concealed from the American public but when Dole ran for president, he did not cite his suffering as a means of asking people to vote for him.  Dole is a retrogressive thinker and I have no use for his brand of politics.  During his presidential campaign, there were others who told his story but Dole never tried to milk tears from the electorate’s eyes because of pity for him.  Dole was in the infantry and took a terrible injury but he knew that this was a distinct possibility.  It simply went with the territory.  But apparently McCain does not share that view.

In the same Po Valley in northern Italy, the senior senator from Hawaii, Daniel K. Inouye, was injured and lost his left arm all the way up to the armpit.  On top of Inouye’s injury, he also suffered the discrimination against the Japanese during World War II.  There was an occasion when he went into a barber shop with only one arm and the barber refused to cut his hair.  The barber said, “We don’t cut no Jap hair here.”  Inouye served with a Japanese battalion that was assigned the toughest missions in Italy.  Now Inouye knew that he could be injured and that he would suffer discrimination when he returned home.  He also knew that it went with the territory.  Apparently, however, John McCain has really not learned that lesson.

I suppose I should know better than to hear a political speech when there is a ball game on the radio.  The fact that I have been interested in political matters in this country for 80 years or so is no real excuse.  I should have known that to listen to the blatherings of any politician would anger me but I did it anyway.  So I suppose that if you are going to listen to political speeches, there is a price to pay.  As we say, it simply goes with the territory.

And as for Kansas City, the summer out there was hotter than a by-god or also hotter than the hubs of Hell.

The political conventions are now finished, which means that political junkies such as myself may return to more noble pursuits such as listening to baseball broadcasts.  Happiness has to do with baseball, our national sport.  That happiness with baseball goes with the territory and is much to be preferred to listening to political speeches.


September 9, 2008
Essay 336
Kevin’s commentary: I’ve never heard of something being hotter than a by-god before. I’m struggling to even interpret what a by-god could possibly be. The closest I can get is maybe it was so hot, that the expression “By God, it’s hot!” is an understatement? Who the hell knows.

In other news, maybe Pop is reading McCain’s claims the wrong way. Instead of saying that being a POW doesn’t qualify you to be president, Pop should take the stance that since he was also a POW, you should have written him in on the ballot.


Those of you who are familiar with the nuances of American southern speech patterns will instantly recognize the term “uppity.” It is used most often as an adjective with the nouns that follow being “colored folks,” “blacks,” or, even worse, the vulgar term that rhymes with bigger. My uneducated guess is that when the term “uppity” is used, it applies about 90 to 95% of the time to people of Afro-American parentage.

David Gergen, who was a counselor to both the elder George Bush and Bill Clinton, and who has southern roots, recognized the term “uppity” instantly. In comments broadcast on August 3, David Gergen explained that the term was used always in a derogatory fashion. Gergen, who is apolitical judging by his having served both the former Bush administration and the Clinton administration, can hardly be accused of bias with respect to the current political campaign. It is Gergen’s belief that the McCain campaign is not only playing the race card but is accusing Obama of being uppity as well.

I am familiar with that term and recognize that it has to do with anyone who attempts to rise above his station in life. In the instant case, we are being told by the McCain campaign that for Obama to meet with the President of France, the Prime Ministers of Germany and England, and the Presidents of Israel and the Palestine Authority as well as King Abdullah of Jordan, is a case of being uppity. When other American senators, all white, meet with all of these authorities, they are never accused of being uppity. They are seen as merely doing their jobs. But with Barack Obama, a different measurement is applied and he is considered to be uppity as a mere United States Senator calling on, for example, the President of France. The ultimate facts in this case are that Obama is a black man who also happens to be a Democrat, which stirs great anger in the souls of unreconstructed southerners.

Southerners are not the only ones to share these feelings. McCain’s campaign is, unfortunately, now being run by the same people who in the year 2000 accused McCain himself of fathering a black child. The fact is that he simply adopted a Bangladeshi child whose complexion was quite dark. But these are the people to whom McCain has, unfortunately, turned over his campaign.

In the last week or so, after the conclusion of the Obama trip abroad, they have accused Obama of trying to be a celebrity. Apparently being a celebrity is a great sin to those who are running the McCain campaign. To prove their point, they have cut a commercial featuring Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, who they claim are two true celebrities while Barack Obama is just an ordinary uppity Senator from Illinois. This has not gone unnoticed by observers on the American political scene. Yesterday in the closing remarks that Bob Schieffer offered to round out his August 3rd Face the Nation broadcast, Bob Schieffer, who also has southern roots, used the term “tarts” to describe the two females in the television commercial. “Tarts” is a term not often used these days but in point of fact it is a synonym for prostitutes. Are we to view this commercial and conclude that because these two “tarts” seem to favor John McCain, he should get my vote as well? I assume that the McCain campaign paid these two young “tarts” to show their picture in the commercial. It might also be observed that prostitutes accept money for their services as well.

McCain says that he is proud of this ad, but his 95-year-old mother says that he should be ashamed of it. This old essayist agrees with McCain’s mother as it relates to this commercial. Paris Hilton’s mother also disapproves.

I regret that the campaign has now taken a turn toward the unseemly. John McCain used to be considered a brave and honorable man. It is regrettable that he has lent his name to this campaign which is now being marked by vitriol. However in the final analysis, it should be remembered that the word “uppity” is merely the adjective that is used in most cases to precede the noun that follows, which makes it a loaded term. David Gergen and Bob Schieffer recognized this instantly, as did I.

My first recollection of the American political scene took place in the election of 1928, when Al Smith, the Governor of New York, was running against Herbert Hoover. Smith was a Catholic and I regret to say that the same forces who united to bring us the good and great Herbert Hoover were very much the same as those today who accuse Obama of being uppity. I regret to say that in 80 years it seems we have made very little progress in tolerance. For my own part, I simply hope that there will come a time when the Constitution will be fully honored and men and women may compete for the presidency without the age-old prejudices. Hope springs eternal.

August 5, 2008
Essay 331
Kevin’s commentary: It’s astounding that they’d even consider using that word in a campaign against a black candidate. It just seems extraordinarily short-sighted — how on Earth is that ever, ever going to help?

I attended a big conference the other day where Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, asked the audience how many women there had been labeled “bossy” at one point or another in their lives, and about two thirds of them raised their hands. She asked the same question to the men in the audience and almost nobody raised a hand.

All this reminds me that I personally have it really lucky. I’m a white male in a country which has historically been controlled almost exclusively by white males. I am this country’s “default” insofar as there is one of those, and discrimination hasn’t ever hurt me. It frustrates me that attitudes have been so slow to change.


All things considered, my mother spoke less than perfect English. Her rural background often seeped through in her manner of speaking. While she may have made grammatical mistakes and mispronunciations, the burden of her message was always clear. If she were alive today, there is some doubt that she would read my essays. But perhaps she might. My essays would interfere with her reading the St. Louis Post Dispatch, a great newspaper in the decades before 1960, and her reading of her Bible. She was fond of reading the Bible and when she had a passage that she liked, she would underline it, using a fountain pen. Upon her death, her Bible had very few passages that had escaped the underlining of Lillie’s fountain pen. But if she were to read my essays, Lillie would say, “Boy, you have already given them a large dose of them random thoughts of yours. Now, are you going to give them another dose?” Sort of sheepishly, I would be obliged to respond to her question by saying that “Yes, I am.”


My first random thought has to do with a report that our Secretary of Defense, a Mr. Gates, is having trouble with the United States Air Force in carrying out his orders. As Secretary of Defense, Mr. Gates is the superior of the Army Chief of Staff, the Naval command structure, the Marine Corps Commandant, the Coast Guard hierarchy, and the Air Force’s command structures, as well as the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which is supposed to have unified the services. He is the boss of all of these people.

Today is April 25, 2008. This morning the powerful Mr. Gates lamented that he could not get the United States Air Force to do what needed to be done in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Gates said this morning that there are many targets of opportunity in those two countries that needed to be bombed. He called them “targets of opportunity.” Mr. Gates seems quite certain that our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq are being hampered by the Air Force’s intransigence. Perhaps those targets of opportunity have a big “T” on their roofs so that our precision bombers may have a better opportunity to hit them.

History will record that at one point in the life of Sergeant Ezra Carr, he had a hand in dropping bombs on enemy targets. Whether they were legitimate “targets of opportunity” was rarely discussed. In those days, that term was unknown to me. The point was to fly over the target, to drop the bombs, and then to fly away as quickly as possible. Warfare has made many advances since I had a hand in the armed forces.

These days there are drones that are unmanned that can fly over targets of opportunity, take television pictures of those targets and drop bombs on them. This would seem like great stuff to me in that there are no pilots and crewmen to lose. If a drone is shot down, all we have lost is a drone, not a pilot or crewmembers. But Mr. Gates has a lament that won’t go away.

According to the Secretary of Defense, who is none other than this Mr. Gates, the Air Force requires that full-fledged pilots must operate the drones. It takes about 18 months to turn out a full-fledged pilot in the Air Force. According to the Secretary of Defense, other services such as the Marine Corps, the Army, and the Navy use less-qualified people to operate the drones. This arrangement means that flyers can go fly their missions while less-qualified people can operate the drones.

I am at a loss to understand why it takes a fully-qualified pilot to operate a drone, as the Air Force requires. If a drone, for example, flies over an outdoor meeting being addressed by Osama Bin Laden using a lectern together with a slide projector, with an audience of say perhaps 1,500 Al Qaeda members, this would seem to be a legitimate target of opportunity. Obviously the drones carry bombs under their wings or in their bellies. It seems to me that a Private First Class could push the button in the Headquarters drone machine operation that would release the bombs, just as well as a Rhodes Scholar who holds a fully-qualified pilot’s license in the United States Air Force. But the Air Force adamantly refuses to operate the drone machines unless a fully qualified pilot is sitting at the drone machine control center. This refusal means that targets of opportunity go unbombed and Osama can complete his lecture to the terrorists unharmed.

As an old flyer of airplanes with bombs on them, I must wonder what in the world this dispute is about. But the Air Force demands that only fully-qualified pilots sit behind the drone machine while the other services say that it can be done with lower level employees. My guess is that a janitor could release the bombs just as well as a fully-qualified pilot in the United States Air Force. But that is not the way the Air Force sees it.

Mr. Gates is the former president of Texas A&M University. That school must have converted Mr. Gates into a gentleman with a desire to offend no one. If I were the boss of Mr. Gates, I would tell him to quit lamenting this intransigence to the media and to go down to the Air Force headquarters and to kick ass until his leg throbs. Ah, but you see, I am not much of a gentleman, particularly a college-educated gentleman. If the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and perhaps in Iran are to be decided by such petty jealousies as this, we will still be at war when my great great grandchildren are born.

Speaking of targets of opportunity, shortly after our invasion of Afghanistan when we were hot in pursuit of Osama Bin Laden, the estimable former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, said that there were more targets of opportunity in Iraq than in Afghanistan. And so we turned our attention to a diversionary target. Now more than five years later, it seems that we are still pursuing what the generals call “targets of opportunity.”


So much for targets. Let us now turn to a term in warfare that only recently became settled in my mind. For the past year or two, the people at the Pentagon, particularly Rumsfeld and now Mr. Gates, have referred to the Iraq war and the Afghanistan war as “asymmetric engagements.” I had never really understood this new term, but I thought I was simply out of date because I had left the military services more than 65 years ago.

I know what symmetry is but “asymmetric” is a new term in that it means that there is no symmetry to the proposition at hand. Recently I learned from some chance encounters with people who report from the Pentagon that “asymmetric warfare” involves insurgencies. There are no soldiers with uniforms on firing bullets at each other, but rather people in the streets wearing t-shirts who lob grenades at our troops. That, my friends, is asymmetric warfare. I may not be the smartest person in the world, but even as an old soldier, it took me a year or more to determine that asymmetric warfare meant an operation against an insurgent force in the streets. I will have to get a lot smarter than that or my application to become a Fulbright Scholar will go down the drain.


To turn to another completely random thought, it baffles me beyond belief that our presidential candidates require spiritual advisors. In the beginning, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright of Chicago made some remarks that are being used to abuse Barack Obama. I have heard Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s remarks in full context, and it seems to me that they are very much in keeping with the traditions of Afro-American preaching. The point is that if you attend an Episcopal church in a fashionable neighborhood in New York City, you will be addressed by a person with a string of degrees who will read his sermon and then sit down. The same may be said for other churches, such as the Presbyterians’ or the Congregationalists’. In those churches, there is no give and take between the preacher and the congregation.

On the other hand, there is a black Baptist preacher who is quite typical who preaches here in Summit, New Jersey. Upon beginning to speak, this preacher says that he wishes to have a dialogue with his congregation as opposed to a monologue. And so it is that this congregation shouts encouragement to the preacher. They say “amen” or “halleluiah” and when the preacher really gets after Satan, they might say, “Go get him!” But that is a different style of preaching than what staid church goers may be accustomed to. What Jeremiah Wright in Chicago was preaching was the traditional black style of spreading the gospel. But be that as it may, Reverend Wright was Barak Obama’s preacher, not his spiritual advisor. In this case, however, Obama has not been spared from being flayed fore and aft for the remarks of his preacher.


Now we turn to one of the candidates, named John McCain, who has at least two spiritual advisors. One of them is named Reverend Hagee, who calls the Catholic Church “a great whore.” I am not sure why Hagee uses this terminology, but he seems to have repeated it on more than one occasion. Hagee is the same figure who said that New Orleans was destroyed by Jesus because they were permitting homosexual parades in the Mardi Gras procession and perhaps they might even approve of homosexual marriages. I suspect that John McCain is kind of slow on the uptake in that he has not only not repudiated what Hagee has had to say, but he has accepted an endorsement from the Reverend Hagee.

And then there is the Reverend Rod Parsley. Reverend Parsley runs a mega-church in Ohio where, among other things, he has waged a battle against the “false religion of Islam.” Reverend Parsley says that this false religion must be destroyed, which I assume would take several millions of American soldiers to do. He also has expressed his violent opposition to gay rights as well as his opposition to the idea that this government should have a separation between church and state. I would say that Reverend Parsley is simply a man who is afflicted by “bonkerdom”. Put simply, he is nuts. But he has not only become a spiritual advisor to Mr. McCain but has also endorsed him as well.

To the best of my knowledge, Senator Clinton has not publicly named her spiritual advisor, if she has one. If she has no spiritual advisor, that may be a reason to vote for her.


Well, there you have my random thoughts on a Thursday afternoon in April, 2008. I suspect that before life is done, some more random thoughts may intrude upon my brain and, in accordance with the military code of justice, they will be reported in some of these essays. I hope that the dosage that my mother would have alluded to is within your limits to choke down. But in the final analysis, perhaps it is meritorious that at an advanced age such as mine any thoughts at all will invade my mind. For that, I am grateful. Thank you.

Shortly after the story appeared on the wires about the refusal of the Air Force to fly the missions involving the drones, there was a story from Albuquerque, New Mexico, about Amanda Montoya. One morning, Miss Montoya was watching a pornographic movie in the apartment that was rented by a good friend, who happened to be male. One way or another, Miss Montoya concluded that the actor in the pornographic film was, in fact, the boyfriend who was watching the movie with her. She did what any red-blooded American girl would do. She went to the kitchen and got a long-handled steel knife and stabbed her boyfriend in the face. The boyfriend, who was clad only in his underwear shorts, began to run and left the apartment and was running down the street with Miss Montoya in full pursuit. The cops came and not only charged her with attempted assault but she had also left her eight-month-old child in the apartment while she chased her boyfriend down the street. So she was charged with child abuse.

It seems to me that if the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Gates, had a bit more of the spirit that moved Miss Montoya, the Air Force would be a lot more willing to carry out his orders. But in the final analysis, Mr. Gates is a gentleman who watches few pornographic movies. Perhaps if he were to watch porno movies, it might give him the courage to make certain that the Air Force followed his instructions. But in the end, friends and foes alike are entitled to believe that military discipline in our armed services is not what it used to be.

April 24, 2008
Essay 311
Kevin’s commentary: Well, this completes the Random Thoughts trilogy of early 2008. It must have felt pretty good to empty his brain of all these thoughts bouncing around there. Unfortunately publishing this essay will probably serve to bring them back, though they are admittedly less pressing now.

Speaking of Asymmetric Engagements, I think drone strikes probably qualify there too. Sure, it’s not symmetric for a marine corps to be fighting a band of dudes who know the town and use guerrilla tactics. But it’s also not symmetric when one side is gambling with lives and the other is gambling with equipment. I’m all for controlled drone strikes but we have to be very very careful when and where we use them because they’re rapidly becoming one of the most hated symbols of the US abroad. Part of this problem, I thought, stemmed from inexperienced people controlling the drones and hitting the wrong targets. Turns out they’re all pilots — makes me glad that the janitor isn’t behind that joystick after all.


My soul, such as it is, was tormented by the thought of giving a title to this essay. Originally I had planned to call this essay “The Chickens Are Coming Home to Roost.” Then it dawned on me that the Reverend Jeremiah Wright had used that comment recently, and the results were far from rosy. The second title that occurred to me was one that originated with Lillie, my mother. It holds that “There is more than one way to skin a cat.” The fact of the matter is that my mother never saw a cat skinned, nor did I. Quite to the contrary, this house here has been the home, in order of progression, for Sean, Shannon, and Shamrock. All were wonderful cats, and I would die first rather than to see them skinned.

In the final analysis, this essay is about the greatly inflated prices that we are now paying for gasoline, food, and every other commodity that must be moved from its place of manufacture to its place of consumption. At heart it is my fundamental belief that the major moving force in these inflationary prices stems from the war that George Bush has declared in invading Iraq. Absent this war, we would still be friends, I hope, with the Arab nations and with the other oil-producers around the world. But that clearly is not the case.

Let us deal first with the chickens that are coming home to roost. When the United States invaded Iraq, it was interpreted in every Arab country as an assault on Islam, their religion. Even George Bush referred to our efforts there as “the Crusades.” One of his brighter aides told him that “the Crusades” were anathema to any person who subscribes to the Islamic faith. Obviously Bush did not know this, but in any case he has quit referring to our misadventure in Iraq as “a crusade.” So from day one of this tragedy, we are viewed as cruel interlopers who are determined to wipe out the faith of Islam. Westerners who believe that this is just another war are greatly mistaken. To the Arabs, it is an attempt to subjugate them and to destroy their faith.

So Bush has started this misadventure by poking every Arab in the eye and wondering why the Arabs do not love us as liberators. The fact of the matter is that much of the world’s oil supply lies in Arab lands. It is the ultimate foolishness to believe that any nation that has been deliberately poked in the eye is inclined to do you any favors during a time of strife. May I suggest that very few people in Saudi Arabia are distraught by the thought of Americans paying four dollars or five dollars per gallon for gasoline. The fact of the matter is that they are laughing their heads off at our predicament and their King told Mr. Bush last week that he should go perform an impossible sex act on himself when he asked for the Saudis to increase production. Clearly, the chickens from the Arab lands are indeed coming home to roost and before long, many of them will settle in Crawford, Texas.

Not only did we alienate the Arab countries, but we went out of our way to alienate the oil producers in Iran. If that is not good enough, it was our policy to isolate the Syrians who might have helped us at this time of dire economic circumstance. But the Syrians are saying to Mr. Bush, “Please get lost.”

Bush’s flouting of the feelings of the rest of the world did not stop with the Arab countries. In eight years in office, Mr. Bush has visited Canada only once, and that was a time he used to brag about his re-election and the fact that he now had additional capital to spend and he was going to use it. The result was an effort to privatize Social Security, which was roundly defeated. Mexico, our other neighbor, has been treated very much like a pariah. Unfortunately, Canada and Mexico have some oil to spare but they are not going to look favorably upon people who ignore them and step on their toes. So the Western Hemisphere chickens are indeed coming home to roost also.

To go a little bit further, Mr. Bush has gone out of his way to provoke President Chavez of Venezuela, a country where oil is produced in great gobs. Earlier this year, when he visited Africa, it was interesting to see that he avoided going to Nigeria. Whether we like it or not, Nigeria and Venezuela are afloat in oil, and it is of the best kind, called “sweet” oil. But the Nigerians and the Venezuelans are not prepared to send us any love letters. They are sending their chickens to the United States for roosting purposes.

So you see that Mr. Bush has started a war and he clearly has no idea of how to finish it. John McCain, the prospective Republican nominee for president, promises us that the war will go on until the year 2013. That would make the Iraqi war of at least ten years in duration. During that time, it is clear that many other chickens will be sent home to roost in this country.

I am quite aware that increased demand has driven up the price of oil. But those increased demands have always been taken care of in the past. The thing that is different in this case is that we have sent our crusaders to subdue Iraq and, to the Arab mind, to subdue Islam. Much of the rest of the world is angry with this war in Iraq. No one really wishes us well.

Under the Bush administration, this country is no longer feared, nor is it respected or admired. The fact that this administration has engaged in torture is another reason to send chickens to this country to roost. And so I am forced to the conclusion that the chickens that are coming home to roost are products of the misadventure in Iraq, a war with unintended consequences. We now know that the consequences of that war may well result in the bankruptcy of this country.

And so at this point let us turn from chickens coming home to roost and proceed to skinning cats. The phrase “skinning cats” is a metaphorical one and I know of no one who has ever really skinned a cat. The phrase “skinning cats” merely means that there is more than one way to get the job done. For example, if I cannot get from this house to New York City by car, I will take a train. When it comes to crossing the Hudson River, I might take a ferry or I might skin a cat by taking the Hudson tubes. The point is that there is more than one way to get the desired result.

When we set out to invade Iraq, the Iraqi Army was no match for the forces of the United States Army or its Air Force. Within a matter of a few days, the Americans were knocking on the doors of Baghdad. But those Iraqis who regarded us as occupiers did not intend to engage our army in a symmetric game of warfare. They resorted to an insurgency which has kept our forces hung up for more than five years. If John McCain has his way, the blood of Americans and Iraqis will be spilled for at least five more years. But while the Iraqis could not defeat us in this asymmetric war, they and the other Islamic nations had another card to play. The other card had to do with accommodating the world’s desire for greatly increased amounts of oil.

The Indians and the Chinese are now competing for the oil that can be produced and we find ourselves paying a highly inflated price. The cost of a barrel of oil is increasing by about four dollars per day and, if my memory is correct, it was well into $130 per barrel this morning. And remember, please, that the Iraqis have a strangle hold on much of the world’s oil. So if they cannot kill all of our soldiers in Baghdad, they can retaliate by making it very uncomfortable for the American oppressors when they fill their gas tanks or when they go to the grocery store.

It is my belief that, within a short time, we will soon be paying five dollars per gallon for gasoline and we will remember four dollars per gallon with fond memories. A respected commentator who deals with oil as a business, this morning suggested that the price of a gallon of gas may eventually approach twelve to fifteen dollars. Simply put, when the cost of oil and other commodities reaches a level that is beyond the purchasing power of the American public, there will be an effort to do something about the root cause of this inflationary exercise. The root cause, of course, is the Iraq war. When our legislators and perhaps a new administration in Washington get this message, there will be no choice but to end this conflict as quickly as possible because of the drain on our financial resources. In the end, it is becoming much more clear that the misadventure in Iraq is perhaps the most catastrophic failure since the founding of the American government. This war was brought to you by George W. Bush and Richard Cheney, who will soon leave office. When their successors go to straighten out this terrific mess, Bush and Cheney will accuse them of “cutting and running” and denying the American people a great victory if we had only held on for another year or so.

So you see, the people that we set out to subjugate in Iraq have the means of fighting back. It is not necessarily a matter of bullets and bombs but of oil and dollars. Bush and Cheney brought this tragic event to the American people, but with their financial resources they may well be able to avoid its ultimate consequences. The losers will be all of those of us whose net worth is substantially less than one billion dollars.

My first job had to do with selling gasoline at Carl Schroth’s Mobil Gas Station in Clayton, Missouri. Before life is done, I may be back selling $12 gasoline to people like myself who cannot afford it. But, boys and girls, that is what happens when the chickens come home to roost and when there is a cat to be skinned.

May 22, 2008
Essay 317
Commentary: As a concrete prediction this has yet to pan out – John McCain didn’t get elected, oil is back to around $98 per barrel in February 2014, and gas in New Providence costs $3.40. Would this have happened under a McCain presidency? My gut reaction is no, but then again, maybe we’d all be filling up just by dipping gas cans directly into Sarah Palin’s Keystone Pipeline.


This is not a political essay but rather it is a call for neurological help or even psychiatric help for Mr. McCain’s brain. Mr. McCain’s brain needs at least a mammogram before he sets off to encounter the Democratic presidential contender in an effort not to make a fool of himself. There is a bit of a story behind Mr. McCain’s thought processes and it starts in the year 2000 during the Republican primary season in an effort to gain the nomination that year.

The two main contenders for the Republican nomination for president in that year were George W. Bush and Senator John McCain. This was an unfair competition in that Karl Rove was assisting Bush, which made it a matter of one-and-a-half brains on the Bush side versus McCain’s one lonely brain on his behalf. In the New Hampshire primary, which occurs very early in the nominating process, the Rove/Bush team started the rumor that five years of captivity by the North Vietnamese had loosened the bolts in John McCain’s brain. According to his opponents,
Mr. McCain could not be trusted with the presidency because his thinking apparatus had been compromised or destroyed during his captivity. The voters in New Hampshire saw it otherwise. They voted for McCain and gave him an 18-point margin over George W. Bush.

The South Carolina primary followed the New Hampshire primary and the Rove/Bush team decided that it was time to play the big casino. They hit the jackpot when they started the rumor among the press corps that John McCain had fathered a black daughter out of wedlock. As most of you know, Mr. McCain had adopted a Bangladeshi child who had a dark complexion. John McCain was not guilty in any sense of a dalliance outside of his marriage. But in South Carolina, the race card worked, and McCain was defeated by George Bush. From that time on, Bush went on to become the nominee for the Republican party in the year 2000.

For many years the relationship between McCain and Bush was considerably cool and strained. In 2004, McCain campaigned for Bush and was even photographed embracing the Duke of Crawford. The relationship between Bush and McCain, even today, appears to be cool and strained. Nonetheless, in 2008, after the delegate count had reached the required number, Bush invited McCain to the White House and endorsed him. My belief is that John McCain will not often call on George Bush to attend his rallies. But McCain wants to succeed Bush and will do all he can to achieve that end.

When it became apparent that McCain would be the presidential nominee in 2008, there were prognostications by commentators all over television who would contend that Mr. McCain’s presidency would be a matter of “Bush lite.” But McCain’s performance since his endorsement by Bush seems to demonstrate that he has no intention of being “Bush lite.” In effect McCain intends to be “Bush heavy,” which would in effect provide nothing less than a third term for George W. Bush.

Of all things, McCain has pinned his presidential quest on continuing the misbegotten war in Iraq. The American public wants to end that war, not continue it. McCain seems to think that this is a sacred endeavor worthy of sacrificing American and Iraqi lives. So far, more than 4,000 Americans have lost their lives in Iraq, and there is the matter as well of more than 30,000 of our troops being wounded. The consequences for Iraqis have been disastrous. It is believed that as many as 100,000 have been killed and that four million other Iraqis have been displaced. In the sectarian fighting, they have been moved from their homes and a good many of them have fled the country to Syria and Jordan. Some 40,000 have even moved to Sweden.

Yet John McCain says that for a long time in Iraq, we were staring into “the abyss of failure” but now we have a hope of success to bless our war there. Mind you, in his speeches and in his questioning of General Petraeous, McCain used the word “success” as distinguished from victory. For a presidential contender to base his campaign on the war in Iraq might lead you to conclude that he needs much more than neurological help; he may need a brain transplant.

The war is now costing this country at least $12 billion per month and it is estimated that, before it is done, the United States will have to foot the bill for something in excess of $3 trillion dollars. Aside from the loss of lives, this is fiscal madness. Our misadventure in Iraq is coming close to destroying the American economy. The US dollar is now down there flirting with the value of a Guatemalan peso or an escudo. Because the Arabs control a good part of the oil supply that feeds the United States economy, they feel free to charge exorbitant prices. At the end of April, oil is selling for $117 a barrel. This ripples throughout the economy and together with the valuelessness of the American dollar, produces food prices, among other things, that are perhaps 25 to 35% greater than at this time last year. This reflects the cost of getting the food from the producer to the consumer. The price of diesel fuel that is used by American truckers is now more than $4.25 per gallon. Yet Mr. McCain says that we must pay any price to achieve “success” in Iraq.

The facts are that the American Army and Marine Corps are deeply troubled by the frequent assignments in that war-torn land. Many are on their fourth or fifth tour of duty there and as any soldier will tell you, he can’t go on dodging the bullets forever. Yet Mr. McCain would send those soldiers back for a sixth or seventh or eighth tour of duty because of the “success” that he sees at the end of the tunnel.

We have known for several years that graft and dishonesty are endemic in the political process in Iraq. There was an inspector of Iraqi descent who was interviewed on 60 Minutes recently. He has fled the country because of fear of his life. It now develops that al-Maliki, the Prime Minister, has issued a decree that prevents inspectors from examining the conduct of all of his ministers as well as of himself. In other words, graft and embezzlement will take place and if an inspector of any kind tries to call attention to it, his life will most likely be in danger. Yet this is what John McCain has tied his campaign to.

The American economy is in shambles. The American Army and Marine Corps are in pretty much the same shape. It will cost trillions of dollars to replace the equipment that has been destroyed and worn out in Iraq. Yet Mr. McCain says that we should stay a hundred years or more. In explaining the remark about the one hundred years or more duration of this conflict, Mr. McCain has said that we should stay a hundred years if no one is shooting at us. That is all well and good, but if we have established such peaceful relations where no one is shooting at our soldiers, may I ask, why in the world should we stay there one day, let alone 100 years?

The list of the failures of the Bush Administration government is nearly endless. But Mr. McCain suggests that we can go on poking our fingers in the eyes of our neighbors while spending enormous sums of money that have to be borrowed from, of all places, China. For John McCain to base a presidential campaign on asking the American people to support a disastrous war endlessly is a nutty proposition. Three quarters of the American people want the war ended and the troops brought home now.

Eight years ago when Karl Rove and George Bush contended that John McCain’s captivity had shaken his brain loose from its moorings, they may well have been prescient. In the year 2008 it might well be that a mere mammogram will not tell us what is wrong with McCain’s brain. Perhaps he could use ultrasound treatment or, if that fails, he might present himself at a hospital for wheel alignments. As an old aerial engineer, I would prescribe a complete overhaul of his engine with particular attention being paid toward the rings and pistons for abnormal wear.

Finally, we now learn that McCain finished fifth from the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy. Perhaps at this late date, we are now finding out what the teachers at the Naval Academy knew many years ago. My own analysis is that if he continues to support the Iraqi war so vigorously, he does not have the smarts to be president of this country or any other country that comes to mind.

April 16, 2008
Essay 304
Kevin’s commentary: I’m forced to ask — why a mammogram? Is this a big “McCain is a boob” joke? Also, the “fight in Iraq until the end of time” platform is perhaps the craziest I’d ever heard. There was simply no rhyme or reason. Everyone else could see that it was time to leave.