Archive for the Focus — Single Person Category


If you were looking by some chance for a laudatory piece about George W. Bush, you will have to read Bill Safire or George Will or some other right wing writer or perhaps the Wall Street Journal editorial page. My reading on Bush after following his career since he became the Governor of Texas is that he is ignorant, a bully, a frightened person, an inadequate man who is unaware of recent human history and a complete captive of the conservative right wing of his party which happens to be a sinister force in American politics. That is a very baleful assessment of the current occupant of the Oval Office. And nearly every American will come to realize what a sorry man George W. Bush is.

The events of the past two weeks with the tragedy in Israeli-Palestinian relations has brought an even clearer picture of Bush’s failures and short comings. Until April 4th, Bush ignored events in the Israeli crisis. When he could no longer ignore the conflict in the Occupied Zones of the Palestine Authority, Bush repeatedly called on the American public and indeed, upon the whole world, to support Sharon and to condemn Arafat. When he sent Cheney to the Mideast in an utterly forlorn hope to rally Arab nations for the planned war against Iraq, Arafat was ignored and the Cheney mission became a complete failure. But nonetheless Bush continued to belabor Arafat while he praised and urged support for Sharon. Incidentally, Bush will not even grant Arafat a handshake. Yitzhak Rabin shook Arafat’s hand but Bush puts his hand in his pocket when he sees Arafat. Bush’s support for the bully Sharon has backfired. Arafat’s popularity is now at an all time high. Students rally and carry his picture and shout slogans in support of Yasser. Bush’s venture into the politics of the Mideast is now in total ruins. Bush has mortgaged his “War on Terror” to Sharon, the Butcher of Beirut.

One of Bush’s failings is his ignorance of the English language, his native tongue. When Bush attempts to deal with the most awesome of weapons, the nuclear bombs and missiles, he always adds a useless syllable. Thus, in Bush-speak, nuclear becomes NU-CU-LEAR. Even the right wing commentator Bill Safire chided him on this aspect of his English. And Safire is no dummy. Remember it was Safire who wrote one of the most inspiring lines in the English language for Spiro Agnew to say – “nattering nabobs of negativism.”

But leaving nu-cu-lear aside – Bush has for some days been unable to mouth the English word “NOW”! After piddling away months, Bush was finally moved to make a Rose Garden speech on Thursday, April 4, 2002 in which he proposed to Sharon that his forces should be withdrawn as soon as possible. At the very least, Sharon interpreted that to mean he could clobber the Palestinians until Friday, April 12 when Colin Powell would make his belated appearance in Jerusalem. Later, Bush amended his “as soon as possible” to read “without delay.” Sharon saw no difference between the two statements so he kept on having his tanks knock down fragile Palestinian homes with people still in them.

Now comes Colin Powell who has no diplomatic experience, but is still the Secretary of State. In all of Powell’s previous jobs, he has been known for extreme caution. Why do we need to do this at all, is Powell’s dictum. Well, Powell said “withdraw as soon as possible” and “without delay” meant pretty much the same thing “depending upon the construction” you may want it to have. But Bush, Powell and Bush’s mouthpiece Ari Fleisher would not utter the dreaded word “Now”! It just depended on the construction according to Powell. Finally, four days later, Condolezza Rice responded to the fury of the press and foreign allies by saying that “without delay means now.” Well now, that is done – or is it?

Here we are a week after the Rose Garden speech and Sharon has not responded to: one – as soon as possible, or two – without delay, or three – now. So Powell is now touring Arab countries and Israel in the hope that Sharon will decide to accede to one of the three constructions or wondering whether he will continue to bully his Palestinian neighbors by shooting and bombing them and then permitting no ambulances or hearses to pick up the wounded and dead. So much for Sharon agreeing to act in a humane fashion. Is it any wonder that Palestinian suicide bombing continues? The only question one could ask in the circumstances is why the other feckless Arab governments have not been there to oppose Sharon. The answer is NO GUTS. I could use another part of the male anatomy to express my opinion of Arab governments. But this is a piece I intend to send to Cardinal Law in Boston so I must keep it clean. The Spanish word is cojones. You can look it up, as Casey Stengel used to say.

Let’s return to my opening thought that Bush is among other things an ignorant man. By this time, his ignorance has been well established with the possible exception of mossbacks in the far right wing of the Republican Party. He may be admired by the likes of Jesse Helms and Senator Brownback from Kansas but here we are talking about Neanderthals whose thinking never progressed beyond the 1890’s.

Now, I said he is also a bully. If his alignment with Sharon is not enough to convince anyone, I submit his carrying out the death sentence against a female who pled with him after she had become a Christian. That would be Karla Faye Tucker.

Let’s see what another conservative, born-again Christian had to say on the subject of bullying a condemned prisoner. This excerpt is from the August 10, 1999 Houston Chronicle, which is deep in the heart of Texas. Bush was Governor and planning to become his party’s presidential candidate.

Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer criticized Gov. George W. Bush Tuesday for making fun of an executed Texas woman in an interview Bush gave to Talk magazine.

“I think it is nothing short of unbelievable that the governor of a major state running for president thought it was acceptable to mock a woman he decided to put to death,” Bauer said of Bush.

Bush is portrayed in Talk as ridiculing pickax killer Karla Faye Tucker of Houston for an interview she did with CNN broadcaster Larry King shortly before she was executed last year. Just before her execution day, Tucker appealed for clemency on the grounds that she had become a born-again Christian.

“’Please,’ Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, ‘don’t kill me.’”
The Houston Chronicle, August 10, 1999

Does anyone need any more convincing on the bully score?

Bush became the President of the United States under the most inauspicious circumstances. Later, we’ll see what Jeffrey Toobin has to say about Bush’s ultimate selection by the right wing vote of the United States Supreme Court. But here we are stuck with the clearly inadequate and intellectually stunted man. On April 8th of this year,
Dan Rather interviewed King Abdullah of Jordan. Abdullah’s native tongue is Arabic. Rather gave the King a vigorous series of questions with plenty of opportunities for Abdullah to stumble or to retreat into slogans of the street. In the end, Abdullah handled Rather – not the other way around. His responses were completely unrehearsed, not scripted. His English was perfect. His answers reflected thoughtful consideration. There were no circumlocutions.

His answers were prompt, supported by logic and convincing. Now compare that with the alleged leader of the free world, who stumbles as he speaks and deals only in platitudes which he repeats as gospel truth.

In the first place, when Bush speaks he never permits a one-on-one interview with a first rate journalist. Not with Rather, not with Jennings, not with Brokaw and certainly not with Jim Lehrer. So what we have to go on are set pieces like the Rose Garden speech of April or addresses to Congress where questions are foreclosed. In short, Bush is simply reading some one else’s thoughts and words. Reading, I said. Even in these addresses, watch Bush’s eyes. Don’t worry about the wrinkled brow; just watch the eyes. Even with a script which he almost always uses, Bush is unsure of himself and that is reflected in his eyes. What we have as President of the United States is a frightened man, frightened by his own intellectual inadequacies.

Compare him with Bill Clinton. Clinton knew his subject and welcomed exchanges and challenges. Clinton’s eyes told the story. His eyes glistened because he knew what he was speaking about and that his thoughts were backed by logic. A lost script would mean nothing to Clinton. Bush’s wrinkled brow and the helplessness in his eyes make it clear that he is a frightened man beset by his own intellectual inadequacies.

Before he became the head of the U. S. Government, Bush could allay his inadequacies by appealing to his parents and influential friends of George H. W. and Barbara Bush. As my mother would say in her country style, “Bush was 40 years of age before he ever done a lick of work.” He got into Yale and Harvard on his parents’ reputations. While there as a student, Bush certainly did not distinguish himself. According to him, he was a goof off. Somewhere in his later 20’s, the Vietnam War took place. Old Bush tried to escape it but wound up in the Texas Air National Guard. The Texas Air National Guard was not federalized and, of course stayed in Texas and saw no service in Vietnam. Records show that Bush’s attendance at National Guard duties was sporadic at best. He let Al Gore and John McCain fight the war.

There followed a series of ventures into the oil business, largely under the sponsorship of his father. The record seems to support the thought that each venture was a failure. After the oil business fiasco, the wealthy backers of his father thought that the chances of Major League Baseball coming to Texas would be enhanced by the Bush name. So he became an executive of the Texas Ranger baseball team. The same backers who shepherded him on the baseball team excursion, then proposed him for Governor of Texas, and the rest is history.

The point is that in Bush’s work history, he has always—always relied on his parents or their wealthy friends to sponsor him. He has absolutely no record of accomplishments which would expel his feelings of inadequacies. He is a man of stunted mental achievement so he cannot rely on his brain to do away with his obvious feeling of inadequacy. In the words of my friends from the South and Southwest, Bush is a “sorry” example of what a leader of the free world ought to show. Lillie Carr was right. In all those years, Bush “never done a lick of work.”

Bush’s personal inadequacies are reflected in the “I” syndrome. As recently as the current Israeli crisis, Bush said “I” warned the Arab governments to stay out of the conflict. He says “I” told the Israelis what to do. When he sent General Zinni to attempt to handle things in Israel, although Zinni had no diplomatic experience, Bush always referred to him as “my personal representative.” When Cheney made his failed trip to moderate Arab countries to get them to back a war with Iraq, Bush claimed that “I” had the Vice President make that trip. The fact is that the United States Government speaks for the people of this country, not Bush. Zinni represents the United States Government, not as Bush says “My personal representative.” Cheney may have been sent on his fruitless trip to talk to the Arabs, but in doing so he represented the
U. S. Government, not George W. Bush.

When Bush employs the “I” technique, it is simply to inflate a man who badly needs help. Bright and generous men – which Bush is not – always suggest that other people have a hand in determining the outcome of events. Bright and generous men use the “we” symbol rather than the “I” designation.

The “I” complex causes Bush to be bitten in the backside, sort of a boomerang effect. Bush recently made it clear that “I” warned Sharon to pull back his troops. Bush said “I” did it, not Cheney, not Powell, not Congress, but “I” gave him the ultimatum. Remember the “as soon as possible” or “without delay”? Well Sharon had a surprise of his own. He told Bush in so many words what he could do with his “I” ultimatum.

If Bush had paid attention at Yale, I suspect that he would have been introduced to some history of the world. Nobody ever accused Bush during his Yale and Harvard years of taking a month off or a period when the school was on vacation or certainly not a leave of absence for six months or an academic year to study what other people do and to invest in the history of other nations or cultures. Clinton did that at Oxford but Clinton is a name to be expunged from the U. S. Government. Bush by his own admission was barely a “C” student just getting by. Bush was able to do that because he was lazy and he came from a family of great wealth and prestige.

Let us say that a poor kid from the Bronx in New York City or, as it was called when I grew up there, Dago Hill in St. Louis, had a scholarship to attend Yale University, as unlikely as that really is. Do you think that such a young student would squirt away his one and only chance of an Ivy League education by becoming a “C” student? And do you think that such a youngster would fail to take advantage of trips to other countries that are often available to college students? The obvious answer is a resounding “No.” But Bush wasted his years there in two of America’s most prestigious universities.

With respect to foreign travel, Bush is still a non-entity when it comes to our closest neighbor and ally, Canada. Early in his administration, he said Mexico was number one – the most important neighbor to the United States. Again, his lack of historical context is amazing. In World War II, Canada was our greatest ally. On more than one occasion I have shared meals and cigarettes with Canadian airmen and soldiers. The Canadians went to war when Hitler ran over Poland on September 1, 1939 – more than two years before the U. S. entered the war.

Bush would never recognize this fact. Mexico never entered the fight against the Axis. On the contrary, Germany was wooing Mexico as an eventual means of launching an attack against the United States. I’m sure Bush is unaware of this piece of history. He simply knows that Mexico adjoins Texas. Canada does not adjoin the Great State of Texas and hence, it will be visited after Uruguay or Swaziland.

This week the Mexican Senate declared that the President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, could not leave Mexico because he had been gone so much since his term began. Bush better send Carl Rove his political Guru to Mexico City to straighten the Mexican Senate out. So Mexico is our number one ally? So Mexico is our most important neighbor? Ole!

Now we turn to Tom Friedman, the New York Times columnist who won a Pulitzer Prize which was announced only a day or two ago. As it turns out, Tom Friedman is a Jew. I don’t care what his ethnic background might be; he writes compelling stuff. I did want to point out his ethnicity because of the quote from the Times on April 3, 2002 that I am about to offer. Friedman said this:

“The other people who have not wanted to face facts are the feckless American Jewish leaders, fundamentalist Christians and neo-conservatives who together have helped make it impossible for anyone in the U. S. administration to talk seriously about halting Israeli settlement-building without being accused of being anti-Israel.”

Now to Friedman’s list we add Roman Catholics whose idea of good government only includes those who want to ruthlessly stamp out abortion and contraceptive advice. Bush just stopped a $38 million appropriation to improve the health of poor people around the world because Christopher Smith, a New Jersey Republican member of the House, wrote him that he suspected that some of the money might be used to support abortion clinics in China. Mind you, money had been voted on and the appropriation was made. But Bush responded to Smith’s letter with haste. He held up distribution of the funds which were intended to help poor people with health problems in various parts of the world. And they are still held up even now.

Let me add a thought on Christopher Smith before we go on. In his office, he keeps a large crucifix. It’s not one to be worn around the neck; it is standing or leans against the wall. It is a big piece of work. Cardinal Law would be happy to have it available to him when he next writes a letter to another diocese telling them that a convicted child molester would perform quite well if the new diocese would take him. Now let us suppose you are a Jew or a Muslim or even a hymn-shouting Protestant. And let us suppose that you are admitted to Smith’s office as one of Smith’s New Jersey constituents. What do you think your chances of success are with Representative Smith in whatever problem you bring to him? I now live in New Jersey and I would be forced to say something like from nothing ranging down to zero.

Let’s return to Tom Friedman’s quote. The feckless American Jewish leaders are personified by Norman Podhoretz who often speaks for the right wing Jewish community. He spoke a night or two ago and he supported Sharon’s efforts to eradicate the Palestinian people. He simply wanted war regardless of what it did to Israel’s long term chances of survival.

Now we turn to fundamentalist Christians and neo conservatives. The two are joined at the hip. They speak with one voice and that voice is anti-intellectual as personified by say Jesse Helms or the Jew hating Billy Graham. These people fervently back Bush not so much because he shares their values but because they see him as at war against the intellectuals who speak for universities and foundations and research entities. They are “againers.”

Now I said in the opening that Bush is a captive of the conservative right wing of the Republican Party which happens to be a sinister force in American politics. The fundamental Christians are well known to me as I had parents who attended a Nazarene Church. The hate that was preached was appalling. For example, fundamentalist preachers claim that Jesus Christ was crucified by Jews. That is an absolute lie. The man behind the crucifixion was an emperor in Rome named Pontius Pilate. When Billy Graham, who led Bush to the paths of Christian righteousness, spoke to Richard Nixon and voiced his hatred of Jews, the belief that Jews caused Jesus Christ to die more than likely was one of his bedrock beliefs. And the fundamentalists support Bush. And so does Billy Graham who now says he didn’t mean it and his son Franklin Graham, says it is immoral to tape a conversation between a preacher and one of his flock. Richard Nixon: some flock.

Friedman’s thoughts are particularly disturbing when it is applied to the conservative backing of Bush. You may recall a half pint born-again protestant presidential contender Gary Bauer, who now says that when Bush wants Sharon to stop intruding in the occupied territories, that “Attitudes are hardening on the right of the Republican Party about this.” “Attitudes are hardening” is a none-too-subtle threat aimed at Bush. As Friedman said, any criticism of Israel is taken by Bush’s conservative right wing as being anti-Israel in nature.

So much for the moment about Tom Friedman who is a prescient man. I have been pondering why in the week of Easter, Bush took a three day fund raising trip for Republican candidates for the Senate and House and that was followed by four days at the “Western White House.” While a war was going on in Israel, Bush treated himself to a taxpayer ride to Crawford, Texas but on the way he stopped at the infamous Bob Jones University in South Carolina. You will recall that Bob Jones University until recently banned interracial dating. Bush made such a rip-roaring speech during the campaign that he had to ask Cardinal O’Connor of New York to seek forgiveness for his intemperate remarks. His trip to the school on his way to Texas was largely uneventful, in any case, he did not ask O’Connor’s successor for forgiveness. Maybe he should have.

While we are on the subject of his being captured by the religious right of his party, consider this. When he signed the campaign reform bill, which he tried to defeat, he did it with only two witnesses. No press, no TV, no radio. In Washington, it was called the stealth signing. He did not invite the men who made it possible such as Russ Feingold and John McCain from the Senate and Chris Shays and Marty Meehan from the House. The word is that by inviting those people to see him sign the bill would have infuriated his right wing followers. We can’t have that.

When it was decided that the U. S. Government would transfer ownership of Governors Island in New York Harbor to the State of New York, he had only two Republicans, Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg, at the ceremony. The two New York Senators, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer were barred. How’s that for Chutzpah!

So I ask you. Is Bush the captive of the right wing of the Republican party? And by excluding the Republicans from attending the signing of the campaign reform bill, McCain and Shays, is he not showing you how small he can be? His inadequacies as a political leader are shown in big ways and in small ones.

Now today, April 10th, we had another example of Bush being the captive of the sinister wing of the Republican Party. Today Bush put on his doctor’s coat and announced with all of his background in medicine that he wants to “outlaw cloning,” so says the press. He squared off against 40 Nobel Prize winners who say the good to mankind is in cloning and stem cell research. Bush says it is a matter of science versus morality and he supports morality. Science can go soak its head in a bucket.

Previously, he had already limited stem cell research. Today he wants to “outlaw cloning” all together. While his religious followers may applaud this deplorable effort to thwart science, there are at least two things that make his decision disastrous. In the first place, almost every one knows of sufferers of Parkinson’s disease that could be helped by stem cell research. Many other diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, spinal cord injures, various cancers and neurological diseases and cardiovascular diseases could also yield to stem cell work. My brother and a neighbor died of Parkinson’s disease. But Bush comes down on what he calls “morality” and says cloning and stem cell research is not what his party is all about. I suppose it is “moral” to see people dying without the benefits that could flow from such work?

And secondly, it is absolutely clear that the United States will have lost the lead in this sort of work only to be replaced by foreign researchers who do not share Bush’s fake concern about “morality.”

If Bush had been concerned about morality, he would have permitted his handlers to see that all the votes were counted in Florida including the butterfly ones cast by elderly people in Palm Beach County who wanted to vote for Gore but who actually voted for Pat Buchanan due to a deeply flawed ballot. While you are at it see the New York Times of April 11 editorial entitled “The President’s Narrow Morality.” And when you read Jeffrey Toobin’s remarks at the end of the essay, let’s see who has the high ground on morality.

Well this is only a partial summary of Bush’s inadequacies and failings. As time goes on and other crises are brought to the Oval Office, I fear that Bush will bring this country closer and closer to the terror that he now campaigns against. By thumbing his nose at the Arab world, he makes it inevitable that Muslim people will always consider Israel and the United States as representing the things they hate. Under those circumstances, it becomes obvious that Muslim extremists will reach out to attack the United States and its citizens when traveling. Bush cannot cause the Arab people to disappear simply because they don’t share his fundamental Christian faith or because they are poor or because they use Friday as their Sabbath. Always remember the New York saying that “What goes around comes around.” Bush ought to remember that, even if New Yorkers voted overwhelmingly for Gore.

If Bush had not entered the Presidency with such visceral hatred of Bill Clinton, he could have built acceptable relations with people of brown skin such as Arabs. But Bush came to office and surrounded himself with complete jerks such as John Ashcroft and Spencer Abraham and Gail Norton. The conservative wing was in control. The anti-intellectual phenomenon pervaded the Bush administration. Now he is surrounded by war hawks such as Paul Wolfowitz and the Secretary of Defense, Don Rumsfeld.

As a matter of interest, Ashcroft and Abraham were defeated in their bids to retain their Senate seats. Ashcroft is a hymn singing, born-again Christian that seems to have great appeal to Bush. Gail Norton is the protégé of the disgraced Secretary of the Interior, James Watt. Bush picks them right off the floor.

As I said, it need not have been this way but this is what happens when an inadequate man of very limited intellectual ability wins an election even though his opponents got a plurality of the vote. If I were a Christian, I might even be tempted to pray that the United States survives the term of Bush the Younger.

I want to close this essay with a thought by Jeffrey Toobin, a lawyer, author, and television guest on several shows and a leading commentator on the American political scene. As events unfolded in Florida after the 2000 election year, Toobin was a close observer. In his most recent book “Too Close to Call,” Toobin has these thoughts:

“(James) Baker’s cynical war on the recounts – which he fought in courtrooms, in television studios, and in the streets – was the best way to make sure that George W. Bush became president.”

“But still, the election of 2000 will not go away because in any real, moral, and democratic sense, Al Gore should have been declared the victor over George W. Bush – in the popular vote, in Florida, and in the Electoral College. No one seriously suggests that 3,407 people intended to vote for Patrick Buchanan in Palm Beach County; no one believes that thousands of black voters in Duval County had no preference in the race for President. The 680 questionable overseas absentee ballots identified in July 2001 by The New York Times assuredly, and improperly, went to Bush by a wide margin. If the simple preference of the voters behind their curtains was the rule – and it is supposed to be the rule in a democracy – then Gore probably won the state by several thousand votes, approximately the margin of the original network exit polls. Should Gore have won in a legal sense as well? He probably should have, and a Supreme Court opinion that is doomed to infamy denied him this opportunity, too.

In the cynical calculus of contemporary politics, it is easy to dismiss Gore’s putative victory. But if more people intended to vote for Gore than for Bush in Florida – as they surely did – then it is a crime against democracy that he did not win the state and thus the presidency. It isn’t that the Republicans ‘stole’ the election or that Bush is an ‘illegitimate’ president. But the fact remains: the wrong man was inaugurated on January 20, 2001, and this is no small thing in our nation’s history. The bell of this election can never by unrung, and the sound will haunt us for some time.”

Toobin’s account is pretty damning stuff for Bush. To all the things I said in the opening paragraph of this essay, one must add the “The wrong man was inaugurated on January 20, 2001” and the United States is paying heavily for that mistake.

If anyone contends that criticism of Bush is destructive of the “unity” we have found under his leadership since September 11th, consider these efforts by Bush that divide the American people:

1. The proposed war in Iraq that does not have popular support of American citizens and which may have a disastrous outcome for the United States.
2. Blindly backing Sharon when Palestinian camps are being cruelly destroyed. In this case, Arab hatred will be the outcome for hundreds of years.
3. Drilling in the restricted areas of Alaska – ANWR – which would yield a tiny amount of oil deliverable in no less than five years and more like ten years. Conservation in auto and truck construction alone could yield ten times the flow from Alaska and it would become available now. Bush sees political advantage because the least loved union in America, the Teamsters, might wind up being employed there.
4. Bush continues to insist on right wing ideologues to fill vacancies on high level court appointments. Pickering is now behind us; can Robert Bork or Kenneth Starr be right ahead of us.
5. Bush is pushing his concept of morality to the great detriment of the U. S. by opposition to stem cell research and the attempt to completely ban any form of cloning. People are going to continue to die while Bush is wrapped in the embraces of fundamentalist Christian churches and by his crude attempts to peel Catholic voters from the Democrats by contending that this is the new morality. It is nothing less than a return to the medieval practice of medicine.
6. In an attempt to attract Catholic voters, Bush backs “abstinence only” means to control teen-age emotions. This leads to banning all forms of abortion control which puts the United States back where remote areas of Africa now find themselves. Such cynicism. His own daughters would probably laugh at abstinence only programs among college kids.
7. This country suffered a grievous blow on September 11th. Bush has cynically advanced his “war on terror” which he thinks places him in the ranks of Lincoln and Roosevelt. While he makes great noises to promote his war, he personally takes off to his ranch in Texas and is seldom found “working” on Saturdays or Sundays. Over Easter with the Israeli crisis boiling, he took three days of Republican fund raising – all paid for by U. S. taxpayers – and four days at his home on the range. If he is going to have a war in his portfolio, he is failing to work at it. Sort of like he treated his educational experience at Yale.

8. In foreign relations, Bush has made it clear that the U. S. needs no allies or friends and will go it alone. Remember the Kyoto Treaty. Now about the effort to create an international system of justice. Sixty nations have joined. The United States stands alone; Bush refuses to sign. Think also of treaties governing missiles. In that case, Bush asked Putin of Russia to join him in a handshake without a written record of any new treaty. Putin told Bush to get lost. These are only a few of the instances where Bush says he needs no allies or friends.

There are other examples where Bush in his forlorn effort to become the Right Wing President of the World is leading the U.S. on a destructive path. Unity occurs only when Americans blindly yield to the intellectually stunted bully from Connecticut who now bills himself as a Texan. We have to do better than George W. The United States deserves better.

April 10, 2002


The Trump comparisons make themselves too easy.
In other news I found it shocking now many of the people Pop talked about are still household names in politics. Schumer, McCain, Hillary — all of these politicians are still major players, fifteen years later. There’s gotta be a happier medium between “nobody has any experience” and “90% of incumbents get reelected.” Death or retirement shouldn’t be the default way to turn over the legislature; that’s always going to create a situation where the legislature is decades behind the times. Our current batch has zero idea how the internet works, for instance, and are more than happy to take Comcast’s money to fight against net neutrality because they literally couldn’t understand what implications that would have on the country even if they wanted to. I think term limits would solve this problem nicely, with the obvious catch being that the only body who could impose such limits would be the one which would directly suffer from it. So I’m not holding my breath.


As I sit down to dictate these lines, it is a cold morning in January. With a prayerful thought, January will soon be over. This essay will not be a religious one. Worse than that, it will combine the third rail of all essays in that it will comment upon politics and religion.

The title was carefully chosen by the author, namely me, to illustrate a point which will pervade this whole essay. I suspect that a good many of my readers are aware of the old Protestant hymn called “Amazing Grace.” It was written by John Newton, who was engaged in the slave trade until a storm wrecked his ship and he survived. He evidently believed that it was a miracle that he survived, which he attributed to the intervention of God. There is no evidence about the slaves who were presumably enchained below decks. Their fate is unknown. But before his life was done, Newton gave up sailing in the slave trade business and became an Anglican bishop.

The name of Newton has a special significance tied to this essay. After Mr. Newton reached dry land and was toweled off, he set about becoming a preacher. In time, he reached the exalted title of bishop in the Anglican Church. At some point or other, Bishop Newton took a Scottish tune and penned the lyrics to his now famous hymn of “Amazing Grace.”

The first lines are instructive as they relate to this essay. Those lines are:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

The significance of these lines is that Newton referred to himself as a wretch. Newton wrote the lyrics almost 300 years ago. In so doing, he may have foreseen the events that have taken place in the Republican primary elections this year. In this case, a fellow named Newton has fulfilled all of the requirements of wretchedness that could be asked for.

Under ordinary circumstances, I would hardly ever listen to the Republican debates in a primary election. My heart is not with the Republican Party. During the Republican debates, my thoughts are on such matters as those of celestial ones. But they would hardly ever qualify as the subject of another essay. But the current Newton richly deserves an essay not only about his politics but about his philandering.

As I said earlier, I am not given to listening to Republican debates. Even at my advanced age with all my disabilities, I have better things to do. But in this case I am struck or I should say thunderstruck by the temerity of the latter-day Newton (Gingrich) to claim that God has laid his hand on him and has forgiven him.

The current-day Newton Gingrich has a long history, including being asked to leave the speaker’s role in the American House of Representatives. But in the meantime the current Newton has been engaged in other extracurricular activities. Simply put, he is a philanderer par excellence. This current Newton has been married on three occasions. On one occasion, we are told that he told his wife that he intended to divorce her while she was in the hospital recovering from a serious illness. His current wife, who is 22 years his junior, spent six years in an affair with Mr. Gingrich. This made his second wife very angry and at the moment she is lashing out at Gingrich.

Now here is what attracts my attention. As you might say, it also disturbs me. Newton Gingrich proclaims that he has apologized to God and that God has forgiven him. There is no correspondence on this subject because we presume that God does not ever write letters or emails. All we have to go on is that Newton claims that he has been forgiven. There is no third party to verify such events.

In the recent past, there have been occasions when the pastors of mega-churches have strayed into homosexuality. In the recent case of Bishop Eddie Long, it appears that he is being divorced because his wife contends that he has become involved with young boys. I suspect that in the case of Mr. Long and Ted Haggard, also the proprietor of a mega-church, there will be a period of disappearance from the public scene. At the end of that disappearance, the preachers will apparently return to the limelight and contend that God has forgiven them and that they are ready to resume their preacher duties.

Perhaps it is unseemly for a non-believer like myself to comment on celestial matters. But I am thoroughly curious about how Newt Gingrich learned that he was forgiven by God. Do you really think that a person as busy as God would take time to review a philanderer’s case simply because he has been Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States? I don’t know.

Somehow or other, preachers and politicians stray from their marital bonds. In almost all cases, they take a bit of time off and return to the public scene claiming that God has forgiven them. I realize that in some instances I am a disputatious individual. But in the Gingrich affair,
Newt proclaims that God has forgiven him and has apparently extracted no penalties.

You can mark me down as a doubter of the first order. Newton claims that the pressures of life in Washington were so great that as a patriotic duty he strayed from his first two wives. Now I know that the preceding sentence doesn’t make sense, but it is all that we have.

As things now stand, Newt Gingrich claims that he has been forgiven by God. Would it be sacrilegious to question those forgivenesses? My bafflement is quite sincere. But until I can see some more proof of God’s forgiveness, I will remain a full-fledged skeptic. I believe that in the case of Newton Gingrich, he has been a wretched man since he appeared on the American political scene. And it will take a lot more than Newt’s own testimony that he has been forgiven to convince me.

So now we see that some three hundred years apart, we have examples of wretchedness. I suppose now that the latter day Newton, given his political ambitions, may very well run for Pope. Upon his election to Pope, I will find time to praise his thoroughgoing wretchedness.

January 27, 2012


Was not expecting a Newt essay when I opened this one tonight. Well executed, though.




I know a man who speaks lovingly, respectfully, and admiringly about his own mother-in-law. Can you imagine that? His mother-in-law furnished the title for this essay. This woman was born in 1878 in the Sudetenland. There is considerable mystery about whether in 1878 the Sudetenland belonged to the German Confederation, Austria or was in the territory claimed by the Czechs. But that is beside the point. No matter how you cut it, Frau Fischer always considered herself to be a Czech, as did her family and her countrymen. At this late date, this essayist can only say to Frau Fischer, “How to go, Herta.”

We were honored to have Frau Fischer with us during her life, which extended until she was 87 years of age.

I came into the knowledge of the maxim that “old age is a disease” through a roundabout way. Frau Doktor Fischer, who had escaped from Czechoslovakia, had a daughter named Hana. During the Second World War in England, Hana married a friend of mine whom I did not know at the time. As it turns out, Hana married a preacher’s son from the great and luscious state of Missouri. Her husband managed to escape the confines of the “show me state” by joining the Eighth United States Army Air Force which took up residence in England for nearly all of the Second World War. After the war, Hana and her husband eventually wound up in New York City. Her husband is, of course, my old friend of more than 40 years named Howard Davis.

On several occasions, Howard has repeated to me the maxim that “old age is a disease” but he always attributes it to his mother-in-law. Not many men speak so respectfully and lovingly about their own mothers-in-law. But that is Howard’s style which may stem from his growing up in the sacred soil of eastern Missouri towns such as Defiance and Cape Girardeau.

Frau Doktor Fischer’s husband was a physician with offices in Olmütz, Czechoslovakia. Under the German formal system of language, the wife acquires her husband’s occupation upon marriage. Thus the proper form of address is Frau Doktor Herta Knopfmacher Fischer. The translation of Knopfmacher into English is button maker. The Knopfmacher-Fischer household was Jewish and when the Second World War was taking place, it developed that the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia were no places for Jewish people to reside.

Fortunately Herta escaped with her daughter, son and at least one other sibling to the safety of England. Before the end of her life, she came to live in Philadelphia. She visited New York often, where she spent much of her time with Howard Davis and his wife, Hana Fischer Davis.

It was during these years that the maxim of “old age is a disease” was passed on to her son-in-law, an advertising executive with the N.W. Ayer organization in New York. My brain received the information about the maxim in the late 1970s. I’m sorry that it took so long for me to learn of what is in store for all of us as we go around the bend.

Before going further, I should point out that when Frau Doktor Fischer came to England, the Holocaust was taking place and her husband, Herr Doktor Fischer, the physician, tragically disappeared into it. This was the fate of many Jewish people who simply wanted to reside peacefully. But Adolf Hitler had other intentions.

This morning, I arose at 7 o’clock in order to keep an appointment with an orthopedic physician and surgeon. There had been pain for several weeks or months in my leg and shoulders. The physician, Michael Mirsky, who is of Russian or Polish ancestry, examined the X-rays and pronounced that I had “a bad case of arthritis.” My extensive research discloses that there is no such thing as a good case of arthritis. This diagnosis was not a major discovery in that from time to time over the past many years, arthritis has painfully descended upon my bone structure. It is not a welcome visitor but in time and with exercise, it has always seemed to pass.

The cold weather that we are now experiencing in New Jersey seems to prolong the effects of arthritis. But I trust that in time it will diminish or, if I am lucky, go away. Clearly, the problem is that I have lived so long that the maxim that “old age is a disease” has long since applied to me.

I am far from being alone as a sufferer of old age. The physician that I visited this morning has a full schedule of people suffering from arthritis and more serious diseases. But it is clear that old age produces all kinds of ailments.

I thought that it was important in this essay to point out that Howard Davis’s mother-in-law had it exactly right: old age is a disease. If there is any doubt on this subject, I would produce the testimony of Gregorio Russo who works in the produce department of the local Whole Foods Market. Gregorio Russo’s parents lived in a town south of Naples, Italy. His father, who was a bit of a philosopher, told Gregorio, who is now in his 60s, that as he made his way in life, he should avoid growing old. If he were to avoid growing old, there would be no great need for the doctrine that old age is a disease. But the alternative to growing old is not necessarily an attractive one.

Frau Doktor Herta Knopfmacher Fischer has contributed a major maxim to those of us who are involved with gerontology. And so it is that I am able to accept the problems of arthritis philosophically. It gives me great comfort to know that Frau Doktor Fischer has identified the source of my displeasure. On the other hand, I am comforted by the thought that she lived a long life and was able to receive such admiration on the part of her son-in-law. My only regret is that I did not know her because I would have been a Herta disciple much earlier in life.

January 29, 2011


I hope that most people get along with their Mothers in Law; I always figured that the alternative was more of a trope played up by the media than an actual phenomenon. That aside, Doctor Buttonmaker lived a full an interesting life; it’s a shame she doesn’t feature in more essays. Howard Davis certainly does, though! He’s in at least 34, at the current count.


Those of us who write essays recognize that when an essay demands to be written, it will be done. You may remember a recent essay called, “A Matter of Dignity.” In that essay, it recounted the story about how Matthew Pepe, my old friend who installs driveways and sidewalks, saw the problem of my taking the garbage containers to the street. On previous occasions, I had overshot and wound up in the street. On another occasion I found myself in front of a neighbor’s house. So that I could stay on course, Matthew installed two deflectors against the Belgian blocks which would return a different sound to my ears when tapped by my white cane. It is now a month or so since the two deflectors were installed, and I am happy to report that they are doing their job admirably.

There is another aspect to the story about Matthew Pepe. In the essay, “A Matter of Dignity,” I referred to Matthew’s immediate understanding of my dilemma of getting the garbage containers to the street. His understanding brought tears “to my useless eyes.” When the essay was finished, I composed this small letter to transmit it to Professor Pepe. Here is what my letter said:

After mailing the letter and essay, I more or less forgot about it because I knew that Matthew was hard at work pouring asphalt and concrete before the cold weather set in. Nonetheless, Matthew took the time to write me this poignant reply:

So you see, Matthew said that he had tears in his eyes as he read the essay. I am here to tell the world that no essayist gets better praise than that.

As I hope you can see, the Pepe family and that organization have my highest respect. They are good workman and they are friends. What more could anyone ask?

So this essay wrote itself. I merely arranged the sequence of letters. When an essay demands to write itself, it is best for the essayist to get out of the way. Which is what I am about to do.

November 25, 2006


Daww. Just another thing that made the Thanksgiving season of 2006 even better.


Those of us who have lost our sight frequently wrestle with the thought of our potential uselessness. It has always been so. In the Irish folksong, “Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye,” an Irish soldier who served with the British Army returns from a battle in Ceylon minus two limbs. The song’s lyrics say, “You haven’t a arm, you haven’t a leg, you’ll have to be put with a bowl to beg.” While Johnny retained his sight, I’m sure that his sense of uselessness dominated his thoughts. And so it is with those of us who have lost our sight.

Simply put, those of us who are blind are incapable of doing many of the things that we have done all of our lives. If we try to help around the kitchen for example, it is quite likely that we will cause more problems than if we sat on a chair and remained silent. The other day, for example, when I intended to deal with the electric stove top, the results were two burned fingers. And the dish in question never got stirred.

If I elect to help set the table, it seems to me that the glasses are always a gross impediment. Sometimes I knock them over. Retrieving plates for the next meal helps very little. I tend to knock over other dishes as I try to extract the plates. The point is that uselessness is always a consideration for the visually impaired.

Around the kitchen, I fold the paper bags the grocery store gives us so that they may be placed in a rack on the back of the kitchen door. I am able, with a high degree of fumbling, to fill the glasses with ice on most occasions. Leaving the kitchen, I am able to help my wife by going to the front porch and retrieving the newspaper. In that same spirit, there comes the matter of taking out the garbage from the garage to the street.

Taking out the garbage involves a total of four trips to the street. There is a trip the night before the garbage is collected and then there is the matter of retrieving the empty container the next day. This happens twice a week. Every other week, there is also a need to take out and retrieve a second container which holds the cans and bottles for recycling.

The driveway here from the back of the garage to the street is at least 90 feet long with Belgian blocks defining its edges. I find that I can make my way from one end of the driveway to the other by using my white cane to tap on the blocks. It is remarkable to me how easy it is to stray in a direction that I had never intended. Completely blind persons such as myself have no sense of direction. I have no idea whether I am walking east or west or north or south. It is for this reason that blind people tend to stick to walls that help guide them. In this case, I use my white cane to tap on the Belgian blocks to keep me on course for my eventual destination at the street.

A lot can go wrong in the 90 feet of driveway. On two occasions, I overshot the driveway and wound up well into the street. On another occasion I became turned around and wound up in front of the neighbors house going down the street. Unfortunately, the street is also lined by Belgian blocks. Remember, I told you that I have no sense of direction.

My solution to avoid wandering into the street was to install a metal device alongside the Belgian blocks that would return a different sound to my ears as I approach the street. For blind people, ears and hearing are extremely important. When the thought of installing metal devices in front of the ordinary Belgian blocks first occurred to me, my thoughts turned automatically to a gentleman I have known for dozens of years. That gentleman is Matthew J. Pepe.

In the 1960s, I owned a house in a town called New Providence, New Jersey. Somewhere along the line, the patio outside the recreation room split in the middle and sunk. As a result, when rain occurred, the sunken patio funneled the water into the recreation room. When that happened, I consulted with a neighbor, Nick DiNunzio, who suggested that the man to call was Matthew Pepe.

Mr. Pepe poured a new patio for me and things were well taken care of. From that time until now, all of my concrete work and driveway work have always been referred to the Pepe organization.

When I called Matthew Pepe and explained my current problem about the garbage containers to him, he understood immediately. When I demonstrated to Mr. Pepe how I tap the Belgian blocks on my way to the street, his only question was, “And you are dragging the garbage can behind you?” I assured him that that was the case. From that point on I left things totally in Matthew Pepe’s hands.

Within a week or so, Matthew Pepe returned with his two sons and with three other men who work for the organization. They installed two metal deflectors that when tapped would return a different sound to my ears. One two-foot deflector was installed about 25 feet from the end of the driveway and the other was installed about six feet from its end. On the occasion of the installation of the metal deflectors, I gave them a test hop. As I walked slowly down the driveway and hit the first deflector, my wife tells me that there were smiles all around in the Pepe group. When I hit the second deflector, their smiles turned into laughter and cheers of approval. My test was a complete success.

When this project started, I explained to Mathew Pepe that I needed to take the garbage containers to the street to overcome my sense of uselessness. Matthew understood me completely. He said simply, “It is a matter of dignity.” Matthew Pepe is no psychologist nor is he a psychiatrist. He and his sons are simply hard-working people who install driveways for a living. Pouring a new driveway is tough work. Certainly it is not a matter of shuffling papers in an office. It is backbreaking work.

So you see, while Matthew Pepe is not a psychologist, he instantly understood what I was trying to accomplish. Matthew and I have known each other for many years. He correctly concluded that what I was trying to do was to overcome my sense of uselessness. When he said, “it is a matter of dignity,” he was absolutely right. And when he said that, a tear or two developed in my useless eyes.

So you see, if you have a driveway or walkway to be constructed, the only place to go is to Matthew J. Pepe of New Providence. And if you are fighting a sense of uselessness, Matthew Pepe is the man to see. If he concludes that it is a matter of dignity, Matthew and his sons will take up your case.

October 15, 2006


This one made me happy. Pop always especially valued his interactions with people who do real physical labor for a living, so I’m sure that made the whole affair just that much more pleasing to him. I think that affection probably stemmed from his job at the filling station, where he learned about what it’s like to do exhausting work while being subject to all manner of customers’ whims. In that same vein, I bet that Pop was always nice to various customer service reps whenever he had to deal with them.


Under ordinary circumstances, your old essayist attempts to keep his correspondence separate from the essays that are produced here. In this case, however, Tom Friedman, the New York Times star op-ed writer wrote a piece that should not be condensed or treated in the Reader’s Digest fashion. Friedman’s piece was so wrong and so provocative, that a spirited reply was called for. Again, in the interest of transparency, my readers should see what was said by both sides.

Here, then, is Tom Friedman’s op-ed piece from the June 15th issue of the New York Times:

June 15, 2005
Let’s Talk About Iraq

Ever since Iraq’s remarkable election, the country has been descending deeper and deeper into violence. But no one in Washington wants to talk about it. Conservatives don’t want to talk about it because, with a few exceptions, they think their job is just to applaud whatever the Bush team does. Liberals don’t want to talk about Iraq because, with a few exceptions, they thought the war was wrong and deep down don’t want the Bush team to succeed. As a result, Iraq is drifting sideways and the whole burden is being carried by our military. The rest of the country has gone shopping, which seems to suit Karl Rove just fine.
Well, we need to talk about Iraq. This is no time to give up – this is still winnable – but it is time to ask: What is our strategy? This question is urgent because Iraq is inching toward a dangerous tipping point – the point where the key communities begin to invest more energy in preparing their own militias for a scramble for power – when everything falls apart, rather than investing their energies in making the hard compromises within and between their communities to build a unified, democratizing Iraq.
Our core problem in Iraq remains Donald Rumsfeld’s disastrous decision – endorsed by President Bush – to invade Iraq on the cheap. From the day the looting started, it has been obvious that we did not have enough troops there. We have never fully controlled the terrain. Almost every problem we face in Iraq today – the rise of ethnic militias, the weakness of the economy, the shortages of gas and electricity, the kidnappings, the flight of middle-class professionals – flows from not having gone into Iraq with the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force.
Yes, yes, I know we are training Iraqi soldiers by the battalions, but I don’t think this is the key. Who is training the insurgent-fascists? Nobody. And yet they are doing daily damage to U.S. and Iraqi forces. Training is overrated, in my book. Where you have motivated officers and soldiers, you have an army punching above its weight. Where you don’t have motivated officers and soldiers, you have an army punching a clock.
Where do you get motivated officers and soldiers? That can come only from an Iraqi leader and government that are seen as representing all the country’s main factions. So far the Iraqi political class has been a disappointment. The Kurds have been great. But the Sunni leaders have been shortsighted at best and malicious at worst, fantasizing that they are going to make a comeback to power through terror. As for the Shiites, their spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has been a positive force on the religious side, but he has no political analog. No Shiite Hamid Karzai has emerged.
“We have no galvanizing figure right now,” observed Kanan Makiya, the Iraqi historian who heads the Iraq Memory Foundation. “Sistani’s counterpart on the democratic front has not emerged. Certainly, the Americans made many mistakes, but at this stage less and less can be blamed on them. The burden is on Iraqis. And we still have not risen to the magnitude of the opportunity before us.”
I still don’t know if a self-sustaining, united and democratizing Iraq is possible. I still believe it is a vital U.S. interest to find out. But the only way to find out is to create a secure environment. It is very hard for moderate, unifying, national leaders to emerge in a cauldron of violence.
Maybe it is too late, but before we give up on Iraq, why not actually try to do it right? Double the American boots on the ground and redouble the diplomatic effort to bring in those Sunnis who want to be part of the process and fight to the death those who don’t. As Stanford’s Larry Diamond, author of an important new book on the Iraq war, “Squandered Victory,” puts it, we need “a bold mobilizing strategy” right now. That means the new Iraqi government, the U.S. and the U.N. teaming up to widen the political arena in Iraq, energizing the constitution-writing process and developing a communications-diplomatic strategy that puts our bloodthirsty enemies on the defensive rather than us. The Bush team has been weak in all these areas. For weeks now, we haven’t even had ambassadors in Iraq, Afghanistan or Jordan.
We’ve already paid a huge price for the Rumsfeld Doctrine – “Just enough troops to lose.” Calling for more troops now, I know, is the last thing anyone wants to hear. But we are fooling ourselves to think that a decent, normal, forward-looking Iraqi politics or army is going to emerge from a totally insecure environment, where you can feel safe only with your own tribe.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Friedman’s piece had an incendiary quality to it. His call for doubling the troops in Iraq and his ignoring the occupational aspect of our presence there was provoking to this old soldier, so Friedman heard from me.

Mr. Friedman

This e-mail is written much more in puzzlement than in anger. For all these years, I had considered you a writer who dealt in logical realities as distinguished from the Alice in Wonderland atmosphere that marked the machinations of the Bush administration.

The wheels to your credibility came off when you enthusiastically endorsed Bush’s pre-emptive invasion of Iraq. From that day forward, you have seized every opportunity to endorse the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfield-Rice thesis that things are going swimmingly in Iraq. The fact that Rumsfeld was fighting this war on the cheap seemed to give you no problem back in 2003.

Now in your column that appeared in the June 15th edition of the Times, you have given your credibility one more enormous kick in the gut. Your opening sentence says Iraq “has been descending deeper and deeper into violence.” Illogically, in your second paragraph you say, “this is no time to give up –this is still winnable…..” Mr. Friedman, for more than two years you have shoveled garbage of this sort on Times’ readers. It is absolutely nothing more than warmed over born again propaganda from the White House. In my eyes, you have become the designated hitter for the sycophants of Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld, et al.

Near the end of your article, you prescribe, “Double the American boots on the ground…” This is a horrid cliché. You are capable of better writing than slovenly froth like this. But that brings us to the heart of the problem. In round terms, we have 140,000 troops “on the ground” in Iraq. As Christian occupiers, that gives the Iraqis 140,000 reasons to hate us. Now we find the eminent war strategist Tom Friedman prescribing 280,000 reasons to hate us. I am confident that strategists such as yourself will then prescribe 560,000 “boots on the ground.” Where does “boots on the ground” end?

The simple fact is that we invaded Iraq without reason. It was a sovereign nation even though it was disliked by Sharon and Bush. As long as we occupy Iraq as a Christian power, hatred will always be our lot – which we richly deserve.

Look at it this way. If the situation were to be reversed with Iraqi Arabs occupying the United States, every patriot would consider it his duty to injure or to hurt the Moslem occupiers. My puzzlement comes from your blindness to this overwhelming point. Mr. Friedman, your column on closing Gitmo was eminently on point. Why are you so blind as to parrot the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld line that this disastrous adventure is “still winnable”?

E. E. Carr

P.S. This letter comes to you from a World War II soldier whose religious beliefs are in total non-belief.

A copy of my reply was sent to Suzanne Carr Shepherd, an Austin, Texas lawyer who contends from time to time, that we are related.
Ms. Shepherd, Esquire, read both pieces and asked, given the indisputable fact that Army recruiting goals have not been met for months, where will the Army find another 140,000 soldiers to put their “boots on the ground” in Iraq? That is a very reasonable question. It would do no good to ask Friedman about additional troops strength because he says he is a journalist, not a general of the Army.

Obviously, it was necessary for someone to step into this yawning void to answer the question from the Texas lawyer. So my reply had to do with costs which are now so great that Bush and the Army have lost count.

Here is my reply to the questions raised in Texas.

The costs of transporting new troops to Iraq are excessive. Then there is the cost of carrying the corpses back to the US and shipping them to home town cemeteries. It would be the ultimate patriotic gesture for new recruits to go to local cemeteries where they can be shot and buried immediately. That saves on the middle men costs and it will give the new recruit a chance to autograph the cross that will be placed over his grave.

Thinking right along with me, the Texas lawyer replied as follows:

Your suggestion makes perfect sense. And as in Vietnam – we can give them back their own country right away, or after 50,000 lost American lives, but either way we give them back their country. Why not do it now? In the meantime, we can shoot the new recruits right here at home until we figure it all out.

At this point, Ms. Judith Chicka, who is related in one way or another to the correspondents, suggested as a means to further cut costs, that new Army recruits be shot before taking the oath as a soldier. This means that the recruit may be denied any bonus and death benefit that might be attached to his or her enlistment. Under Ms. Chicka’s suggestion, the Army could save enough money to underwrite the Social Security program through eternity.

In the final analysis, more U.S. troops will give Iraqis additional reasons to hate us. The sole answer to this problem is to remove our occupying troops. The longer we stay as occupiers, we will harvest the robust hatred not only of the Iraqis but of the entire Islamic world. The Arab world sees us building permanent buildings in Iraq, some of which will be used as prisons. Arabs have every reason to believe that we intend to occupy Iraq in “perpetuity” as a Justice Department said of the prisoners at Gitmo.

This war is a function of ill disguised greed on the part of Bush, Chaney, Rumsfeld, Rice, et al. It has absolutely no basis in justice. Wars fought without justice have a way of biting the aggressor. The unrest that has now appeared in the United States is simply a forerunner to our endless quagmire in Iraq. Sooner or later, our troops will have to come home.

Tom Friedman should know that wars without justice are not “winnable.” This is an unjust war that is wasting lives of our soldiers, the lives of Iraqi civilians and the draining of our treasury. There is no light at the end of the Iraqi tunnel.

June 25, 2005


There was never a victory condition outside of a stable Iraq that was friendly to the US. Continued presence of US soldiers in the reason actively worked against both halves of that goal. It’s okay though, because now ISIS controls large swaths of the country — Mission Accomplished, right?


It is a matter of great regret that none of you knew George Knickerbocker, my pre-World War II St. Louis colleague at AT&T.

George insisted in pronouncing every letter of every word in spoken English. For example, miscellaneous on George’s tongue came out as MIS-KEL-AN-EOUS. Old George did not stop there at all. As in the case of the title of this piece, George would invest in intrusive letters where none previously existed and so PESSIMIST became PES-TI-MIST. George must have made a profound impression upon my young mind in that his speaking quirks have been remembered for 63 years.

George’s thought about pestimism comes to mind as we are to consider the nomination of Harriet Miers to become a justice of the United States Supreme Court. We have been assured by no less than the Ultimate Commander in Chief of the Whole World that Ms. Miers is the single most qualified candidate out of nearly 300,000,000 Americans. Because she stands alone at the top of the heap, our Ultimate Leader, after reviewing the dossiers of nearly every American, 1) picked his own personal attorney who comes from, 2) you won’t believe this – from Texas, and 3) belongs to a church that believes every word in the King James Bible is the inerrant word of God, including such miracles as Joshua stopping the sun as it rotates around the earth. Galileo has been in the eternal torments of hell for several hundred years now because of his silly insistence to the Inquisition of the Catholic Church that it was the earth rotating, not the sun. That’s what you get for challenging an infallible belief of God’s vicars on earth. Same for birth control and the morning after pill.

All of this turmoil has caused me to think first about Lillie Carr, my mother, as the first part of a Tinkers to Evers to Chance triple play. The second put out by Johnny Evers at second base involves fundamentalist or primitive churches. The third put out involves Ms. Miers’s ability to write sentences that educated people are capable of understanding.

Lillie always belonged to fundamentalist or primitive churches. She believed what the illiterate preachers sermonized about. Obviously, it was in the financial and ecclesiastic interests of the preachers to paint a picture of gloom and disaster with the thought that only Jesus or the Holy Ghost could offer refuge. These preachers viewed themselves as Christian soldiers fighting against the sinfulness of the multitudes. To hear their sermons, the sinners always seemed to be winning.

Actually, to protect their own investments in the ministry, they were to use George Knickerbocker’s words, the voices of pes-ti-mism. They were determined to keep imminent disaster in the forefront of the minds of the worshipers and to frighten them every Sunday.

In the past ten months, the earth has withstood a tsunami, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the violent earthquake in Pakistan. Lillie was an avid reader of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. After reading of these disasters, she would have proclaimed to everyone within listening distance that the world was coming to an end because of its sinfulness. Franklin Graham, Billy’s goofy son, said recently that God himself had taken revenge on New Orleans because of – you guessed it – its sinfulness. And so Lillie and the dreadful Franklin Graham and others of that ilk are our league leading Christian pes-ti-mists. They thrive on disaster and gloom.

When the Post Dispatch raised its price from two cents to three cents, Lillie incorrectly assumed the end of the world was at hand. But she was not alone. If you were to undergo simulated water torture treatment by listening to extemporaneous testimony in such primitive churches, you would find that the end of the world was a pre-occupying thought in most minds.

And all that brings us to the Valley View Christian Church of Dallas. In the year 2005, or the year 5766 as the Hebrews count, one might imagine that human intelligence would progress in some degree. But not at Valley View Christian Church, an organization that seems to desire to return at least to 2000 years ago when Biblical characters produced dragons with multiple heads and large numbers of horns. Ms. Miers and her erstwhile boyfriend, Nathan Hecht, are prominent members of Valley View.

The website of Valley View Christian Church is a tour de force in regressive thinking. The website lists ten bedrock beliefs which seem to be binding on all its members including the Ultimate Commander of Everything’s personal lawyer and her unmarried male friend who is a judge in the Texas Superior Court.

The first belief of the Valley Viewers is that the King James Bible is the only infallible, inspired, and authorized Word of God. It is the final authority on all matters of faith and Christian practice. Another “We believe” holds that Jesus “came to the world to die for our sins and was bodily raised from the dead,” presumably to some sort of heaven.

Now here are two more “we beliefs” that shut out all other faiths from frolicking in the green pastures of heaven. “We believe that full immersion under water is the prescribed mode of baptism….” And the final “We believe” says righteous people who attend Valley View “will spend eternity with God in heaven and those not forgiven will be eternally separated from God in hell.”

According to the creed at Valley View, every person who has not undergone full immersion baptism, for one example, is headed for the eternal tortures of hell. My guess is that perhaps 98% of the human race will not qualify for heaven under the code of Valley View. Jews, Catholics, Lutherans and other Protestant faiths, Hindus, Buddhists, Moslems, et al. are headed to hell. Non-believers will be first in line at the gaudy gates of hell. One consolation would be that hell would permit more free thinking than an eternity at Valley View. Why would any bright person want to spend an eternity with the dullards of Valley View?

Of course, no person in his right mind would believe all this sacred garbage. But there is at least one person who calls George Bush the “most brilliant person I ever met” who wallows around in this ecclesiastical dump every week. That, of course, is Harriet Miers.

Can you imagine her ruling on litigants appearing before the Supreme Court who are Catholics or Jews or Moslems or Anglicans or – banish the thought – non-believers in any religion? Her Valley View beliefs would require Justice Miers to condemn them all to hell.

Bush nominated Ms. Miers to the Supreme Court as a cynical gesture to his right wing religious base – and it has backfired. It has backfired because they have seen the quality of her intellect as reflected in her writings. First, there are the adoring, mushy notes to Bush telling him he is wonderful. Then there is the unseemly use of the childish word “cool” in her love notes. Come on Harriet, grow up! You are not a teenager in bobby sox.

Then we have the collection of incoherent thoughts published by David Brooks, the designated hitter of the White House who writes for the New York Times. Try this one on as a sample of Ms. Miers’s linguistic talents:

“Disciplining ourselves to provide the opportunity for thought and analysis has to rise again to a high priority.”

You got that? Explain that to me.

There are two Costa Ricans in this town. One does landscaping. The second cleans houses. They are dependable and likeable. They work hard and are lovely people. But in the final analysis, they are unsuited to be our mayor or our municipal judges. They are superb at what they do. At the same time, as likeable as they are, they should not be pushed to positions clearly above their heads, as in the case of Harriet Miers.

Harriet is an overachiever when it comes to proofreading and filing. Sending her to the Supreme Court would be a gross injustice to the court, to the legal profession and to all Americans.

Once again, Bush should have his head examined for putting this load on a clearly unqualified candidate. Only his arrogance can explain why he wants to see Ms. Miers undergo the meat grinder Senate confirmation hearing. In addition to his other obvious failings, perhaps Bush is now unmasked as a masochist. If George Knickerbocker is still alive, it would be of considerable interest to hear him take a stab at pronouncing masochist.

October 16, 2005

PS: To prove that this material is not made up, there is attached the beliefs of Valley View Christian Church and the David Brooks column. As a Jew, Brooks is one of those people who must be “separated from God” and spend eternity in hell. And he is a conservative Republican. There is one consolation in that Brooks is an erudite fellow who will provide sparkling conversation as we spend an eternity in hell.


That column is a winner. Pop chose a pretty charitable quote to include here; he could have done way worse.

Some other choice quotations:
“We have to understand and appreciate that achieving justice for all is in jeopardy before a call to arms to assist in obtaining support for the justice system will be effective. Achieving the necessary understanding and appreciation of why the challenge is so important, we can then turn to the task of providing the much needed support.”

“More and more, the intractable problems in our society have one answer: broad-based intolerance of unacceptable conditions and a commitment by many to fix problems.”

Brooks concludes that although she writes about interesting subjects, “she presents no arguments or ideas, except the repetition of the bromide that bad things can be eliminated if people of good will come together to eliminate bad things.” I am immediately reminded of one of my favorite Onion columns, “Somebody Should Do Something About All the Problems.”


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.

IS CAMILLA PG? | Meditations – Chapter Seven, Verses 1-17

For the better part of 35 years, Prince Charley of England had played games with Camilla, an upper class English woman who bears a remarkable resemblance to his mother. Charley and Camilla were married to other people for many of those years, so it is fair to assume that Princess Diana and Mr. Parker Bowles were living in a state of cuckoldry. It might be that the Church of England will convey sainthood on those who are cuckolds. Queen Elizabeth is the Pope of the Church of England. Her views have not been made public, but no matter how you cut it, Charley is her oldest son which presumably might work in his favor.

Charley and Camilla got married earlier this Spring and took an extended honeymoon-holiday to recover from the onerous duties of the Prince of Wales. Appearing at garden parties and gracing the conferences of the English hoi polloi demands much of a man. No wonder he needs a honeymoon-holiday. The long time lovers have been gone for more than two months. In that time, there have been no daffy letters written in Charley’s inimitable style. America is baffled! What is going on?

My suspicions are based on my experience with the thousands of women who populated the switchboards and clerical jobs at AT&T. Those women kept tabs on their compatriots. When an operator acquired a husband, they were entitled to a honeymoon trip to Coney Island or to the Jersey shore. Before long, on the wages paid at AT&T, they would run out of money and have to return to work.

Inevitably, other operators regarded it as their God-given right to ask the newly married operator if she was pregnant (PG) and/or did she plan to become PG in the immediate future. No one seemed to regard this as an intrusion into another’s private affairs. Simply put, the question was whether the newlywed was pregnant and if not, what is holding things up.

If the newlywed operator was evasive about her obstetrical condition, the other women would count the number of times she visited the ladies room. They would watch her in the cafeteria to see any signs of gastric distress. And they would keep a sharp eye on her waistline.

The men in AT&T traffic offices had to depend on operating room gossip to forecast their future employment needs. When an operator or a supervisor found out about a pregnancy, they regarded it as a scoop to get to the District Manager first.

So you see my mind set. The people of England and indeed, the Western world would very much like to know about Camilla’s state of health. If she is PG, the world ought to know about it so that bonnets and sun suits may be ordered from London’s most fashionable clothiers. If, on the other hand, she is not PG, there are dozens of former New York operators who will recommend physicians, magicians, chiropractors and morticians who will assist Camilla to achieve that end. The New York operators will probably counsel Camilla to cut down on her smoking as this could lead to undersized babies.

Those same operators from New York are generally of Irish background. They would advise Camilla to explain to Charley how babies are made. It is not a case of ordering a footman to go buy one. Old Charlie has to get into the act. There is a strong chance that he will find the baby making procedure repugnant and distasteful, but the Irish New York operators would tell Camilla’s husband that once he performs, a cookie or a lollypop awaits him. It may be that Charley will be elated at the bargain he has swung.

It is an unfair thing to do, but your old essay writer must tell you that he knows no more than the average bloke on the wharves of London about Camilla’s obstetrical condition. It is shameful to admit that, but whether or not Charley has ever come back to resume writing goofy letters is also something unknown to me.

My advice is simple. Stay close to the old New York telephone operators. My guess is that they will be the first to know about Camilla’s pregnancy. My money is on a new heir to the throne in the Windsor family. My money is also on the thought that old Charley will be among the last to know and will be confused by an event he cannot comprehend. Charley wants his cookie or his lollypop. He needs comfort from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

June 14, 2005


I still don’t quite get why Pop has such a problem with UK royalty. I mean they’re clearly an archaic hold-over that probably should no longer exist in 2017, and I guess in a few different capacities they’re a drain on taxpayers, but his ire seems to have gone far deeper than that. I think he maybe objected most to the utterly unearned sense of entitlement that they carry just for being born into it, but it’s really anyone’s guess. Maybe Judy can enlighten us.

WAY TO GO ALBERTO | Meditations – Chapter Six; Verses 1 to 17

When Bill Clinton was the United States president, a suit was filed against the producers of American tobacco products. It was alleged that nicotine is addictive and leads to emphysema and lung cancer among other disabilities. That much is a given.

When Bush took the presidency courtesy of Scalia and the Supreme Court, his Attorney General was John Ashcroft, a retrogressive, born again Missourian. Ashcroft attempted to kill the suit, but the action had too much legal and public momentum for that to happen. Ashcroft made it clear that his heart was not in the suit against some of the major contributors to Republican campaigns. On the other hand, the attorneys actually trying the suit on behalf of the U. S. Government were enthusiastic in their assessment that they had a winner.

Bush’s second term started by his telling Ashcroft that his services were no longer needed. Effectively, he was fired. Bush gave the A.G. job to Alberto Gonzales, his personal legal advisor. Gonzales was promoted after he had given Bush a written opinion that prisoners of the Iraqi and Afghanistan campaigns were not protected by the Geneva Convention. He said that provisions of the Convention were “quaint” and “obsolete.” This opened the door to the torture that has come to light at places like Guantanamo, Bagram in Afghanistan and Abu Ghraib in Iraq. The courts have uniformly rejected Gonzales’s advice to Bush. So our fearless leader promoted Gonzales to Attorney General of the United States.

As the case against the tobacco companies was approaching its end, expert witnesses for the government determined that the damage caused by the defendants came to $130 billion to be paid out over several years. $130 billion was the working figure for all participants, including the judge. It was the figure proposed by the Department of Justice of this administration.

Suddenly, in the first week of June of this year as the lawyers were preparing their closing arguments, Gonzales ordered his lawyers to say that the damage came only to $10 billion, not $130 billion. The $10 billion was to be paid out over five years.

The judge was flabbergasted. In the most polite terms, she inquired about whether there were any “outside influences” which would call for the reduction in the proposed penalty from $130 billion to $10 billion. The lawyers for the government who had been bullied by Gonzales and the White House, had no understandable answer to the judge’s question. After years of work on the suit, they had been shot in he back.

This is a case of the most egregious meddling by Gonzales and Bush in our court system. It was done solely to protect contributors to the Republican coffers. This is the way things are done in a Fascist state – which we are threatening to become.

Gonzales is high on Bush’s list for appointment to the Supreme Court. So now we have a candidate who stands alone in his analysis of the Geneva Convention which he called “quaint” and “obsolete.” He has had one promotion and now he seeks another. His action in the tobacco case is one of a gutless sycophant, which is why we say, “How to go, Alberto!”

June 13, 2005


We have a plethora of gutless sycophants lately, it seems. Paul Ryan, in particular, comes strongly to mind right now.  Something about the GOP must attract the type.