Goodreads Profile

All my book reviews and profile can be found here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I'm Disappointed

Tragic that I did not make Bill O'Reilly's hit list. (It's pretty puny, actually.) The poor fellow seems to be self-destructing. First the suggestion that if terrorists struck San Francisco no one should help them (Link), then the hit list of media and Internet cites that are out to get him. Ever since he settled with the producer he had abused and harassed, he seems to have gone off the deep end. I see his site is now even selling O'Reilly clothing. He and Pat Robertson should just realize they have early Alzheimer's and check into the nearest nursing home -- assuming O'Reilly could keep his hands off the nurses.

Related links: Think Progress,

Another question: Why has the World Bank become the dumping zone for architects of failed war policies? First McNamara and now Wolfowitz.

Newspaper Circulation Continues to Slide

The newspaper industry has reported another substantial drop in daily circulation. (Link) As usual the Internet has again been assigned the blame. William Falk, editor of The Week has a different view: ". . . the cause of death will not be the Internet. It will be suicide. Newspapers still make tons of money: the industry's average profit margin is 20 percent, compared to 7 percent for oil companies, and 6 percent for the entire Fortune 500. But the mammoth corporations that now run newspapers have responded to the new competitive challenges in the stupidest possible way: by cutting quality. They're eliminating foreign bureaus, investigative reporting teams, and experienced editors, filling their pages with shallow filler and bland features. Ambitious reporting and edgy writing are disappearing. Once great newspapers . . . are now flat and generic; their authority is leaking away. The corporate guys, who think only of pleasing Wall Street, keep cutting costs and boosting profits, and wringing their hands in puzzlement when circulation keeps going down. Guess what, guys? People stop buying newspapers when there's nothing in them they don't already know."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


The issue of celibacy for priests is really silly. It was first required by the Second Lateran Council in 1139 -- that is they declared clerical marriages invalid -- because they did not want the children of priests to inherit church property. St. Peter, the first pope, was married and to suggest there is an theological foundation is simpy fallacious. Lawrence Young, in Full Pews and Empty Altars, predicts the Catholic Church will lose another 16,000 priests by 2015. More than 3,000 parishes in this country have no full-time priest currently. Time for Benedict to wake up and smell the coffee.

So Now Who's Degrading Marriage?

The Rev. Joseph DeRose of the Evangel Christian Church in Roseville, Michigan married two dogs. Apparently the dogs were great friends and the owners, next door neighbors, wanted to make it legal. And they were worried about gay marriage. So who inherits the milkbones? And can they get a divorce, if Gracie decides to hump the Great Dane moving in next week?


Monday, November 28, 2005

Democracy and Iraq

Bush is at it again, promoting democracy in China. If he really believed in democracy, he would have the American presence put on the ballot in the December Iraqi elections. If the Iraqis want us to stay, fine, even I would support them remaining. If not, we should leave. The fact is that Bush only wants democratic elections when he wins. George: Can you spell republic?

Steve Chapman link.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Evolution Again

A recent NPR program on how evolution is taught (link) chastened some of the relief and joy at the news that Dover Pennsylvania voters turned out the entire school board for their ridiculous efforts to require teaching Intelligent Design as part of the curriculum.

Torture and Morality

We used to be a "moral" country. For all our religiosity, the spectacle of the Vice-president of the United States pleading for an exception for the CIA to John McCain's legislation that would ban the use of torture by the United States and its agencies strikes me as nothing short of satanic.

For more on the CIA spooks and their interrogation technizques in Iraq -- and the murder of one of the suspects -- see the November 14m, 2005 issue of The New Yorker

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

"Shake and Bake"

The Army's Field Artillery Magazine issue of Mr/Ap 2005 revealed that the controversial weapon "white phosphorous" is known in the field by a rather unpleasant euphemism: shake and bake.

The army is trying desperately to dig itself out of a hole. Chemical weapons are considered anathema but incendiary shells, when targeted at combatants are not. They originally claimed they weren't using the stuff. When that mendacity was exposed, they insisted the shells were used only for illumination. If that's the case, however, it is considered a chemical weapon because of the way it combusts. Then they said it was used to target enemy combatants.

It's a particularly heinous weapon because it burns flesh quite readily and can't be put out with water, hence the nasty euphemism.

Again a leader taking the moral high ground, the United States, refused to sign the Convention on Conventional Weapons that banned white phosphorous because, of course, we wanted to use it. Does the name Hitler spring to mind?

Shades of napalm and Vietnam.

11/22/05 Follow-up

A Pentagon report noted the use of phorphorous "chemical" weapons being used against the Kurds by Saddam Hussein in 1991. According to one source, these are the same weapons we are now using in Iraq ourselves, but claiming they are not "chemical" but "incendiary."

Sunday, November 20, 2005

P.J. O'Rourke on Flying

"As a stimulating adventure, flying nowadays ranks somewhere between appearing in traffic court and going to Blockbuster with the DVD of Shrek that my toddler inserted into the toaster."

Crap Cars

There was a review of Richard Porter's new book Crap Cars (SF Chronicle, Sunday November 20) has some very funny lines. For example, his comments on the Hummer H1:

Imagine if there'd been some sort of hideous Pentagon mess-up and someone had decided that the Army would go into battle driving a fleet of Camrys. . . .So why in the name of all that's holy is it somehow acceptable to cruise down to the mall in a military vehicle?"

On the Geo Metro convertible: "Don't buy a car that's smaller and indeed less comfortable than your shoes."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

O'Reilly, Robertson, et al

Excellent column in the San Francisco Chronicle by Mark Morford regarding Bill O'Reilly's idiotic comments regarding the destruction of San Francisco. Some quotes:

"It's almost too easy. He's too easy a target, really, Bill O'Reilly of the casually toxic Fox News, too bloviated and too silly and too undercooked, and no one whose opinion you truly value or with an IQ higher than their waist size actually watches him with anything resembling intellectual honesty or takes anything he says the slightest bit seriously. You hope.

Especially when he, like Pat Robertson ranting about how gays caused Sept. 11 or that Dover, Pa., is now a doomed and godless hell pit, given how the town fired every single one the imbecilic, intelligent design-supporting Repubs from the school board, especially when Billy goes off his nut once again and essentially wishes al Qaeda would attack San Francisco, well, it is up to us to merely look at him like Shiva looks at a sea slug -- i.e., a moment of compassion for his regrettable incarnation -- and then laugh and shake our heads and move the hell on.

Here's the takeaway, the only thing you need to know: Bill O'Reilly is a walking, snorting cautionary tale. For those of us who occasionally tread similar terrain of barbed political commentary (tempered, I hope, with satire and hope and sex and humor and fire hoses of divine juice), he is the Grand Pariah, the threshold, the Place You Do Not Want To Go as an intellectually curious human soul. He is the guy you can always look to, no matter how bad it gets, and say, Wow, at least I'm not him.

In a way, we should be grateful for O'Reilly and Robertson and Limbaugh and Coulter and their slime-slinging ilk. They live in those black and nasty psycho-emotional places, so we don't have to. They show us how ugly we can be, how poisonous and ill, so we may recoil and say, Whoa, you know what? I think I need to be more gentle and less judgmental and kinder to those I love. BOR works an inverse effect on anyone with a vibrant and active soul -- he makes us better by sucking all the grossness into himself and blowing it out via a TV channel no one of any spiritual acumen really respects anyway. "

Right on, Mark.

Neocon idealism v realism

There is a very interesting article in the October 31, 2005 issue of the New Yorker ("Breaking Ranks") It describes the disconnect between Brent Scowcroft, long-time friend of the Bush family and in particular Bush, the father. Scowcroft pushed very hard for Bush to respond to the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990, but he was also adamant about not going into Baghdad to get Saddam. His reasoning was that once there, leaving would be very difficult. "What would be the rationale for leaving? I don't like the term 'exit strategy' -- but what do you do with Iraq once you own it?"

His philosophical foreign policy basis could be described as realistic as opposed to the neocons, who take a moralistic view of the world. The realists value stability and require a rationale for the use of force. "I'm not a pacifist. I believe in the use of force. But there has to be a good reason for using force. And you have to know when to stop using force." Realists believe you have to deal with the world as it is; the utopian moralists believe you have to remake the world in our image, much as Wilson's "making the world safe for democracy." J. Q. Adams would represent to opposing view that believes America stands for freedom and independence, but "she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy."

Cheney et al have adopted the position of Bernard Lewis who has argued that the Arabs only respect force and you have to hit them "between the eyes with a big stick." Once democracy has been imposed on the renegade nation, however, the dilemma, according to Scowcroft, becomes support for elections that might not go our way. He cites Egypt as the classic case. If Mubarak were to go away and free elections held, "the bad guys are going to win that election. The bad guys are always better organized. Always." Then we find ourselves in the position of having to overturn the results of a free election -- not that that has ever stopped us before.

One of the big differences Scowcroft has observed between the administration of the first Bush and the son's is that the son does not want to hear alternative consequences of actions, whereas the first sought out discussion and multiple viewpoints. That he suggests may lead to destruction. Ours.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Mirror to America

John Hope Franklin devoted his life to the history of the United States evolution of racism. His 1947 From Slavery to Freedom laid the groundwork for much of the scholarship in African-American history. He worked to supply Thurgood Marshall with the historical scholarship needed to win in the Brown v Board of Education case.

Following Pearl Harbor, Franklin had tried to enlist in the U.S. Navy. He had already earned a PhD from Harvard in history and thought he could be useful to the war effort. He was told that he qualified only as a cook or cleaner of latrines. Even the U.S. Army, which was busy recruiting historians to report on the war effort could find no use for him.

Most of us who celebrated the Civil Rights movement like to believe that we've moved beyond the shackles of the early twentieth century in the way we interact with black Americans. So it was disheartening to read in Hope's recent biography, Mirror to America, of an incident that took place at a Washington, D.C. party in 1995. Franklin had just been awarded the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. At the party, a white woman, "called me out, presented me with her coat check, and ordered me to bring her coat." Of course, it could be the woman, who must have been completely ignorant of why there was a party in the first place, was just a stupid moron, but it does make one wonder how far we have yet to go. Then again, perhaps that line is just another example of middle-class WASP paternalism.