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Cost of the War in Iraq

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American Deaths in Iraq since March 20, 2003:

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Our prayers are with them and their families

I've been writing this blog since November 2004. The "blog project" began as I was between jobs from then until February 2005. It's gone through a few changes since then; now it's primarily a way to communicate both the news of my life and my commentary on several political issues. At various times I've toyed with the idea of splitting these into two pages but I don't think I could keep both going. So for now, this is what it is. Posts from 2004 and 2005 can be found here

30 December 2006 It appears the year is going out with a bang in the world of news. President Ford's body has been flown to the Capitol in Washington D.C. and there was a short ceremony in the Rotunda. He will lie in state and on Tuesday, January 2nd the funeral will be at the National Cathedral.

There is another death that carries a much different meaning today. Late yesterday word was sent out that Saddam Hussein was executged in Iraq. I have to admit mixed feelings about this. On one hand I have to admit that I won't miss him and I'm relieved that there is no chance he can come back into power. On the other hand I think the existence of the death penalty does nothing but make the whole of society more violent. I would have much preferred that Hussein spend the rest of his life in a prison cell in another country surrounded by pictures of some of the people he murdered. I was pleased to see that the Vatican's spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi condemned the execution as tragic. The Sunni areas are bracing for an increase in violence in reaction to this.

27 December 2006 Most of the news today is about yesterday's death of President Ford (1913-2006). He was President from August 9, 1974 to January 20, 1977 when he was defeated for re-election by Jimmy Carter (b. 1924). I remember his presidency well and his defeat in 1976 was the last presidential election where I was too young to vote. Even with hindsight I can say that I supported his pardon of President Nixon and would have voted for him in 1976. This brings us down to three living ex-presidents: Jimmy Carter, George Bush, and Bill Clinton. Then again, I remember that from January 22, 1973 (the death of Lyndon Johnson) to August 9, 1974 we had no former Presidents.

As we approach 2007 I'm putting the final touches on the 2007 web page. Barring a really bad hangover, I'll be putting up the new page on New Year's Day.

24 December 2006 In looking over the last few years of this blog I realized that I haven't blogged on Christmas Eve or Christmas. This year I feel a few thoughts coming. First in the news of the weird, I'm finishing a book called A History of the End of the World: How the Most Controversial Book in the Bible Changed the Course of Western Civilization by Jonathon Kirsch. He talks the Biblical book of Revelation and is pretty harsh on the people who believe that the Rapture will happen soon. On page 234 he describes a book by Edgar Whisenant called 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. He predicted that the Biblical Rapture (where all the people who will be saved will be taken immediately into Heaven while everyone else will be left on earth for the final Tribulation) would happen on October 3, 1988. An enterprising travel agent planned a tour of Israel to coincide with that date in the hopes that they would be raptured from the Holy Land; but it also included roundtrip air fare (if return was necessary). The brochure stated: "We stay at the Intercontinental Hotel on the Mount of Olives and if this is the year of our Lord's return, as we anticipate, you may even ascend to Glory from within a few feet of His ascension."

An area that I'm finding particularly bothersome is the "war over Christmas" being fought by Bill O'Reilly and others. I guess they find the phrase "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings" offensive because it's the frontline of the liberal war on Christmas. Well, it's time for several celebrations: Christmas (December 25th), Channukah (December 15th-23rd this year), Kwanzaa (December 26th-January 3rd), Saturnalia (December 21st), Festivus (no exact date) and probably some others I've missed. I don't see how the inclusion of other holidays takes away from my celebration of Christmas.

Oh yes, and one last rant. This is a related issue, but I'm uncomforable with the "Keep Christ in Christmas" campaign. There is indeed something to be said that Christmas has become too commercialized but all this campaign seems to do is make people more upset or feel more guilty. I guess it's a variation of the old Catholic "Jesus died for your sins. Nice going." In the final word, I'm not sure if we're doing much good by replacing Christmas greed with Christmas guilt.

If I don't see you tomorrow, have a Blessed Christmas. Let us rejoice that the Prince of Peace has chosen us and let us work for the world He dreams of.

18 December 2006 You may have noticed a lack of content in the last few weeks. Guilty as charged. I've decided to make some changes in the format for the 2007 blog and have been working on that. Any blog is a work in progress and I've been playing with some changes. In other news I imagine pretty much everyone has heard about the Iraq Study Group's report; the report advocates for a gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. President Bush promised to read it and has been backing away from it ever since. Now he is exploring an increase in the troop level. Please tell me I'm not the only one who thought "Shock and Awe II."

26 November 2006 I've been reading the comic strip Doonesbury for over 30 years now and have loved it. This past week the strip is (as always) on target, and particularly poignant. Rev. Scott is talking with B.D. about an ethics course he is teaching and his dismay over his students; they all support the war and have no intention of actually serving in the military. B.D., of course, has fought in three wars (Vietnam, Gulf, and Iraq) and lost a leg in Iraq. My suggestion is that you read them: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

23 November 2006 Happy Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it's a civic holiday that everyone thinks of in religious terms. Seriously, it's a good opportunity to take stock of our blessings. In order, here are a few of mine:

We all think of Thanksgiving as being about the Pilgrims in 1620; it's interesting to note that it was proclaimed as a holiday in 1863 by President Lincoln. Hard to imagine that a national day to give thanks would come during the darkest time of a civil war, but that's one of the ambiguities we live with. Here is the text of President Lincoln's proclamation:
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this 3d day of October, A.D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.
Thank you, President Lincoln.

22 November 2006 For you anniversary people, today is indeed a sad day: On this date in 1963 President Kennedy was shot in Dallas. On a happier note, it's the birthday of our friend Ann. So it's not so bad.

In other news, this goes in the category of "we couldn't even make this stuff up." On October 3, 2006 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS has run a program that provides grants to groups who educate young people in the virtues of abstaining from sex until marriage; sounds good, right? Everyone is in favor or abstinence, and the $153 million dollars they spent last year would be a good investment if it led to a decline in STD's or unintended pregnancies. Well, "one state official described an instance in which abstinence-until-marriage materials incorrectly suggested that HIV can pass through condoms because the latex used in condoms is porous." Those of us who have worked with teens and young adults can tell you that you never lie to them because (1) They will find out you're lying, and (2) They will never believe you again. Now this is my favorite part: HHS's response was that "GAO never defines the term 'scientific accuracy' in its report. As such, it is difficult to precisely determine the criteria employed by GAO in making the recommendations as to scientific accuracy." Yes, you guessed it: the term "scientific accuracy" is now open to discussion.

16 November 2006 If you've been looking at other blogs I recommend, you've seen Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish. One of the places he often goes is You Tube and embeds video clips. I'm a recent fan of that web page and have embedded my first video. The press conference President Bush gave the day after the election that was (his words, I promise) a "cumulative thumpin'" was priceless.

12 November 2006 Another day, another commemoration. My paternal grandfather died on this day in 1967; I barely remember him but my memories of him are good. My grandmother was a widow for 21 years but they've been in Heaven together for 18 years now. Not bad for a marriage that lasted 49 years and produced 7 children. You can see their wedding picture here.

It's also the anniversary of my last day at Odyssey Hospice. I have to admit I don't miss the place and am very happy at San Diego Hospice.

11 November 2006 Today is another holiday. On this day in 1918 World War I (then called the Great War) ended on 11:00 a.m. Interestingly enough the peace treaty was signed at 5:00 a.m. In other words, they agreed to another 6 hours of war. One of the poems that came out of it is called In Flanders Fields by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918).

For those of you who are keeping track of the countdown clock, President Bush now has 800 days left. Keep those diminishing numbers coming!

Finally, I came across a page that had "points to ponder." You know those, the ones that ask why phonetic isn't spelled the way it sounds, etc. OK, so here are some of mine:

10 November 2006 This is becoming an annual event on this page, but Happy Birthday to the Marine Corps. They were formed on November 10, 1775 and you can read more about their history here.

And yes, I'm finding that I'm still giddy about the election results and the resignation of Secretary Rumsfeld. I'm not sure how long Time magazine is going to keep this link active, but there's a wonderful photo essay with some of his jucier quotes. My personal favorite quotation? April 3, 2003: "I would not say that the future is necessarily less predictable than the past. I think the past was not predictable when it started."

The best part of the election on Tuesday, perhaps, is what didn't happen. Going into election night I expected that the Democrats would win the House and lose the Senate, and I knew there was a possiblity that the Republicans could keep both. If that had happened, you can bet that the next two years would be a nightmare of incredible proportions. President Bush and the Republican leadership would have taken that as a renewed mandate. We would have kept going in the wrong direction in Iraq, etc. If nothing else, the United States dodged a bullet.

9 November 2006 The big news yesterday was the sudden resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. His support has been declining for a long time and many of us are breathing a sigh of relief that Rumsfeld is gone. One of the things I'm hoping for out of this election is that President Bush finally realizes that he has not been well served by the troika of Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice. Their belief that dissent equals treason and only a consistent message of "we're winning" will work has not been good for the President, the country, and especially the brave men and women in uniform. Nobody is sure what will happen from here, but this at least opens the possibility of change. As long as Rumsfeld was at the helm we all knew it would keep getting worse.

8 November 2006 It's now 6PM here in California and there's been some more clarity in the political races. In the House of Representatives the power has clearly shifted: the Democrats picked up 29 seats and now have a 229-196 majority and Nancy Peolsi (D-CA) has replaced Dennis Hastert (R-IL) as Speaker of the House. The Senate has been much closer, but it appears that the Democrats have won this also, 51-49. A few things need clarification though. Two of those counted as Democrats (Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernard Sanders of Vermont) are Independents but align themselves with the Democrats. Also, while the Democrat Jim Webb has been declared the winner in Virginia over Republican George Allen the vote was so close that there will be a recount. Nevertheless, as it stands now the Democrats have control over both houses of Congress.

It's the wee small hours of the morning and I woke to find good news for Democrats. I'll have lots more to say later, but I can't help but give the information on how my votes did (recognizing that my vote is often the kiss of death). These results may be preliminary and if they end up different I'll change them.
Candidate/Proposition My Vote Winner
Governor Phil Angelities Arnold Schwarzenegger
Lt. Governor John Garamendi Tom McClintock
Secretary of State Debra Bowen Bruce McPherson
State Controller John Chiang John Chiang
State Treasurer Bill Lockyear Bill Lockyear
Attorney General Jerry Brown Jerry Brown
Insurance Commissioner Cruz Bustamante Steve Poizner
State Board of Equalization Mary Christian-Heising Michelle Steele
US Senator Diane Feinstein Diane Feinstein
US Representative Susan Davis Susan Davis
State Assembly Scott Meyer George Plescia
State 1A: Transportation Funding No Yes
State 1B: Highway Safety Yes Yes
State 1C: Housing/Emergency Shelter Yes Yes
State 1D: Kindergarden-University Yes Yes
State 1E: Levee Repairs Yes Yes
83: Sex Offenders No Yes
84: Parks and Water Yes Yes
85: Parental Notification No No
86: Cigarette Tax Yes No
87: Alternative Energy Yes No
88: Education Funding Yes No
89:Campaign Financing No No
90: Eminent Domain No No
County A: Airport Authority No No
County B: City Employee Retirement No Yes
County C: Contracting City Services No Yes
County N: Community College Repair Yes Yes

As it looks now, I hit on 15 of the 28 questions before me. That's better than half and better than I thought.

It's now later in the morning and we're getting a clearer picture of the national picture. As I write this the Democrats have indeed taken control of the House of Representatives. CNN has the House lined up with 227 Democrats, 195 Republicans, and 13 races undecided (218 needed for a majority). I went to bed last night thinking the Senate would stay in Republican hands but it's now looking closer. Right now the parties are split 49 to 49 with two states still undecided (Montana and Virginia). Both have the Democrats ahead but not by enough to declare a winner.

7 November 2006This is election night and I'm hoping to have several entries for the night.

10:00PM: Within the last hour it appears that Jim Webb is pulling ahead of George Allen in the Virginia Senate Race. It's waaaaaay to soon to declare a winner but this is the first time all evening that Webb has pulled ahead. I'm thinking that it's moot in terms of control of the Senate as it looks like the Republicans will win in Tennessee (and CNN projected that at 9:34 local time) and Missouri and keep control of the Senate but I really hope we've seen the last of George Allen. The Democrats are also ahead in the Montana Senate Race. I'm saying goodnight now. See you tomorrow.

9:00PM: Within the last hour almost everyone has projected that the Democrats will gain the majority in the House of Representatives. There are 435 members (and all were running); that means that a party needs 218 for a majority. We're not sure what the numbers will look like, but 218 or more is assumed. The Republicans still hold onto small leads in Senate races in Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia, but nobody has called winners in these races. We're starting to get preliminary numbers here in California. Most of the offices are pre-ordained but we have lots of ballot propositions. Since nobody is willing to talk about raising taxes, we get all sorts of bond issues and it looks like most of them are going to pass. Of course, only 7% of the votes are in. Tomorrow I'll list how I voted and whether or not everyone else agrees with me. At this point it looks like my vote will win with some and lose with others.

8:00PM: The polls have now closed here but still too early to call anything. I'm assuming that Gov. Schwarzenegger will be reelected and my representative (Susan Davis) will get another term. Senator Diane Feinstein should have no trouble. Random thoughts: I'm surprised to see that Massachusetts has elected a black governor, Deval Patrick. My parents were born in Massachusetts (Gardner), my sister and I both went to college in Massachusetts (Springfield College and Boston College respectively), and I always found a level of racism there. It's good to see this. In the Senate, the Democrats need a net gain of 6 seats to take control and have picked up 3 (Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island). The next 3 will be much more difficult. Republicans are ahead in Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia though none of these are over. At this point, Democratic takeover of the House looks good but is not a lock. As a Redskins fan I did follow the race in the North Carolina 11th Congressional district because former quarterback Heath Schuler has won as a Democrat. He's pretty conservative but a Democrat is a Democrat.

7:00PM (Pacific Time): It's been an anxious day for those of us who are political junkies. I voted this morning at 8AM and have been proudly wearing my "I voted" sticker all day. One of the days more hopeful notes is that President Bush sounded bipartisan this morning: on voting in Crawford, TX he said: "We live in a free society, and our government is only as good as the willingness of our people to participate in it. And therefore, no matter what your party affiliation, or if you don't have a party affiliation, do your duty; cast your ballot and let your voice be heard." That was good to hear and I hope this caused more people to vote. The polls here in California don't close for another hour and frankly the newsworthy stuff is not the candidates but the propositions. I won't know much for a few hours. In national races I'm particularly watching the Senate races in two states I used to live in: Tennessee and Virginia. As of now the Democrats (Ford and Webb) are behind but not by enough to declare a winner. More later.

6 November 2006 On NPR they talked about Saddam's death sentence and the appeals. The reporter seemed to believe that the appeal will be sometime in January and he will be executed in February. It should be noted that the European Union, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the Vatican's Pontifical Office for Justice and Peace have come out against executing Saddam.

5 November 2006 As if the world (or the United States) didn't need any more complications, Saddam Huessin has been found guilty and sentenced to death in Iraq. This has not been much of a surprise and I think many of us looked on the trial as being a pro forma ritual before his execution. The thing that makes this more complicated is the overwhelming sense in this country that we need to begin to pull out of Iraq. I don't think it overstates the problem to say that if we leave Iraq with Saddam still alive there, there is a good chance he will be a powerful force to deal with. He's Sunni and the Sunni minority is still loyal to him; they would be very interested in restoring him to power. The easiest solution is to kill him. As of now, his defense attorneys have 30 days to submit paperwork for the appeal. There is no time limit on how long the appeal process will take, but the thought is now that it should be about 3 or 4 weeks. Assuming the appeal is denied the sentence must be carried out within 30 days. I have to admit that my opposition to the death penalty is strained in a case like this. I'm afraid that no matter what we do in Iraq the country will continue to be in the middle of a civil war and the presence of Saddam only complicates it. On the other hand killing him could only exacerbate an already volatile situation and the Iraqi justice system has no provision for anything else. Amnesty International raised some concerns over the fairness of the trial and have made a reasonable suggestion: try Saddam in an international court of justice. Assuming he's found guilty he will spend the rest of his life in a prison in the Hague (hopefully out of reach).

4 November 2006 I write this a few days before the 2006 midterm elections. Historically these elections have not been good news to the Preisdent's party and the last 2 years of many Presidents' second term have been lackluster and running out of gas. That said, this may prove to be an unusual one in the amount of power President Bush may lose. For the last six years the Republicans have had control of the White House and both houses of Congress and a year ago there was no reason to believe that anything would change. It's always dangerous to predict but the smart money these days says the Democrats will probably take control of the House and may take control of the Senate. I pray this is true. The most important issue is concern over the War in Iraq; we are clearly losing and the only ones who don't seem to get it are the President and his immediate advisors.

Historically those in uniform have been discouraged from speaking out on political issues, in no small part because the President is also their Commander in Chief. An unusual aspect of this war is the number of retired officers who are now speaking out. Now we have a new front. There is an editorial in the Army Times that calls for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The Army Times is an independent newspaper, not a part of the Department of Defense. But it's fair to say it's an influencial journal; It appears that the White House is clinging on to an island that is shrinking by the day. As I write this we have already lost 2,828 troops in Iraq (this does not include deaths in Afghanistan). We continue to pray for them and for those who are still in harm's way.

19 October 2006 This may be a record for the last several months: I've been able to write on two consecutive days. Don't get used to it.

As many of you know, I really like Andrew Sullivan's blog at Time Magazine. Today he has a hilarious picture to describe Dennis Hastert and the Mark Foley scandal.

North Korea has been much in the news these days, mostly around their decision to test a nuclear weapon. It is not lost on many of us that Iraq is now the only nation of President Bush's "axis of evil" that has not been working on nuclear weapons. In any case, the president is pushing sanctions on a nation we have virtually no trade with. The president couldn't get what he wanted for sanctions but did persuade other nations to not ship luxury items to North Korea. Apparently Kim Jong Il has a taste for Hennessy VSOP Cognac which sells for about $40.00 a bottle. If this is part of the embargo I predict that the price will go down dramatically as one of the major consumers will no longer have access to it. Too bad Kim will have to find cheaper domestic booze to feed his addiction.

At the 2004 Democratic Convention, Barak Obama (D-Ill) gave a speech that moved many of us to tears. There is now talk that he should run for president in 2008; I think he'll make a wonderful president but I think he should look at 2012 or 2016. Time Magazine put him on the cover of their October 23rd issue and today the New York Times ran a column by David Brooks suggesting that Senator Obama should run. For what it's worth I think his recent speech in the Senate on Habeas Corpus is amazing. If the mark of genius is to say the profound in ways that everyone can see, Senator Obama is a genius. Like many Americans I look forward to watching his career.

Finally, our president has done it again. George Stephanopolous of ABC News' program This Week asked him if the current fighting in Iraq was like the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War and the president said that the columnist who wrote it "could be right." Many of us don't think President Bush quite understood what he said or what the Tet Offensive meant in the Vietnam War (in fairness, he wasn't anywhere near Vietnam, guarding the frat houses of Alabama at the time). The Tet Offensive marked the point in the Vietnam War when America realized the war was not winnable. I know if I were running for office now I'd use this clip liberally.

18 October 2006 I read several blogs in the course of the week and I'm amazed at how many people can write every day or every few days. I wish I had that much time. It seems like every day I see something in the news that I want to comment on but don't have time.

On September 28th ABC News revealed that Mark Foley, a Republican congressman from Florida, resigned his seat because it was found out that he had exchanged emails and instant messages with congressional pages who were under 18 years old. To his credit, he immediately resigned; the rest of the Republican party, however, went straight to their playbook and claimed:

  1. This is nothing more than a stunt pulled by the Democrats a month before the election
  2. Mark Foley is gay (and what do you expect) and this has nothing to do with all the other Republican scandals, which also have nothing to do with the Republican party
  3. We (the heads of the party, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert) knew nothing of this and would have acted had we known
  4. And besides, we told him to knock this off. We had no way of knowing he would keep doing this
All this stuff has been shown to be patently untrue. Rep. Hastert's office was told of inappropriate emails in the Fall of 2005. His cover up reminds me (and perhaps others) of the coverup that the US Bishops tried in the priest sexual abuse scandal. Hastert did later apologize but refused to resign his seat as Speaker. Not bad for a party that runs on the belief that they are the "values party."

School shootings, alas, continue to plague our children. It seems that if anyone should be immune from this violence it should be the Amish Community. They are Christians who eschew modern conveniences and don't use electricity or other modern inventions. The dress, worship, and live simply. In the village of Nickle Mines, Pennsylvania on October 2nd, Charles Roberts (who is not Amish) went into their school and killed 5 girls and wounded 5 others before he killed himself. The Amish are a private people who prefer to keep to themselves and were assaulted by the national media. The thing that struck me, however, was the response of the Amish. In the midst of this tragedy they gathered around themselves, but also made a point of mourning the killer. They asked for prayers for him and half the mourners at his funeral were Amish. We live in a society that demands revenge and finds mercy and forgiveness wimpy. I, for one, was heartened by their reaction and their acceptance of Jesus' command to love. May we all one day live that generosity.

11 October 2006 As I'm sure most people have heard, this has been a difficult day for the residents of New York City and a tragic day for baseball. This afternoon a small private plane with New York Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle crashed into an apartment building on the upper east side of Manhattan. Mercifully only Cory and his passenger died. It also reminds some of us of Thurman Monson, the Yankees catcher who died in a private plane crash on August 2, 1979. Our prayers are with Cory and his family.

28 September 2006 Tomorrow is our last full day in Kauai and it's been a wonderful time. It's probably time for a few reviews. As I said on the 26th, the place we're staying is wonderful and we strongly recommend Inter-Island Helicopter tours. Unfortunately, not every experience here has been wonderful. We started out the trip flying Hawaiian Air; in fairness they did get us here safely but we had lots of trouble getting seat assignments. When we made our reservations they said they couldn't give us seat assignments until 24 hours before the flight. Several times in those last 24 hours I tried to get these but kept getting told that "the seats hadn't been released." Not sure what that means. We did get a window and an aisle which is what we wanted, but how hard would it have been to have given us the seats earlier? Also, when we landed in Lihue we rented a car from Hertz; we had reserved a small car because we don't need a big car and don't want to pay for poor gas mileage. When we got to the counter we were told that there were no more small cars available but they were "upgrading" us for no extra charge--except the extra gas for the larger car. This is the part that cracks me up: they keep offering things that they thought would appeal to us (mostly SUV's). The long and short of it was that a Ford minivan was the least offensive vehicle they had and in return I talked them into waiving the extra driver fee for Nancy. Note for next time: another rental agency.

But the best disaster of all was dinner on Monday night. There aren't many places within walking distance but we found a burger joint: Tropical Burgers. They were shorthanded the night we were there and as the service was understandably miserable. On the other hand there was no excuse for the bland food, and (my favorite part) my mai tai. There is no drink that says "Hawaii" like a mai tai and everyone here should know how to make one. This was the first time I've ever had one made with bourbon instead of rum. It's not as good as you might think. When I sent it back I think I got the stink eye from the hostess who was doubling as the bartender. Please pass on this if you find yourself on Kauai.

26 September 2006 We're now in Kauai, having arrived on the evening of the 23rd. This is my first trip to Kauai and I have to tell you that I like this much better than Oahu. It's much less commercialized and less "smarmy." We're staying at the Poipu Kapili on the south shore. We found it on the net and can recommend it highly. It's the offseason, but we booked a one bedroom and were upgraded to a two bedroom. We don't need two bedrooms, but it has other amenities that are wonderful. We've been snorkeling in a few areas and have seen more fish than we can name.

The highlight of today was something every visitor to Kauai should do: a helicopter flight. Now, people who know me well know that I have a profound respect for gravity (ie, a fear of heights). So there I was today in an open air helicopter with no doors, zooming over canyons and ocean with a seat next to where the door should have been. There is an adage that you should do something every day that scares you; I think I'm booked for about the next two weeks. My stomach now hurts from all the clenching. We flew Inter-Island Helicopter Tours; our pilot was Floyd and he flew Apaches in the US Army. He was terrific.

Well that's all for tonight. I have more later.

23 September 2006 I'm writing this from the Honolulu Airport as we are awaiting our flight to the island of Kauai. This is a vacation we've been looking forward to for a long time and it's good to be on our way. Hopefully we'll have pictures to post on our return.

Five days ago on the 17th my father celebrated his 75th birthday and I celebrated 6 months with my Prius. It's also the birthday of the NFL and the anniversary of when the US Constitution was ratified. The good news is that my father, the Prius, and the NFL are doing well. The Constitution continues to be under attack by the Bush administration but she's strong and the President appears to be taking on water so I'm optimistic.

As for the Prius, she has 15,000 miles and that looks like an easy 30,000 miles per year. It's racking up more miles than my old Civic because we use the Prius on weekends where before we used Nancy's Accord. This will benefit the Accord as she has 150,000 miles and can use the break for a longer life. The Prius is consistently getting 45 to 47 mpg and it's the envy of several friends who drive SUV's. Gas in San Diego is (finally) under $3.00 per gallon but it's still hard to see $2.80 per gallon as a bargain. The other day I saw another Prius with the license plate "I[heart]50MPG."

14 September 2006 I've spent most of the last week looking for time to write; Monday was the 5th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (and the aborted attack on the White House or the Capitol). In the Catholic Calendar today (September 14th) is also the commemoration of the Triumph of the Cross. This may seem peculiar, especially to non-Catholics, but I find something comforting in this. For the first few hundred years after Jesus, the Christian symbol wasn't the cross. It was the fish; the cross was seen as nothing more than a humiliating and painful way to die. Crucifixion was reserved only for the lower classes and there was nothing triumphant about it. In the years since the Christian world has come to see the cross as a way to redemption. Five years ago I found that a distant relative of my friend Larry Rice was one of the ones killed. I emailed him to express my condolences and he emailed me back and talked about this in terms of redemption and triumph. It was moving and has stayed with me since. Perhaps redemption comes only after suffering evil.

4 September 2006 OK, so it's been a while since I included another link on the left side of this page. Since June I've been receiving 2 bottles of wine in the mail (it was a birthday gift from Nancy) and I've started to do reviews of the wines they send. It's been fun but I'm sure that I don't have the palate to do this justice. In any case you can click here to see what I've done.

As I've said many times before, one of the best things about writing a blog like this is that I get to have fun at the expense of politicians I don't like. George Allen is a Senator from Virginia who is running for re-election. That name is familiar to many of us as his father, also named George Allen (1918-1990), was head coach of the Washington Redskins from 1971 to 1977. George Jr. has been senator since 2000; normally an incumbent senator (especially a Republican in Virginia) is a slam dunk for re-election. George has, however, run into a bit of a snag. Turns out that one of the people who shows up at his rallies is S.R. Sidarth who is working on the campaign of George's opponent, Jim Webb. Mr. Sidarth is of Indian descent (his parents immigrated from India) and he was born in Fairfax County, Virginia. Senator Allen knows Mr. Sidarth as Mr. Sidarth introduced himself to the Senator; at a rally on August 14th in the town of Breaks, Virginia (near the Kentucky border) Sen. Allen remarked: "This fellow over here with the yellow shirt -- Macaca or whatever his name is -- he's with my opponent. He's following us around everywhere." The word "macaca" is associated with a type of monkey. The Allen campaign, desperately attempting to claim this wasn't a racist remark, claimed the word mean "mohawk" though Mr. Sidarth doesn't wear a mohawk. Better than this, Sen. Allen also stated: "Let's give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia." I guess Sen. Allen can't imagine a person of color could have been born in Virginia. Amazingly, he's running into trouble with his campaign. Guess it just doesn't pay to show your racist colors.

28 August 2006 If you've been listening to the news in the last few days you know that this is the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Last year I was so horrified that I wrote a Katrina page. It was an attempt, using primary sources, to give a day by day account of what did and did not happen. I haven't been reading the conservative blogs lately but I'm sure that they are responding to the news accounts by asking why all those "whiners" from New Orleans and surrounding areas are demanding that the federal government bail them out. Simply put, because in the days leading up to the storm, the government promised to do just that. By the way, (Republican) Senator from Mississippi Trent Lott is among those who are suing their insurance companies. One of the heroes of the last year was the New Orleans Times Picayune who kept printing even when they could only do it over the web. They have an incredible map that shows the progress of the flooding.

Another case of Republican foot in mouth disease comes from Florida. Remember Katherine Harris? She was the Republican Secretary of State for Florida that certified George W. Bush as the winner in the 2000 presidential race. She's now running for Senate even though most of the state Republican party (including Governor Jeb Bush) has thrown her under the bus and won't support her. Turns our she gave an interview to the Florida Baptist Witness (Publishing Good News since 1884). In the interview she states that "if you’re not electing Christians then in essence you are going to legislate sin." That should come as news to all the people in Florida who aren't Christians. As you might imagine, her campaign attempted to "clarify" her remarks later by saying: "In the interview, Harris was speaking to a Christian audience, addressing a common misperception that people of faith should not be actively involved in government. Addressing this Christian publication, Harris provided a statement that explains her deep grounding in Judeo-Christian values." That's fine except that her "clarification" implies that if she had been speaking to a Jewish audience she would have told them that they should vote for Jewish politicians.

22 August 2006 Lots of stuff to write about tonight, so let's get started:

One of the "benefits" of a La Jolla zip code is that we get piles of mail telling us about various opportunities. I recently received a letter from "The Pointe de las Conchas Luxury Beach Residences." It didn't take much reading to realize that these residences are in Mexico and are therefore fraught with potential difficulties. You see, many of us who live near Mexico know that if you're not a Mexican national you can't own property within 32 miles of the ocean. There are all sorts of machinations around this, but the bottom line is you need to really be careful about oceanfront property in Mexico. At the top of the letter was this, written in all caps:

Now, who's interested?

Rev. Jane Via Ph.D.Several years ago I met a talented and brave woman named Jane Via. For many years I've believed that the Catholic Church is wrong in her refusal to ordain women to the priesthood; Jane is "exhibit A." I believe that the call to priesthood comes ultimately from God, not ourselves, and that God is no friend of our prejudices. As one who has felt (and feels) the call to serve the People of God as an ordained priest, I see that call in Jane. To her credit, Jane has made the decision to no longer make this discrimination comfortable for the hierarchy: she has joined with other Roman Catholic Women Priests and was ordained a few months ago. She now celebrates mass at Mary Magdalene Apostle Catholic Community. It's been nine years since I made the decision to leave active ministry to follow God's call to marry Nancy and I've never had a nanosecond of regret. Within that decision I've also decided to "fly beneath the radar" and not make a public stand. This has allowed me to continue some ministry within the church. Jane is following a different course and is publicizing her journey. She has been interviewed by the San Diego Union Tribune and the Los Angeles Times as well as TV stations in Los Angeles and San Diego. She has also met with San Diego Bishop Robert Brom. Because of this, she faces the real possibility of excommunication. I pray for her, and I pray that the Church does not choose this path. I also hope that I live long enough to see the day that we are both recognized by the Church for our gifts and are allowed to serve in an official capacity.

9 August 2006 This the the anniversary of a few sad events. In 1945 the US dropped its second atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki. Sixty one years later it is still the last time nuclear weapons were used during wartime. Let us pray it is the last. Also, twenty five years ago today my grandmother, Imelda Mailloux Cazeault died of a heart attack. I miss her still.

Today, it is an eventful time. Many of us Democrats have been disappointed by Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman. True, he ran for Vice President in 2000 against President Bush and Dick Cheney, but he's not been true to his roots. Like many senators he voted for the war in 2003 but his support for the war since then has made many of us question his place in the Democratic party. Yesterday he lost a primary race against Ned Lamont. Senator Lieberman has announced that he will run as an independent and many of us fear that he will split the Democratic vote and pave the way for the Republican to win. The good news? I had a hard time finding the name of the Republican candidate. For the record his name is Alan Schlesinger. I don't think he has much of a chance, but I encourage all my Democratic friends in Connecticut to vote for Ned Lamont.

26 July 2006 Last night I ran out of time before I ran out of ideas. As many of you know, from the beginning I've been opposed to President Bush's war in Iraq. There are many reasons for this (and one of them is not because I have any love for Saddam Hussein). One of the main reasons is that I don't believe the administration ever had an idea of how this was going to go. They believed back in 2003 that when the first troops entered Iraq, the population would drop their arms, hand over Hussein, and form a parliament. Simply put, they didn't have a Plan B. Over three years later we are finding that Iraq has become so much of a quagmire that we are paralyzed to do anything else. Now that things are blowing up between Israel and Hezbollah we are finding there's not much we can do. Israel is insisting on its right to defend itself and we can't respond because we claim the right to preemptive invasion. We've sown so much ill will in the Arab world that we have no credibility to negotiate or even talk with Hezbollah or Syria. And most important, the whole world knows we can't provide troops or support anywhere because we are strained to keep troop levels up in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The situation in Iraq has taken yet another bad turn. Almost from day 1 we've suffered casualties from insurgents who don't want us there; one fear about US troops pulling out is that there will be civil war between the Shiites and Sunnis. Frankly that is already happening. The best I've read is yesterday's writing from Andrew Sullivan.

25 July 2006 I haven't written anything here for a few weeks, but not for lack of things to write about. Fasten your seatbelts.

As many of you know I've been working at San Diego Hospice since February of 2005, and I've been a hospice chaplain since December 1998. There have been countless experiences where people have asked me how I can do this kind of work that provides so many moments of sadness and pain. Last week was the first time it really came home to me and I'm still dealing with it. We are the only hospice with a pediatric team (ie, we are the only ones who treat terminally ill children); last week I was covering for the Children's Team Chaplain and was asked to preside at the funeral for a baby. He was born with an incurable disease and everyone knew shortly after his birth that he wouldn't survive very long and in a way that made it worse. He spent his entire life not being able to develop as a normal person and (though he wasn't aware of it) lived with the reality that it was never going to get better. That reality was a burden his family carried every day. I know that life is unfair and death doesn't play by anyone's rules, but it just seems so damn unfair. My faith tells me that he is now in Heaven and is no longer sick and I really do believe that. But my faith would be easier if I never had to confront something like this, if this kind of tragedy never happened to someone so young and innocent. I tell people that it's OK to get angry with God because we all need to have a sense of justice and God understands our anger. At this point I don't even think I'm angry with God; I'm just saddened by the image of him in his (very, very small) casket. Anyway, I'm having coffee next week with the Children's Team Chaplain and I'll keep processing this. And I'll keep praying for him and his family.

On a lighter note, this is just too funny. There is a show on Comedy Central called The Colbert Report. It's really a news spoof show but he has real guests come on; one guest who is regretting his appearance is Georgia Representative Lynn Westmoreland. He is a Republican who has been serving in the US Congress since January 2005. He supports public displays of the Ten Commandments and all was well until he met Stephen Colbert: when asked to recite the Ten Commandments it all fell apart. He names a few and then admits: "I can't name them all." You can view this part of the interview at You Tube.

4 July 2006 Happy 230th birthday America. I hope everyone is celebrating our freedom (hey, here's an idea: let's everyone ask for something from the government under the Freedom of Information Act. Since the Bush administration has declared war on it, let's have some fun). I hope everyone knows this but we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It was written primarily by the 33 year old gentleman farmer, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). Jefferson later served as Secretary of State (1789-1793), Vice President (1796-1800), and President (1800-1808). He also founded the University of Virginia and donated his personal library to begin the Library of Congress. Can anyone tell I grew up in Virginia and liked history?

Many of the lines from the Declaration of Independence are familiar to us, but what is not as well known is that Jefferson borrowed heavily from the political philosopher John Locke (1632-1704). In 1690 he wrote An Essay Concerning Human Understanding where he talked about the right to life, liberty, and property.

15 June 2006 This day is also an anniversary of sorts. On this day in 1987 (a mere 19 years ago) I had the pleasure of riding in an ambulance. The day before (June 14, 1987) I took a large canoe out on Lake Erie and capsized; a short 20 hours later I was discovered and spent the next 5 days in Lakeside Memorial Hospital in Brockport, New York. Not only did I get an ambulance ride, I had the experience of being in the emergency room and spending 24 hours in the ICU. I had moderate hypothermia and my left arm had been infected; after 5 days of IV antibiotics I was once again a free man. The freakiest part of the whole experience was when I was interviewed for the local TV news; I asked the ICU nurse why I was newsworthy. "Doesn't this kind of thing ever happen?" "Oh yeah," he said, "It happens all the time. We just don't get many people who survive."

On a sadder note, my casualty counter marked a milestone: as of today 2500 of our service men and women have died in Iraq since March 30, 2003. Our prayers, as always, are with them and those who mourn their passing.

In recent weeks I've been reading Andrew Sullivan's blog. I recently found a link to another blog written by Steve Schalchlin; he's been blogging since March of 1996 (when they were still called "internet diaries"). I was particularly moved by his June 11, 2006 entry. He talks about the 25th anniversary of the discovery of AIDS and quotes Rev. Dr. Ed Hansen, pastor of Hollywood United Methodist Church. I encourage you to read the whole entry, but here is a snippet of Rev. Hansen's sermon for that day:

It wasn't the Law that taught us to fight against slavery and discrimination against Black people. It wasn't the Law that taught us to give women equal rights and the power to vote. It wasn't the Law that opened up our hearts and doors to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. And it wasn't the Law that made us continue in our ministry to people with AIDS. It was the reborn spirit of Love that taught this to us. That's what Jesus meant when he said you must be born again. You must be born of Love, not Law.
Enough said.

12 June 2006 This day brings back memories of my days with the Stigmatine Fathers. They were founded by St. Gaspar Bertoni and today is his feast day. Feast days were always fun when I was with them and I hope they are celebrating well.

We've been at war for over 3 years in Iraq and it has occupied much of my thoughts and prayers since then. The largest problem, as I see it, is that there is no easy solution to the war now. It's no surprise to anyone who knows me that I think it was a mistake for President Bush to go to war in 2003, but now that we are there we can't "cut and run." Iraq is a difficult and complex country and we are now saddled with a president, who by his own admission "doesn't do nuance." Clearly if we cut and run, Iraq will fall into a civil war between 3 factions: the Kurds, the Shiites, and the Sunnis. The problem, as I see it, is that even if we stay, Iraq will eventually fall into this war. Here is my argument in a nutshell:

My concern is that President Bush states that we will be there until his dream of a democratic Iraq is a reality. That will probably never happen. In the 1960s we were committed to fight in Vietnam until the North Vietnamese stopped trying to conquer South Vietnam. We left, declared victory, and two years later South Vietnam ceased to exist. In the same way I believe that whenever we leave Iraq (now, 5 years from now, 10 years from now, etc.) it will fall into civil war and their blood will be on our hands. I don't miss Saddam Huessin any more than anyone else but at least the genocide he created was his doing; the genocide happening now is on our hands. I pray I'm wrong.

11 June 2006 I'm finding it harder to grab the time to spend on this blog. There are a few things to catch up on. First, a happy birthday to my mother. As I write this they are in Gardner, Massachusetts; my 95 year old great aunt has had to go into a nursing home and my parents have the unenviable job of cleaning out her apartment. Not exactly how you would want to spend your birthday.

In happier news, last week we hosted the annual end of the school year party for our church choir. One of the things we love about this house is that we can entertain here. It was a fun party and you can see pictures I took on my digital camera.

The time I've been spending on the computer I've been reading blogs. I recently put Andrew Sullivan's blog on my "See What Other Blogs Tom Is Reading" page and I've enjoyed that. Andrew is conservative and I certainly don't agree with all that he writes, but he's thoughtful and thorough. Andrew is gay and opposes the attempt to write an amendment to the Constitution to ban gay marriages. I have to say that I'm with him 100% on this. I have a few thoughts on this topic:

23 May 2006 I've been reading some blogs lately just to see what they other guys are doing. A few months ago I mentioned a blog by a military recruiter that I enjoy. He's been frank about the joys and struggles of his job; alas, some of the brass in the army have not been pleased and have been trying to figure out who he is and he's shut down the blog to protect his career. In another world, I'm probably the last guy in the world to find Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish. Andrew used to work for the The New Republic but now writes a blog. He's my kind of complex person. He's a gay HIV positive Republican who doesn't like Bush. I first saw him on Book TV.

22 May 2006 I realized the other day that it's been nearly 3 weeks since I've posted anything. It's certainly not for lack of stuff going on. The biggest event was May 13th when we hosted a "Blue Millennium" party. You can see from the counter on the left side of this blog that President Bush has fewer than 1000 days left in office. It's a big number but the good news is that it's going in the right direction. The party was a blast; we had friends from church as well as my work and Nancy's work. I've posted some pictures from the party.

4 May 2006 We're back home now and getting back into the swing of work. One of the things I love about San Francisco is the amount of walking I can do; alas I'm paying the price for that now and can feel the burn when I walk uphill. I also published some of pictures we took at the protest; you can see them on my Mac page.

2 May 2006 Today is the day we leave San Francisco and head back home. As always it's been a fun trip and I can't imagine how far I've walked in the last 5 days. I've been reading the newspaper accounts of yesterday's protest and for the most part they've been positive. Hopefully this is the beginning of a new awareness of the power and influence of a group that has been too long marginalized.

On a sad note, today is the anniversary of our cat Hoover's death. We've missed him this past year but we still have pictures and good memories.

1 May 2006 I'm writing this from San Francisco where Nancy is attending a meeting of the AAP or the American Academy of Pediatrics. This is always a fun trip because I get to play. I lived in San Francisco from June 1993 to July 1994 and loved living here. We arrived on Thursday evening; on Friday we went to the San Francisco Zoo and met some dear friends for dinner. On Saturday I took the bus out to the ocean and walked back to the bay (I call it "Breakers to Bay"). It's a long walk; I'm guessing it was close to 7 miles and it took me 3 1/2 hours but it was great.

If you've been watching the news today you know that in many cities there were protest marches about the current immigration policy and fears that new laws will make it more difficult for our immigrants. The SF protest was right outside our hotel and we got to march with thousands of others.

25 April 2006 If you're keeping up with my presidential counter you know that as of today President Bush has exactly 1000 days left in office. Speaking only for myself (and approximately 68% of Americans according to the latest polling) those 1000 days can't go soon enough. I'm looking forward to tomorrow when I see that number drop to triple digits.

19 April 2006 So OK, there's lots to talk about. There are a a few anniversaries this week. First off, as of April 17th I've had my new Prius for a month. I've loved it and I'm very happy to have bought it. Part of the reason I bought a hybrid is the gas mileage and the fact that I drive for my job. In my first month I've put 2500 miles on her and I'm getting about 45 mpg. It wasn't easy leaving Honda after 25 years but Toyota and I are very happy.

Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the San Francisco Earthquake. For those of us who have lived in the City it was a day to watch the commemorations and read the accounts. The City of St. Francis is a wonderful and resilient city I remember climbing the bell tower at Old St. Mary's and seeing the cracks from the 1994 Loma Prieta quake. Prayers all around.

On another sad note today is the 11th anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City where 168 people were killed. Many were federal workers who were doing nothing more than their job. Until September 11th this was the worst terrorist attack on American soil.

8 April 2006 Last night Nancy and I saw the play Twilight of the Golds at the Diversionary Theater. It was incredible. The play has been around for 13 years and I've heard of it but until last night had not seen it. Briefly, the story is about a couple (Rob and Suzanne Stein) who are pregnant with their first child. Suzanne's brother, David, is gay; during the pregnancy they learn that their unborn son will be gay. The play is about whether or not they should abort this pregnancy. As you can imagine it is brimming with ethical questions. The genius of the play is that all the characters (including David's and Suzanne's parents) are good people struggling to do the right thing and battling their own demons. If you have a chance to see this play, don't pass it up.

5 April 2006 Last month was Women's History Month; at my church we noted this by reading quotations from famous women at the beginning of mass. All of them were good, but there was one from Mother Teresa that I found particularly inspiring:

In every country there are poor. On certain continents poverty is more spiritual than material, a poverty that consists of loneliness, discouragement, and the lack of meaning in life. I have also seen in Europe and America very poor people sleeping on newspapers or rags in the streets. There are those kind of poor in London, Madrid, and Rome. It is too easy simply to talk or concern ourselves with the poor who are far away. It is much harder and, perhaps, more challenging to turn our attention and concern toward the poor who live right next door to us. When I pick up a hungry person from the streets, I give him rice and bread, and I have satisfied that hunger. But a person who is shut out, feels unwanted by society, unloved and terrified--how much more difficult is it to remove that hunger? You in the West have the spiritually poorest of the poor much more than you have the physically poor. Often among the rich are very spiritually poor people. I find it is easy to give a plate of rice to a hungry person, to furnish a bed to a person who has no bed, but to console or to remove the bitterness, anger, and loneliness that comes from being spiritually deprived, that takes a long time.

4 April 2006 This appears to be another busy blog day. It is, first of all, a sad anniversary. On this date in 1968 Rev. Martin Luther King was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. This is a particularly poignant anniversary as his wife, Coretta Scott King, died on January 30th.

In other, better, news: March Madness is over. George Mason was defeated by Florida who won the tournament. It was a wonderful ride for GMU and I applaud them for their success.

Oh yes, and politics. The breaking news today is that Tom DeLay is dropping out of his re-election race. He says that it is because he is a distraction to the Republican cause. Certainly this is part of it, but there are also other factors. He is under indictment for breaking federal laws on campaign contributions and three close associates of his (Lobbyist Jack Abramhoff, Communications Director Michael Scanlon, and Deputy Chief of Staff Tony Rudy) are all cooperating with prosecutors in this scandal. It's hard to imagine that Tom doesn't feel the noose tightening around his neck. Not long ago the Republican party seemed bullet proof; that's not true now. It's also interesting that while the Republicans claim to honor Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment ("never speak ill of another Republican") they seem to have no trouble throwing people overboard who are no longer useful to them. Remember Duke Cunningham?

30 March 2006 It's hard to believe how long it's been, but 25 years ago today President Reagan, Press Secretary Jim Brady, Secret Service Agent Tim McCarthy, and D.C. Police Officer Thomas Delanty were shot by John Hinkley, Jr. It's one of those moments many of us remember. I was at Boston College then, in a doctor's waiting room after getting an allergy shot. Much has been made of the fact that John Hinkley was found not guilty by reason of insanity; laws were passed to make that finding tougher. Just one observation: after 25 years he's still incarcerated at St. Elizabeth's Mental Hospital in Washington D.C. One has to wonder if he'd still be in prison if he had been found guilty.

In other news there is a free-for-all of politicians running to replace Duke Cunningham in the 50th Congressional District. One of them, Howard Kaloogian, has long maintained that the press is giving the country slanted views on the war in Iraq. As proof of this he included a photograph on his web page  of downtown Baghdad where he claimed business is good. Now if you want to quibble with unimportant details, you may notice the photograph was taken in Istanbul, Turkey. But that's just the kind of thing the liberal press uses to distort the real message. The photograph on the left is the Istanbul picture he claimed was Baghdad. By the way, things aren't as good in Kaloogian-ville as we might think. The photograph on the right is the street where he lives. Actually, it's Dresden in 1945 after the bombing, but the point still holds.

28 March 2006 Two obituaries in the political world to talk about. Casper Weinberger served in the cabinets of Presidents Nixon and Reagan and was most famously President Reagan's Secretary of Defense from 1981 to 1987. The other person is also from the Reagan presidency. Lyn Nofziger died; he worked on several Republican campaigns and served in the Reagan administration. I'm not sure how much longer this will be up, but after he left public life he began publishing a blog. He had a reputation for irreverence and you can easily see it in his writings. He was generally pretty conservative but broke ranks about legalizing medical marijuana; his daughter died of non Hodgkin's Lymphoma and while she was undergoing chemotherapy she had horrible pain and nausea that wasn't being controlled by legal means. She was able to obtain some marijuana and that helped her symptoms dramatically. Lyn was normally a law-and-order guy but seeing his daughter suffer caused him to rethink his views.

26 March 2006 So do you believe George Mason University's basketball team? OK, I have to confess that until today it had been years since I sat down and watched a basketball game and March Madness has never been of much interest to me. I was surprised this year to see that both of my undergraduate colleges, GMU and Boston College, were in the NCAA tournament. Frankly I didn't think either team would do well, and BC (seeded #4 in their bracket) lost to Villanova. But GMU was seeded 11 in their bracket and they beat Michigan State, North Carolina (!), and Wichita State. Today they played #1 seed University of Connecticut; I watched frankly expecting them to get their clock cleaned, but they won! They now move onto the Final Four. On April 1st they play Florida. Maybe that's when this ride ends, but that's fine: it's been a good ride. Funny how when I was at GMU (1978-1980) I don't even remember a basketball team. Of course there were only about 10,000 students and the median age was 28. It was primarily a commuter school; the first dorm had opened and only 400 could live on campus. I'm not sure I would recognize the place now.

25 March 2006 Yes, I've made another change to this blog. I had all my entries going back to November 2004 on this page and its size was making it more and more difficult to edit and manipulate. Now this page will only hold the current year's entries. If you want to see something from 2004 or 2005 you can find it on the archive page.

All week I've been thinking about the anniversary of the war and what to say about it. I think the counters I have say a great deal. I currently have counters for the number of American troop deaths and the cost of the war. There is another counter for Iraqi civilian deaths but I've avoided placing that counter because it can only give estimates. Today they list between 33,000 and 38,000 deaths. That's gripping, but it's too large a range for me. I sympathize with them because there is no central clearing house or official place you can find this number. This is dependent on their ability to find this information themselves. It's also a gray area because it's impossible to say how many of these deaths are directly related to the war.

20 March 2006 It's all over the news but today marks the 3rd anniversary of the war in Iraq (in May we will commemorate the 3rd anniversary of the end of major hostilities). Three years ago we had not spent nearly $250 billion on the war. More importantly, 2317 American service men and women who are now dead were alive and an estimated 35,000 civilians who are now dead were alive. It's hard to get a handle on how to describe this war, but in the next few days I'll try.

17 March 2006My new car! Happy St. Patrick's Day. Lots of stuff going on: first, happy birthday to my sister. No, she's not named Kelly or anything like that, but it's kind of cool that she has a birthday today. My news is that I bought a new car today. I am now the proud owner of a Toyota Prius; I got it at Mossy Toyota here in San Diego. We had been looking at getting a hybrid for me given the mileage I put on the car. This morning I checked their web page and found out that they had one on the lot. By noon it was mine. Sweet. I'm eager to find out what my gas mileage is; my Civic (with 182,000 miles) got 35 mpg. We'll see how this does. The car in the picture is silver; mine is blue. Other than that, this is what it looks like.

14 March 2006 As we approach the third anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq the American people are becoming increasingly unwilling to believe President Bush. A poll conducted by CNN, USA Today, and Gallup shows that only 38% of us believe the war is going well. Most interesting to me is that 51 percent of Americans believe the administration deliberately misled the public about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Having gone this far there really isn't an easy out for the President but more and more of us are seeing that "stay the course" didn't work for the Titanic and it won't work for us. By the way, this poll also shows that his approval rating is down to 36%

10 March 2006 It's time to place something else on this page; if you look below the casualty counter you will see another box showing how much the war in Iraq is costing. I'm getting the hang of these things and it took much less time and trouble to place this counter. I'm still playing with it but anticipate keeping it as part of the page.

9 March 2006 A week ago I wrote about new videotapes showing President Bush being briefed about Hurricane Katrina. In a nutshell they show that he had been warned the levees might breach, but a few days after landfall he claimed that no one anticipated that possibility. In an AP story filed yesterday "White House spokesman Scott McClellan has said Bush's comments were not intended to suggest that no one had anticipated levee failures." Instead, McClellan says, the president meant that once the storm had initially passed many people believed the region had escaped the "worst-case scenario." I guess it depends on what your definition of "is" is.

In other "People of the Lie" the baseball world is again hearing about reports that Barry Bonds has been using steroids. These charges are not new but there is a book out now called Game of Shadows that has renewed the debate. Barry, for his part, has indicated he has no intention of reading the book or commenting on it. He's never been a likeable guy but this is even more distressing. Ty Cobb played dirty and didn't like the people he played with, but at least he was honest about it. For Barry to have taken steroids and now lie is in a different league. The most damning evidence for me are pictures of him at different stages in his career. The picture on the left is from 1983 and on the right from 2004. Many of us can sympathize with gaining several pounds in our 30s and 40s but we usually don't gain them in our upper body and arms. Come clean Barry; we still won't like or respect you, but we want you to at least respect the game. By the way, if you're reading this Barry, please click on this link.

7 March 2006 We're back from Phoenix and it was great. Hopefully we'll be able to do this more often. The good news is that the Padres won both games, though neither were the pitcher's duel I enjoy. While we were there I picked up a copy of the Arizona Republic. There was an article about military blogs. As you can imagine there are thousands of these, and they link to other links, etc. One that is not mentioned in the article (but I followed a link to) that's catching my eye is Confessions of a Military Recruiter. The recruiter has to remain anonymous but has some good insights into a job that I'd never want to do.

4 March 2006 I'm writing this from the Marriott Residence Inn in Phoenix. Today and tomorrow we're going to catch some spring training San Diego Padres baseball games. We haven't caught spring training since we were in Florida 5 years ago and are looking forward to it. The Padres lost big yesterday, but hey, this is baseball.

I think many of us are still horrified by the governments lack of preparedness in New Orleans; there's been a great deal of press because last week was Mardi Gras and it was also the 6 month anniversary of the hurricane. It seems to me that the (or at least a) crux of the problem was pressure the government felt to assure everyone that they were prepared even though it is now clear that they they weren't. Here is my suggestion for what FEMA should have said:

There is a hurricane headed toward the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and Louisiana. We are not sure exactly where it will make landfall. The governors of these states have mandated that everyone in Katrina's path evacuate. This means that if you have a car and enough money for a hotel room for a few nights you need to get out of there. If you don't have a car or the money, or if you can't easily move your location due to being sick, elderly, in the hospital, or in prison, you're really in a bad place. We have nothing for you except the advice that you go to the Superdome. While we hope the structure of the Superdome can withstand Katrina we cannot promise that. Also, we have made no provisions for food or anything else there. Hurricanes generally knock out the water supply and we expect that the plumbing may be compromised, but again, you're on your own. As you know the levees in New Orleans keep back the water and we have learned that there is at least a reasonable chance that the storm will breech these levees but again, we have no plan to prevent this or deal with it when it happens. After the hurricane passes through we plan to be on the ground to assist in any way we can, but please realize that we depend on cell phones and other technologies that will likely be unusable in the first days or weeks . Finally, we wish to express our thanks for your support of FEMA. Since President Bush came into office the agency has been subsumed into the Department of Homeland Security. This reflects our belief that terrorism is a graver concern than natural disaster and we do not do much preparation for hurricanes. Additionally we use FEMA as a place of political patronage. The majority of people who work at FEMA are career civil servants who have been working there all along, but the political appointees in the top positions often lack any qualifications for their positions.

3 March 2006Randy Cunningham March 2006 This just in: Randy Cunningham has been sentenced to 8 years and 4 months in federal prison and is ordered to pay $1.8 million in reparations. If 8 years and 4 months sounds strange, it's 100 months. I don't think anyone feels good about this, especially Mr. Cunningham and his family, let alone the people of the United States who he stole from. I appreciate that he now takes responsibility for his crimes and pray that he will use this time to put his life back on track. He was taken into custody immediately after sentencing.

In happier news Nancy and I head out Peoria, Arizona this weekend to catch some spring training baseball. Our friends from church, Todd and Ann, picked the date and it worked out for us. It's been a long several months since baseball season ended and I'm eager to get my scorecard out.

2 March 2006 I'm not exactly sure why, but it seems like I'm seeing lots of things that cause me to say: "I need to put this in my blog." As I type this tonight I want to mention a few of them:

1 March 2006 Today is Ash Wednesday in the Catholic calendar. Most people know it as the day after Mardi Gras (French for "Fat Tuesday"). It's certainly a holiday laden with baggage from childhood stuff and one part of that was "giving something up." Every year Nancy gives up sweets; I have a more checkered history with this. This year I'm making a point of keeping my eating more sane; wish me luck.

If you have clicked on my "other blogs" page you no doubt saw a blog I just started reading. It's written by Alicia Parlette and it describes her journey with cancer. It's pretty incredible and I have a link to it. In some ways it reminds me of the blog by Gary Hartman's page on his journey with cancer. Gary died in 2002; we still miss him.

27 February 2006 I think all of us who have been watching President Bush's "war on terror" over the last few years have been horrified with the prison at Guantanamo. Shortly after September 11th the United States began rounding up people all over the world who are believed to be linked to terrorism. The problem is that the government won't give them the status of prisoners of war or criminal defendants; they won't tell us who is there or what crimes they are suspected of. The Bush administration has argued all along that the men held there are not on US territory and are not subject to US protections (technically this is correct since the base is in Cuba but it's hard to imagine they can file habeas corpus briefs with Fidel Castro). This has been a story that has been shrouded in mystery in no small part because the government has been successful in keeping everyone away. I'm writing this because the Los Angeles Times printed an article on February 26th. I'm not sure how long this will be accessible online, but the URL is here. The article was written by Thomas Wilner, a partner in the law firm of Shearman and Sterling, who has been representing Kuwaiti prisoners in Guantanamo since 2002. I have the article and you can email me if you want a copy; I've listed a few highlights:

No doubt the über right press and government entities will deny any of this is true, but you can read more about this. You can Google "Fawzi Al Odah" (I got 19,800 hits).

26 February 2006 I put more stuff on my Writings page. Now that I have it up I'm feeling the need to populate it with something. Today is the last day of the Winter Olympics. I've been watching them off and on, and have a few observations:

Just a few thoughts. By the way if you want a laugh you can click on the Redneck Olympics.

This morning when I was doing some work on the page I turned on the TV and got out an old set of videotapes called Genesis: A Living Conversation. It's not for the feint of faith: it's a long way from the "God said it, I believe it, and that's all there is to it." They are a series of round table discussions of different stories in Genesis; the people are leaders and teachers from different traditions and the purpose is to get people thinking. It has with me. What fascinates me (and would offend many Christians) is that the members of the group offer possibilities I've never heard before (e.g. Noah's Ark was a temper tantrum by God). I don't always agree with what everyone says, but I don't think "agree/disagree/unsure" is the point. I think the point is to look at these stories through new eyes.

25 February 2006 There is a funny web page out there called Bush or Chimp. This morning Nancy and I picked up today's edition of the Los Angeles Times and had the same thought: This is the newest entry. By the way, I actually had a bit of a time finding the picture. The internet edition of the Times didn't have it and I found it on the Washington Post page. The picture was taken by J. Scott Applewhite of the Associated Press. The "Bush or Chimp" webpage has not been updated in a while and this picture was taken yesterday. Nancy wants me to look for a chimp picture to go with this; how would I phrase the Google search?

24 February 2006 If you've been reading this blog you know how much I enjoy news of the weird; one perk is that there is a neverending supply. Our local newspaper is the San Diego Union Tribune; in the February 23rd edition they had a few quotes about Hurricane Katrina and God's wrath. Billy Graham's daughter Anne Graham Lotz is here in San Diego for the National Pastors Convention and said this about the fact that some bars remained open in the French Quarter and the Gay Pride Parade went on as planned: "I wondered how it could be that so many people apparently slept--and are still sleeping--through such a loud wake-up call." If you click on Anne's web page be sure to visit the all important Donation tab. One of the priests at my church noted a few weeks ago that Katrina's wrath devastated much of the poorer parts of New Orleans but left the French Quarter intact. So in other words, if Katrina was a message from God, then the message is either 1) God's wrath is incurred by being poor and black in New Orleans, or 2) God missed. In other Katrina news the White House has released their report and you can see it at the White House Web Page. You can also download the report but be warned: it's 228 pages long. I haven't read it but news reports say it does not affix blame. Ah, it makes me nostalgic for the full report on Watergate that President Nixon ordered in 1973.

My entry for last November 30th talked about Randy "Duke" Cunningham and his legal troubles. Briefly he was the congressman from the 50th California District from 1991 until his resignation in 2005; in July of 2005 it was reported that he had (for several years) accepted bribes totaling $2.4 million in return for steering defense contracts. He plead guilty and resigned his office in November 2005 and is scheduled to be sentenced early next month. In their attempt for leniency the defense has released a psychological report indicating he is seriously depressed and suicidal; it also claims that his oversized ego and belief in his own invulnerability are partly due to his training as a navy pilot.

22 February 2006 I keep plugging along with this page. I've added links on the left side for stuff I'm reading and stuff I'm writing. The banner on "what I'm reading" is the booklist that I've been keeping for about 4 years. The one under that is more of a stretch for me. I'm actually going to put some of my writing here and ask people for feedback. Be gentle, it's my first time.

20 February 2006 I missed an anniversary yesterday. In my glee over the list of presidential blunders I forgot to mention something that would have gotten my vote for a blunder. On February 19, 1942 President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. In this order the President gave the Secretary of War (today's Secretary of Defense) authorization to restrict areas necessary for national defense. The order itself is painfully poorly written and nowhere mentions Japanese Americans. The result, however, was that between 110,000 and 120,000 people of Japanese descent were rounded up from communities on the West Coast and were transported to camps closer to the interior of the country. The people who were doing the rounding up drew no distinction between citizens and non-citizens; they didn't need to show that a person posed a risk (other than being of Japanese descent) and they could hold them wherever they chose for however long they chose. There is a great deal of material on this (When I Googled "Executive Order 9066" I got 88,300 hits). In light of the Bush Administrations's belief that enemy combatants can be deprived of their liberty on equally flimsy grounds it is perhaps our duty to learn as much as we can on this. I once knew a man who was in a camp as a child and it was chilling to hear his memories. By the way I could find nothing on this when I searched the White House Web Page even though the President's Secretary of Transportation (Norman Minetta) was interred as a child.

19 February 2006 In honor of President's Day, a group of presidential scholars were surveyed by the McConnell Center for Political Leadership in Louisville, KY to come up with the top 10 presidential blunders. Of the 90 scholars surveyed 26 responded and here are their results:

  1. James Buchanan's failure to keep the Southern States in the Union and avoid the Civil War
  2. Andrew Johnson's decision after the Civil War to oppose justice reforms for the newly freed slaves
  3. Lyndon Johnson's escalation of the Vietnam War
  4. Woodrow Wilson's refusal to compromise on the Treaty of Versailles after World War I
  5. Richard Nixon's coverup of the Watergate break in
  6. James Madison's failure to keep the United States out of the War of 1812
  7. Thomas Jefferson's Embargo Act of 1807, a self-imposed prohibition on trade with Europe during the Napoleonic Wars
  8. John Kennedy's decision to allow the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
  9. Ronald Reagan's decision to sell arms to Iran to finance a secret war in Nicaragua (also known as the Iran-Contra Affair)
  10. Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky
If you're keeping score, 8 of them were Democrats (Buchanan, Andrew and Lyndon Johnson, Wilson, Kennedy, and Clinton) and 2 were Republicans (Nixon and Reagan). No doubt Fox News will play this up, but it is good to also notice that Gary Gregg (who directs the McConnell Center) is a Republican. The list of the 90 are listed here. My guess is that in 20 years President Bush's decision to invade Iraq will bump a few of these blunders.

18 February 2006 Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to law enforcement and their willingness to do whatever it takes to protect us. I first read this on the CNN page and tracked down the original story in the local newspaper, the Fredericksburg, Virginia Free Lance-Star. It seems that there was a massage parlor called the Moon Spa and Sheriff Howard Smith wished to close it down. It's a common police practice for officers to pose as customers and arrest the prostitutes when a deal is arranged. The wrinkle here is that the hookers were Asian and didn't speak English very well. Sheriff Smith determined that an oral (oops) agreement wouldn't hold up in court and gave permission for his officers to complete the sex act. This is just too funny; let me quote the article (I'm not linking directly to the article since most newspapers don't keep the links past a few days):

[Sheriff] Smith said the decision was made to allow the [unnamed] detective, who is single and who volunteered, to go through with the act so they could file the felony sodomy charge instead of just a misdemeanor prostitution offense. Also, according to a joint prepared statement by Smith and Commonwealth's Attorney William Neely, the workers at the Moon Spa spoke little English, so a simple verbal agreement was difficult. To build the case, the statement says, it was necessary to "proceed farther than would normally be done in a simple street prostitution arrest." "I think I'm doing the right thing," Smith said. "This is the only way we're going to successfully prosecute it."
The Moon Spa is on Old State Route 3 (Plank Road) next to the Old Country Buffet. If you're not yet scratching you head, get this: when the Moon Spa was raided three of the women were arrested for living in a bawdy place. The hooker who had the misfortune to servicing this unnamed detective was arrested for sodomy. Her name is Kwi Ok Aguirre and I'm virtually certain she is no relation to San Diego District Attorney Michael Aguirre. No word yet on whether the Spotsylvania Sheriff's office is being flooded with applications.

16 February 2006 I took some time to look over the content of much of this page. A few days ago I mentioned that I will probably be changing the look. Much of the content is pretty old and is just taking up space. Right now almost all the time I spend on this page is either with this sabbatical page or my booklist. Road Runner gives me 5MG of space to use and I don't want the lion's share to be content that even I'm not reading. I'll keep all of it on my hard drive; on the odd chance I remove something that someone wants to see, it's easy to email me.

There's still lots of stuff going on in the political world and frankly I'm having a hard time keeping up. A few days ago I was commenting on the Dick Cheney/Aaron Burr connection and the lines are drawn along the well grooved places. If you are looking for a T shirt to commemorate the occasion there is no shortage of them on the internet. I have to give credit where credit is due and congratulate the Republicans for a T shirt that says: "I'd rather go hunting with Dick Cheney than driving with Ted Kennedy."

14 February 2006 First, let me wish everyone a happy St. Valentine's Day. I also want to commemorate the first anniversary of my employment at San Diego Hospice. It's been an incredible and rewarding year. The hour is late and I have no desire to comb through the news for more fun stuff but I am coming to the conclusion that I want to shelve the idea of reworking this web page with templates and editable reigons. It's just getting too complicated. I may make some changes and take down some articles and essays that have been on the page for upwards of 4 years. We'll see.

13 February 2006 It's time to give the Aaron Burr award. Burr was vice president during Thomas Jefferson's first term. While serving as Vice President he shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel near Weehawken, New Jersey on July 11, 1804. Until today he was the only Vice President who shot somebody while in office; now he shares that distinction with our current Vice President Dick Cheney who (accidentally) shot Harry Whittington while hunting quail in Texas. There are a few differences. Unlike Hamilton, Whittington did not die of his injuries. Also, Burr's staff didn't try to keep it secret from the rest of the country. There's been a bit of a dust up as the White House Press Corps took the White House to task for the delay in getting the story out. Turns out the "shots heard round Whittington's face" happened on Saturday evening around 7PM and it was not announced in the White House until nearly 24 hours later, and only after press inquiries. It's not hard to imagine this has been grist for great comedy writing, including this exchange on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show:

Jon Stewart I'm joined now by our own vice-presidential firearms mishap analyst, Rob Corddry. Rob, obviously a very unfortunate situation. How is the vice president handling it?
Rob Corddry Jon, tonight the vice president is standing by his decision to shoot Harry Wittington. According to the best intelligence available, there were quail hidden in the brush. Everyone believed at the time there were quail in the brush. And while the quail turned out to be a 78-year-old man, even knowing that today, Mr. Cheney insists he still would have shot Mr. Whittington in the face. He believes the world is a better place for his spreading buckshot throughout the entire region of Mr. Whittington's face.
Jon Stewart But why, Rob? If he had known Mr. Whittington was not a bird, why would he still have shot him?
Rob Corddry Jon, in a post-9-11 world, the American people expect their leaders to be decisive. To not have shot his friend in the face would have sent a message to the quail that America is weak.
Jon Stewart That's horrible.
Rob Corddry Look, the mere fact that we're even talking about how the vice president drives up with his rich friends in cars to shoot farm-raised wingless quail-tards is letting the quail know how we're hunting them. I'm sure right now those birds are laughing at us in that little 'covey' of theirs.
Jon Stewart I'm not sure birds can laugh, Rob.
Rob Corddry Well, whatever it is they do … coo .. they're cooing at us right now, Jon, because here we are talking openly about our plans to hunt them. Jig is up. Quails one, America zero.
Jon Stewart Okay, well, on a purely human level, is the vice president at least sorry?
Rob Corddry Jon, what difference does it make? The bullets are already in this man's face. Let's move forward across party lines as a people … to get him some sort of mask."

12 February 2006 First off, happy birthday to Abraham Lincoln; today is his 196th birthday. I'm currently reading Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin about Lincoln and his cabinet. I'm a little more than halfway through and I strongly recommend it.

In other news you may have noticed something new on this page. Just below my Presidential countdown I have installed a casualty counter. It turned out to be much more difficult than I expected but I hope it looks nice. If you want to put it on a web page there's a link to do it yourself; if you run into the same trouble I did, email me. Finally, Nancy mentioned that the picture of me from December 2000 was out of proportion and I fixed that. I'm still looking at doing a major redesign of the page using tables and templates. Stay tuned, recognizing that I've made this promise before.

10 February 2006: Stop the presses, it appears that Brittney is recognizing that putting her child on her lap was a bad idea. Her response is (and I quote): "It's kind of like I made a mistake and so it is what is, I guess." Speaking only for myself, I was moved by the sincerity of her qualification (I guess). She made this quote on the show Access Hollywood. And no, I don't really watch the show; I got the link from Google News. By the way, no charges against her are possible as no police officer witnessed the event. At the request of LA County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), Sheriff Deputy Mark Winn visited the home. We hope he made things clear to her.

8 February 2006: I don't normally print entertainment news, but this was too good to pass up. If you look closely at the picture you can see Britney Spears and her 4 month old son Sean. I think pretty much everyone knows that you absolutely can't put a child anywhere in a car except in an approved carseat, and given Sean's age he should be in the backseat facing back. There is no reason in the world to think he is safer on Britney's lap. In the event of a crash Sean would be crushed between Britney and the airbag. Her defense is that she was escaping the paparazzi whom she feared would harm Sean. Guess again sister: at this point you are the greatest danger to your child's life.

7 February 2006: Nancy and I are celebrating today: we were married 8 years ago today on February 7, 1998. It was a wonderful day and it's fun to look at the pictures. Since then Nancy's mother has passed away and I had lasik surgery on my eyes and no longer wear glasses. Other than that as I look at the pictures, we all look 8 years older. This is supposed to be our wedding picture.  It should have loadedSo how do we look? This picture was actually taken before we got married; we had time before the ceremony and decided to take pictures then. As you may remember 1998 was an El Niño winter but we were fortunate with a nice day. Tom's family flew in from Virginia the week before and were only rained out on one day. Tonight we celebrated our anniversary by eating at Peohe's Restaurant where we had our wedding reception. It was a nice place for food and memories.

3 February 2006: It's been quite a week. Last week I mentioned that I had a cold. It was more like the flu, giving me a headache and intestinal trouble. That's nothing I haven't seen before, but Thursday afternoon (January 26th) I felt really awful. I came home from work and just fell asleep. It was pretty clear I wasn't going to work on Friday the 27th, and to top it off, I experienced double vision when I woke up that morning. I couldn't really read the newspaper but watching TV wasn't bad. It seemed to be getting better as the morning went on and I didn't think much of it, but I took a nap at 2PM and woke with the double vision back. This time it didn't go away and I [casually] mentioned it to Nancy when she got home. Being a doctor, she immediately thought of all the awful things it could be and told me that we had to go to urgent care immediately or she wouldn't be able to sleep. I had visions of being in urgent care all night and wasn't eager to go. We were both surprised to see that we were able to get right in; they gave me some basic neurological tests and checked my eyes; nothing seemed out of order. The most incredible part is that they were able to do an MRI that evening. As a funny aside, they had me undress and get into a hospital gown. Then they wheeled me outside to the MRI building. Fortunately I'm not claustrophobic but I can see how an MRI is a horrible experience if you are. Those results ruled out tumor, stroke, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. They basically said they couldn't tell what it was but that I should expect a call from Opthamology and Neurology on Monday. Saturday was a tough day, but by Sunday I was beginning to notice an improvement. That continued and by my Opthamology appointment on Tuesday I was virtually symptom free. The thinking now is that since the double vision and flu symptoms went away at the same time, they must have been linked. I was able to go back to work on Wednesday and am very grateful that my eyesight is normal again. The MRI gave the opportunity to use the old Dizzy Dean line: "They took a brain scan and didn't find anything."

23 January 2006: Today is the birthday of my father-in-law Al. He's 87, or as he likes to tell people, he's 78 and dyslexic. Not sure what he'll say next year when he is 88. Anyway, the cold I talked about is still here and people can tell that I'm sick from my voice. Fortunately I wasn't near any patients today as I was in meetings all day. Tonight I took Al out for his birthday at Aesop's Tables; it was a good meal and a good chance to spend time with him. I just wish I felt better.

22 January 2006: We're back in San Diego and while it was a wonderful trip, it's always nice coming back home again. Alas, last year on the way home I got sick; at least this year I waited until we got home. Not sure what it is, but it's going to be a gross few days. I loaded all the pictures from my camera onto my Iphoto page and uploaded some of the good ones to my Mac homepage.

20 January 2006: Through the magic of the internet I'm writing this from the Bakersfield Courtyard Inn. We just finished our vacation in Yosemite. We do this almost every year and attend the Chef's Holidays. It's a wonderful experience and one we recommend to everyone. Soon I'll post pictures from this trip on my Mac homepage. We've often come to Yosemite when there has been snow on the ground but Nancy has never been anywhere where it has actually been snowing (Tom of course got his fill when he lived in Boston). This time it was actually perfect. We arrived at Yosemite on Tuesday the 17th. On Wednesday the 18th it snowed a few inches, and by the time we left on Friday the 20th the snow was still there but the road out of the park was clear. While we are there we try to hike during the day and see at least part of the park; we also try to see some of the wildlife. It seems every year we see something and this year we observed a bumper crop of coyotes. Nancy was commenting as we were leaving the park that we had not seen any deer (which is unusual). Just before the exit to the park we saw 2 bucks, 2 does, and one very young buck. They also had the good sense to be just down from a parking lot and we got to spend about 20 minutes watching and photographing them. It was a hoot. We're looking forward to next year's trip already.

13 January 2006: OK, maybe I'm having too much fun at the expense of our politicians, but this was too good to pass up. One of my co-workers sent me this quotation from President Bush. He was speaking on his plan for Social Security in Tampa on February 4, 2005:

Yes, ma'am.
Q [Do you] really understand how is it the new plan is going to fix that problem?
THE PRESIDENT: Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculate, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to what has been promised.
Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.
Now lest you think I made this up or it's just another urban hoax, I actually got this from the White House Web Page.

5 January 2006: Yes, he's done it again. As I write this, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon lays gravely ill after a massive stroke. The prayers of the world are with him--well, almost. Pat Robertson now claims that God gave him this stroke to punish him for the pullout of Gaza. You can read the story on CNN and MSNBC. You can contact Pat at his Web Page.