The Thoughts and Musings of Tom Allain

In the final analysis, the questions of why bad things happen to good people transmutes itself into some very different questions, no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it happened. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)

my quotation file is here
Tom at Safeco Field

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Keeping Count:

American troops have died in Iraq since March 20, 2003. Our prayers are with them and their families

Keeping Track:

Here are links to people who are running for President in 2008:


Joe Biden
Hillary Clinton
Christopher Dodd
John Edwards
Mike Gravel
Dennis Kucinich
Barak Obama
Bill Richardson


Sam Brownback
George W. Bush
Jim Gilmore
Rudolph Giuliani
Mike Huckabee
Duncan Hunter
Mitt Romney
Tom Tancredo
Tommy Thompson

Moving On Up!
3 April 2007

This page is moving to a new location; in a few days I'll make it automatic, but go to it manually for now. Thanks.

Holy Week: That Magical Time of the Year
2 April 2007

Yesterday was Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week. Most of us have images of how the events of Holy Week looked and don't really think about where these images come from. The sermon we heard last night was really good in challenging this. On Palm Sunday we read the account of the passion and this year we read the account from the Gospel of Luke. All four gospels recount the passion but have different details (Luke's gospel does not say anything about Judas regretting his actions, Jesus being flogged, or crowned with throns). There are scores of movies about the passion and most of them cobble together details from all the accounts and those are the images we carry. A few years ago Mel Gibson produced The Passion of the Christ which he claimed was how those events really happened. It's worth noting that he included Veronica wiping the face of Jesus as he was carrying his cross which is nowhere in the Bible.

I have to confess a certain unease when it comes to Easter. Part of my unease comes from the elaborate liturgies we celebrate; Easter Vigil on Saturday night will normally go over 2 hours and this week has more RSI (rehearsals per square inch) than any other time of the year. I sometimes describe myself as a closet Quaker when it comes to these celebrations (less is more); I'm grateful that I don't have to participate in the planning of these things. In addition to that there's a paradox to Easter: we celebrate the empty tomb. After Jesus was crucified his followers came to his tomb and expected to find his body but found instead....nothing. Jesus made a few appearances and promised that we would all be raised from the dead, and that he would return someday. Over 2000 years later we continue to believe in the ressurection and await Jesus' return and don't fully understand it. But, as Fr. Dominic told us yesterday, since we don't fully understand this, we continue to tell the story.

Cancer Doesn't Play Fair
29 March 2007

The news has told us in the last week that Tony Snow (President Bush's press secretary) and Elizabeth Edwards (wife of Presidential Candidate John Edwards) have received word that their cancer has returned. I deal with cancer more than most people and the news has left me with a profound sense of sadness. The long term prognosis is poor for both of them but it's not hopeless. Please keep them and their families in prayer.

I've also added someone to my blog list. Alicia Parlette was working for the San Francisco Chronicle when on March 2, 2005 she found out she had alveolar soft part sarcoma. Since then she has written a blog on her journey with cancer.

Will I Be Out of Debt In Time to Die?
28 March 2007

I'm a big fan of NPR's Fresh Air. Yesterday's guest was Elizabeth Warren; she is a professor at Harvard Law School and frequent critic of the credit card industry. She spoke about the different ways credit card companies make money and how deceptive they are in soliciting business. It's worth a listen and it got me thinking. I have an American Express card where the minimum payment is 2% of the current balance. They think of me as a "deatbeat" because I pay off the entire balance every month but I wondered what would happen if I payed only the minimum. Last month's bill was $2,646.67 and the minimum payment was $52.93 (that was rounded up to $53.00). The nominal interest rate is 7.99%; with the help of Excel I found that if I faithfully paid the minimum and did not charge anything else to the card for that entire time I would pay off the balance in June 2035. I'll be 75 years old and will have been paying off one month's expenses for 342 months. Obviously as the balance decreases so does the minimum payment; in July 2031 the minimum payment will have decreased to $1.00 (with a balance of $49.63). I kept the minimum payment at $1.00 which sped up the payment. In fairness if I could afford the minimum payment of $53.00 I could probably afford that next month also. OK, if I pay $53.00 each month I can pay off the balance in March 2011. Again, all this assumes that I do not use the card at all until it's paid off. I'm not arguing (as my conservative friends will claim) that people should not be responsible for their debts but some of the predatory practices take from the poor and give to the rich. In July 2006 the Boston Globe did a four part story that is downright frightening. You can read the 4 part expose here. By the way, if anyone wants to check my math, please feel free. Let me know about any corrections I need to make.

Attorney General Gonzalez: You're Next Under the Bus!
25 March 2007

On March 10th I talked briefly about how the Justice Department fired several U.S. Attorneys on December 7th. Once again the White House assumed we would shut up and do what we are told (ie, ignore this). Once again they were wrong. These attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President and nobody claims that their firings were illegal, but when called to Capitol Hill to explain what they did, the Justice staffers made claims we now know to be untrue. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez insisted on March 13th that these U.S. Attorneys were dismissed for performace related issues and he was not involved in this. We now know that he was at a meeting on November 27th where the purge was plotted. Again, there was nothing illegal about the firings, but we are unraveling a list of lies that have been told to Congress, and by extension, all of us. This kind of thing is not new for this administration and the usual response is to find somebody to throw under the bus as a sacrificial offering (ask Scooter Libby about this one). They thought they had someone when the AG's chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, resigned on March 12th. The Senate Judiciary Committee is looking into this and is considering subpoenas for people who have claimed they were not involved, like Karl Rove. The White House is attempting to push through a "compromise plan" where Rove and others would testify in closed session and not under oath. There would be no transcript and they would not be subpoenaed at a later date. There are several reasons why a person wouldn't want to testify under oath. The main one is that they could lie. I hope the Senate does not agree to this because anything said in this closed hearing would be deniable. Rove and others could say anything and nobody could follow up since there is no transcript and there is a promise that they would not be subpeonaed under oath. Assuming this doesn't work it appears that the AG may be the next person the White House throws under the bus.

In cheerier news I'm still looking into doing something on this page to make RSS possible. In talking with Chip tonight and we talked about the difference with several languages. I'm pretty proficient in html but I'm also learning about xml, php, and others. I'm still swimming in the jargon but Chip is a patient teacher so stay tuned.

Paul Lynde: Take 2
22 March 2007

A few days ago I posted some stuff from Paul Lynde. Unfortunately I use two computers to post stuff on this page and I accidentally wrote over it. So I'm posting them again. We Baby Boomers have fond memories of the Hollywod Squares game show in the 1970s. Paul Lynde sat in the center square and was hilarious. I'm posting it again in the hopes that it stays posted this time.

Q. Do female frogs croak?
A. If you hold their little heads under water long enough.

Q. Why do Hell's Angels wear leather?
A. Because chiffon wrinkles too easily.

Q. It is considered in bad taste to discuss two subjects at nudist camps. One is politics, what is the other?
A. Tape measures.

Q. When you pat a dog on its head he will wag his tail. What will a goose do?
A. Make him bark?

Q. If you were pregnant for two years, what would you give birth to?
A. Whatever it is, it would never be afraid of the dark.

Q. Who stays pregnant for a longer period of time, your wife or your elephant?
A. Who told you about my elephant?

Q. According to Ann Landers, what are two things you should never do in bed?
A. Point and laugh.
Paul died in 1982 of a heart attack (probably due in part to his consumption of alcohol). We miss him still.

Admit It: At Least Once You've Hoped This Would Happen to the Person In the Seat Next to You
21 March 2007

I will admit a certain macabre sense of humor that has only been sharpened by working for hospice but this caught me off guard. Yesterday's newspaper had the tale of Paul Trinder: He was flying in the first class cabin of a British Airways flight from New Delhi to London. He woke up from a nap as a dead woman was being placed in the seat next to him. He asked and found out that the woman was in coach (or steerage as I call it) when she died. The airline wanted to give the woman's family some privacy and the best place to place them (and her) was in first class. That makes sense, but I have no idea how British Air should compensate Mr. Trinder for this. Also, do you suppose this was the woman's first time in first class?

A few days ago Ken Burns was interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air. He is famous for his documentaries; he's currently working on one about World War II. Previous works have included Baseball and the Civil War. I haven't seen much of his Civil War series but he briefly talked about a letter from Major Sullivan Ballou. On the eve of the first major battle of the Civil War, which is called Bull Run in the north and Manassas in the south, he wrote this letter to his wife:

July the 14th, 1861
Washington D.C.

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days -- perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.
Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure -- and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing -- perfectly willing -- to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.
But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows -- when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children -- is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?
I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death -- and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.
I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles have often advocated before the people and "the name of honor that I love more than I fear death" have called upon me, and I have obeyed.
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me -- perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar -- that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.
Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.
But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours -- always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.
As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God's blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.
He died in battle on July 29th. Sarah never remarried and lived until 1917.
When asked in the interview about this letter, Ken admitted that he keeps a copy in his wallet and that he cried the first time he read it. The genius of good writing is that it transcends time. When I read this I thought of all the brave men and women who are currently in uniform serving in harm's way. It's unfair to ask them if they agree with the war or if Iraq will be free and democratic. They are fighting not for them, but for us in the same way that that Sullivan was. I don't know if most people understand this, but when someone puts on a uniform it changes things. There is no Gallup Poll in the service and we are the nation we are because of people like Sullivan Ballou. We are also the nation we are because of those of us who wear the uniform today. God be with them.

Honoring the Fallen. Hopefully Caring for the Wounded
20 March 2007

Four years ago today we invaded Iraq. Since then 3218 men and women in uniform have died there (this does not count American contractors, Iraqi civilians, or casualties in Afghanistan). Last year at this time my casualty counter registered 2317. Public support continues to decline according to the latest CNN poll. The White House continues to claim that any demands for accountability are veiled attempts at helping the forces of darkenss and evil; if you think I'm exaggerating see what Tony Snow is saying.

Whole Lotta Changes Goin On...And a Sad Evening
19 March 2007

I am (again) in the process of changing some parts of this page. On February 25th I talked about a conversation I had with my friend Chip about using RSS technology with this blog. The advantages of this are that you can give feedback to my post and you can subscribe to it so that when I have a new posting you're notified. There are many websites that do this automatically (Blogspot is probably the most popular example). When you have an account with them you type in the content and they do the rest. I don't want to go this way because I like the freedom of designing my page my way. I like learning code and designing the page by hand and I tend to learn best by doing. Chip and I are looking at putting my page on his server; if I do that I'll let everyone know and have a link from this (Roadrunner) page. Just for fun, if you're reading this and don't mind "outing yourself" drop me a line and let me know. This will also insure that I can notify you if I change; also let me know if you have ever wanted to comment on one of my posts. One aspect of this is that I should probably come up with titles for my posts, aside from just the date. I've started to do that with this post.

Karen writes a blog I often read. Yesterday's post had an interesting game. You answer 12 multiple choice questions and it tells you which of the Winnie-the-Pooh characters you most resemble. Me? I'm Kanga.

Take the 100 Acre Personality Quiz!
I'm not normally a fan of these personality tests but this was simple and fun.

People who know me well know that in my adult life I've lived in and spent time in many places in the country. I brag that I can fly into the airports of most large cities, rent a car, and get around without a map. Hard to believe that until yesterday I never had a passport. For as much as I've seen the United States the only other countries I've ever visited have been Canada and Mexico and they haven't required a passport. We're going to Toronto in May for a convention Nancy attends and now if you fly into or out of Canada you need a passport. It's funny: now I feel the whole world is more accessible. With enough money I can now fly to Paris for the weekend (unlikely, but possible). And yes, the picture is horrid.

A few times each month I'm on call at work. Last night as we were at dinner after mass my page went off. From then until the wee, small hours of today I was at the home of one of our patients who was actively dying. Unfortunately the patient was an infant. I can't imagine feeling more helpless than I was watching an infant struggle for breath. I can't even begin to think about what her mother was going through. Please keep this family in prayer.

17 March 2007 I made my annual phone call to my sister Lisa to wish her a happy birthday (in other words I didn't get a card out to her). She's preparing for a half marathon so she must be aging well. The other anniversary is that my Prius is 1 year old today. I have 28,318 miles on it which comes out to 77.6 miles per day. I get about 45 MPG (and I have no desire to calculate how many gallons of gas I've burned). It's been a terrific car and I'm glad I bought it.

In yet another shameful chapter of the Bush presidency, Valarie Plame-Wilson testified before Congress yesterday. Here is her story in a nutshell: In his 2003 State of the Union Address President Bush said: "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Jospeh Wilson, a former ambassador, was surprised to hear this as he had been asked by the CIA in February 2002 to go to Niger and track down rumors that Saddam Huessin was attempting to procure yellowcake uranium for the purpose of constructing nuclear weapons. Mr. Wilson went to Niger and determined that the rumor was not correct. On July 6, 2003 he wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times entitled "What I Didn't Find in Africa." You can read the article but you have to register with the Times. The reaction from the Bush administration was swift. Vice President Cheney instructed his staff to discredit Wilson, and on July 14, 2003 columnist Robert Novak reported that Wilson's wife (Valarie Plame) worked at the CIA. The intent was to imply that Wilson's trip to Niger was cooked up by Plame and Wilson's findings where therefore not credible. The problem was that revealing the identity of a covert CIA operative is against the law as it would put the agent in danger. Clearly the administration did this. Wilson and Plame (and I) believe that Plame's identity was revealed to show what happens when someone disagrees with the Bush administration. Plame testified that all covert operatives live with the fear that their cover may be blown but that nobody expects to be betrayed by their own government. This is just one more example of how Bush and his minions play dirty, they play for keeps, and they don't care who they hurt.

16 March 2007 OK, here's the part where I'm invited to move outside the state. Today Governor Schwartzenegger signed a law moving the California primary to February 5th. It's been in June and in most years the nominee has already been selected. California has gotten a reputation among Presidential candidates as the national ATM: you come here to collect money to run, but you don't really campaign. The campaigning is done in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Nobody likes to feel left out so now we've moved our primary so the candidates have to campaign here too. So why do I find the whole thing pretty silly? Well, here are two reasons:

  • It's crazy to believe that no other state is going to react to this. California politicians must think that other states are simply going to roll over and allow us to make the choice single handedly. I suspect that the legislatures of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, etc. are even now plotting strategy on how to have a primary before California. But how smart do they have to be to schedule a primary for January 29th? I already have a concern that campaigns are too long; this just makes it worse.
  • California is clearly the state with the largest population; it's also the 3rd largest in area (after Alaska and Texas). Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolia (currently the states with the 1st three caucuses or primaries) are small states with small populations. The advantage of these states is that all the candidates get to do what I call "handshake campaigning." It allows them to present themselves to a small group of people how chooses who they think will best govern. Larger states like California become little more than a contest of the airwaves, won by the candidate who can raise the most money. Personally I think that the country is best served by the choice of who is the best "handshake candidate." Then again, I have a bias: I've lived in many states: I've had a driver's license in the District of Columbia as well as the states of California, Virginia, Tennessee, and Massachusetts. I've also lived (at least for a few months) in Alaska, New Jersey, New York, and South Carolina. I don't think the country is necessarly best served by deciding what's best for California
If I hear from the Governor I'll be sure to post it.

12 March 2007 Yesterday was the celebration of life for Aunt Mae. It was a wonderful celebration all around. It was a chance to see people we hadn't seen in awhile and update some of my genealogy research.

On February 19th I wrote about Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital and the lack of adequate outpatient facilities. Since the article came out there has been a great deal of publicity about it (I think the new Republican minority is learning that they no longer have the ability to stop hearings). Today we find that the Army's surgeon general has resigned; he headed Walter Reed from 2000 to 2004. I don't think this solves anything but at least it's something.

We have an anniversary to celebrate today. On this day in 2002 Homeland Secretary Tom Ridge unveiled the color coded threat level rankings. Quick: what color are we now? We are currently "elevated/yellow."

10 March 2007
White SupremecyOK, it's probably a sin to enjoy this so much but I came across this picture and had to post it. I'm no particular fan of Rep. Rangel but he hit a home run on this one.

In the world of "Who didn't see this coming" it's been in the news that the FBI has been abusing the Patriot (sic) Act. As part of the act the FBI is permitted to use "National Security Letter." That means they can ask you for private information on someone; they won't tell you what they are looking for or why they are asking. You cannot tell the target (or anyone else) that he is a target or what they have asked for. When this legislation was in being written in Congress, the President, Department of Justice, and the FBI asked for this clear violation of the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. They indicated that this would only be used in the rarest of circumstances against those who are planning terrorism against the United States. They said this was a necessary tool in the fight against terror. Now we find from the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General that this was not the case. They audited a small percentage of the letters and found that record keeping and oversight were so poor that it was hard to determine exactly how many of these requests and letters were issued. Understandably the numbers have been underreported to Congress. The ACLU website has much more information but it was clear that these letters were used as "fishing trips" when they weren't entirely clear what they were looking for. In what we have come to accept, FBI Director Robert Mueller has accepted responsibility but has declined to resign. I guess taking responsibility is easy when there are no consequences.

The Bush administration has to be feeling the heat (though they swear they aren't). Previous to this story the big news on Capitol Hill was the firing of several U.S. Attorneys. They are appointed by the President and serve at his pleasure. That said it is unheard of that so many be fired at once for what the White House called "performance issues." One of those attorneys was Carol Lam who served here in San Diego. She decided to concentrate on white collar crime and one of the people she prosecuted was former Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Turns out ol' Duke was taking bribe money for steering defense contracts and is now in federal prison serving a 100 month sentence. I doubt anyone in this area believes we have been poorly served by Ms. Lam but the claim is that she was not rigorous enough in prosecuting immigration cases. It's my belief and the belief of others that she and the others were removed because they did not serve the White House as well as they served the country.

4 March 2007 I begin today with an obituary: Nancy's Aunt Mae Hindinger died on the evening of March 1st. What's remarkable is that she was 103 years old: she was born November 17, 1903 and was able to live alone until shortly before her death. This is hard to imagine but when she was born:

  • President Theodore Roosevelt is 45 years old and has been in office since September of 1901. He is our 26th President.
  • The Civil War has been over for 38 years.
  • The United States has 46 states (Arizona, New Mexico, Alaska, and Hawaii were territories).
  • The Wright brothers are in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina doing the final testing for a "flying machine." In another month they will make their first flight.
  • The Ford Motor Company is 5 months old.
  • The U.S. population is approximately 80,000,000.
  • For the past 34 years it has been possible to cross the United States entirely by rail.
  • In 17 more years women will be allowed to vote.
Good night Aunt Mae, and God bless.

We also celebrate the life of Senator Thomas Eagleton. He served the state of Missouri in the Senate from 1968 to 1986 but is most remembered for briefly being the Vice Presidential candidate with Senator George McGovern in 1972. He was forced off the ticket when it was revealed that he had been treated for depression in the 1960s and was replaced by Kennedy brother-in-law Sargeant Shriver. The issue became moot when President Nixon was re-elected but it provides us with a shameful chapter in politics. We've had political leaders with a variety of illnesses over our entire history. But there was (and still is) a prejudice against mental illness. The fact that Senator Eagleton continued his distinguished career for another 14 years points to the fact that he was a good and capable politician.

2 March 2007 Last month was Black History Month, this month is Womens' History Month. I've changed the quotation on the top of this page. More information can always be found on The History Channel.

The news that occupies most of my head these days is still the San Diego Diocese bankruptcy. The Diocese did indeed file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy a few days ago; the plaintiffs' attorneys see this as an act of bad faith and one more example of how the Catholic Church is refusing to accept responsibility for its past, sinful actions. Bishop Brom released this message on Tuesday, February 27th:

To the Pastors and People of the Diocese of San Diego:
Today, the Diocese of San Diego is filing a petition in bankruptcy court for Chapter 11 reorganization. This action was authorized by both the Diocesan Finance Council, comprised mainly of lay people, and the Diocesan College of Consultors, comprised of priests representing the body of priests in the diocese.
Unfortunately, renewed efforts at settlement negotiations were unsuccessful. We put money on the table that would have stretched our financial capability to the limit, but demands were made which exceeded the financial resources of both the diocese and our insurance carrier.
We have decided against litigating our cases because of the length of time the process could take and, more importantly, because early trial judgments in favor of some victims could so deplete diocesan and insurance resources that there would be nothing left for other victims.
Consequently, we have concluded that Chapter 11 reorganization is now the best way available for us to compensate all of the victims as fairly and equitably as our resources will allow. To this end, we are presenting to the court an accurate statement on available diocesan assets and we will propose a comprehensive plan for compensating the victims and hearing their cases. Our participation in this process will demonstrate that this is not a "cop out,' but a sincere effort to face up to our responsibility.
At the same time, we will be disclosing the names of those accused, about whom there is certitude regarding their abuse, as well as the extent of their abuse, and we will verify that no known abuser is functioning in ministry.
In pastoral outreach to victims of abuse over the past five years, our experience has been that they are not trying to harm the Church, but looking for no more than just and equitable compensation. This we will continue to do our best to provide.
The Diocese of San Diego remains committed, above all, to reach out with pastoral concern and care to victims of sexual abuse and their families, and to promote healing and reconciliation with them.
We look to our patrons, San Diego and Our Lady of Refuge, to win for us the grace of doing what God would have us do.
I have to confess that I'm no particular fan of Bishop Brom but there are parts of this bankruptcy that make some sense. While this will delay the awards that the Church, in justice, needs to pay, it does not prevent them. The plaintiffs will be compensated (as much as money can compensate for the immeasurable pain that was caused by the abuse) and hopefully in a way that allows the diocese to continue to minister to the Catholic population. Unfortunately the next part of the fight may prove to be ugly. The Diocese has already begun to claim that it does not own some of the assets normally thought of as church property. The Diocese claims that it has $156 million in assets and $100 million in debts or liabilities; others claim that the Diocese owns up to $600 million in assets. I do know that when I worked for churches it was common for parishes to "pool" their money into diocesan accounts for the purpose of better interest rates; on the other hand I was always told that all parishes, rectories, schools, and assets belonged exclusively to the bishop. I don't think anyone doubts that the bishop has ultimate control over who works in the churches or lives in the rectories. The church where I worship is staffed by the Dominican Fathers who are responsible for providing priests, but they work under a contract with Diocese and the Diocese owns the house (rectory or priory) where they live. This is going to continue to be a long and painful journey and is in the forefront of my prayers.

Also in my prayers is Rob. I work with Rob's wife Lili at San Diego Hospice. Rob has been serving in the army in Afghanistan for several months; this past Sunday Lili got a call that he has some kind of infection; at the time he was still in Afghanistan but the infection was so severe that he was breathing through a ventilator and his kidneys had failed. They were able to transport him first to Germany and then to Bethesda Naval Hospital near Washington D.C. He's pretty critical but he's being cared for by a team of smart and dedicated men and women at Bethesda. I asked Lili what she needs, and her most pressing need right now is prayers. Let's see what we can do.

25 February 2007 I've made a few changes to this page: Since Fr. Tom Jones died on January 16th I've removed the link to his blog. There was a nice tribute to him written by another staff member, but it's pretty clear that the blog will be removed. Let's continue to pray for him.

Also I've removed the link for the presidential campaign of Democrat (and former Iowa governor) Tom Vilsack. He dropped out of the race on the 23rd due to a lack of funds. It appears that he recognized that he will never be able to keep up with other Democrats who are sucking up all the money. With nearly a year before the first primary and nearly 20 months until the election the game now is to make sure you get the big money. This favors candidates with "star power" like Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama. I admit to mixed feelings about this because at this point in the campaign I'm favoring Senator Obama; I plead guilty to not paying much attention to Tom Vilsack because I never thought he had a chance. On the other hand I do notice that the days of the Dark Horse candidate may be over.

I've also added another blog I've started reading. Chip Killian and his wife Kristina are friends from church. They are from North Carolina and are here while Chip completes his Ph.D. in computer science. Chip recently stumbled on this page and we are talking about RSS and other high tech stuff I can do to this page. At this point I'm still take it all in but I'm fascinated by what I may be able to do. Stay tuned.

Well, enough of that. The disturbing news of the world comes again from Iraq. Our local paper, the San Diego Union Tribune had an article yesterday on the peril of private contractors in Iraq. I think most people are aware of this but until recently the Army created almost its own society: they had soldiers who were cooks, guards, etc. The good news is that all of them were trained soldiers who could fight in an instant if something happened. There was a down side in that this was fairly expensive: if (for example) a person enlisted in the army at 18 and spent his career as a cook he can retire at 38 and receive an army pension for the rest of his life. Granted this is not a huge pension but multiply this by all those who qualify and it becomes real money. When Donald Rumsfeld was appointed Secretary of Defense in 2001 he indicated that this model should change. He believed that we could hire private contractors to do many of these jobs and save the government a great deal of money. The down side is that we now have civilians in Iraq doing many of these non combat jobs; it's no surprise that many of them are in harm's way and so far nearly 800 have died and more than 3,300 have been injured. These men and women who are killed do not get counted on the official list of war dead (currently 3,154 in Iraq alone) and are largely anonymous. According to the article there are approximately 120,000 contractors in Iraq and 135,000 troops in the war zone. This article was written by AP's Michelle Roberts. Last November Anna Badkhen of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote an article about a contractor named Steven Thompson. He drove a truck in Iraq and was clearly in the middle of combat. He came home to North Carolina with many of the symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Two doctors agreed and he now receives disability from Social Security. But he filed a claim with his health insurance to get help with his PTSD and was denied. That's one of the problems: it's no picnic getting help through the Veteran's Administration, but since he was a civilian contractor he has no access to that and had to go through his company's health insurance. No pun intended it's been a nightmare for him. I'm not sure how long the article will be posted but the link is here.

19 February 2007 Today is the commemoration of President's day; it's a well deserved holiday for many, and work day for the rest of us. Whatever you're doing today, it's a day to remember our favorite Presidents

On the other hand it's also a day of celebration because in 700 days we get a new president.

There is something truly disturbing to write about. Yesterday I was talking with my father and he told me about an article in the Washington Post. Staff writers Dana Priest and Anne Hull wrote an article entitled "Soldiers Face Neglect, Frustration at Army's Top Medical Facility." My father said the article sickened him but he made himself read the whole thing. I downloaded the article from the webpage, read the article and had the same reaction. The article talks about the treatment given to members of our military who are wounded and sent to Walter Reed Medical Facility near Washington D.C. The Bush administration has argued long and hard that we have a responsibility to those who are wounded in action; with the development of bullet proof vests and other protections many troops who would have been killed in other wars come home with limb or brain damage. All of us, regardless of political views, are grateful that these brave men and women are still alive but the reality is that they will require expensive and time consuming care. We sent them into battle and we have a solemn responsibility to take care of them. Simply put we are not living up to our responsibility. Her are a few highlights from the article:

  • Most troops wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan are admitted to Walter Reed when they come home. After their release from the hospital many need to continue their treatment as outpatients. While the hospital has state of the art facilities, outpatients are farmed out to nearby facilities. Building 18, just outside of the hospital gates, is one such facility. Many of the rooms are rat and cockroach infested and the holes in the wall are filled with mold. Building 18 was constructed before World War II and is incredibly neglected.
  • These outpatient stays are intended to be temporary. The average length is 10 months but many are there for two years or longer. Many of the wounded have family who have moved to suburban Maryland to help care for their loved ones. They are often left on their own. If they don't speak English well they are even more isolated (the armed forces put resources into making sure they have bilingual recruiters but not bilingual social workers at this end of the process).
  • The army attempts to keep military protocol in place even in the hospital. This sometimes has horrifying results. Staff Sgt. John Shannon came to Walter Reed in November 2004 after his eye and skull were shattered by an AK-47. He was a reconnaissance and land-navigation expert and when he arrived at Walter Reed he was given a map and told to find his room himself. According to the article "Shannon was so disoriented that he couldn't even find north. Holding the map, he stumbled around outside the hospital, sliding against walls and trying to keep himself upright. He asked anyone he found for directions." The article gives a long list of patients who suffered memory problems because of their wounds but were given no help in remembering their appointments.
  • The army keeps such poor records there that the combat wounded often have to prove they were in Iraq or Afghanistan. One "combat medic who did three tours had to bring in letters and photos of herself in Iraq to show that she had been there, after a clerk couldn't find a record of her service." Sgt. Shannon brought in his Purple Heart to prove he was in Iraq.
  • It is possible to purchase liquor on base and I don't believe anyone has any problem with that. But 19 year old Corporal Jeremy Harper, who was being treated for PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) died of alcohol poisoning. Because of the medications he was taking he wasn't supposed to leave the base; that means either someone on base gave or sold alcohol to someone underage or he was allowed to leave the property against orders.
We are currently at war and the wounded are never far from our thoughts and prayers. This level of neglect is hard to imagine but given the age of so many of these young men and women it's clear that they will be with us for a long time. How much will we care for them 10, 20, 40, or 50 years after this war is over? And by the way, where is President Bush in this? Turns out he's cutting the VA budget to fulfill his promise to balance the federal budget by 2012. The cynical side of me says that the President knows that Congress will never cut the VA budget but it gives him the opportunity to say: "Well I submitted a budget that will balance in 5 years. It's not my fault that Congress didn't pass it." I'm listening to my cynical side. My father and 3 of his brothers fought in World War II or Korea or both; I'm grateful they weren't wounded and even more grateful they didn't serve under this president.

On a related note it's also the anniversary of President Roosevelt's executive order mandating that Americans of Japanese descent go into detention camps. In 1942 Executive order 9066 claimed that they were a security threat.

17 February 2007 The headlines this morning center on the passage of a nonbinding resolution of the House of Representatives opposing President Bush's troop buildup in Iraq. Here is the text of the resolution:

Disapproving of the decision of the President announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq. Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That
  1. Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; and
  2. Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.
This resolution passed 246 to 182. Generally the Democrats voted for it and the Republicans voted against it, but not completely. The following Democrats voted against it:
  • Jim Marshall of Georgia
  • Gene Taylor of Mississippi
The following Republicans voted for it:
  • Michael Castle of Delaware
  • Ric Keller of Florida
  • Timothy V. Johnson of Illinois
  • Mark Steven Kirk
  • Wayne T. Gilcrest of Maryland
  • Fred Upton of Michigan
  • Jim Ranstad of Minnesota
  • James T. Walsh of New York
  • Howard Coble of North Carolina
  • Walter B. Jones of North Carolina
  • Steven C. LaTourette of Ohio
  • Phil English of Pennsylvania
  • Bob Inglis of South Carolina
  • Jimmy Duncan Jr. of Tennessee
  • Ron Paul of Texas
  • Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia
  • Tom Petri of Wisconsin
As I write this the Senate is taking up the measure. Earlier they had taken up a similar resolution but it never came to a vote.

Perhaps what I've found most tiring of this is the Republican rhetoric. They have been arguing that to pass this vote, event though it does not require anything of the President, is to embolden the enemy. I have a few responses to this. First, the congressional elections in November all but demanded this action. The overwhelming majority of us believe the administration is going down the wrong road. We see this troop surge as yet another blunder that will reap only more casualties. If the Republicans are right then it is never proper to disagree with the president during war under any circumstances. This is insane on its face. President Bush is doing nothing at this point but making it harder for his successor. On the bright side we only have 702 days until that work can begin.

11 February 2007 I head some disturbing news last week: A Clean Well Lighted Place for Books has closed. This was a large and wonderful independent bookstore in San Francisco; it had been a fixture on Van Ness St. since 1982 but finally had to close. There are several reasons for this, but it's the loss of another independent bookstore that I mourn.

Last week Nancy I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary. It was a quiet celebration since it was in the middle of the week. Nevertheless it was good to mark the occasion.

Tomorrow would be Abraham Lincoln's 198th birthday. It's a good day to remember the impact he had on our nation and his place in Black History. Last year at this time I was reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's book "Team of Rivals." It was excellent and I highly recommend it.

5 February 2007 Yesterday was Super Bowl XLI and I'm guessing most people saw at least part of it. We went to a Super Bowl party and saw most of the first half before we had to go to church. It's a fun annual event but one thing really struck me yesterday: I was the only person who is a football fan who felt no need to choose a team to root for. I don't have any connection with either the Bears or the Colts and was content to watch the game just for the pleasure of seeing a football game. If I'm watching the Redskins or the Chargers play I'll certainly root for them (as well as anyone who is playing the Cowboys) it seems that most people can't enjoy a game unless they are involved in who wins. Puzzling.

I began the day yesterday by having breakfast with the pastor of my church, Fr. John Paul Forté. We try to meet on a semi-regular basis but not as often as we hope. He's been an excellent pastor and shepherd for the church and I forget sometimes that many Catholics around the world aren't as blessed as we are. He was ordained a year before me, and in 1993-1994 we lived just a few miles apart in San Francisco (he at St. Domincs and me at Old St. Mary's). It was a missed opportunity for me.

In the political world Senate democrats were unable to get the 60 votes needed for cloture and didn't debate S.470 that I talked about on the 3rd. To the extent that it was a nonbinding resolution the arguement can be made that the message was delivered. I pray this won't end the discussion.

3 February 2007 Not much is new in the area of politics. President Bush still maintains that he's "the decider" when it comes to the "surge" in Iraq. At the same time the white house is trying desperately to stop the Senate from passing a non binding resolution opposing the surge. This is an interesting event in the balance of power government we elect. President Bush, as Commander-in-Chief, really is in charge (or "the decider" as he says) of how the war is executed. Since Congress passes the budget it "holds the purse strings" and could conceivably shut down the funding the for the war. No one is talking about this because it would be perceived as a lack of support for the troops (ie, sending them there and leaving them with no pay, support, or way to fight). This nonbinding resolution is more of a "no confidence" vote for the president. Embarrassing but not an impediment to the president's ability to execute the war. The bill is Senate Bill 470 (S.470) and can be found here.

Last month a Doonsebury comic caught my eye. Garry Trudeau has mentioned this before, but apparently the National Park Service at the Grand Canyon is selling a book called Grand Canyon: A Different View. It posits that the Grand Canyon was not caused by erosion over millions of years, but is indeed the result of the Noah's Ark flood that took place only a few thousand years ago. Not only that, but rangers at the Grand Canyon are instructed not to say exactly how old it is. This is almost too much to imagine, but according to a group called "Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility" in their December 28, 2006 press release this is true. The Bush administration's war on science is well known and history will look back on this time much as we see the Catholic Church's war against Galileo in the 17th Century.

On a cheerier note February is Black History Month. February was chosen because it's the birthday of Frederick Douglass (c.1817-1895) and Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865). A good place to start reading about this is the History Channel.

24 January 2007 Yesterday was the 88th birthday of my father-in-law and a cause of great celebration. When he turned 87 he joked that he was 78 and dyslexic; now he has nowhere to go. We'll celebrate as a family this coming Saturday.

The big news today is that yesterday President Bush gave his annual State of the Union address; you can read a transcript here. I have to confess that I still can't stand to hear what he does to the English language; I didn't hear the speech but read the transcript. Here are a few thoughts:

  • Again he talked about the No Child Left Behind Initiative. He described its passage as a time the Congress rose above partisan politics and wants to expand the program. I contend this is a failure because if reduces all education to standardized tests. So much power is given to standardized tests that everything else suffers. Subjects like art, music, and physical education are left behind because they can't be tested, can't be evaluated, and are ignored. Also, since so much energy is transferred to tests (and who among us doesn't remember the stress of exams) we are robbing our students of the simple love of learning. Finally because (we all remember) the command to "do your own work" is paramount we never teach our students how to work together. Through all this the Bush administration insists on measuring learning only through test scores.
  • On health care he said: "A future of hope and opportunity requires that all our citizens have affordable and available health care. When it comes to health care, government has an obligation to care for the elderly, the disabled, and poor children. And we will meet those responsibilities." That sounds wonderful and we all can understand how the country will benefit everyone has access to health care. But his solution is to tie it to tax breaks. Here he goes again: all problems can be fixed by cutting taxes. This does nothing for all the people who are unable to purchase insurance because they have a pre-existing condition This does nothing for people who don't pay anything (or very much) in taxes and won't benefit from a tax cut. And it won't benefit families who will use the extra funds for more important resources like food and shelter.
  • His description of the war in Iraq is almost beyond belief. In 2003 when we invaded the talk at the time was "Shock and Awe;" that we would invade with such a overwhelming force that the bad guys would surrender and the good guys would welcome us. Now nearly 4 years later President Bush proposes that we surge the troops in Iraq in the belief that (once again) the bad guys will surrender and the good guys will welcome us. He keeps telling us that we should wait and see if this works. We've already waited and it hasn't worked. Shock and Awe II won't be any better that Shock and Awe I.

Like I said I didn't see the speech I can't directly comment on how it was delivered but many of the commentators have noted that the President appeared subdued. He's not a man who is used to being in the minority, he's not a man who is used to compromise, and he's not a man who understands the need to see shades of gray. Our country will be better served if he grows from this experience. If not we have a long 726 days in his administration.

16 January 2007 On January 10th I talked about the illness of Fr. Tom Jones. I just finished reading his blog and saw that he died this afternoon at 4:35 p.m. I knew this was coming, and I've been working with terminally ill people for 9 years, and I'm finding myself very sad now. Tom was a good man and a good priest and our world is a lesser place now. In July 2006 he was diagnosed with Merkel Cell Cancer, a cancer I had never heard of. It's an aggressive and nasty cancer and from his diagnosis Tom knew that it would be the cause of his death. He hoped for more time, but he was given only 6 months. I was a Paulist in 1993 when Tom was in need of a kidney transplant. I was tested to see if I was a suitable donor. This sounds funny but I was a little disappointed that someone else was a better match than me and she donated her kidney to him. Over this past weekend (at James and Whitney's wedding) I talked with another Paulist who said that the medications he took after this contributed to the cancer. The double edged sword of organ transplants is that the drugs he took to allow his body to accept another person's kidney suppressed his immune system that allowed the cancer to invade. The transplant gave him another 14 years but somehow it still doesn't seem fair. The streets of Heaven are richer tonight for Tom's presence.

15 January 2007 This is indeed a sad day for fans of the San Diego Chargers. They were supposed to beat the New England Patriots on their way to the Super Bowl in Miami. Nobody told that to the Patriots or perhaps nobody told the Chargers that they can't make stupid mistakes. In any case the Patriots won 27-24 and they will play the Indianapolis Colts next week. This definitely takes the shine off of the Super Bowl parties here. The interesting story today is whether or not the Chargers will keep or fire Coach Marty Scottenheimer. He does not work well with Charger's GM A.J. Smith but it's hard to imagine firing a coach after a 14-2 season.

President Bush's speech on January 10th talked about an increase (surge or escalation, whichever sounds better) of US troops in Iraq. He coupled this with the understanding that Iraq would also provide adequate forces. News reports in the last few days have indicated that a large part of the Iraqi force will be Kurds from the north. Again, this seems problematic. The Kurds are generally Sunni muslims, but much of their commonality with the rest of Iraq stops there. They consider themselves Kurds first, and not Arabs. The speak Kurdish, not Arabic, and their hope is for an independent Kurdistan (students of history will note that the Kurds were hoping an independent Kurdistan would emerge from the Paris peace talks in 1919 when America's Woodrow Wilson, England's David Lloyd George, and France's Georges Clemenceau divided up the remnants of the Ottoman Empire. It didn't happen). Other than their reluctance to fight in an area they have no interest in, the Kurds are getting very nervous about the Bush administration's escalation of words against Iran. There is a Kurdish population in Iran and they are being pressured by US forces (who claim that they are members of Al Qaida). Kurds are angry about this as they believe US forces should work through their parliament. The Kurds are remarkably forgiving of the US government: in 1991, then President George H.W. Bush encouraged the Kurds to rise up in rebellion against Saddam Huessin but abandoned them when they did just that. Huessin responded by killing hundreds of Kurds before the Bush administration reluctantly set up a northern no fly zone.

Finally today is the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968). If he were alive he'd be 78 today. His legacy lives on, and his work is far from done.

13 January 2007 This appears to be a day for markers. First, happy birthday to my Uncle Ed who turns 85 today. He doesn't have a computer so I doubt he'll see this.

The second remembrance is not a good one. If you lived in or near Washington D.C. twenty five years ago you remember this date as the day of the Air Florida crash. It was one of those days of rain mixed with sleet mixed with snow. Air Florida Flight 90 took off from National Airport but there was too much ice on the wings for it to get sufficient lift and it crashed into the 14th St. Bridge and fell into the Potomac River. This crash was memorable in part because Lenny Skutnick and Roger Olian, who were ordinary citizens who happened to be on the shore of the river, swam out and began rescuing people who would have otherwise died in the freezing water. At the time I was working in Washington D.C. and carpooled with someone else. We both knew that the weather was going to make it a long day and I was still at the office in Georgetown when the plane crashed. I fully expected to not get home that night. My father was in a commuter van on 14th St. a few miles north of the crash. I think he got home before me, but not by much. You can read more about the crash here.

On a happier note, today was also the wedding of our friends James and Whitney. It was a wonderful celebration and we pray for many years of marital bliss.

11 January 2007 Last night President Bush addressed the nation on a "new plan" for the war in Iraq. I confess I didn't hear him as we were at dinner (and, truth be told, after 6 years I just can't listen to the man's voice) but I just finished reading the transcript. It should come as no surprise but I don't support increase in troops and I oppose it for a few reasons:

  • This just looks to me like "Shock and Awe II." When we first invaded in 2003 (then) Defense Secretary Rumsfeld claimed we would overwhelm Huessin's forces and be greeted as liberators by the Iraqi population. Clearly this didn't happen
  • I'm old enough to remember Vietnam and how badly that went. In 1996 Robert McNamara (who was Vietnam's Rumsfeld) wrote a book called In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. In the book he describes how the Johnson administration kept looking for a way out of Vietnam when they realized (by 1967!) that they were trapped in a war that wasn't going according to plan. Unfortunately they reacted the only way they knew how: they kept sending more and more troops in the hopes to turning the tide. By the time we left Vietnam in 1973 more than 58,000 Americana troops were dead. At that time President Nixon declared victory but I doubt you'd find anyone who believes that now.
  • Finally, I don't see anything in President Bush's speech that changes anything. All along he has been saying that we will stand down when the Iraqis stand up. All along the mission has been to train an Iraqi army that can defend the nation by itself. All along we haven't been able to do that. It has been made more than clear that the troops see themselves as Shia, Sunni, or Kurds first and Iraqis second. Even a cursory reading of the news shows that often the death squads who have been killing other Iraqis are troops that we trained.

Again President Bush describes this conflict in almost Biblical terms as "good vs. evil" and that evil will win unless we act. I've always believed this sets up a dangerous dichotomy. If we present ourselves as good, then anyone who opposes us is evil and anyone who disagrees with us is either evil or a dupe. I'm not evil, I'm not a dupe, and I disagree with the President on this.

10 January 2007 We're currently still on vacation. Each January we go to Yosemite for the annual Chef's Holidays. We're in Bakersfield on our way home now. It was spectacular as usual. This is the second time we've been there at the same time as Kent Rathbun of Abacus Restaurant. If you're in Dallas, you owe it to yourself to eat there. In addition to eating and hiking in Yosemite Valley, we have a few other traditions. A few years ago we found it better to rent a minivan and have more room for our stuff; it also gives the nondriver a chance to stretch out. We've rented from Avis and have been pleased with them. They use GM cars and this year we got a Mercury Monterey. We're never renting this van again. It's cramped and has several features we find annoying. Next year we'll make a better choice.

On a more somber note you may have noticed that one of the blogs I link to is Fr. Tom Jones. When I was a Paulist he was one of the bigwigs. Unfortunately he's dying of cancer; though he has a blog he's much too weak to keep it going and he has others writing for him. He doesn't have much time left and his death will be a loss for the Paulists and for the world. My prayers are with him, and I ask for your prayers too.

4 January 2007 Rarely in politics do we get to see a bigot so outflanked; let us enjoy it. Last November Keith Ellison was elected to represent the 5th Minnesota congressional district in Congress. Mr. Ellison was born in Detroit and while in college he converted to Islam. As a congressman he was sworn into office today. There is an official swearing in where all members of congress are asked to raise their right arm. Much like in courts these days, the custom is that you do not place your left hand on the Bible. Often members of congress will then have a private swearing in where they do use a holy book and Rep. Ellison announced he would use the Qur'an (Koran). This brought an immediate response from Virgil Goode who represents the Virginia 5th. In a letter to his constituents Rep. Goode remarked: "The Muslim representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran." Rep. Ellison didn't respond directly, but instead contacted the Library of Congress and asked to use the Qur'an that was once owned by Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). President Jefferson was born in Albermarle County which is in Rep. Goode's district. Gotta love it.

2 January 2007 I'm still playing with the design of the page and I've decided to add something on the left side. There is an election for president in 748 days; I'm planning (to the best of my ability) to keep track of who is running and provide links to their pages. Obviously there will be people running who are not viable and I can't list everyone who is running but I'm going to try to keep up with the major candidates. Email me if you have any updates for me.

Today was the funeral for President Ford at the National Cathedral. I saw part of it and was moved by Tom Brokaw's eulogy. I'm trying to find the text of his remarks and will post some of it if I can find it. It's hard to think back to 1974 (32 years ago) but our country was in a world of hurt and President Ford did a remarkable job in helping restore hope. It's interesting for me to hear talk about how he didn't seek the office of President but served well. That's absolutely true but at the time I remember complaints that he had never been elected. Funny how time changes things (and usually for the better).

1 January 2007 Welcome to the new (and hopefully improved) 2007 blog. I've done some changes that hopefully make it simpler to get around. Let me know what you think.

The breaking news this morning is not good. Yesterday the Denver Broncos were eliminated from the playoffs by losing to the San Francisco 49ers 26-23. Hours later (2 a.m. local time) their cornerback Darrent Williams was shot to death in what looks like a drive by shooting. The limo was sprayed with bullets and 2 other people in the limo were also hit. When you get a chance send a thank you note to the NRA.

In other football news, this was not the year for me to follow the Washington Redskins as they went 5-11. Better news is with the hometown San Diego Chargers who finished 14-2 and are guaranteed that they will play at home for as long as they last in the playoffs. Of course all playoff teams being at 0-0 but this year is looks good for the Chargers to make it to Super Bowl XLI in Miami on February 4th.

Readers of this blog know that I disagree with much of the Bush administration's agenda. One area of "lack of agenda" is global warming and climate change. The science is simple: we currently burn large amounts of fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas). The energy produced fills our gas tanks, heats our homes, and powers our life. It also produces large quantities of carbon dioxide which goes into our atmosphere. Once there the carbon dioxide "traps" heat from the sun (which is why it's called a "greenhouse gas;" it acts like a greenhouse used to grow plants) and leads to an increase in global temperature. Everyone who seriously looks at this comes to a few conclusions: 1) the planet is getting warmer 2) it is a direct result of human action 3) it is causing changes in our world that we don't want 4) the longer we wait to act the more difficult it will be to avoid catastrophic results. A good place to see some of this is the web page for the movie An Inconvenient Truth. Unfortunately the major force in denying this truth is President Bush who insists that "the jury is still out" or that we need "solid science" to be sure. On the other hand, the Department of the Interior has proposed that the polar bear be classified as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. This is due to habitat loss; what makes this newsworthy is that their habitat isn't being developed or bulldozed. It is melting. In other words we can't protect polar bears by declaring their habitat off limits; we have to protect the environment. You can read the DOI press release here.

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