Friday, August 1, 2008

Separated At Birth, Poker Edition

I sort of have a poker blog, but only in the way that people who've abandoned their about to be foreclosed mansion still have a home. I really just have a hard time saying anything interesting about poker that Dr. Pauly doesn't say better, which made finding a genuine voice too difficult. Also, I took a break from the game to find some balance, which I finally did. I still play poker, actually quite a bit these days. I took 131st out of 4191 in the $3 MTT rebuy on Pokerstars the other night - so close, so far away. The guy who crippled me ended up in the final 4 - congrats to him and boo for me! Regadless, I finally posted something new to the poker blog, but in case you're not one of the 3 annual visitors I've had there in the last three years, I figured I'd post it here for my other 296 annual visitors, most of whom are here to read about the South African Lottery or to find an e-mail address to call me an asshole for what I said in the Lakers Blog comments.

Anyway, I'm not sure if anyone's ever noticed this, but Minnesota Twins 1st Baseman Justin Morneau and annoyingly good at everything and good looking poker pro Eric Lindgren must secretly be brothers. They look more alike than Dack & Dirk Rambo did. They're like the Olsen Twins of the Guys Who Are Better Than Me At The Things I Love. Check it out:

"Morneau (seated next to Tully's Current Tall Inaccessible Blonde Dream Girl Erin Andrews)"


2 Down, 2 To Go

Well, that was easy enough. My Round 2 match in the Tournament of Champions went about the same as the 1st, although the start was a little shaky. I had no clue that the Black Rock Desert was in Nevada or that Hello, I Must Be Going was Groucho Marx's theme song (however, I do know that it was the title of the last Phil Collins solo album that I could tolerate). After that, I went on an answering spree that dashed the title hopes of my opponent Robert. Most people seemed impressed that I knew so readily that the only two states in the Union that outlaw self-service gas pumps are Oregon and New Jersey, but when you've been to both, the annoyance of long full-service pump waits are not easily forgotten. As an aside, I still have no idea why those states retain such archaic and pointless laws - are the filling station employees' lobbies that powerful in those particular regions? The final question was another fastball right over the heart of the plate: In 1990, what 42-1 longshot beat *at this point I chimed in* Mike Tyson for the heavweight championship? Other than baseball, I know more about boxing than any other sport, so I appreciate the trivia gods for hooking me up. My prize for this round was a Parrot Hands-Free Speakerphone that I will may use, give away or sell. Does anyone (that means the two of you who are still reading this after finding me from a link on the LakersBlog) know if these are good or not?

Robert was an extremely gracious loser, and I felt bad about defeating him. I have an odd internal dichotomy - I am beyond competitive and despise losing at anything, from bag-tossing games to H.O.R.S.E. tournaments on Pokerstars. However, I always feel really badly when I beat people (other than Kristopher Parker, who deserves everything he gets on the rare occasions that I best him at anything). When I'm playing a game, I literally hate my opponents. I wonder if this is a residual effect of the competitive household I grew up in and the pleasure I got from beating my oppressive older siblings in the games we played.

Next up: Round 3 vs. Patrick, on Wednesday, August 6th. Listen in to see if I can drop an A-Bomb on my opponent that day or if I'm going to end up like Hiroshima myself (Aug 6th is the 63rd anniversary of the Enola Gay's special delivery). Patrick is very good, so I have my work cut out for me!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Back On The Radio

I doubt many people were left waiting with bated breath, but I can report to the 2 or 3 people who might be interested that I wiped the floor with my Round 1 opponent in the Mark & Brian Tournament of Champions. I would have shut the hapless Lisa out, but I had a brain fart on the oldest religion in the world (I said Buddhism, but the Hindu Vedas predate the forming of Buddhism by several hundred years). I also lost in on an easy 70s rock question ('Hair of the Dog' is an album by Nazareth, not Jethro Tull) and heard a Betty Crocker question wrong. Regardless, I won 5-1 with 2 questions to spare, and I'm okay with my performance. For my efforts, I won an 8 CD box set of heavy metal music, a gift that surely would have been more welcome in my collection when I was 20 than now, but it's free and that's what matters. If I win round 2, I get a Parrot Hands Free Speakerphone; round 3's prize is a 2 day trip to Caesar's Palace in Vegas to see Jerry Seinfeld, and the grand prize is a cruise to Mexico for 7 days. I've always said the only way you're going to get me on a cruise is to give me a free one, so I guess they were listening.

My 2nd round match is Thursday, July 31st at 8:30AM, same bat channel (95.5KLOS in LA). I heard my opponent play, and I'm not very worried about this match, but round 3 and 4 are going to be extremely tough. The remaining players are all very good and quick to respond. I have my work cut out for me, but I'm confident that I'll prevail! Wish me luck!

Friday, July 18, 2008

My Impending Radio Fame

While I'd much rather be famous for winning the World Series of Poker Main Event, I'm going to have to settle for being a radio Game Show contestant. In Spring of 2007, I was a five day champion on the Mark and Brian trivia contest on LA-based KLOS-FM (95.5). Basically, it's a best of 10 trivia contest where you yell your name if you know the answer. I pretty much brutalized my opponents; anyone who knows me is aware that I'm good at two things, and one of them is rapid access to the vast amount of useless knowledge stored in my head. Well, useless unless you're decimating people at SceneIt or winning a few thousand bucks on Jeopardy!. One of the benefits of being an undefeated 5 day champion of the game is that they do a Tournament of Champions once they've got 16 of them. The prizes I received for my run were Disney DVDs, some CDs I already owned, and a visit to the Mark and Brian show that I've yet to cash. However, they actually give you a pretty good prize for winning the TOC. The last two prizes were a Toyota Yaris and a 52" widescreen TV. Knowing my luck, it'll be a cruise to Mexico or something completely uninteresting. Considering my prizes on Jeopardy! and Win Ben Stein's Money were a DCC Player and professional hair care products, this is even more likely.

Anyway, after a long stretch, they've finally scheduled the TOC to start this coming Monday, July 21st at 8:30AM. I'm actually playing on the first game, so if you want to hear my voice, tune in to the show. I'm a competitive freak, so I'll give it my best regardless if the prize is a BRAND NEW CAR or a George Foremean Lean Mean Grilling Machine. Here's the link to the website, if you don't live in LA, Portland or one of the other areas where they syndicate Mark and Brian's show. Just click on the Listen Live button, and remember, it's 8:30AM Pacific Time.

If I win Monday's game, then I have to beat three other people to win the whole thing. Even though I've been a winner on a much bigger show than this, I'm very amped to win it (especially considering they're getting rid of the game after this, making it the final TOC ever). Wish me luck, kids!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

2007 NBA Draft, Live Blog

I'm at work, but I'm listening to the draft on XM. I don't claim to be Peter Vecsey, although I did beat his ass down in an e-mail war during the 2006 playoffs when he relented and admitted he was wrong about the whole Steve Nash time-out debacle. However, I do watch enough college basketball to have an opinion about many of these players and of course, I'm an NBA addict, so I have some interesting thoughts on this year's very deep draft. Away we go, until the Lakers make the #19 pick:

Round 1:

1st selection: Portland selects C Greg Oden (Ohio State)

My take: I'm shocked, shocked, that we already have our first draft surprise. I fully expected the Blazers to select Sam Bowie with this pick. Seriously, is Oden really that young? He's a freak of nature, because I could show his picture to people and tell them he was retired NBA legend Connie Hawkins, and I doubt anybody would call me on it. He seems like a good kid, and as long as the Portland family curse of Marijuana addiction doesn't seek him out, he's going to be a stud.

2nd selection: Seattle selects F Kevin Durant (Texas)

My take: The rumors I planted that Durant was arrested in his meth lab last week obviously had no effect, because this pick was nearly pre-destined. Obviously, I have no argument with this choice; Oden and Durant could be this generation's Olajuwon and Jordan. The Western Conference just got even more scary. Supposedly, Seattle dealt Ray Allen to the Celtics for Szerbiak, Delonte West (?!?) and the 5th pick. WTF?

3rd selection: Atlanta selects F Al Horford (Florida)

My take: The first of three potential top 10 picks from Florida. That's a first if it happens. I liked this guy a lot in the NCAA, and the Bruins are surely glad to see him go. With Horford, Atlanta is no longer the laughingstock of the East (that's still the NY Point Guards until they make the playoffs).

4th selection: Memphis selects PG Mike Conley, Jr. (Ohio State)

My take: The future starting PG of the Portland TrailBlazers is another example of genetics at work. His dad was an Olympic gold medalist in the triple jump. Frigging stud and a huge FOGO (friend of Greg Oden). These two could be this generation's Cuttino Mobley and Steve Francis. Conley Sr. is the agent for Oden and his son - I want to become a FOMCS!

5th selection: Seattle err Boston selects Forward? Jeff Green (Georgetown)

My take: This pick makes absolutely no sense to me if the rumored deal with Seattle really has gone down. Seattle just took a SF with the #2 pick and now they get another? WTF!?! I am very confused. Green was awesome in the games I watched - very athletic and good shooter. Maybe Seattle is moving Green to the SG position?

6th selection: Milwaukee selects PF Yi Jianlian (China)

My take: I fear players who have only been seen in grainy YouTube videos playing undersized longshoremen from Shanghai and who don't work out for teams pre-draft. I'm no scout, but there's no way I take this guy before Corey Brewer. Is he Yao or Darko Milicic? Only time will tell (hey, an Asia song in a post about an Asian!)

7th selection: Minnesota selects SF Corey Brewer (Florida)

My take: Milwaukee will regret not getting this guy. He's a bona fide stud, and I like him a lot! #2 of the Florida top 10 trifecta. Kevin Garnett may not want to leave now that Brewer's going to be a T-Wolf.

8th selection: Charlotte selects F Brandan Wright (North Carolina)

My take: Nice choice, but Michael Jordan must be desperate to build an all-NC team. Half the roster is built around NC alums. Is Dean Smith going to be their next coach?

9th selection: Chicago selects "Who knows?" Joakim Noah (Florida)

My take: As predicted, Florida plants three players in the top 10. I have no idea what Chicago is going to do with Noah, as they already have Ben Wallace signed up to a long-term contract playing the same basic position as Noah. However, he's not a bad guy to study under, so expect Noah's defense to be great down the line.

10th selection: Sacramento selects C Spencer Hawes (Washington)

My take: Shit! I didn't want these the Queens to get this guy. This dude might be a better center than Oden someday. Blech! Double Blech. He's a big, athletic SOB, and I don't think he's going to take a long time to get this game. And the Lakers get to face him 4 times a year - very nice.

11th selection: Atlanta take PG Acie Law (Texas A&M)

My take: I'm still not sure if this guy is going to be a star, but he should be a solid contributor at the PG position, even as a rookie. From what I've seen and read, he doesn't appear to be that fast, but neither was Magic Johnson and we know how that turned out (the great career, not the early retirement from HIV followed by a misguided comeback).

Comment: C'mon GMs, take some high-risk Euros already - I'm praying for a miracle that allows a NBA ready talent to fall down to the Lakers.

12th selection: Philadelphia takes SF Thaddeus Young (Georgia Tech)

My take: I don't like this guy. Sorry, but he seemed to have a low basketball IQ in the GT games I saw. Who knows? At this level of the draft, we get lots of question marks that won't be answered for several seasons.

13th selection: New Orleans/Shithole Hornets take F Julian Wright (Kansas):

My take: Ooh, I'm beginning to fear the Hornets. This kid is underrated. Now you've got Chris Paul and with Wright, a solid ballhandling young forward. Excellent pick. Damn, why couldn't he fall 6 more spots.

Up next: The Clippers. Will they take another European unknown who will never play for them?

14th selection: Buffalo takes F Al Thornton (Kansas State):

My take: Leave it to the Clippers to make another WTF move. Did they forget that their PG Shaun Livingston just destroyed his leg? You've got several good options at PG left on the board and instead they take a questionable forward. The guy can shoot like a mother, though. He could be murder on the opposition during fast breaks, because he's really quick for a 6'8" player. Regardless, this is another in a long line of horrible picks for the Clippers.

15th selection: Detroits selects PG Rodney Stuckey (Eastern Washington):

My take: Okay, I admit it - I've never seen this guy play. Eastern Washington doesn't exactly get a lot of airplay down here. But, from what I've read, this guy's a baller. The Pistons need a young guard, so this is a very good 'draft for need' pick. Why the Clippers let him go, I'll never know?

16th selection: Washington selects Swingman Nick Young (USC):

My take: Fuck! I thought he might slip to the Lakers. Obviously, I've seen him play more than once. I love Nick Young. The kid has heart and a sad backstory (his brother was murdered by an aspiring gang member trying to prove himself). He always plays hard and is a great swing - I imagine he'll play the 2 more than the 3, though. Three picks to go!

17th selection: Brooklyn selects C/PF Sean Williams (Boston College):

My take: He got kicked off the BC squad mid-season for numerous issues and admitted that he likes to smoke dope. I can't believe the Nets stole this guy from the Knicks.

18th selection: Golden State selects SG Marco Belinelli (Italy):

My take: Yeah, like I see this guy play all the time when I'm in Europe. I don't like Europeans that much in the NBA, so why would I endorse a white SG who apparently lives up to the title of the Rosie Perez on Jeopardy! movie.

Next up: LOS ANGELES LAKERS - What the hell do we do here? The team is being held hostage by the whims of our insane mecurial shooting guard. I think we should take a defensive minded PG or a better swingman than Sasha Vujacic.


My take: Hey, not bad at the 19th spot. Crittenton was projected to go to the Clippers, and I thought this kid was solid in the games I watched. He can shoot free throws, I know that. Essentially, he's similar to Smush Parker but younger, more athletic and with a much better basketball IQ. I figure he starts for us unless he ends up going to another team in a big trade. What does this mean for Jordan Farmar? Well, they're two different kinds of players, so there's definitely room on the roster for both of them. I don't believe they'll both be on the roster come November, though. Anyway, we've been weak at the PG spot, so we're going a great job of improving there.

Okay, that's it - I said I'd draft until the 19th pick. I'll do a full Lakers draft day recap tomorrow.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Movie Mid-Points Quiz

Here's a movie quiz that will drive you bonkers. It's based on the way YouTube selects the thumbnail pics that represent the videos on their site. It turns out that the picture always comes from the exact mid-point of the video (for example, if you search for the song 'Voices Carry' by Til' Tuesday, it shows a pic of the mean guy who was always mistreating Aimee Mann in the video).

The quiz asks you to identify a film based on a thumbnail taken exactly from its mid-point. Be prepared to go insane - I could only get 24 of the 45, and it hurt my head immensely. The quiz authors sent it to some notable people, and Ken 'the guy who won way more than I did on Jeopardy!" Jennings scored 28. Fucking know-it-all!!!

Anyway, here's the quiz - tell me how you did. No cheating, either!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Let's Put Things In Perspective

Here's my last MySpace archived item. Originally posted on 2/09/2007:

Two women died this week, and I would bet my life savings that everybody reading this has only heard of one of them. Be honest: you've probably watched some of the Anna Nicole Smith coverage or at least read an article or two on her 'shocking' death'. Now, how many of you have ever heard of Jennifer Parcell? Hands down (I doubt they were ever up). I'd never heard of her either until this morning. While I believe any untimely death is tragic, something juxtaposed the importance of Anna Nicole's life and death and that of Miss Parcell in a way that I hope makes you realize how shallow our fascination with celebrity culture is (and I'm very guilty of this fascination, as well).
I've been doing a lot of research on the Iraq War lately, and I've been getting progressively angrier about it throughout. I know I'm beating a dead horse by bringing up my history as a veteran, but it really hurts me to know how similar I was to so many of these kids dying over there for 'our freedom'. Of course, the people usually throwing out this perversion of the meaning to serve and give one's life for this country have only experienced the military by watching Rambo flicks and 'Saving Private Ryan'. I came across the following editorial today, written by Philadelphia Daily News columnist Will Bunch. When you're done reading it, think about the heroic sacrifice of Jennifer Parcell, an American who was one of the few who actually backed her beliefs and words with actions.
Breaking news: Young woman meets sudden, tragic death
This is a special report.
Normally at this hour, we bring you some lighter fare, maybe the latest dumb comment from the world of sports, or even a tear-jerker like a picture of stranded polar bears. But tonight, there is one story that is so important that we are going to suspend all regular blog coverage, and ignore everything else that is going on in world, from the presidential race to the gridlock in the halls of Congress to the indictment of the most powerful politician here in our hometown of Philadelphia.
This breaking news story is about the sudden, unexpected, and tragic death of a young woman, not to mention the family that she leaves behind.
Yes, people die every day, and too many do so before their time. But this woman was special, and the things that she did made an impact on all of us.
Oh, there were many things that this woman, so deserving of our undivided attention tonight, did not do. No, she didn't take off her clothes for a men's magazine for a big payday, work as "an exotic dancer" or marry a billionaire customer who was 63 years older than her. Nor did she spend most of her adult life pursuing that billionaire's estate in courtrooms from Texas to Washington, D.C., or record her life for a reality TV show, or abuse drugs, or give birth to a child whose paternity is the focus of a legal battle.
Frankly, we feel silly for even writing those things, because such a woman would clearly not be newsworthy.
No, unlike some women you might see on your newsstand this week, this woman liked simple things: According to one report, she "always enjoyed the water, including boating and scuba diving. She also liked yoga and music and spending time with family and friends."
This is what her aunt says about this unique woman that America mourns tonight:
"If you knew her, you loved her. She was a go-getter. She knew what she wanted in life and she was doing what she had to do to achieve that."
Her name is Jennifer M. Parcell. She was just 20 years old, and she graduated in 2004 from Fallston High School in near her hometown, Bel Air, Md.
A couple of years ago, Jennifer Parcell went to Parris Island and watched the Marine graduation services for her older brother, Joseph. She decided that she, too, wanted to join the Marines, and eventually both Jennifer Parcell and her brother were sent to Iraq, even serving at the same post for a time.
But then, they separated. Yesterday, Jennifer Parcell was supporting combat operations in Al Anbar province when she was killed in action. If we had more information about her death, we would provide it. But here at Attytood, we don't have the millions of dollars in resources or the extra manpower that they have at CNN, or MSNBC, or Fox News.
We wish we did, because then we could give the life and death of Jennifer Parcell the national attention that it truly deserves.
We could call in our medical expert, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, to talk about the type of combat injuries that America's fighting men and women are suffering in Iraq, and whether the troops have adequate protection. Then we would dial up our legal affairs correspondent, Jeffrey Toobin, and discuss whether or not Congress has the legal authority to defy the White House and bring at least some of our soldiers home. We'd send all our spare reporters out into the field, maybe to track down the last person who saw Jennifer Parcell alive, or find that friend who could tell us about her life, and our loss. We would make sure that our news coverage gave you a name and a face to go with that number, 3,115.
You may think that we're crazy here, to devote all our attention to the story of just one woman. But at CNN, anchor T.J. Holmes defended this type of saturation coverage just this afternoon. Here's what he said:
"With everything that's going on...that's the reason we've covering it, because it sort of supersedes entertainment. There are a couple of lawsuits at stake here, and it's just been a very tumultuous time for her."
Agreed. This is a very tumultuous time, not just for the families of brave Americans like Jennifer Parcell, but for all of us. We leave you with a picture of her that was taken last September on Iwo Jima. She was very beautiful, and very, very young:
If a woman's death ever deserved wall-to-wall coverage, it was this one.
UPDATE: Greg Mitchell from Editor and Publisher has a great piece this afternoon, with even more about Jennifer Parcell, including some more information from this morning's Baltimore Sun. She was even more special than we first realized:
Even in Iraq, she was managing to take a course at the University of Maryland, the Baltimore Sun relates, adding: "Helping others was routine for the Marine corporal. She sponsored an African child through a mission charity. And when Pakistan was devastated by an earthquake last year, she and others in her unit were dispatched to the scene. She earned the Humanitarian Service Medal for her efforts."

Beyond Vietnam

I wonder why Martin Luther King was shot. Originally posted on MLK Day 2007:

To my few remaining readers,

Sorry I've been gone so long, but I took a much needed hiatus from blog writing to focus on a lot of stuff, including personal writing (that some of you may read one of these days). I'm back, hopefully for good, but if I disappear again, believe me when I tell you that it's nothing personal. Mostly.

Why not start my 2007 blogging off with a political post? Please, squelch the groans. I figured that MLK Jr. Day would be a great reason to post some interesting and prescient comments that he made late in his life. You will probably hear a lot about his importance to the civil rights movement and listen to excerpts of his "I Have A Dream" speech. What you most likely will hear nothing about is anything about his dramatic shift from a focus on the end of the Jim Crow system in the US to a much stronger left-wing political agenda - specifically an anti-war, anti-imperialist agenda. The following is taken from an interview with the New York Times in March, 1967 - substitute Iraq for Vietnam, and things are pretty much the same. I share his views exactly - exercising out ability to destroy any country on this planet with our military might does nothing to establish our moral authority; the only way to do that is to lead by example and not take the easy way out by bombing a nation into subservience and ultimate chaos. We have failed Rev. King and dishonor his memory every time we drop bombs instead of knowledge:

"First, I feel this war is playing havoc with our domestic destinies. As long as the war in Vietnam goes on, the more difficult it will be to implement the programs that will deal with the economic and social programs that Negro people confront in our country and poor people generally."So in a real sense, the Great Society has been shot down on the battlefields of Vietnam..."There is another reason why I feel compelled at this time to take a stand against the war and that is that the constant escalation of the war in Vietnam can lead to a grand war with China and to a kind of full world war that could mean the annihilation of the human race..."We are the greatest military power and we don't need to prove our military power. I think we are superbly well-placed, equipped to take the initiative in this and create the atmosphere for negotiations by ceasing bombings and some of the other things we are doing. Now if our nation insists on escalating the war and if we don't see any changes, it may be necessary to engage in civil disobedience to further arouse the conscience of the nation and make it clear we feel this is hurting our country."And I might say this is another basic reason why I am involved and concerned. It is because I love America. I am not engaged in a hate America campaign. I would hope that the people of this country standing up against the war are standing up against it because they love America and because they want to see our great nation really stand up as the moral example of the world."The fact is we have alienated ourselves from so much of the world and have become morally and politically isolated as the result of our involvement in the war in Vietnam."
MLK Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968 (in the evening, not in the early morning - sorry U2, but you got the detail wrong). Exactly one year prior, he gave a lecture known as the "Beyond Vietnam" speech, and after reading it, you may not view the correlation between the two as a complete coincidence. This is very long, but you owe it to yourself to read it. Some of the info isn't exactly right, but the general message is so spot on that reading it 40 years later ran chills up my spine:
I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.
The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.
Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.
Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don't mix, they say. Aren't you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.
In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church -- the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate -- leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.
I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.
Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.
Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.
The Importance of Vietnam
Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.
Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.
My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years -- especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.
For those who ask the question, "Aren't you a civil rights leader?" and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: "To save the soul of America." We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:
O, yes,I say it plain,America never was America to me,And yet I swear this oath--America will be!
Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.
As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission -- a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for "the brotherhood of man." This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men -- for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the "Vietcong" or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?
Finally, as I try to delineate for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.
This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.
Strange Liberators
And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them too because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.
They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation, and before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony.
Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not "ready" for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination, and a government that had been established not by China (for whom the Vietnamese have no great love) but by clearly indigenous forces that included some Communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.
For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam.
Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of the reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization.
After the French were defeated it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva agreements. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators -- our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly routed out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords and refused even to discuss reunification with the north. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by U.S. influence and then by increasing numbers of U.S. troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem's methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change -- especially in terms of their need for land and peace.
The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy -- and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us -- not their fellow Vietnamese --the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go -- primarily women and children and the aged.
They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one "Vietcong"-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them -- mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.
What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?
We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation's only non-Communist revolutionary political force -- the unified Buddhist church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. What liberators?
Now there is little left to build on -- save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets. The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these? Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These too are our brothers.
Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front -- that strangely anonymous group we call VC or Communists? What must they think of us in America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the south? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of "aggression from the north" as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.
How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent Communist and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will have no part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them -- the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again and then shore it up with the power of new violence?
Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.
So, too, with Hanoi. In the north, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which would have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again.
When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered. Also it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva agreements concerning foreign troops, and they remind us that they did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.
Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard of the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the north. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor weak nation more than eight thousand miles away from its shores.
At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless on Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor.
This Madness Must Cease
Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.
This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words:
"Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism."
If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play.
The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways.
In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:
End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.
Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.
Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.
Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and in any future Vietnam government.
Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva agreement.
Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We most provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country if necessary.
Protesting The War
Meanwhile we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative means of protest possible.
As we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify for them our nation's role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is the path now being chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.
There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.
In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military "advisors" in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken -- the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. n the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.
This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove thosse conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.
The People Are Important
These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light." We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgement against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every moutain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain."
A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.
This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept -- so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force -- has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:
Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says : "Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word."
We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The "tide in the affairs of men" does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out deperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late." There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on..." We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.
We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world -- a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter -- but beautiful -- struggle for a new world. This is the callling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.
As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:
Once to every man and nationComes the moment to decide,In the strife of truth and falsehood,For the good or evil side;Some great cause, God's new Messiah,Off'ring each the bloom or blight,And the choice goes by foreverTwixt that darkness and that light.
Though the cause of evil prosper,Yet 'tis truth alone is strong;Though her portion be the scaffold,And upon the throne be wrong:Yet that scaffold sways the future,And behind the dim unknown,Standeth God within the shadowKeeping watch above his own.

A Rare Glimpse Into Republican Honesty

Originally posted on 10/30/06:

It's rare to see anyone involved in politics let their defenses down long enough to provide a real glimpse of the twisted heart beating beneath the slick veneer, but boy, when they do, it's an interesting view. Mr. Paul Burgess, a former speechwriter in the Bush White House, has decided to give us all a piece of his mind, and just to let you know, if you happen to be against the current administration's foreign policy adventures, well, he hates your fucking guts. When I first read this, I thought it was one of those joke op-ed pieces from The Onion, but nope, it's the real deal. I can't imagine what the outcry would be if a Democrat wrote something like this. This guy was a major player in the current administration's communications department, and I imagine that his view reflects that of many in the White House who can't be quite so candid. This is seriously sick, nasty stuff. Don't believe me? Here, let him tell you then (first published on October 28, 2006, in the Frederickson (VA) Free Lance-Star):

Friends, neighbors, and countrymen of the Left: I hate your lying guts

WHEN I WAS speechwrit- ing at the White House, one rule was enforced without exception. The president would not be given drafts that lowered him or The Office by responding to the articulations of hatred that drove so many of his critics.
This rule was especially relevant to remarks that concerned the central topic of our times, Iraq. Having left the White House more than a year ago, I conclude that the immunizing effect of that rule must have expired, because I now find that I am infected with a hatred for the very quarter that inspired the rule--the deranged, lying left.
I never used to feel hatred for people such as Cindy Sheehan, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, or other pop-culture notables who, for example, sing the praises of Central American dictators while calling President Bush the greatest terrorist on earth. I do now.
And though these figures might be dismissed as inconsequential, their views seem mild compared with those of some of our university professors charged with the "higher" education of our youth.
Thus have I come to hate Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado professor who called the Sept. 11 victims of the World Trade Center "little Eichmanns"; Nicholas De Genova, the Columbia professor who loudly wished "a million Mogadishus" on American troops in Iraq; and Kevin Barrett, the University of Wisconsin professor who teaches his students that President Bush was the actual mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks.
I used to laugh these people off. Now I detest them as among the most loathsome people America has ever vomited up.
I have also grown to hate certain people of genuine accomplishment like Ted Turner, who, by his own contention, cannot make up his mind which side of the terror war he is on; I hate the executives at CNN, Turner's intellectual progeny, who recently carried water for our enemies by broadcasting their propaganda film portraying their attempts to kill American soldiers in Iraq.
I now hate Howard Dean, the elected leader of the Democrats, who, by repeatedly stating his conviction that we won't win in Iraq, bets his party's future on our nation's defeat.
I hate the Democrats who, in support of this strategy, spout lie after lie: that the president knew in advance there were no WMD in Iraq; that he lied to Congress to gain its support for military action; that he pushed for the democratization of Iraq only after the failure to find WMD; that he was a unilateralist and that the coalition was a fraud; that he shunned diplomacy in favor of war.
These lies, contradicted by reports, commissions, speeches, and public records, are too preposterous to mock, but too pervasive to rebut, especially when ignored by abetting media.
Most detestable are the lies these rogues craft to turn grief into votes by convincing the families of our war dead that their loved ones died in vain. First, knowing what every intelligence agency was sure it knew by early 2003, it would have been criminal negligence had the president not enforced the U.N.'s resolutions and led the coalition into Iraq. Firemen sometimes die in burning buildings looking for victims who are not there. Their deaths are not in vain, either.
Second, no soldier dies in vain who goes to war by virtue of the Constitution he swears to defend. This willingness is called "duty," and it is a price of admission into the highest calling of any free nation--the profession of arms. We have suffered more than 2,300 combat deaths in Iraq so far. Not one was in vain. Not one.
These are the people I now hate--these people who seek to control our national security. The best of them are misinformed. The rest of them are liars.
So I intend to vote on Nov. 7. If I have to, I'll crawl over broken glass to do it. And this year I'm voting a straight Republican ticket right down to dog catcher, because I've had it. I'm fed up with the deranged, lying left. They've infected me. I'm now a hater, too.
PAUL BURGESS of Spotsylvania County was director of foreign-policy speechwriting at the White House from October 2003 to July 2005.

I guess I won't be getting any invites to this guy's Christmas soiree until I trade in my Democratic voter ID card for something a little more fascistic in nature. As for me, I don't hate Mr. Burgess, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't like to be the one sprinkling the broken glass along his voting route before the next election. I hear blood really mucks up those touch-screen voting machines.

FYI The "Central-American dictator" he's referring to is in fact the popularly elected Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela. Venezuela is in South America, not Central America, but I wouldn't expect the former 'Director of Foreign-Policy Speechwriting' from the Bush White House to know the difference. I mean, we latinos do all look alike, right?

I Have No Taste In Music

In light of recent events, this is even more pathetic. Originally posted on 10/12/06:

I own a lot of CDs; no, really - a lot!. While I have my share of guilty pleasures, I've always prided myself on my taste in music. But no longer! I am nothing but a philistine, a poser, a complete musical imbecile. Why do you ask?

I was at a bar recently, and this song came on the jukebox; it was definitely pop, but it had a decent hook, kind of an island-ish vibe, and the singer had a pleasant enough voice. This young girl sitting next to me seemed knowledgeable about modern pop, so I asked her if she knew who sang the tune. She responded, "Yeah, that's the new song by Paris Hilton! Isn't it awesome"

Need I say more?

That Sports Guy Is Smart

This is still very relevant stuff. Suppose they stole your country and nobody cared - oh wait, that's already happened. Originally posted on 10/06/06:

As a student of history and as someone who actually served my country in its Army, I am increasingly angered at the willingness of many of this country's people to sacrifice the values set forth in the early days of this republic for a false sense of security; even more sadly, they are giving these rights up without a fight. I prefer to think of this country as a place founded upon principles that valued rights that once seemed self-evident; these rights came at the highest price - the blood of our forefathers on the field of battle. These battles were not always righteous, as time has proven, but the most important lesson to take away from these brave sacrifices was that the American people have continually been willing to lay down their lives if the loss of their precious liberties was the alternative. As children, we read the brave words of Patrick Henry, "Give me liberty or give me death", and those of Nathan Hale as he was hanged, "My only regret is that I have but one life to give for my country". I'm beginning to believe that these words are now forgotten relics of some ancient grade school education, and that their meaning has been relegated to 'Quotes to Remember For the AP History Exam'. Seriously folks, this was once a country to be proud of, perhaps full of warts and dark, stupid mistakes, but beautiful nonetheless. I'm sad to think that the words 'Proud To Be An American' are just the title to an awful country music song, but unfortunately, I find little in today's society to be proud of anymore.

As for the title of this blog, it refers to Keith Olbermann. I still find it hard to believe that the guy who used to do the local sportscast on Channel 2 is now one one of our most astute political commentators. Years later, he has become one of our most important political commentators, and he continues to amaze me with his sharp take on the current state of affairs in this country. Yesterday's editorial segment may be his best yet, and I feel the need to share it with anyone who'll read it. Take it away, Keith!

"While the leadership in Congress has self-destructed over the revelations of an unmatched, and unrelieved, march through a cesspool… While the leadership inside the White House has self-destructed over the revelations of a book with a glowing red cover…The President of the United States — unbowed, undeterred, and unconnected to reality — has continued his extraordinary trek through our country rooting out the enemies of freedom: The Democrats.
Yesterday at a fundraiser for an Arizona Congressman, Mr. Bush claimed, quote, "177 of the opposition party said 'You know, we don't think we ought to be listening to the conversations of terrorists."
The hell they did. 177 Democrats opposed the President's seizure of another part of the Constitution.
Not even the White House press office could actually name a single Democrat who had ever said the government shouldn't be listening to the conversations of terrorists. President Bush hears… what he wants.
Tuesday, at another fundraiser in California, he had said "Democrats take a law enforcement approach to terrorism. That means America will wait until we're attacked again before we respond."
Mr. Bush fabricated that, too.
And evidently he has begun to fancy himself as a mind-reader.
"If you listen closely to some of the leaders of the Democratic Party," the President said at another fundraiser Monday in Nevada, "it sounds like they think the best way to protect the American people is — wait until we're attacked again."
The President doesn't just hear what he wants. He hears things, that only he can hear.
It defies belief that this President and his administration could continue to find new unexplored political gutters into which they could wallow.
Yet they do.
It is startling enough that such things could be said out loud by any President of this nation.
Rhetorically, it is about an inch short of Mr. Bush accusing Democratic leaders; Democrats; the majority of Americans who disagree with his policies — of treason.
But it is the context that truly makes the head spin.
Just 25 days ago, on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, this same man spoke to this nation and insisted, quote, "we must put aside our differences and work together to meet the test that history has given us."
Mr. Bush, this is a test you have already failed.
If your commitment to "put aside differences and work together" is replaced in the span of just three weeks by claiming your political opponents prefer to wait to see this country attacked again, and by spewing fabrications about what they've said, then the questions your critics need to be asking, are no longer about your policies.
They are, instead — solemn and even terrible questions, about your fitness to fulfill the responsibilities of your office.
No Democrat, sir, has ever said anything approaching the suggestion that the best means of self-defense is to "wait until we're attacked again."
No critic, no commentator, no reluctant Republican in the Senate, has ever said anything that any responsible person could even have exaggerated into the slander you spoke in Nevada on Monday night, nor the slander you spoke in California on Tuesday, nor the slander you spoke in Arizona on Wednesday… nor whatever is next.
You have dishonored your party, sir — you have dishonored your supporters — you have dishonored yourself.
But tonight the stark question we must face is - why?
Why has the ferocity of your venom against the Democrats, now exceeded the ferocity of your venom against the terrorists?
Why have you chosen to go down in history as the President who made things up?
In less than one month you have gone from a flawed call to unity, to this clarion call to hatred of Americans, by Americans.
If this is not simply the most shameless example of the rhetoric of political hackery, then it would have to be the cry of a leader crumbling under the weight of his own lies.
We have, of course, survived all manner of political hackery, of every shape, size, and party.
We will have to suffer it, for as long as the Republic stands.
But the premise of a President who comes across as a compulsive liar — is nothing less than terrifying.
A President who since 9/11 will not listen, is not listening — and thanks to Bob Woodward's most recent account — evidently has never listened.
A President who since 9/11 so hates or fears other Americans, that he accuses them of advocating deliberate inaction in the face of the enemy.
A President who since 9/11 has savaged the very freedoms he claims to be protecting from attack. Attack by terrorists, or by Democrats, or by both — it is now impossible to find a consistent thread of logic as to who Mr. Bush believes the enemy is.
But if we know one thing for certain about Mr. Bush, it is this:
This President — in his bullying of the Senate last month and in his slandering of the Democrats this month — has shown us that he believes whoever the enemies are — they are hiding themselves inside a dangerous cloak, called the Constitution of the United States of America.
How often do we find priceless truth in the unlikeliest of places?
I tonight quote, not Jefferson nor Voltaire — but "Cigar Aficionado Magazine."
On September 11th, 2003, the editor of that publication interviewed General Tommy Franks — at that point, just retired from his post as Commander-In-Chief of U.S. Central Command — of Cent-Com.
And amid his quaint defenses of the-then nagging absence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, or the continuing freedom of Osama Bin Laden, General Franks said some of the most profound words of this generation.
He spoke of "the worst thing that can happen" to this country:
First, quoting, a "massive casualty-producing event somewhere in the Western World — it may be in the United States of America."
Then, the general continued, "the western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we've seen for a couple of hundred years, in this grand experiment that we call democracy."
It was this super-patriotic warrior's fear that we would lose that most cherished liberty, because of another attack, one — again quoting General Franks — "that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass-casualty-producing event. Which, in fact, then begins to potentially unravel the fabric of our Constitution."
And here we are, the fabric of our Constitution being unraveled anyway.
Habeus Corpus neutered; the rights of self-defense now as malleable and impermanent as clay; a President stifling all critics by every means available and when he runs out of those, by simply lying about what they said or felt.
And all this, even without the dreaded attack.
General Franks, like all of us, loves this country, and believes not just in its values, but in its continuity. He has been trained to look for threats to that continuity from without.
He has, perhaps been as naive as the rest of us, in failing to keep close enough vigil on the threats to that continuity, from within:
Secretary of State Rice first cannot remember urgent cautionary meetings with counter-terrorism officials before 9/11.
Then within hours of this lie, her spokesman confirms the meetings in question.
Then she dismisses those meetings as nothing new — yet insists she wanted the same cautions expressed to Secretaries Ashcroft and Rumsfeld.
Mr. Rumsfeld, meantime, has been unable to accept the most logical and simple influence, of the most noble and neutral of advisers. He and his employer insist they rely on the 'generals in the field.'
But dozens of those generals have now come forward to say how their words, their experiences, have been ignored.
And, of course, inherent in the Pentagon's war-making functions, is the regulation of Presidential war-lust. Enacting that regulation should include everything up to, symbolically wrestling the Chief Executive to the floor.
Yet — and it is Pentagon transcripts that now tell us this — evidently Mr. Rumsfeld's strongest check on Mr. Bush's ambitions, was to get somebody to excise the phrase "Mission Accomplished" out of the infamous Air Force Carrier speech of May 1st, 2003 - even while the same empty words hung on a banner over the President's shoulder.
And the Vice President is a chilling figure, still unable, it seems, to accept the conclusions of his own party's leaders in the Senate, that the foundations of his public position, are made out of sand.
There were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.
But he still says so.
There was no link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda.
But he still says so.
And thus, gripping firmly these figments of his own imagination, Mr. Cheney lives on, in defiance and spreads — around him and before him — darkness… like some contagion of fear.
They are never wrong, and they never regret. Admirable in a French torch singer. Cataclysmic in an American leader.
Thus the sickening attempt to blame the Foley Scandal on the negligence of others or "The Clinton Era" — even though the Foley Scandal began before the Lewinsky Scandal.
Thus last month's enraged attacks on this Administration's predecessors, about Osama Bin Laden — a projection of their own negligence in the immediate months before 9/11.
Thus the terrifying attempt to hamstring the fundament of our freedom — the Constitution — a triumph for Al-Qaeda, for which the terrorists could not hope to achieve with a hundred 9/11's.
And thus, worst of all perhaps, these newest lies by President Bush about Democrats choosing to await another attack and not listen to the conversations of terrorists.
It is the terror and the guilt within your own heart, Mr. Bush, that you re-direct at others who simply wish for you to temper your certainty with counsel.
It is the failure and the incompetence within your own memory, Mr. Bush, that leads you to demonize those who might merely quote to you the pleadings of Oliver Cromwell: "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken."
It is not the Democrats whose inaction in the face of the enemy you fear, sir.
It is your own — before 9/11 - (and you alone know this), perhaps afterwards.
Mr. President, these new lies go to the heart of what it is that you truly wish to preserve.
It is not our freedom, nor our country — your actions against the Constitution give irrefutable proof of that.
You want to preserve a political party's power. And obviously you'll sell this country out, to do it.
These are lies about the Democrats piled atop lies about Iraq which were piled atop lies about your preparations for Al-Qaeda.
To you, perhaps, they feel like the weight of a million centuries.
As crushing. As immovable.
They are not.
If you add more lies to them, you cannot free yourself, and us, from them.
But if you stop — if you stop fabricating quotes, and building straw-men, and inspiring those around you to do the same — you may yet liberate yourself and this nation.
Please, sir, do not throw this country's principles away because your lies have made it such that you can no longer differentiate between the terrorists and the critics.
—Good night, and good luck."

Amen Brother!

6 Things You May Not Know About Me

Originally posted on 8/30/06:

I've been tagged, so I have to come up with six-little known facts about myself. As the king of the overshare, this is going to be difficult. But I'll do my best:

1. I grew up in Los Angeles, and we used to have great local TV channels; KTLA, KCOP, KHJ, KTTV, CH 52 from Corona, and KWHY were the best. They carried insane programming, like Ultraman and the White Lion and showed amazingly bitchen movies. I can honestly say my love of film began with the Channel 5 Movie Theater, which showed the same flick every night for a week. And very often, they showed a Japanese monster flick, and I had to watch it every single night. My favorites were Voyage Into Space and War of the Gargantuas. VIS was a two hour movie fashioned from the 4 best episodes of the Japanese TV show "Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot". In this, a giant robot is created by the evil aliens the Gargoyles to 'try and take over the world' but a young boy named Johnny gains control of the robot by being the first to speak into a special wristwatch that controls him. Johnny becomes an agent of the Unicorn organization, who protect the Earth from the Gargoyles. In the final half-hour, Giant Robot saves the Earth by taking the Gargoyle leader, Emperor Guillotine, into space and letting a meteor destroy them. Giant Robot was my hero, and every single time this show ended, I burst into tears, begging Giant Robot to come back. My older siblings abused me incessantly over this and would taunt me by daring me not to cry at the end; I always did. War of the Gargantuas featured a battle between the evil green (as opposed to jolly green) giant monster and his older brother, the benevolent Brown Gargantua. This is one wacky movie, especially when it shows the Green Gargantua eating people and spitting out their clothes. The Brown one was kind of a blonde hippie, who looked like my dad, and when he saved the world by sacrificing his life, you can guess what my reaction was - every single time. I hate my siblings. However, Giant Robot and Brown Gargantua were secretly my guardian angels, and when I was afraid or in need of supernatural aid, I prayed to them and not God. I never said I wasn't a weird little kid.

2. Considering the last fact, it should come as no surprise that I was addicted to television during my childhood. In fact, I learned to read at 3 years old, because I wanted to know what was on television every minute of every day. My mom got sick of telling me what was on, so she told me to read the TV guide and figure it out. So, using that and the TV show Electric Company, I learned to read in a very short period of time; I also learned to tell the time and understood the difference between UHF and VHF before I could tie my shoes. I couldn't wait for the TV guide to arrive every week on Tuesday, so I used to wait for the postman to arrive around the block and would force him to dig out my magazine.

3. I became obsessed with the Tate-LaBianca murders after seeing the movie Helter-Skelter when it aired on CBS in 1975. My sister borrowed the book from our family friend and let me read it when she finished. I was 6 years old. Did I mention my family is crazy? I read it over and over again, so much that I can still recite the exact number of stab wounds and the types of injuries inflicted on each victim. I used to pick everybody's brain about the case, and I really wanted to see the murder scenes. One day when I was 7, my Grandfather was babysitting me down in LA and asked what I wanted to do for the day. I assumed he thought I wanted to go to the Zoo or the park or some shit like that, but not me - I asked him to take me to the LaBianca house so I could check it out. And he did! Did I mention my family was crazy? He took pictures of me on the wall of their driveway, and I still have one of them. I'm grinning from ear to ear like a kid walking into Disneyland for the first time. On the back, written in my little boy scrawl, is a detailed description of the Helter-Skelter case.

4. When I was on Jeopardy!, I did two interview segments. The story from Day 1 comes from the Ripley's Believe It or Not file. When my Army unit would go on field exercises, I was often forced to pull guard duty, based on my being a loser and my prowess with the M60 machine gun (don't fuck with me, buddy!). During one "field trip", the guard detail was sharing a tent, and our fearless leader decided to install a pot-bellied stove that was literally a relic from WWII. Even though we didn't want it, he forced us to run this piece of shit, which would smoke over and leaked gasoline (it ran on diesel fuel). In the middle of the night, I awoke to an extremely hot and smoky tent and quickly realized our tent was on fire (actually, engulfed in flame is a better description). We had about 20 seconds to pull our belongings out of the fire, and unfortunately, we lost the majority of our stuff as the tent burned completely to the ground. One of my bags didn't make it, and as we picked through the rubble the next day, I pulled the library book I was reading out - "Firestarter" by Stephen King. When I tried to return the book to the library at Ramstein Air Base (I was stationed on an AFB due to being in an Army Air Defense unit), they refused to believe my story, although I had pictures as evidence. They forced me to pay for the book and confiscated it. Months later, I was on duty at Rhein Main Air Base in Frankfurt, and I went by the library. They had an installation called "How Not To Treat Your Library Books" and the centerpiece of the display was my book. It eventually traveled throughout the entire Air Force library system. On day 2 of my Jeopardy! run, I told a story about how I used to make a lot of crank phone calls when I was a kid and one elderly Austrian lady named Hildegard got really angry at my phone abuse (I called her at 3AM and had woken her up). I felt bad and apologized, and we ended up talking until 8AM. We became really good phone friends, although I continued crank calling her for years after that, doing different voices to fuck with her. I even called her from Austria when I was there, and I ultimately considered one of my best friends, even though we never met or exchange full names. When I told this story on the show, Alex asked if she had my phone number, and I quipped, "God, I hope not!" and got a huge laugh from the audience. During the break between Double and Final Jeopardy!, the producer and a legal game came out and told me I would have to redo my interview segment, because Standards & Practices had advised that it would look as if the show was glorifying crank calls. Instead of my love of phone abuse, I had to talk about my love of baseball, and the interview made me look like a complete dork. Interestingly, I also appeared on 'Win Ben Stein's Money' when Jimmy Kimmel was the sidekick, and he later produced 'Crank Yankers' a show that glorified crank phone calls. I guess I was ahead of my time.

5. When I was visiting Alcatraz, my friend and I snuck onto the northern side of the island, which was not open to the public. We checked out all kinds of ruins, including the old industrial laundry. Many of these buildings were riddled with bullet holes, and we even found old shell casings. Nobody from the park's service even bothered to patrol these areas looking for trespassers, and I'm sure I could have moved onto the island for a long time without being discovered. I also climbed into the ruins of the old prison guard housing, which was partially demolished after the Native Americans were evicted following their ill-fated occupation of the island in the late 60s. I found an intact old apartment, with the appliances still in there, and I took an old can of Olympia beer as a souvenir. My favorite aspect of this story is that I broke the law on Alcatraz and nobody even cared (including most likely, you).

6. All of my toes are double-jointed, and I can fold them completely under my feet and walk on them. When I sit without shoes on, I unconsciously fold my toes more often than not, and for some reason, this totally grosses out unsuspecting acquaintances. I consider this my "geek trick", and I tend to show it to people whether they request it or not.

God, It's About Time

This still makes me laugh. Originally posted on 8/25/06:

Dear readers, I have a confession to make. I've never felt right about buying intimacy products at sleazy sex shops. Not only do the values of such stores of salacity conflict with my spiritual beliefs, I've also had a hard time with the perverted workers in these shops, usually gorgeous asian girls or latina spitfires who are unmarried but more than willing to behave like they are. When I bought that double-headed dual vibrating probe at Le Sex Shoppe on Van Nuys Boulevard, I could almost read the mind of the nasty little salesgirl there, mentally picturing me using it on my committed life partner. It's gotten to the point where I've had to swear off purchasing new intimacy products altogether, and it's been tough considering how easily these items wear out after regular use. I prayed for a solution to my woes, an answer to my desires to mesh my love of God and my love of hot nasty extreme action involving intimacy products used on a caring and committed life partner. And finally, those prayers have been answered! Below is a link to the greatest store ever told, one that finally realizes that screaming multiple orgasms brought about by vibrating devices and an allegiance to the Word of the Lord are not mutually exclusive. I can't wait to buy intimacy products from these good folks; I just need to find a new wife.

Tully's Political Hackles Rise

And they keep rising, almost a year later. Originally posted on 8/25/06:

Once upon a time, I used to be a political science major. After dealing with the poli sci people for a while, I realized that I wanted nothing to do with that world; ideological debates are almost always a waste of time, and I tend to get extremely angry when dealing with close-minded people. I happily slid off the political radar and maintained a fairly left-leaning neutrality and kept most of my strong opinions to myself. I'd rather people not know everything I stand for, as I don't think it's any of their business and consider my politics to be my own. Unfortunately, the last few years have made it impossible to remain apolitical, and I felt I had to re-register as a Democrat after years of political independence. Even though I felt the party had been hijacked by scuzzy conservatives who share few of my beliefs, I have hope that the resurgence of liberals like Barrack Obama and the ouster of that sham artist little pissant Joe Lieberman is paving the way for a re-energized party. In most beliefs, I am a true moderate. I have little tolerance for extremists on either side of the ideological spectrum and stress an open dialogue that will lead to understanding, but I feel the American political system, a system that had worked fairly well - other than little glitches like say, the Civil War - has been perverted and derailed by an array of individuals that I consider to be fairly evil in their behavior, if not their intent. So, I normally refrain from posting this kind of stuff, but I think it's a perfect example of what our government is doing in the post 9/11 world. I can't speak for the dead, but I know if I were one of them, I'd be damned pissed and vengeful over the way my death was exploited to promulgate an evil agenda that the following article is just one example of (the article was published yesterday in the New York Times and was written by Bob Herbert):

The problem with the way the United States government dealt with Abdallah Higazy had nothing to do with the fact that he was investigated as a possible participant in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center.He was caught in a set of circumstances that was highly suspicious, to say the least. It would have been criminal not to have investigated him.On the morning of the attack, Mr. Higazy, the son of a former Egyptian diplomat, was in his room on the 51st floor of the Millenium Hilton Hotel, which was across the street from the twin towers. He fled the hotel, along with all the other guests, after the attack. But a Hilton security guard said he found an aviation radio, which could be used to communicate with airborne pilots, in the safe in Mr. Higazys room.When Mr. Higazy returned to the hotel three months later to pick up his belongings, he was arrested by the F.B.I. as a material witness and thrown into solitary confinement. Federal investigators were understandably suspicious, but they had no evidence at all that Mr. Higazy was involved in the terror attack.

And thats where the government went wrong. In the United States, a free and open society committed to the rule of law, you are not supposed to lock people up deprive them of their liberty on mere suspicion.The government could not link Mr. Higazy to the attack, and yet there he was, trembling in a jail cell, with no reasonable chance of proving that he was innocent.This was cruel. It was unusual. And it was a blatant abuse of the material witness statute. People arrested as material witnesses are supposed to be just that witnesses not criminal suspects. (The witnesses are taken into custody when there is some doubt as to whether their testimony can otherwise be secured.)When a person is actually arrested for a crime, the government has certain important obligations, including the obligation to provide a prompt arraignment and to demonstrate that there is probable cause that the suspect had committed the offense.Mr. Higazy was held as a material witness while investigators searched for something to pin on him.Court records show that eventually Mr. Higazy was coerced into saying that the radio was his by an F.B.I. agent who knew that if he didnt elicit some kind of admission from the suspect, a judge would most likely set him free. Mr. Higazy said the agent made threats regarding his relatives back in Cairo, saying they would be put at the mercy of Egyptian security, which has a reputation for engaging in torture.Mr. Higazys admission was not truthful, but that didnt matter. The feds were happy to finally be able to accuse him of a crime. They charged him with lying to federal agents when he said the radio wasnt his.The case against Mr. Higazy fell completely apart when a pilot, an American, walked serendipitously into the Millenium Hilton, looking for the aviation radio he had left behind on Sept. 11. (It also turned out that the security guard had lied.) Mr. Higazys original story, which he had clung to as long as he felt he could, had been truthful. He was set free.Its scary to think about what might have happened to Mr. Higazy if the pilot hadnt shown up to claim his radio. What the government ignored in Mr. Higazys case and in so many other cases linked to the so-called war on terror, is that when it comes to throwing people in jail, a hunch is not enough. As Jonathan Abady, a lawyer for Mr. Higazy, said:The criminal justice system recognizes that before you deprive somebody of liberty in any significant way, you have to have some quantum of proof that they committed a crime, and the government didnt have it in this case. What they had was a suspicion.Once we had voodoo economics. Now, in the age of terror, we have voodoo law enforcement. Mr. Higazys case is far from the most egregious. People have disappeared. People have been sent off to foreign lands to be tortured. People have been condemned to secret dungeons run by the C.I.A. People have been put away at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, with no hope of being allowed to prove their innocence.For five years now Americans have been chasing ghosts and shadows, and demanding that they confess to terrorizing us. Whos terrorizing whom here?We need to ask ourselves: Do we want a just society? Or are we willing to trade that revolutionary idea for a repressive government that gives us nothing more than the illusion of safety?