Thursday, January 31, 2008


A month ago today I began this blog. Thirty-six postings later I am in awe of those who write and post knowledgably every day. It is a new discipline for me.

Some of my friends wonder why I am not spending my energy following my passion of writing fiction. All I can say is that something happened over the Christmas holidays to make me think I had to write more directly about things happening in our nation and in our world. I’m sure some of my friends have rolled their eyes at the sharpness of my criticism of the Bush administration. With all my mind and heart, I believe that the war in Iraq is wrong and that no battlefield success can make it right. I believe that this administration has exploited fears of terrorism to justify a usurpation of power by the executive branch and an undermining of civil liberties never envisioned by the writers of our Constitution. In the eyes of some, that is enough to consider me a “radical.” I believe that I am a “conservative” in this regard because I believe in our constitutional form of government, with its checks and balances, and guarantees of due process and civil liberties.

I began this blog with the words of Wendell Berry: “The past is our definition. We may strive, with good reason, to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it, but we will escape it only by adding something better to it.” How we add something better to our past has been my focus. I have not sought that “something better” only in political issues: we’ve shared stories of fostering orphaned puppies, coming to terms with to one’s sexuality, loop sound systems, book reviews, and even a new chili recipe.

When I began on December 31, I had no idea how much time the blog would take. The actual writing every day does not take nearly as much time as the research. I could have paid tuition for what I should have remembered from civics and government classes but didn’t and have had to relearn. I’ve depended on the Internet for much of my research for years, but writing a daily blog requires the same veting (sifting through mountains of electronic garbage) of sources, but doing it more quickly. Especially for legislative matters, I have found sources of information I didn’t know existed.

This morning I thought of an ancient Chinese story, called “The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains.” I realize that the story is not ecologically sound—the image brings to my mind actual scenes of mountains in Appalachia decimated by coal mining—but I hope that doesn’t get in the way of appreciating an old story. This is the way I remember it:

Long, long ago, an old man who lived in northern China was known as the Foolish Old Man of North Mountain. His house faced south and beyond his doorway stood the two great peaks, Taihang and Wangwu, obstructing the way. He called his children, and hoe in had they began to dig up these mountains with great determination. Another greybeard, known as the Wise Old Man, saw them and said derisively, “How silly of you to do this! It is quite impossible for you few to dig up these two huge mountains.”

The Foolish Old Man replied, “When I die, my children will carry on; when they die, there will be my grandchildren, and then their children and grandchildren, and so on to infinity. High as they are, the mountains cannot grow any higher and with every bit we dig, they will be that much lower. Why can’t we clear them away?”

The Heavenly Emperor received a report of what the old man was doing, but he was not afraid of the old man's tenacity. Instead he was moved by the old man’s determination in the face of a seemingly impossible task and decided to help him. The Heavenly Emperor ordered the two sons of Kua’ershi to lift the two mountains on their backs and move them, one east of Shuo and the other south of Yong.

After this colossal feat, there were no more mountains between the Jizhou and Han Rivers and the foolish old man and his family were able to walk straight between them whenever they liked.

I plan to keep on writing the blog. I am grateful for the folks have taken the time to write articles and send information. I would like to have more. Share your stories.
- Milo

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Tuesday morning, Senator Obama released the following statement:

I strongly oppose retroactive immunity in the FISA bill.

Ever since 9/11, this Administration has put forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand.

The FISA court works. The separation of power works. We can trace, track down and take out terrorists while ensuring that our actions are subject to vigorous oversight, and do not undermine the very laws and freedom that we are fighting to defend.

No one should get a free pass to violate the basic civil liberties of the American people - not the President of the United States, and not the telecommunications companies that fell in line with his warrantless surveillance program. We have to make clear the lines that cannot be crossed.

That is why I am co-sponsoring Senator Dodd's amendment to remove the immunity provision. Secrecy must not trump accountability. We must show our citizens – and set an example to the world – that laws cannot be ignored when it is inconvenient.

A grassroots movement of Americans has pushed this issue to the forefront. You have come together across this country. You have called upon our leaders to adhere to the Constitution. You have sent a message to the halls of power that the American people will not permit the abuse of power – and demanded that we reclaim our core values by restoring the rule of law.

It's time for Washington to hear your voices, and to act. I share your commitment to this cause, and will stand with you in the fights to come. And when I am President, the American people will once again be able to trust that their government will stand for justice, and will defend the liberties that we hold so dear as vigorously as we defend our security.

Thanks, Senator!

And thanks to all of you who have made your voices heard to your senators! As the Senator’s statement says, “a grassroots movement of Americans has pushed this issue to the forefront.”

The leader of this fight in the Senate, Chris Dodd from Connecticut agrees. In his great
speech on the Senate floor on January 25th explaining his reasons for opposing immunity for the telecomm companies, he said this about the kind of response Congress is getting from people like you:

For several months now, I’ve listened to the building frustration over this immunity and this administration’s campaign of lawlessness. I’ve seen it in person, in mail, online—the passion and eloquence of citizens who are just fed up. They’ve inspired me more than they know.

Instead of putting up our fingers to test the wind of opinion, we the people can change the wind. Keep up the good work!

- Milo

Monday, January 28, 2008


Last Thursday, January 24, I reported in "The Battle for Liberty" how I (along with thousands of others) had written to Senators Clinton, Obama, and McCain asking them to take time out of their campaigns for president to take their places in the Senate to support a filibuster by Senator Dodd to protect our civil liberties in the wiretapping bill and stop retroactive immunity for the phone companies who participated in the administration’s illegal plan. Public pressure on the Senators intensified.

Today, Senators Clinton and Obama returned to the Senate and voted against cloture, thus supporting Senator Dodd’s effort to protect our civil liberties. The Republicans could not get enough votes to stop debate, and so Senator Dodd’s filibuster continues.

A second cloture vote, this one on a vote to extend the current temporary FISA bill for 30 days beyond its expiration date on February 5, failed as well, so the Senate is back to debating the original bill.

Late this afternoon
Michael Clark concluded his report:

So tomorrow at 2:00 PM EST the Senate will resume debate on the Intelligence Committee's version of the FISA bill - the one that provides for retroactive immunity for telecoms. And presumably Dodd's filibuster will resume as well.

Tomorrow Democrats in the House may attempt to pass their own version of a thirty-day extension and then pass it on to the Senate. If so, McConnell may be forced to permit a vote on a similar bill.

There are plenty of plaudits to go around today: To Chris Dodd for organizing an effective and critical push back against the Bush administration's further aggrandizement of its nearly monarchical powers; to nearly all Democrats in the Senate for standing foursquare with Dodd (apart from three who voted with Republicans: Senators Pryor, Ben Nelson (NE), and Landrieu); to Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama for returning to Washington for the vote; to Sen. Lieberman for staying out of DC while he campaigns for a Republican presidential candidate.

And to voters who made their voices heard in the Capitol. A lot of people were skeptical in December, when activists began organizing this effort to support the Dodd filibuster, that it was possible to budge a cynical Senate back in the direction of upholding the rule of law. Two victories later, those doubts should be at an end.

Tonight, if you watch Mr. Bush in his last State of the Union speech, be prepared to hear the fruits of your labors described as helping the terrorists -- but you know better.
The struggle for liberty is often won or lost in paying attention to details and making your voice heard. Today was a small victory for liberty. What was it Thomas Jefferson said? “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

- Milo

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Can the past be made better with a new chili recipe? Of course, it can… at least to a chili aficionado. The only question is whether or not it is an improvement on the old recipe.

Looking Back: Fifteen years ago, in the search for a more excellent way, I entered a cooking contest in Alaska sponsored by the Alaskan Brewing Company. The only requirement of the contest was that you use one of their products in the making of the recipe. A good friend, and an investor in the company, suggested we enter as a team: he would provide moose meat if I would make chili.

I knew I couldn’t compete by making “Texas chili”. Although I love chili made without beans and tomatoes with the only red coming from the red chilies, I just didn’t think it would work in Alaska. So, I created a new recipe that did have beans, tomatoes, and a lot of other stuff, including especially Alaskan Amber Beer, the flagship beer of the brewery.

We didn’t cook on site, but were under oath that we made the dish ourselves and hadn’t bought it somewhere. The competing dishes were displayed around the huge metal tanks in the working part of the brewery. Contestants and onlookers were allowed to taste the various offerings. There were some good dishes, and even several varieties of chili, but there were some truly awful dishes. I remember one bread pudding made with Alaskan Stout that made me want to throw up.

My partner and I won the contest. He got the jacket because he had provided the meat and because I didn’t know how it would look for a pastor to be wearing a windbreaker with “Alaska Brewing Company” on the front and back.

A year or so later in July 1996, my wife and I moved to Fairbanks. When I saw a piece in the local paper about the “Culinary Capers” competition in the Tanana Valley State Fair, I thought what better way to meet new people than by entering the contest. Reluctant at first because she’s not keen on making a fool of herself, she finally acquiesced and we entered the competition. Connie is an excellent cook, but since a part of one’s score was to be based on “presentation” it was her artistic eye that was critical. Her judgment was also critical in what we named it: “Alaskan Gourmet ‘Road Kill’ Chili.”

We made the chili on site and offered it to the judges on a four place setting complete with a centerpiece made up of peppers, onions, and cilantro used in the chili. Oh yes, there was also Connie’s hot baked cornbread that she could have entered on its own. We were told that this was the only entry where the judges asked for seconds. Yes, we won the First Prize, Class Champion, and Grand Champion awards.

We’ve never entered another competition, but have on occasion cooked the dish for gatherings of friends. A year ago, a good friend here in central Oregon asked us if we would cook a pot for his birthday party.

Looking Ahead: This January my friend asked if we would do it again. Of course, we said. But something down inside of me didn’t want to just repeat the recipe. These are different times and called for something new. Since I have only lately learned about chipotle peppers (smoked jalapenos that you buy in a can) and the unique flavor they have, I thought it was time to create something new out of the base of the old recipe.

We decided that if the recipe was well-received by the assembled throng—basically the same people at the party a year ago—we would name it in honor of our friend. Last night, it worked! So we have a new chili recipe: “Juan’s Chipotle Chili.”

This one is made to serve 15 people, the number of people at the party. Try it and let me know how it tastes.

Ingredients and Preparations:

Step One:
3 tbs Canola oil, Olive oil, or Margarine
2 medium-sized onions, chopped
3 Sweet Bell peppers, chopped
1 Anaheim pepper, chopped
½ - ¾ cup of canned chipotle peppers and sauce
5 cloves garlic, chopped
20 peppercorns
2 lbs ground meat (this time, turkey and beef).
In a large saucepan or iron pot heat oil or margarine. Add onion, peppers, and garlic. After veggies are coated with oil, add the meat and brown.

Step Two:
2 28-oz cans of tomatoes, cut up
2 14-oz cans of Pinto Beans
2 14-oz can of Black Beans
2 14-oz can of Red Beans
2 4-oz can diced green chili peppers
1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar
2-4 cups beef broth
2 tbs chopped chipotle peppers with sauce
4-5 tbs bottled hot sauce (more or less depending on how long the meat was on the road before you got it)
3 tbs chili powder
2 tsp. Salt, or as desired
1 tbs dried Basil, crushed (fresh is best)
2 tbs dried Oregano, crushed (fresh is best)
Half a bunch of cilantro, chopped
2 tbs Cumin seed
2 tsp Allspice
2 tsp Coriander
2 large Bay leaves

Stir in undrained tomatoes, drained beans, drained chilies, vinegar, hot sauce, salt, and spice bottle contents. Bring mixture to boiling; reduce heat and just barely simmer, uncovered, for 3 hours.

Step Three:
1 12-oz can of beer
1 ¼ cup of Cashews
2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
The other half of the bunch of cilantro, chopped

Stir in beer. Simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes or more, or to desired consistency. Remove bay leaf. Before you stir in the cashews, check to see if any of the potential eaters are allergic to them. They can be added bowl by bowl. Sprinkle cheese atop each serving, and then top with chopped cilantro. Makes 15 servings.
- Milo

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Let me get this straight. Two days ago, I wrote about “The Battle for Liberty”. If I don’t have it right, I’m counting on you to correct me.

FISA is Washington short-hand for the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The act requires a warrant to intercept telephone calls and e-mail messages between people in the United States and people abroad. It is the law that President Bush decided to ignore after 9/11.

I can understand that in order to keep pace with technology some changes were needed. They were made in a bill that Congress passed last summer. Unfortunately, the President managed to add some provisions that undermine the court’s role in monitoring eavesdropping. Because of those provisions, Congress gave them an expiration date of February 1.

Before the end of the year, the House passed a reasonable bill, making the needed changes, but without further erosion of civil liberties. Tomorrow, the Senate may cave in to White House pressure. The Republicans and a number of Democrats quail before the President’s claim that we will be in increased danger from terrorists if the bill is passed without giving the telecommunications companies immunity from prosecution for participating in an illegal activity with the White House. The President says that without immunity the companies won’t cooperate in the future.

This is part of what I don’t understand. These are the wiretaps—we don’t know how many—that the President believes are so important to protect us from terrorists that they didn’t bother to pay the phone bills for many of them. These were the same companies who were so patriotic in cooperating with the government that when the bills weren’t paid, they cut off the government. Am I missing something here?

To the dire warnings from the President about what will happen if a new bill to his liking is not approved by February 1, I ask:
“Mr. President, why don’t you do it the old-fashioned way, the constitutional way, and get warrants as the law provides? The law even allows you to do it in emergency situations after the fact.”

There is something more here than the President’s threats about terrorists. The real aim of immunity for the companies is to prevent the full story of the wiretapping, and his administration’s complicity, from being exposed.

Forgive me if I don’t show much patience for the administration’s concern. The lead
editorial in today’s New York Times concludes:

Lawmakers and the rest of the nation should bear this in mind: Mr. Bush’s version of this law does not make intelligence-gathering more robust. Opponents like Senators Christopher Dodd and Patrick Leahy want to spy on Al Qaeda, too. They’re just not willing to do it in a way that undermines the very democracy that the spies, Congress and the president are supposed to be protecting.

How about it? Have I missed something?

- Milo

Friday, January 25, 2008


Milo and Friends,

Allow me to ramble a bit on two books I’ve read that you and some of your long suffering readers might appreciate, and which relate to your essay on King. The first is
The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman (2007), the second is Nonviolence: Twenty-five Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea by Mark Kurlansky (2006), who is better known for his cultural/culinary histories such as Salt, Cod, and The Basque History of the World. By happenstance I ended up reading these books together, which was quite a serendipity.

The Zookeeper’s Wife is the true story, written mostly from the title character’s memoirs, about the keeper of Warsaw Zoo and his wife during WWII. Jan (the zookeeper) was a member of the underground and fought in the resistance. Antonina, his wife, ran the household of course, and together they harbored hundreds of Jews from the Nazis. Had they been discovered it would have meant death for them both. Antonina was truly a noble soul, courageous, intelligent, and quick witted. Of Jan’s courage and character we have no doubt, but we understand more of Antonina. Interestingly, Jan was an atheist, while Antonina was Catholic, and I’m afraid that the Catholics, on the whole, were fairly cruel to Jews before, during, and even after the war. Still, these two different people arrived at the same conclusion on what they had to do, and for essentially the same reason – there was no other choice decent people could make. I believe that this shows that God has given us all an inherent goodness that can transcend the ideology of any particular religion, including atheism.

To those who say the same goes for the evil of the Nazis, I object, and recall a speech I heard Desmond Tutu give where he discussed his struggles with apartheid. He said he knew justice would prevail because the world recognized that apartheid was wrong, even if the world was slow to act. He was more eloquent than I of course, but you get the point. Deep inside, and across cultures we understand right from wrong; God has given us a bias towards goodness. I’d also like to believe that Jesus cares more about how we treat our neighbors than exactly what we believe. To return to The Zookeeper’s Wife, the story of these Good and Faithful Servants will make you laugh, weep, and inspire you.

Now on to Nonviolence. First, a few minor complaints. The book is quite short, given the topic, and often lacks documentation or analysis of some often quite sweeping comments. Also, while discussing the pre-Revolutionary war period in America, K was rather hard on Ben Franklin, who was actually a strong supporter of reconciliation almost to the last minute, and too easy on the Quakers, who by that period in Pennsylvania worked hard to retain their political power and avoid taxes, and quite willing to let non-Quakers do their violence for them on the frontier. That said I’ve always admired the Society of Friends, and Kurlansky gives them well deserved credit in other areas and times.

One area that works well with the Zookeeper’s Wife is that Kurlasky makes the point that violence achieves very little, other than to “justify” more violence by the other side. The Jews and Poles of Warsaw are a sad example – the uprising in the Ghetto killed a dozen or so Nazis, and gave the Nazi’s an excuse to send thousands of Jews to the gas chambers. Likewise the Resistance fighting as the Russians approached was defeated and had no military impact. I suppose that both events provided some pride and inspiration to the Jews and Poles, but if it kept their spirits alive, it killed a lot of their bodies. Martin Luther King Jr understood this – he knew that non-violence was both the most effective and the most moral way to achieve his noble goals.

Kurlansky makes many good points in his book, but in particular I refer you to the title. Non-Violence is a dangerous idea, a threat to violent persons and governments everywhere because while violence can be met with violence, they don’t know how to respond to non-violence, and can’t use it so easily to justify yet more violence on their part. Jesus was a particularly dangerous threat to the established order of his time (Roman and Jewish establishment alike) because of his inherently peaceful approach to his message and mission. Had he merely been a rebel against the Romans, or a “reformer” more interested in his power than his message, we would not know his name today. Thanks to God that we do, and thanks to King, Tutu, Jan and Antonina, a missionary in Taiwan a few years ago, and to the legion of unnamed Saints that have “fought the good fight” of peace.

- Taku

Thursday, January 24, 2008


How important a particular battle is in a war is rarely visible until after it is over. There is a battle going on right this minute that may be critical for our liberty. No, it is not in Iraq or Afghanistan; it is in Washington in the U.S. Senate. I don’t see retroactive immunity for big telecom companies on any of the headlines of this evening’s news broadcasts, but it just may be one of those key places to which we will one day point as the turning point--for good or ill--in the effort to recover precious civil liberties.

Yesterday, I sent the following letter to Senators McCain, Obama, and Clinton, pleading with them to take time off the campaign trail to take their places in the battle in the Senate:

January 23, 2008

You want to be our President, but we need your leadership today as a Senator.

I'm writing today to urge you in the strongest terms possible NOT to support retroactive immunity for big telecom companies that helped the Bush administration spy on Americans without warrants. America needs you to leave the campaign trail and return to Washington to support a potential filibuster by Senator Dodd to protect our civil liberties in the wiretapping bill and stop retroactive immunity.

Letting big telecoms off the hook for their wrongdoing would derail the pursuit of justice in the ongoing investigations of the wiretapping scandal. Ongoing lawsuits are vital in bringing to light the role of the Bush administration in spying on its own citizens, and granting amnesty would render those cases moot.

We cannot allow there to be two standards for justice in America; retroactive immunity for the telecoms would severely undermine the rule of law. We need you to do everything in your power to stop this pernicious legislation.

Please support Senator Dodd in his efforts to ensure that any FISA updates keep Bush and the telecoms accountable and protect our civil liberties, while working toward the common goal of protecting America.

We need you in Washington for this fight. Are the Fourth Amendment and the rule of law important to you? Will you leave the campaign trail and join Senator Dodd for this fight?

I look forward to your response to my letter.

In you need more information follow the link above and find out more about the issue. You’ll find the phone numbers of Senators to call. The critical vote may come on Monday afternoon. Don’t let it pass without having your voice heard. It may be one of those moments.
- Milo

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


A couple of weeks ago, I had coffee with a new friend and her partner. Tammy shared her story with me. I asked her to share it with you:

It was Saturday morning August 15th, 2005. The sun was warm on my face as I lay there in bed. I didn’t have to get up yet. I could lay in bed as long as I wanted today. This was a rare occasion. I normally worked five days a week at Bestcare, five to seven days a week at Bridge to Hope and during the school year I was going to school full time also. So I had every intention of taking advantage of having a whole Saturday to myself.

I got up, made coffee and sat down at my desk to do my Bible study like I did every morning. Nothing in my daily routine was different. Matt and the boys were gone racing. Mandy was at a friend’s house and Faith was still sleeping on my bed. It seemed all was the same as yesterday. But it wasn’t.

As I opened my Bible I again started to search through the Scriptures to find one thing that Jesus had said Himself that would condemn homosexuality. I knew my Bible inside out and for the life of me the only thing that I could find in the Bible was directly talking about living precariously and/or being faithful to the one that you love. Yes, I knew the argument that the Christians had against homosexuals but I also knew the heart of my God and what He’d allowed me to learn about myself over the past two years, and especially the last few months.

I picked up the phone to call the one person I’d become so accustom to talking with, my friend, my confidant, my boss at Bridge to Hope and my mentor, Linda. All of a sudden I realized I couldn’t talk to her about this. Sitting there I filled with shame and sadness and began to cry.

I realized in that moment, that by being true to me and the person God created me to be I would lose everything. My kids had all been raised in a church and taught that homosexuality was a sin. I had taught them that; how could I possibly tell them that I was a lesbian? How did I get here? What was wrong with me? How would I tell my husband? I would have to resign from Bridge to Hope? Oh my God!!!!!!!!! I would have to tell Linda!!! She’d tell the church. I would have to cancel the upcoming events that I was supposed to be speaking at. How would I tell my parents? Would they accept me? I had already put them through so much in my life, how could I do this to them?

I was lost. I didn’t want to be a lesbian. I begged God to take it away but he didn’t. He had gently and lovingly shown me this part of me that I had been stuffing, running from and denying for so many years now. Now it was my choice to be true to myself and true to who God had made me to be or continue to live what was so clearly now a lie. A lie I’d been telling myself for so many years.

I didn’t know who to call to talk to. I had shut myself up so tight in this Christian world that it was all I knew. I lived it, breathed it, preached it and taught it.

But today was like waking up in a different world. A world that looked like the one I’d lived and loved yesterday but in this world all the rules had changed and no one gave me a rule book. I remember asking myself, ‘I wonder if anyone has ever written a Bible for being gay? And if they had, why? And who?

I needed a friend right now and the only one that I could think of to call just happened to be a lesbian. So I went to see her, she told me to go home to my perfect world and never turn back. I couldn’t and I knew it. This realization was two years of God working on my heart. I hadn’t had an affair. I wasn’t even really attracted to anyone. I just knew that this was the part of me that I had never been able to face.

The rest of the story is like many others that I’ve heard since then. Losing everything for awhile and slowly getting back on my feet. A nasty divorce. Being ‘turned over to Satan’ publicly by the church. Identity crisis that only time would heal. New friends came as God brought them. My first relationship with a woman turned into a living nightmare. It was a time of learning. A new mentor came into my life that helped me to know me and my God even better.

Today, I am a gay rights activist living in the same small town I grew up in; next door to my parents who love me, my partner and our children. I am fortunate to have met the greatest woman I could have possibly asked for. It has been a journey that I am grateful to have traveled and look forward to the days to come with the lessons they will bring.

This woman’s story is unique because it is about her life. But as she says, “the rest of the story is like many others I’ve heard.” There are a lot of these stories, told out of pain, rejection, and sometimes discovery of a life on the other side. We who are straight, who identify ourselves as Christians, who are mothers and fathers, relatives and friends, we need to hear these stories. Thanks, Tammy!

- Milo


No wonder Hillary and Barack got into such a bruhaha in Monday night’s debate with John Edwards having to break in to remind them that he was supposed to be a part of the debate too. It was “Blue Monday”! Besides that, Connie reminded me, it was a full moon. What more could you expect?

In case you didn’t know before, “Blue Monday” is the designation for “the unhappiest day of the year,” which usually falls on the Monday of the fourth full week of January. According to an article in Tuesday’s Daily Mail

Dr Cliff Arnall, a Cardiff University psychologist, devised the formula that shows today is the most depressing.

His equation takes into account six factors: weather, debt, time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and the feeling of a need to take action.
Taken together they pinpoint today as 'Blue Monday'.

And that cosmic calculation was made without reckoning that the full moon was about to break upon us and presumably, without knowing that stock markets around the world would tank—drop to their lowest levels since who knows when. Or, is “Blue Monday” the reason they went into free-fall?

The good news is that if the 21st was the most depressing day of the year, every day from now on (until next January) should be better. Do you suppose Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” that guided economic forces understands that the concept of “Blue Monday” and the coincidental full moon?

Have a great day! After all, we are in the second day of the road to happier days.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


“Instead of putting up our fingers to test the wind of public opinion,” said a friend of mine recently in a discussion about how to stop the war, “we should change the wind.”

How can we do that? Is the idea as audacious as King Canute’s belief that he could change the tides by his will? Or is it enough people being like “salt” that hasn’t lost its saltiness?

We are a day past Martin Luther King Day, which ironically fell three days before a Jesuit priest,
John Dear, will be sentenced for his non-violent actions in a U.S. senator’s office in New Mexico a year and half ago. I didn’t know anything about Dear until I received a note from Laurel that included what he intends to say to the Judge on Thursday:

On Thursday morning, Jan. 24, I’ll stand in Federal Court in Albuquerque, N.M. and be sentenced for our effort, nearly a year and a half ago now, to visit the office of our senator. Judge Donald Svet asked us to write letters to him about ourselves, and allowed my co-defendants each to make a statement at their sentencing last November. Here below are excerpts from my notes of what I will say in court on Thursday, if allowed.

John Dear is not only a Jesuit priest, but also a peace activist, and the author of more than 20 books, most recently, Transfiguration (from Doubleday, with a foreword by Archbishop Tutu). He has served as the director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the largest interfaith peace organization in the U.S., and after 9/11, as a coordinator of chaplains for the Red Cross at the New York Family Assistance Center. From 2002-2004, he served as pastor of four churches in New Mexico. Some say he was banished to that remote area by a church hierarchy that wanted him less visible. If he was, it didn’t. He has traveled the war zones of the world, been arrested some 75 times for peace. He lives in the high desert of northeastern New Mexico.

Back to what he will say to the judge:

This war has turned the entire world against our country, and sowed the seeds for future terrorist attacks against us. It does not promote security but instead threatens everyone’s security. It wreaks havoc on the people of Iraq and the Middle East, as well as our country and the people of New Mexico. It is also a complete waste of money. Those billions of dollars spent killing Iraqi children should be used instead to house the homeless, feed the hungry, provide universal healthcare and better schools, heal the returning veterans, and cleanup the environment, here in New Mexico, in Iraq, and throughout the world.

I want the senator and the New Mexico government and the federal courts and all government leaders to stop this war because it is killing thousands of U.S. soldiers, including New Mexicans, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, mainly civilians. No one deserves to die so that U.S. oil corporations can get richer, or for any reason. Our message is: The killing must stop now. That day, I carried the names of every U.S. soldier killed, and some 10,000 Iraqi civilians killed, and read them aloud to remind myself and others of this reality. Although many people are now against this war, unfortunately, the killing still goes on, and still needs to stop.

Dear has his own sentencing instructions for the judge:

As Gandhi said to his judge, I think you have two options: either renounce your guilty verdict upon me and join our campaign to end this war by upholding international law and the Nuremberg principles and supporting those who work nonviolently to end this war; or if you really support this unjust system which makes war, maintains weapons of mass destruction here in New Mexico, and kills people in Iraq and Afghanistan, then give me maximum sentence.

The whole world knows this war is a disaster. History will judge us all for where we stood, what we did, what we said at this kairos moment. I urge you to choose life, take a stand for peace, and call upon the whole country to speak out against this war and be converted to the truth of nonviolence.

How do we change the winds of indifference to the war? Maybe we better pay more attention to the Jesuit who is not a tractor. Thanks Laurel!

- Milo

Monday, January 21, 2008


Almost four weeks old, the puppies are thriving and I’m surviving. Born the day after Christmas, three American Eskimo puppies—Christmas, Star and Noel—came to me two days later. Getting the right milk replacer and the right quantity figured out was an education in itself. Then there was finding the right equipment like bottles and nipples to fit their needs. Many hours of guessing, second guessing and hand wringing later I think the puppies are going to grow into healthy dogs in spite of my clumsy inexperience.

They are precious and cute. All the time and effort are worth seeing them grow and change and turn into rolly polly growling, barking critters that can eat incredible amounts of food and get rid of as much in incredible amounts. “Cleanliness is next to godliness” so I’ve heard and to keep these puppies next to godliness is a moment by moment vigil. We bought a new washing machine just 2 months ago and I think I’ve already put the first 10,000 miles on it easy. How many gallons of detergent and bleach? I’ve lost count.

Fostering is my passion for now. Exhaustion at 2 weeks into this bunch may have dampened my passion a bit but I’m back on 8 hours of sleep at night and the task of finishing the course looks manageable. These pups are transitioning from formula to solid food and of course there’s another mountain of washing to keep this project close to godliness because the little buggers can slime their entire quarters in split seconds wallowing the stuff around.

They are perfect and a delight. I’ll report more as we progress.

- Connie

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day. It is a day to remember.

I remember when I was a child pastor at age 18, a lifetime ago on a circuit of two churches west of Fort Worth. Having just completed his doctorate in theology at Boston University, Dr. King was catapulted into leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. People in my two country churches, as well as throughout the rest of the South, said that King was a communist. I didn’t believe that but I whispered to Dr. King, seven hundred miles away, “Dr. King, I believe in what you are trying to do, but you’re going too fast. Slow down, give us whites a chance to get on board.”

Dr. King came to speak at a voter registration rally in Dallas in 1960. My ethics professor took three of us to hear him. We were just about the only whites in an auditorium of two to three thousand people. He was supposed to speak at 7:00 but didn’t actually begin until 10:00, but when he started he had us all in the palm of his hand. I have never had another experience so powerful. When it was over, the ethics professor said to me, “I’m glad we’re on the same side.” The time was soon to come when Dr. King would wonder if we were indeed on the same side.

On April 16, 1963, when he wrote his famous “
Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” I was beginning to have a glimmer of understanding. But when he spoke at Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 announcing his opposition to the Vietnam War, "A Time to Break Silence," I whispered again to Dr. King from my vantage point in Taiwan eight thousand miles away: “You’re right about the war, but your opposition to the war may well undermine what you’ve done on civil rights.” I whispered the same thing a few months later when he announced the beginning of the Poor People’s Campaign focusing on jobs and freedom for the poor of all races.

But thank God he didn’t listen to my whisperings. He was right each time. And at each stage he dragged me further out of what is now called my “comfort zone.” Today, I remember his words to white clergy in his
letter from Birmingham. Finding time to re-read the letter tomorrow is not a bad observance for the day. To me, the words still sting with the ring of truth:

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

If he were alive now, I think we know what he would be saying about the war in Iraq and about freedoms lost in the name of fighting terrorism. I think we can imagine what he might say to those who choose to sit on the sidelines uninvolved. And he would be right again.

What will it take to get us to act on what our consciences are surely telling us? Let this be “a day of new beginnings,” as Brian Wren put it, “a time to remember and move on.”

- Milo

Saturday, January 19, 2008


With these words, the congregation at Turnagain United Methodist Church in Anchorage will be called to worship on Sunday.

CONGREGATION: O God, we come as we are.
Each of us is a collection of
mixed vegetables in a pot.
You made us in your image
in a soup of laughter and tears
with a few years on this earth
to make it all come together.
When it does come together it is to your glory.
It is your love that is the broth.
It is your forgiveness that makes harmony
between our inner vegetables,
and your joy that is the aroma of our stewing.

LITURGIST: We are a people of the soup
and the kingdom of God is like a crock pot
and some of us show a little more crock than others
but we all belong and are called to service
in God’s soup kitchen of life.

CONGREGATION: O Lord, bless this soup of our service,
and us to your use.
Make us m-m, m-m good
as our transformed imperfections
are lifted up in final glory
as the secret ingredient of your recipe of grace.

Makes me wish I were there to sample the soup! Thanks, Jim!


After laboring on yesterday’s blog, “No Confidence in Congress a Bum Rap,” when I went online this morning what should my wondering eyes behold but an analysis by no less than Thomas Mann and Sally Reynolds of the Brookings Institution. For comparison to what I wrote, check them out. They asked how Congress should be judged under its new Democratic leadership. This is what they said:

The public has reached a decidedly negative conclusion, based on Congress’s inability to force a change in policy on the Iraq war and the pitched partisan battles that characterized much of the year in Washington.

But expectations for seismic change in policymaking after the 2006 midterm elections were almost certainly too high, given the deep ideological differences between the parties, the Democrats’ narrow majorities, the now-routine Senate filibusters and a Republican president determined to go his own way on Iraq, the budget and domestic policy.

Mann and Reynolds conclude that based on their research, the 110th Congress deserves some praise:

The new Democratic Congress delivered on the promise of ethics and lobbying reform, and made considerable progress in reining in earmarks, which had exploded under the previous 12 years of mostly Republican rule. In fact, between the 2006 and 2008 fiscal years, the cost of appropriations earmarks appears to have dropped from $29 billion to $14.1 billion. Perhaps most important, Congress reasserted itself as a rightful check on the executive branch, significantly stepping up its oversight on a wide range of important subjects.

But a less partisan, more deliberative and productive legislative process will have to await a clearer signal from voters in the 2008 elections.

What do you think?

Friday, January 18, 2008


According to an AP poll conducted in the first week of January 2008 Congress is less popular than President Bush. A whopping 34% said they approved of what Bush was doing; an even fewer 26% said they were happy with Congress. “The Democratic majority elected in 2006 hasn’t delivered,” said a friend.

If the assessment is based on Congress’ failure to enact legislation that would bring our troops home or approve federal funding for stem cell research, which apart from corruption were the two most important reasons for the Democratic victory in 2006, then one needs to see why neither of those happened.

Timetables to bring our troops home from Iraq were passed by the House and Senate, only to be vetoed by the President. Legislation to expand medical science through stem cell research was passed by the House and Senate and vetoed by the President. The Democratic majority in the House and Senate did what the American people said they wanted. Only the Republican minority prevented the votes to override the President’s veto. Who is to blame for that?

Unaccustomed as I am to defending Congress, I take umbrage at folks who say that the 110th Congress hasn’t made important improvements over the past Republican-led Congresses. In spite of slim majorities important things have happened in the Senate and in the House. So here are my top ten (I would like to give you thirty but you wouldn’t read them) achievements of the 110th Congress:

1. Required benchmarks and progress reports for the war in Iraq—signed into law

2. Provided the largest increase in support for veterans’ services in history—passed the House and Senate

3. Finally implemented 9-11 Commission recommendations, three years later—passed the House and Senate

4. Restored pay-as-you-go budget discipline for the first time in six years—done

5. Passed the most sweeping lobby reform effort in a generation—passed the House and Senate

6. Provided more protections for whistleblowers who save tax dollars—passed the House and Senate

7. Brought overdue assistance to Gulf Coast communities—signed into law

8. Increased the minimum wage for the first time in a decade—signed into law

9. Provided emergency assistance to ensure children receive quality health care through SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Plan)—signed into law

10. Delivered a wide-ranging Energy Independence initiative to strengthen our national security, create new American jobs—signed into law

Much of this legislation I wanted to be stronger and I wrote letters and made phone calls to that end. There was legislation that I wanted but didn’t get and there was legislation I got that I didn’t want. But make no mistake; it represents a giant step over where we were before 2006.

One of the most important contributions the Democratic majority made to the nation was what it prevented. The record of this administration on judicial and other federal appointments of ill-qualified party loyalists has been horrific. The Senate remained in pro-forma session during the holiday break solely to block President Bush from making recess appointments, appointments not subject to confirmation hearings.

Despite this being an election year, there are critical issues before Congress. One of them is coming up in February when the Senate votes on the Intelligence Authorization Act. In December, under threat of veto by the President, the House voted to require government intelligence agencies to follow the Army Field Manual, which forbids the use of waterboarding and other forms of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading interrogation techniques. It should be a no-brainer, but some Republican Senators are planning to obstruct the legislation. The Senate will need sixty votes to do what people of conscience know is right. I don’t know if they will get it. I believe that the nation will be best served in 2008 by increasing the Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate.

Having such majorities will not take away our responsibilities to monitor what they do. If Congress receives only 26% rating, what rating do you think we as citizens deserve for our failure to do our homework?
- Milo

Thursday, January 17, 2008



Looking Back:

On December 12, 2007 thirty-one retired generals
wrote a letter to the chairs of the House and Senate committees on intelligence expressing their strong unanimous support for Section 327 requiring intelligence agents of the U.S. government to adhere to the standards of prisoner treatment and interrogation contained in the U.S. Army Field Manual on Human Collector Operations (the Army Field Manual).

Yes, the signers were all retired, but they quote from an open letter to the troops in May from General David Petraeus, who is not retired and who is Commanding General in Iraq, President Bush’s chosen leader for the new strategy in Iraq:

What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight. . . . is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect…. Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary. Certainly, extreme physical action can make someone “talk;” however, what the individual says may be of questionable value. In fact, our experience in applying the interrogation standards laid out in the Army Field Manual (2-22.3) on Human Intelligence Collector Operations that was published last year shows that the techniques in the manual work effectively and humanely in eliciting information from detainees.

The next day, defying a White House veto threat, the House of Representatives voted to outlaw harsh interrogation methods, such as simulated drowning, that the CIA has used against suspected terrorists.
Reuters issued this report:

On a largely party line vote of 222-199, the Democratic-led House approved a measure to require intelligence agents to comply with the Army Field Manual, which bans torture in compliance with the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war.

The measure, part of a sweeping intelligence bill, passed amid a congressional probe into the recent disclosure that the
CIA destroyed videotapes of al Qaeda suspects undergoing waterboarding, a simulated drowning.

Many countries, U.S. lawmakers and human rights groups have accused the United States of torturing terror suspects since the September 11 attacks.

President George W. Bush says the United States does not torture, but the administration will not disclose what interrogation methods it has approved for the CIA. In threatening to veto the House-passed measure, which now awaits Senate action, the White House argued it would prevent the United States from conducting "lawful interrogations of senior al Qaeda terrorists.

Looking Ahead:

This afternoon I received an alert from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (
NRCAT) that the Senate may vote on this bill in the first two weeks of February and that some Republican Senators have threatened to obstruct passage of H.R. 2082 as long as it contains Section 327 (the anti-torture provision).

NRCAT is a growing membership organization committed to ending U.S.-sponsored torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Since its formation in January 2006, over
130 religious groups have joined the inter-faith effort, including representatives from the Roman Catholic, evangelical Christian, mainline Protestant, Unitarian, Quaker, Orthodox Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh communities. Members include national denominations and faith groups, regional organizations and congregations. This is what they said:

Passage of Section 327 is one of the most important actions Congress can take to stop U.S. sponsored torture. We need to do everything we can to win passage of Section 327 in the Senate. Defeating the attempts to block H.R. 2082 or to strip Section 327 from the bill will take 60 votes. We need your help.

NARCAT is asking that in the last two weeks of January every person who wants to see an end to U.S. sponsored torture contact their Senators by phone or email to express support for Section 327 of H.R. 2082. Call the Senate switchboard at (202) 224-3121. They are also asking for us to
write letters to the editor of the local newspaper.

Will you act?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Connie wrote:

Asking Milo to search out facts from online is like saying, “sick ‘em” to a bull dog (as he would say). I received a forward in my email today that besmirches Barak Obama because of religious family history and it left me with mixed feelings of incredulity and fear. I asked Milo if he had received such a message and what he thought. He said he had received one and would follow up on the link that the message had sent as authentication. He went to his screen and started mousing his cyber information center.

I confess I’m afraid of connections with Islam because of the extremists and the terrorists. I confess that anything different from what I believe and what I feel comfortable seeing gives me great pause and takes energy to deliberately think through what I perceive to come up with a reasonable and realistic perspective on politics and our world today. So much of what seems to be happening worldwide leaves me in a perpetual state of confusion and I feel exhausted trying to keep some kind of balanced thinking. I’m exhausted reviewing what I just said. But what I read in the message I received was just too judgmental and frankly bigoted for me to believe especially when I had not heard it from any other source. This kind of “mud slinging,” if it held any truth, would have wiped out Obama long ago and would certainly have made the national news.

But exhaustion doesn’t excuse me from responsibility and its necessity to keep sorting and trying to come up with an intelligent decision at election time. Milo did his “rabbit chasing” with great deliberation and sent me a link to
Snopes that informed me of Barak Obama’s real history. I think we all know anyone can take any information and skew it to fit whatever idea we might want to sell. But in these important campaign times with so much on the line we would do well to make sure what information we are considering is authentic and truthful.

I’ve responded to my friend and her mailing list directing them to the link that was in the original message and the same one Milo found and charging them to take the time to go there. My guess is that making the claim of Snopes verification in the first place was a confident counting on people “not” going there. My response may not change any opinions and it may not inspire any to look deeper than an email message circulated by whoever. One thing I firmly believe (and this is something I’m not confused about) is that how ever we use our email communication and what ever we choose to send to our friends we should be careful that it is not harmful and is the truth.

Looking Back 2008 is the first time since 1928 that there is no incumbent President or incumbent vice president running for either of the presidential nominations. In 1928 the President was Calvin Coolidge. Calvin Coolidge opted not to seek reelection. His vice president at the time was Charles Dawes. He also did not run. The Republicans nominated, Herbert Hoover, Secretary of Commerce. The Democrats nominated Alfred E. Smith, Governor of New York and the first Roman Catholic to gain a major party’s nomination.

The campaign of 1928 marked a change from the staid front-porch efforts of earlier years to a more active style. Radio played a surprisingly important role. Hoover, who was not an impressive public speaker, came across to listeners as measured and thoughtful. Smith, however, was an inspiring speaker, but his New York accent and regional pronunciation of words grated on the ears of many Westerners and Southerners.

Smith was relentlessly attacked in the election by Protestants who claimed he would be taking orders from Rome (fast-forward to 1960 and JFK vs. Nixon). Hoover was elected in a landslide. Then and now, bigotry is alive and well. The good news is that you don’t have to participate in it, and you can call what it is.

- Milo

Monday, January 14, 2008


Ann wrote in response to yesterday’s posting, “A Soldier From Our Town.”

What a tragic, senseless invasion and war! Yesterday, Tom Foreman of CNN talked about the lack of rhetoric on the war on thecampaign trail from most candidates.

Whatever happened to the war?

For months, it was all the rage on the campaign trail. Democratic contenders never missed a chance to pound on the Bush administration, rip the Republicans and remind voters over and over how badly things were going in Iraq.

Republicans, as often as not, staunchly insisted that distant battles and homeland security went hand-in-hand. Day after day, stop after stop, the war was the focus of all things presidential.

Now, the war is little more than a distant echo in most stump speeches. The Democrats are generally saying little more than "We should get out as soon as we can." The Republicans are hardly mentioning it.

The end of it says: Here's an inconvenient truth: Our fellow citizens are risking their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan to carry out a difficult scheme,which was approved by both Republicans and Democrats; yet our political leaders will not risk even their careers to talk about it now.

What a sad tale...our political leaders won't risk their careers to talk about the war now! I weep with all those who have lost loved ones, no matter of what country of birth.

Looking Back Ann’s note and Foreman’s comments reminded me of another time in our history, when our nation’s leaders refused to talk about the most critical issue of their time. Slavery was so deeply entrenched and so great was the fear that the issue would result in the breakup of the United States, the subject could not even be discussed in Congress.

While the members of Congress could agree not to discuss such a distasteful matter, they had a harder time deciding what to do with the anti-slavery petitions that flooded in from groups all over the North. Congress could – and did – agree not to initiate any legislation themselves about the matter, but what about the right of citizens to petition their government? Many of the petitions came from women’s groups, their only voice to the government because they didn’t have the right to vote or to hold elected office. Congress enacted a “gag rule” to insure that these anti-slavery petitions would be summarily rejected without any action or even discussion.

How could it be that the Congress refused even to debate the issue that was tearing the country apart? John Quincy Adams didn’t accept the Congressional consensus. Adams was President for one term (1825-1829) who came back to Congress as a member of the Massachusetts delegation until his death (1831-1848). The story is told in a little known book by eminent historian, William Lee, Miller, Arguing about Slavery: John Quincy Adams and the Great Battle in the United States Congress. For nine years he labored to get the issue of slavery into national debate by Congress. Almost single-handedly – with little support from his colleagues, northern or southern -- he defied gag orders, accusations of treason, and assassination threats, until he succeeded. His campaign to get slavery discussed has been called by some historians “the Pearl Harbor of the slavery controversy.” It was the beginning of the end of slave-holding in the United States.

The war in Iraq cries out for debate! How things are going with the current strategy or how things are going with the economy have nothing to do with the immorality of the decision to go to war and remain at war. Where is our “John Quincy Adams”?

- Milo

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Do not go gentle into that good night
Old age should burn and rave at the close of day;
Said the poet of his dying father
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Uniformed men at the door
We are sorry to inform you…
… died for his country.

What are parents to say of their child
Killed in Iraq at age twenty?

Who then is to burn and rave?
At whom?

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
She refused to be consoled,
Because they are no more.”

No parent should lose a child
How could one ever be ready?

How could the grief be greater
Except that the child died
In a war that never should have been?

Remember Cindy Sheehan, Gold Star Mother of
Casey, killed in Iraq, April 4, 2004?

Outside the ranch in May 2005
She raged not against the dying of the light
But at those who made the war.

But rage has its limits
Especially when shared by so few
I am going to go home and
be a mother to my surviving children
and try to regain some of what I have lost.

Vilified by supporters of the war
Who could not feel a mother’s pain
Or rage at a child lost
Let alone
In a war that should never have been.

Protected, insulated, and shielded
By irrational righteousness
I can’t imagine the President
Burning or raging against these needless deaths.

But I wonder about General Petraeus and others
Whose commands send soldiers into harm’s way.
Away from the spotlight of their political role,
What do they feel?

I wonder about the rest of us
What do we feel?
Now that It’s the economy, Stupid!
Do we burn and rage
Against a war that should never have been?

- Milo

Saturday, January 12, 2008


From Darrel:
I see forgiveness as a process of letting go, a continuum of gaining freedom that comes with accepting what life has brought and letting go of blame, anger and hurt attached to that past.

When we reach for and grip forgiveness, we also release love as we could never love before. Forgiveness is one of Christ's underrated teachings. Christ saw the power of forgiveness so clearly.

Why can't we?

In our media culture we celebrate victims and underrate survivors. Sometimes we think that if we punish ourselves for the sins of others, they will be paid back because we are hurting so much.

But that gets it backwards and it never works. This choice looses valuable time that we can never recover.

Forgiveness is choosing to not be a victim. Forgiveness is choosing to move forward, to hold the future firmly, abandon the pain of the past and to turn that pain into something good.

The freedom that comes through forgiveness is a special event. Celebrate it, one way or the other, like a holiday, because that is what it is.

What journey of forgiveness do you need to begin?
What piece of hurt, anger or blame can you let go of today?
What holiday can you celebrate as a result?
What good can you give away to others as love?


What was it Yogi Berra used to say? “It ain’t over till it’s over,” to which some wise person added, “And even then it ain’t over.”

The incident in the Strait of Hormuz isn’t over. The follow up links on last weekend’s confrontation between five Iranian speed boats and three U. S. Navy destroyers were provided by Darrel.

What Happened in the Strait of Hormuz, Revisited,” from In From the Cold

“The Strait of Hormuz Incident,” from the Big Brass Blog

US War Plans and the ‘Strait of Hormuz Incident’: Just Who Threatens Whom?” from the Centre for Research on Globalization.

Selected comments on the incident from last night’s GOP debate in South Carolina, from Liberal Oasis.

Sea of Lies,” on analyzing videos, from Secure Computing: Sec-C
Hacker Factor Commentary on Computing and Security

These links represent a wide range of perspectives. I believe the incident is serious enough that we need all of the wisdom we can get. What and whom do you believe?

- Milo

Friday, January 11, 2008


Would you like to know where the presidential candidates stand on issues such as the funding of stem cell research, addressing global warming, and the teaching of evolution in science classes?

A group of voters has started a petition calling for a debate among the 2008 presidential candidates. Science Debate 2008 is a grassroots initiative spearheaded by a growing number of scientists and concerned citizens. The signatories include include Nobel laureates and other leading scientists, presidents of universities, congresspersons of both major political parties, business leaders, religious leaders, former presidential science advisors, the editors of America's major science journals, writers, and the current and several past presidents of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, among many others.

Given the many urgent scientific and technological challenges facing America and the rest of the world, the increasing need for accurate scientific information in political decision making, and the vital role scientific innovation plays in spurring economic growth and competitiveness, we call for a public debate in which the U.S. presidential candidates share their views on the issues of The Environment, Health and Medicine, and Science and Technology Policy.

You can join the list of supporters. Check out their site and see if you want to add your name to the growing list.

- Milo

Thursday, January 10, 2008


There was something that just didn’t ring true when I first heard the report of Iran speedboats harassing a U.S. ship in the Strait of Hormuz. There was the video of small boats dashing all around and a grade B movie voice saying, “I am coming to you… You will explode after… minutes.” All of this happened at the time the U.S. President is in the Middle East, not only to work on getting Israelis and Palestinians to stop fighting, but also to isolate Iran.

As reported in The Ledge this morning, the list of those who are less than fully confident in the Pentagon’s video/audio mashup of aggressive maneuvers by Iranian boats near American warships in the Strait of Hormuz now includes the Pentagon itself.

Unnamed Pentagon officials said on Wednesday that the threatening voice heard in the audio clip, which was released on Monday night with a disclaimer that it was recorded separately from the video images and merged with them later, is not directly traceable to the Iranian military.

That undercuts one of the most menacing elements from the Pentagon’s assertion that Iranian forces threatened the Navy ships.

An article in this morning’s New York Times reports the Pentagon’s assessment of the audio:

The audio includes a heavily accented voice warning in English that the Navy warships would explode. However, the recording carries no ambient noise — the sounds of a motor, the sea or wind — that would be expected if the broadcast had been made from one of the five small boats that sped around the three-ship American convoy.

Pentagon officials said they could not rule out that the broadcast might have come from shore, or from another ship nearby, although it might have come from one of the five fast boats with a high-quality radio system.

Looking Back: Ironically, this weekend we were reminded of the 1964 purported North Vietnamese attack on American destroyers that helped lead to President Johnson’s sharp escalation of American forces in Vietnam. Documents on the Gulf of Tonkin incident were released by the National Security Agency in response to a "mandatory declassification" request from the Federation of American Scientists. Then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara told Congress that the evidence of an attack was ‘unimpeachable.’ The released documents show that no attack happened that night.

I do not know what happened in the Strait of Hormuz this past weekend, but I am suspicious of our government’s initial account. It sounds like some in Pentagon are too. Call me naïve, but I still have a hard time believing that Robert Gates could be part of a fabricated account.

Why Iran would provoke an incident like this at this time is a lot harder for me to imagine than why our current President would seize the least pretext to generate fear at home. If you have a take that makes sense of the incident I would like to hear it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Texas is not the only state where attempts are being made to compromise the teaching of science with religious views. Yesterday, I received this appeal from Florida Citizens for Science who has launched a call to action project titled, “All I Want ... is a Good Science Education.” The appeal was addressed to the Clergy Letter Project:

“Florida has become the most recent battleground in the war between science and a narrow sectarian religious view of the world. The battle is over the new Sunshine State Science Standards, which are currently being completed, because the Theory of Evolution is fully integrated in them. Some folks disagree with these standards wanting evolution to be removed form the standard or more often for teachers to “teach alternatives” or to teach “evolution and its weaknesses”. By teaching “alternatives” they mean “Intelligent Design”. Intelligent Design says that life must have had a designer. The proponents will not publicly state who the designer must be, but privately speak of the Christian God. These folks are motivated by religious views and see a conflict between evolution and their religious faith.

“There is no conflict between faith in God and science. But those opposed to this view continue to shout it in public and try to get decision makers to accept the idea. These folks wish to impose their faith on everyone.

“Florida Citizens for Science is a group of ordinary citizens here in Florida whose mission is to improve the teaching of science in Florida. We are working to insure that the State School Board approves these new science standards. We ask for your help.

“You as people of faith can counter the mistaken belief that there is a conflict between faith and science. You and I believe, in the words of the
Clergy Letter Project that “… the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist.” Today it is not enough to believe these truths, but we must express them to the members of the State School Board and other state education leaders. I ask that you write a letter or otherwise contact these Florida education leaders, stating your beliefs, before February 19, 2008, when the Board is expected to vote on the standards. We must stand up for our beliefs or this opportunity to improve science education for our children and for the future of Florida will be lost.

“You can find a list of contact information for the State Board at or

“Joe Wolf, President
Florida Citizens for Science”

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Pay attention! Something special has happened in our country. An African American won in Iowa and a woman won in New Hampshire. Talk about change!

Yes, it has been far too long in coming. But it wouldn’t have happened in 2008 without what happened in 1964.

Looking Back: On July 2, 1964, the Civil Rights Act was
landmark legislation outlawing segregation in schools and public places. First conceived to address racial segregation, the word “sex” was added at the last moment. Representative Howard W. Smith (D-VA) added the word. Some said that this conservative southern opponent of civil rights did so to kill the entire bill. Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! The bill was passed, not killed. The bill also created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Hats off to the Civil Rights and Woman's Rights movements, and to President LBJ, for making it happen.

Tonight’s victory for Hillary and last week’s for Barack was one more step in fulfilling the promise of that legislation. Go on and cheer! I’ll bet Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Gage, and the other pioneers of the
American Woman’s Rights Movement are cheering, both for Clinton and Obama, because the victories of both were victories for them. From wherever they are watching, I suspect that the ladies are also waiting to see what will happen when the other 48 states have their say.


“Acknowledge, Understand, And Assimilate”

A mentor of mine, perhaps even the blogmeister that brought me to you said, “What is there to fear from truth?”

I am a survivor of childhood abuse. I’ll cut to the chase. So far, my memories are of my father, male relatives and a “friend” who took advantage of a naive teenager.

The “truth” of my abuse has not settled well with two of my sisters. What is there to fear? Well, for them, probably a slight amount of both guilt and oddly plausible, jealousy that I was the “chosen one.”

For my brother, the truth was perhaps accepted but in his alcoholic inheritance not fully comprehended. For a third sister, total acceptance of my memories based on her own vivid childhood observations.

Acknowledgment comes to us in many forms I would imagine. Mine began with body memories (forty years after some of the incidents), and then mini-movies played for me as I moved through remembering unhappy moments in my childhood. A support group of other incest survivors also helped to piece together many very black, forgotten moments from my childhood.

Can I understand why this happened to me? Yes. I have learned Daddy came from an abusive alcoholic background. He was a World War II survivor. I know Mommy had low self esteem and mistakenly blamed herself for her husband’s violent drunken beatings.

What is there to fear from truth? Absolutely nothing! Truth is what happened in my past. Truth is a memory. Can I assimilate this truth into my present? Can I break this chain of truth and leave the broken links in the gutter of negativity and heredity where they came from?

You’re damn right I can, and did. My father also gave me the gift of nurturing the land, caring for, pruning, recreating forms of plants and trees. I transferred that love of nurturing to the care of my beloved and understanding husband, my children, my gardens, and most recently to the love and education of my voice students.

Thanks Daddy for giving me the best of what you brought to the in that peace.

- Parker