September 18th, 2006

Book Cover

Good Morning!

There is the most luxurious feeling of fall in the air.   The sun is out, and there is that crispness, like the edges of a fallen leaf, that I just love.

The kittens are a delight and enchanted with all the boxes from Jeff and Jan's gifts.  It is fun to watch them hop in and out, and "hide."

On the subject of "backing up" our computer work, I am with the term this morning, as I realize it really is a chance to go back in and reconfirm what is here.  I avoid it, sometimes, like the taxes, and yet, yesterday finally going in to tackle the taxes, I had a chance to review 2005.   The year is there in the cancelled checks.   This is the first year we have waited so long, and yet, I seemed unable to face it.  With all this going on, I have been pretty negligant about the organization of my files, but it actually took very little time to get everything in order, and find what I needed, and it turned out I had been more efficient than I realized.

Jane is worried she will forget much of what is on the computer, but my sense is that what matters will float delightedly to the surface, and she can reconstruct what matters to her.   Certainly the violation of a theft is something to handle.   Our house has been broken into a few times, and, though nothing of value was taken, the sense of invasion was tough to get over.  Our home is our sanctuary, as is our computer.  It feels so odd to know that I cannot email Jane at home right now, and she is very sancrosanct, and rightly so, about the use of her computer at work.   Some of her writing on Saturday was on the subject of violence.   It is to consider how each of us handles the violence that comes our way without becoming so angry and bitter that we are debilitated. 

May we all back up our files and life in every way.   I realize now it may mean re-connecting with a friend.   Do that, too, and take a moment, or two, to re-visit your past, and back up to see where you've been.
Book Cover

Integrity -

I feel concern when ABC creates a dramatic account called "The Path to 9-11" that is fictionalized in favor of the current administration.  I struggle to understand why, but then, I read this editorial in the NY Times and feel comforted that there is still a captain on some of the ships.

Op-Ed Contributor

Mr. Universe

Published: September 18, 2006

Altadena, Calif.

Readers’ Opinions

FOUR decades ago, when the starship Enterprise first settled into orbit around Planet M-113 on Sept. 8, 1966, I was 2 years old. I could not have known it at the time, but “Star Trek” would literally change my life.

To say that any television show has changed one’s life is to invite both mockery and pity for a poor, shuttered geek who must surely have been denied direct sunlight and the attention of women for the better part of his days. But in lieu of offering documentary proof that I do not, in fact, still reside in my parents’ basement, let me simply tell you how “Star Trek” informed the way I look at the world.

“Star Trek” is often reduced to kitsch: Kirk’s paunch, Spock’s pointy ears, green-skinned alien girls. But it was more than escapism and rubber-suited aliens. It was a morality play, with Capt. James T. Kirk as a futuristic John F. Kennedy piloting a warp-driven PT-109 through the far reaches of the galaxy.

Kirk, for me, embodied an American idea: His mission was to explore the final frontier, not to conquer it. He was moral without moralizing. Week after week, he confronted the specters of intolerance and injustice, and week after week found a way to defeat them without ever becoming them. Jim Kirk may have beat up his share of bad guys, but you could never imagine him torturing them.

A favorite quote: “We’re human beings, with the blood of a million savage years on our hands. But we can stop it. We can admit that we’re killers, but we won’t kill today.” Kirk clearly understood humanity’s many flaws, yet never lost faith in our ability to rise above the muck and reach for the stars.

“Star Trek” painted a noble, heroic vision of the future, and that vision became my lodestar.

As I grew into adolescence, the show provided a handy reference against which to judge the questions that my young mind began to ask: What is the obligation of a free society toward the less fortunate? Does an “advanced” culture have the right to spread its ideas among more “primitive” ones? What does it mean to be human, and at what point do we lose our humanity to our technology?

And as I grew into an adult, and my political views took shape, I treasured “Star Trek” as a dream of what my country could one day become — a liberal and tolerant society, unafraid to live by its ideals in a dangerous universe, and secure in the knowledge that its greatness derived from the strength of its ideas rather than the power of its phasers.

In my 20’s, through a combination of luck and determination, I fulfilled my childhood dream — I became a writer for “Star Trek.”

For 10 years, I helped propel the latter-day incarnations of “Trek” into new territory while keeping alive the set of moral principles I’d taken to heart. As I plotted the adventures of the Enterprise-D and the travails of the space station Deep Space 9, I gradually became interested in pushing the boundaries of “Star Trek,” and began to let Captains Picard and Sisko find the shades of gray in a universe Kirk sometimes saw only in black and white.

Science fiction on film and television has, over the past four decades, moved decisively away from the optimism of “Star Trek.” “Blade Runner,” “Alien” and “The Matrix” posit much darker, dystopian futures; even the “Star Wars” movies posit the rise of a galactic empire founded on “the dark side.” Social and commercial explanations abound for this shift, but my theory is that “Star Trek” set the gold standard for the idealistic vision of tomorrow and no one has successfully challenged it.

Nowadays, it may appear that I’ve turned a blind eye to my lodestar as the crew of the battlestar Galactica behave in ways that would’ve been unthinkable in the “Star Trek” universe that Gene Roddenberry created. But “Battlestar Galactica” remains very much informed by the lessons I learned from that slightly paunchy man in the gold pajama top on the good ship Enterprise.

My characters may not have all the answers (sometimes they’re not even aware of the questions) but they contain kernels of both good and evil in their hearts and continue to struggle for salvation and redemption against the darker angels of their natures. Their defeats are many, their victories few, but somehow, some way, they never give up the dream of finding a better tomorrow.

And, thanks to a 40-year-old television show, neither do I.

Ronald D. Moore is the writer of “Battlestar Galactica.”

Book Cover

A man to support - James Webb -

James Webb,  a highly decorated Vietnam vet and former secretary of the navy, is running against Republican George Allen, in the Senate race in Virginia.     George Allen supports continuing the war, though he has never fought in any war.  How easy it is to love war in the abstract rather than on the ground.   George Allen wears "cowboy boots though there are no cowboys in Virginia."   James Webb, on the other foot, wears the old combat boots of his son, who is in Iraq.   James Webb proposes we use diplomacy to solve the problems in Iraq.  Isn't it interesting that those who have actually fought in a war urge diplomacy and those who did not, and whose children do not, prefer that the war continue?

I say that if you have any money you want to give to a political campaign this fall, you give it to James Webb, so we can have moral representation from the state of Virginia. 
Book Cover

communication -

I've had a most excellent day.  We shared a delightful lunch with our accountant, and lo and behold, we are getting money back on our taxes.   Hooray!!   It might seem we were rather stupid not to have filed sooner, but it seemed to be beyond my capability until now, but, next year, we are lining up at the front of the queue.

If you are interested in The Art of Talking and Listening, check out this workshop with Mudita Nisker and Dan Clurman.  It is well worth doing, and Steve and I highly recommend it.

Book Cover

can you take any more?

 The Longer the War, the Larger the Lies
    By Frank Rich
    The New York Times

    Sunday 17 September 2006

    Rarely has a television network presented a more perfectly matched double feature. President Bush's 9/11 address on Monday night interrupted ABC's "Path to 9/11" so seamlessly that a single network disclaimer served them both: "For dramatic and narrative purposes, the movie contains fictionalized scenes, composite and representative characters and dialogue, as well as time compression."

    No kidding: "The Path to 9/11" was false from the opening scene, when it put Mohamed Atta both in the wrong airport (Boston instead of Portland, Me.) and on the wrong airline (American instead of USAirways). It took Mr. Bush but a few paragraphs to warm up to his first fictionalization for dramatic purposes: his renewed pledge that "we would not distinguish between the terrorists and those who harbor or support them." Only days earlier the White House sat idly by while our ally Pakistan surrendered to Islamic militants in its northwest frontier, signing a "truce" and releasing Al Qaeda prisoners. Not only will Pakistan continue to harbor terrorists, Osama bin Laden probably among them, but it will do so without a peep from Mr. Bush.

    You'd think that after having been caught concocting the scenario that took the nation to war in Iraq, the White House would mind the facts now. But this administration understands our culture all too well. This is a country where a cable news network (MSNBC) offers in-depth journalism about one of its anchors (Tucker Carlson) losing a prime-time dance contest and where conspiracy nuts have created a cottage industry of books and DVD's by arguing that hijacked jets did not cause 9/11 and that the 9/11 commission was a cover-up. (The fictionalized "Path to 9/11," supposedly based on the commission's report, only advanced the nuts' case.) If you're a White House stuck in a quagmire in an election year, what's the percentage in starting to tell the truth now? It's better to game the system.

    The untruths are flying so fast that untangling them can be a full-time job. Maybe that's why I am beginning to find Dick Cheney almost refreshing. As we saw on "Meet the Press" last Sunday, these days he helpfully signals when he's about to lie. One dead giveaway is the word context, as in "the context in which I made that statement last year." The vice president invoked "context" to try to explain away both his bogus predictions: that Americans would be greeted as liberators in Iraq and that the insurgency (some 15 months ago) was in its "last throes."

    The other instant tip-off to a Cheney lie is any variation on the phrase "I haven't read the story." He told Tim Russert he hadn't read The Washington Post's front-page report that the bin Laden trail had gone "stone cold" or the new Senate Intelligence Committee report(PDF) contradicting the White House's prewar hype about nonexistent links between Al Qaeda and Saddam. Nor had he read a Times front-page article about his declining clout. Or the finding by Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency just before the war that there was "no evidence of resumed nuclear activities" in Iraq. "I haven't looked at it; I'd have to go back and look at it again," he said, however nonsensically.

    These verbal tics are so consistent that they amount to truth in packaging - albeit the packaging of evasions and falsehoods. By contrast, Condi Rice's fictions, also offered in bulk to television viewers to memorialize 9/11, are as knotty as a David Lynch screenplay. Asked by Chris Wallace of Fox News last Sunday if she and the president had ignored prewar "intelligence that contradicted your case," she refused to give up the ghost: "We know that Zarqawi was running a poisons network in Iraq," she insisted, as she continued to state again that "there were ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda" before the war.

    Ms. Rice may be a terrific amateur concert pianist, but she's an even better amateur actress. The Senate Intelligence Committee report released only two days before she spoke dismissed all such ties. Saddam, who "issued a general order that Iraq should not deal with Al Qaeda," saw both bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as threats and tried to hunt down Zarqawi when he passed through Baghdad in 2002. As for that Zarqawi "poisons network," the Pentagon knew where it was and wanted to attack it in June 2002. But as Jim Miklaszewski of NBC News reported more than two years ago, the White House said no, fearing a successful strike against Zarqawi might "undercut its case for going to war against Saddam." Zarqawi, meanwhile, escaped.

    It was in an interview with Ted Koppel for the Discovery Channel, though, that Ms. Rice rose to a whole new level of fictionalizing by wrapping a fresh layer of untruth around her most notorious previous fiction. Asked about her dire prewar warning that a smoking gun might come in the form of a mushroom cloud, she said that "it wasn't meant as hyperbole." She also rewrote history to imply that she had been talking broadly about the nexus between "terrorism and a nuclear device" back then, not specifically Saddam - a rather deft verbal sleight-of-hand.

    Ms. Rice sets a high bar, but Mr. Bush, competitive as always, was not to be outdone in his Oval Office address. Even the billing of his appearance was fiction. "It's not going to be a political speech," Tony Snow announced, knowing full well that the 17-minute text was largely Cuisinarted scraps from other recent political speeches, including those at campaign fund-raisers. Moldy canards of yore (Saddam "was a clear threat") were interspersed with promising newcomers: Iraq will be "a strong ally in the war on terror." As is often the case, the president was technically truthful. Iraq will be a strong ally in the war on terror - just not necessarily our ally. As Mr. Bush spoke, the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, was leaving for Iran to jolly up Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    Perhaps the only way to strike back against this fresh deluge of fiction is to call the White House's bluff. On Monday night, for instance, Mr. Bush flatly declared that "the safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad." He once again invoked Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, asking, "Do we have the confidence to do in the Middle East what our fathers and grandfathers accomplished in Europe and Asia?"

    Rather than tune this bluster out, as the country now does, let's try a thought experiment. Let's pretend everything Mr. Bush said is actually true and then hold him to his word. If the safety of America really depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad, then our safety is in grave peril because we are losing that battle. The security crackdown announced with great fanfare by Mr. Bush and Mr. Maliki in June is failing. Rosy American claims of dramatically falling murder rates are being challenged by the Baghdad morgue. Perhaps most tellingly, the Pentagon has nowstopped including in its own tally the large numbers of victims killed by car bombings and mortar attacks in sectarian warfare.

    And that's the good news. Another large slice of Iraq, Anbar Province (almost a third of the country), is slipping away so fast that a senior military official told NBC News last week that 50,000 to 60,000 additional ground forces were needed to secure it, despite our huge sacrifice in two savage battles for Falluja. The Iraqi troops "standing up" in Anbar are deserting at a rate as high as 40 percent.

    "Even the most sanguine optimist cannot yet conclude we are winning," John Lehman, the former Reagan Navy secretary, wrote of the Iraq war last month. So what do we do next? Given that the current course is a fiasco, and that the White House demonizes any plan or timetable for eventual withdrawal as "cut and run," there's only one immediate alternative: add more manpower, and fast. Last week two conservative war supporters, William Kristol and Rich Lowry, called for exactly that - "substantially more troops." These pundits at least have the courage of Mr. Bush's convictions. Shouldn't Republicans in Congress as well?

    After all, if what the president says is true about the stakes in Baghdad, it's tantamount to treason if Bill Frist, Rick Santorum and John Boehner fail to rally their party's Congressional majority to stave off defeat there. We can't emulate our fathers and grandfathers and whip today's Nazis and Communists with 145,000 troops. Roosevelt and Truman would have regarded those troop levels as defeatism.

    The trouble, of course, is that we don't have any more troops, and supporters of the war, starting with Mr. Bush, don't want to ask American voters to make any sacrifices to provide them. They don't want to ask because they know the voters will tell them no. In the end, that is the hard truth the White House is determined to obscure, at least until Election Day, by carpet-bombing America with still more fictions about Iraq.


Book Cover

The adirondack boat -

Today I learned about the adirondack boat.   Our accountant and his wife inherited one, and have been going to out of the way lakes and exploring.  He sits backward and rows, so he is facing her, and she paddles, and they each see different things and point them out to each other, and talk.  He says there is peace and quiet in CA.   There are quiet lakes.  Check out the boat at:

and consider a peaceful trip.