Monday, August 30, 2010


I still cannot make up my mind how I feel about that bloody mosque in NYC.

My constitutional, liberal (small L - and very happy to be called liberal in that sense - socially liberal), side says - hey! Freedom of religion is their (our) right and it's just fear and perhaps a bit of biggotry on my part that makes me want to oppose it. The fact that it offends me is not an argument of any validity. In fact it is a damned good reason to be very careful about opposing this building. The last thing I want to to sound like those bigoted Tea-party hate-mongers you hear on AM radio. But the proud America-loving side of me remembers those terrible images of 9-11, and it makes me afraid, and also make me think of what I would do if a British or US person, let's say a catholic or a Jew, hijacked a plane full of innocent people, cut the throats of the pilots and flew it into the business center of Rhyad, And then the catholic/jewish community wanted to build a church/synagogue two blocks from teh site. What would I think? I would think that they are murderous psychopathic lunatics to have done it in the first place, and that the people who wanted to build the church/synagogue need their heads (and hearts) examined because it it preposterously offensive and provocative. Would I oppose it. Certainly. Yes. It is an intentionally offensive and provocative gesture, and calling it to Cordova center - with all the meaning of that word - is utterly outrageous.

I do not expect a clear answer from anyone, but it's driving me crazy, not knowing whether I am loosing my sense of compassion or just being a reasonable sensible person seeing a threat where there is one.

Anyway, here is a very interesting article with some fascinating statistics such as 40% of Muslims want Sharia law in the UK.

Hope you all have a good week.

Adam (still confused!)

Adam,understand your ambiguity about the Mosque scene. Because of the radical nature of, at least by one estimate, 5 million Muslims, we find ourselves in a box. For those of us who want to be open about things, this is very hard. The best example I know is this: if a Christian, to include right wing fundamentalists, try to convert the non believer and the person says, "get lost". The evangelical/fundamentalist (and, they are not always the same) will say, "I'm praying for you" or leave you some literature. The radical Muslim will try to kill you. This is not extreme, based on evidence obviously.

I would not worry about it although I think as a country, the UK should. America is a big country and we can absorb a lot of people but the UK cannot. My belief. To be perfectly honest, philosophically, I think I like the French approach.

They changed the name of the mosque from "Cordoba" to something else out of respect for the sensitivity of those opposed to the mosque's building at the proposed site. So that is a non-issue now. As for your other examples, an entire religion cannot be shunned, vilified or made illegitimate by the acts of a small number of for your fear of a muslim takeover and the instilling of Sharia as the law of the land, I have to think that it is paranoia.....I believe that Britain should enforce quotas on emigres from Muslim countries, as well as the U.S. should, to protect against allowing the population to reach a point where that would become an existential threat......Britain should now somehow find a way to enforce assimilation on the mulims currently within their borders......and the laws as they exist now should and would deal with those horrific acts which are sanctioned under Sharia but are totally illegal and prosecutable under British law. Those convicted of breaking the law in the name of Sharia should be sent back to their country of origin after they have served their time for their unlawful acts......This should have a chilling effect on those who woud advocate the practice of Sharia over the law of the land. That would be a perfectly permissable way of weeding out the extremists that you now fear......Take a deep breath Adam.....What you fear can be controlled .....and there will be a general will to do so ..... Sam D.

I want to stay around the center - socially liberal, fiscally conservative, and realistic, but continually positive and hopeful. I do not have great faith in the masses, but I like the individuals. It does not mean I do not believe in a society, but I think that en-mass many people tend to take the path of least resistance and need to be encourages to be pretty lazy and feckless. There are plenty of individual exceptions of course. Immo seems to think that the path to fairness is a cradle to grave welfare state, and that's just not the American way. Safety net, yes. National health, absolutely, yes. But allowing people (and corporations!) to be life-long recipients of welfare is not sustainable given our shrinking tax payer population.

You are right about the US. it still has room for people to build and grow and be free. The UK is a lovely country but we are like rats in a cage - all squashed together. England has a population density of about 400 people per square km. (Scotland and Wales are much lower). USA: 33 average. NH: 56. CA: 90 per sq Km. Mongolia has about 3 ! It makes a big difference when a person can go to Ohio, buy or rent a perfectly nice house in the suburbs, and support his family. That is almost impossible in the UK.

France has 99 people per square km and thay have a strong sense of beinf French. They are pretty liberal, but first and foremost, you are French. That's the rule. And it seems to work. They have the North African issue, which is tricky, but most of those guys just want to be french!


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chaplains and MARINES

Here's a good one. I know you guys are right on the edge of your seat. I'm up at UC yesterday to drive this patient who is still taking chemo so I am waiting at the Infusion Center. I start talking to this lady and she says, "I understand you are a Priest." Before I could say anything, she said, "Father Jerry, I have met a great priest here and am going to mass everyday." I am looking for an opening to tell her that I'm not a priest. She keeps talking. She is from San Diego but came here at the rec of her doctor as he thought this was best Treatment Center in the country. She made her Mom a special rosary out of pearls. She is going to make the Priest one but he believes all rosaries should be black. It is her birthday. She is sixty. Very attractive but emotionally has the look of all breast cancer victims: "a deer caught in the headlights."

I finally decide that I have to confess. I tell her that I am not a Priest but a Presbyterian and am sorry we went on for so long but she was telling good stories. We laughed. She wanted to know if she could still call me "Father Jerry." Of course. I launched into a war story: "in Vietnam, guys would come to me all the time and want me to hear their confession. I would say to them that I am not a Priest. It would be like they didn't hear me, made no difference. I can't tell you the numbers of times I heard confession.

I have a confession to make. I know you're not a priest, but you're the closest to one that I know. My confession: I agree with this quote from a chaplain!

"You cannot exaggerate about the Marines. They are convinced to the point of
arrogance, that they are the most ferocious fighters on earth- and the
amusing thing about it is that they are."
Father Kevin Keaney, 1st MarDiv Chaplain, Korean War

The Marines are the last vestige of true discipline in our society. And, I am fan. PBS had a big special on the Marines Sunday night. It was like an hour and a half commercial. There is a young segment in our society looking for a challenge and the Marines are providing it. HooAhhhhhhhhhhh

POT! Stories Too Good To Keep To Ourselves

Listening to a news spot on TV concerning the mental health of our soldiers and especially the idea that a soldier could have two positive drug tests and still stay in the military, reminded me when I was a soldier in Germany during the early seventies. Soldiers were smoking hashish (stronger and purer pot) with great regularity and I didn't even know it. A couple of them recently told me and we had a laugh, especially how they would come to see me, go to church-feeling good. Then, we turned serious since both are outstanding citizens, (one, retired cop, now a PI; the other, an economics prof at Ohio State) The question I had for them: do all drug users start with marihuana. Answer from them, They think: YES!!!!

As Californians will soon vote whether to legalize or not is a big issue. To be honest, I haven't had much personal experience with pot. I tried a little in Vietnam but nothing. For one thing, I've never smoked and think you have to have been a smoker to be good at it. I was "Bill" as in Clinton, didn't inhale. Then a couple of dozen years ago, I ran into an old high school buddy and he was into it. I tried a puff. Nothing.

So after a healthy discussion with some of my buds, one was convinced that a "brownie" was the answer. Since my buddy was pro legalizing, his thinking, "if you just try it, realize it merely relaxes, you'll see the benefits." So, what the hell! So, here I am with this brownie. Let's just relax, take a little bite, it's not going to kill you. So, a little chunk. An hour or so, nothing. OK, here's another chunk, bigger one this time. I'm sitting on the couch, suddenly, my head begins to hurt, my ears are burning. I stumble to the bathroom. My ears are blood red. I make it back to the couch and pretend to watch TV. The TV looks a little blurry, maybe I just think it is. I seem a little nauseous, where is the relaxing. Maybe the brownie was tainted or bad or something. No, it came from a marihuana dispensary. This is weird. I'm really feeling weird. Maybe I should call 911. What am I going to tell them, "I had a brownie." Dang! The feelings finally passed. I never relaxed. I flushed the rest of it down the toilet. Well, I can tell you this: I KNOW HOW I'M GOING TO VOTE ON THE POT ISSUE.

Was that really your experience of something you forwarded?

It reminded me exactly of my own experience. But mine was worse. You know I'm totally socially liberal and would let anyone do anything so long as it does not harm other people. But in the case of legalizing pot I would vote NO, for two reasons.

Reason 1 - A couple of years ago when I lived on Funston ave, I went to a party that some of my gay friends were having. They are all very decent normal guys, people I know and like and respect. One of them had made pot brownies. Now, I am not into pot or any other drugs (unless you count beer and wine, which perhaps I should). I had tried all sorts of drugs when I was in high school, just to try. They seemed like a complete waste of time and money and none made me feel particularly happy or interested or excited (except LSD - and I stopped that immediately because I actually liked it and I could tell it was pretty wacky stuff). I was offered a pot brownie at this party. My reasoning was this.... I am an intelligent adult person with good self control. I am with people I trust. Now what is this thing?... It is pot and a brownie. The brownie part is fairly innocuous. OK. And as for the pot, well, it seems like every high school student in the US seems to be smoking the stuff all the time, so how bad can it be? I had a nibble. Nothing. I had some more. Nothing. It tasted good though. I just thought I was immune. So I finished the thing. About 30 minutes passed. Suddenly I felt dizzy and my eyesight and hearing were wobbly. Then I started to feel anxious. I was taken home by Stacy (who was living with me at the time). I drank some water and sat on the bed and then I knew I was feeling very anxious. Then scared. Then very scared. My heart was beating wildly. I was doing everything I could to be quiet and look normal. I tried to tell Stacy what was going on. I tried to tell her I was scared. I could either not talk or only a whisper came out. Apparently I looked very funny because I was sitting bolt upright in bed with my eyes wide open clearly trying to smile but just looking very worried. I new what I wanted to say but I could not make my mouth say the words. It was just like being in a nightmare where you need to move but you are paralyzed. I believed at the time that I had permanently damaged my brain, that I would be able to think like a normal person but that I was forever trapped in this body not being able to talk or communicate. It was absolutely TERRIFYING. I eventually was sick and projectile vomited all over the bathroom. I swear the next day there were green chunks of marijuana vomit all over the bathroom, on the walls and the ceiling. And it absolutely reeked of pot. The next day I was fine again. Just weak and shattered. It was a very frightening experience. Now, when your brain is swamped with unusual foreign chemicals that alter the way you perceive reality, subvert your ability to talk and even to reason, that's a pretty serious physiological event. It's not something that I feel I would ever want to experiment with again. The brain is a pretty tough piece of hardware, but it is not indestructible, and if you damage it enough it will not recover. The lethargy, paranoia, and inability to focus, concentrate, or truly be engaged in life that I see in habitual marijuana users is a powerful deterrent to me. And the experience I had makes me think that any brain, including mine, could be vulnerable.

Reason 2 - I used to live on Funston and Geary, just around the corner from a marajuana dispensary, next to the electronic music shop. I got to see the people who used marajuana. They were not old people with glaucoma or people going through chemo. They were almost 80% young punks in souped-up BMWs and kids in Escalades. None older than about 25 and all clearly disafected, agressive and insecure looking - clearly not nice people. Aaout 20% were just stoners, between 25 and 40. Just long term drug users. Hopeless flotsem and jetsom of society. I would see some of them sleeping in the buishes along Park Presidio. This is not the sort of character development we want to encourage.

I think this stuff should be illegal. It's bad for the people who use it. It's bad for society that has to deal with these people, and it enriches people who are parasites.


From your experience, pot would not have to be illegal.....people who would try it the way you did and experienced the same effects, would be" innoculated" from further use......and those who found pot to be enjoyable would be able to do so without penalty.... so far, I have not heard of even ONE DEATH from the use of pot.....but we have heard of many deaths attributable to other legal drugs like alcohol...... Accordingly, pot should be legalized......

Afghanistan and Vietnam: Sorry Wars

"We will continue to face huge challenges in Afghanistan, but it's important that the American people know that we are making progress and we are focused on goals that are clear and achievable." The President

What American people is he talking about? I would say, "the American people who care." Here's one who cares and I trust his comments.

I've been to Afghanistan more than 35 times; mostly in secure areas but on the borders a few times. It is all tribal in the worst sense of the word. 85% can't even read or write. However, we have done more for women in these years than ever before and from what I understand, except for the Taliban, the fathers in the villages want their daughters to be educated. If we stay it will be a 25 year odyssey, a generation of struggle. The whole country and Pakistan too in these areas lives in the 10th century.

The latest "Time" is pretty dismal about the prospects for women in Afghanistan if we leave. I don't think we should leave,relatively speaking, just get the conventional forces out of there. Leave Special Ops. We've got drones, protect the population centers and just keep fighting the Taliban. And give the women a chance.

I doubt it can happen because our political system won't allow it. Think Vietnam. In Vietnam, the South at least had the semblance of a legitimate democratic government. But , we couldn't see it through and who knows, as it has worked out, maybe the best thing. I don't see that in Afghanistan. For instance, in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh only had nationalism as his goal. In Afghanistan, we don't know what the hell is Karzai's agenda, his brother, tribes, clans: who is on who's side. It is a colossal mess as we have tried to make sense of it. We can't!

At the very least we ought to allow for a very liberal immigration program for women. The picture of the 18 year old on the cover of Time is pretty disturbing. To give the country back to a ruthless, ignorant bunch of fanatics mired in the 15th Century or earlier, is unthinkable. And, now we have had 10 Aid Workers killed by the Taliban. We don't know the circumstances yet but whatever they are, such a loss.


Even if it doesn't teach anything: think Iraq and Afghanistan.

It was on this day in 1964 during a speech in Congress that Senator Ernest Gruening of Alaska said, "All Vietnam is not worth the life of a single American boy."

Senator Gruening gave an impassioned plea before the House on this day, urging them to oppose further escalation. But the next day, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, authorizing expanded military action in Vietnam. Ernest Gruening was one of only two senators to oppose the resolution; the other one was Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon.


I'm heading South, to the land of Huey Long, aka The Kingfish! I'll be eating oysters, shrimp po'boys, and pecan pie, might even try some white lightnin'. New Orleans will be hotter than a $20 pistol on Saturday night and the humidity will make a gator wilt. We're leavin' Thurs early am. Thanks to United's great service, we're flyin' thru LAX,changing planes, arr. NOLA midafternoon. Jan and Lauren will be doing wedding dresses, deciding,etc,etc.
Capt will be visiting folks, Austin's kin folks,etc. I'll be jogging only in the early am. I haven't found a swimming pool yet in all of NOLA, and that's after 11 years of looking, no less. So much for a healthy city. No wonder everybody is 50lbs. over the limit.
I'll ret. Monday, but, won't make breakfast until WEdnesday.
Y'all take care, say a prayer for the late Senator from Alaska, Ted Stevens, lost in a small plane crash on the way to a fishing lodge with a few pals. Not easy in bad weather, as we know.
Got a call today from an old USMC classmate from OCS. He's published a book telling the story of all our classmates who were KIA in RVN: 42 out of about 400 who served there. He researched all the records and it seems to be a creditable job as a tribute to those who didn't return. One of our class who is in the group was an Australian citizen, born an raised. Seems he was the most difficult to profile, not much family. He was shot down and MIA. He told me a story that cleared up a mystery: on Christmas night, '67, our company hit the bush to look for a missing Marine Pfc. who didn't return from a night patrol w/ his squad. Evidently he was captured and held a prisoner in Cambodia only to die there 2 years later! Sad. That was a long night for us, in the rain, in the paddies, in the dark: Vietnam.
See you soon,

TRIP TO North Carolina

Thought you guys might like this. The South is still the South but what the hay. The best example of the overt difference of the the trip yesterday on the way from NC to Spartanburg, SC. I went through a stretch where I took a little toll road. I was handing my buck to the little blond toll taker and she said in that sweet syrupy southern voice, "Thank you very much. We appreciate it." This has lost a little in translation but imagine the GG or Bay Bridge toll taker. We are talking the finger. God bless and God bless "'Merica."