Wednesday, December 9, 2009

3,400 NY soldiers heading to Afghanistan

Fort Drum soldiers will go in first wave

Updated: Monday, 07 Dec 2009, 6:31 PM EST
Published : Monday, 07 Dec 2009, 6:31 PM EST

WASHINGTON D.C. - The first wave of President Barack Obama's new Afghanistan surge will add about 16,000 U.S. troops who got their orders over the past few days, the Pentagon announced Monday.

About 1,500 Marines from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina will leave for Afghanistan later this month, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters. He would not be precise about when those troops arrive, but military sources have said the first forces are expected on the ground by Christmas.

After the first of the year, the Marines begin sending another 6,200 from Lejeune, Whitman said, and 800 from Camp Pendleton in California.

The Army will also begin sending in the first of its forces - a training brigade from Fort Drum with about 3,400 members. Whitman said about 4,100 support forces from various places will also deploy early next year.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates signed the deployment orders last week. They cover a little more than half the 30,000 additional troops approved by Obama as part of an overhauled war plan announced last week.

The overhaul followed three months of deliberations about whether and how much to expand on an already record U.S. fighting force of about 70,000.

Not covered in Monday's announcement are the expected deployments of two Army brigades from Fort Campbell in Kentucky. Those and additional training or support units are expected to be announced in a second wave of orders in the coming weeks.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was visiting Fort Campbell and Camp Lejeune on Monday to speak to troops expected to deploy as part of the new strategy.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New Carol by Bill Ward

This is a lovely Christmas song with a slide show of paintings of angels and the Nativity. Bill Ward and the Doerfels perform one of Bill's compositions, The Angels Said It True. This is a cut from the CD ,The Christmas Sessions, which is already on sale on CD Baby. Proceeds from each purchase will help benefit Project Chacocente, an organization which exists to help the extremely poor in Nicaragua. Buy this CD:

The Christmas Sessions, a recording released last year by Bill Ward and the Doerfels, will be featured as a live performance at a series of specials throughout WNY this holiday season. The project features all original Christmas songs written by Ward, and was recorded by him and the popular touring family band last winter. The specials will performed live this season by Ward, a veteran Western New York singer/song-writer, and two other well-known area performers.

While the Doerfels won't be there in person, Ward has enlisted the help of Amanda Barton and Matt Homan to present at least three performances prior to Christmas. The CD is already on sale, and proceeds from each purchase will help benefit Project Chacocente, an organization which exists to help the extremely poor in Nicaragua. The recording will also be available at the concerts.

Ward is a respected Chautauqua artist, having performed throughout the country for nearly four decades. A community developer and promoter, he founded and organizes the Mayville Bluegrass Festival, and was recognized by the Chautauqua County Music Hall of Fame as Promoter of the Year in 2007. It was that same year that he was inducted in the Hall.

Homan is a relative newcomer to the WNY music scene, but has made an impact. Forming the Haybalers in 2006, he quickly became a mover and shaker in the local acoustic music scene. He is now the leader of the Bluegrass Disciples, a virtual 'who's who' of WNY bluegrass musicians.

Barton is, at her young age, the reigning queen of Southern Tier acoustic music. Her sweet, smoky vocals and touch-perfect fiddle playing with groups like Big Leg Emma, the Steve Johnson Band, and now her own band, Zamira, have long been a favorite of many, many fans.

The Christmas Sessions performances will be held at the following locations:

Nov. 29 - Busti Federated Church, 6:30 p.m.

Dec. 2 - Hurlbut Memorial Community Church Vespers, Chautauqua, 6 p.m.

Dec. 6 - Christ First Church, Jamestown, 6:30 p.m.

For more information on the recording or performance locations, visit or call 753-2800. To learn about Project Chacocente, visit

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Truth About Unfermented Soy and Its Harmful Effects

(NaturalNews) With vegetarianism gaining increasing popularity from the 1970's, reaching its peak in the 1990's, soy has emerged as a 'near perfect' food, with supporters claiming it can provide an ideal source of protein, lower cholesterol, protect against cancer and heart disease, reduce menopausal symptoms, and prevent osteoporosis - among many other things. It seems like a good thing - or is it really?
How did such a 'healthy food' emerge from a product that in 1913 was listed in the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) handbook not as a food but as an industrial product?

According to lipid specialist and nutritionist Mary Enig, PhD, "The reason there's so much soy in America is because the soy industry started to plant soy to extract the oil from it and soy oil became a very large industry." There was a lot of soy oil and with it came a lot of soy protein residue as a left over by-product, and since they couldn't feed it to the animals, except in small amounts, they had to find another big market which, of course, was human consumption.

This excess soy production and its protein residue was the motivation for the multi-million dollars spent on advertising and intense lobbying of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which resulted in about 74 percent of U.S. consumers believing that soy products are healthy. Australia has traditionally prided itself as being a dairy consuming nation, due to the fact that we have such abundant supply of cattle. However, lactose intolerance is becoming a health concern recognised by the medical profession; accordingly, soy is becoming very popular as an alternative to dairy, following in the footsteps of US consumers in believing that all soy-based products have health benefits. In reality, the research that has concluded that all soy products are healthy is far from accurate, and very much skewed by economic motives.

Let's examine why soy products are far from healthy:

For greater clarity, soy products are classified into two main groups: fermented and unfermented. There are also another two sub-groups: organic and Genetically Modified (GM). The GM soy is to be avoided at all costs, as the hazards of GM are some of the worst innovations of modern day bio-technology. Not only are all GM products unhealthy to humans and animals but also to the normal plants that grow in the surrounding area, due to the natural process of winds causing cross-pollination, resulting in mutated species of what were once natural variations of plants. This topic is too vast to cover in this article but for more research, visit ( .

The unfermented soy category is a most problematic one. It includes soy products, such as tofu, bean curd, all soy milks, soy infant formulae, soy protein powders and soy meat alternatives, such as soy sausages/veggie burgers, made from hydrolysed soy powder.

So what is wrong with unfermented soy products?

Soy belongs to the family of legumes. Other members of the legume family include beans - such as adzuki, red kidney, navy, barlotti, etc., as well as chickpeas. Peanuts are included as well, as they are technically not a nut but a legume. All legumes and whole-grains - such as, rice, barley, oats, wheat and rye - contain amounts of phytic acid. Being a legume, soy contains a high amount of phytic acid. So, what's wrong with phytic acid? A number of things - yet, in some cases, phytic acid can also be beneficial.

Phytic acid's structure gives it the ability to bind minerals, proteins and starch, and results in lower absorption of these substances. Hence, phytic acid, in large amounts, can block the uptake of essential minerals, like calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and especially zinc in the intestinal tract. Soy also inhibits the uptake of one of the most important minerals needed for growth and metabolism, iodine, which is used by the thyroid gland in the production of thyroid hormones.
However, for non-vegetarian men, phytic acid may prove to be quite helpful, due to its binding/chelating ability with minerals.

Since a large percentage of non-vegetarian adult males have excess iron, phytic acid would be helpful to them by binding the excess iron. But we need to bear in mind phytic acid will simultaneously bind other minerals, such as calcium, magnesium and zinc. In the case of children and menstruating women, the phytic acid in soy can be a serious negative, as women and children need iron. In women, iron is needed to replace the loss during their menses and in children iron is required for growth and development.

Apart from the phytic acid-related phenomena, there are additional factors that make soy an unhealthy choice.


* contributes to thyroid disorder, especially in women

* promotes kidney stones

* weakens the immune system

* contributes to food allergies and digestive intolerance

Perhaps the most disturbing of soy's ill effects on health has to do with its phytoestrogens, which can mimic the effects of the female hormone, oestrogen. These phytoestrogens have been found to have adverse effects on various human tissues, and drinking only two glasses of soy milk daily for one month has enough of the chemical to alter a woman's menstrual cycle.

Soy is particularly problematic for infants and it would be very wise to avoid giving them soy-derived products, since it has been estimated that infants who are exclusively fed soy formula receive the equivalent of five birth control pills worth of oestrogen every day. Check out ( to find some alarming research and statistics on what can go wrong when infants and children are regularly fed soy formula.

In order to derive some benefit from soy, consuming only fermented soy products - such as organic miso (mugi barley and genmai miso are the best), organic tempeh, soy sauce or tamari and natto - is the way to do it. This is because the phytic acid, which is inherent in soy beans, has been neutralized in the process of fermentation. Consuming fermented soy is very beneficial in recolonizing the friendly bacteria in the large intestine, which neutralizes the 'unfriendly' bacteria and allows for greater general assimilation of foods and nutrients.

So, fermented soy is of benefit and unfermented soy is not. It is not only soy that needs to be fermented but whole-grains as well. In fact, grains (apart from millet, buckwheat and couscous) and legumes are best consumed after soaking them for 48-72 hours prior to cooking, which allows fermentation to take place. The soaking of grains and beans is also advocated in the principles of macrobiotics, which is very popular amongst vegetarians. Yet many vegetarian restaurants do not have time or forget to incorporate this very important process in their vegetarian cooking and thus people who regularly eat out at vegetarian restaurants might develop severe mineral deficiencies due to the large consumption of phytic acid in their diet.

Another common fallacy is that soy foods couldn't possibly have a downside because Asian cultures eat large quantities of soy every day and consequently remain free of most western diseases. In reality, the people of China, Japan and other Asian countries eat very little soy. The soy industry's own figures show that soy consumption in China, Indonesia, Korea, Japan and Taiwan ranges from 10 to 90 grams per day. That is grams of soy food, not grams of soy protein alone. Compare this with a cup of tofu (250 grams) or soy milk (240 grams). Many Americans and Australians today would be consuming a cup of tofu and a couple of glasses of soy milk every day. They might also add veggie burgers to this, thinking they are getting their much needed protein intake. Infants on soy formula are probably the most disadvantaged, as that is their main source of nutrition and they ingest large amounts of soy relative to their body weight. Often the side effects are not noticed but, as they are growing up, runny noses, frequent colds, irritability, severe sugar cravings and food intolerance develop.

The summary below outlines the adverse effects of unfermented soy products:

* Trypsin inhibitors in soy interfere with protein digestion and may cause pancreatic disorders. In test animals soy containing trypsin inhibitors caused stunted growth.

* Soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and to promote breast cancer in adult women.

* Soy phytoestrogens are potent anti-thyroid agents that cause hypothyroidism and may cause thyroid cancer. In infants, consumption of soy formula has been linked to autoimmune thyroid disease.
Vitamin B12 analogs in soy are not absorbed and actually increase the body's requirement for B12.
Soy foods increase the body's requirement for vitamin D.

* Fragile proteins are denatured during high temperature processing to make soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein.

* Free glutamic acid or MSG, a potent neurotoxin, is formed during soy food processing and additional amounts are added to many soy foods.

* Soy foods contain high levels of aluminum which is toxic to the nervous system and the kidneys.
Source: (

In contrast, consuming organic fermented soy products is quite beneficial. Consuming even small amounts of unfermented soy on a regular basis could cause some adverse effects in our body. Next time you consider drinking soy milk; perhaps instead consider oat milk, coconut milk or goat's milk. Some people who are allergic to dairy can tolerate goat milk and goat cheese products in small quantities. Replacing soy and regular milk with these alternatives allow us to enjoy our beverages and cereals without harming our health.




Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America's Favourite Health Food by Kaayla Daniel (

Monday, November 23, 2009

Trump halts dealings with Menie resident

Michael Forbes is a vocal objector to the Trump venture

The Trump organisation has said it will have no further dealings with one of the property owners refusing to sell up to make way for a £1bn golf resort.

The move to sever links with Aberdeenshire resident Michael Forbes comes after a personal attack on him by Donald Trump.

Mr Forbes lives on the Menie Estate where the resort is due to be built.

Mr Trump, from his offices in New York, said Mr Forbes was a "loser" who was damaging the image of Scotland.

The attack came after Mr Forbes' mother, Molly Forbes, launched a legal challenge in a bid to stop the building of the golf course on her land.

The 84-year-old said she was seeking an interim interdict over the decision to grant planning permission for five pockets of land not owned by Mr Trump's company.

'Personal vendetta'

Papers lodged with the court claim Aberdeenshire Council did not determine the planning applications correctly, and that Trump Golf Links Scotland did not give enough information about why it now needed the land.

But Mr Trump said the claims were "misguided" and not based on fact.

He went on to accuse Mr Forbes of exploiting his elderly mother to further his cause.

Donald Trump Jnr oversaw the initial work on the estate

In a statement he said: "It is tragic that an elderly woman is being exploited to further the personal vendetta of Michael Forbes and his few supporters.

"He [Mr Forbes] is a loser who is seriously damaging the image of both Aberdeenshire and his great country."

He added: "We will not be distracted by the rants of the local village idiot and intend to vigorously defend any challenge to our project."

But Mrs Forbes said that Aberdeenshire Council had rushed to allow the project to go ahead and it had "grievously let down local residents".

She added that she would not be giving up her battle and she urged both the council and the Trump empire to think again about going ahead with the project.

Mrs Forbes is being represented by the Environmental Law Centre Scotland, a charity offering legal advice and help on environmental matters.

Everyone should watch this!!!!!

RReviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls

by Mary Pipher

Dr. Mary Pipher is a clinical psychologist and best-selling author. Dr. Pipher's work combines her training in both the fields of psychology and anthropology, examining how American culture influences the mental health of its people. She has received two American Psychological Association Presidential Citations. Dr. Pipher has appeared on the Today Show, 20/20, The Charlie Rose Show, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and National Public Radio's Fresh Air.

This is the groundbreaking work that poses one of the most provocative questions of a generation: Why are American adolescent girls falling prey to depression, eating disorders, suicide attempts, and dangerously low self-esteem? Dr. Pipher posits that it's America's sexist, look-obsessed "girl-poisoning" culture-one in which girls are constantly struggling to find their true selves. In Reviving Ophelia, these girls' uncensored voices are heard from the front lines of adolescence. Personal and painfully honest, this is a compassionate call to arms, offering strategies with which to revive these Ophelias' lost senses of self.

A therapist who has worked extensively with young girls reveals firsthand evidence of the damage that can be caused by growing up in a "girl-poisoning culture, " raises a call to arms, and offers parents compassion and strategies for survival. A perfect book to commemorate "Take Your Daughter to Work Day."
Publishers Weekly

From her work as a psychotherapist for adolescent females, Pipher here posits and persuasively argues her thesis that today's teenaged girls are coming of age in ``a girl-poisoning culture.'' Backed by anecdotal evidence and research findings, she suggests that, despite the advances of feminism, young women continue to be victims of abuse, self-mutilation (e.g., anorexia), consumerism and media pressure to conform to others' ideals. With sympathy and focus she cites case histories to illustrate the struggles required of adolescent girls to maintain a sense of themselves among the mixed messages they receive from society, their schools and, often, their families. Pipher offers concrete suggestions for ways by which girls can build and maintain a strong sense of self, e.g., keeping a diary, observing their social context as an anthropologist might, distinguishing between thoughts and feelings. Pipher is an eloquent advocate.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

License Plate Tracking for All

Luke O'Brien 07.25.06
Two Civica cameras crown a Los Angeles Police Department cruiser rigged to read license plates. An infrared camera records license plates with a strobe that flashes passing cars. A digital camera grabs images of the surrounding environment to use in investigations. The equipment helps police find stolen cars and catch wanted persons.

WASHINGTON -- Jealous lovers may soon have an alternative to sniffing for perfume to catch a cheating mate: Just follow their license plate.

In recent years, police around the country have started to use powerful infrared cameras to read plates and catch carjackers and ticket scofflaws. But the technology will soon migrate into the private sector, and morph into a tool for tracking individual motorists' movements, says former policeman Andy Bucholz, who's on the board of Virginia-based G2 Tactics, a manufacturer of the technology.

Bucholz, who designed some of the first mobile license plate reading, or LPR, equipment, gave a presentation at the 2006 National Institute of Justice conference here last week laying out a vision of the future in which LPR does everything from helping insurance companies find missing cars to letting retail chains chart customer migrations. It could also let a nosy citizen with enough cash find out if the mayor is having an affair, he says.

Giant data-tracking firms such as ChoicePoint, Accurint and Acxiom already collect detailed personal and financial information on millions of Americans. Once they discover how lucrative it is to know where a person goes between the supermarket, for example, and the strip club, the LPR industry could explode, says Bucholz.

Private detectives would want the information. So would repo men or bail bondsmen. And the government, which often contracts out personal data collection -- in part, so it doesn't have to deal with Freedom of Information Act requests -- might encourage it.

"I know it sounds really Big Brother," Bucholz says. "But it's going to happen. It's going to get cheaper and cheaper until they slap them up on every taxicab and delivery truck and track where people live." And work. And sleep. And move.

Privacy advocates worry that Bucholz, who wants to sell LPR data to consumer data brokers like ChoicePoint, knows what he's talking about.

"We have pretty much a Wild West society when it comes to privacy rights," says Jay Stanley, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union. "The overall lesson here is that we really need to put in place some broad-based privacy laws. We need to establish basic ground rules for how these new capabilities are constrained."

Current laws don't constrain much. Just as it's legal for the paparazzi to take pictures of celebrities in public, it's legal for anyone to photograph your license plate on the street. Still, there aren't enough LPR units in service yet to follow your car everywhere.

The systems, which cost around $25,000 and are made by G2 Tactics, Civica, AutoVu and Remington Elsag Law Enforcement Systems, among others, have been sold mostly to major police departments around the country.

Police in cities such as Los Angeles use them to hunt down stolen cars and felony vehicles like getaway cars. And parking-enforcement officers use LPR to collect money -- lots of it. In the first 12 hours after New Haven, Connecticut, deployed a G2 Tactics LPR to crack down on parking violations, the city towed or booted 119 cars, resulting in a $40,000 windfall, according to Bucholz.

LPR cameras, which are usually around the size of a can of tomato sauce, can be mounted on police cruisers and powered by cigarette lighters. As the car moves, the camera bounces infrared light off other vehicles' license plates. The camera reads the plates and feeds them to a laptop in real time, where information from an FBI or local database can tell an officer if the car is hot. Some systems can read up to 60 plates per second, and they work at highway speeds and acute angles.

The next step is connecting the technology to databases that will tell cops whether a sexual offender has failed to register in the state or is loitering too close to a school, or whether a driver has an outstanding warrant. It could also snag you if you're uninsured, if your license expired last week or even if your library books are overdue.

The subway has never looked more appealing.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Bittergate: The Untold Story of the 2008 Campaign
by Mayhill Fowler

Yesterday I read David Plouffe's book and was struck by a sentence in his explanation of Bittergate -- Barack Obama's notorious campaign remark at a San Francisco fundraiser in early April, 2008, where he said that "bitter" Pennsylvania blue-collar voters "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them." Plouffe quotes Obama as telling him that, "I really don't know how the hell I constructed my point like that."

Well, I know how the hell he did it. In fact, it actually makes perfect sense. It is the untold story of Bittergate. Obama's remark was and still is one of the biggest stories of that historic Presidential run. It is also still one of the least understood. Though I was the first to report on his comments in my Levittown post, here on HuffPost as a citizen journalist following the candidates and covering the campaign trail, it was not until later that I fully understood the driving forces behind that statement. I don't think it was really an accident at all, but rather, that in his quick rise to power, Barack Obama did not have the chance to get to know his fellow Americans -- at least not the ones in Levittown, Pennsylvania.

I've given the full account in my upcoming e-book, Notes from a Clueless Journalist: Media, Bias and the Great Election of 2008, due out in January. The following is an excerpt, exclusive to HuffPost.
The Story of 'Bitter"

The night before Haverford, I was fidgeting in a Pennsylvania school gymnasium while waiting for Hillary Clinton and weeping over a dog. Senator Clinton, of all the candidates, brought out the pet-mania in a supporter. Canine attendance at her events was a phenomenon of the trail, and I had begun to take photographs of the various dogs, all wearing Hillary regalia, many squeezed into little Hillary costumes. On the evening of Monday, April 14, however, I realized that this penchant signaled more than enthusiasm. It was a sign that here sat a room full of losers--their loss magnified by their obliviousness to the reality that their candidate also was a loser. By April, despite Clinton victories in Texas and Ohio and a likely upcoming win in Pennsylvania, no one in the press, except for those prone to Super Delegate conspiracy theories, believed that Clinton would get the Democratic nomination.

But this was the time when Hillary Clinton, nourished perhaps by the respect she had received in the poor Hispanic communities of Texas, began to get her voice and a receptive audience--always now in a town's meaner streets and not, as only a season before, in the nation's professional enclaves, which had begun to drift into the Obama camp. Here filling the gym risers at the Bristol Borough Junior-Senior High School, listening to John Mellencamp's "Small Town" and chanting Hillary-Hillary-Hillary! were the working class folk who would stick with her until the end in South Dakota because she, more than any other candidate in decades, was finding a way to speak to the many and varied losses in these Americans' lives.

This is retrospect. On that April weekday evening I did not make the connection between what I had seen in Texas and what I was beginning to hear in Hillary Clinton. I had no way of predicting South Dakota. But I knew I was looking at a gym full of losers whose bright cheer cast therefore the more garish glow. In that jaundiced reportorial frame of mind, sitting in the press compound at Bristol, desultorily I watched a woman shepherd a young man in a wheelchair onto the gym floor. Likely the young man, who had ALS, was her son. I watched a slow delight spread up these two faces, lifting to the Hillary fervor rising from the bleachers. Beside the wheelchair was a large but patient dog, tethered much more by the palpable spirit of expectation than by his leash. Contemplating the dog's jauntily-angled kerchief with its cheap silkscreening of Hillary's face, I began to tear up.

"Oh for Christ's sake, Mayhill," I said to myself, "get a grip." I could not believe I was losing it over a goddamn dog.

A man who looked vaguely familiar walked up and extended his hand. "You're Mayhill Fowler," he said. "I'm John Mullane of the Bucks County Courier Times. I like what you said about Pennsylvanians."

My first thought was vain--that he had recognized me from my original OffTheBus photo, in which my head seemed to sprout like a stalk of broccoli. Already Mullane was telling me a story, something about Barack Obama at Truman High School in Levittown, a five-minute drive from Bristol. Now I knew why Mullane looked familiar, for the previous week I had covered Obama's Levittown event, too.

Looking back, I can hardly believe I wrote about Levittown. A week ago that Monday I had posted Obama's musing on choosing a running mate. Tuesday I had flown East to resume covering the Pennsylvania primary. On the flight, I had decided to write more about his remarks, for a Friday posting. I understood that revealing the rest would be a blow, a serious blow, to his campaign, and yet on Wednesday I went to the town hall meeting in Levittown as if everything were business as usual. Even as I was resolved to keep writing about the campaigns, I was also in some state of denial. Who was that April woman? By now I have acquired too much of a reporter mindset ever again to do such a nutty thing: to cut a story in half--to suspend it in time, as it were--in order to think through a decision and meanwhile to carry on with work. Maybe that Mayhill was the real journalist. Maybe it is a paradox. But rereading my Levittown article for the first time since I wrote it (and I had forgotten I wrote it until I began researching post-November), I see that I was prescient about the political journey many Levittowners would make, if not about the immediate opportunity Barack Obama would have to focus on the distant horizon.

April 10, 2008. Barack Obama's town hall meeting in Levittown, PA, yesterday was, in the sphere of political conversation, the epilogue to Michael Sokolove's fine essay in the New York Times Sunday magazine blending a reminiscence of the changes in Levittown since his childhood there with an analysis of Obama's chances with Levittown voters. At a fundraiser in San Francisco Sunday night, Obama dismissed Sokolove's conclusion that blue collar Levittown might not be quite ready to vote for a black man. "People are misunderstanding the way the demographics in this contest are broken up the way they are. Because everybody just ascribes it to white working class don't want to vote for the black guy. There were intimations of this in an article in the Sunday New York Times today--kind of implies it's sort of a race thing. That's not what it is."

If that's not what it is--then what is it? For two hours, I talked to people waiting for the doors at Levittown's Harry S. Truman High School to open for the Obama event. The conversations would seem to support both Sokolove's and Obama's realistic appraisal that Levittown is not Obama Country. Obama's analysis of his cool reception from the working class is that it stems from a feeling of having been betrayed by government and subsequent cynicism. But it's precisely this cynicism that makes men like Ed and Frank, both Vietnam Veterans and union electricians, willing to take a flyer on Obama. In their estimation, Hillary and Bill Clinton are part of the world's wealthy ruling class that "knows exactly what they're doing but not telling us." Like many people in line--and indeed Americans everywhere--Ed and Frank aid that "we need somebody new."

Most of the Levittown town hall meeting crowd were older folk, and many of them were from New Jersey. It's only a 20-30 minute drive from Princeton to Levittown, so Princetoners have been working for Obama in and around Levittown and lower Bucks County. When I asked Afton, a pet shop owner in Princeton, if she thought Obama was right about Levittown and race, she replied, "He hasn't been on the canvass." Both she and her husband, who is determined to sell Obama on Rhodesian ridgebacks as the dogs of choice for his daughters, shook their heads. "A lot of white men are not voting for him here." Debbie, a former army brat and currently a worker for, concurred. "There's a lot of misinformation--Muslim, that he'll subvert the Pentagon." Debbie said that some of her neighbors had re-registered as Republicans just so they wouldn't have to vote for either Obama or Clinton.

Indeed larger Levittown itself seemed to be absent from the Levittown town hall meeting. The group that came out in force to see Obama were the local teachers, the people who hold communities like Levittown and its neighbor Bristol together. Many of these teachers were women and Clinton supporters who nevertheless wanted to hear Obama before finally making up their minds. Melissa, a teacher at Truman High, said that she was for Clinton because "men have messed up things too much." And, yes, "race and gender are not irrelevant" in Levittown, but "I hope we're not that shallow." Jo Ann, another local teacher, described herself as "an open-minded supporter of Hillary Clinton." She felt that Clinton had the most detailed plan to overhaul No Child Left Behind. When I pointed out that Clinton wants to "scrap" N.C.L.B. and that Obama wants to "overhaul" it, Jo Ann said she didn't see much difference, but that she'd be interested to hear what Obama had to say about education.

In the subsequent town hall meeting, Senator Obama did talk about education, as he always does, although for the Levittown and Bristol teachers he wasn't as detailed and specific, or as impassioned, as he can be on the need to improve education in America. He had arrived late at Truman High and was a bit rushed. This may have been one of those missed opportunities to which all campaigns, due to the rigors of the road, succumb. Having followed the Obama Campaign for almost a year, I have come to believe that education is the lodestar for the direction in which Obama wants to take us. The significant moment in Levittown yesterday was Obama's comment that we must be "willing to sacrifice on the behalf of future generations." As I've written before, the call to sacrifice has been a chord, at first muted, now louder, in Obama's speeches from the beginning. But Levittown was the first time I've heard him say anything more specific about that sacrifice--and the implications of "future generations" for a place like Levittown are many and not least in the field of education.

The one thing everybody waiting in line to hear Senator Obama agreed on is that change is in the air. Lower Bucks County is going Democrat (despite the neighbors who have re-registered as Republicans), Central Bucks County is going Democrat--all Bucks is going Democrat. The reality is that the white working class guys who won't vote for a black guy, or a woman, are getting old and slowly passing on. With the loss of manufacturing jobs, Levittown may be dying, but new and different towns are sprouting nearby. Everybody talked about the growing African-American communities and the million-dollar homes five minutes away. Lower Bucks County is becoming a bedroom community for people with good jobs in Manhattan, a 50-minute train ride. These commuters are, in a spiritual if not a literal sense, the children and grandchildren of the aging Levittowners, a more prosperous generation who have been able to afford bigger and better homes than those in the tracts of Levittown and Bristol Township. Perhaps someday, long after Barack Obama is President but as a consequence of his policies, a well-educated work force with twenty-first century jobs will appraise the beautiful bones of Levittown and Bristol with an eye to tearing down the old tract houses and building for a newer and greener world. Nothing lasts--everything passes away--change is inexorable. In the light of this paradoxically immutable truth, Barack Obama is right to focus in the distance, beyond racism in places like Levittown, lest he get mired in the here and now. ["Obama Courts Working Class through 'Future Generations"]

Much to do with John Mullane--a sentence from my Levittown post stands out. "He [Obama] had arrived late at Truman High and was a bit rushed." That was the crux of the story John Mullane told me less than a week later at the Clinton rally in Levittown. As is clear from Obama's remarks at the San Francisco fundraiser, he had that same Sunday, on the flight to San Francisco, been reading in the New York Times Sunday magazine Michael Sokolove's engrossing essay on returning to Levittown, where Sokolove had grown up, and finding the old working class community not particularly disposed to Obama. According to Mullane, after the town hall meeting in Levittown Obama had planned to stop by Gleason's Bar, where Sokolove had conversed with the locals. "Eight men sat around the bar, and not one of them supported Obama," Sokolove had written. Mullane said that in setting up the Gleason's stop the campaign staff had told the bar staff that Obama really wanted to talk to Steve Woods, the Gleason's habitué whose negativity had been particularly colorful. "Rapid fire, he told me the issues he cared about," Sokolove wrote. "'No. 1, gas prices. It's killing everybody. No. 2, immigrants. They should go back to Mexico. Three, guns. Everybody should have the right to bear arms. In fact, everyone should have a gun in this day and age,'" Woods had said. But, as is often the case with campaign schedules, Obama was running very late that Wednesday and never got the chance to swing by Gleason's Bar and meet Steve Woods.

"That's why Obama said what he did in San Francisco," Mullane told me. "He was thinking about Steve Woods. He'd just read about Woods in Sokolove's piece. Did you notice that Obama in San Francisco echoed both Woods and Sokolove?"

I had not noticed, but as Mullane ticked off the similarities, I agreed. Barfly Steve Woods had told Sokolove that two of his issues were immigrants and guns. In San Francisco, Obama had picked up on the words. Obama had also echoed Sokolove's succinct description of working class Levittown. "The cascade down the job ladder . . . is the sort of slide that makes a person . . . more prone to cling to the familiar," Sokolove had written. "Jobs have been gone now for twenty-five years and nothing's replaced them," Obama had said in a more loquacious rumination, reaching towards the now-famous conclusion: "It's not surprising then that they get bitter and they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment." Surely, the pejorative verb cling--the word that most offended many Americans--came from reading Michael Sokolove in the New York Times Sunday magazine.

Obama could not get Woods out of his head, Mullane suggested. "If Obama had gone to San Francisco after Levittown instead of before, and if he'd had the time to talk with Woods, he never would have said what he did."

Surely John Mullane had it. "You're right," I said. "He's like a college professor, trying to work out a problem by verbalizing a potential line of reasoning." Having known many professors, I was well aware of this tendency--one which non-academics often misunderstand. A common conclusion--a version of ridicule--is that professors often do not know their own minds or stand for much of anything. This is one reason our society at large does not have much respect for the profession. But politicians are not professors. We hold politicans to their words. And many Americans had not been pleased by Obama's comments, from wherever they sprang, about small-town Pennsylvanians.

As Mullane and I talked, I realized that this was the coda to my essay about Obama's remarks in San Francisco. This was a good story in its own right. But I knew I would not write it. I could not do it. With my life turned upside-down--the scrutinizer become the scrutinized--buffeted by suspicion and accusation, I turned away, feeling that any revisiting of the fundraiser story would be tainted by questioning of my motives in doing so. Indeed for the rest of the presidential race I carefully eschewed any use of the adjective "bitter." By that Monday evening in April, I suspected, furthermore, that if I did not write up John Mullane's conclusions, no one else would. The days when I assumed naively that someone in the mainstream media would get a particular story were long gone. In fact, John Mullane told me that he had called Michael Sokolove to point out the interesting connection, but that Sokolove had yet to follow up.

Monday, April 14, Bristol, Pennsylvania was a day I failed to commit the act of journalism. Even though my stepping forth to cover the presidential campaigns is in many ways so much more the story of my learning to be a journalist than it is of the great election of 2008, nevertheless there would be only three days between April and December when I presumed to think I was more than a pretender. Now I wonder if my failure to follow through on John Mullane's story is at heart the reason why--even thought at the time I had no full sense of its importance.

On June 30, 2008, John Mullane and I met again in Bucks County. At a McCain rally in Pipersville, Mullane reintroduced himself and again mentioned the Sokolove-Woods-Obama connection. "I wrote about it, you know," Mullane said, and I made a mental note to check out his piece, but at the time I was absorbed with the difficulties, as a citizen journalist, in transitioning to the daunting hurdles in covering a general election rather than a series of primaries. In the last days of the race, reading Michael Sokolove's "second return to Levittown" article on November 9 for the New York Times "Week in Review," and two weeks before having read Matt Bai's cover story on Obama and the working-class vote for the October 15 New York Times Sunday magazine, I began to grasp the significance of the loss for a wider audience of John Mullane's story. I found it curious that Michael Sokolove in his November article, an account of his return to Levittown on Election Day to interview voters, made no mention of Steve Woods, particularly since John Mullane had pointed out to him the Woods connection to Obama's infamous remarks.

I had already been wondering about Matt Bai, interviewing Obama aboard his campaign plane late in the race with McCain and yet not confronting Obama when Obama said, "I was actually making the reverse point [in San Francisco]." By now, the campaign's explanation for Obama's remarks was that he had misspoke. It is clear from the audiotape, however, that Obama did not say the opposite of what he meant. Since such misspeaking happens to all of us now and then, we know it when we hear it. In his October article, Bai recounts Obama telling him, "That [those remarks] was my biggest boneheaded move." Likely this was a disarming, slightly-confessional airborne moment. But Larry Ceisler, a Philadelphia Democratic consultant, had called Obama's remarks "boneheaded" the Friday I posted them and quickly the adjective had become a campaign staple. Therefore, Barack Obama was not really engaging Matt Bai with a glimpse of introspection.

At this point, in the last days of the election, I looked up online John Mullane's article of April 15 for the Bucks County Courier News. In fact, Mullane wrote two articles, for like Sokolove he returned just before the election to the subject of the Levittown voter. In April, Mullane had headed straight for Gleason's Bar and talked to Steve Woods, who, as it turns out, had been fooling around a bit with Times reporter Michael Sokolove. Woods did not own a gun. He had nothing against legal immigrants; his mother was an immigrant. Steve Woods, it would seem, like many of the working class folks I met on the campaign trail, had given the big city reporter what Woods thought the guy wanted to hear. It was this kind of passive-aggression that had held me back from writing about the many racist remarks I got in Texas. In most conversations, as I have said before, I suspected that the Texan peppering candidate Obama with racial slurs was not a racist and likely had an African-American acquaintance or two. It was an act for my benefit--because isn't that just what snotty educated not-from-around-here reporters believe about folks like us no matter what we say or do?

Steve Woods is merely the human interest element in Mullane's April column. These are the key sentences: "Obama read it [Sokolove's article in the April Sunday New York Times]. When he finished, he told his staff he wanted to book a speaking engagement at the biggest high school in Levittown." Upon reading his piece at last, I emailed John Mullane. In his reply, he expands upon the assertion. "Congressman Patrick Murphy [an early Obama supporter in Pennsylvania] at the opening day of little league baseball in Levittown told me that Barack had read Sokolove's Times piece on his way to San Fran, and had expressed great frustration to his staff about the comments quoted from Gleason's Bar. Obama told his staff he wanted to visit the bar to find out why his policies weren't selling with ordinary Levittoids."

Here is the missing link in the Bittergate story--a story that, for all the verbiage, no journalist, including me, properly told. It was in many ways the biggest story of Election 2008 until the entrance of Sarah Palin upon the scene. And yet nobody got it. Time and again, pundits and voters asked, "Who is Barack Obama?" As a reporter on the campaign trail, I had re-learned a lesson from my teaching days: people do not believe something is true simply because you tell them so. Beyond all the beautifully-crafted campaign rhetoric, beyond the soaring (and therefore to many minds suspect) enthusiasm of supporters, beyond the increasing (and to many minds annoying) infatuation of journalists, the answer to the question about Obama rested in a resolve he made--an April dramatic action.

Here is a guy who, reading that a bunch of other guys do not like him and sure as hell are not going to vote for him, very much wants to meet these guys. He is determined to do so. He is intrigued. He is not only going to the bar where they hang out, but he tells his staff to book the biggest school in town right away, as soon as possible. Obama gives the order on Sunday; the Levittown event is Wednesday. But the revelation is not that his campaign had amazing organizational skills. Rather here is a man who does not hold a grudge. Where most individuals would respond to the Gleason's guys with some peevishness at the very least, Obama bears them no ill will. Politicians are drawn not first to their core supporters but to those outside the circle. It seems to be an attraction as sure and strong as a magnetic force. And, of course, that urge to garner is one way in which power ultimately corrupts. That being said--here in his response to reading about Steve Woods and his companions, in his curiosity and in his lack of animus, is Barack Hussein Obama.

Mullane's two Courier Times columns reveal, just as he and I had spoken on that April Monday night in Bristol, the impetus for Obama's unfortunate remarks in San Francisco. A thoughtful and well-spoken man did not suddenly bungle a sentence. Rather he did not know who these Pennsylvanians were and are, and he was trying to figure them out. Barack Obama did not understand them. I know them because I grew up in small towns in both the South and the Midwest. And therefore I had called Obama out on his assertion that he wanted to bridge the country's cultural divide. But why would a Barack Obama have understood these Americans? He had known only islands, growing up in Hawaii and Indonesia. He had come to the mainland to attend a small college in Pasadena, California. Then he had lived in New York City and Cambridge, Massachusetts, graduating from Ivy League schools and briefly working. Choosing Chicago, partly as a way to establish an African-American identity, he had quickly become a member of that city's large and influential circle of educated African-American professionals. Except for a brief legislative campaign foray to downstate Illinois and a summer in Iowa before the caucuses, Barack Obama had not had any sustained encounters with ordinary Americans in the heartland.

In his quick rise to power, Barack Obama did not have the chance to get to know his fellow Americans. This is the truth that his words at the San Francisco fundraiser reveal. Friday evening at Ball State University in Indiana, only hours after my piece went up, Obama tried to explain his San Francisco remarks. His paraphrase, perilously close to his San Francisco linkage between religious belief and economic distress, shows how far he had to go in understanding Middle America. "I didn't say it as well as I should have. But what is absolutely true is that people don't feel like they are being listened to. And so they pray and they count on each other and they count on their families." Instead of acknowledging that people pray in many circumstances, and that some pray daily no matter the circumstances, and that for those of religious belief such belief exists a priori to any quotidian detail of human existence--instead of placing prayer in this larger context--Obama clumsily rephrased himself. Then Obama tried to place the blame elsewhere for the brouhaha. "Lately, there's been a little typical sort of political flare-up because I said something that everybody knows is true, which is that there are a whole bunch of folks in small towns . . . who are bitter." Finally, he came up with a better rephrasing. "So I said, well you know, when you're bitter you turn to what you can count on."

The next day, in a Saturday conference call with the press, small-town Pennsylvania mayors who supported Obama took up his cause. John Fetterman, the mayor of Braddock, said, "We are very much a community of faith . . . . We have over twenty church congregations here." As the larger campaign would do consistently going forward, Fetterman shifted the conversation to the social problems on which everyone also agreed: the loss of jobs, the needs in health care, a call for better education. "We've lost ninety percent of our population," Fetterman said, in speaking of jobs. Richard Gray, the mayor of Lancaster, contributed to this purposeful confusion of the issue by arguing semantics. People were angry, not bitter. It is not that people cling, but that they have been diverted away from the real issues. A signal, however, that the campaign thought Obama had more than a semantic problem was the fact that not the mild-mannered David Plouffe, who usually spoke on the more important calls, but the wily strategist David Axelrod directed the conversation.

"The question at hand here is what is the mood about our economy," David Axelrod said, rescuing Mayor Gray from the diversion argument in which, as Gray added "gender and sexual preference" to the mix, he began to mire rather than help the campaign. We need to keep focus on economic issues and special interests and trade deals, Axelrod said. "It means consistent leadership--telling people what you mean and sticking to it," Obama's chief strategist said, seemingly--although of course no one in the press could see--with a straight face. "Senator Clinton pounced on this first thing in the morning--predictably. She has been a longtime foe of trade deals." David Axelrod was already wielding the tactics that would work for the campaign: recast Obama's remarks; attack the opposition; push the argument to terrain far, far away from cultural issues like guns and religion.

Therefore, the damage control and spin began, at first wobbly, with Obama himself in Indiana and then with the mayors' conference call and later the Pennsylvania Sportsmen for Obama conference call (a campaign/press gem for all time). The line of defense would be exactly that which Obama first drew at Ball State and Axelrod redrew in the mayors' conference call, most importantly shifting attention from the verb "cling" to the adjective "bitter"--never the controversy--but the Obama Campaign would make it seem as if it were. And so the fallout from the San Francisco gaffe gelled into "Bittergate."

Like any political campaign, Obama's could not tell the truth. A presidential campaign can hardly say that the candidate does not know the voters yet but is making progress. Furthermore, Obama was careful never to apologize directly--at least in part likely because he is a superstitious man. There was a history of verbal gaffes in Pennsylvania political contests. In every instance where a candidate had apologized, he or she had lost.

Therefore, in that Saturday conference call with the press, David Axelrod said merely, "He [Obama] was sorry for the offense anybody took from them [his words]."

"People have interpreted it [the San Francisco remarks] in a way he didn't mean," Axelrod went on to say. Over time, this would become the campaign meme. And so on October 19 Obama said to Matt Bai, "I was actually making the reverse point," and Bai did not take him up on the assertion--at least not for The New York Times. In elaboration, Obama added, "I mean, part of what I was trying to say to that group in San Francisco was, 'You guys need to stop thinking that issues like religion or guns are somehow wrong.'" If Obama had so exhorted, I would never have had that shock moment of distress because he was inferring the opposite. I would never have had anything to report. More importantly, even though Barack Obama may by now have come to believe his statements to Bai, these untruths, patently false upon examination, are not worthy of him. But just as I am now wedded to the observation that Obama is an elitist--a comment I made in order to keep myself from speaking the truth, a comment on a subject I find irrelevant to discourse about presidential qualifications--so Barack Obama is wedded to the assertion that he said the opposite of what he meant.

Despite the talk post-election that 2008 has been a game-changer for tactics and tools and strategy in presidential races, some basics, like message damage control and its consequences, have remained the same. Nowhere is this less-than-exciting reality more evident that in the media's failure to get the whole story of Bittergate. By the time Matt Bai wrote the Times October piece on Obama and the working-class vote, he did not want to revisit an old story in Pennsylvania. Bai followed Obama on to fresher territory: Virginia and that state's working-class voters. The media were no longer interested in Pennsylvania, because all signs pointed to Obama and not McCain winning there. The hot topic in autumn was Virginia, and the possibility that a Democrat might carry the Old Dominion for the first time in decades.

More importantly, Michael Sokolove never followed up on John Mullane's story. If the Internet has been as transformational for politics as post-election pundits would have it, then surely Sokolove would have posted an addendum to his Levittown article on "The Caucus," the New York Times online political blog, and linked back to Mullane's Courier Times column. But Sokolove did not. For all the self-congratulatory cork-popping among Internet media enthusiasts about the leveling influence of the blogosphere and the democratization of campaign coverage, for all the chatter about linkage and knowledge transfer, the real story of Bittergate never made it out of Pennsylvania--never made it out of Bucks County. In fact, Googling a string of terms like "Obama--Pennsylvania--bitter--guns--religion--San Francisco" produces hundreds of articles from known media outlets and bloggers, all linking to one another in a circle, like an enormous tiger chasing its tail. Without more information--like Mullane and Courier Times--several hours of Googling will not provide the two columns by J.D. Mullane.

In his email to me of November 17, 2008, John Mullane wrote:

"I called Mike Sokolove at his home in Bethesda, Md. and connected the dots--from Woods to Sokolove to Murphy to Obama to you. Mike was intrigued, and agreed that it was his article and his interviews at Gleason's that inspired Obama's thoughts.

I asked Mike for a quote, and he said he had to collect his thoughts. He sent me an e-mail response, which is what appeared in the April 15 column.

By the way, I went to Gleason's in October, prior to one of the Obama/McCain debates, and chatted with Steve Woods. He told me he had reconsidered and was now going to vote for Obama. I wrote a column about it, which was published Oct. 16.

Neil Samuels, vice chair of the Bucks County Democratic Organization, e-mailed me to say he liked that column. He said he had e-mailed a copy to Mike Sokolove. I will speculate that this is why Sokolove returned to Levittown on Nov. 4 to see for himself that Obama had 'closed the deal' with working class whites here. Sokolove did not mention me or the Courier Times in his second piece for the Times. But, let's face it, May, you've been among the big dogs of journalism on the campaign trail. That's the way a lot of them are. The higher up some people go on the journalism food chain, the stingier they get giving credit to others.

A couple of years ago I wrote a column poking fun at the Times. It ended up on Jim Romenesko's journalism blog at, which is widely read in the industry. I got an angry email from a Times editor calling me and local writers like me, 'hacks in the hinterlands.' So there you go. Why give a hack in the hinterlands of Pa. any credit? Obama and guys who write for the Times and other august publications regard themselves as a cut above most of us. If it had been Sokolove at the San Fran fundraiser--and not Mayhill Fowler--Obama's 'bitter' comments to those his donors would still be their little secret."

I like to think that Michael Sokolove would have heard the significance in Obama's San Francisco remarks and reported them. Nevertheless, some of my experiences post-Bittergate speak to the truth of what John Mullane calls the journalism food chain. In a panel discusssion about Internet impact on politics and journalism at the Personal Democracy Forum media conference in New York City in June, 2008, for example, Ben Smith of Politico made a distinction between himself, as a journalist, and me. "She's a source. She's a great source. She smuggled a tape recorder into a fundraiser and put the audio online. . . . The central thing she did was bring a tape recorder into an event and emerge with it. . . . We [journalists] love it when sources do deceitful things on our behalf." At the forum, I was struck not so much by the condescension, for I was not a smuggler but a chronicler, however small-news, of a hundred or so campaign events by June 2008. I was struck, however, by Ben Smith's misapprehension of my intent in writing about Barack Obama at the San Francisco fundraiser. "She tried so hard to protect Obama from his words," Ben Smith said. On the contrary, I was calling Barack Obama out--politely, to be sure. If he were not the same man who had once stood up and declared that Democrats need to honor a place for religious belief in the public square, then he was not the man I had thought he was. And if he did not figure out how to talk about small-town Americans to more worldly coastal folk then even if he were President he would get no chance at "change."

And so the fiefdoms of journalism failed a story. Bai was not interested in old news. Sokolove did not link. Mullane could not get out of the county. I lost my nerve.

I also lost a certain naïveté. Since I had long since done background research on Obama, I knew the extent to which he had cut-and-pasted both his biography and his journey through the world of Chicago politics. But it was not until I saw him as the consummate politician with just the right touch of pander perfectly nail the Philadelphia speech for the AFL-CIO, and until I heard him in San Francisco a few days later, that I began to regard him coolly. I admired him still, but with more skepticism and at a distance. What happened to me in the aftermath of Bittergate, moreover, made me see that if I wanted to do good reporting I had to keep that distance. Ironically, even as I was becoming detached, many journalists, now that it looked like they would not be fruitlessly investing in another John Kerry, began to allow themselves to fall for Barack Obama. A complementary narrative was unfolding, as both Obama and Clinton spoke more and more to and about the working class Americans who had once been the constituency of the now-forgotten John Edwards of North Carolina.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Marriage and the Biology of the Earth

Men and women are very different from each other. That is the magic and the wonder of marriage, when two very different creatures, wired differently come together in an amazing union! The very definition of the word marriage is the coming together of two different things to make one all new thing. The sparks fly, the hormones hop and all is life affirming and electrifying. Thus the glorious marriage of a man and a women with the mystical and astounding ability to create new life with the joining of their sperm and egg. It is what our very DNA cry out for! It connects us back to the caves and to the very creation of life on earth. I am not trying to be unkind but a union of two people of the same sex do not come together in this way. It cannot be, and pretending it can is ridiculous. The emperor has no cloths. What two people of the same sex may have is a form of love but it is not cemented by biology and the spark of creation. Just because in 40 years our society has gone roaring down this road to reinvent itself because it has wealth and will does not change God's plan for mankind or the pulse and fire of the very basic cells that make life possible. This is all a new and trendy little experiment by modern man that defies the truth of the cosmos. Baby boomers and their seed are forever trying to play God and remake the world in their own self centered image and they are making a royal mess of it all. It will not be long before there is a correction by the very earth itself for our tinkering with God's creation. Money is why this is all coming to the fore. These high times are but a nanosecond in God's calendar and clock. We have thrown away our families and our neighborhoods and abandoned our children for pleasure and profit and so this too is part of the arrogance of post modern man who thinks he is smarter than God. Pretending God does not exist is another part of this misguided revolution of narcissism.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Witch of Fife

“Where have ye been, ye ill woman,

These three lang nights frae hame?

What gars the sweat drap frae yer brow,

Like drops o’ the saut sea-faem?

“It fears me muckle ye have seen

What gude man never knew;

It fears me muckle ye have been,

Where the gray cock never crew.

“But the spell may crack, and the bridle break,

Then sharp yer word will be;

Ye had better sleep in yer bed at hame,

Wi’ yer dear little bairns and me.”

“Sit dune, sit dune, my leal auld man,

Sit dune, and listen to me;

I’ll gar the hair stand on yer crown,

And the cauld sweat blind yer e’e.

“But tell nae words, my gude auld man,

Tell never a word again;

Or dear shall be your courtesy,

And driche and sair yer pain.

“The first leet night, when the new moon set,

When all was douffe and mirk,

We saddled our nags wi’ the moonfern leaf,

And rode frae the Kilmerrin kirk.

“Some horses were of the brume-cow framed,

And some of the green bay tree;

But mine was made of ane hemlock shaw,

And a stout stallion was he.

“We raide the tod doune on the hill,

The martin on the law;

And we hunted the owlet out o’ breath,

And forced him doune to fa’.”

“What guid was that, ye ill woman?

What guid was that to thee?

Ye would better have been in yer bed at hame,

Wi’ yer dear little bairns and me.”

“And aye we rode, as sae merrily rode,

Through the merkest gloffs of the night;

And we swam the flood, and we darnit the wood,

Till we came to the Lommond height.

“And when we came to the Lommond height,

Sae lightly we lighted doune;

And we drank frae the horns that never grew,

The beer that was never browin.

“Then up there rose a wee wee man,

From neath the moss-gray stane;

His face was wan like the colliflower,

For he neither had blude nor bane.

“He set a reed-pipe till his mouth;

And he played sae bonnily,

Till the gray curlew, and the blackcock flew

To listen his melody.

“It rang sae sweet through the green Lommond,

That the night-wind lowner blew;

And it soupit alang the Loch Leven,

And wakened the white sea-mew.

“It rang sae sweet through the green Lommond,

Sae sweetly and sae shrill,

That the weasels leaped out of their mouldy holes,

And danced on the midnight hill.

“The corby crow came gledging near,

The erne gaed veering bye;

And the trouts leaped out of the Leven Loch,

Charmed with the melody.

“And aye we danced on the green Lommond,

Till the dawn on the ocean grew:

Nae wonder I was a weary wight,

When I cam hame to you.”

“What guid, what guid, my weird, weird wyfe,

What guid was that to thee?

Ye wad better have been in yer bed at hame,

Wi’ yer dear little bairns and me.”

“The second night, when the new moon set,

O’er the roaring sea we flew;

The cockle-shell our trusty bark,

Our sails of the green sea-rue.

“And the bauld winds blew, and the fire-flauchts flew,

And the sea ran to the sky;

And the thunder it growled, and the sea-dogs howled,

As we gaed scurrying bye.

“And aye we mounted the sea-green hills,

Till we brushed the clouds of heaven,

Then soused downright like the stern-shot light,

Fra the lift’s blue casement driven.

“But our tackle stood, and our bark was good,

And sae pang was our pearly prow;

When we couldna speil the brow of the waves,

We needled them through below.

“As fast as the hail, as fast as the gale,

As fast as the midnight leme,

We bored the breast of the bursting swale,

Or fluffed in the floating faem.

“And when to the Norroway shore we wan,

We mounted our steeds of the wind,

And we splashed the floode, and we darnit the wood,

And we left the shore behind.

“Fleet is the roe on the green Lommond,

And swift is the couryng grew;

The rein-deer dun can eithly run,

When the hounds and the horns pursue.

“But neither the roe, nor the reindeer dun,

The hind nor the couryng grew,

Could fly o’er mountain, moor, and dale,

As our braw steeds they flew.

“The dales were deep, and the Doffrins steep,

And we rose to the skies ee-bree:

White, white was our road that was never trode,

O’er the snows of eternity.

“And when we came to the Lapland lone,

The fairies were all in array,

For all genii of the north

Were keeping their holiday.

“The warlock men, and the weird women,

And the fays of the wood and the steep,

And the phantom hunters all were there,

And the mermaids of the deep.

“And they washed us all with the witch-water,

Distilled frae the moorland dew,

Till our beauty bloomed like the Lapland rose,

That wild in the forest grew.”

“Ye lee, ye lee, ye ill woman,

Sae loud as I hear ye lee!

For the worst-faured wyfe on the shores of Fyfe

Is comely compared wi’ thee.”

“Then the mermaids sang, and the woodlands rang,

Sae sweetly swelled the choir;

On every cliff a harp they hang,

On every tree a lyre.

“And aye they sang, and the woodlands rang,

And we drank; and we drank sae deep;

Then soft in the arms of the warlock men,

We laid us dune to sleep.”

“Away, away, ye ill woman,

An ill death might ye dee!

When ye hae proved sae false to yer God,

Ye can never prove true to me.”

“And there we learned frae the fairy folk,

And frae our master true,

The words that can bear us through the air,

And locks and bars undo.

“Last night we met at Maisry’s cot;

Right well the words we knew;

And we set a foot on the black cruick-shell,

And out at the lum we flew.

“And we flew o’er hill, and we flew o’er dale,

And we flew o’er firth and sea,

Untill we cam to merry Carlisle,

Where we lighted on the lea.

“We gaed to the vault beyond the tower,

Where we entered free as air;

And we drank, and we drank, of the bishop’s wine,

Till we could drink nae mair.”

“Gin that be true, my guid, auld wyfe,

Whilk thou hast tauld to me,

Betide my death, betide my lyfe,

I’ll bear thee company.

“Next time ye gang to merry Carlisle

To drink of the blude-red wine,

Beshrew my heart, I’ll fly with thee,

If the deil should fly behind.”

“Ah! Little ye ken, my silly auld man,

The dangers we maun dree;

Last night we drank of the bishop’s wine,

Till near near taen were we.

“Afore we wan to the sandy ford,

The gor-cocks nichering flew;

The lofty crest of Ettrick Pen

Was waved about with blue,

And, filchtering through the air, we fand

The chill chill morning dew.

“As we flew o’er the hills of Braid,

The sun rose fair and clear;

There gurly James, and his barons braw,

Were out to hunt the deer.

“Their bows they drew, their arrows flew,

And pierced the air with speed,

Till purple fell the morning dew

With witch-blude rank and red.

“Little ye ken, my silly auld man,

The dangers we maun dree;

Ne wonder I am a weary wight

When I come hame to thee.”

“But tell me the word, my gude auld wyfe,

Come tell it me speedily;

For I long to drink of the gude red wine,

And to wing the air with thee.

“Yer hellish horse I willna ride,

Nor sail the seas in the wind;

But I can flee as well as thee,

And I’ll drink till ye be blind.”

“O fy! O fy! my leal auld man,

That word I darena tell;

It would turn this warld all upside down,

And make it warse than hell.

“For all the lasses in the land

Wald mount the wind and fly;

And the men would doff their doublets syde,

And after them would ply.”

But the auld good man was a cunning auld man,

And a cunning auld man was he;

And he watched and he watched for mony a night,

The witches’ flight to see.

One night he darnit in Maisry’s cot;

The fearless hags came in;

And he heard the word of awesome weird;

And he saw their deeds of sin.

Then ane by ane, they said that word,

As fast to the fire they drew;

Then set a foot on the black cruick-shell,

And out at the lum they flew.

The auld gudeman cam frae his hole

With fear and muckle dread,

But yet he couldna think to rue,

For the wine came in his head.

He set his foot in the black cruick-shell,

With a fixed and a wawling ee;

And he said the word that I darena say,

And out at the lum flew he.

The witches scaled the moon-beam pale;

Deep groaned the trembling wind;

But they never wist that our auld gudeman

Was hovering them behind.

They flew to the vaults of merry Carlisle,

Where they entered free as air;

And they drank, and they drank of the bishop’s wine,

Till they could drink nae mair.

The auld gudeman he grew sae crouse,

He danced on the mouldy ground,

And he sang the bonniest songs of Fife,

And he tuzzlit the kerlyngs round.

And aye he pierced the tither butt,

And he sucked, and he sucked sae lang,

Till his een they closed, and his voice grew low,

And his tongue would hardly gang.

The kerlyngs drank of the bishop’s wine

Till they scented the morning wind;

Then clove again the yielding air,

And left the auld man behind.

And aye he slept on the damp damp floor,

He slept and he snored amain;

He never dreamed he was far frae hame,

Or that the auld wives were gane.

And aye he slept on the damp damp floor,

Till passed the mid-day height,

When wakened by five rough Englishmen,

That trailed him to the light.

“Now wha are ye, ye silly auld man,

That sleeps sae sound and sae weel?

How gat ye into the bishop’s vault

Through locks and bars of steel?”

The auld gudeman, he tried to speak,

But ane word he couldna finde;

He tried to think, but his head whirled round,

And ane thing he couldna mind:

“I cam from Fyfe,” the auld man cried,

“And I cam on the midnight winde.”

They nicked the auld man, and they pricked the auld man,

And they yerked his limbs with twine,

Till the red blude ran in his hose and shoon,

But some cried it was wine.

They licked the auld man, and they pricked the auld man,

And they tied him till ane stone;

And they set ane bele-fire him about,

To burn him skin and bone.

“O wae to me!” said the puir auld man,

“That ever I saw the day!

And wae be to all the ill women

That lead puir men astray!

“Let nevir ane auld man after this

To lawless greede incline;

Let never ane auld man after this

Rin post to the deil for wine.”

The reeke flew up in the auld man’s face,

And choked him bitterlye;

And the low cam up with an angry blaze,

And he singed his auld breek-nee.

He looked to the land frae once he came,

For looks he could get ne mae;

And he thoughte of his dear little bairns at hame,

And O the auld man was wae!

But they turned their faces to the sun,

With gloffe and wondrous glare,

For they saw ane thing baith large and dun,

Comin sweeping down the air.

That bird it cam frae the lands o’ Fyfe,

And it cam right tymeouslye,

For who was it but the auld man’s wife,

Just comed his death to see.

She put ane red cap on his head,

And the auld gudeman looked fain,

Then whispered ane word intil his lug,

And toved to the aire again.

The auld gudeman he gae ane bob

I’ the midst o’ the burning lowe;

And the shackles that bound him to the ring,

They fell frae his arms like tow.

He drew his breath, and he said the word,

And he said it with muckle glee,

Then set his feet on the burning pile,

And away to the air flew he.

Till ance he cleared the swirling reeke,

He luckit baith feared and sad;

But when he wan to the light blue aire,

He laughed as he’d been mad.

His arms were spread, and his head was high,

And his feet stuck out behind;

And the laibies of the auld man’s coat

Were wauffing in the wind.

And aye he neicherit, and aye he flew,

For he thought the play sae rare;

It was like the voice of the gander blue,

When he flees through the air.

He lookèd back at the Carlisle men,

As he bored the norlan sky;

He nodded his head, and gave ane grin

But he never said gude-bye.

They vanished far i’ the lift’s blue wale,

Nae mair the English saw,

But the auld man’s laugh came on the gale,

With a lang and a loud guffaw.

May everilike man in the land of Fife

Read what the drinkers dree;

And never curse his puir auld wife,

Right wicked although she be.


In ancient Britain and Ireland, the Celtic festival of Samhain eve was
observed on October 31, at the end of summer. This date was also the eve of
the new year in both Celtic and Anglo-Saxon times and was the occasion for
one of the ancient fire festivals when huge bonfires were set on hilltops to
frighten away evil spirits. The date was connected with the return of herds
from pasture, and laws and land tenures were renewed. The souls of the dead
were thought to revisit their homes on this day, and the autumnal festival
acquired sinister significance, with ghosts, witches, hobgoblins, black
cats, fairies, and demons of all kinds said to be roaming about. It was the
time to placate the supernatural powers controlling the processes of nature.
In addition, Halloween was thought to be the most favourable time for
divinations concerning marriage, luck, health, and death.

The Hag

The hag is astride
This night for to ride,
The devil and she together;
Through thick and through thin,
Now out and then in,
Though ne'er so foul be the weather.

A thorn or a burr
She takes for a spur,
With a lash of a bramble she rides now;
Through brakes and through briars,
O'er ditches and mires,
She follows the spirit that guides now.

No beast for his food
Dare now range the wood,
But hush'd in his lair he lies lurking;
While mischiefs, by these,
On land and on seas,
At noon of night are a-working.

The storm will arise
And trouble the skies;
This night, and more for the wonder,
The ghost from the tomb
Affrighted shall come,
Call'd out by the clap of the thunder.

-- Robert Herrick

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Age Nonsense gone amuck...

Sweat Lodge Survivor Beverley Bunn Says James Arthur Ray Played God Before Deadly

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (CBS/AP) Beverley Bunn, a Texas woman who took part in an Arizona sweat lodge ceremony that resulted in three deaths, says the man who led the event pushed people too far, even after several participants got sick and passed out.

Bunn, who spoke to the Associated Press, is the first survivor of the sweat lodge tragedy to talk publicly about the ceremony.

The forty-three-year old told the AP in a series of interviews this week that by the time the ceremony began, the participants had undergone days of physically and mentally strenuous events that included fasting. In one game, Bunn said, spiritual guru James Arthur Ray even played God.

Within an hour of entering the sweat lodge on the evening of Oct. 8, people began vomiting, gasping for air and collapsing. Yet Bunn says Ray continually urged everyone to stay inside. The ceremony was broken up into 15-minute "rounds," with the entrance flap to the lodge opened briefly and more heated rocks brought inside between sessions.

"I can't get her to move. I can't get her to wake up," Bunn recalls hearing from two sides of the 415-square-foot sweat lodge. Ray's response, she recalled: "Leave her alone, she'll be dealt with in the next round."

By that time, Bunn had already crawled to a spot near the opening of the sweat lodge, praying for the door to stay open as long as possible between rounds so that she could breathe in fresh air.

At one point, someone lifted up the back of the tent, shining light in the otherwise pitch-black enclosure. Ray demanded to know who was letting the light in and committing a "sacrilegious act," Bunn said.

The account marks a significant revelation in the investigation because it portrays Ray as driving participants to stay in the lodge despite signs all around him that the situation had gone horribly awry. Until now, few details had surfaced about Ray's actions inside in the sweat lodge.

Investigators are considering bringing charges against Ray in a case that has cast a harsh spotlight on him and his self-help empire as he led dozens of people into the sweat lodge during a five-day retreat that cost more than $9,000 per person. He has hired his own investigative team to examine the tragic events.

Ray led the group in chants and prayers during the ceremony, Bunn said. People were not physically forced to stay inside but chided by Ray if they wanted to leave as he told them they were stronger than their bodies, and weakness could be overcome.

Bunn lasted the entire two hours, but nearly two dozen others suffered serious injuries that sent them to the hospital.

Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y., and James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee, died upon arrival at a hospital. Liz Neuman, 49, of Prior Lake, Minn., lingered in a coma for more than a week before dying.

Sheriff's investigators in Arizona's Yavapai County are treating the deaths as homicides but have yet to determine the cause.

Investigators are looking into the construction of the sweat lodge, the fact that people had fallen ill at previous sweat ceremonies led by Ray and questionable medical care on site, as they try to determine whether criminal negligence contributed to the deaths and illnesses.

Authorities have said a nurse hired by Ray was directing rescue efforts including CPR when emergency crews arrived. Ray is the primary focus of the probe but others also are being investigated, Sheriff Steve Waugh has said.

"I too want to know what happened that caused this horrible tragedy," Ray wrote on his Web site Tuesday.

He vowed to continue with his work.

"I have taken heat for that decision, but if I choose to lock myself in my home, I am sure I would be criticized for hiding and not practicing what I preach," he wrote.


I will take my chances with the Presbyterians, thanks!
-Beth Maxwell Boyle

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Earth Is The Lord's, And The Fullness Thereof

The Earth Is The Lord's, And The Fullness Thereof
Psalm 24:1
The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.
Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?
He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.

The scarlet of maples

"The scarlet of maples can shake me like a cry
Of bugles going by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
to see the frosty asters like smoke
upon the hills."
- William Bliss Carman

Saturday, October 17, 2009

At auction, buyers get their goats

By Jay Tokasz
Updated: October 17, 2009, 5:04 PM / 0 comments

Wearing a faux mink stole and a jeweled collar, Zasu Pitts strutted her stuff like a runway model.

A spotlight shone, accenting the sprayed glitter on her black-and-white coat. The emcee pointed out her impeccable pedigree.

And by the time the bidding was finished, Richard and Rica Waldeman from North Carolina bought a goat for $2,050.

Not just any old goat, either.

Six-month-old Zasu Pitts was among the 17 finest young goats in the country selected as part of the annual American Dairy Goat Association Spotlight Sale this morning in the Adam's Mark Hotel.

"It's hard to part with her," said Zasu Pitts' previous owner, Sheila Nixon, a California goat farmer who named the flamboyant goat after a 1930s and '40s era film actress.

"They're very intelligent, curious animals," said Nixon. "This week, I taught her to dance for her dinner. She wags her tail and gets on her hind legs and jumps up and down a little."

The four-hour auction was the capstone event of the association's 105th annual convention, which began Oct. 10 and ran through today.

Here, no one was blaming the goats for anything.

They traveled from as far as California, many in airplanes, with only so much as a few bahs, and ended up drawing winning bids that ranged from $800 to $3,800.

Handlers outside the hotel prepared each of the goats for their momement in the spotlight, brushing coats, applying glitter and feeding treats of animal crackers and ginger snaps.

The goats acted as if it were just another day at the farm.

Elenna, an American Saanen doe, got the top bid of the day. White as a fresh snowfall in Buffalo, Elenna calmy strode the stage and coaxed $3,800 out of an Oregon dairy farmer, Flavio de Castellanos.

Shari Reyna, a fellow Oregonian, submitted the winning bid on Castellanos' behalf and told him by phone "you got a really good doe."

Reyna made out all right, too, picking up two bucks for herself.

"I didn't intend to buy anything," said the owner of Ferns' Edge Dairy in Lowell, Ore., which has about 300 goats.

Her purchases proved too much of a bargain to pass on. She plans to breed a purebred Nubian buck named Forevermore, which sold for $1,900.

"He'll sire a lot of daughters," said Reyna. "He will pay for himself in a year or two, there's no doubt in my mind."

About 500 people participated in the weeklong convention, which included, yes, a trip to Goat Island at Niagara Falls, as well as a variety of health workshops with veterinarians, a goat first-aid class and seminars on cheesemaking.

The Spotlight Sale is typically a highpoint of the week. Goats bought from the sale will be used for breeding, showing and producing milk.

"These traditionally are going to go to show homes and be exhibited at fairs and shows throughout the country," said Kristina Bozzo-Baldenegro, co-chair of a committee that organized the auction.

And if you thought $3,800 was a lot to spend on a goat, Bozzo-Baldenegro said a single goat once sold at spotlight sale for $16,000.

The sale brings out the best young goats in the country, submitted by nomination to the American Dairy Goat Association. Because of the difficulty with travel, larger adult goats aren't included in the auction.

"They are the cream of the goat crop," said Doni DeVincent, a hospital laboratory technician who owns 40 goats on 16 acres in Middletown.

DeVincent started caring for goats 25 years ago, when her parents purchased two Nubians to help clear away the woody brush on their property.

Now, "it's an obsession," she said with a smile. "It's my hobby that takes all my money."

Reyna's raising of goats stems from her own lactose intolerance and discovering that while she could not drink cow's milk, goat's milk was easily digestible.

Interest in goat's milk is growing rapidly, she added.

"Now, goat cheese is a really big deal," she said. "My milk is selling at $7.99 a half gallon, and I cannot fill all the orders."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why Joe Biden Should Resign by Arianna Huffington

Pollyanna progressives can only carp and wail because they had such ridiculously high expectations for this administration. It's sad to see Arianna has begun pulling her hair out so soon. Arianna has stepped into a political pundit's cow pie with this one. Bad misstep, Arianna. Very bad! Is this revenge for the recent blogger comments made by the Whitehouse about pajama clad bloggers? I could not disagree more with your comments. Joe Biden is Obama's connection to the real Democratic party not the New Age self-congratulating Democratic party. With no Joe Biden I would not have voted for Obama and with no Joe Biden in 4 years I would not vote for him. Well off ,smug yuppies do not make the Democratic Party work real hard working Americans who are not afraid to get their hands dirty make it work. Biden is Obama's only connection to reality. Most of America wants the war in Afghanistan to end and they want Obama to start showing some teeth concerning education, health care and the reform of Wall Street. Obama has taken the Democratic party back to the right and is beginning to look more like a moderate Republican than a Democrat. Biden is the true blue Democrat on the ticket.-Beth Maxwell Boyle


Posted: October 14, 2009 02:32 PM

Why Joe Biden Should Resign
by Arianna Huffington

Joe Biden met with CENTCOM chief Gen. David Petraeus this morning to talk about Afghanistan -- an issue that has pushed the vice president into the spotlight, landing him on the cover of the latest Newsweek.

I have an idea for how he can capitalize on all the attention, and do what generations to come will always be grateful for: resign.

The centerpiece of Newsweek's story is how Biden has become the chief White House skeptic on escalating the war in Afghanistan, specifically arguing against Gen. McChrystal's request for 40,000 more troops to pursue a counterinsurgency strategy there.

The piece, by Holly Bailey and Evan Thomas, opens with details of a September 13th national security meeting at the White House. Biden speaks up:
"Can I just clarify a factual point? How much will we spend this year on Afghanistan?" Someone provided the figure: $65 billion. "And how much will we spend on Pakistan?" Another figure was supplied: $2.25 billion. "Well, by my calculations that's a 30-to-1 ratio in favor of Afghanistan. So I have a question. Al Qaeda is almost all in Pakistan, and Pakistan has nuclear weapons. And yet for every dollar we're spending in Pakistan, we're spending $30 in Afghanistan. Does that make strategic sense?" The White House Situation Room fell silent.

Being Greek, I'm partial to Biden's classic use of the Socratic method -- skillfully eliciting facts in a way that lets people connect the dots that show how misguided our involvement in Afghanistan has become.

It's been known for a while that Biden has been on the other side of McChrystal's desire for a big escalation of our forces there -- the New York Times reported last month that he has "deep reservations" about it. So if the president does decide to escalate, Biden, for the good of the country, should escalate his willingness to act on those reservations.

What he must not do is follow the same weak and worn-out pattern of "opposition" we've become all-too-accustomed to, first with Vietnam and then with Iraq. You know the drill: after the dust settles, and the country begins to look back and not-so-charitably wonder, "what were they thinking?" the mea-culpa-laden books start to come out. On page after regret-filled page, we suddenly hear how forceful this or that official was behind closed doors, arguing against the war, taking a principled stand, expressing "strong concern" and, yes, "deep reservations" to the president, and then going home each night distraught at the unnecessary loss of life.

Well, how about making the mea culpa unnecessary? Instead of saving it for the book, how about future author Biden unfetter his conscience in real time -- when it can actually do some good? If Biden truly believes that what we're doing in Afghanistan is not in the best interests of our national security -- and what issue is more important than that? -- it's simply not enough to claim retroactive righteousness in his memoirs.

Though it would be a crowning moment in a distinguished career, such an act of courage would likely be only the beginning. Biden would then become the natural leader of the movement to wind down this disastrous war and focus on the real dangers in Pakistan.

The number of those on both sides of the political spectrum who share Biden's skepticism is growing. In August, George Will called for the U.S. to pull out of Afghanistan and "do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent Special Forces units."

Former Bush State Department official and current head of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haas argued in the New York Times that Afghanistan is not, as Obama insists, a war of necessity. "If Afghanistan were a war of necessity, it would justify any level of effort," writes Haas. "It is not and does not. It is not certain that doing more will achieve more. And no one should forget that doing more in Afghanistan lessens our ability to act elsewhere."

In Rethink Afghanistan, Robert Greenwald's powerful look at the war (and a film Joe Biden should see right away), Robert Baer, a former CIA field operative says, "The notion that we're in Afghanistan to make our country safer is just complete bullshit... what it's doing is causing us greater danger, no question about it. Because the more we fight in Afghanistan, the more the conflict is pushed across the border into Pakistan, the more we destabilize Pakistan, the more likely it is that a fundamentalist government will take over the army -- and we'll have Al-Qaeda like groups with nuclear weapons."

And Senator Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam vet and Biden confidant, told Newsweek that, while "there are a lot of differences" between Vietnam and Afghanistan, "one of the similarities is how easily and quickly a nation can get bogged down in a very dangerous part of the world. It's easy to get into but not easy to get out. The more troops you throw in places, the more difficult it is to work it out because you have an investment to protect."

And doing so, as we've seen, usually means losing more and more of that "investment": each of the last six years of the Afghanistan war has been more deadly than the one before.

Both sides of the Afghanistan debate were represented on this Sunday's This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

Sen. Diane Feinstein offered up a few rationales for why Obama should rubber stamp Gen. McChrystal's wishes. First, she said, "there has to be a process of finding out, which of these people can we work with and which can we not." Really? Seven years in and we still haven't checked that one off our to-do list?

Feinstein then broke out the latest trendy, new-for-fall reason why we need to up the ante in Afghanistan -- it's all about the women. " I particularly worry about women in Afghanistan," Feinstein said, "acid in the face of children, girl children who go to school, women who can't work when they're widowed, huddled on the streets, begging, women beaten and shot in stadiums, you know, Sharia law with all of its violence."

This is indeed very tragic, and I share her concern. But missing from the discussion was the fact that "Sharia law with all of its violence" has just been made the law of the land by President Karzai -- you know, our man in Kabul. The Sharia Personal Status Law, signed by Karzai, became operational in July. Among its provisions: custody rights are granted to fathers and grandfathers, women can work only with the permission of their husbands, and husbands can withhold food from wives who don't want to have sex with them. On the plus side, if a man rapes a mentally ill woman or child, he must pay a fine.

Of course, even with America standing guard, only 4 percent of girls in Afghanistan make it to the 10th grade, and up to 80 percent of Afghani women are subjected to domestic violence. As one of the Afghan women interviewed in Rethink Afghanistan sums up the current situation: "The cases of violence against women are more now than in the Taliban time."

So can we please put to rest the nonsensical rationalization that we're there for women's rights? And don't be surprised if that reason is soon replaced by another -- those pushing for escalation in Afghanistan seem to have learned the Bush administration's old tactic of constantly moving the goal posts. Don't like this reason? Fine, here's another one.

Countering Feinstein on Stephanopoulos was Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern, who has taken the lead on this issue in Congress, introducing a bill calling for an exit strategy in Afghanistan.

"I think adding more American forces to Afghanistan would be a mistake," he said. "I think it would be counterproductive. And I think there's a strong case to be made that the larger our military footprint, the more difficult it is to achieve reconciliation."

McGovern then amplified Biden's concern that the real threat is elsewhere:
When I voted to use force to go to war after 9/11, I think I and everyone else in Congress voted to go after Al Qaida. That was our enemy. And Al Qaida has now moved to a different neighborhood, in Pakistan, where, quite frankly, they're more protected. And we're told by Gen. Jones that there are less than 100, if that, members of Al Qaida left in Afghanistan... So we're now saying we should have 100,000 American forces to go after less than 100 members of Al Qaida in Afghanistan? I think we need to re-evaluate our policy.

Or, as Biden put it, "does that make strategic sense?"

In June, Gen. Jones, the president's National Security Advisor, was at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan, meeting with U.S. commanders there. This was shortly after the arrival of the 21,000 additional troops President Obama had sent over. Jones raised the question of what the president's reaction would be if he were asked for even more troops. Well, Jones said, answering his own question, if that happened, the president would probably have a "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moment." In other words, wtf?

Well, Obama has gotten that request, but it wasn't a "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moment" for him after all. Sadly, Newsweek reports that Obama is typically "looking for a middle way." But this isn't a negotiation for a used car, where you split the difference. It's either in our national security interest to be there or it isn't. It's either a necessary war or it isn't.

Newsweek's profile makes much of Joe Biden's loyalty. He's a "team player," one close friend says. And after he dissented on Afghanistan this spring he "quickly got on board."

I have no doubt that Joe Biden is a loyal guy -- the question is who deserves his loyalty most? His "team" isn't the White House, but the whole country. And if it becomes clear in the coming days that his loyalty to these two teams is in conflict, he should do the right thing. And quit.

Obama may be no drama, but Biden loves drama. And what could more dramatic than resigning the vice presidency on principle? And what principle could be more honorable than refusing to go along with a policy of unnecessarily risking American blood and treasure -- and America's national security? Now that would be a Whisky Tango Foxtrot moment for the McChrystal crowd -- one that would be a lot more significant than some lame, after-the-fact apology delivered in a too-late-to-matter book.

About Me

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I grew up in Chautauqua County, NY. I graduated from Edinboro University of Pennyslvania in 1981 with a BFA in Jewelry and Metalworking. I have been married 31 years. I currently run a small business with my husband. We both enjoy the outdoors and animals a great deal and live on a tiny farm in Western, NY.