'Moscow Motel 6'

Call it “Black Thursday.”

The U.S. Senate swept the problems of illegal immigration and border security under the proverbial rug, responding to a telephone barrage from the vocal and visible anti-everything-progressive minority. As one senator put it, "Opponents of a bill are the loudest."

In a 5-4 decision, SCOTUS shook the foundations of one of its landmark decisions – Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.

In explaining the opinion of the Court, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., said, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

In other words, schools can no longer use “race” to achieve diversity and integration.

In an uncharacteristic 20-minute tirade, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who wrote the principal dissenting opinion, said, “It is not often in the law that so few have so quickly changed so much.”

You know, I’ve been fighting the good fight since arguably the most crucial SCOTUS decision ever – the one which selected George W. Bush to run this country. (Two of the nation’s legal lights, Vincent Bugliosi and Alan Dershowitz, wrote books which can fill you in on how the Court circumvented the Constitution in Bush v. Gore.)

Over the last decade, a Republican Congress has undone progress this nation made over the previous 40 years. And, they’re still at it.

9/11 is an open sore, which will never heal as long as fearmongering prevails.

We have entered a new century and a new millennium in a state of perpetual war, divisiveness, paranoia, nationalism and xenophobia.

Where is the hope?

My beloved country is mired down in Iraq. Was it Cheney or Wolfowitz or Perle who said the Iraqis would throw flowers at the feet of our troops? The only flowers in this war are being placed at the foot of graves. So many graves.

Thomas Nass, a Marine who served in WWII, emailed this question to MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews:“

“If, as Gen. Petraeus and the administration have argued, an Iraq pullback would increase the violence there, could this possibly mean that our troops are getting killed and maimed just to keep Iraqis from killing each other?”

Sometimes I yearn for the safe cocoon of apathy, a life where my only concerns are Dooney & Burke handbags, Prada shoes, American Idol winners and the inane goings-on in the life of, as my friend Mr. Frodo calls her, “Moscow Motel 6.”


'Backseat' to 'Angler:' Cheney revealed

The Washington Post’s four-part, page-one series, “Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency,” is a must-read.

Post reporters Barton Gellman and Jo Becker have produced an outstanding piece of investigative journalism, a record of how this man, one of the signers of the neoconservatives’ “Statement of Principles,” has wielded power in the Bush presidency.

Links to the series, which appeared Sunday through today, are below, and I hope you will use them to access the articles and read each at your leisure.


“Dick Cheney is the most influential and powerful man ever to hold the office of vice president. This series examines Cheney's largely hidden and little-understood role in crafting policies for the War on Terror, the economy and the environment.”


Sunday: Part 1
Working in the Background: A master of bureaucracy and detail, Cheney exerts most of his influence out of public view.
Article, “A Different Understanding with the President,” 24 June 2007: LINK

Monday: Part 2
Wars and Interrogations: Convinced that the “war on terror” required “robust interrogations” of captured suspects, Dick Cheney pressed the Bush administration to carve out exceptions to the Geneva Conventions.
Article: “Pushing the Envelope on Presidential Power,” 25 June 2007: LINK

Tuesday: Part 3
Dominating Budget Decisions: Working behind the scenes, Dick Cheney has made himself the dominant voice on tax and spending policy, outmaneuvering rivals for the president’s ear.
Article: “A Strong Push from Backstage,” 26 June 2007: LINK

Wednesday: Part 4
Environmental Policy: Dick Cheney steered some of the Bush administration’s most important environmental decisions — easing air pollution controls, opening public parks to snowmobiles and diverting river water from threatened salmon.
Article: “Leaving No Tracks,” 27 June 2007: LINK


“Backseat” and “Angler” are the Secret Service codename designations which have been assigned to Cheney.


Course correction

I ran across a LINK to corrections on MSNBC.com and was amused by this item:

“A Reuters story published May 30 incorrectly stated that Yoko Ono had eaten Corgi meat along with a British artist to protest the British royal family's treatment of animals. Ono did not eat the dog, and was not present at the radio station at the time of the event.”

Glad Yoko didn't eat the Corgi. Too bad about the British artist.


Whitewater: case closed

Continuing to listen to Bill Clinton’s autobiography, “My Life.” I transcribed the following excerpt from the tapes, because its subject is going to come up again in the run-up to Election 2008, and I want you, dear reader, to be aware of the other side of the story.

From Chapter 45:

“… (I)n mid-December the complete Whitewater story finally came out when the RTC (Resolution Trust Corporation) Inquiry from Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro was released. The report was written by Jay Stevens, who like Chuck Banks was a Republican former U.S. attorney, whom I had replaced.”

(See “RTC report exonerates Clintons,” Congressional Record, December 1995: LINK)

“It said, as had the preliminary report in June, that there were no grounds for a civil suit against us in Whitewater, much less any criminal action, and it recommended that the investigation be closed.

“This is what The New York Times and The Washington Post wanted to know when they called for an independent counsel. I eagerly awaited their coverage.

“Immediately after the RTC report was released, the Post mentioned it in passing in the 11th paragraph of a front-page story about an unrelated subpoena battle with (Ken) Starr. And, The New York Times didn’t run a word.

“The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Washington Times ran an Associated Press story of about 400 words on the inside pages of their papers.

“The TV networks didn’t cover the RTC report, though ABC’s Ted Koppel reported it on “Nightline,” then dismissed its importance, because there were ‘so many new questions.’

“Whitewater wasn’t about Whitewater any more: it was about whatever Ken Starr could dig up on anybody in Arkansas or my administration.

“In the meantime, some Whitewater reporters were actually covering up evidence of our innocence. To be fair, some journalists took note.

“Washington Post writer Howard Kurtz wrote an article pointing out the way the RTC report had been buried. And, Lars Erik Nelson, a columnist for The New York Daily News, who had been a correspondent in the Soviet Union, wrote, ‘The secret verdict is in: there was nothing for the Clintons to hide. In a bizarre reversal of those Stalin-era trials in which innocent people were convicted in secret, the president and the first lady have been publicly charged and secretly found innocent.’

“I was genuinely confused by the mainstream press coverage of Whitewater. It seemed inconsistent with the more careful and balanced approach the press had taken on other issues, at least since the Republicans won Congress in 1994.

“One day, after one of our budget meetings in October, I asked Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming to stay a moment to talk. Simpson was a conservative Republican, but we had a pretty good relationship, because of the friendship we had in common with his governor, Mike Sullivan.

“I asked Alan if he thought Hillary and I had done anything wrong in Whitewater. ‘Of course not,’ he said, ‘that’s not what this is about. This is about making the public think you did something wrong. Anybody who looked at the evidence would see that you didn’t.’ ”


And, Starr’s investigation was about more than Whitewater. In early 1998, Starr won authorization to expand his investigation to include the Lewinsky scandal, and questions about Monica Lewinsky's relationship with Clinton quickly overshadowed Whitewater matters.

Of note: in late 1998, when Starr presented his case for impeachment of the president for his attempts to conceal the Lewinsky affair, he indicated that his office had NO impeachable evidence in the Whitewater matters.

Starr resigned in October 1999 and was succeeded by Robert W. Ray, the senior litigation counsel in Starr's office. In September 2000, Ray ended the Whitewater inquiry, stating there was insufficient evidence to prove that President Clinton or his wife had committed any crime in connection with the failed real estate venture or the independent counsel's investigation into it.

The final report was issued 18 months later.

In February 1999, CNN’s Terry Friedan wrote:

“Expenditures by Independent Counsel Ken Starr's office have officially surpassed the $40 million mark, according to new Justice Department figures. … The figures show that Starr's office, through the end of November 1998, had spent $40,835,000. … Those figures do not include costs incurred by Starr's predecessor, Robert Fiske, whose office spent about $6 million before Starr was appointed to lead the investigation.” LINK

There are continuing allegations that the Clintons murdered their longtime Arkansas friend Vince Foster, although his death was officially ruled a suicide, and there is the ongoing reduction of the amazing life stories of Bill and Hillary Clinton into a two-word summary: Monica Lewinsky.

I was telling a yound friend how impressed I am with Clinton’s ability to recall life’s events and his skill at keeping the reader engaged, and her response was, “Has Slick Willy mentioned Monica?”

How sad, I thought, that such a life could be so trivialized by one tragic flaw, especially by those who do not care to read the rest of the story.


Free marketplace of ideas?

While I find one-issue voters – abortion, gun-hugging, Iraq war – myopic, I acknowledge that we all have our pet concerns.

Mine are the media and the Religious Right. Natural progressions since I’m a retired journalist and a Christian.

Nothing I learned on the way to degrees in journalism (and a degree in political science) prepared me for the right-wing takeover of America’s broadcast media.

I didn’t leave my church – a member of the Southern Baptist Convention - my church left me in the early ‘80s as fundamentalists began a takeover of all commissions and college boards of the SBC. Nothing I learned in Jesus’ teachings prepared me for narrow-mindedness and intolerance.

This post is about the broadcast media and what has evolved as a result of Republican control of Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The dominant discussion I clearly recall from graduate school (in the early 80s) was how media consolidation would consolidate and control opinion.

In our naivete we never dreamed a Florida court of appeals would rule, in 2003, that it’s legal for a Fox News to lie to its viewers. LINK

In the last year I read William L. Shirer’s masterpiece, “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany.” Goebbel’s state propaganda office and its control of Germany’s media is a tocsin for the ages, and the following report should be of grave concern to all Americans.

Those who revel in its implications – fans of the Rush Limbaughs, Sean Hannitys, Bill O’Reillys, Laura Ingrahams - are the same people who cheered when the Supreme Court of the United States threw the Constitution out with the dishwater in Election 2000.

You know: the “what’s best for me and my ideology and screw America” types.

The Center for American Progress and Free Press have released a report on the public airwaves – which belong to the people – and here is a synopsis of its findings (LINK):

(Begin quoted material)

“LACK OF DIVERSITY:” Conservative Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) raised a furor last week when he called out the right-wing radio hosts working to defeat comprehensive immigration reform. "Talk radio is running America," Lott said. "We have to deal with that problem." Indeed, despite the dramatic expansion of viewing and listening options for consumers today, traditional radio remains one of the most widely used media formats in America, reaching an estimated 50 million listeners each week on more than 1,700 stations across the nation. More importantly, talk radio is dominated almost exclusively by conservatives. The Center for American Progress and Free Press yesterday released the first-of-its-kind statistical analysis of the political make-up of talk radio in the United States. The results confirm the stunning lack of diversity in talk radio, and raise serious questions about whether the companies licensed to broadcast over the public airwaves are serving the listening needs of all Americans.

HOW BAD IS IT: In the spring of 2007, 91 percent of the political talk radio programming on the stations owned by the top five commercial station owners was conservative, and only 9 percent was progressive. Ninety-two percent of these stations (236 stations out of 257) do not broadcast a single minute of progressive talk radio programming. In the top 10 radio markets in the country, 76 percent of the news/talk programming is conservative, while 24 percent is progressive. In four of those top 10 markets -- Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston -- the domination of conservative talk radio is between 96 and 100 percent.

MORE CONSOLIDATION, LESS DIVERSITY, LESS ACCOUNTABILITY: The increasing imbalance in talk radio has paralleled significant shifts in the media ownership landscape. Since the Telecommunications Act of 1996, there has been a dramatic decline (34 percent) in the number of radio station owners, meaning a sharp increase in media ownership concentration. This trend has occurred because Congress eliminated restrictions on the total ownership of radio stations by any one media entity. Now, in the largest markets with 45 or more commercial radio stations, one entity may own or control up to eight commercial radio stations. As a result, women and minorities "have largely been shut out of radio ownership in this country," owning just 6 and 7.7 percent respectively of the nation's full-power radio stations. Also, due to increasing deregulation, local accountability over the public airwaves has been sharply limited. Radio stations are licensed by the government and are meant to operate in the public interest. Yet stations no longer have to inform the community of their obligations as a federal licensee, and the needs and interests of local communities are being ignored.

HOW TO SOLVE IT: The primary goals of policy proposals to reduce the gap should be to encourage more speech on the airwaves, not less, and to ensure that local needs are being met and diverse opinions are being aired. First, the CAP/Free Press report recommends that Congress promote ownership diversity by restoring the local and national caps on the ownership of commercial radio stations. For instance, no one entity should control more than 10 percent of the total commercial radio stations in a given market. Second, the report recommends that steps be taken to ensure greater local accountability over radio licensing. Radio broadcast licensees should regularly show that they are operating on behalf of the public interest, and provide public documentation showing how they are meeting these obligations. Finally, if commercial radio broadcasters are unwilling to abide by these regulatory standards or the FCC is unable to effectively regulate in the public interest, a spectrum use fee should be levied on owners to directly support local, regional, and national public broadcasting. (For more detailed explanations of the policy proposals, read the full report: LINK)
(End quoted material)


YOU own the public airwaves. To email FCC commissioners: LINK


Put this on a cigarette pack!

Surgeon general warning!

A natural progression of George W. Bush’s leadership record is his nominee for surgeon general - a post tantamount to America’s family doctor.

In seeking the right person to be responsible for the health and well-being of all Americans, Bush, quite naturally, selected an evangelical homophobe.

Kentucky surgeon and cardiologist Dr. James W. Holsinger, Jr., called gay activity "unnatural and unhealthy" in a 1991 paper, which physicians reviewed as “prioritizing political ideology over science.” Bush’s nominee has compared reproductive organs to plumbing parts. And, his church offers a program to “cure” homosexuality. ABC News: LINK

Seemingly, the selection process at the White House has a single criterion: controversy.

The Boston Globe editorial of 19 June 2007, “Intolerance Makes Bad Medicine,” is worth reading. LINK

I let my two Republican senators know my views on this nominee, but I went one step farther.

Why have a surgeon general at all?

Michael Tanner, director of health and welfare studies at the Cato Institute and author of "Leviathan on the Right," makes a strong and witty case for eliminating the position of “national nanny.”

“Can you name the current surgeon general?” Tanner asks.

Read his argument for eliminating the post. The Baltimore Sun, 19 June 2007: LINK

And, let your senators know your views.


An email form for each U.S. senator is available. Simply do a google.com search on a senator’s name followed by “contact information.”


Fingers crossed behind his back

So, what’s the big deal about George W. Bush’s “signing statements”?

A president can attach signing statements to bills passed by Congress, with which he (or she) takes exception to certain provisions of the new law.

Bush has attached more than 1,100 to laws which have crossed his desk. LINK

That’s more signing statements than have been attached to bills by all other previous presidents combined. All.

And, therein lies the rub.

On Monday, the Government Accountability Office released a report stating that federal agencies have ignored 30 percent of the laws passed by Congress and accompanied by Bush’s signing statements. One-third. LINK

Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Byrd (D-WV), the Senate’s foremost expert on the workings of that body, said, “This GAO opinion underscores the fact that the Bush White House is constantly grabbing for more power, seeking to drive the people's branch of government to the sidelines." LINK

In another article, Byrd is quoted, "Too often, the Bush administration does what it wants, no matter the law. It says what it wants, no matter the facts." LINK

Last August delegates representing 410,000 members of the American Bar Association objected to presidents using signing statements to circumvent laws passed by Congress in lieu of a presidential veto.

In the resolution, the ABA condemned Bush’s overuse of signing statements. LINK
"The Constitution says the president has two choices: either sign the bill or veto it. And, if you sign it, you can't have your hand behind your back with your fingers crossed," said Michael Greco, the ABA's outgoing president.


An important post follows.

Poet, in his own words

Friend Jeff Noland, poet and activist from Chicago, is now in the New Orleans area working with Habitat for Humanity.

Here is the poet, in his own words, from his myspace post:

well. here i am. st. bernard parish. new orleans.

first things first. for the benefit of those of you who might think that pulling off the road and heading down here on the bus is some sort of failure, i offer the following:

walk the walk ain’t about one foot in front of the other for 927 miles.

to walk the walk is to do what i can do to the best of my ability.

fact is many people have different ideas about what should or should not means, about what could or could not means, about what oughta be and about what should be.

truth is: ideas are a great place to start. but they are only a start. the reality of living is found in the sweat and the time and the effort and the doing. the rest? talk.

i will have much more to say about this subject once i have time to chew on everything i have had the honor to experience while on the road. soon i will offer road stories about all the wonderful people i have been honored to share time with.

but, now? it is time for me to do what i can do with a hammer or a paint brush in hand. time to frame or roof a house or hang some drywall or paint. do demolition or build. whatever bob from Habitat has for me to do.

second thing? the fact of the matter is i know from the doing that i could have made every single step with backup within the time i have to devote and the resources i allocated. i had hoped that such backup would materialize. after all i live in a country with 300 million people in it. that's a pretty big pool of talent and time to draw from. but it didnt work out the way i hoped once i got beyond the reach of the people i know.

so? fair enough. sometimes the answer we get to our hopes is “no.” accept and move on to what can be done.

so. i am typing this as i sit at the fold-up table in a FEMA trailer in the front yard of a person who rebuilt his own house with his own two hands. that FEMA trailer? call it what it is. a camper, friends. fun for a road trip. not a place to rear a family. not a home.

today, i walked the block i am to live on here in st. bernard parish. the number of houses with lights on, being lived in are far outnumbered by those that have neither lights on nor cars in the driveway. i am about to walk it again in the dark to try to learn better this silence where it should not be silent. i will have much more to say soon.

now? what i see here calls out for hands. for boots on the ground. it is just so damn big this desolation that Katrina brought.

this said? new orleans and the parishes and i all have a question for the rest of America:

where the heck are you?

that said? from here on out this story becomes about a different kind of doing. my best to all of you reading this. follow the link below to learn about st. bernard parish, please. sleep well. more soon.

poet out.


Before Katrina, the population of St. Bernard Parish, La., was 67,229. In October 2006, the population was estimated to be a little more than 25,000. LINK

One of those St. Bernard houses, sitting empty in Chalmette and rotting away from water damage was the new home of my nephew and his wife, Van and Anna Turner. Van was employed in the gift shop of the new D-Day Museum in NOLA, editing its online catalog. Anna was an officer at Hibernia Bank. They returned once to their home to retrieve what could be washed clean of mud and mold, then relocated to Montgomery, Ala.

Just one of the St. Bernard stories.

B. J. out.


Follow Jeff’s daily Habitat for Humanity diary and read the stories from his walk on his myspace site: LINK


A 'do-nothing' Congress?


Right-wing pundits and Fox News have flooded the airwaves with claims that the new Democratic Congress is “doing nothing.” Poll numbers reflect Americans are buying their spin.


Republicans and a suddenly energized presidential veto pen are blocking certain key legislative efforts. Despite this, the 110th Congress has accomplished much in the last five months.


The House of Representatives:

· Passed all 10 bills Democrats promised during the 2006 campaign.
· Passed the $37.4 billion fiscal 2008 Homeland Security spending bill Friday “after three days of delay while leaders bickered over the handling of earmarks. The bill still faces a potential Bush veto over funding levels and wages for federal contractors.”

The Senate:

• Passed six of the 10 Democratic campaign promises with three others currently being considered. (Bush has signed just two of the bills and has vetoed or threatened to veto five.)
· Announced Thursday night that stalled immigration legislation would be brought back to the floor, while making no promises about its substance.

The 110th Congress:

· Enacted the 9/11 Commission recommendations, which, in the years since 9/11, the Republican Congress and Bush have failed to do.
· Passed landmark lobbying and ethics reform.
· Raised the federal minimum wage for the first time in a decade – from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour.
· Voted to expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, legislation which Bush has vowed to veto for a second time.
· Honored its pledge for more openness and accountability in government.
· Introduced new protections for government whistleblowers.
· Authored legislation requiring greater disclosure of presidential records.
· Demanded more responsiveness to Freedom of Information Act requests.
· Included billions more than Bush requested for military health care and research in the 2007 Emergency Supplemental, which Bush signed.
· Restored necessary checks and balances, “in contrast to the dangerous expansion of executive authority granted by previous Congresses.”
· Drove Bush on Thursday to sign the Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act, “which repeals an obscure PATRIOT Act provision permitting the appointment of interim U.S. attorneys without Senate approval, a provision which is at the heart of the U.S. attorney scandal.”
· Examined ways “to curb Bush's warrantless wiretapping system, which even FBI Director Robert Mueller acknowledges is laden with ‘abuses and violations’ of authority.”
· Restored the Constitutional provision of aggressive oversight of government, which was “woefully neglected” by Bush’s political allies in the previous Congress.

The Senate Judiciary Committee:

· Passed on June 7 The Habeas Corpus Restoration Act. Last year the Republican Congress suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus, which has its roots in the 14th Century and simply guarantees that if you are arrested, you must be told why you’re being held.


The 110th Congress is currently debating immigration reform, the Iraq War and a comprehensive energy policy. Failure to resolve these issues – due to partisan posturing - has resulted in lower poll numbers for performance. Overall, the legislation outlined above negates the MYTH that Congress is “doing nothing.”


This is the preachy-teachy part, but must be pointed out. Far too many Americans fail to realize it’s their responsibility and privilege to direct Congressional action. The U.S. Congress works for YOU. Imagine the power unleashed if the populace contacted senators and representatives on a regular basis regarding issues of concern.


Center for American Progress: LINK
Congressional Quarterly: LINK


Ruth Bell Graham, 1920-2007

"I am so grateful to the Lord that He gave me Ruth, and especially for these last few years we've had in the mountains together. We've rekindled the romance of our youth, and my love for her continued to grow deeper every day. I will miss her terribly, and look forward even more to the day I can join her in Heaven."
~ Billy Graham, evangelist

Obituary: LINK
Funeral arrangements: LINK


Ruth Bell Graham had wanted to be buried near the chapat at Little Piney Cove in Montreat, N.C., where she reared her five children in the home of her parents, medical missionaries who fled a war-torn China.

That she will be laid to rest at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, a decision Billy Graham said was made “after much prayer and discussion,” seems bittersweet to those who followed the family’s discord over Ruth’s wishes. See my post of 3 June 2007: LINK


Nonsense fence, dumb defense

I think I’ve just about solved the illegal immirgrant-border security problem, and it won’t cost taxpayers a red cent.

Order all 12 million illegal immirgrants - Lou Dobbs and Pat Buchanan claim the number is 30 million - to report to the U.S.-Mexican border. Tell them your plan.

Mandate that they go to a local Home Depot and purchase, out of pocket, enough material to build a small portion of a wall on said border.

When the immigrants have built their sections of said wall, issue them an ID card, put them on a two-year probation, tell them to get back to work, then, if they behave, grant them amnesty.

That should locate the illegal immigrants, take care of border security and placate businesses who want cheap labor.

One minor detail to work out: a silent majority would have them build the fence from the north side, while the loud, visible, racist and xenophobic minority would expect them to build the fence from the south side, then be locked out.

Nonsensical? Well, read on. You ain’t heard nothing yet!

Step through the looking-glass, dear reader, and note this June 8 story from CBS News’ Hank Plante:

“A Berkeley (California) watchdog organization that tracks military spending said it uncovered a strange U.S. military proposal to create a hormone bomb that could purportedly turn enemy soldiers into homosexuals and make them more interested in sex than fighting.

“Pentagon officials on Friday confirmed to CBS 5 that military leaders had considered, and then subsquently rejected, building the so-called ‘Gay Bomb.’”

This study was first proposed in 1994 and would have cost $7.5 million!

When a friend sent me this story, I found it so incredulous, source alarms went off.

The writer Plante, I found, has impeccable credentials: LINK

A person very dear to me, who is gay, has this to say:

“OH, MY GOD!!! I am speechless. I don't even know how to respond to this news.

“First, what a waste of taxpayer money to have such nonsense discussed. Secondly, I have a very good friend who is gay and served. He is very proud of his country and his service to it. What an insult.

“I love living in a democracy BUT when majority rules and the majority are either ignorant or just plain stupid, the logical assumption is that the leader they choose will also be either ignorant or just plain stupid!

“When are we going to send Bush to jail for war crimes? I know I have segued into something else but as long as Bush makes bold, unthoughtful and partisan remarks against gays in the military, then everyone else in power will feel like they have a right to bash something that doesn't even touch a person’s ability to serve.

“Thanks for supporting our GAY troops!


Read the story, it’s a dusey! LINK (Scroll way down the page.)


A wish follows.

Happy Birthday, Sis!

My sister Martha celebrates her birthday today. She has always been a touchstone in my life, and I wish I could be with her.

The woman has traveled all over the world and the United States, has a wonderful family, plays golf almost daily, wins trophies, is culturally au courant and simply drop-dead gorgeous.

And, she’s only 77!

Happy Birthday, Sis! I love you!


Restoring America after Bush

Quotes from a lengthy and insightful article by Newsweek’s International Editor Fareed Zakaria, “Beyond Bush: What the World Needs Is an Open, Confident America,” June 11, 2007, issue: LINK

“America, however, will have to move on (after Bush’s presidency) and restore its place in the world. To do this we must first tackle the consequences of our foreign policy of fear. Having spooked ourselves into believing that we have no option but to act fast, alone, unilaterally and pre-emptively, we have managed in six years to destroy decades of international goodwill, alienate allies, embolden enemies and yet solve few of the major international problems we face.”


“The problem today is not that America is too strong but that it is seen as too arrogant, uncaring and insensitive. Countries around the world believe that the United States, obsessed with its own notions of terrorism, has stopped listening to the rest of the world.”


“True, the United States faces a complicated and dangerous geopolitical environment. But, it is not nearly as dangerous as when the Soviet Union had thousands of missiles aimed at American, European and Asian cities and the world lived with the prospect of nuclear war. It is not nearly as dangerous as the first half of the 20th Century, when Germany plunged the globe into two great wars.”

Zakaria discusses the ramifications of Bush’s policies; Iraq and Iran; the 2008 presidential candidates with an opinion as to which might best shape America’s future; and how America can overcome her now negative image in the world. He concludes:

“It is easy to look at America's place in the world right now and believe that we are in a downward spiral of decline. But, this is a snapshot of a tough moment. If the country can keep its cool, admit to its mistakes, cherish and strengthen its successes, it will not only recover but return with renewed strength. There could not have been a worse time for America than the end of the Vietnam War, with helicopters lifting people off the roof of the Saigon embassy, the fallout of Watergate and, in the Soviet Union, a global adversary that took advantage of its weakness. And yet, just 15 years later, the United States was resurgent, the USSR was in its death throes and the world was moving in a direction that was distinctly American in flavor. The United States has new challenges, new adversaries and new problems. But, unlike so much of the world, it also has solutions — if only it has the courage and wisdom to implement them.”


Monday rant - a day late!

Amazingly, this is only the second rant on my blog, and the first was about rapidly advancing technology.

Some mornings I feel defeated. But, I won’t quit speaking out.

I find it stunning how cable news continues to drift to the far right. Conservative hosts outnumber liberals despite the 2006 election outcome and poll numbers which show Americans dissatisfied with the lob performance of the current administration.

Conservative guests are louder and more visible, by far, than the occasional liberal voice.

Soundbites are used to distort the news or actions on Capitol Hill. They are easier to spot when you are aware of the whole story.

This mood was precipitated by blog problems all day yesterday while listening to Republicans on the floor of the U.S. Senate (C-SPAN 2) saying dumbass things like “We have no confidence in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. We believe he’s incompetent. But, hey, this is just political theater on the part of the Democrats, and we have more important things to debate.”

They are talking about the highest law enforcement officer in the land.

And, despite valid evidence laid out by Democrats, Republicans managed to stall further debate and block the resolution critical of Gonzales’ performance.

By such tactics and threatened Bush vetoes, Democrats in Congress have their hands tied, which, of course, allows right-wing pundits to opine that they are "doing nothing."

Please don’t be part of “The New Silent Majority!”

Pat Buchanan’s full-time microphone at MSNBC is allowing him to lie, and he knows he’s lying. This morning he said, “ALL of Middle America” is against a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Most major polls indicate otherwise – with as many as 80 percent actually supporting said path.

Your U.S. senators and reps have Web email forms for your convenience. Let them know your stance on issues. Might be the best five minutes you spend all day. And, it will empower you. Your reps in Washington might not agree with you, but they work for you and they will know you exist, for God’s sake.

Being silent allows the rantings of folks like Pat and other far-right pundits to appear legitimate!


Please see next post.

Poet's new route

Got a note from Jeff Noland’s Galesburg, Ill., friend Rajean with his new route plans.

Jeff, who is walking from his Chicago home to New Orleans to raise money for that city’s Habitat for Humanity, will be joined by “Derrick,” and together they will walk to Springfield, Ill., on Route 97. They will then turn south and walk to St Louis.

“At that point,” Rajean writes, “if there is enough interest they will continue to
walk. Otherwise, at that point, Jeff will take the City of New Orleans from St Louis to Baton Rouge and will walk from there to NOLA. This will give him time to actually do his part by building or assisting directly in New Orleans.

“This appears to be the most definite route we've had to date. It winds through a lot of small towns but has two major cities on it. St Louis is currently the home of several hundred former New Orleanians and is the sister city to the ‘Jewel of the Mississippi,’ so it seemed very appropriate to go there.”

Apparently, others will be joining Jeff for the remainder of his walk, and I'm certain he appreciates the effort and the company.

The purpose of Jeff’s walk, of course, is to help those left homeless by Hurricane Katrina. For ways to make a contribution to the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity, see my previous post: LINK


Bill Clinton: impact of 1968

My current book on tape is Bill Clinton’s “My Life,” and I am so impressed with his writing style, as amiable and down-home funny as his political style.

Clinton has just described one of the most tumultuous summers in our history – 1968 – and the violence at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The great dividers in the nation were racial conflict and Vietnam.

The Chicago violence unfolded while Clinton was on a trip to Shreveport, La., with his mother’s boyfriend. As he watched on TV Mayor Daley’s police force beating youthful protesters in Grant Park, Clinton says his Southern upbringing clashed with his progressive ideals. This young college kid, who would leave for Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship in the fall, says he saw his beloved Democratic Party crumbling before his eyes.

Hubert Humphrey won the Party’s nomination over Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern, choosing Senator Edmund Muskie as his running mate. Bobby Kennedy had been killed after winning the California primary, and Senator Edward Kennedy rejected the pleas of young idealists to seek the nomination. Alabama Governor George Wallace was set to wage a third-party campaign.

At the conclusion of Chapter 13, devoted to the politics of this explosive summer, Clinton writes:

“The feeding fanaticism of the left had not yet played itself out, but it had already released a radical reaction on the right – one that would prove more durable, more well-financed, more institutionalized, more resourceful, more addicted to power, and far more skilled at getting and keeping it.

“Much of my public life has been spent trying to bridge the social and psychological divide that had widened into a chasm in Chicago. I won a lot of elections, and I think I did a lot of good, but the more I tried to bring people together, the madder it made the fanatics on the right.

“Unlike the kids in Chicago, they didn’t want America to come back together. They had an enemy, and they meant to keep it.”

Later, in Chapter 14, Clinton describes 1968 as:

“… the year that broke open the nation and shattered the Democratic Party. The year that conservative populism replaced progressive populism as the dominant political force in our nation. The year that law and order and strength became the province of Republicans, and Democrats became associated with chaos, weakness and out-of-touch, self-indulgent elites. The year that lead to Nixon, then Reagan, then Gingrich, then George W. Bush. The middle-class backlash would shape and distort American politics for the rest of the century. The new conservatism would be shaken by Watergate, Its public support would be weakened as right-wing ideologues promoted economic inequality, environmental destruction and social divisions, but not destroyed.

“When threatened by its own excesses, the conservative movement would promise to be kinder and gentler or more compassionate, all the while ripping the hide off Democrats for alleged weakness of values, character and will.

“And, it would be enough to provoke the painfully predictable, almost Pavlovian reaction among enough white middle-class voters to carry the day.

“Of course, it was more complicated than that. Sometimes conservatives’ criticisms of the Democrats had validity, and there were always moderate Republicans and conservatives of good will who worked with Democrats to make some positive changes. Nevertheless, the deeply imbedded nightmares of 1968 formed the arena in which I and all other progressive politicians had to struggle over our entire careers.

“Regardless, those of us who believed that the good in the 1960s outweighed the bad would fight on, still fired by the heroes and dreams of our youth.”


Two geniuses – skilled at propaganda – became the architects of conservative populism: Lee Atwater and his protege Karl Rove. Atwater, who died from a brain tumor at the young age of 39, apologized and asked forgiveness for his deeds before death. Rove’s influence continues in Bush’s White House.


See Jeff Noland update in next post.

Walking poet Q&A

Only about 640 miles to go! Our friend Jeff Noland – “The Poet” – had reached Galesburg, Illinois, by Sunday morning, 160 miles from his Chicago home.

The big deal? He’s walking. The really big deal: he’s walking to New Orleans, raising money for that city’s Habitat for Humanity.

Jeff, who had reached a friend’s home in Galesburg when I talked with him Sunday mornig, answered an email Q&A:

Q. How did you prepare, train for the walk?

A. I started walking around my neighborhood five months back. First, a few miles a day working up to more. I also started walking to my meetings or home from my meetings - about seven miles. A ton of sit-ups and pushups. The last two weeks before I left, I walked the block with the pack loaded as much as possible. Glad I did now.

Q. Where are you sleeping at night?

A. On nights when I have nothing else? A nice tent I carry. On nights when I am really lucky? A hotel or other people’s homes even. Yeah. people have taken me in. Amazing, ain’t it?

Q. Do you know ahead of time where you will spend the night?

A. No. I work that out based on how many miles I can make on a given day. With a semi-rough idea of where I am aiming at beforehand. Near the end of my travel day I start scouting and make camp, usually in a grove of trees for a bit of shelter and to maintain cover while I am sleeping.

Q. Are you getting any local media coverage?

A. Near as I can tell right now, no. Am gonna do some ‘net surfing today and see if I am right about that. Will let you know what I find.

Q. What about people along the route? Are they noticing you? Talking with you?

A. The answer is yes. Even more so when I find the time to attend an AA meeting here or there. A few have stopped on the road to ask if I need help. I could go on for hours about those people. Have notes. Will do so when time permits. Oh, as to mentioning AA? I’ve been told so far that mentioning a 12-step program is OK. So, feel free.

Q. Are you keeping a daily journal or a video record?

A. Notes here and there on scratch paper. Carry weight is something I have to worry about, so I am limited there. I am taking pictures on my camera phone. As soon as I figure out how to email some I will.

Q. Do you know how donations are going?

A. A little bit of knowing. Some here and there. The irony is I am getting more donations from the New Orleans area than anywhere. The number? I have no idea. Will try to find out via my New Orleans Habitat contact and let you know.

Q. How do you cope with the “elements” – heat, rain?

A. Heat? I walk and drink a ton of water, which slows me down, because I must carry it. But, hydrate or die. Rain? At first I thought I would be able to walk in the rain. I am starting to think I might just have to lay up on days like that. It is much harder walking. I burn a ton more water and a ton more calories. Which means eating food I have to carry and might not be able to replenish for a while. Am learning to balance such and go with what makes the most sense at the time.

Q. Have you lost weight?

A. Actually I’ve gained weight. Guess I’m some kind of mutant freak.

Q. What “essentials” are you carrying on your person?

A. Tent. Camp stove. Freeze-dried food. Sleeping bag and mat. Military-issue, quick-release backpack. Solar battery charger for phone. Sundry other personal items.

Q. What is the next sizeable town you will reach?

A. Will give you next leg plans before I start tomorrow.

Q. Didn't you tell me you mark five years of sobriety in June? What date? And, sincere congratulations!

A. Today, lady. i marked five years today! Smile. Made me two AA meetings here in Galesburg to celebrate even. I am a very lucky and blessed man. That said, off to make some more plans. I will send you details when decided.

Viya con dios, Poet!





Mail checks to this address and indicate “Walk the Walk/Jeff Noland” on the memo line:

New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity (NOAHH)
Attn: Development
POB 15052
New Orleans, LA 70175



'Somebody oughta open up a window'

So much hot air:

* Refusing to be part of the “new Silent Majority,” I had written my two Republican senators in support of the immigration reform bill. Watched the quagmire on C-SPAN yesterday. These words describing Congress in the musical “1776” came to mind: “Piddle, twiddle and resolve; not one damn thing do they solve.” Impression: none seem to know what to do with illegal immigrants. The bill, which would have provided a “path to citizenship” – not “amnesty” – failed when most Republicans blocked Demoratic efforts to bring it to a final vote. So much for solving any of the associated problems this year. I guess the 78 to 80 percent of Americans, which several polls indicated supported this plan, failed to let their senators know their opinions. LINK
* There was good news, though. Yesterday, with a vote of 247 to 176, the U.S. House passed the bill easing restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research. The bipartisan bill, previously passed by the U.S. Senate, now needs the president’s signature. The people have spoken. Congress has spoken. And, this good news will only be met with Bush’s promised veto. There are not likely to be enough votes to override the veto. LINK


Read or ignore, it's your country!


“If this week‘s alleged JFK terror plot teaches us anything, it is that fear, like fire, can spread only when it is given plenty of air.” – Keith Olbermann


Some five years ago, I posted a message on a grassroots forum that went something like this: “Has anyone noticed a PATTERN of bad news for the Bush administration followed by terror alerts and arrests?”

Not long after that I began to see mention of such a pattern on various trusted Web sites.

So, are these terror alerts and arrests real or red herrings? Are they believable or bogus?

If, as the pattern suggests, they are products of some creative propaganda genius, they would make even Joseph Goebbels proud.

Or, are they just products of paranoia generated by distrust of a president and an administration who lied to take us to war in Iraq? For lie they did, time and again.

Keith Olbermann, “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” MSNBC, has been tracking this PATTERN, and on Monday night he updated his list titled “THE NEXUS OF POLITICS AND TERROR.”

Olbermann’s list is comprised of 13 separate incidents linking such terror news to other events. I believe there might be more.

But, I cannot, in any way, improve upon Mr. Olbermann’s work, and so I post it here for your enlightenment.

This post is long, and I plan to leave it here at the top of my blog for a couple of weeks. It’s that important. You can copy and paste it to a Microsoft Word document on your computer to read at your leisure and to keep for future reference.

You can read it or ignore it. It’s your country, your liberties and your children's future!



KEITH OLBERMANN: The abstract hypothetical terror plot at JFK. It sounds ominous, until you ask the experts. Blow up part of a jet fuel pipeline, and you still stand zero chance of blowing up the airport.

VIDEO: UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is just unthinkable.

OLBERMANN: Yes, well, so would me blowing up the moon with Mentos and a liter of Coca-Cola.

We will truth-squad the plot and update “The Nexus of Politics and Terror” - the now 13 times officials of this country have revealed so-called terror plots at times that were just coincidentally to their political benefit, no matter how preposterous the actual schemes might have been, including a plot against Fort Dix, where pizza deliverymen were supposed to kill at will at an Army base full of soldiers with guns, all summed up neatly by a Republican state party chairman, who has just said, quote, “All we need is some attacks on American soil like we had on 9/11, and the naysayers will come around very quickly for President Bush.”



Law enforcement calls it, quote, “one of the most chilling plots imaginable.” But, even if the suspects had the support, the money and the wherewithal they needed, is it even possible to ignite JFK Airport by igniting the jet fuel pipeline that leads to it?

And, the president has renewed his attempts to link our security here with the war in Iraq. Are the arrests in this case, and the equally impractical Fort Dix plan, politically timed, or just politically coincidental? We will revisit the nexus of politics and terror.


OLBERMANN: If this week‘s alleged JFK terror plot teaches us anything, it is that fear, like fire, can spread only when it is given plenty of air.

In our fourth story tonight, the fear got plenty of that, even as it turned out that attacking JFK would not have ignited the fuel pipeline system, nor vice-versa, if only due to the lack of air.

In addition to the laws of physics, the pipeline that stretches 40 miles from New Jersey to JFK has the occasional disconnect valve or two. The alleged terrorists apparently hoped to take out JFK, the pipeline and thousands of people who live above the pipeline. It is not their job to know better.

But, when a U.S. attorney said that the results of a successful attack would have been unthinkable, in fact, she and other U.S. officials should have known that thinkable was about all those results were. They were not that doable. Federal officials confirm the alleged terrorists had no experience, no backing, no money, no explosives and no inside information, unless you count Google Earth.

Plus, of course, whatever the accused ringleader, seen here in surveillance tape just prior to his capture, remembers from his job as a cargo handler 12 years ago.


Let‘s turn to a professional in this field, Michael Boyd, president of the Boyd Group aviation consulting firm.

Mike, thanks again for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: Before we get to the dangers not being talked about today, explain why the prospect of terrorists putting a match to a fuel pipeline at JFK does not necessarily produce the apocalyptic scenario that the U.S. officials describe, both in terms of the pipeline and jet fuel, in specifics.

BOYD: Well, jet fuel is not as volatile as gasoline. (BJ note: this reduction of volatility was mandated by the FAA and the NTSB following airline crashes and 9/11.) Unless you have a lot of air and it‘s atomized, it‘s not going to burn real good. As a matter of fact, it takes a minute or two to get it burning if you put a blowtorch to a pool of it. You know, that‘s why the FAA said you got to be off an airplane in 90 seconds after an accident, because they figure that‘s how long it takes the fuel to get burning.

So, this argument that if you light it somewhere on the length of the pipeline, it‘s going to blow up all of Rego Park, that‘s just nuts.

OLBERMANN: So, what are the real dangers to the U.S. aviation systems, when we‘re talking about fuel supply, fuel pipelines, terrorist attacks on fuel pipelines?

BOYD: Well, you know, what these people we saw at that press conference yesterday don‘t know, and don‘t pay any attention to, but a pipeline is vulnerable. But, it‘s vulnerable to hurting our economy. If you could knock out the fuel supply of five or six airports, you shut down the air transportation system in a couple of days. And, what would that do to our economy?

They didn‘t even focus on that. They focused as if, somehow or other, this would be one giant incendiary event. And, what that says is, very clearly, these are not real security people. I mean, the terrorists they caught, supposedly, were not black belts in terrorism. And, these guys aren‘t black belts in counterterrorism, either.

OLBERMANN: So, all right, let‘s say, if this had somehow come to pass, if what they designed to do actually came to pass, what would the result have been? Would there have been an interruption to the flow of fuel to JFK? Or, would there have been something — what kind of cataclysm would we have had?

BOYD: Well, it depends on where they hit. If they hit the whole fuel farm or one of the major fuel farms that feed JFK, yes, you could have had a major shutdown at John F. Kennedy International. That‘s bad. But, you know, give New Yorkers a real flash here: New York is not the only place in the world. It would have hurt the economy, but it — and it certainly could have shut the airport down. If that happened to a lot of places, it could shut our economy down.

The unfortunate part is: these people at Homeland Security don‘t realize that, and that‘s why we‘re vulnerable, even to these second-rate kind of people like they caught yesterday.

OLBERMANN: So, if the danger is to fuel delivery and economy rather than conflagration, but people are talking about conflagration and terror and mass death, what does it tell you that the prosecutors knew about this since last year, and still characterized the results the way they did?

BOYD: Well, they‘ve done this. They said they started on this over -

about a year and a half ago. And, as of yesterday, that attorney still didn‘t know that what these guys were planning to do would not do what they thought it would do. That says to me is, this was more of a photo op than really anything that really focuses on protecting our airports.

OLBERMANN: You‘ve been on this since we talked to you first about this in 2003, that we seem to be devoting the right amount of attention to aviation safety, but we have always — we‘re always picking the wrong topics to be concerned about?

BOYD: Well, the problem is, our security — Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration - is not run by security professionals. It‘s run by political appointees. And, political appointees look to cover themselves and to look good rather than to do the job. And, that‘s why we‘re no safer than we were on 9/11, because we have the same problems we‘ve always had.

OLBERMANN: The aviation expert Michael Boyd, cutting through as always. Great thanks for joining us again, sir.

BOYD: Thank you, sir.

OLBERMANN: Details of another plot, more pipe dream than pipeline, emerging just as the White House redoubles efforts to equate the war in Iraq with our security at home.


We will update our look at the history of these kinds of dubious coincidences in a revised edition of the nexus of politics and terror.


The nexus of politics and terror. Why was the JFK airport plot revealed by a U.S. attorney in the middle of a U.S. attorney scandal and by the father of a Fox News reporter? (BJ note: According to an MSNBC reporter at the press conference, the conference was not broadcast live, because it was help on one of the top floors of the building and was not accessible to camera equipment.) And, why, on this Saturday, the coincidences have begun again. We will review that.



OLBERMANN: Since last August, there had been a period of calm. The screaming hair-on-fire pronouncements about terror plots that may have had real plotters, but no real conceivable chance of actually happening had ceased. That that period spanned the time between the 2006 midterm elections and the week we reached exactly 18 months until the 2008 presidential election - just a coincidence?


Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, from the mind-bending idea that four guys dressed as pizza delivery men were going to outgun all the soldiers at Fort Dix to the not-too-thought-out plan to blow up JFK airport by lighting a match 40 miles away, here we go again. Time for an update of our segment, “The Nexus of Politics and Terror.” The instance is now 13 in number when those two worlds have overlapped, and we are reminded by our government, with or without justification, that we should always fear fear itself.


We offer two prefaces tonight: one, the words of Dennis Milligan, the new state chairman of the Republican Party in Arkansas, who says about Iraq, to the newspaper The Arkansas Democrat Gazette, quote, “At the end of the day, I believe fully the president is doing the right thing. And, I think all we need is some attacks on American soil like we had on September 11th, 2001, and the naysayers will come around very quickly to appreciate not only the commitment for President Bush, but the sacrifice that has been made by men and women to protect this country.”

“All we need is some attacks on American soil,” said the Republican Party chairman in Arkansas - Arkansas. in the United States. That Arkansas!

The other preamble, we remind you again that coincidences can happen, that the logical fallacy insists that just because event A occurs and then event B occurs, that does not automatically mean that event A caused event B. But, neither does it say the opposite.


The Nexus of Politics and Terror updated through today (4 June 2007). Please judge for yourself.


OLBERMANN: May 18, 2002; the first details of the president‘s daily briefing of August 6, 2001, are revealed, including its title, “Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S.” The same day, another memo is discovered revealing the FBI knew of men with links to al Qaeda training at an Arizona flight school. The memo was never acted upon.

Questions about 9/11 intelligence failures are swirling. May 20, 2002:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The terror warnings from the highest level of the federal government tonight are …

OLBERMANN: Two days later, FBI Director Mueller declares that another terrorist attack is “inevitable.”

The next day, the Department of Homeland Security issues warnings of attacks against railroads nationwide, and against New York City landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.


Thursday, June 6, 2002:

COLEEN ROWLEY: I never really anticipated this kind of impact.

OLBERMANN: Coleen Rowley, the FBI agent who tried to alert her superiors to the specialized flight training taken by Zacarias Moussaoui, whose information suggests the government missed the chance to break up the 9/11 plot, testifies before Congress. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Graham says Rowley‘s testimony has inspired similar pre-9/11 whistleblowers.

Monday June 10, 2002, four days later:

JOHN ASHCROFT, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: We have disrupted an unfolding terrorist plot.

OLBERMANN: Speaking from Russia, Attorney General John Ashcroft reveals that an American name Jose Padilla is under arrest, accused of plotting a radiation bomb attack in this country. In fact, Padilla had by this time already been detained for more than one month.


February 5, 2003; Secretary of State Powell tells the United Nations Security Council of Iraq‘s concealment of weapons, including his 18 mobile biological weapons laboratories, justifying a U.N. or U.S. first strike. Many in the U.N. are doubtful. Months later, much of the information proves untrue.

February 7, 2003, two days later: as anti-war demonstrations continue to take place around the globe:

TOM RIDGE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR: Take some time to prepare for an emergency.

OLBERMANN: Homeland Security Secretary Ridge cites credible threats by al Qaeda and raises the terror alert level to orange. Three days after that, Fire Administrator David Paulison, who would become the acting head of FEMA after the Hurricane Katrina disaster, advises Americans to stock up on plastic sheeting and duct tape to protect themselves against radiological or biological attack.


July 23, 2003; the White House admits that the CIA, months before the president‘s State of the Union address, expressed strong doubts about the claim that Iraq had attempt to buy uranium from Niger. On the 24, the Congressional report on the 9/11 attacks is issued. It criticizes government at all levels. It reveals an FBI informant had been living with two of the future hijackers.

It concludes that Iraq had no link to al Qaeda. Twenty eight pages of the report are redacted. On the 26th, American troops are accused of beating Iraqi prisoners.

July 29, 2003, three days later, amid all of the negative headlines:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Word of a possible new al Qaeda attack.

OLBERMANN: Homeland Security issues warnings of further terrorist attempts to use airplanes for suicide attacks.


December 17, 2003; 9/11 Commission co-chair Thomas Kean says the attacks were preventable. The next day, a federal appeals court says the government cannot detain suspected radiation bomber Jose Padilla indefinitely without charges, and the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, Dr. David Kay, who has previously announced he has found no weapons of mass destruction there, announces he will resign his post.

December 21, 2003, four days later, the Sunday before Christmas:

RIDGE: Today the United States government raised the national threat level.

OLBERMANN: Homeland Security again raises the threat level to orange, claiming credible intelligence of further plots to crash airliners into U.S. cities. Subsequently, six international flights into this country are canceled after some passenger names purportedly produced matches on government no-fly lists. The French later identified those matched names. One belongs to an insurance salesman from Wales, another to an elderly Chinese woman, a third to a five-year-old boy.


March 30, 2004; the new chief weapons inspector in Iraq, Charles Duelfer, tells Congress we still have not found any WMD in that country. And, after weeks of having refused to appear before the 9/11 Commission, Condoleezza Rice relents and agrees to testify.

On the 31st, four Blackwater USA contractors working in Iraq are murdered - their mutilated bodies dragged through the streets and left on public display in Fallujah. The role of civilian contractors in Iraq is now widely questioned.

April 2, 2004:

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: The FBI has issued a new warning tonight.

OLBERMANN: Homeland Security issues a bulletin warning that terrorists may try to blow up buses and trains using fertilizer and fuel bombs like the one detonated in Oklahoma City, bombs stuffed into satchels or duffel bags.


May 16, 2004; Secretary of State Powell appears on “Meet the Press.” Moderator Tim Russert closes by asking him about the enormous personal credibility Powell had placed before the U.N. in laying out a case against Saddam Hussein. An aide to Powell interrupts the question, saying the interview is over.

TIM RUSSERT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: I think that was one of your staff, Mr. secretary. I don‘t think that‘s appropriate.


OLBERMANN: Powell finishes his answer, admitting that much of the information he had been given about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was …

POWELL: Inaccurate and wrong, and, in some cases, deliberately misleading.

OLBERMANN: On the 21st, new photos showing mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison are released.

On the 24th, Associated Press video from Iraq confirms U.S. forces mistakenly bombed a wedding party, killing more than 40.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004, two days later:

ASHCROFT: Good afternoon.

OLBERMANN: Attorney General Ashcroft and FBI Director Mueller warned that intelligence from multiple sources ,,,

ASHCROFT: Indicates al Qaeda‘s specific intention to hit the United States hard.

OLBERMANN: And, that 90 percent of the arrangements for an attack on the United States were complete. The color-coded warning system is not raised. The Homeland Security secretary, Tom Ridge, does not attend the announcement.


July 6, 2004; Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry selects Senator John Edwards as his vice-presidential running mate, producing a small bump in the election opinion polls and producing a huge swing in media attention towards the Democratic campaign.

July 8, 2004, two days later:

RIDGE: Credible reporting now indicates al Qaeda is moving forward with its plan to carry out a large scale attack in the United States.

OLBERMANN: Homeland Security Secretary Ridge warns of information about al Qaeda attacks during the summer or autumn.

Four days after that, the head of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Deforest B. Soaries, Jr., confirms he has written to Ridge about the prospect of postponing the upcoming presidential election in the case, the event, it is interrupted by terrorist attacks.


July 29, 2004; at their party convention in Boston, the Democrats formally nominate John Kerry as their candidate for president. As in the wake of any convention, the Democrats now dominate the media attention over the subsequent weekend.

August 1, 2004, Monday morning, three days later:

RIDGE: It is as reliable a source — a group of sources - as we‘ve ever seen before.

OLBERMANN: The Department of Homeland Security raises the alert status for financial centers in New York, New Jersey and Washington to orange. The evidence supporting the warning - reconnaissance data left in a home in Iraq - later prove to be roughly four years old and largely out of date.


October 6, 2005, 10 a.m. ET: the president addresses the National Endowment for Democracy, once again, emphasizing the importance of the war on terror and insisting his government has broken up at least 10 terrorist plots since 9/11.

At 3:00 p.m. ET, five hour after the president‘s speech has begun, the Associate Press reports that Karl Rove will testify again to the CIA leak Grand Jury and that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald has told Rove he cannot guarantee that he will not be indicted.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: We‘re awaiting a news conference at the bottom of the hour.

OLBERMANN: At 5:17 p.m. ET, seven hours after the president‘s speech has begun, a New York official disclosed a bomb threat to the city‘s subway system, based on information supplied by the federal government. The Homeland Security spokesman says the intelligence upon which the disclosure is based is of doubtful credibility.

And, later it proved that New York City had known of the threat for at least three days and had increased police presence in the subways long before making the announcement at that particular time. Local New York television station WNBC reports it had the story of the threats days in advance of the announcement, but was asked by high-ranking federal officials in New York and Washington to hold off on its story.

Less than four days after having revealed the threat, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York says, “Since the period of the threat now seems to be passing, I think over the immediate future, we‘ll slowly be winding down the enhanced security.”

While news organizations, ranging from the New York Post to NBC News, quote sources who say there was reason to believe the informant who triggered the warning simply made it up.

A senior U.S. counterterrorism official tells the New York Times, quote, “There was no there there.”


A sequence of events in August 2006, best understood now in chronological order:

As the month begins, the controversy over domestic surveillance without legal warrants in this country crests.

Then, on August 9, the day after the Connecticut Democratic Senatorial Primary, Vice President Cheney says the victory of challenger Ned Lamont over incumbent Joe Lieberman is a positive for the, quote, “al Qaeda types,” who he says, quote, “are clearly betting on the proposition that ultimately they break the will of the American people, in terms of our ability to stay in the fight.”

The next day, British authorities arrest 24 suspects in an alleged imminent plot to blow up U.S.-bound aircraft using liquid explosives smuggled on board in sports drink bottles. Domestic air travel is thrown into chaos as carry-on liquids are suddenly banned.

On August 14, British intelligence reveals it did not think the plot was imminent. Only the U.S. did. And, our authorities pressed to make the arrests. Eleven of the 24 suspect are later released. And, in the months to come, the carry-on liquids ban is repeatedly relaxed.


May 7, 2007, Greensburg, Kansas, leveled by a tornado, and the state’s governor notes, more in sorrow than in anger, that the redeployment of so much of the Kansas National Guard and its equipment to Iraq might now cripple the soldiers’ ability to respond if another disaster hits Kansas.

GOV. KATHLEEN SEBELIUS (D), KANSAS: What we‘re really missing is equipment. And, that is putting a strain on recoveries like this one.

OLBERMANN: The next day, the authorities announce arrests in a far-fetched plan to attack soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey. The so-called terrorists planned to gain access to the base by posing as pizza delivery men. It is not a suicide mission. They state clearly they intend to kill personnel and then retreat to safety, even though they were going to attack a closed compound, full of trained soldiers with weapons.

And, though the plan is branded sophisticated, its perpetrators are not sophisticated enough to have not handed over the videotape of themselves training with weapons to a Circuit City store in order to be transferred to DVD.

The Fort Dix plot not only erases from most news coverage the issue of disaster readiness in Kansas, but it also obscures the next day’s story that, in anticipation of his testimony to a House panel, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has submitted opening remarks that match, virtually word for word the remarks he had given the previous month to a Senate committee.

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Recognizing my limited involvement in the process, a mistake I freely acknowledge — a mistake that I freely acknowledge, I have soberly questioned my prior decisions.


OLBERMANN: And, June, 2007, the JFK plot to blow up the jet fuel pipeline feeding John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, thus causing the entire airport to be consumed in an horrific conflagration. One of the men arrested has, as past employee, access to the sprawling complex, but little knowledge of the reality of the pipeline system.

The manager of that system tells the “New York Times” that the pipeline is not some kind of fuse. Shut off valves throughout would have easily contain any damage, just as a leak in a tunnel in any city would not flood everything in that city below ground.

The so-called plot happens to be revealed the day before the second Democratic presidential debate.

And, as the scandal continues to unfold over the firings of U.S. attorneys, and their replacements by political hacks, the so-called plot is announced by the Bush-appointed U.S. attorney for Brooklyn, New York, and by the police chief of New York City, the father of a correspondent for Fox News Channel.

(BJ note: And, the continuing Iraq debacle and troop deaths. And, the president’s plummeting approval rating. And, the final word from Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and the CIA that Valerie Plame was, indeed, a “covert operative.” And, on Tuesday, one day after this report, the sentencing of former Cheney Chief of Staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby to 30 months in prison, and Bush’s “I call him Vladimir” saber rattling over Russia at the G-8 Summit.)


OLBERMANN: In all fairness, we could probably construct a similar timeline of terror events and their relationship to the haircuts of popular politicians. But, if merely a reasonable case can be made that any of these juxtapositions of events are more than just coincidences, if that case can be made on this, the very day that a military judge at Guantanamo Bay dismissed all terror charges that have kept Salim Hamdan jailed there for five years, it underscores the need for questions to be asked and asked continually in this country, questions about what is prudence and what is just fearmongering.

“COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN,” MSNBC, Monday, 4 June 2007, transcript: LINK


Almost six years after 9/11, are we any safer? “THE NEW AGE OF TERROR” by Evan Thomas, Newsweek, August 21-26, 2006, issue: LINK

“PLOT TO BLOW UP JFK AIRPORT!” That’s what America heard. What are the facts? “Experts cast doubt on credibility of JFK terror plot,” Agence France-Presse, 5 June 2007: LINK


FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in an effort to advance understanding of current issues. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.


Lou Dobbs, shut up!

I’ll make you a bet: between 6 and 7 p.m. ET any weeknight, flip to CNN, and if, within one minute, Lou Dobbs doesn’t say “illegal immigrants” or “broken borders,” I’ll treat you to lunch and a Long Island Tea!

CNN brought Dobbs on this morning at 8:15 “to explain the immigration issue.” That’s like bringing on Pope Innocent III to explain the Inquisition.

During the interview Dobbs stated that the latest USA Today/Gallup Poll shows that Americans “oppose this plan (path to citizenship) by a margin of three to one.”

OK, Lou, you’ve already been called on falsely claiming there have been 7,000 new cases of leprosy in this country in the last three years – implying that illegal Mexican immigrants are bringing this most dreaded of diseases into the country.

A search of google and news.google just now reveals, as I reported earlier in this blog, that 78 percent of Americans, according to the poll Dobbs cited, approve of granting illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

I am not, in this post, taking a stance on this issue. I am merely pointing out that Lou Dobbs has become so obsessed with this issue – he’s been a stuck record on the subject for years now – that he can no longer separate reality from fiction.


Two brief posts follow.

'Walking Man'

Walk on, walking man.
Well now, would he have wings to fly,
Would he be free,
Golden wings against the sky,
Walking man, walk on by.


Ever call a friend on his cell phone and hear him say, “Let me step off the road here”?

I talked with Jeff Noland, poet and definitely an activist, on Sunday. Jeff’s walking from his home in Chicago to New Orleans to raise money for the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity.

So far, Jeff, who calls his venture “Walk the Walk,” is going it alone. He had walked 67 miles when we spoke. A friend emailed last night that Jeff is in Sandwich, Illinois, and is “rained in.”

Jeff’s spirits are high, but he joked (joked?) about his sore feet. He had read my initial post here just before setting out on his 800-mile odyssey and was delighted that some of his old “forum friends” had commented, specifically mentioning “Frodo.”

He wants your prayers, and he wants your donations to Habitat for Humanity.

Jeff saw a “greater need” – providing for those left homeless by Katrina – and put his best foot forward.

And, in walking the walk, he has humbled quite a few of us whose activism is limited to a computer keyboard.




Mail checks to this address and indicate “Walk the Walk/Jeff Noland” on the memo line:

New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity (NOAHH)
Attn: Development
POB 15052
New Orleans, LA 70175


TV alert

The GOP presidential debate will be broadcast live from New Hampshire tonight on CNN from 7 to 9 EDT.


'You can lead a horse to water ...'

As I have stated previously here, I endorse Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for POTUS. My support is not necessarily gender-based.

In my opinion, debate questions so worded as to compel Hillary to answer with “as you know my dear husband” or “in my husband’s administration” are unfortunate.

This woman, from a Midwestern middle-class family with Midwestern family values and a Methodist upbringing – became the first student in the history of her college to deliver its commencement address. She threw away her notes and gave a revolutionary speech which fellow members of her Wellesley class of 1969 cheered.

There are other “firsts” on her resume. She was the first first lady to hold a post-graduate degree and the first to have her own successful professional career.

The notion that Hillary somehow must cling to Bill’s coattails is a myth. Never underestimate her own abilities.

This is where many would use that awful segue, “That having been said.”

The debate winner last night, as I view it, was the debate itself – the format, less structured, allowed Democratic hopefuls more leeway to express themselves.

Unlike previous debate questions on MSNBC and Fox News, CNN’s focused more on major issues and less on divisive hot-button topics.

Host CNN’s analysts have declared Joe Biden’s performance “strongest:” LINK

An old saw has been running through my head these last few days: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

Bloggers know this all too well. Newsweek’s Managing Editor Jon Meacham recently pointed out that most people on the Internet are not going to read more than one paragraph.

In my blogging experience I’ve found that no amount of research, time, relevancy of subject and accuracy will motivate most visitors to do otherwise.

This attention-span problem is systemic.

The Democratic debate found itself in good company in host CNN’s four “top-viewed videos” of the last 24 hours:

1. Major league tantrum (1:14) Phillip Wellman, the minor league manager of the Mississippi Braves, throws a major league tantrum.
2. Hot dog eating contest (1:01) Joey Chestnut eats 59.5 hot dogs and buns to break the world record by almost six wieners.
3. Candidates spar over Iraq (3:48) John Edwards, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama defend their positions on Iraq.
4. Tree falls on kids' bedroom (1:13) Tropical Storm Barry brought down a tree on kids' bedroom.

America is poised at possibly the most critical crossroads in her brief history, and hot-dog-eating contests take priority?

And, what does MSBNC give its viewers on this morning after? Tucker Carlson and Willie Geist discussing Paris Hilton and the MTV Movie Awards. Finally, 30 minutes into the program, the debate discussion began. Of course, if I want debate analysis, the first person I would turn to is Tucker Carlson, right?

For me, this is a “Jay Leno street interview” nightmare – the dumbing down of America is almost complete.


In you watched the debate last night, which candidate, in your opinion, can pull us out of this downward spiral?


Holy cow or cash cow?

This post is for those who love and respect Billy Graham.

This week the Billy Graham Library was dedicated in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Graham was basically “eulogized” by three former presidents: Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

When Graham, 88, made his way on a walker to the lecturn, assisted by aides, his first words to the gathering were, "I feel like I've been attending my own funeral. I know they all mean it. I feel humble and small."

This post is long, and I will leave it at the top of my blog for several days in hopes visitors will take the time to read it. I am posting the Washington Post article under the “fair use notice” published on my blog, in an effort to educate about the final days of one of our country’s most respected and beloved citizens.

The Washington Post article is followed by a letter to a dear friend explaining my views on this issue. My friend and I are old enough to have been touched for many years by Billy Graham’s ministry, and she is as saddened over this family dispute as I. Thanks, Clara, for calling my attention to the ariticle.


A Family at Cross-Purposes
Billy Graham's Sons Argue Over a Final Resting Place

By Laura Sessions Stepp
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 13, 2006; A01

MONTREAT, N.C. - It is a struggle worthy of the Old Testament, pitting brother against brother, son against mother, and leaving the famous father, the Rev. Billy Graham, trapped in the middle, pondering what to do.

Retired and almost blind at 88, the evangelist is sitting in his modest log house on an isolated mountaintop in western North Carolina and listening to a family friend describe where Franklin Graham, heir to his father's worldwide ministry, wants to bury his parents.

Billy's wife, Ruth Bell Graham, is listening too, curled up in a hospital bed on this bleak November evening. At 86 and 100 pounds, she suffers from degeneration of the spine, which keeps her in constant pain. In a nightgown, quilted pink silk bed jacket and pearl earrings, she stares up at the longtime friend on her right, her face and mind alert. On her left sits her younger son, Ned, 48, who has taken care of her and Billy for almost four years, and Ned's wife, Christina.

Events will unfold quickly in the days afterward: more meetings at the house, prayers offered and a notarized document produced that Ruth signed before six witnesses.

But at this moment everyone's attention is on the visitor, crime novelist Patricia Cornwell, who is talking about a memorial "library" that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, headed by Franklin, is building in Charlotte. Cornwell toured the building site and saw the proposed burial plot. She was asked by Ned, who opposes Franklin's choice, to come and give his father her impression.

"I was horrified by what I saw," she tells Billy, in the presence of a reporter invited to be there.

The building, designed in part by consultants who used to work for the Walt Disney Co., is not a library, she says, but a large barn and silo - a reminder of Billy Graham's early childhood on a dairy farm near Charlotte. Once it's completed in the spring, visitors will pass through a 40-foot-high glass entry cut in the shape of a cross and be greeted by a mechanical talking cow. They will follow a path of straw through rooms full of multimedia exhibits. At the end of the tour, they will be pointed toward a stone walk, also in the shape of a cross, that leads to a garden where the bodies of Billy and Ruth Graham could lie.

Throughout the tour, there will be several opportunities for people to put their names on a mailing list.

"The whole purpose of this evangelistic experience is fundraising," Cornwell says to Billy Graham. "I know who you are and you are not that place. It's a mockery. People are going to laugh. Please don't be buried there."

Billy Graham's eyes never leave Cornwell's face as she talks. Ruth Graham sighs. A lot.

"It's a circus," Ruth says at one point, softly. "A tourist attraction."

Ruth Graham has told her children that she doesn't want to be buried in Charlotte. She has a burial spot picked out in the mountains where she raised five children, and she hopes her husband will join her there.

Ned Graham has been working to convince his three sisters, Gigi, Bunny and Anne, that their mother's wishes should be followed.

But six years ago, Franklin, 54, took over the BGEA and now is trying to convince their dad of the appropriateness of the Charlotte burial site, Ned and another family member say.

Franklin, in a telephone interview, says no decision has been made. "Some of the board members feel the library ought to be the place," he says, declining to name which members. "I'm preparing both places."

Of the library, he said, "I wanted to show to another generation of pastors and evangelists what God did through a man who was faithful and who communicated it simply."

After Cornwell finishes, Ned Graham speaks to his father.

"Could you see going to a Ronald Reagan library and there not be one book?" he asks. "Or people being solicited to be on a donor list?" He wipes his eyes; his mother, tissue in hand, wipes hers.

Billy Graham, who has Parkinson's disease, sits erect in an orthopedic chair, dressed in pressed bluejeans and a pale yellow pullover. His famous rugged face remains impassive except for something Ned notices: He's grinding his teeth.

His dad, he says, does this when he's upset. And why wouldn't he be?

The burial issue threatens to tear asunder what some have called the royal family of American religion, and Billy is being asked to make a Solomon-like choice between the wishes of his heir and his wife of 63 years.

The Preacher's Wife

According to those who know her, Ruth Bell Graham has always spoken her mind. When she and Billy married in 1943, Ruth, raised by Presbyterian missionaries in China, told her husband, a Southern Baptist, that she would remain a Presbyterian. When Billy announced in 1947 that he wanted to become a full-time traveling evangelist, she insisted that they settle in Montreat, a hamlet in the Blue Ridge Mountains, so that she and the children could be near family.

With his tall frame and Hollywood good looks, Graham drew record crowds to his Billy Graham Crusades and became so popular that between 1950 and 1990, he appeared on the Gallup Organization's "Most Admired" list more often than any other American.

He traveled as much as six months at a time and while he was away, Ruth was raising their children in a house built from logs found on abandoned farm sites. Her children say that she was fearless and fun, a mom who thought nothing of chopping off the heads of rattlesnakes or driving a motocross bike into a split-rail fence when she realized she didn't know how to stop it.

As teenagers, the children struggled with the expectations that come with being a preacher's kids. Both boys, Franklin and Ned, fell in love with fast cars, drinking and girls and were no strangers to the local police. Eventually, however, four of the children started their own ministries, the largest of which is Franklin's international relief agency, Samaritan's Purse.

Though initially, according to family members and news reports, Billy and several other BGEA board members had reservations about Franklin succeeding his father because of his limited experience, in 1995 the board named Franklin vice chair.

The Charlotte Site

As its new CEO, Franklin, who has the tall, leonine looks of his father and the feisty nature of his mom, persuaded the BGEA board to move the organization from its longtime headquarters in Minneapolis to Charlotte, near where Billy Graham was born. It was a logical choice, and not just for nostalgic reasons: Charlotte's business elite had always been big supporters of the Billy Graham Crusades, raising as much as $1 million for the preaching tour each time it came to town.

Though growing in population, Charlotte was experiencing something of an economic downturn in the late 1990s. The new BGEA headquarters would pump money and jobs into the local economy. Franklin Graham and Graeme Keith, a major developer in Charlotte and a BGEA board member, began envisioning something else as well, a Billy Graham memorial that might attract 200,000 or more tourists to Charlotte - putting it up there with the nearby Paramount Carowinds theme park and a planned NASCAR Hall of Fame.

In 2001, the organization purchased 63 acres of land adjacent to a major highway (named years earlier for Billy Graham) for $7.4 million. In 2005, the new corporate headquarters was completed, a 200,000-square-foot building of fieldstone, cedar and glass costing almost $44 million. Then Franklin turned his attention to the memorial library, which he sees as a tool for evangelism.

"I would hope every person who comes through hears the message and by the time they come out of the library be confronted with a decision to accept or reject Christ."

The library was, by all accounts, not something his father initially wanted. In fact, Billy Graham abstained when the board first voted on the idea. Though Billy has hobnobbed with the rich and mighty for more than a half-century, observers have often commented on his humility. Unlike Franklin, who collects handmade cowboy boots and leather jackets, Billy wears old suits that, as Johnny Cash once said, look like they came from a JCPenney store.

According to Graeme Keith, the board tossed around several ideas for the library, including something like the stucco-and-tile Reagan Presidential Library in California. Finally, Franklin suggested a house resembling the one Billy grew up in, plus a barn, to be called the library. Convinced by Franklin and others that this new building would perpetuate the Gospel after he died, Billy gave it his blessing.

The 40,000-square-foot structure has a high-pitched roof supported by unfinished wooden beams, and bathroom stalls of corrugated tin. The tour is geared particularly to children, according to Franklin, starting with the life-size mechanical Holstein named Bessie who greets visitors from her stall just inside the front door.

What Bessie will say is yet to be decided, Franklin said, but she might start off with something like, "Hello. I bet you didn't know milk comes from a cow. Well, let me tell you about that." She'll then introduce the main man: "When Billy was young, we cows knew there was something special about him. . . ." Bessie will challenge youngsters to count how many times during the tour they hear the voice of "Billy Frank" mention Jesus. For their efforts, they'll be offered a glass of milk at the snack stand, where cookies and other items will be on sale.

"One of my concerns is how do you engage a child," Franklin said. "To see pictures of a man preaching in black and white, that isn't going to do it."

Franklin says the library also will house some of his father's writings and memorabilia taken from the Cove, another piece of BGEA property about 100 miles west of Charlotte in Asheville. As it turns out, it is also where his mother wants to be buried.

Nestled in forests of poplar, locust and Southern pine, invisible from the highway except for a single gray steeple, the 1,500-acre Cove was Ruth's project from its beginning in 1984. She believed that people working hard for Christ, in whatever capacity, needed a place where they could idle in a rocking chair, stare at the mountains, and find new energy to continue their work. Her husband and his board agreed, setting up the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove.

Ruth worked closely with architects and construction engineers on the classrooms, auditorium and guest accommodations. A small library was established and as years went by, books given to Billy, inscribed by the world leaders who wrote them, found their way there. Glass cabinets today display some of the thousands of gifts he acquired: a Ten Commandments tablet from movie producer Cecil B. DeMille, a letter opener from German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and porcelain and silver from visits to China, North Korea and Russia.

In his early years on the BGEA board, Franklin directed millions of dollars to the Cove, which is 18 miles from Montreat. But once plans for the new library in Charlotte were underway, he turned to the Cove for money. The BGEA sold its 300-acre campground, transferred money earned from the Cove's endowment to the library's endowment, and laid off Cove staff.

The Cove Location

When Ruth was supervising construction at the Cove, she paid particular attention to the chapel, a spare yet elegant stone edifice built by local laborers.

She arranged six arched, clear glass windows on each side of the sanctuary so that visitors would always see outside. She asked that the floors be made of native pine and the chandeliers of cast iron from Asheville. On the sanctuary's back walls she hung two damask banners summing up Billy's ministry and what she considered hers, the first quoting Jesus saying, "Go Ye Unto All the World" and the other, "Come Unto Me and I Will Give You Rest."

A few hundred yards from those banners is the quiet, leafy spot where Ruth intends to be buried. Her desire might have remained just a preference communicated to a couple of her children had Ned Graham and Patricia Cornwell not acted. Cornwell happened to call Ned Graham in mid-November to ask how his mother was doing. She had felt close to Ruth from the time Cornwell was a child living a few miles down the mountain. In 1984, she wrote a biography of the woman whom she had come to consider as a second mother.

After learning from Ned about the Charlotte plans, Cornwell retrieved a letter, mailed to her several months earlier, asking for a sizable donation to the new library and signed by Billy Graham. She had been puzzled because Billy didn't write fundraising letters. She decided to fly to Charlotte.

Board member Graeme Keith took her on a tour of the barn. She was impressed by the TV footage of Billy over the years. But a talking cow? "It truly is tacky," she said.

She asked Keith about the mailing list. He told her that traditional donors were aging and that younger donors were needed. He also said the names of big donors would be inscribed on the concrete silo.

At one point, she asked Keith, "Are you going to have any memorabilia, like a suit or something people can touch?"

Keith leaned over, she said, and told her that Billy and Ruth were going to be buried on the property. The tour, he said, would end at the foot of their graves.

Cornwell recalled, "I asked, 'How do Billy and Ruth feel about this?' "

Keith told her that Billy had agreed. And Ruth? Billy was working on her, Keith said.

Cornwell then visited Montreat to ask Ruth where she wanted to be buried. Ruth repeated her position. That's when Ned Graham decided he needed to get the notarized statement, which his mother dictated. "My Final Wishes Concerning My Burial Site" says, in part:

"Since it is impossible for me to be buried at my 'first home' in China, my next choice is the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina which I have loved and where I have lived for the past 60 years. . . ." A number of years ago, the document continues, she and Bill "agreed that we would be buried together near the chapel at The Cove. The Memorial Garden at Chatlos Chapel was prepared for that very purpose."

"Bill has recently talked to me about being buried at the Billy Graham Library/Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina. However, I want to make it very clear that I am standing by our original agreement. My final wish is to be buried at the Cove. Under no circumstances am I to be buried in Charlotte, North Carolina."

In an interview with The Washington Post yesterday, Keith said, "Ruth wants to be buried next to Billy, first and foremost." When asked about her objections to Charlotte, he replied, "In her physical condition, she agrees with the last person who talked to her."

Personality Matter

Franklin knew where his mother wanted to be buried but until recently never talked to her about his plans, leaving that to his father.

It was not the first time he and his mother saw things differently. By his own admission, he was always a headstrong child. Once, Ruth, fed up with the teenage Franklin's smoking, made him smoke an entire pack of cigarettes. He vomited a half-dozen times but never gave in. On another occasion, Ruth, angry at Franklin's pinching his sisters in the car while on a trip to a fast-food restaurant, locked him in the trunk. When she opened it up, he asked for a cheeseburger without meat, French fries and a Coke.

He was sent to a Christian boarding school on Long Island, N.Y., then to a small college in Texas and in 1974, at 22, had a conversion experience in a hotel in Jerusalem. A month after that, he joined an international aid ministry that eventually became Samaritan's Purse, and channeled some of his energy into piloting planes carrying food, medicine and the Gospel to places such as Rwanda, Haiti and recently New Orleans. With a budget of $264 million, Samaritan's Purse is among the country's 50 largest charities.

Ned, six years younger than Franklin and the baby of the family, was the quieter child. Named for his mother's father, a surgical missionary in China, he says he was spoiled, and he wonders occasionally whether his siblings resent him for that.

That's not to say that, on occasion, he didn't give Ruth fits. "In my late teens, early 20s maybe, I'd be out late drinking, getting stoned. I'd come home at 2 or so and Mother would be up. She'd just kiss me and say, 'Ned, I'm glad you're home. Love ya, I'm going to bed now.'

"Now, he says, it's his turn to take care of his mother. Two years ago, Christina assumed the daily operation of their East Gate Ministries, a Bible and training ministry in China, so that he could return to Montreat. He found his mother severely undernourished, he says, and his father's health also deteriorating. He had the house adjusted to make it easier for his father to walk around, started his mother on a special diet and made sure she visited the beauty salon once a week.

As he heard reports this fall about the library from his sisters, one of whom compared it to a Cracker Barrel restaurant, he said, he grew concerned that it would belittle his father's ministry. His brother dismissed his concerns. His sister Anne was sympathetic but unwilling to challenge Franklin openly, he continued. Anne's own ministry, like Ned's, receives funding from the BGEA.

"I've spent the last few years trying to help my parents preserve their mental acuity, independence and dignity," he said over lunch in the spacious Cove dining room. "And I'm saddened that the family is not unified on this issue."

He says he would like to see the library become more about Franklin and less about his father who, in his view, is already memorialized at the Cove. He is close enough to his dad to know that, as he puts it, "there never would have been a Billy Graham without a Ruth Graham."

His parents are finally home together most days now. They eat supper watching old movies like "The Sound of Music" and listening to Ned or Christina read the Bible. Of late, Ned has chosen stories about decision-making and God's solace in troubled times.

Billy Graham sits next to Ruth's hospital bed for long periods, stroking her arms and her face.

Ned knows that his father hates conflict, which is one reason his dad has stayed away in recent years from the political battles of religious conservatives. But this is one dispute Billy Graham can't avoid.

As Cornwell ends her short speech to Billy that November evening, Billy says, "I sure appreciate what you say, and I have no comment. I've heard all this before."

Cornwell is not dissuaded.

"I tell you, if you're buried there I'll dig you up and move you here," she says.

Ruth chuckles from her bed. "I'll be one of the pallbearers," she says.

At the sound of Ruth's voice, Billy's face softens toward Cornwell, as he says, "I'll just think and pray about what you've said."



I had not seen or read this well-written WaPo article, and I have saved it to my files. Thanks for calling it to my attention.

The way I knew about this: the author and Ruth Graham biographer Patricia Cornwell was live on Imus a couple of times, and she discussed most of what is in this article.

Imus is a great lover of Billy Graham. He said Graham sent him a gift - I believe it was a cowboy-type silver belt buckle - and that he wouldn't take anything for it, because Graham autographed it.

Imus and Cornwell talked at length one morning about her views on this family dispute. Cornwell, a longtime friend and neighbor of the Grahams, was adamantly against the notion of the "barn" and the talking cow. She was sincerely mortified that, in her opinion, Franklin wanted this to be a money-making tourist trap.

Since this WaPo article was written five and a half months ago, it would be interesting to know if the burial issue has been resolved. It's apparent from this week's library dedication, which you described for me, that Franklin seems to have the upper hand. I had knowledge of all of this while reading your delight over the program and, woefully, I had mixed emotions while reading it. As I told you, I would have given anything to hear the 98-year-old George Beverly Shea sing “How Great Thou Art.”

This family dispute is very tragic to me, as it is to you. One statement that stood out in the Washington Post article was BGEA board member Graeme Keith's statement alluding to the fact that Ruth Graham is not in her right mind because of her physical condition. How low is that?

The way I see this: Franklin, who claims the mission of the Library is to spread the gospel, is not and will never be his father. From the beginning of Billy Graham's ministry, all financial matters were out of his hands and at the discretion of his board of directors, leaving him to preach undeterred by any questions about contributions and the ministry’s finances. I remember long ago reading in an article that this was Billy’s desire.

Now, it seems Franklin is front and center when it comes to controlling and manipulating funds.

Franklin is a fundamentalist, whereas his father's ministry has always been ecumenical and close to Jesus' teachings in that he has been tolerant of persons and has preached tolerance.

I have heard Billy Graham in interviews defending the "unloved," and you will never hear Franklin doing so. Jesus loved the unloved, and that was manifested in his Sermon on the Mount.

Try to research what you can about statements Franklin has made on political issues. While Billy Graham was a spiritual counselor to presidents and never hestiated to speak out on issues, he never expressed political partisanship.

Franklin is positioned to join the Religious Right in support of Republican politics – and the Republican claim to “the moral high ground.” He has done so on a number of occasions - in TV interviews.

The bottom line (no pun intened): the Billy Graham ministries are no longer the Billy Graham ministries.

Love, BJ


FRANKLIN GRAHAM’S BGEA: Billy Graham Evangelistic Association: LINK

VIDEO of the library dedication ceremony: LINK


This post might be followed by a brief entry if current events warrant.