Saint Benedict And The Way To Treat Books

I am deep into “A History of Reading” by Alberto Manguel, and am quite taken by the book.  I keep reflecting as I go about other tasks today a mention in the book concerning Saint Benedict.  The reason it resonates, and makes me chuckle, is that when I was a boy I was impressed upon to treat books with care and attention.  I was taught not to ‘break the back’ of a book, and never to dog-ear a page.   The mere idea of writing in one was way out of consideration.  Even today I make notes on paper, and never underline anything between the covers of a book. 

All which leads me to the wonderful quote from Saint Benedict.  At the time of this quote it should be noted, to put this in context, that books were rare, and expensive. 

Saint Benedict prescribed others to  hold “if possible” the books they read “in their left hands, wrapped in the sleeves of their tunic, and resting on their knee; their right hands shall be uncovered with which to grip and turn the pages.”

It is nice to know that the care one should show for books has a long history.

Conservatives Thinking About Assassination

One does not want to tread these waters, but as I have mentioned on this blog numerous times unless the right-wing tamps down the rhetoric and hate I fear violence will follow.

One of the most respected writers and thinkers on any OP/Ed page today is that of Thomas Friedman who writes for The New York Times.  It was chilling to read his latest column today, as it echoes so much of what we hear and read in the papers lately.  Just yesterday I posted about a column penned by a conservative who all but urged a military coup against the elected government of President Obama.  We live in absurd and troubling times.  Hate and vitriol are all the conservatives have to offer, but will they now turn their words into violence?  Will conservatives bring death and blood to the streets of Washington, D.C.?

I hate to write about this, but I have actually been to this play before and it is really disturbing.

I was in Israel interviewing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated in 1995. We had a beer in his office. He needed one. I remember the ugly mood in Israel then — a mood in which extreme right-wing settlers and politicians were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin, who was committed to trading land for peace as part of the Oslo accords. They questioned his authority. They accused him of treason. They created pictures depicting him as a Nazi SS officer, and they shouted death threats at rallies. His political opponents winked at it all.

And in so doing they created a poisonous political environment that was interpreted by one right-wing Jewish nationalist as a license to kill Rabin — he must have heard, “God will be on your side” — and so he did.

Others have already remarked on this analogy, but I want to add my voice because the parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach: I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left. But something very dangerous is happening. Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination.

What kind of madness is it that someone would create a poll on Facebook asking respondents, “Should Obama be killed?” The choices were: “No, Maybe, Yes, and Yes if he cuts my health care.” The Secret Service is now investigating. I hope they put the jerk in jail and throw away the key because this is exactly what was being done to Rabin.

Even if you are not worried that someone might draw from these vitriolic attacks a license to try to hurt the president, you have to be worried about what is happening to American politics more broadly.

Our leaders, even the president, can no longer utter the word “we” with a straight face. There is no more “we” in American politics at a time when “we” have these huge problems — the deficit, the recession, health care, climate change and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — that “we” can only manage, let alone fix, if there is a collective “we” at work.

Sometimes I wonder whether George H.W. Bush, president “41,” will be remembered as our last “legitimate” president. The right impeached Bill Clinton and hounded him from Day 1 with the bogus Whitewater “scandal.” George W. Bush was elected under a cloud because of the Florida voting mess, and his critics on the left never let him forget it.

And Mr. Obama is now having his legitimacy attacked by a concerted campaign from the right fringe. They are using everything from smears that he is a closet “socialist” to calling him a “liar” in the middle of a joint session of Congress to fabricating doubts about his birth in America and whether he is even a citizen. And these attacks are not just coming from the fringe. Now they come from Lou Dobbs on CNN and from members of the House of Representatives.

Again, hack away at the man’s policies and even his character all you want. I know politics is a tough business. But if we destroy the legitimacy of another president to lead or to pull the country together for what most Americans want most right now — nation-building at home — we are in serious trouble. We can’t go 24 years without a legitimate president — not without being swamped by the problems that we will end up postponing because we can’t address them rationally.

The American political system was, as the saying goes, “designed by geniuses so it could be run by idiots.” But a cocktail of political and technological trends have converged in the last decade that are making it possible for the idiots of all political stripes to overwhelm and paralyze the genius of our system.

Those factors are: the wild excess of money in politics; the gerrymandering of political districts, making them permanently Republican or Democratic and erasing the political middle; a 24/7 cable news cycle that makes all politics a daily battle of tactics that overwhelm strategic thinking; and a blogosphere that at its best enriches our debates, adding new checks on the establishment, and at its worst coarsens our debates to a whole new level, giving a new power to anonymous slanderers to send lies around the world. Finally, on top of it all, we now have a permanent presidential campaign that encourages all partisanship, all the time among our leading politicians.

I would argue that together these changes add up to a difference of degree that is a difference in kind — a different kind of American political scene that makes me wonder whether we can seriously discuss serious issues any longer and make decisions on the basis of the national interest.

We can’t change this overnight, but what we can change, and must change, is people crossing the line between criticizing the president and tacitly encouraging the unthinkable and the unforgivable.

Chicago Olympics 2016 Flag Flies At Madison Municipal Building

I love it!  GO CHICAGO!

Close observers may have noticed that there’s a third flag flying below the U.S. and City of Madison flags in front of the Municipal Building.

That’s the Chicago Olympics 2016 flag sent to us by our friends in the Windy City to designate us as a place that would share in the Olympics should Chicago be chosen to host the 2016 summer games.

The International Olympic Committee makes its decision around 11:30a.m. our time on Friday. If Chicago gets the nod the Olympic cycling road race, time trials and mountain biking events would all take place in and around Madison.

It would be great. In fact, it’d be awesome. For one thing it would mean a boost to our economy. Madison is already a bike industry leader with about one in five American bicycles produced right here in our region. But with the Olympic brand behind us it would put us on the world bike map. People from all over would come here just to ride the Olympic routes for years both before and after the event.

And it would make our already strong application for high speed rail linking us to Chicago and Milwaukee an absolute lock.

“Jesus Was a Walking Public Option” By Bryan Borland

This struck me tonight as just about perfect.   As such, I post the work of  Bryan Borland, and his poetry.  His site “Poetic Grin” is really a unique and inspiring blog where he works a lot harder than the rest of us who share cyberspace.  Over the months I have argued that health care is a moral issue, and tonight the work of Borland, along with a bit of humor, hits the mark.  For more poetry, and just great reading head on over to his site.  Borland lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.

On his site he describes himself this way when talking about his influences to write and create.

Bryan is influenced on a daily basis by the timeless poetry of Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg, gods to whom his words of praise can add nothing.  By John Steinbeck, whose prose contained more poetry than the world realizes. By Thom Gunn, who lived the concept of evolution. By Dennis Cooper, whose writing is so fearless it will leave you with a bloody nose.  By Sylvia Plath, who haunts Bryan’s home at night but who is welcome anytime. By Harold Norse, who shined light for those who didn’t even realize they were in the dark. By Maya Angelou, who introduced Bryan to poetry and whose simple, confident,  and elegant style embraces him like a grandmother’s kitchen. By Vytautas Pliura, whose poem “Thomas” still makes Bryan cry. By Gavin Dillard and Timothy Liu, for their respective anthologies on gay poetry (and the accompanying history lessons). By the writers and poets, published and unpublished, who harness the fire to create – and who burn the world in their wake.


Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken
unless he’s failed to meet his deductible.

Jesus never required a co-pay
from those who came to
be cured of their diseases,
the great multitudes of lame, blind, mute,
who laid down at his feet,
and were healed
despite pre-existing condition,

yet it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle
than for a sick man to enter
a waiting room without insurance.

Conservatives: Remove Obama With “Domestic Military ‘Intervention’”


The gutless ones at Newsmax took down this post described and printed below!  Proves to me that it was awful and they were feeling the heat over this matter. 

Leave it to the ones who talk about the U. S. Constitution and ‘love of country’ to consider an action that would make America resemble a banana republic through means of a military coup.  Think I am kidding….think again.  And read the words from one of the conservative’s favorite websites.

There is NO depth to the repugnant and absolutely horrendous words and actions that the conservative wing-nuts will not conjure up.  The latest such written example of  hatered (and yes) racism on the part of conservatives who are totally out of control was printed today on Newsmax, a dreadfully mean-spirited, and often factually inaccurate website.  John Perry, who served on White House staffs of two presidents is proud to have written the column.  I think he should be arrested under the same provisions that place others into Gitmo.  Is wanting to overthrow the Untied States government any different if you carry the Koran rather than the Bible when you plot your dirty deeds?    What was printed in column form makes rational heads spin.  But to the darker elements in the nation, this is what they think about.  Question is, will they act on it?  I ask again with this hate from the right so ‘out there’, how long before violence can be averted.  I have to believe that there is survailance activity on many of these characters 24/7 in order to keep our nation and citizens safe.

Now read this BS.  

There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America’s military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the “Obama problem.” Don’t dismiss it as unrealistic. 

America isn’t the Third World. If a military coup does occur here it will be civilized. That it has never happened doesn’t mean it wont. Describing what may be afoot is not to advocate it. So, view the following through military eyes: 

Officers swear to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Unlike enlisted personnel, they do not swear to “obey the orders of the president of the United States.” 


Top military officers can see the Constitution they are sworn to defend being trampled as American institutions and enterprises are nationalized. 

They can see that Americans are increasingly alarmed that this nation, under President Barack Obama, may not even be recognizable as America by the 2012 election, in which he will surely seek continuation in office. 

They can see that the economy — ravaged by deficits, taxes, unemployment, and impending inflation — is financially reliant on foreign lender governments.  

They can see this president waging undeclared war on the intelligence community, without whose rigorous and independent functions the armed services are rendered blind in an ever-more hostile world overseas and at home.  

They can see the dismantling of defenses against missiles targeted at this nation by avowed enemies, even as America’s troop strength is allowed to sag.  

They can see the horror of major warfare erupting simultaneously in two, and possibly three, far-flung theaters before America can react in time.  

 They can see the nation’s safety and their own military establishments and honor placed in jeopardy as never before.  

So, if you are one of those observant military professionals, what do you do?

It Is Legal To Bring Guns Into Arizona Bars!!

This can’t be good at all.  NOT AT ALL!

When did we lose our common sense as a nation?  When did we become so controlled by the special interests, such as the NRA, that we lost sight of the common-sensical things that the average elementary age kid could reason out.  I am quite sure that the simpletons of the Arizona State Legislature who  passed this measure are floating up to their eyeballs in NRA money.  No one in their sober and sane moments would have done such a thing if not for the most base of reasons.  Greed for campaign cash!

Are the people of Arizona proud of what has happened?

Under the law, backed by the National Rifle Association, the 138,350 people with concealed-weapons permits in Arizona will be allowed to bring their guns into bars and restaurants that haven’t posted signs banning them.

What’s going to happen when guns are allowed in an atmosphere filled with booze and people with impaired judgment?

“Somebody can pull the trigger, then a bullet comes out, and people get hurt and killed,” said Brad Henrich, owner of Shady’s, a popular neighborhood bar that sees occasional minor scuffles. “The idea of anyone coming in with guns in a place that serves alcohol just seems ludicrous.”

An 8 1/2-by-11-inch sign that says “No Firearms Allowed” and shows a red slash over a gun now hangs next to Henrich’s liquor license. If a bar owner does not post such a state-approved sign, people with concealed weapons are allowed in with their guns.

There is no way to track how many of Arizona’s 5,800 bars and restaurants that serve alcohol have posted such signs. The Arizona Department of Liquor Licensing and Control has signs available for download on its Web site and doesn’t track that figure.

The department has provided 1,300 signs to bar and restaurant owners who went to the department in person or asked to have signs mailed to them.

A similar law took effect in July in Tennessee, with the same reaction from many bar owners who posted signs banning firearms. The NRA says 41 states now allow guns in businesses that serve alcohol.

“I hate to have to put them up,” Mark DeSimone, owner of the Hidden House Cocktail Lounge in central Phoenix, said of the signs. “It looks scary. It looks to somebody like, should I go in this place because they obviously have a problem with people bringing weapons in.”

DeSimone has signs banning guns next to his liquor license and outside the bar.

He said every bar owner should be concerned about the possible consequences of allowing anyone into a bar with a gun.

“You don’t want people to even have a stick,” he said. “When I take steak knives out (for customers), I look for the ones that don’t have pointy ends.”

“Hitler Skull” Is Really Woman’s Aged Between 20 And 40

The more we learn, the stranger it gets.

A bone fragment believed to be part of Adolf Hitler’s skull has been revealed as being that of an unidentified woman, US scientists have said.

The section of bone – marked with a bullet hole – was used to support the theory that Hitler shot himself.

Russian scientists said the skull piece was found alongside Hitler’s jawbone and had put it on display in Moscow.

But US scientists said DNA tests revealed it actually belonged to a woman aged between 20 and 40.

An archaeologist from the University of Connecticut travelled to Moscow, where the fragment has been on show in the city’s federal archive since 2000, to take a sample.

Nick Bellantoni said he had suspected even before the bone was tested that the fragment did not come from an adult male.

“The bone was very small and thin, and normally male bones are much more robust in our species,” he said.

“I thought it probably came from a woman or a younger man.”

DNA tests confirmed that the bone fragment came from a female.

Doubts about exactly how Hitler died have persisted for decades.

Russian officials said that the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun – who reportedly committed suicide in a Berlin bunker in 1945 – were removed from a shell crater shortly after they died.

The piece of skull forms part of a collection that also includes a section of a bloodstained sofa where Hitler is believed to have shot himself after swallowing a cyanide pill.

But one of the archaeologists who worked on identifying the skull fragment said that the test does not reveal how Hitler died – just that the bone section did not belong to him.

Letter From Home 9/28/09

There was no mistaking which shelf in the closet I needed to reach for this morning.  For the first time in months I reached over the one with summer shorts, and pulled down a pair of jeans.  As the winds buffeted the house all last night a change had taken place.  After a warm and sunny Sunday (at least most of it) came the cold and dampness of fall.  Summer shorts had given way to reality.  This is just the beginning I thought.  In two months this weather will feel balmy in comparison.

Saturday I had mowed the lawn, and James helped spruce up the yard.   But Monday morning the leaves from the neighborhood seemed to have become very attracted to our short grass and flower beds.  I do not mind the leaves at all.  In fact, they are one of the things I most love about fall.  If there is a sidewalk free of leaves, but a lawn loaded with them, I am prone to walking just a foot off the cement to rustle them along the way.  The noise is soothing, and if you are in the right neighborhoods with lots of trees the ground clutter just never ends.  As I looked about the lawn this morning I thought back to a condo association I had lived near that had ground crews blowing leaves off lawns as soon as they fell.  That was a far cry from how most of us who grew up in the country knew it to be as kids.  Leaf raking and removal took place after the majority of the leaves had left the branches.  But until then the leaves were to be enjoyed as they blew about the yard into wind-swept mounds.    I still just think it somehow proper to let leaves clutter to the point where huge sized piles can be raked.   

As I looked outside this morning I noticed a bunny scamper across the lawn and go to the place where I knew it had lived all summer.  There where the day lilies had once bloomed amid lots of green vegetation, sat the bunny, among the short stubs of the plants that had now been trimmed.  So much for his protection.  I could tell he was not amused.  It had been the perfect place to hide from whatever might have frightened him.  And in spite of all my harsher comments about bunnies that was the spot I threw food for him most days.   I knew he lived there, and I felt if I fed him he would leave the other plants alone.  Believe it or not, he kept to his end of the bargain.  Minus the clover…..

We bought some bulbs this weekend to plant, and trust that we do so with enough cleverness to not have them dug up by squirrels in their seemingly never-ending quest for food.   The colored flowers on the box are great for advertising, but it seems unfair that gardeners need to wait seven months to see the blooms.  Lets face it, after a long hard Wisconsin winter even a shade of gray would be welcome as long as it had green leaves.  With this attitude of mine it might seem I am not eager for the change of seasons.

In fact I love the four seasons, and that is why Wisconsin is one of the special states in which to live. But after a July that was too cool I think we were cheated a bit on summer.  I still think we should have some more days to drink, as the radio ad implores us, “another pitcher of Country Time Lemonade”.

And could we do that in summer shorts please!