Friday, September 29, 2006

Bailey Colorado Terror

My dear friend and writing partner Rich Van Pelt is speaking at the Bailey Colorado Community Worship Service tonight. Last night he asked what I would say if I were in his shoes. These are the reflections I sent him.

No one should ever have to think about such things. Everyone does.

• This is awful and totally without reason. no one in this community had this coming. we don't know much about the person who did this but we know he really and truly did evil here -- no excuses.

• Feel what you're feeling. there's not a right way to feel in reaction to your personal experience this week. But there may be a wrong way: if you stuff it; if you deny it; if you pretend that it affects you more or less or other than it actually is affecting you, that's not healthy, that's not fair to you and it's not fair to your friends and family and neighbors.

• On the other side of that is assuming everyone is having the same reaction to this experience that you are. Please be honest about your thoughts and feelings and generous about the thoughts and feelings other people express -- including the sure knowledge that people will do and say things they'll think twice about later. That's ok: getting your bearings in this kind of emotional storm sometimes includes taking some steps in a direction that won't lead you home. Please don't be afraid to backtrack a few steps and look for the path that will get you back where you belong.

• If I were the flight attendant on an airplane, one of the things i would tell you is what to do in the event of a cabin depressurization. You may already know what i would say: I would tell you that a mask will fall from the panel above you and that you should place that mask firmly over your nose and mouth and -- crazy as it sounds -- do your best to breathe normally.

Then I would tell you to help the people with you secure their masks.

• So what is that mask that falls from the overhead panel at times like this? For starters, I'm convinced it's God's mercy in this most unlikely and unacceptable circumstance. I'm convinced God enters dark valleys like the one you're in right now, not to teach you a lesson but to comfort you by his presence and prepare you to comfort other people by your presence.

• I think you are oxygen to each other -- that you'll get through this together -- that five years from now it won't be outsiders you'll remember bringing help, it will be your classmates and your neighbors in this community. So, get your own mask in place and turn as soon as you can to help the people near you who are in distress.

• Telling each other the story of what you experienced physically and emotionally and spiritually will help you heal. It will, whether you think that's true or not. People who go through the kind of trauma you've experienced who honestly and thoughtfully tell their stories to each other bounce back way faster than those who choose to, or have to go it alone. Please be patient listeners for each other; please be open with your own story to help others be open with theirs.

I'm not talking about strangers and media people here; I'm talking about locals. The job the media are here to do may not help you with the work you need to do in the next few days. I'm not saying they're bad or badly intentioned; I'm just saying their job and yours may not be the same right now. And it will seem like work. This kind of emotional experience involves a lot of heavy lifting. So, if you're tired, sleepy, emotionally spent, there's a good reason for that.

• If you experience flashbacks, vivid memories, intrusive thoughts and nightmares -- those are very common responses to this level of trauma. If you experience emotional numbness or hyper-arousal, sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, headaches, stomach complaints, dizziness, chest pain, irritability, outbursts of anger or feelings of intense guilt -- don't freak out; all those are normal in the first weeks after the kind of experience you've had.

If you're still experiencing these things when Halloween gets here a month from now, please tell someone trustworthy so you can get some more help. There are lots of professional people here to help you this week and some skilled non-professional helpers too. Some of them will be gone in month, but your school administrators and counselors and teachers and your youth workers and your family doctors will be able to help you get what you need for as long as you need help.

• We've all seen something we never wanted to see this week. We've seen something terrible that we never should have seen. This kind of thing is not supposed to happen, period. But it did, as such thing occasionally do -- and I'm really sad that it happened to you. Human beings are capable of so much that's good; so much that I believe reflects the goodness of our creator. Human beings are also capable of horrible evil that reflect our desperate brokenness. You're seeing ugliness you should never have to look at. I pray you will see goodness again very soon -- in fact, I pray that you will soon live goodness and spread it around like flower seeds. But first, you have to get through the days right in front of you, one day at a time.

• Do what you can to reflect the good and reject the evil. Do what you can to be there for each other -- you may be doing very well in a month but your friend or your teacher or parent may be in trouble. So do what you can to pay attention and be there to help someone else get help if she needs it.

Rich and I wrote The Youth Worker's Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis.

We are working on The Parent's Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis.

Next week (October 5-6, 2006) we are scheduled to teach eight hours on the subject at the Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention in Austin, a again next month in Anaheim, Cincinatti and Charlotte.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

on teaching and learning . . .

Bill Evans is, I imagine, a master teacher after 17 years of teaching English to eigth graders at Manhattan's Trevor Day School.

Not that longevity is good for much other than getting old. But look what Mr Evan wrote in the New York Times:

. . . What I’m trying to say is, there’s something extremely tentative and fluid about the classroom situation. It is never, ever a sure thing. A teacher does his or her best to stack the odds in favor of success, and a consistently high level of success is definitely attainable, but a classroom is not a machine. Learning is essentially a private, almost secret, inner event, and schools are extremely public and social arenas that attempt to facilitate that event’s occurrence. Ideally, the friction between these two realities creates sparks. But learning is stubborn. It happens on its own schedule. It is extremely difficult to understand what one doesn’t understand, to see what one simply cannot see, and that’s the soil that learning sprouts out of, at least initially. But not to get hung up on horticultural metaphors — fortunately, learning is also explosive. Those sparks can do the trick, and do; I’m here to attest to it.

If teaching has taught me anything, it’s that learning happens. I’ve seen it repeatedly. I’ve grown to trust the process, and the longer I teach, the more comfortable I’ve become with the fact that I, as teacher, don’t seem to be in charge of this process at all. I am much more a witness, and when I’m really good, a facilitator. . . .

I can only add a phrase I've come to rely on (it's a skeleton next to Bill Evan's fully formed human — still, it helps me remember which end is up when I'm designing content):

People don't learn what they're supposed to learn. People learn what they're prepared to learn.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Oh my gosh. Studio 60 is good enough to help me forget for an hour that I have to take back the acknowledgement I gave to Senators McCain, Graham and Warner for standing up to Mr Bush's assault on habeas corpus and the American Way. But they seem to have buckled and I'm deeply disappointed.

But I'm still grateful to Secretary Powell – who apparently won't be making the same mistake twice – and today I add my appreciation to General Batiste, Colonel Hammes and Major General Eaton for speaking the uncomfortable truth about the conduct of the war in Iraq.

This is one reason we need to have Democrats in the majority in at least one chamber of Congress: open hearings.

Friday, September 22, 2006

all is not lost

I know I'll get hit for suggesting "equivalencies" here, though I am always clear in stating that there is no equivalency between today's radical and extreme Muslims and today's ordinary Christians. But it must also be said that Christians, from the fourth to the eighteenth century, can match the Muslims one-for-one when it comes to having spread the faith with the sword. Read the history of the Christianization of Europe and you have to go hunting for that minority of the faithful who spread the faith without the sword, merely by witness and works.

We live today not in the time of Christian Crusades and Inquisitions, but in a time when the pope is needed as a bridge-builder, a link-maker. Having quoted claims seven centuries old that only "evil and inhuman" things were new in the program of the Prophet and in the name of Islam, it will be harder for the pope to have dialogue with the Muslims who do good and human things. Some on the Muslim and American right seem to be craving a war of civilizations, a war about which we know only one thing: Both sides (or the many sides) would lose.

Rather than point to the "evil and inhuman" nature of Islam's, Judaism's, Christianity's, Hinduism's, Buddhism's, and other holy wars, the pope will serve better if he can still find dialogue partners in search of the good and human. All is not lost. Yet.

— Martin Marty | Sightings | the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School | 09.18.06

Thursday, September 21, 2006

why it's important to have a smart president

George Friedman, without ever saying so, makes it clear why it's important to have intelligent, experienced, carefully informed people in the White House.

Dr Friedman is the founder, chief intelligence officer, and chairman of a private intelligence and foreign affairs analysis company called Stratfor. He is the author of America's Secret War and The Future of War.

Before he entered the private business sector a decade ago, Dr Friedman taught political science for nearly 20 years during which he also briefed senior commanders in all the US armed services, the Office of Net Assessments, the U.S. Army War College, National Defense University and the RAND Corporation on security and national defense. In 1994 he founded the Center for Geopolitical Studies at Louisiana State University to conduct integrated economic, political and military modeling and forecasting. the Center was the only non-Department of Defense/non-governmental organization granted access to Joint Theater Level Simulation (JTLS) by the Joint Warfighting Center.

I write all that by way of introduction to Friedman's remarkable (and remarkably clear) analysis of how the US came to be where we are in Iraq — Iraq: The Policy Dilemma.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


"Listen here, if you don't vote, you don't matter! And then you're just as ignorant as them in the city say you are!"
— Willie Stark, All the King's Men, Columbia Pictures

Monday, September 18, 2006

just so we're clear

On September 15 Mr Bush was asked to comment on former Secretary of State Colin Powell's letter to Senator McCain:

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, former Secretary of State Colin Powell says the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. If a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Secretary of State feels this way, don't you think that Americans and the rest of the world are beginning to wonder whether you're following a flawed strategy?

THE PRESIDENT: If there's any comparison between the compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists, it's flawed logic. I simply can't accept that. It's unacceptable to think that there's any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective, Terry.

Just so we're clear, Mr Bush, I don't think most people question the compassion and decency of the American people. It's your compassion and decency that's in question; it's your moral basis that's up for review. America is not so much on trial as you are.

At this stage of the game, I wonder if there's much you can do about that.

Friday, September 15, 2006

rose garden

Steve said what I was thinking, better than I was thinking it. So . . . I'll let him.

Friday, September 15, 2006
Dumbing up...

We were in the airport this morning, flying to Baltimore, to play a gig on a boat. As we sat waiting to board, I caught the president in the rose garden, taking questions from the press. I copied an important part here.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, former Secretary of State Colin Powell says the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. If a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Secretary of State feels this way, don't you think that Americans and the rest of the world are beginning to wonder whether you're following a flawed strategy?

THE PRESIDENT: If there's any comparison between the compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists, it's flawed logic. I simply can't accept that. It's unacceptable to think that there's any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective, Terry.
I think that he calls something "unacceptable" when he just can't comprehend the pot calling the kettle black. The definition of hypocrisy is this: The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; falseness. Maybe it isn't hypocrisy if he still somehow believes Islamic extremists are the only people who kill innocent women and children. I can hardly comprehend that. See the transcript.

posted by Flibbityflu at 11:24 PM

Sunday, September 10, 2006

to give as good as we got

I'm sorry to keep doing this but really, isn't it time to pony up and join Salon Premium so you can read Garrison Keillor for yourself every Wednesday morning?

Since we're caught halfway between last Wednesday and next, here's an excerpt to tide you over . . .

Last week I sat and listened to a roomful of parents talk about their battles with public schools in behalf of their children who suffer from dyslexia, or apraxia, or ADD, or some other disability -- sagas of ferocious parental love vs. stonewall bureaucracy in the quest for basic needful things -- and how some of them had uprooted their families and moved to Minnesota so their children could attend better schools. You couldn't tell if those parents were Republicans or Democrats. They simply were prepared to move mountains so their kids could have a chance. So are we all.

And that's the mission of politics: to give our kids as good a chance as we had. They say that liberals have run out of new ideas -- it's like saying that Christians have run out of new ideas. Maybe the old doctrine of grace is good enough.

I don't get much hope from Democrats these days, a timid and skittish bunch, slow to learn, unable to sing the hymns and express the steady optimism that is at the heart of the heart of the country. I get no hope at all from Republicans, whose policies seem predicated on the Second Coming occurring in the very near future. If Jesus does not descend through the clouds to take them directly to paradise, and do it now, they are going to have to answer to the rest of us.
— Garrison Keillor, Our Magnificent Isolation,, 09.06.06

Thursday, September 07, 2006

19 days

Congress is scheduled to work for 19 days between now and the November 2006 elections.

Scenario One: Bluff and Bluster and Playing to the Base
Everyone concentrates on trying to scare the hell of out of people who might be persuaded to vote their way in hopes of tipping enough votes out of the middle to get elected or reelected.

Scenario Two: The Handwriting on the Wall
The Current Occupant rallies the troops to pass dangerous anti-democracy measures in the twilight of it's majority and prays the new Democratic majority in Congress won't be large enough to make the Bush Administration look worse in it's final two years than it already appears.

Scenario Three: Stop the Madness
Dozens of senators and hundreds of representatives come to their senses and govern with dignity and respect in an admittedly belated attempt to fulfill the oath of office. They apologize for their misbehavior and promise, if reelected, to continue their reformed course.

Here is a significant statement from the editors of the Washington Post about the dangers of Scenario Two.

This might be a good time to email our senators and representatives.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

the bastards

Senate Rejects Limits on Cluster Bombs

Taken one at a time Republican senators may be swell fellows, but put them all together in a room and they lack conscience.

This is why we have to wrest control of the US Senate from them in November . . . or have more blood on our hands.

Monday, September 04, 2006

On Labor Day | Updated September 3, 2012

These are the 2,200 words Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke to the Democratic National Convention on June 27, 1936.

If you'd rather listen to it, it's here at the University of Virginia Miller Center for Public Affairs.

Mr. Roosevelt, running for a second term as president, noted to the delegates in Philadelphia that, "there is a mysterious cycle in human events." It's hard to argue against that notion -- though the cycle seems in some ways less mysterious today. One thing is certainly different in 2012: President Obama cannot echo President Roosevelt in thanking, "those of other parties, especially those in the Congress of the United States who on so many occasions have put partisanship aside." What a shame.
Senator Robinson, Members of the Democratic Convention, my friends:

Here, and in every community throughout the land, we are met at a time of great moment to the future of the Nation. It is an occasion to be dedicated to the simple and sincere expression of an attitude toward problems, the determination of which will profoundly affect America.

I come not only as a leader of a party, not only as a candidate for high office, but as one upon whom many critical hours have imposed and still impose a grave responsibility.

For the sympathy, help and confidence with which Americans have sustained me in my task I am grateful. For their loyalty I salute the members of our great party, in and out of political life in every part of the Union. I salute those of other parties, especially those in the Congress of the United States who on so many occasions have put partisanship aside. I thank the Governors of the several States, their Legislatures, their State and local officials who participated unselfishly and regardless of party in our efforts to achieve recovery and destroy abuses. Above all I thank the millions of Americans who have borne disaster bravely and have dared to smile through the storm.

America will not forget these recent years, will not forget that the rescue was not a mere party task. It was the concern of all of us. In our strength we rose together, rallied our energies together, applied the old rules of common sense, and together survived.

In those days we feared fear. That was why we fought fear. And today, my friends, we have won against the most dangerous of our foes. We have conquered fear.

But I cannot, with candor, tell you that all is well with the world. Clouds of suspicion, tides of ill-will and intolerance gather darkly in many places. In our own land we enjoy indeed a fullness of life greater than that of most Nations. But the rush of modern civilization itself has raised for us new difficulties, new problems which must be solved if we are to preserve to the United States the political and economic freedom for which Washington and Jefferson planned and fought.

Philadelphia is a good city in which to write American history. This is fitting ground on which to reaffirm the faith of our fathers; to pledge ourselves to restore to the people a wider freedom; to give to 1936 as the founders gave to 1776-an American way of life.

That very word freedom, in itself and of necessity, suggests freedom from some restraining power. In 1776 we sought freedom from the tyranny of a political autocracy-from the eighteenth century royalists who held special privileges from the crown. It was to perpetuate their privilege that they governed without the consent of the governed; that they denied the right of free assembly and free speech; that they restricted the worship of God; that they put the average man's property and the average man's life in pawn to the mercenaries of dynastic power; that they regimented the people.

And so it was to win freedom from the tyranny of political autocracy that the American Revolution was fought. That victory gave the business of governing into the hands of the average man, who won the right with his neighbors to make and order his own destiny through his own Government. Political tyranny was wiped out at Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.

Since that struggle, however, man's inventive genius released new forces in our land which reordered the lives of our people.. The age of machinery, of railroads; of steam and electricity; the telegraph and the radio; mass production, mass distribution-all of these combined to bring forward a new civilization and with it a new problem for those who sought to remain free.

For out of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built upon concentration of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital-all undreamed of by the fathers-the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service.

There was no place among this royalty for our many thousands of small business men and merchants who sought to make a worthy use of the American system of initiative and profit. They were no more free than the worker or the farmer. Even honest and progressive-minded men of wealth, aware of their obligation to their generation, could never know just where they fitted into this dynastic scheme of things.

It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over Government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction. In its service new mercenaries sought to regiment the people, their labor, and their property. And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man.

The hours men and women worked, the wages they received, the conditions of their labor-these had passed beyond the control of the people, and were imposed by this new industrial dictatorship. The savings of the average family, the capital of the small business man, the investments set aside for old age-other people's money-these were tools which the new economic royalty used to dig itself in.

Those who tilled the soil no longer reaped the rewards which were their right. The small measure of their gains was decreed by men in distant cities.

Throughout the Nation, opportunity was limited by monopoly. Individual initiative was crushed in the cogs of a great machine. The field open for free business was more and more restricted. Private enterprise, indeed, became too private. It became privileged enterprise, not free enterprise.

An old English judge once said: "Necessitous men are not free men." Liberty requires opportunity to make a living-a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives man not only enough to live by, but something to live for.

For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people's property, other people's money, other people's labor-other people's lives. For too many of us life was no longer free; liberty no longer real; men could no longer follow the pursuit of happiness.

Against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of Government. The collapse of 1929 showed up the despotism for what it was. The election of 1932 was the people's mandate to end it. Under that mandate it is being ended.

The royalists of the economic order have conceded that political freedom was the business of the Government, but they have maintained that economic slavery was nobody's business. They granted that the Government could protect the citizen in his right to vote, but they denied that the Government could do anything to protect the citizen in his right to work and his right to live.

Today we stand committed to the proposition that freedom is no half-and-half affair. If the average citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity in the polling place, he must have equal opportunity in the market place.

These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power. In vain they seek to hide behind the Flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the Flag and the Constitution stand for. Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike.

The brave and clear platform adopted by this Convention, to which I heartily subscribe, sets forth that Government in a modern civilization has certain inescapable obligations to its citizens, among which are protection of the family and the home, the establishment of a democracy of opportunity, and aid to those overtaken by disaster.

But the resolute enemy within our gates is ever ready to beat down our words unless in greater courage we will fight for them.

For more than three years we have fought for them. This Convention, in every word and deed, has pledged that that fight will go on.

The defeats and victories of these years have given to us as a people a new understanding of our Government and of ourselves. Never since the early days of the New England town meeting have the affairs of Government been so widely discussed and so clearly appreciated. It has been brought home to us that the only effective guide for the safety of this most worldly of worlds, the greatest guide of all, is moral principle.

We do not see faith, hope and charity as unattainable ideals, but we use them as stout supports of a Nation fighting the fight for freedom in a modern civilization.

Faith- in the soundness of democracy in the midst of dictatorships.

Hope-renewed because we know so well the progress we have made.

Charity- in the true spirit of that grand old word. For charity literally translated from the original means love, the love that understands, that does not merely share the wealth of the giver, but in true sympathy and wisdom helps men to help themselves.

We seek not merely to make Government a mechanical implement, but to give it the vibrant personal character that is the very embodiment of human charity.

We are poor indeed if this Nation cannot afford to lift from every recess of American life the dread fear of the unemployed that they are not needed in the world. We cannot afford to accumulate a deficit in the books of human fortitude.

In the place of the palace of privilege we seek to build a temple out of faith and hope and charity.

It is a sobering thing, my friends, to be a servant of this great cause. We try in our daily work to remember that the cause belongs not to us, but to the people. The standard is not in the hands of you and me alone. It is carried by America. We seek daily to profit from experience, to learn to do better as our task proceeds.

Governments can err, Presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that divine justice weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm-hearted in different scales.

Better the occasional faults of a Government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a Government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.

There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.

In this world of ours in other lands, there are some people, who, in times past, have lived and fought for freedom, and seem to have grown too weary to carry on the fight. They have sold their heritage of freedom for the illusion of a living. They have yielded their democracy.

I believe in my heart that only our success can stir their ancient hope. They begin to know that here in America we are waging a great and successful war. It is not alone a war against want and destitution and economic demoralization. It is more than that; it is a war for the survival of democracy. We are fighting to save a great and precious form of government for ourselves and for the world.

I accept the commission you have tendered me. I join with you. I am enlisted for the duration of the war.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Mr Keillor has the floor

The Chair recognizes Mr Keillor of Minnesota:
This week we mark the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the Current Occupant's line "You're doing a heckuva job," which already is in common usage, a joke, a euphemism for utter ineptitude. It's sure to wind up in Bartlett's Quotations, a summation of his occupancy. Annual interest on the national debt now exceeds all government welfare programs combined. We'll be in Iraq for years to come. Hard choices need to be made, and given the situation we're in, I think we must bite the bullet and say no more healthcare for card-carrying Republicans. It just doesn't make sense to invest in longevity for people who don't believe in the future. Let them try faith-based medicine, let them pray for their arteries to be reamed and their hips to be restored, and leave science to the rest of us.

Cutting out healthcare for one-third of the population -- the folks with Bush- Cheney bumper stickers, who still believe the man is doing a heckuva job -- will save enough money to pay off the national debt, not a bad legacy for Republicans. As Scrooge said, let them die and reduce the surplus population. In return, we can offer them a reduction in the estate tax. All in favor, blow your nose.