Thursday, December 28, 2006

THE TRUE MEANING OF EVERYTHING! - well some things - uh maybe, maybe not

I love most christmas music, except perhaps what one hears repeated ad nauseam at shopping malls from about the middle of October on.

I have a CD, The Glorious Sound of Christmas. It features Eugene Ormandy leading the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Temple University Concert Choir (Robert Page, Director.) Actually, I originally purchased this recording back in the mid-1960s as an LP record through the old Columbia Record Club. If you like christmas music performed with choirs in orchestral settings, you might well like this one. It is still being sold. I saw it at Borders a couple of weeks ago. I purchased my CD from Amazon.

So what?, you might say. Indeed!

The first four cuts are standards - "Hark, The Herald Angels Sing," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "Joy to the World," and "O Holy Night." All are excellent renditions. Cut number five begins a run of consecutive pieces which are, in my opinion three of the greatest christmas carol recordings I've ever heard. The first is also the best and by far the most moving. "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" is performed with all strings. No brass, no reeds, no percussion, no voices. It reaches into the depths of one's heart. I have listened to it, I can't guess how many times. I sometimes pull it out in May or July and play it. It still moves me to tears. It begins quietly with a meandering cello (or perhaps viola) line which then gives over to violins introducing the simple verse. Each successive verse builds in complexity gradually adding instruments in a steady crescendo to greater emotional heights culminating in a finale' which absolutely shakes the room.

At such moments I understand why people come to believe in a god. I understand why people feel the need for a higher power. At the end, we are alone. We may have family and friends. We may have access to spiritual and/or professional help if depressed or fearful. We can take pills to assuage depression and fear. But, as we move through life, friends come and go. Family members pass. Ministers, psychologists and phychiatrists can only listen, and give counsel. The effectiveness of pills wanes. Despite the love, caring and the best efforts of others, we can still feel utterly alone, suffering pain and loss, facing our own mortality. These times can be devastating.

We often then, seek solace from a god, which we come to believe has the power to direct our lives, which gives us comfort in affording us assurance that we are loved, and ultimately provides us with the hope of an eternal life in paradise. We long for perfect peace and perfect beauty. It's grand and heady stuff.

The "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" on the Glorious Sound album evokes, for me at least, that pain and yearning, but also the incredible beauty of life. As one who does not believe in any god, I am not immune to the base fears which are the stuff of living and dying. The astonishing depth and resonance of this recording bring all of those emotions to the surface. I believe that it is good for us to experience them.

The other pieces I alluded to are wonderful as well in different ways. Another instrumental, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is as rousing as "O Come" is profoundly emotional. The last of the three is a gently evocative "Ave Maria" (Schubert). It combines orchestra and wordless chorus, and leaves one with a sense of calm. More carols follow on the album, but these three are, for me, the best.

The inspiration for all of this music was, of course god, and more specifically, the birth of jesus. My wife is dubious about any notion that such music could have been written without godly inspiration. Obviously, I don't agree. Music, and pretty much all artistic achievements of man would likely be just as great, and just as inspirational without a godly muse. Granted, it all might be very different. We probably would not have spent as much time looking heavenward. But we humans are an ingenious and resourceful lot. Inspiration has and continues to come to us from sources other than god, through which we create great things. Great architecture. Great sculpture. Great painting. Great music. Great dance. Great drama. Great literature. All of it.


Consider science. If you genuinely delve into biology and evolution, study chemistry or discover the wonders of physics, you will find that there is unfathomable beauty to be found there. One does not need to look outside of nature, to the meta-physical or spiritual for inspiration. It is all around us, all the time. It is nature. It is us.


Monday, December 25, 2006


To all of my hundreds, nay thousands of loyal readers: MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HO HO HO!

Remember that Christ, or somebody like Christ, or a number of somebodies like Christ was born on Christmas day, or sometime there abouts - it was said to be cold at any rate. Did Joseph and Mary know it was Christmas day? Did they get their shopping done? Did they make it to the Bethlehem Mall before all the stores closed? Did they encounter a lot of holiday travelers on the way to Bethlehem? Did they have any trouble getting through security? Did they get any free "donkey" miles? (Hey, I could have written "ass" miles, but I didn't.)

We know the reservations got screwed up at the inn. Did they get a coupon for a free stay at any other inns or at least free use of the day spa? They darn well should have. A mud bath would probably feel great after several hours of labor. Did the concierge find them a midwife? Did they have to pay extra for the swaddling clothes? Did the management demand to see their marriage license? How did they sign the register? Did Joseph dutifully stay in the manger getting hot water and towels, or could he have been found wiling away the hours in the inn lounge putting back a few vodka stingers?
Did they set out some milk and cookies for Santa?
Did they hang around Bethlehem to celebrate New Years? Did they give Jesus a sparkler?
All these questions, so few answers.

I'm a nasty SOB. But Merry Christmas anyhow.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Free Will and the Survival of Humanity (Some heavy shit!)

The following appears as a comment on a recent post on Gregg100's Open Campus blog site "Dan" is another commenter who apparently has a keen interest in whether man has any free will. As you may see, I drone on for some time, so gird your loins, or whatever it is you are comfortable "girding," and enjoy.

I'm not sure I follow Dan's interest in "free will." Is it his notion that there is some biological imperative which predisposes us to certain patterns of behaviour and consequently any and all decisions we make?

I suppose our heredity and instinct for survival direct a great deal of our decision making processes. However, I feel that one of the distinct qualities of our species is that we do have a certain amount of free will which is often demonstrated by the number of truly bad decisions we make which often run counter to our survival and well being. A slug would not "decide" to do a lot of the truly stupid things humans so often do.

Some evolutionary scientists claim that man has ceased to evolve owing to our unprecedented departure from nature. We have, from an evolutionary perspective, taken ourselves out of the equation - at least to a greater degree than other earthly life forms. We do not survive purely on instinct and hereditary predisposition. We cogitate and consider - often over little, if any relevant evidence - and at times come to spurious conclusions about what course of action to take, or whether to take any action at all regarding any given matter. Bengal tigers spend little time hemming an hawing. They attack and eat.

As to whether the survival of humanity is a worthy goal, what else is there for us? I have suggested that humanity is, in fact the closest thing to god we know of. While we certainly don't have many of the qualities usually reserved for our typical concept of what it is to be "godly," we seem to possess more such qualities, or abilities than any other life form with which we are familiar.

In this regard, the spiritual realm doesn't count for much. In my humble opinion, most of what people regard as "spiritual" is based on dreams, fantasy and hallucinations, or just wishful thinking.

The pursuit of our long term survival calls upon many of the qualities we do possess which take us beyond the realm of individual survival, including cooperative efforts with other humans, care and concern for the life and well being of others, creativity and innovation, etc., as you (Gregg) have rightly indicated.

The question can be put: Of what importance is the long term survival of humanity? To what end? If there is no god, no afterlife, no spot in heaven to pursue, nor permanent residence in hell to avoid, then what purpose can it all have?

Perhaps that is our challenge. Perhaps that is the point which will call upon our highest abilities. It falls to us to find the subtext of our daily lives, if you will, to define what it is we must do beyond basic, personal survival to further the survival of humanity, and why it is worthy of our efforts.


Friday, December 15, 2006

A Short Trip

My wife and I flew to Orlando, Florida last Friday afternoon. My son picked us up and drove us north to his domicile in Gainesville where we spent Friday evening and all day Saturday. The highlight of our stay there was sitting on a wood deck overlooking Lake Alice on the UF campus. It was quiet and lovely. It's hard to believe that it lay more or less at the center of a huge university campus. Didn't spy any 'gaters, though.

Sunday afternoon we hit the road and drove to Savannah, Georgia. We spent the night and much of the next day there. What a beautiful city! We also took a trip out to Tybee Island where we walked the beach, and my son climbed the 150+ steps to the top of the lighthouse.

We returned to Savannah and, of course, took in the Mercer House and later ate lunch at the Gryffin (sp?) Tea Room which is owned and operated by SCAD - the Savannah College of Art and Design. That's good eatin'.

We hit the road around two in the afternoon and headed out toward Atlanta. I took the wheel just north of Macon as darkness fell. About 2 miles or so further north I looked ahead to see that the traffic in front of me was stopping short, and some cars were scattering out into the median. I slammed on the brakes, but quickly realized I could not stop before hitting the car ahead of me. I veered to the right into the center of the 3 lanes of the interstate. It appeared to be clear. I remember seeing a truck in my peripheral vision with the cab protruding into the far right lane at a right angle to traffic as we moved through the maze of cars. I thought, or at least hoped that we were clear. I saw some debris in the roadway running over it without damage, but a dark something else loomed ahead which I couldn't avoid. I hit whatever it was accompanied by two hard "bangs." I knew that was not a good thing. I kept control of the car and pulled off the roadway as quickly as I could.

All three of us got out of the car and looked to discover that both left tires were flat. We then looked back to where the chaos had ensued to see the box truck I had caught site of before and a semi-truck with a large open flat bed trailer on its side - the cab thrust up into the woods about 20 or 30 feet off of the roadway. It had begun to burn. There were a couple of people standing up on the cab of the semi assisting its driver out. Just as they cleared the wreck, the gas tank blew and the entire rig including its cargo - 3 or 4 large rolls of newsprint - went up with flames shooting high into the black night sky. Talk about your dramatic scenes.

Over the next several minutes state troopers, ambulances and fire apparatus began arriving. All north bound traffic was stopped. It took some time for the fire to be extinguished. Wreckers came to haul away the box truck and the remains of the now charred semi and trailer.

In the mean time, my son called AAA for a tow. We had no idea when a wrecker might arrive. If it was coming from the south, it could take hours. I found a trooper and told him of our situation. We were collateral damage. He wasn't particularly interested in our plight. He had bigger fish to fry, as it were. I did not want all of the emergency vehicles to pull out, leaving us disabled out in the country at the side of the interstate, in the dark. A fireman advised us that, if we were still there when the highway opened up, that we should get as far away from our car as possible. He said we should get back into the woods, because when the traffic started to move, it was likely to be chaotic. Our car might well get creamed.

Fortunately, the wrecker arrived, but was in the southbound lane. He told us that he could not cross the median as it was against the law, and he could be fined up to $700 for doing so. His only option was to head south and get at the rear of the halted traffic. That was crazy talk.

I took the wrecker driver, in tow and found a fireman to explain the situation. We ultimately got permission for the wrecker driver to cross the median. He did so and pulled our car up onto his rig. The three of us crammed into the cab of the wrecker along with the driver who took us some 20 miles northwest to the bustling metropolis of Barnsville, GA where his repair shop is located. There was no chance of getting tires that late, then well after 9:00PM. Fortunately, there was a motel, a Country Hearth Inn in Barnsville where we stayed the night. We had two meals at the Huddle House adjacent to the motel that night and on Tuesday morning. The uh - cuisine at the Huddle House was a bit high on the greasy side, but it was better than not eating at all.

Around noon my cell phone rang with the news that our car was repaired. Two tires and the tow came to just over $300. We got back on the road around 12:30 and made it back to Indy around eleven Tuesday night without incident.

Why am I recounting this little tale here? Well, there is this. Another driver who had been ahead of us on the roadway found himself directly next to the semi as it hit the cab of the box truck. This fellow had the presence of mind to hit the gas which managed to get him just ahead of the carnage. He was walking around talking at a near babble. He was really shook up. He claimed that he caught site of the semi driver's eyes as the truck was going over onto its side. He said that the guy had a look of absolute terror. He couldn't get that image out of his mind. As I indicated, the semi driver did make it out of the cab and was more or less unhurt. There were two people with the box truck, but they had gotten out and were standing well behind when the semi rammed into it. (They had gotten caught in mud off the road side and were stuck with the truck cab protruding out into the traffic lane. Pretty smart.) Somehow, no one got hurt.

The babbling fellow was busily praising god for his and everyone else's deliverance. He thanked jesus for getting the semi driver out of the truck safely. I know he was really shook up, but I hear this kind of thing so often. It wasn't god or jesus who delivered us from harm. First, it was luck. Just dumb luck. Second, the semi driver was saved by a couple of guys who braved the fire. Had they hesitated even for another minute, it is very likely that the driver would have died in that truck. The babbling driver saved himself by flooring his accelerator. If someone ahead of me had veered in front of us, or had the semi slid to the left rather than off into the woods, we would not have made it through with consequences unknown.

I find it disingenuous when people thank god for saving the day, when it was actually other people who rose to the occasion, and/or the luck of the draw that just happened to favor survivors of accidents or whatever unfortunate events people find themselves involved in. What about those who didn't come out alive or unscathed? They drew the loosing cards. It's just chance. Contrary to what a lot of people say, things do not happen for a reason.

Give credit where credit is due. God is no hero. It is, a fireman, your neighbor, or perhaps a stranger who saves the day. And, in the end, we are all subject to caprice - to chance, for good or ill.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Continuing Conversation


Yeah, I did switch to Beta. I don't see much difference, but they indicate that, ultimately everybody on Blogspot will have to make the change or disappear into the internet ether.

I must admit I have never felt that the global warming issue was, in the main political. No doubt some people with differing agendas have grabbed onto environmental issues to gain political and/or financial advantage. However, I don't believe that most scientists studying climatic changes, who accept global warming as a reality, are politically motivated. The science is telling them what is happening. Certainly, some of it is speculative, and predictions tend to be all over the place, but consider just how complex it all is. I just read this article ( online which makes dire predictions, indeed. Is it accurate? I don't know.

What if the nay sayers are wrong? What happens should we ignore the warnings? The price could be dear.

I am a liberal in most respects. I don't hate "the capitalistic free enterprise system." Some do, I suppose. I would suggest that some ultra right wingers are not particularly fond of it either. Some would love to bring about a totalitarian system which would deny us our basic freedoms - social, political and economic.

I do believe that there are inequities in our system, that unbridled greed has allowed a very small number of people to wield a huge amount of power and live in a manner unprecedented at anytime in history, made on the backs of millions of people who live beneath any standards of what it means to be poor - a situation not unlike that prevailing in much of the world hundreds of years ago with the great majority of the world's citizenry living under the thumbs of feudal lords.

The theory of our system states that anyone can succeed. The reality is something different. The deck is stacked heavily against the great majority of people to achieve even a modicum of success or financial security. How well do you suppose you could live on $5.15 per hour?

I am not an apoligist for socialism, but nor do I consider the present system to be a sacred cow.
The choice of economic systems is not simply black and white. What with social security and other assistance programs, we have, since at least the 1930s lived in a quasi-socialist system. There are those who would do away with all of it, social security, medicare, welfare, public education, etc., either in the belief that the private sector would pick up the slack, or skinflint Scrooges who believe that all who can't carry their own weight should be left to whatever evils might befall them. The former scenario would not likely be an adequate or equitable alternative, the latter is unthinkable.

I don't believe that most liberals "hate" capitalism. Such accusations are the stuff of propaganda. But, as I suggest above, many are aware of our system's inequities, and seek relevant change.

I would ask, that you, too should keep an open mind. Consider the possiblity that conservatives who preach against the likelihood of global warming may have their own, and often conflicting agendas as well.


Response to Gregg100 and JazzyCat


It's great to see you back at it. I have read your recent posts and have some comments that I will try to get to soon. We went out of town for a few days, and I've been away from all this during that time.


I agree with Gregg on this (big surprise.) It is, in the end a question of probabilities. At this juncture of human existence, the question you pose, one which we have discussed in the past, is unanswerable. But the probability of there being a "super intelligent [and super-powerful]" god or some such, given what we DO know and understand about this universe we call home, is extremely low.

Regardless, what you and billions of others throughout the world have done is accept the fall back position of a god being the designer of it all.

To once again quote Richard Dawkins from THE GOD DELUSION I site the following which Dawkins states as "the central argument of [his] book:

""1. One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect, over the centuries, has been to explain how the complex, improbable appearance of design in the universe arises.

"2. The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself. In the case of a man-made artifact such as a watch, the designer really was an intelligent engineer. It is tempting to apply the same logic to an eye or a wing, a spider or a person.

"3. The temptation is a false one, because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer. The whole problem we started out with was the problem of explaining statistical improbability. It is obviously no solution to postulate something even more improbable..."

Dawkins goes on to site evolution as the strongest evidence against intelligent design saying "that the illusion of design in living creatures is just that - an illusion."

Now I know the heart and soul of ID is rejection of evolution. Ann Coulter, among others poses an extensive argument against evolution primarily in siting apparent gaps in the fossil record. Creationists tend to declare that "If there are no fossils to document a postulated evolutionary transition, the default assumption is that there was no evolutionary transition, therefore God must have intervened. It is utterly illogical to demand complete documentation of every step of any narrative... Only a tiny fraction of corpses fossilize, and we are lucky to have as many intermediate fossils as we do. Evolution makes the strong prediction that if a SINGLE fossil turned up in the WRONG geological stratum, the theory would be blown out of the water... No such anachronistic fossils have ever been authentically found...

Gaps, by default in the mind of the creationist, are filled by God."

By the way Jazzy, the global warming is doing fine up here. The temperatures today and for the coming week are predicted to be in the mid to upper 50s - some 20+ degrees ABOVE normal.We flew to Florida last Friday. We left Indiana in a deep freeze with the temperature around 10 degrees. That night in Gainsville, the temperature went down to around 28. It was damn cold.

Go figure.

As to "brilliant scientists" believing in god. I don't dispute what you say, but I do see it as an awkward disconnect for them. Unlike Stephen J. Gould's assertion, I do not ascribe to the notion that religion and science can comfortably co-exist. I cannot accept the notion that science should not, nor cannot delve into areas of morality and the existence of god. It is, rather, imperative that it does so.


P.S. By the way, this is my 100th post. Woo Hoo! That's a lot of meaningless drivel I've pump out over the last year or so. But, honestly, don't you all feel better for the experience?

P.P.S. The above also appears as a comment on my previous post (with some slight alterations.) But, I thought this would make it much more accessible. I'm one thoughtful SOB.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Writer's Block

I've been stewing around for a few days with nothing much to say. Not here anyway. I've spent the last several posts either authoring silliness or taking trips down memory lane.

Since I haven't been able to come up with any of my own thoughts, I decided to delve into other people's ideas. Stealing material is good.

I have been slowly making my way through Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. It's not a particularly long book. I'm just a very slow reader. It's just full of goodies to quote. Let's see.

Actually, Dawkins quotes a lot of people, too.

Here's a couple for you:

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring." - Carl Sagan


"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under god." - George H.W. Bush

Note that George Sr. is just as stupid as his son. Jr. came by it honestly.

Here is a lengthy quote actually written by Dawkins:

"Christianity, just as much as Islam, teaches children that unquestioned faith is a virtue. You don't have to make the case for what you believe. If somebody announces that it is part of his faith the rest of society, whether of the same faith, or another, or of none, is obliged, by ingrained custom, to 'respect' it without question; respect it until the day it manifests itself in a horrible massacre like the destruction of the World Trade Center, or the London or Madrid bombings. Then there is a great chorus of disownings, as clerics and 'community leaders' . . . line up to explain that this extremism is a perversion of the 'true' faith. But how can there be a perversion of faith, if faith, lacking objective justification, doesn't have any demonstrable standard to pervert?" (The italics and quotation marks above are Dawkins'.)

Dawkins takes a jab at even the "moderately" faithful in that they provide, in effect, a stepping stone to radicalism. Think of all the children in muslim schools learning the way of islam, that all not of their faith are infidels and, therefore, their enemies. These kids are the bulk seed of future muslim radicals, the fodder for suicide bombings. Think of American youth being brainwashed in fundamentalist christian schools. Think of the movie Jesus Camp. Those kids represent the next generation of "christian soldiers" marching onward.

Susan Jacoby, in her book Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism cites results of a poll of Americans by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, that "the secularist minority is much larger than any non-Christian religious group" in the USA. Jacoby further notes that up to around 16% of the US population is "predominantly secular." Around 14% "have no formal ties to religion."

That given, Jacoby notes that while jews, muslims, hindus and buddhists among others are routinely encouraged to participate in public forums around the nation, secularists, humanists, agnostics and atheists are rarely invited to share the dais. Jacoby states "The message is clear: we may be a multicultural people, but we're all respectable [only] as long as we worship God in some way."

Of course, this last ties together with the Bush quote above. Doubters and non-believers have little cache' in this country. As I've stated, and as I believe, while gays remain a hated target of christians, the godless are generally tolerated even less. We are hated and feared because we question the very basis of believers' raison d'etre. As it happens, most American gays are religious, consider themselves christians, and believe in god. Non-believers represent the true threat to god's people.

It is true. Dawkins claims that "religion" is the problem. It is religion and, consequently, belief in any god, or some other "higher power" on which we non-believers must take aim. The godsters are gonna get us all killed.


Friday, December 01, 2006

1968 - Redux

My son read my most recent post and felt that a line near the end of it: "It couldn't be much worse" is a bit of an over-statement, or as he put it "too heavy handed."

He's right of course. Things could be a lot worse. I should rein in my penchant for hyperbole. I'll give a 110% effort to curb my enthusiasm in the future.

We Americans are still living pretty comfortably as compared to say, the Iraqis. We do have the on-going threat of terrorist violence, but Americans are not being blown into a pink mist on a daily basis (excepting those of us who are in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan.) People are not taking bets on whether someone will survive the drive to the local airport, or if a trip to the market might be our last. Most of us are not starving or homeless. Most of us have food on the table in homes made possible by the jobs that most of us have. All in all, things remain pretty good on our native soil.

When I came of age in the mid 1960s, America's future seemed to me, boundless. We were still the good guys, the knights on the white horses. True, the book The Ugly American had been published to some acclaim which dealt with our budding and meddlesome involvement in Southeast Asia. The seeds of doubt had been sown, but few of us paid any heed.

The White House was in the hands of Jack & Jackie, the golden age of Camelot on the Potomac.
But then, Jack was gone. Camelot disappeared with the squeeze of a trigger in Dallas. I heard about it while sitting in study hall during my junior year of high school. Kids began to cry. Mostly, the girls at first, but that kind of thing is infectious. Many of us were sniveling before the period ended, myself included. We hadn't even heard whether he was dead. We just knew he had been shot. It was surreal. This kind of thing didn't happen in Camelot. Did it? Could it?

Well, yes, it could, and it did.

As I stated in the previous post, Americans effectively got bitch slapped over and over again during the next few years. The war in Vietnam became pervasive with no end in sight. The concomitant anti-war movement was in full swing by the late '60s. The Civil Rights movement was steaming along, and the feminist movement was also gaining traction. It was a crazy time. It was either hellish or exciting depending upon one's perspective - say whether you were smoking dope and throwing frisbees in the Sheep Meadow of Manhattan's Central Park, or smoking dope and dodging bullets in a rice paddy in Vietnam.

We have endured Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, more Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Clinton again, and whoa!, another damn Bush (or who Molly Ivins refers to as "Shrub") since those days. (It would be only just if we could manage to inflict the world with another Clinton in 2008.)

What prompted me to make my admitted overstatement? It was my looking back to where we once were, or at least where we thought we were before it all began going down the tubes, and measuring that against where we are now.

By comparison, the years of the Cold War were relatively stable. It was basically one super power against another, each knowing a single misstep could render the world uninhabitable. The powers that be on both sides actually seemed to care about our earthly future.

Now we are faced with a significant number of religious radicals of every stripe who believe that what happens on this world is of little consequence. These people would be more than happy to blow everyone to smithereens, themselves included, all for the glory of their god. Reason has left the building.

Osama and company must have been overjoyed when Bush and his boys (and girl) chose to invade Iraq. How fortuitous? We squandered what good karma we might have gained post 9/11 as much of the rest of the world watched in dismay at our arrogance and stupidity. We played right into Al Qaida's hands. Within days we were no longer victims, but instead, aggressors. We were attacking a sovereign muslim nation, despoiling muslim land, killing muslims. Nevermind that Saddam was hated in the muslim world about as much as they hated us. Saddam's government was wholly secular and horribly oppressive. That didn't matter. We were the infidel invading holy ground.

The whole situation in Iraq has deteriorated to what, by almost any reasonable measure (except Bush's, of course,) is a civil war. It is chaos. Hundreds of Iraqis are dying every week, sometimes every day. The Iraqi government has virtually no control anywhere in the country that matters. The various police organizations are rife with corruption and insurgant infiltration. Recruits are routinely killed by suicide bombers. The Iraqi army remains largely a joke with little ability to oversee the nation's security without US troops at their backs. We have effectively painted ourselves into a corner. There is no graceful means of extracting ourselves from this mess. For Bush to do anything but "stay the course" would make us even more despised and render us a laughing stock. But, "staying the course" has its own serious problems - generally involving additional and significant losses of American lives.

Bush's expectation, or perhaps now only his hope, that the situation will change for the better in Iraq is unrealistic at best. Meanwhile, terrorists are having a heyday both recruiting and shedding new blood as they continue to work quietly toward further and more spectacular attacks against the west, especially the US.

"Things" could certainly get worse. Let's hope that they don't.