Monday, June 21, 2004

Our bobble-head governator and the trickle-down pain

By now you’ve heard of the Ohio company that’s produced a bobble-head doll of Governator Schwarzenegger to add to its line of other such dolls that include George W. Bush, Moses, and Jesus. You would think that Ahnuld would be pleased to be in such company. But, no, he is very protective of his screen image and objects to its “unauthorized use.” He may be governor, he proclaims, and as such a public figure whose image is in the public domain, but he is, he adds, first and foremost, an actor…a real baaaad actor. Some would say a clown who’s made our state a worldwide laughing stock.

But how he became governor and what has happened since raises questions far too serious for laughter. Take his “election” last year, another signal that, if Republicans don’t like the results, they’ll just overturn them. Why should California be any different than Florida? Disappointed by the election of Gray Davis? No prob. Gather big bucks from the billionaire crowd, send out an army of professional signature-gatherers, put up a booble-head-in-a- humvee candidate, and – Poof! – recall the person we elected four months earlier. The grounds for recall? Buyer’s remorse? Terminal dullness? Whatever! The world laughed – “They must let 14-year-olds vote out there!” And, we ooohed and aaahed.

Still ooohing and aaahing? Enjoy those daily headlines in the Times-Herald about cuts in services, under-funded schools and the like? The governator’s “plan?” Take it out of the hides of the most vulnerable, including, he tried, our dogs and cats. Slough it off to future generations. Our kids can pay off that $15 billion bond. Act responsibly? Raise taxes? No way!

It’s all part of the Republicans’ new plan of trickle down pain. Dubyah comes to Washington, heir to a healthy Clinton surplus. Three years later, we have the largest deficit in history and are pouring money down a rat hole called Iraq at a rate of about $10 billion a month...not to mention the lives of young Americans at a rate of 60 a month. So what to do? Cut the money going to states for a host of necessary programs ranging from education – Remember “No Child Left Behind?” – to public safety. Homeland Security? The states can pay.

But the trickle down doesn’t stop in Sacramento. We’re still dealing with a state budget disaster caused not only by federal cutbacks to the states, but by California’s special indignity - the deregulation foisted on us by the PG&E blue suits in The City and manipulation of the energy grid by Dubyah’s buddy Kenny Lay and their foul-mouthed grandma muggers. Ahnuld’s answer? Cut back funding to counties and cities. Let them deal with it. The Governator has bigger things to tend to…like his image. No need to deal with the legislature or “interest groups” representing the schools, the arts, public safety, or the homeless. “Over their heads,” he cries, ignoring the people’s representatives and going “directly to the people” with puerile sound-bite public appearances. Seems to be working. Last I looked, Ahnuld’s approval rating stood at 65 percent, the highest for any governor in 45 years. Must be those 14-year olds again.

Oh, it’s working all right…for Ahnuld, that is. Trouble is it’s not working for us. All the pain has finally trickled down to us. The buck stops here…in Vallejo. And it does so with a big thuuud! Layoffs throughout the city government, cutbacks in essential services, a bankrupt school district, no money for community-based activities or festivals, rate hikes, new “fees” everywhere. Pay-as-you-go 911 responses? Now there’s a new low!

But there is a real solution. We could start paying the taxes to pay for the services we demand and, yes, need. Problem is the obvious has been short-circuited by class warfare in Washington and generational warfare in Sacramento. You’ve probably pent your $600 federal refund to pay your state taxes? You can be sure, however, that the Kenny Boys of the world are still raking in their billions in refunds. If you object, you’re guilty of “class warfare” and, worse yet, envy, the truly unforgivable sin in the Republican catechism. Meanwhile, back in California, older, childless voters – like me – continue to block needed tax reform for education, welfare and those generally less fortunate than us. Ever since Prop 13, California schools have gone to hell in a hand basket. That has to end! A new system for financing schools has to be found. And the super majorities required for tax increases have to be eradicated. We all have to carry our fair share and demonstrate a concern for the most needy in our midst. Failure to do so would be a real sin. It’s called greed .


June 21, 2004

Sunday, June 13, 2004

So What Is This?

By "this" I mean the words on these pages, oops, on this screen. This is certainly not straight news reporting, though I do try to stick to the truth and the facts, absurd as they sometimes may appear. A column? A once-a-week opinion on a single issue? Sometimes. Over time, however, this has evolved into a longer review of a variety of issues that strike me as worthy of your notice...a mini-journal or, as the kids might say, zine. With each of the issues - some about Vallejo, some about the world - I'll include the reported facts - some culled from the media, some you'll never see on the pages of the Times-Herald - and treat them in a way intended to provoke critical thinking and moral outrage. To that end, I'll sometimes rage at the lies and cover-ups and sometimes seek your laughter at the absurdities and silliness all around us. I hope you'll laugh and cry with me, but, more importantly, I hope you'll look at the issues raised more closely, get more facts, and draw your own conclusions.

So what issues might we look at? Here are several on the global and national scenes that have attracted my attention this week.

I promise to focus on Vallejo next week, and, in particular, the outrageous sham involving the interim city manager's "negotiations" with the public safety unions. Again, these past two days, the Times-Herald has shamed itself with its "reporting" on the issue, a melange of puffery, disinformation, false alarms, and some very ugly threats.

"I Was Only Following Requests."

How many times did we hear at Nuremberg, "I was only following orders" - as if one could stow their moral compass in the barracks...or outside the doors of governmental leadership. Late last week the civilian leader of our armed forces, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, carried that specious and dismissed argument to an even higher level of absurdity. Asked why he ordered a captured insurgent in Iraq to be kept "off the books" and not reported as required by the Geneva Convention to the International Committee of the Red Cross or ICRC, an uncharacteristically soft-spoken Rumsfeld replied "I did so because I received a request from the CIA to do so." Did he ask why the request was made, on what grounds? No, he said, he didn't normally get into the "details" of such requests. He just went ahead and ordered the creation of a "ghost" prisoner, whose name has still not been reported to the ICRC eight months after his capture. In doing so, Mr. Rumsfeld broke the law, for, constitutionally, international treaties to which the United States is signatory are U.S. law. He did so without being ordered and without the slightest bit of intellectual curiosity. All it took was a request. Talk about a moral jellyfish!

Ah, but, Mr. Rumsfeld, as we know, is capable of the highest flights of moral outrage, selective and misplaced though it might be. Pressed at the same press conference about reports of such "ghost" prisoners and others in U.S. custody being tortured, he reverted to his old arm-waving self, berating the media for, he claimed, overplaying and distorting the Abu Ghraib story. Some soldiers, he said, had done "some things they shouldn't have done," but, he added his voice and arms rising, "Torture? No way!" It was simply outrageous to talk about U.S. soldiers engaging in torture. One has to ask, was he not aware that just 15-minutes earlier Attorney General John Ashcroft had announced the indictment of a civilian contractor for the alleged murder of an Afghan detainee at a DOD interrogation center in that country? Was he not aware of other "wrongful death" charges working their way up the military justice system alleging the killing of Iraqi detainees by their American guards? If bludgeoning someone to death with repeated blows from an over-sized flashlight isn't "torture," what is?

Simply put, Rumsfeld should have been unceremoniously fired long ago. These most recent incidents of insensitivity to law and morality make it more imperative than ever that he be fired NOW. The safety of young American soldiers who might fall into enemy hands demands it. So, too, do the good name and honor of the United States of America.

Colin Powell Gets Nervous

A week ago, I made a plea to Colin Powell - resign with honor before the Rumsfelds of the world drag you down with them. Since then, I came across an op-ed piece written by Secretary Powell in the New York Times. Entitled "Why Generals Get Nervous," it reads in part:

During the last three years U.S. armed forces have been used repeatedly to defend our interests and achieve our political objectives....The reason for our success is that in every instance we have carefully matched the use of military force to our political objectives. President Bush, more than any other recent President, understands the proper use of military force. In every instance, he has made sure that the objective was clear and that we knew what we were getting into. We owe it to the men and women who go in harm's way to make sure that their lives are not squandered for unclear purposes.

....But we also recognize that military force is not always the right answer. If force is used imprecisely or out of frustration rather than clear analysis, the situation can be made worse.

Decisive means and results are always to be preferred, even if they are not always possible. So you bet I get nervous when so-called experts suggest that all we need is a little surgical bombing or a limited attack. When the desired result isn't obtained, a new set of experts then comes forward with talk of a little escalation. History has not been kind to this approach.

Sound advice. Trouble is, it was written on October 8, response, believe it or not, to a New York Times editorial criticizing Powell and the military for being too cautious about the use of American military force. And Powell, of course, was writing about the elder President Bush, who understood the demands of statecraft and the limits of force. Can the same be said about Dubyah? Has he, in Iraq, "made sure that the objective was clear and that we knew what we were getting into?" Or did he listen to "so-called experts" and allow "force [to be] used imprecisely or out of frustration?"

Don't you think that General Powell is asking these same questions today and getting more nervous with each passing day? Shouldn't we?


Those of you who have kids are probably familiar that frequent response to a chiding question "Why did you do that?" "Because...." the child shoots back. Nothing more need be said.

That may be cute and excusable in a toddler, but it's neither when resorted to by the President and Vice President of the United States. I'm referring, of course, to their knee-jerk response to the conclusion of the thoroughly bipartisan 9/11 Commission appointed by the President that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and that no "collaborative relationship" existed between Iraq and al Qaeda. To that - something that has been patently clear from the start - the President petulantly responds: "The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda is because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda." Huh? Can't you just see the child, hands on hips, scowling a defiant "Because," when caught?

The ever-thoughtful Mr. Cheney offered a more detailed but no more persuasive rebuttal to the media's "outrageous" interpretation of the commission's finding, insisting yet again that there is "overwhelming" evidence of such ties. Among his details were all the old canards. The Vice President continues to insist, for example, that 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta met in Prague in April 2001 with Iraqi intelligence officials, even though the commission produced phone records and a bank surveillance video to show that Atta was in Florida at the time. And he still peddles that knowing fuzzing of the truth - namely, that al Qaeda "associate" al Zarqawi operated before the war out a terrorist camp "in Iraq." Surely, the Vice President knows that the Ansar al Islam camp in question was in the Kurdish controlled area of northern Iraq - an area over which Saddam Hussein could only wish he had control. It was, moreover, on the Iranian border and supported not by Saddam, but by Iran.

Isn't it time to grow up? Isn't it time to stop the charade of unsubstantiated and deliberate falsehoods? We're adults aren't we?

Fact is, a far more convincing case can be made for a "collaborative relationship" between Saddam and the United States under Ronald Reagan and Dubyah's dad. Wasn't that Donald Rumsfeld sitting there with Saddam about the time those WMDs were being used against the Kurds and Iranians? Weren't U.S. corporations among those that supplied Saddam with the wherewithal to produce his chemical and biological weapons? Didn't we look the other way when he used them? When his planes "mistakenly" bombed and strafed an American destroyer in the Gulf?

Enough! Please, enough. Just go away. Leave us in peace. We're grown-up enough to pick up the pieces.

"Mr. Sharon, Tear Down That Wall."

How I wish I could hear a U.S. President speak those words. But as that new Israeli wall grows higher - especially in the suburbs of Jerusalem - and cuts more deeply into the West Bank establishing ever newer "realities," our President simply mumbles regrets and calls for calm and an end to violence by "all parties."

Emboldened, Mr. Sharon, now plans a multi-million dollar moat between Egypt and Gaza. Now there's a Biblical metaphor for you, a parting of the seas in the desert. Just last week Jerusalem announced that it had put out bids for contracts for this politico-military and human absurdity. Remember that "McNamara Line" along Vietnam's 17th parallel. There's a reason such foolhardy projects soon earn sobriquets like "Edsel Line." History aside, sounds like something right up Halliburton's alley. I suspect, however, that Israel would not put up the overcharges and cost-overruns it might expect from a Halliburton.

So far, Mr. Sharon's "pacification" campaign in Rafah has led to the bulldozing of hundreds of homes and the re-displacement of about 13,000 Palestinians. The moat will only add to those totals. I use the term "re-displacement" advisedly, because I see there's been a rather uninformed discussion on the pages of the Vallejo Times-Herald about just what Rafah is. It is not a proper city. Nor is it an "internment camp." It is rather a refugee camp, containing new generations of descendants of those displaced in 1948 and again in 1967. Before 1967, it and the rest of Gaza were mal-administered by Egypt in much the same way it has been by Israel since then. It is a place for the human refuse of what once was Palestine, left to fester behind moats, walls, and barbed wire - a shooting field for tanks and helicopters and, yes, a breeding ground for terrorists.

I can understand, however, how there might be some confusion among Americans about just what Rafah is. After more than fifty years, such places can take on a deceptive air of permanence. But surely Mr. Sharon knows what Rafah is. Surely he remembers those other camps Sabra and Shatila. The only thing permanent about them is the despair and desperation they produce. And now Israelis and Americans are tasting the fruits of that desperation. God help us all.

Where's the Outrage?

So now Paul Johnson has met the same barbaric fate as Nick Berg and Daniel Pearl and, maybe soon, a Korean - innocent victims all. Their "crime?" Being there for the taking and the killing. The nature of their murders was calculatedly gruesome, designed to heighten the sense of revulsion and sheer terror. In this, the terrorists have succeeded, sowing confusion and frustration in our midst.

But can't we hope that, in their gratuitous excess, they may have sown the seeds of their own demise. For I have to believe that Arabs and Muslims too must be horrified and outraged by these examples of blasphemous madness in the name of God. It has, however, been far too quiet these past few days across the Middle East and among Muslim Americans. This is not the time for anyone to remain silent. It is rather the time to shout your outrage as fellow human beings at such inhumanity. I don't know how to say it in Arabic, but I urge you as a friend, now is the time, to shout "Enough!" Don't let the false gods of hatred seduce you and drag us all into the deepest depths of self-destruction.

Religion and Politics

For better or for worse, the two - religion and politics - are inter-twined, not just among Muslims, but also among Christians and Jews. Fundamentalism knows no boundaries.

In the United States, the interface between religion and politics has become particularly ugly during this particularly ugly campaign season. I would urge all - politicians and clergy in particular - to tread carefully, thoughtfully, and lovingly through the minefield ahead.

This is no time for religious wedge politics, putting down markers, or putting down people because of what they believe....or don't. That's not what religion is about, though, too often, establishment religion would have us believe it is. The search for God is much too large, much too deep for self-satisfied, self-righteous orthodoxy. Like Bishop Jacques Gaillot, I prefer Sura 2, verse 256 of the Qur'an - "No coercion in matters of religion."

As an autonomous human being, I object to efforts being made to coerce religious orthodoxy in the political arena, particularly about issues of human sexuality, issues often too mysterious for human understanding and far too complex for legislative "quick fixes." Yes, I have in mind issues like abortion, and gay marriage.

As Americans, we have a right to expect that our national discourse on these like other subjects be conducted in a thoughtful and respectful manner and that our decisions be based on the civic principles of equal protection under the law and full civil rights for all.

As an American Episcopalian, I am incredibly proud of how our Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold has framed the discussion of public recognition of committed relationships between members of the same sex. In a February 27 statement, he said, in part:

I am concerned about the advisability of a constitutional amendment being put forth for discussion at this time. Questions of sexuality are far from settled, and a constitutional amendment perceived as settling this matter might make it more difficult to engage in civil discourse around this topic.

Further, sexuality is personal, and therefore engages us at an emotional level where the language used can inflame rather than inform. For example, some who do not support the legal and civil rights of same sex couples are disturbed at the use of the term marriage to describe such unions believing that this term should be used only in reference to the commitment between a man and a woman. Others believe that a term less than marriage is a diminishment of such relationships....

The fullness of truth seldom resides in one point of view and therefore we need to hold ourselves open to the possibility that our own perspectives will be enlarged by those of others with whom we may disagree. It is my prayer that we will find the way forward that respects the best of our civil and religious traditions.

During these debates, both within the church and civil society, I would urge us to remember that we are conversing about an issue that affects the lives of honorable men and women who should be recognized in the dignity of their personhood and not simply discussed as abstractions.

Is that really too much to expect? Should we expect or accept anything less from one another?

Moral Politics

Some of you have suggested that I offer more suggested answers to that inevitable question: "Okay, what do I do now?"

As someone interested in politics, ethics, and language, may I suggest you read George Lakoff's new book Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. It's a humanist manifesto for action by a linguist who believes that words really do have meaning and that more than words are needed. Arguing from a Buddhist perspective of inter-being, he calls for "a radical relationship to the world" and that we think metaphorically, with empathy and responsibility.

As someone who would be a deacon in my Christian church, that's something I understand and embrace wholeheartedly. For a deacon is called upon to keep one foot in the world, one in the church, to bring the urgent concerns of the world to a complacent church and the balm of the church to a hurting people. One recent night, with the San Francisco Night Ministry, I found myself sitting in a Tenderloin bar toward closing hour. The bar tender, a gentle guy, leaned across the mahogany to ask earnestly "What does a deacon do?" "Well...let's talk," I began, thinking to myself "Ah, the start of yet another beautiful friendship." Wanna talk?
Posted by Vicki at 11:55 PM | Comments (0)
June 13, 2004

Thursday, June 3, 2004

Some personal reflections on a summer sunday

I know that many, particularly on my side of the political spectrum, may have found it hard to abide the week-long funeral for a man with whom they disagreed. I knew the man and worked for him, albeit at a distance. I had my chances to disagree at the time, when it mattered. And, on occasion, I did...and sometimes even won.

But that's all past and so now, too, last week. And, upon reflection, I'm happy for the respite...and the time for reflection. How petty all the politics, when we pause to catch our national breath.

It came at a good time for me. For thanks to you and your feedback, I've found myself receptive to thinking again and a little more deeply about what this and we are all about. I hope, therefore, you'll allow me some personal reflections on a sunny summer Sunday.


One of you reminded me this past week that of those primary virtues - faith, hope, and charity - it is charity, love, that is paramount, pervasive, and never-ending. I don't know why I had to be reminded, but I did. Let me assure you I now remember.

But let me also confess that I must constantly struggle between that love, which I know will triumph, and the daily anger at the manifest injustices and myriad killings in our world, be they in Baghdad, Belfast, Bangladesh, or Bay View-Hunters Point. It is sometimes hard to maintain one's equilibrium in the face of the outrages that assault us every day. But we are called upon to do so - to soldier on, to be prepared to forgive, and to bring peace.


There is a difference, you know. Sunny optimism in the face of such daily outrages is not what we need. It does not do to say things are right when they are not...which they are not. There is a difference between "Morning in America" and that "City on a Hill." That talk of "morning" merely papered over manifest shortcomings and inequities. Striving for that "city," however, we are called upon to hope that we can be better than our feet of clay remind us we are.

That difference is what Gunnar Myrdal so eloquently described in his 1944 classic sociological study An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy. In that book, still dear to my heart, Myrdal posits the "dilemma" as a "moral issue" that is "a white man's problem." There was nothing to be optimistic about in 1944, neither on the part of a Swedish sociologist nor of Americans, black and white. But, he made clear, there was reason for hope in what he called the "American Creed" - you know, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the 14th Amendment. Those as yet unattained aspirations, he reminded us sixty years ago, remain a burning coal to our shortcomings, a goad to the fulfillment of what we profess to believe. That is cause for hope!


During the week of eulogies and political point-making over the memory of Ronald Reagan, I could not shed a tear in the face of the orchestrated public grief...until, that is, that final Friday sunset, when Nancy collapsed in the arms of her children, clutching her flag and her memories.

In that very private moment, I recalled what she had once said of her relationship with her Ronnie: "We completed each other." I know what she means, for this week I have been ruminating about my own life. And, rummaging through old letters, I came across one from January 21, 1966 in which my Mimi wrote "You make me feel complete and whole"... as she did me.

I know how Nancy feels tonight - incomplete.


Two of my heroes growing up were I. F. Stone and Max Lerner. They taught me ethics and educated my sense of patriotism. Two of their books - Izzy's In a Time of Torment and Max's Ideas for the Ice Age - taught me how to be a courageous American. Won't you indulge me this tribute?

Izzy wrote of torment,
Max of icy times.
So what to name this current weight
that presses so
upon this heavy soul?

In my pain,
my gaze turns north
in envy
to those less bellicose,
more thoughtful,
and so free of attitude.


Weekend before last - June 5, to be exact - I marched in that parade for peace submerged halfway between United Nations and Justin Hermann Plazas by news of President Reagan's death.

Not knowing - and it would not have made a difference - I afterwards paid homage to other people, other things in North Lori Haigh and Guy Colwell at Capobianco Gallery, to City Lights, and, almost as an afterthought, to Black Oak Books, incongruously snuggled between the Condor and the Hungry I, corpses both.

Rummaging through the eclectic offerings at Black Oaks, I came upon the following broadside drawn from Thomas Merton. Some of you, I'm sure, know Merton, that once-Trappist monk who sought solidarity with his anguished world. For those of you who don't, there's a quiz at the end. The broadside reads:

One of the great tragedies of our time is that in our desperate incapacity to cope with the complexities of our world, we oversimplify every issue and reduce it to a neat ideological formula. Doubtless we have to do something in order to grasp things quickly and effectively. But unfortunately this "quick and effective grasp" too often turns out to be no grasp at all, or only a grasp on a shadow. The ideological formulas for which we are willing to tolerate and even provoke the destruction of entire nations may one day reveal themselves to have been the most complete deceptions....The American conscience is troubled by a sense of tragic ambiguity in our professed motives for massive intervention. Yet in the name of such tenuous and questionable motives we continue to bomb, to burn, and to kill because we think we have no alternative, and because we are reduced to a despairing trust in the assurance of "experts" in whom we have no real confidence.

And now the quiz. What was Merton writing about? Who were those experts? My experts let me down. Don't let your experts lead you similarly astray.


In the Vallejo Times-Herald article announcing this year's Gay Pride Celebration spokesman Brian De Vries assured us that "It's not just a night for gays and lesbians. It's a night for everyone to celebrate this important piece of our city's diversity." I hope so.

I enjoyed last year's first "Pride" event at Mel's, but here and over the years have felt somewhat shunted aside as the forgotten "T" in LGBT. I will be there June 25 for two reasons - solidarity with the Vallejo-Benicia Humane Society, which gave me my loving Tibetan terrier Salsa, and with our LGBT community.

I must question, however, the decision of the Vallejo lesbian and gay community to spotlight "queens" and "drag" at Pride Two. So soon?

Did it ever occur to the organizers that the transgendered community, particularly the transsexuals in that community, might be offended by "drag" "comedy?" Did it ever occur to the organizers to consider that - to us - such "comedy" is not unlike the "black face" of my earlier generation to my African American cohorts of that generation?

The general lesson? Isn't it time to stop seeking another group, a "lower" group, to dump on? In Poland, where I lived for three years, there were no Polish jokes. Everyone told Russian jokes or Bulgarian jokes.

I'm at the bottom of your ladder - gay, straight, or otherwise - and I'm here to say enough!! If we're about PRIDE - and I am - let's talk proudly about who we are instead of putting down the least in our midst.

I accept you, embrace you, as my brothers and sisters. Won't you in the LGBT community accept me as your sister? Won't all of you embrace us as fellow human beings who, like you, cry when we are sad, bleed when we are pricked, and suffer in the news of tomorrow morning's paper?

God Bless.

Posted by Vicki at 10:43 PM | Comments (0)
June 03, 2004

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Of Anniversaries


D-Day, the Sixth of June! Brace yourselves, this may be your "Longest Weekend," one marking the 60th anniversary of that great enterprise at Normandy that opened the western front in the liberation of Europe.

Like last week's dedication of Washington's long overdue World War II Memorial, the commemoration at Normandy this weekend will probably be another "final mission" or last reunion for the veterans of D-Day. They deserve a salute and a chance to mourn in silence, for they did a good thing for which we should all be grateful.

I chose those words carefully - "mourn" and "commemoration." "Celebration" is a bit too flip, too removed from the actual event, from the feelings of those who lived through it, and those who died. Those who were actually there and lost a buddy will, above all, mourn. That's why one sees so many old men - and a few women - crying at such events. Oh, some will probably prefer to speak of "celebration;" jingoists usually do. And then there will be the present-day politicians, whose presence is invariably a tolerated intrusion. I urge them, however, to exercise extreme caution this year, lest their hyperbole intrude beyond tolerable limits. It would, for example, be in intolerable bad taste for our President to again equate the invasion of Iraq with World War II or to seek to equate the liberation of Iraq with the liberation of France. Mr. President, remember you are speaking in France.

This year's anniversary also comes at a dicey time for Americans and European-American relations. It would behoove us behave a little more modestly than we have in the past year and more. John Wayne and Tom Selleck aside, we didn't win the war single-handedly. Nor were we the only ones to suffer. As you reflect this weekend on the victory at Normandy, I urge you to think also - however briefly - about the contributions of our allies - the British who fought alone for two years, the Soviets who lost 20 million between Stalingrad and Berlin, and the Canadians - yes, the Canadians - who stormed ashore at Sword and Juno beaches and who, by war's end, had the world's third largest navy. Such is the value of allies, a word we seem to have forgotten.

And let's not forget the Germans, whose boys, although misled, fought just as courageously and just as honorably and died just as miserably. They sleep at Normandy and elsewhere in seldom-visited cemeteries close to ours. And somber places they are, the graves marked not by bright white markers, but dark, rough-hewn granite crosses. I wonder, in this regard, whether PBS will reprise its 50th anniversary film that featured Lauren Bacall and a startling ending. Check it out after "The Longest Day."

Tiananmen Square

D-Day is an anniversary close to my heart. I graduated from the Naval Academy on June 6, 1962. How could I forget. But there's another anniversary this weekend that I can't forget. Friday, June 4 is the 15th anniversary of the massacre at Tiananmen Square.

1989 was a momentous year. The Berlin Wall came tumbling down – not as a result of Mr. Reagan's words, but at the hands of the German people, individual Berliners with sledge hammers - and communism crumbled from within throughout Eastern Europe.

How soon we forgot that, in the spring of 1989, this urge to freedom burned brightest not in Europe, but among the students and workers of China. Remember that white Statue of Freedom looking so much like that green one in New York Harbor? Remember those students talking freely, so full of hope, with Dan Rather and Bette Bao Lord in the square? Remember those "official" television reporters on CCTV, reporting at last freely, professionally, joyfully about the real news taking place in their country? Remember that faceless, nameless democrat facing down that tank? Remember the pulling of the plugs on western television crews? The god-awful scenes of tanks rolling over bleeding bodies in the middle of the night? The years of silence?

Isn't it time to end that silence? Isn't it time to stand with the democrats of Hong Kong who are today carrying on the struggle of 1989? Isn't it time to tell Beijing - and Shanghai - that it may "Be Glorious to Be Rich," but that is not enough. Communist capitalism is not an oxymoron; it is fascism."

The Occupation of Palestine

Lest we forget in the midst of these particularly signal anniversaries, there is another that calls for introspection this weekend. Saturday, June 5 marks the 37th anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War, that paradigm for pre-emptive war and the beginning of Israel's occupation of Palestine.

I won't trouble you here with all the bloody history that has stained the Holy Land since then. If you'd like a good history book, send me an e-mail; I'll send you a bibliography. Let me just say that occupation is always ugly, especially when the occupied are displaced and their homes and shops and institutions - and dignity - are crushed under the bulldozers of collective punishment. In the rubble of such actions you will invariably find the seeds of hatred, resistance, and, yes, terrorism. Terrorism, dear friends, does not occur in a vacuum.

I pray each night that Israel will see the light and make peace with its "enemy." After all, one can only make peace with enemies. There is no need to make peace with friends, and there is no possibility of making peace with quislings who represent no one. I take heart in knowing that there are many in Israel who understand this - probably a majority - and who have the courage to act on it. Those courageous Israelis deserve our support.

As an American, however, I must insist that our government embargo the shipment to Israel and condemn the use by the IDF of such American-manufactured tools of oppression as Apache helicopters and Caterpillar bulldozers. I, moreover, urge our government to re-involve itself in a true peace effort and demonstrate at long last a true even-handedness in bringing the two parties together. If we do, perhaps we will not be faced with "celebrating" the 40th anniversary of this war and occupation, still wondering why Arabs hate us and why there are still terrorists out there.

I hope to see many of you Saturday, June 5 at the march in The City against the war in Iraq and the occupation of Palestine. It begins at 11:00 a.m. at United Nations Plaza and will proceed to the Embarcadero for speeches and music at 1:00 p.m.

Anybody Out There?

Forgive me this unrelated query. I increasingly feel I'm spinning my wheels here. And so I must ask: Is there anybody out there? Do you care? If you do, won't you drop me an e-mail? The address is A simple "I'm here" will do.

Happy anniversaries. Have a nice weekend.