Saturday, January 21, 2006

Oregon forest from Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"...those few moments, getting rarer all the time by all accounts, when one is first exposed to impossibly high standards, to books that are our judges and not the other way around, that excitement of learning not yet canceled out by careerist fears---that brief time in youth when you read in a pure state, not because you are innocent, but because you are watching yourself get smarter."

Charles Newman

Captain Future's Log

Politics of the Future

Do people care about the future? We all live in the present, and so we value it. We think we can count on a certain number of tomorrows, so we make decisions based on that. But do we care about a future we may not live to see?

I think it's a question that is alive deep in many situations where it might not seem to be. Beyond politics of the present, isn't that part of the debate over the expansion of presidential power? The Bushites say it is necessary to protect lives in the present, meaning the very near future. At least some if not most of those who oppose this are thinking about the long-term damage done by precedent today, and weighing the present risks against the future (although there's also a real question that the Bushite expansions make anyone safer.)

It may even be part of a disagreement in
today's news concerning science and money, politics and trees. A 29 year old graduate student at the Oregon State University's College of Forestry led a team of researchers in examining southwest Oregon forest areas devastated by wildfires in 2002. The area involved in the Biscuit wildfire has since been aggressively logged, under the working theory that such logging actualy helps the forest restore itself. But three years later, Daniel Donato and his team found that the opposite was true. As the AP reports, "Donato's team concluded logging slows forest recovery. They found that logging after the Biscuit fire destroyed seedlings and littered the ground with highly flammable tinder."

Their report was impressive enough that the prestiguous journal Science sent it around for peer review, and when it got good marks, announced it would be published in the journal. And that started a wilfire of a different order.

For Donato's scientific conclusion went directly against Bush administration policy, and advocacy for logging as an instrument of returning forests to health by several current and former highly placed professors in his own college.

His Dean, who had testified before Congress in favor of this logging remedy, led a group of nine OSU professors who teamed up with no less than the Bush administrations' National Forest Service to object to the study's publication. They questioned the science, and the peer review, and asked that Science not publish the article.

The editor of Science stood firm. "There was no failure of peer review in this case," he said, "I'm sorry they don't like the outcome, but I think they have a misplaced case here." He even referred to their attempt as censorship.

It might be at least partly an actual disagreement on scientific grounds, and at least partly on ego of senior professors who take umbrage at being contradicted, and established scientists who normally defend their theories to the death. And at least partly it's about politics and money, namely the Bush administration's willingness to back the science that makes money for their corporate pals and donors, when they are notably unwilling to admit to science that their corporate cronies feel might have the opposite effect.

That something fishy is going on concerning the forests is suggested by another of the objections the professors had to Donato's study. Despite their own conclusions about the efficacy of logging to restore forests, they maintained that no one could actually yet conclude that forests restore themselves best if you leave them alone. This conclusion was "premature," and (in the AP report's words)"the true test of efforts to restore forests will require decades."

So in addition to the values of present ego, corporate funding for your institution, possibly cushy contracts with logging corporations, the Bushite government and its associated think tanks, there's the question of whether you're willing to risk cutting down the forest in order to save it and decades later find out that you're wrong, or whether you do no harm and let the forest restore itself as it has for millenia, so the future has something it desperately needs, in all kinds of ways that have nothing to do with lumber. (Though some brush-burning etc. may enhance forest growth, this logging remedy is not the same.)

There's also the question of whether politics of the situation is wholly in the present, or if there is such a thing as politics of the future. I think there is and there has been before. It's so deep in our past that it is part of our nature---our human nature. And it's in recent enough history, in the fiftful and not always adequate urges of conservation, to be part of memory. Not just academic memory either.

Why Lynn Swann is a legend in PA Posted by Picasa

The Steelers try for another Super Bowl on Sunday
led by a young legend, quarterback Ben
Roesthlisberger. SF Chronicle photo. Posted by Picasa
Political Football

Lynn Swann couldn't had written a better script for himself, at least so far. The former Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver, a star on the mythic Super Bowl teams of the 1970s, announced two weeks ago that he's running for Governor of Pennsylvania as a Republican.

Two weeks ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers were the underdog in the wild card playoff game with Cincinatti. They won. Last week, the Steelers did what had never been done before--they became the first wild card team ranked last among playoff teams to knock off the team ranked first. They defeated the Indianapolis Colts, who'd gone undefeated for most of the season and were heavy favorites to win this year's Super Bowl.

Pennsylvania's current Governor, Democrat Ed Rendell is running for reelection. He's been popular for most of his term. But in a recent poll , Swann was slightly ahead of him.

Months ago, when Swann's possible candidacy was first floated, I saw a blog discussion that generally ridiculed his chances. I entered it to differ. Some of the participants were in Pennsylvania, though mostly in the east, in the Philadelphia end of the state. Though I left western Pennsylvania almost a decade ago, I didn't dismiss the chances of a Steeler legend--especially not this one. I'd met Lynn Swann, and seen his mouth in action. He's smooth, charming and never at a loss for words.

Years after our interview on the Steelers practice field (which had to be ended by the intervention of another player or Swann might still be talking, and I'd still be enjoying it) I was driving through a fashionable Pittsburgh neighborhood, stopping at an intersection when a car came up behind me fast and stopped practically on my bumper. I looked in the rear-view mirror. An attractive woman was driving, and in the seat beside her, with a big smile and talking a mile a minute, was Lynn Swann.

The poll showed that Swann was attracting more Democrats than Rendell was attracting Republicans. Not surprising, and I'll bet they're largely football fans, if not Steeler fans from the western side of the Commonwealth.

I doubt that many people know where Swann stands on the issues, and these numbers probably won't hold up. On the other hand, celebrity politicians---particularly when they seem centrist, and even a little liberal for Republicans---sometimes make their own rules. Of course Swann isn't a movie star, though he had the looks. But he's a living legend in a state where football counts, maybe even more than pretend Terminators.

And where the primary celebrities are athletes. Part of the celebrity mystique is the association with winning. Swann certainly has that. So, suddenly, do the 2005-06 Steelers.

There are only four teams left playing NFL football. The Steelers are the only team in Pennsylvania among them, and if they're getting front sports page treatment in San Francisco, you can bet they're all over the state's media. Western Pennsylvania is typically in a condition between euphoria and hysteria about now.

The Steelers are an underdog again this weekend when they travel to Denver. If they win that game, they will go to the Super Bowl, probably as the favorite. Lynn Swann will really be smiling then.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice 2005. Posted by Picasa
A Tale of Two Prides

I caught up with the 2005 film version of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice at a subrun double feature, presumably before it disappears until DVDed. I loved Austen's novels, which combine great wit and writing, social and character study, with strong stories. Pride and Prejudice has emerged as the story that touches people most deeply and has the most powerful cultural hold of nearly mythic intensity.

Inevitably this kind of story is retold with different emphases at different times, by different storytellers. The 1940 version starring Lawrence Olivier and Greer Garson is one of my favorite movies, for a combination of reasons I can't fully describe. I used to watch it every New Year's Eve. But by now it's clear that like many Shakespeare plays, this Austen novel is too large to be contained in a single movie, and the best a movie can do is emphasize aspects of it with a fresh vision. If done with enough heart and skill, Austen is only enhanced.

This version is a very different kind of movie based on the same novel, and it works for me.

Continued here at Blue Voice.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

This Modern World

I'm writing the little account of blogging I mentioned, basically for an audience unfamiliar with blogs. So it's made me more conscious of not only how weird this world is, but how weird it sounds.

What I mean is: ask yourself what people would say about someone, ten years ago or even just five, who uttered a sentence like: "I googled your blog and hotlinked to mine, then diaried at kos before I checked my rss feeds on my Ipod."

I got the same feeling the other day when I happened to catch a Wall Street report on TV which began with something like "Dow rises led by google and Yahoo." It's not your grandfather's U.S. Steel and General Motors stock market anymore. Can you even picture Walter Cronkite saying "google" and "Yahoo" with a straight face? I admit to watching the BBC News on TV sometimes just to hear them say Yahoo and google.

Or blog.
More Catch-Up

With your fries. Heinz of course.

The house across the street is a student rental that seems to get passed down from jocks to jocks through an unexplained mechanism. There are always a bunch of them living there, and each they tend to concentrate on one sport. One year they were always at the improvized hoop in front of their house, its net quickly shredded to nothing and even a chunk taken out of the top of the backboard. Basketballs would occasionally bounce off Margaret's car parked in front of our house.

Another year it was golf. They would practice their drives with the wiffle ball equivalent on their front lawn. Another year it was football. And so on. This year however is quite novel. It's baton twirling. But not your girly kind. Batons with fire at the end.

It's little unnerving at night to see that intense flickering through the living room blinds, even after you know what's going on. Several guys will be standing around watching another one twirling two very long batons, both of them with flames roiling at both ends. I suppose people pay to watch this act, and I should consider myself lucky to have free entertainment. Yet watching students literally playing with fire in a neighborhood of wood frame buildings is a little unsettling, not to mention when they go into the street with parked cars a few feet away.

Okay, other old business. For the Star Trek fans among you, I forgot to point you to a new post on Soul of Star Trek, concerning the arc of several key characters and the Trek saga itself.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Random Notes

Yesterday began with the effects of a stopped drain and a leaky faucet, a combination I don't reccommend, and ended with a thunderstorm. It was a big one, sustained thunder and lightning and heavy rain. I mention it because I haven't experienced a storm like this in Arcata since I arrived here in the fall of 1996. We simply don't get thunderstorms. This one was like a summer storm in Pennsylvania. I felt a time and place displacement, adding to the impact of all that booming and bright light at 3 am or so.

My contribution to a group article in the North Coast Journal will cut into my blogging time for the next day or two. It is an article on blogging, and I'm to write about my experience. A three and a half years, I'm not quite a pioneer but I guess I'm a veteran.

Several recent posts here were eventually frontpaged at E Pluribus Media.

Susanhu has a roundup of media reaction to Al Gore's speech at the Booman Tribune.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

painting by Rene Magritte Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I caught the two-hour biography of Eleanor Roosevelt on PBS yesterday, although I saw the second hour first, and the first hour several hours later. Did you need to know that? Probably not. Anyway, it made me wonder why this woman's achievements, even her presence in history, have all but disappeared from cultural memory.

But she chaired the early UN committee that fashioned and passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, one of the 20th century's most important documents. She was a tireless and pretty lonely advocate for racial equality and civil rights beginning in the 1930s through the 1950s, which earned her the covetted continual survelliance of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, and an FBI file of some 3,000 pages.

She was an advocate for the American poor during the Depression, and later for poor and sick children especially in other parts of the world. She brought attention to fundraising efforts on behalf of health. She was also widely admired and very popular with the American public (though a lightning rod for criticism, like FDR) and was known in her post-White House years as First Lady of the World.

I remember her as a presence on TV and in newspapers from my childhood, though the memories are dim and tend to merge with Margaret Mead as the old lady oracular and combination kindly grandmother and motheringly hectoring figure, usually for the cause of good. However, my most specific memory of Eleanor is of less than her finest hour, when she actively if belatedly opposed JFK's nomination at the 1960 Democratic Convention, favoring Adlai Stevenson. Though the PBS show didn't even mention this, it did say that her support was instrumental in Stevenson getting the nomination in 1952 and 1956 (he lost to Eisenhower both times, in a landslide in '56), though by the second campaign she was having doubts that as brilliant as he was, that he had what it takes to be President.

The program discussed her support for a Depression program to rebuild small communities hard-hit by industrial decline, with new housing and subsistence gardens, as centers to attract new industries. Arthurdale in West Virginia got her most persistent attention, as the program illustrates, but there were others (not mentioned.) One of those was a project that was named after her, Norvelt, PA. (EleaNOR RooseVELT.) This was in the general place where my father's family lived, and where he grew up. I don't think they lived in the project itself; I was always led to believe their house had been part of the company town called United, for the United Coal Company. My paternal grandfather and his father before him were coal miners.

The mythology I received about this was that Eleanor Roosevelt had visited the coal mines there (and she often did visit mines---leading to the famous New Yorker cartoon of two coal miners deep underground with one saying, 'my God, here comes Mrs. Roosevelt.' ) and that led to renaming the town. I heard United, Norvelt and Calumet (an even older name) used more or less interchangeably, although they may be separate entities. Like Arthudale, the Norvelt experiment was not very successful, partly because the program was constantly being changed according to political necessities, and the controversy finally over whether any sort of "cooperative" venture was sufficiently capitalistic and hence "American." But I believe some of the houses still stand, and certainly did in my childhood.

In any case, Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the great figures of the American twentieth century, and perhaps this attention by PBS will help restore her to her rightful place in cultural memory. It has in mine.

Al Gore on Monday. Will we remember January 16, 2006? Posted by Picasa

Captain Future's Log

The Speech

The Internet was buzzing on Monday about Al Gore's speech. Several news sites and blogs reproduced the transcript. On first look I saw some strong statements, nothing extraordinary, and nothing very special about the language. I wasn't sure why a speech by Al Gore was so important at this point in the ongoing attempt to bring attention to a constitutional crisis Washington and the rest of the country seems to be snoozing through.

It was billed for days as a major speech responding to the constitutional crisis of the White House electronic spying, which a story in the Tuesday
New York Times asserts was very, very large, and turned up information almost exclusively on innocent Americans. I did notice the Zogby poll that showed a majority of Americans believed Congress should consider impeaching the president for spying on Americans. But other polls had shown the public either apathetic or more interested in claims of protecting their safety than in this huge executive power grab which after all had begun well before the 2004 election.

Then quite late I finally caught the C-Span replay of the speech itself, and I understood what all the fuss was about. Gore has been in the process of remaking his rhetoric style since his brief retreat after the 2000 Supreme Court coronation. In the past year or two he's made some speeches that were anything but the dull Al Gore of yore---or at least of reputation--employing growling loud snarls and broad gestures to make his points. I thought he was effective though I didn't see how that would really change the dynamic at this moment.

But this was a measured yet incisive speech, given with a stunningly controlled and effective delivery. He spoke quickly but distinctly, and he spoke in sentences (as if he knew how they were going to end when he began them, something not every politician has mastered). At time he almost whispered, and at appropriate times the growling cascade of louder words were there, but used briefly and judiciously.

There was applause many times but Gore didn't pause for it but very briefly; somehow it didn't sound like he was rushing over it (as John Kerry did in his convention acceptance speech) but neither did he ride it from point to point. When he finished the one hour address he did not go through the usual political ritual of the smiles, the waves and acknowledgment of the standing ovation. He finished, walked straight off the stage and didn't return.

It was in short the perfect delivery of a very serious speech that covered an enormous range of relevant subjects, organized to tell us just what kind of a fix we're in, how we got here, what we have to watch out for, and what he proposes to do. It was steeped in history---very relevant references to MLK (the FBI wiretaps), to Vietnam, even to presidential overreach in the Civil War, World War I and II. But always he came back to the American Revolution---fought in part for independence from a king--and the creation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

He began by referring to the White House illegal wiretapping, as the most proximate reason that "America's Constitution is in grave danger" because "a president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government."

He spoke of the threat beyond this act. "Once violated, the rule of law is in danger. Unless stopped, lawlessness grows. The greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles. As the executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its actions, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police it. Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become a government of men and not laws. "

But Gore was perhaps more incensed, and almost caustic, by other violations:

For example, the President has also declared that he has a heretofore unrecognized inherent power to seize and imprison any American citizen that he alone determines to be a threat to our nation, and that, notwithstanding his American citizenship, the person imprisoned has no right to talk with a lawyer-even to argue that the President or his appointees have made a mistake and imprisoned the wrong person.

The President claims that he can imprison American citizens indefinitely for the rest of their lives without an arrest warrant, without notifying them about what charges have been filed against them, and without informing their families that they have been imprisoned.

At the same time, the Executive Branch has claimed a previously unrecognized authority to mistreat prisoners in its custody in ways that plainly constitute torture in a pattern that has now been documented in U.S. facilities located in several countries around the world.

Over 100 of these captives have reportedly died while being tortured by Executive Branch interrogators and many more have been broken and humiliated. In the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, investigators who documented the pattern of torture estimated that more than 90 percent of the victims were innocent of any charges.

This shameful exercise of power overturns a set of principles that our nation has observed since General Washington first enunciated them during our Revolutionary War and has been observed by every president since then - until now.

He described the Administration's assertion of its inherent powers. Then he asked the key legal and constitutional question, that to my knowledge no one in the public spotlight has yet asked, so simply and with the full weight of its potential horror:

Can it be true that any president really has such powers under our Constitution? If the answer is "yes" then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited?

Then Gore asked, why have "our normal safeguards" so far failed to stop this power grab? His analysis is brilliant and spares no one. He blames the administration's cult of secrecy, of lying, of withholding information even from Congress, and for manipulating the media. Others have complained of this much, in piecemeal, but Gore adds more layers to the cake: he accuses the Bushites of suppressing dissent from within the government, and from manipulating the judiciary. "The common denominator seems to be based on an instinct to intimidate and control. "

He attacks Bush's Supreme Court appointees as tailor made to uphold excessive executive power, and his lower court appointments do. Then Gore went after Congress---as a weakened institution, and without even saying the word "corrupt," as corrupted by cynical one party rule (with congressional Republicans tied more tightly to the administration's men in control of the party and their funds than ever before) and their co-equal relationship with lobbyists and other money bagmen.

But the beauty of Gore's political position as a semi-outsider is that he can take Democrats to task as well for not fighting harder, for not objecting more loudly to the abuses that a few of them knew were going on for years. "I call upon Democratic and Republican members of Congress today to uphold your oath of office and defend the Constitution. Stop going along to get along. Start acting like the independent and co-equal branch of government you're supposed to be. "

He called upon the other branch of government, the sovereign people, to step up. He railed against the noxious effect of television and the political dialogue of the expensive 30 second spot, and he recognized the Internet as the last hope for democratic dialogue.

He said the administration had tried to control that dialogue by spreading fear. This was another high point, in that he said what some of us have been saying for a long time, but he put it in terms that should open the eyes of all Americans. Gore acknowledged the danger of another terrorist attack. But he pointed out that our civil liberties were established by men who faced hanging if they had failed to win the Revolutionary War. Then he asked the questions, made the point, that we've been waiting for someone to say:

Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment's notice? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when our fathers fought and won two World Wars simultaneously? [Here I think he meant to say "consecutively."]

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.

We have a duty as Americans to defend our citizens' right not only to life but also to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is therefore vital in our current circumstances that immediate steps be taken to safeguard our Constitution against the present danger posed by the intrusive overreaching on the part of the Executive Branch and the President's apparent belief that he need not live under the rule of law.

Gore then outlined his action proposals: a special counsel "to pursue the criminal issues raised by warrantless wiretapping of Americans by the President." He called for stronger "whistle-blower" laws to protect those in the federal government, for both houses of Congress to conduct their own real investigations (as the Senate shows more promise of doing, now that the Alito hearings are over), for Congress to refuse to pass the Patriot Act until stronger safeguards for basic rights are included, and---this is pretty interesting--for telecommunications companies to stop cooperating with illegal electronic spying. Gore concluded with an MLK quote---which now is the Dreaming Up Daily Quote for today.

There was little rhetorical flash in the speech, the quotes were substantive rather than soaring, but there wasn't a dull moment. Gore's delivery was perfect, nuanced and yet clearly effective in the room, and equally so through the TV camera, a rare combination. It was appropriately serious in tone, and as it turns out, Al Gore was the right person to deliver it.

History turns on such moments, though of course it often takes more than one. The Republican noisemakers are doubtless busy burning up the airwaves currently owned by the corporate beneficiares of their way of running politics. We'll see if chastened congressional Democrats embrace it as they should. Then we'll see if the country is listening. Or if they're still willing to watch the Big Smirk take it all down.

Monday, January 16, 2006

MLK waving to me (more or less). I'm in front of the fifth tree on the left. Posted by Picasa
" Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are

Free at last!

Martin Luther King, Jr. August 28, 1963

In the White House, King and other leaders of the March
met with President Kennedy. Posted by Picasa

Captain Future's Log

Remembering the Reality

I just read a column on an otherwise right wing editorial page, full of piety for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. While my prediction on the first MLK holiday hasn't to my knowledge yet come true---that soon, like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, King's likeness would be animated to cheerfully shill for used cars and (as I so intemperately suggested to an audience rather south of the Mason-Dixon Line) perhaps even for MLK Day White Sales. However, his memory is being demeaned in other ways, mostly by this false piety.

People who are the ideological descendants of those who opposed MLK's every move and even vilified him now find him a remote enough figure to pretend to revere him, or at least the few soundbites anybody knows. Though the wisdom of those words has become clearer through the years, their radical nature at the time is conveniently forgotten.

In the early 60s, King was criticized for insisting on moving the cause of African-Americans too fast. In the mid and late 60s, he was criticized by some younger activists for moving too slow.

He was a prominent moving target of racism for his public life. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover considered him a dangerous subversive, especially when he called upon America to live up to its own Constitution. King was followed, bugged and wiretapped, in the interests of national security.

When he began by trying to integrate in the deep South, he was called dangerous. When he moved his efforts to the North, he offended some of his former supporters as well as making his Democratic party allies nervous.

When he came out strongly against the Vietnam War, some supporters within the Civil Rights movement derided him for straying from the path, while right wingers accused him of being a traitor. When he moved from attempts to strike down bad local laws and get just federal laws passed to addressing economic injustice, he was once again called a Communist.

In short, if he were alive today, his past actions strongly suggest he would be an activist against the war in Iraq. He would be railing against the rapidly increasing economic inequality, and against the fat cats who buy congressional votes for a relative pittance, and write laws for their benefit that mean to other Americans, including future generations. He would note as he did in the 60s that the burdens of war are borne overwhelmingly by those low on the economic scale, both Americans and the victims of war in Iraqnam.

And he would probably be bugged, wiretapped and followed by the FBI, the Pentagon and the National Security Agency. His 21st century March on Washington would not include an invitation to the White House, as his 1963 march did, by a President who would be assassinated in a matter of months.

Those of us who revere Dr. King do so for a variety of reasons. But it seems clear to me that certain people now praising him revere him chiefly for the fact that he isn't here dogging them, and telling the truth about how they are destroying the promise of this country, the Constitution and the American Dream.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Big Ben leads the Steelers to an improbable victory over the Colts.  Posted by Picasa
How to Avoid A Heart Attack (and still be a Steelers fan)

You have to be a veteran Steeler---a veteran Steeler fan, that is--to appreciate the emotions of today's game. For three quarters plus, the Pittsburgh Steelers (#6 seed in the playoffs) dominated the Indianapolis Colts (#1 seed), the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl. For veterans, it was like thirty years had melted away, and the Steel Curtain, Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris were invincible. Those were the days when every schoolkid wore a Steelers jacket, and waitresses would ask you if you wanted your coffee black or gold.

Then after another defensive crush, the Steelers were on the goal line for the touchdown that would put the game away, when their Mr. Automatic, the Bus, did the unthinkable and fumbled the ball. The Colts nearly scored a touchdown after recovering it.

This then was a different echo---the talented teams since the 70s, brilliant one week, and yet in playoff games or even once in the Super Bowl, able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in terrible ways, and I'm not talking about towels.

Then the Pittsburgh working class self-contempt would kick in, and it would all seem like fate. The little guy never gets a break. Needless to say, the bonehead plays of the 70s teams were all forgotten, because that now mythic team won so many crucial games, more by the skin of their teeth than most memories would allow.

Anyway, the Steelers survived that scare today when the Colts improbably missed a field goal to tie, and the team that deserved to win did. (In addition to the fumble, the Steelers had a late interception taken away on an inexplicably bad call even on replay.) It was the biggest upset of the weekend, although Denver over New England was close.

I taped the game so I could watch it without commercials, and only if it turned out to be worth watching. I didn't even see the score until it was over. I've paid my emotional roller coaster dues. But I'm sure this would have been impossible if I still lived in Pittsburgh, and my first thought when I read about the fourth quarter, was that I hoped my old friend Clayton didn't have a heart attack.