Tom's Thoughts

Location: Granite Falls, North Carolina, United States

I'm an ordained United Methodist minister no longer pastoring churches, a former media producer with skills ten years out of date, a writer trying to sell my first novel, and a sales associate keeping body and soul together working for the People's Republic of Corporate America. I'm married to the most wonderful woman in the world, who was my best friend for 17 years before we married.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Will the Hypocricy Never End?

Dick Cheney said before the 2006 election that if the Democrats won al Qaeda wins.

Well, the Democrats won, and now what is he saying? He went on a secret trip to Pakistan and warned Pervez Musharraf that if the Pakistanis didn't crack down on the al Qaeda cells in the northern part of their country that the Democratic Congress would cut off aid for Pakistan.

So, the Bush Administration let al Qaeda revivify while concentrating on Iraq, which Bush has repeatedly admitted had nothing to do with 9/11. Meanwhile, the Democrats, whom Bush and Cheney said were weak on terrorism, are being held out as the strong threat to crack down on the terrorists.


But what's even worse: In their attempt to pick a war with Iran, the Bush Administration is funding anti-Shi'ite groups in Iraq and anti-Hezbollah (which is Shi'ite). Some of these Sunni groups, unfortunately, have financial ties to al Qaeda. So the Bush Administration sides with the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 in order to fight another war of choice. The Gulf of Suez incident, reminiscent of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, is just around the corner.

Can you say, "impeachment?"

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Am I a Snob?

I get uncomfortable feelings when people who are supposed to know better make grammatical errors in serious writing or speaking. "Charlotte Talks" on WFAE the other day had a grammar show. On the panel was a writer who has come out with a book on grammar snobs. I don't want to be one of them, and I would never correct anyone's grammar in public, but that doesn't mean I don't care. I guess being a writer makes me more aware of things, just as I would be more aware of my car's problems if I were a mechanic, or the weather if I were a farmer.

I have grown to learn that some things I learned in elementary school no longer apply, if they ever did. Examples: It's okay to occasionally split an infinitive. You can sometimes use a preposition to end a sentence with. Some adverbs modify sentences, such as ultimately, victoriously, finally, and, yes, hopefully.

There are some rules that are still valid, though. And as I look back on it I realize they are mostly from the sixth grade. That was a rough year for me, and I'm surprised at how much I learned.

For example: "Between you and (I, me). To decide which is proper, leave out the "you and." Then it will be clear: Between I? No. The same thing applies to "and (I, me) after any other preposition.

The same thing applies at the beginning of a sentence: "Joe and (I, me) went to the movies." Leave off the "Joe and" and you get "(I, me) went to the movies." Easy.

Other rules are harder to remember. Between has the same root as two. Therefore, you use "between" when you are talking about two entities, and "among" when you refer to three or more. When you're talking spatially, you use "among" instead of "between" when you're talking about more than two.

The one that hits me hardest is the difference between "convince" and "persuade." The simple rule: "Persuade to, convince that." You don't convince somebody to do something; you persuade him or her.

Unfortunately, I have been hearing "convince" used instead of "persuade" on the major media, up to and including the BBC!

I wrote James J. Kilpatrick (who writes the column, "The Writer's Art") about this, and he agreed, but I have yet to see him address this issue in his column.

Well, maybe the language is evolving, after all. But we who care will continue on in our lonely crusades. Without being snobs about it, that is.

Anyway, I will always remember something I saw on a classroom blackboard at seminary: "Eschew semantic obfuscation."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

On Daylight Saving Time

In case you overlooked it, DST begins this year on March 11, and doesn't end until December!


I have never liked DST, and now the research backs me up. Daylight saving time causes an INCREASE in energy use, not a saving, the way the Nixons and Bushes of the world would have you believe. You see, as there are more hours (okay, an extra hour) of daylight at the end of the day, people decide to get out and drive around more. Thus burning more gas, thus causing a higher energy use.

The only people who like DST are those like my second wife who liked to use the extra hour to work in the yard. Yay. Yard work was her thing, not mine. I just got roped into it.

Now, my current wife has to get up at 0-dark-hundred most mornings, and DST makes it harder on her. My sentiments are with her.

Also with all the school children who will be in greater danger of being killed by traffic while waiting for the bus in the dark.

You can thank George W. Bush for this, since these extra weeks are his idea. As for me, I'm writing those who represent my state (they don't represent me) in Congress and demand they save American energy by repealing DST.

Won't you join me?

On the "War on Drugs"

George Will is fond of pointing out that heroin is cheaper and purer now than it was decades ago before the "War on Drugs" spent so much of our money and put so many of our citizens in jail for doing things that hurt no one but themselves.

Check out what Jim Hightower has to say about it:

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Worst President Ever?

Over at The Nation Nicholas Von Hoffman has an article on who was the worst president ever. A lot of people are saying it's the current occupant of the White House, but he looks at the historically worst jobs done by his predecessors. He singles out James Madison for his unprepared prosecution of the War of 1812, John Tyler, John Taylor, Warren G. Harding, and others.

He comes down hard on James Buchanan for being too timid to do anything to prevent the Civil War. There follows a poll, which, not surprisingly, Buchanan wins, or at least he led when I went there.

But the comments people left add a name that Von Hoffman leaves out: Ronald Reagan. They point out that Reagan dropped the support for research for alternative fuels that started in the '60s and bloomed in the '70s. Thus, the oil companies got to prosper at the expense of the rest of the world, including us, and global warming and two wars in the Gulf region ensued. He was trotted out to read his lines, then escorted back while the corrupt regime behind the throne carried out their nefarious schemes. They didn't mention Iran-Contra, wherein the Administration send military parts to Iran (who was calling us The Great Satan) to try to get them to influence the terrorists to release our hostages. The Constitution defines giving "aid and comfort to the enemy" as treason. They then, in direct violation of the will of the American people, U. S. Law, and international law gave military support to the people in Nicaragua who were trying to overthrow a democratically-elected government and using bloody tactics on innocent people to do so. More people were convicted of wrong-doing out of that administration than from the Nixon Administration, as I recall.

James K. Polk and William McKinley got us into unnecessary wars against Mexico and Spain, but history is too far in the past for most of us to remember. Most of the presidents who get the bad press in the comments are people from our lifetimes.

So, who is the worst president? George W. Bush has sent more Americans to their death in Iraq--a trumped-up war based on lies--than al Qaeda did on 9/11. Meanwhile Osama bin Forgotten is still holed up, running free, and running his evil empire.

Of course, the bin Laden family is not a major concern of Bush's. After all, he made his first million in the Carlyle Group with Osama bin Laden's brother.

Still, it's too early to tell how Bush stacks up among the others. After all, Harry Truman was less popular at his low point than Bush is now, and see how history has treated him. I doubt history will be so kind to GWB, but we'll see.

Meanwhile, will somebody PLEASE catch Bush in flagrante dilecto with Condoleeza Rice so we can get on with the impeachment?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Back to the Iraq War

I have just read a couple of pieces on the Iraq war that I thought were great. First, Ted Rall, the most honestly liberal cartoonist and columnist out there gives reasons in his latest column (at for staying in Iraq. Basically, he says, we have to stay to clean up the mess we started by propping up Saddam in the first place. (Remember Reagan sending Donald Rumsfeld over there to toast and woo Saddam as an ally--three years AFTER the atrocity for which Saddam has since been hanged? Remember the Reagan Administration supplying the poison gas Saddam used on the Kurds?) He says the only way to ensure stability there is to bring in hundreds of thousands of American troops to enforce order 24/7 everywhere in the country. Of course, he is opposed to the war and has been since 2001.

I remember the Roman Empire trying this tactic in the Middle East some time back. They enforced order by crucifying a quarter of a million Jews--one of whom didn't stay dead.

The other thing I read is a 48-page treatise ( by a conservative Republican on how and why to withdraw from Iraq. This essay by Richard W. Vague, founder of American Respect, gives the history of Iraq, from its artificial cobbling together in 1919, through its parallels with Germany after WWI, down to the present time. He also tells about the roots of terrorism worldwide through history. He agrees with the Bush Administration that democracy is the ideal, and the ultimate antidote to terrorism. Bringing it about, however, will require us to withdraw militarily and involve the community of nations in establishing a viable government. He endorses Joseph Biden's approach as introduced in the Senate.

I highly recommend both articles.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

On the Hypocricy of the Electorate

I have been contemplating the front-runners for the Republican Presidential nomination. McCain, Giuliani, and Gingrich. Multiple marriages, messy divorces, and serial adultery run through the group, yet they are the darlings of the religious right because they make the right noises about gay marriage, abortion, and gun control. Your behavior doesn't matter, only what you say.

Example no. 1: Ronald Reagan. The first divorced President had a messy home life, with alienated children and rumors of adultery between the First Lady and Frank Sinatra. Yet because he spoke in favor of "family values," people claimed he was a "spirit-filled Christian." Yeah, and I'm the Easter Bunny.

Reagan made the right noises about the Soviet Union, but when the rubber met the road, when the Soviets shot down an unarmed civilian airplane, Korea Air Lines Flight 007, he thumped his chest and did absolutely nothing. He put unarmed Marines in harm's way on the end of the runway at the Beirut airport. When a suicide bomber drove into the barracks there and killed a bunch of Marines, he pulled them out, slipping out like a dog with its tail between its legs, and he is a hero to the national defense crowd. Why? Because he made the right noises.

So what you say is the most important thing. Giuliani is pro-choice on abortion, pro-gay rights, yet because he has promised to appoint "strict constructionist" judges, a lot of people who call themselves Christians will vote for him. Newt Gingrich waltzed in with his floozy to his wife's hospital room where she was being treated for cancer and presented her with the divorce papers. Then he became a deadbeat dad and the church had to help his ex-wife support his children. Meanwhile, he was married to his second wife and carrying on with his secretary, whom he later married. Yet a lot of "family values" voters will vote for him because he says the right things.

If you read the Gospel of Luke, you see a portrait of Jesus that is anathema to conservative Christians. The Jesus of the Gospels cares for the poor, condemns the rich for exploiting those under them, and lifts up those on the bottom of society's ladder. Just the opposite of the Republican platform that so many "conservative Christians" will support.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Missing Molly Ivins

Of all the people in the world--outside my family of course--that I would wish death on, about the last would be Molly Ivins. Why did she have to leave us now, when we need her insightful iconoclasm most?

BuzzFlash has a couple of interviews with Ms. Ivins posted on its site. I copied these paragraphs to remember what she held important:

And what is interesting to me is how successful people like Limbaugh have been in telling people who really are getting screwed, I mean, it’s not fair, they don’t have equal opportunities, there is a whole lot that has happened that has made their lives less comfortable, less pleasant, less bearable, narrower and uglier. And that is true for a lot of Americans. And they sense it but they do not know who to get mad at.

So, they listen to guys like Limbaugh who tell them the reason everything is going to hell is because of a bunch of pointy-headed professors on college campuses and political correctness and feminists and all these people. Let me tell you something: college professors and politically correct liberals and feminists by and large don’t run those huge corporations that lay off 10,000 people at a time. They are not in charge of companies that move so many jobs overseas. They don’t run the S&Ls and the big Financial Institutions that screw people over. And it seems to me that this misdirection of anger is a terrible waste of perfectly good anger.

Absolutely. It has been my contention for decades that the Ku Klux Klan went after the wrong bunch. They picked on their fellow victims rather than their true oppressors.

We were standing in line to vote in the 2004 election, and the man in front of me said, "I'm more scared of the liberals than I am of the terrorists." I have often wished I had countered with, "Well, I'm more scared of people who use words like 'liberal' as a substitute for thinking."

But now I wish I had read this interview with Molly Ivins before that so I could have said, instead, "Why? The liberals didn't shut down the Broyhill plants and lay off those thousands of workers. It wasn't the liberals who push credit cards on people and then charge outrageous interest." Well, I could go on, but that is enough to make my point.

Now, I wish Molly Ivins were here to comment in her inimitable way about the contrast between Hugo Chavez in Venezuela getting his congress to give him dictatorial powers while George W. Bush arrogates those powers unto himself with the consent of a lapdog Republican Congress. I pray the Democrats now develop the backbone to challenge this unconstitutional outrage.

I love the refrigerator magnet I saw for sale at BuzzFlash: "Will somebody PLEASE give Bush a blow job so we can start the impeachment?"