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RAPID RESPONSE (Archives)...Daily Commentary on News of the Day
This is a new section.  It will offer fresh, quick reactions by myself to news and events of the day, day by day, in this rapid-fire world of ours.  Of course, as in military campaigns, a rapid response in one direction may occasionally have to be followed by a "strategic withdrawal" in another direction.  Charge that to "the fog of war", and to the necessary flexibility any mental or military campaign must maintain to be effective.  But the mission will always be the same: common sense, based upon facts and "real politick", supported by a visceral sense of Justice and a commitment to be pro-active.  That's all I promise.

Click here to return to the current Rapid Response list

SUNDAY, January 29, 2012

Interesting, but not exactly a "How To..." instruction.  By coincidence, I watched Ralph Nader on TV last evening reviewing his new (and short) book on the current unfettered corporate "person" that is eating the nation's lunch and on our need to develop "fire in the belly" through organization and action against this. 
Bottom line: We need new U.S. Constitutional Amendments to deal with election financing and terms of Federal elected office, and to constrain the legal concept of corporations as persons.


Subject: Re: economics lesson

You could expand a little as a form of refinement.  I have seen this story before with a different name and face, but it illuminates that the adage 'to each according to his need, from each according to his ability", does not work.  What the story doesn't address is that unfettered free market capitalism does not work either.  The fatal flaw in socialism is the lack of incentive.  The fatal flaw in free market capitalism is that it is a risky, winner take all system that mathematically guarantees wealth for a few, and poverty for many.  The answer lies somewhere in the middle and we had it right in the 50's through the 80's.

Our system is 'free market capitalism' and it is like a powerful horse, that when reigned in and pointed in the right direction it is extraordinarily productive.  Without the reigns though it can run us right over a cliff as we have recently seen. The technical definition of socialism is when government owns the means of production.  That simply does not exist in the US so lets be clear,  we are not even close to being called socialist in any sense other than we provide some modest protections for those most in need.  That is not socialism - that is humanitarian.  

Mitt Romney mentioned 'Adam Smith' in one of the debates while expressing his support of free market capitalism.  Adam Smith wrote the founding principles of free market capitalism.  He is worth studying for what he said as I can assure, Mitt Romney is either ignoring it or did not read it.  The basic principles of Adam Smith's free market capitalism are; 1)  no monopolies, 2) no unions, 3) minimum government, and here it is: 4) Taxes should be derived from wealth because that is what government protects.

So how are we doing on these principles as a country: 1) We are a long way from preventing oligopolies and monopolies from controlling major markets. We have stopped few mergers and acquisitions over the past 30 years. .2) We have gotten rid of most unions as they represent only 6% of the population, and frankly, unions have little power in our economy today.  3) We do have one of the smallest governments already, as compared to the rest of the advanced economies, and when you take out our extraordinary defense spending (being the world's leader), Social Security and Medicare retirement and health plans, our government practically does not exist. 4) We fail when it comes to taxing wealth.  Over the last 30 years we have reduced taxes on wealth by over 60%.  Basically Mitt Romney has done the country the favor of showing what many economists already know, and that is just how inequitable it has become.

The followers of Adam Smith in Chicago, known as the Chicago boys surrounding Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics,  know their is no solution to capitalism's inevitable lopsided wealth distribution.   There is no simple fix.  The problem is If we don't figure out a solution and get it right again and soon, the advocacy of socialism on the basis of fairness alone, will get stronger.

My view to refine this story is - reject socialism, harness free market capitalism's power, reduce its risk, and make it fairer without destroying the incentive, and it will power Democracy forever.

On Sat, Jan 28, 2012 at 10:42 AM, Bill Patsiga <> wrote:   

The difference between a  socialistic and free/capitalistic society.
 When the reward is great,  the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the  reward away, no one will try or want to succeed. 

An economics professor at  a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single  student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class  had insisted that Obama's socialism worked and that no one would be  poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The  professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class  on Obama's plan". All grades will be averaged and everyone will  receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive  an A.... (substituting grades for dollars - something closer to home  and more readily understood by all).

After the first test,  the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who  studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were  happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied  little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided  they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

The  second test average was a D! No one was happy. 

When the 3rd test rolled  around, the average was an F.

As the tests proceeded, the  scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all  resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of  anyone else.

To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the  professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail  because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great,  but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or  want to succeed.
It could not be any simpler than that. (Please  pass this on)

Remember, there IS a  test coming up. The 2012 elections.

These are possibly the 5  best sentences you'll ever read and all applicable to this  experiment:

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity  by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

2. What one  person receives without working for, another person must work for  without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody  anything that the government does not first take from somebody  else.

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!

5.  When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work  because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the  other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because  somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the  beginning of the end of any nation.

SATURDAY, January 28, 2012



ZENIT, The world seen from Rome
News Agency

Contraceptive Coverage Decision Decried
Religious Freedom Under Threat in the USA

By Father John Flynn, LC

ROME, JAN. 27, 2011 ( The federal government decision last week on insurance coverage for contraceptives in the United States has been widely condemned.

Under the new health care law passed by Congress it was left to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to decide which institutions would be exempted from having to pay for contraceptives under their health plans.

Last Friday the HHS announced that while churches would not have to pay for contraceptives other associations linked to churches, such as schools, hospitals and charitable agencies would not have any exemption.

The only concession offered was to allow employers extra time, until August 2013, to comply with the law: a concession that some observers noted conveniently pushes the obligation beyond the next elections.

“I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services,” declared the HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, in a press release announcing the decision.

A position not shared by many others who in the succeeding days expressed their views on the matter.

“In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” said Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a press release dated January 20.

He noted that the ruling means that sterilization and abortifacient contraceptives will also be included in the items that must be covered by health plans.


“The government should not force Americans to act as if pregnancy is a disease to be prevented at all costs,” he stated.

“Never before in our US history has the Federal Government forced citizens to directly purchase what violates our beliefs,” declared Cardinal Daniel DiNardo in his homily at the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life on January 22.

At stake here, he said, “is the survival of a cornerstone constitutionally protected freedom that ensures respect for conscience and religious liberty.”

Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, the president of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, expressed her disappointment at the decision. “This was a missed opportunity to be clear on appropriate conscience protection,” she said.

Criticism has come from all quarters. “I cannot imagine a more direct and frontal attack on freedom of conscience than this ruling today,” said Cardinal Roger Mahony in a January 20 note on his blog. The recently retired archbishop of Los Angeles declared: “For me there is no other fundamental issue as important as this one as we enter into the Presidential and Congressional campaigns.”

Even the Washington Post condemned the HHS ruling. In a January 23 editorial the paper said: “The administration’s feint at a compromise -- giving such employers another year to figure out how to comply with the requirement -- is unproductive can-kicking that fails to address the fundamental problem of requiring religiously affiliated entities to spend their own money in a way that contradicts the tenets of their faith.”

Moreover, “requiring a religiously affiliated employer to spend its own money in a way that violates its religious principles does not make an adequate accommodation for those deeply held views.”

“It is imperative,” said Pope Benedict XVI addressing a group of American bishops just the day before the HHS decision, “that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres.”

“Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion,” he insisted.


There is speculation about what impact this decision will have on the elections to be held this November.

William McGurn, in a post dated January 24 on the Web site of the Wall Street Journal, commented that Barack Obama had obtained a majority of the Catholic vote in 2008.

Now, however, many Catholics who had previously favored Obama are horrified at the HHS decision, he noted. This includes people such as the president of Notre Dame, the Reverend John Jenkins, who had come under strong criticism for inviting the president to speak at the university and awarding him an honorary degree.

“The irony, of course, is that the ruling is being imposed by a Catholic Health and Human Services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, working in an administration with a Catholic vice president, Joe Biden,” McGurn observed.

It is not just Catholics who are upset. Last December 21 more than 60 Protestant and Orthodox Jewish religious leaders wrote a letter to President Obama asking him not to require all private insurers to provide contraception and sterilization coverage.

“It is emphatically not only Catholics who deeply object to the requirement that health plans they purchase must provide coverage of contraceptives that include some that are abortifacients,” they said.

“We believe that the Federal government is obligated by the First Amendment to accommodate the religious convictions of faith-based organizations of all kinds, Catholic and non-Catholic,” they insisted.

An affirmation that will undoubtedly be repeated many times in the coming months as the elections draw nearer.

FRIDAY, January 27, 2012



ZENIT, The world seen from Rome
News Agency

Anti-euthanasia Ruling Hailed as Major Victory
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Sets Forth Principles

BRUSSELS, Belgium, JAN. 26, 2012 ( A decision by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to pass a resolution that calls for the prohibition of euthanasia, is being hailed as a major pro-life victory.

In a communiqué today, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) reported that the resolution passed, setting the principle: Euthanasia, in the sense of the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit, must always be prohibited. This is the first time in recent decades that euthanasia has been so clearly rejected by a European political institution, the council explained.

It is a major victory in the battle to defend life and the ECLJ noted that it came a year after the European Court asserted that there is no right to euthanasia or assisted suicide under the European Convention. The resolution should also have an impact on a forthcoming decision by the European Court in the case of Koch v. Germany, concerning a ban on assisted suicide in Germany, said Grégor Puppinck, Director of the ECLJ. 

The purpose of the resolution (No 1859/2012), passed Wednesday, is to define the principles that should govern the practice of living wills or advance directives in Europe.

The living wills or advance directives are aimed at enabling patients to express in advance their wishes regarding medical intervention or treatments, in case they are not able to express their preferences at the time of the intervention. The directives may apply, for example, when there is doubt about whether to resuscitate a patient or to continue to use extraordinary means to maintain someone alive.

Because these living wills or advance directives are open to many abuses, and can be a backdoor for introducing euthanasia or assisted suicide into legislation, the PACE has made a list of principles on how to govern this practice in the 47 states of the Council of Europe.

According to the ECLJ the list is based on principles elaborated in three documents previously adopted in the Council of Europe, including the convention on human rights and biomedicine (Oviedo Convention), which legally binds the majority of member states. Because of growing concerns about euthanasia, the Assembly judged it is necessary to state explicitly the basic principle that intentional killing must always be prohibited. 

This resolution is a clear indication that the growing majority of Europeans is opposed to euthanasia, said Puppinck.

Even if this resolution is not legally binding on member states, it has a real influence on the legislative process and on the judicial process, especially on the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, the ECLJ communiqué stated.

January 26, 2012

Very clear.  Very true.


Article published Jan 26, 2012 in The Day
Students not informed about birth control
Florence Sammataro Gales Ferry

The decision to make contraceptives readily available to New London High School students undermines the promoted goals. Contraceptives work by three mechanisms. They inhibit ovulation or the progress of the sperm to the ovum. The third is abortifacient; it does not allow a newly formed life to implant in the uterine lining because of the thinning effect of hormonal steroids like Depo-Provera.

Depo-Provera has a known failure rate of 43 percent the first year and 32 percent after two years in preventing ovulation. Thus much of the preventive "success" of this drug can also be attributed to chemical abortions.

The insert for Depo-Provera lists more than 60 side effects. According to one study, for women under 35 the risk of breast cancer increases 129 percent. Ectopic pregnancy, pulmonary embolism and weight gain are some other possible side effects. The average reported weight gain is 5.4 pounds the first year and 16.5 over six years.

The history of contraceptives is rife with duplicity. The definition of conception was changed to implantation to hide the abortive nature of hormonal steroids. These facts, found in the Physicians Desk reference are systematically left out of patient inserts. Our government health agencies have obscured the findings of much research in this regard. Informed choice?

, January 25, 2012



State's chance to improve education

Published 01/22/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 01/21/2012 11:45 PM

Connecticut may boast about having the highest per-capita income in the land, but it should be ashamed of perpetuating the nation's worst "achievement gap" between poor students and their more affluent peers.

Various educational authorities, state agencies, legislative panels and gubernatorial task forces have for years sought with little success to reverse this troubling trend, and this newspaper, like the public, has grown increasingly frustrated. Amid a prevailing attitude of pessimism we are, nonetheless, encouraged by new developments suggesting improvements, at last, may be on the horizon.

A recent report by school superintendents recommends, among other proposals, that Connecticut expand early childhood education programs and intervene more aggressively in poorly performing schools.

We like this idea, which is enjoying widespread support, since numerous authoritative studies have identified early childhood education as one of the best ways to improve long-term student performance.

Experts have found that youngsters growing up in impoverished homes are ill-prepared for classroom structure by the time they enter kindergarten, and have an increasingly difficult time adjusting to more rigorous curriculum as they grow older. Early childhood education gets youngsters acclimatized sooner to a more disciplined learning environment and gives them a better chance to learn at the same rate as those in more stable households.

Spending more money for such support is a challenge at a time when Connecticut, like most states, faces continuing fiscal challenges, but providing universal pre-school for low-income students remains one of the best investments a government can make - provided the program is carefully designed with certified educators overseeing child-care professionals focused on clear curriculum goals.

The Chicago Longitudinal Study, which followed students in early education programs through age 26, found a return on investment of 11 to 1 in terms of reduced social service costs, avoidance of the criminal-justice system, greater access to higher education scholarships and improved earnings, to name a few of the long-term benefits.

Another encouraging sign of positive change comes in a report by Connecticut's largest teachers' union that for the first time recommends a "streamlined" process for getting rid of tenured and underperforming educators.

"The teacher tenure system, complete with the mistaken notion that tenure means a 'job for life,' is as misunderstood as it is outdated," says the report of the Connecticut Education Association, representing more than 43,000 teachers.

This welcome recognition represents a significant concession by the bargaining unit. Its report, "A View from the Classroom," also includes compelling ideas about improving methods for evaluating teacher effectiveness, boosting parental involvement, and helping colleges better prepare future teachers.

This union report was issued virtually simultaneously to the superintendents' presentation, made during Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's much-anticipated Education Workshop at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain.

At that workshop 91 percent of the superintendents complained that they lack the ability to remove ineffective teachers. The CEA contends that is an overstatement. Teachers can and are removed, union leaders contend, but the process is needlessly cumbersome and the teachers' organization is willing to work on improving it. That sounds like the opening for compromise.

To be sure, poor teachers with tenure have not been the main reason students in poor districts have recorded lower scores on standardized tests, but it's part of the problem.

By conceding this point, the CEA also opens the door to a true merit-based education system in which talented, effective teachers would rightfully be paid more than those with lesser capabilities.

We support this concept, as does New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who last week recommended that teachers rated "highly effective" two years in a row receive a $20,000 bonus. Mr. Bloomberg also suggested the city pay off up to $25,000 in student loans to those would-be teachers who graduated in the top 10-percent of their class and took jobs in New York's troubled schools. Connecticut schools need to compete for that talent.

With the governor, legislature, administrators and the union representing educators all sharing ideas on reform, the state is poised for genuine change. Gov. Malloy appears to recognize he could have no greater legacy than setting in motion the changes that close the education achievement gap. This is an opportunity Connecticut cannot afford to miss.

TUESDAY, January 24, 2012



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Extraordinary Gingrich comeback also vindication

By THOMAS BEAUMONT | Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — To say Newt Gingrich capped an extraordinary comeback with a South Carolina victory doesn't quite capture what happened.

It was more like vindication.

The former House speaker came from behind to overtake Mitt Romney on Saturday in a state that for decades has chosen the eventual Republican nominee. On the way there, Gingrich triumphed over months of campaign turmoil and at least two political near-death experiences as well as millions of dollars of attack advertisements and potentially damning personal allegations.

He did it by finding his voice and rallying conservatives with a populist defiance.

"The American people feel that they have elites who have been trying to force us to stop being Americans," Gingrich told cheering supporters in Columbia after he was declared the victor. "It's not that I am a good debater. It's that I articulate the deepest-felt values of the American people."

It was on the debate stage that the pugnacious Gingrich arguably revived his presidential campaign, not once but twice in the past year, by giving a tea party-infused GOP exactly what it's hungering for — a no-holds-barred attack dog willing to go after President Barack Obama with abandon. If Gingrich wins the nomination, his confrontational attitude against all things Obama likely will be a big reason Republicans choose him over chief rival Romney.

Gingrich, a political strategist in his own right who has a knack for understanding precisely what the GOP electorate wants, has aggressively taken it to Obama since the moment he entered the race last spring determined to turn his nationwide grass-roots network of support that he's cultivated for a decade into a front-running White House campaign.

But he stumbled early, including by disparaging the House Republicans' Medicare proposal as "right-wing social engineering" and was all but forced to apologize after the conservative outcry. His campaign nearly imploded over strategy squabbles, with virtually his entire senior staff abandoning him before the summer even began. And he was broke after spending lavishly.

Gingrich spent the next six months running his own campaign on a shoestring. The former college professor used a series of debates in the fall — and the free media they afforded him — to show Republican voters his political and oratory skills. Their adoration ended up catapulting him back into contention in Iowa. He vowed to stay positive and focus on Obama — even as his rivals, sensing a very real threat, went on the attack with a barrage of negative TV advertising.

His rivals and allied groups — primarily the pro-Romney Restore Our Future political action committee and Texas Rep. Ron Paul — castigated him for a tumultuous speakership and career in Washington after Congress, knocking him way off course and nearly bludgeoning him to political death.

It turned out Gingrich didn't have the money to respond on TV. And his standing slid as the new year began, and he ended up coming in a distant fourth place in the leadoff caucuses on Jan. 3.

He was but an afterthought in the next state to vote, New Hampshire, where he spent a full week on the attack against Romney while complaining about the beating he took in Iowa on the air. But the cash-strapped Gingrich didn't have money to take his criticism of Romney to the TV airwaves. He seemed completely off his game, losing big in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

Then Sheldon Adelson came to the rescue.

The billionaire casino magnate and longtime Gingrich backer ponied up at least $5 million for an outside group — made up of former Gingrich aides — to help put his buddy back in the game. It wasn't long before the group — Winning Our Future — was exacting payback on Romney for his allies pummeling Gingrich in Iowa. And the group started raising questions about Romney's time at the helm of a private equity firm, Bain Capital, putting Romney on the defensive for the first time during the campaign.

When the race turned to South Carolina, it didn't take long for Gingrich— a former Georgia congressman — to hit his stride. The state had always been a campaign firewall for him. He had visited often, built his biggest staff of any of the first three early-voting states and spent $2.5 million on advertising.

Over the past 10 days, he raised questions about Romney's private business experience while Winning Our Future reinforced the message by financing millions of dollars in South Carolina advertising characterizing Romney as a corporate predator who dismantled companies while running Bain Capital. Gingrich also started working to undercut Romney's strength — the notion that the former Massachusetts governor was the Republicans' best chance to beat Obama in the fall.

"What you are seeing him doing is convincing people first that he can win," senior Gingrich adviser David Winston explained at one point. "He's in the process of crossing that threshold."

It was his performance in two debates last week that may have helped him seal the deal with undecided Republicans who were questioning his viability as a candidate.

He turned his vulnerabilities — a comment some interpreted as racist and an allegation by an ex-wife that he had wanted an "open marriage" — into moments of strength by answering questions about those issues with nothing short of a character assassination on the national media. In both instances, he clearly tickled his conservative audience — many of whom are skeptical of a media industry they view as left-leaning.

In Myrtle Beach last Monday, Gingrich lashed out when FOX News Juan Williams had asked him if comments he made urging poor minority children to work as janitors were racially insensitive.

"The fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history," Gingrich retorted — and then turned up the intensity.

His voice rose and he jabbed a finger into the podium as he said: "I believe every American of every background has been endowed by their creator with the right to pursue happiness. And if that makes liberals unhappy, I'm going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job, and learn some day to own the job."

The clip became the heart of Gingrich's final television ad in South Carolina, and won high praise from supporters at the barbecue joints and sportsmen's clubs he visited in the campaign's closing days.

But three days later, Gingrich had what seemed like a problem on his hands.

An ex-wife, Marianne Gingrich, did an interview with ABC News in which she said Gingrich had asked her to allow him to have a mistress while they were married. It was unclear how the allegation would play in a Baptist state where many in the GOP electorate call themselves evangelical.

Gingrich ended up using the allegation to his advantage on a debate stage in Charleston, when CNN moderator John King opened the candidate face-off by asking Gingrich about his ex-wife's claim.

"Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things," an indignant Gingrich said. "To take an ex-wife and make it, two days before the primary, a significant question for a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine."

The audience roared and rose to its feet.

Several things also fell Gingrich's way.

Romney's personal wealth was thrust into the spotlight as he stumbled over whether — and then eventually when — he would release his tax returns. Gingrich pounced, suggesting Romney may have something to hide that could pose a liability against Obama. Romney also took a hit when the Iowa GOP declared that Rick Santorum, not Romney had won the leadoff caucuses.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry also quit the race two days before the primary and endorsed Gingrich. And evangelical conservatives in the state largely ignored the pleas of national Christian leaders who had voted to endorse Santorum and started coalescing behind Gingrich, the only other candidate in the race fighting over the support of the right flank.

In the end, South Carolina Republican strategist Chip Felkel said: "His supporters were fired up, and it's contagious, especially given Romney's failure to generate that kind of enthusiasm."

The coming weeks will determine whether Gingrich can stay on top this time.

MONDAY, January 23, 2012


Let's see if the Church, the only Catholic organization with Standing to sue, does the right thing this time.


ZENIT, The world seen from Rome
News Agency

US Bishops Decry Ruling on Abortifacients in Health Plans
Say Obama Decision Is 'Literally Unconscionable'

WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 20, 2011 ( The president of the U.S. episcopal conference says that a decision made by Barack Obama today is effectively a message that we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.

This was Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan's response to a decision to continue to demand that sterilization, abortifacients and contraception be included in virtually all health plans. Today's announcement means that this mandate and its very narrow exemption will not change at all; instead there will only be a delay in enforcement against some employers.

In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences, said Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a statement.

The cardinal-designate continued, To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their health care is literally unconscionable. It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom. Historically this represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty.

The Health and Human Services (HHS) rule requires that sterilization and contraception -- including controversial abortifacients -- be included among preventive services coverage in almost every health care plan available to Americans.
The government should not force Americans to act as if pregnancy is a disease to be prevented at all costs, added Cardinal-designate Dolan.

At issue, the U.S. bishops and other religious leaders insist, is the survival of a cornerstone freedom that ensures respect for the conscience of Catholics and all other Americans.

This is nothing less than a direct attack on religion and First Amendment rights, said Franciscan Sister Jane Marie Klein, chairperson of the board at Franciscan Alliance, Inc., a system of 13 Catholic hospitals. I have hundreds of employees who will be upset and confused by this edict. I cannot understand it at all.

Daughter of Charity Sister Carol Keehan, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, voiced disappointment with the decision. Catholic hospitals serve one out of six people who seek hospital care annually.

This was a missed opportunity to be clear on appropriate conscience protection, Sister Keehan said.

Cardinal-designate Dolan urged that the HHS mandate be overturned.

The Obama administration has now drawn an unprecedented line in the sand, he said. The Catholic bishops are committed to working with our fellow Americans to reform the law and change this unjust regulation. We will continue to study all the implications of this troubling decision.

, January 22, 2012


Costa Concordia captain: symbol of the era?

The Concordia captain's missteps and failure to take responsibility have spurred deeper discussion about a dearth of moral leaders.

When the Titanic went down in 1912, the orchestra was reportedly playing “Nearer My God to Thee.”

When the Costa Concordia began to sink off the Italian coast on Jan. 13, Celine Dion’s tribute to the Titanic, “My Heart Will Go On,” had just been playing in the dining room.

The Titanic cataclysm in the freezing north Atlantic is magnitudes greater on history’s scale than last week's accident off Giglio Island, but as details emerge, so do similarities: Both disasters are seen as exemplifying a misplaced confidence of unsinkability and the presumed impossibility of human error.

The Titanic symbolized the end of 19th century's arrogant assumptions of infallibility, and the mass attention paid to Concordia may speak of a world yearning for strong leadership and instead watching a captain abandon his ship to save himself.

"Concordia has become a morality play for how we feel about leadership,” says Paul Bickley, senior researcher at Theos, a public theology think tank in London. “Across Europe and among higher eschelons of society there is a perception that leaders are increasingly selfish, and not helping those in need. We've called it a leadership pathology. Even before the details came out, many people assumed or suspected this captain jumped ship.”

Go down with the ship? Not in this century.

In a 2010 interview, Concordia captain Francesco Schettino actually compares modern cruises to the Titanic, saying, “These days, everything is much safer… It is easier to navigate thanks to modern technical instruments and the Internet.”

In the same interview, he said he regularly “diverges from standard procedures … I enjoy moments when something unpredictable happens, when you can diverge a bit from standard procedures … It’s a challenge to face, I enjoy it.”

Mr. Schettino seems to miss the 19th century grit of his Titanic colleague who went down with the ship. He was not at the helm, despite ordering a deviation from the ship's course. He was supposed to stay with his ship; He says he tripped and fell into a life boat while hundreds were still on board.

The 117,000-ton Costa Concordia slammed into rocks two hours into a seven-day Mediterranean cruise while passengers were eating dinner at 9:30 p.m. The $450 million vessel, part of the Carnival Cruise Lines fleet, is a theme park on top of a luxury hotel. When it hit the rocks, a magic show was playing.

Now underwater footage of the ship’s corridors show the detritus of tablecloths, suitcases, and toys swirling in the watery ether. At least 11 people are dead and at least 20 are still missing.

This is the reality version of Gilligan’s Island, where Ginger and the professor intended to go for only a “three-hour cruise” on the S.S. Minnow. Part of the story's fascination is that it could seemingly happen to anyone.

'Go on board!'

In this case, Schettino's disconnection from and denial of the tragedy is a main story line. He maintains he is a captain who did get the boat close to shore and who otherwise is described as having a fine career.

Reports have Schettino sailing close to the island either to show off the liner to the family of the Costa's head waiter, who is from the island, or to salute a former cruise ship captain.

The Italian judge who put Schettino under house arrest said she found “serious indications” of guilt.

The captain has since gone through what is described in politics as a series of “fact-free” moments: An electrical problem is to blame, the port authorities were told the situation was under control, the captain left the boat along with much of the crew. The captain seemed to think, despite the ship being on its side, that he could talk his way out of an actual crisis.

In a set of extraordinary radio communications, Italian Coast Guard Capt. Gregorio De Falco, apoplectic with anger that Schettino has left the boat, urges him to go back and take command. That radio exchange has become one of the great moral moments of the incident.

Mr. De Falco indicated he didn't care that it was dark or that the boat is on its side. According to audio transcripts confirmed by Corriere della Sera, he told Schettino, “You go up that pilot ladder, get on that ship, and tell me how many people are still on board.… You need to tell me if there are children, women, or people in need of assistance. … Go on board, [expletive]!,” he says. As Schettino hesitates, De Falco says, “It has been an hour that you have been telling me the same thing. Now, go on board. Go on board!”

Thousands are now wearing T-shirts that read (minus the expletive) “Go on board!” The Coast Guard captain is being called the real hero.

A continent searching for leaders

Italians have just replaced former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a leader not known for his assidous leadership. For many of them, the Concordia lying on its side is a symbol of a country still somewhat adrift from a debt crisis and longtime leader mired in scandal.

"We had just come out of the tunnel of Bunga Bunga," writes blogger Caterina Soffici on Il Fatto Quotidiano and quoted in the Guardian. "We were just drawing that little, relieved breath that would enable us to toil again up the hill to international credibility. But [now] … We've gone straight into the Titanic nightmare [and] Italy is once again the laughing stocking of foreign newspapers."

The crisis of leadership extends beyond Italy and has been written about extensively – and the Concordia is a good metaphor. The glamorous euro is in crisis, breached on rocky shoals of Greece, Portugal, and Italy. For two years, European captains have equivocated about what to do as the ship lists, taking on more water.

Historians are still writing about the larger meaning of the Titanic, 100 years later. In 1910, just before the "unsinkable" symbol of man's mastery of the oceans sank, Virginia Woolf wrote, “human nature changed.” The behavior of the Titanic crew – the mistakes, the sinking – have been read almost as a cultural Rorschach, describing the beginning of modernity and an "age of anxiety" and questions about old Anglo-Saxon presumptions of dominance, among many others.

SATURDAY, January 21, 2012

I must admit: I have been steaming over this decision, despite considering myself an "environmentalist" and having very little trust in big business. So, in the interests of "Fair and Balanced...."


Obama Rejects the Keystone XL Pipeline and Protects America's National Interest
By Frances Beinecke, President, NRDC

The Obama Administration has rejected the Keystone XL pipeline for tar sands oil. This decision puts the health and safety of the American people above the interests of Big Oil. And it confirms President Obama's commitment to combating the threats of climate change, air pollution, and oil addiction.


President Obama's decision represents a victory of truth over misinformation. Here in the United States, oil companies trumpet false job claims and promise a secure supply of oil. But in the Canadian press, oil companies talk freely about using the pipeline to export oil to Asian markets and charge more money for the oil they do sell in the U.S.


The facts reveal this pipeline was never in America's national interest. It would have endangered our people, our air, our water, and our lands for the benefit of oil companies. The Obama administration rejected the Keystone XL pipeline for all the right reasons.


This project would have endangered American communities. It would have cut through six states, across hundreds of miles of crop and rangeland, and over the Ogallala Aquifer-the source of fresh water for millions of Americans. Pipeline safety regulators have admitted they cannot guarantee current standards are strong enough to ensure tar sands pipelines can be built and operated safely.


Tar sands oil is highly corrosive, and pipelines that carry it have proven more prone to spills than those for conventional crude. One tar sands pipeline operated by the same company behind the Keystone XL project experienced 35 leaks in the U.S. and Canada its first year of operation and had to be temporarily shut down by the U.S. Department of Transportation.


Building and operating this risky project would have created few Americans jobs. Supporters like to say the pipeline could generate "tens of thousands" of jobs. But representatives of TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, said in sworn testimony the project will only generate "hundreds" of permanent jobs. The State Department thinks the number of permanent jobs is closer to 20.


The State Department also estimated the pipeline would create between 5,000 and 6,000 temporary construction jobs. That's a typical amount for a major construction project, but it is not a national jobs plan.


Claims that the pipeline would have delivered a secure supply of oil to America were also wildly overblown. The Keystone XL pipeline would have been an export pipeline. By rerouting tar sands oil out of the Midwest and into the "Foreign Trade Zone" in Port Arthur, Texas, companies could ship it anywhere in the world. Indeed, companies get incentives to export from there.


In Congressional testimony, TransCanada refused to support a condition that the oil in Keystone XL would be used in the United States. Meanwhile, by diverting Canadian oil that would otherwise go to the Midwest, TransCanada has admitted the pipeline would increase the price Americans pay for Canadian oil by $3.9 billion.


This project wouldn't have delivered lower gas prices or good jobs, but it would have helped accelerate climate change. Extracting tar sands oil produces three times as much global warming pollution as conventional crude.


Last year, America experienced 14 disastrous weather events that created over a billion dollars in damages each-and all-time record. Scientists have already linked extreme weather to climate change and say more devastating events are headed our way. We can no longer ignore the enormous cost of burning dirty fuels like tar sands oil.


By rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama is helping move America down a cleaner, safer path.


He is also listening to the public outcry over this project. From farmers and ranchers in Nebraska to more than 10,000 people who gathered at the White House this fall, Americans have registered their opposition to Keystone XL. Today's decision shows President Obama heard our voices over the din of industry's PR campaign.


The oil industry's allies in Congress will no doubt continue to lobby for this project. But NRDC will continue to fight back, because we know the White House has made the right decision for America today and we know that no version of the Keystone XL pipeline will serve our national interest.


Go to this story on

FRIDAY, January 20, 2012

This is what I've been saying for a very long time.  Let's see who and what this organization is about.


Amend Constitution to clean up politics

Lauren Gorham Gales Ferry

Publication: The Day

Published 01/19/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 01/18/2012 02:45 PM

This week marks two years since the 2009 Supreme Court case Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission. In their decision the justices ruled 5-4 in favor of big business, allowing companies like Exxon Mobile, AGI, Haliburten and others to give unlimited dollars to our representatives, claiming corporate political campaigning is protected under the First Amendment.

Why should politicians be paid by corporations? Aren't they supposed to work for us? Scott Brown, the Republican senator from Massachusetts, for example, has received over $200,000 from energy companies since 2009 ( Such exorbitant donations must certainly influence a decision-maker. Money talks.

Occupy the Courts is a nationwide action to raise awareness of this important court case. It is organized by Move to Amend, a consortium of groups working to pass a constitutional amendment that will establish first, that money is not speech; and second, that only human beings, not legal entities or corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights.

Locally, Occupy the Courts will be observed Friday at Courthouse Square in New London at the intersection of Broad and Huntington Streets, in front of New London Superior Courthouse.

THURSDAY, January 19, 2012

Too True...


Italy enthralled by ship's tale of two captains

By Philip Pullella | ReutersWed, Jan 18, 2012

ROME (Reuters) - The Coast Guard officer who ordered the captain of the capsized Italian cruise ship to go back aboard unwittingly became an instant hero on Wednesday, credited with saving the national honor on one of its darkest nights.

Italy has become enthralled with the tale of two captains.

One is Coast Guard Captain Gregorio De Falco, who furiously ordered the skipper of the Costa Concordia to return to his ship and oversee the rescue operations.

The other is Captain Francesco Schettino - whom newspapers have branded a coward for fleeing in the face of adversity and who is now under house arrest, accused of multiple manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship.

"Listen Schettino, perhaps you have saved yourself from the sea but I will make you look very bad. I will make you pay for this. Go on board (Expletive!)" De Falco yelled at Schettino during a 4-minute radio exchange made public on Tuesday.

The Italian word De Falco used, "cazzo" in Italian, is slang for the male sexual organ but it is commonly used to emphasize something, equivalent to "Go on board, damn it."

The imperative phrase in Italian -- "Vada a bordo, cazzo!" -- was already on T-shirts by Wednesday morning.

"Thank You, Captain" was the more sedate headline the country's largest national newspaper, Corriere della Sera, chose on Wednesday, reflecting the gratitude of Italians who see Schettino's behavior as a national embarrassment.

"Two men ... two stories, one who humiliates us, the other who redeems. Thank you Captain De Falco, our country badly needs people like you," the Corriere della Sera said.

An editorial in La Stampa said Schettino "filled the void in the disgrace and lies department left by Berlusconi," a reference to Italy's scandal-plagued former prime minister.

Another memorable exchange between the two captains, listened to by millions of Italians since it was made public, is when De Falco tells Schettino:

"You get back on board! That is an order! There is nothing else for you to consider. You have sounded the "Abandon Ship." I am giving the orders now. Get back on board. Is that clear?"

The new "Italian idol" is an unlikely one.

De Falco is 48. He is balding and, in uniform, looks more like the maitre d' of an exclusive restaurant on the Amalfi Coast than a swashbuckling heartthrob.

"I'm no hero," De Falco told reporters on Wednesday as he entered a magistrate's office in the Tuscan city of Grosseto to give testimony for the investigation.

Judging by the comments on Twitter, Facebook and other social media, Italians, living in a country many feel is mired in corruption and economic woe, would beg to disagree.

A tweet from Sofia Rosada said: "It is men like De Falco who should be governing. Instead we are full of men like Schettino."

Some have even played on the Jesus Christ-Judas Iscariot comparison, one a savior, the other a traitor.

Judging from reports that De Falco is usually soft-spoken, unassuming, and even shy - when he is not faced with a shipwreck - he would likely reject the acclamation of instant sainthood.

But he may be moved by a tweet from an Italian boy named Salvatore Garzillo: "The next time someone asks me what I want to be when I grow up I am going to say: 'a man like De Falco.'"

(Additional reporting by Silvia Ognibene in Grosseto, editing by Paul Casciato)

WEDNESDAY, January 18, 2012

There are many reasons for the deterioration of the Family in American life...and for the consequent decline of our society.  Here is one of the most important.  Whether due to the cowardly physical absence of a father in nearly 50% of households with children, or due to their evolution into "Whuses" in the zero-sum game of Feminism, or due to the denigration of legitimate authority in society as a whole, this one issue is both a central cause and a potential treatment for what ails us. 
This is a Call for Action, individually and collectively.


ZENIT, The world seen from Rome
News Agency

Dads: Who Will Lead Your Family?
'Courageous' DVD Promotes Godly Fatherhood

By Genevieve Pollock

ALBANY, Georgia, JAN. 16, 2012 ( Thousands of men are answering the call to rediscover God's plan for fatherhood, inspired by a new movie, Courageous, due to be released on DVD on Tuesday.

The film, which debuted in theaters Sept. 30, follows four men striving to fulfill their mission to serve and protect, both as law enforcement officers and fathers.

Stephen Kendrick, producer and co-writer of the film, told ZENIT that every day he sees some 200 e-mails from people sharing how the movie has impacted, inspired and blessed them.

The stories they share are so heartfelt and moving, he said. Countless dads are now reaching out to win the hearts of their children.

Kendrick continued: One man realized he needed to step up and reconnect with the daughter he'd abandoned.

Many have chosen to forgive their dads.

Wives are saying that 'my husband was a good dad, but now he's becoming a great dad after seeing this movie.' 

Couples heading for divorce have reunited and said that they must resolve to leave a legacy of faithfulness to their children like the men in the movie. We thank God for this!

Waging war

As policemen, the main characters must team up against gang members and drug dealers to protect the community. Yet even as they battle evil with their guns and Tasers, they learn to use Scripture to fight the demons within in order to become the men of integrity their families need.

There is so much in Scripture about what fatherhood means, but most men have not taken time to search it out and then live it out, Kendrick stated. 'Courageous' shows it to them in living color.

He continued: It is so incredible to see how a message about the importance of strong fatherhood is so deeply resonating with audiences. 

The issue of fatherhood touches the core of who we are. Millions of people have seen this movie and have gone on the emotional roller-coaster of laughter and tears as they watch five men trying to figure out what it means to be a great dad.

For actor Ken Bevel, who portrayed the cop Nathan Hayes, the movie was an opportunity to help serve in turning the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.

He explained to ZENIT: As I look at the consistent decline of families and the minimal involvement of fathers in our communities, my heart is challenged -- challenged to the point of action. So, when God provided the opportunity to address biblical fatherhood through film, I was humbled that he would allow me to be used in such a task.

This role, Bevel said, caused me to examine my own life and my role as a father.

He added: I asked myself the question, 'Am I being completely intentional about fatherhood and leading my children to the Lord?' Unfortunately the answer was no. So, 'Courageous' has also challenged me to spend more time in Bible study with my family, while praying for wisdom in leading my children to the Lord.

Kendrick expressed the hope for this life change, not only for all who worked on the movie, but also for all who view it.

The film's release on DVD will allow its viewing by greater audiences. Parishes, ministries and other groups are encouraged to show the movie and utilize the corresponding resources to help effect this life-changing experience.

Tremendous opportunity

One group, the Philadelphia-based Fatherhood and Leadership Initiative, sponsored a showing of the movie that drew the players of two football teams with their fathers, in addition to other families.

Jim Gabriele, one of the group's founders, told ZENIT that the response was tremendous. People were moved not only by the film, he said, but also by the underlying message of love of Christ and faith in him as the foundation of a man's most important vocation -- his family.

This movie clearly brings people together, added Gabriele, and challenges men in particular to be men of the kingdom, the Godly husbands and fathers we are all called to be.

He added that the widespread release of the movie provides a tremendous opportunity to put the emotion we all felt at the end of the movie to practical use in our daily lives.

It is an unbelievably easy tool to use for ministry, and the producers have provided outstanding resources to bring the movie to life via Bible studies, small group sessions, etc. Gabriele noted.

He continued: Men are notoriously hard to reach in ministry, but the ability to invite men to an engaging movie, followed by structured discussions and the ability to delve more deeply into their faith and how it applies to marriage and fatherhood is an incredible gift.

He revealed to ZENIT that his group will be sponsoring an eight-week study series, available through the Internet as well, on scriptural fatherhood.

Kendrick expressed the hope that many of this generation of men will see Courageous and learn that the role of father is irreplaceable.

He underlined the hope that the audience will see that God created fatherhood to introduce the next generation to what their loving Heavenly Father is like: a loving Provider, a strong Protector, an honorable Authority, a great Example, a wise Teacher, and an intimate Friend.

The producer continued: We hope that men get a vision for this and begin to step up with courage and begin to lead their families by example as God intended. This will positively affect the next generation in countless ways.

We produced a movie, he concluded. But only he can change a heart. To him alone be the glory!

TUESDAY, January 17, 2012

This is the world we live in. We can engage it and try to help. Or we can condemn it and be part of the problem.


ZENIT, The world seen from Rome
News Agency

Study: Barely Half of US Adults Are Married
Divorce Rate Is Still Stable, But Fewer Are Tying the Knot

ROME, JAN. 13, 2012 ( Shortly before Christmas, news came out that only 51% of all people over the age of 18 in the United States are married. The study of census data by the Pew Research Center showed that single parenthood, single households and cohabitation have become more popular.

The report also noted that new marriages in the U.S. declined by 5% between 2009 and 2010.

The median age at first marriage has also reached an unprecedented level, at 26.5 years for brides and 28.8 for grooms.

The turning away from marriage has affected all age groups, but the most severe decline is among young adults. Currently, only 20% of those aged 18 to 29 are married, compared with 59% in 1960.

Other Western countries have experienced a similar decline and the study cited a recent report by the United Nations that showed how in the last three decades of the 20th century female age at first marriage rose in 75 of the 77 countries studied.

The impact of the economy is not clear, according to the Pew report. It seems that the long-term changes don't seem to be related to the state of the economy, with the drop in marriages persisting in both good and bad economic times.

Some of the postponement of marriage can be attributed to the higher numbers going to college, the study noted. So, in part, the decline could be partly due not to a rejection of marriage, but simply waiting longer.

Education levels are a major factor influencing marriage, with 64% of college educated adults marrying, compared with only 48% of those without a completed college degree. By contrast the marriage rate for the two groups was almost equal in 1960

Divorce has also played a part in reducing the numbers of those married, but divorce rates have stayed fairly stable in the last couple of decades and so this is not a cause behind the more recent decline in the marriage rate. In fact, while in 1960 only 15% of adults declared they had never been married, by 2010 this group now accounted for 28% of all those aged over 18.


Canada is also undergoing the same trend, as data released by Statistics Canada showed. The number of cohabiting couples grew at five times the rate compared to marriages between 2001 and 2006, according to a report by the Ottawa Citizen newspaper, published Dec. 16.

Those aged 25 to 29 accounted for nearly a quarter of de facto couples in 2006, a more than threefold increase compared to 1981.

When it comes to divorce, in October Canada's Vanier Institute published a fact sheet showing that in 2008, there were 70,229 divorces in Canada. This was a decline of 4% compared to the previous year and a notable drop of 2/5 compared to 1987, the year following changes to divorce laws.

The institute Statistics Canada predicts that 40.7% of all marriages in 2008 will end in divorce by 2035. Moreover, while the 2008 divorce numbers were down compared to the late 80s they are higher than the rate in the mid-90s.

The decline in marriage comes as studies continue to show its importance for society. Another report released toward the end of the year was The 2011 State of Our Unions, by W. Bradford Wilcox of the National Marriage Project, University of Virginia, and Elizabeth Marquardt, of the Center for Marriage and Families, Institute for American Values.

They found that married parents are more likely than their childless peers to feel their lives have a sense of meaning and purpose. As well, married parents usually experience more happiness and less depression than parents who are unmarried.

At the same time, however, they also found that, although most young Americans say they would like to have two or more children, there is a growing share of young adults who believe a good marriage is personally unattainable, and more are having children outside of marriage.

Don't give up

Meanwhile, in England, a senior High Court judge, Sir Paul Coleridge, has announced he is setting up a foundation to promote marriage. His aim is to reverse the appalling and costly impact of family breakdown on children and society at large, according to a report by the Times newspaper, Jan. 3.

There are an estimated 3.8 million children currently caught up in the family justice system. I personally think that's a complete scandal, he said.

The importance of marriage and family life was recently stressed by Benedict XVI in his speech Monday to the Holy See's diplomatic corps.

The family, based on marriage of a man and a woman is the fundamental cell of every society, he stated.

The family unit is fundamental for the educational process and for the development both of individuals and states; hence there is a need for policies which promote the family and aid social cohesion and dialogue, he insisted.

A task every more urgent as marriage declines more and more in many counties.

NLHS right in tackling difficult problem

Published 01/14/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 01/13/2012 05:46 PM

Teen pregnancy perpetuates poverty and ignorance. It is therefore sensible public policy to try to reduce pregnancy rates in urban areas with high poverty rates, such as New London, to break this cycle.

That is why this newspaper endorses the decision to provide students at New London High School, with parental permission, access to condoms and birth control prescriptions at the on-site health clinic run by the Child & Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut. New London will not spend education funds on the new services that Child & Family, a state and privately funded agency, will provide under its existing school contract.

According to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, a child has a 64 percent chance of growing up in poverty if these three factors are present: the mother gave birth as a teen; the parents were unmarried when the child was born; the mother did not receive a high school diploma.

In other words, if these three factors are present, a child's chance of growing up poor is nine times greater than if none of those things happen.

Yet that is what is happening in so many of our nation's centers of poverty. Girls get pregnant at a young age, they don't finish school and, despite whatever their best intentions, they set their children on the same course. An exhaustive study by the Brookings Institute, published in 1998, found that virtually all of the increase in child poverty between 1980 and 1996 was related to the increase in non-marital childbearing, with half of never-married mothers beginning their childbearing as teens.

The issues involved are myriad and complex. They include an entertainment industry that glorifies and promotes casual sexual activity, but often shies from the topic of its implications or its prevention. They involve government policies that can discourage young mothers from fostering a relationship with fathers for fear of lost benefits. Nearly 80 percent of fathers of children born to teen mothers do not marry the mothers, paying on average less than $800 annually in child support, a 1997 Urban Institute study found. Also a factor is a diminished importance placed on marriage and a blithe unawareness or disregard for the implications of birthing a child without adequate means of support, financially or paternally. About one-fourth of teenage mothers have a second child within 24 months of the first birth, according to a study published in Family Planning Perspectives, a journal focused on reproductive issues.

No one program can counter the many factors underlying this societal challenge, but the steps that will begin March 1 at NLHS are steps in the right direction. The expanded services will only be available to students whose parents have signed them up to receive services at the school-based clinic. That covers about three-quarters of the student body. Those parents will receive a letter about the contraceptive program being added to the health services and provided the opportunity to opt out.

Parental approval is critical because parents deserve control over the health services their children receive.

Students seeking contraceptives through the program will receive counseling about the emotional, physical and life-changing implications of becoming sexually active and the benefits that can come from abstinence until reaching a stage of greater maturity.

Those students who are sexually active or suspect they may become active will be provided with both condoms and a contraceptive prescription for pills, injections or a patch. In addition to preventing unwanted pregnancies, the promotion encouraging condom use can reduce sexually transmitted diseases. A 2010 Ledge Light Health District report found that Chlamydia infections among New London teens at twice the state and national average, with high incidences of gonorrhea as well.

In a perfect world, perhaps, teens would resist the temptations of the flesh, parents would be open and comfortable talking about sexuality with their children, and high schools would only have to worry about reading, writing and arithmetic.

MONDAY, January 16, 2012

THIS IS INSANE And it is much more prevalent than I ever would have guessed.  There is a lesson here for those who would legalize illicit drugs, including the non-medical use of cannabis.


Binge Drinking Common Among Adults, CDC Finds

By Todd Neale, Senior Staff Writer, MedPage Today
Published: January 10, 2012

About one in every six U.S. adults binges on alcohol, according to the CDC.

And among those who do, the binges occur roughly once a week on average and include an average of eight drinks each time, agency researchers reported online in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"It's a widespread problem across the entire population, which is why we think we really need to look at community-based solutions to address it," Robert Brewer, MD, MPH, the CDC's alcohol program lead, said on a Tuesday conference call with reporters.

And the problem is even larger than these self-reported data indicate, Brewer continued. Previous studies have shown that, based on alcohol sales, asking people to self-report drinking behavior captures less than one-third of presumed consumption.

Binge drinking -- defined as at least four drinks in one sitting for women and five drinks for men -- carries substantial risks and high costs. It accounts for more than half of the estimated 80,000 annual deaths and three-quarters of the $223.5 billion in economic costs tied to excessive alcohol use.

In addition, it is associated with a greater risk of a multitude of problems, including car crashes, violence, suicide, hypertension, acute MI, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, fetal alcohol syndrome, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

According to the authors, the Community Preventive Services Task Force in 2005 recommended several strategies to reduce the burden of binge drinking, which included the following:

The CDC researchers examined 2010 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The analysis included responses from 457,677 adults in 48 states (minus South Dakota and Tennessee) and the District of Columbia who were surveyed by landline or cell phone.

Overall, 17.1% said they binge drank within the past 30 days. The rate was twice as high in men as in women (23.2% versus 11.4%).

The rate of binge drinking was highest among 18-to-24-year-olds (28.2%), as was the intensity (9.3 drinks per occasion). Both figures decreased with age.

The frequency of binge drinking, however, was highest among respondents 65 and older (5.5 episodes per month).

Non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics were most likely to binge drink (18% and 17.9%, respectively), and non-Hispanics from other racial and ethnic groups and Hispanics had the highest intensity (8.7 and 8.4 drinks per episode, respectively).

The prevalence of binge drinking increased with household income, reaching 20.2% among those earning $75,000 or more. Households with the lowest incomes (less than $25,000) had the highest frequency (5.0 episodes per month) and intensity (8.5 drinks per episode).

"The higher prevalence of binge drinking among males, whites, young adults, and persons with higher household incomes has been reported previously, and probably reflects differences in state and local laws that affect the price, availability, and marketing of alcoholic beverages, as well as other cultural and religious factors," the authors explained.

There was state-to-state variation in the rate of binge drinking, ranging from 10.9% in Utah to 25.6% in Wisconsin.

The authors noted some limitations of the analysis, including the use of self-reported data; the fact that the dataset used is developmental and subject to change; and the exclusion of people living in institutional settings, such as colleges and the military.

Primary source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
Source reference:
Kanny D, et al "Vital signs: Binge drinking prevalence, frequency, and intensity among adults -- United States, 2010" MMWR 2012; 61: 1-7..

January 15, 2012

I am reassured by the the information in the following article, and will look forward to prompt and positive action by our citizens in this matter.
That is a far cry from the comments of a prominent leader of the NO movement, made to me shortly after the referendum results.  She opined that "we don't have the money to restore access to the beach"; and "after all, it took ten years for the Save Ocean Beach group to do their work". 
NOW HEAR THIS: The very nearly 50% of those who voted to SHARE the park expect action now and will assist in that action.  But we will not wait "ten years" for results.


Riverside friends form conservancy for park's future

By Judy Benson

Publication: The Day

Published 01/11/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 01/11/2012 07:21 AM

Group says it will oppose any new Coast Guard offer

New London - Two months after leading the referendum defeat of the Coast Guard Academy's proposal to purchase and develop half of Riverside Park, organizers of the Friends of Riverside Park political action committee have formed a conservancy to continue efforts to preserve, maintain and improve the park.

"No part of Riverside Park is for sale, and we affirm that now," said Kathleen Mitchell, who is chairwoman of the Riverside Park Conservancy, incorporated with the Connecticut secretary of the state on Dec. 23. "These 18 acres belong to this and all future generations of New Londoners."

She spoke to about two dozen supporters who gathered at noon Tuesday in the park's amphitheater. The group, which is seeking nonprofit 501(c)(3) status, will continue to host cleanups and events at the park but will put special focus this year on improving the upper part of the park, adjacent to the academy property, she said. That includes seeking grants and donations to fix a steep, unsafe stairway that connects the park to Winthrop Magnet Elementary School, a project that could cost as much as $100,000.

The conservancy's announcement comes amid renewed discussions about the academy's need to expand and was timed to send a message that the group would oppose any new offer from the Coast Guard for part of the park.

"We have nothing against the Coast Guard," Mitchell said. "Our only concern is conserving the park for future generations."

The superintendent of the academy has scheduled meetings with city officials in both New London and Norwich about possible sites, following statements last week by the head of the Coast Guard, Adm. Robert J. Papp, that the academy has reached its capacity and there are functions that the Coast Guard "could justifiably and reasonably look at moving to other locations."

Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said the group's announcement will not affect his plans to meet Jan. 17 with Coast Guard Rear Adm. Sandra L. Stosz, the academy superintendent.

"The formation of the Riverside Park Conservancy group will not affect future plans or discussions with the Coast Guard," he said in a statement emailed to The Day. "The Riverside Park Conservancy group is an excellent group of concerned citizens. The administration is committed to an open dialogue in good faith and I praise the group for their service and dedication to the city and Riverside Park."

In the referendum, voters turned down the Coast Guard Academy's offer to pay the city $2.9 million for half the park by a 19-vote margin, 2,098 to 2,079. The academy proposed expanding into the property and using it for new training programs and facilities.

Former Board of Education member Ronna Stuller, one of the PAC leaders and now the treasurer of the conservancy, said forming the new group is the start of making good on pledges not to let the park be forgotten after the referendum.

"We made a promise that Riverside Park would never fall into disuse and disrepair again and that we would help relieve the city of the entire burden" of taking care of the property along the Thames River. She noted that donations to the PAC came from all parts of the city, not just the surrounding neighborhood.

"This struck a chord with New London throughout our city," she said.

Stuller said reconnecting the park to Winthrop School, which reopened Jan. 3 after renovations turned it into a STEM school - for science, technology, engineering and mathematics - is particularly important to her. The park could be used as an outdoor classroom to teach lessons in environmental sciences, which could help attract students from the city and out-of-town, she said.

The conservancy announcement began with Charles Gray-Wolf, a member of the local drama group Flock Theater, reading Robert Frost's poem, "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening." In closing, Mitchell paraphrased the poem's most famous line.

"The Friends of Riverside Park Conservancy still has miles to go and promises to keep, and we intend on keeping our commitment," she said.

SATURDAY, January 14, 2012


I know that Islam is one of the three major Religions in the world.
I don't know whether Islam is a Religion of Peace or of conquest and enforced conversion.
I do know that Islam is inherently not only a religion but also a total way of life for its adherents...a political and governmental structure evidently inseparable from the religion. 
I know that Shariah Law is the foundation of that political and governmental structure. 
I keep hearing and reading that fundamentalist Islamists' basic goal is to convert or conquer the entire world to Islam.  And I hear and read little or nothing to the contrary from "moderate Muslims", whoever and wherever they are. 
Therefore, I must conclude that Islam, and particularly any effort to apply Shariah Law anywhere in this country is a CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER that must be totally resisted.  All who reside in America must be subject to American Law and no other. 

I suggest that the reader contact the following organization for further relevant information, some of which is alarming.

A citizen action project of Traditional Values Coalition
PO Box 97088
Washington, DC 20090-7088

This is not an endorsement of the organization.  It is a Call to Action in this matter.


FRIDAY, January 13, 2012

WOW ! 
I have long described New London, Ct. as "a garden spot of the constant need of weeding". 
It appears that we will soon need a back-hoe, as for a cesspool.


Chief Ackley has complained about harassment before

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published 01/08/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 01/08/2012 12:05 AM

Margaret Ackley files a complaint with the city, saying she is being harassed and is a victim of gender discrimination.

Ackley also says in her complaint that she has repeatedly complained about the way she was being treated and that no one ever investigated her claims.

Sound familiar?

It might.

But this was not the complaint that Ackley lodged during last year's election for a new city mayor, the one in which she dropped a bomb and accused mayoral candidate Michael Buscetto of harassing her and interfering with police business, while she also accused city officials of ignoring her complaints about the city councilor.

This was a complaint Ackley filed with the city's personnel department in 2004, before Ackley became chief.

Curiously, one of the three officers Ackley accused of harassing her at the time was none other than Lt. Marshall Segar, whom Ackley eventually promoted to deputy chief, after she was made chief in 2009.

Last Wednesday, Chief Ackley stood behind Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio as he announced that Segar's contract was not being renewed, fired after a long city police career.

It was Ackley's promotion of Segar into police management in January 2010, out of a protected job as police union president, that made him vulnerable to being terminated.

Mayor Finizio has continued to refuse to release the report of the investigation into Chief Ackley's latest claims of harassment - the ones against the mayor's most formidable foe in last year's election - even though the mayor's contention that its release could affect a settlement of the chief's claims against the city is irrelevant, since he's agreed to a $25,000 settlement.

However, the report rattled out into public Saturday evening, and it indicates a pattern of Ackley crying wolf, claiming harassment when the professionals who investigate later find none.

Someone shared with me last week a report of the investigation, now long forgotten, into Ackley's 2004 complaints of harassment. It also details a pattern of unfounded allegations.

It was a thorough investigation carried out by attorney Gabriel J. Jiran, now a partner in the prominent Hartford law firm Shipman & Goodwin, a partner specializing in labor and employment law. Jiran interviewed 13 individuals and all female members of the department.

He found some general failings in personnel matters and noted some instances of issues that could make women uncomfortable, pornography being left inside police cruisers, for instance.

But Jiran concluded in his 11-page report that there was no improper gender-related conduct toward Ackley by Segar and the other two officers she cited.

There was, however, considerable friction between the individuals, Jiran said, principally over union issues, since Ackley had attended a meeting where she very openly criticized the union and stated that she did not want to be a member any longer. The officers she complained about were all union officials.

Jiran cites in his report some minor incidents that Ackley included in her complaint, including a time that one of the officers called her out of a morning roll call meeting for misspelling something in a memo.

But the actual instances of alleged harassment were thin.

Then-Sgt. Ackley was given an opportunity to reflect on the investigation and cite additional examples of the harassment (by the three officers) but did not provide additional information, Jiran wrote in his report.

Ultimately she did not give any more specific examples that would suggest gender discrimination. He also said that Ackley reported she had a notebook outlining examples of the harassment but would not provide the notebook to him.

Jiran added that Ackley also understandably contributed in part to the friction with the other officers, mostly in reaction to how they treated her.

It is troubling, at the least, that the chief has a history of making unfounded claims of being harassed. It is especially worrisome, given the way Mayor Finizio has been coddling the chief and quickly settled her latest claims.

There was little on the record to justify a $25,000 settlement with the chief before the latest report on her claims slipped out Saturday evening. Clearly justification for paying her off hardly seems warranted by the pay-instead-of-defend suggestion of the report, which found no real legal grounds for a lawsuit.

The latest report seems to cut through the bogus claims and whining of the letter of complaint to the city by the chief's attorney, which was finally released last week. Shouldn't a police chief, one wonders after reading the letter, be able to weather a little political heat? Aren't they paid to be tough?

I also wonder why anyone would offer a raise and a fresh employment contract to someone who has threatened to sue you, especially when you know the grounds for suing are so thin. I warn you, don't try that at your workplace.

And why hasn't the chief, who's been in charge since 2009, been held accountable for all the terrible police failings in recent months - the shooting of an unarmed man, the apparent brutal beating of someone in custody and the allegations of the planting of evidence.

Disclosure of the report on Ackley's latest complaints of harassment, apparently against Finizio's wishes to keep it private, could shed some light on why the mayor is treating her so gingerly, paying her raises and bonuses and assassinating her enemies.

After all, she helped get him elected.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

THURSDAY, January 12, 2012



Leaving a flock well-tended

By Joe Wojtas

Publication: The Day

Published 01/08/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 01/08/2012 12:03 AM

Father Castaldi is retiring today from thriving St. Joseph's Church New London after 36 years here

New London - While many Catholic parishes are watching their Mass attendance and financial support dwindle and are struggling to keep their schools open, St. Joseph's Church on Squire Street seems like a step back in time.

Masses are packed, the congregation numbers 3,000 families and its endowment is so healthy that it gives $2,000-a-year scholarships to all students who graduate from its parish school, go on to attend St. Bernard School in Uncasville and then to college.

But today, the pastor who has overseen the diocese's largest parish for the past 36 years, the Rev. Joseph Castaldi, will retire.

"I've had it," said the 75-year-old Castaldi, who is known for his straight talk and passion for Catholic education, when asked about his decision to retire. "I've spent half my life here, and before I get completely burned out, I hope the Lord will keep me healthy for a few more years so I can go back to Italy and visit."

That's where the native of Providence's Federal Hill neighborhood spent his first 17 years as a priest, working at the Vatican. It's a time he speaks of fondly.

Today, more than 600 people, including the bishop of Norwich, the Most Rev. Michael Cote, will attend a retirement party for Castaldi at Ocean Beach Park. Next week, Castaldi will head off for a vacation with his family in Florida and then move to Newport, R.I., to live with his brother and help out at a local church.

For St. Joe's parishioners, Castaldi's departure will bring a big change. He worked long hours juggling his duties at the church, school and Lawrence & Memorial Hospital. He's been so dedicated to the parish that he has taken only one vacation. That was last year, when he spent five days in Florida.

"He's just handled it all and done it well for years and years," said Lou Camerota, the president of the parish council. "We've been so fortunate to have him for all the time that we did."

"No one wants to see him retire but no one wants to see him die here, either," added local funeral home owner Chris Neilan, a lifelong parishioner. "We want him to see him enjoy himself."

Castaldi is known for his speedy 7 a.m. Sunday Masses.

"He'll give you salvation in 27 minutes," said Camerota, who reads the Scripture readings at the Mass. "You feel like your tank is full and you're ready for the day."

Earlier this week, while he sat at a large table in the church rectory, Castaldi said he will not miss the long work days and presiding over funerals. But he will miss the people.

"I'm among people from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Once I retire, that will be the big change. It could be a lonely life but I'm going to try and not let that happen," he said.

"I've been here so long that I've baptized kids, did their first communion and confirmation, and then married them. Now I'm baptizing their kids," he said.

Castaldi went to Rome in 1958 to study at Pontifical Gregorian University. In 1963, he was ordained and celebrated his first Mass at St. Peter's Basilica. The next week, he celebrated Mass in the small Italian town where his grandparents had lived before immigrating to the United States in 1905. He went on to earn his master's degree in church canon law and worked in the Vatican office for refugees and immigrants.

"For a priest, living in Rome is a wonderful daily experience, being that close to the center of the church," he said.

He returned to the United States in 1975 to spend more time with his family. That's when the former bishop of Norwich, Daniel Reilly, who had known Castaldi from his childhood, asked him to come to the diocese and be assigned to St. Joe's.

He eventually replaced Monsignor Paul St. Onge, who also had been an institution at the church.

Change comes slowly

In his free time, Castaldi likes to cook Italian dishes, grow vegetables in a small garden and tend a pigeon coop behind the rectory. And when something breaks at the parish, it's not unusual for him to make the repairs.

Parishioners said that while Castaldi may sometimes seem to have a tough exterior, that's an illusion.

Camerota described him as having a "milk chocolate center."

"He's a very kind and compassionate man. He has a very caring heart," Neilan said. "He's told us that any Catholic who wants a funeral Mass gets one, even if they haven't attended church or married a non-Catholic. He's very accepting of people."

Castaldi is also known as a strong proponent of the value of Catholic education.

In a city with a growing population of immigrants, many of whom attend his church, Castaldi said, there have been changes in the parish school. When he started, the classes were staffed entirely by nuns. Now the nuns are gone and the teachers are Catholic lay people.

The school is fully enrolled at 200 students, some of whom travel in from surrounding towns because their parents attended Catholic school and believe in its importance, Castaldi said.

"He's been a great steward of Catholic education," Camerota said.

As he departs, Castaldi said two issues pose significant challenges for the church - the lack of men entering the priesthood and the pedophilia scandal.

"It will be centuries before the scandal is wiped from the minds of the faithful," Castaldi said.

One result, he said, is that some parents no longer want their sons to enter the priesthood.

As for the lack of vocations, Castaldi said, the United States church is in dire need of priests and has begun importing them from India, Poland and Africa. He said differences in culture and language can make it difficult to relate to American parishioners.

While the Catholic Church has begun allowing married Episcopal priests to become Catholic priests and welcoming entire Episcopal congregations, Castaldi said he thinks the time is coming when Catholic priests will be allowed to marry. That would boost the number of priests.

"Slowly, things are changing," he said.

He added, though, that he does not foresee women being allowed to become priests because of Catholic doctrine.

Castaldi said he leaves the parish in good shape for his replacement, the Rev. Mark O'Donnell, who has been at St. Agnes Church in East Lyme.

"There's a wonderful spirit here. There are no divisions of any kind and the endowment is large. If he keeps the 11th commandment, 'Thou shall not touch the principle,' he'll be OK," he quipped.

In recent weeks, some parishioners have been wondering what they will do without their longtime pastor.

"My answer is, we'll do what he would want us to do. We'll bid him farewell and embrace our new pastor," Camerota said.

Neilan said that while a lot of people fear change, he believes O'Donnell will be a good fit for the parish. "But everyone is saying the same thing: They can't remember St. Joe's without Father Castaldi," he said.

WEDNESDAY, January 11, 2012


What a Disaster.  This mayor has made as many serious errors of judgment as there have been days of his tenure to date.  Attorney Justin Finizio obviously has some training.  But he is clearly not
educated.  The only remaining question, a vital one, is whether he is educable."


Report: New London didn't allow discrimination against Police Chief Margaret Ackley

By Brian Hallenbeck and Kathleen Edgecomb

Publication: The Day

Published 01/08/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 01/09/2012 02:56 PM

Meanwhile, state police confiscate vehicle, evidence in ongoing corruption investigation

New London - City Council President Michael Passero released a report Saturday of an investigation into Police Chief Margaret Ackley's claims of interference and harassment against former Councilor Michael Buscetto III, raising questions about a proposed settlement calling for the city to pay Ackley $25,000.

Hours later, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio announced that he, with the cooperation of Ackley and State's Attorney Michael Regan, has requested the assistance of the Connecticut State Police Central Division in an ongoing investigation into possible corruption in the city's police department.

"The state police acting on this request became involved in the investigation today, seizing a police vehicle and several pieces of evidence," Finizio said in a statement. "The state police and the state's attorney are working in close cooperation with the police chief and the administration on this matter."

The mayor said the investigation would take up some of the same matters examined in the probe of Ackley's claims.

The city's agreement with Ackley is not a done deal, Passero said Saturday night, who noted that all contracts and appropriations have to be approved by the City Council, which has not yet been presented with the proposed settlement.

In the report on Ackley's claims, former Superior Court Judge Beverly J. Hodgson, whom the city hired to conduct the investigation, found that in her opinion the city would not find itself liable in court either for actions or negligence in connection with complaints Ackley made against Buscetto.

"Most of the conduct … constitutes political animosity but is not actionable at law," Hodgson wrote.

The release of the report, which the mayor had said would be withheld from the public at least until a special closed-door meeting of the City Council Wednesday, occurred during "Bash at the Beach," an annual fundraiser organized by Buscetto to benefit New London youth programs.

Buscetto reacted to the report Saturday night while in the midst of hosting the event at the Port 'N Starboard at Ocean Beach Park.

"I have an announcement to make," he said, addressing hundreds of people shortly after 8 p.m., summoning his wife and children to join him on stage.

"Chief Ackley didn't provide any evidence of a hostile work environment," he said, holding a microphone and reading from a sheet of paper. "The judge ruled that no evidence was brought forth to support claims of interference or sexual harassment. All of her allegations were based on reports of others. There was no basis to cover her claims for attorney's fees.

"We were accused of a lot of things," Buscetto said. "It looks like someone lied, but it wasn't me."

The audience rose and applauded.

Hodgson's nine-page report, addressed to Jeffrey Londregan, the city's law director, had been disseminated hours earlier by Passero, little more than 24 hours after Finizio announced at a press conference that the city had agreed to pay Ackley $25,000 to settle her claims against Buscetto.

The mayor Friday also released statements from a 2009 investigation of an incident at the Shrine nightclub at MGM Grand at Foxwoods, in which police officers claim Buscetto groped three women, including a female officer. Ackley claimed that members of the police department had kept Buscetto's name out of a report of the investigation.

Passero said Saturday it was inappropriate for Finizio to release the Shrine report that contained damaging and unflattering descriptions of Buscetto's behavior, without also releasing the judge's report, which found the police chief had no basis for any lawsuit against the city.

"I disagree strongly that he only released the Shrine report,'' Passero said. "How do you release information that is damaging on one side and not release the one document that gives an unbiased opinion.''

Passero said he received the report Friday night but did not read it until Saturday. He immediately sent it to all councilors and the media.

He classified the Shrine report as "raw investigative data,'' which is rarely made public.

"It can hurt people's reputations,'' he said. "You don't treat people like that."

Passero said he met Friday morning with Finizio about the judge's report and all other documents and they agreed to meet next week with the entire council in executive session to decide how to proceed.

"I'm not sure what action the council will take,'' he said.

Hodgson's report focused on the potential liability of the city and individuals as a result of allegations raised in an Aug. 24 letter to the city by Ackley's attorney, Shelley Graves.

"The chief's theory appears to be that Mr. Buscetto acted on behalf of the city in disparaging her and undermining her authority by remarks made to others, including police department personnel," Hodgson wrote. "It seems most like to me that the outcome of a trial would … result in a conclusion that acts complained of are those of Mr. Buscetto, as an individual politician, not acting on behalf of or by the authority of the city, and the motivation is likely to be found in political rivalries and allegiances rather than gender discrimination."

Hodgson found that Ackley would have an "extremely difficult time" recovering damages in a lawsuit against the city. Nevertheless, the former judge wrote that the "settlement value" of Ackley's claims would be under $30,000, "though the expense of defending against a lawuit, if it were brought, would be much higher."

Finizio, in his statement Saturday night, criticized Passero's release of the Hodgson report.

"The settlement reached with Chief Ackley was within the recommended settlement suggested in the Judge's report," the mayor said. "While this report was not conclusive, ongoing investigations are further examining some of the same matters previously examined by the judge. I have always believed that only with an outside investigation can such matters be fully and properly investigated. I base this on my experience as a former criminal justice analyst who conducted oversight investigations into the New York Police Department from 2000-2002.

"I ask all New Londoners to reserve judgment on this developing matter until a thorough outside investigation can be concluded."

, January 10, 2012



After America

How does the world look in an age of U.S. decline? Dangerously unstable.


Not so long ago, a high-ranking Chinese official, who obviously had concluded that America's decline and China's rise were both inevitable, noted in a burst of candor to a senior U.S. official: "But, please, let America not decline too quickly." Although the inevitability of the Chinese leader's expectation is still far from certain, he was right to be cautious when looking forward to America's demise.

For if America falters, the world is unlikely to be dominated by a single preeminent successor -- not even China. International uncertainty, increased tension among global competitors, and even outright chaos would be far more likely outcomes.

While a sudden, massive crisis of the American system -- for instance, another financial crisis -- would produce a fast-moving chain reaction leading to global political and economic disorder, a steady drift by America into increasingly pervasive decay or endlessly widening warfare with Islam would be unlikely to produce, even by 2025, an effective global successor. No single power will be ready by then to exercise the role that the world, upon the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, expected the United States to play: the leader of a new, globally cooperative world order. More probable would be a protracted phase of rather inconclusive realignments of both global and regional power, with no grand winners and many more losers, in a setting of international uncertainty and even of potentially fatal risks to global well-being. Rather than a world where dreams of democracy flourish, a Hobbesian world of enhanced national security based on varying fusions of authoritarianism, nationalism, and religion could ensue.

The leaders of the world's second-rank powers, among them India, Japan, Russia, and some European countries, are already assessing the potential impact of U.S. decline on their respective national interests. The Japanese, fearful of an assertive China dominating the Asian mainland, may be thinking of closer links with Europe. Leaders in India and Japan may be considering closer political and even military cooperation in case America falters and China rises. Russia, while perhaps engaging in wishful thinking (even schadenfreude) about America's uncertain prospects, will almost certainly have its eye on the independent states of the former Soviet Union. Europe, not yet cohesive, would likely be pulled in several directions: Germany and Italy toward Russia because of commercial interests, France and insecure Central Europe in favor of a politically tighter European Union, and Britain toward manipulating a balance within the EU while preserving its special relationship with a declining United States. Others may move more rapidly to carve out their own regional spheres: Turkey in the area of the old Ottoman Empire, Brazil in the Southern Hemisphere, and so forth. None of these countries, however, will have the requisite combination of economic, financial, technological, and military power even to consider inheriting America's leading role.

China, invariably mentioned as America's prospective successor, has an impressive imperial lineage and a strategic tradition of carefully calibrated patience, both of which have been critical to its overwhelmingly successful, several-thousand-year-long history. China thus prudently accepts the existing international system, even if it does not view the prevailing hierarchy as permanent. It recognizes that success depends not on the system's dramatic collapse but on its evolution toward a gradual redistribution of power. Moreover, the basic reality is that China is not yet ready to assume in full America's role in the world. Beijing's leaders themselves have repeatedly emphasized that on every important measure of development, wealth, and power, China will still be a modernizing and developing state several decades from now, significantly behind not only the United States but also Europe and Japan in the majorper capita indices of modernity and national power. Accordingly, Chinese leaders have been restrained in laying any overt claims to global leadership.

At some stage, however, a more assertive Chinese nationalism could arise and damage China's international interests. A swaggering, nationalistic Beijing would unintentionally mobilize a powerful regional coalition against itself. None of China's key neighbors -- India, Japan, and Russia -- is ready to acknowledge China's entitlement to America's place on the global totem pole. They might even seek support from a waning America to offset an overly assertive China. The resulting regional scramble could become intense, especially given the similar nationalistic tendencies among China's neighbors. A phase of acute international tension in Asia could ensue. Asia of the 21st century could then begin to resemble Europe of the 20th century -- violent and bloodthirsty.

At the same time, the security of a number of weaker states located geographically next to major regional powers also depends on the international status quo reinforced by America's global preeminence -- and would be made significantly more vulnerable in proportion to America's decline. The states in that exposed position -- including Georgia, Taiwan, South Korea, Belarus, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, and the greater Middle East -- are today's geopolitical equivalents of nature's most endangered species. Their fates are closely tied to the nature of the international environment left behind by a waning America, be it ordered and restrained or, much more likely, self-serving and expansionist.

A faltering United States could also find its strategic partnership with Mexico in jeopardy. America's economic resilience and political stability have so far mitigated many of the challenges posed by such sensitive neighborhood issues as economic dependence, immigration, and the narcotics trade. A decline in American power, however, would likely undermine the health and good judgment of the U.S. economic and political systems. A waning United States would likely be more nationalistic, more defensive about its national identity, more paranoid about its homeland security, and less willing to sacrifice resources for the sake of others' development. The worsening of relations between a declining America and an internally troubled Mexico could even give rise to a particularly ominous phenomenon: the emergence, as a major issue in nationalistically aroused Mexican politics, of territorial claims justified by history and ignited by cross-border incidents.

Another consequence of American decline could be a corrosion of the generally cooperative management of the global commons -- shared interests such as sea lanes, space, cyberspace, and the environment, whose protection is imperative to the long-term growth of the global economy and the continuation of basic geopolitical stability. In almost every case, the potential absence of a constructive and influential U.S. role would fatally undermine the essential communality of the global commons because the superiority and ubiquity of American power creates order where there would normally be conflict.

None of this will necessarily come to pass. Nor is the concern that America's decline would generate global insecurity, endanger some vulnerable states, and produce a more troubled North American neighborhood an argument for U.S. global supremacy. In fact, the strategic complexities of the world in the 21st century make such supremacy unattainable. But those dreaming today of America's collapse would probably come to regret it. And as the world after America would be increasingly complicated and chaotic, it is imperative that the United States pursue a new, timely strategic vision for its foreign policy -- or start bracing itself for a dangerous slide into global turmoil.

MONDAY, January 9, 2012



Iran is not our enemy

Submitted by SHNS on Wed, 01/04/2012 - 13:55

JERUSALEM - Iran is not our enemy. The regime that enriches itself while murdering, oppressing and impoverishing ordinary Iranians, the regime that incites genocide against Israel, threatens its neighbors in the Persian Gulf and vows to bring about a "world without America" -- that is our enemy. This was one of the key points driven home by a trio of extraordinary individuals gathered for a dinner in Tel Aviv last week.

At the table were Bernard Lewis, for my money the greatest living historian of the Middle East; Uri Lubrani, Israel's envoy to Iran prior to the fall of the Shah and an adviser to leaders of the Jewish state ever since; and Meir Dagan, a retired paratrooper, commando and general who was recruited in 2002 by Prime Minster Ariel Sharon to rebuild the Mossad as an intelligence agency "with a knife in its teeth." A small group of American national security professionals -- from the Hill, the Defense Department, Homeland Security, even the D.C. police department -- broke pita with them.

None of the three minimizes how dire will be the consequences should Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's finger come to rest on a nuclear trigger. The Iranian president subscribes to an extremist school of Shia theology that, Dagan explained, looks forward to an apocalyptic war that would "hasten the arrival of the Mahdi," mankind's ultimate savior. But he thinks Ahmadinejad and his associates are not as close as many analysts believe to acquiring a nuclear capability. "Two years to have such a weapon, in my estimation," he said.

If that is correct -- a big if -- it means we have a little time to find out whether tough measures short of military force can be effective. Dagan notes, too, that bombing Iran's nuclear facilities would not end the regime's pursuit of nuclear weapons: It will only delay it by perhaps two or three years. The technology, the expertise and the components are all-too-easily available.

The larger point is this: Guns don't kill people; people kill people. It is the regime that rules Iran, more than weapons or the facilities in which they are produced, that constitutes the real problem. From that it follows that changing the regime -- not destroying its hardware -- is the higher goal.

Lubrani, who predicted Iran's 1979 revolution -- when then-President Jimmy Carter, among others, saw Iran "an island of stability" -- believes regime change is a realistic goal. Indeed, he is convinced there will be another Iranian revolution and that it can come about sooner rather than later -- soon enough rather than too late.

Which raises the question: Based on the analyses of the historian, the diplomat and the spy can a coherent strategy be constructed? I'd argue that it might begin with four specific policies:

1. Tighten the sanctions noose to maximally increase pressure on the Iranian economy. Sanctions can work if we focus on reducing oil revenues to Iran. European countries should impose an embargo on purchases. Other countries should drive for discounts. The fewer the number of buyers, the higher the discounts -- and the lower Iran's oil revenue.

2. The threat of force must be credible. Iran's rulers should lose sleep over the possibility that a military strike -- against their nuclear facilities or against them more directly -- may be seen by Americans and/or Israelis as the least bad option.

3. Help Syria break free of Iran. Under Bashar al-Assad, Syria has been Iran's bridge into the Arab and Sunni worlds. An incredibly brave Syrian opposition is attempting to bring down the dynasty. The loss of Syria would be a heavy blow to the Tehran regime. America and the West should do all they can to support the rebels.

4. Iran's anti-regime opposition also deserves moral support and material assistance. That should have begun in 2009 when, in the wake of blatantly fraudulent elections, mass protests broke out in Tehran. Lewis lamented: "We have not done a damn thing to help them. It's a mind-boggling absurdity."

Finally, take into account the context: In what has been misperceived as an "Arab Spring," the downtrodden masses in Egypt and elsewhere may be coming to the conclusion that "Islam is the answer." Iranians, having tested that proposition over decades, know it is the wrong answer. Rule by mullahs has made them less free and poorer then they ever were under the Shah. These disenchanted Iranians, Lewis, Lubrani and Dagan agree, may offer the best hope for the Muslim world -- and for winding down the global war against the West.

(Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism. E-mail him at cliff(at)

SUNDAY, January 8, 2012

"La cicala su'la pianta
tutto l'estate canta e canta,
e dispreze la formica
che lavore e fatica.
Ma l'inverno presto viene.
Mori di fame chi canto'.
E ripose e vive bene
chi l'estate lavoro."

If Italians created a new version as some Americans are doing,  I don't know it.  But I doubt it


Are you an ant or a grasshopper?

This one is a little different .....
Two Different Versions ......
Two Different Morals


The ant works
 hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and 
laying up supplies for the winter. 

The grasshopper
  thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.
Come winter, the ant is warm
 and well fed. 
The grasshopper has
 no food or shelter, 
so he dies out in the cold.


Be responsible for yourself!


The ant works hard
 in the withering heat and the rain all summer long, building his house
and laying up supplies for the winter. 

The grasshopper thinks the ant
 is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while he is cold and starving. 

 and ABC 
show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant
 in his comfortable home with 
a table filled with food.
America is stunned by the sharp contrast.

How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is
allowed to suffer so? 

Kermit the Frog
 on Oprah
with the grasshopper
 and everybody cries when they sing, 'It's Not Easy Being Green..'

 a demonstration in front of the ant's house where the news stations film the group singing,We shall overcome.

Then Rev. Jeremiah Wright
has the group kneel down to pray for the grasshopper's sake. 

President Obama
condemns the ant
and blames
  President Bush, President Reagan, Christopher Columbus, and the Pope  for the grasshopper's plight. 

Nancy Pelosi & Harry Reid
  exclaim in an interview with Larry King that the ant has
gotten rich off the back of the
and both call for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his fair share.

Finally, the EEOC drafts
 the Economic Equity & Anti-Grasshopper Act
retroactive to the beginning of
  the summer. 

The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and,
  nothing left to  pay his retroactive 
taxes, his home is confiscated by the  Government
  Green Czar and given  to the grasshopper.

The story ends as we see the grasshopper and his free-loading
  friends finishing up the last bits of the ant's food while the government house he is  in, which, as you recall, just happens to be the ant's old house, crumbles around them because the grasshopper doesn't  maintain it. 

The ant has
  disappeared in the snow, 
never to be seen again.

The grasshopper 
 is found  dead in a drug related incident, and the house, now  abandoned, is taken over by a gang of  spiders  who terrorize and ramshackle the once prosperous  and peaceful neighborhood. 

The entire Nation collapses
 bringi ng the rest 
of the free world with it.


Be careful how you vote in 2012

SATURDAY, January 7, 2012


Two articles which appeared recently in The Day ( frame the basic diverging diagnoses regarding "what ails the Middle Class". 
The first, published on Dec. 27, is entitled "Middle Class Played Starring Role In Its Decline From Glory Days", by Froma Harrop.  It is a true, sober, castor oil analysis...and the only diagnosis which can lead to proper treatment. 
The other, published on Jan. 5, is entitled "The Troubling Reality Of An Imperiled Middle Class", by David Ignatius.  It drips with honey: "Poor baby".  WAKE UP, EVERYBODY.  A position in the Middle Class, or higher, needs to be earned...not inherited or donated or deserved or "entitled to".  And the first step is a proper Education, properly appreciated and properly absorbed through application and perspiration.  Those who know and seek this can get up to and keep up to speed.  The others can and should wallow in their self-pity in some lower reaches of our society while they wait for some fairy god-mother to award them "self-image".  And that's the way it is, at least in this country.


FRIDAY, January 6, 2012

Coast Guard says it's not tied to New London

By Jennifer McDermott

Publication: The Day

Published 01/06/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 01/06/2012 09:07 PM

New London - If its academy can't expand in the city, the U.S. Coast Guard may consider moving some of its programs elsewhere.

And it also may change its plans to build a national museum here.

Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., the Coast Guard commandant, said Thursday that the school has reached capacity at its current site along the Thames River. The Coast Guard made an offer to purchase a portion of the abutting Riverside Park to use for expansion, but city residents voted down that sale in November.

"I don't foresee any time in my lifetime that we would even consider relocating the academy," Papp said in an interview at the academy Thursday. "But I think there are certain functions that are here, within the walls of the Coast Guard Academy, that we could justifiably and reasonably look at moving to other locations."

Both the Leadership Development Center and a simulator used for training could be moved to free up space at the academy, he said.

The defeat of the Riverside Park purchase also may change plans to build the National Coast Guard Museum here in the city.

Papp said he sensed during the deliberations that there is a constituency that views the Coast Guard, or the federal government, as intruding into city affairs and taking its property. He said he wants to "be sensitive" to that and is looking at sites both in and outside of New London for the future museum.

Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said Thursday that the Riverside Park vote was not a rejection of the Coast Guard. Instead, he said, people likened the sale to the eminent domain fight at Fort Trumbull, where many residents of the neighborhood lost their homes.

"I simply believe that the people of the City of New London felt that, yet again, the land of a poor neighborhood was being taken out from under them at a cheap price with little forewarning," Finizio said. "It would be taken permanently off the tax rolls and sold to an institution with interests outside of New London."

Papp is "misreading the vote" if he feels the city or its leadership does not welcome or appreciate the Coast Guard or the Coast Guard Academy, Finizio said. "I look forward to speaking to the admiral directly so I can give him that assurance," he added.

The Leadership Development Center offers 22 leadership courses to more than 6,500 officer, enlisted and civilian Coast Guard personnel annually, as well as technical skills training. The center, which opened on the academy grounds in 1998, has 85 employees, 56 of whom are stationed in New London.

A simulator used for training at the academy is obsolete. Papp said he likes the synergy the Coast Guard gains by having both the center and simulator at the academy. But without the real estate to expand, "We have to look at all our options and come up with courses of action for the future," he said.

The Coast Guard has training centers in Yorktown, Va., and Petaluma, Calif., where it could be easier to build, Papp said.

Finizio said there are options within the city for the academy to expand. He said he would not discuss the details because doing so would compromise any future negotiations.

"My administration wants to be a valued partner with the Coast Guard and help them in any way possible to do their mission and maintain their current operations, their expanded operations and their museum here in New London, which is their natural home," Finizio said.

Papp said he hasn't heard from the new mayor yet and is interested in hearing his proposals. "Maybe there is some other solution to taking care of our increased needs here," he said. "But short of that, we also have the option to go other places."

The legislation that established the museum states that it will be built in New London. Possible sites include Fort Trumbull, Union Station and Riverside Park - if the sale had been approved.

Papp said he loves New London and envisions a museum in the city, but there are other places that would like to have it. Battery Park in New York City is one option for an alternate site, he said, noting that laws can be changed.

"I really want to get a museum going, but does New London want us to expand in this area? Is there a base of support for a museum in the New London area?" Papp said. "If people are going to invest in this, they want to know that the Coast Guard is welcome, the museum is welcome and the public will support it.

"We're sorting through all these things right now."

Museum association treasurer John Johnson said the association plans to submit a report in the coming weeks that compares the Fort Trumbull site to Union Station. The fundraising is on hold until the site is selected.

The Coast Guard, Johnson said, "got rejected and they don't feel quite so hot for New London, and I can understand that."

"Time heals all wounds, and hopefully that wound will heal also," he said.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said the possibility that the Coast Guard will reduce its presence in New London is "a very serious issue for the region." He said he spoke to the academy's superintendent and the mayor to urge the two sides to figure out a solution.

"Other parts of the country would drool over the opportunity to have a military academy as part of their future," Courtney said. "If we start seeing pieces of it taken out of the area, it would be a real loss to Connecticut."

THURSDAY, January 5, 2012

If this is true, I wish that we had thought of it in timely fashion.  But maybe never too late...


The Day must follow up on its 2011 top story

Astrea Sieglaff Hupfel Waterford

Publication: The Day

Published 01/02/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 12/30/2011 05:40 PM

Budget concerns in this economy and New London's high property taxes made the $2.9 million the Coast Guard was willing to pay for half of Riverside Park look good to almost half of the city's voters. The referendum question did not offer a proposal for how the proceeds from the sale of half of the park would be used. When public land, given to the city, is sold, it must be replaced. That is the law.

Suppose a plan to use the proceeds from the sale to construct a walkway from the downtown boardwalk to a Fort Trumbull concert stage (where the Coast Guard and others could perform their free concerts for the public) had been a choice for voters to make on the referendum question. The law would have been satisfied and a compromise could have been found.

Was the referendum question legally binding with no replacement offered? The "Top Story" has not been concluded. Please follow-up.

WEDNESDAY, January 4, 2012


After all the "Sturm und Drang" of the Republican candidate debates and the negative TV ads shattering "Reagan's Rule" (ie: " Thou Shalt Not Speak Ill Of A Fellow Republican"), the "winner" in Iowa takes it by 8 votes out of over 60,000 votes cast. 

Talk about "making lemonade out of a lemon", this situation could be exactly the medicine that a sick Republican Party needs before it goes out to do battle with a Democratic Party run amok!  (News Flash: I was a Democrat for 30 years, running and winning local elected offices in three out of four tries...until the Democrats left me, literally and philosophically).

Who and what is the Republican Party?  We are about to find out during the next weeks, as the People decide.  Let the debate for the body and soul of the Party continue.  The result will be a better, stronger and more representative  Republican Presidential Candidate than would have developed had the choice been left to a few fat cats in a few smoky rooms.


TUESDAY, January 3
, 2012

The health connection is probably true, the "unethical" actions of the industries are very likely true, and the mechanism is probably through genetic mutations causing our current epidemic of cancers of all types. 
We have seen this with the asbestos story and the tobacco story, each having been suppressed for forty to fifty years before society took action, thanks to the concerted actions of "dissembling miscreants" in industry and in our Government, and to the stupidity of our fellow citizens. All of those ingredients are in play with this issue as well. 
I will do what I can to get the word out.  Meanwhile, I will protect myself and mine.


Harvard lawyers learn institutional corruption within the wireless industry

December 31, 2011. On Nov. 3, Dr. Franz Adlkofer, former Executive Director of the VERUM Foundation for Behavior and Environment, spoke to a Harvard Law School audience as part of the lectures and events series hosted by the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.

In his lecture, “Protection Against Radiation is in Conflict with Science,” Adlkofer discussed the difficulties he and other scientists face when presenting research on the carcinogenic effects of electromagnetic fields emanating from cell phones. He also discussed the institutional corruption which he says obstructs their research.

Adlkofer described his experience with the EU-funded study REFLEX, which aimed to explore the effects of cell-phone radiation on the brain. The study’s conclusions demonstrated that low frequency as well as radiofrequency electromagnetic fields below the allowed exposure limits displayed gene-damaging potential.

In 2004, shortly after releasing those findings, Adlkofer was the target of allegations questioning the validity of the findings and even accusing him of fraud. While an ethics panel eventually dismissed the accusations, his struggle against slander continues, he said.

In May 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified high frequency electromagnetic fields including cell phone radiation as merely “possibly carcinogenic” for humans, Adlkofer said, but he pointed out that studies such as REFLEX were not taken into account in reaching that determination. Had they been, he said, the classification likely would have changed from “possibly” carcinogenic to “probably.”

“The practices of institutional corruption in the area of wireless communication are of enormous concern,” said Adlkofer, “if one considers the still uncertain outcome of the ongoing field study with five billion participants. Based on the unjustified trivializing reports distributed by the mass media by order and on account of the wireless communication industry, the general public cannot understand that its future wellbeing and health may be at stake. The people even distrust those scientists who warn. In democracies, it is a basic principle that above power and their owners are laws, rules, and regulations. Since in the area of wireless communication this principle has been severely violated it is in the interest of a democratic society to insist on its compliance.”

—Sophy Bishop

MONDAY, January 2, 2012

Based upon this position alone, if Romney becomes the Republican Presidential nominee, he will lose. Just another politician. Contrast this with Newt Gingrich's principled, imaginative and effective stands on this and on other vital issues. These can be reviewed in a recent article by Gingrich in the WSJ. ONCE AGAIN, WITH FEELING: THIS ELECTION IS FOR THE REPUBLICANS TO LOSE. AND THEY ARE GOING ABOUT IT IN JUST THE RIGHT WAY.


Romney says he would veto DREAM Act
By KASIE HUNT | AP – Sat, Dec 31, 2011.

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Saturday that he would veto legislation that would allow certain illegal residents to become American citizens.

"The answer is yes," Romney said during a campaign stop here in western Iowa, when he was asked if he would refuse to sign what's known as the DREAM Act.

Romney has said before that he would oppose the legislation, which would legalize some young illegal immigrants if they attend college or serve in the military. But Saturday was the first time he's explicitly said he would veto it.

Democrats immediately seized on Romney's remarks. "Wrong on principle and politics," David Axelrod, the Obama campaign's top political adviser wrote on Twitter in response. The Democratic National Committee called Romney's stance "appalling" in a written statement.

Immigration is likely to be a key issue in the general election, particularly in swing states like Florida, Nevada and Colorado, which have significant Hispanic populations.

Romney said he would support provisions of the bill that allow people to earn permanent residency if they serve in the military.

"I'm delighted with the idea that people who come to this country and wish to serve in the military can be given a path to become permanent residents of this country," Romney said in Iowa.

He was campaigning just three days before the state's Republican caucuses. A new poll shows Romney leading the field of GOP presidential candidates.

The most recent version of the DREAM Act would have provided a route to legal status for immigrants who were brought to the United States before age 16, have lived in the country for five years, graduated from high school or gained an equivalency degree and who joined the military or attend college.

It targeted the most sympathetic of the estimate 10 million to 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States — those brought to the country as children, and who in many cases consider themselves American, speak English and have no ties to their native countries.

Critics of the bill called it a backdoor to amnesty that would encourage more foreigners to sneak into the United States in hopes of eventually being legalized.

SUNDAY, January 1, 2012

Charles Krauthammer: always a good read.  Here's food for thought. 

My own opinion: if there are any other intelligent beings out there...and there probably are not...they are too intelligent to have anything to do with us crazies.


Are we alone in the universe?
By , Published: December 29

Huge excitement last week. Two Earth-size planetsfound orbiting a sun-like star less than a thousand light-years away. This comes two weeks after the stunning announcement of another planet orbiting another star at precisely the right distance — within the “habitable zone” that is not too hot and not too cold — to allow for liquid water and therefore possible life.

Unfortunately, the planets of the right size are too close to their sun, and thus too scorching hot, to permit Earth-like life. And the Goldilocks planet in the habitable zone is too large. At 2.4 times the size of Earth, it is probably gaseous, like Jupiter. No earthlings there. But it’s only a matter of time — perhaps a year or two, estimates one astronomer — before we find the right one of the right size in the right place.

And at just the right time. As the romance of manned space exploration has waned, the drive today is to find our living, thinking counterparts in the universe. For all the excitement, however, the search betrays a profound melancholy — a lonely species in a merciless universe anxiously awaits an answering voice amid utter silence.

That silence is maddening. Not just because it compounds our feeling of cosmic isolation, but because it makes no sense. As we inevitably find more and more exo-planets where intelligent life can exist, why have we found no evidence — no signals, no radio waves — that intelligent life does exist?

It’s called the Fermi Paradox, after the great physicist who once asked, “Where is everybody?” Or as was once elaborated: “All our logic, all our anti- isocentrism, assures us that we are not unique — that they must be there. And yet we do not see them.”

How many of them should there be? The Drake Equation (1961) tries to quantify the number of advanced civilizations in just our own galaxy. To simplify slightly, it’s the number of stars in the galaxy . . .

multiplied by the fraction that form planets . . .

multiplied by the average number of planets in the habitable zone . . .

multiplied by the fraction of these that give birth to life . . .

multiplied by the fraction of these that develop intelligence . . .

multiplied by the fraction of these that produce interstellar communications . . .

multiplied by the fraction of the planet’s lifetime during which such civilizations survive.

Modern satellite data, applied to the Drake Equation, suggest that the number should be very high. So why the silence? Carl Sagan (among others) thought that the answer is to be found, tragically, in the final variable: the high probability that advanced civilizations destroy themselves.

In other words, this silent universe is conveying not a flattering lesson about our uniqueness but a tragic story about our destiny. It is telling us that intelligence may be the most cursed faculty in the entire universe — an endowment not just ultimately fatal but, on the scale of cosmic time, nearly instantly so.

This is not mere theory. Look around. On the very day that astronomers rejoiced at the discovery of the two Earth-size planets, the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity urged two leading scientific journals not to publish details of lab experiments that had created a lethal and highly transmittable form of bird flu virus, lest that fateful knowledge fall into the wrong hands.

Wrong hands, human hands. This is not just the age of holy terror but also the threshold of an age of hyper-proliferation. Nuclear weapons in the hands of half-mad tyrants (North Korea) and radical apocalypticists (Iran) are only the beginning. Lethal biologic agents may soon find their way into the hands of those for whom genocidal pandemics loosed upon infidels are the royal road to redemption.

And forget the psychopaths: Why, a mere 17 years after Homo sapiens — born 200,000 years ago — discovered atomic power, those most stable and sober states, America and the Soviet Union, came within inches of mutual annihilation.

Rather than despair, however, let’s put the most hopeful face on the cosmic silence and on humanity’s own short, already baleful history with its new Promethean powers: Intelligence is a capacity so godlike, so protean that it must be contained and disciplined. This is the work of politics — understood as the ordering of society and the regulation of power to permit human flourishing while simultaneously restraining the most Hobbesian human instincts.

There could be no greater irony: For all the sublimity of art, physics, music, mathematics and other manifestations of human genius, everything depends on the mundane, frustrating, often debased vocation known as politics (and its most exacting subspecialty — statecraft). Because if we don’t get politics right, everything else risks extinction.

We grow justly weary of our politics. But we must remember this: Politics — in all its grubby, grasping, corrupt, contemptible manifestations — is sovereign in human affairs. Everything ultimately rests upon it.

Fairly or not, politics is the driver of history. It will determine whether we will live long enough to be heard one day. Out there. By them, the few — the only — who got it right.

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