Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy thanksgiving-- a patriotic message

Well, I didn't want the last thing that I posted before taking off to the middle east to be something as sad and disheartening (and political) as war crimes. As I have tried to let everybody know, I'm extremely busy with deadlines, wrapping my term up early in preparation for a solid month of work in what amounts to another world. Traveling to the middle east is one of those things that does cause me to count my blessings as an American.

And so, I thought it only appropriate that I should tell what I am thankful for and also make the distinction that cannot be made clearly enough between my unhappiness with the actions of my government and the love for my country, my home.

First of all, I couldn't be more thankful to simply have this experience we call life. I guess it's my way of saying "God first," on my thankful list as if by stating anything with the word God in it makes it clear. I don't pretend to know what God is, what shape or gender God takes. Aside from the statement made in Genesis that "God created man in his own image," I don't know whether that is to be taken metaphorically or if the maleness of that statement was just the writing style of the times-- even Jane Goodall, in the early part of her career, spoke of "man" when referring to humankind, Latin uses the plural male form of a noun when referring to male and female together in the plural form. But, what I do have is a profound sense that the mere fact that I can utter these thoughts about something as dark and intangible as what reason or madness is responsible for our existence and awareness of ourselves is in itself a miracle and one that I, in all of my Madisonian logic (if you knew my family you would know what I am talking about ), cannot solely attribute to a mere accident of physics. So, here's to being here. We have won the lottery and have at least a one way ticket on this ride (hats off to my buddhist friends) that we can be sure of. That, my friends, is something to be thankful for.

I am thankful for my family. I couldn't be luckier. We have the usual foibles of any family, the usual groans over this or that member that are the hallmarks of any good family. We aren't perfect but we love each other and more importantly, we accept each other. Shrinking that to the nucleus we have at home, I am blessed again. We love and fight and laugh like the best of them. We are loud in everything we do, but when we have a group hug, even the dog gets up on her hind legs and joins in.

And I am thankful for America. We are as corrupt as any country in the world but we have a couple of things that some countries do not. We have the right to say that out loud and to publish it here. We have the right to make change as a people, like we did in this last election that not only led to a paradigm shift of political power but the long overdue ousting of Donald Rumsfeld-- but we, as a people, got it done. We have checks and balances, investigators and prosecutors that bring down at least some of the rotten politicians. But, again I wax political and this is not exactly what I want to say. We have something even more important than that. We have the American Dream. I was flying on this same journey last year and seated next a man from Finland. And as we have lost the respect of most of the world there is always a little feeling of apology when you say that you are American abroad. He was quick to tell me how much he loved America and Americans. Then he said, "do you know why?" I asked him why and he said, "Because everybody has a plan. Everybody has a dream. Everybody is going to be rich or make it big and even if it doesn't happen they still have that dream and maybe next year. In Finland, if you are a carpenter you will probably be a carpenter and that's it." I hadn't really thought about it like that or maybe just assumed that's the way life was-- it certainly has been true for me and mine-- always scheming, always dreaming, going back to school or changing careers, writing novels or screenplays, holding out for "the plan" to work its magic. He gave me back a sense of what was great about being American.

So, heres to you, America, you sower of seeds, you conjurer of dreams. Happy Thanksgiving to one and all, whatever it may mean to you. And may peace find you on this day.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Update on War Crimes Complaint

Hiya folks, thanks for the amazing responses to my previous post on War Crimes. The discussion is still going strong. As an update, the Complaint has been filed. Interestingly enough, my local newspaper, which is fairly liberal being in Greenie Eugenie, made no mention of it. I went to NY Times online and didn't see it in the world section but did keep digging (I think I found it in European news) and came up with something pretty deeply buried.

Below is testimony I found on the CCR (Center for Consitutional Rights) site ( by Brigadier General Janis Karpinksi that is rather compelling. She has flown to Germany to testify. Check out what she has to say:

Sunday, November 12, 2006

War Crimes

One of the things that has bugged me since the capture of Saddam Hussein has been some of the charges which he is being tried for. When there is talk of his killing innocent people in reprisal for their complicity in the first gulf war or as a reprisal for an assassination attempt, when there is talk of incarcerating people against their will, torturing them and having them die at the hands of their torturers, I have to wince. Though Saddam is being charged with the coup de gras of all war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and he's not welcome at my barbecues, many of the things I read about in the course of his trial sound eerily familiar.

I had begun to wonder, as Abu Ghraib came out, as the entire reason for our bombing a nation turned out to be null and void, as the death toll in Iraq mounted, if ever there would be a similar trial for Bush and company someday.

Well, Bush and company must have wondered that too as you may know that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 passed last month as a response to the Hamdan Vs. Rumsfeld Supreme Court ruling that “held that military commissions set up by the Bush administration to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay violate both the UCMJ and the four Geneva Conventions”—“effectively declaring that trying Guantanamo Bay detainees under the Guantanamo military commission (known also as Military Tribunal) was illegal under US law and the Geneva Conventions.” Both quotes from Wikipedia
he Military Commission act of 2006 is “a controversial bill that allows the president to designate certain people with the status of enemy combatants thus making them subject to military commissions, where they have fewer civil rights than in regular trials” (Wikipedia). What you may not know about the Military Commission was that it granted officials retroactive immunity from prosecution for war crimes.

Something else that you may not know is that on Tuesday, November 14, a criminal complaint will be filed under the Code of Crimes Against International Law in the International Criminal Court in Germany. The complaint is being filled by the following individuals and organizations along with much new evidence.

The Plaintiffs:

The Center for Constitutional Rights
The International Federation of Human Rights
The Republican Attorneys Association
The International Bureau of Peace (Nobel Prize winner 1910)
The 1980 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Adolfo Perez Esquivel
2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Almada
The National Lawyers Guild
International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms
Lawyers Against the War
European Democratic lawyers
European Democratic Jurists
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights
Veterans for Peace.

The Defendants:

Former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld
Former CIA Director George Tenet
Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Dr. Stephen Cambone
Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez
Major General Walter Wojdakowski
Major General Geoffrey Miller
Colonel Thomas Pappas
Former Chief White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales
Former Assistant Attorney Jay Bybee
Former Deputy Assistant attorney General John Yoo
General Counsel of the Department of Defense William James Haynes II
Vice President Chief Counsel David S. Addington

The complaint alleges that high-ranking US officials authorized war crimes in the context of the so-called “War on Terror.” It alleges that the US administration has treated hundreds if not thousands of detainees in a coercive manner and tortured them in violation of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the 1977 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1984 Conventions Against Torture, to all of which the US is a party.

Some of you may recall that this is a retrial of sorts for some of the defendants of the 2004/2005 complaint that was dismissed. The reason for the dismissal was that the judicial body had no reason to believe that America was not carrying out investigations of their own into the allegations of war crimes. However, the backlash of the Military Commission Act of 2006 is that by granting amnesty to high ranking US officials coupled with the fact that American prosecution and investigation into the war crimes at Abu Ghraib only touched the lower ranking officials is allowing the case to be reopened. The CCR has also stated that new defendants have been added, much new evidence of war crimes has surfaced and a former Brigadier General will now provide testimony for the plaintiffs.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Tom’s Challenge-- The Riddler 3 Results

First of all, this one was kind of a poker game for me. To explain this, I need to give you the answers first today:

The three people being discussed were:

1) Silence Dogood,-- the alias for a Boston woman who wrote letters to the editor of the Courant, a newspaper started by one James Franklinaround 1622. Silence wrote letters that satirized the puritanical ethics of the dominant Boston family, specifically it’s patriarch,:
2) Cotton Mather. Much to the Chagrin of Cotton and his kin, this rebellious newspaper, especially publishing the sharp-tongued letters of Silence Dogood, was becoming popular in its rebellion. Even the pseudonym, Silence Dogood, was a play on words as Mather had published two works prior to the arrival of Silence on the scene: Silentarius and Bonifacius or Essays to Do Good.

However, James Franklin had no idea who was behind the Silence Dogood letters that were found slipped under the door of the print shop. In fact they were the work of a very precocious and ingenious apprentice of his, the one setting the lead type and printing the paper (hence the reference to lead being mightier than swords or pens)—his 16 year old younger brother:

3) Benjamin Franklin. James Franklin was less poetic and mysterious in his assaults on the Puritan “ruling class” of Boston and his words landed him in jail and eventually on the lamb from the sheriff. One of the more interesting facts about the younger Franklin’s life was the fact that in order for James’ newspaper to continue, he was forced to sign the management and editing of the print shop over to Benjamin, to prove that he was no longer printing and in compliance with a gag order of sorts.

And so, Benjamin Franklin became the manager and the editor of a Newspaper at the ripe age of 16.

The reason that I gave the answers first was to show that I was gambling that the words “silence” and “cotton” were mundane enough that they wouldn’t be googled. If you simply google those two words you get the answer immediately. I also had to use improper grammar and not capitalize the two proper nouns or I found it drew way too much attention to those words. A bit of a cheat.

As it was, my ruse worked fairly well. The poker analogy is that I gave you the answers up front and so confidently that I was sort of bluffing that you would think them unimportant. Guess I can’t use that trick again, however.

First place: The most unfooled and quickest to the draw was: Goldennib! I always ask my winners how they found their way to the answers—if they just already knew them, or partially so, or if it was their mastery of research (or some combination). I haven’t heard back from Goldennib on this yet but she sure was fast! Perhaps she googled silence and cotton!

Second Place: Quilldancer! Quilly got Benjamin Franklin and Cotton Mather but not Silecne Dogood and at one point, very aptly named James Franklin a the third person-- who did play a role in the whole satirizing of Mather. However, after telling her to try again a few times she did get the final answer: Silence Dogood.

Third place goes to Doug! Doug had an identical problem as Quilldancer and actually turned his answers in second and though I gave him prompts to keep trying for that third answer he let me know that he was headed out of town and probably wouldn’t be able to continue to play.

Honorable mention this time goes to O Ceallaigh for the most complicated wrong answer yet received for our game. Sometimes, OC, being smart is a curse. I’m going to cut and paste his answer to the riddle since I don’t even want to try and copy it:

“I'm going to guess that you're referring to:

Henri Braconnot
Theophile-Jules Pelouze
Christian Friedrich Schoenbein

All of whom were involved in stages of the discovery and refinement of the process resulting in gun cotton (nitrocellulose).”

Dude, get a PhD. Oh, too late.

Thanks for playing and visiting the site. Until next time…

Friday, November 10, 2006

Tom's Challenge- the riddler 3

Well this one is simple, making up for lost time. Due to the election and anniversaries and life in general, my challenge has been a bit slow to come about.

So here it is, nice and simple:

He mocked cotton in silence,
When lead was mightier than swords or pens.

Who are the three people this riddle is referring to?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

It's our anniversary!

This picture shows what Cindra was really getting into. It also shows the collective Brady bunch clan that we became.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It’s something, but the work goes on…

Change isn’t over with the election. We can celebrate the fact that the American people have shown the courage to make such a strong statement with their right to vote, but it doesn’t mean that everything will be instantly better. Personally I’m happy about the outcome of the election but I certainly don’t suffer from the delusion that there is but a hair’s thickness of difference between the dealmakers on either side of the aisle, much of the time. Let’s pray for the courage it will take to go the rest of the distance towards a less warring, more humanitarian and environmental state.

These are just a few of the headlines from the last week that summarize the mess we are in and how deep of a hole we have dug.

I celebrate the victory for change and pray that it really will be all that it promises to be. Peace, T

Wild seafood could be wiped out by midcentury

By Juliet Eilperin
The Washington Post
Published: Friday, November 3, 2006

WASHINGTON - An international group of ecologists and economists warned Thursday that the world will run out of seafood by 2048 if steep declines in marine species continue at current rates, based on a four-year study of catch data and the effects of fisheries collapses…

Britain Warns of High Costs of Global Warming

October 31, 2006, Tuesday

Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain warns that failure to act swiftly on global warming would have cataclysmic effect on global economy...

Bloody month ends, but violence doesn't
By Steven Hurst
The Associated Press
Published: Friday, November 3, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A blood-drenched October has passed into a violent early November as a motorcycle rigged with explosives ripped through a crowded Shiite market in Sadr City on Thursday and suspected Sunni insurgent gunmen killed a Shiite dean of Baghdad University.

The attacks showed no signs of abating after at least 1,272 Iraqis were killed in the first full month of autumn and the 43rd month of the U.S. bid to quell violence and build democracy in Iraq….

Rise in Iraqi refugees challenges U.N. agency
By Alexander Higgins
The Associated Press
Published: Saturday, November 4, 2006

GENEVA - Nearly 100,000 Iraqis are fleeing each month to Syria and Jordan, forcing the United Nations to set aside its goal of helping refugees return home after the U.S.-led invasion, officials said Friday…..

AWOL soldiers rethink any return to U.S. soil
By Brett Barrouquere
The Associated Press
Published: Sunday, November 5, 2006

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

UPDATE on Path to Peace

After some good feedback from friends and our own thoughts on the matter, C and I have decided to cut the prologue to the 2 documents at the Path to Peace site altogether. It was too subjective and might give an impression one way or another-- the mention of Quakersim and the litany of republican scandals certainly gives away that this is being put forth from a liberal point of view. I think that the letter of apology and Bill of Rights can stand alone without a bunch of gratuitous comments. This is truer to our wish for bipartisan support on this matter. Thanks to all for your continued support.

Peace, Tom

Monday, November 06, 2006

Peace blog is up

After much wrangling and reworking, Cindra and I have put together a blog poll called Path to Peace.

This new spot has a condensed version of the post I did at Sar's and two documents: one is an American apology letter which gives you the option of a) If you are an American would you sign this letter (comments available) and b) if you are not an American would the apology letter make you feel differently about America. The second document is the International Bill of Rights to which you can click yes or no to "sign" or not (and comments are active). I invite people to give their locations and we plan on having a map that will show where people have come from to visit and/or vote.

The entire thing is being done anonymously. Obviously, within our circle of bloggers, people already know that this originated at Sar's and may be aware that I am the author. I would love for you to post an announcement and direct people to this new site and vote if you feel comfortable doing so. Otherwise, I hope you will stop by and give feedback and maybe circulate this among your circle of friends. Within that, we ask that if people make comments who know that “Just Tom” is involved, not to use that name or address their comments to me. It is important that this is done without identity to ensure that it does not have any hidden agenda for furthering the cause of any party, group or individual.

Whatever you can do to help launch this on this election/peace day would be greatly appreciated. One by one we can spread the word— we are those butterfly wings, after all.

Peace and thanks,


Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Challenge results

First off, great job you guys. It was a slow start as many of my usual participants were somewhat indisposed but this brought in some who hadn’t played for a while and some who had not played before. So, it was good thing.

First the answers:

1. Archimedes
2. Eureka! Greek for “I’ve have found it!”
3. A circle inscribed in a cylinder

Onto the victors:

1st place honors go to O Ceallaigh. Much as he did in one of my first Challenges, I let him know in the course of some other correspondence that the game was on and the going slow. He came back immediately with the answers. So, congratulations to O Ceallaigh for coming back around and kicking riddle booty.

2nd place goes to the inimitable Quilldancer, who I’m sure would have snatched the prize had she not been tied up with grading. However, she did quite well finding the answers by simply googling siege+move ships and started seeing the name Archimedes. She is the master of searches, I think. Way to pinpoint the key words right off.

3rd place is someone new to the challenge but not new to many of us: Logophile. Logo happens to be teach a classical Greece class (though in what cpapcity I have not yet learned, and it struck a bell. She also remembered a Mythbusters (I love those guys) episode where they tried another of Archimedes tricks during that siege where he is said to have concentrated the heat of the sun through reflective material and burned whole ships like a giant death ray. The Mythbusters failed by the way to burn a ship in this manner.

Honorable mention: Someone came in just before I was to submit this and as we had so few people getting these answers I thought it would be worthy of a bit of spotlight. This is also someone new to my blog, though I have visited theirs and found it quite entertaining and made it onto at least two people’s list of five funny blogs—Diesel started it. Ladies and gentleman announcing The Drive By Blogger—take a bow Drive By.

Archimedes. I have an art deadline for a client 11 time zones away (morning is rapidly upon them) and so I won’t be able to give a long description here, but here are some interesting facts about Archimedes:

First off, Greek mathematicians, in the ilk of Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, etc. felt that the field of applied mathematics, i.e., engineering was a vulgar field and soiling ones hands to make something that might use their ingenious theories for money was well beneath them and left to lesser men. It was similar to the way we think of “selling out” today in the arts. If you are a mathematician, then you are a philosopher and philosopher is somewhat of an ascetic I suppose. Hence, Archimedes only wrote about one or two mechanical achievements and volumes on mathematics. The amazing instruments of destruction described by the Romans (Plutarch being the primary source) are sadly lost to us.

However, after giving a physics demonstration to his King, Hieron, of Syracuse about how leverage and mechanical advantage could bring a large ship up into dry dock from the sea with the ease of one man pulling a rope through a series of pulleys, King Hieron, astonished at what he saw, endeavored to give Archimedes the task of creating a mechanical defense system for his fortified kingdom. The King never lived to see it in use, however, as fate would have it a 75 year old Archimedes would be present to pull the ropes of his mechanized war machines against one General Marcellus (similar in sound to Marsalis, the famous New Orleans jazz family) which laid Syracuse under siege. Though the siege that came from the sea was 60 ships strong, equipped with catapults and a large army they were, according to the Roman account, mere trifles for Archimedes machines. Large arms came up and over the walls of the fortress and with beaklike claws, grabbed the prows of the ships and pulled them into the air, dropping them back down to sea in terrible destruction. Rocks, missiles of all sizes hurled from the walls, great poles came from the walls and sunk more ships. The report that he burned ships with a glass came in a much later report and were isolated to a less reliable source. The armies that made advances were wiped out by automatic missile launchers. It got to the point, according to accounts given, that if the soldiers were nearing the fortification and they caught a glimpse of the old man grabbing a piece of rope or wood that they fled in a panic. Marcellus could not get his army to fight against this one, 75 year old geometer.

Finally, Marcellus spotted a weakness in the castle design itself and saw a way he could sneak in under cover of an annual celebration to Diana. During the festivities when all were drinking and eating, Marcellus and his men made their way into the city and before anyone could do anything, they were occupied by the Roman force.

Marcellus had given strict orders to his men not to rape and pillage and especially wanted to meet Archimedes alive. However, as legend has it, a Roman soldier who did not know him, or so it is thought, found him drawing geometrical diagrams in the sand, deep in thought. He ignored the command of the soldier, some have him saying, “do not disturb my circles,” but either way he was run through by a Roman soldier after Syracuse fell against the will of the Roman General. Thus pinpointing his death to the fall of Syracuse to the Romans in 212 B.C.E.

Archimedes had instructed his friends and family to have a circle inscribed in a sphere upon his tomb with the ratio he discovered to solve geometrical problems of volume of a shape inside another shape—what he considered his greatest discovery. His Eureka! Exclamation came when he was asked by his king if he could determine whether a gold article received as a gift was pure gold or cut with silver. While taking a bath and seeing how his body displaced the water he got the idea of how to determine the King’s request using buoyancy. It was then that he was said to have run through the streets naked yelling “Eureka!”

Friday, November 03, 2006

some Clues for You

Okay, here are a couple of facts that might make a difference:

Those laying seige were Romans, the city under siege bears the name of a city on the Eastern seaboard of the United States and the Roman general in command of the siege has a name that sounds like the surname of some famous, contemporary Jazz musician brothers from New Orleans (not the Neville Brothers-- that's pop).

see if that makes a difference

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Here's this week's challenge. I'm working this new theme for a while. It's fun and I can use more cryptic terms. Though with this crew I doubt it will take long. Still it's fun to have a new fellow to talk about. Best of luck!

With a mind like his it is no wonder,
That he did toss whole ships asunder,
And thwart whole armies with wheels and rope,
To give a fortress days of hope.

Yet through stealthy acts the walls were breached,
And inside the fortress, the enemy reached,
They found him pondering dusty glyphs,
And commanded, “come,” though he stayed stiff.

Transfixed by what his mind had conjured,
He hushed them wait ‘til he discovered,
The answer to his diagram,
But an impatient sword, through him ran.

1. Who was he?
2. What is his most famous utterance?
3. What did he have placed upon his tomb?

Please e-mail in your answers. The game is played until we get three winners (first, second and third)