Friday, December 16, 2011

No Moral Qualities!!!

Hut, Hut, Holy Moly!

by

Keith Taylor



You're more likely to see a miracle at a football game than at Lourdes. Take the recent string of miracles taking place around the second-year quarterback playing for the Broncos. His "miracle" doesn't change much from game to game.



It goes something like this: A burly center looks back through his legs, then hikes the ball straight to a guy named Tebow who runs with it willy-nilly. Several linemen hit their opponents from the other side hard, knocking them silly. Silly knocking is a plus in football. The referee decides a blocker holding a defensive pass rusher by the shirt isn't a violation. The quarterback slips through an opening and makes a touchdown.



Then Tebow gets on his knees and thanks God.



That's worth a chuckle, but I dare not laugh. Hell . . . uh, heck, I better not even frown. Tebow is busy talking with God. This is a moment for piety, a time for me to recapture that pious look I used to effect at the alter rail at communion.



Most football fans, and all politicians, think football is so important the creator of a universe -- huge beyond description -- has a personal interest in it. They don't want no making fun of the deity, or his herald angels like guys named Tebow.



In America any dissenters from claims of our most favored religion are called heretics. That includes me. Naively I think believing in unsubstantiated claims is imprudent, but my thinking doesn't sway many people. Dissent in things religious is discouraged. In fact if I grumble about it too much I'll become a pariah, and Boy Scouts won't have me.



Tebow, of course, does not have those problems. Belief in things supernatural needs no verification. In fact asking for it is blasphemous, and woe unto the blasphemers.



And providence does indeed seem to be shining down on the young quarterback. He looks All-American, even ecumenical. Although he's a Baptist, his name sounds as if it emanated from Salt Lake City. It is on a par with Moab, Deseret, Lamanite, or Nephi.



He gets superstar type press coverage even though his "miracles" are merely average by NFL standards. Since becoming starting quarterback he has won six and lost one. Only in places like Buffalo would that be considered supernatural.



Claims of his heroism are protected by the true believers. Sean Hannity on Fox news went bonkers over the disrespect for a man who's setting such a good example for the youth of our country. Hannity, of course, loves to juxtapose the saintly demeanor of the shining knight in a Broncos helmet with the sinfulness of bad guys -- dopers and adulterers.



Reid Cherner in the Huffington Post quotes a football fan from Alabama (where else?) , as saying, "We are a nation founded upon religious freedom and expression. We're a melting pot. But instead of respecting and embracing our differences we're becoming more and more intolerant. To me, that's more egregious than anything Tim Tebow has done or will do. It's sad, really."



Could it be more egregious than having my a vice president once say an atheist could not be a citizen or patriotic. Or how about knowing that the majority of citizens would not vote for a dreaded non-believer no matter what their qualifications. Albert Einstein and Mark Twain wouldn't have a chance.



And as for intolerance, the Boy Scouts would only accept me if I claimed a belief in God. Otherwise little kids would be told I didn't have the moral qualities to be a scout.



Amen

Wrap...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

CIA & Open Source Intel...

From Secrecy News...

December 12, 2011

Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/


** CHARTER OF OPEN SOURCE ORG IS CLASSIFIED, CIA SAYS
** A SURVEY OF FEDERAL LAWS RELATED TO CYBERSECURITY


CHARTER OF OPEN SOURCE ORG IS CLASSIFIED, CIA SAYS

Open Source Works, which is the CIA's in-house open source analysis component, is devoted to intelligence analysis of unclassified, open source information. Oddly, however, the directive that established Open Source Works is classified, as is the charter of the organization. In fact, CIA says the very existence of any such records is a classified fact.

"The CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to your request," wrote Susan Viscuso, CIA Information and Privacy Coordinator, in a November 29 response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Jeffrey Richelson of the National Security Archive for the Open Source Works directive and charter.

"The fact of the existence or nonexistence of requested records is currently and properly classified and is intelligence sources and methods information that is protected from disclosure," Dr. Viscuso wrote.

This is a surprising development since Open Source Works -- by definition -- does not engage in clandestine collection of intelligence. Rather, it performs analysis based on unclassified, open source materials.

Thus, according to a November 2010 CIA report, Open Source Works "was charged by the [CIA] Director for Intelligence with drawing on language-trained analysts to mine open-source information for new or alternative insights on intelligence issues. Open Source Works' products, based only on open source information, do not represent the coordinated views of the Central Intelligence Agency."

As such, there is no basis for treating Open Source Works as a covert, unacknowledged intelligence organization. It isn't one.

(Even if Open Source Works were engaged in classified intelligence analysis, the idea that its charter must necessarily be classified is a non-sequitur. Illustrating the contrary proposition, the Department of Defense last week issued a new Instruction on "Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT)," setting forth the policies governing that largely classified intelligence domain.)

Beyond that, it is an interesting question "why the CIA felt the need to establish such a unit given the existence of the DNI Open Source Center," said Dr. Richelson. The Open Source Center, the successor to the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, is the U.S. Government's principal open source agency. It is, naturally, a publicly acknowledged organization.

"An even more interesting question," he added, is "why would the CIA, whose DI [Directorate of Intelligence] organization structure is published on its website, feel it necessary to refuse to confirm or deny the existence of this new open source component?"

The CIA's extreme approach to classification policy is timely in one sense: It provides a convenient benchmark for evaluating current progress in combating overclassification.

If the charter of CIA's Open Source Works remains classified six months from now, when the Obama Administration's Fundamental Classification Guidance Review will have completed its first cycle, that will be a decisive indication that the Review failed to eliminate even the most blatant examples of overclassification.


A SURVEY OF FEDERAL LAWS RELATED TO CYBERSECURITY

There are more than 50 federal statutes that pertain to some aspect of cybersecurity, according to the Congressional Research Service. Those statutes, and the potential impact on them of several pending legislative proposals, are described in a new CRS report. See "Federal Laws Relating to Cybersecurity: Discussion of Proposed Revisions," December 7, 2011.


_______________________________________________
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

Wrap...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Civil Liberties...

From Secrecy News...

CIVIL LIBERTIES OVERSIGHT BOARD STILL DORMANT

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board that was supposed to provide independent oversight of U.S. counterterrorism policies remains dormant and out of service because its members have still not been named and confirmed.

In a report that was newly updated this month, the Congressional Research Service traced the origins of the Board from a recommendation by the 9/11 Commission through its initial establishment as a White House agency to its reconstitution as an independent agency chartered by statute in 2007.

The Board was assigned two overriding missions: It was supposed to "analyze and review actions the executive branch takes to protect the Nation from terrorism, ensuring that the need for such actions is balanced with the need to protect privacy and civil liberties"; and to "ensure that liberty concerns are appropriately considered in the development and implementation of laws, regulations, and policies related to efforts to protect the Nation against terrorism."

So had the Board been functional, it might have been a valuable participant in current deliberations over military detention authority, for example. It might also have conducted investigative oversight into any number of other counterterrorism policies, as mandated by law. But for all practical purposes, there is no Board.

Last January, President Obama named Elizabeth C. Cook and James X. Dempsey to serve on the Board. The Senate has not acted on their nomination. Even if they had been confirmed, however, they would not have constituted a quorum. Thus, the Board's activation is still dependent on presidential nomination of additional Board members. See "Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board: New Independent Agency Status," November 14, 2011.
_______________________________________________
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

The Secrecy News Blog is at:
http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/

Wrap...

Monday, November 21, 2011

You Think? You Believe?

Believing doesn't always mean thinking

by

Keith Taylor



Here we go again. A small group of veterans erected a cross at Camp Pendleton to commemorate Major Zembiec, Major Mendoza, Lance Corporal Austin, and Lance Corporal Zurheide. All were once stationed at the huge base, and all were killed in action.



And once again we see protesters. And the argument is underway. The question they will be asked is do they have a moral right to protest a sacred symbol erected to commemorate fallen heroes.



The first to raise a voice in protest was Jason Torpey, himself a veteran. Jason is a graduate of West Point. He served in both Kuwait and Iraq, and he is an atheist. Jason knows what it is for any nonbeliever to serve in an institution as resolutely religious are our Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.



Jason is now president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, an outfit started by an old friend of mine, Kathleen Johnson, now a retired Army sergeant.



Jason was quoted by the North County Times as saying, "No cross or statue of Jesus represents military service. Military service is being exploited to secure unconstitutional Christian privilege. His arguments were echoed by Debbie Allen, head of the San Diego Coalition of Reason, a partnership of fifteen local secular organizations. "We must be faithful to the first amendment to the US Constitution . . . after all, all soldiers take an oath to defend it."



I'm with these folks, both sentimentially and as a member of both their groups. I am a Navy Veteran who served his country in uniform for nearly twenty-three years. Of course, I mourn the loss of all my fallen veterans. Although I'm no longer religious I can understand the comfort those who are get from symbols of their own religion.



But does it hurt that somone wants to use a symbol of religion to honor their buddies? With so many crosses, all around the county. What does one more matter. A single cross can't hurt much. Neither could the posting of the Ten Commandments in public school. Neither could opening a school session with a prayer invoked over the loud speaker. Our money spends quite as well with our national motto emblazoned with "In God We Trust."



The constitutions of Arkansas, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Tennessee forbid any non believer from holding office of any sort, but I don't live in any of those states. So why should I worry about it?



All these things are defended by "oh what does it hurt?" And they don't, not if they are taken separately.



But taken as a whole, we hear the incorrect and dangerous words "we are a Christian nation." Many Supreme Court Decisions have determined that to be untrue. The Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, signed by President John Adams and approved by the Congress affirmed it.



It is dangerous because nations basing laws, treaties, and wars on religion rather than on facts lead almost always has led to irrational acts, acts which cannot be challenged by facts or any sort of rational thinking. A glance at history shows us crusades, inquisitions, book burning, and countless wars done in the name of one god or another.



And it continues to this day. Despite the outrageous claims of many, those guys who flew airplanes into buildings were not atheists.



Neither was the man who ordered the retaliation against the act of 9/11 who once claimed his told him to bomb Baghdad.



Some religious based laws would forbid acts which would save women's lives in order to keep a fetus alive.



When religion holds sway we see laws, treaties, foreign policy decisions all made on religion. Take embryonic stem cells. The religious belief that a soul was put in each stem cell stymied support for this research on them for years. This despite the fact that only research could discover treatment, perhaps cures, for our some of our most dreaded diseases.



Or how about the actions of a recent administration that aid to some countries would be denied if they even thought of abortion, even to save a woman's life.



The solution to our many problems isn't simple, but our attempt to find it should not be acceptance of dogma. .

Wrap...


// Keith Taylor is a retired Navy officer living in Chula Vista. He can be reached at krtaylorxyz@aol.com //

Sunday, November 06, 2011

I Am Voting For...

I am not happy. It's raining in Sunny San Diego. Thank heavens it's gonna quit that and be sunny tomorrow.

I'm fascinated with politics. Definitely gonna vote for Jon Huntsman. Don't care if he is a Repub and I'm a registered Dem. A good man is hard to find...for the office of President of the USA, but I do believe Huntsman is far and away the best we have. In case someone doesn't know, he's been Gov of Utah twice and did a great job...and he's been a diplomat sent off to China and did a great job there as well. He's married and has 7 kids. Three of them are campaigning for "their Dad". A very decent and honorable man is Jon Huntsman.

Problem is, he's a rather quiet guy. Not someone like Cain, for sure. Or any of the others. He went campaigning in New Hampshire. Went all over the State, but did not do any fund-raising. Never asked for money. No matter. Some of the folks contributed. He ended up with $1000.00 anyway. Reason he didn't ask for money? He's a millionaire, so pays his way with his own money. I don't believe he has more than one campaign ad out...and he just tells who he is, what he's done, what he believes and that's it.

And, like Romney, he is a Morman. I don't see that as a problem for either of the men.

So I'm determined to have my say and vote for the man.

Wrap...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

SHANGHIED!!!!

SHANGHIED. Okay. Pay attention! Go immediately to Amazon.com and buy this book. I kid you not...this is the best book I think I've ever read...and my office is full of books. More I've written a book myself.

SHANGHIED is not a novel. The guy who wrote it, lived it. He was indeed shanghied..on to a huge cargo ship. He was 15 years old.

Trust me...you'll never look at a cargo ship the same way again.

Wrap...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

War Casualties...

From Secrecy News...

AFGHANISTAN WAR CASUALTIES, AND MORE FROM CRS

Between January and June 2011, the United Nations documented 1,462 civilian deaths in Afghanistan, which was a 15% increase over the same six months the year before. Anti-government forces, e.g. the Taliban, were responsible for 77% of the casualties and pro-government forces were responsible for 12%. (The remainder were indeterminate.) These and other casualty figures were compiled from published sources by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) in "Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians," September 30, 2011.

Wrap...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Geospatial Intel Agency...

GEOSPATIAL INTEL AGENCY RELEASES DECLASSIFIED BUDGET DOCS

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) hired 600 to 700 new employees each year between 2005 and 2008, newly released budget documents indicate. Still, "the coming wave of retirement... presents significant risks that the program will lose valuable institutional knowledge and critical skills and capability."

These observations were presented in NGA's annual budget justification materials for fiscal years 2009, 2010 and 2011 (pdf). Unclassified excerpts of the budget documents were released by NGA last week in response to Freedom of Information Act requests from the Federation of American Scientists.

NGA is an intelligence agency that provides all manner of imagery, mapping and other "geospatial intelligence" (GEOINT) products for national security as well as other applications. It is funded through the National Intelligence Program (NIP) and also through the Military Intelligence Program (MIP).

NGA products "support mission planning, mapping, environmental monitoring, urban planning, treaty monitoring, safe navigation, management of natural resources, homeland defense planning, emergency preparedness, and responses to natural and manmade disasters worldwide," the budget documents say.

Only a fraction -- perhaps 10% or so -- of the classified NGA budget documents survived the declassification process and were released under FOIA. Some of the coherent themes that emerge from the declassified documents include the transition to a new Agency headquarters at Fort Belvoir, which was completed last year, and the continuing integration of commercial satellite imagery into the NGA product line. The Agency's classified programs and activities (and spending levels) were not disclosed.

But many unfamiliar fine details of Agency operation and management were described. The National GEOINT Committee was established as an Intelligence Community body chaired by NGA to promote cross-discipline collaboration on GEOINT issues. Beginning in FY 2010, a program or process called "LEAR JET" was introduced as "a CI [counterintelligence] network monitoring tool to combat the cyber insider threat." And so on.

These budget justification materials are the first such documents to be released by NGA. The move invites the question: Why did the Agency release them? (This in turn is a subset of a broader question: Why and how does secrecy policy ever change?)

In this case, several factors leading up to release can be identified. First, there was a "demand" for the documents; they would not have been spontaneously released. Second, the Agency might have attempted to withhold them anyway, but a ruling by Judge Reggie B. Walton in a 2006 lawsuit against the National Reconnaissance Office found that such documents are subject to the FOIA.

But even that might not have been enough without an indispensable measure of good faith on the part of the Agency. "NGA wants to make it easy for the public to understand who we are," said NGA Director Letitia Long earlier this month.

Wrap...

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Having His Say....

AN OCTOGENARIAN'S LEGACY

by

KEITH TAYLOR





Insurance agents don't come around much any more. Octogenarians with high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation diabetes, neuropathy, and pessimism don't figure to be a good risk.



Dying doesn't particularly bother me. My legacy does, and that isn't looking too good right now. I came into the world a few months after the start of the greatest depression in America history.



And now in my "golden years" things are happening that worry me. When I see a virtually unanimous effort to throw out a president, as happened in the Clinton presidency, I cringe knowing that's part of the legacy I will leave behind.



And I cringe that my country actually re-elected a president after there was compelling evidence he had cooked intelligence to start a war against a nation which represented no danger to ours.



The folks whose agenda is the same as the guy who started this mess in the first place have now drawn their line in the sand. With little mention of what their plan is, they harp on just one thing: Make Obama a one-term president.



I've always been an active participant in elections, and I'll be more so this time. I write, talk to people, exchange ideas on the Internet, and give dirty looks to folks who say "God bless you" when I sneeze.



The political party which motivates me to fuss so much isn't going it alone. They have backing from the folks who have the bucks and the know-how to buy anything they want. These folks count their small change in the billions have been buying up politicians as if there is a fire sale on them.



Nothing could be more disastrous to our country than to see even more of them in positions of power. For something to worry you before you've finished your first cup of morning coffee, contemplate what the results will be if the next couple appointments to the Supreme Court are dogmatic theists like Scalia and Thomas.



They will be fine if you don't mind a theocracy. And it will be even dandy if you don't mind paying the taxes which aren't paid by the minority who control the majority of the wealth.



And that's going to happen if we put more of those folks who only have to remember that obstruction will guarantee we won't have to look at an uppity Negro in the White House.



Yes I have heard that so often it sickens me. Even worse is when it's always accompanied by a claim of patriotism.



It isn't easy to take a stand as intransigent as the one I oppose because It's long been American chic to vote for the man, not the party. Dating back to my first election in 1952 I have routinely split my ticket and voted for candidates from both major parties.



No more! I insist that anything less than the reelection of our current president will be a disaster. The coattails of any of Republican will drag in more folks determined to not only crush liberals, but crush things they, themselves, refuse to believe because believing might take action and action might hurt next quarters profits for their employers.



Check the politics of the next person you hear claim climate change is a hoax. Check the politics of the next person who cries that taxes are un-American, especially taxes on the folks who own the oil well, coal mines, automobile factories which turn our air brown.



And above all check the politics of those who kept their promise and got government off the back of our financial institutions. You know, those guys who turned loose predatory lenders, invented a spanking new word "robo-signing," and turned six million people out of their homes.



Now, protesters are marching again, only this time it's called "occupying." Wall Street has been filled with protesters for more than a week. Other cities have followed. San Diego's media have been agog at how our laid back city came to life.



Suits me. I intend to take part in one next Monday. Moveon.org has organized a protest on the corner of University Avenue and College Avenue starting at noon.



Moveon is by any means of measure a left wing group. It started in 1998 to protest the brouhaha which brought about the impeachment of President Clinton and has held the line against right wing shenanigans ever since.



The local mover and shaker for Moveon is lady named Carolyn Zollender who seems to have been put on earth to keep people like me involved. Carolyn has done her homework, and resistance is futile when she gets going. I recently visited with her in her son's beauty salon. I disagreed with her on a point or so and next thing I knew I was backed into a corner. She knew her stuff and made sure I was aware of it as well.



When the current brouhaha over the current obstruction subsides we'll still have the party of obstruction pursuing it's goal of preventing the re-election of President Obama. I hope to be involved all the way.



My legacy demands it.

Wrap...

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Weather!

San Diego had some! It started raining yesterday afternoon and rained a good portion of the night too. I was horrified. :)) But that disappeared before dawn and so on my way down to Acapulco for breakfast, blue skies and sunshine...tho I admit there were still some clouds floating around. So I'm content.

Wrap...

Monday, October 03, 2011

Whoa! Been Awhile Since I've Been Here...

I'm just going happily along, reading all about our politics. Love it that people are in the streets and protesting Wall Street's shenanigans. If I could I'd just wring the necks of those Wall Street greedy bastards.

And 2012 is getting closer and closer and still nobody to vote for for Prez. Fine state of affairs. I'm talkin' both Repubs and Dem here. If it were possible, I swear I'd vote for Warren. Time we had a female president...and she has excellent sense. The males running certainly don't seem to have any sense.

Been trying to find a writer to write a book on a guy...a former Ranger, who has done both Iraq and Afghanistan and who, I think, has one awful case of PTSD. Like the Vietnam vet who I wrote a book with based on his experiences, this Ranger says, "Sleep is my enemy." The Ranger, having read that book, wants me to write his. Problem is, I've never met him in person. I can't imagine doing a book concerning someone I've never met, using his real experiences. For this kind of book, I'm definitely a hands on writer. Ah me...

Wrap...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Love Those Indy Weblogs...

Well, hell. I swear I truly tried to watch the Repubs' debate tonight. I guess I lasted about ten minutes before turning away and doing the recommends on the Indy Weblogs. The Indys are a group of Dem political bloggers. Altogether there are 425 of them at last count. Thank heavens they don't all post at once. Usually about 30 of them post. Less on weekends. Often mighty stringent opinions. Good people. In case anyone would like to read some of them, the URL is:

http://www.drlaniac.com/feeds/search.asp?mode=recent

My apologies for not making that URL a link, but I never learned how to do that. :(((

Ralph, who lives in New Jersey, gathered up those bloggers and he ships the posts to Lana up in San Francisco and Lana gets them all in order and I have the URL to get them down here in San Diego so I can do the recommends. Posts are up every 4 hours, 24 hours a day. I do the recommends at 11AM, 3PM, and 7PM. Do them 7 days a week.
And they're bloggers from all over the USA so there's certainly different opinions of what's going on in our country. Wouldn't give them up for love nor money.

And the poor East Coast is getting rained on something terrible again. Sure do feel for them.

Wrap...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Things To Watch Out For....

*Heaven forbid, but if you have a family member who is about to die, and if you intend to have a notice of that death in your newspaper's Obituaries page, you'd better have enough money in the bank to pay for it. They cost a fortune. Just check that out and prepare to be shocked.

*The Southern California Writers Conference convenes this weekend in Anaheim, California. If you're a writer...beginning or experienced...it is definitely worth attending. Not only are the workshop leaders excellent, but agents are accomplished and if you've written a book, gotten it polished, and need an agent (it's a very tough market out there) do try and attend. Check details at www.writersconference.com/la.

*Be very sure that you want to access the sites of either Linked In or Facebook. Once you get in, you may never find a way to get out. I tried, with zero success. Have come to the conclusion that if either pops up on my email again, I'll simply delete them. Also have decided that the reason deleting is almost impossible is because they can then trap enough people on their sites to be able to say they have one huge number of folks who use their sites.

Wrap...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Open Government or No?.....

From Secrecy News:

AN AMBIVALENT WHITE HOUSE REPORT ON OPEN GOVERNMENT

The White House reiterated its support for open government in a new report issued Friday afternoon. But curiously, the 33-page document on "The Obama Administration's Commitment to Open Government" (pdf) downplays or overlooks many of the Administration's principal achievements in reducing inappropriate secrecy. At the same time, it fails to acknowledge the major defects of the openness program to date. And so it presents a muddled picture of the state of open government, while providing a poor guide to future policy.

"At the President's direction, federal agencies have promoted greater transparency, participation, and collaboration through a number of major initiatives," the new report says. "The results of those efforts are measurable, and they are substantial. Agencies have disclosed more information in response to FOIA requests; developed and begun to implement comprehensive Open Government plans; made thousands of government data sets publically available; promoted partnerships and leveraged private innovation to improve citizens' lives; increased federal spending transparency; and declassified information and limited the proliferation of classified information."

Most of that is true, in varying degrees. (However, there is no evidence that the proliferation of classified information has in fact been limited; the opposite is the case.)

And yet despite the abundance of itemized detail in the new report, it misses or misrepresents crucial aspects of what has been accomplished and what has not.

Particularly within the domain of national security secrecy, the report leaves out the Obama Administration's boldest departures from past secrecy policies, suggesting that the White House itself is ambivalent or perhaps remorseful about them. For example, the report does not mention these groundbreaking measures:

In April 2009, the President broke with prior policy and declassified four Office of Legal Counsel opinions on interrogation and torture that had been tightly held by the previous Administration. ("OLC Torture Memos Declassified," Secrecy News, April 17, 2009). This act finally exposed the purported legal basis for some of the government's most controversial actions of recent years, and for a while it seemed to promise a new attitude toward the use of secrecy.

In May 2010, the Obama Administration declassified the current size of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal for the first time ever. ("Size of Nuclear Stockpile to be Disclosed," May 3, 2010). This is a category of information the disclosure of which had been sought without success for more than half a century, and its release created the potential for greater transparency and accountability in nuclear weapons policy.

In May 2011, the President personally ordered the declassification of an excerpt of a 1968 edition of the President's Daily Brief -- over the objections of intelligence agencies. ("Obama Declassifies Portion of 1968 President's Daily Brief," June 3, 2011). This act alone lent new substance to the otherwise rhetorical statement that "no information may remain classified indefinitely" and prompted a revision of entrenched prejudices concerning secret intelligence records.

For the first time ever, the Administration this year declassified and disclosed the size of the intelligence budget request for the coming year. ("A New Milestone in Intelligence Budget Disclosure," February 15, 2011). In 1998, the Director of Central Intelligence declared under penalty of perjury that disclosure of such information would cause damage to national security. But in the Obama Administration, that Cold War perspective has finally been abandoned even by the most senior intelligence officials.

These are among the most important changes in national security secrecy that have been accomplished in the Obama Administration. So it is puzzling and disturbing that in its own "review of the progress the Administration has made" in promoting greater openness, the new report does not mention any of them. For whatever reason, the White House does not seem to want to take "credit" for these actions, or to remind readers of them.

If the report minimizes the most positive achievements of secrecy reform to date, it also declines to acknowledge the serious failures of the President's openness initiative.

Thus, it does not mention that during the first full year of the Obama Administration, the number of new national security secrets (or "original classification decisions") actually increased by 22.6 percent, according to the latest annual report of the Information Security Oversight Office. ("Transforming Classification, or Not," May 18, 2011). Because it does not include such significant adverse data, the White House report more closely approximates a public relations exercise than a candid account of the current status of openness.

The report alludes to new requirements in the President's 2009 executive order 13256 that dictate "clarified, and stricter, standards for classifying information." But it does not mention that the Department of Defense, the largest classifying agency, failed to meet the President's deadline for issuing implementing guidance for the new executive order. The upshot is that many of those new requirements are not being fulfilled in practice, more than a year after the President's order came into effect. ("Secrecy Reform Stymied by the Pentagon," February 24, 2011). By not admitting such problems, the report also misses the opportunity to identify solutions to them.

Nor does the term "state secrets privilege" appear in the new report, although the Administration's use of the privilege has been an impenetrable barrier to the resolution of many festering disputes on torture, rendition and surveillance. Can one even speak of open government when individuals who have been victims of torture like Maher Arar and Khaled el-Masri are barred by secrecy from presenting evidence in a court of law or seeking some other lawful remedy?

The White House report demonstrates that the Obama Administration not only wants to be perceived as open, but that it actually has a commitment to open government. In addition to the precedent-setting breakthroughs noted above, many of the openness initiatives discussed in the report, such as the access to agency information provided through the website Data.gov, are commendable and worthwhile.

But the report also shows that the Administration's commitment lacks clarity, consistency, and self-confidence. This makes it harder to build on the most notable and successful achievements of the past few years.

On Tuesday, September 20, President Obama will participate in the launch of the Open Government Partnership, a multi-national effort to foster open government practices around the world.



_______________________________________________
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

The Secrecy News Blog is at:
http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/

Wrap...

Monday, September 05, 2011

I Absolutely Hate....

...the phrase, "Just sayin'". It's a copout if ever there was one. Saying the person speaking is not responsible in any way, shape, or form for whatever the hell is coming outta their mouth. Noooo. They're just repeating what someone else is saying or has said or done...but they're not giving it as their opinion or anything else. Just an absolutely cowardly phrase.

Wrap...

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Book Review: The 19th Wife....


This was first published in Secular Humanist Briefs, a newsletter of the Council of Secular Humanism.



The 19th Wife

a novel by David Ebershoff

Published by Random House 2008

ISBN: 987-1-58836-748-8

V3.0



An Irreverent look at Mormons and their weird church

by

Keith Taylor



Religions fascinate atheists and skeptics. The 19th Wife, a novel covering the antics of Mormons of the nineteenth and of the twenty-first centuries, will do more than fascinate you. It will grab you and refuse to let go.



All Christian religions stress taking things on faith and come up with some strange beliefs. But the Mormons! That religion is a wonderment unto itself. In less than a couple centuries the Saints came up with as many impossible ideas as had the Catholic Church in twenty.



Joseph Smith threw out most of the irrational Christian ideas and replaced them with a new set of even more irrational ones. None were tested by dispassionate examination. Religious things are above that with the old "higher power" copout they all claim guides their lives.



Books critical of the Mormon church such as Trouble Enough by Ernest Taves, Secret Ceremonies by Deborah Laake, and A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tell compelling stories of a strange religion. But none impressed me as did the tale by David Ebershoff. He told the story of Ann Eliza Young, Brigham's nineteenth, or, maybe fifty-fourth wife..



Ann divorced her husband and asked for money from him, possibly the richest man in the country. The resulting tumult resulted in polygamy being banned.



Ebershoff not only told the story of Ms. Young, he told it convincingly from the viewpoints of herself, her mother, her father, Brigham Young, and a young twenty-first century man who was excommunicated by later version of the church which insisted it was the first.



The 19th Wife keeps the reader on his toes by shifting from one point of view to another, one story line to another, and by moving between the mid 19th century to the 21st. century Somehow Ebershoff does a superb job of it.



The reader's hardest job is to keep track of the century and the narrator. It is a culture shock to leave the 19th century with the problems of a young, pious 19th century polygamous bride, then try to empathize with a 21st century young, recalcitrant, excommunicated, Mormon who is trying to save his mom from execution for killing his dad.



The book is rightly described as a page turner, so finishing a chapter isn't hard. What's hard is to resist starting the next where the reader will land in a different century and in the mind of a different point of view. Bring along the forbidden drink, coffee, because you'll read longer than you planned. and find yourself still reading far into the morning.



Although his life is the secondary story line Jordan Scott, the young recalcitrant guy, is the most compelling character in the book. As a doddering geezer I take a perverse delight in imaginative cussing. Thus I laughed when Jordan used the term "fuck log" to describe the notes his father kept to remind himself who was the next wife he'd sleep with. And for empathy we can feel Jordan's discomfort in explaining the term to his pious mother.



If a humanist or skeptics group had a list of "must read" books, this one would be near the top. As with Huckleberry Finn and all other great novels it is much more than a good story. It takes the gentiles, as we're called, inside a church recently created out of whole cloth and lets us see the damage done by deliberate ignorance.

*******************************************

//Keith Taylor is a former president and program chair for the San Diego Association for Rational Inquiry. He can be reached at krtaylorxyz@aol.com //

Wrap...

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Our Secret Government...


From Secrecy News...

A SPOTLIGHT ON "TOP SECRET AMERICA"

Most people can vaguely recall that there was once no U.S. Department of Homeland Security and that there was a time when you didn't have to take your shoes off before boarding an airplane or submit to other dubious security practices.

But hardly anyone truly comprehends the enormous expansion of the military, intelligence and homeland security bureaucracy that has occurred over the past decade, and the often irrational transformation of American life that has accompanied it.

The great virtue of the new book "Top Secret America" by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin (Little Brown, September 2011) is that it illuminates various facets of our secret government, lifting them from the periphery of awareness to full, sustained attention.

Top Secret America, which builds on the series of stories the authors produced for the Washington Post in July 2010, delineates the contours of "the new American security state." Since 9/11, for example, some 33 large office complexes for top secret intelligence work have been completed in the Washington DC area, the equivalent in size of nearly three Pentagons. More than 250,000 contractors are working on top secret programs. A bewildering number of agencies - more than a thousand -- have been created to execute security policy, including at least 24 new organizations last year alone. And so on.

But the vast scale of this activity says nothing about its quality or utility. The authors, who are scrupulous in their presentation of the facts, are critical in their evaluation:

"One of the greatest secrets of Top Secret America is its disturbing dysfunction."

"Ten years after the attacks of 9/11, more secret projects, more secret organizations, more secret authorities, more secret decision making, more watchlists, and more databases are not the answer to every problem. In fact, more has become too much."

"It is time to close the decade-long chapter of fear, to confront the colossal sum of money that could have been saved or better spent, to remember what we are truly defending, and in doing so, to begin a new era of openness and better security against our enemies."

(From this point of view, it was disappointing to hear the former chair of the 9/11 Commission, Gov. Tom Kean, declare yesterday that "we are not as secure as we could or should be." We need to accelerate along the path we have been following, Gov. Kean seemed to say, not to fundamentally change course.)

According to Priest and Arkin, "The government has still not engaged the American people in an honest conversation about terrorism and the appropriate U.S. response to it. We hope our book will promote one."

Despite the sobering subject matter, Top Secret America actually makes for lively reading. It is full of the authors' remarkable insights, anecdotes and encounters. Dana Priest explored some of the physical geography of the classified world, taking elevators to unmarked floors in suburban office buildings and driving up to guard booths at secret facilities to innocently ask for information. She accompanied police in Memphis while they conducted neighborhood surveillance with newfangled automatic license plate readers. She was polygraphed at her request -- and found to be a poor liar. Bill Arkin, whose painstaking research informed the entire work (which is narrated by Priest), spent ten days in Qatar at the U.S. military facility that controls air operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and somehow got himself invited to classified briefings.

One question that lurks throughout the book is whether the excesses and misjudgments that constitute so much of Top Secret America can be corrected or reversed. The authors are not very optimistic, particularly since there are so many people who benefit from current arrangements, however wasteful, useless or pointless they might be.

By way of illustration they cite U.S. Northern Command, the newest military command that is nominally responsible for defense of North America but in practice is largely subordinate to other agencies and organizations. "The fact that Northern Command would even continue to exist as a major, four-star-led, geographic military command, with virtually no responsibilities, no competencies, and no unique role to fill, demonstrated the resiliency of institutions created in the wake of 9/11 and just how difficult it would be to ever actually shrink Top Secret America," they wrote.

Secrecy is naturally a persistent theme throughout the book. As is often the case in national security reporting, the authors relied on unauthorized disclosures to complement their own research and reporting. And in this case, such disclosures served as a particularly effective antidote to overclassification.

"Most of those who helped us did so with the knowledge that they were breaking some internal agency rule in doing so; they proceeded anyway because they wanted us to have a more complete picture of the inner workings of the post-9/11 world we sought to describe and because they, too, believe too much information is classified for no good reason," they wrote.

At the same time, the authors noted that they "have left out some information" based on national security considerations.

Top Secret America will be featured on PBS Frontline on September 6, the book's official release date.

******************************************
SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2011, Issue No. 83
September 1, 2011

Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/

Wrap...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What's Good For The Crooks is Good For the Cops...


Gettin' a little late here, but the neighborhood is quiet. Hope that's not deceiving. A couple of streets away, sometimes within 600 feet so at the end of our block, bad things are going on...assaults, home burglaries, stuff with cars, etc. All started about 5 or 6 months ago. I'm thinking a new family moved into the area. Most of us have been here for years. Never had that stuff before.

Except for once...couple of guys stole the back wheel off my car, which was parked on the street in front of the house. Little did they know that the neighbor across the street in front and another neighbor across the side street were both armed and watching the whole thing. One of them got the thieves' license number. Both were prepared to act if either of the thieves headed toward our house.

So of course we phoned the police and they came and took information from all of us. Now I consider the San Diego police force to be the best and most decent in the entire USA...and they can also be hilarious.

Next day came a knock on the door. I answered and there stood 2 policemen and my wheel. I asked how they got it back...and they grinned from ear to ear and one said, "The same way the crooks got it." :)))

They'd actually gone out that night and stole it right off the crooks' car. Just tickled themselves. And I just cracked up laughing. :))

Wrap...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Thinking vs Believing....



That Undying Symbol


by

Keith Taylor


It is a simple design, useful in the construction of grand buildings, or as a small platform from which to hang trouble makers. It has also become the world's most recognizable religious symbol.

In its most utilitarian usage, it is part of the framework of building
It is so impressive, we need be reminded it is utilitarian, not miraculous. Despite its inspiring design, it failed along with the rest of the framework, to stop religious zealots from destroying two of our largest buildings plus themselves in their effort to prove their god was better than our god.

Somewhere in there lies an inspiring religious message. It must be so because when our buildings fell and 2700 people died, people in many foreign countries, those with the other god celebrated. Death and the celebration of it are big deals in religions.



The cross, called the symbol of peace, is more often associated with mass killing and cruelty. Spanish conquistadors brandished flags decorated with crosses as they killed countless native Americans in their search for gold and other riches. Pious Christians, crosses on their vestments and shields, journeyed from Europe to the Holy Land to kill, plunder, and secure land they deemed sacred because a man/god had been crucified there.



It was the very symbol of the Spanish Inquisition. Countless heretics were killed because they committed one of the prime sins: questioning unproven claims. Today the word "inquisition" conjures up a vision of cruel men wearing crosses causing unbearable pain to folks who merely asked the most basic sentence in science "why?"



Reminders of the sacred icon are everywhere, and defended zealously. Defying the Constitution, a court order, and affirmation of that order by an appeals court, a cross still stands on public property on a mountain overlooking La Jolla, California.



Others have not been so prominently displayed. A piece of the framework in the shape of a cross was found in the wreckage of the twin towers. This was the symbol, many felt, to inspire us to . . . uh, to adorn a new, replacement building.



A photo shows a priest and the former mayor of our greatest city adding a blessing to the symbol pulled from the wreckage of the twin towers felled on 9/11. Some object to this use of a religious symbol, sometimes citing it's long and poignant history of violence and killing.



But to the adherents of our god, history is ignored. After all, they claim, believers are enjoined to never question God or his works. You can find it in every catechism or Sunday school tract.



So, should we object to yet another religious symbol? After all those of us who don't share this zealous feeling that comes from belief in things not proved are shunned, often considered eccentric. More than half the electorate would not vote for someone who does not acknowledge a belief in a supreme being, and the cross does represent just such a thing. Who knows how bad it will get if we object to a sacred symbol?



Let's leave it be. Agree it will stay there, but as a reminder of what we lose when we substitute faith for reason in trying to determine what is happening on our earth. When a non-believer views the symbol which inspires so many believers he might take off his hat and stand quietly while contemplating what the world would be like if we started thinking rather than believing.



Thinking will not produce miracles but it may help us understand those who believe in them.

-0-

//Keith Taylor is a retired Navy officer living in Chula Vista, Ca. He can be reached at krtaylorxyz@aol.com //

Wrap...

Law Enforcement Officer...From the Inside....


http://richardcraiganderson.com/

For some fascinating reading, go to Rick's blog. URL above. Rick is a former Maryland State trooper. Moved to Florida and became a FAM...Federal Air Marshall. Their motto:
"We don't miss". Better not, since they're the guy in the plane with you, there to take out the bad guy, and they really don't want to shoot a hole in the plane rather than a hole in the bad guy.

Just fascinating. Latest post from Rick is on the matter of confidential informants. A good police officer...and every other law enforcement officer...has those crucial people.

It's one thing to know about these things and, believe me, another to learn about them from inside the game...which you will if you read Rick's posts. Enjoy!

Wrap...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Huntsman for President!!!

So now Rick Perry from Texas is joining the run for Prez. W.Bush was better than this guy would be. I can just see Perry keeping religion separate. Not a chance.

Have not changed my mind one bit...Jon Huntsman is my choice. He may be a Repub, but he is an INDEPENDENT Repub. And that gives the other people and the media fits. The media invariably leaves the Independent out. More, he's no liar.

It's plain to see he qualifies, having been Gov of Utah and diplomat to China. But he continually gets ignored because he's not flashy like the other Repubs running. He just does the job.

Wrap...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Take It On Faith...Or Else.....

This was to be the first chapter in a book I intended to call Epiphany of an Atheist. Sadly I don't have the stamina to fight the battle of self publishing, and not many publishers are interested in the musings of someone without high profile.



How I Became a True Believer . .. . With a Few Doubts

by

Keith Taylor


One night sixty-one years ago, a young lass and I were – as they say today – making out. We were parked in the shadow of a tree on a Naval station near Seattle. She had let me get to second base. My hand was under her blouse. Only her thin bra stood between my fingers and a real life titty.



Surely it was about to happen; my 20-year virginity would come to an end right there in the back seat. I had read Forever Amber and Duchess Hotspur. It was all there – the passionate kissing, the heavy breathing, the tight embrace.



I pleaded, “Can we do it? You know, go all the way?”



She stopped me with, “Oh God, I want to, but I can’t, not unless we’re married.”



“Let's get married tonight, maybe drive to Canada or something?”



“No, it has to be by a priest, and I can’t even do that unless you are a Catholic.”



The next morning I hied myself down to Saint Cecilia’s, found the parish priest, and asked him how I could become a Catholic. He told me I would have to take instructions. That was easy. Hell, I was a sailor and folks gave me instructions all day long. I couldn't even clean the head without a boatswain's mate telling me how to clean up the turd tracks.



But instructions on how to find God defied logic. Father Murphy explained that people didn’t really have to believe that a woman talked to a snake, but they had to be baptized to excise the damage done by that conversation anyhow. He also taught me that the passion that led me to St. Cecilia’s was itself a sin. I would have to sincerely repent the heavy breathing as well as the indecent touching that caused it.



Also I would have to firmly resolve that it wouldn’t happen again. How disappointing! That girl taught me how to French kiss and I liked it so much I was sure we would do it again even before holy words sanctified the consummation of our lust.



She went back home to Illinois. The Navy kept me in the Seattle area. All the while I practiced the repenting and firmly-resolving business, but those prurient sinful thoughts popped up again and again. Self-abuse was immediately followed by prayers begging forgiveness for doing it. This religious business took all the fun out of it.



Although I’d always been one of those who felt “something must be out there” the instructions taught by Father Murphy revealed a religion not filled with hope and answers, but one filled with conundrums. Some had been with the church from the beginning; others were added, seemingly willy-nilly, over 2000 years. Father Murphy’s answer to my questions was that each had a special purpose and must be taken on faith.



The Father Murphys of the world were allowed to make their claims with little interference, even from outside the church. The rare dissenting voices were shushed with "oh it's their right to believe what they want." Any doubts I might have had were simply to be subjected the one great truth and immune from critical thought, as were claims proclaimed by a thousand different interpretations by thousands of other religions.



A parishioner had to take all sorts of things on faith. Furthermore that faith must not be questioned, especially by reading. The Catholic Church of the 1950s dutifully provided “The Index of Forbidden Books” – a compilation of books, plays, songs, and other heretical tracts deemed dangerous to people’s faith. The list, running into the thousands, forbad a Catholic’s reading some or all of the works of many of the most respected writers in history.



After I thwarted the devil by having water dumped on my head, I could no longer read things by Anatole France, RenĂ© Descartes, Emile Zola and, it seems, some versions of God’s book itself. The King James version of the holy book was not only off limits for reading, in 1950, a Catholic could not have one in his house!



While all this was going on, the girl who caused my conversion sent me a “Dear John.” She had gone back home to Elgin, Illinois and left me to marry a Marine. Undeterred I went on with my conversion. The priest said things in Latin as he poured water over my head. I tried but didn’t feel the ecstasy associated with the possibility of now living forever in bliss.



I was a Catholic, the only one from Sevastopol, Indiana. My conversion lasted about ten years.

Wrap...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

From Presidential Candidates to ComicCon....

So be it. Jon Huntsman, Republican running for Prez of the USA...just happens to be the only decent, honest candidate I have seen. Therefore, he's my choice for Prez, no matter that I have never voted Repub before. So that's settled.

Then there's the Oslo killer. Pay attention here: he is NOT a Muslim. What he is is a CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALIST. You sure wouldn't know it from most of the media reports. We have a whole bunch of those people on the Repub Right. Especially in the Southern US states. Now, who do you think we'd best keep an eye on?

It's hotter than hell in almost every state in the USA. Only civilized weather is in Alaska, and the West Coast states...along the beaches only.

Don't you just admire the new labels on cigarettes? GAWD! But don't try and convince me that drinking doesn't kill more people...especially drinking and driving. I have yet to see a single person, upon getting a whiff of someone's cigarette smoke, just keel over dead...but a clip from a drinking or texting driver on any road in the country can make people dead a whole lot faster...and does, every hour of every day.

Somehow, some way, the scientists MUST find a way to cure or eliminate cancer. One out of every five men is cursed with prostate cancer. Our daughter died when her second brain cancer developed and attached to her brain stem. A horrible way to go. Moments before her death, her facial muscles just melted away and her face below her eyes simply flowed down toward her right ear. She'd been beautiful and was a former model. Never mind new weapons...CURE CANCER.

Some good news...ComicCon, with somewhere around 130,000 attendees at the San Diego Convention Center, has been a tremendous success. Yesterday afternoon, strolling through the lobby and stopping to chat with people, was Johnny Depp...star of Pirates of the Carribean. Not going to see stars doing that very often, but attend ComicCon and you will. Keep in mind though that Security Guards from all over the city and those who work there were keeping Conv.Center safe. Not that they had anything much to do since the attendees were all happy souls and behaving wonderfully well as usual. And the media were definitely in attendence. One of their groups asked permission of the Conv Ctrs' #1 Doorman to photo and interview him. His reply was that it was fine with him, but they'd have to get an okay from his bosses to do that. But no, the media did not have time. Too much else needed to be covered.
A pity. That doorman has worked there for 21 years and has been at the door for every ComicCon that has been held there...and so knows all the guys who originated the convention.

And that's all for now...
Wrap...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Science? Deliberate Ignorance? Choose...

This appeared in Skeptical Inquirer, a magazine dedicated to rational and critical thought and to using science, not dogma or superstition to find answers. It is available at some newstands. Individual copies can also be bought at www.csicop.org





DELIBERATE IGNORANCE

by

Keith Taylor



Perhaps fearful that even a small amount of it is a dangerous thing, knowledge is held in disdain by many Americans. Yet the same people accept ridiculous claims as long as they are they want to hear. And legislators know what that is!



Turn on C-SPAN and the chances are good you'll see a member of Congress leading a blind charge into the land of make believe.



Climate change? Some time back, the chair of the Senate Science Climate Change Committee invited a science fiction author, not a scientist, and certainly not a climatologist, to testify. Then, having heard what he wanted to hear, the Senator joined the author in declaring that the scientists' concern over the looming disaster was a myth.



That year was the hottest on record. So was the next and the next. The pattern continues, but thanks in part to the senator, the myth about a myth persists.



Science can be touted, but only if it reflects what a legislator thinks the majority of his constituents want to hear. One from the Midwest regularly holds forth on the virtues of ethanol to protect us from the climate change he doesn't believe in. I've never heard him own up to the scientifically tested and vetted fact that ethanol made from corn or soy beans gives a us net increase of CO2 in the atmosphere while decreasing the world food supply.



Deliberate ignorance along with jingoism and dogmatic stubbornness shapes too much of America's intellect. During the cold war we simply would not be beat or outdone by the Soviets, not even in silly things. In the late sixties someone in our intelligence services suspected the commies were keeping tabs on us with remote viewing. Not to be outdone in dumb ideas our army set up a program headed by the Stanford Research Institute -- no direct connection to the university.



By 1985 no useful information was gleaned by folks sitting around thinking real hard, so the Army ceased funding it. Still when an idea, no matter how wacko, gets the attention of Congress it's life is extended and the money keeps coming in.



Operation Stargate, as it was sometimes called, was kept alive. It only cost 20 million dollars and had some interesting results which couldn't be denied because they were never tested. In 1996 the Science Applications International Corp, a San Diego Based think tank had conducted some of the experiments. When I checked on it for a story, they admitted they participated in the program but all results are classified. I called the FBI and a PR guy also told me told they couldn't comment because it was classified.



The best I got was from a less reticent source, the grapevine. There I "learned" one remote viewer got a peek inside a Rusky submarine but wasn't able see anything classified. Nor was she able to determine which ocean the U-boat was in, but it was somewhere! As a retired Navy cryptologist I was amazed at the ability of an outfit to spend so much for information which could be gleaned by just thinking.



Thomas Jefferson warned us, "An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic." You have to wonder what ol' Tom would have to say about the citizenry which elected today's leaders.



Where do we get our wacko ideas? Try the information highway. The brightest scholars in history would envy today's Americans with who have so much valid scientific information available on the web. But today's Americans also have even more claims of things they want to believe, verification be damned!



Then they vote.



Is there help in stemming this tide of deliberate ignorance? Not from Texas it seems. In May, the Texas State Board of Education adopted a social studies and history curriculum which undermined much of what we know about science and our past. Tom Jefferson who worried about such credulity was himself was downgraded, perhaps to make room for Jefferson Davis who was President of the Confederacy.



Because Texas is one of the largest buyers of textbooks, credulous ideas will be taught as fact to children across our nation. The pious Texans want us to understand that we were founded as a Christian nation, which might have surprised one of the founders. John Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli which emphatically said America was in no sense a Christian nation. That treaty was ratified unanimously by the Senate and has never been withdrawn.



The Constitution's only mention of religion is to restrict it.



But today. America is galloping blithely down the road to blind faith in nonsense. Their race into credulous thinking is supported by the vested interests of those who want their next quarter's interests protected whether an interminably long summer bodes ill for our grandchildren or not.



We hear "oh scientists don't know everything" so often it ought to be a warning to every skeptic. We who believe in science are also dismissed with the canard that we are merely eccentric. After all deliberate ignorance works wonders for the deliberately ignorant. To those of us who want our history untainted and our findings of science tested it will be a disaster.



Can this disaster be avoided or averted? Sure, but it will take a massive effort backed by a knowledgeable populace.



Will it? Probably not unless more of the populace start looking for real answers That won't be easy when faced with relentless barrage of sophistic answers from deniers of hard facts. The ultimate refuge for deniers of hard facts is religion; every congressman except Pete Stark of Oakland claims a belief in a supreme being. , and only Pete Stark in Oakland will admit he didn't believe.



I hate to be contrary, but was anybody except me frightened when, at a political debate of would-be presidents, three viable candidates admitted they admitted they do not believe in evolution. And how much different are they from the rest of the candidates who will grudgingly admit they do believe in the most tested scientific theory of all time, but refuse to support it?



Science can't compete with charisma except in the real world.



And don't forget the money! A recent headline blared: OIL BILLIONAIRES BACKING PROP. 23 -- a California effort to curb global warming. Yup, and that included a million from Koch Industries, ranked by Forbes as the second largest private company in the U.S.A. It is also among the top ten polluters. I'm proud to say my state rejected the self-serving proposition.



We're in a world of hurt here folks and you can take that from a very worried but eccentric curmudgeon.



//Keith Taylor is a former president and current program chair of the San Diego Association for Rational Inquiry living in Chula Vista, Ca. He can be reached at krtaylorxyz@aol.com//

Wrap...

Monday, July 04, 2011

Trying Honesty...

Let's Try Honesty

by

Keith Taylor



Loch David Crane just sent a letter announcing his intention to run for mayor of San Diego. He has no chance, but he's got my support. San Diego would be better off with a mayor of his stature and imagination. This is an open letter to my hero:



Dear Loch: Sorry I cannot give you more encouragement, but you aren't going to be elected. Mayors of cities the size of San Diego are bought by the folks who own the country -- the corporations. They aren't about to open their pockets to a man so honest he won't claim supernatural powers to pull rabbits out of a hat.



Of course that doesn't mean your effort has to be in vain. Richard Rider, who could be your inspiration in losing elections, pointed out that in 1940 Socialist perennial presidential candidate Norman Thomas was asked if he'd run for a seventh time. Thomas remarked that he didn't need to. Everything the Socialists had fought for in 1916 had been enacted by Republicans and Democrats by 1940.

And of course it's true. We can't always effect change but we can sit quietly by as it evolves. Uh, don't use the word "evolve" in your campaign. Let God take credit for it all. Then folks will admire your sagacity.

In your campaign you ought not have any problem getting plenty of attention from the media. They love the flamboyant over the mundane. Be sure to use your startrike, USS Enterprise, the one connoting the starship not CVN-69.

I remember you got some great publicity when you used the contraption to give a lift to Mike Aguirre. He needed a ride so he could make his commitment to both the Rock and Roll Marathon and his engagement to speak at the graduation ceremony of the Thomas Jefferson Law School.

Perhaps some sort of reenactment of that would be appropriate. The publicity might be even more effective if you took Mike off somewhere, say in Oklahoma, and left him there. Mike has little political capital. His record didn't inspire voters in his own run for mayor. I'm telling ya being honest just isn't going to do much for you on election day.

First you're gonna need a platform. No, don't promise to fix the impressive debt racked up by your predecessors. That can't be done unless we get more money and that means taxes, and taxes are more deadly than cuss words at a Mormon prayer meeting. Also don't promise a commitment to the new library. That's only of interest to folks who actually read, a rapidly shrinking part of our population.

One issue will ensure the inevitable, your defeat. It will also ensure all sorts of attention which can be used after honesty comes back into vogue.

Come out in support of the Constitution. Demand the city obey the law and take down the cross from Mt. Soledad. While it is true that most San Diegans are Christians, a significant minority are not. Furthermore they're getting restless at listening to talk show hosts shoving a decidedly sectarian symbol in their faces then claiming the symbol as a reason to make decisions based on belief not rational thought.

Just think of the wacko things we've done in the name of God. Then when someone objects, pseudo pious leaders claim symbols as validation for whatever they choose to believe and do.

Suck it up Loch and take a giant stand for the minority of us who don't believe. Be the leader who makes his decisions based on science and facts rather than obeisance to a being who hasn't shown up for two thousand years.

You won't ride that idea into the mayor's mansion (do we have one?) but you aren't going to win anyhow. Let's use your candidacy to help advance ideas not superstition. Believe me you won't have much competition.

The cross issue is an open and shut case. It was placed atop the mountain on Easter Sunday 1954 and dedicated to "our lord and savior, Jesus Christ." Each Easter thereafter an Easter sunrise service was held atop the mountain.

Then in 1989 my good friend Phil Paulson and his co-litigant Howard Kristner sued to have it removed from public property. In 1993 the decision in favor of the plaintiffs was handed down by Gordon Thompson, a judge for the United States District Court. Suddenly -- almost supernaturally -- plaques started appearing on the base of the cross.

We had us a retroactive war memorial. History and truth be damned! The cross is still there, still mocking those of us who don't accept a symbol which also has been used to as a reason for 2000 years of crusades, wars, inquisitions, book burning, slavery and other misdemeanors.

But in the eyes of the courts the case has been settled. The thing left to do is lead a charge to get San Diego to obey the law.

Naturally there will be a last ditch stand by those who insist we shun critical thinking and embrace dogma. Leading the charge are Maureen O'Connor and Roger Hedgecock, two former mayors who have pledged to defend the symbol from destruction by lying down in front of the bulldozers.

That alone would be worth the effort. Just think of Maureen and Roger lying down together. In a moment of passion they might do to each other what they did to the city while in office.

Wrap...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jon Huntsman is my candidate...

Finally somebody has entered the race for Prez that I feel fine about voting for: Jon Huntsman. Former Gov of Utah, former Ambassador to China, all around decent guy. He is a moderate/liberal Repub. Has a terrific reputation. Nice family. And decent stands on issues. I see no downsides. And no, he is not beholden to Wall Street or any other outfit or individual. Sure is nice to not have to compromise.

Wrap...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

This is Bull....

From Secrecy News...

GOVT OPPOSES ATTORNEYS' FREE USE OF WIKILEAKS DOCS

The government yesterday filed a formal response (pdf) in federal court in opposition to the public use of WikiLeaks documents by a habeas attorney who represents a client in U.S. military detention at Guantanamo Bay. Those documents are or may be classified, the government insisted, and must continue to be treated as such.

In an April 27 motion (pdf), attorney David Remes had asked the Court to authorize "full and unfettered access" to WikiLeaks documents pertaining to his client, and to affirm that he "may publicly view, download, print, copy, disseminate, and discuss the documents and their contents, without fear of any sanctions."

"Any member of the general public can view these files, download them, print them, circulate them, and comment on them," Mr. Remes wrote. "Undersigned counsel, however, fears that he will face potential sanctions, legal or otherwise, if he does exactly the same things without express government permission."

In its response yesterday, the government said that Mr. Remes (and other habeas attorneys) may "view" the documents on a non-governmental computer, but may not "download, print, copy, disseminate, [or] discuss these documents" in public.

To justify its position, the government argued that it had not confirmed the authenticity of any particular WikiLeaks document, and that the restrictions on attorneys' use of the documents serve to maintain the possibility that one or more of the documents is not genuine.

"Although the Government has confirmed that purported detainee assessments were leaked to WikiLeaks, the Government has neither confirmed nor denied that any particular individual report appearing on the WikiLeaks website is an official government document," the government attorneys wrote.

"The Government must refrain from confirming whether any particular reports disseminated by WikiLeaks are genuine detainee assessments or not, to avoid the risk of even greater harm to national security than may have already been caused by WikiLeaks' disclosures."

This argument seems weakened, however, by the fact that the Government has not identified even one document among the many thousands released by WikiLeaks that is not genuine or is not what it appears to be. In the absence of even a single such case of falsification, the documents may be understood to be presumptively authentic even if government officials will not deign to say so.

It will be up to the Court to decide which party's perspective is legally compelling.

Wrap...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Still learning...

Well, hell! Just found out I need to moderate comments here. I've been so interested in the political news...and the news, sparse as it is...on our guys in Afghanistan that I just neglected to "take care of business". My apologies. Also, thanks to you guys who "follow" this blog. Just now learned about you all.

Wondering if any of you have any idea who you'll vote for for Prez come 2012. I sure am not a bit happy with any of the candidates, Repub or Dem. Have a writer friend who swears she's not even gonna bother to vote at all. Not happy with the state of the United States either. Oh no.

Have just finished reading Wasdin's book on his 12 years in SEAL Team 6. Learned about a whole lot of interesting things like examining natural things like leaves to gauge wind speed. Title of book: "SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL sniper." What that guy had to learn and do to become a sniper, much less a SEAL, is just incredible. There will never ever be females in that outfit.

Our San Diego Convention Center had two events going today. Arianna Huffington was keynote speaker at one of them. Would have enjoyed hearing her. Heard her speak at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference and enjoyed every moment.

Wrap...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

And It's One, Two, Three Strikes and....

THAT’S BASEBALL
by
Keith Taylor


George Herman McClusky and his grandson, Joe, loved baseball. George tried out for every navy softball or baseball team on every ship or station but could only make the lineup as a right fielder on pickup games when only eight others showed up.

His grandson had a better shot. Mike, his dad managed the Reds, a Little League team. Joe was a fair to middling player who pitched and played other positions as well.

The three of them even made it to a World Series game in person. A few days after the World Series, Joe was playing in his own game in an off season practice league. Unlike at A T & T park in San Francisco the crowd the gathering at Sweetwater Little League field was shy of a sellout and would have been if capacity had been a couple dozen.

The big leaguers played nearly flawless ball. The Little League Reds and Pirates weren’t quite as perfect. The six umpires at the World Series game were highly paid professionals. The sole umpire at the Little League game was an amateur. The professional’s job was made easy by major league players. Big leaguers never run the wrong direction on the bases, nor do they stop playing to stare at airplanes flying over.

George Herman was the sole umpire at the little league game where watching airplanes was just as important was watching the ball, and a kid might head back to first from second if he left his hat behind, or if he just felt like it.

George Herman’s son, Mike, had cajoled him into officiating in a post-season practice league game. What’s more, he had to do his umpiring forty-six feet from the plate. Someone forgot to bring the face mask so he made his calls standing on the pitcher’s mound. Still the old man would give it his best. He had too much respect for the tradition of baseball to do anything else.

He had a couple things going for him. First was the unofficial rule was that nobody argued with the umpire. That rule was obeyed stringently by the coaches, and sometimes by the kids themselves. Also George Herman remembered an umpire from his own youth, George Magerkurth. Magerkurth was bigger than most players and tried with some success to cow them into silence with his size and wild histrionics.

George Herman, himself about the old umpire’s size, added his own histrionics for a good reason. It would take a brave kid to challenge a guy that big, especially if the big guy was making all that noise while jumping around like a cartoon character.

It was game time, and the pitcher warmed up, and warmed up, and warmed up. Finally the ersatz Magerkurth asked the kid if he was ready. The kid stared back and didn’t answer.

“Hey, kid. You loose?”

The youngster stared some more, then threw to the catcher again.

“Look, we don’t have all day. You about ready?” Again, another stare, then he chucked it to the catcher again.

This was getting silly. The ump shouted to his son sitting on the bench.“ Hey, Mike Your pitcher about ready? He won’t talk to me.”

“Oh, he doesn’t speak English. He just moved here from Japan. Take the ball from him and don’t give it back or he’ll keep playing catch all day. He loves to play catch.”

The Reds, Joe’s team, had won practically every game in the short season, and they didn’t want to get beat by the Pirates who hadn’t won a single one. A victory by the Pirates would make the season a success, at least for the day. Tomorrow would take care of itself.

Finally they got underway and the game bumped along, inning by inning.

Both managers had promised each player he could pitch to a batter or so. One kid couldn’t get past the warm-up stage. His best pitch missed home plate by a couple feet. The harder he tried, the worse he got. Then, the young fellow remembered he had a serious stomach ache and said he’d feel better if he was in right field.

Not long after that the ump had one of those challenges a guy loves when things are going right. The batter lofted a high one down the right field line. As befits a good ump, George Herman hustled over to get a good look at it. It didn’t help. The chalk mark must have been laid down by one of the kids while he was watching an airplane. The line skewed towards center field, then petered out. The ball landed in no-man’s land. It was either fail, foul, or too close to call.

According to tradition, the umpire is only supposed to make a verbal call if the ball is foul, but with kids if he doesn’t say something they will all stop and wait. In his best Magerkurth voice he made the call. “FAIR BALL!” The right fielder who couldn’t find home plate a little earlier grabbed the thing and made the best throw of the game, right to the second baseman. The infielder tagged the batter, and held on.

“YER OUT,” bellowed the ump. Then he whirled to see the other runner almost, but not quite, at home plate. He ran towards home and shouted “THIS RUN DOESN’T COUNT!” Twas a critical call because that run would have made it 14 to 4, Pirates.

That call also earned George Herman his only sign of approval the entire game. Mike gave his dad a little smile and almost nodded his head. The umpire remained stoic. Umpires don’t smile. They do stick their tongues out now and then though. An inning or so later he called a close--but correct he was pretty sure--third strike on his grandson. Joe gave his grandfather a scowl and looked like he was going to break rule number one. George Herman gave the kid the tongue. Joe returned the salute, but followed it with a smile. Hey, they were going for a bike ride after the game.

Even easy calls aren’t easy in Little League practice games. A batter socked one high over the fence. It was, as they say nowadays, a no-doubter. The ball cleared the fence by ten feet, hit a tree, and bounced back onto the field. George Herman had a call nobody could blow. He gave the traditional signal by pointing skyward and making a circle with his finger.

As usual, he should have shouted. In the absence of any verbal direction, the left fielder invoked his own rule. He’d play any ball that got into his territory, no matter how it got there. The kid grabbed it and fired a strike to the shortstop who had wandered out to the cutoff position merely to watch the home run.

The shortstop, not quite sure what to do, whirled and pegged the ball right to the catcher who chased the runner back towards third. The kid on third, who would have been heading for home himself except that he had stopped to watch an airplane, headed back towards second.

Confusion set in. Kids ran the bases counterclockwise then clockwise. The ball was thrown willy-nilly. George Herman thought one of the runners passed another, but he figured

nobody else knew for sure. To settle things once and for all he got hold of the ball, put it in his pocket, lined up the runners and marched them across home plate.

Then he found the kid who had hit his first ever homer and gave him the ball, or one about like it anyhow.

Finally the game came down to the final at bat. Thanks in part to the homer the Reds had fought back and were within one big swing of yet another win, thus relegating the Pirates to a winless season. The overdogs were down one run with two ducks on the pond, two outs, and two strikes on their batter.

The umpire didn’t want a tough call at this point, but easy calls are for the Major Leagues. The Little League pitcher could have passed for a miniature version of 1940’s Rip Sewell. The one-time Pirate pitcher threw what he called an eephus pitch. It was a lob that went high in the air and came down, almost vertically, across the strike zone. Unfortunately Sewell’s most notable eephus pitch was one served to Ted Williams in an all-star game. Williams knocked it out of sight.

George Herman cast a quick glace toward the sky, ignored a passing plane, and pleaded with the baseball gods to help the pitcher put one right down the middle. Likely that’s what the pitcher tried to do, but it had all the zip of a eephus ball tacking into the wind. The dying quail tailed away to catch the corner, or pretty close anyhow. He heard somebody shout, “STEEERIKE THREE, YER OUT!”

It was him. The game was over.

The Pirates poured out of the dugout to celebrate their only victory. The Reds made do with that “TWO FOUR SIX EIGHT, WHO DO WE APPRECIATE” thing.

The parents hugged their kids and told them they were proud of them.

The managers congratulated each other.

The umpire walked to his car all alone. Nobody said a word to him.

That’s baseball.

-30-

Wrap...

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Santorum...UGH!

The Nation
Richard Kim
June 6, 2011
|
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is ardently anti-gay and has an acute talent for tapping into the homophobic imagination of social conservatives. “Man on child,” “man on dog,” incest, “priests with 3-year-olds,” polygamy, the welfare of children, the decline of Western civilization—if it’s in the vocabulary of anti-gay hysteria, Santorum has been there, done that. As a result, he’s become the target of a Google bomb, led by gay columnist Dan Savage, that successfully redefined “santorum” as a substance most straight people probably didn’t know existed and most gay men never thought to name, especially not in honor of a Republican US senator. But hey, shit happens—and now Santorum is widely considered a joke. The launch of his presidential campaign today was greeted with a chorus of knowing sneers.

augh away—for now he has the support of just two percent of Republican voters—but remember, Santorum wasn’t always just for shits and giggles. Before he crashed and burned in his race for a third Senate term, Santorum was considered a golden boy of the GOP. He had won four elections in a row in a swing state against well-financed Democrats. He was the youngest member of the GOP Senate leadership and, for much of the early 2000s, one of its most frequent TV spokesmen.
Most importantly, Santorum was the baby face of compassionate conservatism and an important architect of its signature pieces of legislation. As head of the House GOP Task Force on Welfare Reform, Santorum wrote key parts of what became the landmark 1996 welfare reform bill signed by Bill Clinton. He championed No Child Left Behind and proposed the Santorum Amendment to it, which attempted to insert teaching on the theory of intelligent design. Along with Democrat Dick Durbin, Santorum crusaded for increasing US spending on the global fight against HIV/AIDS, especially if it went to church groups and controversial abstinence-only programs. He considered enlarging the US role in fighting AIDS integral to "American exceptionalism," and he earned the praise of Bono, among others, for his advocacy. Throughout it all, he worked behind the scenes to increase government funding for faith-based social services.

As conservative pundit Kathleen Parker lamented in September 2006, when it was clear that Santorum would go down to Bob Casey, “Santorum has been the conservatives’ point man for the world’s disenfranchised—the poor, the sick and the meek. If he loses, the face of compassionate conservatism will be gone.”

Parker was right. Nobody on the right talks of compassionate conservatism anymore, especially now that the Tea Party is running the show. In part that’s because it collapsed on its own internal contradictions. As an ideology, compassionate conservatism championed state support for social justice —to fight poverty, illiteracy or disease, for example—but it opposed the state doing that work itself. In practice, that meant turning the state into a giant, heavily politicized pass-through mechanism that redistributed tax-payer dollars to private charities and corporations without meaningful accountability. Because compassionate conservatism is rooted in Christian missionary zealotry, it inevitably engaged in social engineering—abstinence-only sex education and discrimination against gays and lesbians, for example. And most importantly for the Tea Party right, it ran up the deficit. Along with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, for Tea Party conservatives, it is the most visible symbol of how Bush went wrong, corrupting real conservatism with profligate cronyism.

That’s the real reason why Santorum’s candidacy seems so laughable now. He’s a relic from another time, one marked by plentitude and optimism, when conservatives embraced a global role for the United States, attempted to hijack American progressivism and above all, needed a new brand to bring them back from the mean years of straight-up bashing welfare queens and fags with AIDS (see Jesse Helms). Santorum fulfilled that role, speaking of America’s great and charitable mission to aid the poor while retaining enough smiling hatred to stoke the old base. It didn’t really make sense then. It really doesn’t make sense now.

Wrap....

Just Shut Your Mouth.....

Pecadilloes and Penises
by
Keith Taylor


Here we go again! A congress member violated the modern bugaboo of political correctness. No, he didn't take or misuse public money. He didn't vote to start an unnecessary war. He didn't do something against the wishes of most of his constituents. He got carried away in a private conversation and it involved sex.

Now he's on the skids and his life is on the verge of being ruined. When a righteous blogger posted a story of Congressman Anthony Weiner's Internet peccadilloes Weiner made the expected response. He lied about it, and very poorly.

He would have saved himself a lot of trouble if he'd simply shut the hell up and let it ride. After all, how many people were really shocked at what looked like the outline of a modest sized boner in his skivvies? Indeed no laws were broken, at least no man-made laws. But what about those laws not of this kingdom?

We're talking religion here and that brings into play an entirely new set of laws, those believed to have been laid down by the creator of a universe now known said by scientists to be thirteen billion years old. across.

But according to the adherents of most Western religions, some ten thousand years ago that creator not only gave us the universe he also laid down laws governing everybody in it. Those laws include their innermost thoughts. And the penalty for breaking those laws is severe.

Thanks to the astute founding fathers of our nation and a succession of court rulings, laws governing based merely on a belief on unseen beings are unconstitutional. Hence those of us who choose to think, not merely to believe, are protected from this idea that flights of fancy are punishable by temporal law.

Sadly there is no protection against someone's throwing a fit about a violation of what they think is immoral, such as thinking about anything. And even more sadly those people vote.

So, unless Anthony Weiner keeps his mouth shut long enough for the titillation over his modest boner wears off, he's a goner, and there's no telling what the hypocrite who replaces him will be like. The only thing for sure is he'll will assure us he doesn't impure thoughts.

I worry about my country.

Wrap...

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Books and More Books...

From Publishers Lunch Weekly....

FICTION
Mystery/Crime
David Mark's crime debut THE DARK WINTER, to David Rosenthal at Blue Rider Press, in a two-book deal, for publication starting in Summer 2012, by Oliver Munson at the Blake Friedmann (US & Canada).
Ullstein and Mondadori pre-empted German and Italian rights.

Thriller
Writing as J.I. Baker, debut novelist James Ireland Baker's THE EMPTY GLASS, a riveting, paranoiac thriller told by the young L.A. coroner who is among the first on the scene at Marilyn Monroe's bungalow the morning she is found dead, about the secret diary he discovers and the conspiracy he unravels in the following days, to Sarah Hochman at Blue Rider Press, by Richard Pine at Inkwell Management (World English).

Women's/Romance
NYT bestselling author Gena Showalter's next four HQN novels, including books to continue her Lords of the Underworld series, as well as titles in a brand new series, to Margo Lipschultz at Harlequin, by Deidre Knight at The Knight Agency (world).

British historian Hallie Rubenhold's MISTRESS OF MY FATE and THE FRENCH LESSON, the first two installments in a new series, recounting the adventures of a seventeen-year old aristocrat; torn from her home, she is thrown into the world and must learn to wear many masks -- courtesan, spy, actress, artist, forger, cardsharp -- as she wends her way through Europe in the midst of revolution and turmoil in pursuit of her true love, to Deb Futter at Grand Central, by Tina Bennett at Janklow & Nesbit on behalf of Claire Paterson at Janklow & Nesbit UK (NA).
Transworld will publish in the UK starting in July 2012.

Children's: Middle grade
The eighth and final installment of Eoin Colfer's ARTEMIS FOWL series THE LAST GUARDIAN, for publication in summer 2012, plus two books in a new W.A.R.P. series, beginning with The Reluctant Assassin for publication in Winter 2013, about young Riley, who has fallen into the FBI's Witness Anonymous Relocation Program, after a murderous escapade with a Victorian illusionist -- who he tries to keep from returning to Victorian times, where, with his new knowledge of all things scientific and technological, he could literally change the world, again to Stephanie Owens Lurie at Disney-Hyperion, by Sophie Hicks at Ed Victor Ltd.


NYT bestsellers K.L. Armstrong & M.A. Marr's THE BLACKWELL PAGES, a trilogy about three 12-year olds descended from Norse Gods who have to stop the impending apocalypse, to Megan Tingley at Little, Brown, in a pre-empt, with Kate Sullivan editing, for publication in Spring 2013, by Merrilee Heifetz at Writers House on behalf of Marr and Sarah Heller at Helen Heller Agency on behalf of Armstrong (NA).

Author of Newbery Honor book THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE Jacqueline Kelly's WIND IN THE WILLOWS REDUX, a sequel to the beloved classic, to be illustrated by Clint G. Young, creator of the forthcoming picture book THE WISH COLLECTOR, to Laura Godwin at Holt Children's, for publication in Fall 2012, by Marcy Posner of Folio Literary Management (Kelly) and Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency (Young).

Children's: Picture book
David Milgrim's GOODNIGHT iPAD: A 2-G PARODY, written under the pseudonym Ann Droyd, for parents and children alike about how to say goodnight to electronics before bedtime, to David Rosenthal and Sarah Hochman at Blue Rider Press, by Brenda Bowen at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates (World).



NONFICTION
Biography
Jonathan Reggio's HANGING MAN: AI WEIWEI, a biography of the celebrated artist and an original perspective on the contemporary political power in China, to Eric Chinski at Farrar, Straus, in a nice deal, and to Ambo/Anthos in the Netherlands and to Saggiatore in Italy, by Lisa Baker at Faber and Faber (NA).

Cooking
Bestselling author, Food Network star, and lifestyle expert Sandra Lee's two cookbooks focusing on healthful, quick-scratch meals; an entertaining/lifestyle book; and two novels, for publication starting in Fall 2011 in tandem with the re-launch of Lee's "Sandra's Money Saving Meals" television show, to Ellen Archer at Hyperion (World).
The deal includes plans by Disney Interactive Media Group to develop a web platform and 15-episode online cooking series.


Owners of Cakelava in Kailua, Hawaii, Rick Reichart, of TLC's Cake Crew, and Sasha Reichart's EXTREME CAKEOVERS, a cake decorating cookbook with 40 projects for easily transforming ho-hum supermarket sheet cakes and other common store-bought ingredients, including candies and doughnuts, into spectacular cakes that look like they came out of a specialty bakery, with stunning before and after photos, to Rica Allannic and Ashley Phillips at Clarkson Potter, at auction, by Holly Schmidt and Allan Penn at Hollan Publishing (World).

History/Politics/Current Affairs
Donald Trump's vision for bringing America back to "number one," to Regnery, for publication in fall 2011.

Former Senate Select Committee on Intelligence professional staff member and current Harvard Kennedy School of Government instructor on national security policy Eric Rosenbach and former CIA Counterterrorism Center analyst Aki Peritz's THE HUNT: Inside America's Find-Fix-Finish Campaigns and Winning the War on Terror, on how the U.S. is much safer today because of the radical counterterrorism strategies developed and refined since 9/11 and culminating in the killing of Osama bin Laden, to Clive Priddle at Public Affairs, for publication in early 2012, by Matthew Carnicelli at Carnicelli Literary Management (World).


Memoir
30-year Navy SEAL and SEAL Team 6 veteran, Don Mann's memoir, co-witten by Ralph Pezzulo, author of bestselling JAWBREAKER, to Geoff Shandler and John Parsley at Little, Brown, for publication in Fall 2011, by Heather Mitchell at Gelfman Schneider.


New York Times contributor, artist and author Leanne Shapton's SWIMMING STORIES, an illustrated collection of autobiographical stories about Shapton's life as a swimmer, exploring her training as a teenager for the 1988 and '92 Olympic trials, the competitive pressures and meditative calm found in the sport and the pastime, to Sarah Hochman at Blue Rider Press, in a two-book deal, by Andrew Wylie at The Wylie Agency (NA). Shapton's most recent book, IMPORTANT ARTIFACTS, is currently under option to Plan B/Paramount Pictures, with Brad Pitt and Natalie Portman attached to star in the lead roles.


Narrative
A reissue of Susan Orlean's SATURDAY NIGHT, a guided tour of Saturday night in America, updated by the author, to Jofie Ferrari-Adler at Simon & Schuster, for release in October to coincide with publication of RIN TIN TIN, by Richard Pine at Inkwell Management.

Julian Guthrie's THE BILLIONAIRE AND THE MECHANIC, the behind-the-scenes story of the unlikely partnership forged between software billionaire Larry Ellison and a blue-collar mechanic during their audacious bid to win the America's Cup, featuring sailing lore, technological wonder, and an inside look into the competition and camaraderie of the world's top yacht clubs, to Morgan Entrekin at Grove/Atlantic, for publication in Spring 2013, by Joe Veltre at Gersh Agency (NA).

Sports
NYT columnist Harvey Araton's DRIVING MR. YOGI, a poignant and inspiring portrait of one of baseball's most unique kinships, between Ron Guidry, the Cy Young Award-winning former Yankees pitcher and Hall of Fame catcher turned national treasure, Yogi Berra, as revisited every spring at spring training; Yogi Berra and Ron Guidry are participating in the project, to Susan Canavan at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, at auction, for publication in Spring 2012, by Andrew Blauner of Blauner Books Literary Agency (world).

UK
Asia Bibi's BLASPHEMY, sentenced to death over a glass of water, falsely accused of blasphemy, the author sends a call for help from behind prison walls; two men have tried to come to her aid: the governor of Punjab and the Pakistani Minister for Minorities; both have been violently assassinated, to Lennie Goodings at Virago; Francesco Anzelmo at Mondadori in Italy; Hans-Peter Ubleis at Droemer-Knaur in Germany, by Andrea Field at Oh! Editions.
afield@xoeditions.com

Canada
Michael Vlessides's THE ICE PILOTS: Flying with the Mavericks of the Great White North, tie-in to the TV show, following the adventures of the most unorthodox flyboys on Earth; renegade Arctic airline Buffalo Airways defies the cold and the competition by using WWII-era propeller planes to haul vital fuel, supplies, and passengers to remote outposts across the world's last great wilderness, to Trena White at Douglas & McIntyre.


Wrap...