Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Rainy Day in Georgia...

and according to Blogger, I still have nine followers.  That's either amazing or laziness on the part of the nine.

I came across the front page of the blog by mistake and learned a lesson, what you do on the internet never goes away - the Apple operating system has a feature that compiles your favorite websites and shows their front pages, as last visited.  I haven't used the feature in a few years and accidentally just swiped its icon.  There with NYTimes.com, The Washington Post and Google News was Rather Than Working.

The Blogger interface has changed and I'd forgotten my password; but, I found my way to the  posting interface.

And here we are.  Those of you that actually know me or are Facebook friends, run along now I'm going to update the other three or four of you.

I left you while I was renovating a condominium that I'd bought from Freddie Mac and looking for burgundy.  As it turned out, burgundy wasn't a good accent color and we used gold.  The place looks pretty good.  I, of course, spent more than I planned to spend and it took longer than I planned to take; but, the time and money spent weren't too, too bad.

Every now and again I think of something and think that would make a good blog post.  A couple of times I've actually started writing something and find that what I have to say is derivative of me or someone I've read.  It appears I have nothing to say other than Facebook one liners on the events of the day.

Hope you are all well.  Come see me on Facebook, Evad Knat.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

In Search of Burgundy

Hey, sorry for my absence.  I’ve been busy.  I had an unusually busy summer and fall at work.  More importantly for this post, I’ve been playing in the freefalling real estate market.

In August I had dinner with a friend who is a real estate agent and we got talking about the market.  Looking into it, I realized that prices were very, very low.  Though I can’t cite evidence, I’d say home prices are historically low.

I ran some numbers and realized that, without going into detail, I could save about half on my housing expenses by buying a home.

So I started looking at properties that were “short sales” and foreclosures. 

For the uninitiated, a short sale is a home in which the owner owes more than the property is worth.  The lender has agreed to forgive the loan balance above the current sale price on the theory that it is better off cutting its loss rather than going to the expense of foreclosing and then sitting with an empty house in a glutted market.

A foreclosure is that empty house, that the lender wants to get rid of in the same market glutted with short sales and other foreclosures.  Usually the price is even cheaper because there’s no seller wanting to come out of it financially even and the banks have learned that they aren’t very good at managing real estate.

Beware potential buyers of either.  Though there is motivation on the part of the short seller and his or her lender, the process is chaotic.

I made a full asking price offer on a short sale, which was “conditionally accepted,” subject to mortgage insurance and lender final approval.  Let’s leave it at such approval (though they had agreed to the asking price) was not forthcoming.  As the tentative closing date approached, there was no word; and, there is no one to talk to about these deals.

Picture a low level employee with stacks of files on the desk who knows they are in a dead end job likely to be eliminated in a few years when the market recovers.  They methodically go from one file to the next, checking boxes or deciding that form “A” is not properly filled out and the file has to be returned to the selling agent for more information, with the process and the timeline returning to day one.

My transaction had several problematic form A’s.  I learned that the tentative closing date, September 30, would need to be extended to, are you ready for this…..December 1.

While cooling my heals, impatiently, I’d done some more research and realized that there are literally thousands of distressed properties in Atlanta and that is in all senses of the word, a buyer’s market (other than speed).  So, when faced with a two month delay, I ….

I think this is a-three part post, a skill I learned from Curmudgeon at Second Effort, who stretched out the story of a one-day trial for a month of posts.  Searching for Burgundy doesn’t come into play, now that I think about it, until part 3.

Stay tuned as your grandparents used to say.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I'm not in Netflix' target demographic

Netflix has taken a lot of flak over the past couple of months.  Raise the price.  Amicable divorce from Starz. Split the DVD and streaming businesses.  Recombine the businesses.  Sign a bunch of new content deals that leave me underwhelmed.

That last one is what this post is about.

I’ve never been “whelmed” by Netflix’ streaming selection.  It was a nice supplement to the DVD deal.  When you’re bored, find an old movie you liked or missed and watch it at your convenience.  Ignore all the old TV episodes of shows you didn’t watch when they were on TV in the first place.

Netflix announced a deal with CW today.  It has acquired long-term rights to past and future CW shows such as “”Ringer,’ ‘Hart of Dixie’ and ‘The Secret Circle;’ returning hits ‘The Vampire Diaries,’ ‘Gossip Girl,’ ‘90210,’ ‘Supernatural,’ ‘Nikita’ and mid-season series, ‘One Tree Hill.’”

I’ve heard of a couple of these, though I’ve never actually seen any of these shows.

I watch very little network TV and nothing on channels like TBS, CW, WB or E!  I’ve always thought of their programming as the kind of thing you used to find on a UHF channel, next to the PBS channel.

I think Netflix is becoming the modern version of UHF, a dumping ground for re-runs of shows that weren’t that good in the first place.  If you like that kind of stuff, $8 a month isn’t a bad price to find it in one place without commercials I suppose.

But, it is seeming like an increasingly poor deal for me when it represents 80% and growing of what Netflix streaming has and I’m only interested in the 20% and shrinking part.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Death at the Hands of Government

No, this isn’t about the death penalty.

It appears a couple of Iranian guys, one with U.S. Citizenship and one connected to the Iranian government plotted to kill a Saudi Ambassador and got caught. 

We are officially incensed and Iran is officially dismissive.

We offed bin Laden with a Seal team and more recently, the other American born terrorist guy and trumpeted that we had done so.  Others are incensed.

Whether or not we and the other side should be, we are in a guerilla war.  Currently, we seem to be scoring better than they are and defending better than they are.

But, right or wrong both sides are killing or trying to kill.  I don’t see that we are inherently morally superior in this exchange.  Maybe we need to do what we are doing; but, and here’s the big but – I don’t know because our government won’t tell me what it’s got on the people it targets, even after the fact.  Have you ever seen anything that rose to the level of legal proof that bin Laden is indeed the architect of terrorism?  I think he probably was, but I don’t know that.  The guy we offed with the drone last week – what did he do?  We won’t know any time in the mid-term future.

Do we really expect Iran, if it is behind the most recent failed plot to fess up, cry and ask forgiveness?  We are engaged in table stakes, death being the losing hand, poker.  Our officials' decrying the other side’s attempts to harm us seems to be a bit disingenuous to me.

Goose and gander, it seems, who is who depending on your bias.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

It Takes a Village

While I’m totally disillusioned with the President; and, I don’t think the Democrats have clue as to what to do to solve our economic problems; and, the Republicans seem to be consumed with being against anything the President, and his wife while at Target, do, there are some things they all could do, which they won’t

Quit the games.  None of you are totally evil, though there are days, weeks and months that I wonder.  Our national and global future is not a game of table stakes poker.  Quit acting like everything is a bet on what will get you re-elected and if it actually does some good is lagniappe.

Face up to the huge infrastructure problems that we face while at the same time facing huge social liabilities. 

We can’t spend billions of dollars weekly making the world safe for whatever it is we are selling, whatever it is being totally squishy.  Israel, while it gets money from us to fend off its regional enemies, doesn’t try to buy off its enemies.  If we are going to play a global game, and we need to, be realistic – spend money and lives only if and when it is absolutely necessary to protect us from the people that want to kill us.  And while you are at it, explain why you are spending the money.

The people in Afghanistan and Pakistan don’t like us and they aren’t going to become Western democracies in our great-grandchildrens’ lifetimes.  Figure out what is the absolute minimum we need to do to make sure they don’t come after us and set them free to do as they will.  When we are leaving, we should apologize for our part in what got them to the current mess.

Iraq, will get by, it always has and it always will.  The same is true of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Given some time, perhaps there will be an Arab Spring in those countries.

North Korea – leave it to its neighbors, keeping an eye out for really crazy stuff.

China?  Let it figure out how to deal with its rigid and structured economy in the face of the rest of the world’s economic meltdown.  It and we need to figure out how to be major players in a world that won’t let either of us dominate.

What to do about Europe and Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the next countries on the economic block?  I don’t have a clue.  But I suspect the solution to their problems is similar to the solution to the problems we have here that could earn us a place in the queue for defaulting country of the year.

I’ve said this before, but people are cussed.  The “free market” doesn’t work if it is rigged.

I could go on and on with this.  I think I’ll end with the thought that Hillary Clinton had a pretty good book title:  It Takes a Village.  Small groups of people can have their problems; but, when faced with having to live with each other, they can usually figure out a way to make the experience bearable. 

We’ve spent the last century or so doing everything possible to eliminate the personal relationships inherent in a village.

Think about it.  We get mad at our friends and family on a regular basis.  And we get over it.  Not always, but most of the time.  If we can’t handle the issue, the larger but still small group steps in.  The remaining problems are few.

Perhaps the solution to the world’s ills is to figure out how to replicate the process of a community on a large scale.

Not happy with this post overall; but, I’m not in the mood to polish it.  Bottom line, we need to figure out a way to talk not shout, reign in the rogues, not bail them out.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Gotta Love Republicans

The Washington Post had a sort of expose article today on Rick Perry’s maybe, kinda racist years in the wilds of Texas.  It seems his father rented a “hunting camp” in the early eighties.  He and Perry kept it going into this century, though Perry’s folks swear he hasn’t been there since 2006, an interesting swearing as Perry also says that a rock at the entrance that had the word Niggerhead in block letters painted on it was painted over shortly after Perry mentioned it to his father in the early eighties, a matter disputed by a number of people, named and unnamed in the Post article.

Herman Cain says that Perry is obviously “insensitive” given the story, Cain of the view that there will be “no Muslims in my administration” for months and months until he took too much flack for it, had a meeting with an actual Muslim, and repented.

We all have our prejudices, I just find that Republicans, when caught, are especially humorous when squirming away from the light thrown on them.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Modest Proposal About the Death Penalty

Georgia's Pardons and Parole Board has denied Troy Davis’ request for clemency.  In Georgia, the Governor has no role in the process.  Barring something totally unexpected, he will die tomorrow night about 7:00 p.m. in the state prison in Jackson.

I did some surfing to find out just what will happen and couldn't find the protocol.  My recollection from the past is that there are “official” and other witnesses who sit behind a window watching the person being strapped down, needles inserted, drug flow started and doctors checking to make sure the process “worked.”

I think that is a much too sterile way to go about it.

For proponents and those on the fence, we should go back to public and gruesome spectacles – hanging, firing squad, electrocution, maybe drawing and quartering, or the “give it to him the way he gave it to his victim” approach.  Give the proponents their money’s worth and the fence stradlers a graphic view of what their ambivalence leads to.

The village square is thing of the past so I suppose we’ll have to rent the local sports stadium and broadcast the execution on PBS and the local public access stations.  If we go pay per view it would provide a quick straw poll on public support for state killing, the more viewers, the more support there is.  I don’t want to hear NIMBY crap or that isn’t in good taste or suitable for children.  The process is in place because “We the People” put and keep it in place. The spectacle will get them ready for real life, which includes death by way of the State.

Now, I’m not unsympathetic to the needs of broadcasters and the regular TV viewing habits of people in our country.  We could treat the process like elections – conduct all the executions in a big batch on say the first Monday of each November, just in time for elections the next day.  We could have “cards” with the lesser offenders and their quicker, cleaner, less gruesome killings coming first, leading up to the main event, it is to be hoped, a drawing and quartering or ritual torture.

My proposal satisfies all the stated purposes of state killing – vengeance, the “he won’t do it again” value and a much better “deterrent to others” potential, with a huge bonus for hockey, UFC and video game fans.

Come on, death penalty advocates, poke holes in my proposal.  If the death penalty is a good thing, it should be open and made into a societal event.  If you are squeamish and want to hide it away, what does that say about your real feelings?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Goldilocks and Class Warfare

Goldilocks said the porridge was “just right.”

President Obama is talking about fair shares of taxation and the Republicans are shouting that he’s engaging in class warfare.

He probably is - I’m sure more of his potential voters next year are not millionaires than are.

And, it strikes me as odd that the Republicans are accusing him of class warfare other than the fact that many of us engage in class envy and class aspiration despite reality that says neither will pan out for most of us.

That said, the GOP is absolutely clear that it will tolerate NO TAX INCREASES!  Having drawn that line, the GOP presupposes that the taxes in this country are “just right.”  Democrats say that taxes have to be raised – Obama trumpeting more taxes on oil companies, jet owners and millionaires and that will be “just right.”

Says who?  Please explain.

But the GOP doesn’t do that beyond repeating the mantra that increasing a tax of any kind will ruin the already near-death economy.  Obama proposes band-aid tax increases and building nicer schools and then all will be well.

On Thursday John Boehner said that “[j]ob creators in America are essentially on strike.”  And from the evidence, I think he’s right.  Corporations have hundreds of billions of dollars sitting on the sidelines and are raking in billions more in profits as I type.

Will Google, Microsoft, all the banks, hedge funds and other industries shut down if their executives get a tax bill that’s a couple of percent higher than it’s been for the last ten years?

Alternatively, maybe we should reduce the marginal tax rate for the richest of us, will that spur the companies they control to hire people?

The answer to each question is no.

That being so, the question isn’t taxes on the rich.  The question is indeed class warfare and a refusal on the part of the people on both sides of the aisle to deal with reality.

Left wing Democrats appeal to have-nots.  Right wing Republicans appeal to haves and those that think the haves having will help them.

Neither side is willing to even consider addressing the structural problems of our economy for fear of losing the votes of their core voters resulting in classic class warfare.

Obama’s proposal to increase the taxes that millionaires pay will not solve one problem that we have.  Boehner’s insistence that millionaires not pay one penny more in tax is equally unavailing.

Money for investment will continue to be on strike until … well isn’t that the question that I see neither Democrats nor Republicans trying to answer.  I guess we need a Goldilocks to tell us what is just right and then do it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

It appears some of you still kinda like me

I haven't looked at Sitemeter in months, many months.  Whatever a Visit and a Page View are, they've been trending down for about a year.  But, it seems there are still a few hundred wayward souls a month coming past and a few more hundred clicking beyond the main page.

Kind of amazing given that my output and the quality of said output has declined this year.

I'm not sure what it says about you or me; but, the blog had a bit over 90 page views when I re-posted the 9/11 stuff on September 10 this year.

I've had a busy working year and a year that I've just not had the spark to write much.  Some of that lack of writing energy is the result of Facebook and now, to a small, very small extent, Google+.  It's so much easier to dash off a few sentences or even easier to link something with, I hope, a pithy or funny sentence.  (Evad Knat on both - nothing to hide - it's the same me).

And, hah!  I just realized that Rather Than Working started towards the end of this month, five years ago in 2006.

Happy Anniversary to me!

Richard Jewell was no Sarah Palin

The Atlanta-Journal Constitution this week declined to publish Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury strip in the paper paper because… well we’ll get to that.

In 1996 Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympics.  Perhaps one of the reasons the International Olympic Committee didn’t pronounce the games “the best ever!” had to do with a small explosion in the then new Centennial Olympic Park.  A couple of people died.

Richard Jewell, a hapless security guard, was identified in an AJC story as a suspect based on unnamed sources.  There’s a lot of background and back and forth; but, as it turns out, he wasn’t the bomber, he was a hero – he urged people to leave the area.  The bomber and villain was Eric Rudolph, who is currently a resident in one of the supermax prisons we maintain, the name of which I forget.

The AJC has spent hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars defending Mr. Jewell’s, and since his death, his family’s, defamation suit.  One of it’s defenses was that Mr. Jewell was a “public figure,” something it made him, and thus he had to prove that the AJC acted with actual malice in publishing admittedly false information about him.

To date, the AJC has won and I think the case is finally over.

Back to the former Alaskan Governor and Mr. Trudeau.  Doonesbury this week was about the new book coming out about Sarah Palin that accuses her of cocaine use and interracial, pre-marital sex, matters not exactly fitting with her image.

Let’s assume that the book and Doonesbury got all of it wrong.

The AJC, and a number of other newspapers, didn’t run the strips.  The AJC’s editor stumbled and dissembled in an interview with the local public radio station which you can listen to here.

After being caught with giving some bogus reasons for censoring the strip, he settled on the matter being breaking news and it not being fair to Ms. Palin to run the satire before she had a chance to respond.  “Readers expect and demand that we be fair.”

The AJC was hardly fair in its coverage of Richard Jewell.  I know it didn’t wait to report the allegations until he responded to them.  Perhaps it has learned something from its treatment of him in the past decade and a half which informs its decision about the Palin “reporting.”  More likely, it considered him a schlub, unworthy of proper sourcing and fair reporting and decided to censor obvious satire about Palin which it felt would offend what it thinks are its mostly conservative readers. 

For me, I do want fair reporting.  I didn’t get it with respect to Mr. Jewell from the AJC.  Political cartoons are by definition biased, that is their whole point and I do want them published by the newspapers I read.  I didn’t get that from the AJC. 

One guy did it, the other guy probably didn't and both will probably be executed

The guy that did it is on death row in Texas.  He was supposed to be killed last night but the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay to consider whether he got a fair trial in light of testimony by a psychologist that black people (the defendant is black) are more likely to pose a danger to the public if they are released.

The guy that probably didn’t do it is on death row in Georgia.  He was convicted of killing a policeman.  Of the nine witnesses at his trial, seven have now said they didn’t tell the truth.  One of the other two witnesses is a guy who may well have done the killing.

The Texas guy has had a little bit of fame lately since Rick Perry is running for President and when asked last week if he worried that one of the several hundred people executed while he has been Governor might be innocent said

"No, sir. I've never struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place of which -- when someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, they go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States, if that's required.

"But in the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you're involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is, you will be executed."

Fair enough I suppose; but, the current guy is one of six defendants who had the same psychologist give the same prejudicial testimony – the other five got a new trial.  And that “very thoughtful” process includes the governor’s consideration of a stay or clemency just before the scheduled execution – Governor Perry has been a tad busy this week running for President out of state.

Since from all accounts, the Texas guy is guilty, he doesn’t make an appealing poster child for opponents of the death penalty.

But the guy in Georgia has been in the spotlight for some time now and is a more attractive cause.

The U.S. Supreme Court gave him a hearing before a U.S. District Court Judge last year.  The Judge set an impossible standard to throw out the verdict – actual innocence.  In other words, though the state had to prove its case “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the guy had the burden to prove that there was absolutely no doubt that he was innocent.  He didn’t meet that burden and is scheduled to be killed next week.

Yesterday death penalty opponents delivered petitions with over 600,000 signatures on them to Georgia’s Pardons and Paroles Board. Former FBI Director William Sessions sides with them.  Writing about the absolute innocence conundrum he said:

“Some of these same witnesses also had testified at Davis’ trial but have since recanted their trial testimony. The judge at the evidentiary hearing found their recantations to be unreliable and, therefore, found Davis was unable to “clearly establish” his innocence. The problem is that the testimony of these same witnesses, whom the judge had determined were less believable, had been essential to the original conviction and death sentence.”

Former United States Attorney and U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, a death penalty advocate, wrote an editorial advocating clemency. “[I]mposing an irreversible sentence of death on the skimpiest of evidence will not serve the interest of justice. By granting clemency, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles will adhere to the most sacred principles of American jurisprudence, and will keep a man from being executed when we cannot be assured of his guilt.”

Execution doesn’t rehabilitate, it doesn’t deter.  If vengeance is a legitimate goal I suppose the practice has a purpose.  But even assuming that purpose, doesn’t life without parole accomplish the same thing?

Execution seems to me to be a symptom of an atavistic thread in our society.  Early on, it was “us” and “them.”  Our clan against the strangers.  Early society had no time or inclination to rehabilitate and deter.  If someone killed he became “them,” no longer one of us and now a threat to “us.”  Putting utting him in “jail” to protect and to avenge harm to “us” wasn’t an option.

We are no longer hunter/gatherers.  We can put people in jail to protect us from them and that is surely what we should do, especially when we cannot be assured of their guilt.

“In 2007, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles issued a stay of execution for Davis and took the admirable position that it would ‘not allow an execution to proceed in this State unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused.’” AJC.com.

I hope they keep their word.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Just what is wrong with people?

Last night at the CNN/Tea Party Republican Debate, the idea of letting a guy with no money and no health insurance die rather than being treated at a hospital got applause from the audience.

Today, I read an AP story about a 101 year old woman evicted from her son’s foreclosed home.  The son, 65, apparently has some problems - he’d been ignoring the notices for some time.  But, and here’s the big but – the sheriff or marshal or police guys there, they can’t call someone?  She was literally put out on the street with her stuff.  A friend is letting her stay in a place and the stuff is in the process of being moved from the curb.  No one calls to anyone?

Tough luck guy and old, old lady, it’s a hard world these days.  I got mine, you shoulda got yours when you could.

I’ve been thinking about that poster from way back about “they came for the Jews and I wasn’t a Jew,” the tradition of Jubilee and the fact that in an historical society that I can’t quite place, “stealing” enough food to eat for the day from a field wasn’t a crime if you were hungry. Can’t escape being a human that I know of.   

One of these days, rich folks, and maybe some of us not so rich, may need more than gated communities.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I think, for the last time...

I spent September 11, 2001 and the next few days in New Jersey being unable to get through the Lincoln Tunnel to Manhattan.  I wrote about it a few years back and since have just linked to the posts.  I've never been a fan of round number anniversaries, I'm not sure why they are special.

I actually haven't re-read the linked posts.  What I do remember about my week in the wilds of Newark was the uncommon kindness of strangers and friends.  I think that's what I'm going to hold on to from ten years ago, it seems so much more valuable than what has followed.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Waiting for Godot

There’s a line in the opinion piece I linked to yesterday that I’ve been thinking about.  “There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic.”

By any measure, I’m not low on information.  I have way too much information, not enough of it valuable.  Put in legal terms, I don’t have enough relevant information.  Put another way, I’m in over my head when it comes to assigning blame for the messes we have, much less knowing how to clean up the messes.

And the scary thing is, our leaders are in over their heads too.  Obama, Boehner, Pelosi, McConnell, Reid and the various Tea Party types aren’t, at heart, evil.  They have their biases and those biases get in the way of solving problems.  But if the biases could be stripped away, I don’t think they have a clue, putting them in the same boat I’m in.

The boat is taking on water faster and faster and none of us know whether to row like hell for shore, bail like hell or wait for Godot* to rescue us.  Most of us have settled on waiting for what will pass for Godot.

Waiting for Godot is an absurdist play by Samuel Beckett in which two characters wait endlessly and in vain for someone named Godot to arrive.  Wikipedia, of course.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Some Light Reading For Labor Day

The author thinks we are doomed. I'm inclined to agree.  If you read it today and aren't too depressed to carry on, enjoy the holiday.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Ten Years Later

Lengths of some wars you may remember:

Vietnam War--August, 1964 to April, 1975, 129 months
Afghanistan--  October, 2001 to Present, 119 months

Iraq War--March, 2003 to Present, 102 months
American Revolution--April, 1775 to September, 1783, 100 months
U.S. Civil War--April, 1861 to April, 1865, 48 months
World War II--December, 1941 to September, 1945, 45 months
World War I--April, 1917 to November, 1918, 19 months
Korean War-- June, 1950 to July, 1953, 37 months
War of 1812--June, 1812 to February, 1815, 32 months
U.S.-Mexican War-- May, 1846 to February, 1848, 21 months
Spanish-American War--April, 1898 to August, 1898, 5 months
Gulf War--January, 1991 to March, 1991, 3 months

Is there a lesson in the relative lengths of these wars?  I think there is: if you are going to kill people for a cause, you need to know what the cause is and know whether killing people will get you to your goal.  We haven’t undertaken that analysis the last three times we engaged in nation building (other than GHW Bush’s under-appreciated decision to live with the original goal of the Gulf War).

Leonard Pitts, September 12, 2001

It's my job to have something to say.

They pay me to tease shades of meaning from social and cultural issues, to provide words that help make sense of that which troubles the American soul. But in this moment of airless shock when hot tears sting disbelieving eyes, the only thing I can find to say, the only words that seem to fit, must be addressed to the unknown author of this suffering.

You monster. You beast. You unspeakable bastard.

What lesson did you hope to teach us by your coward's attack on our World Trade Center, our Pentagon, us? What was it you hoped we would learn?

Whatever it was, please know that you failed.

Did you want us to respect your cause? You just damned your cause.

Did you want to make us fear? You just steeled our resolve.

Did you want to tear us apart? You just brought us together.

Let me tell you about my people. We are a vast and quarrelsome family, a family rent by racial, cultural, political and class division, but a family nonetheless. We're frivolous, yes, capable of expending tremendous emotional energy on pop cultural minutiae: a singer's revealing dress, a ball team's misfortune, a cartoon mouse.

We're wealthy, too, spoiled by the ready availability of trinkets and material goods; and maybe because of that, we walk through life with a certain sense of blithe entitlement. We are fundamentally decent, though -- peace-loving and compassionate. We struggle to know the right thing and to do it. And we are -- the overwhelming majority of us -- people of faith, believers in a just and loving God.

Some people -- you, perhaps -- think that any or all of this makes us weak.

You're mistaken. We are not weak. Indeed, we are strong in ways that cannot be measured by arsenals.

Yes, we're in pain now. We are in mourning, and we are in shock. We're still grappling with the unreality of the awful thing you did, still working to make ourselves understand that this isn't a special effect from some Hollywood blockbuster, isn't the plot development from a Tom Clancy novel.

Both in terms of the awful scope of its ambition and the probable final death toll, your attacks are likely to go down as the worst acts of terrorism in the history of the United States and, indeed, the history of the world. You've bloodied us as we have never been bloodied before.

But there's a gulf of difference between making us bloody and making us fall.

This is the lesson that Japan was taught to its bitter sorrow the last time anyone hit us this hard, the last time anyone brought us such abrupt and monumental pain. When roused, we are righteous in our outrage, terrible in our force. When provoked by this level of barbarism, we will bear any suffering, pay any cost, go to any length in the pursuit of justice.

I tell you this without fear of contradiction. I know my people as you, I think, do not. What I know reassures me. It also causes me to tremble with dread of the future.

In days to come, there will be recrimination and accusation, fingers pointing to determine whose failure allowed this to happen and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. There will be heightened security, misguided talk of revoking basic freedoms. We'll go forward from this moment sobered, chastened, sad. But determined, too. Unimaginably determined.

You see, there is steel beneath this velvet. That aspect of our character is seldom understood by people who don't know us well. On this day, the family's bickering is put on hold. As Americans, we will weep; as Americans, we will mourn; and as Americans, we will rise in defense of all that we cherish.

Still, I keep wondering what it was you hoped to teach us. It occurs to me that maybe you just wanted us to know the depths of your hatred.

If that's the case, consider the message received. And take this message in exchange: You don't know my people. You don't know what we're about. You don't know what you just started.

But you're about to learn.

George W. Bush, September 20, 2001

Americans are asking, why do they hate us? They hate what we see right here in this chamber--a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms--our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other. They want to overthrow existing governments in many Muslim countries, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. They want to drive Israel out of the Middle East. They want to drive Christians and Jews out of vast regions of Asia and Africa. These terrorists kill not merely to end lives, but to disrupt and end a way of life. With every atrocity, they hope that America grows fearful, retreating from the world and forsaking our friends. They stand against us, because we stand in their way.

We are not deceived by their pretenses to piety. We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions--by abandoning every value except the will to power--they follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way, to where it ends: in history’s unmarked grave of discarded lies.

Americans are asking: How will we fight and win this war? We will direct every resource at our command--every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war--to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network. . . . Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.

Our nation has been put on notice: We are not immune from attack. We will take defensive measures against terrorism to protect Americans. Today, dozens of federal departments and agencies, as well as state and local governments, have responsibilities affecting homeland security. These efforts must be coordinated at the highest level. So tonight I announce the creation of a Cabinet-level position reporting directly to me--the Office of Homeland Security….

These measures are essential. But the only way to defeat terrorism as a threat to our way of life is to stop it, eliminate it, and destroy it where it grows. Many will be involved in this effort, from FBI agents to intelligence operatives to the reservists we have called to active duty. All deserve our thanks, and all have our prayers. And tonight, a few miles from the damaged Pentagon, I have a message for our military: Be ready. I’ve called the Armed Forces to alert, and there is a reason. The hour is coming when America will act, and you will make us proud.

Americans are asking: What is expected of us? I ask you to live your lives, and hug your children. I know many citizens have fears tonight, and I ask you to be calm and resolute, even in the face of a continuing threat.

I ask you to uphold the values of America, and remember why so many have come here. We are in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them. No one should be singled out for unfair treatment or unkind words because of their ethnic background or religious faith. . . .

We will come together to give law enforcement the additional tools it needs to track down terror here at home. We will come together to strengthen our intelligence capabilities to know the plans of terrorists before they act, and find them before they strike. We will come together to take active steps that strengthen America’s economy, and put our people back to work….

After all that has just passed--all the lives taken, and all the possibilities and hopes that died with them--it is natural to wonder if America’s future is one of fear. Some speak of an age of terror. I know there are struggles ahead, and dangers to face. But this country will define our times, not be defined by them. As long as the United States of America is determined and strong, this will not be an age of terror; this will be an age of liberty, here and across the world.

Great harm has been done to us. We have suffered great loss. And in our grief and anger we have found our mission and our moment. Freedom and fear are at war. The advance of human freedom--the great achievement of our time, and the great hope of every time--now depends on us. Our nation--this generation--will lift a dark threat of violence from our people and our future. We will rally the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage. We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.

It is my hope that in the months and years ahead, life will return almost to normal. We’ll go back to our lives and routines, and that is good. Even grief recedes with time and grace. But our resolve must not pass. Each of us will remember what happened that day, and to whom it happened. We’ll remember the moment the news came--where we were and what we were doing. Some will remember an image of a fire, or a story of rescue. Some will carry memories of a face and a voice gone forever.

I will not forget this wound to our country or those who inflicted it. I will not yield; I will not rest; I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people. The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them.

Fellow citizens, we’ll meet violence with patient justice--assured of the rightness of our cause, and confident of the victories to come. In all that lies before us, may God grant us wisdom, and may He watch over the United States of America.

Senator and candidate Barack Obama, 2008

….As President, I will pursue a tough, smart and principled national security strategy – one that recognizes that we have interests not just in Baghdad, but in Kandahar and Karachi, in Tokyo and London, in Beijing and Berlin. I will focus this strategy on five goals essential to making America safer: ending the war in Iraq responsibly; finishing the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban; securing all nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists and rogue states; achieving true energy security; and rebuilding our alliances to meet the challenges of the 21st century….

President Obama, June, 2011.

My fellow Americans, this has been a difficult decade for our country.  We've learned anew the profound cost of war -- a cost that's been paid by the nearly 4,500 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq, and the over 1,500 who have done so in Afghanistan -– men and women who will not live to enjoy the freedom that they defended.  Thousands more have been wounded. Some have lost limbs on the battlefield, and others still battle the demons that have followed them home.

Yet tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding.  Fewer of our sons and daughters are serving in harm’s way.  We’ve ended our combat mission in Iraq, with 100,000 American troops already out of that country.  And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance.  These long wars will come to a responsible end.

As they do, we must learn their lessons.  Already this decade of war has caused many to question the nature of America’s engagement around the world.  Some would have America retreat from our responsibility as an anchor of global security, and embrace an isolation that ignores the very real threats that we face.  Others would have America over-extended, confronting every evil that can be found abroad.

We must chart a more centered course.  Like generations before, we must embrace America’s singular role in the course of human events.  But we must be as pragmatic as we are passionate; as strategic as we are resolute.  When threatened, we must respond with force –- but when that force can be targeted, we need not deploy large armies overseas.  When innocents are being slaughtered and global security endangered, we don’t have to choose between standing idly by or acting on our own.  Instead, we must rally international action, which we’re doing in Libya, where we do not have a single soldier on the ground, but are supporting allies in protecting the Libyan people and giving them the chance to determine their own destiny.

In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power -– it is the principles upon which our union was founded.  We’re a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens.  We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others.  We stand not for empire, but for self-determination.  That is why we have a stake in the democratic aspirations that are now washing across the Arab world.  We will support those revolutions with fidelity to our ideals, with the power of our example, and with an unwavering belief that all human beings deserve to live with freedom and dignity.

Above all, we are a nation whose strength abroad has been anchored in opportunity for our citizens here at home.  Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times.  Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource –- our people.  We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industries, while living within our means.  We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy.  And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we must recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war.  For our nation draws strength from our differences, and when our union is strong no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach.

This is me.

With all due respect, bullshit.

When roused, we are righteous in our outrage, terrible in our force. When provoked by this level of barbarism, we will bear any suffering, pay any cost, go to any length in the pursuit of justice.

As much as I Iike and respect Leonard Pitts, he, and we, let our anger get in the way of our brains.  It was sentiments like this that let GW Bush say and do stuff like this.

Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen.

I know there are struggles ahead, and dangers to face. But this country will define our times, not be defined by them. As long as the United States of America is determined and strong, this will not be an age of terror; this will be an age of liberty, here and across the world.

We will rally the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage. We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.

The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain.

Was it?  We wandered through the literal and figurative deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan for years, spending money and lives.  We grew fatigued and in good part elected Barack Obama on his promise to end the adventure, albeit in a “balanced, responsible” way.

[T]here will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance.  These long wars will come to a responsible end….when our union is strong no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach.

There are hills too steep and there are false horizons.  We were na├»ve to think that we could change centuries of a way of life in the Middle East based on its cultures by spending money and spouting slogans based on the imposition of our culture.

It’s a decade later, trillions have been wasted, tens of thousands of lives have been lost, a greater number of lives over there and back here have been made poorer, we have access to the oil that we secured in three months two decades ago, at a huge literal and figurative cost, and not much more.