Wednesday, February 28, 2007

More on Lobster Welfare

The Octogenarian offers this helpful hint on treating the lobster with humanity:

No where in this article do I see the most sensible way to "do in" a lobster. Whether it thinks, or not, has no bearing on the following method:

Buy some cheap wine. The type is not important except if you prefer a certain wine with your lobster dinner. If that is the case, you can save money by using the same wine you plan to drink with your Lobster dinner.

Pour some in a large pan (preferable a white enamelled pan as this will enable you to see when the lobster is "ready" for the cooking).

Tip the pan up so the small amount of wine will do for several lobsters. I mean how much can a lobster "drink" if, in fact, they do "drink?"

Now, after the lobster has been immersed up to his "mouth" (if in fact, he has a "mouth") you will notice it has has a glazed look in his eyes (if in fact that he has "eyes") and he also might stagger just a bit and be less interested in escaping the pan.

This will show that he is, if fact, inebriated. He has a "Devil-may-care" attitude and above all is relaxed! This is the most important part of my whole diatribe. He's plastered! He doesn't give a shit! When he goes in the hot water as he must, he's relaxed! He doesn't sieze up and make himself taste bad. He's dying (oops - pun intended) for you to gobble him up - as it were.

The key is: Relaxed.

Before I developed lobsteritis (or whatever the correct name is), my wife and I always relaxed our lobsters first.

Now I should point out that you could also try accupucture, but his shell is a bit tough and I'm not sure where his sensitive relaxation points are. Perhaps you could consult with a man of Chinese extraction for that information.

Some people say if you massage him first it will relax him. However, depending on his sexual orientation, he might become seriously offended.

Then again, my method would have the same problem if he was a teetotaler or a member the subterranean branch of AA.

All in all, however, try it - he'll taste a lot better. The wine helps you too.

The Octogenarian

[ed. note: I prefer beer with my lobster]

Monday, February 26, 2007

"The Early Sounds of Morning"

The summer of 1968 was a very tumultuous time in America. All over America, people were rioting in the streets in opposition to the Vietnam War. Lyndon Johnson was under enormous pressure -- so much so that he announced that he would not run for re-election.

The Democratic Convention took place in Chicago that year. Party doves (Tip O'Neill among them) were desperate to insert a Vietnam War plank into the party platform calling for a halt in the bombing and a negotiated withdrawal, fearful that a failure to do so would doom the party's majorities in both the House and Senate. LBJ and the party stalwarts weren't budging.

Eugene McCarthy was the darling candidate of the anti-war movement. O'Neill sent his emissary, Robert Healy, to McCarthy's hotel suite to urge him to make an appearance on the convention floor and argue for the "peace plank."

The scene unfolded thus:

The insurgents vowed to take the issue to the convention floor. Johnson (for reasons of personal pride and foreign policy) and Humphrey (because he was firmly under Johnson's thumb) were not going to kow-tow to the peace forces in Chicago. The showdown began at Tuesday evening's session. Healy, still wearing two hats of activist and reporter, found McCarthy in the candidate's thwenty-third-floor suite with poet Robert Lowell and writer Shana Alexander.

"I said to him, 'It could really make a difference if you would go down to the convention and make the argument for the peace plank. I think it would only be fair for the kids who have busted their ass for you.' And Gene and Lowell look at each other and they start talking about early sounds of the morning," Healy recalled. "It was like a contest. Gene says, 'The drying out of a barn.' And Lowell says, 'The opening of a flower.' And Gene says, 'When a horse gets off the ground.' And they went on and on and on. Can you imagine that? Jeez, he was something else.

(ed.: Healy does not report detecting any pungent aroma in the hotel suite.)

***Tip O'Neill and the Democratic Century, John Aloysius Farrell (2001).

Saturday, February 24, 2007

War and the Lessons of History

There is an old saw that goes something like: "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them." No quotation book contains it, no wise man claims it.

American poet Howard Nemerov said: "Those who have tasted power and developed an addiction to it, studied of history, intend to repeat it. "

Geretrude Stein: "It is the soothing thing about history that it does repeat itself."

George Bernard Shaw: "Hegel was right when he said that we learn from history that man can never learn anything from history."

Napoleon Bonaparte: "History is a set of lies agreed upon."

Aldous Huxley: "The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different. "

With those thoughts in mind, I have been reflecting on statements of opponents of the Iraq conflict who seek to draw upon the lessons of Vietnam to support their position.

In his 1961 inaugural address, John Kennedy said the following: "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty." At the time, the threat to America and a free world was Communism, and Kennedy was as anti-Communist as any politican in America.

"The enemy is the Communist system itself -- impacable, insatiable, unceasing in its drive for world domination. This is not a struggle for supremacy of arms alone. It is a struggle for supremacy between two conflicting ideologies: freedom under God versus ruthless, godless tyrrany," he said in a speech during the 1960 Presidential campaign.

Kennedy's words regarding Communism were true, and the committment made in his inaugural was shared by an adoring nation.

Now, forty-six years later, I think you could substitute "radical islam" for "communism" and the statement would be every bit as true. Radical islamists -- for whom Osama bin Laden is only the most notorious embodiment, certainly have made no secret of their agreement with it. I must doubt, however, that the contemporary Democratic Party would agree. And if they do, what they are willing to permit the President to do about it?

In Kennedy's day, the reigning Democrats in Congress, Tip O'Neill at the forefront among them, would follow the President's leadership against communism, which eventually led the country into an escalation of the Vietnam War.

By 1965, Kennedy was dead and Lyndon Johnson was becoming buried in the mire of war politics, with the generals in charge of the war admitting to President Johnson that their original plan had badly miscalculated:

"The successive political upheavals and the accompanying turmoil which have followed Diem's demise upset all our prior calculations. We know now what are the basic factors responsible for this turmoil -- chronic factionalism, civilian-military suspicions and distrust, absence of national spirit and motivation, lack of cohesion in the social structure, lack of experience in the conduct of government. These are historical factors growing out of national characteristics and traditions, susceptible to change only over the long run. We Americans are not going to change them in any fundamental way in any measurable time."

Vietnam would drag on for seven more years and a generation of younger Americans not familiar with Kennedy's words in 1960 would become a juggernaut, leading to the eventually withdrawal of troops from Vietnam and the fall of Saigon to the communists.

What the generals told Johnson in 1965 appears to be true in Iraq today -- substitute "Hussein" for Diem and see if you agree.

Does this suggest, then, that the "lesson" of Vietnam would compel us to withdraw our troops and leave the future of Iraq to the forces of chaos? I don't think so. As Huxley said, "from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different."

What we know now that is fundamentally different from 1965 is that our enemies are not content to challenge us on a conventional battlefield or to spread their insidious brand of tyranny by invading borders with army troops. They are willing to impose their tyranny in other cultures and countries in a most brutal and inhuman fashion (read about the Taliban's take-over in Afghanistan). And they are willing to murder innocent American citizens on our own soil -- and we are not prepared to defend our borders against that threat (indeed, our Constitution does not permit us to do so).

While the generals may have been correct in 1965, that "we Americans are not going to change them in any fundamental way in any measurable time," I do not believe that is true in Iraq today, for the simple reason that we don't need to change them in any fundamental way for them to understand the concept of liberty. The Iraqi citizenry, having suffered for decades under the brutal rule of Hussein, already knows what is at stake. There is a reservoir of understanding, and yearning, for what a free society will bring them.

It may take more time than the majority of Americans are willing to endorse, and the risks are certainly very high. But I am of the belief that we are at war around the globe with people who do not believe in treaties, compromise or political differences. They believe in worldwide hegemony and they will not stop at our borders.

How does the free world devise a "Marshall Plan" around that?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Problem With Math

I wasn't a great lover of mathematics. I did B work, but I never really got excited about it. I think my son inherited this from me, because he despises it.

As I recall, when I ran across a math problem that I found particularly vexing, I would still attempt to get as far as I could before giving up. Occasionally I would skip the problem entirely, if I felt that I would simply make an ass out of myself in the attempt (this might occur if, for instance, I had skipped a class that covered an area and was surprised by a pop quiz or something).

These kids, however, suffer no such indignity. Unconstrained by the mores of my day, they are compelled to make the best out of a desperate situation by providing (in most instances) a jolt of comic relief. Then there's the one fella who appears to take this math stuff far too personally. You have to love the restrained comment, though.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Dirty Pool

Change the name and the animal, it doesn't matter.

Friday, February 09, 2007

A Lobster's Quality of Life

A few years back, a Whole Foods Market opened up in this tony new shopping plaza in Hingham. "Derby Street Shoppes," the place is called, and it has the pre-eminent array of yuppie establishments: Williams-Sonoma, Barnes & Noble, Apple Store, Crate & Barrel, Talbot's, Smith & Hawken. It is an exceedingly popular place for the crunchy set, judging from the impossibility of finding a parking space. The place resembles a market the day before a blizzard is due. Parking lot chocked with Lincoln Navigators and Birkenstocked people cramming the aisles with baskets full of lentils, swiss chard and organic Chardonnay.

Whole Foods is known for its "animal compassionate" practices, and made big news last summer when it
announced that it was banning the sale of live lobsters and crabs because they could not be certain that, from seabed to market, the creatures didn't "suffer along the way," and therefore could not ensure the creatures are "treated with respect and compassion."

At the time, PETA was elated. "The ways that lobsters are treated would warrant felony cruelty to animals charges if they were dogs or cats," was how spokesman Bruce Friedrich put it.

The basis for Whole Foods position was "a November report from the European Food Safety Authority Animal Health and Welfare panel that it said concluded all decapod crustaceans, including lobsters and crabs, appear to have some degree of awareness, feel pain and can learn." (If you care to read the report, it is

This came as nonsense to scientists and seafood industry officials who noted that "lobsters have such primitive insect-like nervous systems they don't even have brains and can't experience pain the way animals and humans do." (Query how a creature without a brain "can learn.")

But the EFSA report was all Whole Foods needed to eschew live lobster, until it was convinced that there was a process that assured the creatures' wellbeing.

Well this compassion for the welfare of crustaceans presented a
market opportunity for the Little Bay Lobster Company of New Hampshire, which has designed a process of delivering lobsters from the sea to the market "from boat to store with minimal contact with humans and other lobsters." That was the ticket for Whole Foods, who agreed to resume sale of live lobsters delivered in this manner.

And to spare them the "torture" of being boiled alive? "Workers will use a 'CrustaStun' device to instantaneously kill lobsters with 110 volts rather than steaming, which Whole Foods considers unethical because it can take several minutes for the hard-shelled animal to die." (I was taught that if you put the lobster in eyes-first, he dies instantly.)

Sort of a super-taser for lobsters.

But for those otherwise-gentle customers of Whole Foods who prefer the more barbarous approach, take heart. "Customers will still be able to purchase live lobsters and kill them at home."

I wonder. Can any Whole Food customer make it from the seafood counter to checkout with her live lobsters in hand without withering under the glares of all those Whole Food employees and customers who glory in the compassion of the crus-taser?

As one crusty Maine lobsterman put it,"A lobster electric chair? I wonder how that will sound for their public relations, that they're going to give the lobster the electric chair."

Personally, I'm glad I don't have to consider the cruelty that my lobster endures. I pick him up at the end of my street from guys still in their waders.

I haven't checked to see if they washed their hands first.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Debating Iraq, the National Pastime

No reason why bro should be any less confused about Senate parliamentary procedure than any of the highly paid talking heads, but this cartoon is hilarious nonetheless.

"To be perfectly candid"

...So Governor Patrick says, explaining that a review of the policy of requiring paid police details at every road project from P'town to Pittsfield is "not at the top of his list."

In fact, his remark is most certainly not "perfectly candid."

If he were "perfectly candid," he would have said, "this law provides for the payment of tens of millions of dollars to one of the most powerful public employee unions in the state -- do I look stupid??"

Or, he could have said, "I'm sorry, but I don't have the moral courage or intellectual honesty to argue that this policy is a complete rip-off of the taxpayers, so we'll just have to keep things as they are."

In his response to a reporter's inquiry, Patrick betrayed a notable lack of knowledge:

He said the cost of the details is more of a concern for private construction businesses, who must pay the officers a higher wage than civilian flaggers earn.

A Patrick spokesman said later that the governor was speaking mostly about local police details, which have less of an impact on state coffers than the State Police details.

Correction: the Governor was speaking with limited knowledge of the problem (it IS a problem).

Here is all one needs to understand about this boondoggle:

"Massachusetts is the only state that requires police officers on nearly all road work sites."

So when the head of the state's biggest public employee union blusters, "unions across the state will do whatever it takes to make our workforce more productive," and the detail policy "exists to ensure the safety of workers on dangerous job sites," you just have to ask him why "Massachusetts is the only state that requires police officers on nearly all road work sites."

And when the head of the state police union blusters "I know how construction people feel. They would much rather have a state trooper or local police officer standing at their detail with cruisers and lights and first-responder capabilities and radios," you have to ask him why "Massachusetts is the only state that requires police officers on nearly all road work sites."

And when you ask Patrick why "Massachusetts is the only state that requires police officers on nearly all road work sites," he can be perfectly candid and quote the Boston Globe:

Patrick was swept into office with strong support from unions, including the International Brotherhood of Police Officers.

In closing, though, I want to implore my many loyal readers to do a little something. When you are driivng around and you see a road construction project, observe the police officer(s). I think you are going to discover that the majority of them are not paying terribly close attention to what they're doing. In many cases, this will be because they are talking on their cell phones.

So if you happen to see a police officer on a road detail that is talking on his cell phone, slow down as you pass by, roll down your window and shout, "GET OFF THE DAMN PHONE!!!!"

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Boston Blog Worth Reading

I stumbled upon a blog called Mental Masspurgation,, written by a fella named Mike Mennonno. I don't know if he is an original Bostonian, but he sure talks like one (in print anyway). He has an interesting voice, and he speaks frankly and unapologetically about urban life. In addition to his style, I like him because he eschews political correctness.

Check out his take on riding the Red Line:

Of Dawgs and Bitches

This afternoon I got on the red-line at Park Street (I think they should just go ahead and rename it Purgatory, don't you?), and just as the doors of my train are closing, a big bunch of rowdy kids, all around thirteen, I'd say, burst in and commandeer our car. They held the door for a couple minutes shouting to a buddy of theirs they'd no doubt ditched earlier, who was struggling to catch up:

He a DAWG! Lookit DAWG! Yo! DAWG! You gonna miss the train, DAWG! Come on DAWG! Come on! Yo DAWG! DAWGIN the DAWG! DAWG! DAWG! DAWG!

Crikey, I thought, somebody needs to invent a dawg-whistle for these kids--one that's silent to adults. It's times like these I almost wish I had an ipod.

Dawg made it on, thank goodness. With Nikka in tow, apparently. Since every other word was either "dawg" or "nikka." They jostled about, shoving commuters aside, laughing, horsing around and cracking wise at top volume. The displaced commuters moved down the car, wanly, without complaint. Defeated after a day in the salt mines.

Once we were underway, and they had calmed down a bit, the two of them closest to me started discussing "bitches." Every third word was now either "dawg," "nikka," or "bitch."

There was to be a gathering of some sort at The Dorchester House on Friday, and apparently there would be bitches-a-plenty.

What kind of bitches, exactly, one of them wanted to know.

"Bitches to flirt wit," said one.

"Bitches is bitches," said another.

The dialogue, not to mention the behavior--from the moment they exploded onto the train--was offensive on many levels, but we tolerate it because, first of all, young people, regardless of race or creed, but particularly in packs, scare us, and rightly so. The nerve bundle in the brain responsible for the consciousness of one's own mortality does not seem to develop until almost middle age.

But if the youth in question happen to be African-American, we hesitate to criticize for an additional reason: we figure we're that much more likely to get our lily-white asses kicked. Or, if we're proper Cantabrigians (it is the red line to Cambridge, after all), we sublimate those thoughts of violence, and consider our complicity in their behavior instead.

(What may be difficult for Cantabrigians is their complicated hierarchy of political sympathies--should they ignore the misogynistic implications of calling all females of the species "bitches" for the sake of showing a silent solidarity with the oppressed minorities doing so? It is a cunundrum I can assure you will immobilize any Cantabrigian for at least five stops, which, as luck would have it, gets them to Harvard Square, where they all get off.)

I had my nose buried in a book, preoccupied with an email exchange earlier in the day, which I'll talk about a little later. But at intervals, when the "nikkas" and "bitches" and "dawgs" forced their way into my consciousness, I would silently curse my cowardice, and then muse about what would happen if I decided to hold these boys to a higher standard (a minimum of civility, say), and intervene, like so: "um, excuse me, Mr. Dawg, you just shoved that woman there halfway down the car. Don't you think you should apologize for that?" or "Hey! Do you nikkas mind not using such offensive language? There are bitches present, you know! Word!"

I think most Bostonians want to avoid a "racial incident," and somehow we all know that that's what any intervention like this is likely to become. But what we end up doing is turning bad behavior into an entitlement we grant to youth of a certain class, regardless of race.

I was on the other end of the red line a couple of weeks ago and watched as halfway down the car three fat little white boys around the same age as the ones I saw today were mercilessly taunting a middle aged Asian woman with two big bags of groceries.

Bless her heart, she was playing along with them, even laughing at times, but you could see she was getting uncomfortable when it just kept going on and on. One boy in particular, the closer we got to his stop, the crueler he became.

When they got off at JFK with her, I could see she was afraid to leave the platform. I barked, "move along!" at them, and after insulting her one last time, they walked away.

I felt emboldened partly because they were white. I'll admit it. I don't know if I would have been so bold if they'd been black. Doubt it.

But I don't like the idea of letting kids off the hook like that, regardless of their race. And certainly not because of it. It's true that any pack of boys that age would likely be horsing around, using foul language, and making a general ruckus. It is rare for anyone to say or do anything but wait for them to get off the train, and pray that all they do is make a little noise. And that's probably the wisest approach.

You choose your battles, and a confrontation on the train, taking on years of pop-culture brainwashing celebrating and reinforcing all manner of atrocious anti-social behavior as the only way to get street cred and some measure of self-esteem, is not a battle you're likely to win. This whole freakin culture is a cry for help that no one's willing to answer. Don't call us--we'll call you!

So instead of interrupting these boys today I found myself wondering how it came to be that they were referring to themselves and the girls they might fancy as animals. The boys were all dogs and the girls were all bitches. Does it matter? Somehow I think language like that works to both reflect and reinforce a sad, unhealthy self-image, in both boys and girls. Not to mention the boys hiding themselves in their ludicrously oversized coats, shoes, and the jeans with the crotches at their knees, so that there's little trace of their actual physical form, hiding inside their massive garments all puffed-up in a perpetual stance of defense against a world perceived as permanently hostile. I wish someone with some credibility among them would intervene, for their sake, and ours.

It takes a healthy dose of unself-consciousness and wisdom to speak the truth, and in such fine fashion, too.

High Priced Lawyers --- Only the Best for Tollpayers

From this morning's Globe, we learn that the Mass Turnpike Authority paid almost $600,000 to a battery of legal and financial consultants to advise it whether or not it could eliminate the western tolls:

$145,744 to Mintz Levin to analyze whether the authority had the legal power to take down the tolls;

$156,004 to Choate Hall & Stewart to assessed whether the leases on the turnpike service plazas could be sold to help pay off the $199 million in debt on the western portion of the highway;

$106,000 to WilmerHale for unspecified work;

$63,124 to Foley Hoag for unspecified work.

Each of these firms is on "regular retainer" with the Authority -- meaning that (1) each has at least one "special relationship" that assures its ongoing access to the public trough, and (2) anyone who wants to sue the Authority has to find someone else to do it. But is the price worth it?

Board member Mary Connaughton, a Romney appointee who supports removing the tolls, said she found it "hard to believe" that the Turnpike spent so much money on consultants.

"I would want to go through those issues with a fine-tooth comb to make sure those are appropriate billings," she said. "I'm not convinced that is appropriate billing for the amount of service we got."

[query -- as Romney's hand-picked advocate for this plan, and an accountant and business professor, I would think she'd feel it prudent to keep an eye on this]

Mary's onto something. As a former general counsel to a public authority, I am all too familiar with the way large firms bill their public clients. As a general rule, in my opinion (two clauses that are designed to insulate me from any specious allegation of libel), some large firms (I am not saying any of these four, mind you) use opportunities like these to train their associates, sending them off to do hours and hours of legal research on issues about which the firm already has extensive knowledge and a ready research database.

Let's examine further.

I suspect that most or all of these firms represent the Authority on the basis of what is called a "blended rate." That is, rather than the senior partners charging their usual $650 per hour and billing their associates at $200, the firms will charge a blended hourly rate for all counsel of, say, $275 (I know one of the firms was charging me $225 in the mid-90's, so I'm being modest with rate inflation).

If Mintz Levin billed $145,000 to examine whether the Authority had the legal authority to remove the tolls, that would represent a combined total of over 525 hours of lawyers' time -- the majority of it being associates. I suspect that the bulk of the issue involves whether or not removing the tolls would violate any of the covenants contained in outstanding bonds that were previously sold in the public market. Mintz Levin has been bond counsel for Massachusetts public agencies since before I was born (that's more than 50 years, folks). They've written the book on bond covenants. Do you really believe it would take one of the foremost authorities on public bonds 525 hours of time to reach an answer to a question that has been in front of the Authority for more than ten years?

Choate Hall's $156,000 would represent 567 hours of time -- to assess whether the leases they have granted to service plaza lessees can be sold. It would shock me if there was the slightest doubt that, as a matter of real estate law, the Authority hasn't reserved in its leases the right to turn them into casinos if it wants -- that would be par for the course. So what are the big issues? Perhaps whether or not the revenue generated from the leases has been pledged to pay the bonds and therefore could be sold without violating bond covenants? Call Mintz. Or perhaps the lessees have given security for their development capital in the improvements they have made on the properties, and therefore mortgage covenants must be analyzed. Okay, arcane question, but 567 hours of time?

What troubles me most about this excess is that the toll removal plan was launched late in the game, when Romney was all but departed and Healey's chances of success were miniscule. The prospects for the plan's achievement were slim to none by then. What was gained by this expensive exercise?


You might be an optimist and say that at least now, the Authority will not have to research these issues if it determines sometime in the future to reconsider such a plan.

But by then, its counsel will advise that it would be "prudent" to "take a second look" to insure that laws and regulations haven't "altered the landscape" and that their advice is still sound.

All for another $600,000.

Monday, February 05, 2007

What Sets Us Apart

I received an interesting book for Christmas, The Good Life by Charles W. Colson. (thanks to Google's extraordinary project, the link is to the actual text of the book!)

In the book, Colson examines through the stories of a number of people (from former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski to Chinese dissident Nien Cheng) what truly make our lives worth living. In his examination, he explores what it is in the nature of human beings that sets us apart from other beings and, he asserts, demonstrates the presence of God in our lives. It is an easy and edifying read, one I recommend to those with an open mind.

But this post is not about Mr. Colson's lessons directly. In the book, he spends some time discussing the human being's innate sense of right and wrong. He suggests that we are "hard wired" to understand intuitively how we should react to moral questions we encounter (not that we would actually act appropriately, but that we do recognize what is right and what is wrong). Of course, I thought, this proposition must be one that skeptics and scientists would surely ridicule.

And this morning, I discovered that the subject is in fact one of scientific inquiry.

Harvard professor Marc Hauser, a psychologist, evolutionary biologist and anthropologist (that should qualify him) is at work on a study, the theory of which is that morality is hard wired in humans.

Morality, he argues, is influenced by cultural teachings but is also so deep and universal an aspect of human existence that it is effectively "hard-wired" into the brain, much like the instinct for language.

At work, he says, are principles as unconscious and yet powerful as the grammar rules we use when we speak -- and the challenge to scientists is to figure out what those built-in moral rules are and how they work.

To that end, Hauser and other researchers are experimenting with children, monkeys, on-line survey takers, brain-damaged patients, and even psychopaths and remote hunter-gatherers.

His theory that morality is based in biology has plunged Hauser into an intellectual fray that spans from the pages of The New York Times to the rows of students who take his evolution classes at Harvard.

A psychologist, evolutionary biologist, and anthropologist, Hauser has felt students grow restless as he talks about the underpinnings of morality. In one class, he said, a student complained, "I know where you're going: Because it's universal, it's biological, and therefore there's no role for religion."

Hauser recalls responding: "I'm not saying you shouldn't derive meaning from religion. I'm just telling you that at some level, the nature of the moral judgments that you make and I make are the same, even though I don't go to church and you do."

Some critics also charge that Hauser's emphasis on biology negates the concept of free will and implies that all our moral choices are predetermined.

But he is not saying that at all, Hauser responds. A greater understanding of how moral minds work by no means translates into automatic prescriptions and decisions, he says.

Rather, Hauser and other morality researchers are working to tease apart "the system that allows us to intuitively, unconsciously make moral judgments about what's right or wrong," he said. "And that capacity is distinct from how we go about justifying what we do, or what we actually do." Such a system would be so fundamental that it would be present in all cultures.

Of course, Colson has no reservation in drawing the conclusion that (contrary to Hauser's caveat) this moral nature is evidence of God's existence. And he points to many other elements of our nature that are as well.

Colson is an extraordinarily brilliant and insightful man, and his life experience and lessons are deeply insightful and spiritual. If you are anything but the most hardened cynic, you will find his writing edifying and important.

Hand-some Art

I was treated to an email this morning showing the unusual hand art of Italian artist Guido Daniele. See what you think.

Quite extraordinary, really. His website has much other work, including a series of tromp l'oeil paintings (I would quarrel with the nomenclature on those works) and some beautiful portraits of several stunning women. Go see.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Price of Police Patronage

A lawsuit against the Massachusetts Port Authority reveals how a stunning example of patronage in the high command of the Massport Police Department may have contributed to the brutal beating of an innocent woman.

During the Fourth of July fireworks on Boston Harbor, a lesbian couple and their child were attempting to enjoy the show from Piers Park, a property in East Boston owned by Massport. In the course of the evening, one of the women was set upon by a gang of lesbian-hating teenage thugs and beaten to within an inch of her life.

On this evening, with thousands expected to swarm the park for the fireworks, Massport police command determined that ONE POLICE OFFICER WAS SUFFICIENT to keep order.

The story is infuriating, but boils down to a few simple sentences:

1. A top Massport police captain was repeatedly asked to put additional officers on duty at Piers Park on July 4, when thousands of people gather. But the captain declined, leaving one officer assigned to patrol the 6.5-acre park. The captain, Michael Grady , who is in charge of scheduling, declined to pay overtime that evening, the records say. An additional officer would have cost $330.

2. Joe Lawless, Director of Maritime Security (a force of 38 officers), did not recall many details of police operations under his supervision, including the plan to reduce overtime, according to the documents. Lawless hired Grady as his chief deputy in 1996.

2. Grady's only prior law enforcement experience was a year spent as a Middlesex County correction officer.

Massport settled the case brought against it for $250,000, having spent more than $600,000 to defend it first.

It is certainly possible that ten officers on duty that evening might not have prevented this despicable attack -- but it is also indeniable that assigning one officer to patrol 6.5 acres of park packed with thousands of people on the Fourht of July is prima facie stoopid.

What da heck is Massport doing with its own "police force," anyway? The State Police patrol the airport already. The park was created for the community as a mitigation (read "bribery") measure in 1995, and is maintained by Massport. If they're going to insist on retaining ownership and management of the property, they've got a legal committment to insure the public's safety -- especially for occasions so obviously need security as the Fourth of July fireworks.

And I thought the Cab Corral was a stupid idea.

Friday, February 02, 2007

A Ghost Story

Dear Wave Maker:

Yesterday my friend.........I can't use "cleaning lady" for a friend. OK, my friend, the "housekeeper," came for her monthly cleanup of the mess I make of my house.

She had gone upstairs while I did my monthly cleaning of my Brita water filter jar. It gets green mold in the bottom since it sits on a stainless steel sink counter and somehow the light refracts with the plastic to enhance mold growth.

ANYWAY, while working away at this jar with sponge, spatula, dish cloth, plenty of water, and rehearsing a song that got stuck in my brain, I happened to notice (out the corner of my eye) that Ann had come up behind me and was getting a paper towel or something off the counter behind me. She didn't say anything as I guess she didn't want to interrupt me, and I didn't want to interrupt her train of thought either.

When she came downstairs some minutes later, I said; "What did you come down for a few minutes ago?" She said; "I didn't come down a few minutes ago. I've been upstairs for 20 minutes."


I knew I saw someone! I remember what she was wearing, and come to think of it, it was not what Ann was wearing. The woman I saw was wearing a rust and white shirt (almost like a light jacket) and dark skirt or slacks. I did not see her face as she was facing the counter behind me, but she had dark hair.

She was taller than my late wife and moved faster than my mother-in-law. (My mother-in-law had died in this house.) So that was a possibility.

Who was this woman???

If any of my taller women friends has had a near-death experience, it could have been one of them, but outside of that, I don't have a clue.

I have had, in my doting years (so much better than saying "older" years), paranormal experiences as those of you who have read my book on ghosts will know. However, all of those had a relationship to a known event or person. For example, the coworker at the engineering firm, the Civil War soldier in Gettysburg, the woman at the church in Newton, etc.

I should also say, and this is a common thing, that I did not feel uncomfortable or threatened at the time. As I said, I thought it was, my housekeeper. It was only afterwards that I realized it was someone else (who had gone beyond or was close to going beyond).

As the kitchen is at the end of the house away from the wood stove it was quite cool and I did not notice any change in the temperature of the air. This often happens when a ghost appears, as I think the can only materialize by taking the heat (energy) from the surrounding air.

I often see one or another of my cats who have passed away, but usually only half of him or her. At my co-author's house one day, her dog who had passed away (the one before Fritz), rubbed against my leg. There was absolutely no other explanation. Her house also has unseen occupants and her stories are in our book.

Last night, before going to sleep, I said prayers for this unknown person. Perhaps she came for help.

Love, The Octogenarian

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