Friday, April 16, 2004


On a recent Spring morning, I spent a fair amount of time watching the activity at our bird feeder. Sparrows, chickadees, and an occasional cardinal jostled for position and took turns getting a morning snack.

One trait, common to all of these birds, was constant vigilance. One bite, a look upwards, another bite, a head twisted round, and so it went, eyes looking everywhere, the bird on alert. But why? What did each bird fear? We live in a peaceful suburban complex, with no forests where hawks might lurk, few cats and none that could reach the feeder. So it must be instinct, fearful behavior where no predators exist.

I wonder what predators we fear and when the fear is justified. Most of us fear lightning, snakes, and sharks when in the ocean. But these are not predators or dangers that are in any way likely to get us. We may fear airplane flights, although the risk is low, or fear heights, although protected by a high railing.

Public figures have special fears. Baseball players fear slumps, yet take steroids that may well be a silent predator. Authors fear writer’s block. Musicians, actors, and other performers fear fallow periods, then take substances that will guarantee downtime.

Many politicians fear controversial issues. Yet those that speak out are widely respected. The White House fears release of pertinent information, voluntarily or through leaks; and so it stonewalls, revises reports and invokes executive privilege as though truth were the predator. Its imperious concentration on non-existent weapons of mass destruction as the predator has created a more perilous world.

We often let the wrong predator worry us, and fail to summon the correct instinctual response. Bankruptcy or poverty in old age is not a friendly concept, but the real predator may be a credit card that lets us accumulate more goods than we could possibly need. High gas prices take the headlines, but we could drive less and buy more sensible cars. We have a rational worry about mugging; however, more danger exists on the highway than on city streets at night. And it’s doubtful that gay marriages are dangerous predators that constitute a threat to any conventional marriage.

It’s axiomatic that life is about choices. Let’s choose the real predators – be it deficiencies in education, run-down cities, real terrorists, world poverty, whatever – and not twist our heads in the wrong direction.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004


April 14, 2004 Maybe the reporters at last night’s press conference are not the ones, but someone has to be more challenging to President Bush. The questions were mostly softballs allowing him to ramble on about his convictions and the mission given to America about the “Almighty”.

No one asked about why we had to invade Iraq in the Spring of 2003. Saddam Hussein was under wraps, with inspectors roaming his land and troops on his border. Let the President explain the exact nature and imminence of the threat against the United States.

When Bush repeats that Saddam was an evil man who had tortured and killed his own people and harbored anti-American thoughts, the point can be conceded. But why, then, did we not act at the height of his terror when he massacred hundreds of thousands shortly after the end of the first Gulf war? Or during the rest of the decade?

No one pressed him on the vague response on the nature of the sovereign entity to receive control on June 30. or on the lack of flexibility on the date of transfer

When Bush expresses support for the 9-11 Commission, are there not questions that bring out his resistance to its formation, stonewalling on cooperation, weakening of testimonial sessions for himself and Condi Rice, and control over timing of the Commission’s report?

No one pressed him on the precise action, if any, he took after the
August 6th briefing.

If reporters are not going to press these issues – and all the other instances of dissembling and wrong-headed policy – it is up to those campaigning for Senator Kerry to do so.