Sunday, November 30, 2008

Not all Terrorism is Political: Look to the Underworld for Clues to the Mumbai Terror

Among the many commentaries made by American analysts on CNN and MSNBC during the seige of Mumbai, India, the name of Dawood Ibrahim was mentioned several times as one of those who could organize an operation as big as the one that shut down India's financial capitol for three days.

Ibrahim is thug--a narco-trafficker and Moslem Indian criminal with a mafia like organization he runs out of Karachi, Pakistan. He built his orgaization on the streets of Mumbai organizing gangs, drug operations and prostitutes. He then invested big in Bollywood movies, as the American gangsters did in the 1930s. He was eventually thrown out of India after two thousand Hindus died in the riots that followed the demolition of the Babri Mosque. His organization was believed to be behind the killings.

Men like Ibrahim have loyalties only to their organizations, not to political philosophies. But for enough money--and if an operation like this one can be leveraged to his advantage--it is hard to imagine Ibrahim turning down the chance to add some of the bin Laden billions to his bank accounts in Switzerland. And if that means terrorizing Westerners and Jews and shutting down his home town for a few days, well, that's okay too.

I've guessed for some time that someone like this has to be behind the so-called Somali pirates, operating in that same region of the world. For one thing, in a nation like Somalia, where there is no government and not enough for most people to eat, it isn't easy to imagine a group of thugs getting together the organization necessary hijack a freighter. These same illiterate gunmen are negotiating ransoms of millions of dollars for the ships they hijack. You can't put that kind of money in a suitcase and take it to Mogadishu. Ransoms that size are negotiated by pros and wired to off-shore accounts. The pirates have to be the paid gunmen of some criminal organization, and why news people haven't reported this, I don't know.

Now, with bin Laden and his religious maniacs pinned down on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and crippled everywhere else in the world, the most logical operative decision would be for Al Qaeda leadership to hire surrogates. An international criminal like Dawood Ibrahim, with an axe to grind against Hindu India, is the ideal candidate to manage a job like this one. I don't know this to be true, but it is possible. So we must look at the investigation before we assume the terror in Mumbai was executed by real fanatics with a point of view to sell.

The good news is that the FBI, Interpol, and Scotland Yard are all sending specialists and investigators to aid India in getting to the bottom of this outrage. Who knows? It might have been a distraction designed to pull troops and fire power in one direction while arms, nukes, or drugs were slipped through in another. The British have been especially good as untangling these complex webs. As I said earlier: the West and America are with you, India. Terrorists are just criminals in a different guise. Most often they do the dirty work of rich and powerful thugs, who keep their own hands clean and their bank accounts full of money that is soaked in blood.

For more on the criminal Dawood Ibrahim, there is a good story on this English language Pakistani web site:

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Joined by Democracy and Tragedy: U.S and India

America and India are now joined by tragedy. The attacks by Islamic extremists on Mumbai have made it clear--if it had not been before--that the United States, as the world's richest democracy, is in solidarity with the world's most populous democracy. Both our nations, along with the world's oldest democracy--Great Britain--are joined in a fight against those who hate the very freedoms that have made us great.

India gained its independence from Great Britain 58 years ago and has Asia's oldest stock exchange in Mumbai. English is its language of business. India maintains good relations with Britain and the U.S. as a member of the Commonwealth. In India there is freedom of religion--rare in that part of the world. For all these reasons, India too has now become a target of religious extremists.

India's Prime Minister has taken a strong stand against the violence and terror that has shut down Mumbai--the city Westerners call Bombay. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told his people: "We will take the strongest possible measures to ensure that there is no repetition of such terrorist acts. We are determined to take whatever measures are necessary to ensure the safety and security of our citizens."

India has the third largest military in the world and one of the best trained. Together, the military might and the intelligence strength of our two nation's are unbeatable. Working together we can defeat an evil that targets women and children, hospital and hotel, Westerner and Jew, Hindu and Christian.

Said Prime Minister Singh: "We will go after these individuals and organisations and make sure that every perpetrator, organiser and supporter of terror, whatever his affiliation or religion may be, pays a heavy price for these cowardly and horrific acts against our people."

We're ready India. Just ask us and we are there.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Hello, Englishman!" A Thanksgiving Oddity

A very strange thing happened to the Pilgrims when they began to build their settlement at Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the winter of 1620. A native man wandered into their camp, looked around at their group, and then spoke to them.

"Hello, Englishman," he said. "Welcome."

When the Pilgrims had overcome their suprise, they discovered that this native American was a man called Samoset. He was from an Algonquin-speaking tribe in Maine, and it is believed he learned his English from the traders and explorers who had begun to ply the coast of New England during the early 17th century. What was even more suprising to them is that he went away and brought back another native American called Squanto who spoke English as well as they did!

Squanto--sometimes called Tisquantum--was a native of the Wampanoag people, and he had been captured by English traders more than two decades before. His adventures led him on an odyssey to England, Newfoundland, Spain and back to England again. Because he was young when he was captured, he picked up English quickly and was used as a navigator and translator on a number of voyages.

Finally he persuaded his captors, some of whom were now his friends, to allow him to return home on an English trading ship. When he arrived at his village, near the present day Patuxet, Massachusetts, he found his entire tribe had vanished--most of them killed by European disease. He joined a nearby Wampanoag tribe, whose chief was named Massasoit. It was about two years later that Squanto met his English-speaking friend Samoset. One day they were fishing together when they noticed a group of Europeans in a settlement on the land where Squanto's village had once stood. The two men watched the English for several days before they decided to make contact.

Squanto, who had lost his real home and family during his journeys, moved into the camp with the Pilgrims. Without him, the newcomers probably would not have survived that first winter. He taught them about the plants in the woods: which they could use for medicine and which were poison. He taught them to plant corn and to use their leftover fish as fertilizer. He taught them how to hunt and what to hunt. And he helped them negotiate a peace treaty with Chief Massasoit, which, at least for a time, ensured the safety of both groups.

When the Pilgrims brought in their harvest in the fall of 1621, they invited Squanto, Samoset, Chief Massasoit, and their families to join them in a celebration of thanksgiving. But they did not understand the size of Indian families. About 90 native Americans showed up, and Massasoit, seeing that the English were unable to provide a spread for all of them, sent his men out to hunt deer and pheasant and wild turkey.

This is the true origin of the first Thanksgiving in North America. It is the story of two native men, who spoke the language of the people who would eventually end their way of life, and who refused to let these visitors starve during their first cold, New England winter.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Don't Boo Hoo: America Still Strong

The Fed and the Treasury Department had another busy weekend, this time propping up Citigroup,the largest bank in the world.

The way things have been lately it might make you think the U.S. is full of a bunch of losers who can't produce anything or invent anything or save anything or even buy or sell a mortgage without going into default.

Hold your horses, as they used to say in the Old West.

America has the largest GNP in the world, three times larger than its nearest competitor, which is Japan. And that's even though the United States is the third largest nation in population (after China and India, which are each four times larger than the U.S.).

The most number of hours worked per year? U.S. workers top that list too, with Japan coming in second. The Japanese don't have the Grand Canyon and the Grand Tetons and Las Vegas so nobody there goes on vacation.

Want to make some comparisons? California has an economy as large as the nation of France (about sixth in the world). Texas has an economy as big as all of Canada. And New York State? It has an economy as large as the entire nation of Brazil, that big gun down there in Latin America.

In Detroit, where we're having a bit of a blip at present, workers on the assembly line make $75 dollars an hour. That's $150,000 a year. Might be time for folks there to take a few cuts. Yet even with some wage concessions, workers there could still most likely pay the rent. And all of them are certainly living a better life than are workers in China where the average wage is 57 cents an hour.

I hope Barak Obama, if he is truly putting together a "team of rivals" will reach really far across the aisle and bring in a few free market advocates to the Treasury Department and the Fed. They seem to have gone missing from the George W. Bush administration, but I hear they are still around, hiding out at the Hoover Institute at Stanford. They might tell the new president that it is our free market in America (the freedom to succeed, the freedom to fail and start again) that has made this country the dream of the world. And yes, we've learned it must be regulated to keep the corrupt and the greedy (whether capital or labor) from fouling the waters.

What has failed in recent days has not been our free market. It has been our government's oversight. And what with keeping all the nuts in the Middle East from blowing us up because they're jealous, and keeping all of Latin America from moving here illegally because they want a piece of the action, it is not exactly a surprise they dropped the ball.

In fact, while the government is distracted right now, maybe California ought to buy the state of Michigan. The Governator could really turn that place around, maybe with some help from Google. Come on, its better than sitting around a table and getting economic advice from France.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Four More Years of Hillary?

Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Now there is a title to conjure with. Please, please, I keep saying in a not-so-silent prayer, please make her husband’s complex financial dealings negate this possibility. That would be the best irony of all, since she has spent her life using her husband to get ahead.

It may seem strange to people now, but for many years in America women felt the only route to political success was through an association with a powerful man—women appointed to fill an office upon the deaths of their husbands, or young wives running for office when their older husbands had retired. Then, in the second half of the 20th century, things seemed to change. Women like Paula Hawkins of Florida and Barbara Mikluski of Maryland, and others, were elected entirely on their own.

Now we move on, I’m sorry to say, to America’s most ambitious woman: Hillary Clinton ...

Having lived in the White House with the world’s most powerful man for eight years did nothing to slake her thirst for power. She pretended she was some kind of co-president. She put down women who wasted their lives away caring for their families (“baking cookies” she called it). She turned a blind eye to her husband’s philandering, threw a lamp at him, kept his name, ran for the U.S. Senate from New York (why go back to Arkansas?) and then sought the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.

When she lost to Barak Obama I had hoped we had seen the last of her on the national stage for a while. I find her really unpleasant. She seems an early, hard bitten, pre-feminist woman in a post-feminist world. Her mid-Western accent grates on me. Her too-big, insincere smile annoys me. Her dumpy figure and pantsuit couture offend me. Her self-centered left-wing politics more than trouble me because she makes it so clear it all applies to the rest of us, not to her. Oh yes, and those obnoxious name changes: whatever happened to that Rodham middle name, anyway? Who is she: the P Diddy of politics?

Obama may think he’s being a fox to keep his “friends close and his enemies closer” but I think Hillary may prove this philosophy to be flawed. Her new job (assuming this becomes official) calls for using careful diplomacy to further the interests of her nation and her president. Furthering Hillary is the job description she understands best and, in this, ambitious people find very good allies in the leak-hungry Washington media, with whom she is far more familiar than the man who will try to be her boss.

Once again, she is finding success by hitching her wagon to a powerful man. Can’t she do anything on her own?

Friday, November 21, 2008

An Eerie Coincidence: A True Tale of a Book

Coincidences happen quite a bit in life. But I just experienced one that gave me a couple of goose bumps. It has to do with a book, and the bookplate you see here adjacent to these words.

I’ve always collected books. In every city where I’ve worked and lived, I’ve found a good used bookstore in which I’ve spent many happy hours. I bought my first first edition with a TLS (typed letter signed, usually tucked inside the book) at a bookstore on Union Square in San Francisco. It was a very early book of short stories by Edna Ferber called Buttered Side Down and though it isn’t all that valuable to anybody but me I’ve always treasured it.

I also tend to collect friends who like books and two of my best friends in Florida have long been Thad and Polly Seymour, two really wonderful people whom I first met because we were neighbors.

Thad Seymour is also Dr. Thaddeus Seymour, the retired president of Rollins College, a former dean at Dartmouth. He and Polly and I have had lots of interesting discussions about books. Thad grew up in New York City in the 1930s within an interesting family. His father was a prominent lawyer who collected books and his mother was a chic lady who loved fine art and fine jewelry. I always imagined his New York family as very glamorous, strolling together down Manhattan’s avenues on the way to the family brownstone in Greenwich Village. So where is the eerie coincidence, you ask? Well stick with me and you'll see.

When I was doing research on early 20th century novelist Irving Bacheller and told Thad that Bacheller had belonged to the Century Club in New York, Thad told me he also belonged to the Century Club as his father had before him.

Anyway, back to my collection of books.

With the advent of the Internet, I have gradually come to realize that one does not have to collect shelves and shelves of books anymore. Books that are out of print and unavailable at your library are just a click away on Amazon or Abe Books. So, since I’m heading back to the San Francisco Bay Area after the first of the year, I’m doing a lot of sorting and boxing, and this week I went through my first editions with an eye to getting rid of at least a few.

A lot of these go back a number of years in my life and one’s taste changes as the years go by. For example, there was a time when I collected women writers. Now the gender thing isn’t as important to me. So when I came across a Dorothy Parker first edition, Laments for the Living, I paused for a minute trying to decide whether to keep it, sell it, or donate it to Polly Seymour's used bookstore at the local library. Ever since I read a biography of Parker and discovered what a sad life she had—alcoholism, horrible relationships with men—I’ve been feeling less inclined to collect her. Silly, I know. But there you are.

I opened this one to check the penciled notation inside which said “1st Edition, Out of Print” and showed the price of the book. I recalled that this book was a gift from someone I’d just as soon forget, and I almost tossed it in the pile of books I thought I might donate.

Then I looked over to the inside binding page and examined the bookplate there. It was a very good-looking one and showed an old English barrister wearing one of those funny Rumpole of the Bailey wigs floating above a book collection like a cross Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. The book plate also had engraved upon it: "Ex Libris Whitney North Seymour.”

I wondered if this man who had owned my book was related to my friend Thad? I knew Dorothy Parker was a New York writer and I knew the Seymours were New Yorkers, so it didn’t seem far-fetched. But I doubted it would be true.

I told Thad about it. He laughed.

The book had belonged to his father.

“The Century Club in New York owns the rights to that bookplate now,” he told me.

“Do you want the book back?” I asked. "It belonged to your father, after all."

“No, no. We took the ones we wanted and sold the rest. I’m happy you have it,” he smiled.

This book made its journey from a private library in New York, to my own private library via a third party who knew neither generation of Seymours. I had never heard of the Seymours until I came to Florida, long after I acquired the book. Now, as I'm getting ready to leave the state, it seems to me this connection actually reached out of the book and grabbed me by the wrist. Pretty strange, don’t you think? Certainly one of life’s eerie coincidences. I wonder if Dorothy Parker, who must sleep a troubled sleep, had anything to do with it?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Understanding and Loving Our Nerds

Very famous non-nerd and very famous nerd.

I just read the most amazing article by Benjamin Nugent in Psychology Today. Nugent is the author of a book with the arresting title American Nerd: The Story of My People which I’m now going to go out and buy. In his article he explains why some people who are exceptionally good at math and science and chess and inventing things are often also very awkward in dealing with their fellow men. To put it in the current parlance, Mr. Nugent explains why nerds are nerds, and why it is not their fault.

Apparently some highly intelligent people are genetically programmed to have what scientists are calling a “systemized brain” or an “S-brain” for short. A person with an S-brain is good at thinking like a machine, but he doesn’t have the wiring to easily understand people and social systems. As children, S-brainers point out their teachers’ errors, something that rarely endears them to their instructors or their fellow students. They have solitary hobbies like building radios and computers in the garage and they consequently have trouble making friends. People, they discover, don’t work like machines and they are puzzled by this. Being smarter than most other people and being socially inept are isolating and these two traits compound each other. Nerds have fewer opportunities to learn the very things about people they need to know in order to not be so nerdy.

The opposite of an S-brain is an “E-brain” or “empathetic-brain.” People with this kind of wiring, writers Nugent: “are good at divining what people are feeling and people with E-brains develop sharper social skills. More men have S-brains than women and more women have E-brains than men—though men and women both fall all over the spectrum.”

But it isn’t all bad. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were both nerds. Albert Einstein knew his universe but he had great difficulty with women, leaving the field wide open for his less intelligent friends.

I read this article with growing excitement. My brilliant father, who sometimes said the oddest and most hurtful things, suddenly came into focus. He was an S-brain nerd, if there ever was one.

When my sister and I were children he was great fun. Nerds can relate to children because they are also socially inept. He said things to us like “Don’t cry. Don’t you know tears just turn to water vapor?” which always made us laugh, though now that I have read this article I wonder if he was actually just giving us what he felt was important information. He loved making us swing sets and even more than that liked solving the problems of children. When he caught us fighting one day over whose turn it was to swing on the swing, he went away and brought back an old kitchen timer, nailed it to the tree, and called it the “turn timer.” End of problem. Well, mostly.

He built our first house because he thought it would be interesting. Once he even tried to explain to me how an internal combustion engine worked—as if I wanted to know! When he really wanted to kick back, he could be found in some quiet corner reading his college physics textbook.

You learned never to ask him how you looked, not if you didn’t actually want to know. Once, when I was at the height of my television career and in the prime of my youthful attractiveness, I went to an enormous amount of trouble to go with him to his fiftieth high school reunion in Homewood, Alabama. (My Mom didn’t want to go.) At the party, I overheard one of his schoolmates compliment me: “She’s so pretty,” said the man. “She must be like your wife.” And my father answered: “Yes but my wife would never wear stockings like that.” The stockings were a shimmery platinum color from Donna Karan. I thought they were gorgeous. I thought a proud father might have said “Thank you” to a compliment like that and I was very hurt.

Yet if there was a Boy Scout at his front door, asking for a donation, he had the softest heart on the block. I was baffled.

Once, he and my mother visited me in Florida. I exhausted myself trying to make my house perfect. I took them to wonderful places. I drove them everywhere. On the last day, we were headed out to get my Dad an ice cream cone, his absolutely favorite thing. I was driving the car and as we pulled out he said to me: “One thing I really don’t like about you—” When he paused here, I stopped the car and turned to him and just about burst into tears. Then he continued: “ … is that you don’t put your seatbelt on until you start the car.” I started laughing, since the second half of his sentence was such a surprise after the first half. When I stopped laughing I said: “One thing I don’t like about you … is that you would start a sentence to me with the phrase ‘one thing I don’t like about you.’” He had been trying to be fatherly. It had just come out the wrong way. The nerd way.

My mother constantly made fun of him because he had no interest in popular culture. “You don’t even know who Barbra Streisand is,” she said one day with derision. He cocked his head and looked at her and you could see the little wheels in his head going around, trying to compute for what reason he should know this person she had named.

Ludwig von Mises, on the other hand, the Austrian economist, this man my dad was familiar with. At age 78 he read Mises’ 845 page tome Human Action because he was curious about how economics worked. No wonder he had no time to listen to “People Who Need People.”

Here is the most ironic part of this story. Now, at 89, my Dad’s wonderful S-brain has gone on the blink. He can’t figure out how anything works anymore and the paradox is that this has caused him to become as funny and friendly as a goofy teenager. He absolutely adores me and my sister and says so all the time, something he never ever expressed before in his entire life.

So there you are. Life is truly strange at least it seems so to me, the high-IQ E-brained child of an S-brained father. And life sprinkles its blessings on you in the strangest ways. Here’s the blessing I pass on: may you be lucky enough to love a nerd.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bail Out the Big Three? Join us in the Bail Out Blues

Won’t it be fun for you and me and the guy who bags my groceries to own a piece of all those poorly managed banks in America? The money was set aside by Congress to buy up bad mortgages, to help keep taxpayers in their homes, to loosen up the credit markets so more Americans—and American businesses—could buy the things they need. Instead, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson says he’s spent $250 billion of the $700 billion to buy shares in shaky banks. He asking for the next round of banks to apply for the $100 billion he’ll be doling out in December. We taxpayers certainly are generous with our Christmas presents.

The next thing you know we will all own a piece of the Big Three U.S. automakers. Won’t that be great? All that money the government withholds from your paycheck propping up three more badly managed companies. My Dad always told me I should own some GM stock. Of course, that was a long, long time ago back when GM used to be known as a Blue Chip stock.

I recognize that bankruptcy reorganization for GM, Ford, and Chrysler would put a lot of people out of work. But not all these companies would fold. General Motors still sells about 21% of the cars purchased in America, and though that is less than half the share held by GM twenty years ago, Americans will still need to buy cars. The system of free enterprise that has made our country the greatest nation in the world for innovators and inventors only works as well as it does because it has a down side too: when companies are mismanaged or not providing products we like, or aren’t innovative or adaptable enough, they have always been forced to fold and start over.

Bailing out failed companies will become an endless cycle and in the end, I do not think it will stave off a big recession or a depression. It might make matters worse. Bad companies will limp along and eventually fail anyway after having sucked up billions and billions of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars.

From my years as a reporter in Washington I have come to believe that Washington is a town run by lobbyists. In this crisis lobbyists for beleaguered industries have flooded the offices of members of Congress and the Department of the Treasury with their panic visits and doomsday scenarios. The bureaucrats inside the beltway respond best to the guys who tug at their sleeves the hardest.

A friend of mine, who has toiled away all her life at a low-paying job, led a thrifty life, given more to her company that she has asked in return, has never gone over her head in debt, and always made her mortgage payments on time told me the other day, that she and some of her coworkers were preparing their bailout letters to send to Congress. They want to know why they can’t be bailed out too.

And though she was using what is known in America as gallows humor, her point was made: nobody in Washington has a big fancy office that lobbies for you and me, the taxpayers. Will we be getting dividends from these companies we’re bailing out? Not bloody likely.

Quick: name a really cool American car. A really cool American car that get’s good mileage? A really cool American car that gets good mileage and is competitively priced?

That’s okay, you can get back to me later.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Conserving the Space Coast Beaches: And Hope for Mr. Oyster

Some friends of mine over on Florida’s Atlantic coast have a terrific blog going dedicated to conserving and enjoying Florida’s wonderful Space Coast beaches and the Indian River Lagoon, not to mention helping to restore our friend the oyster. They have been kind enough to let me share this blog with you about the ongoing efforts to restore oyster life to the Lagoon. And it is an effort you can participate in, as they write in this blog:

"Google Analytics reports that in the last 30 days, our blog had visits from twenty-seven different countries. Of course, most of the visitors are from the United States, but even then, we’ve had viewers from thirty-four states. I think it is safe to say that not all of our visitors know about making oyster mats.

Luckily, we have the Nature Conservancy and Anne Birch, Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Indian River Lagoon Program, to explain their oyster reef restoration initiative. The Indian River Lagoon stretches 156 miles along Florida’s east coast and is described as the most diverse estuary in North America. Years of development and agriculture have threatened the health and well being of the Lagoon and everything it comprises, including oysters. The Conservancy is working with Dr. Linda Walters from the University of Central Florida (UCF) to restore oyster reefs in the Mosquito Lagoon area (within the boundaries of Canaveral National Seashore) using oyster mats constructed by thousands of volunteers.

The project is funded by grants through a National Partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Community-Based Restoration Program, the Nature Conservancy, and many other partners throughout the Lagoon.Leslie from the Barrier Island Center provided us with the above photo showing an oyster restoration mat made by one of the children at a Nature Conservancy workshop held at the Center.

Each individual mat is laid like a tile and anchored to another with cement sprinkler weights to form a new reef. Each new reef is made up of anywhere from a few hundred to over one thousand mats. Within 18 months of being placed on the reefs, the mats have attracted oyster larvae and are covered with live oysters, providing habitat and food for fish and crabs and filtering the water. Sea grass is even starting to re-colonize next to some of the news reefs.

Those of you that live in or near Brevard or Volusia County can attend an oyster mat workshop – the Florida version of a quilting bee! Follow this link for dates and locations, as well as for more information on the project Our thanks to the Nature Conservancy and the volunteers for their efforts on behalf of our Lagoon. I was particularly taken with the spirit line on Anne's email: Volunteer Opportunities for Restoring the Charismatic Oyster. Viva La Oyster!"

Note from Robin: If you live in the region you might really enjoy participating. These are really interesting people, many of whom work in Florida's space and high tech industry. If you don't live in the region and you visit one day, you’ll reap the benefits of their work.Check out their Web Site at
They have some beautiful DVDs you can order that both entertain and educate. Thanks Beach Basics!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Not Your Mother's Thanksgiving Receipe: Yummy Squirrel in Pie or Fricassee!

In my first book about Florida, I wanted to add a little variety, so I dug into my closet and came up with a cookbook my Aunt Helen gave me when she heard I was moving to Florida. Her husband, my Uncle Tom, had taught at the University of Florida, in Gainesville about forty years earlier and she, like the rest of the family, apparently, had trouble throwing things away. So instead of throwing away this old Florida cookbook, she sent it to me. It had been published in the early 1960s and in it I found two very politically incorrect receipes which I shared in my book and I now share with you here. Things being what they are these days, who knows when we might really need these? I hope it won't be this Thanksgiving, but you never know. This receipe came from the files of the Florida Department of Agriculture, so complain to them if you don't like! By the way you might substitute another kind of meat for the main ingredients, but if you don't, please don't tell me about it.

Squirrel Pie
Temperature 350F degrees Cooking time: 1 hour and 45 minutes ...

1 squirrel
3 Tablespoons flour
1/2 Tablespoon minced parsley
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup fresh cut mushrooms
2 cups stock or milk

Biscuits from mix or make using:
2 cups flour
4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup fat (shortening will do)
2/3 cup milk

Cut squirrel into 2 or 3 pieces. Cover with water and cook for one hour. Remove meat from bones in large pieces. Add flour, parsley, salt, pepper and mushrooms to the stock. Cook until it thickens (5 to 10 minutes) Add the meat and mix well. Pour into baking dish.

Make biscuits by sifting the flour, baking powder and salt together. Cut in the fat and add the milk. Stir until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Roll only enough to make it fit the baking dish. Place the dough on meat in baking dish and bake in moderate oven (350F) until the dough is golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Fricasseed Squirrel
Temperature: Low heat Cooking time: 3 1/2 hours

1 squirrel
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup flour
3 slices bacon
1 Tablespoon sliced onion
1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/3 cup broth

Disjoint and cut squirrel into 6 or 7 pieces. Rub pieces with salt and pepper. Roll in flour. Pan fry with chopped bacon for 30 minutes. Add onion, lemon juice, broth, and cover tightly. Cook slowly over low heat for 3 hours.

One thing I will add in closing: if the worst comes to the worst, this is one kind of staple we do not have a shortage of in my neighborhood.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ten Things to Ponder About the Current Recession

1. Anyone who does not want to risk his money should not put his money in the stock market. Yes, yes, I know all the statistics about how the market performs over a fifty year period. But let me tell you about a woman I know who is long past retirement age. About a year ago she got a final settlement of $100,000 from her ex-husband and she was complaining that it was now only worth $56,000. How is that possible, I asked her ....

I had assumed she put this money in a bank. She told me she had put the money in a money market fund and that it had gone way down and she was going to take the money out. I gather she didn’t know, or her broker neglected to tell her that the instrument into which she put her money was, as the name implies, in the market. Some instruments of this type available at your bank are insured by the FDIC. Hers was not. In these uninsured funds your NAV (Net Asset Value) is not guaranteed. You could blame this mistake on a clueless old lady, but I heard someone as intelligent as journalist Bill O’Reilly say recently that his market investments of the past seven years have been wiped out in the last two months this should not be allowed. Unfortunately it is his tough luck. Market fluctuations are not against the law.

2. Want to be sure the Net Asset Value of your cash does not go down? Put it where your assets are insured. Risk/reward ratios mean that when there is a higher reward, there is a higher risk. Lower risk, lower reward. Among the least risky things you can do with your money is to put it in a bank. The reward will thus be lower. But unlike my friend, you will not look at your statement one day and see that your savings has dropped in value by fifty percent.

3. What if the bank fails? If a bank fails your savings are insured by the federal government up to $250,000.

4. What if the federal government goes broke? If the government fails, then we’re all up a creek.

5. If your company has a 401k program and they will match some of your contributions with stock, there is risk in counting on this as your only retirement plan. Yes you get a tax break for participating. But you might put some pre-tax money into a program like this and use some post tax money to invest elsewhere. Yes, you will pay taxes on any interest you garner, or any profits you make. But which is worse: paying taxes on a capital gain, or having nothing to retire on?

6. Beyond the ignorance that has surrounded the stock market: there are a lot of crooks to blame for the current mortgage and credit meltdown. President-elect Obama should promise to put the culprits in jail. The bad guys in this deal are in the American establishment, and they make Martha Stewart’s crimes—for which she went to jail—look like a taffy pull. If President-elect Obama doesn’t make these people pay for their crimes, he will not serve a second term.

7. Those guys who win Nobel Prizes in economics don’t know any more about solving the problems of the recent world-wide economic challenges than you do. If they did, one of them, prize in hand would have knocked on the White House door, handed in his Einstein-like equation, and presto change-o all would be put right. There is no quick fix. Anyone who says there is, is someone you should definitely avoid voting for.

8. Want to help America cut the trade deficit? Stop buying goods from countries that dirty the earth’s air and water. I’m reminded of a drive I took from the airport to the center of Sao Paulo, Brazil. I think about it now because Brazil is being held up as some kind of paragon for running its cars on the ethanol it produces itself. Yes, that’s great. But take a look at the “river” beside that Sao Paulo highway one day: it is a cesspool. It is filled with sludge and refrigerators. Imagine that times about 100 in the far-more-populous country of China. Until the developing countries can show us that they have an investment plan to clean up their environments, we cannot call any trade with them “free.”

9. This is a really big recession but it is not the end of the world. Keep a clear head, tighten your belt, and forge ahead. Our parents and grandparents lived through some very bad times, from the Great Depression to World War II. They managed and so can we. What? We’re going to weep for ourselves because we can’t buy the latest flat screen television (built in China, most likely). Come on, get real. Stop thinking of money as something magical that other people know more about than you do. Stop investing it with con men and wasting it on things “everybody” has to have. We could all cut back on fast food and walk a little more. And maybe we could help out someone less fortunate while we are at it.

10. If things get really tight in your family, run for office. Members of the U.S. Congress have the best retirement and health plans in the known world. Heck, I just read today that the President (salary $400,000) and his family don’t have to pay anything for their prescription drugs. America is supposed to be a citizens’ government. Build yourself a Web Site, start raising money and go for it. Consider it your own federal relief plan.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Something Green (and Gray) to Include in Your Visit to Florida

So many people visit Orlando and go straight to the theme parks. There is something else you might want to see when you come to Florida. It is fascinating and unique and you can see it by taking just a 30 minute drive north of Orlando. If you make the effort you'll be able to enjoy a visit with the unusual and rare mammal called the manatee.
Florida is just one of three places in the world where you can see this strange-looking gentle creature. It is the only marine mammal that is an herbivore (it grazes on green things), and though it is sometimes called a sea cow, its closest relative is the elephant. Like the elephant it is the largest creature in its habitat: the average adult manatee is 10 feet long (2.5 to 4.5 meters) and weighs about 1,000 lbs (200 to 600 kg). This is a very large creature to come across in a river.

The Florida manatee is a subspecies of the West Indian Manatee or Trichechus manatus. It is one of three species of related sea-going mammals of the order Sirenia. That name harks back to stories told by early sailors who mistook the manatee for the "sirens" of Greek legend--mermaids who lured ships onto the rocks. As it turns out, manatees are much too friendly to do any such evil luring, and the animals don't look anything like beautiful mermaids. Clearly, sailors who were away from women for years at a time developed vivid imaginations.

The manatee is so large it has no natural enemies and its brain isn't programmed to fear. Consequently, these animals are curious and very friendsly toward their land-based cousins, the primates. You aren't allowed to swim with them and bother them, as they are protected by federal and state law, but people who accidentally come upon them in Florida rivers and streams report they seem to love swimming near humans and will roll over on their backs like dogs and practically purr if you scratch their tummies.

Unfortunately, some humans have not been friendly in return. A cousin of the manatee, the Stellar Sea Cow was hunted to extinction in the 18th century. The Florida manatee faces most of its challenges from humans in the environment: watercraft propellers and impact injuries are the leading causes of manatee deaths. Pollution also kills them. The good ecological news is that after a low of a few hundred in the 1970s, their number in Florida has now risen to about 3000.

The manatee disperses throughout the South in the hot summer days. But as winter approaches and the water in rivers and streams cools down, they head for the warm springs in Florida's interior.

Blue Spring State Park is one of these and one of the easiest to get to from Orlando. It is still early in the cool season, but my family and I went to Blue Spring recently and there were 17 manatee visiting the spring that day, all easy to spot and all relaxing in the 72 F degree water. The water is so clear there you can see right through it, and the manatees float under water sleeping during much of the day. After five or ten minutes they slip to the surface to breathe, exhale and inhale without awakening, and go back down for some more rest.

If you wait 'til December and January, more than a hundred manatees will be in Blue Spring, and the manatee watching is the best it is all year. There are picnic tables for your family, a place for swimming, and there are canoes and kayaks to rent (except at the height of the manatee season when canoeing might interfere with the manatee habitat). The park has 15 minute presentations throughout the day and an informative little movie you can watch to learn more.

To reach Blue Spring head east from Orlando on Interstate 4, exit at the Orange City/Blue Spring State Park exit and follow the signs.

Here is the park's Web Site. Rangers count the manatees each day and will post the count on the site:

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Lost Letters: A Veteran's Tale

My father in uniform and as a boy in Alabama with his dad.

My father was already in uniform when America entered the World War II. He had been in the Reserve Officer Training Corps at Auburn University in Alabama. All land grant colleges were required to have ROTC in those days and when my father graduated from Auburn in 1941 he figured that would be the end of his life in the reserves. He was offered an engineering job at General Electric in Philadelphia and off he went to begin his life away from his home in Alabama.

He had held the job for about a month when President FDR called up the reserves and my father was back in uniform. By December, he was at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, in training as an officer in the Corps of Engineers. One Sunday he was in the shower, getting ready to go to church when another officer stuck his head into the bathroom. “The Japs have just bombed Pearl Harbor! Come on. It’s on the radio!”

A few months later he was on a ship to an unknown destination. It was early in the war so there weren’t any troop ships yet and the Army had commandeered an ocean liner. My father later said: “I figured this officer thing must be pretty good. We had waiters in white coats at our beck and call. I had a great state room. The food was terrific. There was only one problem. We didn’t know where we were going and we figured wherever we were going it wasn’t going to be a heck of a lot of fun.”

He was the only son of a tight-knit Alabama family. His father and mother had made him promise to write them every day he was gone. Being a dutiful son, he did as he had promised. But their destination was secret. And what he didn’t know until two weeks into the journey was that their mail would be held for a month until their mission was accomplished, because the commanders did not want any word leaking out about what they were doing.

They were headed to Ascension Island to build an airstrip that would prove crucial to Allied success in the CBI (China-Burma-India) theater. They were deposited on the island with limited supplies and an order to complete the runway in thirty days. No other ships would be able to re-supply them and no planes with supplies could land until the job was done.

Ascension Island is in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, a big piece of volcanic lava half way between Africa and South America that was owned by the British only because during the nineteenth century nearby St. Helena was the home in exile of Napoleon, and the British didn’t want the little man to have any kind of a staging area nearby from which he might launch another attempted comeback. Gaining the use of Ascension as a base, came to the US via the FDR/Churchill Lend Lease Agreement.

On Ascension there was nothing: no port or dock, no fresh water, no edible native plants—nothing. They rationed the water they brought and they divided up the day into two twelve hour shifts and they worked around the clock. Once, they lost a bulldozer over a cliff and there was nothing to be done about it. They weren’t going to be resupplied until they finished the airfield, so they modified jeeps and trucks, called it “field expedient” and they kept on working.

Back in Homewood, Alabama, Roy and Mary Chapman and my father’s younger sister Helen waited for the mail. As the weeks went by without a letter, the little house on Palmetto did not ring with laughter. The war news in the paper was grim. The Philippines had fallen and thousands of Americans had been taken prisoners. The Germans seemed ready to invade Britain at any moment and bombs were falling on London every night. Singapore fell and Shanghai, and Hong Kong. And still no letters came.

Roy Chapman, the grandfather I never knew, was president of the city council in Homewood. He called in every chit he had to find out the fate of his only son. The postman didn’t even like coming to the house anymore because he could only shake his head when Roy looked expectantly as he came up the walk. Roy Chapman finally reached someone in the War Office, quite a task back then in the early days of World War II when long distance telephoning was not only uncommon, it was very expensive, and War Office personnel were swamped with things to do marked “urgent.”

“I’ve had no letters from my son,” said Roy Chapman. “I’m sure he must be dead. And I want to know the truth.”

“Have you had a telegram?” The bureaucrat in Washington had faith, at least, in the system.

“Why, no,” said Roy.

“Well there you are then,” said the War Office Man. “If he were dead you would have had a telegram. We always send a telegram if a soldier is dead.”

Roy put the receiver down and looked at his wife Mary. Somehow those words did not comfort him at all. No there hadn’t been a telegram carrying bad news. But there had been no news at all! That was bad news right there.

Back on Ascension my father and his fellow company commanders were right on schedule. Exhausted and short on drinking water, they had rigged traps to catch dew. They washed in sea water. They ate lots of fish and turtles eggs. And since they had landed with an inordinate amount of flour, they were able to have pancakes every morning for breakfast. And they were young. So none of it seemed so bad. They especially liked the part that nobody was shooting at them. In the midst of all this and the 24 hour-a-day work load, my Dad continued to write home every day.

The airstrip was finished on schedule and christened Wideawake Field after the local birds, called wideawakes, who populated the island. After their thirty days of quarantine, they all begin to get letters from home. But nobody back home was as yet getting letters from them.

One day somebody in the APO office in New York looked at a pile of mail from Ascension Island to families around the United States.

“How long were we supposed to hold this stuff, before we could let it go?" The private was sorting mail as he asked.

“Uh, I dunno. Thirty days? Something like that,” said a corporal, not looking up from the magazine he was reading, detailing the latest war news from the Pacific.

“Right, it’s been ninety. I guess we can let it through now. Off you go,” said the private and sent the bags of precious mail on their way at last.

In Homewood, Alabama, on Palmetto Street, the entire Chapman family assumed they would soon be preparing for a funeral. Roy didn’t say that to Mary, and Mary didn’t say that to Helen, but after ninety days without a letter, that’s what they all were thinking.

One day the postman came up the walk wearing a big smile.

“Hello Mr. Chapman. It’s a fine day sir.” he said. Then he plopped down a sack full of ninety letters from Lt. William Ashley Chapman stationed on Ascension Island. The front porch fairly creaked with the weight of them. Then the postman tipped his hat and stepped off the porch and walked with a new spring in his step to the next house on his route.

Mary wept. Helen wept. Cousins, aunts and uncles stopped by and they wept too. Roy sat quietly on the front porch smoking a cigarette and saying very little. My boy’s alive, he thought, my boy’s alive.

And his boy was lucky. He made it through the rest of the war, through the Battle of Okinawa and the bombing of Ie Shima and on to the war’s end without a scratch. And he continued to write a letter home to his Mom and Dad every single day.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Former Physician Has Incisive Post Mortem of Election

I don't know if you get the opinion columns of Charles Krauthammer in your local paper or if you see them on the Internet, but his latest column, or "post mortem" as he calls it, on the campaign is such a touching and sensitive one, I can only wish, not only that you would read it, but that I might write something equally as good myself one day.

Krauthammer is remarkable in many ways. The son of French-Jewish immigrants he was born in New York City and raised in Canada. After attending Oxford he was in his first year at Harvard Medical School when he was paralyzed in a diving accident. During his year-long hospitalization he studied from his bed and graduated with his class.

What a journey this man has traveled. He became a phychiatrist (doing research still cited in medical textbooks) then came to Washington D.C. during the Carter administration to work for the new president on mental health issues. He ended up writing speeches for Walter Mondale during his failed bid for president. The editor of the New Republic at the time, was Hendrik Hertzberg (now an editor at the New Yorker) and I knew Hertzberg, who was himself a former Carter speechwriter. The Carter connection may explain how Krauthammer ended up with a job at the New Republic, a small but influential magazine. But Krauthammer, as it turned out, was a stealth columnist. Why? Because he had become what Washington was then calling a "neo con" or new conservative--an intellectual who had moved from the left to the right, often, but not always, via their analysis of issues in the Middle East, and because in Ronald Reagan, they found a leader with brains and insight they could support.

If Krauthammer isn't remarkable enough for you yet, keep reading. In 1983 he was hired by Time Magazine, which back then was actually influential, and then in 1985 by the Washington Post, where he won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary. If you want to catch him now on television, he is almost always in the last segment of Brit Hume's newscast on Fox News Channel on cable (6 PM EST) along with kindly Morton Kondracke, egghead William Kristol, and grumpy Fred Barnes.

This has been the long way 'round to tell you about the Krauthammer post mortem on the election, which manages to analyze the race and not use one cliche, avoids the usual recriminations, and unlike Maureen Dowd (whom I adore, but who has grown increasingly strident) actually gives us a dead-on-right analysis.

Here is the web page where you can find it

I had to fill out my name and age and a couple of other things on the Washington Post Web site to get to the column, and I'm hoping you can just click on the link and not have to do that. But if you have to and haven't read the column, just go ahead and do it. (You can always block their junk mail later.) This is a great piece by a really remarkable man and I would be pleased to introduce you to both of them.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Not Sugar Candy: Multicultural America

These two have a lot in common.

My goodness, what a lot of fuss in the New York and Washington media about America’s first African-American President. Their surprise is what surprises me. I’m reminded of some lines Sidney Poitier says to his father in the 1967 movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” when he finds his father disapproves of his interracial marriage. “You see yourself as a black man,” says Poitier. “And I see myself as a man.”

Oprah Winfrey, not Katie Couric, is the most popular woman on television and one of America’s wealthiest women to boot. Katie just gets a salary. Will Smith, not Kevin Costner, is America’s hottest movie star. Think sports heroes, and Tiger Woods, Michael Jordon, and Alex Rodriguez come to mind long before Cal Ripkin, Jr. And young people are lining up to see Beyonce Knowles, not Debby Boone.

Sorry, mainstream media. America has been multicultural and colorblind for a long time. You just noticed it now? As Winston Churchill said during a visit to North America in World War II: “We have not journeyed all this way across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar candy.”

By the way, the restrained British barely raised an eyebrow when they elected Margaret Thatcher as their Prime Minister. A woman? I say, she certainly is, but jolly good for her.

I remember when I was a young reporter and I interviewed a developer in Portland, Oregon who had just turned a former downtown factory into one of the city’s most successful indoor shopping malls. He was Japanese-American and his parents had been interned during World War II. Now he’s a multi-millionaire. When I asked him about that he laughed and said “Yeah, my Dad would be really surprised.”

America is not perfect, but it has always been about opportunity. With each wave of immigration and each wave of change, the newcomers, the different, the “other,” have faced discrimination from the ignorant. None more so than the descendants of slavery, that stain on America’s past. But we got over it.

Now it is time for the mainstream media to do the same.

President-elect Barak Obama is an articulate young man who is taking office at an extremely difficult time in American history. I don’t care what color he is, I just hope he does a good job.

What color, by the way, do you think those people were in the Bible?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Is This a Great Country or What?

Holograhic reporting from CNN.

I’m so proud this morning of my country. The election of Barak Obama as our 44th President is just one more sign to the world that in America, the possibilities are limited only by a person’s imagination. I didn’t vote for him. But I congratulate him, and I wish him nothing but blessings. Now he is no longer a candidate or a Democrat, or a young man from Hawaii whose father came from Kenya: he is our President.

Take that, Osama bin Laden.

I loved watching the returns, clicking around among the channels to see who had what and who was doing what. Cable news has really triumphed over the stodgy old networks.

Of all the networks and news organizations, CNN by far was the best. It had the best lighting, the best set, the best-looking graphics, the most easily understandable graphic boards, and the best anchors and the most intelligent analysis. Only Campbell Brown and Bill Schneider seemed superfluous at their indecipherable demographics board, and the producer, wisely, didn’t use them very much.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer is like a comfortable pair of shoes. No nonesense. No joking around. Just the facts ma'am, and an occasional slight smile. Anderson Cooper is his cool younger brother. Never covered an election. Doesn't have a clue. But asks all the same questions you and I would ask, were we new to something. All the CNN team were MIBs, in perfect looking black suits, lacking only the cool shades. A very good look.

The best election trick of all came early in the evening when CNN beamed in a hologram of reporter Jessica Yellin from Chicago into the CNN studio, more than a thousand miles away. It was the real television news Star Trek event of this 21st century election, and though she was missing her feet (guess they got left behind in Chicago), I enjoyed the trick so much I kept waiting for them to beam her in again. Or beam in Obama, or Mayor Daley, or … Captain Kirk. Later they beamed in a black rap star and I didn’t get that part, but it was a heck of a lot of fun to watch.

If I were Obama, I would use that new technology to meet with all the leaders overseas. It would save him a lot of travel time, reduce his carbon foot print, and he would have no jet lag, virtual or otherwise. I’m sure they’ll figure out the feet thing soon.

By contrast, Fox looked low-tech and dour to me, and I’m usually a fan. The set was so poorly organized, at one point anchor Brit Hume, who is beginning to slump in his chair like a really old man, was looking into a camera talking to Chris Wallace at another desk, and then went, duh, and just wheeled his chair over to talk with Wallace. It would have been logical if he had been in a room with just two people, but it looked really dumb on television, and the producer and director were clearly caught off guard. Brit’s going semi-retired soon, so maybe he’s just over it.

MSNBC, CBS, NBC, and ABC were all of a piece. All Obama, all the time. That is to be expected. They get all their stories and their philosophies right out of the New York Times. But hooray for CNN. Twenty years ago it was the little engine that could: called Chicken Noodle News by sarcastic competitors I worked with in Washington.

Bet they’re not laughing now. Bet they’d like to get beamed up, just like Jessica.

(If you missed the hologram click on this site You’ll have to watch a short commercial, but it is worth it.).

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day in the United States

We don't get the day off today to vote, but most of us take time to do it, even if it means we lose our lunch hours or miss an hour at the gym, or make it home late to supper. We don't always have the best choices on the ballot: but for that we can only blame ourselves. Still, with our mother country, Great Britain, we invented the right of self determination by a nation of the enfranchised who limit their government by their own choice.

It isn't a perfect system by any means. A government of the people, by the people, and for the people is always subject to the corruption of some--Senator Ted Stevens of Alaksa comes to mind at present, but there have been others. As with cops and apples, there will always be a few that rot. And we have nets that often catch them, and then out they go.

Each election we make a transition to new leadership and we do it peacefully without soldiers, without coups, without deadly plots, without real rancor. We may not like the person who wins the day, but we know we can vote the rascal out on the next go 'round.

And then we go back to work.

There were a lot of promises made during this election. But the real promise of America is not what our government says it will give to us. It is in those moving words of our Declaration of Independence, penned by the genius of Thomas Jefferson:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

In most parts of the world today, these are still revolutionary concepts. Government not designed to be our mother and father, but to be our instrument. America does not promise each of us wealth and happiness. It promises us the opportunity to seek them. The concept must be popular. Else why do so many, critical always of us as too rich, too big, too materialistic--why do so many seek to come here?

Like my great grandfather Jan VerWolf of Holland, they come seeking opportunities that are not open to them at home. Some succeed. Some fail. All are Americans.

That's why we vote today.

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Election Week Dreaming

We have never had an election in American history the pulse of which has been taken so frequently by so many. It’s like having a one-year-long pre-race coverage for the Kentucky Derby. Every slurp of water, whinny, training trot, cool down, and every bag of oats has been covered ad nauseum . The coverage has in fact worked to reduce the meaning of the vote Election Day to the most boring horse race in history. As Jay Leno put it on Friday: “Oh great. On Sunday we set the clocks back and get one more hour of this election."

It is hard to imagine that there really was a time when Presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln felt it would undignified to campaign for himself and so relied almost entirely upon surrogates speaking for him.

Gallup has been doing a daily tracking poll. All the major networks have commissioned polls and CNN does a “poll of polls.” The bottom line is that Republican candidate John McCain has led in none of them. Thus, if the polls are accurate, and there are so many of them it would be an incredible anomaly if they were not, the election for President it all but over.

It doesn’t leave much for a conservative to cheer about. You find yourself going back over the “if only”s the way you do when a marriage has gone bad or when, for example, the Titanic went down. “If only the ship had been traveling more slowly.” “If only the men in the crow’s nest had seen the iceberg sooner.” “If only the radioman on the California hadn’t gone to bed early.”

So now the “if only”s go like this for me:

If only we hadn’t had an incumbent Republican President who spoke English as if it were a second language.

If only Jeb had run for President instead.

If only the economy hadn’t tanked thirty days before Election Day.

If only W hadn’t waited so long to fire Rummy.

If only Hillary had won the Democratic nomination—she was so unpleasant even McCain could have could beat her.

If only everybody in the media weren’t rooting for Barak Obama.

If only Dick Cheney didn’t remind so many people of Darth Vader.

If only Sarah Palin had turned out to be a little less perky and a lot more intelligent.

If only the John McCain we met in the primaries had appeared during the general election.

If only McCain had won the nomination in Y2K instead of now.

If only Carl Rove had gone missing in a flight over the North Pole.

If only someone had actually done a real investigation of ACORN.

If only the SEC had actually regulated the securities business as it was supposed to.

If only Arizona had the population of New York.

If only John McCain were part Kenyan.

But reality being what it is, conservatives will be forced to suffer through the endless recriminations of Tuesday night and Wednesday. Fortunately, I’m going to be too busy to watch all that on the Morning After. My termite guy is coming to find out if my house is about to fall in.