- updated as of 02-26-07
HomeHot Off The Press !Cooler Off The PressRandom RuminationsSnippetsCosmic ConceptsWorld ViewNational FocusCloser To HomeCONTACT USTheatre ReviewsGolden OldiesPotpouriBiography & Short FictionHymns & PoemsA Christmas MusicalEthnic EpicuriaRecent ArchivesMarie Billings MemorialAbout Tom Billings
A compendium of politically incorrect polemics and other writings


* Bottom Lines - Volume I
* "Under God" - to be or not to be
* Does experience bias my view on abortion?
* Vietnam redux?
* Court ruling or initiative: take your choice
* What would I like travel providers to offer?
* Hornung fumbles the ball
* What's a President to do?
* Why do they call Bush a liar?
* Do I feel safe on "BART?"
* A Tribute to Rachel Corrie


(Over the last couple of years, I've accumulated notes for more than 100 columns I haven't gotten around to write, and goodness only knows when - if ever - I will, so here's a sampling of their topics, seminal ruminations, and bottom lines.)

SEVEN HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE. To the Biblical four - war, famine, pestilence, and death - the "civilized" world now needs to add population, pollution, and extremism.

PROFESSIONAL SPORTS. Teams are monopolies. Leagues are cartels. Regulation should obviate strikes and assure real competition by capping salaries and equalizing revenues.

MANAGED HEALTH CARE. An oxymoron. Parsimonious Medicare and insurance reimbursements, valuing cost above care, jeopardize hospitals, practitioners, and patients.

LOTTO MENTALITY subverts youth. For every wealthy pro athlete and pop celebrity, 1,000 unskilled, under-educated also-rans wind up dealing drugs and flesh to "make it big."

"INVESTING IN STOCKS." The ultimate oxymoron. Speculating isn't investing. It's gambling, and with a deck stacked in favor of insiders, brokers, liars, and cheaters.

DOMESTIC ALLIANCES. Biology, bias, and IRS shouldn't control legitimacy of domestic relationships or structure of virtual extended families.

MIDDLE EAST PEACE. The U.N. is civilization's only chance. It should disarm everybody, divvy up the real estate, redress grievances, and guarantee security for all.

CONGESTION. Further traditional solutions only exacerbate. We can't dig out of a hole. The only real solution is less people, not more infrastructure.

IMMIGRATION. Enforced policies should welcome only people meeting America's needs, not just their own. Keep others out. Amnesties foster undesired behavior.

DARWIN VERSUS CREATION. Which is harder to believe: our universe arose spontaneously from nothing? Or God arose spontaneously from nothing and then designed the universe?

JUSTICE. Miscreants often dodge explicit statute laws. The system needs principle-based neo-common-law applied by professional juries.

CHOICE VERSUS LIFE. Choice gets the nod. "Persona," some might call it "soul," is shaped by inheritance in combination with experience. A fetus has only inheritance.

WAR ON DRUGS. As foolish and futile as prohibition. Government should provide cheap, safe drugs on a no-fault basis, thereby eliminating illicit trade by making it unprofitable.

DETERMINISM VERSUS FREE WILL. Genetics plus experience may mandate undesired behavior. The public needs protection, but what do evil, guilt, and sin now really mean?

HEALTH INSURANCE. Should be universal, single-payer for everyone as one, huge "group," sponsored by government, not employers, with spending on care, not administration.

POPULATION. Too many people, too little planet. "Growth" will ultimately impair quality of life and life itself. The world urgently needs a steady-state socio-economic paradigm.

SUPREME COURT. Because it makes social legislation by its interpretations, its decisions should be subject to being overridden just like presidential vetoes.

MENTAL ILLNESS. It's all a matter of chemistry. No volition, no moral turpitude. We need to get the afflicted compassionately off the streets and into effective treatment.

WAR ON TERRORISM. It's not war. Wars are fought by national armies. It's an international police action. Terrorists are gangsters, and the Geneva Convention is irrelevant.

REPARATIONS. Payments can't bridge a cultural abyss caused by slavery. Programs are needed to truly equalize opportunity beginning with pre-conception family planning.

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. Don't fine corporations. Send executives to jail. Fines are ultimately paid by innocent customers, not by culprits.

EDUCATION. The deficiency's at the bottom, not the top. Vitally important acculturation begins at home. Structured pre-school needs to start in the cradle.

WHAT MADE AMERICA GREAT? Natural resources, energy, capital, ingenuity, ambition and industriousness. True, but underlying all, greed was the grease.

SADDAM HUSSEIN. Like other leaders we've created expediently, he's turned. Let's take him out surgically, as at Entebbe, without doing massive collateral damage of our own.

PARENTING. Much too important to entrust to amateurs. Parents should be trained, licensed, certified, and monitored like doctors, lawyers, teachers, restaurateurs, and drivers.

CUBAN SANCTIONS. Enough already. Let innocent Cuban people up for air.

DOMINANCE OF THE PRIVILEGED, SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST. Genetics, nurture, wealth, and networks tilt the un-level playing field, but good fortune shouldn't award the lion's share.

ELECTORIAL PROCESS. Hopelessly flawed by big money, sound bites, negativity, and resultant voter apathy. Initiatives don't help. Multilevel electoral colleges might be the solution.

NEW RESPECT FOR BANANAS. Biblical authors would be astounded to learn 15,000 of the 30,000 genes in the human genome are shared with bananas. Perhaps they're distant cousins!

CALIFORNIA'S PROPOSITION 13. Hamstrings rational, equitable taxation. Long past time for repeal. To be fair, the state should be indemnified by Washington for the extra costs arising from illegal immigration it permits.

BILL OF RIGHTS. Freedom "from" is as vital as freedom "of." Outlaw hurtful speech, anxiety inducing press, obstructing demonstrations, and state-sanctioned religious observances.

ALAMEDA'S CHARTER ARTICLE XXVI. Needs revision to balance preservation, renovation, development, and redevelopment. Times change. Needs change. Strictures must adapt.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING. Government should subsidize only rentals, not purchases enabling windfall gains. Local governments should subsidize only vital local service providers.

TAXATION. Don't tax earnings and production. Tax spending and consumption at highly progressive rates to minimize squandering of resources on frivolous luxuries.

LAND USE. "Shoe horn" subdivisions blight the community. As Europe saw long ago, high rise, open space, town homes, and secondary rural "ranches" are waves of the future.

OUR REPTILIAN BRAINS. Tyranny, triumph and tragedy. The veneer of humanity is paper thin, and of civilization thinner still. Perhaps all species are merely bags of chemical soup.

TRANSPORTATION. Public transit works in Paris, London, and New York because it's cheap, frequent, and close at hand. Car pooling isn't a viable alternative for most people.

DE-REGULATION. To minimize manipulation and fraud, government should regulate everything affected with the public interest where efficiency mandates concentration and genuine competition therefore isn't practicable.

ULTIMATE SAFETY NET. Government should freely provide basic food, medication, shelter, clothing, and other civilized essentials to all seekers without requiring proof of need.

DUPLICITY, MENDACITY, GREED, AND CORRUPTION. The four horsemen of the American cultural apocalypse, in business, politics, personal relationships, and basic cultural norms.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION. Orthodoxy varies from culture to culture. Any behavior among competently consenting persons, not harming others, should be deemed acceptable.

COMMERCIALISM. The bane of contemporary American society, institutionally manipulating people to buy and do things they neither need nor want in order to make a buck.

THE ROOT OF MUCH EVIL. Fanaticism. Often fostered by fundamentalism in religion and philosophy, dogmatically asserting to the death the sure and certain truth of the unprovable.

PROFILING. The inevitable concomitant of diversity and discrimination. We all would be lost without it, but it must be seen as a disputable approximation, not as definitive.

RECOMPENSE FOR LOSSES. Government should reasonably compensate innocent parties for all types of losses and then, when appropriate, pursue culpable parties for restitution.

MYTHOLOGY. Despite two millennia of discovered knowledge, many remain mired in moral, spiritual, temporal, and religious dogmas framed in ignorance centuries ago.

SPANNING THE BAY. Replacing half the Bay Bridge is a foolish waste. We need a whole new, multi-mode crossing from San Leandro to Hunter's Point, probably floating a la Seattle's Lake Washington bridge.

FOURTH BORE FOR CALDECOTT TUNNEL? Nonsense. Either double deck the existing three to make six, or close it completely to relieve Bay Bridge Toll Plaza congestion.

ALAMEDA. Our unique community. How fortunate we all are to live here, but there isn't enough room for everyone, so let's keep it the best kept secret in the Bay Area. And let's not permit "development" to destroy the very things that make Alameda so special.



Most people who believe it's okay to have "under God" on our currency and in our Pledge of Allegiance haven't read the First Amendment carefully enough.

That cornerstone of our free society says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." It doesn't say, "the establishment of a particular religion," and the difference is as between day and night. To help clarify, substitute "belief in a God" for "religion."

The First Amendment actually implies two distinct freedoms: first of all freedom for everyone FROM religion (that is, orthodoxy of belief in the supernatural) and only afterwards freedom OF religion for those who are so disposed.

For Thomas Jefferson, the atheist who wrote the American Constitution, the first of those freedoms was paramount and the second only an incidental politically correct sop to folks ignorant of science with strongly held inculcated belief in the supernatural.

The presence of "God" in the Pledge of Allegiance surely implies "orthodoxy of belief in a supernatural entity" and that is clearly unconstitutional, even if it feels "good" to the 35% of Americans who say they "believe" and "okay" to the 29% of Americans who say they don't know whether or not they "believe." After all, one vital purpose of the Bill of Rights is to protect the minority - in this case the 35% of Americans who say they don't "believe" - from the depredations of the majority or - as in this case - some other minority.



Probably yes. Some 50 years ago, a theatre I helped manage during college summers employed teen age girls as usherettes. Most returned each season, so when one was missing, I inquired and learned she was dead.

Having become pregnant, an unprofessional abortion arranged by her mother went terribly wrong. After a week of pain so agonizing her arms were scarred where fingernails dug in, she died of peritonitis and, although Catholic, was denied burial in hallowed ground.

Betrayed by normal biological imperatives which at best she only vaguely understood, Peggy had been a pleasant, pert, and harmless 14 year old when she "fell from grace," and the consequences effectively imposed for her "transgression" by our then cultural, social, and religious mores seemed utterly barbaric to me.

Lamentably, Roe versus Wade, Vatican II, comprehension, and compassion, all came too late to spare Peggy. I still think about her from time to time, and shudder.



It's clear to many Americans that George Bush was obsessed with Iraq long before he reached the White House and, because of that tunnel vision, was unable to see the main chance which was al-Qaida. Perhaps Bush's fixation had festered ever since his father's failure to "finish" the Gulf War by pressing on to Baghdad was perceived to have cost his re-election.

We now know, however, that father, unlike son, prudently refrained from opening Pandora's box a decade ago. Fools really do rush in where angels fear to tread.

The only residual question is whether Bush-II was the original fool or was taken down the primrose path by Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and/or Carl Rove. About the only thing we can be sure of is it wasn't Colin Powell.

It's now clear to many our invasion of Iraq was a blunder of gargantuan proportions. None of the excuses advanced by the administration for inflicting such carnage has proved valid, and we now will (as thinking people without partisan agendas accurately predicted before the fact) reap the whirlwind.

Iraq is indeed another Vietnam where every day our futile escalating efforts to "win" a war in which we should never have been engaged in the first place bring us closer to ultimate defeat. George Bush lacks the credibility to be able to lead our country back out of the morass he led us into in Iraq. His re-election could well prove to be a disaster of cosmic import.



It's been suggested the Oregon Supreme Court would overstep the bounds in ruling on the constitutionality of same sex marriage and that such issues should be resolved by plebiscite. But that's nonsense. Because the power to interpret is in fact the power to amend, ever since Marbury v. Madison in 1803, the Supreme Court of the United States has routinely amended the Constitution every time it's issued an opinion.

Often those amendments are effected by a single swing vote among the nine justices, and every now and then they reverse earlier precedents. In any event, citizens have no vote in such decisions, and from them there is no appeal. Of course, the constitutional way to amend the Constitution is a bit more burdensome: much debate, two-third majority votes in both houses of Congress, and ratifications by the legislatures of 38 states.

Maybe we really do need a Constitutional convention to straighten a few things out that might just be more worth of a Constitutional Amendment than same sex marriage or whether Arnold should be enabled to become President some day.



Two things. First, since my wife passed on, I'm a solo traveler. Single supplements are a major impediment, and I'm not keen on sharing accommodations with a stranger. I'm game for traveling on short notice and out of season. Is there anyone out there with whom I can cruise and/ or tour sans supplement and sans roommate?

Second, I travel to see the sights, not to loll in the sun or play golf. My favorite cruise was from Athens to Patmos, Lindos, Rhodes, Alexandria, Giza, Cairo, Port Said, Ashdod, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Haifa, Kushadasi, and Ephesis - all in seven days. My favorite tour was from London to Moscow by bus via Berlin and Warsaw on the way and returning via Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Amsterdam, all in 18 days.

I'd love a cruise from San Francisco to New Orleans, hitting all the high spots, not just a few - something like: Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Pureto Vallarta, Ixtapa, Acapulco, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama Canal, Cartagena, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Belize, Cozumel, and Cancun with time ashore to see the main sights at each stop. Maybe three weeks would do it. Is anyone thinking of offering such a product?



Paul Hurnung, legendary Notre Dame and Green Bay Packers quarterback, recently suggested his alma mater ought to "adjust" (lower) its academic standards in order to attract the very best minority (Black) quasi-professional athletes, predictably, and a fire storm ensued.

But the "disparate" academic performance of African-Americans is not a result of crisis in the urban public education system. It is, rather, one of its principal causes. Responsibility lies with the poverty - intellectual and cultural as well as economic - that stacks the deck against both the system and its populace.

For many college athletes, destiny is determined long before they enter the educational system even at pre-school level. If we want seriously to change any of this, we need to change - radically - the domestic environments in which deprived future athletes and many other African- Americans are "nurtured." Because they don't begin operating until years too late in life, even contemporary "Head-Start" programs are about as effective as putting Band-Aids on cancer.



A President's job is to do the right things at the right times in the right ways for the right reasons and with the right ramifications. George Bush has batted 0 for 5 both before and since 9/11. He continues our mindlessly unjust and discriminatory support of Israel which is one of the signal provocations driving Muslim extremists. It's the contemporary counterpart to the Christian Crusades which have rankled the Islamic world for 750 odd years.

In his lamentably dogmatic style, George fails to perceive that "democracy" is a "secular religion" which, like his "born again Christianity" is not the "only true faith" when it comes to governing. Indeed, over two millennia ago, Plato identified six forms of government, three good and three bad, and democracy, far from being the best of the "good" forms was - and perhaps still is - the worst of them.

And ultimately, George's error is to believe that an effective defense against terrorism can be mounted with conventional military activities rather than surgical measures. The collateral damage he is inflicting is actually exacerbating support for terrorism rather than diminishing it. Iraq and Afghanistan were tragic errors - the wrong actions at the wrong times in the wrong ways for the wrong reasons and with the wrong ramifications. It's deplorable we gave a President who is capable of such egregious blunders a chance to make more of them as time goes on.



Some Republicans have pointed the figure at Democrats for "personalizing" the Iraqi misadventure, but it's been personal with George Bush and his coterie from the outset. Paul Wolfowitz admitted Weapons of Mass Destruction was selected as the most plausible "excuse" (not to be confused with "reason") for starting the gratuitous Iraqi war.

The real reasons undoubtedly had to do with familial pride, oil, Islam, and making the world safer - not for America or for democracy but for extremist Christianity and for Israel whose outrageous depredations would have been brought to book long ago by an administration as concerned with justice as with re-election.



I never feel entirely safe on bridges and in tunnels. Occasionally, they fall down and cave in, and in the event of catastrophe, the chances of escaping from either are mighty slim. Otherwise, I feel quite safe on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). Terrorist attacks there isn't much more likely than being struck by a meteorite.



Rachel Corrie suffered death by bulldozer in the Gaza Strip back in 2002, and it wasn't an "accident." It was cold blooded murder. On a recent anniversary of that event, The Wall Street Journal re-published a really sick essay vilifying her.

Media moves of this sort always dazzle me. Intended or not, they help the Zionist invaders (by immigration) continue to propagate the myth that they, rather than the indigenous Palestinians, hold the moral high ground in their conflict That myth has bamboozled American foreign policy makers and the American public for over half a century. Enough, all ready.