Thursday, June 29, 2006

The I-Bomb rushes towards its climax

The sixth, penultimate episode of The Imaginary Bomb is now online, with the big climax promised on or about July 4. Folks who prefer their books-on-podcast all in one fell swoop should soon be able to get the whole deal. I've added a spot for convenient download of each episode onto the sidebar of the Blogger page.

So where, if anywhere, do Bob Whelan, Pete Wong and Baxter Hetznecker go from here? Hard to say. I'm sorry to be so obsessed with Serenity analogies, but it's apt: The Imaginary Bomb has a small group of folks who really seem to like it, but they're not a big enough group to really justify a sequel, and it's mostly the fault of an inadequate (almost negligible) marketing campaign on our part. Once the story's complete, we'll probably spend some more serious time getting the word out.

Sadly, half of our little audience went away when Warren's mom died and we had a three-week layover, so I'm posting this in part to remind you that the story has resumed, in case you hadn't heard yet. And if you've yet to experience our little homemade adventure, it's never too late to start - that's my favorite part of podcasting. You can download Chapters 1-3 by clicking here. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A worthy addition to the mythology

A few random thoughts after attending an opening day matinee of Superman Returns:

I think the opening credits were extremely smart. I still remember how bummed I was that they made up a new theme song for the first Star Trek movie, and how the audience applauded when they finally gave us a snippet of the original music about an hour and a half into it. By using the original Superman music and fonts from the 1970s, the main titles said "We're back; let's have some more fun together."

I'm glad they kept Luthor a little humorous, but I think Gene Hackman's Luthor was downright stupid, so I'm glad Kevin Spacey played him a little more straight. And I liked Parker Posey as Luthor's sidekick Kitty a lot better than Valerine Perrine's Eve Teschmacher. I was worried when I heard they were going back to the world of the original movies, because I honestly didn't like those movies that much. The tone of this movie is more respectful of the original legend of Supes, I think.

I really, really wish they'd done more with Jason, Lois Lane's son. He just kind of sat in the back seat looking mysterious most of the time. I guess they have to save something for the sequel - but on the other hand, if the box office doesn't merit a sequel, they'll never get a chance to explore those themes. One reason I like Serenity so much is they laid it all out there, and if this turns out to be the end they went out with a bang. Superman Returns kinds of holds back and promises to go farther next time - but what if there IS no next time? There probably will be - it even has a projected 2009 release date - but nothing in life is guaranteed.

I think the new Superman, Brandon Routh, might be a better actor than Christopher Reeve was - more subtle, more range of feeling - and while Margo Kidder was great, Kate Bosworth "feels" more like Lois Lane to me. I believe her as a real reporter - and I've been around a few real reporters in my time. And Frank Langella's always great, turning in a human portrayal of editor Perry White.

Bottom line, Superman Returns is a worthy addition to the mythology, better than any of the Christopher Reeve films, with all due respect to that beloved actor. If it wasn't for the Spider-Man and X-Men flicks and V for Vendetta and Sin City and Batman Begins, it might even qualify as one of the best comic-book adaptations of all time. But those eight movies do indeed exist - at least Superman Returns might help round out the top ten.

A disturbance in The Force

Strange that over the past few days, several people have told me, in various ways and means, they think they've failed. Strange because I've been feeling a bit of a sense in which life could have been different if things had gone differently - if I hadn't failed at this or that critical juncture.

Now, not all of these failures that people have told me about are big ones. Some are - no, as a matter of fact, all of them are temporary setbacks of one kind or another. Some are minor failures in big endeavors, some are big failures in minor endeavors, most are middling failures in middling endeavors. Often things just don't work out the way we plan.

When so much goes wrong in such a short period of time, one begins to suspect a disturbance in The Force, some supernatural reason for the chips falling the wrong way for a lot of people all at once. I'm going to suggest something a little more radical.

I think so many of my friends are experiencing failure because they're on the right track. They're trying big things, or bigger things than they've attempted in a while. They're taking stock of their lives and deciding to do something more, something different.

When you do that, when you step out of your comfort zone, the first baby steps don't always go so well. This is the most dangerous time in the whole process - the temptation is to say, "Oh well, it didn't work this time, guess I'll just slip back into my comfort zone where everything works the way I expect, guess I'll just slip back into my rut."

Don't do that. Was it Edison who said he hadn't failed 100 times, he'd succeeded in finding 100 potential solutions that didn't work? Maybe that's over-the-top optimism, but the point is just because something didn't work this time, doesn't mean it won't work the next time you try - and at the very least you've discovered one not-so-good way of approaching the situation. Next time you try, you'll try it a little differently, or you'll try it the same but with a different level of effort. The point is to try. Or, as Yoda said so wisely, "Do, or do not. There is no try."

I feel a little like I'm trying to write a horoscope entry. I'm trying to encourage quite a few people in quite a few different situations in quite a few different ways - and myself at the same time - using the same words. What I'm trying to say is failure is just a little hiccup on the way to success. Nothing goes perfectly the first time you try it, and sometimes it doesn't go at all. The bottom line is it was worth trying. Next time it'll go better, and if you keep going back for a "next time," it's going to work. It's going to work, gorram it, just don't quit on yourself one day or one month or one year too soon.

Now get back up on that bicycle or that horse or in the water and do it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The cards are maxed out (B.W.'s interim book report)

I'm through three-quarters of "Empire of Debt," the compelling book by Bill Bonner and Addison Wiggin of The Daily Reckoning, a book that splains what's really been happening with the economy over the last 30 years or so as America runs up the credit card.

It's been eye-opening, to say the least. A couple of random thoughts occurred to me regarding my own life as I perused the last few chapters:

A quote from F.A. Hayek - "The economy in its entirety must continue to decline so long as more is being consumed than produced, and therefore some part of consumption therefore takes place at the expense of the existing capital stock."

In other words, someday you have to pay the bills. You can use up every last ounce of credit that's made available to you, but an ever-growing commitment to debt service will eat into your cash flow. You're paying today for the right to buy that stuff last week, last month, last year, five years ago - depending on how big an item you purchased. I can't buy that Neil Young LP I wanted yet because of the various things I ran up on the card over the past year or so.

I have hit a bump that the economy as a whole must eventually reach (or perhaps already has - have you really looked at the economy lately?): New revenue and credit limits are maxed, and so new spending is severely limited - sacrifices and deferred spending are necessary.

Another nifty quote, this one from the authors: "There are only two ways to get what you want in life. You can do so honestly or dishonestly. You can get it by working for it or by stealing it. You can get it by trade and commerce or by force and fraud."

The thought I had after reading that is not quite linear, but it's good advice, just insert your own name: Doh! I have to learn how to sell to thrive in the world. (I've always hated selling and marketing.) I am the world's only source of product created by B.W. Richardson. What I have to do is create a market for that product, and tap it.

OR I could get into the government business and just steal your cash to live on, but I'm always tried to be a nonviolent, nonintrusive kind of guy. And this way sounds like more fun.

Did I mention that Episode 5 of The Imaginary Bomb is now online???


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Goodbye to the silly little fairy

It is/was a cute little ad for Dodge Caliber (not real effective because I would have sworn it was a Charger commercial) - a little Tinkerbell-type character flies around changing a skyscraper into a gingerbread castle, an elevated train into a fairy-tale choo choo, but her magic can't seem to convert the tough little Dodge into something whimsical.

She gets so distracted in her frustration that she doesn't notice she's about to fly - splat! - into that wall. A stereotype biker-type walking his Doberman comes along and says, "Ha! Ha! Ha! Silly little fairy," and in a fit of pique she converts him into a preppy guy walking four yippy dogs on pink leashes.

The ad is still running but with a little edit job. Now the biker comes along and says, "Ha! Ha! Ha!" before being transformed. I guess there are some words you just don't use in these sensitive times, even to describe, say, a silly little fairy.

Here's one of the more breathless over-reactions to the ad, titled "Is this Dodge 'fairy' commercial actually hate speech in disguise?" The good news is I'm told (my computer timed out trying to get in) many of the gays who commented on Bob Garfield's column say, in effect, "Gimme a break and take a deep breath," but Dodge seems to have responded to the criticism and removed the offending line.

To his credit, Garfield merely points out what he considers offensive speech and shames Dodge for using it. He doesn't suggest that the U.S. Department of Hate Speech ban the ad or some such. It's simply a case of Dodge exercising its free speech rights, Garfield and other exercising theirs, and Dodge making a corporate decision based on the exchange. That's how it's supposed to work, more or less. I do have to wonder what the next step would have been if Dodge had not altered the ad.

And it's still a cute, visually appealing ad. But the missing dialogue, with all its implications, sure takes away some of the whimsy.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

He refuses to be afraid

Thanks to Claire Wolfe for pointing to this Lew column by Charles H. Featherstone, "This Line is Insecured." The guy's head is in the right place.

Since I started sending e-mail and doing on-line stuff, long ago in 1989, I have always just assumed that someone, somewhere, with a badge and maybe a warrant (but most likely not) was reading or watching or monitoring. Or could whenever they wanted to. Certainly it shouldn’t be that way, but it is. And there isn’t a thing any of us can do to change this any time soon. (Unless, of course, you’re putting your faith in Hillary Clinton’s or John McCain’s future Justice Departments?)... That said, we should not let surveillance, or the possibility of surveillance, silence us or shut us down. At least half of being free is thinking and acting like a free human being, whatever the consequences might be.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Fear mongers work overtime

Today's thing to be afraid of that's beyond your control: The San Andreas Fault could blow "at any moment." Good news for people with future oceanfront property in Nevada, I guess.

What's the point of the latest study? Well, there's no sign in the story of any call for massive federal preparations for the apparently inevitable Big One, but the skids are greased to study the study with cash that you earned: "In the fall, Hudnut will head a $240,000 project that would conduct tests on the southern segment to get a better idea of the threat it poses."

I'm not saying there'll never be a big earthquake, just pointing out another in the long line of things we're told to be afraid of - terrorists, cigarettes, caffeine, movie popcorn, Democrats, Republicans, bird flu, earthquakes. Just remember, something eventually will kill each and every one of us. It's a simple fact of life, so accept it, and don't let fear of death keep you from living the fullest life you can.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

apocalypse now

Oh boy, all I have to do is give Coast to Coast my fingerprint, a sample check and driver's license and I can buy stuff even faster and more conveniently. Here's the exciting news.

"People either love it or think it's a sign of the coming apocalypse,'' said Amer Hawatmeh, owner of the new convenience store ... who signed up a few hundred customers for Pay By Touch. "But to me, it's the wave of the future.''

Not my future!

The company pledges not to sell or rent personal information, or access to it.


The fingerprint image recorded is not the same as those collected by the federal government or law enforcement.

But no doubt the federal government or law enforcement will be able to subpoena those records. Or just seize them.

It's similar to the finger-scan technology used at theme park gates. Those systems take measurements of patrons' hands and fingers and link them to a multi-day pass to prevent several people from using one person's pass.

Are you kiddin' me? Remind me never to enter a theme park again.

Now what!?!?

Well, I can't get into my Yahoo! e-mail account this morning. I wandered around the site and found I couldn't get into their forums to see what's up. I did a search to see if there's any news about it, and all I found was a story saying Yahoo! introduced a new instant messaging service overnight. I wonder if something in the I.M. system blew up Yahoo?

Or maybe it's a temporary or localized hiccup. Anyway, if you sent me an e-mail in the last 12-15 hours, I can't get to it. Technology! Can't live with it, can't shoot it.

UPDATE: Well, it came back an hour or so after I posted this. The official explanation is no explanation: "We had a problem and we fixed it." Thanks, folks. That much we already knew.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The lesser of two dark sides?

My friend and my artistic partner, Wally Conger and Warren Bluhm, are both concerned about the direction our mutual old imaginary friend, Peter Parker, has chosen - or the path Marvel Comics has chosen for him. In a comic book story I haven't seen yet, Peter chooses to take off his mask at a news conference and reveal himself as Spider-Man - apparently willing to stand up and obey the "Superhuman Registration Act," kind of a REAL ID for superpowered good guys - because Dr. Doom and the Green Goblin certainly aren't going to submit.

The W-men both think Mr. Parker is the last one in the world who would roll over for totalitarianism, and I tend to agree, so I picked up a copy of Amazing Spider-Man #531 to see if I could understand the ramping-up-to-toadydom storyline. I get mixed messages. First, during a battle with Titanium Man, who has interrupted a secret meeting of the congressional committee studying the act, Spider-Man pauses to admire in silent awe the Lincoln Memorial, that well-known homage to the empire builder and crusher of free and independent states. But then writer J. Michael Straczynski has Spidey give a fairly eloquent speech to the committee where he says, in part, "The problem is that after registration always comes regulation." And the masked man is slapped down by the committee chair, who orders the speech stricken from the record because Spider-Man won't give his testimony under oath after providing his full name and place of residence.

On the other hand, it seems the Titanium Man's attack was staged by Tony "the original Iron Man" Stark to influence the thinking of the congressional committee. Later Stark tells a suspicious Peter he admired Lincoln for taking a position against the South that he knew would lead to civil war.

"He knew that a house divided against itself cannot stand ... a nation cannot be divided and survive," Stark says. "Under his administration, brother hunted down brother, friend turned against friend. It was terrible. It was bloody. It was necessary. Because at the end, the republic held, and the nation was restored."

So Peter is being portrayed as torn between two totalitarian whack jobs, and he'll have to choose between them. The pro-registration types are portrayed as officious, meddling morons, and the anti-National ID types are portrayed as conniving conspirators willing to let innocents die in a civil war to preserve America as we know it. Given a choice between those two straw men, it looks like Spider-Man is going over to what he and Straczynski apparently feel is the lesser of two dark sides.

It's wrong to have citizens queue up to accept their numbers, and Stark's way of fending off that proposed law is devious and wrong in itself. Hopefully Straczynski and Marvel Comics are taking a third path: Influencing public opinion against the outrage of REAL ID with a parable that shows readers why it's a stupid idea. Sacrificing Spider-Man at the altar of truth may be their way of shocking readers into understanding. Let's just hope.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Bombed again

Warren Bluhm's podcast reading of my novel The Imaginary Bomb is back on course. He's given us some bonus chapters to make up for the delay caused by his poor mom's death. He didn't have to do that, but I think you'll be glad he did!

Bitter truth in an e-mail forward

Every so often the e-mail brings a joke forwarded by a friend that says it all. Witness:

They keep talking about drafting a Constitution for Iraq. Why don't we just give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, it's worked for over 200 years and we're not using it anymore.

Yup. That pretty much sums it up.

Embracing secessionism

Anyone who reads the Declaration of Independence can reasonably conclude the signers believed they were declaring the independence of Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the other former colonies from the British Empire. The War Between the States established the myth that what they really were declaring was the establishment of a new empire based in the District of Columbia and comprised of Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other colonies.

Vache Folle makes a terrific case for the right to secede. Samples:

The US is just too big now and is characterized by too much central power. Does it really make sense for New Yorkers to meddle in the affairs of Californians or for folks from Kansas to tell New Englanders what marriage should be like in their region? I don’t think so ...

I don’t expect independent states to be especially liberty oriented, but I know that the huge, centralized US government is a threat to liberty in and of itself. And if there were 50 independent countries, I could vote with my feet and move to a state that was more free. The nannies could congregate in nanny states and regulate the crap out of themselves.

Vache gives James Leroy Wilson credit for aiding his conversion to secessionism. I know how he feels.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Congeresque review: X-Men 3

So why do you always stay until the end of the closing credits when you go to the movies?

Because ever since Ferris Bueller's Day Off, every so often you're given an extra treat. It might be as simple as a lilting guitar reprise of the Firefly theme, or Michael Buble crooning "Spider-Man, Spider-Man, Does whatever a spider can." Or it might be as mind-boggling as a very brief scene that spins around what you thought you'd witnessed in the film that just ended.

Are you referring to the frequently heard admonition to stay through the closing credits of X-Men: The Final Stand?

Damn straight.

Is it safe to say you were impressed by what happens at the very end?

It's safe to say I think that scene, combined with the last split-second before the credits roll, is FRICKIN' AWESOME!

One would assume if you liked the last 10-15 seconds, you enjoyed the two hours leading up to it.

One would assume correctly. The X-Men movies have established the standard for superhero comic book films, and despite the change in the director's chair, this is a worthy finish to the first trilogy in the franchise. I've read reviews that said this one is more about the action than the characters, but I don't agree. Some of the character development depends on the foundations set in the first two films, but this one fits comfortably with the other two - more action, but also plenty of the interplay that made the first two movies such triumphs. As an X-Men fan since before it was cool to be an X-Men fan, I gotta say I was completely satisfied - even though they violate the comic book "canon" in some major ways.

I'm hearing you say that the "final stand" is anything but.

Like I said - that last scene is FRICKIN' AWESOME!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Propaganda of fear is old news

"Talk of imminent threat to our national security through the application of external force is pure nonsense. Indeed it is a part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear. While such an economy may produce a sense of seeming prosperity for the moment, it rests on an illusionary foundation of complete unreliability and renders among our political leaders almost a greater fear of peace than is their fear of war."

Last week's anti-Bush rant from Another "Refuse to be afraid" mantra from Montag? Naah - it's Gen. Douglas MacArthur, quoted by Garet Garrett in 1952 and again in Bill Bonner and Addison Wiggins' Empire of Debt. After musing that I could read two or more books at once the other week, I've been nibbling away at Bonner-Wiggins while feasting on Hugo nominees.

It's a little daunting to discover that the US of A's current disastrous path has its roots in decisions made before I was born. In fact, they seem to go back to Wilson's quest to make the world safe for democracy - or perhaps Lincoln's decision to force the Confederacy back into the Union - or perhaps the decision to replace the Articles of Confederation with the Constitution. Whenever the dream of liberty went awry, the bottom line is that it happened long ago, and every step of the way free men and women were sounding the alarm.

I'm enjoying this little foray into the roots of our current crisis, although it's hard to escape the impending feeling of dread. The more one learns about the fear mongers, though, the easier it is to spot their handiwork and the more amusing their heavyhanded efforts become. If we could only get enough people laughing at the mentality of "terrorists-avian flu-caffeine-alcohol-tobacco-firearms-ozone-global warming-inflation-and the New York Yankees are coming to kill us all," perhaps we could instill some healthy skepticism into people and empower them to take control of their lives. I almost wrote "empower them to take BACK control of their lives," but the more I learn about this whole mess, the more I think we've been trained almost since birth to surrender control of our lives to those who "know better."

Empire of Debt is becoming one of the essential books that freedom-loving folks need to absorb along the path to understanding the fix we're in - and, hopefully, how to fix it, or at least how to survive the mess.

B.W.'s Book Report: Old Man's War

The soldiers in Old Man's War by John Scalzi have the same mission as those in Star Trek: "To seek out new life and new civilizations." They just have a different reason for doing so.

"Our job is to go meet strange new people and cultures, and kill the sons of bitches as quickly as we possibly can." As Scalzi acknowledges in his acknowledgements, this is a Robert A. Heinlein-style universe, as in Starship Troopers for example.

The cover describes this a "a stunning novel of war and survival," and stunning is an understatement. We are in a future where the elderly are given an opportunity to join the military, to go into space and fight to protect human colonies from the very nasty other species out there. The recruiters imply that the septegenarian volunteers will somehow be whipped into fighting condition, reversing the aging process. How this is accomplished is part of the stunning beauty of this book.

Main character John Perry opens his narrative thus: "I did two things on my 75th birthday. I visited my wife's grave. Then I joined the army." That pretty much sums up what this powerful, immensely entertaining page-turner is all about. How powerful? When John Perry receives the equivalent of an electronic postcard on the seond-to-last page, I had to stop reading to process the emotional wallop - I couldn't read through the satisfied tears for a couple of minutes. How immensely entertaining a page turner? I played hooky from my wage-slave job for a day to finish the damn thing.

As you probably know, I fancy myself a future novelist, and have even gone ahead with having one translated into podcast form. Every so often I read an actual published novel that shoots my dream up with a healthy dose of despair - never in my wildest dreams could I create something this good. Yep, that's how good Old Man's War is: This one goes into B.W.'s all-time favorites file.

This is the second of the five hugo-nominated novels I've read, and if I wanted a winning novel I think I could stop right here. The only thing that gets me reaching for the next one is the wild possibility that one or more of the remaining three is even better. But the bar is raised bigtime.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006


First, thanks to Wally Conger and Sunni Maravillosa for getting the word out about the podcast delays and Warren's mom's death when computer problems prevented me from accessing my Blogger dashboard.

It is so frustrating to be on the sidelines when so many stupid things worth comment are being said and done. The most frustrating moment - other than the first one - may have been when I slammed down the Newark Star-Ledger after reading the Washington Post article about the growing political power of bloggers.

Here's Post-proclaimed blogosphere superstar Markos Moulitsas Zúniga (Never hoid of da bum, but he never hoid of me either) declaring that both major parties have let us down: "Republicans failed us because they can't govern. Democrats failed us because they can't get elected." So Democrats can govern? Confiscatory taxation, the hammer down on free enterprise, and micromanagerial regulation of our lives are good things? And Republicans can't govern? What, they're not totalitarian enough? Let me post on that stupid statement - What!?! I can't? Geeee-AAAAAaaargh!

If the quote attributed to Zúniga is an example of the brilliant new punditry of the blogosphere, it is a very dim light indeed. The best advice is to stay away from these Democratic and Republican party sympathizers who have dumbed down the fight for liberty to this level equivalent to infantile paralysis of the brain. A pox on "governing" of both sorts!

Ah, it's good to be back.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Conservative vs. Libertarian

Scott McPherson does a great job of summing up "The Cowardice of the Conservative."

A couple of examples - on private school vouchers as a solution to the failures of public education:

When they see generation after generation of America’s young marched off to the equivalent of the government indoctrination camps found in Cuba or the former Soviet Union, Republicans are so incensed that they demand that parents … have a choice of which camp their child will go to!

Worse, the few private camps (I say private schools still qualify as government-controlled camps because they must, by law, conform to government “standards”) that exist will become virtually indistinguishable from government camps once subsidized attendance becomes widespread enough. (See Wickard v. Filburn, 1943: “It is hardly lack of due process for the Government to regulate that which it subsidizes.”)

On how the welfare state provides an enticement to illegal immigration:

When I pressed him long enough on the immorality of the welfare state itself — regardless of who was using it — he threw his hands up in despair and addressed the audience at large: “Who here thinks we’ll ever get rid of the welfare state?”

So the jig was up: Conservatives aren’t prepared to take on the unpopular issue of abolishing the welfare state, so immigrants have to take a bashing. That’s unprincipled and cowardly.

I do find myself as a libertarian feeling a bit squeamish about saying conservatives are unprincipled and cowardly because they won't stand up for their alleged principles. After all, I have pretty much abandoned the idea of changing the system because a clear majority seems to like the welfare police state that America has become, and instead I try to go my way and make noises out here on the fringes about how men and women are inherently freedom-loving beings, in hopes that if enough of us make enough noise over a sustained period of time, someday there'll be something like a majority who demand their freedom. Perhaps I'm not unprincipled, but I certainly could qualify as cowardly.

But conservatives actually have the power to restore our liberty; they hold the machine's steering wheel, and if they truly believed in freedom and limited government they could steer the machine in that direction. Instead they have steered it toward fascism and government expansion. This is unprincipled and cowardly only in the sense that they don't have the stones to declare their real principles: They like the power, they enjoy tyranny (because they are on the giving, not receiving end) and they are shaping the hammer of Big Government into a shape more to their liking. Or, to cite the popular parable of our day, they have taken the ring of power and instead of wisely tossing it into the fiery furnace, they have put it on their finger in the foolish belief that they can use it properly.

By the way, the link to McPherson is courtesy of FreedomSLUT. My lust is quickly becoming love.

Friday, June 02, 2006

A new SLUT in my life

Oh, yeah. Bookmark this, baby.

Messrs. Spangler and Knapp have launched a tasty little site. The first three clicks tonight hooked me. I gotta have her, gotta check her out daily, must fill my eyes and mind with what she offers.

Assuming the spark doesn't fade with time, of course.

The search

Claire Wolfe's latest. We all know how she feels.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

"Core values training' won't erase the stain

As soldiers line up for their "core values training on moral and ethical standards on the battlefield," I find myself wondering why, on June 1, the news story says the U.S. military is investigating whether Marines "might have intentionally killed unarmed civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha on Nov. 19." Wasn't it clear whether the killings were intentional on, say, Nov. 19?

Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli said some things that seem to echo other commentators as this seven-months-ago atrocity is finally allowed to trickle out into the consciousness of American subjects.

First, "As military professionals, it is important that we take time to reflect on the values that separate us from our enemies." This is related to the thought that the United States punishes soldiers who commit atrocities, and that makes us different from countries that condone such behavior.

Second, and more Orwellian, Chiarelli said, "The challenge for us is to make sure the actions of a few do not tarnish the good work of the many."

Why not? Of course the actions of these "few" tarnish the "good work of the many." The actions of these few cast a dark, ugly, indelible stain on every American. After all, if you put on the uniform, you represent "the greatest nation on Earth." Those men, women and children were butchered by the few and proud who are held up as examples of the best America has to offer. These soldiers shamed us all, committed murder to make us safe and secure from the terrorists.

"Core values training" is not going to wipe the stain from our hands. The deaths of innocent men, women and children in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania five years ago does not justify the deaths of innocent men, women and children in Haditha. This incident does not give us an opportunity to reflect on the values that separate us from our enemies; it is a time to reflect on the values that we share - and apparently punishing the innocent for the crimes of the guilty is one that we share.

It is an outrage that in an era of instant communication, this crime against humanity is only now slowly coming to our collective attention. It is sickening that the public relations spinners feel the need to rationalize that these are just a few bad apples, or worse, good apples who went bad for just a few minutes.

I heard a talk show host suggest that our values are different from those of the "jihadists." It's hard to see the difference when writers feel compelled to point out that "The killings, in which victims included women and children, followed a bomb attack on a military convoy that killed a Marine," as if that explains or rationalizes butchery. It sounds like the same values are at work: An eye for an eye, and it doesn't matter whose eye.

"Of the nearly 150,000 Coalition Forces presently in Iraq, 99.9 percent of them perform their jobs magnificently every day," Chiarelli said. Do the math: That suggests 150 of them are disgracing us every day.

Let others rationalize, explain and spin. I'm just going to go off and vomit.