Saturday, July 11, 2009

Still More Letters

More email to Ron Waite:

Dear Sir,

It has come to my attention that, rather than contact me directly via email, you decided it best to contact my mother-in-law, Sharon Holmes, to intervene on your behalf. I thought it best to address you directly, so that my mother-in-law, who had no knowledge of the events at Blaine UMC and is not involved in these matters in any way, would have no further involvement.

First, you expressed the repeated opinion that you did not even know my wife was present. As you have met both my wife and me on several occasions, I find it astonishing you did not recognize her. Furthermore, as I stated quite clearly that she was the main source for the information included in my first email, one could only conclude she was, indeed, present. She, however, was not the sole source of my information, but several people present expressed discomfort (to say the least) at your gleeful partisan attacks on former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, among other comments. That you do not recognize the potential danger to the tax-exempt status of a non-partisan house of worship by making partisan remarks is neither here nor there. The fact remains that it does indeed exist. As a member of Poplar Grove UMC, which is yoked to Blaine UMC through the cooperative parish set up at North Boone CoActive Ministry, I am an affiliate member at Blaine UMC. Any threat to the integrity of Blaine is of concern to me; any threat to the integrity of my wife's ministry is of concern to me.

You also seemed a bit put off because I was not present. I say, again, that is neither here nor there. I was writing as a constituent, whose concerns should have been addressed immediately and forthrightly. The facts are neither in question nor in dispute. It is your response, including attempting to engage a third party intermediary rather than address this matter directly I find troubling.

As to the matter of my daughter, a woman whose status was dubious - was she a member of your staff, or someone who you used to work the crowd? - approached my family and said out loud, pointing to my younger daughter, "Here's someone who would like a picture." My wife said, quite loudly, "I don't think so." Afterward, when you approached and asked about a photograph, this woman said, "Oh, they forgot their camera."

No. Someone who seemed to be looking for a good photo opportunity sought, without seeking the permission of the child's parent or in loco parentis to have a photo-op with that child. When the parent forthrightly declined, an excuse was concocted that had no basis in reality. As the father of the child in question, and as a constituent, may I say again that I would appreciate an apology for this dubious act on the part of someone who seemed to be acting on your behalf.

The Rockford Register-Star has declined to publish my initial open letter to you, so you may think the matter may go away. I found their reasoning - they called this "a personal matter" - very wrong. This is not a personal matter. You were acting in an official capacity, and in so doing, acted in ways inappropriate to say the least, and certainly unbecoming an elected official.

Your further refusal to deal directly with me, to not even give a constituent the benefit of an email written for you by a member of your staff, extremely odd. At the very least, you could have asked for more information, detail on the substance of the complaints (which I have herein provided), and made some kind of bland assurance that no offense was intended by any of your remarks. Rather than do that, you sought the assistance of a relative of mine whom you happen to know, who has no involvement in the matter in question. I was terribly embarassed to learn you had called her, and apologized to her.

While I am quite sure you will not pursue this matter as it will not receive a large public airing, I am disappointed, to say the very least, that you have not addressed this matter forthrightly and directly. I will continue to pursue some kind of response from you, even if it is only a denial that any of the events in question ever took place.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford

PS: As a courtesy, again, this will be published on my weblog, and a link will be provided from my Facebook page.

Saturday Rock Show

My 25 year plus 1 high school reunion is next weekend, so the 80's have been on my mind a lot lately. I won't be able to attend, and I'm actually kind of bummed, because getting in touch with old friends and acquaintances has been fun and enlightening in any number of ways. I look forward to seeing pictures from the reunion on Facebook, although one person has threatened to put my senior yearbook picture up. Lord have mercy . . .

Lone Justice had the potential to break open mid-80's pop. I believe their debut release was produced by uber-produced Steve Lillywhite; the keyboard overdubs were done by Benmont Tench, keyboardist for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Lead-singer Maria McKee has a piercing soprano voice, and I always imagined that's what Janis Joplin could hsve sounded like if she didn't smoke unfiltered cigarettes by the carton and drink a bottle of Jack every day. Their initial release had some seriously good countrified, old-fashioned rock and roll with few frills, but the debut single is just a good old fashioned rocker. The keyboards are a kind of muted organ, rather than the odd Mini-Moog sounds of far too much mid-80's pop. While singer McKee has a Madonna-esque look to her, I believe that can be written off as a sign of the times. Once she opens her mouth to sing, you know she and the dance diva have their gender and occupation as their only commonalities. I love this song. "Sweet Sweet Baby".

I found this performance, and what I love about it is the way the song builds from just McKee and her guitar to the whole band gaining speed, volume, momentum, until by the end, they're just a bunch of rock-n-rollers having a great time.

So, the 1980's weren't a wasteland, after all. . .

Liberals Being Really Stupid

For a while now, I've been frustrated with Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler for his barrage of criticisms against rising media stars Keith Olbermann (who is not really much of a liberal and not much of a journalist; he's a loud talker who made his name calling for the resignation of most of Bush's cabinet on a nightly basis in overheated, overwrought language) and Rachel Maddow (whom many libs on the internet love because she's smart and openly gay; her show, however, is a train wreck, as what follows will make clear). As should be obvious from the above parentheticals, while I hold neither Olbermann nor Maddow in much regard, I find Somerby's criticisms equally tiresome, for one reason - he's criticizing both of them as journalists when neither one really is. It's a bit like criticizing Obama as a theologian or Sarah Palin as a philosopher. It makes no sense.

After seeing this over at Crooks and Liars, however, I have to agree with Somerby's insistence that the dumbing-down of our public discourse, a process that began years ago, is not being halted even as the era of right-wing political dominance draws to a close.

Had I been listening to the Thom Hartmann radio show, or watching Maddow - or better yet hosting the program - I would have asked one question of the guest:
How "secret" can such an organization be if we know its members, its location, its agenda, and the relationships among them?

Look, I'm no fan of fundamentalist politicians or their agenda. I am also not a fan of really stupid, breathless conspiracy mongering on the order of "Watch out, the evil fundamentalists are organizing to take away your liberty at this very accessible boarding house where members of Congress whose views are widely known and whose policy preferences are public knowledge gather!"

Stupidity is leaking out all over the place, and it has caught, it seems, even some supposed liberals who should know better.

Respect For Life

In a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), attacked a public option in health care, saying among other things that it would "kill people". He specifically called out Canada and Great Britain, saying that our former mother country and our cousin to the north “don’t have the appreciation of life as we do in our society.”

Every time our country, or western Europe, or European civilization, or Christian culture, runs up against opposition, the odd idea that we who are inheritors of western, mainly Christian, culture and ideas have a respect for human life and dignity that is absent in other places. I grew up hearing how the Japanese in WWII demonstrated their lack of appreciation for human life in a variety of ways. The Soviets were very often portrayed as little more than uncivilized barbarian hordes, ready to overwhelm western Europe and destroy it culturally. In the years since the al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington, we have heard far too often that Muslims have no respect for life, like we in the west do.

The idea that western Europe has demonstrated in its history, its culture, its religious and political ideas, an underlying respect for the dignity and sanctity of all human life is not only false, it is almost laughably ridiculous. To claim that the United States, alone among western English-speaking nations, has an appreciation for life not shared by Great Britain or Canada, is an insult to those two great nations, a lie so easily proved one wonders how Rep. Broun could say such a thing with a straight face.

There may be good arguments against a public option in health care reform, although to this point all I continue to hear is "socialism!" and "rationing!", repeated like some weird Zen koan that clears the mind of thought and is supposed to trump all practical arguments to the contrary. To claim the United States - land of slavery and Jim Crow; land of the genocide against our native peoples (beginning with Increase Mather in colonial Massachusetts urging the authorities to give smallpox-infected blankets to the Indians as a way of clearing space for colonial growth); land of hate crimes against Jews and Catholics, gays and Chinese, the internment of Japanese-Americans and the vilification of non-Protestant Christians as heretics - has a respect and appreciation for human life that is not only unique, but superior to that of other nations would make me laugh if the various trails of tears and blood that mark our history did not cry out from the ground for us to acknowledge.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I, Waite, For A Response, Or, I'm Telling Mom!

Seems my little missive the other day has drawn a response. Unfortunately, Rep. Waite felt obliged to place a call to my mother-in-law, the four-time-elected County Clerk for DeKalb County, IL, hoping that she would talk to me and get back to him.

Welcome to junior high school, folks.

I Think An Apology Tour Is A Grand Idea

The President is overseas, right now for the G-8 meeting. Afterward, he is heading to Ghana. Every time the President goes overseas, the right carries on about Obama doing an apology tour.

Considering the world had to deal with Bush and his doofishness for eight years, I think an apology tour is a great idea.

Now, of course, Obama is doing no such thing. He signed what amounts to a letter of intent for negotiating another START treaty with the Russians. He will address the people of Ghana who have successfully navigated the rocky shoals of the democratic transference of power (the recently retired President serves the African Union now). At the G-9, chaired a meeting of the 8 and a group of developing nations on matters of energy and climate change.

Apparently, doing things the President of the United States should be doing, and Americans should be proud of him doing, amounts to saying, "I'm sorry we had such a lousy President for eight years," to conservatives. Just having Obama in office is a huge downpayment on contrition, if you ask me.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Sarah Palin Quit

To all those who see some kind of secret double-reverse, drop-kick the ball for the first time in fifty years play by Sarah Palin to get her on the Presidential ticket in 2012, all I can say is - no.

She quit her office. Her reasoning is as incoherent as ever. She has not risen to any occasion, but face-planted herself on national television. While it is true the Republican base loves her as only a parent can love an ugly child, the rest of America, given the opportunity to meet her last fall, ran as quickly as possible (so all the encomiums about "real Americans" finding a spokesperson in soon-to-be-former-Gov. Palin are just wrong; real Americans find her frightening). While I do so hope she tries to prepare herself for a Presidential big in three years, it will only be a comedic distraction. All any opposition candidate will have to say is, "Former Gov. Palin, who's to say you won't quit if the job gets too tough?" The fact that Bill Kristol is backing her is all anyone needs to know about her chances.

She's a quitter. Good riddance.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

I Write Letters

Rep. Ron Waite,

My name is Geoffrey Kruse-Safford, my wife, the Rev. Lisa Kruse-Safford and our daughters attended a public meeting held today at Blaine United Methodist Church in northern Boone County. A couple incidents, as reported to me, are in the very least disturbing, with one I consider highly inappropriate.

During the course of the meeting, you made several partisan comments. Blaine UMC is a non-partisan, tax-exempt house of worship; any such comments you might make there threaten the tax-exempt status of Blaine United Methodist Church. As a member of the Illinois legislature, I would think you were aware of this. Lack of judgment, however, seems to have overcome propriety.

The second incident is far more personal. You sought a photo opportunity with my eight-year-old daughter, without seeking the permission of her mother first. Even had such permission been sought, it would not have been granted, precisely because, as a minister of the Gospel, having her daughter pose with a politician would be seen as an implicit, partisan endorsement. Yet, the very idea that you would seek to do so without asking the child's permission is highly inappropriate. As the child's father, let me assure you I would prefer a very public apology for this highly dubious act on your part.


Geoffrey Kruse-Safford

PS: Out of courtesy, I wish to inform you that this letter has bent for publication to the Rockford Register-Star, the Springfield State Journal-Courier, and will be published on my weblog,, with a link provided from my Facebook page as well.

Mid-Summer Doldrums

Exactly one House member voted "Nay" on a resolution recognizing the role of slave labor in building the United States Capitol. Some right-wingers of the tube get their racism jones on. Some other right-wingers on the intertubes continue to pretend they know something, when all they really do is sound scary and stupid.

And Robert McNamara is still dead.

Maybe if Todd Palin had gotten a blow job from someone in Sarah Palin's office, I'd feel sorry for her.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


Michael Jackson's funeral. More Sarah Palin incoherence. Al Franken in the Senate. The Democrats battle over the public option.

And Robert McNamara is still dead.

Had I more gumption, I suppose I could find something to write about. Truth is, it's the middle of the summer, and times are slow. Which can be a good thing.

I do love Sarah Palin saying she isn't a quitter, after quitting. Using that logic, she and McCain won the election last fall, after losing.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Wrong Again, Honey

Mika Brzezinski is just plain wrong.

See, it's like this, Mika. Real Americans voted back in November and pretty much sent the Princess of Wasilia packing.

These people are just stupid.


Barking At The Moon

I saw this little piece - Ann Coulter defending Sarah Palin's chicken dance in Juneau - and got thinking about something I read a couple weeks ago. It seems Rush Limbaugh, in the course of blaming Pres. Obama for Gov. Mark Sanford's odd behavior, defended Sanford's decision to run out on his personal and public responsibilities in order to "live a little".

I think the public meltdown of these two very prominent Republican politicians are just extreme examples of Republicans and conservatives being quite howling mad.

I also think it's hysterical that all these conservatives are defending (a) adultery and (b) cowardice.

One Less War Criminal

So, Robert McNamara is dead. He outlived over 54,000 American service personnel whose presence in Vietnam he continued to support to keep his job. Of course, there are also the tens of thousands of people in Third World countries who died due to policies he supported as President of the World Bank.

I do hope he has to run the gauntlet on the way to the Pearly Gates. And who knows, maybe St. Pete may not find his name on the Holy Body Count list.

Music For Your Monday

I was listening to "Sound Opinions" on NPR on Saturday, and they had a special on "Driving Songs". Their picks covered the gamut, from the Beach Boys to Kraftwerk. It got me thinking of a song, then a band, and I realized I had my Monday music post!.

I've never driven through the deserts of California, but for some reason this song has always made me think of driving a straight, old two-lane black top out in the middle of the desert, the top down, maybe pulling over and wandering a bit among the cactus and tumbleweeds and scorpions.

BTW, I was really ticked that Janet Jackson ripped off the opening guitar riff for a song a few years back.

I was embarrassed to learn that the lyrics to this song were originally written when the songwriter had been dumped by his girlfriend - at 16 or 17. Listening to them now, it should be pretty clear that's exactly when they were written. But, it's a pretty melody, even if the whole "We used to laugh. We used to cry" business reminds me of a Mark Sanford news conference . . .

It was my father who ruined "Horse With No Name" for me. I was listening to it, and he walked by and said, "That song is about herion, you know." I looked at him, and he said, "'Horse' is street slang for heroin." I was 12 so I didn't know that, and even though the song isn't about heroin, I can't listen to it without hearing him telling me that. That's why I picked this song, rather than "Horse". I like the harmony, the harmonies, and the fact it's a little darker than their usual fare.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Explanatory Power Of Evolutionary Theory

I'm reading Ernst Mayr's massive The Growth of Biological Thought, an older yet still valuable introduction (for me, at any rate) to the history and development of the sciences of biology, with particular attention to the qualitative aspect of biology (as opposed to the centrality of quantification in the physical and chemical sciences). I'm still early in the book (it's a long slog, written as a textbook for advanced undergrads, or perhaps an introductory text for graduate students) yet, the overwhelming power of evolutionary theory, especially the twin concepts of population thinking and natural selection became clear as I was reading Mayr's all-too-brief synopsis of the developments in molecular biology and ethology (the study of animal behavior) in the 20th century.

The reality is quite simple. Studying myriad animal behaviors without having evolutionary theory as the background would leave one puzzled as to both "how" and "why" various behaviors developed. With evolution through the process of natural selection as one's operating assumption, and its central concepts of population thinking - any species is a group of conspecific individuals, unique in its own right, varying slightly in adaptive fitness - and natural selection - over time, individuals in a given population pass on their genetic material that are best adapted for survival - any number of behaviors, from predator avoidance to mating and parenting become clear. Without understanding the behavior, like any other adaptation, is part of a creatures genetic endowment, and that those behaviors more likely to ensure an individual's survival are more likely to be passed on to the population as a whole, the entire thing becomes meaningless, random, and unimportant.

Similarly, the realization that various proteins and other biological molecules, while strikingly similar in atomic makeup - carbon, of course, as well as oxygen, phosphorus, hydrogen, and nitrogen - are nevertheless strikingly unique in their physical structure (Mayr discusses all too briefly the breakthrough x-ray microscopy and electron microscopy provided by giving us access to the actual 3-D structure of these molecules). Their physical structure was discovered to be key to their functions, also very highly specific. These molecules, proteins whose development is the primary function of DNA (itself nothing more than a complex protein), are not just unique in structure and function, but vary according to species. Why would one species develop one protein with a structure only slightly altered - say, a nitrogen atom in a different space - from another species? Only through the process of natural selection.

Population thinking, combines with genetics and natural selection, reminds us that any given population has varying degrees of unique individuals, with random alterations in the genetic code scattered throughout the entire population. Evolution is occurring at all levels, and throughout a given population, all the time. Only through grasping the concept of "population" and its role in natural selection, does the entire array of biological breakthroughs in the 20th (and on into the 21st) century make sense.

Republican Governors Losing Their Minds

The more I think about Sarah Palin's resignation, the more I'm convinced that another Republican governor has just lost it.

Mark Sanford abandons his post, and then spends a couple news conferences waxing creepily on his "soul mate", without addressing the issue that he left without telling his staff, or leaving anyone in charge.

Now, Sarah Palin quits, blames the media, and people think it's some deep strategy, rather than, you know, her just being incapable of governing and quite possibly being a tad bit on the loony side.

I'd blame the water, but I doubt Alaska and South Carolina share an aquifer. I'd blame Obama (like Rush did for Sanford's goofiness) but . . . no. No, I think these people were always crazy and incapable of the administration of state government; reality is dope slapping them and they can't handle it, that's all.

Of course, this doesn't bode well for other Republicans running for their various State houses. It isn't good advertisement for your party that two of its most visible governors have quite publicly gone funny.

Virtual Tin Cup

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