Sunday, January 30, 2005

Stuart Hughes

Stuart Hughes is a world news producer with BBC World Newsgathering. The young Welshman's blog begins in February 2003 while stationed in northern Iraq. Shortly thereafter he stepped on an anti-personnel landmine. Five days later his right leg was amputated below the knee. His colleague was killed in the incident.

Mr. Hughes is now back on assignment. His observations are timely, his photos wonderful, and he even posts mp3 audio feeds. He just returned to England from a vacation in Nepal, walking no small distances on slippery, rocky mountain paths.Trusty leg

Not surprisingly Mr. Hughes has a keen interest in anti-landmine campaigns. He also shares stories of how he and other amputees get on with their lives. But at the core, Stuart Hughes is a reporter, visiting places most of us will never go. And he is willing share his experiences with us. Thank you Stuart.

In days past this young man would have been described as disabled and among the less fortunate. We now rightly recognize him as very fortunate, and very abled.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Locust St.

I stumbled across this site hitting that NEXT BLOG>> button, a lucky accident.

Since last October Locust Street has provided attentive readers with music and images from post-WWII America. The site owner, about whom little can be discerned, started with 1945 and is now finishing up 1948. All types of music have been represented - jazz, blues, pop, country, bluegrass and classical - from the then wildly popular to the unjustly obscure. Links are provided to mp3s of these pieces, albeit only for a limited amount of time, so you can listen for yourself. Each post's short narratives, links and period graphics add context and significance. Links are also given to sites where the music can be purchased.bird & davis

This music and these times are significant to me because I too started in 1945. Many of these songs were among my first musical memories, or influenced what I heard later. By 1954 I was listening intently to the radio as rhythm & blues gave birth to rock & roll. By that time I had already listened to the dying embers of the big band era, the early broadcasts of "race music", and the safe-as-milk pop music of the day. I was ready for something

But nothing emerges from a vacuum. As these posts illustrate, the music that defined my generation had its roots in America's rich musical heritage. The owner of Locust Street obviously loves this heritage as much as I do.

Like good home cookin', this site is a labor of love. You might enjoy it also.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Diary of Samuel Pepys

For those of you who think Analog Man is the blog of an old, white dude, may I redirect your attention to the writings of a VERY, old white dude.

Strictly speaking, what we have here is not a blog. After all, Mr. Pepys died in 1703. However, he left behind a marvelous, now famous, secret diary for the years 1660-1670.

From Wikipedia:
Pepys recorded his daily life for almost ten years in breathtaking honesty; the women he pursued, his friends, his dealings are all laid out. His diary reveals his jealousies, insecurities, trivial concerns, and his fractious relationship with his wife. It is an important account of London in the 1660s. Included are his personal account of the restoration of the monarchy, the Great Plague of 1665, the Great Fire of London of 1666, and the arrival of the Dutch fleet, 1665-1667.
Phil Gyford in London, with the help of wonderful volunteers, are serving his dairy to us one day at a time, blog style. Annotations by readers provide insight and assist us in better understanding his life and times. The Diary of Samuel Pepys provides a wonderful entrée into a world very much different from our own, and so very much alike.

Beside the insight into life and times I also enjoy Pepys' use of the language. Stuck in the middle of a diary entry recently was a description of his wife's maid as "...a cross-grained wench" (Sunday 15 December 1661). I almost felt out of my chair. Maybe you had to have been there.

I dedicate this post to the memory of Mrs. Hilda Collins, my high school English teacher who first introduced me to Mr. Pepys. She was a marvelous eccentric who's love of the English language, and those who used it well, transcended her time and place. Like most of the knuckleheads in her classes, I should have paid more attention when she spoke.

"...and so to bed."

Monday, January 24, 2005

Blogs I Like

While I have been nosing about the World Wide Web for almost ten years now, this weblog thing sort of crept up on me. I knew what personal web sites were, and thought having one would be interesting. But I associated blogs with brave/foolish corporate and government insiders who published frequently and anonymously about what they knew best. Very much the outsider, I knew that was not me. What inside stuff did I know? As I had already begun to despair about the growing lack of honestly and competence found on many websites, I assumed that blogs mainly provided an easy outlet for people with more attitude than altitude. Or as they say in Texas, more hat than cattle. And as for reading blogs, I would always rather play than watch.

Then my .Mac account offered a "HomePage" feature. I used it several years ago to make available to one and all, among more tasteful images, a "carpenter's butt" photo of myself. With no public outcry for more - just groans - I finally deleted the page. But I sort of liked giving my friends a crack at seeing what I had been up to.

However this past year it became hard to turn around without seeing or hearing references to blogs and comments on blogging in general. Certainly the presidential election - the Dean campaign especially - focused much attention on bloggers. Doonesbury made blogging a story line. Finally my curiosity got the better of me and one day last fall I googled "blogs" and our story here began.

I soon learned there were websites devoted to hosting blogs. After looking around hosting sites I started visiting individual blogs. The NEXT BLOG>> button in the top right hand corner of most Blogger hosted sites led me to many types, created by all kinds of people for a variety of purposes. And there seemed to be millions of them. Further, many blogs have links to other blogs, creating sort of a web within the web. Bloglines, another popular bloghosting site, offers a constantly updated top 200 blog links, as does Technorati. This constant taking-of-the-temperature of the blog world was fascinating, especially just before an election.

Many bloggers revealed quite personal details of their lives while protecting their identity. Others revealed little about themselves while posting about every subject I could think of, and a few beyond my imagination. Some blogs had become quite popular, receiving more daily hits than most commercial or institutional websites. Indeed, there seemed to be developing a blurred line between blogs and other web sites. In short, here was a large and wild part of the web I had never visited, a new electronic continent to be explored.

By the end of the year bloggers almost became Time magazine's Person of the Year. This mock-up shows what someone thought Time's cover might have looked like.

ABC News did award bloggers "People of the Year." Both seemed to be focusing on the journalism aspect of blogging and potential and real political influence. However, Time did note the varied nature and some of the implications of this new medium. By then it had become just too juicy, I had decided to play as well as watch.

Since the essence of blogs is frequent postings, I created a Blogs folder in my bookmarks so I could easily revisit those that caught my interest. Eventually visiting some of these blogs became as routine as my morning cup of coffee. Over the next few weeks I will share some of these with you.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Jane & Fang

Jane and Fang

Lately Fang has taken to messin' with Jane. Sometimes he sneaks up behind her and swipes her tail. Other times he lies beside her and chews on what is handy.

Maybe they need to get a room.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

A Modest Suggestion

From Wikipedia
The United States Department of War was the military department of the United States government's executive branch from 1789 until 1949, when it became part of the United States Department of Defense. It was headed by the United States Secretary of War. It was also known as the War Office.

In 1949 the War Office was renamed the United States Department of the Army and became a component of the Department of Defense.

(emphasis added)
As we built the most powerful military the world had ever seen we obviously wanted to assure our neighbors, and ourselves, that our numerous military incursions into other countries were not self-serving acts of war, but of honorable self-defense.

After listening to our President's second inaugural address - and with most of the world now not buying our defense justifications - I propose we take the next step and rename the Department Defense the Department of Freedom.

Let's see if anyone is in the market for death-by-platitude.

Readers may view photos here. Or you may wish not to.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Finger

One of my first posts was Thoughts While Nursing a Bruised Finger. In it I made a none too subtle reference to the recent election. Just in case a reader may have thought I was making up a metaphorical story, here is a photo I took today showing the blackened nail.

Oh my, it seems to be Inauguration Day. Should I pose those fingers differently?

Nah, I’m subtle. But you may use your imagination.

Railroad Earth, Part Two

Those early to this blog may remember my posting about Railroad Earth. Well all their touring seems to be paying off.

Phil Lesh caught one of their shows several months back while they were in California. That led to Tim Carbone and John Skehan sitting in with Phil during his three night, Phil and Friends stand at the Warfield Theatre in mid-December. The Internet Archive, also the subject of a previous post, has free downloads of the first two shows. Tim's work on Sugaree is especially fine.

Tim & John @ the Warfield

And this February 12th Railroad Earth will be the "musical guests" at the Unbroken Chain Foundation's benefit to aid the tsunami victims which will be held prior to Phil's Mardi Gras Spectacular 2005. Phil will be making an appearance with the band.

I wonder if they will do a Grateful Dead song? Which one?

RRE are scheduled to be at MerleFest in late April, playing three times, and again at FloydFest at the end of July. I have a feeling they will also be hitting their usual venues in Raleigh and Charlotte as well.

It looks like a good year for Railroad Earth.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Dr. Julian Temple Edwards

My daughter took me to task yesterday for not having enough photographs in my posts. Her point was well taken. Most of the blogs I like are much more graphic than mine, in more ways than one. So here is a photo I treasure, of one of her great, great grandfathers, Dr. Julian Temple Edwards.

I believe the photo was taken when he was in his late teens or early 20's, about the time of the War of the Rebellion.

Dr. Julian was born in 1841 and died a few months before my father was born in 1917. As he is leaning on his right forearm, which caught a bullet in July 1863 ending his days as a private in the Confederate calvery, I think this photo was taken before the war. Surely the pose has a pre-war swagger.

However, the receeding hairline may indicate and older, post-war Julian.

He, and his father Dr. Lemuel Edwards, will figure prominantly in my history project.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

A Hell of a Last 400 Years

As some of you know I have been reading a large number of American history books over the past few years, collecting old photographs and studying census data. I have a project in mind that involves intertwining my family's history with the history of America, specifically that of an area in Tidewater Virginia formerly know as Pamunkey Neck.

The other day in conversation with my wife about my latest revelations about colonial America I shook my head and closed with, "It sure has been a hell of a last 400 years."

I think that remark means I am finally ready to start writing.

Friday, January 14, 2005


For me falling asleep is not a problem. It was when I was much younger. I would often lie in bed unable to switch off. I never liked sleep. Even as a small child I knew I might be missing something. Wanting to rest due to fatigue was acceptable, sleeping as part of a routine was not. Even in kindergarden while others had nodded off at nap time I was often walking around, "helping" my teacher. My first real job, teaching in a junior high changed all that.

Now it is not the falling asleep, it is the staying asleep. Having to answer the call of nature in the middle of the night is a standing senior citizen moment. But since I am not quite there yet - work with me here - I would rather like to blame my blood pressure medicine, a diuretic. But what would account for my frequent inability to go back to sleep once nature is satisfied?

I have often heard that as we age our need for sleep decreases. I have also heard that there is no data to back that up. Whatever the reason I often return to bed fully awake with little inclination for further sleep. So it was last night about 4:00 AM.

After listening to the clash of a Canadian cold front and our recent stream of moist gulf air play itself out with wind and rain outside, I decided to get up. Sometimes I head for this computer, check out the news, read any email, and occasionally write something. Last night I just sat in the living room and listened to the sounds of the night: a passing train, Fang snacking, and those unidentifiable seemingly random household noises that used to scare me when I was a little boy with a big imagination. It was wonderful.

My mind often turns at times like last night to personal histories, memories of things done and not done. Profound commentaries on the issues of the day slide into what I didn't do yesterday, and what needs to be done once the sun comes up. If nature is kind I will drift to sleep, usually to awake surprised at the light outside the windows.

So it was early this morning around here.

John McPhee

Our news is usually dominated by the follies of humanity. The past few weeks have served to remind us that there are other dangers out there, only made more or less threatening by our actions.

After my post about Susan Sontag I would like to recognize another writer of our time, John McPhee. One of the finest examples of a writer of literary non-fiction, Mr. McPhee's book of a few years back, The Control of Nature, was the first thing I thought of after seeing pictures of the recent deadly mudslides in California.

By chance I read some of Mr. McPhee's first writings in the New Yorker magazine when I should have been studying in my high school government class. Those pieces were later turned into a 1965 book, A Sense of Where You Are: Bill Bradley at Princeton. Mr. McPhee joined the staff of the New Yorker that year and has continued to set the standard by which journalism and non-fiction writing may be judged. His 1999 Pulitzer Prize for his Annals of the Former World, a masterful exploration of North American geology and those who study it, attest to that.

A frequent theme of his writings is struggle and accommodations by humans facing forces larger than themselves. The Control of Nature is really a series of essays taking us from the Atchafalaya River to the volcanoes of Iceland and the unstable mountains of California. If you would like to learn more about what those southern Californians are up against, read John McPhee.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Susan Sontag

At first glance one would have a hard time finding many points of similarity between the late Susan Sontag and me. I confess I have never read any of her writing. I am sure we would have made awkward dinner partners. But quite by accident I ran across this quote from an appreciation in the most recent National Catholic Reporter,
"Whatever you do, don’t misuse what you believe so that it gets in the way of the truth. That’s so easy to do, especially when so much around us encourages us to.”

Patrick Giles, the interviewer, continued,
"She spoke that night as if seeing clearly and acting responsibly, whatever one’s context of belief, was for her the great act of faith."

Thank you Susan. Well said. We had more in common than I thought. Rest gently.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A Special Place in Hell, Part Three

During the recent Christmas shopping season I was walking through an enclosed mall parking garage, burdened with goodies for all my good little girls and boys. Thinking of little except getting out of the city before rush hour, a short blast from a horn brought me to full alert mode.

Almost losing my grip on the goodies, I wheeled toward the sound. Three feet from me was the grill of a large, black SUV, parked and newly secured. The driver was walking away, putting away her electronic lock do-hickey. Thankful to still be alive - have often thought I would meet my end in the wild-west traffic of a mall parking lot - and that I had found the men's room before leaving the mall, I continued toward my car. A passerby might have heard unpleasantries. This had not been the first time, nor, I fear, will it be the last.

Car horns were originally a safety device. It says so still in driving manuals. Teenagers quickly adapted them to signal one another, a primitive bonding or mating device. Fair enough. But this new use, to confirm to a driver that their vehicle is secure and fully alarmed, is, besides being quite annoying, dangerous. Instead of alerting those in the vicinity of the dangers of a large moving object, a blast from a horn may mean nothing of the sort. Or it might. And therein lies the danger, that we will one day guess wrong.

Did I mention that it is also just flat annoying? The world is already filled with too much man-made noise, much of it also unnecessary. This just adds to the din. Certainly coming home late at night and locking the car need not involve the neighbors within earshot. In short, this feature of modern automobiles needs further study, as my former Japanese coworkers would say when confronted with a half-baked idea.

The sad part is that with just a little more thought the same result, confirmation of security status, could have been accomplished without resorting to blowing the horn. A simple buzzer or vibrating device - like found in cell phones - in the do-hickey itself would accomplish the same result without involving aurally those in the vicinity.

We must make extra space in our Special Place in Hell this week because any idea this bad has to come from a committee, in fact, lots of committees.

Of course this would make sense unless the real reason of blowing the horn is to say, "Hey, look at me! I have a new vehicle with an alarm system." If that’s the real reason we would need to add much, much more additional space in our Special Place in Hell.

I feel better now.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Doggie Heaven

As dutiful as any 50's dad, when I was about six my father decided I should have a dog. After all, what could be more Norman Rockwell than a boy and his dog? A dog would provide companionship, instill responsibility, and provide tangible lessons about the natural world. A real pet might also curb my conversations with my three imaginary friends, budding relationships that may have been both annoying and disquieting to my father.

A business associate of dad's bred Cocker Spaniels, so a series Cocker Spaniels appeared. A series because, whatever the other fine qualities of the breed, Cockers fare poorly in traffic. Shortly after each was brought to the house they felt that highway call. Each found new ways to defeat the purpose of the fence around our house. They did not last long. After burying our third dad gave up on Cockers and secured a nondescript hound I named Music. No less interested in cars, Music chased them for over a dozen years, surviving all encounters save his last. Music and I did become a fine pair, just as dad planned. But this is not about Music.

To quiet this crying small child, with each Cocker Spaniel/Automobile incident I was counseled about Doggie Heaven. As an attentive and studious child in Sunday School I was rapidly developing an understand of things Christian, at least the Methodist variety. Doggie Heaven was a variation on an established theme and, in the short term at least, served its purpose. But, even to my young ears, along with Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, Doggie Heaven sounded a bit too convenient, a bit contrived. Not wanting to press my parents about any of these but still curious, one Sunday I decided to ask my Sunday School teacher if there really was a Doggie Heaven. And - I liked two part questions even then - was it close enough to "real" heaven for me to play with my old pets when I got there.

Flustered, she left the room to seek counsel. As we waited uneasily - she never left us alone before - I started to wonder if I had done a bad thing by asking my question. The other students started to stare at me. We heard her go from classroom to classroom, calling a conference of her colleagues in the hall and talking in hushed but animated tones. Finally she returned to announce that there was no such thing as Doggie Heaven. Heaven was for creatures with souls. Dogs had no souls, therefore no Doggie Heaven. She seemed relieved to return to our planned lesson. I am sure we all were.

I think I took the official word better than some in our class. After all, in raising the question I was showing a willingness to hear the answer. Several of my classmates, probably with dogs of their own, were not. To the relief of all concerned, I think that was my last public direct theological question for the Methodists. I am sure I was watched a bit more carefully after that.

This memory floated into my consciousness the other day as I was thinking about what I actually learned in Sunday School. I would not describe myself today as a Christian, much less a Methodist. But in the credit-where-credit-is-due department, many values I hold today probably were first introduced and reinforced to me in that Sunday School.

My favorite was the story of the Good Samaritan. I really liked the part when Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple. Yes, the Old Testament had the best stories, but the New Testament had the best lessons. The Golden Rule, not first or exclusively Christian, remains as good a place to start as any when confronting life's interpersonal relations. And I am not sure those good southern white women of Sunday School appreciated how I was interpreting the song, " and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world." Brown v. Board of Education was handed down about this time and even this eight year old knew what it was about and which side Jesus would be on.

With so much of Christianity just not making sense as I grew older, it has been easy over the years for me not to appreciate what I continue to value from those hours spend in that Methodist Sunday School. Most long dead now, my teachers were good people trying to help raise me right. I hope I have not disappointed them too much.

They may even have taught me to ask questions.

Friday, January 07, 2005


My wife's professional life centers around improving the practice of English composition, writing to the rest of us. She frequently reminds her students of the need to determine who will read a particular piece of writing, why they will be reading it, and the desired result. Once these questions are answered then the writer must choose and then assume a Voice, a writing persona. While this may not seem like a revelation to you and me, at some point we all had to learn this if we were to become decent writers. From the struggles of some of her students over the years, this probably was not as easy for us as we now might like to remember.

While it may seem obvious that one's Voice might be different when writing, let's say, a love letter as opposed to composing a letter to a college admissions officer, what happens to your Voice when it is expressed in a new mode of written communication? Should anything change? If so, what? I am referring here, of course, to blogging. Just as many discovered to their horror the unintended consequences of emails, blogs present some interesting Voice choices I hadn't considered two months ago when I first decided to become the Analog Guy.

But then I had some decisions to make about my Profile. For starters, just who was I? In a reversal of the now classic New Yorker Cartoon "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog" I could have become a dog.

Hell, I could have become anybody, living anywhere. Anonymous blogs are very common and often contain extraordinary wit and wisdom the posters would be reluctant to share if they were held to account. As frequently they are just a self-indulgent mess. Many bloggers choose semi-anonymity, enough personal information to create an identity, but not enough to invite a loss of privacy. That was my initial choice. I was Bibb in North Carolina, no photo. After a few weeks it finally dawned on me with a first name like Bibb even Mayberry's Barney Fife could track me down in about 30 seconds. Hiding out in the digital wilderness would require a deeper cover.

It did not take me long to decide to just be myself. Having to adopt a different persona or a nom de plume just seemed like more work than I cared to do. It is hard enough just keeping myself straight, much less an alter ego. So with only a little work anyone can track me down. I even posted a photo of the view from by front porch. I am comfortable with who I am and take responsibility for what I post. No electronic smoke and mirrors here. So be it.

Then I had to consider who would be my audience. Initially it was my friends and family. I even sent out emails with my new URL. While they remain who I am thinking of when I write, I know that anyone with an internet connection has the 24/7 ability to be reading this. Oddly, for me this possibility makes it more important that I get things right. Friends and family generally have been kind enough to overlook my shortcomings; but that is a lot to ask of strangers. So when I first started posting I was reminded of that moment years ago beginning my first class as a student teacher. I started talking about the Great War, what became, unfortunately, only the first World War. The students dutifully began to write down what I was saying. I remember being momentarily horrified. "Jesus H. Christ," I thought, "I had better be getting this right." So that is what I am trying to do here also, get things right.

That brings up the next choice I initially confronted. Many bloggers seem to really enjoy not deleting their expletives. I have decided, for the most part, to express myself using a minimum of "offensive" language. This is not because of any tender sensibilities on my part. You who know me know better. I also realize that if one wants to be offended by what I write, they will find a way. That is their problem. Free country. Fuck'm. Now, maybe I'm a real blogger.

No, I will refrain - mostly - because after a short while these words tend to lose their effectiveness. So I am storing up this special vocabulary for when the time comes. And the times will come.

Further, I am reminded of a quote attributed to Eugene McCarthy, US Senator, Poet, Anti-war Presidential Candidate in 1968. He once admonished us to always talk as if a child is listening. It captures a similar notion as the bumper sticker on my wife's truck that asks us to "Be the Person Your Dog Thinks You Are." Well, in my case Senator, my child is listening, as she always has. I guess this blog is for her.

P.S. I want to thank the New Yorker magazine in advance for not being upset that I am using a cartoon of theirs without permission. The New Yorker continues to be the source of the finest writing week-in, week-out in the English language. That they would notice this blog, take offense, and divert valuable staff time asking me to remove the cartoon - which of course I would do without having to resort to legal billable moments - would be unfortunate. Of course if in the process they find anything I write worthy of publication in their magazine I would be happy to discuss contractual niceties.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Fang, Redux

For those of you who remember, we last left White Fang curled up in the bathroom trashcan. After a few days he would flee to a variety of darker corners, disappearing entirely for long stretches of time. Eventually the trashcan was returned to its full upright position.

For about a week my wife and I exchanged kitten sightings and worried that our new cat had spent too much time in the wild to become acclimated to domestic affairs. Our most consistent contacts were the scratching sounds from the litter box, to which, thankfully, he quickly adapted. Then, if we were still, Fang would appear from underneath some piece of furniture to check us out. If we moved he would scamper back to the shadows. The sounds of food being placed in his food bowl also caused him to reappear, as it does most of us. Underneath the living room couch became his favorite hangout, centrally located where he could observe unseen most of the household activity around him.

Soon he was playfully swiping at feet walking by the couch. Finally he began to approach us and would accept gentle touching. More comfortable around my wife - probably remembering our little encounter on my mother's back porch - Fang was then in her lap, purring away. Finally, last week he jumped in mine. Yesterday as I watched TV from the couch Fang crawled up beside me and went to sleep.

Fang's relationship with our dog Jane remains cordial. Both seem to think the other was procured to be their playmate. That Jane is about 25 times larger seems not to be an issue. Night before last they were both underneath our bed discussing the events of the day.

I think Fang would consider the training of his new servants going extremely well. He is even working on our vocabulary, responding to his name in several languages, including Latin. He was greeted this morning as Fanglius. My favorite is Fang Blanc. We also have versions in Polish, Russian, Welch, and Japanese.

Here Fang-san!

Saturday, January 01, 2005

On Vacation

Holiday travel and associated fatigue, a slight cold, and a mental numbness caused by the images from the Indian Ocean have conspired to delay postings on this blog. Words, especially written words, often fail when confronted with events. Silence and pre-language thoughts from the older parts of our brains sometimes better capture the moment and bring us closer to the truth. What finally triggers feeble attempts to express ourselves using language is often small, trifling to the moment. Such a moment for me occurred last night listening to David Brooks on PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

Mr. Brooks, who writes editorials for the New York Times, reassured us that the reason our President took so long to make an appropriate public response to the disaster in countries affected by the tsunami was that that he, and his staff, was on vacation. He was on vacation.

If the event itself were not so utterly awful, the pain and suffering so deep and wide, it might be appropriate to string together some semi-humorous comments along familiar lines about our President's character, work habits, or his official representation of our country to the rest of the world. Or it might be time to call out those who make excuses for him. But there is nothing clever to say. This time it is so not funny.

I was appalled from the first moment I heard of our initial aid response. My heart sunk as I realized that even after four years in office the man still does not understand what it takes to be the leader of the world's only superpower. Now that he - and we - have been shamed into taking a substantial public role in the aid to the victims of the largest international natural disaster in recent memory both the White House and their apologists in the media have started the process of spinning events, rewriting history.

It may be petty on my part to focus only on one individual. There are so many characters in this tragedy, so many interesting threads to follow. But last night David Brooks seemed to me to represent how far we have fallen as a people. Here was a man with a first-rate brain publicly putting it to a third-rate purpose. It was almost as painful for me to watch as the reports from the Indian Ocean.

If Mr. Brooks actually worked for the White House his comments would be understandable, if still not honorable. But he works for a newspaper, arguably our greatest newspaper. He has a long successful career in journalism. But somewhere along the way he must have decided that events can (or should) only be reported to the rest of us from within the framework of an ideology. And events that do not later reflect well on that ideology, or those who give it form, must be retold in different light.

Our country's slow and initially inadequate response to this terrible tragedy was clear from the start, to the rest of the world and even to unnamed others at the New York Times. It was a mistake of judgment by our President and his advisors that I am certain they now regret. Not to acknowledge that fact is the first step toward making the same mistake again. Given our President's well-document inability to remember his mistakes it is up to the rest of us to remind him. Unfortunately Mr. Brooks invited us last night to give the President a pass. After all, he was on vacation.