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June 4, 2003, 9:40 A.M.

What could Sammy Sosa have been thinking? Sosa was ejected from last night’s game at Wrigley Field in Chicago when his bat splintered, revealing that it had been hollowed out and filled with cork. Corking is illegal, and is done to increase bat speed and lengthen hits. In one crack of the bat he has called into question a lifetime of accomplishments because he cheated.

81% of the 10,000 people polled by ESPN said that they felt this incident would harm Sosa’s reputation. The results of this unscientific poll aside, the incident should harm his reputation. People have a right to ask if he cheated before and to question his accomplishments, including three 60 home run seasons (1998, 1999, and 2001). This is a shame, but it is the price that Sosa must pay for cheating.

Honesty and integrity are important in sports, in business, in government and in life. Martha Stewart is certainly feeling the effects of questionable financial dealings (the loss of approximately $1.5 billion in her company’s stock value) as the government probes her sale of ImClone stock the day before a major company product was rejected by the FDA. Stewart claims that she sold the stock one day before the ruling without insider knowledge. If she did use insider information, she cheated -- the business equivalent of a corked bat.

Then there is our President. Blogger Billmon has diligently compiled 8 pages of quotes from the likes of President Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Ari Fleisher, Donald Rumsfeld, Victoria Clark (I could go on and on) relating to their knowledge of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. The collection includes this gem from a recent interview with Paul Wolfowitz in Vanity Fair: “For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction (as justification for invading Iraq) because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.”

The actual evidence suggests that the primary reason given for invading Iraq was either a colossal intelligence failure or a hoax. Based on recent revelations published in US News & World Report, Colin Powell had serious misgivings about the information given to him in preparation for his speech to the UN.

”On the evening of February 1, two dozen American officials gathered in a spacious conference room at the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Va. The time had come to make the public case for war against Iraq. For six hours that Saturday, the men and women of the Bush administration argued about what Secretary of State Colin Powell should--and should not--say at the United Nations Security Council four days later. Not all the secret intelligence about Saddam Hussein's misdeeds, they found, stood up to close scrutiny. At one point during the rehearsal, Powell tossed several pages in the air. "I'm not reading this," he declared. "This is bulls- - -."”

The information came from Vice President Cheney.

The Bush administration misled the American people. They lied about what they knew, and they exaggerated the information that they had. New search teams being sent to Iraq are focusing on people and documents related to WMD. This is because the big stuff, the delivery systems, has not materialized.

The consequence of a government that obfuscates, exaggerates and lies is the loss of the support and confidence of its people. When mistrust of government creates the likes of Eric Rudolph, that’s one thing. When it creates such mistrust that a cowardly bomber is supported by banners entreating us to “Pray for Eric Rudolph,” there is a bigger problem. People don’t trust government, and they don’t believe Rudolph will get fair treatment. Let’s hope he does. Let’s hope that he is as fairly treated as Martha Stewart. If the justice system fails either of them, faith in government will be further eroded.

Unfortunately, life is more complicated than baseball. Sammy Sosa was caught red-handed with a corked bat. The Martha Stewart situation is a little less clear. The words of the Bush administration on the invasion of Iraq are damning. One consistent theme is that people in government, in entertainment, and in business are apparently willing to cheat and lie to reach their goals. In this environment, what message are we sending to the next generation of Sosas, Stewarts and Bushes?

Clearly, if we accept cheating as a way of life and lying as an accepted business practice, we have no right to expect our children to behave any differently. Society breaks down here because it will fail to elevate the best and brightest, only the most cunning. Tony Blair is feeling the heat at home. So should our President, Sammy Sosa and Martha Stewart.

June 2, 2003, 2:40 P.M.

Recent statements from the Palestinian Authority and its new Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas, and from Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, represent an initial step in the implementation of the most recent Middle East peace plan known as the Road Map. More than being expressions of support for the plan, these statements about advancing the peace process are required by the plan as the first step.

It is not as easy to judge the impact of Abbas’ statements as it is to judge the impact of Sharon’s, but it seems that the initial rhetoric is unsettling to both camps. This is probably a good sign that both sides, or at least their current representatives, are moving the right direction.

As far as the Israelis are concerned, Sharon’s statements have been profound. He recently referred to Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza strip as an occupation. While this unnerves and even angers settlers in those areas, the right wing elements of Mr. Sharon’s cabinet and his own Likud party are downright apoplectic. According to a New York Times report, Sharon addressed angry Likud legislators last Monday and said:

“You may not like the word, but what’s happening is occupation. Holding 3.5 million Palestinians under occupation is a bad thing for Israel, for the Palestinians, and for the Israeli economy.”

The problem here is that Sharon is correct. The West Bank and Gaza settlements are occupying Palestinian land. These areas were occupied after the 1967 war, and the occupation has continued and taken on a permanency since that time. The settlers and their right wing supporters have never used, and will never use the term “occupation” to describe their presence outside of the 1948 borders of Israel. This is mainly because Zionist, orthodox and right wing Israelis advocate for a Jewish state that occupies all of its lands as described in the Bible. In an article in Sunday’s New York Times, James Bennet describes Sharon’s use of the term “occupation” as akin to George Bush referring to Texas as occupied territory. Well, it is occupied territory, ceded to the United States in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo. We took Texas from Mexico; Israel took the West Bank and Gaza from the Palestinians.

Modern day Israel did not exist before 1948. The Palestinians occupied the territory now known as Israel until, in response to the atrocities of Nazi Germany, an Israeli state was created as a place for displaced European Jews to settle. The land where Israel was created already belonged to someone else, the Palestinians, who had to be displaced. Naturally, a war, the first of many, followed the creation of Israel and the U.S. and its allies defended the fledgling state. By 1967, with one of the most powerful and sophisticated armies in the world, Israel defeated its Arab neighbors and occupied land outside its borders. They have yet to give to back and indeed have argued that because they were forced to go to war, they should keep these lands. Unfortunately for the proponents of this idea, the Palestinians want it back.

So Ariel Sharon, decorated general of the Israeli Army and supporter of settlements for dozens of years, really made history when he not once, but at least four times, referred to the settlements as kibush -– occupied -- territory. Likewise, Mahmoud Abbas made history by calling for a stop to the activities of radical groups within the Palestinian sphere, and by really meaning it. The last Arab leader to do this was Anwar Sadat.

There is no doubt that the recent rhetoric is a result of U.S. pressure. There is also no doubt that the statements made so far are only rhetoric, but the U.S. must keep up the pressure. Just as the creation of an Israeli state was right in 1948, the creation of a Palestinian state in 2003 is right. The U.S., and only the U.S., can pressure Israel in a way that will ensure that this will take place. This will cause political difficulty for Ariel Sharon, for George Bush, and for Mahmoud Abbas, but it seems that, like in any other sort of dispute, if everyone walks away from the tale giving more then they wanted, and getting less than they wanted, it is probably a good deal. Once thing is certain, and that is that peace in the Middle East is in everyone’s best interest.

June 2, 2003, 11:00 A.M.

pococurante (pô' kô koo ran’ te) adj. caring little; indifferent; apathetic – n. an indifferent or apathetic person

I certainly don’t want to be a pococurante about self-annointed morality czar Bill Bennett’s fall from grace, I just think an awful lot has already been said on the subject. Bennett should either practice what he preaches or stop preaching. He has now apparently quit gambling because he realizes the error of his ways. Perhaps he will be a little more tolerant of us lesser mortals in the future.

Incidentally, the word pococurante is new for me. I wrote this post so that I could use the word that 13 year old Sai Gunturi spelled correctly to win the 76th Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee yesterday. Congratulations, Sai.

June 1, 2003, 3:00 P.M.

There is another Webmaster in the Philpot family. My 10 year old daughter, Rosalie, has built a website about boatbuilding for a school project. Here's the link. Check it out.

June 1, 2003, 2:35 P.M.

Last week Laconia Daily Sun reporter, Mike Kitch, wrote about the Senate Capital Budget Committee’s state capital budget. High on the list were the Laconia District Court and the New Hampshire Community Technical College at Laconia. Both projects were vying for funding in the upcoming state capital budget allocation.

You may recall that earlier this year the city, which owns the Laconia District Court building and leases it to the state, reached a conceptual agreement to turn the property over to the state on two conditions. First, if the state changes the use of the building from a courthouse, ownership would revert back to the city. Second, the state must “demonstrate a sensitivity to the historical character of the building.” The building is not to be turned over to the state until funds are approved for the restoration, according to the agreement.

The Technical College project has been on the state’s capital improvements list for some time and includes a request of about $12 million for building construction and renovation. The district Court requested $250,000 for architectural design and engineering, the first phase of the project.

There are many good reasons why both of these projects need to be funded. The Technical College project will expand the opportunities available to students across the region. Likewise, the courthouse is utilized extensively by hundreds of citizens of the Lakes Region five days per week. The courthouse is the gateway to the civil and criminal justice system and it needs to be brought into compliance with modern construction, safety and energy efficiency standards, while preserving the historic nature of the building. Apparently, given the initial ranking by both the House and the Senate capital committees, these needs and benefits are recognized in Concord. Other projects, however, compete for limited state capital funds, and legislators from other areas of the state naturally lobby for their regional projects. Not so in Laconia.

On May 27 the Senate Finance Committee picked the Technical College project for funding. The committee struck the architectural and engineering money for the district court from the project list. Here’s how our Senators (Senators representing towns or cities that use the Laconia District Court) voted: Carl Johnson (Meredith) voted against the project, Robert Boyce (Alton) didn’t even bother to show up. Perhaps there were good reasons why the court house revitalization got bumped from the list, but it seems to me that our local delegation should be showing up and supporting projects that directly affect their constituents.

P.S. to the Texas Democrats story. . .It should be noted that attempting to control the Texas legislature by redistricting (gerrymandering) is nothing new. Texas Democrats did it for 140 years before the Republicans took office. What the Democrats gained by avoiding that quorum call was a chance to live to fight another day in local and state elections. If the DeLay redistricting plan had passed it would have solidified the Republican victories in the last elections and would have made Democratic inroads in the next elections less likely. Now the real work begins. Democrats have to win back the offices that they lost in the last election and they need to rebuild their message or they need to make flight arrangements and hotel reservations before the next redistricting plan is voted on.

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