June 26, 2005

happy birthday to me

1,738 and counting. These valiant souls will never celebrate another birthday. Bring the rest of them home.

June 23, 2005

What's in a name?

Conservative? Liberal? Democrat? Republican?

I've noticed that when people I know want to criticize a position held by Democrats, they call it "Liberal." When they want to criticize a position held by Republicans, they call it "Republican." Similarly, when Republicans want to de-Republican something they support, they call it a "conservative" item and the people who promote it "conservatives" instead of Republicans.

Just this weekend, a close family member said, "I didn't realize how liberal you are." The term liberal in this use meant "anti-Bush." While I am vehemently, rabidly, unashamedly, frothing-mouth anti-Bush, I would hardly classify myself as a liberal. I believe in limited government. I believe in separation of powers. I believe in security and the role of a strong military as well as the need for spies, covert operations outside our borders, and spending on military technology. But mostly I believe that government would best serve the people by focusing on important things relating to governing such as security, commerce, and education. Stuck me with a liberal label yet?

How about this: I believe that while government should strive to provide an equal opportunity for all citizens, I don't believe government should be responsible for providing an equal outcome for all citizens. Government must make quality education available and accessible to all, but government is not responsible for giving them jobs or feeding them if they choose to eschew their opportunities. Doesn't sound very tax-and-spend, tree-hugging, welfare-state liberal, does it?

Furthermore, while government must set certain limits for the common good, government should not dictate any individual's decisions on personal things. This includes where they choose to live, what faith they choose to have, what friends they choose, what car they drive, what clothes they wear, what career they choose, what they do in their bedrooms, and whether they choose to procreate or not. Government should not be a vehicle for one group of people to impose their personal choices or beliefs on everyone else.

Government should be concerned with only a very few things: Protection of all citizens and property, enablement of commerce, provision of justice, and promotion of the general welfare. Oh yes: And protection from the government itself.

Am I a dyed-in-the-wool liberal yet? Or, would you say I was a conservative? I suppose neither at this point, as both terms really describe a person's approach to the goals outlined above, not the goals themselves. Very well.

I believe taxes are necessary. I believe people with more money should bear a greater burden than people with less money, though not a disproportionately greater burden. I believe that people who do not work should not be given money by the government, except as a short-term stopgap (i.e., I dislike welfare but think unemployment insurance is a good thing). I believe that all children should be ensured the opportunity for a high quality education. I believe that government should provide basic infrastructure (roads, telecommunications, etc.). I believe the tax code should be so simple it can be read in its entirety while sitting in a cafe on a sunny afternoon; tax subsidies and special classes should be eliminated. I believe the government should make commerce easy (reduced regulation) while ensuring corporations do not engage in fraud, chicanery, or predatory practices. I believe the government should educate consumers and citizens while staying out of their personal decisions, unless and until those personal decisions affect the overall welfare of the citizenry at large. (An example is the obesity epidemic--government should participate in education to change Americans' behavior but should not regulate industries such as fast food; an educated consumer will make the choices that are right for them, and industry will respond to market pressures.)

Am I sounding like a liberal yet? Or maybe a conservative? Democrat? Republican? Yeah, I can't decide either.

How about this: I am pro-choice. I think gays should be allowed to get married and receive all the social and legal status that heterosexuals get from the same ritualistic rite. I think it was a good thing to protect the spotted owl. I don't want to see oil drilling in new places such as the Alaskan wildlife area or the coast of southern California. I don't like the idea of allowing the Sierras to be clear-cut for timber. I think Social Security can offer a good way to achieve an economy of scale and provide a useful service to millions of Americans who otherwise would end up as old people with no money. I would like to see "under God" removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, and "In God We Trust" removed from our currency. I believe citizens should have the right to own and operate firearms and, with serious licensing, even assault weapons. I think marijuana should be legalized and taxed just like cigarettes and alcohol. (As long as you're not putting anyone in danger, you can use it.)

The point of all this is that while I am staunchly, rabidly, blood-boilingly, incoherently anti-Bush, I am not "A Liberal," as used by the Republicans who have read my blog or talked politics with me. In fact, if they could get past the fact that I think W is Bad News, they would see that they agree with many of the basic tenets that I use to define my political positions. And if they would stop categorizing everyone who is not a Republican as a Liberal, they may just see that I am not even anti-Republican. I am, however, completely opposed to certain planks of the Republican platform (the anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-choice ones in particular).

Furthermore, I think this is true with most of my friends and colleagues. We hate the approach that Bush & Co. are taking because he is a tool of the Christian fundamentalists and corporate robber barons, but we are not so far left that we consider ourselves liberals. And this is how Bush won reelection. He divided the country into Republicans and Liberals; one remains the name of a political party, but the other is a definition of one's character. If you identify with parts of both groups, which label are you more likely to bristle at? Obviously, the one that defines your character.

I am proud to be neither a Republican nor a Liberal. I am not required to follow in goose-step or lock-step to the drumbeat of some prescribed platform. Unfortunately, this limits the power of my vote because I am not part of any bloc. Therefore, I fight against the darkness that grows in the East by simply opposing it as best I can.

And still I shake my head and wonder how any self-respecting, educated person can allow themselves to be led by George W. Bush. He has lied to the American people, has spent billions on a tragic mistake of a war, has destroyed decades of environmental protections (within which business flourished quite fine, thankyouverymuch), has increased global terrorism, has jailed a reporter for refusing to divulge an anonymous source, and continues to attempt to codify discrimination against a legitimate minority class. This is NOT a president who is interested in the tenets of conservatives. This IS a president who is pushing a progressive agenda of the Christian far-right.

So, those of you who read this and still support Bush. Look at the facts of his administration. Job loss, crappy economy, growing world hatred of America, over 1,700 American soldiers dead and thousands others permanently maimed, growing world terrorism, billions spent on the war, a more divided country than ever before. Things are not going well. Bush has the lowest approval rating of any second-term president in a long, long time.

After you've looked at the facts, tell me why you still support him. I would bet that it's because you feel aligned to his faith. You like the fact that he has a strong Christian morality behind everything he does. And also, you're afraid. You're afraid that putting a Liberal in his place might cause Osama to blow up more American buildings. You're afraid that taxes will go up. You're afraid that America will turn into a hedonistic cesspool of porn, drugs, and fags and that corporate America will be taxed and regulated into oblivion. Because if a liberal is put in charge, God help us all.

I am willing to admit that I could vote for a John McCain for president in 2008, depending on the alternatives. Could you ever see yourself voting for a Democrat? Can you see the difference between a Democrat and a liberal? Can you see the difference between a Republican and the Christian far-right? Which one are you?

June 17, 2005

Hiding the Report Card

When you were a kid, did you get to bring home only the comments section of your report card? Of course not. Commentary on report cards is meant to be uplifting, to soften the blow of miserable grades. Parents, rightly, want to see the scores.

The Bush administration (the State Department, specifically), is about to bring home their 2004 report card for the War On Terror, and they have just announced they won't share the grades. Last year they got caught changing the grades, so this year they simply erased them.

The fact is that our Security President is losing the "war on terror," which he started. The report showed, before the statistics were erased, that significant global terrorism incidents (civilians attacked in acts of terror) increased from 172 incidents in 2003 to 655 in 2004. Nearly a four-fold increase in terrorism in one year. Most of the increase is reported to be in Iraq (no big surprise). Let's see... who started the war in Iraq? And what was the purpose of the war? To decrease terrorism. That's right!

Nice one, prez.

More disturbing than the utter failure of the war on terror so far is the fact that the government is hiding information from us. From you. From me. Do you feel safer when your government lies to you? When your government wants to know everything about you but hides statistics it knows to be true about its own performance?

The very essence of a free government consists in considering offices as public trusts, bestowed for the good of the country, and not for the benefit of an individual or a party. -- John Caldwell Calhoun

The Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have [to] bare the secrets of government and inform the people. -- Hugo L. Black

Paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell. -- Hugo L. Black

... government in order to protect itself from the political consequences of its errors and wrongs is driven irresistibly without peace to greater and greater control of the nation’s press and platform. -- Herbert Hoover

A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy. -- James Madison

June 15, 2005

Doctors find massive brain damage

Is there really anyone left in this country who supports Bush? I mean besides the people who are obsenely wealthy, the people who work directly for him, the corporate robber barons, and the severely brain damaged.

No weapons of mass destruction. No significant biological or chemical weapons. No connection between Iraq and 9/11. The Downing Street Memo. The Downing Street Memo Again. Mission Accomplished. The Extremely Secret energy policy council. Cheney telling a senior member of Congress to go f*** himself. No-bid contracts with Halliburton, who then overcharged the government tens of millions of dollars. Over 1,700 American soldiers dead. Countless Iraqi civilians and soldiers dead. Iraq sliding into a civil war. Osama bin Laden still at large. The federal deficit spiraling out of control. One of the worst job creation statistics for any American president in history. Proposing a constitutional amendment expressly for the purpose of discriminating against a certain segment of American citizens. Unable to move his own agenda forward despite having HIS party in charge of BOTH houses of Congress. And now proved completely wrong on Terri Schaivo.

If the Swift Boat Veterans were really For Truth, they would be demanding a full investigation into the two Downing Street memos. If the American media were not so scared of being Dan Rathered or Newsweeked, they would be trumpeting that information and explaining it to the electorate.

Where is the outrage in this country? Why are people not absolutely shocked that our president is abusing his authority and position so grossly? Are we so numb to corruption and incompetence that we expect it at the highest levels? I hate this saying, but it's true: No one died when Clinton lied, yet he was impeached. IMPEACHED! Bush has lied to the American public many times, yet so far not even a whisper about investigating his actions. Where is Kenneth Starr?

Bush should not only be impeached, but he should be tried for murder and war crimes. He illegally invaded a sovereign nation and thereby has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people and spent over $200 billion of American taxpayer money (so far). He decided to go kill people, then made up a reason to do it. That's what the Downing Street memos say.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands are dying in Darfur under a policy of genocide and institutionalized torture and rape. What does Bush do? Nothing.

And those of you who think Bush is tough on terrorism: Do you feel safer when you go into the city, go to the shopping mall, ride a commuter train, pass by a shipping port, walk past a federal building? I certainly don't. In San Francisco, the only change in security on BART (the local commuter train) is that they closed all the underground bathrooms and put up a few signs asking people to report strange things. The "security president" hasn't made any one of us safer. The "education president" has No Child Left Behind, but anecdotal evidence suggests more children are being left behind than ever before.

It's just insane to me how anyone could continue to think that Bush is doing anything even remotely close to a good job. And I think a strong case should be made for his impeachment. (Cheney too.)

June 14, 2005

Can you tell me how to get, how to get to...

Congress is threatening, this time for real, to pull all public funding from PBS and NPR. Without PBS America would not have Baseball, Jazz, or The Civil War. Without NPR America would have no Fresh Air. Can you imagine a world where Sesame Street, Car Talk, and Talk of the Nation are mere memories? Can you envision a world where educational children's television consists of Dragonball-Z and Rugrats? OK, so maybe we could dump Teletubbies and Antiques Roadshow, but keep the guy who used to paint the nature scenery oil paintings in three minutes. That was wicked.

I donate to NPR and PBS because I think the programming is interesting and educational. Commercial channels pander to the lowest common denominator--history shows are only about battles, human interest stories are about celebrities and athletes, news is cookie-cutter filler the same from one station to the next. NPR has a show called "All Things Considered"--perhaps Fox News will replace it with "A Few Things As Spun By Republicans." Not quite the same ring.

PBS and NPR should be considered national treasures, not expendable budget items. Sign the petition to save these national treasures now.

Read more here.

Sunny Day
Sweepin' the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet

Can you tell me how to get,
How to get to Sesame Street

Come and play
Everything's A-OK
Friendly neighbors there
That's where we meet

Can you tell me how to get
How to get to Sesame Street

It's a magic carpet ride
Every door will open wide
To Happy people like you--
Happy people like
What a beautiful

Sunny Day
Sweepin' the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet

Can you tell me how to get,
How to get to Sesame street...

How to get to Sesame Street

How to get to...


And while you're at it, fire all the editors of the major "news" papers and TV channels in the US. Disgraceful. Bush and his staff should resign immediately. If they do not, then the Congress has to find the nugget of integrity that must still be somewhere buried deep within their souls, and they must impeach him.

Read this. And this.
Then, sign this.

This is not about the opinion of the rest of the world. This is about the integrity and honor of the United States, and the mission of our country as the world's solitary superpower (for the moment). Bush is a playground bully who simply does not care how many American soldiers die for his lies. He is an elitist power broker who sells political favors to corporate barons. Bush represents the worst of American aristocracy. If that's what you support, then ignore this issue. If, however, you believe that the mission of the United States is one of honor, of righteousness, of peace, of diversity and inclusion and prosperity for all, then you must support Bush's impeachment.

Then, pity and mourn for these people and their families.

June 13, 2005

don't forget your shorts

It sucks to stand in the locker room at 8 a.m. on a Monday, mooning the stoic bank of empty lockers behind you, while you claw through your gym bag looking for shorts. Towel, you got. Workout shirt and even socks and sneakers. But you'll be damned if you're going to go work out in jeans. You flirt with the idea of going out there in just your boxers. After all, you're only going to be lifting weights, mostly shoulders and arms today anyway. You won't be doing jumping jacks or other floppy exercises.

Fortunately, the Monday morning fog clears enough to realize you are not going to go out there in just your boxers.

Welcome to the working week. I know it don't thrill you; I hope it don't kill you. Welcome to the working week.

June 6, 2005

Yet another sad day...

1,674 and counting.

And now, when you get very sick, the government wants to shove a feeding tube down your throat to keep you alive, but they won't let you get relief from the pain and nausea while they forcibly keep you alive.

Getting older

For a few years I've suspected I'm getting older. You would think the occasional birthdays might tip me off, or the steady retreat of what courageous hair I have left. No, it took a Crayola crayon in a Mexican restaurant to make me see clearly. Or rather, to make me realize that I wasn't.

Time for me to get my eyes checked (or maybe I'll wait until next year since our medical insurance is crap).

The experience was unique for me. If I held the crayon at about 14 inches from my eyes, the writing was clear. Farther away it was still clear. Move it to 13 inches, though, and suddenly it wobbled and weaved like some drug scene in a movie from the early seventies. Granted, it was about six point type, maybe smaller, but that was a rude moment for me, the guy with 20-20 vision and never a single cavity or broken bone. I tan good, too.

I've felt myself taking longer to get over the soreness of Sunday soccer games. But to have a body part actually start failing in its regular function, that's new to me. And I'm not even 40 yet.

Black truth at arm's length
"Amarillo" I think--yes
I was younger once

June 1, 2005

Hero or Traitor?

Last night Deep Throat was on TV. No, it wasn't a new Fox reality show (but it can't be far off) but the old nemesis of our very own Richard M. Nixon. The local news led the story with the teaser, "Hero or Traitor?"

It occurs to me that they've missed the point. They've all missed the point. In this era of "you're with us or you're with the terrorists," everyone is very eager to choose sides, to force you to be in one camp or another. If you're not a Bush Republican, then you're a liberal girly-man. If you don't sport a "support our troops" magnet on your car, then you're a terrorist-loving, Newsweek-reading, Dan Rather-watching traitor. If you watch Fox News Channel, then you're a weak-minded pawn of the religious Right.

But reasonable, educated people understand that that is not the truth in America. The American truth is one of nuance, of living in the gray area and acknowledging all the shades of white to black and all the hues of the rainbow. The American truth is one where a person can be a hero while doing traitorous things, or a traitor while acting heroically.

The American truth is one which gets reinterpreted over time. Who today knows that John Dickinson's use of "by uniting we stand, by dividing we fall" meant not that the colonies should unite in rebellion against British tyranny but that the colonies should unite to negotiate with the crown in order to stay part of the British empire? Yet the phrase was used by the colonists as a rallying cry to unite in rebellion. Nuance. Starting from the same place yet ending up with very different results.

This is America's past and its heritage. It is America's strength. Hero? Traitor? Hero and traitor. It's a paradox and ambiguous duality (multiplicity?) with which the extreme left and the extreme right are extremely uncomfortable.