Sunday, August 22, 2004

No smart-ass headline...just a broken heart...

Go read this story from The All-Spin Zone. This is the result of war. This is what happens. I gotta ask the war pigs, is it worth it? Is your chest thumping and illusions of "security" worth all the broken souls and destroyed lives, not to mention the tens of thousands of dead and permanently scarred Iraqis and Afghanistanis?

Well. Is it?

Christ...thousands of years of human evolution and societal development, and we're still killing people who disagree with us.
Give Me Just One Good Reason...

With much love to the great Bo Diddley, this coming right off the top of my head (and anyone who gets that reference, consider yourself "very cool").

We're heading into the home stretch, beloved, and the election is starting to get nasty. For the record, I'm voting for John Kerry, not because I like everything he says - although I do like a great deal of his campaign promises and I think he's served the American people admirably during his time in the senate - but mainly because I think we're on the edge of oblivion with the current hard-right tilt in this country. America is known as the land of progress, a land where we (eventually) acknowledge the error of our collective ways and work to make things better for all. I may be against school vouchers and an ideological opponent may be for them, for example, but the way this country's government is set up, we can work out a compromise that benefits all concerned.

However, I'm seriously starting to wonder what exactly it is we're up against. I don't know how someone who calls him/herself a "conservative" can stand with Bush and his ilk. They're not conservatives; they're radicals. They spend money like Shriners in Vegas and are trying to radically alter the face of society, as well as the staunch the flow of progress. How in the hell is that conservative?

I don't know if this has come across yet, but I'm a pretty far-left liberal-type guy. I believe in the social contract. I believe in civil rights. I believe in justice for all. I believe in a government of, by and for the people, rather than of, by and for the big moneyed interests. Steve Earle says he's "a little to the left of Mao", and if that's the case, I'm probably slightly to the right of Mao, then. In the great web of history, all advances - civil rights, women's rights, workers' rights, children's rights, the very idea that people control the government and not the other way around - has come from progressive liberal ideals. Sometime in the last 20 years or so, "liberal" became a dirty word, but I for one am damn proud to be on the side of progress and the betterment of humanity regardless of race, creed or nationality.

At the same time, I respect the mindset of a true conservative, the idea that what we have is precious and must be preserved. Progress must come, yes, but we also need some degree of stability. In my eyes, it's the yin of progress pulling against the yang of conservatism that makes American such a wonderful ideal. We ain't there yet, beloved, but we're on the way. Call it the Tao of Backslider, if you will.

Furthermore, I think most of y’all recognize I’m a fairly good-natured, laid-back type of cat. Call me naive, but I'm willing to believe that everyone has the potential for good inside them, and I'm willing to give them that shot. That makes me an idealist; what makes me a curmudgeon is that I'm so often sorely disappointed with how people misuse that chance for temporary gain.

It was the idealism, however, that enabled me to give George W. Bush a shot three years ago. I didn't vote for him, mind you, and didn't support a single thing he said during the election. Despite all the troubles during the 2000 election and all the questions about Florida, when the needle finally came down and Bush was, for good or ill, "our president", I was willing to give him a shot. Okay, cat, you're in the big boy's chair, let's see you do some good. Of course, he managed to fuck it up beyond all recognition within a few weeks with his unashamedly pro-corporate stance, the funny business with Cheney's energy commission and the complete bungling of the whole Chinese spy plane business.

As I've said over and over, Bush's lost me and it has nothing to do with the "war on terra" or even Iraq; those little delights are just the rancid icing on top of a very nasty cake. But here's the thing. After 9/11, I was willing to give the goofy shmuck yet another chance. We were in a state of flux and I thought, "Okay, here's your chance to go down in history. Here's your chance to change the paradigm. Here's your opportunity to do some good in the world and address a lot of its ills."

And, of course, he and his people took that gun of righteousness and shot his big toe slap off. So now we find ourselves in the mess we're currently in, re-fighting Vietnam because the sitting president has absolutely nothing to run on besides terror and tax cuts.

For the record, neither chance was a case of "supporting the president". The president works for the people of the United States; we don't work for him. All during those chances, I made sure to watch that rascal and his cohorts like a hawk and put 'em to the wall when I thought they stepped out of line.

I hate to think this way, but I'm really getting to where I agree with something Janeane Garafalo said on "The Daily Show": supporting and/or voting for Bush is the sign of a serious character flaw. What does he have?

Tax cuts? Balderdash, pure and simple, and the only people benefiting from those are people who have more money than they know what to do with in the first place. The rest of us are drowning trying to keep up, because the government hasn't stopped spending just because a few rich yay-hoos got a massive tax cut. Look at the price of gas or food or apartment rent. Walk around my neighborhood. Join me in letting one bill slide this month so I can pay another.

Terror? Some people want to think that terror against the United States began on Sept. 11, 2001, but that's just foolish. Those same people want to think that Bush is the only guy who can save us, which is just flat-out fucking stupid. The idea that if Bush is voted out, the Islamofacist horde will completely wipe us out is a completely paranoid and idiotic fairy tale.

What else is there? His coming out against legacies in college? That's a laugh and don't even try to defend it. The Hate Amendment, or for that matter, his seven or so attempts to change the Constitution with amendments that limit American citizens' rights rather than protecting them? His environmental policy - a joke - or his education policy - an insult - neither of which I've ever heard the average Bush supporter articulate worth a damn. Is it because he's a "Godly man"? Hey, prove to me God exists and maybe I'll give a damn who Bush or Kerry prays to, okay?

I just don't understand why true conservatives even think of supporting Bush. Do they hate Kerry that much? Why? Do they have any idea why besides the flap-doodle from the Swift Boat bunch? Look, I know Kerry, at best, is only a small baby step in the opposite direction and, at worst, just another Washington power player, but the fact of the matter is, he's all we got. Yeah, support third parties where you can, preferably in local elections, because they ain't gonna do dick come the presidential election.

I don't know how many, if any, conservatives read this site. Given that most of my links come from liberal and Democratic sites, I'd be surprised if any do, but if there all some of y'all out there, I got a challenge. I've asked it Elvis knows how many times, on comments pages and in day-to-day life: why should I vote for Bush? I'm a progressive. I believe in progressive causes. Bush and his bunch are the antithesis of progress in my eyes. I've yet to get a good answer to this question, so I'll ask another. Why are people supporting Bush? Give me a reason that doesn't involve fear or hate or greed. Something positive, and no, belief in a mythical sky god doesn't count in my book.

If you can't do that, hey... don't come around here killing my buzz, man, because in my eyes, you got nothin'. In my eyes, the human race has the potential to break free of the bonds that hold it down and achieve truly great things if we only take the opportunity nature gives us. Unfortunately, George W. Bush and his cadre of neo-cons, Bible thumpers and war pigs are holding us down.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Just a little class warfare...

Here's an interesting little story from USA Today. Seems the income gap between the richest Americans and them at the middle and bottom has steadily increased over the last two decades. Now, watch out for the collective "Well, duh" from every progressive in the country. The story says the disparity is growing and - even though our economy is "recovering" - wages are stagnant while prices for health care, housing, tuition, gas and food have sky-rocketed. Well, again, duh.

Funny thing is, there are some areas where the economy is going gangbusters, such as luxury items like Porsches, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and higher priced properties. Places like Wal-Mart and Sears have recorded a drop in sales because, well... the people that generally shop there don't have any damn money.

Anyhow, read the story. It does end with a quote that this whole deal has nothing to do with Bush or Kerry, even though it notes recent polls show Kerry as "more trusted" on the economy and a whole lot of doubt over Bush's claims that the economy is just ducky. One has to wonder, though, if Bush's economic policies - lifting the burden off the shoulders of the rich and placing it squarely on middle-income citizens - haven't exactly helped things.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Way Down In Florida...

No, this isn't a Hurricane Charley scribble. I lived in Gainesville, Florida, for about six years and lived through a couple minor hurricanes. They were scary as shit and mere summer showers compared to the whomping Charley laid on the Sunshine State. So, here's hoping everything gets back to the relatively normalcy Florida enjoys as soon as possible.

No, this is just a heads up on a Bob Herbert column in The New York Times that everyone should read. Herbert's a sharp cat and a good writer; he's the guy that brought the drug scandal in Tulia, Texas, to national attention after some excellent investigative journalism by The Texas Observer. Do some Google work to find out more if you ain't already hip to that tragedy. Then, read this op-ed piece. Seems there's some monkeyshines going on regarding Florida's black citizens and voting. In a nutshell, elderly residents of a black neighborhood in Orlando have been interrogated by state police officers as a part of an investigation into allegations of voter fraud from March's mayoral election. The officers in question come straight from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which reports directly to Gov. Jeb Bush. Officials refuse to discuss the details of the investigation, saying only it might run into November's presidential election.

Now, this may be much ado about nothing or there may be some legitimate voter fraud going on. In any event, I can't help but be a wee bit suspicious, especially in light of Molly Ivins' most recent column. And, frankly, the GOP's starting to howl about the Democrats possibly "stealing" the election. A particularly amusing example of projection comes from radio talk ying-yang Hugh Hewitt's new book - and I shit you not on this title If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It
. Methinks the ladies doth protest a wee bit too much.

Now. I'm sure we can all agree there was some seriously screwed up shit going on down in Florida back in November of 2000. But the real story happened way, way before, when then-Sec. of State Katherine Harris illegally kicked a whole mess of folks off the voting rolls, with way, way too many of 'em being black for it to be just a coincidence. Don't believe me? That's fine. Believe Greg Palast who investigated the living hell out of this insult to democracy, which of course, no major U.S. media outlet would touch with a ten-foot pole. Of course, you can buy his book The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: An Investigative Reporter Exposes the Truth About Globalization, Corporate Cons, and High-Finance Fraudsters
and learn the story yourself.

In any event, like I said, this may not be what I'm afraid it is. But you gotta admit... the whole thing smells a bit fishy. As always, beloved, do your own research and draw your own conclusions. That's how a democracy thrives, which apparently, we as a country have forgotten, much to our discredit and regret.

Friday, August 06, 2004

When Tommy Comes Marching Home...
Inspired by a post by Hecateon Eschaton - and, as usual, on a thread that had nothing to do with what we were talking about - comes this little missive. Basically wrote in a fit of passion and inspired by the below Rudyard Kipling poem, it nevertheless comes from the heart. But first, the poem, Rudyard Kipling's "Tommy"

Tommy
I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!


Like The Band in "Twilight" ("A young man serves his country/While an old man guards the home") or The Pogues in "And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda", the arts bring the truth close to home. The United States - as a government and, regrettably, as a people - do not treat military veterans like they deserve. Not because they're "defending our freedoms" or some other such emotional balderdash, but because they go off to see the elephant. The war may be illegal or immoral, the soldiers may have no other option in life but service, and we may come out of it more battered than we went in, but they go off nevertheless. You find a war - and as been distressingly proved over the past 200 years, the U.S. is very good at finding wars - you'll find plenty of young men and women willing to go do what's necessary. We owe it to them - and our own souls - to provide them with the best care, mentally and physically, and the best opportunities when they come back. Far too often, we fail them completely.

Thing is, I'm no fan of the military. Every aspect of the service repulses every fiber of my being. Some folks say, "Nah, you're smart, you coulda hacked it", but they're missing my meaning. I hate being told what to do. I hate being yelled at. I hate getting up early. I hate being treated with no respect. I hate to thought of killing another human being.

And furthermore, I've never liked what military service does to people, from my old man down to my buddy who just got back from Iraq and is a complete wreck. Some folks say it gives 'em discipline, but I wonder. Could it be, rather, the military breaks what's left of their spirits and teaches them to swallow whatever their pain is and not deal with it. Eventually, they have to puke it up, and generally do so with gusto. Far too many broken men in the streets, broken homes across the country and screwballs like Tim McVeigh prove that.

That being said, we need a military. We need defense. We don't need to go off half-cocked attacking other nations, but we do need a force to defend out people. What we have is way out of control, both money-wise and how the soldiers are treated. As it's been pointed out by others, that England chick will probably wind up being the scapegoat for the Abu Graihb scandal, mainly because she's dirt poor and female. And the higher-ups who let that shit happen - and even encouraged it - will get off scot free. I hate to say it, but that's probably how it'll work out.

Lyndie England deserved better. My old man deserved better. My buddy Clayton deserved better. Every soldier who's ever served deserved better. And it's not us that are spitting on them, not us liberals. It's those dirty jackanapes who wave the bloody shirt for political gain and send young kids into the meat grinder to get votes. They send 'em off to war, tell 'em "Die for your country, son", but when they get back and can't deal with the demons or find a job, it's "Quit whining" or "Get a job, you bum."

It sickens me. It pisses me off that I'm told I "hate" the soldiers because I don't want another 18 year old's life ruined by what s/he has to see in a war. It infuriates me that so many jackasses in this country get a visceral thrill out of war when they themselves are under any danger of said war affecting them, like it's all a college football game. And most of all, it breaks my heart to see so many kids, most faced with no other option, go off to see the elephant. I sometimes wonder if the elephant - that is, war - is anthromorphic proof of humanity's failure to reach its potential after so many thousands of years of development and evolution. All this time, and we're still fighting wars and sending kids off to die, with nothing changing but who's doing the calling.

But my purest rage is reserved for those who profit from war. Either politically or financially, these people are the scum of the Earth. It's one thing to be proud of your service time, but it's another to send kids off to fight and die for no other reason than you want to be a "war president".

One day, maybe...Tommy won't have to be sent where the guns a'blazin', and if he does, he'll get his right and propers.

Maybe.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

The Road To Hell...

Apparently, the Bush malAdministration will for the third year hand-running block funds to the United Nations Population Fund. According to this editorial from the Madison (Wisconsin) Capital Times, the Bushistas claim it's because the UNPF helps China manage a coercive family planning program. But, uh...that ain't true, nor is it true the last two times the Bushes used it for an excuse. The UNPF "has not, does not and will not ever condone or support coercive activities," says executive director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid. The ED's statements are backed up by several fact-finding missions, including one by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

What the UNPF does do, however, is provide maternal health care, family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention services for poor residents in more than 140 countries. And since the Bush malAdministration is blocking the $34 million promised, U.N. experts estimate it could lead to 800,000 induced abortions because women won't be able to obtain contraceptive devices, as well as tens of thousands of maternal and infant deaths due to lack of health care.

Look, obviously this is a bone thrown to the rabid pro-"life" crowd who really don't give a damn about kids - especially poor, not-white ones - once they're out of the womb. And frankly, I doubt they really care about them in the first place. Being so blindly pro-"life" just allows one to take a moral high ground and look down at all those dirty people having all that sinful, nasty sex.

You wanna help out? Go to www.34millionfriends.org and learn some more. And settle down, my morally indignant friends, this isn't about abortion. This is about helping children. You cats are pro-child, right? You wanna help, right?

A tip of the Stetson to my boyhood idol and a great American Joe Bob Briggs for the heads up.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Hey, ummm....George...ya might wanna pay attention to this...

Raging dingaling >Sun Myung Moon has apparently been supplying North Korea - you remember, the third side of the Isosceles Triangle Of Evil - with old Soviet submarines that still have their launch tubes and stabilizing gear intact. So, yeah...an unstable nutjob gives another unstable nutjob old Rooskie subs that, according to Reuters and Jane's Defense Weekly - and, for what it's worth, U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency documents - could conceivably target California.

So...why are we in Iraq again?

For more information, go to John Gorenfeld's excellent blog. He goes after Moon constantly and with the tenacity of a snapping turtle. I put this up for two reasons. One, to give props to John, a very fine writer and investigative journalist (and a fine ballroom dancer, I'm told). Secondly, it stuns me we got a whackjob like Moon running around loose in this country with as much power as he has.

How much power does he have? Well, he owns The Washington Times, considered the primo newspaper for your average Beltway right-winger that manages to stay in business despite losing tens of millions of dollars a year. He also owns United Press International, a wire service like Reuter's or Associated Press. He's also pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into Republican campaigns and causes, like the Nicaraguan Freedom Fund (which raised private donations for them commie-smashing Contras).

And finally, he's recently proclaimed himself the world's messiah, or more specifically, the Savior, Messiah and King of Kings of all of humanity" by such luminaries as God, Jesus, Mohammed, and Buddha as well much odder choices as Karl Marx and Joseph Stalin. Who were Communists. And atheists. Yeah. What kills me is - and sit down for this beloved - none of this is considered "news" by the mainstream media! Darn that anti-religion liberal press.

Folks, this is who we got backing some of the heavy hitters on the right side of the aisle in Washington. Not only is he a full-on, bull-goose looney, but Moon is, umm...trading with the enemy. And how's Michael Moore a traitor again? Anyhow, do check out John's website.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Well, yeah...

Honestly, I don't know what's funnier. The Catholic Church issued a statement that said modern feminism's struggle for silly things like equality and shared power - silly gals! - was undermining the "traditional concept of family and creating a climate where gay marriages are seen as acceptable". Hey, makes sense. A woman making equal pay for equal work is exactly the same as two adults in a loving, committed relationship fully protected by the law. Oh, wait...you mean the Church thinks those are bad things. Gotcha.

Now, the kicker. Apparently, some people are
pissed off that the Church would say such things. What gets me, dear hearts, is that those people are shocked, shocked I tell you, the Church's stance would be thus.

Beloved, this is the Catholic Church we're talking about, not the ACLU. This is the same bunch of yay-hoos who not only refuses to let half of it's own membership be priests (women, for you folks who're a bit slow), they reacted to the whole "molester priest" scandal by simply shuffling offending priests to other dioceses. This is not a bunch of guys who're traditionally down with women and gays. Or reality, if you wanna consider how long it took 'em to say that Galileo may've been onto something there.

What's funny - well, not really - is that the Church seems to be basing all the world's ills directly in the lap of women. Women, they say, have to be "adversaries of men" in order to be themselves. In other words, I suppose, if guys and dolls want to get along, you ladies need to basically sit down and shut up. Granted, there were some nice bones in the Church's statement, such as calling on governments to make it easier for families to get by rather than stigmatizing women who work outside the home. Still, there's this air of patronization in even that, as if a woman who didn't have to work wouldn't want to.

As always, celestials, whatever you use to get through the night is jake with me, as long as you don't use it to stomp down on others trying to get through the night. Unfortunately, that little bit of wisdom doesn't apply here.