Friday, January 28, 2005

Postcard from Vichy

The week before the election, travel between areas is forbidden. The foreign-occupying military begins blowing huge craters in most roads, in order to prevent driving. Polling places are kept secret until the morning of the vote. The streets are full of armored vehicles and the skies are full of helicopters and fighter jets. On election day, a complete curfew means that driving is prohibited everywhere. Water, power, and telecom service (mobile phones, telephone, and Internet) are erratic, and there are rumors that telecoms will simply be turned off on election day. Rebels are blowing up potential polling sites and party headquarters; candidates are advised to stay home and remain anonymous. The foreign military is determining where people may vote and is accused of arranging for supporters of its preferred slate to go vote in areas that lean toward the rebels. The occupier-installed temporary government is paying cash to journalists. Whether the occupation is just or not is irrelevant for a moment. Whether you believe the invader's motives are good or evil, ask yourself: Does this situation sound like a free people are about to exercise their fundamental right of self-determination? Or does it sound like the recipe for a puppet government?

Truer words were never, in fact, spoken

Juan Cole has "the speech the President should have given" in the late-2002 preparation for the invasion of Iraq.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The world is a better place because of liberals

I'm a liberal, and I'm proud of it. The modern Republican party has tried to redefine "liberal" to mean "evil". That is a form of projection: Republican policies are destroying the best gains in freedom that this country has made. Republicans are fighting for changes that benefit corporations and wealthy individuals at the expense of the rest of us. They do so from greed, selfishness, and lust for power. They would increase liberty for themselves and reduce it for everyone else. "Liberal" means striving for the good things that have accrued to all Americans in the way of freedom, liberty, and justice. The Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation, decisions such as Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Act—these embody the ideals of liberals. The things that secure liberty to ourselves and our posterity have been achieved and defended by liberals. Without liberals... Do you want to live in a world like that? Liberals throughout American history won these victories for us, and so-called "conservatives" are now reversing them all. Who cares more about freedom and liberty? The people who won us the right to find a job, get married, take out a library book, and travel around America all without government dictating who, what, when, and where? Or the people who torture innocent prisoners? who plot to strip the safety net away and make destitute more and more of our people? who investigate and persecute law-abiding citizens for simply doubting out loud whether the government is entirely honest, for their choice of bumper stickers and posters, or even for no reason other than that they can? Start with the modern Pharisees like Pat Robertson and James Dobson. They should be sat down and made to listen to Hugh Blumenfeld. They ignore the liberal teaching of the Gospels in favor of the dictatorial nature of Paul and the prophets. "Conservatives" love the wrath and legalism of Leviticus and pay only lip service to the admonition about "whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers." They hate sin and hate sinners. Do you think the modern Republican party is going to defend freedom of religion? It's "conservatives"—including both Presidents Bush!—who are going along with the movement to have Sun Myung Moon crowned King of America and the cross torn down from churches all over the country. It's "conservatives" who are telling Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, agnostics, Presbyterians, and many others that they aren't entitled to the same protections as evangelicals. It's "conservatives" who announced that "separate but equal" was a just outcome. By claiming that "it is not the province of the court to decide upon the justice or injustice, the policy or impolicy, of these laws", such "conservatives" lie: they truly do decide, and they decide that the injustice done is exactly what they want. In their judging, they find others undeserving of fair treatment, let alone of encouragement or improvement. In contrast, John F. Kennedy said that "liberalism [...] is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man's ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves." I'm grateful for and to liberals. I'd grateful for people like Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King. They make me proud to be an American and eager to try to live up their standards.

Senators, vote NO on torture

I'm disappointed that Condoleezza Rice has been named Secretary of State. If lying doesn't disqualify her from being our top diplomat, wouldn't being caught lying at least demonstrate her lack of the requisite skill? There's another fight, though, so let's stay in the ring: Alberto Gonzales went out of his way to find justification for torture. He directed an effort to declare international law invalid and to validate illegal presidential actions. He lied about all of this under oath. I oppose the confirmation of Gonzales as Attorney General, and I urge the Senate—especially my Senators, Boxer and Feinstein—to reject him.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Much yet to do

In a very long review of three mediocre books comparing America and Europe, Tony Judt indicts America on the charge of being mediocre and getting worse. Judt's role call of statistics showing the United States behind the rest of the world is overwhelming.

Let's talk about me

This is mere speculation—the result of human drive to find cause in coincidence. But here are two items I encountered today. The President routinely fumbles language, but he expresses an extremely high opinion of his government. Perhaps his high self-esteem leads him to excessive confidence in his words? Language matters, and clumsy right-wing language is easily revealed as no more intelligent or successful than Humpty Dumpty:
"We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy," said Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of the organization that calls itself "al-Qaeda in Iraq." Zarqawi is the bogeyman that the U.S. government currently blames for almost everything that has gone wrong in Iraq, but he does speak essentially the same language as President George W. Bush. [...] Bush speeches are a treasure-trove of innocent fun. His speech-writers took the quote about having "lit a fire in the hearts of men" from Fyodor Dostoevsky, presumably not realizing that they were quoting a bunch of terrorists who featured in his novel The Devils [...]
This week, we find out that a person's level of self-esteem does not correlate to their academic success, job performance, quality of relationships, or tendencies toward violence or crime. It does correlate with overestimating themselves in these areas:
Self-esteem doesn't predict who will make a good leader, and some work [...] has found humility rather than self-esteem to be a key trait of successful leaders. [...] After all these years, I'm sorry to say, my recommendation is this: Forget about self-esteem and concentrate more on self-control and self-discipline.

Summing up the fall 2004 Limb Crawling Tour

In the six months since I suspended my own blog, among many one-liners, I made a few more substantial appearances online:

  • I explained, on Edgewise, why I don't believe I'm morally bound to be polite to most conservatives when the subject of politics comes up.
  • I reviewed the 15 sitting presidents' re-election bids since 1890 and explained, in a Daily Kos comment, why Bush wouldn't win: "In more than a century, no sitting president other than FDR has won reelection during a down economy—even when there was a strong success overseas, let alone an unpopular and unsuccessful foreign military affair." This one falls into the bucket labelled "Why They Play the Games."
  • Once the voters defied my logic, I analyzed, on Edgewise, why Bush's election performances are the worst by a two-termer in the past 100 years.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

And you may ask yourself, "My god, what have I done?!"

I've been married almost two decades. I'm the father of a girl (9) and a boy (6), who only updates his family's web page every few months or when some disaster strikes. I'm spending this year on a serious-literature chain gang known as the Gravity's Rainbow Deathmarch, which means I'm on about page 180 of 760 with a couple dozen other fools. I organize a soccer league for children with special needs. I edit books and chat on an e-mail list for editors. I'm usually proud of America. I know we have our shortcomings, but any country that can put Paul Wellstone, Dennis Kucinich, and Barbara Boxer in national office isn't completely bad. (Though I wish Ms. Boxer were more liberal.) I'm a sports fan. My favorites are baseball (L.A. Dodgers) and football (USC Trojans), but I'm willing to pay attention to the championship of almost any athletic contest, because I think humans striving to be better than their limits, better than their past, is sublime. (Almost, I say, because I believe boxing should be outlawed.) I have volunteered a lot—donating blood, working polling places, studying wildlife, serving on boards. We haven't done enough, because the world is still painful and muddy and hungry. Keep going.

Monday, January 24, 2005


I've spent long enough on hiatus. It's time to come off the sidelines and back into the game, I think. (If you want to see what went before, my Radio UserLand site archives are, at this moment, here. If I figure out a better way than just a marginal link to incorporate those two years' worth of noodlings into this version of the blog, I'll try to remember to come back and update this post. Sprouting wings and flying is also on my long-term to-do list.) In dumping Radio, I'm giving up hosting my own files for ease of access and cost. This shouldn't be a big deal, but I'll be jittery for a while; control freakdom is an addiction not lightly broken. I haven't had time to customize a template and its CSS, and I'm not happy about having my words at the mercy of Google's TOS. But I think I'll post more often and more effectively if I can do so through a browser. And I know I can't rely on Radio through all the changes I plan for the computers in our household (that damn program gives up the ghost every time you upgrade an OS, let alone swap out a drive). So: here goes. If Blogger is good enough for my sister, then it'll have to be good enough for me.