Monday, May 17, 2004

Imagine the Negotiation

From the Denver Post, Sunday, May 16, 2004:

"'Bugs Bunny' star Greg Burson was arrested Wednesday after barricading himself inside his Los Angeles home for six hours. Burson, 54, provides the voices for children's cartoon favorites Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Yogi Bear. He replaced Mel Blanc in 1989 after Blanc's death.

"Two women called police claiming Burson was holding his roommate hostage. A SWAT team arrested an inebriated Burson after several hours of negotiations. Police discovered guns in his home. The tree women, all Burson's roommates, were unharmed."

Can you imagine THAT negotiation?

Negotiator: "Sir, please come out and release the hostages."

Burson (as Elmer Fudd): "Be vewwy quiet. I'm hunting WABBITS!"

Negotiator: "Mr. Burson, can I call you Greg? Greg, you appear to be very upset, why don't we just talk about it?"

Burson (as Bugs Bunny): "Of course you realize, this means war."

Negotiator: "Come on Greg, I like Bugs as much as the next guy, but you have some people with you who are very frightend."

Burson (as Yosemite Sam): "Aahhh hates rabbits."

Negotiator: (To himself) "Dear, Lord." (To Burton) "Uh, Greg, have you been drinking?"

Burson (as Daffy Duck): "None of your beeth-wathx! (hic!)"

Negotiator: (Trying to distract) "Greg, are you a sports fan?"

Burson (as Foghorn Leghorn): "Ah say, there's somethin', Ah say, there's just something' eeeewwwww about a boy that don't like baseball."

Negotiator: (To his fellow officers:) I say we drag him out of his doghouse and paddle his ass with a two by four.

Burson: (as Yogi Bear): "Uh, do any of you guys happen to have a pic-a-nic basket?"

Go ahead! Make up of some of your own! It just goes on forever!

Give me a Break
by John Stossel

Give Me a Break by John Stossel is perhaps the first book of its type where I've agreed with everything. Even Al Franken's brilliant Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them had a couple things I hoisted an eyebrow at. However John nails it on down the line. He calls himself a conservative, but I think anyone moderate would find themselves agreeing with all of his points. Those on the far left ("lefty loonies") and the far right ("wingnuts") will find much to argue with (though wingnuts will find less).

I think the labels "liberal" and "conservative" are no longer useful. They're like trying to describe someone light-hearted as "gay" anymore; the meaning of the word has changed so vastly that the historical usage is obsolete, to say the least. I am loathe to identify myself as anything but "liberal" because I feel that the Neocon "revolution" has been a pretty terrible thing, matched only by the loony left's introduction of Identity Politics and Political Correctness. (Perhaps they balance one another out and that's why they both exist.) But "liberal" is now identified with the loony left, and - egad - socialism (if not communism for the more rapid wingnuts).

Socialism as the primary form of economic structure is sure disaster. It is incompatible with human nature (and I don't assume human nature is bad, like many do); it just doesn't work that way. Capitalism is really the most progressive and egalitarian political and economic structure that we've come up with so far. However, I believe that we need to have the government perform some things for us that a pure capitalistic model can't really accomplish, such as infrastructure (highways and waterways), the military, and keeping the peace. Where I stand out as a "classic liberal"* (in the historical sense, not the pejorative sense of the term now) is I feel public education and basic medical needs fall into that category. I don't think the government should take them over wholesale, because unlike interstate highways, the military and the police, competition from the public sector helps the quality of schools and hospitals. But, as we've seen with private religious schools and HMOs, portions of those in need are automatically cut out due to religious or political beliefs for the prior, and health reasons and/or employment status for the latter. Thus, the government has to provide public education** and we should move to some sort of basic medical care that everyone has access to.

*Stossel uses the term to describe himself, too. Camille Paglia described the same basic political outlook as "Libertarian Democrat," which makes Republicans chuckle, because, despite all evidence to the contrary, they identify themselves as the sole party that preaches noninterference from the government. "Classic Liberal" or "Libertarian Democrat" makes no big diff to me, personally. I just wish there were an easier descriptive term that didn't require qualifiers.

**For the record, Vouchers for education is simply a tax scam, wherein those who can afford private schools want to exclude themselves from paying for public schools. Look at it this way, what if everyone who belonged to an HMO or those who could afford health insurance wanted to exclude themselves from Medicare and Medicaid on the basis that they didn't need it? A wingnut would say "great!" but I think the rest of us with any sense of responsibility for helping those in need think it's just selfish and greedy. Wignuts just can't seem to imagine ending up in a place where they just might need those little social safety nets someday. I don't think we should let their shortsightedness make the rest of us blind.

Other than that, let the market work it out. I lost my job due (in part) to the current idiocy in software development where they're trying to ship it out to foreign countries. The market will correct this mistake and things will be OK, but for now we've got to go through a cycle of stupidity before the CEOs figure out that the language barrier and social mores of other societies have a greater effect on software development than, say, making a shirt. But I don't think the government should step in and do anything about it; let the market work it out, because it will.

I believe in personal freedom and individual rights and the government staying the hell out of my life unless I'm harming someone else (or their property, etc.). This is where I, again, am a "classic liberal" as liberals have always stood for individual rights and conservatives have always wanted the government to legislate morality. The Drug War (with it's odious "civil asset forfeiture") and the PATRIOT Act are both examples of egregious overstepping by the government, and both are products of the wingnuts. How the Republican party has been able to paint themselves as the party that stands up for rights and privacy, I'll never know.

Franken's book and Stossel's book have a lot in common actually. They both champion about the same things. Yet one calls himself a liberal (the current meaning) and the other conservative (the current meaning, too). So, "liberal" and "conservative" are no longer descriptive if two guys who agree on so many points identify themselves with labels that are currently so diametrically opposed.

I can't recommend both books enough. If everyone in the electorate would read both of these before the next election, it would be wonderful, and America would be better off for it.

Friday, May 14, 2004

The Thing That Bugs Me the Most About the Whole Wingnut Cabal...

Sun Myung Moon owns and manages the Washington Times, which spouts a lot of the wingnut* propaganda, and is part of the so-called "echo chamber" that includes Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove's machinations of the press, and Fox "News." This is the same guy who started the Moonies, the most famous cult ever, partially for brainwashing its inductees. Moon also claims to be the second coming of Jesus Christ.

*A "wingnut" is someone who is a hardcore right-wing conservative Republican, also called a "neocon" these days. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, Ann "shock shrew" Coulter, Sean Hannity, Tom DeLay, Newt "the Godfather" Gingrich, and the late but not lamented Lee Atwater are all examples of this sour breed. They are a worse threat than communism or even socialism (both themselves pretty incompatible with our free republic) to America, and unchecked may really turn America into one of those squabbling hell-holes we often refer to as "the third world." That is their vision. They want to be kings of the garbage heap. Power is their goal and their end. Democracy and a strong America are NOT their goal. Historical, moderate Republicans do not fit into the category of "wingnut," as they have championed smaller, less intrusive government, and have historically been interested in preserving privacy and human rights. Wingnuts will throw you in jail if you get in the way, which is evident by their latest clusterfuck of American liberties called "The PATRIOT Act" passed in the heat of the attack on our nation by Islamic fanatics. The PATRIOT Act is the red-headed bastard step-child of the Drug War, which introduced "civil asset forfeiture" into our laws, allowing the government to take your money and possessions without proof or even conviction of guilt. You can't paint it any other way, these people are evil, and as anti-American as it gets. The Founding Fathers would beat these guys to death like rats found nibbling on children's toes.

Even more surreal, the self-proclaimed Christian warriors like Jerry Falwell (btw, I've always thought his name was a bit of a cosmic joke on God's part: "fall well"), Pat Roberson, and the odious Ralph Reed are all in bed with Moon, participating with him in the drive for the dubious "faith-based initiative" that increases "religious participation in government-funded social services." Let's stop and really look at this. Moon claims to be Jesus Christ. Falwell and his ilk claim to preach the Gospel, and claim to be the holiest men we could know. Yet they pal around with a guy that essentially proclaims one of the biggest most egregious heresies one can commit, and claims something that anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the Gospel would know is a outright lie. Not that many Christians take these guys seriously as legitimate Christian leaders or examples, but this is a particular hypocrisy that would be rather easy for any newsperson worth their salt to spell out even to the simplest audience (meaning even the viewers of Fox "News" would understand it).

And our current wingnut administration pals around with Moon. This guy created a cult so powerful that getting people deprogrammed from it has been a cottage industry since its inception. Again, the people who run our country are close with a guy who started a cult whose main goal is to immediately remove all freedom and independent thought while emptying their bank account. (I guess the parallels aren't so mysterious after all.)

The Washington Post, owned and controlled by Moon, is somehow taken seriously as a news outlet, when it clearly is just a propaganda machine for the wingnuts. Now, I can see them being happy with having such a powerful media machine, but have they stopped to consider that Moon's motives for undermining legitimate news might be different than theirs? (Not that undermining legitimate news is ever a good thing.)

In the aftermath of the two World Wars, America passed laws that barred foreign people or corporations from owning any media outlets in America because they had seen the power of propaganda in Germany, and then in communist Russia. They rightly feared that if a powerful foreign interest could control, suppress, and manipulate our free press to subtly, or not so subtly, force their propaganda on us, enough people who don't pay attention would slowly adopt those ideas, and they would have won with words rather than bombs. Those laws were abolished in the massive deregulation under Reagan. And here we are, right where "the greatest generation" feared we would be: the vast majority of our media owned is by powerful foreigners, and a good portion of it is just a propaganda echo chamber that undermines our free press and thus our freedom. Rupert Murdoch, another wingnut propagandist who owns a lot of media, including Fox "News," at least is not the leader of a religious cult, and hasn't proclaimed publicly he's Jesus. But why are these foreign owners all pushing the wingnut agenda? Because they think it's good for America? If you believe that, perhaps you should become a Moonie.

Why do we allow Moon to own the Washington Times? Why aren't other (competing) media outlets crowing from the rooftops about this insanity? Why are the most powerful people in the world allowing this loon among them? Why do congregations allow their so-called religious leaders to still lead them when those leaders go do lunch with Moon after church?

This will be my new gauntlet that wingnuts will have to pass to even begin discussing politics. If you do business with someone like Moon, don't expect to talk to me about freedom, and patriotism, and doing what's best for our beloved country.

Thursday, May 13, 2004


"Designer Virus Stalks HIV"

Queue up R.E.M.'s It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine). Has someone alerted Stephen King?

C.S. Lewis wrote in A Grief Observed (which was started as a personal journal of his grief over the loss of his wife, but was eventually published) that grief feels like fear and it makes you lazy. He also observed how pervasive it is, that it's "like the sky" because no matter where you go and what you do, there it is. As he didn't have children of his own (his wife had one from a previous marriage), and because it was his wife he lost and not a child, he wasn't able to observe that losing a child alters your priorities as much as having one does. Perhaps because he didn't return to the work to say so, it's also true that you eventually begin to crawl out from under the false sky and find the real world again.

But, as with all life passages, you carry some permanent marks from it. I was afraid my sense of humor had been permanently damaged, for one. It appears to be intact for the most part, but it still doesn't boot up as quickly as it used to. Some of the dark humor that twentysomethings find funny in their movies and songs now strikes me as simply childish and annoying. The disregard I see people display toward each other moves me to anger more quickly than it used to; some poltroon observed on the comments to a thoughtful post on religion on another blog that people who are religious are that way because of "a character flaw." I can't imagine what kind of an asshole that person must be in real life.

TLD: Neither the blog or the comments ever supposed that religion stems from the members believing that the events that gave rise to their beliefs actually occurred as described; that Jesus really walked the earth, for instance. It was just assumed it was an organic thing that arose from an evolutionary need or some other function of the machine we call our bodies, as if we were merely tubes of chemicals that react to catalysts. It amazes me that people can observe their own consciousness, but then turn right around and disregard it as an entity unto itself and downgrade it to, for all practical purposes, an assembly of legos, strings, motors, and a computer chip or two - particularly when they contemplate someone other then themselves (because of course they give themselves a little more credit than they do all the other poor schmoes around them). Has the whole "intellectual" world dissolved into solipsism and post-modern bullshit? (I am increasingly of the opinion that perhaps one of the most evil ideas unleashed upon the world is post-modernism, because it really does preach that everyone is the anti-Howard the Duck and we all live in the world WE, our own little selves, have created. The first creep back towards the ovens of Auschwitz is the downgrading of everyone around you to just another program in your Matrix, Coppertop.)

But then, many things are more dear, too. Way too dear, sometimes. I've always had a soft spot for the elderly. Now that I approach the terminal that will fly me to the hub that connects to the hub that leads to old age, I empathize with them even more. When I watch a bent little old lady or old man make their way to their car, the handicapped parking spots just don't seem close enough. To imagine they were once as clear-eyed and strong as I am now, but now are exhausted by a single trip to the grocery store, just breaks my heart. The few, minor indignities of aging that I currently face are nothing compared to that. I know we typically grow happier and more content as we age (I can personally attest to that), and I know that the very octogenarian I describe above will often flash you a beaming smile if you say hello, but still, it's daunting to contemplate being that age.

My father-in-law, who's a medical doctor, observed that he sees two kinds of people at the end of life: those who are carrying every slight, every insult, and all the pain they've ever experienced, and those who have found a way to put down their baggage. I can see why we all should strive to be the latter.

So, how to go about it? Especially after something goes terribly wrong?

Well, if you believe in God, specifically if you're a Christian, you can give a lot of it to God. But, since most Christians already know that, and everybody else just rolls their eyes when they hear it, I'll not belabor that here. Those of you in the club know how valuable this is.

A practical daily approach is to search out joy. To purposely hunt for fun. When something bad has happened, what is now fun may be different from what it used to be. In a way, it's an opportunity to renew your life. You aren't necessarily starting over, but certainly the time has come to have a fresh look at everything.

For instance, my approach to literary novels is completely different. I used to have the patience to read them in their entirety even when they committed most of the sins that current literary novels do. Now I chuck'em early and often. Life's too damn short to be bored by a narcissist with a leaden tongue.

When "Friends" signed off, I no longer had any scripted TV shows that I watch. I've tried to get interested in new ones, even some of the new nifty sci-fi-esque ones that appeal to my tastes. I don't know what it is, but I'm usually so far ahead of the writer, or they are depending too much on my being rapt in the spell of a pretty young face, I can barely make it to the second commercial break. It's an open secret that the television industry will not hire writers above the age of 40, thinking they are automatically out of touch and will not attract younger viewers, which to the blinkered money men are the sole reason TV exists. I think that's the crux of the problem for me. I no longer am pining after the hot babe, because she's sitting next to me on the couch already. I don't want to see gratuitous baby/child in peril plots written by someone who obviously doesn't have children; they simply don't understand what they're dealing with. I'm not a cop, or a lawyer, or a doctor, or (dear Lord) a forensic pathologist (how did that icky profession become such a TV mainstay?), so those worlds don't particularly interest me. I don't want shows about God that purposely ignore Judeo-Christianity (they're like a balloon with no air in it). Get some grownups out there!

We got my daughter a guitar, and my wife and I have to negotiate who gets to pluck around on it when she's done practicing. When I was younger and had daydreams of being a rock star, I took lessons for about a year. I abandoned them because I noticed that what had happened to me with literature was about to happen with music. When you become enough of an expert in the mechanizations of an art form, your pleasure is somehow compromised by your inner voice noticing a clunky sentence in the middle of a good story, or a bad brush stroke in a painting, or a bad note in a song. Your expertise jades you and you can never experience that art form in a pure sense again. I didn't want to lose the innocent and visceral experience I have with music, and end up sniffing at some songs on the radio because they were so simple, like I've heard every music major I've even known do.

However, now, especially since corporate monopolies have squashed the music industry (radio and retail) into irrelevance, I'm not so concerned about picking out the chords of a tune, and commenting to myself that there might have been a better choice. I'm ready to be tainted. Perhaps it will be a new way into music, since commercial radio is ruined for now.

So, one of the ways I'm putting down the baggage of life is by picking up a guitar. And books that are fun, not dull. Continuing to point out to rude atheists that they're not as smart as they think they are. Watching the rain and how hummingbirds are most active after a big storm, as if the half-hour break from drinking sugar water nearly killed them. Making my daughter laugh so hard she falls down. Writing blog entries only when I feel like it. Pointing out that Bush probably has the worst administration we've had in my lifetime (and that includes Nixon); I think you'd have to go back to Taft to find a worse one. Telling everyone who will listen to make sure they see The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind at some point. And ...

Friday, May 07, 2004

"I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message. "

Does that odd little intro/tag line for Bush baby's campaign commercials give anyone else the creeps?

I half expect that running chick from the first macintosh ad to run into the room and fling something into the TV, for Christ's sake.

I've noticed that a couple Kerry ads have the same thing: "I'm John Kerry, and I approve this." It must be some weird new law, or just another result of dirty politics, where the candidate has to admit he's really seen his own ad. {Heavy sigh}

Monday, May 03, 2004

Patriot Act Suppresses News Of Challenge to Patriot Act
By Dan Eggen

The American Civil Liberties Union disclosed yesterday that it filed a lawsuit three weeks ago challenging the FBI's methods of obtaining many business records, but the group was barred from revealing even the existence of the case until now.

The lawsuit was filed April 6 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, but the case was kept under seal to avoid violating secrecy rules contained in the USA Patriot Act, the ACLU said. The group was allowed to release a redacted version of the lawsuit after weeks of negotiations with the government.

"It is remarkable that a gag provision in the Patriot Act kept the public in the dark about the mere fact that a constitutional challenge had been filed in court," Ann Beeson, the ACLU's associate legal director, said in a statement. "President Bush can talk about extending the life of the Patriot Act, but the ACLU is still gagged from discussing details of our challenge to it."

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the case.

Read the rest here (registration pia required).