Thursday, September 27, 2007

Front-running is making America wheeze

Few things define Americans as well as success - or, at least, love for success. If someone or something is successful, legions of admirers will follow. A rich person automatically has lots of friends and a strong support network. A sports team at the top of its game will have its colors worn across the country. Many people in committed relationships find themselves in constant temptation, because desirability is contagious.

Of course, a rich person who loses everything becomes an isolated object of ridicule and derision. A first-to-worst sports team not only loses much of its luster, but steadfast fans become objects of ridicule by those who jumped ship. A person in a dry patch love-wise often enters a vicious cycle that makes them increasingly unattractive to potential suitors.

Sadly, life is like that. We pull for the front-runners while putting down the disadvantaged. Everybody loves a winner, right? And everyone hates a loser. In today's America, you're either 16-0 or 0-16. No one is 8-8 anymore.

This polarized thinking is typified in our leadership. The Bush administration has an attitude of, "We're either all right or all wrong. And we aren't wrong." Which, of course, is why they enjoyed 90 percent popularity in a time of crisis, and polled at 27 percent once the public realized the disaster inherent in their policies.

The "with us or against us" attitude brought forth by this regime has exacerbated the already unfortunate fickleness that Americans possess. It's become virtually the only way we're able to latch onto anything, be it friends, associates, sports teams or love. We're so afraid of failure - or worse, to be associated with anything less than perfect - that we're unable to see the strength in believing in something worthwhile that occasionally shows weakness.

By now you may be asking, "Is he making an argument that we shouldn't jump ship from the Dubya bandwagon because they are now at a low point?" No, I'm not. There's a significant difference between criticizing someone for their deliberate actions and doing so because they may or may not be succeeding. Even if the war in Iraq was a triumph, I would still not support it because it was an illegal invasion done on false pretenses. Conversely, if the cause was strong, but the outcome was the same as it is now, I'd support staying the course. An astute observer is able to separate victory from virtue.

Still, maybe we ought to admit that nobody is perfect. No one is all right or all wrong, and not everything/everyone is worth abandoning just because it/they aren't at the top of their game. Anyone who tries and means well - even in the face of setback and failure - is one deserving of support, regardless of outcome. New Orleans Saints fans get it, and so should the rest of America. Maybe then we'd have less of a Top-40 mentality and a more accurate gauge of what's worthwhile.

Life ebbs and flows. When it's in the right place, support never should.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Why I get my news from print and the Internet

Last night, I was watching a local newscast. Local news, weather - so far, so good. Towards the end, however, the affiliate suddenly went to its "Fox reporter in Washington," who gave a very editorialized take on the New York Times/ advertising incident (with the Coulter-esque argument that the reduced ad rate obviously meant the two were in cahoots). As the "reporter" went on, I thought about how the White House got busted a couple of years ago for assembling pro-administration segments and offering them to local networks to run as straight reports (which many did).

I swear I heard my TV breathe a sigh of relief as I turned it off.

Facial odometers

A lot can happen in nine years, and it can show in your face. Below are two case studies; in both cases, the photo on the left is from 1998 and the one on the right is from 2007.

Name: Britney Spears
Born: December 2, 1981
Advantages: Young; cute; rich; access to flattering photographers, personal trainers and dietitians; adored by millions the world over

Name: Ian McGibboney
Born: May 8, 1980
Advantages: Occasional sense of personal sanity; nonsmoker; has never been married to Kevin Federline; has valid driver's license

The moral of this story? Don't ever do a song called "E-mail My Heart." That'll come back to haunt you. Also, stay off the substances, kids.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A simple riddle for conservatives

If is the official voice of the Democratic Party, then why are the Democrats trying so hard to censure them through official acts of Congress?

(Answer: To get to the other side)

With this insane act, the Democrats have officially neutered themselves as an anti-war voice. Republicans have nothing to worry about, yet again. Despite the vast majority of American people now opposing the Iraq war and being given the perfect opportunity for pressing the Bush administration, the Democrats instead clamor to dismiss a perfectly legit message just because they don't want to look bad in the GOP's eyes.

Object to the presentation if you want, Democrats, but you lose what little respect you still have by going along with this unnecessary madness. This is what Republicans do in the Bush era - kill important issues by wagging their diseased fingers at the messenger (Dan Rather and, to name two). Thats not surprising. What is surprising is that the Pelosi Democrats are playing along. Why, Mary? Why, Claire?


Monday, September 17, 2007

Thoughts spurred by random discussion boards

--Drug testing for public-assistance recipients would cause more problems than it solves. Presumably, if someone tested positive, they would be denied their assistance. And because most jobs nowadays require drug testing, they couldn't get that either. This all makes for a nice and superficial moral lesson, sure, but what do people with no money and ineligibility for a job do? Commit crimes, and often violent ones. Anyway, addiction is a disease, one that needs more than a tsk-tsk to treat.

--Personally, I've never been indignant about where welfare recipients spend their money. They simply spend it the same way everyone else does: on whatever junk food, substances and material goods they think will help them feel good about themselves. Food stamps restrict what can be bought, so the poor are actually the ones we should least be concerned about in this regard.

--Unfurling an "Impeach" banner at a baseball game is not un-American, even (hell, especially) when veterans are being honored. There should be nothing offensive about any peaceful expression, because that's what makes the United States worth defending. Support for troops and support for the president are two different animals, particularly at this point in time. Veterans should understand that; the ones holding the banner certainly did.

Several who opposed the banner ignored the message itself and made nitpicky arguments about whether or not the ballpark is a private venue. It is, of course, and the owners had every right to escort them out if they feel they disturbed the peace (they did, but not until the end of the game). But equating a baseball stadium to a private home or lodge does little justice to freedom of expression and assembly. In an age where big businesses are increasingly buying up all available space and many common areas are but playgrounds for crackheads, speech vigilance is more pertinent than ever.

Over the years, I've seen plenty of Jesus-centric, anti-abortion and other right-wing rallying points expressed with no opposition at public events. While running in a cancer benefit in 2001, I watched a gospel group overtake a karaoke booth and ask everyone if they believed in Jesus Christ as their personal savior. I recall thinking how fast I'd have been escorted out of there had I tried to publicly contest Bush's election. Enforcement of such rules should at least be consistent.

--If John Ashcroft didn't want the media to cover a speech he made, he should not have done it at a PUBLIC university, paid for by public funds and with the public invited.

--Unlike most people, I'm not peeved about having to dial 1 for English. I'm madder that the person on the other line is halfway around the world and being forced into a fake accent in the middle of their night, all because an American worker was too expensive for the same task.

--The Ten Commandments are not the basis of U.S. law; only two are, and less so for Christian reasons than for what I call the "Duh" factor. Don't murder or steal? Even athiests can agree on those! The rest are not illegal and/or specifically steeped in dogma.

--Regarding apologies for slavery and genocide: History may be in the past, but acknowledging it, conceding its injustice and pledging to rise above it is the least we can do to ensure that we don't repeat the worst moments of history. What's wrong with that?

Another flop for top cop?

I don't know much about Michael Mukasey, George W. Bush's pick for attorney general. But if the BBC is correct, he's just destined to be bad:

Bush said Mr. Mukasey, 66, had the right qualifications for the job and was "clear-eyed about the threat our nation faces."

Well, that says it all, doesn't it? This is the same president who said he looked into Vladimir Putin's eyes and "saw his soul." The same one who thought the president of the Arabian Horse Association was just the man to helm FEMA. The one who defended Alberto Gonzales even after Alberto himself decided to take a hike. Who thought hiring a Fox News correspondent was the best way to give the illusion of truth-telling. The one who sees nothing wrong with people like Harriet Miers, Monica Goodling, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and Ted Haggard influencing the politics of this country by sheer force of sycophantic cronyism.

When it comes to vision, Bush is running about 20/20,000. With such terrible vision, it's a wonder anyone let him pretend to be a fighter pilot.

Maybe the clear-eyed comment is a tacit admission on Bush's part that he needs someone to see the terror threat that way, because he can't. Oh, wait, no it isn't! The BBC describes Mukasey as "conservative but non-partisan." Which almost makes one want a partisan Republican, because at least then you know what you're getting.

Regardless of which interchangeable crony Bush puts in the attorney general seat, the message is this: Don't break the law. And don't do anything that might arbitrarily become against the law later.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

If I wrote as bad as Olindo Mare kicks...

It wfpiuld loock liek jfsddjkn ksujhv skd bsodvh bjkshv bshv vskdughsi ug isuegvsdkv gf sjdgvdjbsds djhvbsdvjsd dh sdjvsjde csjdhvsdv sdkjhsd sjfsefkweubskeh woehvleflgeroighedflbdv sdkjs fsefwjefhwehsnb soehgwkcdn nb kdrdvfeiuhf bdeifghdosvuh sreguvfhvxck bfvsfsdvsdv sdufhsdvb.

OK, it's not fair to single out one lousy person on an apparently lousy team. Well, maybe it is.

All I know is, most people have good and bad days on their job. But for the most part, they don't ever go to work for two weeks in a row completely forgetting how to execute their primary talents.

If this keeps up, Saints fans won't need paper bags; they'll need plastic bags. It's always painful to see the Saints lose, but it's twice as painful when we know they have what it takes to win.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

About time I wrote some new rules

Rule #39: Ear scrum

If you're at a public car wash and insist on blaring gratingly atrocious rap-metal at an ear-piercing volume while vacuuming your interior, other customers are within their full legal rights to blast high-pressure hoses at your stereo. This goes double if you're a Fred Durst-looking B-boy and triple if your vehicle is higher than six feet off the ground and tricked out like Paul Wall's teeth. Though this rule is strictly hypothetical, there's at least one guy living in Springfield, Missouri, who should really watch his windows.

Of course, this plague is symptomatic of a larger problem: young drivers who are as fervent about spreading the crappy-music gospel as Fred Phelps is with hate. When I worked for my college track team, one of our star runners (an otherwise cool guy who worked as a mechanic in his spare time) would sit in his car with all the doors open in the parking lot and blare the worst of the booty hip-hop genre for at least 20 minutes before practice. Sometimes he'd be late for drills, just so everyone could hear the $2,000 stereo he put in his $2,000 car. I wish I could say no one was impressed, but some were.

I take pride in the fact that some of my friends have no idea what I listen to. When they ride in my car, I offer them the radio, or I turn it off and we talk. This is out of consideration for others, amid the remote (heh!) possibility that they might not like my music. Why can't those who (unlike me) listen to bad music practice the same consideration?

Come to think of it, anyone whose tastes/beliefs necessitate hammering them into others' eardrums needs to turn down the bluster and get some inner security. Maybe then I'd actually want to listen to you.

Rule #40: When will enough be enough?

Impeach the Bush-Cheney regime. Saying it's too late now is like saying a 95-year-old is entitled to hack up a sorority house because it's too late to give him a life sentence. Short of that, the Democrats should at least show opposition of some sort, because that's why we voted in droves for them to take over Congress in 2006.

We already know what's going to happen if we continue to let this White House continue their fatally flawed policies: more of the same. Staying the course is their trademark, the achievement of which they're most proud. Such bad logic does not belong in office. It's common sense, Congress.

Rule #41: Get the lead out

Can corporate America finally, finally admit that saving a few cents in production costs is not worth it when it means products can cause brain damage or death?

Be it food or toys, foreign or domestic, we seem to be living in an age where anything from a factory (or otherwise touched by human hands) is of suspect quality. And while such concerns are nothing new, they seem to be rising in an age where federal regulations have been weakened by years of corporate-friendly policies. The more big business gets breaks at the expense of necessary oversight, the more these poisonings are going to happen.

Safety is expensive. Cutting corners for the sake of profits is cheap.

Rules archive

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Actual dueling quotes

"I have had many, many proud moments watching Ian, under intellectual fire, stand up for what he believes. That takes a lot of courage I would say." --Dad

"Oh Ian, your insults are so intricate." --My sister

"You used to be a lot more controversial."

I love my parents. And her. And my brother too.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

If I have to work eight hours a day...

Then the Saints should have to play more than one-and-a-half quarters of football. I want their money back!

41-10? 41-10?!! I quit watching LONG before that, and I'm your typical Saints fanatic/completely insane glutton for punishment.

Seriously, that SUCKED. The New Orleans Saints who took the field tonight were pathetic. They didn't show one sign of life after the second quarter, and flopping so miserably on national TV after such a great season only validates all the jerks who never give New Orleans (the city or the team) one ounce of respect. "They can't hang! It was a fluke after all!" It also gives the do-no-wrong-ever Indianapolis Colts one more feather in their already overstuffed cap.

I don't have faith in a lot of things, but I at least thought the Saints had changed. Tonight, nothing could have been further from the truth. And, given that I'm in Missouri and work many game nights, I may not see another Saints game all season. Maybe I shouldn't.

That's not to say that the Saints didn't have their good, even impressive, moments. It's just that none of that will matter if they can't stretch those things into a full game.

Also, we're about six years too late on that whole shut-down-Bush thing.

Sad, sad, sad.

(Note: I don't say any of this as an armchair quarterback who pretends it's easy or that I could have done better. I've played football and worked in collegiate sports. I know it's hard, exhausting and emotional. But I also know lack of heart when I see it. And I saw it in their faces tonight. And it was frightening.)

To end on a positive note, at least the Saints have the adversity they apparently need to triumph down the stretch. At least, I think that's a positive.

"The New Orleans Saints will disappoint. The city will have bigger things to worry about."

Fortunately, other media outlets are saying better things:

(Note: This was supposed to be up much, MUCH earlier, but none of my uploading servers were cooperating. It took me less time to write, film and edit the video than to upload it. I'll have to figure out a better way to do it.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

More press on why peace is evil

Yesterday I wrote about an incident at a Springfield Cardinals baseball game, in which the protest group Code Pink unfurled a small banner with the word "Impeach" at a game honoring disabled veterans. The group was thrown out of the game, ostensibly for disturbing the peace. How about that?

Local reaction to the incident has been almost universally against Code Pink, the most popular reaction being, "How dare such a group dishonor our veterans that way!" As I said yesterday, such a statement goes against everything veterans fight for. Freedom of speech one of our most basic rights as Americans, and its application can't harm anyone in nearly the same magnitude that war has. Also, too many people fail to make the distinction between the soldiers in the field and civilian political leadership. A call to "impeach" can only apply to one of those camps, the one that isn't the military.

Judging by the reactions to yesterday's article, however, nothing could be further from the truth. I'll spare you actual quotage, but the prevailing thought there can be summed up thus:

"Code Pink ruined the veterans' outing with such an outrageous act! They clearly have no appreciation for the veterans' sacrifices so that jerks like them can do what they did. Code Pink are terrorists just like al-Qaida, and good people should have beaten them up and put them in the hospital!"

Yes, someone actually said he wanted to put them in the hospital. Now that's how you stick up for the legacy of disabled veterans!

For those of you interested in a reasoned editorial against Code Pink (albeit one diametrically opposed to my own stance in many ways), read today's opinion page. Note that the writer makes no testosterone-laced physical threats, and does not equate any form of free speech with terrorism. Indeed, he argues that impeachment would be counter-productive and the real issue is how to handle the Iraq problem through bipartisan cooperation. Critics of Code Pink (and of impeachment itself) should take notes.

I urge anyone wanting to understand how the neocons have been able to run roughshod over the past decade - whether you're in Springfield, New Orleans, Washington or even the super-important New Hampshire - to look no further than this comment string. The problem isn't that this country has strayed from its roots, or even that political sentiment has simply swung. The problem runs deeper than that; many people have forgotten even the basic tenets of democracy, and these are currently the most-courted voters among a Republican Party increasingly clinging to its eroding support. True change begins with reminding Americans what such a label means in the first place.

Only then can civil dialogue on the issues happen.

Veterans peeved by call for impeachment

Want to read something sad?

Anti-war message at baseball game riles veterans

Organizers of Sunday's night out at the ballgame for wounded soldiers say they just wanted to give the veterans a treat, and a thank you. The war protesters say they didn't know about those plans when — big pink banner in tow — they came up with their own plan for the game. What happened next offended the veterans, triggered some angry shouting and got the protesters escorted out of Hammons Field.

The peace group Code Pink of the Ozarks unfurled a 12-by-3-foot pink "Impeach" banner at the ball park on the same night that Silver Star Families of America invited dozens of wounded veterans and their supporters to see the Cardinals play. ...

Debbie Alderson of Frisco, Texas, the Silver Star group's Texas coordinator who has a son and son-in-law in Iraq, said she was one of the first in the Silver Star crowd to see the pink banner. It was displayed under the scoreboard in the second inning and later in the sixth.

"Everybody was appalled that somebody would take advantage of a situation like that," she said. The protesters, she said, "should be ashamed of themselves." She said displaying the "Impeach" sign at an event designed for the wounded to relax was "beyond inappropriate, beyond offensive."

Could Code Pink have picked a more appropriate venue for their statement? Probably. It does seem like unfortunate timing that they unfurled such a banner at the specific game intended to honor soldiers, which probably resulted in more bad publicity than good.

On the other hand - and I don't think saying this does injustice to the sacrifices made by U.S. troops - veterans can apparently miss the point as well as any civilian.

As long I've been writing about politics, both in print and on this blog, I've been scolded by members of the military (including a guy from the Pentagon) who thought I'd do society a favor by shutting the hell up. Bush and his cronies express similar sentiments on a regular basis, saying that those who oppose the war in Iraq are undermining the soldiers - as if spending 15 months a pop in a hostile faraway desert with no clear mission isn't itself demoralizing. (Many servicemembers I know agree with me on that point.)

I have never served in uniform, so I don't know the exact oath soldiers take. But I'm pretty sure, even now, that enlistees swear to defend American freedoms as outlined in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Among those? The freedom of speech, which includes the right to assembly and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

My grandfather walked the streets of freshly nuked Nagasaki with the Navy Seabees during World War II. My uncle was on the (extremely) front lines of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. Afterward, neither of them were ever afraid to speak out when necessary, and my uncle in particular (whose son served tours in Iraq) is no fan of the Bush administration.

They understood the principle that the quoted veterans, like too many citizens these days, have forgotten: criticism of reckless civilian leadership is not the same as criticizing the soldiers who must carry out the commands.

If Code Pink had indeed denounced the veterans, they would deserve all the jeers they got and then some. But if Vietnam taught us anything, it's that spitting on troops was a drastically misguided channeling of anti-war derision. The blame belonged then, as now, squarely on the politicians. Code Pink understood that; "Impeach" is a call for new civilian leadership, one that will preserve both the lives of soldiers and the respect of veterans.

With that said, the veterans have every right to be offended. Offended that such an incompetent president continues to wage war for questionable reasons, wasting resources and ending lives despite the majority of Americans wanting a halt right now. Offended that the Bush administration equates dissent with enabling terrorism, and questions with treason. Offended that Bush continues to invoke their contributions and struggles when justifying his illegal, preemptive and failed war in Iraq. Offended that our forces in Iraq are lacking vital supplies while Halliburton squanders billions in taxpayer money that the government isn't even investigating. Offended that VA hospitals are in such squalid shape. Offended that benefits have been cut over the past several years as the deficit balloons (due to the war we shouldn't even be fighting in the first place).

How is it that the veterans themselves were not the ones with the banner?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Best license plate. Ever.

On a red sports car:


(I wish I'd had my camera at the time...)

When I was in my early teens, I wanted to get a personalized license plate with "DUH" and hang it upside down. But I figured the DMV wouldn't let me do that. Missouri is apparently looser about that sort of thing, at least among its brown-haired bureaucrats.

I also recently saw a "Save the SUVs" bumper sticker in a Greenpeace-style font. That would have been funny, except that it was on an actual SUV adjacent to a sticker reading "GOP." But even that would have been funny, if there hadn't been an actual Bush-Cheney '04 sticker on the rear windshield.

Come on...don't SUVs pollute enough already?