Saturday, September 23, 2006

A Character Caricature

I'm glad George W. Bush was elected President.

This was a profound insight I had into the Presidency, politics, and the electoral process this morning.

After eight years of what some described...some whose meds need the "National Nightmare," we've had five years plus of an even worse Presidency.

Bill Clinton accomplished precisely two things for this nation during his tenure: unparalleled peace, and unparalleled prosperity. He had a deeply flawed character, no doubt about it, but despite having a thoroughly blood-thirsty, hostile Congress as antagonists to him, despite having a national story about his morals on the front page of every newspaper in the nation for six years, he created arguably the greatest Presidency this nation has ever known: greater than Lincoln, greater than FDR, greater, perhaps, even than Washington's.

Comes 2000, and by hook or by crook (mostly the latter), George W. Bush, a man who put himself forth as having impeccable moral character. A "compassionate conservative" who claimed to go to church every Sunday, that Jesus was his personal role model and teacher, that God spoke to him would be running the country.

The only good this shnook has done? He acknowledged the existence of Africa. He has led the country through five years of a disatrous economy, which only now is starting to reach levels achieved in the latter half to the Clinton presidency, yet still shows massive unemployment, fewer actual people working today than in 2000 (as a percentage of the workforce), and a crippled tax base.

His "morality" includes instigating war, torture, theft, unveiling classified assets, a spike in abortions, poverty, and crime, a higher infant mortality rate than at any time since the polio vaccine was developed, and an unparalleled hatred of America and what it stands for in the world.

So why do I like the fact he was elected? Because it does two things:

1) It throws into sharp relief that Bill Clinton, for all his personal flaws and foibles, actually did good while doing right by this country. His public and administrative works were nearly impeccable ( I could argue long and hard against the Telecommunications Act, of course), and the results, undeniable.

2) It takes the "character" issue off the table for candidates at any level. No longer will a politician need to be so afraid of having a mistress (or partner!) or untraditional family. All he or she need do is to make the contrast that I just made, and the rest falls into place.

It means the country has matured a bit. It means that one need not have lived a perfect life in order to serve one's country to the best of one's abilities. The character issue has been seen by the American people for what it is, an irrelevant, obtuse, fear-laden issue, and Americans over the past five years have seen there's a whole lot more to be afraid of than a stained blue dress, things that the guy getting blown protected us from, while the guy clearing brush at "Rancho Nouveau Riche" could not find in his character to stop.

Hm. I may have to reconsider not running for the Senate...

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday Kitten Blogging

Friday Music Blogging

Youssou N'Dour & Friends

Today's Commemoration

Republican Tortures Party Mascot For Laughs!

Today is Elephant Appreciation Day.

MissC, who always has such marvelous links...she paid me to say that, by the way... does up the elephant in grand style.

Me....I'm just going to go beat up some Republicans to commemorate this day.

Eminence Front

Apparently, the sheen has worn off and the weary American voter has had enough of nonsense, bluster and bullshit:
MONROE CITY, Indiana (Reuters) - In a dozen districts across the U.S. heartland, voter unhappiness has imperiled Republicans, setting the stage for what could be the biggest anti-incumbent midterm election since 1994.

Pat Wilkerson says U.S. troops and veterans are her first priority, believes family values are important and voted Republican in 2004. But in November she'll switch parties -- though not because Democrats have won her over.

"When I vote now, it's not who I'm voting for, it's who I'm voting against," said the 59-year-old administrator, adding she is fed up with the war in Iraq and wants troops home.
Listen, I'm not happy with the reason she's switching her vote, but I am happy she's switching her vote.

According to a NY Times/CBS News poll, a whopping 77% of Americans felt incumbent Congresscritters did not deserve re-election. Yes, this poll has never reflected reality (while there has always been a strong anti-incumbent fervor, incumbents still win 98% of the time), and in fact, 39% of respondents said they would vote for their local congressional representative, so you need to figure a fudge factor of 13% on that anti-incumbent movement. However, that 39% is lower than two years ago.

For comparison, however, 82% of Americans ahead of the 1994 election felt Congress did not deserve re-election. And we all know what happened next. The current 77% is the second highest in the history of this poll. And for the first time in the history of this poll (going back to 1974), a party actually has captured more than 50% of voter preference (in other words, just over half of all voters would vote Democratic as opposed to Republican).

The real good news of this poll comes in the backend. Most voters feel the Democrats will tell the truth on Iraq and on terror, while Republicans sadly brought up the rear. Since these are the lynchpins of the Republican national platform for this year, and undoubtedly one or the other will comprise the "October Surprise", Democrats need to lay the groundwork now in order to school the public on precisely what is going on in the world, and if possible, deflate the "surprise" by revealing it ahead of the Republicans.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Mind, Blown

Long-time readers of Simply Left Behind will recall I have a fascination with the destructive power on war on the survivors.

As an actor and student of the human psyche, I'm always interested in learning how people deal with extreme situations: stress, violence, tragedy. So in this week's Time comes an article about Iraq war veterans, and a movie that exposes some of their trauma:
Patricia Foulkrod's The Ground Truth, released in theaters last week and available on DVD next week, is both horrifying and hopeful. The first half of the film contains terrible, pulverizing footage from the Iraqi theater and testimony of atrocities that still haunt the men who saw or committed them. The second half is about the challenges these soldiers faced when they returned home, many of them with damaged bodies, most of them forced to relive their nightmares every night. One young man came back and hanged himself with a garden hose; another, fearful of demons attacking him, sleeps with a gun under his bed.
I'd quote more, but the article is very short.

If this movie is playing near you, I urge you to see it (I might get the chance in the next couple of weeks). I can almost guarantee that it's on my queue at Netflix next week.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Step One: Open Mouth....

Step Two: Insert Foot.

Or you can follow Representative Peter King's example:
In thousands of letters to constituents this month, King (R-Seaford) criticized "American Muslim leaders" for failing to adequately denounce the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. He took specific aim at the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, saying the mosque's leaders "have publicly stated that the CIA or the 'Zionists' may have been responsible for the 9/11 attacks."

"Because I have put aside political correctness and spoken out against these radical leaders, I have been denounced as ... a 'Muslim hater,'" King wrote. "Now they are actively supporting my opponent."
Fair enough. If these people refused to denounce the attacks, and have publicly laid blame on people who had nothing to do with the attacks, then anyone who takes money from them should be ashamed of themselves, and King is right to denounce him, full-throat, right? Good on you, Mr. King for standing up to terrorist sympathizers and the politicians they try to buy!
The Westbury mosque's current president, Habeeb Ahmed, wrote a $200 check in June to Nassau Legis. David Mejias, King's Democratic opponent. But on Dec. 10, 2005, Ahmed gave $500 to King at a luncheon in Massapequa with other Muslim leaders. The congressman collected a total of $5,500 that day.

"He is a very influential person," Ahmed said of King. "I wanted to have his ear and tell him painting all Muslims with the same brush is not appropriate. ... We have condemned the 9/11 attack." Last year, King took a total of $3,000 from three Muslim donors who have given $950 to Mejias this year, including Ahmed; Mohammed Saleh, president of the Long Island Muslim Society in East Meadow; and Syed Zaki Hossain, a Hicksville businessman.
Um....the word you're struggling for, Rep. King, is....


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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Myth-Placed Faith

Bush to engage skeptical U.N. on Mideast

NEW YORK - President Bush is trying to persuade skeptical world leaders to embrace his vision for the Middle East in a speech before the United Nations on Tuesday where he is calling on the world to "stand up for peace" in the face of violent extremism. Bush's challenge is to build international support to confront multiple problems in the region: unabated violence in Iraq, a stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, armed Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and Iran defiantly pursuing its nuclear program.
One of the defining moments for this President comes each September (bar his first one in office), when he speaks before the UN at its opening week's ceremonies.

To say the reception has gotten icy....well...The UN, when Bush speaks, may be the only place on the planet that global warming hasn't affected. And this is truly Bush's fault, not only in squandering the goodwill of the world after September 11, not only in attacking and devastating a nation that was no threat to our security and liberty, not only in turning his nose up at overtures from allies who wish to see him engage rather than trample, nevermind the possible war crimes he has committed, but by refusing to engage those he has determined to be the Axis of Evil, except with hostility and violence.

There, the mark of his leadership, on the very issue he has made the centerpiece of his Presidency, has shown the world that he is an abject failure and a coward. Bush's approbation of "freedom" shows that he wants freedom for all...on his terms. Which simply isn't going to happen. Never has, never will. History teaches us that mighty empires were formed by men who believed, as Bush does, that his form of "freedom" is the best.

And the rest of the world isn't as young as the United States, nor as immature as its leaders. It's hard to believe that these are the self-proclaimed "adults" who took over, but the United States was more respected and more mature under a randy, horny Arkansan (who actually attended church regularly) than they are under a supposedly sober faux-evangelical with delusions of naivete.

One cannot be President in 21st Century America and be ignorant, although Dumbya is sure trying his level best to prove that theory wrong.

Winston Churchill allegedly once said "An empty cab pulled up and (then-Prime Minister Clement) Attlee stepped out." I suspect the world sees Bush in the same manner: an empty suit, full of echoes and noises, but ultimately to be ignored for the good of the rest of the world.

Sadly, Bush, stumbling over this truth, picks himself up and continues running. Yes, he'll continue to bully and badger, and lose, and in twenty years, his legacy will be the embarassment he caused to America and its waning reputation as a superpower.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

The Happy Recap

this is an audio post - click to play

Sixth Inning

this is an audio post - click to play

Fourth Inning

this is an audio post - click to play

UPDATE: There were supposed to be two other audioblogs after this, but Audioblogger must have blown out it's servers. I suspect I was not the only one to come up with the idea to live blog the sounds of the game.

Second Inning

this is an audio post - click to play

PreGame Audioblog

this is an audio post - click to play

Downtime Notice

I'll be at Shea Stadium tonight to watch the Mets clinch the division championship. I guess, if I get the chance, I'll see what I can blog, either from there or afterwards.

Maybe see if I can line up some interviews. I wouldn't count on those, tho.

Spoke A Little Too Soon

Bomb Kills 4 NATO Troops in Afghanistan
Associated Press Writer

September 18, 2006, 8:03 AM EDT

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- A suicide bomber on a bicycle attacked Canadian troops handing out candy to children in southern Afghanistan on Monday, killing four NATO soldiers and wounding many others, officials said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast.

The attack in Kandahar province's Panjwayi district came a day after NATO declared an end to a two-week offensive aimed at driving Taliban militants out of safe havens in the same area. More than 500 insurgents were reported killed in the Canadian-led operation, which NATO described as a success despite continuing violence in the south.[....]

The violence comes a day after a top NATO general declared an end to Operation Medusa in Panjwayi and neighboring Zhari districts.

Lt. Gen. David Richards, head of the 20,000 NATO-led force in Afghanistan, described the operation as a "significant success." Richards said the insurgents had been forced to abandon their positions and reconstruction and development efforts would soon begin in the volatile former Taliban heartland.

The insurgents had "suffered significant casualties" and "had no choice but to leave," Richards said.
There's an old proverb that says "Pride goeth before a fall."

Sounds to me like NATO needed a safety net under it. This development, coming on the heels of a request by NATO last week for more troops from the NATO countries, makes for some...interesting...possibilities. A new offensive, really just this southern Afghan offensive shifted a few provinces to the west, has sapped NATO troops, forcing a quick redeployment to combat that new front at the expense of peacekeeping near Kandahar, a strategic stronghold in Afghanistan.

Add to that, Bush declaring that he would need to deploy more forces to secure Baghdad (which by rights should long ago have been secured, locked down even), and we're looking at the US military, along with its allies, easily the most formidable fighting force ever arrayed at any time in history, both at an absolute level as well as relative to other armies it might stand against, fighting losing battles in two nations that have been deemed as necessary to the survival of American security.

Jeez. If these guys had been in charge of the Cold War, we'd all be speaking Russian, komrade!

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Here's To A Pioneer!

Trailblazing woman firefighter retires

September 16, 2006, 7:48 PM EDT
When fire Capt. Brenda Berkman is referred to as "one of New York's bravest," there's a second meaning to that title, one that has earned her a place in New York civil rights history.

Berkman, the leader of the city's first female firefighters, retired last week after 25 years as a New York City firefighter. She spent her career battling to prove the worth of women in the FDNY, first in the courts and then in the firehouse.

In the 117-year history of the Fire Department, there was never a female firefighter until 1977, when Berkman, then a young lawyer, led and won a class-action suit to become one.

The fight appeared to be over in 1982 when she and 10 other women graduated from the Fire Department's academy, after a court found that the department's physical tests for entry were discriminatory.
It seems hard to believe that it was only 25 years ago that women were not allowed to serve on the FDNY. I remember the brouhaha that arose-- they'd never be able to carry a 200 lb. man out of a burning building (this was before the obesity crisis hit and NO ONE could carry anyone out of a burning building), or have the physical stamina to run up six flights of stairs with 80 pounds of line and an air tank on their backs.

Always with the "theys," even us New Yorkers.

As if a woman couldn't strength train. As if a woman couldn't bring other more important traits to a job, like courage or intelligence or discipline. I'm not even sure what the real reason behind those fears was. Perhaps it was a woman in a man's "clubhouse," and the resulting psychological disruptions that might take place. I'm glad we got past that.

By all accounts, passing the exams was the easy part for Berkman. The "initiation" that new firefighters have to go thru was doubly tough for her and lasted a lot longer I'm sure than for any other "probie." She was even fired at one point because, you guessed it, "on the grounds that they lacked the upper-body strength to control or advance fire hoses, a skill considered essential to firefighting." A wise judge saw through that discriminatory tactic and ordered her and the other women reinstated. Berkman then went on to a long career as a firefighter.

Things aren't perfect, but they are a damn sight better because of Berkman, so Captain, please have a happy healthy retirement.

Update: Mike Finn of Crooks and Liars pointed out to me that the PBS series "Independent Lens" had portrayed Captain Berkman in 2005.

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