Friday, April 28, 2006
I've been reading in the MSM about this group of folks down in Middletown who got all up and bothered by a plan to put up a big-assed radio tower a few hundred feet from their houses. They said this isn't a good thing and the state -- who hatched this idea in the interest of saving some money -- should find another spot where peoples' views weren't ruined. And guess what? The state and the town found a way to do that, with the help of a business owner who agreed to host this much-needed piece of emergency communications equipment on a site that didn't detract from a neighborhood's character. The town will charge less for the company's electricity and all's well.
Now even Rodney King must be smiling about this little tale, one small lesson in what can happen when people listen to one another, stop for a minute and really consider what the other "side" is saying and then see if common ground can't be found. Now this was a relatively straightforward matter, but it's the attitude that matters, as in most things. This was a community acting like a community. And it's damned refreshing. This is the character trait we need to be seeking in six months -- Red or Blue.
And now the news...
ITEM: Microsoft shares lost more than 11 percent -- $32 billion in asset value -- after the company said it planned to significantly beef up investments in many areas where it is not dominant. Analysts said such investments, while risky, may pay off in the long term but could hurt more immediate financial results.
THOUGHT: This is a sign of the core greed that is doing this nation great harm – now, and even more so 10 or 20 years from now. A company opts to invest more heavily in R&D to try to assure its future, and build new business that might create jobs, and it is brutally withered by investors – that’s us. Don’t DO that! Give us the money – NOW! Don’t pour money into a modern-day Manhattan Project to win a dominant market position in 2015 in the manufacture and sale of solar/wind/thermal energy equipment, or non-internal combustion engines. Punch more holes in the ground and give people $100 rebates so they can buy more dead dinosaur juice. Somehow, we have forgotten that we built this country, we didn’t order it up on eBay and have it delivered next-day air. It took time, just as it took time to build Microsoft. It is time to stop talking – and taking – so much and start considering and giving the seeds a chance to germinate.
ITEM: Rumors of immigration roundups prompted thousands of illegal immigrants to stay home this week and are making some afraid to participate in a national immigration protest planned for Monday. Immigration officials said they were unfounded,but rumors of random sweeps were rampant from coast to coast, prompting thousands of immigrants to stay home from work, take their children out of school and avoid church. The absences caused the rumors to build, as some thought their missing friends and co-workers had been arrested.
THOUGHT: Somehow, I’m ashamed by this – that our public discourse leaves thousands already living in the shadows afraid to leave their homes, send their children to school or visit a house of prayer. I’m sure this followed word of the massive roundup of sex offenders the Attorney General touted the other day. I’m sure it was quite easy for an illegal Mexican or Guatemalan to conclude that they were next. And yes I am ashamed that any group of people – save for those sex offenders – would huddle in fear of a roundup with shades of Kristallnacht in the Land of the Free. Something’s very wrong and I wish to God I had something to offer that would even begin to contribute to a solution on this issue.
ITEM: A fire that damaged a house in New Hampshire is being blamed on the family dog who apparently jumped up on the gas stove to get food left on top and forgot to turn the burner back off. No one was home and no one was hurt. The dog escaped.
THOUGHT: I’ve been asked to speak on behalf of Rex and I can say unequivocally that he had nothing to do with this unfortunate affair. Rex will come forward when he is assured of a full and fair airing of the facts uninfluenced by the mainstream media, which is obsessed with the notion that any creature exercising the very freedoms our forefathers gave their lives for must be acting with evil intent. Rex pledges to promptly bite the leg of any member of his household found to have anything at all to do with this conflagration and further wants to assure the people of New Hampshire that he will everything in his power to find the real fire starter. If you’ll excuse me, I've got to go clear some brush.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
THOUGHT: Now this is a good thing, but I can’t help but listen to that voice on my shoulder saying “were they really that hard to find if they bagged that many in a week?” Now where the heck do we put them?
ITEM: Two white teenagers down in Texas severely beat and sodomized a Hispanic 16-year-old boy who they thought had tried to kiss a Hispanic 12-year-old girl at a party, authorities said. They
forced the boy out of the Saturday night house party, beat him and sodomized him with a plastic pipe, shouting anti-Hispanic epithets. He’s busted up real bad and probably won’t live.
THOUGHT: They’ve got a real keen sense of honor down in Texas. I guess this is what Politakid’s talking about with the next generation and racism and all.
ITEM: Indonesia's Mount Merapi is spewing volcanic ash, magma has fully covered its crater, and a powerful eruption could come any day, a scientist said Thursday. But authorities said they’re not ready to force the evacuation of villagers living on the slopes of the mountain.
"It's close to eruption," said Dewi Sri, predicting "an enormous and dreadful eruption" within days.
THOUGHT: Delawhyte to villagers: Run.
ITEM: Hundreds of starfish have been found dead on a beach on British Columbia's Sunshine Coast. Purple sea stars began washing up last week in Trail Bay at Sechelt, north of Vancouver. The authorities have been unable to determine why they died.
THOUGHT: DelaWhyte to authorities: Where was Squidward?
ITEM: Exxon Mobil Corp. posted the fifth-highest quarterly profit for any public company in history on Thursday, but the $8 billion take still fell short of analysts' estimates. Analysts said the company’s massive profits may just get bigger the rest of the year as it benefits from rising crude-oil prices and production.
"This is only the beginning," Fadel Gheit, analyst for Oppenheimer & Co., told the AP. "Let me tell you, it gets better after that.”
THOUGHT: You know, these guys suck. And there’s not much we can do. We could do one thing – make Fadel Gheit a liar, and really disappoint those analysts. What if we all bought our gas from any other company – but not Exxon or Mobil – for the rest of the year. Just drove on by, just to show how really pissed off we are? Would anyone pay attention if Exxon-Mobil made NO MONEY in the next quarter? Would they care? Might they rest of the sisters be a bit more cautious? Just a thought.
Before you cash in for the night, I heartily urge you to go here.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Some news of note ...
THOUGHTS: Much has been made about the comments of the retired generals, who contend that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should go because his plans sucked, he misread or ignored intelligence that didn’t fit his preconceived notions, he deployed an undermanned, underarmored force and created an atmosphere where dissent was tantamount to disloyalty. And moreover, after demanding control over all reconstruction instead of State, he has failed to achieve any stated objective save for one – regime change. The response has largely focused on criticism of these former generals, now civilians, for disloyalty in raising their voices after the fact. Each allows that they share the responsibility for the unarguable failings of policy – and execution. The indictment clearly stands, even if you agree that the generals were out of line for handing it up.
But as a civilian and one of Mr. Rumsfeld’’s many employers, let me just say that I am damned tired of the atrocious management of this war – and the alleged “reconstruction” of Iraq – by Rumsfeld and his band of merry men. How do you hire a guy like Bloom – a convicted fraud artist – for anything? And how do you defend your administration of a provisional government that can’t account for “disposition” of $9 billion? I am not going anywhere near the questions of whether the policy was appropriate, the strategy sound, or the tactics skilled. I’m just sitting here as a director asking the CEO of this enterprise what the hell is transpiring on his watch – and holding him accountable for one screw up after another. Because this “agent of change” seems particularly adept at transforming billions of MY money into diddly squat.
Are the President and the GOP saying they can find no one out there in their “Big Tent” who can step in and manage this operation? It is critical that this job get done and promptly – and this man has been in charge of an operation that has consistently failed to perform. Loyalty is an admirable quality, but blind loyalty to the detriment of the mission is irresponsible.
Let Reagan be Reagan?
ITEM: Also from the AP -- a group of Baptist leaders calls on its members to “speak positively about public education” in response to a conservative movement to pull Baptist children out of public schools. Fifty-six pastors and organizational leaders -- some from the conservative Southern Baptist Convention and others from the more moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship -- signed a letter supporting public schools. The document posted on the Web site of the Baptist Center for Ethics says: “We believe Baptists should recommit themselves to public education, not as a means toward converting school children, but because it’s the right thing to do. We call on Baptists to recommit themselves to the separation of church and state, which will keep public schools free from coercive pressure to promote sectarian faith, such as state-written school prayers and the teaching of neo-creationism.” Ed Hogan, pastor of Jersey Village Baptist Church in Texas said he signed the letter because dozens of public school teachers, principals and other staff attend his church. “I think the Southern Baptist Convention has become increasingly involved in conservative secular politics. A national convention ought to be about how we can minister to and help people and not how we can further political agendas.”
THOUGHTS: Public schools need help to succeed in the mission we, as a community, charge them with – equipping all students with the secular tools they will need to succeed in life, and lead this nation. Those same students – and their educators -- need ministering to strengthen and reinforce the faith and moral groundings imparted in the home. These, I think, are tasks best accomplished separately, unless a parent chooses to merge them in a private school environment. I say this because public schools are a community institution, with a mission we commonly agree to, if fractiously. Since very quickly after the landing at Plymouth Rock, we as a people have been unable to agree on one faith, one interpretation or one set of rules governing observation of it. That is why the founders set up a government with a “shall make no law” mandate regarding “establishment” of religion in its functioning. Recognizing that agreement on all matters of faith was unlikely, they opted to exclude this from the community compact to prevent such a volatile matter from undermining the commonwealth with never-ending struggles for supremacy of belief and its practice. Under God, yes, but without further definition.
Thus the wisdom of people like Pastor Hogan. Let schools be schools, and let us all strive to make them the best they can be in the execution of one clear mission. And let us minister to souls as we always have, in many forms, in many settings appropriate to that mission. And let each take the lessons and values imparted there into the classroom or workplace or legislative halls as guiding principle. Each must come to a faith. They cannot be driven to it or indoctrinated into it – or out of it – by sergeants, DMV clerks or schoolmarms.
This is helpful ...
ITEM: A suburban San Diego teenager who was barred from wearing a T-shirt with anti-gay rhetoric to class has lost a bid to have his school’s dress code suspended. The code prohibited clothing with slogans that might be provocative and disruptive. The lad – and his parents it would seem – claimed the code violated his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion. His shirt said “homosexuality is shameful.”
THOUGHTS: Why is this even an issue? Why would these parents send their child to school wearing a shirt looking to pick a fight, a shirt almost guaranteed to distract and diminish from learning? Who declared a “cultural war” employing such a total lack of common sense and basic manners anyway?
A cheapskate to boot...
ITEM: A small-town Oklahoma man got his neighbors all in an uproar by posting a sign in his yard saying he’d pay $1,000 for a virgin bride between the ages of 12 and 24. He told the AP he was “looking for a born-again, God-fearing virgin between the ages of 12 and 24 who can bear me children." He said: “What’s the problem? I just think I have some wicked neighbors.” Someone stole his sign so he put up another saying he wasn’t interested in a “pig-worshipping, heathen, white-supremacist wife.”
THOUGHTS: How could a catch like this guy reach age 46 and still be brideless? How about a reality show where 12 women struggle to win this dude’s heart?
A lock for Foreign Relations ...
ITEM: Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman has decided he won’t run for the U.S. Senate, after being courted by a gaggle of Democrats who thought he was the cat’s meow to replace Republican Sen. John Ensign. Just so you know: Goodman is a former mob lawyer known for squiring around a bouquet of showgirls on his official rounds.
THOUGHTS: Might be just the guy to resolve Red-Blue impasse on most issues. Would seem to be capable of multi-faceted offers unlikely to be refused in D.C.
Friday, April 14, 2006
On masks, and nakedness …
In the seething pool we share, there is an equality of sorts that has immense value – my voice equals yours if I’m good enough. If not, I end up on a weekend retreat with Rev. Billy Sol and a slew of First Church of Gooey Death and Mass Destruction types. And now I’ve got the FBI, NSA and Cheney aboard, so the train’s ready to roll.
My favorite line from Emily is: “Hello, I’m nobody. Who are you? Are you nobody too?” From her loony attic, this probably was aimed at a robin or a squirrel or perhaps a mirror, but it’s was prescient, for that’s the WWW. We’re all nobody.
Until it gets kinda close and then we all lose our masks because a Delaware name on a blog read by folks in Colorado means nothing (save for Tax-Free Shopping? And 32% monthly). But here that same name queers the deal and the charm of the masquerade ball is over. The mystery is stripped out and a name, a face and a whole resume with all its baggage comes attached to a post, coloring it with authority or scorn or shame the content has not earned. A pity, for the purity of the offering evaporates as well.
By remaining a nobody, a poster forces the reader to focus only on the message, and what it provokes. Some aim for consideration. Some for chuckles. Some for throbbing (gotta hold the Googlers) veins in temples and spittle on the keyboard. And there is fun in that because this methodology also leaves intact what the fiction writer strives for – an element of vagueness allowing the reader to fill in the blanks with their own images, sounds and back story. Over time this fleshes out and colors the posts, but it adds to the fun – or frustration if you have a burning need to rip the mask from the Avenger.
So a mask need not automatically equate to cowardice, though it does equate to bad manners if it cloaks a personal attack and rallies nefarious legions of Doom to inflict real harm. And even that’s OK I guess, although it is an awful lot like giving the locusts the coordinates on your south forty. And leaves you with only Fanatical Devotion to the Pope and Fear as a defense, as Surprise would be a mask of folly. Sorry kid.
You see, you attack with the power of your ideas, overwhelming a weaker argument, a shoddy foundation or a selfish intent. You persuade with your words, not at the point of a gun, not with a yank at a man’s lifeblood. That’s muscle, not mind, and nothing lasting is built that way. That’s Landslide Lyndon thinking – Grab them by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow. Never have, never will.
As for me, I’m nobody. Value me, or dismiss me, for what I say. Because I know one thing for certain: I could be wrong.
Friday, April 07, 2006
Footprints in the sand ...
He wasn’t the brightest man in the room, unless you measure wattage in capacity to sense the needs and feelings of others and instinct to smooth or calm or encourage to persevere. I felt his light once at a time of doubt and fear and regret, when the forces of resolve stood on a shaky rampart backed only by the faith of those I surely did not deserve. His hand of friendship, extended at times in a chiding glove, helped me reach a place where I too believed such faith was well invested. And there was nothing in it for him but that.
He was a gentle man with most, but a tiger when his sense of justice was offended, or he sensed a course he viewed as intrinsically wrong. Not mistaken, wrong. And he knew the difference, and spoke not to make points or curry favor. And favor did desert him, in no small way because of a moral voice raised in an unkind storm.
I’m not going to prattle on because he was just a man. His name was Dave. Put him on your list tonight, if you don’t mind. He’d do the same for you.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
A day for offerings …
I allowed at the start I could not promise much, but that does not relieve me of the responsibility to try. So here goes, right from the maw that is my technical ignorance, political naïveté and simplistic worldview, among other shortcomings I assess to the appalling weaknesses of my public education. They didn’t give me the knowledge, so it must be their fault that I lack it.
Anyway, here’s the problem: The state figures we need a four-lane, high-speed, limited-access, commute-reducing highway from Hyett’s Corner to Warwick, MD. New Castle County says people living south of the C&D Canal need a regional library, a regional park and a big sewer plant plus lots of acres to filter treated waste. The Appo School District now thinks they need a third high school, a third middle school and other structures in the next 3-4 years. For the sake of whimsy, let’s assume they all are correct. Here’s the bill: Road: $500 million; Library/parks/sewers: $300 million; Schools: $200 million. Total: $1 billion.
I’d like to help, but based on the last time I looked at the old bank account, I think I’m a billion or so short, depending on whether or not you’re working debt into the sum. I’m willing to perhaps do my part, but first I’d like you to consider this suggestion: Get a room.
Why, for example, can’t the highway guys sit down with the sewer guys and mull this one over. To build your road, you will need to condemn, level and improve a swath of land that, unless I’m really dense, is gonna run right past land the sewer guys already bought for the plant they need a lot of my money to build, land that isn’t big enough to soak up all the effluent said plant will spout in 2020. Is it possible to make that ribbon of land wide enough, sculpt it creatively enough so the grassy median or buffers can serve as spray or trickle irrigation acreage for the sewer plant? Or if that won’t work, to host a pipe/pump system to take said effluent to land way out west that won’t cost an arm and a leg, or might serve an agricultural purpose somehow? Perhaps the power company, the gas company, the water company, the wind energy company might want a piece of the corridor action also, and might cough up a share of the capitalization? Probably a lot of reasons why this won’t work, even though it seems to be getting some interest down in Texas.
And while the sewer and highway guys are bonding, how about getting the school, library and park folks together? Ponder this maybe: One complex, using shared facilities to meet quite similar community needs. A high school, with a community library wing, with a community recreation wing, on shared acreage. With enough security and coordination designed in to protect the children, to mesh overlapping uses, and take advantage of scale. A core high school facility perhaps that locks down after hours, with public wings for art, shop, library, recreation, computers, music, theater, cafeteria and more that become open for community use when school is done, overseen perhaps by county, state or nonprofit groups now begging for space – or charging it off on another tax levy – for programs in these realms? Located on a bus route. Hey, you might even throw together some courses for dolts like me who still can’t figure out how to miter crown molding, or run useful formulas in Excel, create a Web page for the civic association -- and let some of the brighter kids do the showing. Or hang the best stuff from the art class in the lobby. And so on.
I’m inclined to believe we need the road, the sewers, the library, the parks, the schools. I’m equally sure we don’t need to spend $1 billion from four or five different public or quasi-public pockets to get er done. Perhaps it’s just me.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
The issue is privilege …
A lobbyist is just a hired hand, you see. Most are skilled facilitators able to gather data, expert testimony and philosophical treatises and fashion a compelling case. Using past associations, political muscle or artificially generated pressure from the grassroots, they slither into positions where they can press this position, twisting arms, applying grease and trading horses.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this, for citizens have been “petitioning” their government from the dawn of democracy. The problem is twofold: The tremendous imbalance in the amount of pressure or persuasive argument I can bring to bear versus that wielded by the multinational corporations, unions or churches; and the main prizes they all aspire to – a leg up in the competitive market from the government.
A tax credit, a regulatory exemption, a set-aside, a quota, a subsidy. A privilege.
You have to be able to pay to play – and most of the games and the trading and the discussion of what narrow interest profits from the many privileges now doled out by government are not conducted in an open theater. They all are executed in the chambers of the Legislature’s leadership, in the controlling party’s caucus, in closed committee meetings, in the bill drafting room where staff takes the clause carefully crafted by the lawyer/lobbyist and inserts it into the bill prior to printing, or in the conference committee where the minority party is excluded.
The vote is argued on broad philosophical grounds – but the real business has already been done and most voting are unaware of what they are passing in the name of Red or Blue. And the rules of it all are designed and maintained to make this all possible, almost to guarantee it.
And what is in the best interest of the Nation is not necessarily lost, but rarely considered except as an afterthought, in the spin room where what is done is recast cloaked in the rhetoric of Red and Blue. Any and all actions quickly ratchet back up to a full-throated exchange going over the same tired ground and ending up with the same pointless standoff. And the real questions are never posed, the real debates are never begun, the real right-wrong assessments never approached.
Why are we granting this credit, or subsidy or exemption? What is the objective? Who will benefit and how will we measure whether that benefit actually results? What is the true cost? What are the alternatives? Is this role proper – and fair – for the government?
All hashed out in the light of day. One issue at a time, not all balled up into an “omnibus appropriations” bill no one has time to even read cover-to-cover before a vote, much less consider.
How does that happen? Because we let it happen. Because we have become lost in our anger and selfishness and are being played for patsies. The Reds and the Blues know how to push our buttons in ways we don’t even consider. If any debate starts to move too close to a real matter of national concern, they push the proper button and it goes nuclear, ends in stalemate and everyone goes home sated. And the system and the charlatans survive for another day because we are too tired, too busy and too angry to demand more. They are left wholly unaccountable for their actions, or their inattention.
We Reds love you because you’re fighting for smaller government, family values and freedom around the globe. So anything else you do or don’t do gets a pass. God, what a cheap date.
We Blues love you because you’re fighting for the little guy, you want to extend a hand to those in need, make the rich pay their share and protect our liberties at any cost. God, I wish you’d been handing out the allowance when I was a lad.
Excuse me, but would SOMEONE try to get a few properly armored patrol vehicles over to Iraq? Or find the person who read the GAO report on how badly the contractor fouled up the no-bid Katrina sheltering contract – and then EXTENDED IT -- and escort the stupid SOB to a room with no pens? Or the character who thinks it’s OK to give a rebate to the company that just admitted it was piping untreated Euphrates River water to Marine mess halls. Why go on – the list of examples where our money is slipping out the back door faster than seniors the first week in June is endless.
We’ve put some people in charge of a big government and they are in charge for a while. There is plenty of time to rehash the philosophical arguments as we approach a decision on whether to renew the contract.
Right now, I’d just like them to start running it in a manner that gave me some confidence in their ability to handle something beyond a two-car funeral. I’d like them to start acting like they cared about some Bayou pirate sailing into the sunset with $100 million of our money. And I’m sorry if the cheerleaders for the guy in Red driving the bus at the moment take that to mean I hate him, or that I’m secretly True Blue. I don’t hate him and I don’t see anything better poking its head out of the trough. I’ve got my own thoughts about Iraq and they probably are as confused as most people’s are right now. It’s just that when a wheel falls off – and that happens in any enterprise, run by anyone -- no one seems at all concerned with trying to really understand why it fell off, and you’ve got to slap someone up beside the head before anyone moves to get the spare.
All I want is responsibility and accountability, an emphasis on quality execution and even a passing interest in thrift. They had a hell of a fight and a lot of people died at Gettysburg, but the soldiers didn’t go there for a war. They just wanted some shoes with no holes.