Thursday, May 26, 2005

Minne-sound-off

  • If you need a reason to fund a new Twins stadium...here it is. Minnesotans may be hopelessly pale, but who knew we were all unwitting Nazis? (www.swastikadome.com)
  • Outgoing U.S. Senator Mark Dayton wearing a bling chain (and acting unsurprisingly awkward); former presidential candidate Walter Mondale scratching records; Governor Tim Pawlenty and Senator Norm Coleman talking to black people? You gotta see this... (www.getbattleground.com)
  • In hopes of defusing their alleged liberal bias, the Star Tribune (aka the Red Star) has brought on new columnist Katherine Kersten. I think she may be part reptile. Big surprise of the day: Powerline loves her. (See also: Great headline writing at the Strib)
  • Is there any other state in the union that refers to a cigarette tax as a "health impact fee"? Furthermore, since when did "fees" go toward funding general spending?
  • Can Minnesota DFLers "Hatch" out of their shells and actually win a gubernatorial race? Doubt it. Notice: He lost the governor's race in '90 and '94. But we are the party of second chances. Er, wait, I mean third chances. (www.mpr.org)

Thursday, May 19, 2005

"They" don't get it

While we are in the death throes of the U.S. Senate filibuster rule, I can't help thinking about the incredible amount of time elected legislators spend ignoring so many other issues. Think about it. Consider how much time the filibuster fight has consumed, only two days into it, in the greatest democratic institution ever conceived. Now consider how much residual time the filibuster fight has consumed among the press, the PACs, the interest groups, the blogosphere, and everywhere else people are obsessing over this. How can we possibly reconcile spending this much time debating the merits of approximately 10 people?

It seems to be a common theme among the Republican agenda this spring. They pushed through "emergency" legislation to write a special law for Terri Schiavo (and only Terri Schiavo). They passed a bankruptcy law that blatantly panders to a handful of credit card companies while ignoring the affect it will have on millions (yes, millions) of Americans. Now, they (and by "they" I mean the Senate Republicans minus the roughly dozen moderates) are again twisting logic and mincing words in order to create yet another false crisis, which they will conveniently blame on the supposedly "obstructionist" Democrats.

Republicans are the obstructionists. (And, to be fair, Democrats are doing their fair of sometimes unnecessary grandstanding.) While they crassly invented legislation to keep Terri Schiavo alive, while they pass corporate giveaways in their military funding and bankruptcy bills, while they dust-up controversy over the filibuster, while their messianic president trots from red state to red state cooing his Social Security lullaby, humanity suffers. Not just Americans, but humanity.

What do I mean by this?

Ask the average American what the filibuster is and why it's currently being debated. My guess is that (s)he would have a vague notion of what's going on. Very vague. Ask the average American how the occupation of Iraq is going, how stable Afghanistan is, where or what is happening in Darfur, and I would bet the answer you receive is quite uninformed, if intelligible at all.

Since the beginning of the Iraq occupation I've feared the numbing of American sentiment, meaning progressively shorter casualty reports in local newscasts until one or two or three American deaths are just a single monotonous sentence within the program. Through the process of repetition, death and destruction in Iraq have become ingrained in the national psyche and an accepted fact of daily life. It no longer surprises us. This is, perhaps, the most ruinous result of that war. Once the bloodshed no longer matters, the occupation no longer matters and it can be allowed to continue with far less questioning each day. Does anyone recall the very specific reasons we went to war in the first place?

Iraq, however, is at least still in the national psyche. Television news (national and local) no longer covers Afghanistan so Americans are left with the perception that we've turned that country into a Central Asian Shangri-La. Yet, the president is sequestered within the capital city, warlords rule half the country in Middle Ages-style fiefdoms, heroin is practically its only cash crop and its only export, and the Taliban is still blowing people up. That's not even mentioning this whole Newsweek flap.

And Darfur? That may be the issue that depresses me most. After the Holocaust, the world community whole-heartedly sermonized "Never again." Yet, it has happened again and again. Cambodia, Armenia, the states of the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and now...again. Sure, Bush, after much debate, has called it "genocide." But he, as well as Congress, has done little to stop it, and has not spoken about it since his reelection. Interventionism is a sticky subject, but something needs to be done.

On top of that, as Jeffrey Sachs has recently written, at least 20,000 people die every day due to extreme poverty. Poverty that is preventable.

So are any of our supposedly morally correct Republican leaders addressing any of these issues. Are any of them really trying to save lives. Are any of them working for humanity?

No. They're working for themselves. They're working for their own political life and their narrow right agenda that incidentally enough does not even include the supposedly moral values issues they ran on. Remember abortion? Remember gay marriage? I don't think Bush and Co. has given one soundbite to either issue since last November 2. Their obvious pandering is so pathetic and I have to believe that someday people will see through it.

For the zero people who read this, I apologize for my vehemence. I needed to get some things off my chest.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

This Day in History

The New York Times online edition has a feature called "On This Day" in which it gives a major headline for something that happened in the past on the current particular date. For example, on this day in 1943, the North African front in WWII was officially won by the Allies. But what about all those May 12ths in the annals of history? You know, the ones that weren't so celebrated or devastating or divisive or unifying. What about days like today? They're never included in the "On This Day" section of any paper, unless, perhaps, the storied New Prague Times, which often contains several momentous occasions dating back 25, 50, 75, and 100 years. Examples of such occasions include a farmer purchasing a new cow, or the overnight stay of a middle management equivalent traveling shoe salesman arriving on the train. But I digress...

Will May 12, 2005, go down in anyone's history books? Let's peruse the headlines: requisite North Korea and Middle East coverage; our national legislators trying to insert pork into an unmemorable and ineffective transportation bill; and the revelation that Macaulay Culkin really wasn't molested by Michael Jackson. These could be the headlines just about every day of the week for the past month or so, with some minor tweaking.

I mean look at John Bolton (embattled nominee for the post of ambassador to the United Nations). He has a front page story, AND David Brooks gives him at least six inches. All for what? Whether he's confirmed or not, nobody knows who the hell he is today and nobody will know who he is tomorrow or next month or next year. It's just a rigamarole. In all actuality, it's quite similar to this post. Inefficient and inarticulate musings that go 'round and 'round the May pole with nothing to tie it together. It's the beauty of my genius.

Of course, this is all my innate boredom talking. I've been in my office for going on four hours now and haven't successfully accomplished one work-related task. Not only haven't I accomplished any work-related tasks, I haven't even worked on any work-related tasks. After all, it is May 12, and we have damn-near-freezing rain (not sure if that should be hyphenated...erred on the side of cautioned) in Minneapolis. If that's not a call for supreme laziness at work, I don't know what is.

Oh yeah: Don't forget to shop the New Prague City-Wide Garage Sale. I'm sure it'll be a good one.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

What the hell am I doing?

So, despite my first post, I don't know exactly why I've decided to start my own blog. Yes, I like to pontificate. Yes, I like to think that I have more important things to say than other people. Yes, I have superiority complex when it comes to writing. All of those things have certainly attracted me to the world of blogging, but I haven't quite figured out what I'm doing yet.

Undoubtedly, this will include submissions such as my first, which will throw around my two-cents about politics or random issues. Primarily, this will be a blog of convenience in which those who wonder what I'm doing can simply open up my blog rather than calling or e-mailing me. Of course, that thought relies on people actually opening my blog and reading it, which, I know, is asking a lot. Nevertheless, I'm not really certain how this will turn out, and it may be hopelessly self-serving. For that I deserve the endless ridicule that will no doubt result from this ethereal electronic billboard of Me. But we all need to serve ourselves every once in a while.

Huffin' and puffin'

Well, now that Arianna Huffington has decided to make her official foray into the blogosphere, I've come to the conclusion that I may as well also. Seriously, though... Like I was telling JO, Who the hell cares what Julia Louis-Dreyfuss thinks of gay marriage? What can David Mamet possibly offer to push the national political discourse forward? I throw up my hands.

Why are there so many liberals who give liberals a bad name? Progressive politics, when articulated calmly with simple facts and morals backing it up, makes sense. Progressive politics, when blathered about by Whoopi Goldberg and bandied between Janeane Garfolo and Martin Sheen, somehow loses its luster. It's not that I hate celebrities, or even think that they should stay out of politics. They have as much a right to get involved as anyone else. I just don't understand why they have to be so annoying about it, and in the process, torpedo any efforts by "normal" liberals to do actually accomplish something, much less win an argument with some Neanderthal conservative.