Wednesday, December 31, 2008

As The Earth Turns

One rotation of the Earth around the Sun has been completed, though the Earth does not mark the passage. Its inhabitants do, although not always on the same day. It would not really matter what day you chose, but given the calendar, we choose January 1st to mark the New Year.

And we resolve to do better, each and every year. Lose weight. Be more charitable. Be more tolerant. Work harder. Play harder. Spend more time with our kids.

And these resolutions fail.

They fail, mainly because though the pages on the calendar change, we do not. Those thoughts, predilections, and predispositions we carry with us every day follow us into the next year, ready to wreak havoc again, even as we get our new year off to a good start.

Of course we are also beset by forces we cannot control. When last year began, who was actually prepared for the coming recession? How many of us had plans for new homes and new cars derailed by the economy? How many of us thought when the year ended that we would have no job?

For all that we bemoan the passing of the old year and celebrate the coming of the new year, the things that truly affect us remain. Turning the page on the calendar does not magically wipe away all that came before.

If we are to give this ritual meaning, if we truly want to change, then it is not enough to resolve to do these things, we must do them. We must stick with them. We must weather all the vagaries that come because of the changes we make. We must not let others derail or deter us from changing course.

If we take anything at all from 2008, let us remember that change happens, but not without effort, drive, and desire. For change to take place, we must will it into existence. We must expend all the energy we can to strive for our goals. If we do that, expend maximum effort and rebuff those things that would alter our course, then maybe, just maybe, we can finally change the world.

I wish all of you peace, prosperity, happiness, and above all, hope, in the coming year. May we all be richer for this trip around the Sun.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


We know they are not coming home
And we care not one bit
We keep their fire in our hearts
And we keep their candles lit
They let us share their world
And so to thank them we must
Keep them in our memories
As they slowly turn to dust
Mingling with the turning Earth
To find their peace again
And we hope to meet them all
Though we're really not sure when

First posted on

Monday, December 8, 2008

Tis' The Season

His name was Jdimytai Damour, he was 34, and you probably do not know who he was, because he was not famous, not a spokesman for anything, not a politician, sports star, or celebrity. He was a big man -- 270 pounds -- and everyone who knew him liked him.

And he died.

He did not die the heroic death of a firefighter struggling to save people from a burning building, or that of a soldier fending off the enemy while his comrades were evacuated to safety. He did not even die the regrettable death of Sean Bell, in a hail of police bullets.

He was trampled. Crushed. Crushed by an insensitive human mob, bent on getting the best holiday deal on toys, TVs, or clothing. A tsunami of humanity, surging into a Valley Stream, NY Wal-Mart as if they were an infantry division hitting the beach at Normandy. And in the end, Jdimytai Damour was a casualty, along with human decency and intelligence.

We sit in the economic crisis strangling this country precisely because of the rampant consumerism that brought about this tragedy. The desire of the masses to possess the latest and greatest merchandise led to the overspending of credit, the purchasing of homes beyond the means of money, and the attempt to spend money that did not exist, in the form of home equity. People have been told repeatedly, daily, by Madison Avenue, that they must possess more and better things.

And this striving for the latest and greatest has overwhelmed the spirit of the season we are now in, a season which creeps closer and closer to Summer as every year passes. The lessons of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and even the Winter Solstice have been swept under the rising tide of holiday sales and bargains galore. In a time of need, when families are watching their greatest asset, their homes, being taken from them, when job cuts leave many on unemployment, unable to pay their bills, and when the need for charity is at its greatest, thousands line up outside stores at obscene hours of the day, all to pinch pennies on gifts for themselves or others. Pennies which do not find their way into the coffers of the charities that could so desperately use them.

While not all people ascribe to Christianity as their belief system of choice, it is interesting to note that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of a man, the Son of God for those who believe, who preached a simple message: we are all in this together. We must reach out to each other, help each other, no matter who we are or what our place in life. We can gain great peace in knowing that we have striven to not only help ourselves, but our fellow human beings. We must come together, and we must be willing to put all differences aside, for the greater good. Also interesting to note that he died at the hands of his fellow men, as was ordained, in order to hopefully save their souls.

Jdimytai Damour's death cannot be said to be as dramatic as that of Christ, but it should carry no less powerful a message. If a man's life must be forfeit, let it be for the good of all, rather than a mere pittance for a few. Let us choose to be better than mere rabble. Let us take the energy of our lust for goods, and turn it to a lust for good. Let us be pained when we cannot help others in their hour of need. When anyone falls, let a hundred hands reach out to pull that person up. Though we may have little money to give, let us give as much of ourselves as we can. Perhaps if we do these things, there can be some redemption for this man's pointless death.

Friday, December 5, 2008

What I'm Wishing For

It's the holiday season again, though with retail creep, the rush toward Christmas is taking on the stature of the latest Presidential campaign, starting way too early and wearing everyone down. Combine this with the recession (which authorities just got around to realizing, started last December), and the job cuts going on, and this promises to be a difficult month to get through for many. For some of us though, we can't help but take the essence of the holiday and make use of it to place some well-intentioned wishes:

1] Here's wishing President-Elect Obama smooth sailing in the first months of his administration. He's going to need help, because the economy is dying a lingering death, the world is still a pretty dangerous place, and there are plenty of people who, unable to deny him his place in history, are rooting for him to fail.

2] Here's wishing the Detroit auto industry does not get its bailout. Oh, I know, there will be economic devastation, even longer unemployment lines, and a general failure of Western civilization. But the hand-writing was on the wall in the mid-1970s, when OPEC made it quite clear that they ran our country, and since then, the Big Three and the UAW have done very little to create cheap, economical transportation, even as the Japanese continue their excellence in that arena. It's time for the old to be swept away.

3] Here's wishing the government would pull the plug on this $700 billion bailout of the financial industry. See 2] for the same basic destruction of our way of life, but do the phrases "Savings and Loan Crisis," "Tech Bubble," and "Enron" ring a bell? If we're not going to bail out Detroit, then Wall Street doesn't deserve it either. Let those firms fail, as any business that is mis-managed should. I don't think my pocket, or the pockets of my children and grandchildren, need to be picked so some CEO can continue to get rich running his corporation into the ground. Take the money and fund everyone's unemployment benefits for a year, spend money on retraining workers, rebuilding our infrastructure, and invest in industries that will take us into the future (renewable energy, fusion research, clean transportation, recycling).

4] A wish for peace in Iraq. May it come in the form of a cloud of dust being raised as columns of Humvees and M-1A1s head for the ports and the airports, carrying our weary soldiers home for the rest and the accolades they so richly deserve.

5] A wish for Osama Bin-Laden to wake up one morning to find a gun muzzle pressed against the side of his head by a United States Marine.

6] Here's wishing an end to intolerance, in all its forms (racism, sexism, religious zealotry, etc.). We are all humans; we are all together in this, like it or not. We need not like each other, but we must learn to tolerate each other and to work together to ensure that our world is safe from destruction at our own hands.

7] A special wish: that in this season of caring and giving, that each of us digs a little deeper into our pockets, our closets, our pantries, to ensure that no one has to be cold and hungry. It should not take the devastation of a hurricane or an earthquake or a tsunami for us to do what we can to eliminate want from this world.

8] A wish that everyone, no matter their circumstance, no matter what hard times they face, no matter what pains they have endured, have some peace as this year comes to a close.

These are just some of the things I am wishing for.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Today is a day to remember
And you stand there
Before the cool stone monument
And pictures form unbidden in your mind
Of explosions
Of bodies
The faces of friends
Alive and dead
And the lonely notes begin to fill the air
Your eyes sting
Your heart stiffens
Each note brings it back
And you remember why you fought
What you shared with comrades
Before you picked up your weapons
And entered the fray
And as the last plaintive notes
Of that soul-wrenching tune
Waft through the air
You give thanks for having known them
You give thanks for having survived
And you hope
That no one else need suffer and die
In the defense of freedom

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Newest Challenge to Civil Rights

While the glow from Barack Obama's victory continues to wash over the nation, and pundits begin rhapsodic waxing about its significance, or deliver postmortem reflections on why the McCain-Palin ticket lost, the day brought to a head another issue that has been flying under the political radar this election cycle: gay marriage.

It was not a significant issue during the Presidential race and other than a few notices in the news about Proposition 8 in California, there was little play. Even some of the most prominent homosexual people in California did not seem to start taking it seriously until the very end, as the date of the referendum drew nearer. The hew and cry that one would have expected turned out to be a petulant whisper. In the end, 52% of Californians who voted decided that it was best to amend the state's Constitution to keep same-sex couples from having a basic and primary right that all people should be able to share.

This has led the other 48% who voted against the measure, and a good portion of the rest of the nation, scratching their heads. How could this happen? In California of all places? And with a black man set to become President?

It came about because as causes go, this one has not been high on anyone's list. There is a lackadaisical feeling in California -- perhaps it's due to the sunny weather, the presence of Hollywood, the liberal tinge to the air, or just because it's California. Whatever the reason, that feeling tends to make it hard to drive them to the necessary level of histrionics required to get people to pay attention, and makes it a breeding ground for groups who can succeed in showing the necessary fire to get their message across.

And so, the fundamentalists of California worked harder, for longer, and with bigger war chests, and convinced a majority of the population that this was a good idea. And 52% bought it. And so, 18,000 couples, so happy just a few short months ago at being able to consummate their love with holy matrimony, now sit nervously and wonder what this all means for them.

Let me start by saying it was execrable amendment. Though couched in gentle terms, the effect was quite clear: to keep homosexuals from "sullying" the institution of marriage. How can a man and a man or a woman and a woman actually love each other? Don't they understand how unnatural that is? Don't they see that God hates them, and they should not be allowed to make an abomination by being joined in marriage?

Such thought is, without a doubt, putrid and malfeasant. It is the same level of rationality that allowed the Salem Witch Trials to be held, and innocent women and men convicted of witchcraft by the most nonexistent evidence imaginable. It is the same thread that allowed white men to enslave black men and women. It is in the same vein as the ideas of euthanasia and racial purity. It is the foulest breath of bigotry, for it exists as nothing tangible except naked fear of the unknown. And while slaves have been freed and women emancipated, the homosexual person has always been alone, "in the closet." Feared. Loathed. Misunderstood. Homosexuality is still treated as some ephemeral disease that a cough or a touch may transfer.

And it is in that scope that the forces in favor of Proposition 8 worked, making sure that people knew that if homosexuals were allowed to marry, it would be the social equivalent of the "Coming of Days." Unreasonableness and fear were allowed to run loose, unchecked and unchallenged, until it was too late.

Now there is much hand-wringing and recrimination. How could this happen? Why didn't more get done? Where were people who cared about this?

First, it is time to put this shameful event in the past. It is done, and no amount of wishing can undo the voting. Second, it is time to analyze the failure. The simple fact is: the fundamentalists wanted it more. They worked harder. They worked everywhere. They raised more funds and spoke louder and longer to people. The did everything that the Obama-Biden campaign did, but to more sinister ends. Third, it is time to look ahead. So, it has become a law. But laws can be made, and they can be unmade. An amendment to a Constitution can be repealed. Laws can be challenged on merit and on civil grounds. Forces can be aligned to repair the damage. What bigotry and idolatry can do, reason and righteousness can undo.

So now it is time to organize. It is time for the forces that should have been aligned against Proposition 8 before now to come together, to work together, and to build the machinery necessary to challenge this unconscionable violation of the civil rights of homosexuals. This must be elevated in people's eyes, so that they see exactly what is being condemned: couples, human beings, who love and are devoted to each other, who want to foster that love and to provide love to others. People, being denied a basic right, because it offends the sensibilities of zealots. Let this fight begin anew. Let the words rise up from the valleys and soar over the peaks. Let this be the last time any group in this country faces such blatant hostility and discrimination. Let the 21st Century in America be known as the Century of Enlightenment and Decency, rather than as a decent into madness.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Day After

Not unlike the plot of the post-nuclear war movie, yesterday saw an attack on Republicanism of mammoth proportions that swept over the country from coast to coast and laid waste to an electoral map that was all but set in stone in the two previous Presidential elections. It came out of the cool Autumn sky and thundered down around those who had for eight years thought themselves immune to the vagaries of American politics, upsetting apple carts and devastating bastions of conservatism. By the wee hours of the next morning, all that remained was rubble, shattered dreams, dashed hopes, and a leader capitulating from his desert stronghold.

So, what now?

The leader of the attack, the man who promised change, and brought it last night, said it best:

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.

It is not enough that Barack Obama was elected President of the United States, for that does not automatically absolve us of the sins of slavery, bigotry, and Jim Crow. It is not enough that he cut across party lines and forced states long thought to be Republican fortresses to yield to the force of his convictions. It is not enough that he is strong, forbearing, patient, and magnanimous. For what was done yesterday was not the start of something new, but the unleashing of something inevitable, the release of the titanic forces of pent up frustration and desire that had been written into the Declaration of Independence with the following statement:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

That simple statement, which launched this great nation, reverberated and echoed in every vote cast on November 4th, 2008. The governed, having determined that it was time for a change, brought about that change, and in this case, the ballot was mightier than the sword, for no shots needed to be fired to bring about this new revolution.

And still, it is not enough.

For having secured this victory, this statement that we can and will fix things, we must now accomplish change. And we cannot do it as fragments, pools of Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative, black, white, Hispanic, Jew, agnostic, et. al. -- we must do it as one. As President-Elect Obama so eloquently put it:

This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.

It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

And so now, the true task of change begins. Our support for Obama must spread forth, to encompass all those around us, of every race, every station, every persuasion. We must lean down, look those who lost in the eye, reach out a hand, and ask them to come with us and help us. If they refuse, so be it, but we must extend the olive branch. We must mend fences. We must stand shoulder to shoulder, if change is what we truly seek. There is no reason why all of us cannot benefit from what is to come, from the Wall Street investor able to make all the money they want, to the victim of foreclosure being put back on their feet and given an opportunity to start over. From the illegal immigrant given an opportunity to make a living here as a legal resident, to the abortion foe who can be secure in the knowledge that fewer unwanted babies are being born. No matter what part of life in America we come from, there is no reason that we cannot all have the peace, prosperity, and happiness that our Constitution provides us.

It will require hard work. It will require vigilance. It will require lowering our mutual suspicion and hostility. It will mean admitting we are wrong, that we have made mistakes, that we have misjudged each other. It will mean being a bigger person than some, and tolerating outright hostility.

It will not be easy.

From this moment forward, we pay for this election with a commitment to ensuring that we participate fully in the great experiment that is Democracy, whether it is voting in every election, writing our Congressmen, asking hard questions of our President, or simply giving what we can to others who are in need. The cost of this victory is high, but the reward is higher, as long as we do not stop, do not take a rest, do not stand on our laurels. Celebrate now, and embrace this truly historic moment... then realize that tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, and every day thereafter will require even more work, time, and sacrifice. Do not stop paying. Do not stop participating. Do not let the winds of change fall still.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Longest Day

This is the day before the most historic election of our time. Tomorrow, those who have not already voted, will pour into polling places and cast ballots, in what will no doubt turn into a knock-down, drag-out race that we will not know the winner of until Wednesday morning. With that in mind, it reminds me of the night before Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Europe in June 1944. On the one hand, you had the German forces, vigilant, awaiting an invasion that was inevitable, but not knowing where it would be or when. And the Allies, men by the tens of thousands crammed onto ships of every type and in airplanes overhead, keyed up, nervous, trained to a fine edge, ready to hit the beach and begin the end of Hitler's reign of terror over Europe.

No one knew what the morrow would bring. Could thousands upon thousands of men and their tons of supplies be brought safely onto a French beachhead, and could that wave of men and material make it off the beach and in-land? Could the Germans hold the Allies on the beach long enough to bring up armor support and destroy the invaders piecemeal? What would the casualties be like? Who would live and who would die?

We face that uncertainty now. For all the preparation, all the phone calls, all the voters registered, all the signs, placards, and rallies, what will happen tomorrow? Will voting machines break? Be tampered with? Will people vote who should not? Will people not be allowed to vote who should? Will the floods of people seeking to vote lead to hours-long lines? How long will the counting take? Which states will be the true battlegrounds?

No amount of preparation and rehearsal could prepare the men who hit the beach of D-Day for what happened. Some things went right, some went horribly wrong. In places the Germans were well prepared; in others, they fired hardly a shot. Masses of men were felled, dying without so much as bring their rifle off their shoulder. Landing craft were blown apart. Tanks sank in the English Channel or were torn apart on the beach. Organization melted away, and men had to dig in and take control in ones and twos, often with no one to lead them. By the end of that day, the Allies had their foothold, one they would not relinquish.

And so it will go tomorrow. There will be skirmishes. There will be fights. There will be broken machines and choked polling places, and paper ballots. And then, slowly, the crowds will clear, the polls will close, and the votes will be tallied.

Tomorrow, our country will be different, no matter the outcome, for this campaign has cast that difference in stark relief. A great portion of our nation is prepared to move forward, step away from the nation we have been the last 225 years and take us forward into a new age. Many are unsure. Some are scornful. A few, closet anarchists, unhappy with any outcome which forces them to confront their true "beliefs." There will be joy. There will be sorrow. There will be anger. But there will be change.

And so, like those men 64 years ago, we wait. We wait, secure in the knowledge that we have done everything we could as individuals and as a nation to prepare. That when the ramp drops, we will surge into the teeth of the maelstrom, brandishing our votes as we cross the beach and struggle toward the high ground. And when the day is done, and the shock of the day has worn off, we will be able to lean back and know that we accomplished something, a great something, something that will forever change our destiny.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat?

Ah yes, Halloween. A time to dress up as something you are not, and if below the age of 13, ring people's doorbells and ask for candy. If you are 13 to say 18, roam around your neighborhood hurling eggs, toilet paper, and shaving cream. If above 18, get dressed up in some sort of costume, go to a party or some parties, and get drunk and have odd pictures taken.

I've never been into it really.

Perhaps it was growing up in the middle of nowhere in Vermont, where the nearest neighbor was about a mile-and-a-half away, and the next one three miles past that. Maybe it was never having close friends. Maybe it was plenty of things, but the spooks and hobgoblins and scary stories have never done anything for me.

I'm not easily scared.

My semi-paranoid nature causes me to make constant assessments of my environment, trying to anticipate what may come next. Halloween is like telegraphing the punch to my brain; you know people are going to try and scare you or walk up to you half-soused and barf on you, so you anticipate and avoid.

Even the supposed "scary" movies they play this time of year do nothing for me. The only movie that ever actually generated nightmares for me was The Exorcist, and that's because I saw it when I was younger. Now I find it hilarious. Freddy Kruger? Bah! Jason? Please! Chucky? OK, now you're reaching. Even Dracula, Frankenstein, and Wolf Man have had their teeth taken out by bad modern remakes -- you can never go wrong with the classics!

So you'll forgive me if I feel blasé about Halloween.

For the things in life that are truly scary, knock traditional Halloween frights into a cocked hat:

  • The idea that a tortured, 72-year-old Vietnam vet with an entitlement complex could theoretically become President

  • That if the above became true, a moose-shooting hockey mom from Alaska with a healthy case of cognitive dissonance and the ability to lie to the public without batting an eye would be one heart attack away from being President of the United States

  • That for both of the above to become true, the citizens of America would have to be moronic enough, or possibly bigoted enough, to not vote for a black man

  • That if they did not vote for the black man, it would be because deep in our hearts, we have not thrown off the mentality of the slave holder

  • That the plunging economy and rapidly accumulating debt built up by the past 8 years of mismanagement would continue for another 4 to 8 years

  • That people cannot tolerate the idea of change for the better

Now that's scary!

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Real America

A lot has been made during this Presidential election about the "real" America, as if the adjective could somehow be applied to an artificial construct. For that's what any country is -- a collection of points on the surface of the Earth which encompass an artificially determined area. Countries have been created to be de facto containers of "our people," divided along whatever lines people have seen fit to draw, both topologically and socially.

While you find a great deal of homogeneity in many countries, there are pockets of every nation where ethnic and cultural variations abound. Italy and Germany are crazy-quilts of ethnic types, borne of hundreds of years of conquest and commerce. The Basque people in Spain maintain a fierce independence from the Spanish. The African continent is littered with countries built up of tribes which share only lines on the map, but not language or custom.

On the surface anyway, the United States tries to portray itself as the great "melting pot," where all of the rest of humanity comes to better itself. We pride ourselves on the great diversity of ethnicity that permeates each and every nook and cranny of our land.

The flip side of this American diversity, however, is fractionation, as various groups form collectives within the grand scheme of the "United" States of America. Given the diversity of race, it is interesting to note that not all of this fractionation is racial; much of it is social or religious. Clusters of the like-minded spring up in all sorts of places and exert what influence they have locally. It is only in an election year, and especially true in a Presidential one, that these groups, normally separated by geography, merge to form blocks that candidates are forced to pander to. Fiscal conservatives, Evangelicals, gun owners, immigrants, abortion rights advocates, pro-Life advocates, businessmen -- suddenly the individual voter is subservient to the block, a cog in a large political machine that expects the candidates to pay them some respect and listen to their points of view.

It is sometimes interesting to note that this phenomenon is nothing new, nor is it unknown. Social psychology tells us that people will tend to cluster with others who share their primary social attributes. It also tells us that in groups, peer forces will often overwhelm normal individual judgment, creating that phenomenon known as "the mob mentality." And in groups, when there is a decision to be made, only the strongest can break the spell of inaction and indecision.

So if you look out at America, the "real" America, you see 300 million individuals, clustering together for mutual comfort and trying to go about lives that give them the most gain and the most satisfaction. An within that giant pool, there are the eddies and currents of social, economic, and racial conformity which occasionally cause powerful waves to form. Sometimes those waves disperse their energy to good effect, such as the outpouring of support for New York after 9/11 and for New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Often though, these waves stir up the surface, and come into contact with other waves, and there becomes a titanic struggle as each tries to swamp the other.

The current election is a lot like that. On the one hand, you have John McCain, candidate of the establishment, the "old guard," trying to take his rightful place at the head of a country that needs strong leadership and a firm hand. On the other, Barack Obama, candidate of change, looking to brush past the establishment, seize the reins of power, and chart a new course. And feeding them are the various groups attuned to their individual messages, rank swelling rank, building up their candidate and propelling him though the swells.

The roiling, churning sea that is this election is being driven by a "perfect storm" of economic collapse, social upheaval, war, and jingoism. It is a clash of culture more than an election, for each side seems to represent a different aspect of the American landscape: McCain, the representative of the tail end of the generations that fought the great world wars, Obama representing the slow birth of a pluralistic planetary culture which rides technology into the future.

And so, the heart and soul of the "real" America is on the line. When one side wins, there will be a collective groan from the other, for it will mark disappointment and perhaps desperation and depression. A McCain victory would mean that all the promise of the future, the chance to set right the Ship of State, will have been squandered and will lead inevitably to anxiety as the policies of the last 8 years find new life. An Obama victory will frighten the older, conservative crowd, as suddenly they will see their caricature of "real America" slowly dissolve away in the rain, to be replaced by a freer and fairer world, a world without limits and without boundaries. A world filled with ideas that will shock them and test their faith.

And in the end, no matter who wins, life will go on. For neither man winning will cause the sudden and inexorable collapse of American society, only begin a new cycle of political bargaining and punditry. The true test will be down the road, when we look back and ask ourselves if we did the right thing.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

No "Average" Joe

Dear Senator McCain,

Allow me to introduce myself: I'm Not Joe Average.

I am a guy who has spent his whole life working very hard at every job he has had. I have tried to live a frugal life. I have not spent my time squandering money on things, but on the necessities of life like cars, a home, food, and clothes. And even then I do everything I can to save money. And yet...

Other than a house and a car, I have nothing substantive. I have no retirement savings. Every dime I have earned has had to go to paying someone for something I needed or was honor-bound to pay for (property taxes, sales taxes, income taxes, etc.). I have no money set aside for college for my children. There's no rainy day fund -- my savings account is empty, sucked dry every time a new unforeseen expense comes up. And there are a lot of those...

You see, I work in IT, and well, those pesky companies I end up working for inevitably figure out that it's cheaper for someone in India to do my job at one-third the price, so they end up laying me off. So, inevitably I am trying to live on unemployment insurance, while the money I would have put into Social Security and Medicare and health insurance is going overseas, where it does no one in this country any good.

So when you say you'd like to help Joe "The Plumber" get his plumbing business, I can't help but wonder: when are you going to help me? I figure Joe, being a plumber, is making good money. If he is making good money, and he's smart about his credit, he should be able to go to a bank for a loan to help him buy that business.

Oh wait.

Silly me.

The banks don't want to lend anyone any money! Seems they've fallen on hard times, something about a housing bubble. I seem to have read it in the papers.

So I guess Joe is out of luck. Unless you would care to write him a check?

Didn't think so.

Because after him would come me, and then after me would come someone else, and after them another person, and so on. Pretty soon, you'd be... well... poor.

Then again, you might lend Joe the money, but not the rest of us. We're not living the American Dream, right? Because we're not running out and trying to buy businesses or large-screen plasma TVs, or because we think it's possible that a woman should get paid equal to men for the same work, or we think that not getting pregnant is a far better idea than having abortions or giving kids up for adoption, or possibly because we know that drilling for more oil is a fool's bargain that will have little impact on our dependence on foreign oil.

Perhaps we're not real Americans.

So what is it, Senator? What are we to you? Demographic groups to pander to? To frighten? To lie to in the vain hope that we won't notice? What?

I'll tell you what we are.

We are Americans tired of promises that lead to the same-old Washington messes. We are tired of watching the Federal government squander our money on wars and weapons while it leaves its own citizens to live in squalor and poverty in ever-increasing numbers. We are tired of a political machine which greases the wheels of the "big shots" on Wall Street to the point of handing them a big check written out of our checkbooks, while doing precious little to fix what caused the problem in the first place. We are tired of hearing how wonderful everything will be when you cut taxes on the rich and all that money will trickle down into our pockets. We are tired of people trying to foist their morality on us and expecting us to like it. We're tired of pandering and glad-handing.

And we're angry.

Oh yes we are, Senator, but not in the way you think. We are angry at you, you and your friends in the political establishment who have spent years peddling influence and paying lip service to the true problems in this country. Our anger is incandescent at the thought of losing our homes and our savings and our retirement funds because the people on Wall Street could not contain their greed. Our anger is a subtle, seething rage at how you stand there in all your glory, making your opponent seem as if he is untrustworthy, when it is you and your allies who have fabricated, prevaricated, and obfuscated to score points with a citizenry that, below the surface, is frightened at the thought of a black man becoming their President.

You make us angry. You represent some of the worst facets of our society. You stand for unreason, for faith before logic, for the rich getting richer on the backs of those who have already given all they have and all they can. You act as if you are owed something for all you have given this country. If that is so, then what are we owed? When do we get what's coming to us? When does out torture stop? Torture in the form of not knowing from one day to the next whether we will have a job, a home, or even our personal freedoms. When does that end?

I'll tell you when. Mark it down on your calendar: November 4th.

That is the day we, Americans all, cast our ballots, and when the vast majority of us, reasoning, honest, hard-working citizens, cast our votes against you and for someone who is actually interested in us and our welfare. The day that we sweep away the old, the stale, and let in a breath of fresh air, redolent with new ideas and hope. A day long overdue.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Debate Prep 3: Return of the Democrats

Tonight (10/15) is the final Presidential Debate for the 2008 election. The format is kind of a "sit down at the lunch table" talk, with Obama and McCain seated side-by-side across from Bob Schieffer. It is considered by many to be the last gasp for McCain; only a good showing here will keep his campaign alive.

The tenor of the McCain campaign has rubbed many people the wrong way, Democrat and Republican. Failing to address racist comments at rallies in a timely fashion, trying to use William Ayers and ACORN as bogeymen to show how unfit Obama is to be President, and Sarah Palin's apparent inability to read a report that condemns here ethical lapses as "no evidence of wrongdoing" -- these are the kinds of things that make it increasingly clear that the McCain camp has lost its way. As their poll numbers trend downward further, the attacks ramp up, become less substantive but more vicious. If you cannot win on merit, win through fear. Karl Rove must be proud.

So what to expect?

From Obama, more of the same. Through the debates and the slew of negative ads, he has maintained his cool demeanor, showing no signs of allowing the needles and arrows of his foes to penetrate. He stands his ground with utter confidence in his message and his destiny. He will deflect each blow as it comes, pressing back with the surety of a fighter who knows how to allow his opponent to expend his energy fruitlessly, all the while unaware of being backed into a corner.

From McCain, more of the same rhetoric, but with a plethora of new "facts" to throw into the fight. He will stick to his guns on Iraq and the economy, and attempt to paint his opponent as out of touch, as someone who cannot be trusted because he consorts with "bad people." McCain will lunge, and lunge, striking with everything he has in his arsenal because he can leave nothing back. This will be his last opportunity and he will push and press. Ultimately, it will leave him vulnerable, because in his haste to bring down Obama, he will reveal parts of his true self which will paint a bleak picture of a McCain presidency.

Ultimately, I doubt that even if McCain brings his "A-game" he will enough strength to wrestle Obama down over any particular topic. He will resort to the low arts, hurling innuendo like hand grenades in the hope it will do enough damage to keep Obama in striking distance. But if he does this, it will have the opposite effect, highlighting the weaknesses in his current character that have been all too evident of late.

John McCain knows in his heart that this is the last battle. If he fails now, there will be no Presidency in his future. He has reached the zenith of his political career and when he loses the election, the plunge to the nadir will be swift and frightening. That thought will no doubt weigh heavily on his mind as the debate begins.

Ode to Autumn

Nature's green cloak
Rusts and yellows
And falls down
To the cool earth
As she heaves a sigh
And prepares for slumber

Monday, October 13, 2008

Who is the real John McCain?

Fair question.

Is he the Vietnam hero who survived 5 years at the Hanoi Hilton with the help of some friends?

He used to be.

Is he the man who came home from Vietnam, found out his wife had been disfigured in a horrible accident, and proceeded to cheat on her?

Most assuredly.

Is he the man who married a rich and beautiful woman to show he had not lost his naval aviator chops?

No doubt.

Is he the Senator who got mixed up with Charles Keating and ended up selling out his integrity and got away with it only because the Senate could not dredge up enough evidence to convict him of anything?

You be the judge.

Is he the man who voted to deregulate Wall Street to the point it was able to pull the wool over investors' eyes and profit off of bad debt?

Pretty much.

Is he the man who called his wife a particularly derogatory term in public?

Sure is.

Is he the "maverick" who voted with George Bush 90% of the time?

The evidence is in the Congressional records.

Is he the man who acted at two debates like his opponent was not even in the room?


Is he the man who stood idly by as people made derogatory comments about his opponent at rallies, comments which smacked of racism?

Yes, but not anymore apparently.

Is he the candidate who is watching his poll numbers continue to slip and realizing that the end of the road for his chance is near?

Count on it.

Who is the real John McCain? The public may never really know.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Never Get Involved in a Land War in America

We have passed Presidential Debate 2: The Old Man Strikes Back, and it is becoming increasingly clear that John McCain is losing ground. Now, I am normally suspicious of what a poll actually says the numbers are (sample sizes are way too small and demographics are iffy at best), but I do watch the trends in the numbers, because on the whole, they are fairly accurate predictors. And the polls show Obama's numbers trending up and McCain's numbers trending down.

You can point to a lot of reasons for this. The sudden explosion of the economy was like the asteroid that pushed the dinosaurs to their doom. The bloom is off Sarah Palin's rose, as it became clear from the Vice Presidential debate that Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson could not have done much to make her look bad that she wasn't fully capable of all by herself. The attack ads that McCain's camp have launched have started to become darker and dirtier. McCain's treatment of Obama before, during, and after the debates was the subject of much scrutiny. Even some Republican pundits are beginning to see the warning signs.

This is not good if you are John McCain.

So now he presses the attack. He takes on Obama's character, rails about how we don't know who Obama is or what he thinks, that he's evasive when asked about his record, is lying and hopes that by repeating it often enough people will believe it.

In psychoanalysis, this is called projection -- projecting your own negative qualities onto others rather than identifying them with yourself.

This is also not good if you're John McCain.

Perhaps the most telling thing to happen of late is the appearance at McCain/Palin rallies of people who are decidedly racist. Not just that, but that when incidents occur at these rallies, they elicit no condemnation from the candidate.

It becomes increasingly clear that John McCain is trying to sell his political soul to get that seat in the Oval Office. He is no longer concerned with outward appearances -- he has beat the war drum of his service, his captivity, his maverick nature to the point of drowning out reason and sanity. He is a man acting as if he is owed a term as President of the United States, rather than having to earn it like everyone else has. He is now pandering to the lowest common denominator of the electorate, the seedy underbelly of politics -- those who fear a black man in the White House. By bringing up Obama's tenuous link to William Ayers, and thus by association linking Obama to terrorism, McCain has lost his last shred of decency.

This election is slowly turning into a new Civil War, a war between the status quo of power and privilege (McCain) and a new birth of freedom and democracy (Obama). Unlike the Civil War, where the battle lines were drawn starkly on the map, this battle for the heart and soul of the nation plays out on a constantly shifting field, where attack and counterattack, thrust and parry, underhanded deed and glorious battle are represented in a constant, whirling milieu. The colors shift and dance across the map, and in the end, in this amorphous atmosphere of desperation and hope, one side will triumph. But at what cost.

John McCain has begun the long slow plunge -- here's hoping he does not take the decency of the United States down with him.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Debate Prep

For all of you out there who feel like tonight (10/02) will be Sarah Palin's comeuppance as Republican Vice Presidential candidate, I have bad news for you: don't count on it. I know, I know, the interviews do not lie -- she is pretty clueless about things most of us have at least a passing knowledge of and is counting on her 10th grade debate skills to get her through. And it will be live -- no rocks to hide behind or Straight Talk Express to hop into and lock the door. Which is why she is being as well prepared as the McCain camp can make her.

And the preparation will probably pay off, if they concentrated not on what she would say but how she would say it. I think they might have programmed her to keep the answers simple and straight-forward and to not flounce around too much verbally if caught off-guard. There's literally no way they could pump enough foreign policy information into her to allow her to take on Joe Biden on even close to equal footing.

No, I see this as a less-is-more kind of debate, because as many of us know, Joe Biden has a gaffe problem of his own. I don't see him going at her tooth-and-nail the whole debate, but letting her stand there and talk, then get in and make his own cogent remarks. I think he will every so often needle her with something he knows she can't possibly pull out of her hairdo, but over all will not want to come off as being too aggressive. Biden stands to lose as much from this debate as Palin.

And in the end, I very much doubt, unless there is a major flub, that this debate will change much. Vice Presidential debates seldom do. They're pretty much having this debate to give the main contenders a breather and to generate new ad material. If Palin does poorly, it will be blamed on sunspots, the "liberal media," Vladimir Putin, anything but Palin herself. If she does well, she will do no more than match Biden, and as such won't look bad, but won't look overly impressive either, given that Joe won't be going after her full bore. I honestly think Joe Biden may just coast through this, to avoid being seen as attacking Palin "because she's a woman."

So look for it to be pretty boring, with occasional moments that will either make you scratch your head or laugh out loud. In the end, there will be no massive bump for either Obama or McCain, only a breather between the Wall Street meltdown and their next debate.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

How Now, Cash Cow?

I think if you're John McCain now, you're looking around and wondering if things can get any worse for you. Wall Street and the financial sector, which you thought were coming out of the woods, retreated into the depths of the forest and barricaded themselves in their log cabin. Your Vice Presidential candidate did not come off too smoothly in a trip to the U.N. and made gaffes in front of Katie Couric which a) were worse than what happened with Charlie Gibson and b) not exactly going to fill anyone with any confidence in her ability to retain and repeat information (otherwise known as your record as a Senator). And did I fail to mention that you campaign manager didn't completely sever his ties to the people he lobbied for?

So you need to do something to get the swagger back and look, well... presidential. What to do... what to do... wait-a-minute! I'll suspend my campaign! I'll tell the American people that this financial crisis is too important to be handled in a partisan fashion and needs my full attention! It'll make me sound vigorous, in-charge, ready for action! Yeah!


First off, it seems Congress is able to build a bailout plan without your help. Second, even so, not all your Republican buddies are all that keen on it -- mainly because the people back home are restless, there are several key states where Republicans are vulnerable for House and Senate seats, and to give in so easily would look bad. It may mean angering their Wall Street contributors, but fat lot of good their money is right now!

Third, Obama called you on it. Shouldn't a man who-would-be-President be able to handle multiple things? It's not like the economy will stop collapsing long enough for you to be able to deal with Iran and North Korea.

And fourth, coming a full two weeks after the crisis reared its ugly head, doesn't it seem a bit disingenuous? Where was your leadership last week or the week before? Did the whole thing catch you and your staff by surprise?

And another thing -- why suspend the campaign? Don't you have a "qualified" Vice Presidential nominee who can hit the campaign trail in your absence and continue spouting the half-truths, obfuscations, and baseless accusations just as well as you can? Or are you afraid she'll say the wrong thing, "pull a Quayle" so-to-speak?

I'm sorry Senator McCain, but you were not prepared for this and your instinctive reaction tells the country more about your ability to be President than any attack ad or campaign stump speech. You dropped the ball. The people you surrounded yourself with weren't smart enough to take true advantage of the situation, to get you into your shining armor and up on your trusty steed fast enough. And now it looks like Congress is going to solve the problem without you and possibly without full Republican support, and that's going to make you look even weaker.

Do yourself a favor -- debate on Friday. At this point, you have nothing left to lose.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

It's The Mortgages, Stupid!

So now, the backpedaling on bailouts has begun. John McCain was "firmly" against them, as the "fundamentals of our economy are strong." However, now that the Fed is having to bail out AIG to keep them from taking down their sector of the market, now perhaps they're a good idea.

I could go on raking McCain over the coals for this, but Obama has been hedging on the issue as well, not wanting to "second guess the Fed" on the need for these bailouts. The fact is, Obama wants tighter regulation to keep this from happening in the future and McCain wants to continue to deregulate and let the market take care of itself. Given that the current level of deregulation led to this crisis, guess which plan would work better in my estimation?

But I don't want this to be a political diatribe. Instead, I want to point the U.S. Government's attention to the actual problem here. As usual, those in power cannot see the forest for the trees -- the failure of banks and brokerage houses is not the cause of the problem, but a symptom. The cause of the problem is the mortgages that the banks handed out that were invested in by the brokerage houses. Those mortgages are in foreclosure at an ever-increasing rate, sucking resources out of these large firms as they try and stem the bleeding. This is leading to problems for Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, et. al.

The solution to the problems on Wall Street has little to do with pumping up these failing companies. Conventional wisdom says that these firms made these mistakes and they should pay by failing, but that is a short-sighted view, given that these firms and their investing is the backbone of our economy. That said, the government should not simply be pumping money into their coffers. Instead, the government should have started trying to avoid the problem entirely by helping the people in danger of foreclosure.

As the title goes -- it's the mortgages, stupid!

Now, all these banks and mortgage brokers shot themselves in the foot by handing out no-doc, sub-prime, adjustable-rate mortgages like so much Halloween candy, to people who in many cases were clearly going to be unable to support them. They front-loaded the mortgages with low rates and low payments to get people on the hook, and then were shocked to find out that when the rates (and thus the payments) went up, suddenly people couldn't afford to make them anymore! And so around 18 - 24 months ago the great wave of foreclosures began, leaving banks holding title to thousands of homes with no owners, who were paying no money for them. And as the inventory piled up, the booming housing market hit the brakes hard, causing this pileup on Wall Street, since somewhere a few years back, someone thought it would be a good idea to issue securities tied to this debt.

So now we see Wall Street giants being felled by the stupidity and greed of some mortgage brokers and bankers. And it didn't have to be. Because when the crisis was beginning, Congress could have throttled it but good by taking the money they are now throwing away on bailouts and instead pumping it into these rotten mortgages to prop them up. I'm not saying they should have paid off everyone's sub-prime mortgage, but they could have stepped in, paid one-third say, and then told the mortgage holders to refinance the remainder. In the worst of cases, perhaps they could have paid the mortgages down to a higher degree, or swapped them out for FHA mortgages. In any event, taking some prudent steps before the crisis grew too much would have saved time and money, and Wall Street would not be wandering around with a dazed look on its disheveled face.

So now more hard-earned taxpayer money, instead of directly benefiting the taxpayers, is going into the coffers of Freddie Mac, Bear Stearns, AIG, et. al., where it will keep these entities afloat but benefit you and I not one iota, unless we have significant investments with them. They will allow the tottering, badly regulated system to keep operating while at the same time putting very little onus on those who created the mess in the first place. And Congress will hem and haw and harrumph over stricter regulation, all the while being lobbied by firms hired by the very same firms that have been bailed out, to keep the regulations from being too strict.

Because it's not like this will ever happen again? Right?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Deconstructing Sarah Palin

The American people have been bombarded by salvo after salvo of Sarah Palin. From the announcement of her candidacy for Vice President, to her acceptance speech, to her whirlwind campaign stops with John McCain, to interviews with Charlie Gibson, and finally to being lampooned on Saturday Night Live. The news media seems to have a case of "all Sarah Palin, all the time."

The novelty has worn off.

It goes to show that everyone has a short memory, because I seem to recall that a woman was running for President not all that long ago, what was her name... oh yeah!!! Hillary Clinton! She was running for President, not for the runner-up slot. And but for some political maneuvers which were not indicative of her ability nor professional in their presentation, she would probably be running against John McCain and Sarah Palin would be in Alaska, still shooting wolves, moose, and bears. And we would not be subject to a campaign of Palin-ization.

This goes to show quite plainly that the pick was totally political, not based on her abilities.

OK, argue with me if you like. Point out that she was a mayor, then a governor. Point out all the things she's done to help Alaska get its hands on more oil money. Laud her if you will for being a working mother, who kept a Down Syndrome child when most might have taken the expedient route. But don't claim that any of that makes her a solid pick to be our first female Vice President.

What about Olympia Snowe? Senior Senator from Maine since 1995, prior to that spending 16 years as a Representative, orphaned at 9 and raised by an aunt and uncle. Has quite a list of Committee assignments:

  • Committee on Finance

    • Subcommittee on Health Care

    • Subcommittee on International Trade and Global Competitiveness

    • Subcommittee on Taxation, IRS Oversight, and Long-term Growth

  • Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship (Ranking Member)

  • Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

    • Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security

    • Subcommittee on Interstate Commerce, Trade, and Tourism

    • Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard (Ranking Member)

  • Select Committee on Intelligence

A hawk when it comes to foreign affairs, more moderate for other issues (abortion and gay rights among them), and definitely fiscally conservative (opposed George Bush's tax cut plans). In 35 years as an elected official, she has never lost an election. Frankly, she's more a "maverick" than John McCain!

And I could go on. I used Olympia Snowe to make a point: it's kind of hard to defend Sarah Palin on her merits when you had to pass over so many other more qualified candidates. McCain has asked her to be one step away from the Oval Office and yet if the moment came and she was forced to pick up the reins, I think it would be beyond her. I think she would be completely beholden to the advisers McCain would leave behind to carry her through her Presidency.

She may have smarts, and savvy, and be a fierce debater, but the office of President requires compromise not obstinacy, conviction not conversion, and a willingness to rise above and beyond your own persona to do what is right for all Americans. It requires stepping down from the bully pulpit and pulling up those who cannot pull up themselves. It requires compassion for all those in need. It demands the greatest sacrifices of self, because there is no vacation from being President. It requires seeing the broadest picture of the world while at the same time understanding the subtle nuances of what makes the world work. And while a President can surround himself or herself with trusted advisers, at some point the decision falls on the President's shoulders.

I have seen and heard a lot of Sarah Palin in the last two weeks, and I cannot say I am impressed. She is focused solely on repeating the same tired patter of the Republican Party line and making it clear that her personal beliefs are more important than your or mine. She and her followers have clothed her in the cloak of feminism, but her actions and beliefs speak of a woman who feels that other women have no right to determine what they do with themselves and their bodies. She would put her own beliefs ahead of the greater good, and to me that spells zealotry.

In the end, she is condemned for what she is: John McCain's lap dog, his smokescreen, his attempt to pander to people rather than give them his "straight talk." And while for now she is some sort of warped feel-good story, all too soon the reality of the fight she has gotten involved in will come to her, and she will be found wanting.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Why Some Americans Don't Trust You, Senator Obama

It's quite simple really -- you upset the status quo.

For one, you're a "Black man." Nobody is outright playing the race card, but then no one would be stupid enough to. And yet you know that behind closed doors in America, there are people actually frightened at the thought of you holding the reins. Their fear is that there will some kind of retribution for slavery or there will be rioting in the streets as your brethren decide to "punish the White man." It's frightening that living in an age of information as we do, such parochial views are still widespread.

For another, you're a Democrat. Yes, the mere fact that you are not of the party in power has them worried, at least those who have been making out quite well living off of other people's money and resources. The "fat cats" have been having a party for 8 years and they are afraid that the chips and dip are gone, the bar is closing, and they will soon have to stumble blearily back to the cloakroom. The idea that very soon they might actually be forced to fork over some of their money to foot the bill for the extravaganza has them spooked.

And further still, you are a progressive. You want to change how our federal government operates. You want to take away the pacifier that is oil and replace it with renewable energy. You want Congress to stop handing out candy (earmarks) to the States. You want everyone, everyone, to be able to go to the doctor or the hospital when they need to. And what you want everyone's kids to have a level playing field when it comes to education. You're threatening to upset the balance of power, to tear down class distinctions and remove the things that separate "us" from "them." In essence, you want to change the structure of society, and that will not do.

And you're upbringing leaves a lot to be desired. No nuclear family, in a suburb, with a white picket fence around the house and church every Sunday. Raised by a single mother and your grandparents -- who are you kidding! That does not make a family! Exposing children to other cultures and belief systems, confusing them with different ideas. What was your mother thinking?

And to top it off, you're a smart man. The smart kids are the ones who get picked on in high school. They're usually the kids with little money, no fancy stuff to wear, a simple life that affords them the time to learn and grow. They are not supposed to be successful, only to supply those who are successful with grist for the mill. There can be no working your way up the food chain -- you have to be invited up to the heights. We can't have people getting the idea that yes, anyone can be President. That will never do, or the next thing you know, Washington, D.C. will be filling up with people who shun special interests and are not susceptible to graft and blackmail, who want to work for the common good.

Yes, Senator Obama, you scare some people. Not me, because your life resonates with mine in many ways and because you seem to hold the promise of the future out as a reality, something I have always striven for. No, you scare those people who are used to things being "the way they are" and don't care much for progressive social thinking. Those are the people you have to convince if you are to succeed; not many, but enough of those who are sitting on the fence to tip the balance. You've got to show them that their world will change but it will be good change and won't mean the end of their way of life. Do that, and this election is in the bag.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Poem For 9/11


And so it sits and waits for her
As it does most days
There in the parking lot
But she is not coming

Under the empty blue sky
Sun beating down on metal and glass
It waits for her return
But she is not coming

Each train glides into the station
Brimming with people
Returning from a long day
But she is not coming

The Sun moves across the sky
Its rays grow longer by the hour
And still it cannot realize
That she is not coming

Day passes into night
The trains only trickle in now
And she is not among the riders
Because she is not coming

And the days now pass
Until finally they come and tow it away
It waited and waited and waited
But she never came

-- For all those who did not come home.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Really, Honestly, There's No Way You'll Ever Get Me To Blog

I'm serious: I'm not blogging.


Of course you are currently saying to yourself, "Dude, you're using Blogger to write stuff down for publication on the Internet. That's a blog!"

I've often decried blogging and bloggers, because I'm a crotchety curmudgeon who has a healthy does of neo-Luddite running through his veins ("Why, in my day, we programmed with punch cards"). When the phenomenon of the blog first arose, I was pretty sure it was then end of civilization as we know it, because now every member of the lunatic fringe who had been hiding in basements, cabins in the woods, or Manhattan penthouses was now going to have an opportunity to spew forth their particular brand of inanity for many to read and some to identify with and others to trumpet as wisdom.

And then something remarkable happened: my worst fears were realized but somehow mobs of pitch-fork wielding sycophants did not suddenly materialize in the streets, wrenching signs from lampposts, overturning cars and setting them ablaze, trashing stores and stealing merchandise, or attempting to put on large performance art works. This of course only happens when your favorite hometown sports team wins the ultimate championship and you are so happy about it that you feel the need to destroy things and cause civil unrest.

And so time has past and something astounding is happening: the Internet is starting to fill with blogs and bloggers who a) have something to say, b) have a sufficient level of erudition to say it in a cogent fashion, and c) there are people reading these commentaries who are able to read, understand, and discuss the topics raised in the fashion of the old Town Hall Meeting without the poor coffee, stale doughnuts, and heat of bodies pressed together.

This has led me to the inescapable conclusions that a) things are not as bad as I feared and b) this is now the way of things. Given this, I'm on board, because I'll be darned if I'm going to be left behind.

Just one request: this is not a blog. I am not a blogger. The things I write are my opinion, based on my knowledge, experience, and the occasional help of information sources. I tend to think of this my own Op Ed, one that isn't controlled by a large media outlet with its own biases and bad taste in reporting. I'm going to try to make my opinions based on reality and facts, sprinkled with my own conjecture. I won't always be right, sometimes I'll sound like a reject from the casting call for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but I will attempt to tell it like I see it and hope I can continue to foster intelligent debate.

If nothing else, perhaps this will finally keep me out of trouble.