This Day in History. "A country without a memory is a country of madmen." - George Santayana

Monday, September 28, 2009

It Came from the Comment Boards! #4: The Redskins Wreck Report Edition

The Redskins Wreck Report: Skins 14, Lions 19

Finally some people seem to get it on the comment boards as everyone calls for Zorn or Campbell's head; it's DANIEL SNYDER damnit!

"Snyder is the problem and it goes far deeper than his greed and the high prices he charges for tickets and parking. Prior to 1999, the Redskins were one of the premiere organizations in the NFL and you could see or feel that in the players, the type of leadership they had, and pride in the team that represents the nation's capital.

For more than 10 years, the Redskins, as an organization, haven't come close to that level of excellence on or off the field. They have been and continue to be an organization in disarray because of poor personnel decisions and a lack of leadership. Daniel Snyder, like Jerry Jones, meddles in every aspect of the organization. He's like a kid who bought the team and wants to do everything his way. And just like a kid, those desires change very often so you never know what direction the Redskins want to go."

This team has been in constant upheaval over the past 10 years. Nothing is consistent between coaching schemes, players, etc. This is ridiculous. Let's just keep changing it until we get it right? We've become so fickle as Redskins fans that we are too impatient to ALLOW change to occur over a few years. So we let go of QB's who go to other teams and win them games. And we let coaches go that go to other teams and win them games!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jimmy Carter says Tea-Baggers are Racist.

I think there are legitimate concerns amongst the Tea-Baggers, but most of the vitriol seems to be spewed by those who - maybe outside of their own understanding why - simply hate Obama. I was no fan of Bush, nor do I constantly sing Obama's praises, but the accusations and out-right craziness that is on display for the entire country to see is rooted in something. There is a reason as to why some of the outrageous claims - palling around with terrorists, socialist/Marxist/facist/word-of-the-day-ist, Hitler, - stick to him better than some of the ridiculous things coming from the left did to Bush; Obama is different. Different in ways that to some are misunderstood/unfathomable. The clearest difference as to why people cannot or do not want to understand the man, or simply listen that he is trying to speak to all Americans, is because he IS different. These folksy people pouring out from their small towns have probably not had to deal with black people outside of avoiding certain areas of town or giving change to the bum on the corner. To them, there is a perception that someone who is half-black is all-militant and all-angry at the white man. Then they bemoan the left of caving to "white-guilt." Well, as a white man, I have nothing to feel guilty about, but certainly things to feel sympathetic towards. To me, the right is projecting onto those of us who have made it into the 21st century of race relations their own guilt.

So no, it's not ALL racism, and I understand the fear of the concentration of power in the government (AND in corporations), but I think it is safe to say that the most seething individuals - and therefore the most likely to make it on TV and into the American public's perception - are in fact acting out of racism.

Friday, September 11, 2009

An Eight Year Reflection

Today marks the 8th anniversary of the very tragic, horrific, and surprising attacks that on occured on September 11th, 2001. Not since Pearl Harbor had America had such a jolt to our collective sense of security and military standing in the world. My heart sincerely goes out to all of those who lost someone or who has lost someone in the War on Terrorism since.

There comes a time in the mourning process where, after going through the motions of anger and denial, that we need to reflect on what the loss means. I was not personally affected by 9/11, but at the same time I was. I did not lose a family member or a friend, but I did lose a sense of security that I know most Americans held dearly close. I recall shedding tears in the days that followed as I saw American flags draped over highway overpasses on 295 between Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC or when I watched replayed clips of the towers falling and the panic that was occurring on the ground.

It almost seemed surreal, and I think it was the reality of the situation - that I was not watching a movie - that affected me most. In a movie you know no one is ACTUALLY hurt. The World Trade Center towers falling would be merely a special effect, either done in a scaled model or completely on computers. The people running for their lives would be actors, who would either collect their cash for being an extra and go on with their normal lives or return to their trailer after getting lunch from craft-services. But this was real. To this date, I still have trouble watching those scenes of sheer terror. The looks on peoples faces cannot be replicated in a movie. The scenes of the firefighters covered entirely in dust in the fallout regions of the NYC streets were like nothing I have ever seen before. Then there were the bulletin boards that went up all over the city with pictures, names, and phone numbers with the simple intent that someone just wanted to hear a loved one's voice, or just to have confirmation of what they either feared to be true or had faith had not occurred.

I was 20 years old. Too old to not understand, but too young to have seen death on that scale - in America - before. In the days that followed, the welled up sense of patriotism in my heart and mind lead me to want to seek vengeance. We had so much good-will built up in the international community as many countries joined us in solidarity. Being mindful of international politics even before taking a class, I had mentioned to friends on 9/11 that I thought Osama bin Laden likely had some part to play. When reports started coming in about the Taliban and their complicity in the events with bin Laden I thought, "We've got to get those fuckers!"

In this way, I understand where people are coming from when they imagine an enemy that needs to be obliterated and sent back to Hell, figuratively or literally speaking. However, over the past eight years, I've grown callous to the machismo/bravado-laced arguments for foreign policy by force. We sit, eight years later, without Osama bin Laden in our custody (if he is even still alive), fighting two separate wars (and not a single war on two fronts), and piles of military debt, both literally in the gross amounts of money spent on both wars and figuratively in the service that many Americans have given to our country. There is no doubt in my mind that our service-people, though still trudging through Iraq and Afghanistan with a pep in their step, are growing weary. Sons and daughters want their mommy or daddy back home. Wives and husbands, girlfriends and boyfriends want their significant others to not have to be redeployed.

Taxpayers want answers and results. The weak case for Iraq was for the protection of America from weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), though it seemed much less weak at the time. I was taking an international politics course at the time of the lead-up to the Iraq war, so I was intimately aware of the history of Iraq and the entire Middle East, particularly in the past half century, focused primarily on Saddam Hussein's rule. I saw the merits in the arguments for and against the war and was ultimately not convinced by George W. Bush's speech, but rather Tony Blair's speech to the House of Commons. Here we sit, still in Iraq, working to rebuild the infrastructure we destroyed while looking for the unfound WMDs and then rooting out the insurgents we attracted to the region. And people have the audacity to intone the losses incurred on 9/11 to continue to pursue this costly venture, as if somehow we are going to break the mold of the colloquial definition of insanity - doing the same thing and expecting different results.

The War on Terrorism is a war that is nothing like what we have fought before; it is a battle of ideologies. Surely, comparisons can be drawn between this war and the Cold War purely by the fact that it was a war against an opposing ideology - Communism - fought largely on the basis of containing and eliminating said ideology, but beyond that is where comparisons fall flat. In the Cold War our enemies were states or nation-states; the USSR, Cuba, North Vietnam, North Korea, etc. Now we are dealing with nations of people. People who are not necessarily tied to their country of origin as much as they are to the ideals of radical Islam. This makes the identification, location, and extraction of any of these terrorists quite precarious. We need the world on board with us in order to achieve capture and elimination, but we have lost a lot of the good-will that was generated post-9/11.

I would never wish another 9/11 on America, but I fear that in our attempts to prevent an event of this magnitude and horror we are almost asking for it. We have done nothing to address the root causes of terrorism; it's like saying we are going to fix a leaky pipe by collecting the water, getting rid of it and continuing to replace the bucket - it's not fixing the pipe itself. That does not mean I have all of the answers, nor do I have concrete suggestions on how to address the root causes. I'll leave that up to the policy makers who have had many more classes and much more experience on these matters. I think the Obama administration is making the right moves in trying to address the War on Terror more diplomatically, but there is a great deal of damage that has already been done thanks to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice. Their assertions that "might is right" and the fundamental belief that we are free from reproach carried with it a sense of arrogance overseas and there is no better example of their reckless ideology than what occurred at Abu Graib prison.

We have to ask ourselves, despite the money spent and despite the increase in government (Department of Homeland Security - an increase in government that was not bemoaned at all by Republicans or town-hall meetings with enraged citizens), are we any safer than we were on that fateful September morning? If based solely on appearances and rhetoric, I think most would resoundingly say, "Absolutely," but appearances and words can be funny like that. Sure, we are more AWARE of the dangers that can befall us, after all, we have our nifty terror alert color scheme. We are more AWARE of who would seek to harm our country and our people. But does that make us any more adept at preventing a tragedy such as 9/11 to catch us by surprise again? Arguably, I would say no, because we, "the West", are over there as "the Infidel" making few in-roads in trying to understand the causes of terrorism and how to prevent or at least minimize its multiplication.

And at the risk of being accused of being anti-Semitic, which is quite often the case if this argument is made, I think much of the detestation of the US in the Middle East stems from our unwavering support of Israel. Again, it all boils down to the collective US belief that "might is right" and Western-style democracy is free from reproach, as if Israel does not have a part to play in the attacks from the Palestinians. For the record, I believe both sides act like petulant children, but we sometimes need to ask ourselves in the US: "How would I feel if my land were taken from me?" or "How would I feel if I were forced to live in a ghetto (i.e. the refugee camps), where few economic opportunities were extended to me simply because of my ethnicity?" Then we may begin, at least, to understand the birth of Palestinian terrorism - which may translate somewhat to the birth of Islamic terrorism, something we've really only largely experienced since the 1960's.

In conclusion, I hope our leaders (in both political parties) take a moment today to reflect on the dramatic changes in our reality that September 11th spawned. I hope that they understand that we cannot go this alone. Finally, I hope that we continue to make strides in removing ourselves from Iraq - a war in which we should never have been involved - and focusing our efforts on making permanent changes in Afghanistan (and perhaps Pakistan) that could help change the ideological landscape of those two breeding grounds of radical Islam.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It Came from the Comment Boards! #3: Fucking Freeloaders! Edition

Here are a few nice little ditties I found on a CNN comment board talking about an article regarding the public option aspect of the proposed health care plan(s):

1) There is the "Fuck-you, I'm gonna get mine" (probably an evangelical Christian) perspective:

"I can certainly understand why irresponsible citizens who are facing bankruptcy for buying more of a house than they can afford are for a government funded option. They're in quest of more taxpayer handouts. As a responsible taxpayer who doesn't live above my means I don't approve such an option. I'm not making your house payments either. Get a job and work it out like the rest of us."

2) To twist the free-loader idea on it's head, here is one from a guy/girl who understands that it is, in fact, the insurance companies and their executives that are getting rich on our dime:

"Somebody once compared the public option to the shipping/parcel industry. They said the public option is like the United States Postal Service (USPS) while the private insurances are like UPS & FedEx. Only while they said this scenario proves the governments program, USPS, is inefficient and not nearly as good as the private providers, I think it proves the system works. The fact that the USPS is a competitor forces UPS & FedEx to offer excellent service at low cost. Eliminate the USPS and see what happens to shipping costs. My guess is that they would go up. So why not institute a government entity to lower health insurance costs? It is difficult because so many people make money off healthcare & they don't want that to change."

3) Finally there's the thought that government will become the free-loader on our own money:

"This is yet another deceptive article written by an intelligent Democrat who is too smart to actually believe what he is saying.

The public option, sponsored by the government, out to make no profit at all, will ultimately and INEVITABLY become a monopoly on health care. The writing is on the wall. The public option is not an "option" at all. Any public option will become the only option within a decade.

If you want the government to control ALL health care, which comprises a massive portion of our economy and personal lives, then by all means, go ahead and support this disaster."

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Health Care Chronicles: How could "change" affect you?

Let me first start out and say that it's fair to have some concern and perhaps even some reluctance about the government stepping into a privatized industry like the Health Care-Industrial Complex. Our country was founded on the outright disapproval of centralized power understanding that absolute power corrupts absolutely. I understand the history we have experienced as a country and therefore I understand where the ambivalence comes from. There is no doubt in my mind that total government control at least leads to inefficiencies and at worst leads to outright corruption. For this reason though, I have enough reason to equally fear the executives of many companies

Too frequently however, I hear the comparison of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to the proposed healthcare initiative. I think you're confusing the British system with what is technically being proposed. Comparing the DMV to healthcare is not even close enough to say that you're comparing apples and oranges. The proposed system would not make public the hospitals nor the administers of health. On top of that, doctors will still funnel into their private practices and private hospitals much in the same way they did before. I applaud the efforts of the administration and Congress to at least try to do something so that even hard-working people do not end up in compromising circumstances. If a larger majority of hard-working people get healthcare and a few abusers of the system slip by, that is fine by me.

By the way, I will continue to enjoy my company-sponsored health care. If the day comes that the company cannot afford as has been spelled out by doomsdayers, then I will buy market-rate individual health insurance, because I can. Yes, I have made all the right moves because I had parents who supported me, I was lucky enough to go a great bunch of schools, and worked hard to get a scholarship to undergrad. I do not aggrandize my experience b/c it took the support from a good number of people.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Health Care Chronicles: I hear cries of "RINO" in the distance...

Amidst all of the disinformation campaigns and cries of "socialism" and "communism" on the right and the unwillingness to back down from a full public option on the left, it is nice to see that there are some politicans that are interested in working together to craft bipartisan (or at least compromised) legislation. The sad part is that any attempt by a Republican to reform health care will be viewed by neocon Republicans (and their adoring public ditto-heads) as capitulation to the Democrats; they term these people "RINO" - Republicans In Name Only - a term that plagued Arlen Specter for years. In this potential legislation, the public option would only take hold if the health care industrial complex does not meet the goals outlined in the proposed legislation. Unfortunately however, few are likely to report this in depth and even fewer in the public are going to care.

It was said best in the movie Gladiator: "The mob is fickle, brother." Even now as we have important things to debate, the more viewed stories on CNN are "Heigl to take 'Grey's' Hiatus" and "Michael Jackson to be interred Thursday." People have hit overload and they are losing faith in the plan according to polls, and the politicians - outside of a few - are doing nothing to help keep this topic as a part of REASONABLE public discourse.

I have heard many positive messages on NPR as of late regarding health care, but it's falling on ears that already agree that something needs to be done. We have some semi-objective studies done of what is offered around the world ( TR Reid's The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care), but people have already made their minds up. They listen to Glenn Beck decry socialism at the idea that the government could take on a minor role, while leaving much of the system private (read: STILL CAPITALISTIC!) and see images of the hammer and sickle and imagine themselves being planted into a bread line in Communist Russia. The few responsible Republicans that remain and the Democrats are doing nothing to battle this perception problem. I want Olympia Snowe to come out against the neocon notion that she is only a Republican in name only; I want her to come out sneering at the Party-of-No Republicans that at least she is attempting to compromise. But that might be expecting too much out of politicians, and expecting that the public will be thoughtful and open-minded probably would be too.