Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Choice and Consequence

My son (15) and I have had a series of discussions lately about what should be some fairly simple topics: choice and consequence.

The idea is fairly simple really. We are presented with choices daily. To speed or not to speed. To cheat or lie. Even something as simple as deciding whether to indulge in that 3rd Krispy Kreme. We make a choice and choose a course of action, and then have to deal with the consequences of that choice.

What could be easier right? Well, not really. You see we got on this subject because my son did something at school, and is now suffering the consequences of that action.

He thought it would be amusing to mention that in response to people teasing him, he would bring a gun to school and shoot the place up. Now since the days of Columbine, or of Kip Kinkle in Springfield OR, school violence is easily one of the hottest issues in schools today, and most often one with the "zero tolerance" label applied. He, I believe sincerely meant it as a joke, and actually may have overheard someone make that statement about him previously, but he still knew it was wrong, he chose to say it, and the consequence was still the same: expulsion.

Consequences are not always subject to mitigating circumstances, though in reality he was actually given such consideration. His expulsion was reduced to a suspension and he was given a special teaching placement until January when he can return to school. What made the situation somewhat surreal is the denial he, and according to him his peers, all live in surrounding consequences. The prevailing attitude in schools, and often in society at large seems to be one that reduces the acceptance of consequences and emphasizes excuses and shifting or responsibility.

A couple of recent examples come to mind. First, last week Dominick Sergio Maldonado, 20, went into the Tacoma Mall armed with an assault rifle and opened fire, hitting 6 people. The most seriously wounded was Brendan McKown, who has a concealed weapon permit and was armed. He did not however choose to open fire, he tried reason and was shot 5 or 6 times. His is a case of a person looking at the choices (shoot or not shoot), evaluating the consequences (hitting innocent victims) and deciding on a course of action, not to fire. His attacker had a different set of priorities. How this is relevant, is when talk radio host Bryan Suits (KVI 570 am) was discussing on the air that maybe more people armed might actually prevent these things from happening, a caller had a different solution.

1) Mandatory metal detectors in all public places, malls and businesses.
2) Mandatory therapy for troubled children to prevent them from becoming troubled adults.

The caller it appears had determined, with no real information, that he must have been messed up as a kid to be this messed up, and he needed help, not a bullet in the chest. As it was he surrendered after holding hostages 3 hours, but that it irrelevant. The caller felt that an army was needed, but an army of counselors.

Here we see my point. To the caller, it wasn't Dominick's fault, it was the culmination of years of obvious abuse. He effectively absolved Dominick of the responsibility, because society failed him. I called Bryan and told him in my opinion the guy was either a security guard or a counselor, since they are the only ones who would benefit from such a plan.

I mean, I can see his point to a degree. Maybe we don't do enough to help our youth. And I would imagine his defense lawyer will make that very claim along side an insanity plea.

But at the same time he bought, loaded and carried weapons to a Mall and shot people. He had the presence of mind to call the police, brag about his weapons, and tell them he was about to fire on innocent people. When the police asked where he was, he told them to follow the screams. He acted in a callous and premeditated manner, and he made choices. He should have to follow the consequences.

Another example in the news lately is the war protestors all over the country. Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore and Ward Churchil, among others, have overtly or by implication called the Iraqi insurgents "freedom fighters" and have subtly and sometimes not so subtly encouraged them. Peace activists have even gone to Iraq to protest the war. The insurgents have surely listened and felt encouraged. This week they offered the protestors their thanks: They kidnapped 4 of them and are holding them hostage. It's an ironic twist that the freedom fighters of one group of war protesters are now threatening the lives of other peace activists. But it still reeks of choice and consequence, though not as obviously. In this case, it is possible that the anti war protests are empowering the insurgents. It remains to be seen to what degree, but in the same way that the abuses at Abu Ghraib have surely incited some hatred for the US in the minds of some Muslims, it is similarly logical that the protesters calling them freedom fighters emboldened them with a sense righteousness as well as a feeling of America's weakening resolve.

Finally the most complex case that came to my attention, again via Bryan Suits, is the attitude about rape victims here and in Britain.

It started when a rape case in Britain was thrown out. In the case, the 21 year old woman was drunk and a security guard offered to escort her home. He claims they got there and had consensual sex. She claims she never would have consented because he was much older then her.

She also however admitted she had drunk so much alcohol that she could not remember whether she consented or not. The ruling was that drunken consent was still consent.

Now victims rights groups are in an uproar I am sure, and I think they have a case. There is a very fine line between drunken consent and drunken coerced consent.

But what was really eye opening was a survey about the subject that was taken in Britain by Amnesty International. In it, a third of the people surveyed believed a woman is partially or completely responsible for being raped if she has behaved flirtatiously, and it also found that over 25% believe she is at least partly to blame if she has worn revealing clothing or been drunk.

Can you imagine that survey being taken here? Would you expect anything close tot he same response?

Now this is a common tactic by defense lawyer, to blame the victim. She was drunk, she was asking for it, etc etc. And yet at the same time, isn't there a tiny shred of truth there, that maybe some women act irresponsibly, and suffer for it.

Now before you start throwing hate mail at me, I am in no way suggesting rape can ever be justified. Rape is repugnant to me. But at the same time, I am uncomfortable relieving women of some necessity to behave responsibly. I know from personal experience that when I have been drunk, I have made bad choices, ones I would not have made had I been sober. I think that in the same light, some women have made poor choices and turned their regret into rape. And I am really talking about the extreme end of it here, not flirtatious behavior in a bar, not a short skirt, but people who enjoy partying, party to excess and the wake up in bed and cry rape.

Again, I do not excuse date rape, or any other form of rap in any sense. Those bastards who commit it deserve their consequences, and isn't that the point of this?

I am just wondering out loud where we should draw the line.

But regardless of how you see that, and I know many will disagree completely with my last section, it still all boils down to choices, and consequences.

I think we as a culture need to reexamine our sense of responsibility for our choices, and maybe work on making better ones, regardless of whether you apply this to driving, dating, voting or eating.

I know I do.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Letter from Iraq

Those engaged in the war protest, here is a rebuttal reputed to be from a soldier and his platoon in Iraq

Obviously I cannot attest to whether it is authentically represented, but I will post it anyway, as it clearly represents the views expressed by many returning soldiers.

*********

http://euphoria.jarkolicious.com/journal/2005/11/18/1307/

Preface from Sgt. Hook (http://sgthook.com/2005/11/17/taste-of-freedom) I received an email from a mother whose son is currently fighting in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division. He and his platoon have penned a message to the American public that is a little different from the message we are getting via the MSM. He asked his mom to help get this message out and she asked me. Here it is from the soldiers on the ground…


Mom,

Be my voice. I want this message heard. It is mine and my platoon’s to the country. A man I know lost his legs the other night. He is in another company in our batallion. I can no longer be silent after watching the sacrifices made by Iraqis and Americans everyday. Send it to a congressman if you have to. Send it to FOX news if you have to. Let this message be heard please…

My fellow Americans, I have a task for those with the courage and fortitude to take it. I have a message that needs not fall on deaf ears. A vision the blind need to see. I am not a political man nor one with great wisdom. I am just a soldier who finds himself helping rebuild a country that he helped liberate a couple years ago.

I have watched on television how the American public questions why their mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters are fighting and dying in a country 9000 miles away from their own soil. Take the word of a soldier, for that is all I am, that our cause is a noble one. The reason we are here is one worth fighting for. A cause that has been the most costly and sought after cause in our small span of existence on our little planet. Bought in blood and paid for by those brave enough to give the ultimate sacrifice to obtain it. A right that is given to every man, woman, and child I believe by God. I am talking of freedom.

Freedom. One word but yet countless words could never capture it’s true meaning or power. “For those who have fought for it, freedom has a taste the protected will never know.” I read that once and it couldn’t be more true. It’s not the average American’s fault that he or she is “blind and deaf” to the taste of freedom. Most Americans are born into their God-given right so it is all they ever know. I was once one of them. I would even dare to say that it isn’t surprising that they take for granted what they have had all their life. My experiences in the military however opened my eyes to the truth.

Ironically you will find the biggest outcries of opposition to our cause from those who have had no military experience and haven’t had to fight for freedom. I challenge all of those who are daring enough to question such a noble cause to come here for just a month and see it first hand. I have a feeling that many voices would be silenced.

I watched Cindy Sheehan sit on the President’s lawn and say that America isn’t worth dying for. Later she corrected herself and said Iraq isn’t worth dying for. She badmouthed all that her son had fought and died for. I bet he is rolling over in his grave.

Ladies and gentleman I ask you this. What if you lived in a country that wasn’t free? What if someone told you when you could have heat, electricity, and water? What if you had no sewage systems so human waste flowed into the streets? What if someone would kill you for bad-mouthing your government? What if you weren’t allowed to watch TV, connect to the internet, or have cell phones unless under extreme censorship? What if you couldn’t put shoes on your child’s feet?

You need not have a great understanding of the world but rather common sense to realize that it is our duty as HUMAN BEINGS to free the oppressed. If you lived that way would you not want someone to help you????

The Iraqis pour into the streets to wave at us and when we liberated the cities during the war they gathered in the thousands to cheer, hug and kiss us. It was what the soldiers in WW2 experienced, yet no one questioned their cause!! Saddam was no better than Hitler! He tortured and killed thousands of innocent people. We are heroes over here, yet Americans badmouth our President for having us here.

Every police station here has a dozen or more memorials for officers that were murdered trying to ensure that their people live free. These are husbands, fathers, and sons killed every day. What if it were your country? What would your choice be? Everything we fight for is worth the blood that may be shed. The media never reports the true HEROISM I witness everyday in the Iraqis. Yes, there are bad one’s here, but I assure you they are a minuscule percent. Yet they are a number big enough to cause worry in this country’s future.

I have watched brave souls give their all and lose their lives and limbs for this cause. I will no longer stand silent and let the “deaf and blind” be the only voice shouting. Stonewall Jackson once said, “All that I have, all that I am is at the service of the country.” For these brave souls who gave the ultimate sacrifice, including your son Cindy Sheehan, I will shout till I can no longer. These men and women are heroes. Their spirit lives on in their military and they will never be forgotten. They did not die in vain but rather for a cause that is larger than all of us.

My fellow countrymen and women, we are not overseas for our country alone but also another. We are here to spread democracy and freedom to those who KNOW the true taste of it because they fight for it everyday. You can see the desire in their eyes and I am honored to fight alongside them as an Infantryman in the 101st Airborne.

Freedom is not free, but yet it is everyone’s right to have. Ironic, isn’t it? That is why we are here. Though you will always have the skeptics, I know that most of our military will agree with this message. Please, at the request of this soldier spread this message to all you know. We are in Operation Iraqi Freedom and that is our goal. It is a cause that I and thousands of others stand ready to pay the ultimate sacrifice for because, Cindy Sheehan, freedom is worth dying for, no matter what country it is! And after the world is free only then can we hope to have peace.

SGT XXX and 1st Platoon
101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Prophecy or an educated guess?

I hate being right sometimes. Sometimes it's nice, I admit, to be the one with the right answer, but sometimes it's a pain in the rear.

This is one of those times.

Just under 2 months ago, I blogged about the ban on the pledge of allegiance because it has "Under God" in it. That was, you may recall, the result of a lawsuit by an atheist, Michael Newdow who had originally sued for his daughter, lost that suit due to not having any standing, and re-filed the lawsuit with 2 families as his plaintiffs, who the court determined had standing. So no more pledge in Sacramento.

In that Blog, I made this prediction:

"There will soon, I predict, be a call to remove God from our money..."

And I was right. In less then two months time there are now reports that a lawsuit is in the works, by guess who? Michael Newdow.

http://wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=47387

Having won a partial victory, partial because the ruling only affected a limited area, Newdow has his sights set on coins.

It is surely not prophecy, because it was so obvious what had to be next on his agenda. Sure, it's hardly a show stopper. I will keep my quarter collection, and in fact, money with the quote "In God We Trust" might even approach collector's item status. It won't change my day to day existence, or my feelings on faith if I miss my daily reminder on a Dime. Sure, it will cost our government millions to defend his suit, and billions to retool all the coin presses if he wins, but that's just money right?

By the way, here is a link to the history of the coins and In God We Trust.

http://www.treas.gov/education/fact-sheets/currency/in-god-we-trust.shtml

Did you know In God We Trust was first minted on a 2 cent coin in 1864?

I guess it just irks me that something that harms no one is such a harsh burden for these people.

They don't have to subscribe to any faith to spend it, they can look at the obverse of the coin and not even see it. It is as harmless as a Gideon bible in a hotel room. Don't like it? Don't read it.

So I guess I will never fully understand if people like him really have an offense, or just hate God and religion so much that they would remove all traces of it from public view.

And it concerns me that someday, they will overstep, and make someone remove a cross or crucifix they might be wearing. Will they ban crosses on churches? Those signs out on front of churches that preach a brief 4 line sermon?

Will they seek to disband the US Military chaplains, since they are Ministers, Priests and Rabbis being paid a wage by their service?

Ok, yea, I am really over reaching, I admit. Most of those are securely protected and likely will never change.

But seeing the foolishness coming out of the courts and the legislatures, you never know.

That's just my 2 cents.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

What Veteran's day means to me

What Veteran’s day means to me.

I posted my daughter’s feelings on soldiers and the military. Now it’s my turn.

When I look at my military service, I admit I can be less then impressed. I was stationed at one base, Travis AFB CA, for 12 ½ years, and I never went overseas. I left my base 4 times: Once to an overnight training exercise about 100 miles away; Once to repair an aircraft in Santa Ana; once to work on a training exercise for about a week in Monterey and once to attend a leadership course in San Bernardino-all still within the state of California.

While there I worked in a repair shop for several years, did admin for a few more. Then I worked the flightline for a few years then finished my time in a repair dock. I worked on C-5 and C-141 aircraft. In one job, all I did was change tires. Not amazing, unless you count large as impressive: the tires on a C-5 are 49 inches tall, and weigh over 250 pounds.

While active duty, I invariably mopped endless floors, scrubbed countless latrines and even had to pull the horrible duty of running the coffee/snack bar. All very hush hush and dangerous, huh? We painted shops, buffed floors, painted lines on floors and even built our own offices.

But in reality, I did work in hazardous environments. I worked with complex aircraft systems that required years of training. Live aircraft have many hazards, the least of which is fuel, liquid oxygen and nitrogen, high voltage systems and high pressure hydraulic systems.

While stationed at Travis I saw an aircraft blow up. Literally. The crew working made a mistake and BOOM!. I also saw one land without its gear and another one shear a wing off.

I was a member of the Base Crash Response Team, as well as a member of the Disaster Preparedness Support Team. During Desert Storm, I gave aircrew briefings to crews flying to Saudi Arabia concerning Chemical threats.

Yes, he really did have them.

So I guess it was a mixed bag of mundane, strenuous, dangerous and intense.

And all the while I was a volunteer. I had chosen to enter the Air Force at age 20. Why though bears examination. You see, people enlist for a variety of reasons: Some for College Tuition, some for training (doctors and pilots especially) and some for patriotism.

I enlisted because I was bored. I was working at a grocery store, and decided I wasn’t going anywhere. So went somewhere.

Extreme you say? Perhaps. I looked at my alternatives and decided to take the USAF on. I think though I may not have gone in for the best reasons, in the end it was a valuable experience.

I learned a lot of things. I learned about teamwork. I learned about responsibility. I learned about leadership. I learned about trust. I learned about honor. And I learned about betrayal. I learned a lifetime of experiences in the form of diverse working environments and the school of hard knocks.

Mostly, I learned about work ethics. I learned that you can take pride in the smallest most mundane job if you approach it from an attitude of trying to do it your best. Those lessons would not truly sink in for many years after I left, but they were ingrained.

I learned about priorities. I learned that the military means what it says when it tells its recruits “the needs of the Service and the Country come first.” I learned that the military can be a very harsh master, in terms of making a person sacrifice family, friends and even themselves.

Now, I sit and watch people continue to serve, for they, unlike me, face a much different set of circumstances. I faced a cold war, and vague threats. They serve with the news buzzing with casualty reports from Iraq. They serve knowing the likelihood of their being called to go there. They serve with the possibility of being a casualty. And yet they still serve.

I regard anyone who has served, past of present, enlistee or draftee, as worthy of my and the country’s respect, but I must regard this new generation of warrior with a particular awe. They face something I only saw glimpses of.

And still they choose to serve.
That's what Veteran's Day means to me: Remembering those who served, and who still serve and what that means.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Out of the mouths of babes, final chapter

Kayla's last essay is on how she see the military. Seeing its veteran's day I figured the timing was good.

Soldiers: American Heroes or American Disgraces?

Your first thought. "Whaaat? What does that mean?" It means just what it says. Are our soldiers Heroes or Disgraces to America? According to some people, Heroes. According to others, Disgraces.

When you think of a soldier, do you think of someone coming home in livery, or staying away in a grave? Do you think of millions of evil entities swarming around you to take your home, or someone come to save you from the clutches of an evil tyrant?

For many US citizens, they forget that the soldiers chose to go to defend the home they love. They view all soldiers as a group of one, as a toy of the government used to attack innocent people in helpless countries for one little mistake and steal their money.

What those people forget, is that certainly the government may carry things to far in foreign countries, but our soldiers chose to join the military, knowing that they'd probably get shipped there. They did it for the love of their country, to protect their family and friends from a danger that may still exist. They protect those they love and the country they love.

True, some of the things a few of the soldiers did or do should be frowned upon, but do not mistake one for many. What one foolish soldier did does not make everyone a criminal. Many soldiers help more then hurt.

Maybe our soldiers should be back at home, maybe our soldiers should be kicking more bad-guy butt, but we cannot mistake the love of their country for them being dogs of the government. It is like looking at a crowd of people at a corner and saying they're all stoners. You don't know, because you only took one look.

So, Heroes or Disgraces? In my mind, they're Heroes. They defend the country they love, which is more then many people could say.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Out of the mouths of babes, part II

Kayla was very appreciative of all the wonderful compliments. Here is her second post, on gay rights.

Her third post, concerning the Military will be posted Friday, on Veterans day,.


****************

Gay And Lesbian Rights
by Kayla Swenson

So, gay and lesbian rights. Many people believe that these people defy the natural order of things, but can you argue with love? True, part of me, the religious part, is sometimes hesitant about this topic, but many of my friends are Bi- or Gay/Lesbian, and my view has changed.

Like racism, many people cry out against giving these people rights, while more cry out for their rights. But tell me, how many on either side are speaking what they truly feel? Could those on the side against rights just be following their parents shadows? Or those people on the side for rights, could they just be cracking under peer pressure? I don't know, but I'm going to speak my mind.

Despite how many people cry out against them, they are still people in love. A man and a woman may love or be forced to love, but a man and man or woman and woman are forced not to love? To me, that is hippocritical.

Some people take gays and lesbians as a joke going "God you're so gay!" or "Are you a lezbo or something?!" Why is that taken as an insult? Is it because people are afraid?

Here's something interesting about the names. "Gay" originally meant happy, bright, joyful on the outside, while "Lesbian" sounds like "Thespian", an elite group of actors and actresses. So, one must wonder, where did these names come from?

If you see a man walking down the aisle of a supermarket, can you tell whether he is gay or not? Stereotypes depict a gay as "A male who dresses in extravagant and often flamboyent, ostentatious and bright colors often worn by females, sometimes drag queens, and often use Valley Girl lingo." But what if your own brother was gay? Can you tell just by looking at him? No, because to you he is another human being.

If you see a woman walking her dog in a park, can you take one look at her and know if she's lesbian or not? Stereotypes depict lesbians as "A female who dresses butchly with a man-like arrogance and stride, wearing rough street clothes and short cropped hair with a bad attitude." If your best friend was a tomboy, is she immediately a lesbian because she chooses to wear sweater and skater shoes instead of a mini skirt and 5-inch heels? No, because she's your friend, a human being with you.

Depsite what many people think, you cannot tell one in a crowd from a straight. So why is it we ban these fellow humans rights? If they are in love, let them get married. Modern science has made it so that two gays or two lesbians can have a child. If they are so in love that they wish to have a child and settle down, then let them. It's their choice and we are breaking the American tradition by not allowing them to choose the gender of their spouse or to withhold rights from them.

I cannot say I always agree with gays and lesbians, but I can say this. One of my good friends is lesbian, and just because she is doesn't mean I'm going to shun her. I know a guy who is gay, and I'm not going to stop coming into his store just because he hits one guys. They're human beings just like me, and I'm not going to deny them anything, even if their way of living is somewhat different then what I am used to.

If someone asked me whether I support of not, I tell them this "As long as they do not go throwing it in my face, I'm fine with it. They're probably nice people deep down."

My mother says that she won't shun them, but doesn't agree with the way they live. I cannot say the same, because becoming friends with Gays and Lesbians has changed my views greatly.

The world is changing, and humankind need to get used to the changes or we'll never get anywhere.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The election finger is in...

...and it is not the nice one.

I voted first thing this morning, and was impressed with the scrutiny and thoroughness of the polling board, who checked my ID, my signature and verified my address.

Outstanding.

During the course of the day though, the information seems much more unpleasant. In a continuation of the complete lack of ethics and disregard of state law they seem to thrive on, the King County canvassing boards continue to not only allow people to vote illegally, they actually encourage it.

In the worst case I have heard reported this far, a poll judge was forced to quit his position because he refused to violate his oath. The Judge, Stefan Sharkansky, the esteemed owner of Soundpolitics.com, was not doing anything above the scope of his oath and state law mandated duties, was threatened simple because when voter identified himself as being ineligible to vote, he advised him that he was ineligible to vote.

Read the initial report here:
http://www.soundpolitics.com/archives/005294.html#005294

Read the oath he had taken here:
http://www.leg.wa.gov/RCW/index.cfm?section=29A.44.510&fuseaction=section

It's disheartening that so much time and effort was made to supposedly address election reform and in the end, it all didn't matter. The mostly democratic controlled election board insists that all votes, illegal or not be counted.

So be it.

For my part I just don't get why they would openly encourage cheating, when the reality is that it taints the process for everyone. Elections are one of the most sacred rights and responsibilities we have as a free society, but here it gets no more respect then a Wal-Mart in a small town.

For their part the crooks in King County have proven conclusively that they have absolutely no desire for honest and fair elections, they only care about maintaining status quo, and continuing to stonewall against the truth. And most of the crooks were reelected.

Sad. Disgusting and sad.

So my final evaluation? Thumbs up to my local polling staff, but King County gets an overall bird.

I even colored it purple with a sharpie.....

Stay tuned tomorrow for my daughter Kayla's thoughts on gay rights and gay marriage...

Out of the mouths of babes

Those of you who know me, know I love to write. With my sister being a published author I have often wondered if my enjoyment of writing is hereditary.
Well, I found my answer, in a way, when I first read the journal I will be sharing with you. Apparently it does.
This is one of three blog style essays my daughter Kayla, age 15 wrote. She didn't write this for school, she just did it for fun.
So today I don't write as a disgruntled moderate, or incensed citizen or even for amusement or entertainment.
I send you this as a proud daddy. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
**********
Racism
by Kayla Swenson
Racism. It's something you don't hear much nowadays except as a joke at a party. But it's far from a joke. When some people hear 'racism', they think 'Oh, like that time ago when African-Americans worked on plantations...' or 'Like World War II against the Japanese, but thats over now...'. Many people believe that racism is gone, left behind in the past, that we've reached a point without it. But they're wrong, dead wrong.
Look around you, at the people walking around you, at work, in the office, at the store. Do you see those kids teasing and belittling that Latino or do your eyes just roam over it, considering it normal? Do you ignore the people shunning that Middle-Eastern man, just because of the Iraqi war? Is it considered alright for yelling at someone who's wearing a sign of their religion, such as a pentagram to show their Wiccan beliefs?
Look at how you treat people yourself. Do you find yourself scooting slightly away from one person who seems mentally retarded, do you find yourself being cold, abrubt, rude just because they are different? Does the word 'terrorism' just jump into your mind when you see someone who's Iraqi?
I'm not trying to say that you are all racist people and need to change your ways, I'm saying that sometimes we don't realize what we're doing because of fear or uncertainty engraved deep in our minds. I too find myself acting subconsciously in ways I abhor. But I try to fight that bit of abomination in my attitude. Do you?
People everywhere suffer from racism, whether we refuse to see it or not. It's there, perhaps engraved from religion, from fear, from uncertainty of the unknown, who knows, it could be from anything. But it is no excuse to refuse to admit another human being's existence, to treat them like dogs. In WWII the Japanese were placed in camps where latrines overflowed, people often had colic and diahrrea, and other stomache/intestine illnesses.
During the Holocaust, millions of Jews were murdered, sent to the crematories, stripped of everything resembling a human, every instinct turned to a savage, animal like need for survival. [For a good insight on this, Night by Ellie Wiesel is a great telling of what exactly happened].
But I wonder, does the book really hit people? Do people really understand it or do their minds automatically shy away from those horrors and view it as a fairy tale? Often while reading Night I caught myself thinking "He won't let his main character die!" then I remember, with guilt, this isn't a fiction but a real story, so horrible that the mind tries to hide from it.
Is it human nature to refuse to admit shortcomings? Is it human nature to refuse to admit that by denying the fact that that peron is human you're denying their right to exist? Such behavior is abominable, terrible, and should never just be ignored, brushed aside, forgotten.
Humans are some of the few species that feel the need to think ahead, think in the past, but what happens when our heads are so far into the future or so buried in the past that we forget about the present? Is it then that racism and prejudice emerge?

Monday, November 07, 2005

No purple fingers in Seattle

Iraq just had its second successful election in the last year, proving that democracy really can exist despite the "quagmire" our leaders claim we are in.

It seems an interesting comparison to our own election woes. Lest anyone forget, we had the presidential election fiasco in Florida in 2000, where the race was so close several recounts still cannot definitively say who won. Sure Bush was given the office, but the closeness will always leave doubt for his haters. Bush was selected, not elected, a local radio host loves to parrot. Looking at that election, the problems were actually obvious, the double standards blatant, and the hypocrisy, on both sides, unmistakable.

Move to 2004, and the fiasco attempted to move to Ohio, where this time accusations were made, but the facts (and totals) did not support them, and Bush was the clear winner. But the ghost of the fiasco remained and the curse lived on in the Governor's contest in Washington state. By the time it was over, there had been two recounts, and the winner was finally selected by less the 150 votes.

In Florida the issue was faulty tabulation equipment, confusing ballots, inconsistent counting standards, and a few unsubstantiated accusations of intimidation.

In Washington, King County to be precise, the issues were several thousand illegal votes, along with faulty tabulations and rules inconsistently applied concerning provisional ballots and mail in ballots. The totals between the ballots cast and the ballots counted remain miles apart despite the County's attempts to justify and reconcile. The legal challenge admitted that thousands of votes were illegal, but the problem was proving 'who' the votes were for, which was impossible, so even after acknowledging thousands of illegal votes, the results ultimately stood. Once again the results were upheld by a court, but remain in doubt.

The fallout of this was severe voter dissatisfaction, which the legislature attempted to address with election reform that contained a mixed bag of effective and meaningless provisions. But the message from the public to King County was fairly clear: Fix it!!

And so now a year later, we have completed a primary election, and stand ready for the general election, and already the accusations of illegal votes have come in, and in droves. The Republicans, the technical loser in the 2004 fiasco (the people were the ultimate losers) have begun a drive to clean up the voter registration base. This has met with howls of outrage, mostly from the people accused, but naturally from the Democratic Party. There are however many obvious felonious votes, so while the issue may seem partisan, I believe there is a very corrupt database that needs to be fixed.

And I truly don't understand the outrage. It serves all of us to be honest and accurate. Why the protests? If the people are legit they will not have to worry.

But the bottom line of this is that voter confidence is absolute crap in Washington State, particularly in King County, and most of the measures to address it are more "feel good" then effective.

The lesson should have been clear, fix the problems and restore faith in the system. Instead it reeks of institutional coverup and malfeasance.

So it seems ironic to me that with millions spent on computers and safeguards, we cannot have a decent solid election in a peaceful urban city, but a 3rd world country, in war conditions, can do so with manually filled out and counted ballots and a purple inkpot to prevent double voters.

Maybe the US should invade King County.

So Tuesday, I will go to my poll, and vote and hope to hell my vote is actually (and accurately) counted, and my voice is heard. I have to really, to do nothing, even in the face of such institutional stupidity as King County is mired in, is just something I cannot bear.

And after I am done I will offer my salute to King County, a visual testament to my participation in the franchise that my forefathers died to protect for me, that people presently die in Iraq to obtain and that King County for all its money and stated good intentions cannot assure me of.

I will raise a finger just like the Iraqis, though mine of course will not be purple.

*Which* finger I raise however...that remains to be seen.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

When is racism not really racism?

Reading a few news stories today, that seemed to be a popular question: When is racism not racism?

The answer: When it is a liberal being racist against a conservative black person.

Lest you think me making this up, I offer two direct examples:

The first was from an article in World Net Daily that references an Oct 31st editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which made some remarks about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in context of the racial make up of the SCOTUS.

http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=47167
http://www.jsonline.com/news/editorials/oct05/367053.asp

The editorial says:

"Another minus is that the nomination lessens the court's diversity. O'Connor herself had expressed the desire that her successor be a woman. O'Connor seems to have grown wiser about diversity as a result of her Supreme Court experience. She came to see the virtues of having a court that looks like America - doubtless a big reason she softened her opposition to affirmative action in recent years."

"In losing a woman, the court with Alito would feature seven white men, one white woman and a black man, who deserves an asterisk because he arguably does not represent the views of mainstream black America."


So apparently because Clarence Thomas has conservative values, he is not black enough to be black? This is not the first such comment regarding Justice Thomas. Last December Harry Reid made comments to the effect that Thomas, who was then being vetted about as a possible new Chief Justice for the then falter Rehnquist, was an embarrassment, which critics suggest was concerning his maintaining conservative values incompatible with the liberal talking points.

But this is really minor league on comparison to the brutal and overtly racist attack on Maryland Lt Governor Michael Steele, another conservative African American.

Courtesy of Captain's Quarters:

http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/005716.php

The Democrats in Maryland have decided that they like racism, especially racist stereotypes such as slave gibberish and minstrel-show caricatures of African-Americans, and have publicly come out in favor of their use in political campaigns. While such imagery would get a Republican immediately denounced as a hatemonger, Democrats feel free to use them as long as their targets are conservative African-Americans, such as Michael Steele:

"Black Democratic leaders in Maryland say that racially tinged attacks against Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele in his bid for the U.S. Senate are fair because he is a conservative Republican."

"Such attacks against the first black man to win a statewide election in Maryland include pelting him with Oreo cookies during a campaign appearance, calling him an "Uncle Tom" and depicting him as a black-faced minstrel on a liberal Web log."

""There is a difference between pointing out the obvious and calling someone names," said a campaign spokesman for Kweisi Mfume, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate and former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People."

"State Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, a black Baltimore Democrat, said she does not expect her party to pull any punches, including racial jabs at Mr. Steele, in the race to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes."

""Party trumps race, especially on the national level," she said. "If you are bold enough to run, you have to take whatever the voters are going to give you. It's democracy, perhaps at its worse, but it is democracy.""

"Delegate Salima Siler Marriott, a black Baltimore Democrat, said Mr. Steele invites comparisons to a slave who loves his cruel master or a cookie that is black on the outside and white inside because his conservative political philosophy is, in her view, anti-black."


The point they make is clear really, that racism will not be tolerated, until it is necessary.

What boggles me is that the Democrats claim to be the party of tolerance and opportunity for people of color, the party of equality for all races. Ignoring for a moment the history of the democratic party, its own overt opposition to civil rights in the middle of the 20th century, their modern position shows such an arrogant streak of hypocrisy that it turns my stomach.

Racism is racism, and no amount of pandering, rationalization and justification will change that.

The people mentioned above are nothing more then ideological hypocrites of the first order. They are also childish immature idiots, who rather then confront an opponent on his actions and beliefs, have fallen back to hate filled school yard taunting.

I expect them to start talking smack about his mother next, it would keep to the same program.

One other troubling aspect is the presumption that a person of African American Descent must embrace a liberal ideology. This presumption effectively forces them into a box of chosen, safe beliefs in order to have the benefit of respect for their heritage. Who exactly is oppressing who in this case?

If they truly represent the Democratic party and modern liberalism, then I have found one more reason to remain firmly independent.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

What was he thinking?

Ok, I feel better. The Bush administration has finally focused and moved on from what I have to describe as a period of gross stupidity.

In the past weeks I have not been able to figure out what Bush was thinking.
First we had the Miers nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).

Now at first glance the possibility of a non judge being on the court was attractive to me. Historically, the court has done so many times in the past, including the notable late Judge Rehnquist. And honestly, the elitism displayed by the Federal Judges is normally fairly repugnant, so an outsider would have been rather refreshing.

But as I read about her, it seemed she was really a crony appointee more then anything else, which is totally sad. Sure, we all know presidents appoint their pals to positions, so do all politicians of note. The desire to surround yourself with trusted allies is very comforting, and frankly necessary. But the SCOTUS is another animal altogether. It relies on a level of partisan and personal impartiality that is unparalleled. The justices that make up the SCOTUS must be free of entanglements, and someone sitting behind the scenes of Bush doors would be an easy target for conflict of interest.

Maybe some of the other justices have similar conflicts, I really cannot say for sure as I am not a SCOTUS scholar.

The left can say what they want about her, considering one of their own suggested her to Bush in the first place. But when the right rose up against her, for reasons I still don't completely follow, I just didn't know what to think. A battle seemed ready to burst, not in the Judical committee, but in the Republican ranks.

But in an act that both showed her integrity and actually proved her disqualification, she withdrew her nomination, and in effect recused herself from the Judicial Nominee hearings, fearing some (Democrats) would use them to gain information about her actions as Whitehouse Counsel. In that capacity she was privy to a lot of information that would have not been fun to have vetted in a public forum. She justified her withdrawal stating she had to protect confidentiality and lawyer client privilege.

It was the right choice, because let me tell ya folks, they would have wrung out anything they could have in spades. Oh, and please don't froth in righteous indignation Republicans, had the parties been reversed the Republicans would have been just as blood thirsty.

But the real point here is that her recusal is proof she could not place her actions and relationship to the president at arms length. Having a SCOTUS Justice recusing herself during deliberations and hearings on the High Court would have been foolish at the least.

Then there was the media pounding he took over the press conference with soldiers that most media claims was staged. According to a report issued by a soldier ( http://tinyurl.com/83a5n) who was in it, it was not, but the media has all but ignored that rebuttal. I encourage you to read the other side of that story. But I digress

Ok, lets be honest about a couple things. Bush has made a lot of efforts to use optimism to turn public tide and boost morale. The Mission Accomplished banner is a prime example. While technically accurate, it became the focus point of the left's desire to brand him a liar. The primary goal was not finished, just one facet. Congratulations were premature. His administration, as most do, has constantly showed a positive spin to the realities; and that is not really a bad thing, but if carried to far leads to faulty expectations and overconfidence.

But I have to admit the timing of this question and answer session and the all but obvious choreography made this a foolish endeavor. A better forum could have been used that would not have looked so controlled, so scripted, even though a participant insists it was not.

And while I firmly believe most town hall meetings are similarly "handled", they at least have an appearance of spontaneity.

Bush, in my opinion, lost majorly when he stopped fighting the Social Security battle. Sure, privitization may not have been the answer, but the question "is Social Security in trouble" still has the same answer: YES. Maybe his initial idea was not the best, but it could have been the basis for a bipartisan effort to fix the problem. FWIW the Democrats disgust me when they claim there is no crisis. There is. And I hope someone steps up to fix it. Bush gave up the battle, and in that he disappoints me and many of his partisan followers

Now Bush has made two steps to restore the right to the belief he is still conservative, and still in charge. First, he nominated Judge Alito to the SCOTUS, one that virtually guarantees to bring the fight back to the Senate where it belongs (filibuster baby, yea!), and he has proposed a long overdue overhaul of the income tax system.

Concerning Alito, I will look at his record and make a decision on whether he is good or not. A liberal friend has forwarded a petition being circulated against him, presumably for being too anti abortion. I don't know if that is true or not. See tomorrows blog maybe. The tax proposal is welcome though, as that system is terribly in need of changing, though I remain skeptical that he will stay the course. Remember Social Security?

But it is nice to see Washington finally heading for the full combat, guns blazing, no holds barred, free fire zone, totally entrenched take no prisoners battle for the Supreme Court that all the media, the pundits and the American people have been waiting for since Judge Bork failed and Clarence Thomas succeeded. I can see NPR, the DNC and NOW firing up their talking points to oppose him, while the RNC and Right to Life are likewise sharpening their swords. And the media, the literary vultures they are, are circling the fray, patiently waiting for the first blood to be spilled. And the Tax plan assures us of long speeches, contradictory talking points and committees and hearings galore.

This is what American politics is all about: Partisan gridlock and dissension!

Finally things are heading back to normal for DC.