28 November 2007

Joe Biden Hates me!

Just watched the most recent Democratic Primary debate (I know, I'm running far behind), and I've realized that I like Edwards, Kucinich, and Biden more every time I see them. I liked Edwards back in 2004, but there's this righteous (may self-righteous) anger in he and Kucinich that I just love.

At any rate, Biden was talking about appointing Supreme Court Justices, and he said that he'd appoint candidates with "life experience"--whatever the hell that is. He then said, and this is what pissed me off, that there were enough professors on the bench and what we really needed was a dogcatcher. Really? So us stupid, Ivory Tower, elitist eggheads don't have any life experience? That's painting a lot of us with a broad brush. I moved pianos, worked as a case clerk for asbestos litigation, drove a furniture delivery truck within the last decade, sold interior decorating crap at Pier 1 and Pottery Barn, got a Masters degree and started on a PhD, and taught freshman composition within the last 15 years. Is that not enough "life experience?" OK, my father had a triple-bypass surgery from which he almost died, I had my possibly-cancerous thyroid removed, and I got married all in the same month. Is that not enough "life experience?" Maybe having one of your best friends--a 32-year-old gay man in small town Texas--die of AIDS is enough. No? I've got a million of them: I played big-time high school football in Texas, was recruited by some smaller colleges, spent some time at Brasenose College in Oxford, have been hit on by my share of gay men, (I'd guess--I don't know what my share would be but I worked at Pier 1, Pottery Barn, and Nine West, so most people thought I was gay), gotten my ass kicked by a bouncer, done some farm work, quit smoking, lost my intellectual drive for about two years to alcohol and skirt chasing, cheated the IRS...

I'm not even special. The point is that it's easy to beat up on intellectuals and academics, but when the comet is hurtling toward Earth, you dig up some weird Native American artifact, or you need help writing your fucking paper, who do you call? Us. We have life experiences just like the next person. Tragedy, pain, joy, and love don't skip over us.

11 November 2007

Happy Veteran's Day

We would do well to remember men like Wilfrid Owen--men who gave their lives, of course, but also the men who gave their limbs, their minds, or their youth to whatever The Cause was at the time. Veteran's Day strikes me as a time to acknowledge sacrifice and to account for them, our payments to The Cause. We should see if the scales balance. And if they do not, perhaps we should take a hard look at the value of The Cause.

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Wilfrid Owen, 1917

09 November 2007

Update on Kahleefornya Versus the EPA

I blogged earlier about California suing the EPA in order to enforce its 2-year-old law requiring emissions control above and beyond federal levels. Well, it looks like it's really going to happen. And New York is going to follow suit (get it?) with the coal plants. The excrement has most definitely hit the air conditioning. We'll see how far the Administration and the EPA are willing to let this one go. I'm still unclear about the EPA's ostensible objection to this, though I'm sure there is one. We already know the unstated reason. I'm just too tired to find it right now: I've been grading freshman comp. papers, which is a lot like fighting a 14-year-old-girl. I can easily take one. Even 4-5 probably wouldn't be too much of a problem. But 25? No way. There are just too many, and they finally wear me down and break me.

05 November 2007

A Clarification

I railed earlier this week about the political climate in this country that makes it impossible for a politician to change his or her mind these days. I linked to articles about John Kerry, Mitt Romney, and George Bush that accused them of flip-flopping. To me, flip-flopping is of smaller scope--changing one's mind on how to reform healthcare, reversing an earlier policy on a specific bill, or even completely abandoning a pet issue because its solution is untenable or its resolution is no longer a priority (Bush's abandonment of many of his domestic issues can arguably fall into this category). This is why I think the term is so unfair. I mean, how does one decide who has legitimately changed his or her mind and who is flip-flopping?

What I accused Mr. Bush of is not flip-flopping because it is so much broader in scope. It is a sea change in his entire philosophy and that of the Republican party. It is lying to the American people--a moral shortcoming the religious right evangelical base does not acknowledge in their A-1 guy in Washington. (One could argue that these evangelicals are suckers who would follow almost anyone who tells them the right things (like him or him or him or them or him or him), but that is overly simplistic, overly general, and insulting to people like Billy Graham.)

But I was reminded today that there are instances in the smaller scale issues in which it is quite easy to identify flip-flopping. What reminded me was John Edwards' attack on Hillary Clinton during the democratic debates last week. She obviously danced around Tim Russert's question--which was of the "yes or no" variety. Either she supports New York governor Eliot Spitzer's plan to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants or she does not. It's that easy. Of course, she can answer that question and then qualify it, but would that qualification really make it on the news? Nope. FOXNews would lead the pack (but they'd all follow) with headlines howling something like "Clinton for Licensing Illegals," and her qualification would never make it on the air and would be buried in the newspapers.

So great. The media outlets are forcing the sort of political doublespeak that we complain about today. What's that to do with flip-flopping? Like I said, Mr. Edwards jumped all over Mrs. Clinton (and Mr. Obama did, too) for this doublespeak, and I thought to myself: Good for him. It may be politically motivated, but at least he's trying to spotlight political doublespeak when he sees it.

Then I read this, watched this, and read this. Well, crap. I like John Edwards, but he is obviously not as different a politician as I thought he was. Bash Mrs. Clinton for not giving a clear yes-or-no answer, fine. But you'd damn well better have a yes-or-no answer when someone eventually asks you. That didn't happen, and that is what I'd consider a flip-flop. He intimated that he would be against giving illegal aliens drivers licenses, but then Mr. Stephanopoulos presses him further, finally saying that he was actually echoing Mrs. Clinton. "You're saying the same thing, right?" To which Mr. Edwards almost sheepishly replies, "That’s true." If only we could say that about everything they say...

04 November 2007

Lesser Known Signs of the Impending Apocalypse

Stuffed Crust Pizza and Oreo Pizza (mmmmm, high fructose corn syrup)

Bestiality is Not Illegal in Some States that Don't End in "-ansas"

Sir Mix-A-Lot as a Part of the Day You'll Remember for the Rest of Your Life:

People Don't Know the Difference Between "Then" and "Than"

People are Concerned about Signs of the Impending Apocalypse

State's Rights in Bush's Bigger/Smaller Federal Government

I'm getting a cold, so I might be a bit more snarky than usual. Really.

When then-governor George W. Bush was campaigning for president in 1999, he was asked a question about the legality of medical marijuana use--and the federal government's role in policing its use. He said: "I believe each state can choose that decision as they so choose." That didn't last very long. By 2003, Doug Bandow at the conservative National Review was lamenting the disconnect between what Bush said and what he did on this issue.

In 2000 en route to winning the South Carolina primary, Mr. Bush said (try to ignore Tapper's obvious Northern provincialism) he thought "it's the people of South Carolina's decision." He continued: "If I may, I don't believe it's the role of someone from outside South Carolina and someone running for president to come into this state and tell the people of South Carolina what to do with their business when it comes to the flag....As an American citizen, I trust the people of South Carolina to make the decision for South Carolina." The decision he's talking about is, of course, whether or not the confederate flag should be displayed on the state's capitol building.

It's not just flags and pot. It's also gay marriage, on which he believed "the states can do what they want to do." But once he was in office, as politicians are wont to do, he changed his tune.

To be fair, these stances were outlined seven years ago, and politicians have the right to change their minds. Would we respect Jefferson Davis if he changed his mind about the Confederacy, but stuck to his guns because of a perceived political fall-out? Would we respect LBJ or Nixon if they'd changed their minds about the Vietnam war but kept on plugging away because they'd get eviscerated in the public media as flip-floppers? The very notion that we won't let politicians change their minds on issues is ridiculous; they need to be able to admit mistakes and to admit they are people and can change their minds when new and different information comes to their attention.

But the shifts in President Bush's administration positions I've just briefly outline are symptomatic of a larger policy shift--a shift away from his platform outlined in 2000. This was firmly based on Republican reform ideas: 1) "We’re coming to understand that a good and civil society cannot be packaged into government programs"; 2) "The leadership our governors have shown in these matters only strengthens our commitment to restore the force of the Tenth Amendment, the best protection the American people have against federal intrusion and bullying....The dramatic success of welfare reform — once the States were allowed to manage their programs — is a stellar example of what happens when we give power back to the people....Therefore, in our effort to shift power from Washington back to the states, we must acknowledge as a general matter of course that the federal government’s role should be to set high standards and expectations in policies, then get out of the way and let the states implement and operate those policies as they best know how. Washington must respect that one size does not fit all states and must not overburden states with unnecessary strings and red tape attached to its policies."

That institutes an overall policy declaration, not just specific campaign promises. But apparently, the rights of states to make decisions for themselves is an issue only when a Democrat is in the White House. (As SNL's Churchlady might say, "How conveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeenient!") No longer does Mr. Bush and the Republican administration back state's rights. None too secretly, there was a sea change in the Bush administration's actions: it has continually sought to grow government agencies, add government agencies, and expand presidential power. And now, this (click link to read entire article):

State to sue U.S. to allow tailpipe rules by Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times , October 20, 2007

California will sue the Bush administration next week in a bid to force the Environmental Protection Agency to allow the state to issue greenhouse gas regulations for automobiles.

The lawsuit, which would make good on a threat made six months ago by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, will demand that federal regulators give California a waiver under the U.S. Clean Air Act, as they've done dozens of times for similar air pollution controls.

A waiver would allow California to require automakers to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 30% between 2009 and 2016 -- as mandated by a law the state passed in 2002.

The suit is aimed at getting the attention of President Bush and Congress. "It is highly significant that the most trumpeted Republican governor in America feels it's absolutely necessary to sue the Bush administration in order to defend California's rights to protect the environment," said Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, who will represent California in court.

Automakers oppose the waiver request as well as the regulations, and they are fighting the California law in a complaint before a federal judge in Fresno.

What happened to the rights of the governors--especially those Republican governors so touted in Mr. Bush's 2000 platform--to do what works for their states? What about the federal government getting out of the way? It's not just Democratic-controlled governments that get in the way. California is having to fight the Environmental Protection Agency (and, indirectly, the automakers) just to protect its own environment! Nice one.