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War. It’s a Guy Thing.

4/05/2009

The rehab hospital near where I live has a long-term, head trauma unit. Basically, it’s an assisted living facility for people who have brain injuries. They live there until they become too dependent on staff and then are transferred to a nursing home.

Living on the brain injury unit are two guys that are confined to motorized wheelchairs. These men hate each other. They can barely talk and can’t even scratch their asses, and yet they hate each other. I have no idea why, but it’s probably something like one guy coughed while the other was praying (that’s how most wars start).

About once a week or so these two guys will cross paths in the main lobby. Their eyes meet. Like a Spaghetti Western, everything goes quiet. Tension fills the room. A tumbleweed blows through. Someone closes a shutter. The nurses and aides all know what is happening but no one can react quick enough to stop it. What awaits is the duel …

One man feints a ramming move with his wheelchair; the other parries. A quick circle. Dust is blown up. A wheel screeches from the friction of the tight turn. They stop to face each other, ten paces apart.

And on silent cue, like a maiden’s hanky hitting the dust, these two got-enough-going-against ‘em, brain injured, wheelchair sportin’ hipsters get their chairs up to top speed and ram into each other with all their battery-powered might. Intent, I’m sure, one to kill the other.

Eventually their handlers (for lack of a better word) are able to intervene and break up the fight. The war of the wheelchairs is over. Until next week.

Down the road from the rehab hospital is an Alzheimer’s assisted living. Again, it’s kind of a nursing home holding area. It’s for people who aren’t so incapacitated that they need a nursing home yet but not able to safely live alone or with family anymore.

Two guys (of course). Each in his 80′s. Each needing canes or walkers to get around. Most of their memories have been robbed by Alzheimer’s Disease. Especially their short-term memories. They don’t remember your name, but they remember who played shortstop for the Yankees in ’32.

Everyday, maybe a couple of times per day … maybe a dozen, Guy #1 goes into Guy #2′s room. Rifles through his stuff. Lays on his bed. Eats his hard candies. Uses his toilet.

But he doesn’t know any better. He has Alzheimer’s; he thinks this is his room.

This angers Guy #2. And, everyday, this battle ensues:

“Get out of my room!”

“This is my room.”

“It is not! Get out of my room, asshole.”

“Asshole? I’ll hit you with my cane.”

Push. Shove. Grab. Hit.

Everyday.

As long as there are guys there will be war.

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Music Without Words

26/04/2009

On the way home this morning, I had Stevie Ray Vaughan’s posthumously published “The Sky Is Crying” CD playing. The fourth track is a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing.” Vaughan’s version is strictly instrumental — and he tells a wonderful story with his guitar.

Vaughan’s “Little Wing” is among my favorite songs. I’m always moved by it.

Perhaps it’s because the song is part of my personal soundtrack. I will never forget trying to get my infant daughter to sleep by holding her tight and strutting and gently twirling to “The Sky Is Crying.” By the middle of “Little Wing”, she had finished crying. This memory will always be with me.

I started thinking about my favorite songs. It turns out that almost half my Top 10 are instrumentals:

  1. Rush’s La Villa Strangiato
  2. SRV’s Little Wing
  3. Jethro Tull’s Bourre (written by JS Bach)
  4. Craig Safan’s Confrontation (credited to Tangerine Dream)

Here is SRV’s Little Wing. If you can’t appreciated it, perhaps we should reconsider the nature of our relationship:

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What a Turkey

21/11/2008

Moments after Sarah Palin gave a turkey amnesty, she went outside and gave an interview. It doesn’t matter what the interview is about, it doesn’t matter if you have the sound on or not, you’re only job is this:

Realize that this was a public relations gimmick.
The gimmick was to pardon a Thanksgiving Turkey.
And then watch the guy in the background.

(Write your own joke here.)

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The Blood of Patriots and Tyrants

15/11/2008

By the late 1960s and early 1970s most American’s were against the war in Vietnam, or against the way we were waging the war. But we felt powerless to do anything against it. No matter how much we railed and protested and wrote protest songs or letters to the editors, nothing we did seemed to shake up the politicos enough to make them figure out a way to stop the killing and the dying. They couldn’t get us out of the mess.

Enter Bill Ayers and The Weather Underground. The were against the Vietnam War in a big way.  Perhaps the biggest way. To get attention, to agitate, to make news, to protest, they bombed things — government buildings and the like. At first they thought it would be okay if some people died or got killed. But after three of their own lost their lives while making a bomb, The Weather Underground rethought that strategy and went out of their way to strike buildings when they were unoccupied. They also gave warnings of where and when they were going to strike so that people would have ample time to get out of harm’s way.

This isn’t terrorism. Terrorists are trying to scare you, terrorize you. You don’t know where or when they are going to strike. But you know they are going to strike, at least you think they are. And you know that you might be at the wrong place at the wrong time and you will wind up dead. You’re always thinking that you or someone you love is next. You’re scared.

I was very, very young when The Weather Underground was active, but their string of bombings has not resonated through history they way that, say, the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks will. Up until this presidential election cycle, Bill Ayers and The Weather Underground were a footnote to the Vietnam War and, more obscurely, a footnote to Bob Dylan’s song “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (of whence The Weather Underground got their name: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”).

I want to say that I don’t advocate the sort of violence that The Weather Underground undertook, but I can’t. The ghosts of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington, and the crew whisper in my ear saying, “When yourgovernment gets so bad that they no longer are doing their jobs, you must be given the option of violent rebellion.” To me, that’s what The Weather Underground represented: A frustration with our federal government that ran so deep that they took arms against them.

Thomas Jefferson said,

“God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty … And what country can preserve its liberties, if it’s rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty  must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

The actions of The Weather Underground were short-sighted, reckless, and juvenile. In the end, their actions probably served no real purpose.

By all accounts, Bill Ayers is a “rehabilitated” member of society. While he hasn’t unequivocally denounced his past, he has lived the better part of his life as an intellectual and an educator. Chances are most of us wouldn’t have heard about him if Hillary Clinton and John McCain hadn’t mentioned Ayers’s association with Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential election.

I recommend anyone interested in Bill Ayers or The Weather Underground or President-Elect Barack Obama’s association with terrorists watch this Good Morning America interview with Bill Ayers. It’s a two-parter; so make sure you look for the second part.

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In Defense of George Bush

11/11/2008

“The 9/11 Attacks” were the first attacks on American soil since the Revolutionary War the War of 1812 (when the Brits kinda-sorta took over and occupied Washington DC for a little while). President George Bush had very little precedent to look back on in order to develop a response.

As part of his plan to protect the United States, its Constitution, and its Citizens, President Bush asked Professor Rutherford S. Melon to prepare a report on possible presidential reactions. Melon is relatively unknown in the private sector, but is a presidential historian of great reputation among the Executive Branch of the government. In fact, every president since Eisenhower has consulted him. It’s rumored that the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba was largely his idea — albeit not a very good one.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, I was able to get a copy of Professor Melon’s report to President Bush. Much of its contents have been redacted — so much so that the entire thing looks like a Hustler magazine censored to be allowed in a grade school library. Still, I was able to glean some remarkable insights.

Among Melon’s recommendations were to:

  1. Pass an act allowing the President of the United States “to order all such aliens as he shall judge dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States” to be deported out of the United States without hearing;
  2. Pass an act fining or jailing any United States citizen who  would “write, print, utter, or publish, or … procure to be written, printed, uttered or published, (helped someone) in writing, printing, uttering or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States (including the Congress or President) with intent to defame … or disrepute.” The act would go so far as to fine or jail anyone who recommend opposing any law of the Congress or act of the President;
  3. Suspend habeas corpus. Habeas corpus is the judicial mandate that gives any imprisoned person the right to have his case reviewed by a judge to determine if s/he is imprisoned lawfully or whether s/he should be released from custody;
  4. Immediately after passing Act #2 (above), arrest and imprison Al Gore under “suspicion of sedition, violations of the Espionage Act of 1917, and being a traitor to his country” because it is obiously a dangerous world and Al Gore was creating dissent;
  5. Immediately authorize the “exclusion, removal, and detention” of any “person in the United States of ethnic Middle Eastern ancestry” to “exclusion zones” designated by military commanders;
  6. Increase the number of Supreme Court justices from 9 to 12 in order to “tip the balance of the court in favor of the Administration during time of war.” This Executive Order would, in effect, nullify any challenges to Acts #1-5 above.

George Bush was about to sign the Executive Orders making these recommendation de facto laws when the glue holding Professor Melon’s prosthetic face loosened. An ear fell off, his forehead dangled in front of one eye, and repeated attempts at surreptitiously reapply a fake mustache failed — it became apparent, after Donald Rumsfeld giggled, that Professor Melon was no professor at all. Indeed, the man behind the Hollywood-like latex mask was Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz.

George Bush smiled, pointed at Wolfowitz, and yelled, “Shenannigans!”

Cheney mumbled, “Fuck” as he put his head down and quietly walked out of the Oval Office.

The last report I got was that George Bush put Wolfowitz in a head lock and gave him about a half-dozen noogies. He only let go after Rumsfeld offered him “beers.”

Obviously, everything written above is fiction. Everything except for numbers 1-6 above:

  1. President John Adams passed Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 in response to an undeclared war with the French;
  2. ibid;
  3. President Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus three times during the Civil war;
  4. President Woodrow Wilson jailed Eugene V. Debs (5 time presidential candidate) ostensibly for vocally and very publicly opposing involvement in World War I. Debs, like Gore, was a pinko-commie rat;
  5. President Franklin Deleno Roosevelt sent over 100,000 Japanese-Americans to concentration camps during World War II because some of them might have had some sentimental attachment to Japan, and;
  6. Roosevelt also tried to “pack the Supreme Court” after the Court knocked down some parts of the New Deal.

Looking back at presidential history (and history has held all of those presidents in the highest of regards) and considering all that he could have done, President Bush championing the USA PATRIOT Act is chump change. Right?

You know. And Iraq.

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Blogging the Election

4/11/2008

All you hooty-tooty-types are probably watching CNN or FOX or MSNBC and bouncing from your favorite news website to the next trying to sniff out who the election is going. Not me. I’m hitting the refresh button to see if Patton Oswalt has updated his blog.

Patton Oswalt is “live blogging” the election. And if you’re not there you’re missing out on amazing insights that you’re never going to get from Anderson Cooper. Things like:

8:00p: Dan Rather on McCain’s South Carolina win: “McCain’s taken South Carolina, but it’s just a pebble in a balloon kicker’s shoe.”

7:54p: Everyone on BBC America’s saying “Ah-bama”. Get it right, you damn limeys!

7:53p: Everyone on BBC America’s drunk, and their map guy has a goblin-eye.

7:52p: As I write this (4:50 PST) Barack’s got Vermont, and McCain’s got South Carolina and Kentucky. Lattes vs. bar-b-q — FIGHT!

7:50p: William Kristol’s Joker-smile is covering a swarming belly full of righteous pain.

You’re welcome.

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He Fucking Won?

4/11/2008

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Barack Obama For President

4/11/2008

“Did Dick Cheney … purposely tell me things he knew to be untrue? I seriously feel that may be the case … Had I known or believed then what I believe now, I would have publicly opposed [the war] resolution right to the bitter end, and I believe I might have stopped it from happening.”

Dick Armey, Republican
Ex-Majority Leader of the US House of Representatives

I desperately wanted John McCain to say something like this. He didn’t.

I have been bothered by the Iraq War since we started bombing the place. “Tie the people who attacked us on September 11th to Iraq and I say, ‘Turn the place to glass.’” There were no ties.

I never felt that it was okay to invade Iraq, depose its leader, kill its citizens, and destroy its infrastructure just because we thought that they had “weapons of mass destruction” and might like to use them against us. Turns out they didn’t have such weapons anyway. Oh well, at least we got rid of a tyrant and freed the Iraqi citizens.

No we didn’t. We murdered them. And we led over 4,000 Americans, most of them young men, to their deaths. It saddens me to my core. This is not the country I grew up loving. This is not what we do. This is not us. This is not me.

I take those 4,000 American deaths personally. I know what it’s like to lose a loved one, in this, I’m not unique. It’s more than just a number or hole in the ground. It’s a hole in an entire family. A hole that takes at least a generation to fill in.

My Uncle Charlie died in the Viet Nam War. As a child, I went to his wake. Every holiday, my family would talk about Charlie — sometimes through tears. They miss him. They yearn for him. I didn’t get to meet him, though I know him through our stories.

I imagine that for 4,000 families.

Not only did Senator John McCain support the war (and there were many who did), he still supports the decisions leading up to the war. I have no assurance from him that, in similar circumstances, he wouldn’t make the same decisions. I could not, in good conscience, vote for that.

This is not my country. I want my country back.

McCain’s selection of Governor Palin as his running mate didn’t help matters. I, like many others, wonder if John “Country First” McCain really thinks that she was the best choice for the country.

I don’t think Sarah Palin is ready to run a high school social studies class let alone two wars, an iffy economy, and the depression of our world popularity. The selection of Palin has me questioning Senator McCain’s judgment.

“(Senator Obama) displayed a steadiness, an intellectual curiosity, a depth of knowledge and an approach to looking at problems like this and picking a vice president that, I think, is ready to be president on day one. And also, in not just jumping in and changing every day, but showing intellectual vigor.”

General Colin Powell

I believe, as General Powell does, that Senator Obama is a reasonable man. That he, more than John McCain, can lead me back to the United States of America to whose flag I pledged my allegiance every day of my youth.

Tomorrow, I will vote for Barack Obama.

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Jim Was Quizzical

30/10/2008

This morning Vinnie Politan, a talk show host on Sirius radio’s Independent Channel, took a weighted quiz regarding the two presidential candidates. When the test was over he filled out his absentee ballot — basing who he was voting on solely on the results of the quiz — and mailed it out.

Each issue (on the quiz) was graded on a scale of 0-5. Then each issue was rated in importance from 0-5. The two numbers for each issue were multiplied together to arrive a weighted score, and then all the results were added together.

The issues were:

  • Economy
  • Taxes
  • Commander-in-Chief
  • Vice President
  • Healthcare
  • Energy
  • Supreme Court
  • Immigration
  • Intelligence
  • Independence
  • Leadership

Vinnie, an attorney, was a prosecuter and a litigator before turning his sites to talking on the radio for a living. He is more level-headed and, well, independent than the people he interacts with on his radio show. (His cronies are wildly liberal.)

His scores surprised him: McCain 131, Obama 129.

Vinnie filled out his ballot, sealed it up, and mailed it in.

I took the same quiz. I was only surprised because it didn’t come out dead even*. My results: McCain 129, Obama 131. I didn’t have an absentee ballot to fill out. Too bad for Obama, I s’pose.

*If I’d given Palin a single point (which I almost did), the score would’ve come across as even, 131 to 131.

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Pop Quiz

23/10/2008

As I said, I’m sitting on the fence struggling with who to vote for: Obama or McCain?

My most important issues are:

  1. Foreign policy,
  2. Supreme court nominees.

I find it difficult to vote for someone who would, to use Charles Gibson’s words, “(launch a unilateral) pre-emptive strike against any country we think is going to attack us.” I find it difficult to vote for someone who, given the facts that we know now about Iraq (that they were not involved in the 9/11 attacks, that they did not have weapons of mass destruction), would still go to war with that country. I find it difficult to vote for some one who sang, “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”

I find it difficult to vote for John McCain.

I find it difficult to vote for someone who would choose judges that believe in a “living Constitution” or someone who would say this about nominating federal judges (as Mr. Obama did in 2007):

“We need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that’s the criteria by which I’m going to be selecting my judges.”

I want to vote for someone who thinks that judges ought to understand the United States Constitution and its history and would make judicial decisions based on the original intent and language of the Law.

I find it difficult to vote for Barack Obama.

But I’m going to vote for one of them: McCain or Obama. I’m not going to vote third party. I did that once (Harry Browne, Libertarian, 1996) and walked out of the polling place feeling like I wasted my vote. I won’t do that again.

:::

So, for shits and giggles, I took one of those online quizzes that tells you where you stand when it comes to the Presidential candidates. I took the Candidate Match Game at USAToday.com. Basically, they ask a question about current events, score it’s importance, and plot out your answer against the presidential candidates’ positions.

I’ll be damned if the stupid quiz didn’t land me right in the middle between the two candidates. I discovered that if I just tweaked my answers or my weightings just-ever-so, the balance would tip from one candidate to the other.

I’ll be damned if the stupid quiz didn’t land me right in the middle between the two candidates.

So as I teetered on the USAToday’s cyber-fence, I decided to take a different quiz. The one over at VAJoes.com is quite popular.

VA Joe’s quiz is very similar to the USAToday’s quiz, only they include all the Presidential candidates in their conclusion. Guess what? I think I failed the quiz. Says I should vote for Ralph Nader (Independent). Even Nader doesn’t take himself seriously anymore.

Let’s say I didn’t want to vote for Nader, the quiz says I should give Bob Barr (Libertarian Party) or Chuck Baldwin (Constitution Party) a shot. You don’t like them? We have another: Cynthia McKinney (Green Party).

Finally, there, way down at the bottom of the list, paired up in their own box that seemed to say, “Don’t vote for these shmucks. They don’t agree with your politics.”: Barack Obama (Democrat) and John McCain (Republican).

Christ.

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