September 03, 2005

The good, the bad, and the ugly

The good...

It's wonderful to hear that the rescue and relief effort in New Orleans seems to finally be under a full head of steam. A report on CNN today indicated that approximately 40,000 had already been evacuated from the stricken city, and food, water, and medical supplies are finding their way to those that need them most. Even Corporate America is moving at an accelerated pace to assist, and while I retain my basic distrust of big-business' motivations and practices, I'd be wrong if I didn't applaud the genuine good deeds that are happening today.

This news doesn't negate the issues raised by myself and others about shameful delays and lack of early leadership. But for now, I simply want to say "thanks and God bless" to the thousands of individuals on site at this moment, working bravely and tirelessly to help the citizens of The Big Easy.

The bad...

I think this one speaks for itself. We must all be ever watchful, involved, and if need be, actively outraged at any attempts to exploit the current disaster in the Gulf (and you're free to choose which Gulf I mean). Our energy problems are only going to get worse before they get better, and we have to contact our elected representatives and let them know that we need more than their pathetic, inadequate, recently-passed Energy Bill. Here in the "upper half" of the nation, the problem of rising gas prices will soon be compounded by Fall and Winter demands for heating oil, and we need a decisive plan in advance from Washington. It's time to get serious about alternative fuels and conservation, and to send a clear message to big oil. Can you hear me now?

The ugly...

The horror stories emerging in greater detail from the survivors in Louisiana have created a dark feeling of despair in my heart, a bitter revulsion at the lurking savagery of mankind. The fact that individuals caught up in a shared disaster would do anything other than help their fellow human beings is simply incomprehensible to me. And, as liberal
as I am to my very core, I can only hope that those who committed these atrocities reap the harshest consequences imaginable for their actions.

I can't help but remember the days following 9/11, when all of us in Manhattan, bound by common shock and grief, banded together to do whatever we could to help those around us, regardless of race, gender, age, ethnicity, or political persuasion. That same spirit pervaded the great blackout of August 2003, where strangers shared food and water and shelter, where masses of people slept in the open without fear, where businesses and personal property went unharmed. Let's hope there is universal condemnation of the depravity of the few in N.O., and an unspoken commitment by all of us to be better to each other across the board.

Keep the faith, and have a safe and satisfying Holiday weekend.

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Hope on the way?

Finally. It seems that basic food supplies, water, and security forces are at last beginning to trickle in to New Orleans (or "that part of the world" as Mr. Bush called it, earlier today). Hopefully, this marks the point at which no more Americans will die from Delayed Response Syndrome. Why, George even managed to admit that the federal relief effort was "not acceptable", after having joked earlier about good times to come on Trent Lott's new front porch.

Does this guy know how to say the right thing or what?!

Nevertheless, we still have to demand swift answers from this Administration as to why the system failed so miserably in 21st Century America. Why our federal agencies were so unprepared when they led us to believe they've been planning and brainstorming since September 12th of 2001. Why there's been such an appalling absence of comprehension, leadership, innovative thinking, and just plain horse sense from the persons entrusted with running the place. Why we couldn't get some goddamn bottles of water air-dropped into an American city by day 2!

So I worry.

I worry for the People of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama when our President says that he's "...going to spend a lot of time saving lives...", and "'s the next thing to get it in the hands of the people, and that's where we're going to spend a lot of time focusing." I thought time was the one thing he and his good buddy Brownie at FEMA had wasted too much of already.

I worry about how seriously the immediate catastrophy will be addressed when the Speaker of the House can't summon the simple decency to watch his mouth, or find the time to show up for his job. So many fundraisers, so little time.

I worry for the safety and security of all of us, in cities, suburbs, and wide-open spaces, if what we've just witnessed is the best we can expect of our "War President" and his swaggering state of readiness. Can anyone spell d-i-s-c-o-n-n-e-c-t-e-d?

I worry that the leader of the free world needed four days to come up with such lame, ambiguous, and worthless remarks at all. I mean, my God! This is the the most powerful man in the nation, the President we're stuck with for three-and-a-half more years?

The world is watching, kids. And so far they're not impressed. Oh, I know our Conservative leaders are absolutely dismissive of foreign opinions. Can't base any decisions on THOSE, right? Except maybe, just maybe, those damn foreigners have got it exactly right.

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September 02, 2005

Terrible times

As the horrifying situation in New Orleans grows worse by the minute, I can only add my voice to the growing chorus of public incredulity. The thought of American citizens dying of dehydration on the streets of an American city FOUR DAYS after a foreseeable natural disaster is too unbelievable for my simple mind. Thankfully, the Congressional Black Caucus, cable news reporters on the ground, and the NYT, the Los Angeles Times, David Corn, Huffington Post (to name but a few media sources) are mincing no words in demanding swift action from our corporate and government “leaders”.

(One has to wonder, yet again, where our Democratic representatives are. Why have our once innovative party leaders not already responded with hands-on, alternative relief plans to help Katrina’s victims. Where are the wacky, grass-roots ideas, like organizing squadrons of private plane owners to move water and bread to staging areas in the Parish area, or fleets of SUV’s dropping off clothing and medical supplies. For chrissakes, we can get there in a few hours!)

To pour salt on the wound, take a look at Bob Cesca’s insightful observation on how the best is yet to come for, I would guess, the majority of N.O.’s citizens. Special thanks once again to the authors and supporters, on both sides of the aisle, of the disingenuously titled Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, set to go into effect next month.

An additional shout-out to the NRA for their relentless twisting of the Second Amendment for the last two decades. Is anyone out there beginning to see some of the dangerous consequences of allowing gun sales in WalMart next to the Housewares aisle. And no, this is not a stretch. Conservatives and their favorite lobby have energetically fostered a culture which makes too many weapons too easily available to too many irresponsible people in too many public places. Of course, we have to be damn critical of those individuals spreading lawlessness and fear through the stricken area. But if these weapons weren’t in the stores to begin with, there’d be fewer of them on the street right now. And the police are simply (and shamefully) outgunned.

Finally, I think we should all be genuinely frightened by the broader implications of this Administration’s rudderless response to the Louisiana tragedy. Mr. Bush and his cronies were re-elected to a large extent because of the security and preparedness he’s been promising Americans from harm. But if this Administration’s current performance is any indication of it’s preparedness to save just one city in a disaster we watched for days as it approached, I can only imagine with abject horror how vulnerable we remain to any kind of unannounced catastrophic attack. We have no leadership – in the White House or in Congress – and the time is drawing nearer where our only logical option will be to gather our torches and pitchforks and march on the mad doctor’s castle.

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More than the sum of its (body) parts...

Yesterday, in what may be the only bit of sane legislative action we've witnessed in the country this year, the California Senate voted to allow same-sex couples to legally marry. As reported by the Washington Post, the bill "...would recast the state's legal definition of marriage as a union between two people rather than one between a man and a woman."

Of course, Republican opponents have already begun thumping their Bibles, and reciting the same tired talking-points about threats to the "building block of society" that would be unleashed by such a bill. And
we can be sure that in the months ahead, the usual cast of intolerant characters will again remind us (in the shrillest tones possible) that the greatest danger to our way of life is not a war based on lies, or the rape
of our environment, or the downward spiral of our standard of living, or
a federal government woefully unprepared to give prompt and basic relief
to victims of a natural disaster. No, prepare yourselves for a renewed campaign against the real enemy from which we must be protected -
gay couples in love.

So with that in mind, I thought I'd begin my blogging journey with the following piece, published locally on Valentine's Day of this year. Seems
to me that the sentiments still hold true - and it's a cause that's well worth fighting for...

- - - - - - - - - - -

Last week marked the one-year anniversary of San Francisco's recognition of same-sex marriages, and it occurs to me that during these past twelve months I really haven't felt that my OWN marriage was all that threatened. Guess I just wasn't thinking. After all, in the first six weeks of 2005 alone, the guardians of our national conscience have reminded me of the perilous influence of SpongeBob's tolerant attitudes (thanks, Dr. Dobson), shielded my family from the subliminal agenda of PBS and its "Postcards from Buster" series (big thanks, Secretary of Education Spellings), and assured me that this menace to "the foundation of society" is indeed serious enough to require Constitutional tinkering (a very special thanks, President Bush).

And here I didn't even know we were all in such imminent danger. Again.

So as long as the topic of "defending marriage" continues to be such a headline-grabber (and, according to that short but disturbing passage in the President's State of the Union address, so absolutely central to summing up the core values of America), I guess I, too, think it's about time we define the ritual in a meaningful way. Why, just a glance at the statistics is enough to convince anyone that the institution of marriage is most assuredly in trouble. One in two ends in divorce. Only 59% of our current population even bothers to tie the knot, compared to 70% thirty years ago. And only one-third of all married couples ever reach their 25th anniversary. In fact, I didn't fare so well myself the first time around.

Something just ain't workin' in Straightville.

It's interesting to remember amidst all the partisan shouting about Constitutional amendments, Biblical condemnations, and assaults on our hallowed institutions, that these dreadful statistics apply specifically to heterosexual unions. That's right - the ones in which all the parts already line up properly according to the government-approved IKEA diagram. Funny, but the states with the highest rates of divorce are those that aggressively pride themselves on "traditional" beliefs and values (and, not coincidentally, are also making the most noise about the grave threat of same-sex partnerships). And even though the so-called liberal states have the lowest divorce rates nationwide, things aren't really going so well up here either. Clearly, there's got to be more to this whole marriage thing than a simple equation involving complementary reproductive organs.

Of course, I'm aware of the basic danger in trying to define anything in absolute terms. That old saw about an exception to every rule didn't become an old saw for nothing. "Cholesterol is bad..." (well, yeah, except for the cholesterol that isn't). "All mammals bear live young..." (well, sure, except for the platypus). "I before E..." (well, you get the idea). But if there is one absolute, one ideal that sets successful marriages apart from the whole random array of human couplings, it's got to be that unique duo called Love and Commitment.

So, in the midst of all this homophobia masquerading as patriotism, I do think the time actually has come for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage, but one that's written in the only language we can rationally call "absolute". Call it the "Defense of Love and Commitment" Amendment. DLC for short (and for those oh-so-important FOX-News sound bites). Something that focuses more on those human emotions common to each and every being on the planet and less on the mechanics, since the mechanics don't really seem to guarantee much anyway. Just take a look at those statistics again.

No, the sole ingredients we should hold dear when trying to define a good marriage are love and commitment. Just ask anybody who's in one. The way I see it, people with the "right" plumbing get married every day for an amazing variety of wrong reasons. For money. For power. For sex. For fame. We're tying the knot because of accidental pregnancies, old-school family arrangements, or victory on a "reality" show. Are we actually satisfied as a culture that that's worth our government's blessing, just so long as the respective puzzle pieces fit?

And, please, no more selective Old Testament quotes about abomination. It's always seemed to me that people who claim to speak authoritatively for the Almighty forget one fundamental thing – that God speaks to all of us. Besides, that same book makes casual mention of slavery and polygamy as social norms, and specifies death for those who work on the Sabbath. "In for a penny, in for a pound", I always say...

"But, the children?" you ask hesitantly (or, in the case of Secretary Spellings, LOUDLY). Well, from where I sit, love and commitment look like pretty valuable lessons to pass on to the little ones, no matter who's doing the teaching. The perceptions that my six children are forming about adult relationships are threatened far more by 15-minute celebrity marriages and shows like The Bachelorette than they are by their Uncle Eric and "Aunt" Walter, whose love for, and commitment to, each other has lasted more than twenty years.

Opponents of a Constitutional gay-marriage ban have said little beyond their willingness to leave this a state issue. Leave it to the states? It wasn't so long ago that far too many localities, left to their own devices, viewed marriages that crossed color or religious lines as an equal threat to wedded "sanctity", and enforced small-minded legislation to that effect. 142 years ago, the first Republican president didn't leave the huge moral question of owning another human being up to the states, because it was a question whose answer said something fundamental about our national character. Well it's crunch time again, kids. As long as the issue is on the table, we need to decide what kind of America we want in the 21st Century – inclusive or EXclusive – and we need a clear statement on a national level that will settle the argument from coast to coast.

And what a statement the DLC Amendment would be. Love and commitment are feelings that cut across religious, racial, political, and gender divides. They're familiar to red and blue, young and old, gay and straight. Wouldn't it comfort you to know that every adult couple you see sporting matching rings had embraced the responsibility that comes along with love and commitment, and wasn't holding hands just because of lust or convenience or an in-law with a shotgun? It would me.

So who knows? If America officially champions these qualities one couple at a time, we might eventually be able to lead the entire globe toward an era of peace and cooperation, regardless of our surface differences. The DLC Amendment could be the first step toward presenting a different image of our long-term core goals than the current "shock and awe".
And that's a national policy worth supporting.

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September 01, 2005

What about Bob?

Snips of... blogs proudly presents: Bob.

A little left of the double yellow lines, Bob'll keep you thinking and on your toes. Don't let your guard down or you just might learn something.

Let the fun begin!

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