Grasping At Straws

Social Commentary on the general goings-on of life.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Those who forget history...

Lets talk about the New York Times today, because I heard something this morning that scared the Gerald Ford clean out of me.

To properly cover this, and to set precedent the same way that SCOTUS has, we start with Nixon. The Pentagon Papers. The New York times gets a hold of some leaked papers, saying that during Vietnam, at the height of the Cold War, the US deliberately expanded the war, countering LBJ's public policy. They begin to publish the government classified documents in '71, and Nixon gets pissed. "...people have gotta be put to the torch for this sort of thing..." and "let's get the son-of-a-bitch in jail."

After asking the Times to stop, even saying pretty-please, Nixon gets an injunction against the Times, and the case works its way through the court systems, eventually to SCOTUS on June 26th, where the Times case was merged with a case against the Washington Post.

Five days later, SCOTUS rules that the injunctions were bullshit, well, not using those words exactly, and that the government had not met the extreme burden of proof required for prior restraints. In their ruling, the justices made the following observations:

Black and Douglas-the free press is a need for a check on the government

Brennan-the documents did not qualify as any of the 3 exceptions from the freedom of expression case of Near v. Minnesota

Stewart and White-it is the executive's responsibility to ensure our nation's security by protecting its own information

Marshall-the term national security is too broad for prior restraint, and its not the court's job to create laws such as this--its Congress'

Burger, Harlan and Blackmun-the imperative of a free and unfettered press comes into collision with another imperative, the effective functioning of a complex modern government”, and the Times should have discussed the social effects of the publication of the documents.

I love my history. Its beautiful, because now, 35 years later almost to the day, the Times publishes a fairly meager story about the US monitoring financial goings-on for terrorist activity, acknowledges that the monitoring is legal, but informs the public about the secret program.

Now, I for one find no surprise at all in the secrecy behind the Bush Administrations policies towards rogue groups like Al Qaeda. And why would any republican be surprised that another secret policy leaks out? And who in this sinking ship would trust anyone with a secret policy, and not monitor him or her? They already are tapping all of our phones, so why aren't they watching their own people just as close?

Shouldn't they be listening and watching them even closer? Couldn't one of them be in with the terrorists, or willing to sell secrets to the enemy?

But they aren't, not at all. If they were going to be monitoring anyone, it should be our own people.

And instead, the Republicans in their infinite wisdom are blaming the Times, which has already been protected by the US Constitution and the Supreme Court.

Here's hoping all this ends just like Nixon did.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Fossil Fuels Forgotten

As the price of gasoline has steadily risen for the past few years, the outrage hasn't risen. We have all been camels, carrying Exxon's straw for them, keeping quiet and barely stopping to question where this straw is headed or to ask for water.
Finally, $3 a gallon in Boondocks, Indiana hits, and we're a screaming bunch, mad, angry, cheated. Of course we've been cheated. We were more than willing to pay any price, even during the price gouging in the days after 9/11 and the months after Hurricane Katrina. We did it, and not painfully, with a smile. Yes, massuh, we loves our straw, massuh.
Its ridiculous that we complain now, and expect immediate resounding action to be taken. If you want something, you demand it immediately, not wait years before saying so. We've dug this hole ourselves. Exxon won't help us out of it. Bush won't help us out of it.
If we want out, we've gotta dump this fucking straw, and start jogging off on our own. Cut down the gas you use; cut down the flights, the propane, everything. Use as little energy as possible. Walk everywhere you can. Use candles as often as possible (your wife will thank me).
Once energy consumption goes down, demand basically, supplies will not adjust right away. The supplies will be high, demand low, and high school econ class tells me that means lower prices. But that doesn't matter to us.

We're not carrying any more fucking straw, are we?

So Sayeth Brian

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Gilligan goes on final three-hour tour...

Bob Denver is dead. All of you that are chronic screw ups, or who laugh at chronic screw ups, take a moment to thank Gilligan for what he did for you.
You will be missed, Bob.

So Sayeth Brian

The United States Grabbed Iraq By The Ankles, And Gave It A Swirly

Comparisons between the state of Hurricane Katrina's destruction and the Tsunami of last year are not only preposterous, they are egomaniacal and wrong. It is all part of typical American supremacy, this manifest destiny we believe in that says "We are not only the strongest, smartest, richest, cleanest, and best country in the world, but we are also the most decrepid, poor, bullied one as well."
For centuries, other countries dealt with their own type of terrorism. The Persian empire dealt with invading Romans and Anglos. They attacked their homes for no real reason, other than to reclaim some land they no longer had claim to. The Irish dealt with invading Vikings. The Scottish dealt with invading Englishmen. Everyone deals with domestic terrorism.
And what of America? We have had one real war where we were invaded, the French-Indian war. Beyond that, we were either a) fighting amongst ourselves, b) stealing land from Indians/Mexicans/Other, or c) getting on boats and planes, flying many many miles away, and shooting people not attacking us.
Some of you might say that Pearl Harbor does not fill this mold. Remember, students: Hawaii was not a US Territory at this point. We were setting up camp in Asia's back yard. Not that they deserved to be bombed, but Hawaii was hardly our home at this point.
The bigger picture needed to see here is that America has a 200+ year history of seeking out the week, giving them Patriot-missile sized noogies, and pillaging them. Texas was pillaged. California was pillaged. Even the original 13 colonies were pillaged. While Sept 11th was a terrible attack, it is nearsighted of us to both state that we were attacked worse than anyone else, and they attack us because they hate our freedoms.
They attack us because we attacked them first. We attacked Iraq years ago, launched attacks agains the PLO in the 70s and 80s. We were bullies, murderers, and invaders. We were their terrorists first.
We are not the center of attention for the whole world. And dramatizing horrible events like Hurrican Katrina and Sept 11th only serves to degrade the empathy we would have gotten anyway. To get past our bullying past we have to confront our bullying past. We have to apologize for aggressions, for stupidity, for poor management of resources.
We have to follow a 12 step program. The USA should enroll in Global Bullies Anonymous.

The Twelve Steps of Global Bullies Anonymous are as follows.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over global domination — that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of others. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  4. Admitted to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  5. Were entirely ready to remove all these defects of character.
  6. Began to remove our shortcomings.
  7. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  8. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  9. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  10. Sought to improve our conscious contact others.
  11. Having had a revelationas the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other bullies, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Only then can the healing of strained relations be truly mended. Only then can the sun rise on an Earth ready to help each other, to be strong when the other is weak, to be alert when the other is drowsy.

So Sayeth Brian

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Star Wars: Return of the Plot Line

The tricky thing about plot is that without it, much like a boneless chicken breast, things tend to just flop around without structure. This is much like the last two Star Wars movies were.
This third one, Episode III is very unlike the last two movies. It has a plot, some backstory, some character development. Its almost like they finally made an entire movie.
And by the end of it, you're left wanting...ohmigosh...more. It feels rushed, like it could use an extra 30 minutes or so. Granted, that would put the movie at three hours long, but the extra time would be well worth it.
So as to the question of whether 'tis worth it, 'tis. 'Tis really really worth it.

So Sayeth Brian

Friday, November 12, 2004

Yasser Arafat is dead

Now that Yasser Arafat has passed, I hope that the new PLO leadership will be able to make a fresh start in negotiations with Israel and Ariel Sharon. This would be a prime point for Pres. Bush to step in, stop neglecting the situation and its relationship to the war on Terror and 9/11, and actually do something about it.
So far, he's just supported Israel's right to defend itself. I agree with him, but I think its irresponsible of a president fighting terrorism around the globe to ignore the hotbed of terrorists today. More Al Qaeda are being born because of the conflict in Israel than anywhere else in the world (possibly Iraq, but then again, they weren't there before we were).
This would be an opportune time to remove Prime Minister Sharon and PLO leaders, and take them to an equal footing. Not Camp David again. We've tried playing host to them, and its failed. Lets take them to Australia, or Geneva. Somewhere where neither will have more pull, and lets hammer this out, before the steel cools.
I am ignoring the part of me that is screaming right now, the part that says Bush isn't fighting this war on terror for our safety, but for his own fiscal achievements. I pray that I'm wrong.

A genuinely cool guy

Here in Indianapolis, we don't really have anything much to be proud of. There's a race once a year where people waste tons of gas and turn left. We have some college basketball games in March I'm told. The one thing we are fanatic about is our football.
Just check out the Blue Crew sometime before a Colts home game. You'll understand what I mean. And they have a right to be fanatic.
There's a genuinely cool guy on our team.
This isn't a guy that gets paid $20 million to throw a ball, or $10 million to catch passes before darting out of bounds. This is a guy that gets paid respectably to run across the field into no man's land, catch a pass, then get hit buy a 250-pound linebacker.
This guy is Brandon Stokley.
I met him. On Tuesday, he was at the Sprint Store I work at to sign autographs. He drove up, in a nice car understandably, took a drink from his bottle of Dasani, and walked in. "Hi, I'm Brandon."
I told him I knew who he was. And from there, it just became like hanging out with a buddy. Its refreshing to know that there are people in professional sports who haven't been disconnected from reality to the point of social incompatibility.

So Sayeth Brian

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Democratic Party

The good guys lost on Tuesday. By the good guys, I don't mean John Kerry and John Edwards, I mean the millions of Americans who are worse for the wear of living in George Bush's American Dream. And the worse part is, its the Democratic Party's fault.
I use the word party very carefully here, because their ineptitude and laissez-faire attitude has cost them the last two elections. And if something radical isn't done soon, it will cost them a third in 2008.
Everyone knew that Bush would take the south and the west, and with it perhaps one or two Midwestern states. There is no chance that Kerry could ever win in Missouri or Florida or Arkansas, so why his team wasted their time there I'll never know. There's mistake number one. Don't pander to those three states: go aggressively after the housewife vote in Ohio. Go aggressively after the college vote in the Midwest.
Everyone also knew that Bush would most likely win every state he won in 2000, unless someone made a case for Kerry in one or two of them. No one did. Nevada should be an easy target. In a place like Las Vegas, it should have been easy to persuade them that Kerry's liberal views aren't dangerous: they're modern. There's mistake number two. They sent Bill Clinton there a week before the election, but by then, Bush's team had already persuaded them that John Kerry would steal their guns, and let their gay citizens...gasp! Marry! Their minds were made up by then.
Everyone knew as well what the Republican party was running on this year. They were elected because of God, gays, and guns. They ran their faith like a racehorse, saying that letting their faith lead the country just made good sense. Never mind that pesky separation of church and state thing. They were shocked that anyone could consider marriage an institution between anyone but a man and woman. I mean, their God told them that men marry women, and anything else is sin, so they must protect that. And your Gun is your friend. And by the way, the Democrats are going to do all of these things I'm against, so you better vote my way, or that Godless-gay man is coming to round up your guns, and he's bringing his husband too.
The Democrats...ahh, at this point its almost funny. They tried to run on Iraq, but couldn't make up their minds if we should or shouldn't be there. They tried to run on the economy, but the Republican spin on it was very effective, and countering it wasn't even attempted by the Democrats. They tried to run on health care, but again, it was spun like a tilt-a-whirl, and Democrats didn't have a chance. So basically, they had no platform to stand on. Literally.
So now that we've diagnosed why we lost, we must prescribe a remedy for it.
First, we need to secure an answer to the Republican's God. I would suggest education. Our '08 candidate needs to be someone either once a teacher or professor, or someone who has held some position of that nature. And that person needs to speak firsthand about the failure of America's schools, the students graduating who can't read, the failure to secure college educations for our children. It can't be billionaire John Kerry who went to private schools talking about underfunding No Child Left Behind. Education can respond to God. It can in the Midwest, where 75% of schools are underperforming, where in Indiana you have a brain drain. Students grow up here, graduate here, and leave as soon as possible.
We missed the boat hugely this year by not reacting properly to the gay issue. I hate even calling it the gay issue, but its become so because Democrats have lost their way. In the 1960's, it was considered morally and socially suicidal to marry a person of a different color. You would be killed in the south for an action such as this. The same holds true for gays today. Eleven states have defined marriage as between a man and a woman this year. We need to publicly and legally challenge these laws. Their basis is strictly a religious one. We have given too much power to the Republicans now, and as we have all read in our history books, this will end bloodily and devastatingly. We must run candidates in '06 and '08 who recognize that their is an unequal footing for homosexuals in our country, and civil unions are the new Jim Crowe laws. This will get the youth vote out.
And that is our third problem. We have a desperate problem in getting 18-25 year olds to vote. We've tried celebrities, and seen no results. A 20 year old will only vote in self-defense. If John Kerry had threatened that a second Bush term would mean, without a doubt, that the draft would be restarted, he could have gotten them voting. If he said a second Bush term would mean further decreases in federal funds for college students, he would have gotten them voting. If he had said a second Bush term would mean worse jobs, or no jobs, for them after they graduated college, if they can afford to graduate college, that would have gotten them voting.
But he said none of these, didn't court them the way Clinton did in '92, or even the way Dean did in the primaries, and he lost because they stayed home and watched Spongebob Squarepants. We need leadership in the Democratic Party that recognizes this problem and knows how to deal with it. So although this idea is not an original one, I recommend that Howard Dean replace Terry McAuliffe as Democratic National Committee chairman. He has the know how, the drive, and the plan to take the DNC to where they need to be.
Lastly, we have come to guns. We did not even attempt to capitalize on the gun issue this year. In fact, it seemed like John Kerry was not just indifferent on it, but supported it. That shot of him duck hunting in camouflage is the '04 version of Dukakis in the tank. We need a candidate who understands that guns are killing our children and ruining our way of life. This is not an issue that should be debated at all. We need to enforce safer restrictions at our gun shows, encourage more gun disposal events across the nation (events where people who have guns they no longer want can get rid of them), and we need to permanently get rid of automatic and semi-automatic weapons. These weapons of mass destruction have no place in retail America, and they are killing our children and our police officers. Imagine what might have happened had John Kerry given a speech touting that kind of gun reform in Ohio. Perhaps this post wouldn't need to be made.
In summation, the Democratic Party has lost its way. It has turned its back on the issues most important to it in favor of trying to straddle the line. There are more liberals in this country than conservatives, and if we can run a candidate in '08 who meets the needs of our party, we can't lose.

So Sayeth Brian


Friday, October 22, 2004

When the moon hits your eye....

Love is the most tangled and mystical of all words. Its a complicated and multi-faceted expanse of human emotion, and its many reveals are what has my focus today.
Love can change a self-centered, money-grubbing slacker into a caring, borderline-Buddhist slacker. Years ago, before I had met the girl I will make my wife in June, I was a miscreant, a waste of good time and effort. I spent my high school years compiling a resume that would have easily gotten me into a great college, and was on my way to a career in whatever field I chose.
My only problem was that I had no direction. I had no get-up-and-go.
So I decided to take a semester (or 6) off. In that time, I told myself I would become the person I had always wanted to be, a sort of Socrates-meets-Johnny Appleseed, spreading my own brand of philosophy to anyone willing to hear it.
What I actually did was drink too much, party too much, buy too many CD's, watch too much TV, and waste 2 years of my life in a hellish, self-destructive stew of commercialism and disposable income.
But I got out. And those of you stuck there now, with your Abercrombie, Starbucks, and store-bought tans, you can get out too. Here's how.
Find love. But, no, its not just enough to find it. You have to be ready to find it. When I found mine, I wasn't ready at all. It took over a year of on again, off again dating to let myself be ready for it.
No, once you find love, and you're ready for it, you still have to be a part of it. You have to want it so bad, to fill that part of you that everyone knows is missing with something so rich, pure, and good that the rest of you will follow suit by default.
Find your love. Prepare for your love. Then become your love.
They say that love consumes you, and they couldn't use a better word. Love swallows what you used to be, feeding off your learned lessons and bad jokes, and you just become part of the whole. You are a cog in its wheel. If you are missing, it won't turn. But if you are there....
I realize that most of this has been written in such a stream-of-consciousness that it seems disjointed and at times fanatic. But that is the language of love.

So Sayeth Brian.

So Sayeth Brian

In the beginning...

These words begin the most read book of all time. No, not Harry Potter, but the Holy Bible. Its odd that I chose these words to begin this journey of discovery, because it is these words that have us as a country divided.
We are not a country divided between those who agree with the tomes that follow and those who don't. We are not a country divided between those who are privy to their meaning and those who are bereft of their influence.
We are a country divided by where these words belong. Do they belong in the hands of our children as they study geosynchronous orbit distances and the Magna Carta, or are they better left as a Sunday morning chore that makes Dad miss the first half of the Colts-Jaguars game?
This issue is what makes us who we are. Our viewpoints on religion's position in society decide more than our faith: they're going to decide our presidency.
I for one believe that forcing your faith, your religion-based values, on those with a doctrine not congruent with your own, is a recipe for systematic failure. Just as you can't make a Jewish person eat a pork chop, you can't make an atheist believe that stem cell research kills babies.
While there are fundamentally argumentative challenges to these statements, and there are, most of them are indoctrinated into a Judeo-Christian dialect, with statements like "Vote Anti-Abortion: Your Mother Did". It is for this reason that these right-wing cheerleaders head out on the campaign trail, bashing anyone contemplating saving the lives of millions by advancing science using that which is already dead. And for these reasons, I am saying this tonight, in my first post.
Lets all take a minute to think about something. What is your favorite movie? Home Alone? Sister Act 2? Whatever it is, lets imagine that you go to the movie theater this weekend to see a movie, and lo and behold, your favorite movie ever is showing. You couldn't be happier!
But as you settle into your seat, you notice that every other person in this theater is unhappy. They didn't want this. This isn't their favorite movie. Your favorite movie isn't theirs.
And so it is with faith. Your faith is not that of your brothers or sisters. Be respectful of this, and mindful of what happens when you ignore this truth.

So Sayeth Brian.