"All the news that gives me fits"


After enjoying the luxury of minding my own business for eight years under President Clinton, the 2000 election fiasco of George W. Bush shocked me to attention; and when his first acts in office included abandoning landmark environmental and arms control treaties, my repoliticization was complete. Now I'm a news junkie; Norm Chomsky gives me the goosebumps; and I've become one of those people who can't resist a good political debate even when decorum advises against it. I finally built this site so I can spare my friends and spout off to everyone, or no one, as the case may be.

If you've found this site, keep an open mind while you read my opinions in the middle column; then explore the links to the right and form some opinions of your own. Cheers!

© 2004-2010 Arlo Leach, all rights reserved.



Friday, November 19, 2004 at 4:30 pm
Category: International affairs

It seems like old news, especially now that George W. Bush has his mandate ... sigh ... but remember when we were getting ready to invade Iraq and the President told us our soldiers would be greeted as liberators? Why did anyone believe that? We gave Iraq a huge spanking after their invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and have been bombing, sanctioning, and bad-mouthing them ever since. Human rights groups estimated that 100,000 children died from related causes in those dozen years. And we thought they would be happy to see us marching down their streets in body armor and start running their country for them? Yikes!

Domestic dispute

Tuesday, November 9, 2004 at 11:15 am
Category: Politics

We didn't really need that assault weapons ban anyway.

What does it all mean?

Saturday, November 6, 2004 at 9:45 am
Category: Big thoughts

My goal in this post-election period is to figure out what my personal response is to the result, and figure out my relationship to politics and current events. I don't think I can stand four more years of news addiction, sitting on the edge of my seat to see what the Republicans will do next. I'm still letting my thoughts and feelings settle, but I've come up with a few options so far:

Get out - follow through on the popular threat and move to Canada, or France
Put my head in the sand - enjoy my tax cuts and skip to the sports page
Buy into it - buy a flag, develop an irrational fear of terrorism, and cheer as U.S. troops invade Iran
Act locally - get involved in building a better world, closer to home
Let peace begin with me - follow through on my longtime interest in Buddhism and meditation

Any suggestions? What are you all doing?

No compromise

Thursday, November 3, 2004 at 6:15 pm
Category: Big thoughts

Well, it's true, Bush has won reelection. I was teaching last night and wasn't able to catch any news coverage; the one story I would like to hear is why Kerry decided that he wouldn't receive enough votes from uncounted provisional ballots. That seemed worthwhile to me, since one of the uses of provisional ballots, especially with Republican "vote challengers" in Ohio, was to try to disenfranchise minority voters who would disproportionaly favor Kerry. As I would have told the Supreme Court had I been Al Gore's lawyer in 2000, "Delays in the results might taint the legitimacy of an elected official, but not nearly as much as declaring a winner when any question about the result remains."

What the media is reporting on is where Bush's votes came from: the demographics, issues, and values of the people who supported him. And the conclusion they're all drawing is that "moral values" (no, not disarmament or economic justice, silly, but banning abortion and gay marriage) put him over the top. And that fact crystallizes something I've been wondering about for the last few days: why aren't we seeing any compromises in politics? Why do we have to choose between a candidate who would outlaw all reproductive rights, if he could, and a candidate who supports everything including partial birth abortions? Couldn't our leaders come together and find a middle ground that a large portion of Americans would support? Isn't that the principle that our system of government is supposed to embody?

Similarly, why do we have to choose between a candidate who says he would do everything in Iraq over again exactly the same way, and a candidate who says that every aspect of the war was wrong? Couldn't our leaders come together and assess what went wrong, and what went right, and plan our next steps accordingly?

I think the problem here comes down to power, the sense that you have to maintain 100% strength in order to stay in power or gain power. The Republicans act as if they admit one single mistake, they'll be giving the whole game away. The Democrats act is if they acknowledge one Republican success, they'll be doing the same thing.

Where did this mindset come from, and how can we change it? I guess if I were a moderator of a presidential debate, I'd ask each candidate to describe what aspects of their opponent's proposals they agree with. If one candidate answered fairly and the other tried to turn it into an attack, I think most people would gravitate toward the nice guy.

Or maybe the problem is simply our two-party system, where issues naturally become polarized into black or white. If we had multiple parties striving to form coalitions, we'd see a much wider range of possibilities and perhaps a tendency toward compromise and moderation.

So here I am, the biggest liberal on the block, yearning for moderation. Well, as I wrote here in the build-up to the election, I was just as afraid of a Kerry victory because I knew it would fire up the Republican base more than ever and lead to an increasingly vicious cultural war the next time around. Can't we stop this cycle? Must we live in a country where half the population is extremely indignant half the time, and the other half is smug? That's not democracy, is it?

Oh, hell...

Wednesday, November 3, 2004 at 10:20 pm
Category: Politics

I went to work this morning feeling faintly hopeful and expecting, at any rate, to have a couple weeks of vote counting to prepare myself emotionally for the prospect of four more years of Bush. So I was very cruelly shocked when a coworker casually mentioned that it was over. I immediately opened the browser window with the interactive Associated Press electoral map, and sure enough, Ohio had been marked red. The headline at said simply, "Bush wins." Choke. Sob. This is disgusting.

The morning after

Wednesday, November 3, 2004 at 7:20 am
Category: Politics

After working and watching from 6 pm, I finally finished my work and was able to concentrate on the election coverage after 10 pm. Unfortunately, a few states were still too close to call at 4 am, when Peter Jennings was too tired to hold onto his microphone or distinguish between Minnesota and Michigan, and I went to bed. Now it's the morning after and the situation is basically the same.

I mentioned the "fear factor" in the election yesterday, but analysts last night were attributing Bush's lead to his position on social and "moral" issues like abortion and gay marriage. It's ironic, considering his top campaign liability was the "flip-flopper" label, that Kerry's consistency on these unpopular issues might have cost him the election. (Speaking of which, can anyone actually name an issue that Kerry has flip-flopped on? Besides the Iraq war, of course, his position on which he has adequately explained whenever asked. I've never heard anyone provide any other examples.)

When looking at Bush's clean sweep of Southern states, perhaps my biggest disappointment is the performance of John Edwards as running mate. The idea was to balance the ticket by adding a Southerner, but Edwards wasn't even able to pull his home state of North Carolina. If he had, Kerry would be sitting with a 28 point electoral college lead right now. Any additional Southern state would have clinched him the victory.

I'm also disappointed about my own home state of Iowa, which I always took for granted as a Democratic stronghold while growing up. Final results are delayed, but it's been leaning toward Bush for a while. The state that decisively launched Kerry toward the nomination wasn't able to deliver for him in the end. (Although I don't think we'd have gotten this far if the expected primary leader Howard Dean had been tapped.)

So now we're waiting for a result that seems eerily like Florida in 2000, and the war -- or rather, delicately constructed web -- of words has begun. If anybody needs an example of the Republicans' skill in framing issues, look no further than Chief of Staff Andrew Card's assessment of the situation this morning: "President Bush decided to give Senator Kerry the respect of more time to reflect on the results of this election." In other words, Bush is such a nice guy that he's going to give his opponent some time to figure out what's obvious to the rest of us. Well, I guess that shows that all the times Bush trampled upon the rules of logic when making statements about Iraq, his advisors must have known what they were doing. They're sneaky, but only their figurehead is a fool.

Voting is underway

Tuesday, November 2, 2004 at 2:15 pm
Category: Politics

After staying home to meet the furnace repairman this morning, I stepped out to go vote at around 10:30. Someone had left a few Kerry/Edwards stickers on my doorstep, which brought a tear to my eye! I put one on my jacket and left the others for my neighbors.

Everyone is saying that voter turnout is huge today, and a few have said that this is likely to benefit Kerry. Here's hoping.

I was just browsing some reader comments on the BBC website, and the messages in support of Bush were all expressing the view that Kerry would withdraw troops, capitulate to terrorists, or abandon national security efforts. I guess that finally makes the basic Republican strategy clear: scare the country by spreading lies about what a Kerry presidency would lead to. Sadly, it seems to have been effective. In a few hours, we'll know how many people are voting from a position of courage rather than fear today.

A scary thought

Tuesday, November 2, 2004 at 2:30 am
Category: Big thoughts

Well, this is it -- polls open in Chicago in a few hours. I have to say, I'm pretty scared. I've gotten the impression lately that politics for Democrats is about economic policy, international relations, and other fairly distant ideas, while politics for Republicans is a moral crusade. They're passionate and will do anything to win, while we for the most part have better things to do. Sigh. In about 24 hours we'll see if this theory is accurate.

Causes of 9/11

Sunday, October 31, 2004 at 1:30 pm
Category: International affairs

I just did a quick Google search on "U.S. support for Israel," and the first site that came up was a detailed analysis of the causes of 9/11, from the Council on Foreign Relations. If "they hate our freedoms" and "their only agenda is death and destruction" seem superficial to you, please browse this site for the full story:

Logical barbarians

Sunday, October 31, 2004 at 1:20 pm
Category: International affairs

P.S. Here's more info about the bin Laden tape:

In it, the al Qaeda leader responds to Bush's explanation that "they hate our freedom" by asking, "Why did we not attack Sweden?" And he claims that Bush's well-publicized stupor during his reading of My Pet Goat on the morning of September 11 "gave us double the time for us to execute our attacks."

That's what I'm sayin'...

Sunday, October 31, 2004 at 1:15 pm
Category: Politics

I had to "I told you so" moments this week. First, Osama bin Laden (who our blustering president still hasn't been able to catch after three years) released a videotape explaining that he ordered attacks on America to protest our support of repressive regimes in the Middle East. See my "Responsibility" post, just a little further down this page.

Second, I was listening to a radio program yesterday that had people calling in from around the world to describe the effect that Tuesday's election would have on their lives. One American mentioned that Bush isn't really a "wartime president" because the "war on terrorism" is more a PR label than an actual war. I've been saying that since day one. In fact, I remember sitting at my office watching the attacks with my coworkers, and when one of them said, "That's it, this is a war!" I replied, "Oh, come on -- this is a horrible event, but it's not a war."

For the record, here's how Webster's Dictionary defines the word:

A contest between nations or states, carried on by force, whether for defence, for revenging insults and redressing wrongs, for the extension of commerce, for the acquisition of territory, for obtaining and establishing the superiority and dominion of one over the other, or for any other purpose; armed conflict of sovereign powers; declared and open hostilities.

Al Qaeda is not a nation, state, or "sovereign power," is not attempting to extend commerce or acquire territory, and is neither carrying out "declared" or "open" hostilities. Anyway, I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees the difference here.

On a lighter note...

Saturday, October 23, 2004 at 3:00 pm
Category: Media

I just found this link on Michael Moore's website: a short, educational film strip.


Saturday, October 23, 2004 at 3:00 pm
Category: Big thoughts

Lest you think I'm soft, or, as Dick Cheney puts it, I "don't understand the global war on terror," I should take another minute to document my opinion on this. I will never condone terrorism -- killing innocent civilians -- or for that matter, killing anyone. But here's what's missing from the whole issue: why were we attacked on 9/11? I heard the explanation on TV once that day, and haven't heard it since. Bin Laden and his cohorts were protesting the American military presence in Saudi Arabia, where we've been propping up an unpopular monarchy for decades in exchange for favorable export deals. I would say that's a fairly legitimate complaint, and makes sense given that that's the home country of bin Laden and half of the 9/11 terrorists. But it's no fun to be criticized, so the explanation for the attack quickly changed: "they hate our freedom," and more recently, "their only agenda is death and destruction." It takes a pretty cynical view of human nature to adopt that explanation, but most people have.

So where am I going with this? Well, here's my thought: terrorism is an inexcusable way to tell us that we're doing something wrong. But that doesn't mean we're not responsible for ceasing to do what's wrong. I think that the first thing we need to do in our "war on terrorism" is stop doing the wrong (not "unpopular," George, but -wrong-) thing in the world, like controlling or outright invading other countries. Then we can truly be righteous in defending ourselves. We might get some real help from abroad (from someone besides Poland). We might even find ourselves with fewer terrorists to contend with. Nobody wants to be a suicide bomber, but when a country exercises as much power in as many places as we do, people end up feeling like that's the only way to get our attention.

Culture of death

Saturday, October 23, 2004 at 2:45 pm
Category: Big thoughts

I found it jarring the first time I saw John Kerry grit his teeth and say, "I will find and KILL terrorists," and he seemed to find it jarring as well. But politics might be the only game where you try to be like the other guy to win. And George W. Bush's dogmatism seems to be pushing everyone in a violent direction. Yesterday's Chicago Tribune featured a front-page photo of Kerry in a camo hunting outfit, carrying a shotgun, while his partner carried a bloody, dead goose. But hey, he has to show that he's as tough as W.

It's too bad, because the terrorism issue, at least, seems like a very clear choice between the belief that you can bring about peace and security by killing and brutalizing people, and the belief that you can bring about peace and security by refraining from killing and brutalizing people. The first mindset led to slavery, the second to abolition. The first mindset led to the Spanish Inquisition, the second to the Enlightenment. The first is the mindset of drivers who speed up to hit an animal that crosses the road, people with bumper stickers that say, "This car protected by Smith and Wesson," and every schoolyard bully. And that's what we're all trying to become? Just because we made the mistake of letting Bush take office four years ago? Ugh.

Job description

Thursday, October 21, 2004 at 9:25 pm
Category: Big thoughts

President Bush has taken every opportunity over the last year or so to scrunch up his face into that little gerbil expression, lower his voice, and tell us that it's his "most solemn duty to protect the American people." That never quite seemed right to me, so I did a little fact-checking and looked up the Presidential Oath of Office:

I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

I think Bush must have gotten hold of the wrong job description at some point. In fact, his most solemn duty is actually to protect the Constitution. Instead, he keeps supporting newer and more restrictive versions of the Patriot Act. Oops!

More advice for Kerry

Tuesday, October 19, 2004 at 9:00 am
Category: Politics

John Kerry seems to have made the flu vaccine shortage a focus of his stump speech this week. I don't know ... although there might be some real connections, I feel like the president has less control over the supply of drugs, or the economy, or even individual terrorist attacks. What the president -can- control are the words that come out of his mouth, and the orders that he gives to our military commanders, and I think his failures in those areas would be subjects for much more powerful critiques. Yet Kerry, for all his courage in confronting the president, still hasn't been able to say, "Bush lied," or "Bush put his own interests before those of our troops." I can't imagine that a Republican would hold back, if the tables were turned. Sigh.

Some votes are more equal than others

Tuesday, October 19, 2004 at 8:30 am
Category: Big thoughts

There sure has been a lot of talk about "battleground states" this fall, with the media and political campaigns focused intensely on areas that are composed roughly equally of Democrats and Republicans. This is highlighting for me the impact of the electoral college on our political system. If we had direct elections, I think candidates would focus on areas where they are strong -- Kerry in cities like Chicago, Bush in the South -- and strive to build as much support as possible from their strongholds. Instead, both campaigns have to ignore areas where they can assume a victory and pour their resources into areas that could go either way. It's an acknowledgement that the votes of people in these states really do have more impact than others.

Go, fight, win!

Sunday, October 17, 2004 at 11:00 am
Category: Politics

One of the funnier moments of Hijacking Catastrophe was the cross-fade from Bush at Ground Zero in 2001, speaking through a megaphone to gathered firefighters there, to Bush at Yale in his college days, encouraging the athletes ... while an interviewee said, "Bush did one of the only things he's really good at: acted as a cheerleader." It's a good point and explains both Bush's popularity, and some of his more peculiar statements about foreign policy. Regarding popularity, he tells Americans what they want to hear and what they need to feel good about themselves, and emotionally savvy folks know that complimenting someone is the best way to make them, in return, appreciate you. Regarding foreign policy, Bush places more emphasis on the appearance of a coalition than the true makeup of a coalition, and acts as if Kerry can weaken it merely by giving a negative assessment of it. Bush is playing the role of a cheerleader, making the troops and underinformed citizens of participating nations feel good about the situation ... but I think what we really need is a coach, who can look honestly at the strengths and weaknesses of a team and make whatever adjustments are needed to lead them to victory.

Hijacking Catastrophe

Sunday, October 17, 2004 at 10:45 am
Category: Media

I don't go to the Music Box Theatre in Chicago often enough, but I went there last night to see the latest in a new genre of "Bush documentaries," Hijacking Catastrophe. My man Noam Chomsky was hard to hear and didn't get much screen time, but as my companion Sally put it, the movie was "less flashy and probably more substantial" than Fahrenheit 911. I found its logical connections easier to follow, and its comparisons to Rome and other historical empires thought-provoking indeed. Best of all, it actually ended with information about what we can do about the problem -- not a very specific call to action, but the narrator's comments about "citizenship" synchronized with images of political protests were a lot better than the typical political commentary that simply leaves one feeling helpless about the problems at hand.

What next?

Saturday, October 16, 2004 at 9:30 am
Category: Big thoughts

I've been thinking a lot lately about what happens if Kerry wins. And I'm afraid to say it, but I predict that the Republicans will be more fired up than ever, and will further escalate their cultural war in America. I'd love to start relaxing in January and paying attention to my own life again, but that could be a very dangerous mistake.

Here's a thought: what would it take to move this country to a place where, if someone said, "Your record clearly shows that you are a CONSERVATIVE," everyone in the room gasped? As long as "liberal" is a dirty word, we're in a precarious position no matter who's in the White House.

Weighing the risks

Saturday, October 16, 2004 at 9:15 am
Category: Politics

In the third debate this week, Bush responded to Kerry's discussion of his health care plan by saying that "government control of health care would lead to poor quality and rationing." What he didn't say is that the current system leads to 45 million Americans having no health care coverage. Clearly something has to change, and I don't see any reason to believe that the private sector can turn this around.

Accentuate the positive

Saturday, October 16, 2004 at 9:10 am
Category: Politics

I mentioned the CNN blogs in my last note. I was just reading the "from the right" blog by Bob Novak, and he said, "By nature, Bush just likes to be positive, and he gets away from attacking Kerry." Hmm! It seems to me that Kerry always attacks policies, but it's Bush who goes in for attacks of character -- questioning Kerry's integrity, honesty, and background. And I've never seen Kerry scowl, smirk, laugh, make side comments, or deliver mocking lines like, "I'm still trying to decipher that." Cheney was guilty of this in the VP debate, too. How do you spell Republican? H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E.

The third debate

Thursday, October 14, 2004 at 12:15 am
Category: Politics

I watched the third presidential debate this evening, and found it less interesting than the others -- I'm not sure why. I guess prescription drugs and No Child Left Behind just aren't as immediate as people getting killed in Iraq every day. Anyway, here are some miscellaneous thoughts:

Bush was clearly coached to stop scowling and yelling after the first and second debate, respectively, but did his advisors tell him to "grin like an idiot" instead, or did he come up with that on his own? Sheez ... I cringed watching him deliver lines about taxes, lines about evil liberals, and lines about abortion, all with the same stupid expression.

Kerry, meanwhile, was basically himself, or at least the Kerry we've seen all along. Bush might not be receiving his lines through a hidden earpiece, as some have joked, but his radical changes of demeanor from one debate to the next are pretty compelling evidence that he's basically a puppet of the real idealogues on his team.

My biggest disappointment was Kerry failing to defend himself from typically character-bashing statements like, "That's the kind of plan you'd expect from a Senator from Massachusetts." Are you discriminating, sir, against my fellow citizens of New England? OR It's hard to be lectured about being a Massachusetts liberal by a Texas cowboy. Either approach would do, but Kerry just smiled and calmly took it. Oh well, I guess Bush won't be winning any electoral votes from Massachusetts.

One of the more surprising phrases I heard was Bush's "armies of compassion." I guess that oxymoron makes sense coming from a guy who can talk about a "culture of life" in one answer and "hunting down the terrorists and killing them" in another. By the way, Bush also presented a breathtaking mix of church and state -- or church and foreign policy -- with his statement, "God wants everyone to be free." God apparently wants Middle Eastern countries to have artificial democracies thrust upon them by military force, too.

On a lighter note, I was amused by Bush's self-identification as a "border governor." Is this a concept that existed before he made it up? We've heard his whining about being a "war president," but now a "border governor"? I bet that's hard work.

P.S. I've really enjoyed reading the debate blogs on, especially those by Paul Begala. Here's his recap of this final debate.

Miserable failure

Wednesday, October 13, 2004 at 3:15 am
Category: Media

Just in case anyone hasn't seen this yet ... it's priceless: check out Google's first search result for the phrase "miserable failure."

Wrecking the budget

Wednesday, October 13, 2004 at 3:10 am
Category: Politics

According to this article, "Bush said he has the answers to fix the health care system and that he won't wreck the federal budget in doing so." Wait a minute. Didn't he -already- wreck the federal budget? Here's a typical, non-partisan report about that.

Your money

Tuesday, October 12, 2004 at 7:40 am
Category: Politics

I was in Wisconsin last week -- a swing state! -- and noticed a billboard on the highway for Bush/Cheney, promoting more tax cuts with the slogan, "Because it's -your- money." Hmm ... then whose money have they been spending at unprecedented rates, driving the federal deficit to all-time highs? It must be someone's.

I suppose they'll blame this discrepency on the "tax-and-spend" liberals somehow.

Bush = safety?

Tuesday, October 12, 2004 at 7:30 am
Category: Politics

I've heard a lot of people say lately, in one way or another, that Bush is the only president who could keep us safe from terrorists. Let's do a quick fact check: when was the worst terrorist attack in our country's history? Sept. 11, 2001. Who was president at that time? George W. Bush. So how do you figure that we're safest with him?

The reality or the story

Tuesday, October 12, 2004 at 7:15 am
Category: Big thoughts

One thing I noticed in the first two presidential debates, and in Bush's speeches since then, is his emphasis on maintaining a positive -story- about a situation rather than fixing the real problem. I'm still trying to figure out how to articulate this. But consider the issue of international support in Iraq. Bush keeps hammering Kerry for his "wrong war, wrong time" quote, saying, "How can you lead a coalition when you talk about the war like that?" What Bush seems to be missing is that everyone knows the war has gone terribly awry, no matter what story you tell. Other countries are going to base their participation not on the story our president makes up about the situation, but on the reality of the situation ... and, perhaps more importantly, on the respect with which we treat them by leveling with them. In short, Bush thinks Kerry is being counterproductive by describing the situation honestly, but I think Bush is being counterproductive by giving more importance to appearances than to truth.

Utter, snarling contempt

Wednesday, October 6, 2004 at 2:30 am
Category: Politics

Well, I figured I'd be a completist and watch the Vice Presidential debate this evening. Dick Cheney sure is more articulate than George Bush! But I was floored by the level of contempt he was able to express for his rival. He did soften noticeable after Edwards complimented him on caring for his "gay daughter," and directed his frustration exclusively toward Kerry after that point.

While Cheney's statements weren't filled with repititious and rankling one-liners like Bush's, a couple things stood out. He said a few times that "freedom is the best antidote to terror," or that "the only guarantee" of stopping terrorism is to "stand up" democracies in other countries. Unfortunately, that doctrine isn't supported by the high frequency of domestic terrorism in democratic countries like the U.S., England, and Russia. It seems more clear to me that imperialism provokes terrorism, not that democracy quells it.

Cheney's statements about the global AIDS epidemic were just strange. He first mentioned the "tremendous cost" of the epidemic, then elaborated by saying that a "whole productive generation" has been wiped out in some countries, leaving no workers to drive the economy. Hmm. Like with Bush's "life is precious" comment, I think I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on that one.

Overall, though, I now understand all the jokes about Cheney calling the shots behind the Bush veneer. This guy thoroughly understands the doctrine, and if I were a conservative who believed that unmitigated violence was the best foundation for a foreign policy, I would definitely want him in the administration.

Debate #1

Friday, October 1, 2004 at 12:25 am
Category: Politics

Aah, the first presidential debate! With the election now just over a month away. I was pretty nervous throughout the debate broadcast. But they're saying Kerry "won," so now I feel a tiny bit optimistic.

Anyway, I jotted down my favorite George W. Bush quotes tonight:

"The best way to protect this homeland is to stay on the offense." [Hmm, I thought that was the best way to make new enemies.]

"A free Iraq is essential for the security of this country." [Who knew?]

"Every life is precious, that's what distinguishes us from the enemy." [I guess I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on this ambiguous statement.]

"They're fighting freedom." [I thought they were fighting foreign occupation.]

And, delivered into the camera with the sternest of tones:

"You cannot lead if you send mexed missages."

Bush also repeated the phrase "It's hard work!" nine times during the 90 minute debate, in a clear attempt to play the pity card that was so effective in the 2000 debates. I guess the logic goes like this: "Hey, I'm just a regular guy; I'm not very good at this, but I'm trying; that's why you should re-elect me."

Democracy at its finest!

Prez bikes

Tuesday, September 28, 2004 at 8:30 pm
Category: People

I wasn't sure whether to post this here or on my biking website, but I've run across a few articles lately about Bush and Kerry both being cyclists. Here's one that draws some fun conclusions about their leadership styles, based on their choice of bikes. But to see what other cyclists think, check out this analysis of Kerry on his road bike.

Protest is never popular

Tuesday, September 28, 2004 at 2:00 am
Category: Politics

According to this CNN poll, supporting a war after dropping out of the military in the middle of your term of service is more admirable than opposing a war after serving valiantly for a full term. Weird.

Creating enemies

Thursday, September 23, 2004 at 3:55 am
Category: International affairs

I saw this on a bumper sticker on a Toyota Prius today: "We're creating enemies faster than we can kill them." It's horrible but true.

Silver lining

Thursday, September 23, 2004 at 3:50 am
Category: International affairs

I still haven't seen a hint of regret from the Bush Administration over the gruesome beheadings of two American civilians in Iraq. They did make a point, however, to criticize Kerry for looking at "the dark clouds, not the silver lining."

This is winning?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004 at 1:10 am
Category: International affairs

Another American was beheaded in Iraq today. I hope President Bush doesn't claim to be "winning the war on terror" any time soon.

Policies schmolicies

Tuesday, September 15, 2004 at 11:15 am
Category: Politics

I can't believe that the Republican presidential campaign has come this far without any real comparison between Bush's and Kerry's policies. They've managed to keep the discussion almost solely focused on one character trait, Kerry's so-called "flip flopping."

If Kerry ran his campaign as Bush did, he would explicitly and repeatedly accuse Bush of being stupid (citing his garbled language and lackluster business history), dishonest (citing the exaggerations and forgeries that justified the Iraq war, plus misnamed domestic policies like the "clear skies" and "clean forests" initiatives), and corrupt (citing his cozy relationship with Ken Lay of Enron and his nepotistic dealings with his governor brother and ex-president father). But the Republicans would surely accuse Kerry of negative campaigning, and, somehow, get away with it.


Thursday, September 2, 2004 at 4:00 am
Category: Politics

Well, the Republican National Convention is happening this week, and it's just about all my poor stomach can take. I'm annoyed by the way the Republicans act like they own 9/11, although everyone expected as much when they chose New York City as their convention location. I guess you can't blame them -- they wouldn't have much to talk about if it weren't for that issue.

What's more troubling is the constant implication that the Democrats are somehow pro-terrorist, simply because they have different ideas about how to address the problems of the day. It's the old "you're either with us or against us" approach, but in much sneakier terms. For example, the Republicans keep saying things like, "We aren't going to surrender to the terrorists." Do they think that John Kerry would? It would be a ridiculous to say, "John Kerry will surrender to the terrorists," so they don't say that directly. But saying, "WE aren't going to surrender to the terrorists," over and over again, lets them spread basically the same message without being questioned. It's flawed logic, but I'm afraid it will have the desired effect on lots of people.

It's true that there are big differences between the parties on national security issues, but I certainly wouldn't portray it as one side wants to defeat terrorists and the other side wants to let them win. Rather, I think the striking thing about the Republican approach to national security -- most issues, in fact -- is that it consists of nothing more than good, old fashioned brute force. More weapons, more troops, more prisons, more braggadacio. That could kind of work -- I mean, we might be able to protect ourselves from our enemies at a slightly faster rate than we create new ones -- but it's not the kind of world I want to live in. In short, these Republican leaders are bullies with a "my army can beat up your army" attitude, and I'd much rather have a mature and intelligent leader who can consider different approaches.

On that note, Kerry has been criticized all week for cutting various weapons programs over the years. I guess the Republicans just assume that we will purchase every new weapon that manufacturers come up with. But I think Kerry might have based his votes on more reasonable considerations, like the fact that the U.S. already spends twice as much on its military than all other countries combined, or the fact that balancing the budget is a nice thing to do once in a while.

Forget Nader

Monday, August 23, 2004 at 11:40 pm
Category: Politics

I sure hope this is right!

Conspiracy theories

Tuesday, August 17, 2004 at 1:40 am
Category: Politics

If I didn't think it would make me sick to my stomach, I'd order this video and see what the fuss is about:

Short of a purchase, these related sites seem worth a look:

Mount Rushmore

Tuesday, August 17, 2004 at 1:35 am
Category: Politics

I started reading Gore Vidal's book Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace today, and was amused by this passage: "Bush, father and son, may yet make it to Mount Rushmore though it might be cheaper to redo
Barbara Bush's look-alike, George Washington, by adding two strings of Teclas [vintage pearls] to his limestone neck."

Stop Nader

Monday, August 2, 2004 at 2:15 am
Category: Politics

Every time I read a Bush vs. Kerry poll, it ends with the same ominous conclusion: "Only when the choices included independent candidate Ralph Nader did Bush edge Kerry by 2%." Nader ran for president in 2000 promising to fix a flawed election process that makes third-party candidacies practically impossible ... instead, he seems intent on participating in that same process, and dragging us all toward the same result: four more years of Bush. How can we stop this guy? Visit these sites to find out more:,,

Basic financial planning

Monday, July 12, 2004 at 7:30 pm
Category: Big thoughts

Yard signs are already up in my neighborhood celebrating a new property tax cap that Chicago homeowners bullied the state government into passing today. I'm no economics expert, but I do work with a personal financial planner, and his advice is usually along these lines: "You've got to increase your income," or "You've got to decrease your spending." I can't imagine ever visiting him and hearing the advice, "You've got to decrease your income!" Cutting or capping taxes before solving our government budget problems amounts to the same thing. I guess the next bit of advice would have to be, "Just put it all on a credit card!" No, I don't think I'll ever hear that, from any responsible party.

100 pennies on the dollar

Monday, July 12, 2004 at 7:15 pm
Category: Big thoughts

Okay, this isn't political, but it did make me wonder. While approaching the El station after work, someone always steps forward to try to sell me a stolen newspaper or ask for a free train pass. Today, however, someone held out a roll of pennies and asked me to trade him for a dollar bill. I just can't imagine the motivation behind this scheme. Is he counterfeiting pennies? Rolling up 99 and making a one-cent profit on each transaction? Or perhaps he just found a bunch of discarded rolls that nobody wanted; I sure can't seem to get rid of them fast enough.

Liberals and trial lawyers

Monday, July 5, 2004 at 9:45 pm
Category: Politics

The latest bit of negative campaigning, direct from an official Republican National Committee statement, describes Kerry's VP pick, John Edwards, as a "disingenuous, unaccomplished liberal and friend to personal injury trial lawyers." Aside from the fact that a blue-collar Southern boy who became a self-made millionaire and eventually won a Senate seat sounds pretty accomplished to me, the Republicans' skill for controlling language once again leaves me breathless. "Liberal" has been widely regarded as a slanderous word for over a decade already, but now suddenly we're all supposed to scowl in disgust when someone is accused of being a "personal injury trial lawyer" (or even friends with one!). I can only hope that if I'm ever hit by a drunk driver while riding my bike, and my only chance at justice is to sue, there will still be someone willing to put up with this nasty Republican name-calling and represent me.

The Saudi Empire

Saturday, June 27, 2004 at 4:30 pm
Category: International affairs

I saw Fahrenheit 911 this weekend. I was rather surprised by how heavily it made the "war is immoral" message, since the trailer seemed to focus on the "Bush is an idiot" message. But one thing I'm sorry it didn't say clearly enough is why our ties to the Saudi Arabian government are so strong: they need us as badly as we need them. As I learned from The Prize by Pulitzer winner Daniel Yergen, the Saudi Arabian government is an unpopular, totalitarian monarchy precariously held in power by the United States in return for decades of favorable oil concessions. It kind of makes all of President Bush's speeches about removing Saddam ("the evil Dictator") and democratizing the Middle East seem a bit silly, doesn't it?

Campaign hypocrisy

Friday, June 25, 2004 at 10:30 pm
Category: Politics

Dick Cheney tells a Democratic Congressman to "f--- off," then repeats a favorite Republican campaign slogan -- that his rival failed to engage in "a substantive debate over important substantive policy issues." Do these people even listen to their own words?

Treaty hypocrisy

Thursday, June 17, 2004 at 10:15 pm
Category: Politics

I was just remembering how badly Dennis Kucinich was roasted during the primaries for advocating a withdrawal from the unpopular NAFTA and WTO treaties. How irresponsible and reckless, the Republican opposition would say, to back out of our international obligations. This from the same party who unapologetically withdrew from key environmental and nuclear arms control treaties during its first few months in office. Oh, the hypocrisy!

"U.S. appointed"

Monday, June 14, 2004 at 7:30 pm
Category: International affairs

Every time a journalist says the phrase, "interim Iraqi government," I wish they would preface it with the qualifier, "U.S. appointed." Doesn't a report like "Today the interim Iraqi government agreed that U.S. troops would remain indefinitely" have a different ring to it than, "Today the U.S. appointed interim Iraqi government agreed that U.S. troops would remain indefinitely"? (I could make the same quip about Iraq's new foreign investment laws, but those were decided by the U.S. directly, before we appointed the interim government.)

Conservatism is undemocratic

Saturday, June 12, 2004 at 9:45 pm
Category: Conservatives

I've learned that one of the basic tenets of conservatism is an inherent distrust of government and a desire, as much as possible, to dismantle it. This might make sense in other countries, but isn't our government "of the people"? If you believe that, then I think you have to accept that the direction the government takes reflects the wishes of at least some (and theoretically a majority) of its constituents. Either that, or the government is broken, in which case I think the correct approach would be to fix it (probably by removing lobbyists and advancing campaign finance reform and doing other things that conservatives typically don't like). But to simply try dismantling our "government of the people" either reveals an attempt to undermine the wishes of the majority, or a basic disbelief in democratic theory. In either case, I can't understand how conservatives who hold this anti-government view can ever claim to be protectors of the Constitution.

Links du Jour

Friday, June 4, 2004 at 12:30 am
Category: Politics

I haven't had much time for ranting in the last few weeks, but here's something that jumped out at me today. After the country marked the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, George W. Bush proved he suffers from delusions of grandeur by comparing that war, which resulted in over 60 million casualties worldwide and helped shape the political and technological world we know today, with his own "war on terrorism."

I also ran across an interesting site that lists comments from our fellow Americans about why they want to defeat Bush.

Finally, Michael Moore has found a new distributor for his film Fahrenheit 9/11, after Disney barred Miramax from handling it. The trailer is now online.

Your neighbor called...

Tuesday, May 11, 2004 at 8:40 pm
Category: Big thoughts

A friend from Canada emailed today: "Has everybody down there gone nuts? Just stop killing and maiming people for Christ's sake! What's hard to understand about that?"

Well? I'm waiting for an answer!

Anatomy of righteousness

Monday, May 10, 2004 at 11:30 pm
Category: Media

Whoa! This is one of the most liberal articles I've ever read in such a mainstream publication as Time. Was this in the print edition, too? Check it out:

Standing united

Friday, May 7, 2004 at 1:00 pm
Category: Politics

When Democrats attack our foreign policy, Republicans often respond that we should keep our national debates private and present a united front to the rest of the world. Generally, I agree with that. However, as everyone tears into Donald Rumsfeld this week over the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, I have to say that it's probably in our best national security interests to show vocal opposition to the Republican administration's war policies. After all, the only thing that allows Americans to travel relatively safely abroad is that citizens of other countries make a conscious distinction between our people and our government. If we can help them see a distinction between the brutal, militaristic half of our government and the reasonable, productive half, so much the better.

I share a country with these people?

Tuesday, May 4, 2004 at 1:45 am
Category: Conservatives

While looking something up tonight, I happened to run across this scary site. If you'd like to purchase a t-shirt with a pugilistic slogal like "Peace Through Superior Firepower" or "Give War a Chance" -- or if you'd just like a reminder of what kind of people actually put our utterly compassionless leaders into power -- check it out.


Economics is not a science

Monday, May 3, 2004 at 6:45 pm
Category: Politics

Every time I hear conservatives claiming that tax cuts are helping our economy, then hear liberals claiming that tax cuts our bankrupting our government, I have to conclude that nobody really knows how the economy works. I mean, everyone has their theories, but the theories are apparently and understandably impossible to test. And if you can't test your theories ... well, I'd say that's closer to a religion than a science.

Kerry's language

Monday, May 3, 2004 at 8:20 am
Category: People

One reason I always preferred John Kerry over Howard Dean is that Dean bought fully into the Republican's "war on terror" rhetoric. Kerry, fortunately, uses truly descriptive language to describe his ideas -- like increasing port security and funding local emergency services -- rather than unwittingly reinforcing a linguistic bugaboo whose lack of definition provides a cover for a truly frightening conservative agenda.

Making a difference

Sunday, May 2, 2004 at 6:30 pm
Category: Big thoughts

I've been haunted by a story I heard on Air America Radio this weekend about the use of depleted uranium in Iraq, including first-hand accounts from an Australian doctor who worked in civilian hospitals there. After she expressed disbelief that we've been causing cancer and birth defects for Iraqi children for 12 years now without much public concern, the show's hosts digressed into a discussion of how we can all turn our backs to these atrocities committed in our name.

The furthest they got was blaming "the media," but I tried grappling with that question myself during a walk with Sally today. She suggested that we (as Americans, as humans) aren't able to really worry about a situation until it touches us directly, which made me think that we lack some kind of global compassion to match our global economy, global communications, and global warfare. Then I wondered if we can blame the media, but more specifically, the tendency to report facts only and never include information about what you can do to address or at least learn more about a problem (a situation compounded by the media's fondness for reporting events, like plane crashes, that you can literally do nothing about). Perhaps we need a revolution in journalism, to make it okay to engage the reader toward some kind of action.

Then I had to admit that even when I read an Amnesty International or PETA magazine, both of which end their stories with names and addresses to which you can send letters, I rarely take action. So I had to conclude, at least for now, that the real problem is a belief that our actions don't make a difference. Sure, if I knew writing a letter now could stop the use of depleted uranium, or torturing of political prisoners, or debeaking chickens in factory farms, of course I would do it. But what difference would that really make? Perhaps the revolution we really need is one that gathers individual efforts into a force that really does make a difference. If we really believe that our actions don't matter, then we might as well give up right now.

Life in Iraq

Thursday, April 29, 2004 at 7:45 pm
Category: Media

I heard a story on NPR today about U.S. Army snipers working in Iraq. It made much of the fact that one sniper had "25 confirmed kills" without one "error." Umm ... can you imagine for a moment what it's like living in Iraq right now, with foreign soldiers (that would be us) hiding on top of buildings with high-powered rifles picking off suspected terrorists and trying not to kill too many civilians? It's unbelievable that we can gloss over a situation like that. What a sick world this is.

Negative campaigning

Wednesday, April 28, 2004 at 10:25 pm
Category: Politics

I'm afraid I agree with one criticism of the Democrats, that they're engaging in negative campaigning. Although this is definitely a case of the pot calling the kettle black -- the Democrats are still years behind the Republicans in this area -- I do wish that Kerry and company could focus more on what they can offer rather than on how Bush has failed. After all, if Bush didn't have this complaint to repeat at every opportunity, his platform would basically be reduced to lowering taxes and winning the "war on terror," and he wouldn't be able to strike the "make him stop picking in me!" pity pose that basically won the Bush/Gore debates in 2000.

Military solutions

Wednesday, April 28, 2004 at 10:15 pm
Category: Politics

I received an email message today about work underway in Congress to reinstate the draft. It's understandable that voluntary enlistments are down now that the government is cutting benefits and extending overseas tours. But I wonder if we could get away with a smaller military if we'd try to act like good global citizens and stop making enemies all around the world? Hmm. Too easy.

Victims from every corner of the world

Saturday, April 17, 2004 at 8:35 am
Category: Politics

Spain is following through on its announcement to pull troops out of Iraq, and other countries are reconsidering their involvement, as well. I say good for them. Why should countries like Thailand and El Salvador, who have limited resources and pressing problems at home, send their best young men thousands of miles to die in the Middle East for the sake of our government's oil obsession? President Bush's "coalition of the willing" is largely coerced, mostly symbolic, and entirely sad when you consider its victims.

The power of words

Thursday, April 15, 2004 at 8:10 pm
Category: Media

Besides their shamelessness about aiming straight for the pocketbook, I'd say that the Republicans' most powerful weapon is their uncanny ability to select words and phrases that blind people to alternate viewpoints. During his 2000 campaign, for example, one of Bush's favorite phrases was "tax relief" -- a memorable idea that caught on despite the fact that Americans already pay lower taxes and have far more disposable income than citizens of any other first world country. Similarly, Bush has been able to discredit the judicary's constitutional role in settling controversial legal matters by throwing around the term "activist judges" whenever they hold their ground against conservative attacks on civil liberties. Oh, and how about "class warfare" to describe the logical notion that people with more money can afford to pay more in taxes?

The one that's really burning me up is the latest Republican description of John Kerry's voting record: "He 'flip flops' on the issues." Another way of saying that could be, "He can admit when he's made a mistake, and change his strategy to better represent the wishes of the people, rather than sticking stubbornly to destructive or outdated policies." But "flip flops" definitely has a nicer ring to it.

There's a sellout born every minute

Thursday, April 8, 2004 at 9:45 pm
Category: People

Last night I grabbed a book and settled into a booth at my favorite Mexican restaurant, but I soon got distracted by a pair of young women who sat down in the next booth. After exchanging a bit of small talk, they moved on to politics, and the first phrase that caught my attention was, "I don't like Bush, but there's a lot I could do with some more money in my pocket." Argh! Have the Republican TV ads emphasizing Bush's give-back-money-we-don't-have tax plans been that successful? "All Kerry wants to do is raise taxes," she continued. Yep, I bet he's really driven by that goal. To an answer from her friend about what kind of policy she would recommend, she replied with an answer that was so pat she could have been reading from a script: "Flat tax! Why punish people for being successful?" Indeed. And why bother with little details like a balanced budget?

I detect an inconsistency here

Friday, March 12, 2004 at 10:45 pm
Category: Politics

By the way, these are the same conservative leaders who say that participating in the United Nations means giving up our national sovereignty; they're also the same leaders who willingly subjugate our court system to that of the World Trade Organization. I guess the message here is that it's wrong for a government to do what its citizens want, but it's right to do what its largest corporations want.

Liberating the Spanish people

Friday, March 12, 2004 at 8:05 pm
Category: Politics

After the Madrid train bombings, conservative leaders are calling the Spanish government cowards and "appeasers" because they want to pull out of Iraq. I say they're finally acting like a democracy and respecting the wishes of the Spanish people, 95% of whom opposed Spanish involvement in Iraq when the U.S. was looking for war allies a year ago. Representative government -- what a concept!


CNN – Relatively unbiased for the mainstream…

BBC – …but there's nothing like getting outside of your own country for a bigger picture.

Michael Moore – His "must read" section is pretty addictive.

Truthout – A good collection of dissident journalism. – The Republicans are trying to shut them up, but this is a truly democratic organization.

Northern Sun Merchandising – Wear your values on your sleeve! Or jacket or backpack.

Mark Fiore – The "Who's On First" animation is brilliant. And creepy.

Noam Chomsky – Give him an hour and he'll change the way you see the world.