Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Well, my big day with Big Bill didn't turn out as planned. Leslie and I arrived at Barnes & Noble at about 7:45 this morning for a book signing that's not starting till 8:30 tonight and were already too late.

Apparently, there were folks lined up with their tents and hibachis as early as Sunday night. Anybody who got there much after midnight or 1 AM this morning wasn't going to get in. They did hand stamps at 4:30 AM and only those people will be eligible for a wrist band, which they're handing out now. And even a wrist band will be no guarantee of actually meeting President Clinton.

It was quite a scene, with the lines of the hopeful wrapping multiple times through the parking lot, out onto one major boulevard, around the corner down an expressway, and almost onto the freeway offramp where we finally found a place in line. That was before the San Jose police came through to let us know there was no way in hell we were getting in to see the President, and that we needed to disperse and get off the expressway before we caused an accident.

The people in line and milling around were, for the most part, very well behaved, helpful, and cooperative with the authorities and each other. The only minor problems and confusion seemed to stem from poor communications between the store staff, the secret service, and the city police. Still, even though there were a few conflicting stories being spread around, they managed the situation well enough.

We felt that we'd gotten to the bottom of the situation and understood what was happening (and that we were not going to get to meet Bill) by about 9 AM and drove off to breakfast.

A little disappointing, but far better than either standing there for the next fifteen hours and still not getting our books signed, or having had to spend the night (or two) sleeping in the parking lot. We were looking forward to this, but we're not quite that crazy.

Meanwhile, I'm up to page 67 in the book - barely a dent in its 957 pages - and enjoying it so far. I'm getting the feeling it's really two books, and should have been in two volumes: #1 - "How I got to the Presidency" & #2 - "How Ken Starr screwed it all up for me." The first book is very interesting if a bit over done, the second one possibly just a self-serving waste of time. I'll let you know how far I eventually get.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Somebody in Sacramento has just informed our Governator that politicians are supposed to be nice to puppies and kittens. Schwarzenegger has now backed-off on his plan to euthanize lost pets after three days, instead of the current six days, in an effort to save the state $14 million per year. Also gone is his proposal to "cruch dem vit my bear hents" to save more money on poison gas.

Meanwhile, manners and respect are still out of fashion in Washington, DC. Dick Cheney is refusing to apologize for using "the F-word" on the Senate floor. In fact, he's actually defending his telling Senator Patrick Leahy to "f*** off", saying, "I expressed myself rather forcefully, felt better after I had done it."

This should come as no surprise as this administration - which ran to "restore decency to the White House" - has never apologized for anything. And, as we all know, Dick Cheney is a major league asshole. "Big time."

This is a serious incident. It is quite different than previous cursing "scandals" where an embarrassingly rude comment was made un-aware that microphones were on. In the other cases it showed a little poor judgment, and an interesting look at who these people really are. But yesterday's little display took place on the Senate floor, and was spoken directly to the intended target.

We are all susceptible to saying something to our friends and associates that we wouldn't necessarily want made public. (Although, the first thing you should learn in public life is that every microphone is live.) But at work, I'm a little more careful with my language, as I'm sure you are too. The Vice President, who presides over the Senate, cursing out a senior Senator in a public forum cannot be either explained away or excused.

And then, defending it, and saying that he feels better for having done it, is truly a signal of the end of civilization. When my wife tells her second grade students not to curse at each other next year, what can she do when they look back at her and say, "But the Vice President said it feels good to release tension that way... And he was right! So fuck you too!"

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Bush has lost the election! One term only for G.W. Bush! Sixty percent of Americans are unhappy about the direction the country is going. More and more Americans are seeing Iraq as a mess we should never have entered, and are embarrassed for their country over the torture scandals.

Okay. So, Bush has already lost it. But who will win?

It's now up to John Kerry to finally explain why anybody should show up to the polls in November and vote for him. If he fails to do that, if Kerry cannot energize the electorate with a reason to vote, he could lose too.

Kerry cannot stand by and expect to win solely on our dissatisfaction with Bush. If that's his strategy, we'll have the lowest voter turn-out in any presidential election yet. And lower turn-out will probably favor the incumbent. Bush has already lost, but he could still win by default and inertia.

New development: Steven Tyler of Aerosmith has pledged to play at the Kerry inaugural, "John and I are good friends," he explained to the Boston Herald, "I told him if he's elected president, on your inaugural, we'll play."

Whether you feel that's a reason to vote for Kerry or against him is up to you. I think it can only help at this point.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Clinton's coming! Clinton's coming! Get in line now!

Why the hell am I getting so excited? What is it about this failed man that has me checking out the schedule of his Bay Area book signings, trying to figure out which one I should go to? How did I get caught up in all this hype over a 975 page book that will sell millions, even though nobody will ever read all of it?

In '92 I held out on Clintonmania until the Democratic convention when he was officially crowned the nominee of my [at that time] party. Although I saw the attraction of his charisma, I also saw danger in it, and didn't fully trust him. Still, by election day, I'd gotten the religion. I worked my precinct and had the joy of attending one of those rarest of events, the Democratic Victory Party.

By the end of the first term, it was all over for me. He'd tried, but lost, on health care, and then joined in with the enemy on welfare reform, among other disappointments. By election day '96 I had been a registered Green for over a year and put my support behind Nader - something I've never regretted.

But still, for all his flaws - and possibly because of them - I find there's a part of me that will always hold on to the hope of that night in November of 1992, and will draw me into the odd magic that is Bill Clinton.

I admit it; on June 29 I'll be standing in line all day at Barnes & Noble to spend $30 on a book that's nothing more than a self-serving excuse for all his broken promises and missed opportunities (no wonder it took 975 pages). My knees will be shaking as I finally approach the table and wonder what stupid remark I'll try to utter to this incredible man that I've loved and hated for a dozen years.

And, worst of all, I'll try to make the same mistake and fall in line with John Kerry before election day 2004 rolls along.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Well, I'm back... at Suite101. You may recall that a long time ago I used to post a monthly column there on the topic of Third Party Politics. It ended when they had some changes at the site around October or November of 2001.

Recently, I decided to take a look at the site again, and was convinced to give it another shot. So, my first new article for the Suite in two-and-a-half years is now posted: "Nader Again: So What?"

Hope you like it.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

26 Ex-U.S. Diplomats Urge Bush's Ouster

"Today we see that structure crumbling under an administration blinded by ideology and a callous indifference to the world around it," said Phyllis Oakley, former assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research. "Never before have so many of us felt the need for a major change in the direction of our foreign policy."

The group, which calls itself Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change, did not explicitly endorse Democrat John Kerry. But one of its members said Sunday, "It goes more or less without saying."

Could this be the beginning of the end game for Bush? Or will they now find ways to discredit each of the members of the group - even the ones who worked for Bush Sr. and the newly sainted Ronnie?

Friday, June 11, 2004

Today is the end of the school year in the district where my wife, Leslie, teaches. Which means, of course, that next week begins the real test of whether or not my having a home office is really a good idea.

It's been one thing to work here when I've had the house to myself five days a week. It will [potentially] be quite another with a vacationing teacher hanging around all the time. This will be a test of my patience and commitment. Who knows; Maybe by the end of the summer I'll be applying for a traditional job outside the home again.

In other news, music legend Ray Charles died yesterday at 73. One of the great masters of American music, he crossed over genres, blending soul, country, jazz, and pop into a unique sound that brought people together across boundaries of race, geography, and generation.

According to the obituaries, Charles died of liver disease, which hits close to home considering my recent bouts with abdominal problems. My liver enzymes are still elevated, but from last week's procedure we've now ruled out most of the more serious causes. I get a couple of weeks off now, then another blood test July 1.

Notice how whatever the topic is, I somehow manage to make it about me? My wife's vacation begins; how will it affect my work? Ray Charles dies; but what about my health? But enough about me. What do YOU think of me?

Monday, June 07, 2004

As the "nation's week of mourning" begins for Ron Reagan, it's a tough time for those of us who opposed Reagan the President, but want to be respectful of Reagan the man. Here's an excellent editorial from the liberal Madison Wisconsin Capital Times that accomplishes the task of opposition with respect.

Reviewing the mythic nature of the Reagan tributes, the editors say, "The problem with all this hero worship is that the spin underestimates and demeans Reagan. It reduces a complex and controversial man to a blurry icon with few of the rough edges that made him one of the most remarkable political figures of his time."

It continues, "This newspaper disagreed with most of what Reagan did ... Yet, we have always maintained a grudging respect for the man. And we continue to recognize that there is much that liberals can - and should - learn from him."

After a discussion of Reagan's rise and record, the editors conclude that, "The lesson to be learned from Reagan is not an ideological one... Rather, the lesson to be learned from Reagan is a stylistic one. He loved preaching his conservative doctrines... This willingness to fight for his faith is what made Reagan remarkable. It is what inspired conservatives. And it is what liberals would be wise to learn."

Read the whole editorial at madison.com

Sunday, June 06, 2004

What can you say about a 93 year-old politician who died? I'm sure it comes as no surprise to any of my regular readers that I was never a fan of Ron Reagan, outside of his movies. But I don't think it's quite yet the time to take up the reasons why I thought he was the monster who destroyed America.

But that was a long time ago, and I'm far more concerned with the monsters he begat. Reagan long ago ceased to be a problem that I was concerned about. And so, today, I'm just trying to remember that, whatever disagreement I had about just about his every political move, I at least considered that he was a sincere man who honestly believed in what he was doing.

In my email today, somebody forwarded to me a column by Greg Palast (author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy - highly recommended), entitled "Killer, Coward, Conman; More Proof that Only The Good Die Young." It was well written, and I agree with it all, I just wonder if it couldn't have waited another couple of days. If you want to see it, you can probably find it at www.GregPalast.com.

No matter how much I may have hated Reagan the president, there's no reason to rejoice at the death of Reagan the man. The only reason to look upon this as a positive thing is that he is at least no longer suffering. The last decade of his life was penance enough for what he did to America. Let him rest in peace now.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet has turned in his resignation (effective next month). "I will miss him," says the Prez. The resignation is being sold as "for personal reasons" but I'm sure it's just that he drew the short straw when the administration went looking for a scapegoat for the lack of WMDs in Iraq. Or was it the poor information about WMDs? Whatever; heads must roll.

Meanwhile, in the scandal over the leaking of a CIA operative's identity in possible retaliation for her husband's telling the truth about Iraq, Bush is now "ready to cooperate" with the Grand Jury. But that announcement came only after W retained private council. Sure, he wants to "get to the bottom of this" - but he'll clear any statements through his lawyer to make sure he doesn't incriminate himself.

Here's your homework assignment: Think about the relationship between these two little news stories.

Health update... Tuesday I went in for the ERCP (fancy, modified endoscopy). If you recall, they were going in expecting to find a stray gall stone or two left over from my gall bladder removal nearly two weeks ago.

No stone was found in this little exploration, which leaves us still wondering why my liver enzymes and direct bilirubin levels are still elevated along with symptoms of abdominal discomfort, fatigue, etc. So, while they were in there, they took some liver tissue samples which are now being biopsied.

Possibilities? Gilbert's (pronounced "Gil-Behrz") Disease, PBC (Primary Biliary Cirrhosis), or ... ??? More answers when I get the biopsy results next Tuesday. We hope.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

From today's email, I hereby forward to you...

"20 things you have to believe to be a Republican today"

1. Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.

2. The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.

3. Government should relax regulation of Big Business and Big Money but crack down on individuals who use marijuana to relieve the pain of illness.

4. "Standing Tall for America"; means firing your workers and moving their jobs to India.

5. A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multinational corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.

6. Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.

7. The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

8. Group sex and drug use are degenerate sins unless you someday run for governor of California as a Republican.

9. If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.

10. A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our longtime allies, then demand their cooperation and money.

11. HMOs and insurance companies have the interest of the public at heart.

12. Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy. Providing health care to all Americans is socialism.

13. Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

14. Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.

15. A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense. A president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

16. Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.

17. The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's driving record is none of our business.

18. You support states' rights, which means Attorney General John Ashcroft can tell states what local voter initiatives they have a right to adopt.

19. What Bill Clinton did in the 1960s is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the '80s is irrelevant.

20. Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

"Feel free to pass these on. If you don't send them to at least ten other people, we're likely to be stuck with Bush for 4 more years."

(Note: I did not write this, it was forwarded to me via email. I don't know who originated the list, if you do, please drop me a line.)

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