Thursday, April 26, 2007

Too Much Symbolism, Not Enough Statesmanship

The Democrats have passed their Iraq withdrawal bill. Next step: a presidential veto.

Symbolically, the bill achieves the important goal of proving the Democrats are serious about ending our military involvement in Iraq. But symbolism is just a political tool. Real change requires statesmanship and there’s far too little of that quality in either Congress or the White House.

Neither side seems willing to admit the other side has truth to speak. The White House seems incapable of advancing anything other than militaristic solutions and the Democrats seem incapable of recognizing that quick withdrawal is a reckless gambit that would very likely end in horrible Iraqi bloodshed and the need for a future intervention.

Just once I would love to hear a leading Democrat say “Bush is right that Iraq’s stability is essential to our national security. But his solutions are misguided and have served to exacerbate the problems we face. We must demand a change of course.” Someone eloquent like Barack Obama could even point out that we have a moral responsibility to not abandon the Iraqis to the blood-thirst of terrorist outsiders and vengeful sectarians.

Yet the Democrats choose the easy path of “withdrawal, withdrawal, withdrawal.” That may play well amongst the rabid base and vapid press, but it makes for poor statesmanship.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Not Drunk, Just Busy

In my last post I wrote about Fiesta, our local 10-day mega-festival here in South Texas. I'm happy to say I've been able to enjoy a few of the ongoing events. But I've been quiet here in blogland due to work, not partying. You see, my employer/client is up in the Mid-Atlantic and has no clue that they're making me labor while my neighbors drink margaritas.

I'll have something interesting to say soon. Check back later.


Friday, April 20, 2007


It’s the first day of Fiesta here in San Antonio and, as always, I’m excited. What’s Fiesta, you ask. It’s a 10 day citywide party celebrating … well, celebrating how good it is to be alive and living in San Antonio.

The event began back in 1890 with a parade to honor the heroes of the Alamo. Since then, Fiesta has come to include a huge array of events with a royal court, fancy balls, street festivals, numerous concerts, giant fairs and lots and lots of eating and drinking. It’s like our version of Mardi Gras, as culturally significant and marvelously strange as what goes on in New Orleans.

Most people outside of South Texas have never heard of Fiesta, even though the event brings in hundreds of thousands of people and several hundred million dollars every year. Down here, schools are even closed for the main event, the Battle of Flowers parade. And few of us put in much work at any point during these ten days.

For anyone looking for a good taste of some authentic American culture, there’s nothing like Fiesta. It’s one of the biggest reasons why I make this city my home.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Signs of the Time

What says more about modern America? The Virginia Tech tragedy itself or our reactions to it?

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

No Sense

I have very few words to say about the Virginia Tech tragedy. My heart aches for the victims. My prayers are with the families and the community. But what can one say?

You can blame guns. You can blame a culture that glorifies violence. You can blame the university. You can blame the shooter.

You can blame. And blame. But you will not find understanding. Or justice. These things, as acutely horrifying as they are, as much as the scream out for comprehension—are senseless. The causes too deep and tangled to unravel. The motivations too dark to illuminate.

This tragedy was senseless. And that makes it all the worse.

God be with Virginia Tech.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Great Reads from Dennis Sanders

Dennis Sanders has two excellent posts that relate to the whole Imus issue while touching on deeper matters. The first looks at what it means to stand up in the face of adversity while avoiding the culture of victimhood. The second looks at the nature of bigotry, what it means to be a bigot and whether Imus qualifies.

Give them a read.

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Are Wedge Issues a Result of Our Prosperity?

There’s a new Census Bureau report out that measures everything from television ownership to how safe we Americans feel in our homes. The news? Exceedingly good.

The vast number of Americans not only have numerous conveniences (98.8% have a television, 84.7% have a washing machine, 84.6% have air conditioning, 63.1% have a computer) but a great number of us feel pretty safe (92.8% of us feel safe in our homes). Across regions and income levels and ethnicities, Americans have a greater sense of wellbeing now than they did when the study was last conducted in 1992.

Is this why so-called wedge issues play so well these days? Think about it. If most of us are living a pretty good life, what do we want our government to change? We’re not focused on getting food on the table or even getting a television set in our living room. So we focus on more abstract pursuits—matters of morality and culture and what kind of nation we wish to be.

As divisive as abortion or gay marriage may be, they are matters only a well-fed nation would take up passionately. Even the protests over the Iraq war, as deadly serious as that conflict is, are only possible because most of us don’t have to worry about issues closer to home. After all, without a draft or even so much as a wartime tax increase, the Iraq war does not affect many of us on a personal level. Protest of that war is primarily a matter of morality. The anti-war crowd, just like the anti-abortion crowd, wants America to adopt a different ethical course.

This isn’t to say there aren’t closer-to-home issues that need addressing. Our dysfunctional healthcare system weighs heavily on us all. Our convoluted tax code is a national nightmare. Our educational system is not adequately geared for the challenges of the future. But those are deeply complex matters that ignite more headaches than they do anger. There is no simplicity there. No “marriage is between a man and a woman” or “no blood for oil” rhetoric that’s available.

The fact that we as a people are so well off is something to be celebrated. And the fact that we are using our free time to pursue issues of national character and morality is not a bad thing. But eventually we need marshal our collective energies to do more than bicker in blacks and whites. We need some time spent tackling those deeply grey problems.

A nation this well off is certainly capable of anything.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Why Imus' Words Hurt

Tyrone Steels II has the best reasoning I've read as to why Imus' words were particularly hurtful. It doesn't chage my opinion on the matter, but it does raise some enlightening points well worth considering.

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Beware the Fearsome Chicken

A new scientific finding has determined that the closest living relative to the great Tyrannosaurus Rex may be the modern chicken. Apparently traces of flesh on a fossilized T. Rex. were analyzed and found to contain proteins that are most similar to proteins found in chickens.

Not only does this discovery give weight to the intriguing birds-are-descended-from-dinosaurs theory but it also challenges the long-held belief that the fossilization process removes all biological material and replaces it with stone. Turns out, some bio bits can last millions of years.

What I love is that while we were busy evolving from little rodent things into the dominant species on the planet, dinosaurs may have been going from the dominant species on the planet to a tasty barbeque treat. Then again, that kind of makes me wonder if we might be on a cockroach’s grill 65 million years from now.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Imus Done in by Media Mobsters

At first the Don Imus imbroglio amused me. Then it irritated me. Now I’m mad. CBS and MSNBC have both fired Imus for his bigoted comments. Sure, they have the right to fire whomever they choose. But that doesn’t make their decision anything more than a sad commentary on the failings of modern society and modern media in particular.

Imus has been a so-called shock jock for a long time and has uttered an uncountable number of insensitive remarks over the years. CBS and NBC knew who he was and what he was likely to say. Yet this mildly racist, undeniably sexist comment gets him axed? Why? The answer is simple: the media needed the next sensationalistic story. Once that story was running nonstop, advertisers got scared and pulled away. CBS is just following its advertisers who are following the media who are following the immature, irresponsible, narrow-minded ideology that far too often masquerades as journalism these days.

Not only is this a complete overreaction to the crime committed, but it sets a horrible example. First, Imus’ quick and seemingly sincere apologies are being completely ignored. The lesson? It’s best not to speak at all than risk saying something you regret – your apologies will not be accepted.

The second horrible lesson is summed up in the statements of Les Moonves, the president of CBS who said: "There has been much discussion of the effect language like this has on our young people, particularly young women of color trying to make their way in this society. That consideration has weighed most heavily on our minds as we made our decision."

So that’s how it is now? Instead of teaching our youth to stand up to adversity and shrug off the idiots of the world, we’re telling them that they must be protected from all slights less their poor fragile egos will crumple and die. The women Imus insulted are incredibly talented, college-educated women who had the strength to pull off a Cinderella basketball season. We don’t need to protect them from the likes of Don Imus. Please. That’s horribly insulting to these young women.

Really, I couldn’t care less about Imus. I’ve rarely listened to him and consider him no better than a more political, less scatological Howard Stern. His comments were abhorrent. I have not the slightest desire to stand near the man. But I can’t stay silent. Just because I don’t care for the man doesn’t mean I shouldn’t call a wrong a wrong.

Imus is being unfairly punished by a nauseatingly righteous bunch of media mobsters and their cohorts. What’s worse is that those leading the pitchfork-and-torches charge are ostensibly from the left. If liberals no longer have the stomach to stand up for free speech (even when that speech is insulting or idiotic), then who will?

The whole thing makes me sick. My apologies for the rant. Some events simply demand an outraged blog post.

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Rest in Peace, Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut has died. I’ve never been a huge fan of his novels, although I do admire his brazen genre-bending style that so few writers even attempt.

But what I will always remember about Vonnegut is the lecture he gave at my university. My writing life was fundamentally changed by his description of what a perfect story should be. I can’t repeat the lesson here as it is long and requires graphs. What I can say is that he analyzed Hamlet and the result was a straight line. That probably makes no sense out of context but, to me, it’s a lesson I’ve lived by ever since.

Many today will mourn Vonnegut the writer. I mourn Vonnegut the teacher. Kurt, you never knew me but I have to say thanks. You inspired me.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007


That's the word used by John McCain today to describe the Democrat's Iraq plans. That's the perfect word. It is reckless to plan for withdrawal without also planning for the consequences of that withdrawal.

Saddly, "reckless" is also the perfect word for the original invasion. First we go in with too little forethought and now we want to leave with too little forethought. In ten years time, if we've grown as a nation, we will bemoan the narrow vision and reckless attitudes of those on both sides of the Iraq issue.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bigotry's Media Circus

So, Don Imus is an idiot.. So is Mel Gibson. And we might as well throw in Michael Richards and Isaah Washington too.

Big mouths have a tendency to say hugely stupid things – that’s an old story. The new story is that those same big mouths now spend days upon days rambling off “heartfelt” apologies. That’s how it works in modern America. These are the new rules:

1) Any and all insensitive remarks by celebrity figures are to be met with screeches of outrage from the offended group. Said group will demand a slew of serious punishments and deem the offender a person we simply can’t tolerate as a director/actor/comedian/talk show host, etc.

2) The offender will immediately acknowledge their unforgivable error and then ask for forgiveness. Acts of contrition must be performed in a public forum, preferably before an approved representative of the offended group (Al Sharpton is on call 24/7).

3) Whether or not forgiveness is offered, the whole story eventually fades away and life moves on.

I have no desire to defend, justify or otherwise condone what all these big mouths have said. But I do feel the need to question what the heck is going on in our society when off-the-cuff remarks (however distasteful) are treated like grand crimes. I have a rather old-school approach to civil liberties – one that tends to think public floggings for disapproved speech is bad for all speech.

The truth is, people say bigoted things quite often. I bet each and every one of us has at some point said something that another group would find terribly offensive. Does that make us bad people or does that just make us imperfect in an utterly human way?

Sure, bigotry is not a desirable quality and bigots should be called out for their idiocies. But there is a significant difference between a bigot and someone who simply makes a bigoted remark. I, for one, don’t want my entire character to be judged by what I might happen to say in a moment of rank stupidity.

There are better ways to address bigoted statements than to whip up anger and turn the event into a media circus. As with so much these days, we need to find a higher level of maturity.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Blogging a Blogtastic Blogoversary

A few weeks ago, I hit my second blogoversary. And I’ve only quit once during that time. That’s a good record for a person of my predilections.

Most moderate/centrist/middle-of-the-road blogs last a very short time. Blog readers, like cultists, prefer absolutes. Moderates and centrists provide lots of grey. The result is poor readership numbers and too much hate mail from the roving packs of nimwits who demand conformity to their narrow worldviews.

There just aren’t a lot of readers who want analysis outside the left/right chambers of discourse. And those readers who would appreciate such blogs never find them because media accounts of blogs focus solely on the partisan fearmongers whose hubris is matched only by their idiocy.

So most of us here in the center and quasi-center toil in our own little world, referencing one-another, commenting on each other’s blogs and sustaining a community of people who agree on little more than the innate fallibility and potential wisdom of both left and right.

We’re not any more or less prescient or intelligent than our more-partisan brethren. Indeed, we talk out of our asses with the best of them. We can be shallow, crude, stupid and startlingly wrong. But what we don’t do is preach orthodoxy. We have no dominant ideology. No tenants. We each individually have our own worldviews and adhere to them with varying degrees of passion. But, as a group, we suffer no structure more rigid than a mutual tolerance for/mutual disdain of traditional liberal and conservative mindsets.

That makes us outsiders. That results in low readerships. But it ain’t a bad place to call home. I’d rather have 100 readers and preserve my integrity than have 100,000 and be a sycophant.

So on this second blogoversary I make only one promise: I’ll keep writing what I think, regardless of how few even know I’m here.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter

For us Christians, this is the most important holy day of the year. So, for all those who belive in the resurrection, may you have a blessed Easter.

For all the rest, hope the Easter bunny brought you plenty of chocolate!


Tuesday, April 03, 2007


No, I am not going to start titling all posts with exasperated sounds. It's just been one of those weeks. A ridiculous amount of work and a yard project that simply won't end have stolen all my time.

I do have things to say, just no time to say them. Here are my opinions in brief:

I see why Bush hates press conferences. The man simply can't speak off-the-cuff. He makes me cringe.

The Democrats don't really care about Iraq. They do care about America, which is important. But they don't really care what happens to Iraq.

John Edwards has risen in the polls because he has one thing most candidates lack: policy ideas on major issues.

Mitt Romney has raised a ton of money because ... um ... the Republicans are desperate for another option??

Iran is playing a dangerous game. Britain has handled itself admirably. Hopefully this will resolve itself peacefully. But either there's some serious craziness in Iran or they really believe the West (or at least the forceful West of America and Britain) have been made toothless by Iraq. Either way, I'm worried about what Iran has planned for the future.