Monday, May 30, 2005
Saturday, May 14, 2005
Photos from Iraq
I hate this, yet I look because I don't understand. I look because I know I am not getting the whole story otherwise and I need to know more. I look because those brave people who captured the images for me deserve my attention as do the dead on all sides.
I look because war is ugly and something deep down wants to see ugly. I don't know why, but accept it's true. Denial is false.
It's like a sore that you pick at, knowing it only gets worse that way. We pick at sores because a part of us wants to understand while another part wants to feel. This war is like one of those sores. We fight, we heal, we fight again, we try to heal again.
The damage is real, but the feeling is both pain and relief at the same time. In the end, things will heal. It heals faster if we leave it alone, yet we pick at our sores anyway, knowing the healing will be less than perfect but our need to feel and understand wins out.
This war is like that sore, these images are like the scab. My understanding is no greater today, but my empathy grows for both sides. Did I already say I hate this?
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Isn't Freedom, Equality and Democracy Worth Enough to Fight For?
We have come a long way in the last 5 years or so. I thinking of boundaries, of lines crossed, of things somehow forgotten. If one were to wake up, after having been in a coma, would they recognize the United States today? How would we explain how we got here and what the future holds?
I remember that deep feeling of general unease and anger when the Supreme Court appointed George W Bush as our next President. My stomach sank that day because I knew things were going to change. The various discussions that happened over the next week or so conjured images of gloom and doom that have not even come close to the reality we see today. I don't think any of us realized just how many lines we were about to cross and how difficult the task of stepping back would seem in the years ahead.
That was the first line. Our Supreme Court failed to honor the will of the American People and uphold the decision of their Florida Supreme Court. On that election day in 2000, the American people chose Al Gore as their next President of the United States. The Supreme Court ruled that our votes don't count and that the party with the best legal team wins the prize. We were told our votes don't count and everyone was OK with that. The Supreme Court knew what they had done too. They wrote their opinion and included specific language to try and limit the damage in that their poor decision applied only to Gore -vs- Bush. They picked the president, ignored our vote, and didn't want to set precident. They didn't want to cross the line, but they did anyway.
I've thought a lot about the fragile nature of democracy since then. Democracy is about trust. A democracy is only as solid as those who participate want it to be. Our founders gave everything to establish ours. That meant something. It meant enough to carry us over 200 years. It does not mean as much now.
Despite, great efforts to bury the story, Bush did feel public pressure to fix our election crisis, thus HAVA was born and with it came Electronic Voting machines. We struggle with this today in that most Americans don't value their democracy as they used to. We have been lulled into trusting untrustworthy processes that govern our democracy. In this we have largely lost the power our founders intended us to have. That's another line crossed.
We have placed our trust into untrustworthy processes and people to handle our votes, count them and tell us the result rather than do the work ourselves and be assured the result is true and just. Everybody knows the importance of accountability. That's why we vote. Our government is supposed to be a representative one that works in our best interests. We have checks and balances to help keep our human nature from getting the best of us.
We don't have that anymore because our votes are counted for us by machines that we cannot understand or oversee. By trusting what is untrustworthy, we lose our ability to control our own future as a nation.
That's the fix George Bush brought to us. Rather than actually work to make sure the democratic process works for everyone, he chose to exploit a crisis in order to erode and transfer our chain of trust to third parties, more than able to manupulate our democracy for their own ends with most of us none the wiser. For those few who can see what has happened, a compliant and willing media works to brand us with names and labels that marginalize our cries for justice and trust.
So many lines, so little time...
Another line crossed happened after 9/11. I am sure every American wants to see those responsible brought to justice. I want that too. The line we crossed that day was one of fear. Call it the culture of fear if you will. Our fear of terrorism, under a true leadership would bring strength and unity to the American people. We have been here before and worked as one to defend our core American values; namely, equality, freedom and democracy. And we won.
Sadly, we have crossed that line too. We have crossed into fear where our values are not worth the risk anymore, or that's what they tell us anyway. Rather than leverage and focus our fear and anger toward justice, our administration cultivates it with banners, colors and other devices that keep us aware of it. Under that fear we have been asked to yield many rights in return for safety. We crossed that line and got the Patriot Act in return.
Fear and false trust brought us another failed election. This time it was stolen, largely outside the courts and media. 30 percent of our votes cannot be proven to represent the will of the voters. We have no way to go back and see the true will of the American People as we did in 2000. There is no story to tell of how our democracy went wrong because we cast our votes and our trust into machines that did not keep either sacred for accounting later.
9/11 castrated our national mainstream media too. Everyone wants to support the President in a time of war. War on Terror. Is it even possible to have a war against an idea, a technique?
Somehow, we have lost the ability to question our leadership because the threat of terror demands we follow blindly or be struck. That's just not the America I grew up in. The Americans I used to know would fight to the last to uphold our democracy and freedom. Today we yield it piece by piece in the name of protecting ourselves from terrorists.
Lots of little lines crossed. Getting them drawn in the sand took everything we had. Stepping over them is so easy now. Looking back is tough too. We know what it took to earn our soverginty and the rewards of freedom and democracy. How much will it take to get it back? What would those who gave so much say of us today?
Now we have a national ID system in the works. This system is supposed to help us find out who the terrorists are among us. One central record will be made for each American. God only knows what will be attached to that record and what it will be used for.
Some say there is hope. We have checks and balances right? We can hold the listkeepers accountable right? Nobody will abuse the system because it's only for identification right?
Look at the lines crossed together and a different picture emerges. Our national ID can and will be used to validate all sorts of things we take for granted today. Travel, banking and other critical things will all require this identification system be carried at all times, or risk a strike from the terrorists among us. Do any of us honestly believe they will just step up, get their ID and then be found out? Is the fear so great as to make, "Your Papers Please" worth the false relief it will bring?
These ID cards will likely feature remote data transmitters called RFIDs. They allow the ID to be read at a distance. We have provisions in our law that prevent unwarranted search and seisure. We give lip service to the idea of privacy in ones own person. The Patriot Act lets our government brush those things aside in the hopes of finding terrorists. Again is that false relief worth it. Will a little card, broadcasting your personal information to passers by really do anything to prevent terrorism? What about this coming election? Will your electronically processed vote be tied to this ID you will very likely have to show in order to vote? What about your banking, things you buy, places you go?
One day in the near future you might have trouble finding a job. In the back of your mind, you wonder just what your personal record says about you. It will be kept a secret so nobody is at risk, but that means you will have to carry a device that holds information about your own person that you cannot see or read? What if it says you are gay, for example? It's like a nasty rumour that you are clueless about, but everyone else knows.
Are these things worth the false relief from fear they bring?
The way I see it, we have one more shot at fixing things. The upcoming mid-term congressional elections are the best shot we have at re-establishing a two party government while we still can easily do so. Large portions of the country are still not fully converted to electronic voting. We have a chance if we vote in record high numbers for change. We can still audit our elections and reveal fraud and manupulation. There is still time.
There is one more time.
We have crossed a lot of lines. Grave damage has been done to our democracy. Our founders saw this day and gave us the power we need to put our nation back on a solid path. They gave us the vote. We have nearly given it back to those who govern us, but there is still time.
What to do?
Simple. Stop the bickering and blind party loyalty. Stop giving away the farm so gay people can't get married or women can't have abortions. These are little things we can work out once we have earned the right to persue them. Right now, we are being lead, not represented. Right now, our best interests don't mean much because our government does not fear our accounting. We are weak and divided, confused and uninformed. Our votes don't matter because we don't want them to matter.
Here is the solution. No matter your party affiliation or social values, you need to vote a full Democratic Ticket in '06. I used to be Republican. Now I am simply an American asking you to join me in getting our checks and balances back. I am asking you to not sweat the little things and vote for the greater good.
Are the Dems perfect. Hell no. They are no prize and have just as many problems as the Republicans do. But I have learned something over the last few years that is very important and that is we need at least two sides to the discussion. Ideally we would have more, but we can't afford that right now.
One party government means absolute power over us. We have seen what that does time and time again. Will we sit and watch it happen to us, here today right now, because we are stuck on some silly issue? Will we let our freedom be taken one value at a time while we feel better that some of us can't get married, or that our church supports a president that will legislate our beliefs on the masses?
Vote a straight Democratic Ticket. Put the checks and balances back into our government then hold all of them accountable with the fear of our votes. Only then will we see legislation that helps us all improve our lot as Americans.
Do it. Cast your vote and cultivate a little healthy fear with me. We both will be better for it.
Monday, May 09, 2005
Roughly 48 Hours Remain to Oppose National ID card.
Having a national ID card is a bad idea on so many different levels, it's hard to know just where to start. If you agree, for just about any reason, please give your Senators a quick FAX and phone call to urge them to oppose the National ID card legislation.
There should be some rule of government that prevents things like this from riding along with important legislation, that is politically difficult to oppose. Regardless of where you stand on the Iraq war, failing to approve funding for the troops is politically deadly given the mid-term elections coming in 2006.
That's what makes this whole effort to create a national ID card such a surprise. It passed the house, many of whom did not even get much of a chance to review the legislation and fear the sound bites if they did oppose it. We should not have our elected officials be forced to make a choice like this becuase it's a no win for everyone but those select few that want this national ID card to happen. As it stands now, you either support the troops and support a national ID card, or support neither and we all know what that means.
Ask John Kerry how well failing to support the troops comes across during an election.
We have one more shot at this while the bill is in the Senate. We need to let our senators know we understand the difference between supporting the troops and the damage a national ID card will cause. We also need to let them know they have our support. The military funding should pass, but the national ID card provision, which has not even seen any debate, should not.
I would follow this up with a phone call and be sure and let your friends know to do the same. Take some action, or you too will be digging up several forms of ID, plus whatever biometric info they require for this new ID. You too could find yourself having to use this ID to vote in the next Presidential Election wondering if your voting record is tagged to your ID...
We have less than 48 hours, that's about two days. This is a really big deal that is getting Zero attention. It will dramatically affect each and every one of us and it's GETTING NO ATTENTION.
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Your secrets on a postcard.
Monday, May 02, 2005
Cingular Cell Phone Spam
AT&T used to send these, but they went to the incoming mailbox on my phone. No biggie, just delete 'em and move on. Well, Cingular seems to want to own my phone from time to time on my dime to boot. Their messages take over the phone interface, making it useless until you read and dismiss the thing. What if I really wanted to make a call just then?
In this age of ever increasing technology, I find the addons to cell phones are doing nothing that add to the core value of the phone, namely: making and receiving phone calls. Somehow I find this idea of them getting in the way of me using my phone, that I paid for wrong. Don't they make enough money from those of us making phone calls? How many ads for additional services must I pay for or wade through just to make a lousy phone call?
Today, I wanted to make a phone call and was limited on time. Normally I would just whip out the phone and get it done, but noooo. I first have to deal with a message right when time is short. This is not ok and is also the reason for this post.
Thanks Cingular for denying me the use of my own phone, only to have to wade through your ads, an increasing amount of the time. At this rate, I'll have to listen to a frickin' ad before my outgoing call is connected, even though I am paying for the call!
Sunday, May 01, 2005
Saw "Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy" today.
If you read the books, go watch the movie, there will be something in it that you will appreciate. Bring your towel too! It isn't often the movie people see folks bringing things into the theatre like that. They seemed to enjoy it. I found their reaction interesting in that it was obvious they didn't read the book, but wondered if they probably should!
A long time friend of mine suggested a few of us get together and watch the movie. Highly recommended approach really. I got to catch up with some people that I really should have caught up with sooner all because some guy decided to almost write a book a number of years ago! Thanks Douglas where ever you are, I had fun today because of something you wrote.
The visuals were well done, with the factory scenes being just great. All the zooming around the yard filled with all sorts of interesting looking planet building stuff fit my mental picture well.
I didn't see as much humor as I thought I was going to see, but what I did see basically worked in an odd way however.
The cast did a fine job bringing characters to life for me. I really liked Arthur and Zaphod. Speaking of Zaphod, I thought that was going to be one of the major challenges of this movie. How to deal with the two heads? The solution is perfect and I'm not going to spoil it. Very creative and a nice surprise.
I liked all the props. They matched my own personal mental visuals. Very British with blinking lights, humorous design attributes and lots of just goofy curves and shapes. They are as vibrant as the characters are in the book. This made up a lot of ground for me as the movie does miss the mark where story is concerned. (I can't blame them, it's a whopper to try to put to film in a way that an ordinary person might have a chance of relating to.)
The Vogons met my expectations easily enough. Rich seems to think they were inspired by one of the creatures from Monsters Inc. --the secretary does appear quite Vogonish. Who knows, this film was a while in production --maybe it's the other way around. My favorite part of the movie happens when the crew lands on the Vogon home planet. Don't miss that part, it's classic Adams humor realized on the screen just as it should be.
I didn't like the mushy element added. It was just a bit to much traditional hollywood-ish. No great harm done, just somewhat annoying. To give them credit, this does help folks, who didn't relate or read the books, to get something out of the movie. I'll catagorize this as a necessary evil.
One of the other challenges was how to handle the narrative. The guide was realized as this electronic gadget, book thingy that worked for me. The transition from movie to guide entry was done right and made some of Douglas Adams trademark humor approachable. Very well done, IMHO.
Be sure to watch the credits and don't walk out early like Jim did!
All in all worth a movie ticket. It could easily have been a lot worse. It could also have been a lot better too, making it just good enough to enjoy.
Again, I would take this chance to enjoy it with your friends who appreciate this kind of story. You will get more out of the movie that way. Save the critical analysis for the DVD where you can pick it apart in the privacy of your own home where nobody actually cares. After seeing this film, I wonder just what would have come if Douglas was still here with us.