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Friday, March 26, 2004

This has been the week of former White House counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke. It's rare anymore that a public figure does something truly courageous, but Clarke has done just that -- he said what needed to be said.
He apologized for the government's failure to prevent 9/11.

This is a unique event in so many ways. As a former representative of the Clinton administration, an administration known for its disingenuous apologies, Clarke offers sincerity and credibility. As a former representative of the Bush administration, Clarke offers acknowledgement of failure -- something that administration is constitutionally incapable of doing, even when the evidence shows that they've made a terrible error.

Clarke has been smeared in the press, but it's important to point out that no one is contradicting his allegations -- they're attacking his character. The reasons for this are twofold: first, the Bush administration demands unflinching loyalty and destroys the reputations of anyone who criticizes them; and second, Clarke's allegations are true -- the historical record, as well as the accounts of other dissenters from the Bush administration, support what he claims.

In a time of partisan mudslinging, when the US is almost as politically and culturally divided as in the days preceding the Civil War, it's refreshing to see a career public servant who steps out of party lines and tells the honest truth.

Worth nothing is the reaction of the 9/11 families to Clarke's testimony, and the genuinely emotional meeting between them and the counterterrorism czar who failed them after the hearings ended. Clarke is the first to apologize to them, which is insane when you think of the fact that 9/11 occurred three years ago. They deserved better from our government -- from both the Bush people and the Clinton people.

And for having the courage to do that, Richard Clarke has earned himself a place in American history as a heroic whistleblower who stood up to the people in power and told the truth. Let's hope no one forgets.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Elections are stressful, and today is especially stressful because my candidate -- Howard Dean -- will be made or broken by the results. A win here would be a tremendous victory, and a close second place will keep the campaign alive. Anything less will mean the end of the Dean movement -- which too Democratic activists by storm last summer and promises great change in the party if Dean gets the nomination. We’ve been under attack by the [Democratic National Committee] since fall, and today could be the blow that finally kills us.

Although I think Dean can still win, odds are that John Kerry will be the victor. Kerry, I’ve said before, is a terrible candidate -- he has an inconsistent voting record, and was an unexceptional Senator, having never introduced a single piece of legislation during his two decades in the Senate. Mark my words, if Kerry is our nominee, Bush will beat him to death on several issues: 1) Kerry is an elitist patrician, but unlike the President, he doesn’t make an effort to sound like a normal person; 2) John Kerry is a liar and an exaggerator who flip-flops on the issues; 3) Kerry is without any convictions, essentially a political opportunist.

No amount of military service will change this -- this is the same strategy the Republicans took to bash Al Gore, and it will work just as effectively with John Kerry.

But a Kerry win is just what the Dem establishment wants -- at least, it’s what the people in power want. Word from some professional campaign workers I know here in Washington is that the DNC is willing to give up this election to Bush so as to ensure a Hillary run in 2008. That beating Bush in 2004 was never their goal, and the fact that Dean has so effectively provided an outlet for the party’s general discontent with the President is a mere inconvenience in their overall strategy. They want Bush to win, and they don’t care that he’s doing his best to cripple the Federal government -- power is their only concern, and now is not the right time for their candidate to ascend to the throne.

The jury’s out on whether or not I believe this conspiracy theory -- given my level of cynicism and disillusionment with the Democratic Party, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was true. I’m not sure they’re organized enough to cripple their own chances for a White House win, but they’re probably cunning enough to do it.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Working and living in Washington, DC offers its share of surreal moments. Such as seeing Ralph Nader on the street every day, attempting to hide behind a conspicuous floppy felt hat, or discovering that the unassuming guy you bump into every night when you walk your dog is in reality the political operative who spearheaded the war on John Ashcroft’s nomination. Walking home every night on 17th Street, I look at the after-work crowds sprawled out on restaurant patios and wonder who they really are -- what good or evil do these people commit every day in the halls of Congress?

Yesterday, I was introduced to a new colleague at work -- a guy who spent the last thirty years in journalism and politics. Noticing the Howard Dean paraphernalia stuck to my office door (as well as the embarrassing poster advertising EA’s “Return of the King” video game, a game I don’t even own), he told me that he just doesn’t like Dean.

“He’s just a rich guy he said, a Yale guy. He’s the same as George Bush.”

Who do you support? I asked.

He hemmed and hawed about Gephardt, but then told me, “Joe Lieberman has been around awhile, he’s a good man.”

I continued to grill him on his political interests, a subject he was delighted to discuss at length, despite the fact that he had to leave. What struck me most about the exchange, though, was that he wasn’t the least bit interested in why I like Howard Dean -- he could have cared less about my political beliefs at all.

And therein lies the problem with the Democratic Party -- its longtime members and leaders have no interest in what young people (and I’m nearly 30, so I’m not that young, anymore) have to say. They expect to field people they like -- like Joe Lieberman -- simply because of time served, and not because of the issues. And we’re expected to blindly go along with it and vote for whomever they’ve prescribed for the rest of us to support.

Is it any wonder that young people feel disconnected from the political process?

Thursday, January 15, 2004

I am growing more disheartened with the Democratic presidential primary as each day wears on. The media is clearly complicit in its support of President Bush -- when Howard Dean was the frontrunner, they ran a relentless campaign of negative reporting to knock him down. Wesley Clark started to the rise, and they turned against him, as well (though not quite as badly as they turned on Dean). Rather then let the Democratic voters pick their candidates in the primaries and caucuses about to begin across the country, the media is attacking its strongest candidates, crippling their ability to defeat Bush in the fall.

I am afraid that we are going to end up with one of the establishment Democrats -- John Kerry or Dick Gephardt -- who were on board with much of the President’s program prior to the election and who do not offer a clear alternative to the President’s policies (Gephardt’s quixotic health plan not withstanding). All that’s needed is a strong finish for either of them in Iowa (which is virtually pre-determined at this point) for the media to declare the “Dean insurgency” over, basically calling the rest of the race in their favor before it even hits most of the other states. You don’t need to be a prognosticator to know that this is the storyline the media desperately wants to play out.

I feel very strongly that Howard Dean presents the clearest, most responsible alternative to the President. He’s accused of flip-flops on a daily basis, but the media has largely forgotten how Gephardt, Kerry and Edwards all flip-flopped on the war, on tax cuts, on “No Child Left Behind,” on all the programs the White House has rammed through the congress. His position is actually quite consistent, but his establishment enemies and their media buddies have done a great job of drumming up old quotes to use against him.

I look at a Gephardt-Bush match-up and I see shades of Dole-Clinton in 1996. Gephardt as an aging relic, a nasty curmudgeon whose rants of the President’s “miserable failure” while a positive President easily trumps his negativity. Kerry-Bush would go along the same lines of Dukakis-Bush or Mondale-Reagan -- Kerry is such an uninspiring public speaker, his rhetoric so vague and academic that Bush will again rise as a sort of “everyman” and trump him with his charisma and folksy charm. Dean has suffered countless McGovern comparisons from his foes and the press, but on the stump he is an electrifying speaker -- I’ve seen him twice now, and both times I was blown away by his deft use of plain English. And the rage people accuse him of isn’t there -- people confuse passion with rage, emotion with fury.

I’m at the point now that I can only accept one of three candidates -- Dean, Edwards or Clark. The others have so sickened me with their negative tactics that I just can’t support them. I am not a “anyone but Bush” Democrat -- I do not believe that all of these guys can win, and I honestly feel that Dick Gephardt, John Kerry and Joe Lieberman have no business leading the Democratic party, much less running for President. This does not mean that I won’t vote for one of the other candidates in the fall -- just as I grudgingly voted for Al Gore in 2000, I will probably cast a vote for one of the other candidates if they are the nominee. But I will not send them money, campaign for them, or see them speak on the stump -- and I think it’s safe to say that I will probably tune out the election entirely.

Friday, January 09, 2004

I had a long conversation earlier this week with a work acquaintance of mine that is still bouncing around in my skull. It began as a discussion of Sophia Coppola's beautiful film "Lost in Translation," and soon digressed into a discussion of American cultural imperialism and Asian culture. My friend's argument was that the Japan depicted in "Lost in Translation" was merely a backdrop for "white people to have an adventure," and that the Japanese people in the film were thinly drawn props. My argument was that the Japan of the film was crafted the way it was because neither character wanted to be there, both felt trapped, and the incomprehensible Japanese landscape was merely a metaphor for the alienation and loneliness they both felt in their lives.

This wouldn't cut it for my friend -- she continued to argue that Sophia Coppola had a duty to present Japan in a more meaningful and culturally sensitive light. I suggested that perhaps the world should try to be more sensitive in regards to its depiction of Americans, which she countered with the old line: "America dominates the world, it doesn't deserve rounded interpretation."

I tried to argue that most Americans -- at least the ones who didn't attend elite boarding schools or ivy league universities or live in the "major" cities -- feel completely disenfranchised politically, are not evil or malicious, and are just trying to live paycheck to paycheck. Therefore, to say that all Americans deserve to be slandered in other countries as callous monsters and imperialists really shows a gross misunderstanding of the American people as a whole and is unfair to the millions of Americans who are not part of the government. My friend, of course, disagreed.

That's when the lightbulb went off in my head -- when conservatives refer to "liberal elites," this is who they're referring to. People whose progressive values do not extend to working class, lower middle class, or regular middle class Americans who share much in common with their minority and foreign counterparts. This is precisely why the left is losing so much ground in America -- it is unwilling to include Americans with the class of people struggling through their lives, trying desperately to make ends meet and do right for their families. In fact, I'm not altogether convinced that the left even knows these people exist. All Americans to them are evil -- at least that's the notion you get in conversation, and that's what drives people to the Republican party.

I consider myself a progressive and a liberal -- I believe quite strongly in the necessity for things like affirmative action, the welfare state, universal health care, affordable college tuition, renewed regulation of corporations and strict environmental regulations. I do have my quirks, though -- such as my staunch support of the Second Ammendment, my believe that millitary action is sometimes necessary and inevitable to preserve liberty and my belief that Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman were two of the greatest Americans to ever live. But overall, your average Christian Coalition member would despise me and my liberal belief system -- conservatives would no doubt easily finger me for a pinko commie scumbag. Yet if I would tell my fellow liberals that their apparent loathing of regular Americans was making them lose ground to the Republicans, they would accuse me of being a conservative fascist.

If liberalism is to succeed, it needs to be inclusive of everyone -- and liberals need to stop wagging their fingers at regular Americans. They need to stop blaming people for past injustices, for an imperialism so distant they don't even know it exists, and start forging ahead with a postive, inclusive progressive agenda that benefits everyone. Otherwise, George W. Bush and the rest of the boys will continue to rack up the votes.

Isn't it interesting how a conversation about a little romantic film can lead into such unexpected directions?

Friday, January 02, 2004

Wasn't it just 1994?

I often criticize older people for being stuck in a specific year -- such as 1969 for instance, the fabled summer of love -- and I am guilty of it, myself. For me 1994 was that year -- the year of turmoil, when I met and began dating my future wife, moved out of my mother's house for good, got serious about working, got serious about college. In 1994 I saw over 200 indie rock and punk shows in Washington, D.C., bought countless records, somehow got myself started on $20,000 of credit card debt I will finally finish repaying this March.

Above all 1994 was the great divide between childhood and adulthood -- it was a boundry crossed. And this New Year means that it has been ten years now since I entered this strange world I still reside in today, that 1994 is now ancient history.


Friday, December 12, 2003

Digressing into my personal life for a moment, I have been for several years dealing with an undiagnosed form of inflammatory bowel disease. My case is not severe, but is inconvenient -- I live in a constant state of dread about getting sick. I eat every meal with anxiety, never knowing when my condition will flare up.

I have been avoiding a colonoscopy since May, but now I can avoid it no more. The only way I can continue getting the medication I need to control my condition is to get the test. When I was first diagnosed with IBD, my doctor at the time -- a surgeon who falsely advertised himself as a gastroenterologist -- said I had "general IBD," which does not exist. You can only have one of two types -- ulcerative colitis, or Chronn's Disease. I need to know what I have to get a proper treatment.

Yet, I'm terrified of being knocked out -- I have this terrible phobia of dying while under sedation. So I sit here at my desk debating whether or not to make the appointment. I know I should -- I just don't want to.

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