Category Archives: Politics

Rants, rants, rants.

Love and Loathe

The calendar has turned the page to November, tonight we set our clocks back an hour, and we’ve just come off our first freeze in Da Lou.  I both love and loathe this time of year.

October is filled with post-season baseball, something I start looking forward to every spring.  This year, once again, the Cardinals were in the hunt, but once again, came up short.  And while that was tough to watch, it was just as tough to watch the Royals go down in the World Series, especially to San Francisco.  It’s easy for me to root for an underdog, and Kansas City certainly fit the bill of carrying the Cinderella card this year.  It just wasn’t to be, despite a crazy ride.  Like I said, I love this time of year.

At the same time, there’s another set of games going on … election shenanigans.

I loathe election season.  I hate all the yelling and screaming, and seeing the bottom feeding of the human condition on full display.  If you listen to the adverts, every person out there running for office is some combination of Hitler and Satan, drowns puppies for sport, sank the Titanic, conspired against Elvis, and is carrying ebola.  What’s incredible to me is how little any candidate seems to talk about themselves, their platform and beliefs, and how much they have to say about their opponents’.  Add to that adverts spawned by other groups who have hidden agendas that drive their attacks, and the buildup to Tuesday’s election becomes less an exercise in democracy in action, and more like a gaggle of folks just being obnoxious.

Thankfully, the countdown to Tuesday is on, when we can all get back to being semi-civil, and enjoy the onset of fall.  With glee, I will cast my ballot, if only to shut ’em all up!

Patriot Day

A long, long time ago, I wondered in my personal journal what my generation’s Pearl Harbor would be. Frankly, I thought it would be something much more horrific than that Day That Would Live in Infamy — a doomsday scenario, with us and Russians lobbing warheads over the pole at each other. It was the early 1980s, after all, and that seemed like the most likely kind of event. Like so many others, though, when the fall of the Soviet Bloc took place in the late 1980s, I thought we were finally on the brink of acting like the human race I’d always aspired for us to be. Of course, there would still be strife and hated — there’s just too many different opinions out there on life, liberty and pursuit of happiness — but I thought that the promise of the Shining City on a Hill would be so uniting and so persuasive, it would be the kind of obvious human goal to strive for.

And then September 11th, 2001, rolled around.

I was sitting in a meeting at work, when someone said that a plane had crashed into a building in New York City. Obviously, that was a horrible thing to hear, but it was in that weird “spectator” state for those of us in the building. This was before cell phones with internet connections were ubiquitous, and really, all we had to rely upon was the word-of-mouth of folks who were just rolling into work, or folks who were looking at various news websites. By the time we were out of our meeting, it was obvious that something very, very traumatic had taken place, and I knew then that my generation had its Pearl Harbor.

I remember not being able to get any news in the building. Most folks’ radios didn’t work well in there — lots of concrete and RFI from all the computers — so the real lifeline was the internet. Of course, an hour or so into the tragedy, most websites were impossible to hit. If I remember right, CNN actually went down to a single, simple HTML page, trying to serve up simple, quick pages to a public hungry for news on what had just happened to us. As for me, I watched the news unfurl on the BBC website, as it was slightly less taxed than the domestic news outlets.

Upon finishing the workday, I came home, and watched the first video I’d seen of what had happened. It’s one thing to read about such devastation, but to see it unfold on a TV screen was truly surreal. Like many folks said on that day, it looked like a scene from some kind of Hollywood blockbuster. And I stayed glued to the TV the rest of the night.

Oddly enough, the thing that struck me the most about what I saw on TV that night was what wasn’t happening. Many of the “entertainment” networks — QVC, HGTV, MTV and others — suspended their operations, and either were hooked into a news outlet, or had a simple slide up, speaking of their support for the families of those lost on that day. I’d never seen anything like it.

Like many, many other folks, I was in shock. I wept, I prayed, and I tried to move on.

Fast forward to today, the tenth anniversary of that awful day. This weekend, I went to Branson for the semiannual Fiddlers’ Convention with some of the folks I play music with. I knew it was a special weekend because of the anniversary, but I also knew that I could find some solace in some of the most American music ever created. Last night, I joined the circle, and played out, for the first time outside the small group of folks that are my occasional musical circle.

I tried to keep up, and follow along as these very experienced players weaved music through the night. I really surprised myself, and think I did ok. And then, unexpectedly, there were two moments that really made the night memorable for me.

One of the guys that went to Branson with me broke into “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”. That old song is absolutely one of my favorites, and being a part of playing it in a small group was magical, truly magical. I was swept up in the music, and for the first time, felt like I was really a part of the music itself. I really don’t know how to explain it any better than that. And like part of a one-two punch, the circle started playing “Amazing Grace.” Yet again, I was struck with being such a part of this wonderful musical event. I heard someone on the radio this morning describing music as being something that could describe events using language beyond our daily ability to communicate. I’d have to agree, and that’s definitely what I was finding last night — comfort, and solace, communicated as more than the sum of the words that were sung and notes that played.

This morning, I began the quick journey back from Branson — just a few hours’ drive — and encountered a couple of groups marking the anniversary. The first was a group of motorcyclists, riding as a group on the outer road, sporting U.S. flags on the back of their bikes. The other was a long, long line of farm tractors making the turn off the outer road, each with Old Glory proudly displayed. This kind of display as I rolled across the hills of mid-Missouri reminded me of just how special our country is, and how poignant this date is, and likely will remain.

I’ve found myself trying to steel against the emotions of the day, and every once in a while, I’m caught off-guard by a gasp of emotion, a cry caught in my throat, inspired by things as disparate as hearing “Amazing Grace” played at Ground Zero as I was driving home this morning, to seeing a commercial featuring the Budweiser Clydesdales kneeling before the skyline of New York City. Through it all, I know that God will watch out for us — not because we’re so special, but because we’ve asked Him take care of us.

Happy Fourth!

As the three or four of you who regularly take a look at this blog know, I try to sidestep the political conversations. There are a few days out of the year though, when politics should stand aside, and Americans should stop, reflect, and thank God for where we are, what we have, and how blessed we have been.

My mother sent something in e-mail this morning that contained a quote by Ronald Reagan. When Reagan was elected in 1980, I was 16 years old, and felt certain that I would not live to see the completion of my high school years. You see, I was convinced that Reagan would get us nuked back to the stone age. Reflecting on that time though, it seems like he was likely the best answer available at the time, and really did set the stage for a prosperous decade to come.

I went looking for Reagan quotes to see if I could confirm that the one she sent actually came from him. In looking for that answer, I found a few more, and thought I’d put ’em all here, on this day where we Americans celebrate the establishment of this land.

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.

Putting people first has always been America’s secret weapon. It’s the way we’ve kept the spirit of our revolutions alive—a spirit that drives us to dream and dare, and take great risks for a greater good.

I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.

After 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.

The ultimate determinate in the struggle now going on for the world will not be bombs and rockets but a test of wills and ideas – a trial of spiritual resolve; the values we hold, the beliefs we cherish and the ideas to which we are dedicated.

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.

Enjoy your 4th of July, wherever you are. Cherish your family. Enjoy the fireworks, food, and friends. And revel in the freedom that we Americans celebrate today. Today is first day on the road to the next 4th of July — what freedoms will you enjoy between now and then?

Navy: 1, Planet: 0

In the news tonight was a court victory for the Navy, giving the Navy the go ahead to use loud, potentially deadly sonar in waters known to be inhabited by whales and other marine mammals sensitive to the sounds. The way it was reported, the court said national security outweighs ecological concerns.

It’s akin to the military deciding that an above ground, high-pitched sonic weapon was necessary for national security, and was allowed to continue working with that weapon in a locale where dogs were. In that case, people would be livid. I suspect the whales were short-shrifted because they’re not cute and cuddly, and living in our homes.

So, how far can this precedent be carried? Could national security interests be put ahead of other ecological concerns? It’s a great question, and one that has some chilling ramifications.

Hollow Night

As I have the last several presidential elections, I have spent the evening with NBC. In previous elections, Tim Russert was my entertainment and education during the election — who can forget “Florida, Florida, Florida”? With the death of Tim Russert earlier this year, my enjoyment of the election was somehow a little hollow.

Chuck Todd — Tim’s replacement — is doing a decent job, but with his telestrator and VR graphics, his reporting is somehow “too polished”, especially when compared to Russert’s small white board and markers. The anachronism of that image in today’s world is somehow appealing to me. Simpler really is better.

It was nice to see Russert’s son contributing to the reporting tonight. Somehow, it seemed appropriate to have a Russert in the mix on election night.

Earth Hour

OK, so I’m a little late to the party on this one, but I thought it was worthy of mention.

I was going to Google something (yeah, yeah, I know Google isn’t supposed to be used as a verb), and I noticed that the background of the page was black, with a link about Earth Hour.

Tonight was the night for Earth Hour, in which folks would turn off their lights from 8-9pm (local time), and take a little bit of pressure off the Big Blue Marble. Obviously, I missed the event, but the website has good info about how to make every hour Earth Hour.

Below’s a video talking about the project, and this year’s event. Enjoy!

Protest New York… But Hurry!

If you are a photographer reading this blog, I strongly urge you to evaluate your response to the recent move by the city of New York to restrict public photography. The full text of the regulation is here (PDF file). There’s a group called Picture New York who has their response to the new regulation here, and have provided an e-petition to sign if you’re so inclined.

I did.

This is the second time this week that a story has floated to the top of my newsreader concerning photographers being either harassed (Arlington VA) or muzzled by regulations and insurance requirements (New York). To my view, the right of a municipality to regulate when and where I can use my camera in public spaces — especially in places where there is a reasonable expectation of a desire to photograph and document landmarks, architecture and events, based on their uniqueness, newsworthiness, or popularity — is absolutely not permissible.

I know that in the post 9/11 world, anyone who isn’t doing exactly what someone expects them to do is automatically considered one of the bad guys. This has unfortunately allowed a land-grab of so many opportunities taken for granted before that date. However, turning this great country — that I served during the tail end of the Cold War in the 80s — into a police state is doing nothing more than letting the bad guys win… by eroding the very freedoms so many government agencies at various levels say we are protecting by inhibiting the reasonable exchange of free speech, in this case, photography.

When they finally outlaw photography, only outlaws will practice photography. Don’t let this happen. I strongly urge you to be active, and sign the petition. If you happen to be a voter in a place that’s either passed or encouraging the passage of similar legislation, vote with your camera, and make changes at the ballot box that will once again help make this country free and restore this particular freedom of speech for its citizens and visitors.

Election Day

…And boy am I glad it’s here. Why? Well, as a citizen of the state of Missouri, I’ve been the target of IMMENSE advertising — TV, radio, mail, phonemail. The only media through which I wasn’t assaulted was e-mail and the presentation of a large, politically motivated fruit basket.

It’s been ugly here in the middle, folks. We have a pivotal Senate race. We have a politically charged amendment to raise taxes on tobacco products. And then there’s the stem cell amendment. Between those three votes alone, I believe more than $50M was spent in the Show-Me State to get a vote.

Daily, I’ve had 3-5 pieces of mail — many times from the same organization yelling at me about several bad points about the other side. I’ve also had 3-5 phonemails — same M.O. And a TV ad environment that makes the raciest of soap operas look like Captain Kangaroo.

And in ten minutes, the ads should stop.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the process, and I’m thrilled that we get to cast a vote. What drives me nuts is the season of hate that comes with it.

Bush’s Last Day

Now this is funny.  I was looking for some sporting images for a project here on the site, and found Bush’s Last Day.  They are an Earth-friendly group of folks who believe that the President has done quite a bit of damage to The Big Blue Marble.

I tend to agree.

So to further their cause, they sell decals, buttons, hats, countdown keychains…. cool stuff!  Whether you agree with their politics or not, this is one clever group of folks!