Carbon Copies

Speaking of politics, the BBC has a listing of year end quotes from world leaders, among which is the following:

The capture of Saddam Hussein and the highly significant decision of Libya to give up its weapons of mass destruction provided a positive end to the year. In 2004, there can be no let up in the struggle against international terrorism. We are all its potential targets. As in the past, the government’s goals in the New Year will be to maintain for (our country) national security, economic strength and social stability.

President Bush you think? Not a bit of it. This is Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s end of the year quote, only altered to remove the country name to fool you, the unsuspecting audience.

The Taiwanese President talks about peaceful discussions and collaboration with China, while the Chinese President talks about reunification of the motherland. Nothing new there.

Then there was this, by the Ugandan leader, Yoweri Museveni:

Aids still remains a problem. We must close all the loopholes through which Aids is coming. The main route is promiscuity. Anti-retrovirals are not a cure. They prolong life, all right. However, that life is permanently gloomy. Avoid unprotected sex if you are promiscuous.

Though Museveni’s rejection of medicines, which have been shown to help AIDs sufferers live more than a ‘gloomy existence’ is discouraging, he at least admits that the country has an AIDs problem. Which is more than can be said for the South African President’s end of the year address, which doesn’t meantion AIDs, the country’s leading killer, once.

However, before you think I scoff at these world leaders, let me say that they have my utmost respect. After all, they aren’t warning their police forces to be on the lookup for people carrying Farmer’s Almanacs or maps; nor doing their damnedest to discourage travel into or out of the country.

Hmmm. In my recent trip I carried maps. In fact, I drove by the Western White House when the President was in residence, carrying a map of Texas with me.

Please don’t tell on me.


New Political Beginnings

Today is also the start of what could be one of the more interesting political years, if interesting is the word to use. I can’t remember when I’ve felt more urgent about a political race and the potential ramifications associated with the winner. It’s when reading in publications such as the Boston Globe how President Bush is basing his foreign policy on the concept of preemption, and does so openly, that I know I cannot sit passively on the sideline, snapping pretty (or not so pretty) pics, writing equally about travels, poetry, and technology.

However, I’m not going to indulge in rhetorical debates with the warbloggers in our midst, though this does to generate buzz, and perhaps commentary. It’s not that I don’t like buzz or commentary, it’s just that so many of the warbloggers base their arguments on such faulty premises and then use equal amounts of screaming and spit to drown out any disagreement.

For instance, Glenn Reynolds points to a Winds of Change post about how the MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute), after careful analysis of Palestinian sermons, have determined that the Palestinians want to destroy us all. According to Professor Reynolds:

THE UNITED STATES SHOULD NOT TRY to play a “neutral arbiter” in the Israeli/Palestinian dispute. We should, in fact, be doing our best to make the Palestinians suffer, because, to put it bluntly, they are our enemies.

Hmm. Of course, we all know that the MEMRI is an impartial source of good intelligence and information, as was discussed in this particularly good Guardian article. The fact that the organization is pro-Israeli has nothing to do with its impartiality as regards to reporting on the Palestinians.

(Rebuttal of Guardian article notwithstanding, the MEMRI makes no secret that its primary purpose is to monitor Arab publications for anti-Israel content.)

Aside from issues of impartiality or not though, I wonder at what the warbloggers and others would suggest we do to the Palestinians? Personally, I’m not sure how much more we can make the Palestinians suffer – they have been in a state of permanent exile for decades, given only a token self-government, and treated by both the international and Arab communities as pretty much second-class citizens. Is it then that Professor Reynolds and the folks at Winds of Change suggest that we do something worse? Or is it that we’re supposed to then support Israel in all of its actions?

Come on guys – I wasn’t born yesterday.

However, not all warbloggers are as equally simplistic. Steven Den Beste wrote an essay recently on white male voters and our electorial system and had some observations to make that were uncomfortably close to my own viewpoint, though our reception of same may differ.

In particular Den Beste writes the following which is an uncanny echo of what was on my mind, as I made my trip cross-country these last few weeks:

Regardless of which candidate ultimately prevails at the convention, this would mean that the intraparty sniping would continue until early August. The winner would then have 3 months to try to heal the divisions inside the party and unify it behind him (or her), while also trying to moderate the party’s message enough to have a chance of appealing to the unaligned middle of the American voters who would be repelled by the extreme messages which had dominated party rhetoric before the convention.

Meanwhile, Bush is not facing any significant opposition for renomination within the Republican party. He’ll do some campaigning during the primary process, but since he is already certain to be the Republican candidate he will campaign for the November election. Instead of tuning his message for the Republican faithful, it will be aimed right at the unaligned middle. It may not even be necessary for him to engage in negative campaigning about the Democrats, because they’ll do him the favor of taking care of it themselves as the Democratic candidates continue sniping at each other.

As long as the Democratic nomination is still in doubt, Democratic candidates won’t be able to begin to moderate their message so as to begin to appeal to centrist voters. And by early August, the centrist consensus may end up as “A plague on all their houses” – especially among white men, who are especially repelled by rhetoric which appeals to the Berkeley-left inside the Democratic party.

We can pretend that there is no doubt that a Democratic candidate will be elected this year all we want, but we have a real battle ahead of us – not helped for the most part by any candidate behavior. Saying this is not being ‘disloyal’ to the cause: it’s being honest, and reflecting now on the problems while we still may, may I want to empathize, be able to bring about a change.

Personally, I am not going to indulge in any of the Berkeley left rhetoric being slung about by one Dem supporter or another – it doesn’t sound all that much different than the silly stuff being trumpeted by most of the warbloggers. However, there are enough interesting facts to write about that will hopefully keep fresh in people’s minds that for all of the ‘centrist’ talk of President Bush (who will be in Missouri on Monday), he and his cabinet are anything but centrist.

However, I am pulling my political discussion into separate weblogs. Two separate weblogs in fact. I find it difficult to indulge in a lengthy essay on the inaccuracy of unemployment counts in telling the true story about unemployment, and how President Bush’s lack of support for extending unemployed benefits continues to hide the true statistics of same, then follow it up with a romp around San Antonio and a photo of a child in a square, playing with pigeons. And I don’t want to knock at the door of a group weblog, such as Open Source Politics and ask if I might join. I’d rather control what I write about, and when I publish it.

Besides, I’m not sure I want to carry ‘Burningbird’ along with me into these discussions.


New Starts

The start of a new year should in many ways be a day like every other day; we should always live each day as a both a grateful ending and a hopeful beginning. But I’ve always woken up on the first day of a new year energized, as if the mistakes of the past could be attached to a rock labeled “2003″ and tossed into existential waters, sinking quickly out of sight.

Of course, when I run nose first into the results of past action, I know that 2003, or any other year for that matter, does not exit gracefully. However, one can delude oneself for a moment or two when waking up and seeing the sun shining when it was supposed to be rain, and know that it’s the start of a new year, and the beginning of possibilities.

A new year for adventures. A new year to get into trouble. Lovely.

Three solid days of walking in favorite parks in St. Louis have helped me recover from physical aspects of the the trip, though the charges on the debit card at the bank make me wince a bit. It’s also beginning to look as if I may be out the rest of the monies owed me for the storage unit items from the person who bought them. We’ll see in a week or so, but I knew that was a possibility and am more philosophical about the fact than disappointed.

This is offset by the absolute kindness on the part of the folks who bought the mineral collection. Rather than me having to drive all the way to their home in the hills, the lady who bought the collection met me part way, saving me several hours driving time. Not only that, but she also brought me a rose quartz egg, and a couple of rock quartz from her collection as presents, so that I would have the start of a new collection.

Not to mention another story to add to my Book of Rocks.