Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Grasshopper season is the BEST time to be a cat

In the dry heat of a late August afternoon, the cats chase grasshoppers around the yard while one human works on a news article for submission today and the other one watches the events of small lives unfold.

Grasshoppers make the best cat snacks. Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, they leap and fly to make the chase interesting, but don't usually fly high or far. And there's always another one if the first one gets away.

The hummingbirds battle around the feeders. Lacking long lenses for my digital cameras I brought out the old three-pound Pentax with who-knows-what loaded in it. Not only do I feel compelled to finish the roll, as we did in the past, I will also have to wait to get the film processed. But the quick shutter and telephoto lens allowed me to close in on some of the aerial action. If the film hasn't gone by completely in the uncounted months (or more) since I loaded the camera, I may get better shots than I have since the early 1990s when I was able to shoot from inches away, concealed in a makeshift blind made on the umbrella-type clothes drying rack.

Dragonflies patrol at all elevations. The new wind chime tolls long, deep notes that seem to resonate without end.

Monday, August 27, 2007

War is running for office

The war in Iraq has hired a publicist in the form of Freedom's Watch. This group of conservatives has appointed itself to polish up the image of endless armed conflict and thereby enlist voter support. You've probably seen the advertisements on television.

Imagine what the Vietnam War would have been like with a better image consultant. We could still be engaged over there, too.

First let me say that absolutely everyone associated with this endeavor should either be over there in uniform or have close family members over there in uniform. When they show us amputees, paraplegics and bereaved parents they should acknowledge that they are urging us to support the creation of more amputees, paraplegics and bereaved parents. The creators of these ads owe it to them and to us to prove their own commitment with more than money and purchased words.

And who is the ad agency making this stuff? Who collects a paycheck and then goes home to suburbia after crafting these appeals so filled with leaps of faith and flawed logic? Is it just another job when you do your best to persuade the masses to keep answering the call of duty that will doubtless get a number of them maimed and killed? If it is a noble labor of patriotism, do it in your spare time, for free.

Victory happens either when the losers are completely annihilated or when their side consents to have lost. Therefore, any conflict can go on forever as long as participants on both sides keep picking up weapons.

By declaring any withdrawal from a pointless conflict "surrender," Freedom's Watch actually sides with the enemy by conceding to their terminology. By being narrow-minded, stiff-necked and freely bellicose using other people's children, Freedom's Watch is actually very bad for the country they claim to support so fervently. They close off options in a way utterly contrary to the style of open discourse we've been told is our way of life. Of course we know it isn't our way of life and it never has been. Our way of life has been to shoot our way out and make up fancy stories about it afterwards since the 17th Century. We're just four centuries better at it now.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Worst President Ever

After assuring us going in that Iraq was not and would not be anything like Vietnam, George W. Bush is about to argue that withdrawal from Iraq would cause the kind of violence and chaos that followed our withdrawal from Vietnam.

Vietnam is like the Civil War. Some people will never stop fighting it. Iraq will be the same way. You can pull the military forces out of the quagmire, but the arguments will live on and on and on.

If we could have moved the Civil War to someone else's real estate certain people would probably still be fighting it.

We've had the video of Dick Cheney in 1994 explaining how war in Iraq would be a quagmire. We had the assurances that George's Folly would be a quick and decisive event. We had howls of protest from the warmongers insisting that it would be nothing like Vietnam. But now that it suits their purposes to draw the comparison, it will be just like Vietnam.

This administration will say whatever is convenient to try to get what they want. From the beginning, George has looked like a spoiled, whiny teenager to me. This is just more of the same. He puts on a manly voice and tries to look like a rational adult, but it's all just to justify his impulse of the moment or shovel some sand over his pile of indiscretions.

Now we're seeing commercials to promote our continued military involvement. They lump Afghanistan and Iraq together as a package deal. A double-amputee veteran urges us to lobby our senators and congressional representatives to keep fighting as a way to keep terrorists from attacking us again. No individual politician dares to put his face up with a message like that. We have the assurances of someone who can't really know that we are winning on the ground and need to stay engaged. I honor the man's bravery, but I don't trust his information. Where's the definitive victory?

I can understand wanting to put an outpost in the region. Since such an outpost can't help but generate conflict, placing it there under the cover of a war is as good a way as any. War would find it eventually. But don't dangle the carrot of "victory" in front of what you hope is a gullible American public. As soon as we went into Iraq it was a long-term sentence. Meanwhile, what do we do when the terrorists inevitably figure out how to launch completely effective operations from placid-looking locales anywhere in the world? What do we do when another spot heats up while the ones we're in still burn and itch?

I can't believe anyone wants to be the next President of the United States. Sure, you can't help but look better than the present idiot and his pack of jackals, but you get stuck having to clean up after them. If you last eight years it probably won't be half enough.

Monday, August 13, 2007

National Service

As the Viet -- I mean Iraq war drags on, more politicians are talking about instituting mandatory national service. This is a euphemism for a military draft.

If national service just meant cutting your hair, going through a brief period of physically demanding training, peeling potatoes and letting irritable assholes order you around for a few years it might not be so bad. But military service means that you may be ordered to kill people. That's what "serving your country" means: killing people you're told to kill because someone at the top of the chain of command has determined that they need to be killed.

The unswerving obedience to authority necessary to military service is utterly antithetical to the concepts of individual liberty, self reliance and self determination that supposedly form the foundation of our national identity. For your period of national service you have to put aside all that and accept that the leaders directing you forward with fixed bayonets know exactly what they're doing, and that any harm you cause or suffer ultimately serves the greater good.

Even if you know it's not true, you have a contractual obligation to perform as directed, and a bond of trust with your fellow warriors. You have to accept that those two things make the lives of the people on the other end of your gun barrel less important than your own. At the same time, you accept that your individual life and health are less important than the political objectives you were sent to bolster.

Anything less than this life and death commitment is considered contemptible. In our long tradition of killing each other over all manner of differences of opinion, we have developed the habit of revering warriors and not questioning the concept of war itself. Of course the good guys will fight the bad guys. The bad guys started it. We're going to find out where they live and go kick their asses.

Conflicts do arise. A fighting force governed by strong authority will always prevail over one that tries to organize itself democratically or by consensus. A fighting force that fools itself into believing that bloodshed is glorious will have better morale than one that acknowledges the pain, suffering and probable injustice generated by armed conflict. We just can't afford to have sensitive soldiers.

A draft will not make our country a better place. It will not make our young adults better people. It certainly didn't do so in the Vietnam era. The war itself made some people better and others worse, whether they took part in it or opposed it. Those who believe in the inherent virtue of military service will insist that the experience will improve everyone concerned. The fact is that anyone who would rise to the noble ideal of military service would rise to the noble ideal of any endeavor. And those who show up just to get to kill legally, and the saboteurs and malingerers and hopelessly inept will find their level and their path within the system without changing their basic nature. You can challenge people to bring out their inner strength without putting a gun in their hand and an enemy in front of them. Why don't we think about how to do that?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Why provide health insurance for children?

Politicians like to say they have a plan to provide health insurance for all of the nation's children. This promise conveniently combines the idea of generous health care with the time-honored practice of kissing babies.

Why provide health coverage for children when you're just going to throw them to the wolves when they become adults? Why give the little tykes a false impression of the world? Why give them healthy bodies and then under-fund their education?

The politicians promise health insurance, not health care. This just means the taxpayers will foot the bill for the profit margin of the insurance industry. This isn't even feel-good crap. It's just plain crap.

I do love a highly competitive presidential primary. The candidates bring a touch of excitement from the big, wide world to our little state. They shuttle busily back and forth, occasionally providing some actual information. Of course the ones who do that usually tank in the voting and disappear. But it's fun while it lasts.

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Little Scrap of the Big News

"NH Lake Resort Draws Glitterati" says the San Jose Mercury News. The article is a rehash of the standard wire piece that has been going around for a few days now, with some updating.

I have yet to see any glitterati. Mind you I don't get out much. I enter and leave the town by the servants' entrance. The northwest quadrant cuts the perfect angle away from the village, avoiding all possible sites of interest to any of the beautiful and exciting people. Coming in I do ride up Main Street, but who's around at 9 in the morning? On the way out I'm safe in obscurity once I get past Wolfetrap. Drew Barrymore supposedly drank there at least once.

Either Tim Daly or Steven Weber used the bathroom at the deli behind our shop. Our informant could only say "it was one of the brothers from 'Wings.'" Glittery.

Since the town has supposedly attracted famous people for decades -- centuries, if you count John Wentworth -- you can be sure they have had all the glitterizing effect they're going to by now. I suppose there have been some ill-behaved photographers around the lakeside cottage the Sarkozy family has rented, but we have yet to see any spectacular motorcycle chases as the paparazzi pursue limousines full of fleeing celebs. Monaco we ain't.

I'd like to see any of these illustrious folk try to entertain themselves around here in early November or mid-April. Frankly I don't know how they manage it now. But somehow they do. The shoreline sports enough mansions of the fabulously wealthy that they can just hop fences and make new friends without ever appearing before the prying eyes of the curious yokels.

Prominence, particularly political prominence, requires certain sacrifices. The first of these is the ability to wander freely on foot or bicycle wherever fancy takes you. The rest of us may be turned aside from a few gated communities, but we are also not trapped within them.