A Cautious Man
November 26, 2004
 
A Forgotten War?
In case you were wondering - yes, American soldiers are still dying in Afghanistan. Details and updated information are available at this link.

And, according to a news report about the latest casualties, our efforts in Iraq have enabled the still-active Taliban to learn new ways to strike at our troops and disrupt efforts to stabilize the country:
The toll exacted by Taliban and al-Qaida holdouts defying a U.S. force currently numbering about 18,000 pales next to the more than 1,200 Americans killed in Iraq.

But there is concern Afghan militants are copying their Iraqi counterparts from the already widespread use of roadside bombs to the Oct. 28 kidnapping of three foreign election workers which sent shudders through Kabul's expatriate community.
Just another "mission accomplished", I guess.

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That Execution Line
There's an interesting confluence of events up here in the "blue" corner of the country, regarding the issue of capital punishment. In Connecticut, the prospect of the first execution in over 40 years has prompted some lawmakers to contemplate eliminating the death penalty there. In New York (where the death penalty law was struck down by the state's highest court), there seems to be some difficulty in enacting a new death penalty law to fix the flaws found by the court. And, in my home state of New Jersey, the new acting governor, Richard Codey, was a co-sponsor of a death penalty study bill that former governor McGreevey vetoed earlier this year.

When I saw Steve Earle perform in New York, just before the election, he noted that maybe a nation without the death penalty, would not have rushed to war. That's an interesting perspective. I know that religion, "values", etc. have been cited as a factor in the "conservative" results of the recent election. Well, the death penalty is one of the topics where religious and progressive values coincide (there are a lot more, of course, but we've got the next four years to talk about those). It will be interesting to see how this debate develops.

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The Times
Two memorable columns in the NY Times yesterday (If you click the links, you can log in as "Cautiousman", with the password "Cautious", if you don't want to register with the NYT). The first, by Maureen Dowd, discussed the indignities of travel, before addressing the issue of whether the government is really keeping us safe:
First you have to strip, unzipping your boots, unbuckling your belt and unbuttoning your suit jacket while any guys standing around watch. Then you have to walk around in some flimsy top and stocking or bare feet. Then you have to assume the spread-eagled position. Then a beefy female security agent runs her hands all the way around your breasts, in between, underneath - again with guys standing around staring.

Flying on business, I've gone through this embarrassing tableau two dozen times in airports all over the country in the last couple of months. I've been searched more than Martha Stewart.
That column will no doubt find its way into Zell Miller's personal erotica collection.

In the second, Tom Friedman unburdens himself of some less-than-kind thoughts about some of his fellow men, as he goes through a litany of who it would be "great" to be:
I at least want to be the owner of a Hummer - with American flag decals all over the back bumper, because Hummer owners are, on average, a little more patriotic than you and me.

Yes, I want to drive the mother of all gas-guzzlers that gets so little mileage you have to drive from gas station to gas station. Yes, I want to drive my Hummer and never have to think that by consuming so much oil, I am making transfer payments to the worst Arab regimes that transfer money to Islamic charities that transfer money to madrassas that teach children intolerance, antipluralism and how to hate the infidels.

And when one day one of those madrassa graduates goes off and joins the jihad in Falluja and kills my neighbor's son, who is in the U.S. Army Rangers, I want to drive to his funeral in my Hummer. Yes, I want to curse his killers in front of his mother and wail aloud, "If there was only something I could do ..." And then I want to drive home in my Hummer, stopping at two gas stations along the way.
Although Mr. Friedman still hasn't redeemed himself, for sitting idly by while the country blundered into war, there's still hope for him.

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Something About Going Home
We had a great Thanksgiving, with several generations of the Cautious Family gathered at the ancestral home (well, Mom and Dad's house). It may be trite to say this, but nowadays Thanksgiving is the last perfect American holiday. It really is about just going home, wherever and whatever that home may be. Sometimes we find ourselves home with the extended family, sometimes with a parent or a relative or two, sometimes just with some friends, and sometimes by finding a way to help someone else. No matter how it turns out, Thanksgiving gives us a day when the whole country can finally agree on one thing - that EVERYTHING can be put aside that doesn't involve family, neighbors, and what's REALLY important about life. I hope everyone was able to find a way home, and to give thanks in their own way.

Oh, and thanks for dropping by and listening to me carry on about stuff.

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November 11, 2004
 
Every Fool’s Got A Reason for Feeling Sorry For Himself
For over a week now, some folks who are unhappy with the result of the Presidential election have been expending a lot of anger against those they hold responsible. That's led to a lot of insulting remarks about people in the suburbs, people in the South, people who go to church, people who work at Wal-mart, etc. etc. etc. I suppose that's been cathartic for some people - but it's hardly useful, is it? As I mentioned last week, there are two ways to go. Anybody who wants to wallow in self pity, or carry on with some stereotyping hate-festing, just hurry up and get it over with. Were hatred, and lies, and emphasis on irrelevant issues used to obtain the margin of victory for the President? Of course they were, but that doesn't mean that his opponents should join in a race to the bottom. That's not good for the long-term health of America.

I'm sure it will not be a surprise to anyone that elections are won with votes, votes are cast by voters, and voters are people - the side with the most people wins (okay, so that didn't happen in 2000, but once again Get over it!). People who are unhappy with this year's election should focus on, not joining the tactics which were successful, but beating them. And that, in my humble opinion, means that you don't use hate to fight hate, lies to fight lies, or other irrelevant issues to counter the Karl Roves of the world. Instead, you look out at the upcoming four years and look for ways to point out, to those voters who were swayed by hatred, lies, and irrelevancies, how they can make a better choice.

As Steve Gilliard points out, those folks who can be persuaded that they made a poor choice this year, will be out there:
I wouldn't worry too much about the people who bought Bush's lies. The ones who want to will come around. Someone posted a story about a 20-something Bush voter who was glad her husband was too old to be drafted. When asked, she said he was 25. When told she was wrong, she turned white as a ghost and stammered...."I thought they only drafted up to 23". Well, missy, no. They can draft up to 36, but they usually stop at 26. The skills draft could go up to 34.

Or when the college Republican goes down to the local Walgreens and asks for her birth control pills only to be told that the pharmacist refuses to fill the prescription because she's opposed to birth control.

The question you need to ask is this: what do we offer them when they wake up? What do we tell them? Who do we offer for them to vote for. We need to pick the fights closest to home and be credible. We should go after the liberterians and fiscal conservatives and tell them the GOP is leaving them. The Vets, who are being betrayed by them. We need to welcome these people and explain what the GOP is really turning into.

We need to oppose them, not just in Washington, but at City Hall and the school board. We end the free ride we gave them. We oppose them at every turn.

It's like Teddy Roosevelt, Jr. said on Utah Beach "well, we might as start the war from right here, the supplies will have to catch up to us no matter where we are."
In other words, don't wallow in resentment and might have beens. Only your own attitudes will determine whether the recent election was a defeat, or merely a set-back. There's a lot than can be done. As someone once said, "The country we carry in our hearts is waiting."

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November 09, 2004
 
Ten Years Twenty Years Burning Down The Road
George Will has been waiting a long time to write these words:
In 2000, Americans were reminded that electoral votes select presidents. In 2004, Democrats were reminded that Bruce Springsteen does not.
Now, of all the 55,949,407 voters who supported Senator Kerry, why did Mr. Will single out Mr. Springsteen to accuse of being the one who tried to "select" a President? It may be due to the part Mr. Will played twenty years ago, when Mr. Springsteen was first observed on the national political scene (albeit as part of a now classic blunder). As recounted by Jim Cullen in his book Born in the U.S.A.: Bruce Springsteen and the American Tradition:
September 19, 1984, was a typical day on the campaign trail for Ronald Reagan. The president spent the morning in the Democratic stronghold of Waterbury, Connecticut. There, as elsewhere, he read prepared remarks, but added some local color--in this case, invoking the spirit of John F. Kennedy, who had visited Waterbury in 1960. … The president then proceeded to the affluent suburban town of Hammonton, New Jersey, in the southern part of the state. There, he praised Italian-American voters. "You are what America is all about," he told them. "You didn't come here seeking streets paved with gold. You didn't come here asking for welfare or special treatment." And as in Waterbury, Reagan also cited a local favorite. "America's future rests in a thousand dreams inside our hearts. It rests in the message of hope so many young people admire: New Jersey's own Bruce Springsteen. And helping you make those dreams come true is what this job of mine is all about."

Actually, the Reagan camp had hoped to have Springsteen by the President's side in Hammonton. Though attempts to recruit rock stars Billy Joel and John Cougar Mellencamp failed, Michael Jackson had recently appeared with Reagan at the White House in an anti-drunk-driving campaign. And six days earlier, after attending a Springsteen concert, conservative columnist George Will had written a glowing review that echoed dominant Republican campaign themes. "I have not got a clue about Springsteen's politics, if any," Will wrote, "but flags get waved at his concerts while he sings songs about hard times. He is no whiner, and the recitation of closed factories and other problems always seems punctuated by a grand, cheerful, affirmation: 'Born in the U.S.A.!'"

~ snip ~

Many people, even those with only a passing familiarity with Springsteen's music, regarded this effort to capture Springsteen as, at best, misguided. More committed fans reacted with outrage. Springsteen's biographer Dave Marsh later wrote that Will's column "was such a perversion of what Springsteen was trying to communicate that it constituted an obscenity." Few in the years since would have reason to disagree.
Or maybe Mr. Will was still upset about the bow tie remark in the recent Rolling Stone interview. Anyway, after exacting his small measure of revenge, Mr. Will proceeds to explain that all the votes against same-sex marriage or civil unions had nothing to do with politicians stirring up any animus against gay people – all those voters were just outraged by the "disdain for democratic due process" of Massachusetts judges and the Mayor of San Francisco. The latter comes in for some especially vile snarkiness, as Will labels Mayor Newsome "liberalism's George Wallace, apostle of 'progressive' lawlessness".

Mr. Will is still musically, politically and historically tone-deaf, after all these years. Whether you agree or disagree with Mayor Newsome's actions, he undertook them to expand the rights of some people. He challenged a law, did so in a civil manner, and complied with judicial rulings once they were issued. The late Governor Wallace defied court orders in an effort to stand in the way (literally) of the exercise of a basic right.

Will's analogy is basically the same as claiming that Rosa Parks or Dr. King were "African-American George Wallaces". In all likelihood, twenty years from now people will still be wondering what Will thought he was listening to.

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"Well Don't Just Sit There"
If there's something you need
That you just don't have
Well just don't sit there
Feeling bad
Come on now get up
Try and understand …


Democratic Party Chair Terry McAuliffe sent out a last "thank you" letter to contributors, and solicited comments. My friend Curmudgeon at Mapleberry Blog has a few things to tell him:
It may be sufficient for the DNC's Washington insiders to lick their wounds and slink quietly out of sight for a while, to emerge after the Electoral College vote is certified on Jan. 6, the furor has died down, and the election is a fait accompli. For us regular folks, though, such acquiescence is completely unacceptable. We are hurting, politically, emotionally, and economically, and it's only going to get much worse. Even if nothing can be done to roll back the apparent Kerry defeat, not to fight it out on the ground, today, is to give up entirely on the great American experiment - Democracy. That's it, finis.

~ snip ~

So, Terry, I don't want your thanks for a fight well fought, and I'm not yet ready to give you suggestions for next time - it's still this time. We need you today - not in 2005, not 2006, not 2008 - NOW. Get off your asses. Follow the advice of that Warren Zevon song - "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" - because to rest now will mean that the Democratic Party, and American democracy itself, are indeed dead.
I would only add that this would be a good way to start playing by "Republican rules" --- for example, if anybody claims that demanding a proper count is being a "sore loser", just say, "Our party stands for counting every single vote, no matter what the result, in contrast to those who don't want to hear the will of the American people." Or something like that.

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November 08, 2004
 
"We're All Republicans Now!"
For over a year, Garrison Keillor has been preparing us for this moment – when some despair over the results of the election. In a twist on Barack Obama's "there's only one America" theme, the proprietor of A Prairie Home Companion provides a way out:
So many people have asked me, How are you coming along in your struggle to become a Republican? And the answer is: it's not easy. But then so many worthwhile things are not easy.

It's easy to become a Republican when times are good. It's harder to do it when the economy is in the third year of recession and we have to pony up $87 billion to rebuild Iraq where we still can't find their nuclear weapons program and a good chunk of the money is going through the company that the Vice-President used to run -- but I take these things as a challenge.

Why become a Republican? Because the best way to rid oneself of anger and frustration at what is happening in this country is to get on the side of the people who are doing it. And also you save a lot of money on gifts for same-sex weddings.

But I'm a Republican to find peace. I don't even read the news anymore. It doesn't concern me: I've got a president who is taking care of that stuff. And once you don't read the news, it's even easier to be a Republican.
Okay, so maybe some people aren't ready to let go and move on. To those people, I say, "Shut up and sing!" Join in the chorus:
We're all Republicans now,
We've all come around somehow
We're all wearing flight suits
With big parachutes.
We're all Republicans now.
We'll defend this land everywhere
From the comfort of our armchair.
We're proud to be patriots, glad to be hawks.
We salivate whenever Rush talks.
We're smarter and nicer and better than you.
We're chosen to lead, and God says so too.
He's a Republican
He's a Republican
He's a Republican now.

We're all Republicans now,
We've all come around somehow
Even old Democrats
Can change their hats.
We're all Republicans now.
Affirmative action must go
Unless it's somebody we know.
We'll put conservative judges back on the bench,
More executions, let's start with the French,
No more free lunch, everybody must pay,
If you want health care, Canada is that way
We're all Republicans
All Republicans
All Republicans now.
(Hey, you take this too seriously, you'll ruin your health.)

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November 05, 2004
 
Capital Offense
Now we hear that the President will reach out across the aisle, as he implements his program. That may be so, but there's the chance that he may do les reaching out, than he did in his first term. As he stated during his news conference yesterday:
Something refreshing about coming off an election, even more refreshing since we all got some sleep last night, but there's -- you go out and you make your case, and you tell the people this is what I intend to do. And after hundreds of speeches and three debates and interviews and the whole process, where you keep basically saying the same thing over and over again, that when you win, there is a feeling that the people have spoken and embraced your point of view, and that's what I intend to tell the Congress, that I made it clear what I intend to do as the President, now let's work to -- and the people made it clear what they wanted, now let's work together.

And it's one of the wonderful -- it's like earning capital. You asked, do I feel free. Let me put it to you this way: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style. That's what happened in the -- after the 2000 election, I earned some capital. I've earned capital in this election -- and I'm going to spend it for what I told the people I'd spend it on, which is -- you've heard the agenda: Social Security and tax reform, moving this economy forward, education, fighting and winning the war on terror.
He "earned capital" in the 2000 election? If that's what he thinks, then why does anybody think that he'd be more accommodating to alternative viewpoints during the next four years?

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November 03, 2004
 
Someday We'll Look Back On This ...
Okay, so there are some of us who are not exactly thrilled with the result of the election. We have to ask, "What does it mean?" Right now, I think the answer is "I don't know." We know that it means the George W. Bush will be President for four more years, that he has more control in the Senate and the House of Representatives, and that he will be making numerous appointments to the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts. But, his control of the levers of power, while significant, is not the only determinant of where the country goes. With that in mind, I went through my reading list to see if anybody there could cheer me up. I looked in on Charles at The Fulcrum, since he is kind enough to visit here from time to time. Well, he was no help, since he really needs cheering up:
Today, more than ever, the title of my blog describes the country. We are poised on a point - a fulcrum - centered in Ohio, and the smallest touch could send us tottering in one of two directions. On one side is hope for a better future. On the other is fear and a never-ending "war on terror." I don't understand what happened to get us here and I don't understand what can be done to keep us from falling to the side of fear. I don't know how to reduce the dangers of that path forward.
He has every reason to feel discouraged, and he's identified one of the most significant concerns. On the other hand, Professor Balkin has some advice about picking ourselves up:
Now it's time for all of those who supported Kerry and opposed Bush to lick our wounds and contemplate the country's future. This is a loss, and a bitter loss at that. But it is not the end. It is the beginning of the future, and we have to have faith that things will eventually get better and that the things we believe in and the values that we stand for will ultimately win the day.
And Fred Clark at Slacktivist points out another important fact:
They won most of the battles, but we had all the good songs.
Well, maybe having the good songs is not enough, but it couldn't hurt. There are two ways to go – retreat in resignation, or move forward with determination. I suggest moving forward (if cautiously).

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Chasing Something in the Night
I confess, I did not stay up late waiting for election returns. I watched the Daily Show's live election special, flipped around the cable news stations, checked the updated count from Ohio's official election returns website, and went to bed. Our alarm went off almost precisely as CBS radio news was reporting that the Bush campaign was claiming that they had an "insurmountable" lead in Ohio. Well, that may be, but I hope that the proper validation and counting of ballots (provisional and otherwise) continues. I can't imagine any legitimate argument against doing that.

Other than that, I guess one of my first thoughts on contemplating a win by the President was: "Dang, I guess we'll have to wait at least another four years before Bruce Springsteen gets one of those 'Kennedy Center Honors' tribute nights."

On a more serious note, while perusing my reading list to the right I saw Bill Cork's reference to Psalm 146, which seems to be something to keep in mind no matter how you feel about the election result:
Put no trust in princes, in mere mortals powerless to save.
When they breathe their last, they return to the earth; that day all their planning comes to nothing.
Happy those whose help is Jacob's God, whose hope is in the LORD, their God,
The maker of heaven and earth, the seas and all that is in them, Who keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free;
the LORD gives sight to the blind. The LORD raises up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD protects the stranger, sustains the orphan and the widow, but thwarts the way of the wicked.
Of course, I have my own opinion about who should be the next President, if that were used as a voting guide.

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