Thursday, June 30, 2005

Three cheers for Wounded Bird!

I recently stumbled across Wounded Bird Records, a great CD re-issue label. They're in the process of re-releasing a ton of "missing" CDs from some of my favorite artists of the 1970s, albums that have been missing from my collection ever since I sold off all my vinyl and gave away my turntable. It's great to have a company focusing on some of these second-tier albums (from formerly first-tier artists) that have been lost for a couple of decades now.

What kinds of reissues am I talking about? Well, some of my personal faves include all of the later Blood, Sweat & Tears albums, including New Blood, No Sweat, and New City; Dave Brubeck and sons' Two Generations of Brubeck; Billy Cobham's Crosswinds and Total Eclipse; Don Ellis' Tears of Joy and Connection; Maynard Ferguson's M.F. Horn, New Vintage, and Primal Scream; Ellen Foley's terrific Night Out; and Carole King's One to One and Speeding Time. Good stuff all, even if (with the exception of the Ellen Foley album) they don't represent the artists at their peak of populariry.

Wounded Bird has a fairly large roster of artists, with new re-issues being added all the time. Some of the other artists represented include Amazing Rhythm Aces, Ambrosia, Bad Company, Badfinger, Black Oak Arkansas, Brownsville Station, the Byrds, Harry Chapin, Chic, Jimmy Cliff, Larry Coryell, Rick Derringer, Dr. John, George Duke, England Dan & John Ford Coley, Firefall, J. Geils Band, Louise Goffin, Jan Hammer, Deborah Harry, Richie Havens, The Hollies, James Gang, Keith Jarrett, Labelle, Nicolette Larson, Manhattan Transfer, Montrose, Mott the Hoople, Maria Muldaur, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Poco, Jean-Luc Ponty, Lee Ritenour, Patrice Rushen, David Sanborn, Siegel-Schwall Band, Thin Lizzy, Wet Willie, and Wishbone Ash. (Some of these names are a real blast from the past!)

Anyway, it's great to have this music finally available on CD. The re-issues are fairly straight ahead, no fancy new liner notes but with all the original album art and inserts. More important, the sound is about as good as you can expect, given the material; pricing is in the surprisingly affordable range ($10-$12 per CD). You can order direct from their website or from Amazon.

Check 'em out!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Bush, 9/11, and Iraq -- Give it a rest, already

Last night our stumbler-in-chief gave yet another content-free speech about the war effort in Iraq. No new news, no new plans, no new nothing at all, just another poorly delivered exhortation to "stay the course." (Sidebar -- how did someone with such poor speaking skills ever make it into the political arena, anyway?)

Poor oratory and lack of content aside, it wasn't surprising to hear Bush pull out the old "it's because of 9/11" chestnut yet again. That's what these guys do when they're on the ropes -- try to justify their actions by fooling the public into thinking that invading Iraq is some sort of revenge for the 9/11 attacks. This bogus excuse for reckless military action is getting a little long in the tooth now, and not just to me. Editorials in all the major papers here and abroad chided Bush for once again making non-existent ties between Iraq and 9/11; even CNN led their main post-speech story with the headline "Bush Slammed for Iraq Link to 9/11."

The problem with Bush linking Iraq to 9/11, of course, is that there is no link; there never has been, despite fairly strident implications by various members of the administration to that effect over the years. What's different today is that the press is calling him on this particular lie. Craig Gordon wrote in Newsday, "as usual, [Bush] failed to mention that the Sept. 11 commission found no credible evidence linking the former Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein and the 2001 terror attacks." An L.A. Times editorial stated, "He again rewrote history by lumping together the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the need for war in Iraq, when, in fact, Saddam Hussein's Iraq had no connection to Al Qaeda." The press is finally making a stand for the truth; it would've been nice if they did this a couple of years ago, but better late than never.

I particularly liked the comment one caller to an NPR show made following the speech. I'm paraphrasing here, but the caller wondered how long Bush would continue to use the 9/11 attacks to justify everything he does internationally. It's a nice crutch; you can use 9/11 to justify going to war in Afghanistan, or invading Iraq, or just about anything you want. With a little imagination, you could also see the president using 9/11 to justify not going to war with a country, or not negotiating this or that agreement, or passing legislation to scale back our civil rights, or whatever. It's a great tool to use if you have it, and these guys are milking it for all its worth.

So if the Bushies are going to keep on using 9/11 as the excuse for the debacle in Iraq, let's hold them to it and compare the current situation with the only similar event in our country's history -- the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Both were unprovoked, more-or-less unexpected attacks on American soil. How does Bush's response to the 9/11 attacks compare to Roosevelt's response to Pearl Harbor?

It's now been just about four years since 9/11. We're quagmired in Iraq and Bush keeps pulling out 9/11 as justification for all his actions. Whenever things look bad in the polls, Bush and his minions invoke the ghost of 9/11 to try to scare the people into thinking that we're still under attack, and that we should support him as a "wartime president."

Four years after Pearl Harbor, the war was over. Our country mobilized quickly and effectively, and we fought a massive world war on two fronts. We defeated both the Japanese and Nazi Germany, and by the end of 1945 our boys were coming home. Neither Roosevelt or Truman was using Pearl Harbor to justify anything anymore; we were past that, and the country was moving into the great post-war boom. The war was over, and Truman wasn't a wartime president anymore.

So make the comparison. Four years after Pearl Harbor, we had found the enemy, fought the enemy, and defeated the enemy. Four years after 9/11, we haven't found the single individual who was responsible, let alone bring him to justice, and our troops are still fighting a messy war with no end in sight. How good does Bush look now?

Let me rephrase that. Four years after Pearl Harbor we brought two entire countries to their knees; four years after 9/11 we haven't been able to catch one guy. Come on folks; Osama Bin Laden isn't anywhere near as dangerous or as organized as Adolf Hitler was, and we got that bastard. Why can't the Bushies get Bin Laden?

Oh, that's right -- we're fighting a "different kind of war" today, or so the Bushies say. Tell me if I'm wrong, but I don't think a handful of ragtag Islamic militants is near as dangerous as a couple of million Nazi stormtroopers. Yeah, this war is different -- World War II was justified, and we fought it to win; the Iraq war isn't, and we aren't.

The good news is that in spite of Bush's craven abuse of the 9/11 attacks, America in general seems to have adjusted to life in the post-9/11 world, just as Americans sixty years ago got over Pearl Harbor. That's what human beings -- and Americans in particular -- do. We adapt to events and get on with our lives. Even Bush's all-9/11, all-the-time harping can't obscure the fact that most of us are past that now; we haven't minimized the seriousness of the attacks, and we certainly don't disrespect the dead, but we've moved on. That's what we do.

So, Mister Bush, it's time to drop the whole 9/11 thing. We know that 9/11 didn't have anything to do with Iraq, and invading Iraq had nothing to do with the so-called war on terrorism. You're going to have to find some other way to justify your increasingly unpopular war of foreign domination. Let the ghost of 9/11 rest in peace -- and give the victims of that attack the respect they deserve.

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Putting butts in the seats

I just flew back from a short trip to the West Coast (and boy, are my arms tired!). I'm not a small person, so airline travel these days can be a tad bit discomforting. Let's face it; the glamour days of air travel are over. Flying today isn't much different than taking the bus, other than the bus is probably a little more comfortable.

What I don't understand is the decreasing ratio of seat size to butt size. It's a fact, for better or worse, that Americans are getting larger. So why do airline seats keep getting smaller? You get three big-butt people in a row, and you have a very uncomfortable bunch of travelers -- assuming they can all fit in without spilling over into the aisle. It just doesn't make sense.

I had the questionable pleasure of flying United this time around. On my way out, I flew standard cattle car class (excuse me, "Economy" class), and I gotta tell you, I've never seen seats so small. I used to bemoan ATA for having the smallest seats in the business, but United is now vying for that title. The seats were barely wide enough for me to squeeze into, and the space between me and the seat back in front of me was so small I could barely lower the seat tray. Forget about trying to get any computer work done; if the person in front of me laid their seat back, I didn't even have room to hold a novel at a readable distance. Completely unacceptable, IMHO.

Then, on the way back, I upgraded to United's Economy Plus class, which promises 5" more legroom. Actually, United promises up to 5 inches, so your mileage may vary. As United says on their website, "It’s our way of saying thanks to our customers." What a generous host United is. Thank you, United.

Of course, the Economy Plus seats aren't any wider than the cattle car seats, but at least you can lower the seat tray and maybe even have a little typing room. But here's the thing -- I'm not sure Economy Plus is any roomier than what Economy used to be. That is, I think United simply renamed the old, roomier Economy seats as Economy Plus, then squeezed the seats closer together in the new, improved Economy class. For a $48 premium I'll pay for the extra space, but I still think it's a scam.

At least my flights all arrived on time and they didn't lose my luggage. It's a shame when the lack of disaster defines a successful flight.

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Traitors and patriots

Well, now we know how the Bushies respond to being on the ropes -- they come out swinging, as witnessed by Karl Rove's recent lambast of "unpatriotic" liberals in the wake of 9/11. It's not an unexpected response, but it does show just how dirty desperate men are willing to play. The fact that it's kicked up so much repressed anger from among formerly meek Democrats is actually encouraging; maybe the Dems have found their lost testicles and will stand up to this McCarthy-like demagoguery.

One must ask, however, just why Rove is stirring this particular pot at this particular time. Never assume that this was a careless mistake; everything these despots do is intentional and well-planned. So why this and why now? I think it's a simple strategy to shift the sands on the playing field. Bush's approval rating is reaching historical lows, the Iraq war has become a burden with no end in sight, and the masses are prepping for revolt. What do you do when you're down and almost out? You attack. It's a basic defensive maneuver -- go on the offense. Strike out at those who are striking you; better yet, strike out before you've struck out. Expect more of this before we're done -- and it expect it to get much nastier. That's how these guys play.

And when does this end? Well, it won't happen with a Republican Congress, but if the 2006 elections kick out a fair number of incumbents (which is possible), we could be talking impeachment. I'm all for it; Bush has committed crimes against this country and others that make Nixon's Watergate problems pale in comparison. (And let's not even go into the partisan farce that was the Clinton impeachment.) Unless something drastic happens to change the playing field -- and with this bunch, nothing, no matter how big and nasty, is out of the question -- we could finally see Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al pay the price for their actions over the past four years or so.

It is interesting, however, how hypocritical this right-wing bunch really is. When a Democrat says torture is bad, he's called a traitor and forced to back down. When Rove viscously attacks detractors of White House policy, why, he's just telling the truth. Never back down, never give up, never surrender. These guys have balls. Wish the Democrats did.

Here's what the Dems should be saying. They should point to Bush and Rove and Cheney and all the rest and say that blind loyalty -- especially blind loyalty to a bad idea -- is not patriotism. A true patriot tries to make the country better. He doesn't accept the faults, nor follow bad policies (and bad leaders) blindly. A true patriot is not afraid to challenge his leaders or to point out those things that aren't perfect; he tries to change things to make this a better country.

It's those mindless sycophants who weaken America, not the patriots who challenge criminal behavior and try to make this country a better place. The real traitors are the politicians and despots who ignore the Constitution and the Bill of Rights for their own personal gain. Rove should go, as should his boss. It's only a matter of time.

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The religious right vs. religious rights

A fairly decent and quite interesting article in the NY Times today (subscription required) about the anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, pro-religion-in-government movement is worth reading, and prompts additional thoughts. The bottom line is that there is a group of evangelical fundamentalists who want to turn America into a religious state, where the church calls all the shots and woe be to anyone who believes differently. As you might suspect, I tend to oppose this kind of thinking.

My typical response would be to insist on the rights of the non-religious minority, that any church-run state would infringe on the constitutional civil rights of nonbelievers. But this time around, let's try a different approach, one that theoretically accepts majority rule at the expense of minority rights, and see where that gets us.

Let's start with the notion that America is an overtly religious country. According to various polls, the vast majority of Americans believe in God. Let's put a percentage to that, based on a 2003 Harris survey, and say that 79% of Americans believe that there is a God. So if 79% of the populace is religious, why not admit that we're a God-fearing country and change the laws accordingly?

Well, forget for the moment the rights of the 21% who are apparently agnostics or atheists, and ask another question. Of those 79% who believe in God, which God do they believe in? And here we have the issue; "religious" takes in a broad swath of different and often conflicting beliefs. Hindus believe in a different God than do Buddhists; Jews believe in a different God than do Muslims; Christians believe in a different God than do all the others. So if we were to implement the laws of God as the laws of country, whose God do we choose to rule?

To many, the answer is simple -- we're not just a God-fearing country, but an overwhelmingly Christian one. Now, I don't know the percentages here, but that's probably true. I'd bet that probably 80% of all religious people in America are Christian; that leaves believers in Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism in the minority. Again. for the sake of this argument we'll ignore minority rights and let the majority rule, which means we should declare ourselves a Christian nation and adopt Christian laws.

But there's a problem with that, too. Christians are divided into two major camps, Catholics and Protestants. The latter broke from the former, and they really don't share a lot in common when it comes to how they practice their beliefs. Again, I don't know the percentages, but I'm guessing that Protestants outnumber Catholics by at least 2 to 1, so we'll let the Protestants win this round and declare ourselves a Protestant nation. (And I'm being generous here. By the time we take this subset of a subset of a subset, Protestants probably aren't in the majority; they still hold a plurality, however, so we'll put them in charge.)

Ah, but there are still more differences to take into account. There are many different Protestant variations -- which subset should we default to? Do we turn ourselves into a Lutheran nation, or a Presbyterian nation, or a Methodist nation, or a Baptist nation, or what? To say they practice the same religion and worship the same God is simply not true; the details of each denomination are significantly different, and they hold widely disparate beliefs on numerous important issues. We have to pick one denomination over all the others -- but which one?

And here we have the crux of the issue. By the time we choose the one true religion to guide us, those religious beliefs end up being held by a very small minority of the population. Let's say we pick Baptist as our national denomination (assuming that we get all the Baptist variations to play nice together, which they don't always). The percentage of Americans who are practicing Baptists is somewhere south of 10% -- and all of a sudden we're not talking about majority rule, indeed we have rule by a small minority. And minority rule is not what America or any other democracy is about.

You see, we shouldn't confuse minority rights with minority rule. Any given minority, religious or otherwise, is entitled to certain basic rights. You have the right to believe what you want to believe, and to say what you want to say, and to behave like you want to behave -- as long as your words and actions don't infringe on the right of anyone else to believe, speak, or act as they want. That means that you don't have the right to impose your beliefs on others; the minority cannot dictate how the majority acts, speaks, or believes.

Unfortunately, that is what some on the religious right want. These evangelical extremists want to impose their minority beliefs on the majority of Americans. That isn't right, it isn't American, and it shouldn't be allowed to happen. These right-wing nutburgers (and any left-wing nutburgers, too; let's not be exclusive here) can believe whatever they want in the comfort of their own homes, they just can't tell me or you or anyone else what we should believe and how we should behave. The minority cannot write and enforce the laws for the majority.

To be fair to most religious Americans, when you take a close look at these activist fundamentalists, you see that they're not coming from the religious mainstream. The folks who want religious rule are not Methodists or Presbyterians or Nazarenes or Baptists; they're not Mormons or Lutherans or Episcopalians or Catholics; they're not Jews or Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists. They're non-denominational evangelicals, a small but vocal minority who are so far out of the mainstream as to be dangerous. Just as we would not want some radical atheist group writing and enforcing our nation's laws, we do not want these radical religious fundamentalists telling the rest of us that we can't have sex outside of marriage, or use contraception, or teach evolution, or watch Desperate Housewives.

These intolerant missionaries must be stopped, even as we continue to tolerate their right to believe as they will. As always, we should embrace their minority rights while refusing their desire for minority rule.

And until all the religions in the world agree that there is one inclusive supreme being and that all the other details don't matter, any form of religious rule will be minority rule. That's why it is important and necessary to have a secular government, one that does not enforce the beliefs of any minority onto the will of the majority, one that ensures that every American has the undeniable right to believe as he or she wishes. Yes, our country is founded on the principle of individual and religious rights; this does not mean, however, that we are a country of and for the religious right.

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Winning and losing

Thinking about Gov. Jeb "I'm next!" Bush's quest to somehow punish the husband of Terri Schiavo (by opening an inquiry into his response to her original injury fifteen years ago) reminds me of a quote attributed to Broadway impresario David Merrick. It goes like this:

It is not enough for me to win. My enemies must lose.

This explains a lot about Jeb, and his brother (George "Can You Believe I'm President?" Bush), and today's entire right-wing nutjob class. It's not so much about them winning (although winning is good), it's about making sure the other guy loses -- and feels the loss. So even when the conservatives lose on an issue (as they lost on the Schiavo case), they must make sure their opponents also lose. (Although positioning Michael Schiavo as an adversary illustrates another issue -- that the right wingnuts must also position themselves as "against" someone or something, even when no real adversarial relationship exists; that's why we have the war on "terrorism" today, just as we had the war on "Communism" during the Cold War years.)

And it's not just brother Jeb in Florida. Look at Georgie's quest to eviscerate the Social Security system. Yeah, he's losing big, but he can't help but try to paint his opponents as losers, too, by positioning them as a bunch of "do-nothing" politicians with no ideas of their own. Hey, Georgie, just because someone thinks your ideas suck doesn't mean they don't have any alternate ideas -- or that alternate ideas are necessary. Isn't it good enough to not jump off the cliff; do you really need an alternative plan?

So opponents become enemies, and enemies must lose -- and be punished. Compassionate conservative, my ass. This is old-school rough-and-tumble power-hungry politics at its worst, and sooner or later the public will notice it and drive these scoundrels out of town on a rail. I'll bring the tar if you bring the feathers!

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.

Odds and ends...

A few random thoughts...

  • Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is taking heat for comparing descriptions of torture and abuse at Guantanamo Bay to similar abuses in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and under Cambodian dictator Pol Pot. Read his full comments and you see that he's on the money. The right-wing shouting class have taken his comments out of context, however, and are accusing him of treason and such. Here's the thing -- not only is the good Senator allowed his thoughts on the subject (anybody remember freedom of speech?), but he's absolutely right. In the case of Guantanamo, we have become the bad guys, and you can't blame Dick Durbin for pointing out the disturbing truth. My hearty congratulations to Senator Durbin for having the rare courage to speak truth to power -- and let's hope that many others follow his lead. (Props also to Amnesty International for rightly describing Guantanamo as this generation's gulag -- despite the later back pedaling.)

  • Speaking of Guantanamo, you have to love VP Dick "Who You Lookin' At Punk" Cheney's response to critics of the operation. Last week, at an appearance before the National Press Club, the big Dick said that his "own personal view of it is that those who are most urgently advocating that we shut down Guantanamo probably don't agree with our policies anyway." In other words, if you don't agree with me, you must be wrong and I don't have to listen to you. You gotta admire this guy's sheer amount of arrogance, if nothing else.

  • Further, Cheney said that the "individuals who are at Guantanamo Bay are dangerous terrorists who seek to do harm to the American people." In other words, we're now locking people up just because they might do something bad. Correct me on this, but I thought the whole jurisprudence thing was to presume someone innocent until proven guilty, which means you don't arrest someone for thinking about a crime -- you take care of them after the crime has been committed. So what we're doing in Guantanamo is not just presuming guilt (no trials, remember), but preemptively locking them up before they've actually done anything wrong. Whatever happened to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights? This is a national embarrassment at best, and truly criminal at worst.

  • Next item, Florida Governor Jeb "I'm the Smart One" Bush has instructed prosecutors to investigate the circumstances surrounding Michael Schiavo's call to 911 when his wife collapsed and went into a coma fifteen years ago. Why is he doing this? Is it a quest for justice -- or a thirst for payback? This is the most ridiculous thing I've heard since... well, since Jeb got involved in the whole Terri Schiavo feeding-tube business in the first place. How low can these despicable despots go when they've been crossed?

  • Finally, and much less important in the cosmic scheme of things, we now hear that Tom "I'm Not Gay" Cruise has asked Katie Holmes, his girlfriend of just a few weeks, to marry him. Either these two people are clearly insane, or this is the most blatantly obvious publicity stunt since President George "I Used to Fly These Things, Really" Bush landed a fighter plane on that aircraft carrier. Does anyone really believe this shit? Who are they trying to fool, anyway? Life just doesn't get much stranger than this.

But these are just my random opinions; reasonable minds may disagree.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Why all the attitude?

The other day I was scanning the cable channels for something good to watch in high definition, and stumbled across an HDTV broadcast of ABBA - The Movie. Now, I have to admit, I'm a fan of ABBA; it's kind of a guilty pleasure, but I fess up to it. Really first-class tunesmithing, IMHO, coupled with stellar production values, cheesy lyrics, and irresistible Swedish accents (which redeem the cheesy lyrics), sung by two fetching young Swedish girls. What's not to like?

Anyway, I'm watching the ABBA movie, which has too much subsidiary storyline and not enough concert scenes, and I'm watching one of the too-few concert scenes, and I notice how similar the crowd for the ABBA concert is to that of a Britney Spears or Jessica Simpson concert today. Lots of families, lots of young girls, very well-rounded, age-wise. And it strikes me that ABBA was the teen and pre-teen pop sensation of the late 1970s, just as the Britneys and Jessicas are today. I guess this is no surprise, but I hadn't noticed it before.

But there's one big difference between then and now: ABBA smiled. Yep, all four of the ABBA-ites looked like they were having fun onstage; they smiled and laughed and genuinely enjoyed themselves, while today's pop sensations pose and pout and put forth with quite a bit of attitude. They're just not as much fun as ABBA, sorry to say. I'd rather watch Frida and Agnetha smiling and having fun than suffer through Britney and Jessica acting like they're really pissed off or something. Fun is more fun.

And what's with the attitude? I mean, music is supposed to be fun and entertaining; when did everyone get so damned serious? I blame it all on Madonna, who's probably the biggest pop culture influence of the 20th century -- bigger than Elvis, even. Before Madonna there was ABBA and things were fun; after Madonna everybody had to strike a pose and act like their underwear was bunching up on them. It's all her damned fault. Madonna was a bad influence on all the questionably talented performers that came after her.

(Yeah, I know Madonna wasn't the first performer to base a career on posing; Mick Jagger was posing while Madonna was still in leather diapers, and the punks picked it up from Mick and took it a step further. But Madonna had the savvy to take one step beyond, and look where it got us.)

You see, ABBA simply didn't take themselves too seriously -- which Madonna and her progeny definitely do. The Swedes weren't afraid to act a little goofy at times (Frida, especially; Agnetha was a bit more reserved), and this translated into projecting an image of wholesome fun. You don't catch today's popsters breaking their poses onstage; ABBA wasn't near as programmed, and ended up being much more of a good time.

And here's something else about ABBA, compared to today's pop posers. They were sexy without being sexual, which made them safe for all the young girls in the audience. Yeah, they strutted about in ridiculous 70s-era outfits, but it was all in fun. (In the film, much is made of Agnetha having the "best bottom" in Europe, but it's treated lightly; for what it's worth, I wouldn't argue.) In comparison, today's pop starlets are total sluts; the tease is gone. I'm not a prude, but give me Agnetha and Frida playing at being sexy to the raw, unadulterated, nothing-left-to-your-imagination near-pornography of Britney and Christina any day. The kids today have a lot to learn. Raw sex isn't sexy; teasing is better than showing it all.

So sue me, I prefer ABBA to just about any practiced artificial pop star from the past twenty years or so -- especially the slut starlets of today. ABBA sang better, had better tunes, projected a more wholesome image, and had more fun doing it. (They also didn't let their private lives become too public, and they knew when to walk away -- and stay away.) No surprise, ABBA's music is still important today; I can't imagine anyone remembering Britney or Jessica in 2030.

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Nixon's Empire Strikes Back

Here's more on the Nixonite influence on the current Bush administration, by former Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal. (See, it's not just me!)

Nixon's Empire Strikes Back

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Springing into the 20th century

As I've mentioned (with regret) before, I live in Indiana, one of only three states that do not currently observe Daylight Saving Time. (The others are Arizona and Hawaii.) Well, that small club is about ready to get one state smaller, because our noble legislators recently voted, after many long years of debate, to adopt Daylight Saving Time in our fair state. Finally, Indiana joins the 20th century!

Why Indiana took so long to adopt DST is a bit of a mystery. Some claim it was the farm lobby that held it back; the farmers thought that changing time twice a year would confuse their cows. (Apparently the cows in Indiana are dumber than the cows in 47 other states, if that's possible.) Personally, I think it was a simple political matter. You see, Indiana is a time zone border state; those counties in the eastern part of the state (particularly those near Cincinnati) wanted to be in the Eastern time zone, while those counties in the western part of the state (particularly those near Chicago) wanted to be in the Central time zone. By not switching to DST, both areas could be pacified for half the year. Kind of a wimpy way out of a festering conflict, but still.

Anyway, business interests finally got their way (surprised it took them so long; is it any wonder why the Indiana economy is faltering?), and next year we'll be like just about everyone else in the country and reset our clocks for DST. The next big debate, however, is for what time zone we should settle on -- Eastern or Central? Aside from the Cincinnati/Chicago partisans, there are those who cling to the mistaken notion that Indiana is a big East Coast city and should be on the same time as New York; others say we're a Midwestern city, pretty darned near Chicago, and should thus be in the Central time zone. I'm of the latter persuasion, personally. Just looking at a map confirms that Indiana is pretty darned distant from the Atlantic ocean, and in reality is kind of a southern suburb of the Windy City. Besides, if we're on Central time, we're only two hours off from the West Coast, and California is who we do more business with these days, anyway. So I say switch to Central time and get it over with.

That said, I do have a few questions about this Daylight Saving Time business -- chief of which is the issue of why we want to save time in the first place. I mean, the summer months are when we have the longest days anyway; why do we want to make them even longer? During June and July the sun doesn't set till nine or so, with DST darkness won't come until close to ten at night. Why do we need this much daylight? I'm kind of a night prowler myself, and I just don't see the need.

It seems to me that if we wanted to make any days longer, it would be during the winter months. Hey, if dusk comes around five in the winter, wouldn't it be great to get an extra hour of daylight then? If we really need Daylight Saving Time, it's during the short winter months, not during the long summer ones.

Still, I'll accept the logical inconsistencies of the whole Daylight Saving Time thing for the convenience of actually being able to figure out what time we're on in relation to other parts of the country -- and having that stay the same the whole year 'round. It's about time Indiana got the right time -- even if it's decades after everybody else.

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Bush II: Return of the Nixonites

With all the Watergate deja vu washing over us this week, it's important to recognize the continuum from the Nixon administration to the current Bush II White House. In many, many ways, the current Bush administration is a direct continuation of the Nixon White House, if not in terms of agenda, certainly in terms of method. As we remember how secretive, truth-bending, power-hungry, and downright paranoid the Nixonites were, there's no denying that the Bushies are employing very similar methods for extending their power. And for good reason: many current Bush administration officials got their start with President Nixon. Let's go down the list:

Donald Rumsfeld: The Donald began his political career as a congressman from Illinois, but in 1969 resigned from Congress to take a job as Nixon's Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity and Assistant to the President. From 1971 to 1972, he was Counselor to the President and Director of the Economic Stabilization Program; in 1973, he served as U.S. Ambassador to NATO. After Nixon's resignation, Rumsfeld served first as President Ford's Chief of Staff and then as Ford's Secretary of Defense. (See, he has a history in the job.) He was one of the "young guns" in the Nixon administration, and close pals with protege Dick Cheney.

Dick Cheney: This particular Dick began his career in "public service" in 1969, when he joined the Nixon Administration as a special assistant to the director of the Office of Economic Opportunity. In 1971 he became a White House staff assistant, and soon moved on to become Assistant Director of the Cost of Living Council, where he stayed until 1973. After a year in private business, he returned to the White House to become deputy assistant to President Gerald Ford and then White House Chief of Staff.

Paul Wolfowitz: In 1972, went to work for the Pentagon in the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. He had strong connections to Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, who himself had strong ties to President Nixon. Believe it or not, his work mainly concerned the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks and nuclear nonproliferation.

Karl Rove: The brains behind the Bush, King Karl was a Young Republican on the college campuses of the early 1970s. (He later dropped out of college to become executive director of the College Republicans.) While working as a Young Republican in Nixon's 1972 campaign, Rove learned and practiced a fair number of minor league dirty tricks, including identity theft, petty larceny, and perhaps (depending on who you talk to) some degree of campaign fraud. The 22-year-old apprentice actually had a very small role in the Watergate saga itself, as documented in an August 10, 1973 article in the Washington Post titled "[Republican party] Probes Official as Teacher of Tricks." The article described how Rove and a colleague had been touring the country giving Young Republicans political combat training, in which they recalled their feats of back alley derring-do in earlier Republican campaigns. The publicity forced the intervention of the Republican National Committee and its chairman, a former Texas congressman named George Herbert Walker Bush; this was the beginning of Rove's long-standing and mutually beneficial relationship with the Bush family. BTW, I particularly like the piece on the Nixon Center website from a January 2002 New York Times article where Turd Blossom is quoted as saying that he was "not aware" of the current administration having learned any lessons from Richard Nixon's presidency. I beg to differ; I think it's quite obvious that Rove learned a lot about dirty tricks from his former boss.

And that's just a list of the major connections; as you can see, there's quite a bit of Nixon in the Bush II administration -- which explains a lot about how and even why the Bushies keep doing what they're doing. Obviously, Cheney and Rumsfeld in particular learned a lot from serving Nixon in their youth, and it's not too wild a speculation to assume that they may even carry a bit of a grudge towards Democrats, liberals, and the media for what happened to their ex-boss. Having learned a few lessons along the way, it certainly makes sense for them to set things up so that presidential power is consolidated, secrets are kept and not leaked, and the press and other critics are sufficiently muzzled.

This similarity in approach between the two administrations leads to the question that if Nixon's dirty tricks were so impeachable, then why isn't anyone talking about impeaching President Bush? The fallout from his tricks dwarfs anything Nixon was doing, after all, and the Downing Street memo certainly implies a series of crimes and misdemeanors of an impeachable level. But that's an issue for another day; for now we'll have to content ourselves with marveling how long old grudges are held -- and wondering just when some of these old farts will ever drop dead!

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.