More Budget Idiocy

All of America is sick of this sad dance between the Republicans and Democrats. It’s like we’re trapped in an endless loop of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Each of us keeps getting swapped between drooling, pudge-bellied old white men in suits (some with American flag lapel pins and some without) who drag us around the dance floor awkwardly hissing sibilantly in our ear his own dogged talking points: “No negotiation” or “We have to defund.”

Listen, let’s just cut the crap.

It’s the Tea Party’s fault.

Plain and simple.

Yes, you can talk about various ways in which a myriad of complex party policies from both sides come to bear and have created this messy impasse, but if you talk long enough like that then you start to sound like one of those people who says that the Civil War wasn’t really “about” slavery.

Bull. It was. Everyone living at the time knew it and we should bring equal clarity to our own screwy present. The big business backers of the Republican party co-opted the grass roots movement that was the early Tea Party and they created a monster they cannot control–one that has polluted the ideologies of the entire American right wing to the point of absurdity.

I know, I know, I’ve said all this before. But what else can I say when they–our elected leaders–are doing the same things they’ve done again and again.

I’ll just repeat my last judgement on Washington from the last time this nonsense happened:

In the next election we need to vote out EVERY SINGLE INCUMBENT and vote in only people who actually believe in civic responsibility, compromise, government, and, you know, DEMOCRACY!

Harvest Moon

When I start awake–suddenly and while the sun is still hidden somewhere out there in the world–I can feel I have been to the border of something great, something transcendent, the sense that I have seen lines at the edges of being that no one else has understood. I see me there with my beloved, born together on a barge along the once-crowded river of souls, apotheosis just ahead where the rest of the traffic dares not go. It’s all there in the haze of half-knowing and, like always, I want to hold on to it, keep it there in the shallow dark before dawn, before slapping children into minivans, quick-ironing of slacks, and the hum-drum mundane in-out of living in the world made of wood and obligation.

The Impossible Presidency

Jim Young

It seems like poor President Obama can do no right these days. His poll numbers are way down. The Republicans are preparing for a battle over the budget, again. The target this time? Same one as last time: Obamacare. Now, they want to use the budget fight to “defund” the Affordable Health Care Act. Seriously, how many times do these schmucks want to fight this battle?

The twist this time, though, is that polls show that more Americans are coming to view Obamacare negatively. Recently, I heard a piece on the radio about how a conservative think tank’s latest study shows the law will raise insurance premiums for some elderly people in their 60s.

What’s this? But Obamacare was supposed to lower health care costs?!? How could this be?

Disengenous reporting, that’s how this could be. It was designed to lower actual healthcare costs. Yes, some premiums may go up, but overall healthcare costs will go down. In fact, they already have.

Yet, America is starting to buy the malarkey. And who knows, the Republicans may just succeed in destroying the crowning achievement (other than putting one through Bin Laden’s brainpan) of Obama’s first term and, in the process, set back the struggle for decent, affordable health care in this country by decades.

It’s clear now that the lens through which Obama’s presidency is evaluated is so warped  that it’s become farcical.

Take Syria as an example.

CNN today boasts that Putin has had a major “diplomatic victory” by thwarting (hopefully) the deployment of American military might in Syria. Sure, I’ll grant you that. Putin’s gain, though, is not necessarily Obama’s–or America’s loss.

One of the main reasons everyone who has been saying that America must act in Syria has given is simply that American credibility is on the line (which sounds kind of like a juvenile pissing contest, but I won’t elaborate on that because John Stewart has already  illustrated that point too brilliantly for me to want to retread it).

So if Russia coaxes Syria into giving up its inventory of chemical weapons, not only are we spared the awful responsibility of causing loss of life in Syria with our own hands, but we get to keep our precious “credibility” to boot.


Yet if you listen to the blowhards at Fox News and other punditry mills, this is some kind of setback for Obama. The accusations are flying fast and furious (and predictably) from the television proxy of the Republican party. Obama’s been “played” they say. Keep in mind these people were, of course, criticizing Obama the day before for wanting to intervene at all. Now they’re going to slam him for finding a way not to have to.

Let’s just make this crystal clear:

Obama says the use of chemical weapons is a “red line” and when they are used, he goes to the American people and Congress to argue that we must act to uphold “international norms.” When Secretary of State Kerry is asked how high the Syrians would have to jump to avoid military action, he offers up what he thinks to be so far fetched a suggestion that they would never comply. But lo and behold, Russia gets out the meter stick and holds it up for Syria to do the jump.

Essentially, our threat of military force worked so well that Syria is willing to do exactly what we said we want them to do (even when what we said was really kind of a joke) and that is somehow a black mark on Obama’s record?!?

If this deal goes through, then it’s Obama’s win. But as with every other issue since 2008, expect the right-wing propaganda machine to grind on and on–as it did with Obamacare–until nobody in this country knows which way is up and which is down and suddenly Syria becomes yet another failure for this president.

I ask, in all sincerity, what other president has had to put up with this absurdly partisan opposition? I mean, they hated Clinton, but it was nothing like this. Nothing.

But go ahead, tell me again how it has nothing to do with him being black.


So this will be my 200th post on this blog.

Granted,, my little shrine to my own vanity, has existed long before it occupied disk space on the wordpress servers, but still, it seems like a milestone worth celebrating.

So…you know, woo hoo!

Of course, it’s also not a bad time to take stock of my grand experiment in over-blogging once again.

I felt like the news on that front was going to be quite grim indeed. It seems like I haven’t been writing at all lately. (In my defense, I have been writing, but elsewhere on the Interwebs in an endeavor too geeky for me to mention publicly here.) I figured that between my runaway Civ addiction (I’ve been meaning to write about that, too), school starting, and general authorial laziness that I would now be way, way behind. So far behind that not even diving head-long into NaNoWriMo would catch me up come November.

However, the numbers tell another tale. Since January 1st, I have posted 184 times. My pledge was to post five per week (which I later reinterpreted to mean an average of five per week; cut me some slack here) and according to this handy dandy website, we are now 36 weeks into the year. Well, 184 divided by  5 reveals that I have posted enough for 36.8 weeks.

So hey, I haven’t blown my New Year’s Resolution yet after all…yet.

Brownian Motion

There’s something trembling inside my bones
castanet for marrow
like those novelty teeth

This is what it is to be out of place
to stand on the threshold
right on the liminal boundary
of Nirvana
and not giving a damn

You shake
like buds in May
or virgins at the top of Chichen Itza
And ask
What, what, what
Do I do with myself now?

Liar, Liar

One of the darkest ironies of the recent anniversary for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was that recently key provisions of the Voting Rights Act were nullified by a Republican-dominated Supreme Court. The very protection that King and countless others marched for is being rolled back today, fifty years after the historic march.

Worse still, Republican legislatures at the state level have used the free reign granted by the Supreme Court to begin waging campaigns to require picture IDs for voters. The purported reason for these campaigns is to stamp out the plague of voter fraud not gripping this country.

This assault of voting rights is so bold in its dishonesty that it’s literally difficult to believe that even the most cynical politician could make these statements with a straight face.

Studies have shown that voter fraud is not a problem. Given improved data resources, it’s much harder to register as a dead person or any of the other gambits that used to be deployed by crooked organizations bent on swinging elections their way. Those efforts, one must point out, were used as dirty tricks on both sides of the aisle throughout our republic’s long and illustrious history. Now, though, it is only one party that is concerned about the problem today–a problem we know does not actually exist.

So, if their stated reason for these campaigns is fictional, we must wonder what the real motivation for the Republican party to fight so hard to limit access to the ballot box is.

We don’t have to wonder long.

Who is less likely to have a picture ID and be less likely to be able to vote given the Republican push for identification? Urban minorities. Those pesky young people. All likely Democratic voters.

The shamelessness of this campaign is just the latest in the despicable decline of Republican principles. Their party is slipping further into the grip of dogmatic ideologies even as the demographics of the nation shift against them and the only thing they can think to do to reach out to voters is to slap back the hands of those who would vote against them.

The great irony in all this is that voter fraud is not committed by individuals. One person doesn’t go out of his way to cast an illegal vote. One vote isn’t significant enough to merit the risk, a risk that would be compounded if every potential fraudulent voter was individually digging up the information about identities that might be assumed. No, voter fraud is organized by groups greedy for power, willing to do anything to hold on to it even if the electorate has ruled against them and their agenda.

So logic and history tell us that it’s motivated groups looking for power who commit voter fraud.

And there’s only one force in contemporary American politics dishonest enough and whose motivations run contrary to the democratic will enough to commit voter fraud.

If this campaign to keep African-Americans, Hispanics, and college students away from the polls fails to gain them any ground, then I think we know what strategy the Republicans will turn to next.

I’ve just got to ask, and moms and dads, send the kiddies to their rooms because I feel compelled to use some profanity here:

What kind of bullshit world is this exactly? I mean, we have everything–absolutely everything we should need. We’ve got the tech to fit libraries on the head of a pin. We’ve got medicines to keep us going even after we cut out thyroids and kidneys and god-knows-what-all. We’ve got fields and fields of grain to stuff every mouth on the planet.

We should be frickin’ masters of the universe here. We should be clasping hands and singing kum-bay-ya or something, celebrating how we’ve overcome everything that ailed us–having stamped out the darkness and made life pleasant and full.

But no. We’re trying to figure out whether we should use cruise missiles to blow up some shit in Syria because we’re pretty, relatively, almost sure that some jackass with a title there let some generals who may or may not have been following his orders use sarin gas to exterminate a bunch of civilians.

Civilians! These are people who should be, you know, worrying about whether or not the soup is going to come out well for dinner not, gee, is that sarin I smell? Oh wait, no, it can’t be because it’s an odorless harbinger of death!

What does Bassar or Bashar or whatever his dang name is really want? What does he want power so badly for? I mean, I get Saddam Hussein and Qaddafi. They’re fucking monsters who raped pretty girls because they could and convinced themselves they were demi-gods on Earth because people had painted giant portraits of them (at gun-point).

I can actually understand that. Monster are monsters.

It’s the men killing other people that really gets under my skin. Why? Why do this to people? Is there some end game in their heads where they’re going to be like, yeah, I had to gas some people, but it’s all good now. Is this a political office you can ever feel really secure in after that? Does your ship of state seem to be sailing straight with that little ripple in the ocean behind you?

See, for me, I wonder how people live with themselves when they steal my credit card number (I mean, you’re a fucking parasite on the ass of society, so yeah, you enjoy that four hundred dollar shopping spree at Lowe’s, why don’t you) but this–this is gassing little kids to death. How in the hell do you rationalize that shit to yourself?!?

We’re victims of inertia. Us, them. Syria, America. Iran, Russia. Israel, Palestine. We’re just stuck on a course plotted by archaic and arcane traditions and divisions that are as arbitrary as they are indelible.

I feel like if we could package all our knowledge and wisdom into a capsule and tuck it away with some fresh, unspoiled human seed–some little Clark Kent (and, I guess, a bevy of infant Lois Lanes for him to breed with) that we could blast off toward a new world away from all our mental detritus, all our toxic culture, then maybe, just maybe something beautiful and worthwhile could come from human civilization.

Then maybe it would all be worth it–all these tragedies that can’t be stopped with cruise missiles or with stern talks from presidents about red lines–because it would have just been prelude, like loose skin sloughed off.

Pupae. Nobody worries how ugly, and foul a chrysalis was…once it’s all used up.

On Human Excellence

because it's there

because it’s there

For several days, I’ve been trying to write about Diana Nyad, who defied logic and human limitations to swim for more than two days through open ocean between Florida and Cuba. For some reason, I’ve struggled for a way to frame what I wanted to say about her.

In my first draft, I began with bad news. Ariel Castro and rape gangs in Syria. I wanted to talk about this idea that good people don’t balance out the bad, that redeeming the human race requires more, requires this reaching for excellence, these triumphs.

But that didn’t work out.

Then I tried a more whimsical opening:

For the last week, my son has been fixated on two questions that he continually volunteers up during any lull in household activity:

1) Why would Jurassic Park say those dinosaurs were Velociraptors when they were clearly too big to be Velociraptors and must be Deinonychus.

And 2) How can anyone swim for 53 hours straight?

I thought that was a really cute opening, because–well–it involves my boy and that’s just always adorable. So I liked that opening well enough, but then I couldn’t stitch together the rest. I couldn’t find the message in all the points. I had trees and no forest.

I felt compelled to write about Nyad because I thought there was something that had to be said about Nyad’s accomplishment.

But I had to figure out what that something was. (Flannery O’Connor said, and I agree, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”)

So I tried it this way:

Diana Nyad’s record-breaking, mind-blowing, reality-distorting fifty-three hour swim from Cuba to Florida has been all over the news, but amidst all the “holy moly, can you believe a sixty-four year old woman did this” reports, I haven’t heard many people ask the other question: Why?

At first glance, perhaps many of us could not relate to the desire to swim from Florida to Cuba. But if we consider the sheer feat of endurance–more than fifty hours moving through the water–then there is no way anyone can fail to see the immense will required for such an accomplishment, regardless of the particulars. It’s that concentration of will that we should all–must all–recognize and admire.

It’s not what she did, but the simple fact that she did something. Something seemingly impossible.

And that was kind of it, kind of the message, but not quite. Not really. Now, here on my third draft, I realize that I what I wanted to do in writing about Nyad was to ask the question: What if the world was only striving? What if everyone had some near mythic goal out in front of them? What if we were all always trying to do something great? What kind of world would that be?

And that question has become apt, because here I am, striving to make myself clear, striving to find something worth saying. And finally, I have to bring that point around to the theme of excellence, because ultimately, the pursuit of excellence requires us to face defeat, to deal with failure, to keep trying.

In that, we have Nyad herself as an example, because her victory, her success…was her fifth attempt.

a single note

You are the static in my mind
Atonal symphony to stagnancy
Lone voice echoing through the cerebellum, saying

Steady, remain

If only I could cut you out
(excise you like some defective corpus callosum)
An editing by scalpel
And I might have, should have
But it would be irrelevant now
We’re in the final movement, after all