Saturday, October 20, 2007

I left my heart...

I walked out into a chilly fog-shrouded darkness that was two hours from dawn. The streetlights, theater marquees and illuminated signs for everything from jewelers to massage parlors cast a barely useful light on the surreal scene. Through the mist your eyes can only make out distant shapes and motion. As you draw near, though, you realize that to many observers, these figures are nothing but shapes and motion, rather than people. They are our phantoms, our shadow citizens, they are the homeless.

I was in San Francisco last week, a city that in recent years has had a large homeless population. With a climate that, while tempermental, is no Chicago, and a tolerant population and government, the homeless have long provided a good dose of local color. I hadn't been to the Bay Area in two years, and I must admit, I was shocked. I was not alone in my reaction to what was happening in the city, as the "homeless crisis" was the front page story in the San Francisco Chronicle for a couple of days running. Navigating around between Union Square and Market Street is difficult, encounters with the growing population of street people are becoming more contentious, and the streets smell of urine and marked with human waste.

Homelessness presents questions on many levels. Obviously you have the sociological and psychological questions of how and why. In the classic "hierarchy of needs," food and shelter form the base of human existence, while concerns for security make up the next level. followed by friendship and kinship, then self-esteem and respect. Could any group of human beings possibly be further from the ideal of 'self-actualization" than these wanderers, who cannot even regularly meet their most primitive needs. How did they find themselves in this position, and are there rational ways of helping them? Social services are generally rejected and shelters shunned, as they prefer their meager possessions and the locations they know, in an often self-defeating attempt to exercise some degree of control over their lives.

And from the city standpoint, what approach should you take? In San Francisco, the current approach is to offer services but generally they are left alone as long as they are not disorderly. For those that urinate in public or otherwise cross the tolerance line, the city reacts in almost absurd fashion. They issue citations. That's right, they give tickets and impose fines on the homeless.

I would appreciate your thoughts. What should our cities, and indeed, our societies, do both for them and to them?

Separated at birth?

At least Chamberlain had a bit of an excuse for his appeasement. Not much of one, granted, but he knew that Britain was in no shape militarily to confront Germany, and at least he bought some time. Pelosi? There are no excuses, yet she proudly waves her own Munich pact.

Appeasers all.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Love Child



were to mate, the resultant love child would be

If only Sen. Tappy McWidestance was Catholic...

We'd have his father confessor:
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- A Vatican official suspended after being caught on hidden camera making advances to a young man said in an interview published Sunday that he is not gay and was only pretending to be gay as part of his work. In an interview with La Repubblica newspaper, Monsignor Tommaso Stenico said he frequented online gay chat rooms and met with gay men as part of his work as a psychoanalyst. He said that he pretended to be gay in order to gather information about "those who damage the image of the Church with homosexual activity."
Bless me Father, for I have--oh never mind.

And this clown's running for president...

Wingnut congressman Tom Tancredo actually introduced H. 3266, a bill "To provide for the issuance of War on Radical Islam Bonds."

You read it right. Let's sell bonds to make war on a RELIGION.

Can't say I disagree with you there, Senator

Barack Obama, in Time: "I don't want to be invited to the family hunting party." - responding to claims that he's a distant relative of Vice President Dick Cheney.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

More on Dodd

From an interview with Salon's Glenn Greenwald:

Dodd: Well, it's [the attack on the Constitution] so pervasive. I mean, its domestic. It's foreign. And it is has been so calculated on so many levels. . . .

It saddens me that it even has to be an issue -- the fact that "defending the Constitution" even has to be an issue in the presidential race.

But there is an audience for this. This is really important. This is not a narrow audience. This is a broad audience. This is an audience that will surprise you if articulated well. We can win on this.

A campaign for president allows you to have a megaphone here on a national scale to talk about these things, at a time when this crowd, if it continues, can enable you to stop them, do even more than raise the issues. But secondly, if I don't win this thing, I want everyone else to be talking about these issues.

I think it reaches into a conservative constituency who ought to care about this as much, and does in many ways. So it gives us a chance to do that.

I carry every day, and have for 26 years, a copy of the U.S. Constitution given to me by Robert Byrd [takes Constitution out of his back pocket]. And to me, what could be more fundamental? With all due respect, I care about health care, education, global warming. But if you get this wrong -- what do you got? A trade association. Who wants to be president of a trade association?

And this [holding the Constitution] is the spark, the illumination, it is, if I may so say, the envy of many around the world. We have been a guiding set of principles. What is going on with the rule of law isn't just happening here. . . Other countries are saying, "We can do this, too."

So there has been an erosion in the world with the rule of the law. Having led the world in the rule of law in the post-World War II period, and having nations reluctantly moving in the direction we were moving in, and they now see the U.S. has retreated, and they are making a hasty retreat themselves.

Josh Tucker [of NYU] makes the point about the Soviet Union collapse -- You can make the case that it was military, and that was part of it, but he believes and I believe that it was the rule of law. It was Eastern European countries recognizing that this was a total sham, beginning with the Prague Spring and 1956. The Soviet Union collapsed because it rotted from within, they just rotted without the rule of law. So in addition to the other factors, this has international reverberations, beyond just what happens in our own country.

Back from the City by the Bay

and will have some thoughts as soon as i catch up!

Thank you, Senator Dodd

Senator Chris Dodd puts a hold on Telecom Amensty Bill.

Let's stop cowering in fear to Mr. 24% and his army of winged monkeys. This is still America, if we want it to be.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


In my previous post, I referred to "the 29-percenters" - the group of people who continue to support the Liar In Chief as he tries to destroy as much of our country as possible. I was in error. I should have used the term "the 24-percenters."

I apologize for my error.

Monday, October 15, 2007


To hear supporters of war, whether it's in Iraq, or Vietnam, or (some hope) in Iran, it's a glorious adventure, one which will unite as a people and bring our country back to the hallowed days after World War II, when America was established as a superpower and all was right with the world. They speak of those who wear the uniform in faux-reverential tones, speaking empty platitudes about honoring the men and women who fight our wars for us. All they know of war, all I know of war, has been learned from books and movies and TV. It's been well-documented that those in our government who sent our country to war in Iraq didn't have military experience of their own, and many of those with big mouths and big microphones either haven't served or won't serve, for primarily selfish reasons.

As I said, my only knowledge of war is second-hand, either through the truth, as best as it can be told, or through fiction, in dramatizations of battle. I'm in the middle of watching the new Ken Burns documentary, "The War," about that revered "Good War," World War II (I have seen episodes 1, 2, 6, and 7). I won't pretend that watching a documentary in any way allows me to share the experience of the men who were there, but I would like to share my reactions to the experience of listening to them talk.

When you listen to the men who were there, they don't speak of the glory of battle. Not only is it not the wackiness of Hogan's Heroes, it's not even the prisoners in Stalag 17. Or the gruff warriors in The Longest Day. Or even the blood on the beach in Saving Private Ryan. (Although Schindler's List comes closer than most.) They don't talk with wry smiles about spending six months wearing the same blood-soaked clothes in driving blizzards and oven-like jungles, or of liberating death camps, or having their foxholes fill with maggots as they were pinned down by artillery fire, or dropping bombs that still had the power to kill fifty years later. They don't talk about a "good" war, but instead speak of the "necessity" of what they were doing. For some, even Pearl Harbor wasn't enough justification, although the men who were unfortunate enough to walk through the gates of hell into Buchenwald or Mauthausen learned what the necessity of the war really was. No, sixty years later, these men speak of nightmares, and death, and convey with a look what they can't say with words, that there really are no words which can tell you what it's like. The footage that Ken Burns gathered is remarkable, backing the words with images of coffins and flamethrowers, emaciated soldiers and bombed-out buildings, sunken, haunted eyes and burning aircraft, spiraling into the ground. And none of it looks like fun. None of it even hints of a "glorious adventure."

One of the things that has long bothered me the most about our national shame in Iraq was that it has been clear from the start that no consideration was given to how war affects those who are on the battlefield, whether in uniform or not. And since no such consideration was given, our country was rushed into battle without doing everything in our power to avoid it. Our country has not suffered the staggering losses we did in Europe and the Pacific, when more people died on one battlefield in three days than in the fifty-five months we've been in Iraq. (And remember - we were the lucky ones. The war wasn't fought on American soil. Our houses didn't burn and our cities weren't destroyed.) However, listening to the testimony of the men and women in "The War," what continues to come to my mind is that we have forever damaged the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, American and Iraqi, who may not bear physical wounds due to the bombs and bullets, but will bear the marks of battle for the rest of their days.

To all of those who beat the drums for war - to those vile souls who still think that somehow blowing up bombs validates our national manhood and is something to swagger about. To those whose bloodlust for those who differ from themselves in heritage, or belief, or place of birth and drag us all along on their gruesome crusades. To those who would sacrifice other lives, American or not, in the name of greed and power. To George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz, and Colin Powell, and George Tenet, and Alberto Gonzalez, and Rush Limbaugh, and William Kristol, and Bill O'Reilly, and the whole gang over at Fox News, and the Corner at the National Review, and the rest of the 29-percenters who refuse to see what harm they bring to the world every time they speak. To all of you, I wish I believed in a heaven and a hell, and an afterlife where, in a just universe, those who have suffered for your ill words and ill deeds would spend eternity in paradise and where you would burn with the horrible wounds, the crippling nightmares, and the tragic devastation of lives forever changed by your deeds for a time out of time, beyond the death of the universe, spending forever in a cataclysm of pain for a crime for which there is no atonement.

To Tim Johnson, R-IL (15th)

Congressman Johnson,

I am writing to you to urge you to reconsider your vote and to overturn the President's veto of the expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. This bill is one of those good things that government can do, and which requires all of us to work together. Children do not have the choice of purchasing health insurance - they get what's provided for them, and for far too many children, that's not enough. The data is clear that preventative health care makes a huge difference, and for lots of families, that's not an option.

Our government has thrown away trillions of dollars in the last few years - the unconscionable disaster in Iraq, the Medicare debacle, and tax cuts for people who don't need the money. What's wrong with giving a small fraction of that to kids - money that will help them get a better start in life, money that will prevent us from paying thousands of dollars for emergency room trips when we could have paid a hundred for routine care? Are you willing to look at a kid and say "sorry, I could have helped you get better, but I decided not to?" Are you okay with letting kids suffer while you continue to support a failed policy?

The President is wrong on this (as he has been on so many things), but you have the power to help make it right. Overturn his veto.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


In case you're counting:

Days until the 2008 Illinois Primary (February 5) -- 114

Days until Election Day 2008 (November 4) -- 387

Days until Inauguration Day 2009 (January 20) -- 464