The Other End of Sunset

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The bride wore red.

We live in a weird world. I'm watching the news. 14 US and British soldiers died in the last 24 hours in two helicopter crashes in Iraq and Afghanistan. The news spent about 1 minute on that tragedy. And has now spent ~5 minutes on Barry Bonds getting booed in Philadelphia. Really, who cares. Ok, I guess he used steroids. Shock! I'm shocked and horrified that there is drug use in professional sports! How can it be?

Imagine you are the news director. You have to allocate a 30 minute show to different topics. And you decide to spend 5 times as much time on Bonds’ boos than on the death of enough soldiers to fill an entire football squad? Whatever.

I just watched an ad for a candidate for California’s governor. It was about his being endorsed by “thousands” of police officers and firefighters. So they showed the police doing their jobs – which apparently are entirely arresting people. I have this naïve notion that police and firefighters protect people. But I'm naïve, I guess.

And the best part? Although there are multiple races, and both genders, represented in the police, in this candidate’s world, only white men with long hair and reasonable clothes are arrested. I wonder what the actual percentage of arrests is, by race?

For the record, I don’t think that arrest rates have anything to do with actual crime rates, nor do I believe that traffic stop rates, etc., have only to do with actual infractions. It’s possible that profiling exists.

If that’s true, and if this candidate is elected, I may need to face a new reality. I'm a white man with longish hair, and reasonable clothes. I wonder if I'll be profiled, and have more trouble with the local and state police agencies.

I just saw an ad for this candidate’s competitor. I find the competitor ad more compelling. It’s an ad about the competitor’s positions on some key issues, such as education, environmental protection, and health insurance. Ok, I like the advertisement.

But I like the first candidate better, overall, and gave money to his campaign.

What a conundrum. I really hate this weird trend we are on in American discussions, where security and “bad guys” and “support our troops/cops/whatever” are the only memes that matter for election. The Bush agenda – kill ‘em all, let God sort ‘em out – combined with incredible rhetoric (“war on terror” anyone? Feel safer?) has pushed aside issues that really matter and has furthered our national obsession with fear.

Note that sentence: America’s national pastime is not baseball, it’s being afraid. In the matter of a few hundred years, we have gone from the open inviting nation described by de Tocqueville to a xenophobic nation full of hate and fear, ready to bomb in 5 minutes, regardless of whether we are right or not.

Wow, is it Iran now? Yikes.

Back to California politics. “My” candidate must be reading from the campaign book of Democrats-post-Dukakis – show that you are tough on crime! But, you know what, I think that arresting more drug users will do little to change crime, whereas drug treatment, and education in general, can do a lot to improve society as a whole. Can’t we talk about education instead of (only) talking about police endorsements? Seems backwards to me.

I wonder if I should donate money to the other guy too? To counteract, if you will, the money that I donated by mistake to a republican-also-ran-law-and-order campaign?

The guy I donated to, by the way, has a great perspective on family, the importance of infrastructure, and education. That’s why I liked him. But his ads stink, and I'm bummed about it.

I have donated money to this guy in several different ways. And I have never gotten a thank you from his campaign – not even a cheesy printed post card, like the one I got when I wrote to Bill Clinton when he was President. I do, however, get more requests for money every day. Seems a bit backward.

Again, my view on the world is that if someone gives something to you, you should say thank you. Now I don’t think I'm that important – I'm not. But surely it’s worth showing our values by sending a postcard, at least once in a while? Clearly, postage isn’t a problem for the campaign, because they ask me for funding every other hour – all they have to do is print a “written” note that says “Thanks for your ongoing support!” Seems polite.

OK, continuing on in my semi-political rant, the Director of Central Intelligence resigned this morning. For the record, there is no “Director of the CIA”, despite what CNN said, the DCI also runs the CIA. There are several “Deputy Directors of Central Intelligence for {foo}” positions. Career types, those are, not appointees. I assume they are appointed, although I don’t know that, but they tend to be CIA lifers. Before the last reorganization of the national intelligence services, the DCI was titular head of all US intelligence, including military assets (like the Defense Intelligence Agency, which has more spies and more money than the CIA). However, nobody cared about that, since the DCI couldn’t really do anything to the military spooks. So the position was, effectively, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. It all comes together in the end, and labels are sometimes misleading.

Anyway, when the guy resigned this morning, he issued a world-beating press release. His release included a clause that said “I'd like to report that [we are safer]…”

Ok, what’s stopping you from saying that?

Oh, you meant to say “I'm happy to report…” – saying “I'd like to report” is either saying “I wish I could, but I can’t” or a semi-senseless comment about one’s personal hopes (“I hope to say X in Y months”). The first is silly, the second requires a forward-looking statement (and the word “hope” is usually used there).

All in all, the guy who “ran” our national intelligence service doesn’t know grammar.

How much does that scare you?

Perhaps our strategerie has taken over the entire US government. Perhaps we will soon learn about “whole new tacts” we are taking on issues (instead of “tacks”, a grammar error on a sailing references), or “new explosions of track houses” (instead of “tract” houses built on development tracts, we apparently have homes on railroad thoroughfares?). And perhaps it all ends with a spate of drive by fruitings, thank you Robin Williams.

No wonder we are constantly at war, we can’t even speak our own language.

By the way, the grammar on protest signs is truly appalling. Look at the pictures from the nationalist front out today to protest illegal immigration. And notice how few of the folks protesting work in truly low wage jobs (how many protesters did their turn on the migrant farm worker rolls?) (Which is not “roles”, although there are “roles” that migrant farm workers play, if you are counting them, you are putting them on “rolls”, which may lead to butter on their pants…)

My family came over on the Mayflower. Technically, we were illegal too. Thanks folks for letting my forefathers in, and letting them have jobs, and building an educational system that didn’t require them to go back to their “homeland” to get education, and a healthcare system that kept them alive, and churches where priests and pastors could tend to them, and generally not having self-styled militia, calling themselves “Minute Men” shoot at them. (By the way, the analogy breaks down. A “minute man” wrote into a magazine talking about his “tour of duty” on the border. The definition of “minute man” was a militia member, who was at home, but ready to arm and fight at a minutes notice. No concept of tours of duty. Anyway, I suspect the history lesson is beyond them. So ignore that last.)

Sometimes I get so frustrated by the state of political discourse here that I want to scream. No wonder the best candidates seem to opt out. How do we get people to think that it’s worth serving one’s fellow man if the best we can do is sound bites, mud-slinging, and bad grammar on signs?

There are ads attached the hubcaps of many taxis these days. Perhaps they will soo advertise for the next nuclear war.

If so, I'll try to let you share my fallout shelter. It’s really cool. It’s under the stairs. It’s dark, but I have candles. You can hold one. See you there.