Friday, July 25, 2008

Anarchy is Not the Same as Freedom

Some news from Vermont travels slowly to the United Kingdom, and it is only now- thanks to a LONG overdue trip to Green Mountain Daily- that I've read about the assault on Governor Jim Douglas at this year's 4th of July Parade in Barrie.

I've gone from having a lot of respect for Jim Douglas to disagreeing with most of his political agenda for the state of Vermont. I will be glad when the Democratic Party comes up with a viable candidate who can show the skill and savvy to retake the Governor's chair.

But this incident is, frankly, deplorable. It is, plain and simple, an assault.

More than that, it is a threat to one of the most precious things in our state: Vermont Democracy.

I've always been amazed at how accessible our Vermont public leaders are. If you want to talk to a U.S. Senator, Congressman, or a Governor on the street- it's pretty simple...you just walk up and say hello.

That's how Democracy SHOULD BE and Vermont seems to do it better than anywhere else. The only status a public servant has, or should have, is that they are Primus inter pares- First Among Equals- by virtue of the respect shown to them by those who choose them.

Failing to show respect for the office and the one who holds it is also a failure to show respect to the people who elected him.

In theory, even the President of the United States is nothing more than Primus inter pares- but security issues have long since removed his (or her) person from the comings and goings of day to day life.

So to, in the larger states...that kind of isolation (I suspect) breeds arrogance in the minds of leaders, and tends to generate a sense of overawe on the part of the public...this, of course, is NOT Democracy at work at all.

The sad part is that, in the United States as a whole, we have shown that we MUST accept some degree of separation between office holder and public...Booth, Guiteau, Czolgosz,and Oswald gave us that bitter gift.

Think how different a Bush Presidency might have been (or even ask the question, would there ever HAVE been a Bush Presidency?) if the office had not become so shrouded by the needs of security.

In Vermont, however, we are fortunate enough to have avoided this paradigm, so far.
But, in choosing to express, physically, that which could far better be expressed verbally- Matthew Manning, the Pie Thrower, has put our democracy at risk.

While there are some who seem to see him as a champion of freedom, I can't help but see him as a foe to democracy- some who wants to live in a world where you fight by throwing things rather than throwing words and ideas...

Democracy only works when we act like adults...a world in which things are thrown rather than ideas rapidly becomes a world in which everything is reduced, not to a question of right or wrong, but to a question of strong, or weak...

That is not Democracy, it is not even civilization- it is brutal, bloody jungle law- in which the only freedom enjoyed by those of us with average strength is the freedom to try and hide from predators. Not the world I would choose.

One Final Note:

Last but not least, it was politically stupid. Who winds up looking credible here: the Santa Claus clad Pie-Throwing maniac, pursued and thrown to the ground - or the Governor, who "calmly wiped the pie from his face" and kept marching in the parade...whom do you think most Vermonters cheered most?

All this action showed was that, no matter what you may think of his policies, Jim Douglas is, as a person, a class act- and that is part of the reason he keeps winning elections.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Future Was Then

Has America lost it's future? Sunday's Washington Post ran a great story on Disney's Tomorrowland. Originally inspired by Walt's fascination with the pristine corporate art deco view of the future seen at the 1939 World's Fair, Tommorrowland has changed with the times...

In the 50s and 60s, when the parks were planned and built, Americans seemed to have unbounded confidence in the Future and looked forward to living there. Danny Hills, a computer guru, and former Disney Imagineer, is quoted in the article:

"Basically there was a time in the 1950s and '60s that were very future-oriented. Everybody wanted to be an astronaut. 'The Jetsons,' 'Star Trek,' stuff like that. Everybody was imagining that future we were all going to live in. That's how I grew up as a kid."

But now, says Hills- you have to go to India or China to find widespread belief that the future will be better than the past.

Here in America, the articles from NPR on the economy (referenced in yesterday's post) paint a picture of an American people despairing for the future of their children.

It' makes you wonder....what is the future of a nation that has lost it's faith in the future? Must it be so?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

It's gonna be the Economy Stupid...

In difficulty, there is always opportunity. Following 9/11, several opportunities presented themselves to the United States. We could have used the tragedy to change our world-wide energy strategy- pioneering in developing new sources of energy and efficiency which would be the envy of the world. We could have followed up on early victories in Afghanistan to crush Osama Bin Ladin and his Taliban allies. But, of course, we did not.

Now, the United States is facing difficulties again. I've been listening to a series on NPR about economic impact in the US. I highly recommend it. People are hurting and they are frightened and those things are going to come into play in the next election.

The American People will be looking for their political representatives in Washington and State Governments to implement solutions. They will be right to do so.

They will want to see America's public treasury taken care of, not squandered. They will want to see our society find ways to embrace a growing global economy- WITHOUT surrendering our jobs and our livelihood. They will want to see our representatives close loopholes that allow our wealthy to skirt their duty to the society at large- to admit that even the self-made man cannot make money or acquire property without the help of others (workers, educators, policemen, firemen, etc.)

At the same time, I hope that the American people will not miss the opportunities that have been presented to them in the midst of their hardship. In the NPR series, for example, one woman complained that she had to think twice, no, three times before taking a car trip.

But that is precisely what we should be doing- in times of lean, and in times of plenty. We should be thinking- we should be acting responsibly. And we should be taking responsibility for ourselves and the world in which we live.

It is only be regaining self discipline, and by learning to distinguish what we "need" from what we "want" that America will find her way back to success.

Times are hard right now, but opportunity to change ourselves, gain strength and ... well, grow up...is also here.

I hope America will take her moment this time. If not, there are others who will take it from her.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Do you remember the year 1957? Neither do I. I've never really thought about 1957 as a year of it's own. If I think of it at all, I think of it as a part of the Fifties, or perhaps as a chunk of the second term of the Eisenhower Administration...but, in most cases, 1957 doesn't really stand out in my head for any reason whatsoever....it's simply part of a blur of history.

Although it was the year of Sputnik, and the '57 Chevy; it is not a seminal year, like, say 1776, 1492, 1789, 1929, or 1968. 1957 is simply a transitional year- a step on a journey from one place to another- and yet, it's almost because of this sense of ordinariness that I found the following Pathe Newsreel so interesting to watch. Because it reminds me that, no year, indeed, no moment in time is truly "ordinary"- each moment is unique and perhaps worthy of note from time to time.

I stumbled across it completely at random- and found myself caught up in the details of a year that was lived, just as all others have been: A Dog in space, A prince in school, rebellions, riots, ticker tape parades, races, games, bomb tests...little of which the world has noted, nor long remembered, and yet each event is an integral piece of the edifice of history.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Our Man in Eurasia

Friend, email correspondent, voice talent, and Liberal conduit to the right-wing email sewer system, Ken W, is blogging about his "fact finding trip" to Europe and Turkey. Seems like Ken is looking into the question that is plaguing politics at all levels all around the world, from the New Yorker to Iraq and beyond.... why can't we just get along?

Check it out.


A Message America Needs to Hear

I just took a few moments to listen to Barack Obama's speech to the NAACP. Again, I am struck by his words...and his calls for, not just responsibility on the part of Big Business, or Government, but on the parts of ordinary AMERICANS.

So yes, we have to demand more responsibility from Washington. And yes we have to demand more responsibility from Wall Street. But we also have to demand more from ourselves. Now, I know some say I’ve been too tough on folks about this responsibility stuff. But I’m not going to stop talking about it. Because I believe that in the end, it doesn’t matter how much money we invest in our communities, or how many 10-point plans we propose, or how many government programs we launch – none of it will make any difference if we don’t seize more responsibility in our own lives.

Obama is right: as Americans we must begin to behave like Adults who are in charge of their own fates, rather than looking at the world as if we were tiny often abused children- played as pawns by mighty powers beyond our control.

The entire speech is here

Monday, July 14, 2008

When You Say Bud...

Okay, I have to admit that I was one of the last kids on my block to become a beer snob, but it did, eventually, happen. As I grew older, my taste shifted from mainstream American Beers to Imported Canadian Lager to my home State of Vermont's smaller local micro-brews. Here in England- I've been moving further and further away from the main stream of American Beer production as I've found myself acquiring the taste for "the local ale"...yes, I even like it warm.

Still, the news that came this morning that All American Anheuser Busch, brewers of the Famous Budweiser Beer, would be falling under the domination of Europe's giant "InBev" came as a bit of blow to my American pride. (And, let's just stop for the moment and consider the irony of an American Icon with the thick, ethnic spelling: "Anheuser Busch" falling prey to European conglomerate with the soulless, faceless name: "InBev"- doesn't that just turn stereotypes on their heads?)

Budweiser is, after all, more than just a beer. As the AP article points out:

Few products are associated with America as much as Budweiser. Its Clydesdale horses are fixtures of Super Bowl ads, and even the label is red, white and blue, with an eagle swooping through the "A."

But Bud is more than a nation icon, it's a personal one as well. As a kid, I was fascinated by my Dad's ability to recite the logo on the Bud label (a sure fire bar bet winner.) I have to admit that I still love to hum the bud theme songs...and, on the evening of 9-11, when I really needed a drink and a moment to take in the enormity of what had happened...a Budweiser just seemed to be the only appropriate choice to make.

Take Care Bud, never thought I'd miss ya, but I will.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Fairwell Jessie Helms: Make Sure You use PLENTY of Nails on the box

This may sound bitter- I can't help it.

About, oh gosh, it must have been almost twenty years ago now, I caught a comedian on cable. I can't remember his name, but I've never forgotten one part of his shtick and I've been chuckling over it ever since...

I paraphrase...

"You ever see on the news when they say: So-and-So died an untimely death today?

"What the heck does that mean....an UN timely death....I'm asking you: what kind of DEATH is TIMELY, that's what I want to know. That's such a dumb thing to say, an "untimely death"....

"You wanna know what I wanna hear? Here's the news I wanna hear: " 'Jessie Helms died today and it's about goddamn time.' "

(Thunderous applause)

I've been waiting almost twenty years for that news report...but today it finally came, and it's about goddamn time.

Reader Sidurri commented that he thought the comedian George Wallace made the joke...
He certainly sounds like a great candidate....here's a link to a link to a interview with him on NPR around about the time at 2004 election...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Meerkats and a Glider

Last Saturday, Bobbi and I visited the Whipsnade Zoo....if you ever have a chance- you should go. For some reason, Bobbi and I both enjoy zoos, but this is, by far, the best one I've ever been too. The animals are all in large paddocks or enclosures, and yet, for all the variety in their paddocks, they are still easy to be seen.

We visited on a beautiful day, and there must be a Glider School somewhere near by, for, as we roamed the park, gliders soared overhead for most of the day.

The meerkats, of course, kept a close eye on them- wondering, perhaps: "Hawk? Or Not-Hawk?"