Sunday, January 30, 2005

Poland and the Grand Coalition

The Statesman's Yearbook of 2005 is the leading report on the most current ross Domestic Product (GDP) for each individual country. The GDP, as I understand it, is the average amount an individual grosses within a given country per year. I'm not an economist, truth be told economics is not my strong suit, but I can comprehend the capability of a nation or an individual based on how much money they gross.

Case in point-- Poland. According to the Yearbook, Poland has a GDP of $9,450...35th in the order of nations. Poland is not one of the 20 most prosperous nations, but among the 20 most prosperous nations you will find France, Germany, and Spain-- our former European allies. So my question is this: Based on GDP, what makes Poland capable of being a strong ally in the "coalition of the willing"?

According to the CIA World Factbook, approximately 18% of Poland's population lives below the poverty line, the unemployment rate is 18%, the external debt is $79.7 billion (as of 2003), and Poland receives economic aid from the European Union. The Polish government has been seeking a policy of economic liberalization, but has met bureaucratic obstacles and a great deal of corruption that has slowed the process.

When the "coalition of the willing" was named by the State Dept. in regard to U.S. action against Iraq, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said that his hope was that the willing nations would "all be able to do everything that is possible within their means to support the coalition militarily, diplomatically, politically, and economically."

I have nothing personally against Poland, the government or the people, but what possibly can Poland contribute to the War in Iraq? An ally is an ally...Yes, but shouldn't we consider the cost to our allies before requesting their unyielding support? Poland had originally committed 200 soldiers to the war, a much appreciated number I am sure, but couldn't those 200 men and women have been put to good use in their own country stabilizing the economy or assisting the masses of uneducated, poor, and poverty-stricken? The position of Poland in the coalition has a long history. Understandably, they have a strong position against dictatorship--especially oppressive dictatorships. After all they lost in WWII, I understand why they would feel inclined to assist in overthrowing an oppressive regime, but shouldn't they be assisting in the survival of their own people first and foremost?

My concern with Poland could easily be directed toward several of the original 30 countries of the coalition-- I know for a fact that several of those countries cannot feed their own people. How are we, the greatest and most prosperous nation in the world, asking for their assistance?

In October Poland announced that it will withdraw its troops from Iraq by the end of 2005. Of course there is no telling how long an occupation of troops will be needed in Iraq. Poland now has nearly 2,500 troops in Iraq and with their departure will leave South Korea as the 3rd largest -contributor of troops. South Korea!?! The massive problems involved with this coalition don't solely ride on Poland as you can see, but Poland is certainly a prime example of how weak the coalition may be.

Why now? I chose to wait till after November's presidential election to comment on the coalition so no one could "accuse" me of riding the wave of Kerry ideas and misconceptions and I figured that today, Iraqi election day, is an important day to remind us all of the seriousness and sacrifice in Iraq.

As of October 4, 2004, 80% of the Polish population objected to Poland's troop involvement in Iraq and as of today 17 Polish soldiers have been killed.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Morgan and The Movies

With the Iraq elections tomorrow and the State of the Union address coming on Wednesday, I'm stepping out of my political shoes for the day to make some comments on movies before I have to jump head first into what I assume will be a very political week.

First, Million Dollar Baby-- To be honest with you, it was not what I was expecting. There is a point in the movie where Hillary Swank gets her nose broken--had I thrown up then and left, I would have felt better about the movie as a whole than I did when the movie was over and done. It amazes me that you can put together an allstar cast like that and end up with a mediocre movie. This is Morgan Freeman, Clint Eastwood, and Hillary Swank...all Oscar winners (and all nominees this year), yet the movie is not Oscar worthy. I'm not sure it's worthy of even the nomination-- certainly not for best picture. I will say that Swank's performance is amazing... other than 90210 and The Next Karate Kid, I've not seen her in a role that was anything less than impressive. She becomes Maggie, but that script didn't leave her with a whole lot of elbow room. Morgan wasn't even that great!! Okay, so he wasn't bad and he was the narrator which meant I could hear that voice that ranks up there with the vocals of Jeremy Irons and James Earl Jones, but his performance wasn't too strong or reaching. He wasn't up to the magnitude of Driving Miss Daisy, Unforgiven, or even Outbreak! Eastwood may be the only strength Baby has to offer. The man has passion. Directing, composing, and acting...he's good. But when you leave a movie you should feel some sort of resolution, some sort of finality-- I missed it. (Not to mention the fact that you never know why exactly it's even called Million Dollar Baby.)

Next, I was looking around on Uncle Orson's site again and found this list he made of his all-time favorite movies, so I was inspired just to mention a small collection of my own favorite movies. Mostly in order, but past #1 I guess they are interchangeable:

1. Gone With the Wind-- Margaret Mitchell's book is crap, but the movie is one of the finest Civil War depictions I've seen. Not necessarily a depiction of the war itself (there aren't graphic battle scenes), but a representation of the lives of those not out fighting, those on the homefront trying to survive.

2. Citizen Kane-- This is one of the purest character searches for contentment and overall happiness. Making #1 on AFI's 100 Greatest American Movies list speaks for itself. This film is certainly Orson Welles' best and one that everyone should feel obligated to see.

3. Schindler's List-- I have an extremely hard time watching Holocaust movies. I love history and I love learning, but Holocaust movies are of the hardest type to watch. I hadn't seen this film until a few months ago and am now on a campaign to inform everyone of its importance and significance even now 40 years after the liberation of the camps. I feel it is our duty to humanity to see this film, even in edited form.

4.Casablanca-- It takes a pretty great movie to be quoted word for word in a Diet Coke commercial. As you can see, I'm a sucker for historically based movies and I am an even bigger sucker for Humphrey Bogart! The story is incredible, the history leaves you mesmerized, and of course the tragedies of love and war are so relevant even today. This is a great WWII film that I pull out and watch at least every few months.

5. The Manchurian Candidate-- Not the new one with Denzel and Meryl, though I'm sure it is grand, haven't seen it, but the old one with Frank Sinatra and Janet Leigh. This one is a rare political thriller for those of us quite intrigued by the political process and is an insight into how the Domino Theory and the Red Scare became so wide-spread in the late 50s/ early 60s. (If this one is too much for you I would recommend Mr. Smith Goes to Washington with Jimmy Stewart.)

Okay I'll be shorter than Orson and leave it at five, but I'd also like to mention The Godfather (I'm don't generally like shoot 'em up movies, mob movies or westerns, but this one I can sit through), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Rain Man, It Happened One Night, and Jimmy Stewart in It's A Wonderful Life. And... if you've watched a disappointing flick at the theater or chose a poor rental, let me assure you if you need quality entertainment find a good Cary Grant film-- North By Northwest, An Affair to Remember, Destination Tokyo, and Operation Petticoat are my favorites!

...And back to politics I go.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

New Addition

I was rearranging the section where I put all the books I am currently reading and the books that I have recently read and thought that I'd make one quick little addition-- a section with links to the CDs that are currently in my CD player. Just thought it would be an interesting perspective into what I'm listening to for the week and a reminder to me that I can change the CDs weekly and I don't always have to listen to Cat Stevens, James Taylor, and the wonderful Ray Charles...okay so we can already see that Ray is in my CD player this week--you can most likely count on one of his CDs being in there always!

A more intellectual and political post later...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

One Giant Run-On

Next to my computer sits a stack of "post-worthy" material. It is constructed of numerous print-outs on current events, a fine essay on Rosa Parks, Social Security information from the ISJ and Time Magazine, and a good sized accumulation of c.r.a.p. (conspiracies, rants, abstractions, and Poland). The majority of it has been justified useless by the rest of the world, but I, in my stubbornness, refuse to let it go. Everyday it accumulates and I somehow go to bed having not written a single thing about any of it! So here's a couple:

Rumsfeld, Iraq, and Molly Ivins

My beef with Donald Rumsfeld has a lengthy the same way that most liberals were so taken by the moderate conservative John McCain, I was taken by Rumsfeld. Just ask my high school buddies, I was frequently reviewing the order of succession on the off chance that a national crisis would emerge and my good friend Rummy would attain the presidency...okay, so maybe his smile got me. Then it all came crashing down--

Rummy distorted prewar intelligence in regard to WMDs, cut down troop levels that the Army chiefs recommended, he completely blew the State Department's plans for occupation, quite frankly alienated our allies who we could really use right now, oh, and let us not forget the prison scandal. Don't get me started on the fact that it is costing $8 million an hour to fund the war in Iraq... A lot of these mistakes you could possibly blame on the entire administration, but he was the man who said "you go to war with the army you have, not the army you want."

Molly Ivins, of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, appears in our local paper I think every Saturday...well she and I have been battling this one together. Rumsfeld aside, the problems in Iraq are vast. Not only is the defense secretary making mistakes, bombings occur daily, assassinations have taken place, and yet for some unknown reason we're convinced that the Iraqi elections will go ahead as scheduled. You've got to be kidding me! I'll quit for now on this and will just wait it out to see if the elections become a monumental crisis or another strange victory for the Bush the Ivins article.

Oscar Nominations

Okay, so this one hadn't even made it to the stack yet, but I of course have to comment. If you've some how been under a rock and have missed all of my gallant attempts to make everyone love Ray Charles as much as I do, you would have missed one of the greatest movies of the year--Ray. Jamie Foxx gives the performance of a lifetime...his and mine. I've never seen anyone play a real person as accurately as he plays Ray. Ray is nominated for best picture and Foxx is nominated for best actor.

Though Ray is in my opinion the best picture and Foxx is the best actor there is some tough competition. There are two people in Hollywood, that when thrown in, shake it up a bit-- Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep. Well, much to Meryl's dismay she was not nominated, but Clint is...twice. Clint is nominated for best director and best actor. At the Golden Globes he was nominated for those as well as best composer. The man is gifted. He has long passed his Dirty Harry days and is one of the most brilliant men in Hollywood. Performance wise, I've not seen Million Dollar Baby yet, as it hasn't graced out presence in Pocatello, but I highly doubt his performance could be comparable to Foxx's performance. Also in the category are Johnny Depp, Don Cheadle, and Leonardo DiCaprio.

DiCaprio brings me to my next point...Titanic was snubbed. DiCaprio has been snubbed at the Oscars several times as has Kate Winslet. Both are up for Oscars this time around and if the Academy knows what's best for them they would highly consider the history. Also a several time "snubbee" is Martin Scorsese. He is also an unbelievable talent and due for an Oscar.

One more mention and then I will give you my predictions. Morgan Freeman has graced us this time around as well. I feel nearly as strongly about Morgan as I do about Ray Charles. Though in different mediums, they are pure talent. Enough said.

Here are my hopes, followed by who I think will actually win:
Best Picture: Ray, The Aviator
Best Actor: Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio
Best Actress: Hilary Swank, Annette Bening
Best Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman, Clive Owen
Best Supporting Actress:Virginia Madsen, Natalie Portman
Best Director: Clint Eastwood,Martin Scorsese

And of course there will be the horrible "moment of passing" as they play that tribute to the stars of yesterday. This year should be quite interesting-- since the last Oscar ceremony we have buried a former president, a music genius, Superman, and Johnny Carson. That is all...until another day.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

"The Consequential Times in Which We Live"

Contemplating my disappointment with this last November's election, yet publicly condoning the actions of two fellow Democrats, Barbara Boxer and John Kerry in regard to the confirmation of Condie Rice, I thought seriously about skipping this year's inauguration, but as always, somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered my duty to history.

It is our duty to history to absorb the moments in which we live, hoping to one day share them with future generations. Our duty to history and to our country is to actively take part in the political process. So... for a poor college kid in Idaho, this morning I did my best-- I watched on CSPAN the 2nd inauguration of our 43rd president, George W. Bush.

These are "consequential time," as President Bush stated. We live in a time of war-- a foreign war in Iraq and a domestic war on our home soil against the perils of terrorism. We live in a time with an ailing Supreme Court justice and an ailing former president. We live in a time of political division amongst ourselves and amidst our Congress. Indeed, these are "consequential times in which we live."

Let me highlight a few moments and then I will comment briefly on the address itself. If you would like to read the transcript it is available here. (For other commentary I would suggest checking out NDN.) It was interesting to see the attempt at bipartisanship. Though they may have gone a bit too far sending Clarence Thomas and Ted Kennedy in to the luncheon together. It was the entrances and exits that I found so interesting. The entrance of the former presidents and their wives, Jimmy and Rosilyn Carter, George and Barbara Bush, and Bill and Hillary Clinton, was quite refreshing and often reminiscent of former times--times of peace, times of war, and times of scandal. The entrance of an undefeated and poised Condie Rice was one that certainly deserved a standing ovation and the entrance of soon-to-be departing Colin Powell was one of the several moments where thoughts of 2008 escalated. (Other moments of 2008 speculation included the entrances of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton, and inevitably John Kerry.)

It is always interesting to see the vast diversity of those sitting near the platform and interesting to see where the camera is attracted. Near George H.W. Bush sat Colin Powell, behind the Bush daughters sat Trent Lott, and the camera was somehow drawn to the utterly washed up politicians. I expected to see Michael Dukakis or Tom Daschle at any moment...

But the most important moment of the day and one that I felt most inclined to watch was the entrance of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Rehnquist has in the last six or so months been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, undergone surgery, and most recently has been receiving chemotherapy. It is amazing what wise men will do for the sake of history. His entrance reflected an old man, visibly sick and strained with a cane, but his words reflected that of a man indebted to his country and ever knowledgeable of the presence of history being made. His entrance left me teary-eyed. This, I assume, was our last opportunity to view Rehnquist administer the oath of office to a president. Of the justices on the bench, despite his highly conservative nature, Rehnquist has been my favorite since the day I knew what the Supreme Court was.

With the inauguration came great speculation about the confirmation hearings of the cabinet members, the 2008 election, and the nearing changes of the judicial branch. I am amazed at the time in which we live. No generation since Vietnam has faced the controversy and no generation since FDR has had the opportunity to influence such great change. It was truly a historic day in Washington today and despite my liberal reservations, Bush did a fine job. I will leave you with one quote:

"America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength--tested, but not weary--we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom."

I look forward to The State of the Union...

Monday, January 17, 2005

To Harness an Inner Power

There are so many battles I could fight tonight...from inhuman insurance companies who seek only to make an extra dime off of the penny-less, to a song I heard today saying "thank God for the teachers of our children, so the garden can grow," but instead of fighting I will civilly comment on the day and a conversation I overheard as I was wandering through Albertsons this evening.

It's Martin Luther King Day, often a day we spend arguing over who has to go to school, who gets to stay home, who has to work, or whether or not its a federal holiday. Or as some self-absorbed and ignorant man stated today, "It's nothing--just another day. The Civil Rights Movement is over." No! Excuse me for a moment, but I need to get on my soapbox...

Yes, I realize that it has been many years from the day of marches and "I Have a Dream," but this country has not progressed beyond addressing racism in all forms. As a society we would like to say we have made great progress since the days of Jim Crow segregation, the marches, and Brown v. the Board of Education, but in all reality, our progression is slow going when individual racism in this country is still very strong and visible.

If Dr. King taught us nothing else, I hope he taught each of us that we have an individual power inside of us that can lead us and lead many through great conflict and into great triumph. The Civil Rights Movement is over, but the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement need remembering today. We must remember that violence is not the answer when seeking great change. We must remember that each individual has the power within to accomplish great change. The movement is over, the lessons are certainly not. The movement reminds us that to harness an inner power for the good of humanity is progress, accomplishment, and the true goal of living.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed on a hotel balcony April 4th, 1968 in Memphis by a young white man so engulfed in his own racism and hate that he couldn't possibly understand the notion that all mankind, men and women, black and white, rich and poor, have that inner power to accomplish positive change. King once said that "a man who won't die for something is not fit to live." He died for the dream, the dream did not die with him. I hope we've learned that because James Earl Ray could not.

Do not tell me it is just another day.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

A Summary: The Democratic Platform

There is a belief that in order to have a strong political party there must be strong, informed, and active participation. Informed participation consists on many levels, but the most essential to a strong political party is each individual member’s familiarity with that party’s platform. Having read various platforms composed at various times throughout this party’s history, I have chosen to base these comments on the 2004 Democratic National Platform for America as approved by the 2004 Democratic National Convention. The Democratic Party believes:

In regard to defeating terrorism -- intelligence must be improved to find and stop terrorists, terrorist funds must be cut off, Afghanistan and other nations must be prevented from becoming havens for terrorists, and public diplomacy must be increased to promote understanding and prevent terrorist recruitment.

In regard to keeping WMDs out of the hands of terrorists -- America must be protected from attack at all costs, existing nuclear weapons must be locked away, the creation of new nuclear material for nuclear weapons must be stopped, and international efforts to shut down nuclear efforts in North Korea, Iran, and elsewhere must be led by America.

In regard to promoting democracy, peace, and security – peace in Iraq must be won, all possible resources must be used to fight the AIDS/HIV epidemic in Africa, strong alliances must be rebuilt with our neighbors across the Atlantic in the European Union, NATO must remain strong, a Community of the Americas must be established with our regional neighbors, Israel must be secure and protected, full implementation of the Belfast Agreement in N. Ireland must be achieved, vulnerable stockpiles of nuclear material must be secured in Russia, global health challenges must be addressed, American economic power must be used to extend security and prosperity around the world, and America’s foreign affairs community must be supported so that they may promote our values around the world.

In regard to the economy – manufacturing must be reinvigorated, tax reform must be attained to create jobs, free and fair trade must be in place, our transportation system must be enhanced, small businesses must be promoted, fiscal relief must exist in a time of economic downturn, free markets and honest competition must be apparent, and workers require protection and education.

In regard to health care – the children’s health program created under President Clinton must be expanded, Medicare must be protected and prescription costs must be cut to aid the growing number of seniors in this country, science and technology require our heavy investment so that they may appropriately combat disease, and veterans must be honored.

In regard to education – high achievement must be secured for every child in America by offering high quality learning environments and opportunities, great teachers, acceptable schools, appropriate funding for No Child Left Behind, and affordable avenues for higher education.

In regard to the environment – we seek clean air, clean water, and healthier communities through the protection of public lands and an international leadership to protect the global environment.

The Democratic Party commits to honoring the equality established in Brown v. the Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by ensuring equal opportunity for all to reach full potential. The Democratic Party seeks to defend the dignity of Americans and stands proudly for the woman’s right to choose. The Democratic Party stands firmly against hate crimes and strongly supports a national law to punish such crimes. “We support full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of our nation and seek equal responsibilities, benefits, and protections for their families.” The Democratic Party honors the tradition of equal justice under the law, encourages democracy, supports full self-government for the people of Guam, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands, honors the sovereignty of American Indians, and honors the “central place of faith in the lives of our people.”

This is obviously merely a summary of the Democratic Party’s strongest beliefs as addressed in the platform. A complete version of the platform is available here or can be found at

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Red and Blue State Phenomenon

A friend of mine recently read an article from The Christian Science Monitor about the polarization of the electorate and asked me about the origin of red and blue states-- not knowing for myself the reasoning behind the red and blue state phenomenon, I've done a little research. What we've come to acknowledge as red states, or conservative states, haven't always been red, but in fact were at one time blue, or liberal, states. No wonder we're all confused!! Here's what I've found:

A Timeline

1870-- Blue: Democrats
Red: Republicans
1888-- Blue: Republicans
Red: Democrats
1888-1980-- Flip-flopping
1984-- Blue: Republicans
Red: Democrats
2000-now-- Blue: Democrats
Red: Republicans

A History

In the 1870's a color-coding system was developed to help illiterate and Spanish speaking voters navigate English language ballots in southern Texas. For no rhyme or reason, Democratic leaders chose blue as their representative color and Republicans chose red. (Texas State Historical Association's Handbook of Texas History Online)

In 1888, though defeated in his bid for re-election, Grover Cleveland used blue and red to color the electorate map of the United States-- Blue for Republican (the color he perceived to represent the Union and "Lincoln's Party" or the Republican Party) and red for Democrat. His successor, Benjamin Harrison, used the same color-coding system.

After nearly a century of flip-flopping, the colors of liberalism and conservatism were re-established in the presidential election of 1984. After a landslide victory, all of the states won by Republican Ronald Reagan were colored blue and announced to be "Lake Reagan."

The presidential election of 2000 brought red and blue states into focus yet again. The U.S. map was brightly colored with red and blue states--red for Republican won electoral votes and blue for Democratic won electoral votes. So was the case with the presidential election of 2004 between Kerry and Bush.

Purple, Green, and Yellow

Despite all that I've learned I see no reason for this effort to color the states. Maybe someone is missing kindergarten and felt like coloring hundreds of maps...I just don't know. As the article asserts, I believe that our country isn't actually as polarized as the phenomenon would have you believe. We are all essentially a shade of purple (unfortunately, we are colored by a state's majority vote and for those of us in dominantly red states, we don't even appear as a blue dot on the map). Also, in case anyone was wondering, if by some slim chance you saw yellow or green states this election cycle you were seeing green for yes, you guessed it, the Green Party, and yellow for the Libertarian Party. I'm assuming if you by any chance saw this you must have been looking at a county seat map in Vermont. Vermont... now there's an interesting phenomenon!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Rosemary Kennedy Dies at 86

Having been out of town over the weekend and wrapped up in watching season three of The West Wing, I hadn't heard that Rosemary Kennedy died. I had planned to post today on the 5-4 vote in the Supreme Court pertaining to federal judges, but when TIME arrived in my mailbox this afternoon I felt obligated to comment on the life of Rosemary Kennedy.

Rosemary, the daughter of Joseph and Rose Kennedy, was born Sept. 13, 1918, in Boston, Massachusetts. She was born one year after John F. Kennedy and was the first daughter in the family. Rosemary was born with moderate mental retardation. At the age of 23, Rosemary was given a lobotomy (an effort to prevent scandal for the Kennedy family, if that was even possible) and was institutionalized shortly there after.

Rosemary died with brother Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and her sisters by her side. Of the Kennedy children Rosemary may have left the strongest positive legacy. An organization for the opportunity of mentally retarded children and adults, Special Olympics, was founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in Rosemary's honor.

It is ironic that the child that lost the most in effort to prevent scandal for the notorious Kennedy family was actually the child that created the least scandal for the family. As interested as I am in the Kennedy family and as connected as I feel with President Kennedy, it was Rosemary that may have touched my own life the most. I have, in some capacity, been involved with Special Olympics since I was 12, knowing all along that it was the Kennedy family that created such an amazing organization.

"Rosemary was a lifelong jewel to every member of our family," the statement released by Sen. Kennedy's office on behalf of the Kennedy family said. "From her earliest years, her mental retardation was a continuing inspiration to each of us and a powerful source of our family's commitment to do all we can to help all persons with disabilities live full and productive lives."

An inspiration to all--
Rosemary Kennedy
9/13/18 - 1/7/05

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Banned Books

For several days I've been having this argument about moral and immoral books and for several days I've let it slide, but with the new controversy over Jon Stewart and The Daily Show's new book, the fire has been refueled. It all started when I mentioned J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, it happens to be one of my all-time favorite books, but of course came the argument that it is 'immoral' and should have been (and someone believes should still be) banned.

Banned! We're not talking just taken off of the shelf at Wal-Mart, we're talking serious censorship. What is an immoral book? And should every immoral book be banned? I guess it all falls in the definition of what is and what isn't immoral. I'm not stooping to the low of defining immorality from my perspective, but whatever immorality is to these folks who are dead-set on banning books let me enlighten you. Some of the greatest books ever written were at one time banned. James Joyce's Ulysses was not only banned, but in 1922 hundreds of copies were burned by the U.S Post Office. James Joyce--one of the greatest writers in the world and his most famous work was banned.

Joyce is only one of many writers who met harsh censorship. Mark Twain, a great American story-teller faced censorship with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Nathaniel Hawthorne and The Scarlet Letter, Steinbeck's classic Of Mice and Men, and the list goes on. Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary, and Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

I have had only two personal experiences with banned books--one when I was in elementary school and a mother had the Goosebumps series banned from the school library and another when I was a junior in high school. An Honors English class that more or less revolted against the teacher (with help from their parents) because she assigned A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner. I read A Rose for Emily without my classmates that year and occasionally I pull it out and read it because it is one of the greatest short stories available to us. It is essential to studying English and is the best of William Faulkner.

I agree with Oscar Wilde --- "There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all." My three favorite books, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, and The Catcher in the Rye, have all at one time since their first publication been banned. I'm certainly standing ground with Holden Caulfield and if anyone feels that my position on these so-called "immoral books" is in need of censorship, let me direct you to My Life by Bill Clinton, a national best-seller, and then feel free to ban my website from your political tastes!

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

A Rant on Tinseltown

I promised to steer myself away from the legislature, and I will, but for the record I got up at 7am yesterday, 4 hours earlier than I would have on any other day, so that I could watch the tribute to Rep. Matsui (D-CA) that didn't happen until 5pm last night. Arrrrgh!

Back to the point at hand-- Tinseltown. I tend to stay clear of commenting on the politics and chaos of Hollywood, but having watched now almost two seasons straight (in less than a week) of The West Wing, I've become quite displeased with the big wigs of Tinseltown. First and foremost the continuous "shuffle" of actors/actresses through the television industry bothers me (I will elaborate) and the choice of films that come to local theaters aggravates me.

The lesser of the two frustrations is the film choice. I realize Pocatello is not New York City, but tell me why Spongebob has been here since the opening day, but Ray was here for only a week. Okay, I got in two viewings of Ray in that week, but the point is cultural films like Ray and Hotel Rwanda stay for a week at most. And Spongebob, The Grudge, and the Christmas movies have stayed for months. Come on!

Now onto the "shuffle." I realize people need work. Television actors are no different, but I, with my short attention span, have a very difficult time believing characters when the actors portraying them have been five other characters on previous shows. Ex. Jimmy Smits-- I grew up with Smits as Bobby Simone. You can't have him running for president on The West Wing when he has forever been on NYPD Blue. Another prime example...Tom Selleck of the Magnum P.I. fame. He can't be Monica Geller's boyfriend on Friends. If you need more examples I could name Amy Brenneman, Jill Hennesey, Emily Procter. And don't get me started on the stars of the WB. If they were on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you can nearly bet they at some time also appeared on Dawson's Creek or Roswell.

Obviously I have a little trouble with the willing suspension of disbelief...I just can't follow new characters that I associate with old shows. Solution? None--this is, afterall, just a rant. They all need jobs in Tinseltown, but the average television viewer doesn't need the job of keeping it all straight!

Rant finished-- I'll move on to the Supreme Court soon. Did you see Rehnquist as he swore in Denny Hastert yesterday? He's not looking good...

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

A House Divided Will Not Stand

As I sit here watching the Quorum Call of the 109th Congressional Session on CSPAN I decided I have a few comments--imagine that! Realizing that my last post also dealt with the Legislative branch, I promise to some time soon address the declining health of Chief Justice Rehnquist and the future of the Supreme Court. And again, I am deliberating over a piece inspired by Molly Ivins about the War in Iraq that would certainly "show my liberal colors."

In the meantime, today marks the opening of the 109th session of Congress, as outlined by the 20th amendment to the Constitution. This shall prove to be a difficult and divided session of Congress. Though the times are difficult and the political division in this country is strong, determined, and unyielding to defeat, this could be a historic year for Congress.

Not only does this session of Congress open great opportunity for change, it will offer great opportunities for those more moderate in Congress. This is the time when those like Sen. McCain (R-Arizona) will shine and will have the great opportunity of finding compromise amongst Congressional members. If anything will downsize the political division in this country it will have to be compromise.

There are far too many new Representatives in the House to mention, but as I mentioned the retiring senators in my last post, I also would like to mention the 9 new senators who join Congress today: David Vitter (R-Louisiana), Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), Mel Martinez (R-Florida), Barack Obama (D-Illinois), Ken Salazar (D-Colorado), and last, but certainly not least John Thune (R-South Dakota) who unseated Minority Leader Tom Daschle.

I don't give out a whole lot of advice to my own party, I think the Republican critics can handle that all on their own, but let me say this--it will take more than a new DNC chairman, more than a new minority leader, and more than a strong candidate in 2008, for the Democratic party to get its feet back on the ground. It will be the issues, the votes, the platform. And above all else, the compromise.

TMac was never the problem with the party. Neither were Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Tom Daschle, or Howard Dean. The problem is not leadership. The Democratic party has some of the strongest leaders in the world as members. The problem is Democrats have forgotten what their party stands for. Read the platform. Watch the votes. The only way to have a strong party is to have strong understanding.

I will now get off my soap box and continue watching the nominations of Denny Hastert and Nancy Pelosi on CSPAN. Good day!

Sunday, January 2, 2005

Senate Departures

I, too, had aspirations of composing a "Year in Review," but thought better of it when I realized the Red Sox win, the presidential election, the death of Arafat, and the Olympics could very well take me months to comment on. (That and I've now discovered The West Wing which has taken over my life!) So instead, I've chosen to mention the 2004 departures in the U.S. Senate.

There are four retiring senators. From the right side of the isle depart Don Nickles (R-Oklahoma) and Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colorado) and from the left side of the isle depart John Breaux (D-Louisiana) and Fritz Hollings (D-South Carolina).

I'm a CSPAN junkie if there is such a thing. I'll watch floor debates and roll calls for hours. Not to mention the weekend Book Notes and the various briefings. There is nothing that entertains me more...beside the late Strom Thurmond himself...than Fritz Hollings. One late night I watched Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia) and Fritz argue the merits of water rights for hours, only to conclude that they were on the same side, arguing for the sake of arguing. It was great! And one day a good friend of mine asked who my favorite senator is, not an entirely unusual question for me to be asked, and fully expecting my answer to be Ted Kennedy, I may have surprised him when I said Fritz--a fine liberal who is noticeably fiscally conservative.

Beside the numerous contributions Fritz Hollings has made in his 38 years of service in the Senate, his colleagues also retiring this year, have also made noticeable changes in the Senate. Campbell was nearly a martyr for the Native American plight. Still fighting the noble fight, often standing alone (and voting alone), Campbell will continue to support Native American rights following his retirement in his home state of Colorado. John Breaux, not necessarily one of my favorites in the Senate, but I suppose an admirable politician, spent a great deal of time and money on the latest Medicare bill. His strength coming from his more moderate platform. And Don interesting man to say the least. Certainly molded by the Reagan years and fiscally conservative to a fault, his departure may be the only one I am openly receiving.

Though I often wonder what influence 4 men, "pretty low on the totem pole," as Campbell puts it, have on American policies, laws, and culture, I haven't been disappointed by the efforts of these 4 men. They've seen many changes in the Senate in their time of service including shift of control and leadership to the rising role of women in Congress. They've weathered many storms and for the most part walked away victorious.

If I were a senator I'd hope to have the zeal of Strom Thurmond, the determination of Robert Byrd, the natural political ability of Ted Kennedy, and now I can add the bluntness of Fritz Hollings and the dedication of Ben Campbell.