Thursday, January 11, 2007

Iraqi track record doesn't suggest change

Thank God for Fox Sports Net. The Dallas Mavericks saved me from being bored to tears.

My late father said a person was judged by his or her track record - what you did in the past gave evidence to what you will do in the future. It was difficult, he said, to change stripes and attitudes. Behavior is too often consistent.

So what gives any American the impression that the weak-kneed Maliki government, which President Bush has trumpeted like he was Louis Armstrong, will change and do something substantive to bring civility, peace and end violence in Iraq.

All Bush has done in reality was the one thing he swore he wouldn't do - give the enemy a target and a timetable. Instead of our stating when our military involvement will conclude, that date will be established by the Sunni and Shia insurgents. It will be when there is enough violence to drive Maliki OUT of office.

In a land when patience is not only a virtue, it is a tradition, these people have enough than enough "track history" to tell us that they will wait it out. Hell, they've waited centuries to settle old scores - what's a few months or a year to them?

For brute force to be taken seriously, it must be as brutish as possible and no one, including Mr. Bush, has the stomach for that. Only the most callous of neocons (and irrational talk show radio hosts). We'd have to flatten half the country, including (perhaps) Baghdad to drive home the point that we are SERIOUS about ending all violence.

Either way, we've lost all standing in the region, so, in that sense, we've been defeated. We believe we were bringing clarity and charity and all we got for it was sand in our faces and far too many dead Americans.

By the way, where is the "surge" in troops from the British? Why is this ALL American and ONLY American? Why are WE the only ones in the "coalition of the willing" WILLING to do it?

Like the song, we should know when to "hold 'em," and when to "fold 'em." But (oops, more pop music quotations), no amount of "wishin' and hopin', thinkin' and prayin', planning and scheming" will make it so.

Seal the borders to Iran and Syria; close the door and let the Iraqis fight it out. When the dust is cleared, then deal with what's left. If it is worth dealing with at all.

I say FUCK NO!

Election reforms would help process

Writer's Note: This column appeared in the Collin County Opinion section of the Dallas Morning News, Jan. 11, 2007.
Six years ago, our very own state senator, Republican Florence Shapiro of Plano, introduced Senate Bill 79, a so-called “election reform bill,” to reduce the number of dates when local elections (notably for bond and civic propositions) could be held in Texas. She deemed it as (laughingly) reform.
She cited “voter fatigue and apathy” as the reasons for such anti-democratic measures because “the citi¬zens of Texas must go to the polls far too often.” Of course, that was BEFORE Texas men and women were sent overseas to assist other countries trying to vote just … often … if at all.
Her point was this: frequency to exercise the basic American right, to select one’s government, made people NOT want to participate. It makes you wonder why she wants to be elected in the first place. Oddly, the party primaries, always held on NON-uniform election dates, were untouched by the legislation.
It’s too bad that Ms. Shapiro always had it wrong – issues and candidates (or the lack of both) cause people to stay away from the ballot box. When people don’t care, they don’t act and react; and they don’t vote. But, for one momentary lapse of judgment, let’s accept her premise as true; people stay home because it’s too hard to vote (like going a root canal at the dentist). Here are some suggestions to simplify the process – from the top down:
National one-day primary – A national primary would prevent one or two states, with the population equal to that of Prosper or McKinney, from dictating these outcomes for the other 300 million Americans. Everyone should have a voice in making the determi¬nation. It would focus campaigns, re¬sources and make a Texan’s voter count equally to people in New Hampshire, South Carolina or Iowa.
Shorter national campaign period – The primary should be held in late August, or as close to Labor Day weekend as possible. In Texas, filings start in early December and the ads and high-handed pres¬sure tactics begin almost immediately. That, ladies and gentlemen, causes real “campaign fatigue” among voters.
Sunday 24-hour voting – Other nations hold elections on Sundays, without the pressure of the work day. The voting periods are also 24 hours long in order to accommodate different schedules. In days gone by, the first Tuesday in November might have made sense for farmers, but in the 21st century, it needs to be changed.
Online voting access – If I can order any item in the world and maintain reasonable security of vital information, a process should be able to be installed that would allow me to avoid long lines, bad weather and any other reason I select. A system can be written that would keep me from voting more than once and from falsifying my identity, and with a click of the mouse, I can verify (on paper) my choices.
More non-partisan elections – Why should the county sheriff be a Democrat or Republican? He or she is just the top elected cop? Why should partisanship extend to the county clerk’s office, etc.? Take that aspect out of the elections, hold one vote with an open field of candidates (plus runoffs if needed) and you eliminate one full level of campaigning and expenditure. Plus the field might improve.
You cannot vote every four years, or once a year, and think you really make a dif¬ference. That ONLY comes through local involvement where the choices made are determined by friends and neighbors. There is something slightly un-democratic about taking away opportunities for people to vote – regardless of the number of times. You cannot posture with one hand, espousing “local control,” and then take it away with the other hand. If a school board or council feels the time is proper for a bond election, the state should never interfere.
The ONLY way “the people” can be heard is at the ballot box. It’s their Constitutional right to have a say on various questions – from council representation to bond propositions. To do anything to take away that right drills holes in the entire concept of freedom in the United States.
Last time I looked, Texas was part of the U.S.A.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

No time for speeches tonight

As a faithful follower of news, I must admit to this: I will be watching ANYTHING else except for the speech tonight. Other than what has been disclosed, nothing (I repeat NOTHING) new will be said by Mr. Bush. He is going to rehash the same old tired arguments in order to justify sending more American soldiers to bail his ass out of the frying pan.

Now if he really wants to make a stunning statement, he should pull an LBJ and announce a total withdrawl in 90-120 days to perimeter points along the Iraqi border, keep foreign elements out, let the Malaki government see if it can survive without U.S. troops (which MUST happen at some point), and re-emerge when the smoke clears.

But Mr. Bush will not do that. He is too stubborn to admit this has gone all wrong and this is more spaghetti thrown against the wall to see if it is done. We cannot cover all of Iraq with 22,000 additional foot soldiers - now under the command of an admiral (I don't understand that thinking, but what the hell). The "insurgents/enemy" merely have to move to when there are fewer US soldiers and continue their sectarian battles.

This is all too much like that comic skit about "the line of death." We keep drawing the line of death, daring someone to step over it and when it happens, we draw new lines.

But for more than 3,000 families, such as the Roy Velez family of Lubbock, which lost two sons in the same year, it's not funny. It's downright tragic and tonight the tragedy will continue because one man is too pig-headed stubborn to change despite what a clear majority of Americans want. Now.

I see no reason to waste time hearing about it tonight. Fuck the Sunnis, Kurds and Shia in Iraq. They haven't proven worthy of our help and our blood. Bring our men and women home to help here.

What's on HBO instead?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Pesos for pizza

One of the more idiotic blogosphere debates currently underway centers on a small Dallas pizza chain, Pizza Patron, which caters to an Hispanic clientele, announcing that it would accept pesos for its pizza.
Some right-wing schmucks, like Matt Drudge, are using this as another example of some invisible conspiracy that would turn three independent countries – U.S., Canada and Mexico – into some sort of North American Union, as is the case in Europe. They think this is the beginning of the end of Western civilization because a business, of which people like Drudge have no BUSINESS judging other people’s business, wants to sell more pizzas.
Here in the most Republican county in Texas (as red as a fire engine), there exists a Pizza Patron, on the predominantly Hispanic east side of Plano (Park and Avenue K across from Poor Richard's Cafe).
If a business wants to trade eggs or farm animals, or barter for its product, who should care? Why should anyone say a damn thing? If that company wants to go through the hassles of converting pesos into dollars, so be it. WHO CARES?
This, sadly, will play into the racist anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic, anti-anything crowd who simply want to “white”wash everything and go back to the ‘60s (1860s that is).
As a boy growing up in Detroit, Mich., we dealt with “funny money” all the time – but it was Canadian currency in question. You constantly had to examine your pocket change to see what was what in terms of coinage. It was more of a problem with pennies, dimes and quarters that were similar size to American money.
Back then, in the 1960s, businesses exchanged them on an even rate, but you could not really use them in vending machines, phone booths or other coin-operated machines. The Canadian dollars were too distinctive – with pictures of Queen Elizabeth II – and following the old British method of size difference according to worth (the larger the denomination, the larger the bill).
Nowadays, the Canadian dollar is worth much less than the U.S. dollar so conversion is in order. Besides, Canadian shops WANT American dollars when you trade in places like Windsor or Sarnia, across the Michigan border.
(Excellent trivia: Detroit is the only place in the continental U.S. that is NORTH of Canada).
As noted, Pizza Patron is free to do what it wants to sell more pizzas. Anyone believing otherwise is not in favor of free enterprise.
And isn’t what this nation firmly believes? Or does it only apply to white businesses?

Friday, January 05, 2007

Anti-Hispanic/illegal immgration rhetoric simply hateful racism in disguise

You cannot listen to any radio talk show these days without bombardment with bigoted, anti-Hispanic bombs from white callers. It might be cloaked under the guise of “illegal immigration,” but the truth is this: it is racist hatred at its core and it is directed to ANYONE, legal immigrant or native-born citizen, who possesses brown skin and a Hispanic last name.
It makes some of us sick to our stomachs and makes me run to sports stations or NPR, which puts me to sleep more than it helps me wake up in the mornings.
The Dallas Morning News is constantly hit with a barrage of angry, hateful letters about its coverage of the issue, with idiots disguised as readers claiming any story about someone Hispanic is “pro illegal immigrants.” One of their best columnists, Macarena Hernandez, more of a pure Texan than most of the readers, is derided constantly for her views and for simply being who she is –an intelligent Latina.
One of Dallas’ last locally-owned grocery chains, Minyards, is slowly but surely eliminating its name from its store, concentrating on the Hispanic-theme Carnival brand name. It plans to close the East Dallas store, the flagship outlet more than 60 years ago, in favor of going to a Carnival concept.
Of course, the family name means nothing anymore in DFW as the Minyard family has not been an actual part of the company for a decade.
The Hispanic-themed Carnival is the future and it ticks off all the Anglos in town. It, plus anything involving Hispanics, is seen as pandering to illegal immigrants despite whatever business wisdom went into the decision.
All this anti-Hispanic talk is akin to the racist, bigoted diatribe of the South in the 1950s. It is disgusting and unworthy of any place which deems itself to be progressive.
Of course, hatred means listeners. It works that way, sadly, in a medium which only requires a voice – not a brain or any measure of intelligence – to exist.