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Thursday, December 29, 2005
On this day:

History Repeats

An article in Washington Post today enumerates the change in tack the Bushies are using to sway the failing campaign approval numbers. More smoke and mirrors, but one would hope Americans are more awake now. The penultimate paragraph caught my eye, though:

Some are concerned that although Bush has changed his approach, he has not changed himself. He has been reluctant to look outside his inner circle for advice, and even some closest to Bush call that a mistake because aides have given up trying to get him to do things they know he would reject.

Isn’t that the same mistake Hitler made near the end of WWII? Germany’s top advisors were afraid to appraise the Fuehrer of their losses, and were reluctant to advise him. Now we see history does indeed repeat. At least it does for those who, like Bush, are obviously a poor student of history.

Monday, December 26, 2005
On this day:

Postcoital Prognostication

Christmas has passed, much like an orgasm, in an energetic spasm. As always the aftermath and disarray is a might sobering. No Peace, no brotherhood, very little goodwill beyond the closed circuit of a family unit. The same as always, Christmas’ promise has left us unfulfilled; so much for another year. Yet another premature ejaculation of false hope splattered onto the faces of humanity. Here: take that!

Now is the time we look back on a year passed. Do we dare? In my tale-end-of-boomerland viewpoint, I have never seen such a depression year. Our government shows such outrageous disrespect for America and its denizens; swaggering in arrogant defiance of all we believe in, bankrupting our economy and selling it to the Chinese; failing the people during natural disasters; forcing its misguided will upon the liberties of citizens on issues from right-to-death to spying on Americans to repeated and shameless lying on the war, its progress, and our lack of clear goals in Iraq.

Yet after ten months of beating the drum of discontent, I along with thousands of progressive bloggers have very little to show for our efforts. Sure, we made progress, and the fledgling grass roots movement we political bloggers are pioneering will eventually change the way politics is done in this country and maybe in the world, given enough time. In these dark times, a light of reason shines that much brighter, if I may use a cliché, but as with most, it speaks a truth: The fight for America will not be fought on the streets alone, but on the ‘net as blurs of electrons aligned in patterns yet to be discerned.

It may yet come to open violence like the riots in the 1960’s, such are the stakes, here. The wrong right-wing will not cede power gracefully. They will not suddenly show rationality or virtue. America’s neo-con warmongers have a strong ideology, one that offers no compromises, leaving the progressives few options but to wrest power from their cold, disgraced fists. It won’t be pretty.

So, as we look upon our latest year of disgrace, know whoever bad it is, we may yet have harder times forthcoming. Most readers will see this prognostication as typical Tannish tripe; “He’s such a downer,” and it is to an extent. I look, and this is what I see. I pray I’m wrong, but I have been wrong few times, lately. Christmas will not bring Peace on Earth, and our government will not admit failure.

Despite the obviousness of these diverse observations, people still cling to fantasies, feign ignorance, and avert their eyes, in hopes that the sense of impending doom will leave. Life is troubling enough without the pattern we live by becoming unraveled. Best try not to notice. Let’s focus instead on the best movies, the worst bloopers, the inanely trivial happenings of the past calendar year. We’ll all pretend we’re not complicit in our nation’s depravity by the very act of pretending ignorance. Meanwhile, Tannish spouts unhappy thoughts we don’t care to read. What’s wrong with him?

I’m just waiting for someone to tell me I’m wrong. Anyone?

Friday, December 23, 2005
On this day:

Lessons From the Transit Strike

The New York transit strike of the past week showed employers what many office workers already knew: that the daily commute need not be a requisite of the job. For millions of people in America, whose jobs consist of monitoring machines like the phone, fax and computer, it no longer matters where one sits.

The computers can help alleviate pollution. They can ease the strain on our overused highway infrastructure and help rid our nation’s reliance upon foreign oil. Computers can lessen roadway fatalities. All of this can be achieved at no cost to businesses.

All this can become reality by allowing corporate employees to work from home. As we’re talking about affluent middle-Americans, who already have computers in the home, wireless networks and broadband, cell phones and sometimes fax machines. All that needs be provided is a virtual private network access to their company’s servers to make daily commuting obsolete. Internet services exist where meetings can be done through teleconferencing and networking which work fine for the routine, agenda-steering meetings common to all companies.

This can happen. All that’s missing is trust. Employees have an unfortunate history of getting by without motivation, skirting duties, and other nefarious means to eek a paycheck with minimal effort. As a result, corporations don’t trust their employees. CEO’s and board members, meanwhile, have a sad track record of failing to provide incentives to employees, cutting benefits for increased profit, and forcing conformity - often squashing individualism and undermining creative problem-solving. The message for generations has been “do what you’re told or be replaced.” Employees don’t trust their employers, either. What’s missing one both sides is ethics. To make this commute-free dream a reality is a simple honor system. The company rewards the few existing employees whom it knows to be self-motivated by allowing them to work from home without a cut in pay. The motivated employee now acts as an example for others. Eventually, the company can see real benefit as it scales down its real estate costs in both office space and parking spaces. Some inner-city companies could save millions annually.

Imagine: millions of commuters absent from the rush hours. Lives made more manageable do to increased flexibility, in which you won’t have to miss junior’s soccer match because you can do that report in the evening and still email it to your boss before morning. Image a quieter, safer city due to less traffic; spending less on auto maintenance and gasoline; and the establishment of a higher level of ethical, incentive-based behavior on behalf of employees and corporations alike. All this as by-product of America’s love of modern technology, and all brought to light by the time-honored tactics of organized labor.

If only someone would notice.

Sunday, December 18, 2005
On this day:

I Gotta Say This...

I suffer from a long history of despising the holidays. Perhaps it’s a manifestation of Seasonal Affective Disorder. But when I look at the fervor people inflict upon themselves during the last month of the year, I can’t but shake my head in wonder. At my most accommodating, I say it’s a waste of effort. At my worst, I say it’s hypocritical.

Having been known for vitriolic effluvium on the topic of Christmas, I will spare you. I know that I would alienate almost all my tiny readership. Too many years inside the retail frenzy has further tainted my view. Too many years living the hype of Christmas Present and feeling let down afterward, too. The light, the glitz, the charade; if one looks at a plastic tree long enough, the illusion fades – so too, the holiday season.

Perhaps my position as a self-imposed exile and unabashed misfit, I see what other miss. Rather, I see what others choose not to. I watch people supplant material goods with friendship, dollars with devotion. I see others force weary smiles while meeting with people they would rather not, and straining to buy gifts for the girlfriends of second cousins that might not be around next year. I ponder the holiday office party dynamic, where otherwise incompatible people, forced together for economic purposes, and whom often only have their jobs as a common thread, pretend to be friends with feared bosses and associates whose emails ticked them off last week.

As for “Peace on Earth,” and “Goodwill to Men,” I’ll leave it up to you whether we achieve this as a yearly goal, or even as a brief glimmer of distant possibility – especially this past year. I find it difficult, here, to resist harping on Christmas as anathema to peace. But I wouldn’t want to hurt any feelings. Christians are not known for their openness to other viewpoints. Whole nations have been put to the torch for not converting to their worldview; just ask the Sioux. Alas for Peace and Goodwill, we’ve barely met.

Why must we force this illusion of Joyeux Noël upon ourselves? If we love another, we love them always. If we are fortunate enough to have friends, they are always our friends. Must we save our feelings for year’s end, to burst forth in a frenzy of forced and orchestrated expression? If we truly care for the wellbeing of unmet humanity, why wait to give? Everyday is an opportunity to show love, help others, and give of our copious moneys to the less fortunate. Everyday is a chance to eliminate hunger, share compassion for our species, and end warfare.

To take a holiday from our routine of destruction and slaughter, to brashly display an ethical ideal we refuse to actually live, all for the sake of a religious idol not shared by all, is outrageous. To tout peace and wave the banners of harmony only for a brief season is hypocritical. To stand among the masses and support national atrocities in the name of one religious ideology, one political expression, is beyond insane – it is pathological insanity. Yet this is what we do, and we think nothing of it. That is my point: we don’t think about what we are doing. We become willing toys of the greed industry while unthinkingly parroting bad ideas in the name of tradition. It is dangerous for people to live their lives without thought to consequences, exponentially so when so many do it.

So, sip your eggnog and know others are starving. Carve your roast beast and wonder whose child dies tonight from hunger. Buy your disposable trees and know the forests are depleted. Plug in your lights: the coal miners thank you, and the air will never taste sweet again as you add more plastic festiveness each year, taxing the power grid and poisoning the air for senseless and tasteless displays. By all means, enjoy your holiday, but think about what you do.

Monday, December 12, 2005
On this day:

The Olds and the Stale

Most of my life I’ve ignored the guttural rumblings of the political realms. Young Americans are much too concerned with erections rather than elections, and so they blithely allow their elders to trash their legacy while chasing the hard facts.

Youthful exuberance aside, current events are boring. Night after endless night of the same dreck, ceaselessly regurgitated. How long are we to hear about Valerie Plame – two and a half years and still making “news?” This is about as fresh as the proverbial Christmas fruit cake.

Okay. The US and Japan are tenderizing the beef wars. Who cares?

Hilary steps a bit more to the right, is this really newsworthy? Is anybody unsure of her motives?

Let’s not forget the obligatory article about abuse in Baghdad. (yawn.)

Richard Pryor was – say again – “brilliant?” Nobody called him that while alive. Does no one remember the Bic lighter incident? O, yeah, and Eugene McCarthy…. Who? Bobby Kennedy we all remember; him we liked.

All this is a sorry excuse to grind out the daily product that is the daily news, while the execs and their underlings shop online during work hours or slip out of the office early. Lots of office-type workers take their vacations days this time of year, so production is ebbing for that reason as well. As most Americans go to the discount malls to emulate bison, buying their precious loved ones cheap crap, they’re not paying attention anyway.

Sunday, December 11, 2005
On this day:

Toro: Taming a Bull

I heard it was likely to snow last Saturday. So, after my chiropractor appointment, I dutifully and belatedly worked on priming my snowblower for the season. Does anyone really do this before thanksgiving every year? Perhaps the more Obsessive-Compulsive among us are thinking smug thoughts at this point. Likely we can all guess how this will turn out.

The snowblower, a six-year-old Toro 6hp model that cost too much, started pissing fuel out the bottom after filling up with fresh gasoline/oil mix. Happily, I now have a company pickup in which to toss the hemorrhaging machine and drive the six miles to the repair shop. In years past I had to prevail upon our octogenarian neighbors for a ride in their minivan, not an option this time with the damned thing still leaking.

In the shop, predictably crowded, I hear snatches of conversations: "...Should bring it in for maintenance every two years..." and (on a thousand-dollar, four-stoke Honda model) "...Has a release valve for emptying gas lines for summer storage..." Upon my turn at the counter, the guy, managing to look both frazzled and bored, smiled and told me he would rebuild the carburetor, reseat the fuel line, and that should take care of my problem for about $100, maybe $120. I recall spending five times as much for the Toro when new.

Here's the kicker: "Three weeks. You should be getting a call when its finished." Since last weekend, it has snowed three times. Thursday, we got over six inches, last night just a fresh powdering of half-an-inch or so. As my driveway is 170 feet long, and I try also to maintain another long driveway of my afore-mentioned 80-year-old neighbors, I've been working my back too much this week. My chiropractor will soon be contemplating a new x-ray machine in my honor. After the three weeks are up, and I get my newly rebuild Toro back from the shop, the snow should taper off for the rest of the season. Murphy's Law, damn him to hell, will prevail.

So if any of you are reading this from within the Chicago area, rest assured: we won't be getting much snow after the first of the year.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005
On this day:

The Plan

We’re going to win this war because I say so. We’re going to liberate Iraq because I want to. I don’t care how many troops get killed. Don’t whine at me about how many children are burned, mutilated or buried. And don’t – ever – bring up prisoner abuse again! America is right because I’m right! Anyone who says different is a communist sissy pansy-pants.

This is my plan to win the war: bomb the shit out of them. Hit urban areas with incendiaries, man the perimeter with mines and machine guns and shoot down whatever comes out. Then we move in with bulldozers and plow through the ruins so no snipers can roost, then on to the next town. Wash, Rinse. Repeat.

By the 2008 elections, the war will be won and American soldiers will come home (or as much of them as we can find), and a new, democratically elected government will be propped up, beholden to America and thankful for our part for ending the scourge of terrorism through genocide. Then they’ll be free to govern themselves – all 300 of them.

After we hire them on as outsourced Halliburton employees.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005
On this day:

The Real Reason

Excuses: Overworking; the holidays; seasonal affective disorder; depression. All these things could be the reason I've been away from the blog recently. Pick any two.

But the real reason is this. I've been waiting for this book for the past four years; it is indeed worth the wait. Mr. Martin wastes no words in his tight and colorful prose. But as with all fantasy series, it takes a long time to finish the story, and this one's not over yet. At least I'm assured it will end in my lifetime, unlike this series. Sorry for the hiatus, now you know why I've been away.

OK. I admit it - and this, too. Very addicting.

Thursday, December 01, 2005
On this day:

Just the Facts

Too tired from chasing the elusive American Greenback, I recline at my computer to read a digital version of the Daily Farce. Herein I am presented by reruns of Presidential Rhetoric, Vol. #8, "I'm Not a Warmonger, I'm In This To Win," and Vol #17, "Stay The Course (Damn The Torpedoes)." I'm glad I missed that black-tie event. For $1,000-a-plate, I would expect the screenwriters to dres up that dead cow a bit better.

Our Latter-Day Caesar recapitulated his regurgitation upon yet another captive audience at the Naval Academy in Annapolis today. He can't trust the time-honored "town square" meetings he tried out during the Great Social Security Scare of 2004. One never knows what kind of rifraff will appear to ruin a good photo-op.

Thankfully, in these times of political discontent, enough momentum exists for the previously unthinkable: open criticism of our administrators by the MSM. WaPo presents snippets like a movie trailer - Fact-Checking the President. Oscar-baiting stuff, here. Meanwhile, NY Times analyzes Political motivations.

Tonight's favorite moment, however, is a mental Freudian slip I made while misreading a CNN headline which read:
Bush: US to Stay In Iraq Until War Is Won.
I read this as:
Bush to Stay In Iraq Until War Is Won.
I thought, "Cool!"