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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Stay the course? What course?

The President recently told us that as long as he's president we'll be staying in Iraq until the job is done, thus again telling us to support staying the course. You have to ask yourself though exactly what course is he talking about (course differentiated from plan) -- the current one that seems to be an irreversible sink hole or a plan yet unstated to alter the current course. I have to say that either would be a breath of fresh air -- a stated course or plan, or something that at least seems thought out and has a chance of working.

I've stated on this blog before that while I've always been dead set against going into Iraq, it is a mess we're responsible for fixing and leaving before it's fixed would have grave consequences. Yes, hard to believe graver consequences are possible. But in recent weeks I'm beginning to rethink that position (gee, what a novel idea, rethinking positions as circumstances warrant) and am getting closer and closer to feeling that we're headed toward the graver consequences whether we have our troops there getting killed and injured or not.

"Well, then you're just telling the terrorists 'we quit and you win.'" Exactly what terrorists might that be; an insurgency upset that we're there or those fighting a religious civil war? Am I the only one sick and tired of being told anyone who fights against what we (careful with that "we," Zeb) want is a terrorist? Think for yourself for once and ask yourself why that's the word of choice from this administration to describe seemingly any enemy, any combatant, any disagreer. We had Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld recently imply that those of us who are against this "war on terrorism" are akin to Nazi sympathizers; and the President, though in softer terms, echoed that sentiment. Well, if you put those things together, are we not far from being told that we who oppose them are the enemy?

Then you have the likes of Ken Mehlman on Hardball the other night making the case that we need to stay in Iraq because Ayman al-Zawahiri has said al Qaeda wants to turn Iraq into another Afghanistan with training bases. If you nut jobs hadn't invaded Iraq and opened it up like a can of worms, we wouldn't be worried about them setting up training bases there. This kind of backwards, illogical, keep-our-asses-in-office-at-any-cost rhetoric is what pisses me off more than anything.
You bungled a mission that you cherry-picked the evidence to support, and then your reason for staying there is essentially "We f'd it up so bad we have to stay to keep the terrorists out, and you have to reelect us because we're the party that'll keep you safe." Safer? I don't feel safer. "Well, we haven't been attacked since 9/11." Gee, I forgot it was an everyday thing before 9/11.

You want to make me feel safer? How about you deal with al Qaeda, bin Laden, The Taliban, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea. There's a course, nay a plan, I could support.

On a different note...I was recently invited to be a writer for the independent/third party section of Watchblog, a three-perspective blog site that I've had linked for quite some time but don't believe I've introduced. So great for me, and hopefully Watchblog as well; but the time between applying and acceptance ran over me going back to working all those hours (yesterday 4:00 a.m. to 8:45 p.m.). So I won't get the opportunity to blog stuff there that I'm not blogging here. I barely have time to put up personal updates on All Things Zebster.

A Good Thing? (Rep Govt V)

So the Republican Party ascended to power over the last 25 years by polarizing the nation with its "you're either with us or agin us" tactics, by falsely setting itself up as the moral center of the country, and by taking advantage of what it's traditionally done best and Democrats have failed at...governing.
Now that the current inept and uncredible administration has shown us what we get when we vote by "tradition," by sound bite and by focusing on the possible negatives instead of proven positives, the Democrats have a chance to regain power, either half or all of Congress this year and perhaps the White House in '08. But will it be a good thing for the country if they do so by using many of the same tactics, by rallying its base further to the left and making the country even more polarized, thus leaving the majority of the country in the middle essentially unrepresented?
So while we're left to decide between a course without a plan or a plan without a course -- or is it neither -- keep in mind that we should be voting for candidates who represent positions on issues held by the majority of us, which can be substantially different from what we're told our majority position is, a sadly successful tactic because far too many of us wait to be told what our position should be or we're told what supposedly the majority position is and then go along with it.
The only way we can truly have a government that represents our views is to have views based on as much unbiased and divergent information as possible.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

On the tarmac?

I've been working a lot of hours and haven't had time to stay in touch with the world as much as I'd like or am used to; but when I first heard about this incident with the woman having a "fit" on that flight from London to Dulles, I knew it was an over-reaction. This is a 59-year-old woman, and no one on that flight can tell she's having a panic attack and is not a threat? Sure, terrorists can come in any shape and size, but what did she do that made people think she was a threat? Doesn't there have to be some reasonable presumption of a realistic threat before hundreds of people are inconvenienced? Hell, they weren't just inconvenienced...this person comes undone and everyone else on the plane becomes a suspect.
Even though I'd be very frustrated and probably angry if I'd been on that flight and it was diverted, I'd give them the benefit of being overcautious for our benefit. But if you make me a suspect because of someone else's actions, there'll be hell to pay. You've already searched my person far more than I'd appreciate, searched all my belongings as well, and then you're going to do it again on the tarmac of the airport after you've taken everyone off the plane? I have a very strong suspension that had I been on that flight and had that happen to me, this woman who's at the center of the situation wouldn't have been the only one arrested for throwing a fit that day!

Monday, August 14, 2006

When politicians speak (Representative Govt IV)

Editor's note: Hi everyone. This is something I've been working on off and on for weeks. Since being back at my old job is as time consuming as ever, I thought I'd just put this up to have something new published.

When politicians speak, who are they talking to? Are they talking to other politicians of their own party? Are they talking to the voting members of their party? Could they be talking to undecided voters? Perhaps, but what's their true motive? Are they talking to those who've funded their campaigns, which is most likely?
Even when someone says all the right things to us true independents or swing voters, can we trust their motives? Are they just using buzz words like reform simply because they know that's what we want to hear? Even if they propose or vote for things we want, such as reform, can we trust that it's not based on political expediency, thus political survival?
How do we tell the difference? I propose one way to tell the difference is for the American voting public to stop having such a short memory. When politicians tell you they stand for something, we need to remember what they stood for, when and why. We need to be willing to research voting records and quotes in newspapers when those issues arise again. We need to ignore what members of their party tell us is that person's motivation, their position. We need to base our opinion of their motives and their positions on their actions and nothing else.
We most certainly need to drop our mental magnets that make us blindly nod our heads in agreement because the person making the statement or opinion is a member of the party we're aligned with. If that politician says something, evaluate it case by case. If you agree with that person 90% of the time, that's fine if you call them on the other 10% and if there's a true basis for agreeing with them the other 90.
I feel being an independent, which helps me keep my mind open to all views, has served me well in ensuring I have a basis for supporting a particular politician; and I've voted for nearly as many Republicans as Democrats and a fair number of indies through the years. I was raised that way and come from the only state, Maine, that has elected two independent governors through the years.
I would really appreciate the thoughts of others on both sides and the middle on this one, or I'll be forced to write a blog I've been thinking about doing related to why people rarely comment on blogs.

If you're interested in a life and work update, please check out All Things Zebster. I appreciate your support.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Personal news

Good news for Zebster, sort of, and bad news for the blog. Given that I've been unemployed for far too long looking for a job that would pay well enough to take, time was running out, so I' ve accepted an offer to go back to my old job driving a bread truck for IBC. The good news for me in that? Obviously first and foremost, a job and, secondly, a very good paying job. The bad part of it is that it's a physically demanding job that I was working on average 60-70 hours a week, and I don't ever have 2 days in a row off. Oh well, I need the work.
Obviously it's going to put a huge crimp on the blogging. I'll try to stay informed with my XM while driving around between stops, and hopefully I'll be able to put something up two or three times a week. If anyone's interested, I'm planning on putting some work-related updates on All Things Zebster.
I do plan on continuing the work search as much as possible to find a new career that I really want, but until then THE BREADMAN IS BACK! Thanks everyone. Peace!

Maine news...pigs heads and pigheads

First, an update on whether the Maine Public Utilities Commission will undertake a formal investigation into whether Verizon violated privacy laws if they, in fact, cooperated with the NSA "wiretapping"program, something which Verizon in part denies doing. It is an update only to the extent that the MPUC voted to delay making the ultimate decision.
If you're not familiar with this story, KEVIN WACK of the Portland Press Herald reported last Friday that "The Bush administration is threatening to sue if Maine regulators decide to investigate whether Verizon Communications illegally turned over customer information to the National Security Agency." as is suggested in this letter from the US Justice Dept to the MPUC, "We sincerely hope that, in light of governing law and the national security concerns implicated by the requests for information, you will decline to open an investigation and close these proceedings, thereby avoiding litigation over the matter." You already know where I stand on this issue and how I feel about transparency in government. So I'll only say this at this time: We may be a little state with just 2 votes that usually vote Democrat. So we're politically safe to threaten. But there's no place in this country that's more independent and more against being bullied. Unfortunately, it'll be beauracrats who'll make this decision on whether to proceed. Also, what are you trying to hide? This potential investigation will not reveal what information you may have received, only whether Verizon broke the law in giving it to you.

From the All Politics is Local department, the latest in the ongoing multi-party, multi-sided squabble over campaign funding ethics, which Barbara Merrill finds herself in the middle and on both sides of. Isn't local politics great? Each side accusing the other of cheating, which gets even more interesting when you have at least 5 candidates going at it. You can read more by clicking the link above to the Lewiston Sun Journal article, but here are a couple of snippets from it. "Gubernatorial candidates seeking public financing must follow a strict set of rules and procedures, which includes collecting 2,500 $5 contributions to the Maine Clean Election Fund. Qualifying candidates stand to receive as much as $1.2 million to fund their general election campaigns. According to Michael's complaint, Merrill used public money to pay off obligations that she incurred before she was certified. The complaint says the payments to Harold Webster and Richard Dyer were illegal." To which Merrill's campaign responded thusly, "There was never any report of a debt to them in this period because there was none to report," Phil Merrill, Barbara Merrill's deputy campaign treasurer, wrote in the response. "On the day that the effort (to qualify for public financing) was completed, the candidate expressed a debt of gratitude and that was it." No wonder we haven't had our questions answered yet.

An update from the Biggots and Idiots Even In Maine department: A month ago some knucklehead thought it would be funny to throw a pig's head into a make-shift mosque in Lewiston. I guess he thought it would be a two-fer since it was a mosque used by Somali immigrants...desicrate a mosque and make a statement to people whose skin is way too black. Now he's saying he had walked into the police department beforehand to find out whether it would be illegal to do so and was told by the officer that the best he could tell he'd only be guilty of littering. I don't know who's the bigger moron in this instance to tell you the truth. The policeman said he actually looked into it and that's all he could find. If my police officers can't imagine what other legal issues might be involved in such a stunt, maybe they need to go back to the academy. This is the best quote from the article though, this "gentleman" "claimed in court papers that he didn't know pork was considered offensive by some Somalis and "never assumed" the vacant dual storefronts at 21-23 Lisbon St. he had walked past "nearly every day" were treated by Somalis as a mosque." Really? So why there and why a pig's head? Pure coincidence, I guess. He probably has a rebel flag in the back window of his pickup because he thinks it's pretty.

And finally, an update in the ongoing Dirigo Health squabble. This issue is more convoluted and complicated than I can wrap my little mind around but I know folks are interested. Too bad there isn't some other way?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Darfur matters too

Why isn't what's going on in the Darfur region of Sudan important enough for the national press to write about or is it that we don't care? It's likely the latter, I'm afraid. You can say what you want about the press; it is a business and largely driven by what people want to read about. We'd rather read and hear about Mel Gibson or watch reality shows. Funny that. The networks would actually show us reality if we cared about reality. Sure, the press is hard at work in the Middle East; but it's the latest story and it makes good news...bombs are more interesting that rounding up civilians and shooting them. True, what's going on in the Middle East effects the security of the region and effects the security of the rest of the world, but this matters too.
So while war rages in two areas of the Middle East, parts of the world like the Sudan go largely ignored. The death toll in this most recent wave of genocide has topped 200,000 people. And do you know why there's no United Nations peacekeeping force in there to try to stop it? The most recent obstacle, though in many ways an ongoing obstacle, is the president of Sudan, Omar Hassan al-Bashir. He has refused to allow UN forces in his country because he claims -- get this -- that it would lead to the colonization of his country. Now there's a man who cares about his country! And he's able to get away with this because China threatens to veto that UN action. Why? Oh, don't be foolish. Oil, of course.

And where is the most powerful and generous country in the world while this is going on? We're certainly not in the Sudan. We don't even have an envoy there. I understand this is complicated and difficult. Everything on the world stage is difficult. But there must be something we can do. We certainly could use some positive image building, if nothing else. Whether you agree with the rest of the world or not, it does matter how the rest of the world views us. Now is as good a time as any to get involved in a tragic situation just for the sake of the people. Until then, I'll do my little part in trying to get this issues into as many minds and hearts as possible. Won't you join me?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Mash's plea

As things in the Middle East seem to get worse instead of better, as evidenced by these developments:

"The leader of Hezbollah, Hasan Nasrallah, threatened Thursday night to fire rockets at Tel Aviv if Israel expands its bombing attacks against Beirut."
Hezbollah Threatens Tel Aviv
to which Israel seemingly responded by bombing southern Beirut...

And in Iraq a pro Hezbollah rally:

"The demonstration was the biggest in the Middle East in support of Hezbollah since Israel launched its attacks against the guerrillas in Lebanon on July 12. The protest was organized by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose political movement built around the Mahdi Army militia has been modeled after Hezbollah."Death to Israel

I enthusiastically join Mash's request in adding a link to his chain, which was motivated by Ehud Goldwasser’s father and wife appearing last night on Larry King Live. Mash in his post Proof of Life has this request:
"I ask all bloggers who read this post, as a gesture of peace and good will, to repost this plea on your blogs. Ask the same of those who read your posts. Let this plea spread across the blogosphere. Perhaps this plea will be posted on the blogs of our Arab and Lebanese friends. Perhaps this plea will make a difference in saving at least one life."

If we in this country are sick and tired off war -- of seeing brave men and women in uniform return home dead or injured, of hearing the ever-rising civilian death toll, of hearing the sabre rattling on all sides, except from those actually standing in the line of fire -- imagine how the people actually caught up in it feel or those who have loved ones caught up in it feel. I, therefore, urge anyone who reads this post to join Mash and I and others in writing a plea of their own or use Mash's linking back to the CNN transcript of the interview above, and ask others to do the same.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

So what is a liberal?

Per my 1993 version of Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Edition: We'll start with the derivation, "adj [ME, fr. MF, fr. L liberalis suitable for a freeman, generous, fr. liber free; perh. akin to OE leodan to grow, Gk eleutheros free] (14c)."
I will include every definition so as not to be seen as picking and choosing.
"1 a: of, relating to, or based on the liberal arts. b archaic: of or befitting a man of free birth. 2 a: marked by generosity: OPENHANDED (a ~ giver) b: given or provided in a generous and openhanded way c: ample, full. 3 obs: lacking moral restraint: LICENTIOUS 4: not literal or strict: LOOSE (a ~ translation) 5: BROAD-MINDED, esp: not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy or traditional forms 6 a: of, favoring or based upon the principles of liberalism b cap: of or constituting a political party advocating or associated with the principles of political liberalism: esp: of or constituting a political party in the United Kingdom associated with ideals of individual esp. economic freedom, greater individual participation in government and constitutional, political and administrative reforms designed to secure these objectives -- liberally adv -- liberalness n...syn LIBERAL, GENEROUS, BOUNTIFUL, MUNIFICENT mean giving or given freely and unstintingly. LIBERAL suggests openhandedness in the giver and largeness in the thing or amount given (a teacher liberal with her praise). GENEROUS stresses warmhearted readiness to give more than size or importance of the gift (a generous offer of help). BOUNTIFUL suggests lavish, unremitting giving or providing (children spoiled by bountiful presents). MUNIFICENT suggests a scale of giving appropriate to lords or princes (a munificent foundation grant)
2Liberal n (1820): a person who is liberal: as a: one who is openminded or not strict in the observance of orthodox, traditional or established forms or ways b: cap: a member or supporter of a liberal political party c: an advocate or adherent of liberalism esp. in individual rights."

"Liberalism n (1819) 1: the quality or state of being liberal 2 a often cap: a movement in modern Protestantism emphasizing intellectual liberty and the spiritual and ethical content of Christianity b: a theory in economics emphasizing individual freedom from restraint and usu. based on free competition, the self-regulating market and the gold standard c: a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties d: cap: the principles and policies of a Liberal party."

I AM A LIBERAL! Perhaps you are too and didn't know it.
I'm sure there are opinions that differ from this definition, and I would encourage any to comment who has a dictionary with a vastly different definition. I'd also be curious what a newer version has to say.

The 3 words I was surprised to not see as part of these definitions are questioning, curious and skeptical.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Yes, even in the blogosphere...

Even the blogosphere -- filled with articulate, intelligent people as it is -- is susceptible to a couple of traditional woes of mankind; those being the herd mentality of irrational thought or lack thereof, and the fact that the more popular you get the more afraid you are to take a stand.
Since I'm not popular (yet) or particularly articulate, I'll let Booman at the Booman Tribune speak for me, as he does it so well in this post discussing why much of the liberal left is afraid to take a stand against Israel, even in part.

The latter issue regarding herd mentality I feel I can speak well on. I am a lifelong liberal and a lifelong independent, both by choice. To me being a liberal has always meant being open minded and thus better done by being a political minded to the prospect that right and necessary and possible can come from any direction. "But if by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties -- someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a Liberal." JFK

If you are not unwavering in that ideal of open-mindedness, you are easily susceptible to the herd mentality, susceptible to the tendency to judge right by affiliation, susceptible to closing your mind to the possibility of being wrong; and nothing in my opinion is more dangerous than that combination.

So while the internet and blogs in particular are a wonderful place for open dialogue and discourse, it is also plagued by the herd mentality, of close-mindedness, ergo a lack of full thought. A wonderful line in a post by Fallen Monk sums it up poetically and succinctly. It's like "a bunch of ducks trying to fuck a football."

So in these trying times I beseech all, regardless of what pole you stand closest to, to keep an open mind, to base your opinions as much on fact and as little on emotional reaction as possible; otherwise, it defeats the purpose of this whole idea of open discussion as a means of change and progress.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Blog intros

While all of these blogs are linked from Inside Zebster, I think it's important to point out why I like these blogs. Plus, it's been awhile since I've done this and many have been added since. I also don't know whether people try the links without a reason.

I feel Mash's blog, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying is one of the best written and researched blogs that I've found. You'll find plenty of blogs where people say a couple of sentences that are linked to journalist's stories. With Mash it's like reading a professional journalist. Agree with his stance on issues or not, he makes thoughtful and compeling arguments that he backs up with plenty of information.
Another very well-written blog is Pen And Sword, by Jeff Huber, a retired Navy flight instructor. As was the case with Mash, Jeff writes very well and backs up his arguments with fact. Both of these guys make yours truly look like the amateur he is.
Ingrid at BloggerRoundtable. I call her the Pied Piper of peace. You won't find anyone more passionate.
Brent at Dakota Democrat. What I like most about Brent is that he writes about things we should be paying attention to while the bigger stories are going on. Yesterday he reminded us to keep an eye on the situation between the Iraqi Kurds and Turkey, as well as updating us on Afghanistan.
Brian at Burn The Liberals. Yes, another sarcastic liberal...right up my alley.
Worldwide Sawdust, another former Marine who's mad as hell and writes as passionately as anyone. He has a very interesting site as well, with quotes from thinkers past who should be remembered.
Some balance? I confess to not having yet delved into the conservative blogosphere very much, though I'm sure there are those blogs that I would recommend and would agree with on many issues. I really just haven't looked much yet. But my friend Coach Dave at Here I Stand is an old Nascar message board friend I've known for 10 years. I think he'd say I was right in saying he's a moderate conservative. He's a Lutheran Minister and blogs regularly about the issues people of faith face on a regular basis. I'm also told he makes a wicked good homebrew.
Finally, I'd like to introduce a couple of other Maine bloggers who are active in local politics and do a very professional job of writing about those issues, Lance at MaineWebReport and Tor at Tor's Rants.
No slight to the other blogs I have linked. I believe I've introduced them before in My Early Travels.... Let me know if I've slighted you. Also, do not hesitate to introduce me to blogs as well.
Maybe I haven't introduced BoSox Tavern. It is a blog written by myself, my brother, my cousin and a friend. We not only rant about our beloved Red Sox but also do beer, music and movie reviews.