Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Top Ten things I have in common with Sen. Robert Byrd

1. We both worked as gas station attendants.  (In the summer of
1972 I sold gas for 32 cents a gallon in the Tiny Tim plaza, at the western
end of 4th Street in Santa Ana, California.  If it’s still there,
look for the sign of the smiling crippled orphan).

2. We both think George W. Bush is dangerously arrogant
and reckless

3. We like to cite Bob Woodward’s Bush at War: “I'm
the commander-- see, I don't need to explain-- I do not need to explain
why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the President.
Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't
feel like I owe anybody an explanation

4. We would both look incredibly presidential on that Boston Jumbotron. 
Of course, so would a ham sandwich.

5. Senator Byrd was interviewed today on Fresh
.  I listened to the interview.

6. We worry that not only can’t Bush pronounce “sovereignty” , he does
not understand that in our government sovereignty rests with the people
of the United States.  (Senator Byrd refers to his pocket copy of
the U. S.
.  I always think of that old Star Trek, where
the crew finds a tablet inscribed “E Plebnista” by incredibly Latinate
cave dudes, and recognize it as a degraded copy of the Preamble.)

7. Neither of us was alive when the Cubs last won the World Series.

8. Senator Byrd has many highways, bridges, etc. named after him in
West Virginia.  I have driven on many of the highways, bridges, etc.
named for him when I work in West Virginia.

9. Senator Byrd has written books
I have many bird books, and a “Frequent Feeder” card.

10. In the days following September 11, when the Bush administration
set up a “shadow government” operating in an undisclosed location, we both
learned of this by reading about it in the newspaper.  Of course,
Senator Byrd, as President pro Tem of the Senate at the time, and third
in the line of presidential
, should probably have been informed directly.  (See
2, 3, 6 above.)

Monday, July 19, 2004

I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day

It’s 4 a.m. local. Dark, relatively quiet (the freeway murmurs gently like a loved one, the birds are still asleep), as cool as it will be today.

On air, the all-night jazz program finishes with a flourish, the host signs off with tiny hints of pride and relief at another shift brought safely home, the handoff accomplished. There’s a beat, a moment of stillness quite distilled, and then,

“Good morning. A bomb in an Iraqi suburb has killed a dozen people.”

AAAaaagh. Steve Inskeep. The pleasant, detached new voice of NPR calmly recites the day’s headlines. Horrific, indifferent or just plain stupid, the stories like the voice roll on. It isn’t perky, thank goodness for small favors, but… vacuous. Slowing slightly around the corners of certain words, for reasons of enunciation, but never resonant with thought, or the feeling thought engenders, necessarily entails. I wonder how long it will be until I wake to that voice informing me of a terrorist nuke, a forestalled election, the next plague. I say a prayer, for all of us. Bob Edwards, out there in the dark asleep… thanks, man, you are missed and loved.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Selective Memory

The press is in a reflective mood this slow-news July Sunday. 
NPR’s Weekend Edition noted the anniversary of Chappaquiddick,
lest a whole generation grow up thinking it’s a Harry Potter field sport,
I suppose.  The big 35th anniversary, what is that, crystal?

On CBS’s Face the Nation the featured 50th Anniversary Flashback
was a moment from a 1986 interview with Marion Barry, which was used to
set up file footage of his drug
sometime in the murky midnight hours of July 18/19, 1990. 
OK, I’m not going to play up the conspiracy angles here (that’s what the
book side of self-publishing is for), but I will say this is a hell of
a long way to go for a perp walk.

ABC is covering the British Open (is that golf or tennis?)  So
to fill out their dance card, I will note that my childhood best bud Judy
McKenna was born on 7/19 a good many years ago.  Who knew she would
become a top-flight legal scholar of national renown? ­ We all did. 
Hey, Jude!  Many Happy!

Another quick aside:  while researching this post on the Washington
helpful if hillarioulsy-named Destination: 
, I was reminded of Bush Senior's misadventure
with cocaine
.  She don't lie, but he has maybe been known to mis-represent.

NBC’s Meet the Press opened with a guest who doesn’t need film
clips to look back over the past century of American politics. Robert C.
Byrd (D, WV) is basically mad as hell, in a gracious Senatorial way, of
course, and he has written a book
Drawing on the senior senator’s historical perspective, host Tim Russert
asked Byrd to compare the current Bush administration to another noted
for its secrecy, Nixon’s.

“Worse.  Far worse,” Byrd said, even allowing for the fact that
several Nixon staffers hold key positions in the Bush administration (Cheney,

And for those of you keeping score at home, from the Watergate
:  July 18, 1973 Richard Nixon reportedly orders the White
House taping system disconnected.  Happy 31st Anniversary!  (horsehide?)

“I’ve never been as afraid for our country, for the direction we’re
heading, as I am now.” Byrd held up a well-worn pocket copy of the U.S.
Constitution and decried Congress for turning over to Bush its power to
declare war.  “The framers must have been spinning in their graves,”
he said.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Your huddled masses yearning to change sheets

Hey, I heard something useful on NPR today.  No, seriously.

In conjunction with the eye-glazingly weary yet somehow obligatory Martha
Stewart coverage (all hand-wringing, all the time!) that has momentarily
replaced Scott Peterson and John Edwards at the top of the news cycle (though
you’ve got to like that ticket), Scott Simon interviewed David
who wrote essentially an etiquette primer for white-color criminals
(which I sincerely hope is not titled, Everything I Need to Know I Learned
in Stir

Among Novak's precepts:  When you finally get to prison, your impulse
will be to unburden yourself by recounting, to anyone who will listen,
all the injustice and screw-ups and sad wrongs that were visited on your
innocent person by a vengeful god/media/courtsystem/public/family/whatever: 
but don’t!  The first thing you learn is that, whatever the circumstances,
everybody in prison has been through a lot, so it’s better not to air your

If only we could enshrine that principal at the editorial gateways of
NPR-land.  I’m so tired of hearing the well-practiced whine of the
über-entitled upper-middle class over any and all of their ills and
discomforts, real and imagined.  Yesterday I fled from a 20-minute
commentary on the difficulties of managing immigrant household help during
a relative’s illness.  It turns out that they just don’t understand
what you’re going through!  Imagine being born into grinding poverty,
and managing to survive god-knows-what harrowing journey to the United
States only to discover that your reward is domestic servitude.  That's
what the Statue of Liberty says, right?:

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to change sheets...

The piece was so unrelenting in its myopic self-pity it drove me to
vacuuming in 90 -degree heat. (I'm writing from the Midwest; it's not a
dry heat.)  So here is my advice to Martha and to her fans, for free: 
Pull your socks up!  Get over yourself!  Or, at the very least,
get off my radio.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Think Positive and Work Like Hell

As much junior-grade fun as it is to jeer at The Other Side, trade funny
pictures poems
and songs
about them, and call them poopheads, etc., (and don't misunderstand me,
it is a lot of fun), maybe like me you have been searching for positive
actions to take to help make things better for folks who "don't count"
in Bushie America.  Maybe like me you wish that the rich white men
who largely run things in Washington could have some more diverse company.

That's why I'm writing today about Doris "Granny D" Haddock, a citizen
in her nineties who has embraced the "crazy idea" of personal political
action and activism.  A few years ago she walked across the United
States to protest the distorting influence of big-money campaign contributions
on our representative democracy, and wrote about the journey in her memoir.

Tonight on NPR I heard that she has stepped up to run for U.S. Senate
when the Democrat dropped out of the race in her state of New Hampshire. 
Republicans and "smart money" consultants interviewed for the radio
were openly dismissive of her and disdainful of her candidacy. 
But I think they are ignoring the genuine feeling that is building out
here in Internet Land and the power we possess when we use our networks
to mobilize and lend support (as we did for Howard Dean and Michael Moore).

You can learn more about Doris Haddock and her feisty campaign to "Think
Positive About Our Future and Work Like Hell" at her website.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Clintonesque without the grotesque

In an "instant response" to the Kerry VP choice that simply
amazed television commentators (it was on Bush-Cheney web sites within
minutes of the official announcement!  Wow!  Are they on top
of things, or what?  Lucky for us the Prez wasn't reading a good children's
book this morning...) the Republican National
Committee website
calls Edwards "disingenuous" and "unaccomplished."

Ouch!  Never mind that Bush cannot read, pronounce, spell or define
"disingenuous", or that, true to form, these accusations best characterize
the Bushies themselves.

The Bush campaign website (which
can't use the address "GWBush.com" because the Bushies didn't have the
foresight to register their name, ceding it to satirists)
jeers that Edwards was not Kerry's first choice.  Dems could effectively
counter by pointing out that Dick the snarling, duck blasting, crony courting,
unelectable, Halliburting "go
f--- yourself
, big time" Bunker-boy Cheney
W's first choice
for VP.  Or maybe it was the other way around, scary in any case.

The Bushies know, or think they know, how to defend against a careful
thinker who engages the complex problems of government with a nuanced response
to factual analysis (Gore, Kerry, Nader for that matter).  Like the
talking Barbie doll who
giggled, "Math is hard!" and "Let's go shopping", the Bushies put on costumes
print up slogans, wink into the camera and shake their heads.  "Pointing
out how we've squandered the budget surplus, ignored domestic problems
and started a specious war is so pessimistic!  Let's go to Disney

But Edwards is a different story.  He has an easy, natural charm
and all the smarts and cunning of a winning trial attorney.  He's
Clintonesque without the grotesque.  I think Edwards will kick butt,
smiling all the way.