February 28, 2005

Democracy

Wow. What an amazing picture. This, my friends, is democracy in action.

From the Times:

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- With shouts of "Syria out!," more than 25,000 flag-waving protesters massed outside Parliament on Monday in a dramatic display of defiance that swept out Lebanon's pro-Syrian government two weeks after the assassination of a former prime minister.

Cheering broke out among the demonstrators in Martyrs' Square when they heard Prime Minister Omar Karami's announcement on loudspeakers that the government was stepping down.

Dang. I wish our government would step down.

[UPDATE]: More from this website and this one. "Caveman in Beirut" says:

As of 1:45 pm [Beirut time, I think], LBC reports that the crowd has swelled past the 200,000 mark - for those readers interested in statistics. I add my usual caveat that this number is neither accurate nor exhaustive - the actual number could be far greater. The important thing to remember is that this is happening in spite of extensive measures to prohibit protesters from reaching the site.
Posted by smit2174 at 12:00 PM

February 20, 2005

The story of George and Bill; or, Maybe there's hope for us, after all

There's a great piece in the NY Times today about the newfound friendship between George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The two ex-presidents are currently touring the areas devastated by the South Asian tsunami a couple of months ago. Apparently, they have been able to put aside their differences and have even become somewhat friendly.

The new warmth arises as President Bush and Mr. Clinton, who had little love for each other in the past, have grown closer.

"Frankly, President Bush likes Clinton a lot," Roland Betts, a close friend of the president, said. "He says he thinks he's a terrific person. He's not judging his administration. He just likes being around him."

Mr. Betts, who made those remarks in an interview in December, added in a brief interview this week that in his view the current president and Mr. Clinton were charismatic people and that they "saw a little bit of themselves in each other, and they liked it."

Staff members for the three men say they first noticed the thaw last Memorial Day, when the 41st, 42nd and 43rd presidents, on stage after the dedication of the National World War II Memorial on the Mall in Washington, shared private laughs. At one point, George H. W. Bush gave Mr. Clinton a playful but vigorous shove as a reaction to something Mr. Clinton had said. Aides could not recall this past week what it was, but one person did say the current president joked at the time that Mr. Clinton's biography, "My Life," was so long that he would have to read one half and his father the other.

The warming trend continued a few weeks later, when the president unveiled Mr. Clinton's official portrait at the White House with such gracious words that aides said Mr. Clinton was stunned. Mr. Bush praised Mr. Clinton as a man "with far-ranging knowledge of public policy, a great compassion for people in need and the forward-looking spirit the Americans like in a president."

Mr. Clinton reddened and his eye teared as he acknowledged: "I had mixed feelings coming here today, and they were only confirmed by all those kind and generous things you've said. Made me feel like I was a pickle stepping into history."

[...]

When [Bush and Clinton] are together... they joke about the 41st president's skydiving and which one is in the best health.

"President Bush likes to say, 'I'm 80, for God's sake,' " [an aide] said. "And President Clinton says, 'Well, you're the one jumping out of airplanes.' "

Who knows if this friendship is real or not, or if it just something cooked up by the media to give us hope in these hyper-partisan times. I thought it was a good story, though. If these guys, who were at each others' throats in '92, can work together for the good of the world and even become close friends, perhaps we all can...

Well, it's a beautiful dream, anyway. It might not happen anytime soon, but at least there's hope.

Posted by smit2174 at 12:01 PM

February 17, 2005

Brit Hume must resign!!!!!

I don't really care what he did. Heck, I barely know who Brit Hume is. But he should resign anyway.

Well, actually I do care. In an astonishing breach of journalistic ethics, Mr. Hume "mixed and matched" a few of FDR's statements to claim that our Greatest President Ever (TM) supported privatization of Social Security. What a bastard.

Hey, I have a good idea. Maybe we should all just stop watching FOX NEWS, or any other cable news channel for that matter, and then these types of things wouldn't happen!

But Brit Hume Must Still Resign! That's why I'm putting up this nifty banner. (Look over at the sidebar.) (Props to Oliver Willis.)

Outsies.

Posted by smit2174 at 8:59 PM

February 13, 2005

Elf names

Apparently, my elf name is:

Thranduil Helyanwë.

Hmm. I'm likin' it.

I'll ask my sister what it means sometime. She knows a lot about LOTR. I think she even knows a little Elvish...

Posted by smit2174 at 9:15 PM

February 11, 2005

Death of a Salesman

OK, I know it's a horrible, stupid, insensitive title for this entry. It doesn't even make sense! But Arthur Miller died last night. Farewell to a great American writer. I adore "Death of a Salesman" and, to a lesser extent, "The Crucible." I should probably read more of his stuff. But for now there's other stuff to read. I'll put it on my list.

Rest in peace, Mr. Miller.

Posted by smit2174 at 12:32 PM

February 9, 2005

Chalk one up for the blogosphere.

"Jeff Gannon*", "fair and balanced" journalist extraordinaire, bites the dust.

Because of the attention being paid to me I find it is no longer possible to effectively be a reporter for Talon News. In consideration of the welfare of me and my family I have decided to return to private life.

Thank you to all those who supported me.

Awww. Touching. We're gonna miss ya, Jeff*. Keep fighting the good fight against "liberal media" bias.

* a.k.a. James Guckert

I should really get an alias.

Posted by smit2174 at 2:06 AM

February 7, 2005

Support our troops... ?

From the New York Times: "Bush Budget Raises Drug Prices for Many Veterans."

Co-pay is raised to $15/month per prescription, from $7/month, and many veterans will have to pay a yearly $250 "user fee."

The government had no immediate estimate of how many veterans would be affected if the user fee and co-payment proposals were adopted. But veterans' groups said that hundreds of thousands of people would end up paying more and that many would be affected by both changes.

Veterans groups attacked the proposals. Richard B. Fuller, legislative director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, said: "The proposed increase in health spending is not sufficient at a time when the number of patients is increasing and there has been a huge increase in health care costs. It will not cover the need. The enrollment fee is a health care tax, designed to raise revenue and to discourage people from enrolling."

You know, if you're going to send soldiers to war, don't you at least owe them the basics they need to take care of themselves?

Can't people see that Bush doesn't give a damn about soldiers and their problems? If he did, they might have armor for their vehicles. Rumsfeld wouldn't have a job. They would be able to get into veterans' hospitals.

If he did, they wouldn't be in Iraq.

You know, this reminds me of an incident from this summer. I was at the state capitol on the day after Kerry picked Edwards as his VP pick, at a small rally to celebrate the occasion. It was a pretty dumb rally, but I got a free bumper sticker and button out of the deal.

As I was walking back to my car, I met this guy at a street corner. He wore an old army camo jacket and carried a big canvas duffel bag. I said "hi" to him, and he enthusiastically greeted me back. He remarked on the John Kerry bumper sticker I was carrying-- he said he was voting for Kerry, because he hated to think of the kids in Iraq dying for Bush's "oil war." He told me he had served in Vietnam-- then he pulled up his pant leg to show me the shrapnel that was still embedded in his calf.

I asked him where he was from. He said Detroit. He had been drafted straight out of high school. Until he was drafted, his plan had been to play baseball for the Detroit Tigers-- apparently he was a pretty good pitcher. (I didn't know whether to believe him or not. Confronted with the evidence in the form of his disfigured leg that his Vietnam story was true, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.) I asked him what he was doing here. He said he left his daughter and grandkids in Michigan to come to the Fort Snelling VA Hospital. Once he got there, however, they turned him away. Now he needed to go to a different hospital somewhere, but he didn't have any money for the bus.

I felt really sorry for him. All I had in my wallet was a $20, but somehow anything I could use it for didn't seem all that important. So I gave it to him to use for the bus. He also wondered where he could get a Kerry sticker for himself and a few to give to his friends. I walked him back down to the rally, where they were still cleaning up, and he got the stickers he wanted. He told his story to a couple of the DNC workers that were there, too, and they were as shocked and saddened as I was.

I don't know if the guy ever got to the hospital. I hope he did. But the whole incident really made me sad and angry. As I drove home, I thought about how fortunate I've been in my life so far. And I wondered: how will we repay those who are serving over in Iraq right now?

One of my favorite commercials during the Super Bowl last night, and the only one that was truly emotionally touching, was the Anheuser-Busch commercial with the soldiers arriving at the airport and the people breaking out into applause. I actually teared up during that ad. But, in the end, it was not really a "thank you" to American troops. It was a cynical attempt to sell us beer.

That's exactly what the Bush administration does. They use the love and admiration we all have for the troops to sucker us into buying their agenda. They wrap themselves in the flag and the soldiers' camo gear. (Sometimes they even put on a flight suit.) They claim they have the troops' backs. But their actions speak louder than their words.

When will we ever learn?

Posted by smit2174 at 1:01 PM

Fixed the banner!/Sports stuff/MT stuff

Thank you, Shane of Greet Machine for giving me the secret MT code to fix the banner. In gratitude, I link to your blog. They've got some great stuff over there! As someone who hasn't had a lot of time to pay much attention to sports lately (well, I did watch the Super Bowl... and I went to all the Gopher Football games... and one basketball game... and quite a few Twins games. But other than that.) it is great to see such a comprehensive site about local sports issues.

The idea about the state buying the Twins and building a stadium is a great idea, if we can come up with the money. I would not support public funding for a stadium to make billionaire owners even richer, unless the state was getting something out of the deal-- such as a three-time AL Central Division championship team. If you are interested in stadium financing issues, be sure to check it out.

And, after the Men's Basketball team beat Wisconsin on Saturday, we are dominating that inferior university 185-75 in the "Border Battle Cup," which shows that despite our underachieving football team, the U is actually doing pretty well in the athletic field.

On another note... I am absolutely clueless with this Movable Type thing. If anyone else has any tips for me, go ahead and post 'em! But remember-- I don't do programming. If you could post the code and tell me exactly what to do with it, that would be great. One thing I really want to do is add a feature that would allow me to post a "song of the day"-type thing on the sidebar as a separate entry so I wouldn't have to change the template every day. I tried to set up a "sideblog" as seen on another site, but it was too complicated, so I gave up.

Signing out.

Posted by smit2174 at 11:35 AM

February 5, 2005

Dean for DNC part 1

DavidNYC over at Daily Kos reminds us that today marks the second anniversary of the first ever Howard Dean "meetups," which took place in coffee shops and pizza parlors in cities around the countries. Eventually these meetups and other grassroots meetings, as well as the phenomenal power of grassroots websites such as Dean for America (now Democracy for America) would propel Dean to be the frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Well, along with most people, I'd never heard of Howard back then. I didn't start paying attention to the Democratic primary race until probably November or December of 2003, and I didn't get at all involved until Martin Luther King weekend in January '04, when I and several others travelled to Waterloo, IA to campaign for John Edwards in the whirlwind last days before the all-important Iowa caucuses. Back then, I was doing it more as a learning experience, but I came to respect John Edwards as a person and a politician. This process culminated in me casting a vote for John Edwards on Super Tuesday at my first-ever political caucus at Mahtomedi High School. I believe he actually won our district (May Township) Later that night, however, we learned that Edwards had conceded the nomination to John Kerry.

Flash forward 11 fateful months later. We have Bush as president once again. Who knows if any of the candidates could have beaten him? All we know is that, after a series of campaign triumphs but also some glaring missteps, Kerry lost.

But I am through being depressed about The Re-Election. We Democrats now have an historic opportunity: Howard Dean, barring a last-minute takedown by the powers that be (and Dean supporters have reason to be paranoid, after Iowa 2004), is poised to become the new Chariman of the Democratic National Committee.

In the few months since the election, I have become steadily more and more enthused and optimistic about the prospect of a Dean victory. I have become a Deaniac. I believe that Howard Dean's enthusiasm and ability to really connect with people will make him a great figurehead for Democrats to rally around these next couple of years, and hopefully will spark us to take back the Senate (at least) in 2006. I don't know anything about his organizing ability-- I've one of the problems with his campaign at first was that, as an outsider campaign, it was not prepared to handle the mass of Deaniacs who turned out to contribute their time and money, and it ended up being a little disorganized-- but I think that, if Dean surrounds himself with proven, talented organizers (many have mentioned Simon Rosenberg of the New Democrat Network), we will be in great shape.

We'll never know how the presidential race would have turned out if any of the variables had changed-- if we had nominated Dean, or Clark, or Edwards, or if Kerry had done this or that differently, or if... We just don't know. There are so many "what if"s. But one thing I do know is that I'd be glad to have Howard Dean as Chairman of the Party. The formal election is on the 12th, I believe, so stay tuned... More on this later.

Posted by smit2174 at 6:12 PM

February 4, 2005

Origins of the new title.

The name, "A Plain Picture," comes from an interview of Bob Dylan that is used as the ending sample in Sage Francis' "Makeshift Patriot." I can't find any details on the interview-- who is the interviewer, when was it given, what was it for. All I know from googling it is that, yes, it is Bob Dylan, and yes, Sage Francis did use it in his song. (If anyone knows anything more, could you let me know?)

These lines, also present in the new logo, are worth quoting in full.


Bob Dylan: Seriously, if I want to find out anything, I'm not going to read Time Magazine, I'm not going to read Newsweek, I'm not going to read any of these magazines. I mean, 'cause they've just got too much to lose by printing the truth! You know that.

--What kinds of truths are they omitting?

BD: Well, anything. Even on a worldwide basis. They'd just go off the stands in a day if they printed really the truth.

--What is really the truth?

BD: Well, really the truth is just a plain picture.

This blog will be a plain picture of my life and my thoughts. There will be no censorship, since I answer to nobody but myself. Entries will be extremely random, but may deal with politics, music, community, college, people, and of course, personal stuff. Please, read, and enjoy, and join the discussion if you feel like it. Also, if you feel like it, start your own! Give me the link and I will definitely read it.

Hope to see you in the future!

Posted by smit2174 at 12:07 AM

February 3, 2005

The Re-Launch

Today, the day after my birthday, February 3, 2005, I am formally relaunching this blog. Its new name is "A Plain Picture."

After several weeks of having a blog, I've noticed that I tend to post very inconsistently. I always have a lot of good (ok, decent) ideas, or things that I'd like to blatantly rip off of other blogs, but a lot of the time I lack the motivation or the time to post them. I will try to do better in this regard.

This blog's old title, "Conversations with myself," was really supposed to be a stopgap name, but until today I was too lazy and uninspired to change it. It was really a stupid name, wasn't it? I hope this new one is better. Plus I made a sweet logo to go at the top. Now I'm ready for the big time.

Posted by smit2174 at 11:15 PM