Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Back To The Drawing Board

During the time off, I have had a lot to think about. First, there was the news of comedian Michael Richards' insults to some of his patrons during his show. And then, there was the fifty gunshots to a bridegroom in New York on the eve of his wedding. Of course, we cannot forget the utter denial that is taking place by Mr. Bush and his colleagues regarding whether or not there is a "civil war" taking place in Iraq. The rest of the world (and part of the MSM) thinks so. But he doesn't. And, he continues to say so in his policy speeches across the globe. It seems while we are embarking into this season of Christmas cheer, the same old game is being played.

The old hawks in government refuse to see the light of the mess that they made. And at home on the domestic front, the chickens have come home to roost.

Sigh. Did they not learn from the mid-term elections that the people do not want to take this mess anymore?

Hell no. It's business as usual. As the GOP continues to flail in the political game trying to save face, there are the hard core supporters who blindly believe that we are doing the right thing overseas when the rest of the world sees things as they are.

Reality is rather hard to take. And the pain that comes from the discovery of reality is much harder, due to the fact that the writing is on the wall.

A lot of people have had plenty to say about what Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D.-NY) proclaimed as a call back to the draft. I respect Mr. Rangel on many counts. When I first heard what he had said, I had to think to myself whether he had taken the fork in the road toward the most hawkish of the war supporters. Come on, now. A draft!?!

However, I have a different take on his comments. Although I am clearly against any draft, I think that he makes a few valid points. When a draft is made (taking from the example of Vietnam), the first people that were sent off to war were the Middle Class and the Poor. The rich, somehow (and not immune to our President) got their children off to serve in "safer" ways or with deferrments.

Mr. Rangel's point of view is that with a draft,the rich as well as the poor would have to serve, with no exceptions. It was quite interesting how all of these politicians who had blindly believed in the Iraqi War turned tail against him and started to denounce his call for a draft. Pretty ironic, especially if it is your kid (deep within the bowels of private school) being pulled out to be cannon fodder for the "insurgents". Wow. The only way to protect the offspring of the rich would be to say that Mr. Rangel's words were either posturing or crazy talk. But, if it wasn't their child serving and in the offspring's place a poor kid had to go overseas, I guess to the rich the draft would be all right. It would satiate their need to slowly eliminate welfare to those who need it while preserving their birthright of class and money. After all, with those in lower income groups serving and dying in a war of no discernable reason there would be no need to complain about the "begging for a social handout from the government".

And so the rich and the conservative would hope.

But, that might be perceived as crazy talk too. After all, who really wants a draft to be embarked upon? Ask anyone. I'd be hard pressed to see a raising of hands.

With all of these things, the current news uncomfortably raises issues related to class, culture and diversity. During Thanksgiving, the talks that I've had stemmed on such subject matter when it has to do with America after 9/11. I know I keep harping on this fact entry to entry, but I truly do believe that there had been a deficit in gentility, respect and civility after 9/11. Not only has these things affected the way we talk about politics currently; they also affect how people refer and treat each other on the basis of conscience and kindness.

We have been given novacaine the last five years because the drama that continues to ensue on the national and world stage has been quite hard to take. Now we don't know who is the enemy. And, we have been taught to fear each other due to the fact that almost anyone could be a "terrorist". This trickles down to the epipthets, the discussions and the way we perceive how world events are going. The notion of togetherness is not talked about anymore. It is only "Us vs. Them".

The problem with this is the fact that I think that a lot people know that these things are happening, but are unwilling to take the time to discuss why. It is easier to wave the flag and nod yes everytime the government tells us something new. But if it were your son sent off to war against his will, or your son being shot fifty times by the police, what would you say then? Would you continue to wave the flag? Or would you start to wonder what kind of society are we in?

Tough questions, with no easy answers.

That is why this is a time of reflection concerning the course our country has to go. Although Christmas is an altruistic time that brings out the warmth in a whole lot of people, it is also important to ponder what this year brought to us. It is also time to think about what next year will bring in terms of social, national and international progress.

We took a large leap during the mid-term elections. Now, we have to take that leap of faith and continue the push toward progress that helps not only ourselves, but our fellow people in the cause of the just. After all, the time of denial is over. Now we must began to assess the damage and then move positively toward healing.

How will you take that first step toward progress?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

First, let me apologize to you all for my brief hiatus due to Thanksgiving preparations and busywork. After the end of the festivities, I'll be back with new entries and a lot to say.

I give my thanks to you all for replying on my blog these first, few months here. As I have always said, it makes me happy and thankful to exchange a dialogue with fascinating and erudite voices on any given day. In fact, it encourages me to continue to search for thought-provoking issues (even when serving up the ol' "Ceci's Special, from time to time).

Furthermore, when we give our thanks on this day for our loved ones near and far, let us not forget those who are less fortunate and going through hard circumstances. It doesn't take much to pause away from the touch football or the Alaska Shootout in order to think and reflect of not only being in the warmth radiated by those we care for, but to have compassion for those who need a little bit of care and love during the holidays.

May these holidays be bright and wonderous for you and yours as we kick off this festive season. And of course, never rest on your laurels when working to try and make the world better for all.

Take good care,

Ceci :)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ceci's Special: Communication Skills, Pt. 1

Another new thing that will be featured from time to time (along with books, issues related to the post-9/11 culture, politics and society), will be the examination of communication. This is especially dedicated to those who complain about a "lack of communication skills" because they have shed light on something that we all have to learn about from time to time. For those who say this about another, they must remember that forgiveness is a virtue, but not innate. After all, no one is perfect. We all need a refresher on how to relate to other people. And, after reading an interesting book called, People Skills (1979), there is a list of "communication enders" that is important for everyone to read. See if these things have come up in your talks with people on a daily basis:

1)criticizing: Making a negative evaluation of the other person, her actions, or attitudes.

2)Name-calling:"Putting down" or stereotyping the other person.

3)Diagnosing: Analyzing why a person is behaving as she is, playing amateur analyst.

4)Praising Evaluatively: Making a positive judgement of the other person, her actions and attitudes.

5)Ordering: Commanding the other person to do what you want to have done.

6)Threatening: Trying to control the other's actions by warning of negative consequences that you will instigate.

7)Moralizing: Telling another person what she should do.

8)Excessive/Inappropriate Questioning: Closed-ended questions are often barriers to a relationship; these are those that can be usually answered in a few words--often a simple yes or no.

9)Advising: Giving the other person a solution to her problems.

10)Diverting: Pushing the other's problems aside through distraction.

11)Logical argument: Attempting to convince the other with an appeal to facts or logic, without consideration of the emotional factors involved.

12)Reassuring: Trying to stop the other person from feeling the negative emotions she is experiencing.

--From Bolton, Robert. People Skills. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1979: 15-16.

In forums as well as in life, we all come across situations sometimes in which these things are done. I think that it is so deeply ingrained into our psyche that sometimes, we don't realize that we are doing these things. After reading the pages of this amazing text, it is fascinating to discover that not a lot of time is taken to teach how people express their emotions and thoughts to one another. Instead, it is far easier to just say things willy nilly without any idea of how the other person might feel. Well, it is always important to evaluate how you relate to others at least in your own communication circle.

Some might write this off. For the rest of us, these points are rather important because it would make the conversations we have so much better in the long run.

But then again, critical thinking skills are something that people ought to learn along with effective communication. Difficult people exist everywhere. Some are plainly difficult because they prefer to be that way. Others are difficult because they haven't adequately dealt with their own personal demons. And then, there are those who simply feel that they have to be the voice of authority in telling others how they should act or how they should feel in regards to a certain topic. Some of the worst offenders are those who openly criticize how others might approach a certain topic without thinking or examining their own ways of relating to others in the first place--especially when highlighting issues related to "control".

In light of this, perhaps it is best to say that for a person to mention how another "lacks personal communication skills", they should take a long look in the mirror at themselves and their problems. When they face the dark abyss that surrounds their own behavior (and perhaps force themselves to feel what little guilt they have over their own wayward approach to others), then, they might be a little more humbled and less arrogant in making such claims.

Other than that, communication skills, must simply be reevaluated from time to time. The lack of adequate training for relating to others has to be recognized. Perhaps, we might have a better society if all of us took the time to rediscover ourselves and how we view others in an empathetic and humane light.

I personally hope that this is a great message that everyone can take away with them because it is so sorely needed.

It's Basketball Season Again!!!!! :)

Mostly on Ceci's News and Views, there is a serious buckling down on politics and society, especially after 9/11. I put my nose on the grindstone and churn out "think pieces" on a regular basis without stoppage--when the time permits. And of course, it is mostly serious, serious, serious around here.

Well, all work and no play makes Ceci a dull girl. ;)

However, it's college basketball season. Although more know me for my devotion to politics, a little known fact about me is my love for (American) football and college basketball. Those are two sports that I follow devotedly year after year. Ever since I was "knee high to a grasshopper", my mother and father would take my sister and myself to professional and college games year after year, season after season. Believe me, I've witnessed a lot of sports events. And while others are slinging the turkey back and forth across the table during Thanksgiving, we all camp out with sweet potato pie in hand and watch not only some of the football games on the telly, but of course the Maui Invitational and the pre-season NIT tournament. With all those things coming very soon, it seems that Christmas has come early! :)

But tonight, my UCLA Bruins kicked off their season. They beat BYU tonight. Jordan Farmar is gone (off to the Lakers, of course), but Aaron Afflalo and Darren Collison took his place immensely. But don't count out Lorenzo Mata and "The Prince", Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. They played superbly tonight as they beat BYU. Heck. They may be ranked numero cinco this year, but we will see how things turn out. It is still early yet. And since they are going to be in the Maui Invitational this year, I'll be watching with bells on to see whether they can stay in the top ten.

(Okay, do the 8-clap with me) ;)

Speaking of staying in the top ten, if you are a basketball fan, like I am, were you just puzzled how Oral Roberts University beat number three ranked Kansas tonight? Now that's a real conspiracy. ;)

Notes To A Young Woman Who Vicariously Lives The Anger of Her Father

I showed a post with the phrase above to two friends in the "real world" whom I regularly discuss the issues of the day with. It was on another site somewhere in the cyberspace universe, but still the words were rather fascinating to both of them.

One blurted out, "What intolerant people they are!"

The other shook her head and just said, "Wow".

Since I am practicing kindness (a last admonition from my days as a poster), I merely said nothing. In fact, saying nothing in this case does a world of good in the long run. But, the comments (referring to a thread about diversity) deserved a small entry in which I could express some remarks of wisdom for others who try to build bridges where there isn't one. Hopefully, that will do some good in light of the bitterness expressed during the post referring to the thread in queston.

So, here they are.

People who want to discuss diversity must never give up in the hope that their words will reach someone who is kind and responsive to changing societal attitudes toward all aspects of difference. It is about awareness and education. It is about trying to walk in another's shoes and understanding the plight of people who are different from you.

Well, some of us can't ignore conversations about difference. We live in the realm of diversity and difference throughout all our lives. Instead, it is much better to be courageous and continue the conversation because there is always hope that people exist who have compassion and understanding. Furthermore, it is of the highest yearning that there are people out there who will shut off the messages of anger and intolerance to learn something new about people who aren't like them. It is persons like these that one must have hope for. They would simply listen, ask questions and make observances.

Then, a conversation such as the one referred to would be productive and more sincere.

Right now, we all have to realize that we're all in this together. And if we don't learn about each other, it is as good as living in a house divided. And like Former President Abraham Lincoln quipped once, "A House divided cannot stand".

So for those who are ready to conquer the brave new territory of understanding others, they must keep their head up and continue to strive. Unfortunately, there are others who have not even gotten out of the gate. They too easily believe the hype and wallow in propaganda quicksand. But, those who do manage to unlock the fence and step forward are the ones who benefit in the end. :)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Short Message About Intolerance

For those of you who know how long-winded I am, this will be a change. Of course, I will always write my long entries about the conditions of the world because they deserve the space and time devoted to dissecting the issues.

However, I would like to put in a short note about intolerance. Intolerance came to me in a very abrupt way in my past incarnation as a poster. And when you deal with others who practice this notion because of mean-spiritedness or the fact that they disguise their lack of tolerance by using "intelligence", discussions on controversial subjects only get worse instead of better.

It is sad that people exist who are unwilling to hear the other side of things. Instead, they use other machinations to prove the speaker should not be heard. In hindsight, it is also heart-breaking that there are people who are easily convinced to not listen instead of asking questions and trying to make connections. It has nothing to do with "intellectual dishonesty" or a "lack of communication skills". It does have to do with being humane and empathetic.

But, from what I read in some circles, it is easier to talk about hate and omission instead of facing the problems head on and discussing them as they are. That is also truly a tragic notion. It is ironic, in noting that when talking about the nature of hate, noone fought! Maybe there are communication skills one should have when dealing with intolerant people. However, the examples are too far and in between. I guess, when it comes to some topics, it is easier to join in with the intolerant crowd instead of providing a different perspective.

Yes. Walk a mile in my high heels. To quote a character on the show, CSI, they do hurt an awful lot.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Which Way is Left?

There has been a lot said regarding the aftermath of last Tuesday's mid-term elections. Some things appear quite obvious, such as the conservatives and the GOP are pretty sore losers. However, at the same time, they know how to cut their losses in order to appeal to their base. Not to mention the fact that they are pretty handy at using propaganda in order to convince some of us that if we don't "believe in them", then we are "going to hell" or that "we're not moral". On the blog from X-mas past, I had gotten a few comments from individuals that told me that I embraced a "Leftist point of view".

I couldn't be someone who just talks about politics. Oh no. But, I could be someone who is leftist and liberal. And not only that. I was told in my past incarnation in forum fare from time to time that I was a Kerry-loving liberal. If it weren't so viciously flung, I would have had to laugh. Believe me I would. Being insulted for one's principles in a virtual Petrie dish of ideas seems so absurd in a Beckett-like way.

But, this lets on to a point that was brought up today on some news venues about the difference between electing "conservative Democrats" and "Democrats in general". In the opinion of some, the only Dems that were elected last week were centrist in nature and that Americans in general were more "conservative" now. In fact, the citizens of the United States, some opinions blared, openly embrace "conservative ideals" more.

By participating in certain sectors and forums on-line, you might think that this was the case. In my past experience, if you've dealt with a bunch of loud voices who support Mr. Bush no matter what. Furthermore, if they follow you from thread to thread discussing the same pro-neocon drivel when it comes to social and international issues, then perhaps it is easier to believe that there are people like this in droves willing to shout down anybody who adopts a caring, open-minded or empathetic stance. It might even be the case if there are a whole bunch of people who even insert their feelings about culture, diversity and politics in a conservative light by casually mentioning "those people getting 'social handouts" or 'giveaways'" and not even getting a slap on the wrist or a chiding for it. After all, since others think like them, then it is naturally opined that there are a whole bunch of neocons out there and you're the only progressive with an open-minded point of view.

However, it is good to note that a lot of people out there disband this notion by voting their conscience on last Tuesday. It is further refreshing to know that there are people who actually are sensitive to others and would discuss the plight of their fellow man. They also voted last Tuesday. What is even more, is that if the world was only one political entity opposed to another, it would be a pretty bland world. Don't these neocons get this?

Probably not. Knowing some good friends who are conservative (but very lucid, the last time I looked), they garner certain beliefs partially because of class and because of the way the wind blows politically. In fact, one told me that despite anything Mr. Bush did, he would still be considered a "great President". I asked, would historians be willing to throw out the questions of torture, habeas corpus, and of course the Posse Comitatus laws?

My friend looked at me cluelessly. "Just liberal double-speak, C," he told me. "Mr. Bush wasn't responsible for any of that. After all, that's just another lie cooked up by the liberal media."

Yeah, right. Just like the lie that there actually is a liberal media. In fact, there hasn't been one is quite a long time, and especially since 9/11.

The example conveyed by the statement from my friend is that there are people out there who think that anything leftist is dangerous. For older people who think this way, they equate leftism with communism. The sad thing about a nation embracing democratic ideals is the fact that it doesn't really let its citizens embrace their ideals openly. It seems that if you believe in anything different, and see those goals supported by some politicians in government, the world--by the neocons--is seen as going to Hell in a handbasket. Nothing can ever be balanced or inclusive. There is is only one way or the highway. And even when one who embraces this point of view sees his or her values repudiated by the majority in an election, the beliefs are contiunally embraced--even when the light has been shown on the machinations of this government.

In the past, I did write extensively on society after 9/11. On this blog, I will not leave this vital and important research out because it is still important. Certain attitudes, I've discovered are still crystallized in the voting patterns, attitudes and nuances of the American populace. And if you aren't reading George Lakoff and his studies, then one has to begin to understand why this is so. The notion of being leftist is a part of this. Somehow, since the eighties the notion of being leftist was wrong. My personal opinion leans on the fact that it is the right's way to criticize and nullify the strides made in sexual orientation, civil rights and the women's movement. By accusing those who embrace liberal ideals as being "wrong" and even "loopy" in their approach to the world, it puts all the progress made to bring people together into the trash bin. It also brings back the "olden days" of the way it used to be.

As I mentioned before in the past, the "olden days" is something that not all of us would like to return to--not even if the lottery sweepstakes were attached to it. The present, no matter how screwed up it is, is still worth fighting for. It needs people from all walks of life to contribute their two cents into this battle. In this struggle to make society better, one also has to realize that "morality" does not sit on one side of the fence. There isn't a certain political platform that embraces morality in totality. We all are capable of being good and moral in our approach. And we also have the power within ourselves to dictate our own moral standards to view the world.

But in the same way, it is our conscience, morality and empathy that will make things better in the long run. It is not the certain embrace of a political platform that will make us better or even greater individuals. In the end, it is the ability to see the big picture and have a sort of vision of how things might be better for not only one person, but for all of us in the world.

It is a shame that some are too narrow-minded and pigeon-holed by ideology to simply care.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

...And The Heads Rolled

Last week, one has to admit, was momentuous. Leading up to election day, one got the sense that things were not going to change in America. In fact, the climate inside the United States conveyed that it was going to be same old thing, complete with the machinations of the Diebold voting machines to boot. However, even a jaded and perhaps cynical person like myself can be changed by the outlook that was presented in the aftermath of results. The GOP (including some of its figureheads that played into the elections of 2000 and 2004) was voted out. Americans had demonstrated their disgust. They elected Democrats in their midst, some of which came from once was considered Republican districts.

What even might have seemed poetic justice to those disenfranchised during the 2000 and 2004 elections, Mr. Blackwell (R.-Ohio) and Ms. Harris (R.-Fla.) were voted out of office. They both figured heavily in the elections process of their party. In the end, they found out that their constituents were not blind to what had happened in the past. They were sent packing unmercifully in what was seen as a "repudiation" of the policies of the past, especially when it had to do with the present Administration.

The most interesting aspect in the aftermath of the elections is that it was a time of milestones. In Congress, we get to have our first elected Muslim member in the history of America. In that same path, we get to also witness our first lady Speaker of the House, the third in line to the Presidency. Ms. Nancy Pelosi (D.-CA) is regarded by many in her party as being a hard-working, pragmatic individual. In fact, she diplomatically engaged in talks with the President and his colleagues soon after the post-mortems of the voting process conveyed it said and done.

But, what seemed the most "constructive" avenue that was taken was that the heads started rolling. Like any good soap opera (and I know the ladies (and some guys too) like to watch their stories), the narrative of what happened when the people had spoken included a few casualties. Say goodbye to Mr. Rumsfeld. Rummy was the first to fall on the sword of change. Long reviled as well as praised for his "tough as nails" style, it seemed that his stance on torture proved to be too much. Mr. Bush, who only recently stated that he would keep the former Secretary of Defense to the end, reneged. Rummy had to go. And sent packing he was. Word had it that Mr. Hastert, soon-to-be ex-Speaker of the House (taking up the reins after Tom "The Hammer" DeLay unceremoniously left in a cloud of accusations regarding corruption), would be stepping down and out. Not far behind him would be the resignation of Ken Mehlman, in January.

And like famed author Kurt Vonnegut would say in his wonderful book, Slaughterhouse Five, "And so it goes".

After listening to Air America as well as progressive talk radio during the last few days, it would seem that the callers expressing their content and joy were released from the Gulag. They spoke of their hopes and fears with a newly elected Democratic Senate and House. They also mentioned their opinions about how the Dems would have to put up or shut up on their promises--especially when it came to raising minimum wage and having oversight committees to root out the corruption that had taken hold in government. This was not time for one to rest on their laurels. It was time to work and to put their money were their mouth was. After all, a portion of the American people had to endure the strife that was placed upon them since 2000. Furthermore, after the elections nearly six years ago, there was no way to vent anger or dissent. Some of us in America had to grin and bear it.

Grin and bear it we did until the day of reckoning. For those of us who did express dissent from time to time, quietly watched and waited as those who fell into party line chided, ridiculed and taunted "the whining liberals". After all, those "whining liberals" were "godless" in their approach of bringing "bad morals" and "terrorists" in America. Some of us who did speak out are not quite so convinced that those in lockstep actually changed their spots after Tuesday's revelations of discontent and disgust at the policies that had really broken the back of foreign as well as domestic policy.

But those who opposed those "whining liberals" and "progressives" that did speak out, got a wake up call. And toothpicks did not have to pry open their eyes.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Some Days Are Not For the Faint of Heart

As promised, I was going to write something about Mr. Rumsfeld's resignation. I was even going to add the news of Mr. Mehlman's resignation coming today. As I was set to write my take on these new developments regarding the changing of the guard in Washington D.C., I had heard that veteran 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley had died of leukemia. The news, believe me, was pretty hard to take.

Mr. Bradley has been a staple within my home as long as I could remember. His face graced the screen of many a Sunday night as my family would sit around and watch his reports among the others (such as Leslie Stahl, Harry Reasoner and Mike Wallace with wonder. But for us, seeing him was quite special. It meant that progress was happening in the industry of television. News, for what it was worth at this day and age, benefitted from having Mr. Bradley there. There was not one news story he did that did not have an impact on society. My parents, sister and myself would marvel how he would travel the world and interview very fascinating people. We also watched with wonder as he would capture the essence of the story regarding many things that were pertinent to current events. Here was a Black man who intrepidly traveled the earth, conversed with world dignitaries and was treated with respect by his colleagues. Yes, things were changing.

However, the news today took my breath away because although news reports indicate that Mr. Bradley had been on the much lauded CBS news show for twenty three years, to me it seemed like forever. He was never going to leave. He was always going to be there despite the changes to the landscape of 60 Minutes. Mike Wallace's retirement was pretty hard to take as well. But, he's still alive and kicking (which is wonderful). Mr. Bradley will only be available with the legacy of video, which is is great for seeing his past triumphs in the news world. In the end, it is sad with the realisation that the soft-spoken, jazz-loving newsman would no more come on screen with hard-hitting items that people ought to know.

That is why despite the hope ushered into the world by the mid-term elections, today is just not a day to celebrate. The Broadcast and Print newsworld has lost one of its giants. His shoes will never be filled, despite how hard they try. Mr. Bradley's type of reportage with meticulousness, courage and empathy can never be emulated or replicated in any form. He indeed broke the mold.

Sorry for the downer. :(

More will be said regarding current events later on.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It's Going To Be A Long Night

Here we are--the day of the mid-term elections. Myself and others have been constantly bringing up this day since early this year. It seemed (from watching the footage today) that there were a lot of lines at precincts around the country. That shows that people do care about the direction of the country. No matter who they supported, voters across the nation did do their civic duty. It simply felt good to watch.

However, the early news reports had indictated that there were problems in some states regarding voter intimidation. I'm sure after all the votes have been counted, more will be brought forth about this news. After all, what would be election day without a little drama? Although most items have stated so far that the elections process had gone on smoothly, it seems that "dirty tricks" (as in previous elections cycles) still have their part to play in terms of how politics is run in America. Although most might perceive the process of voting to be fair and just, reports since the 2000 election continue to rear their ugly head especially when it comes to electronic voting.

The jury is still out on the notion of electronic voting despite the aura of it being more systematic and quicker in terms of counting. One thing that some forget when it comes to praising the virtues of this new technology is the fact that the machines themselves are easily hackable and the results (when pressed by "touch-screen) can be easily changed. Not just a paper trail have to be considered in the execution of these machines, especially when so much is on the line in terms of what way the country will be steered.

For the most part, the day has been very exciting. I have been at the edge of my seat as the results came in. So far, so good. It seems that terrorism isn't the only thing that people are voting upon today. Of course, some seats up for grabs are already a given for their particular incumbents. However, as the items go on in the cable news channels, most incumbents are not safe. Other indications reveal that the Dems are leading in terms of obtaining seats in the Senate and the House. As of right now, it is still too early to tell. However, by tomorrow, we'll see whether this trend proves to be true across the country.

And if things continue the way they have been today, we might see our first female Speaker of the House, the third person in line to the President. As my mother said to me several weeks ago, it is about damn time for women to assume the position of authority in matters of state. If Rep. Nancy Pelosi does take this position in the House, it will not only be a milestone; it will prove to the rest of us that times are changing from the past.

Change is good. Let's hope that change helps everyday people like you and me make our lives better and more fulfilled. Let's also hope that we voted for people who will truly work for us and not prostrate themselves to the ground in order to serve a certain agenda that does not represent their constituents at all.

More will be said as the breakdowns come late tonight and tomorrow morning. This chapter isn't finished yet. :)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Some Things I've Noticed About this Election Cycle

It's a little too early for a post mortem, but I thought I would point out a few things that stand out in the lead up to tomorrow's mid-term elections. It is fascinating to me, but you all are free to agree or disagree if there is a different take on what has been done:

1)You know which side the media is buttered on. The MSM does not believe in "equal time" clauses anymore. In the old days, if time was given to one politician, his or her opponent is supposed to get equal time. Well, the sea of Republican pundits and candidates on local and cable stations did away with that little FCC rule.

2)It's all about Barack Obama. Like him or hate him, he's made the rounds on many a campaign speech. There's even talk about him running in 2008. He hasn't said yes, but I don't think he's ruling it out.

3)It's terrorism, stupid. The GOP was taking a beating until issues of terrorism began to creep into the news and in the policy speeches. Mr. Saddam's verdict was like manna of the gods. However, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. The civil war has just begun in Iraq.

4)The gas prices are falling, the gas prices are falling! That is, until after Tuesday. Just watch when they creep over four dollars in the next month. Well heck. I'll give it two weeks.

5)No mention about jobs or the economy. Is it because it might upset the Middle Class and the working poor?

6)No mention about immigration. I'm sure it has been in some policy speeches, but voting blocs are being courted. That means talk about immigration (if you saw Lou Dobbs' "Town Hall Meeting") upsets some groups in America. Talk about it now and it might seem like it is hard line.

7)Invite Mr. Bush to your state, but don't stand next to him. It has amazed me that some of the candidates tried to distance themselves from the President of the United States, yet still invited him to his state. Or, in lieu of his presence, the First Lady has been requested to get on the stump. That is if you don't read the tabloids about their divorce. ;)

8)Religion has uneasily been lurking in the background. I'm not truly sure, but the Christian Right has not been heard quite as much as in previous elections--except when it has to do with a certain pastor and the notion of forgiveness

9)Dirty Campaigns. If you had been watching the Tennessee race, you'd think that you'd be watching the catfight between Krystal and Alexis. Even literature was thrown into the accusations flung...as well as extra-curricular activities.

10)Tasteless Ads. Among the usual ads which threaten if you vote for a Dem and end up with a terrorist in your lap, there has been others that scare your conscience, appeal to your moral center or simply use manipulation to get you to vote for the other guy.

Okay, *one more* (Jeez, I can't help myself).

11)The hyping of the "Governator". This is a small service announcement to you Californians out there. Please don't let star power guide your vote. Mr. Swartzenegger's sudden turn to supporting Democratic and liberal causes ought not to fool you. After all, he was in a corner after the vote-down of all eight of his supported Propositions last November. He trampled on the Nurses, Teachers, Law Enforcement personnel and Fire Fighters last year as well as their Unions. Turn off the news and pundits whenever they publicize his name and vote your consience here. He hasn't changed. Not even the First Lady of California can change his platform.

That's it. More tomorrow. :)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

One Last Reminder About the Mid-term Elections

To some, this might be seen as beating a dead horse. However, we are two days away from voting in the mid-term elections across the country. How we vote hinges upon our very future in determining the policies of state locally, nationally and internationally. I've made it a committment to talk until I am blue in the face about this issue because it is critical that there is a large turnout on Tuesday. In past elections, voter turnout has been very low due to the fact that Tuesday is a week-day in which a lot of people have to work, myself included.

The main reason why I vote is because of my parents and relatives who, prior to 1965, did not have a chance to vote in elections due to "poll taxes" and the "grandfather clause" inflicted because of Segregation. Because of the intimate connection I have to past history prior to the Civil Rights era, voting is much more important to me. My relatives were part of the many citizens in America who campaigned for the right to vote. My parents, especially, participate in every election because they remember what it was like to be harrassed and forced to pay to do their civic duty.

Voting may seem like nothing to others because it comes infrequently due to the length of years. But to me, hearing stories about how some would walk blocks, if not a mile to get to their precinct to cast their decision in local and national politics makes it important to study everything related to an issue I can to make a good effort when I get to the polls. It also humbles me because I walk in the footsteps of pioneers who fought despite being violently opposed to simply put their ballot in the box.

Although what happened in Ohio and Florida disappointed me greatly because it thwarted the voting rights of some Americans in trying to cast their ballot, I certainly hope that this mid-term election holds us wiser and more vigilant in terms of participation.

What are the other reasons why I vote?

1)It is as American as baseball and apple pie. The Constitution bestowed upon us freedom of speech. Voting is such an exercise of this right.

2)Voting is a privilege that people have to comment on the endeavors of government. Without the voice of the people, government would be little more than a dictatorship.

3)Despite the different stances we take about governmental policy, it is important every so often to tell our national leaders where we stand.

4)Not only the Founding Fathers fought for our liberties in establishing this country; everyday people like ourselves campaigned and protested for the right of all of us to cast a vote. One cannot forget the sacrifices the people before us made in order for us to get to next Tuesday. We should vote in honor of past citizens who have exercised their freedom of speech to fight for even the least of us.

5)This time is extemely critical. So many policy changes occurred within the past five years that jeopardize our very rights of expression and existence. In order to hold the present Administration in check, we ought to cast our vote to demonstrate our feelings on this matter. If one stays silent, that is as good as giving our politicians a blank check to do whatever they will to us.

It is important to put your best foot forward and submit your ballot in the box at the precinct you go to. Especially during these times, one ought to remember the signifigance of the ability to do this, even when the political ads and flyers continue to beseige us every moment until the mid-term elections.

With that being said, it is always helpful to reflect on the nature of voting. I know that our lives have increasingly become busy and cumbersome with the demands of family, friends and work. But, as we pay close attention to current events and sometimes feel helpless about their execution, it is important to note that voting allows us to obtain some sort of power for ourselves in the frenzy to push certain agendas ahead without our saying. Embrace that power and march up to your precinct. Proudly put that sticker on your voter's guide and think to yourself that you indeed did vote. You did not stay silent and allow your fate to be guided by those who might not have our best interests at heart.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Amidst Election Plugging in the Media, Here's One They Missed...

Thanks to Just Generic for suggesting this item. This story should have been publicized more.

There are a lot of critical issues that we have to be aware of when we go to the voting box on Tuesday. However, there are such stories (which received little, if no publicization in the press. Go figure.) that have to hover in our minds as we make our choices of what and whom will represent us in government, local and national. Out of the limelight, a bill, H.R. 5122 became law in late Octobter. It is called the " John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007".

After wading through all the appropriations and protocols to revamp and reactualize the military, there is a little nugget which indicates a transfer of power when there is public disorder of the domestic sort. The bill plainly states this and it is appalling that few ever thought to point this out in their questions to President Bush during the usual Washington Press core:

``(A) restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that--
``(i) domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order; and

``(ii) such violence results in a condition described in paragraph (2); or

``(B) suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy if such insurrection, violation, combination, or conspiracy results in a condition described in paragraph (2).

``(2) A condition described in this paragraph is a condition that--

``(A) so hinders the execution of the laws of a State or possession, as applicable, and of the United States within that State or possession, that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law, and the constituted authorities of that State or possession are unable, fail, or refuse to protect that right, privilege, or immunity, or to give that protection; or

``(B) opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.

``(3) In any situation covered by paragraph (1)(B), the State shall be considered to have denied the equal protection of the laws secured by the Constitution.

``(b) Notice to Congress.--The President shall notify Congress of the determination to exercise the authority in subsection (a)(1)(A) as soon as practicable after the determination and every 14 days thereafter during the duration of the exercise of that authority.''.

What does it mean? In a domestic national emergency, the President has total authority. What is scary about this section in a bill about military issues is the fact that these amendments almost give absolute power to the Executive Branch without needing to go through "checks and balances". After all, one has to question why the Founding Fathers went through all the trouble setting up such a system if two-hundred and a half years later one national leader would do the best of his ability to erase what they created? The other side of the coin is the fact that this states that the American people have absolutely no say over their fate in such a crisis. It does not even question what might happen if the President is not of good health, mentally or physically? It does not determine what type of national disaster would afford this authority. Chillingly enough, it doesn't even ensure the protection of civil liberties at such a time.

Pack your bags and put together your survival packs. When the day of disaster comes, you might not even have a say about where you will be sent in the matter of a crisis. God help you if your city is quarantined for any such reason. Your cries will go unnoticed. Haven't you heard of the epidemic troubles that might befall a society if the bird flu mutates into a more dangerous strain?

It is enough to let the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.

However, there are people who are speaking up about this development from Congress.

On the blog, "Another Day in the Empire," there is a very telling report of what the bill might do and what people have spoken about it. Here it is in black and white. It is very telling of what might happen when such an event might arise and the pressures it might ensue:

On October 17, with little fanfare, the unitary decider signed H.R.5122, or the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007. “The act provides $462.8 billion in budget authority for the department. Senate and House conferees added the $70 billion defense supplemental budget request to the act, so overall, the act authorizes $532.8 billion for fiscal 2007,” explains Jim Garamone of the American Forces Press Service.

According to a press release from the office of Senator Patrick Leahy, however, the bill takes a “sizable step toward weakening states’ authority over their [National] Guard units, according to the congressional leaders who are leading the fight for Guard empowerment.” Leahey and senator Kit Bond, a Montana Republican, “said the conference agreement is expected to include a provision making it easier for the President to declare martial law, stripping state governors of part of their authority over state National Guard units in domestic emergencies. The provision is opposed by the National Governors Association and by key leaders in both the House and Senate.”

Frank Morales, an Episcopal priest and activist in New York City, writes that the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 actually encourages the establishment of martial law “by revising the Insurrection Act, a set of laws that limits the President’s ability to deploy troops within the United States. The Insurrection Act (10 U.S.C.331 -335) has historically, along with the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C.1385), helped to enforce strict prohibitions on military involvement in domestic law enforcement. With one cloaked swipe of his pen, Bush is seeking to undo those prohibitions.”

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Bush demanded Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco yield to him the command over any National Guard troops sent to the area. “Bush wanted to invoke the Insurrection Act, which would have allowed him to take control over all armed forces deployed, including Louisiana’s National Guard troops. But under the terms of the act, he had to get the assent of the legislature or the governor of the state. The legislature was not in session and Blanco refused,” writes Deirdre Griswold. As of September 11, 2005, Griswold notes, citing the Los Angeles Times, “Bush has not yet invoked the Insurrection Act, but his administration is still discussing how to make it easier for the federal government to override local authorities in the future.”

One could only shake one's head at this. It's not enough to read the tremendous amount of money and attention paid to the military. The money could be spent on creating jobs or education. However, reading this should be the real Halloween scare on the level of The Exorcist (1973). This is especially appropo because it was passed just days before the holiday.

The only thing to do is to vote your conscience and wisdom at the ballot box, electing public servants who will think of the people, and not to dismantle the system of Checks and Balances simply because it might fit a certain agenda.

Especially not this one.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Cut Sen. Kerry Some Slack, Why Don't You?

Continuing on the theme of manipulation of the masses, Senator John Kerry (D.-Mass) also comes to the fore of this issue. A couple of days of ago, he was caught saying a joke in a speech that seemed to "denigrate the military". The moment that he uttered the words, the President of the United States and other members of the opposing party jumped on him with the force of a "swift boat" attack. The Democrats were not left unscathed. The newscasts immediately put forth that the GOP wasn't the only ones that were "mad"; the Dems showed their wrath by slapping Kerry on the wrists for "messing up a good thing" when the polls indicate that more people in America will probably vote Democratic next week.

In light of this, it is best to give Sen. Kerry a break. During the 2004 Presidential elections, smear campaigns had painted the man as being "stone-faced", "flip-flopping" and "humorless". This seems to be a particular motif that touches the most important candidates of the Dems in every campaign and speech. Add on to the alleged "support of the terrorists" and then you get a stigma of a man who doesn't embrace any humor and is in bed with the enemy. The problem with such stigmas is that even though they aren't the least bit true, they stick in the minds of those who are easily convinced.

Such bromide is also spread around by the pundits to make sure the false persona has some legs during the length of the campaign and afterwords every time the said politician makes strides in his or her career. Such manipulating has been par for the course for the opposing party because they know that they can get away with it. No one simply has the courage (except for the lone words of Keith Olbermann) to call them out for this behavior. That is part of the "fear mongering" that has taken hold over our nation without any release.

It has gotten to the point that politicians (as well as the rest of us) have to watch what we say when we discuss politics. The loudest voices (spurred on by the pundits and the politicians who support them) taunt those who dissent against what is taken to be "appropriate" by the present Administration. This harkens back to a speech that Mr. Kerry gave earlier this year about the lack of acceptance given to those who speak against the second Iraqi war. The words of the Senator from Massachussetts conveyed the fact that people who speak out are punished for their remarks while those in lockstep continue to get praised.

This election does not divert from the idea that this still takes place. Mr. Kerry is a staid man. That is the impression that most get because he does simply say what's on his mind. However, people ought to be glad that he does attempt to have a sense of humor. Humor is not simply left to the comedians amongst us. Everyone has to crack a joke from time to time as an attempt to get people to think about the current events of the day. Attempts at laughter come easier to some than others. The problem is that humor (even the most cutting) is accepted whole-heartedly while others get raked over the coals for it.

Now, Mr. Limbaugh's words about actor Michael J. Fox was not humorous. It was straight commentary that derided the affliction the actor was going through. Mr. Bush makes jokes about himself and his politics. Who can forget his comments about the "Have and the Have mores" that came across in director Michael Moore's Farenheit 911? Let us not forget the other attempts of Mr. Bush's humor (such as the meanspirited joke that came across when he was trying to search for the Weapons of Mass Destruction). It seems that jokes--especially when they are biting--have always been spoken and not experienced any outcry. In the case of the GOP, jokes are par for the course. All a politician with this certain platform has to do is to either say that they "don't remember saying it" or "that they didn't mean what they say".

What is different in the attack on Mr. Kerry's comments?

He hardly had a chance to answer for himself. Instead, he had to witness--like the rest of us viewers--firey speeches putting him down for his words. Then, this public chastising evolved into another tactic to change the mind of some voters in the last minute before the elections. Did it work? We'll see. Was it fair? We'll also see.

However, Mr. Kerry replied with an apology that was forced out of him to settle things. Does the opposing party ever apologize for what they say?

All this conveys is that it is far different from what the politicians of the past had to go through. There had been a long line of political people who have uttered things from the most benign to the most caustic. But they were fully exercising their First Amendment Rights in saying it. What Mr. Bush and his cohorts forget is that we still have a Constitution despite the present Administration's alleged attempts to dismantle it with policies restricting the rights of the press and the populace of America.

Mr. Kerry was exercising his freedom of speech.

However, a mountain was made out of molehill when dissecting and analysing the few words he uttered. As a result, his "punishment" by trial in the press and political sphere communicates to us that we can never speak what is on our minds unless we prepare a statement of apology before we say what we mean.

The main point here is the fact that even before some could even try to explain what they mean, there are a whole bunch of people speaking for them and interpreting their words. Doesn't anyone ever stop to think to ask questions before they make mince-meat out of another's comments?

Not in Mr. Kerry's case. He just simply opens his mouth and becomes condemned. So much for freedom and liberty in America.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Kudos for Keith Olbermann

Strangely enough, Sen. John Kerry was going to be focal point of today's entry. He's coming later in an entry because there is plenty to say about him. Believe me, there is. However, Keith Olbermann's commentary on his show stopped the viewers in their tracks. He focused upon the nature of manipulation, especially when it has been used by the present administration. His words, delivered in traditional passion and fire, criticized how Mr. Bush and his colleagues accuse those who oppose his doctrine of "letting the terrorists win" because of their rhetoric.

That is pure hogwash, and Mr. Olbermann called it out. It was a shame that Rush Limbaugh criticized actor Michael J. Fox harshly. And then, his words were left to his cronies to clean it up. Mr. Olberman was not having it. He said, and rightfully so, that for the past five years, the public was manipulated into an aura of fear due to their constant threats of "lessening national safety" and the fact that "9/11 might happen again". He even went as far to say that it was because of the rhetoric posed by the present administration that we are in a constant aura of fear.

What is especially relevant about Mr. Olbermann's commentary is the fact that he pointed out that no one has been caught for the anthrax terrorist attacks happening in 2001. These acts were allegedly responsible for killing several postal workers. The letters even made it to former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw and past Rep. Tom Daschle. However, no one has been found responsible for these sendings through the U.S. mail. And, like Mr. bin Laden continues to slip under the radar of the U.S. government, so does the "anthrax killer". No efforts have been made to catch him. However, the "anthrax killer" was responsible for adding to the culture of terror and fear in order to make the American public putty in the Bush Administration's hands.

With that being said, Mr. Olbermann centered on these notions to hit the point home the irony that was coming from the speeches regarding Mr. Kerry's remarks yesterday. It is agreed, and rightfully so, that Mr. Kerry's critics have no right to call his words "manipulating" when they have engaged in the same practices most undoubtedly throughout the bleak days after 9/11. It is appalling with bitter irony that the blame is spread to others when the key people using "fear as a tactic to subdue the masses" comes with unrelenting precedence in every newscast, speech and press conference.

It was about time someone called out this behavior. Thank Mr. Olbermann for his insightful and pointed speech about those who skirt their own behavior while taunting others for theirs. A-men.

Someone should be held accountable for creating this "culture of fear and denial".


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