Friday, April 25, 2003

A Government with no boundaries

I almost burst out laughing when I read Bush's comments today on CNN concerning Iraq. (See "Bush recounts decision to go after Saddam" on the lead page at CNN.com)

"What I would like to see is a government where church and state are separated," he said. This from the man who's done more to blur those boundaries here than anyone else in decades! Give me a break!

Meanwhile, the Dixie Chicks have it right. They're fighting back against the rampant "political correctness" (and I could go on about how that's a misnomer for an addictive system) that has been infecting the country over the last few years. I'm appalled at the blatant censorship by radio stations around the country. All they really did was demonstrate that too many Americans have only a shallow understanding of their own political ideals.

I'm also appalled but not surprised at Ashcroft's ruling that illegal immigrants can be held indefinitely if there are national security concerns. I can agree with holding someone until it is proven or disproven that they are a national security threat, but the idea of holding anyone indefinitely without due process grants too much power to the government. It completely obliterates any obligation by the US to prove its case, allowing for an absolute abuse of power by simply citing national security concerns.

Once government has grabbed a little power it didn't have before, it sets itself up to take the next small step that trades away civil liberties. Nearly always, the death of freedom happens in increments; and once governments gain power, they almost never relinquish it unless overthrown.

Monday, April 21, 2003

On the world is as it has been...

Since September 11, we have been acting like the world changed. It did not. Only our perception of it did. While we need to stay alert for other attempts to execute terrorist attacks, their power to destroy us as a country is non-existent. They can and will kill some of us; but just like we wanted to deny they were there, they are in denial about just whom and what they are dealing with. We need not help them along by self-imposed imprisonment in the name of security or by giving them more credit than they are due by overreacting to their threat. Much of the power in terrorism lies in its ability to strike by surprise. There is nobody in American who does not know it’s here.

On patriotism...

The war in Iraq appears to be winding down. With it, hopefully will go the overzealousness that attacked people's patriotism if they held an unpopular view, especially one that opposed the war. It's something we've seen again and again since September 11, and Americans everywhere owe it to themselves and their countrymen to recognize it not as true patriotism but as a simple and terrible exploitation of our own fears.

At best, such actions and attitudes display both a shallow understanding and a shallow application of this country's ideals. If our forefathers had approached their lives with the timidity and intolerance for different lines of thinking we show today, we would still be a British Colony. An American patriot must embrace truth whether he likes that truth or not, must embrace freedom of speech and thought whether or not he agrees or even understands what is being expressed, and must entertain---if he wishes to survive--a healthy distrust of those in power. To do otherwise opens the door to dictatorship, no matter whether it's cloaked in the Flag of Iraq or the Seal of the United States of America.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

On terrorism...

If you didn't see the "op-ed" piece from the NY Times by Thomas L. Friedman entitled "Terrorism:The Third Bubble", drop by. (Here's the URL. ). It's absolutely on target. America has been overreacting to the events of September 11, and it's time for us to stop. If we don't, we run the much larger risk of sacrificing civil liberty to the abuses of our own government.

Benjamin Franklin said: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." There is no doubt that some of the precautions the government has put into place has been warranted. But too many of them are, indeed, overreactions and opportunities to seize power while Americans are afraid. You can spot the overreactions by looking for those cases where there has not only been a loss of liberty but no due process to stop it.

America was founded because of a love of freedom. To maintain it does require eternal vigilance, and our own political system is not exempted from that requirement.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Freedom of Speech?

"Bull Durham" is one of my favorite movies. I love its "down-to-earthness", its humanity, its sexuality. It's real...which is more than I can say for the Baseball Hall of Fame, and Dale Petrosky, in particular. They canceled a 15th anniversary celebration of the movie because of anti-war statements by Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins. Mr. Petrosky claimed that their statements "ultimately could put our troops in even more danger".

From whom, Mr. Petroskey? The Iraqi regime is no more. I suppose if Iraqi troops were fanatical Sarandon and Robbins fans, armed to the teeth by weapons they had supplied, your comments would make sense. But they don't. Most Iraqis couldn't care less, don't know about them. I doubt if our troops do either. They've got a lot more important things to think about...like staying alive.

In addition to trying to censor opinions he doesn't agree with, Mr. Petrosky and company have also politicized baseball. If that's true, then the next inductees into the hall won't be there solely because of their contributions to the sport but will also be there because they ascribe to hawkish, Republican, intolerant views.

Last time I wore a uniform I thought I was there to protect freedom. What that meant to me was I was risking my life so people could freely express their points of view, whether I agreed with them or not. Somehow, since 9/11 as a people, we seem to have lost sight of that. We are caught in an age of political correctness, perhaps the worst we have ever seen. Under such an atmosphere, our forefathers probably never would have fought for independence. They would have been too afraid. Like the Iraqis. Who is going to come here and save us?

While I'm on the subject of free speech, I want to applaud the American Library Association for standing up to the intrusiveness of the Patriot Act (the bill whose name is another example of political correctness run amok). Freedom means intellectual freedom most of all. Under the Patriot Act, if you're using a computer at a library, you are subject to federal monitoring. Worse, the act states that you are not to be notified that you might be monitored. The Justice Department's assurances to the contrary, this is Orwell's "1984" come to pass just short of 20 years later. Setting aside Constitutional protections (i.e., requiring a warrant to perform this kind of electronic eavesdropping) is more dangerous to American freedom--except for the overreaction of government officials--than anything any terrorist can do; and it is much more insidious.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Regime Change

As an American, one has to be gratified by the response we're now seeing in the streets of Iraq. At least the few Iraqis being shown on television are greeting our troops as liberators. I have also been struck by the humanity of our soldiers. Their efforts to meet the Iraqi people one-on-one have been uplifting to say the least. They have shown the human side of America, and it is that which will ultimately win the war with Iraq and the hearts of the Moslem world.

If American government policy after this war is over doesn't screw it up, that is. America has an opportunity to either stabilize or de-stabilize the region, depending on where we go from here. If we pull out too fast, stay too long, or attempt to dictate to the new Iraqi government what their new policies will be, America will quickly become another invader; and eventually all the lives, effort, and money spent on this war will have only inflamed world affairs. We cannot afford that.

Bush would do well now not to listen to the hawks pressing for regime change in Syria. This was something I cautioned about in the op-ed piece "On the Road of War". Only days later, I am seeing my fears realized. America cannot afford to try to force the rest of the world to fit into its mold. We must do what we need to in order to protect ourselves and nothing more. We cannot afford paranoia about ourselves or the rest of the world. We cannot afford an all enveloping foreign policy that exercises military force as a first option. Adopting such a policy as a routine matter of course says--despite our braggadocio about our military might--is how afraid we have become.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

On the War with Iraq...

As I write this, U.S. forces are inhabiting Baghdad; and, yesterday, a US B-1 bomber dropped four 2000 lb JDAM's on a restaurant where intelligence said Saddam Hussein and his sons were meeting. No one yet knows if Saddam was killed.

At first, I was a bit uneasy with that. National policies of assassination have a tendency to backfire. I felt a lot better after hearing General Brooks discuss it as an elimination of Iraqi Command and Control. I believe that this is how the military saw the attack, and I can understand it and feel easier with it from that perspective.

But, still, I can't escape the notion that this is "tit for tat", revenge for Hussein's attempt to assassinate George Bush, Sr.

Karma is one thing. The circle of violence is another. It's not clear which one this truly is.

On Homeowner's Associations...

My wife and I are looking at buying a house. The house that has been our favorite--at least until we discovered a bigger and brand new house at the same price---is located in Friendswood, Texas. As you may or may now know, homeowner's associations are big here in Texas and are provided for in the Texas Property Code. Even so, I haven't talked to anyone who thought a homeowner's association was a good deal.

The reasoning behind forming homeowner's associations is sound, but I believe their execution is fundamentally flawed. While they supposedly protect you're the value in your home from having someone erect a junk yard next door through neglect, ignorance, or poverty, everyone I have talked to has expressed a disdain at the Petty Police Forces they have become. One co-worker of mine got a letter from his homeowner's association because he left his garbage can on the curb for a few days. Someone tell me how that affects the financial values of the homes in the neighborhood, the only thing homeowner's associations are chartered to protect?

A little research on the web identified my future homeowner's association as the one which foreclosed on an 82 year old widow because she owed them about $800 in association fees, notwithstanding that the Texas State Constitution does not allow foreclosure on a home for that purpose. While the Texas legislature has taken notice and passed some laws to prevent this from happening again, it is a perfect illustration of how abusive these organizations---these supposedly non-profit organizations---have become. I believe legitimate questions must be raised about whether they are fulfilling their true purpose, whether they are instead another way lawyers are using to make money, or they are a tool for self-serving people to feed themselves the illusion of power. In any case, I am having second thoughts about buying that home. I just don't need that kind of hassle.

Welcome to Andy's Blog

Hi there. Welcome to Andy's Blog. I intend this to be my web journal, i.e., a running commentary on my thoughts and feelings about the world around me. I'll work hard to pop something in here every day except when I'm on vacation or otherwise too seriously occupied to take care of it. Even then, I'll get back to it as soon as I can.

This doesn't mean my editorials (or "op-ed" pieces as they are known in the newspaper world) are going to stop. Quite the contrary. I'll use the op-ed format for when I have something concise,and focused to say and use the weblog when I want to be more informal. In some cases, I may take snippets from the weblog and separate them out into editorials so they'll be easier to find. Time will tell as I get used to the new formats.

When I first opened this site, nearly all my op-ed pieces were on men's issues. Well, those will still be here; but I'm going to open up more on other things, subjects ranging from world events to my own life. I hope you'll drop by and find something interesting, thought provoking, or educational. I'm going to start a weblog in "The Computer Zone", too, so if you have an interest in that world, drop by. I've become a "Switcher" over the past year, so while I'll talk about PC subjects, don't be surprised if most of my weblog has to do with the Mac and my experiences as a Mac newbee. There’s a lot more educating and learning for me to do there than in the world of Windows, though I still have one Windows XP machine I may even upgrade before long.