Sunday, January 31, 2010

A letter to a list...

I, too, was unable to attend the Olympia debates due to other commitments. However, I've done the Olympia thing several times before, testified down at Seattle City Hall, and generally am not really new to the whole process.

With that said, I'm going to suggest that neither party is exclusively right or wrong. Defying the stereotype is one tool in the box, and it's a darned useful one. To the extent you can get the members of the body you are lobbying and/or the press to identify with you (the old "hey, I don't agree, but that guy looks like my buddy bill", etc. bit), you've made a major inroad in influencing the course of legislation and winning over the public to your view - and the costume of the day *can* play a major part of that effort.

That said, there is *also* a place for sartorial choices of a less formal nature. The last thing our community needs is to be identified as a solely a bunch of "rich suits", particularly in front of a bunch of theoretically egalitarian Democrats (that coincidentally hold both houses of the legislature, and the Governorship). It doesn't do us any more good to be easily fit a stereotype by appearing as an all-white, all-straight, or all-male community - not only are these facades patently untrue, but they serve to diminish our influence. In this sense, if you're breathing, sober, and recently bathed, your presence is of benefit at such events.

More briefly - if you can't bear up under suit'n'tie, don't be shy, come ahead. Headcount, counts.

Now, with all that said, it *IS* possible to be self-destructive - both to ones self and to the 2A community. Passion is good, frothing is not. To the extent one can supply passion AND logic and fact in a relatively calm tone, one is doing well. The flaming line in the sand is crossed when ones comments are limited to "Yer violatin' my gun rights! YEARGH!! And Yer Twirling Bastards wantin' to destroy the country!! YEEEARRGH!!" they are not only not terribly effective in driving home a point, but they actively undermine your testimony and that of all others testifying in the same direction, by splattering "crazy" all over it. Not good.

Sartorial choices are helpful, but attitude is the killer app. If you are so passionate that you're reduced to "pirate-speak" (and it's not "Talk Like A Pirate" Day), or even anywhere NEAR that place on the spectrum...your presence is desirable and good...but others are likely better choices to testify, if *winning* is the goal of the day.

Now, to Open Carry. My position has evolved a bit, and is likely to continue doing so. That it unsettles Ralph Fascitelli, who is in desperate need of distraction until such time as he gets a life, pleases me. Beyond that, if it opens a few minds when a courteous sort in OC-mode politely and calmly interfaces with the press and politicians (and even random passerby) demonstrating their sanity and general non-scariness - why that's an actual win, as opposed to the guilty pleasure of discomfiting nanny-statists.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The 2010 State of the Union we'll never, ever hear...

Madame Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress:

On this occasion, I am honored to stand before you, delivering a State of the Union address – a privilege accorded few, and a responsibility not to be taken lightly.

In 2009 when I raised my right hand and swore the Oath of Office, I was newly inaugurated and full of the inevitable hope, enthusiasm, and bluster inevitable for a newly inaugurated President. When a new President first sits in that chair in the Oval Office, he or she is dazzled – the history, the power, and the seeming endless ability to achieve anything for the nation.

While there is great power, there is great responsibility – and with that great power, in our system of government, there are also – wisely – checks and balances that, when working properly prevent a President, a Member of Congress, or a Supreme Justice from imposing their whimsies – no matter how wise or foolish, kind or heartless, generous or penurious – upon the nation.

These checks and balances force a leader to compromise, to consider, to refrain from the worst excesses of power, and impose limits on the extent of a Presidents’ independent action – for even the wisest, kindest, most insightful and generous President can – by virtue of the power of the office – go awry on a far grander scale, once possessed of a wrong-headed notion, than almost any other leader and we should be grateful that the founding fathers of this nation saw this, through the lens of the revolution they had so recently waged, and put in place well-considered restraints to keep any one branch of government – even the President - from running amok.

Those restraints are at their weakest when a single party holds all the levers of power. While advantageous for members of such a party in advancing the ideals and goals they hold dear as being the best possible path for the nation, such an environment – where the only meaningful opposition consists of disputes within the dominant party – diminishes those restraints to the extent that, to put it bluntly, the crazy wing of whichever party holds that awesome advantage comes crabbing out from underneath whatever rocks they have been secreting themselves beneath, proudly don their special tinfoil hats, and without the sunshine of effective opposition to deter or restrain them, fly their lunacy flag high…and worse yet, will even get legislation passed that under normal circumstances members of their own party would strangle before it saw the light of day.

While the recent election in Massachusetts left me little cause to celebrate the increased ease of enacting this administrations programs that would result from the election of a Senator of the Democrat persuasion from that great state, I am forced to admit, in my heart of hearts, that “ease” isn’t what the Constitution is designed to provide a President or a Congress.

And that in that same heart of hearts, in the long run, a Senate without a Super-Majority of 60 Senators is likely better for the country, and likely to produce better, stronger, wiser, and more effective legislation based not upon influence-peddling and vote-buying with a majority part – but on the clash of philosophies between two passionate and differing viewpoints, hopefully wearing away the foolishness, greed, and downright corruption that a single party system engenders in all it touches.

In 2010, I remain hopeful and enthusiastic, but am less blinded by the rosy haze of those first few weeks of office. Our State of the Union, in this great nation, while not dire – is not at an all-time “best”.

All is not sunshine and roses, not everyone wildly agrees with my policies and eagerly rushes to enact them, we are a nation facing a war on multiple fronts, our economy continues to suffer at unprecedented levels, more of our people are unemployed than at any point in the last thirty years, and we – all of us as leaders – face an angry nation that increasingly distrusts and despises us. Many of us, facing the justified wrath of voters, may not be meeting in this Chamber next year, having been helped to retirement by voters at the polls.

That is not defeatism. That is realism. Things are bad. They could be worse. But, not surprisingly, our citizens don’t LIKE bad … and have the power to express their dismay decisively. We must each of us rededicate ourselves to the openness, honesty, and ethics that our voters expected of us when they elected us to office – or at least they hoped for, against hope – and strive to be worthy of their votes in November of 2010. None of us, Republican or Democrat, have proven particularly worthy of that trust in 2009 – as the blogosphere is more than happy to tell us.

The back-room deals, the vote-buying, the bullying machine politics that leaves no room for honest differences between like-minded persons of character and decency, and the arrogance of these last months must end – or our citizens will end it for us. The nation will move on, but without us. We have exceeded our citizens’ tolerance, and must win back their trust.

I promise this body, and the American people, that my administration will in the coming months make an honest effort to return to the transparency we advocated on the campaign trail. To be open to a variety of opinion and viewpoint – and to abandon the abrasive “Chicago Political Style” of threats, vindictiveness, and cronyism. It may work in Chicago, but this last year has shown me that it doesn’t work nearly as well in our nations’ capitol.

I have accepted the resignation of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, effective immediately, and asked former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to serve as interim Chief of Staff while I select a new candidate to nominate to the Senate of the United States for their approval. It is my hope to make this transition as swift and painless as possible, for our nation needs us at our best – not our most manipulative.

I campaigned on hope and change. What I never realized, as a candidate, was that while I’d get to keep hope, change was something that happens to an administration far more frequently than it is something that an administration makes happen.

Hearing the unvarnished truth, without the filters of “classified” or “eyes-only” to shield one, as President is a bit more eye-opening than even a Senator is subject to – and unless completely blinded by ideology, some of those ugly realities demand changes in policy for the good of the nation, and often those necessary changes are at best distasteful even as reality requires them. We cannot afford a President so wrapped in ideology that he or she neglects reality.

I pledge not to be such a President. In our enthusiasm, and our desire to help our fellow Americans, even with the best of intentions, we have made serious mistakes that will require effort from all of us as Americans to remedy.

We are a nation at war. Worse, we are at war with religious fanatics not bothered by principals or morals, the rabid dogs that inhabit the fanatical boundaries of almost every faith.

It is not, to the extent any armed conflict can be, a neat and tidy war of uniformed armies meeting upon battlefields to struggle for triumphs. It is a war waged against us less by any one nation, but by bands of terrorists loosely affiliated with each other in ever-changing alliances, acting not on a battlefield to triumph against our military – but in bombings, hi-jackings, and terror attacks world-wide. They seek to destroy not only us – but to them, more importantly, they seek to destroy our way of life and our way of thought. And by our own hand, they are succeeding.

We must stop them, and treating them as criminals – as opposed to war criminals, an entirely different proposition – is not merely bad policy, but a recipe for disaster. These individuals flagrantly violate the laws of war, and those they have yet to violate, are surely mere oversights as they specifically target non-combatants – women, children, innocents – as a means of spreading terror, even as they fund themselves by a combination of donations from well-heeled co-conspirators and the sales and production of illicit drugs and contraband. They are a plague upon humanity.

I am asking our military leaders, our generals and admirals, to craft a plan to swiftly and utterly crush these terrorists and their supporters. I am asking members of the Cabinet to craft a plan to economically isolate and punish the supporters of these terrorists. I am revoking Executive Order 12333 as it regards these terrorists. I recognize that this will impose hardships on those in the vicinity of these creatures – I strongly suggest they stop being in the vicinity of said persons, or resolve the problem themselves. Or we will do it for them. I am asking Congress to authorize a significant increase in our forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan, having realized a draw-down is no better than a surrender at this point. We must hold the ground we have gained.

Our economy is, if not in a shambles, well advanced in that direction. I ask Congress to remove, even if only temporarily, many of the shackles that cripple American business from competing at home and abroad against those who do not suffer under such limitations. Give our people a level playing field, and we cannot help but triumph.

Citizens are suffering as investments in all areas suffer – wiping out retirement incomes, destroying promising college futures, and creating fear and uncertainty regarding the economy…which in turn, leaves people understandably afraid to invest in and create new businesses and as they tighten their purse strings – the economy slows, and yet more people are laid off due to lack of demand.

I ask Congress to impose a “floor” on the income tax and stop kicking Americans when they are down. Specifically, I ask that Unemployment Compensation and Social Security income be exempted from the income tax, and all persons earning less than thirty thousand dollars per year be similarly exempted for a period of five years as we, as a nation, struggle to recover from a worldwide economic disaster and rebuild our economic strength.

We need to help the middle class, battered by our economy, by lightening the burden of government upon their shoulders. Towards that end, I am asking that Congress offer relief in the form of a ten thousand dollar tax credit each year for the next 5 years for persons making between thirty and eighty thousand dollars per year, and further, exempt investment income from new and small businesses for an equal period for such individuals.

We are faced with a new tragedy in Haiti, and with yet another failure of the UN in disaster management. I am directing our people in Haiti to henceforth ignore UN forces, orders, and requests whenever - in the view of our commanders and leaders on the ground there - such UN forces and directives would slow or interfere efforts to help the people of Haiti, whether in Search & Rescue, recovery, or delivery of aid of any sort. I am further authorizing them to call upon the full range of military resources available to our nation to carry out this humanitarian mission. As a nation, we have gone it alone before, and it appears we must be prepared to do the same again.

We are hurting, but as a nation, we are not without compassion for those that are hurting more. It is our moral duty to aid Haiti to the best of our ability, and should this modern day League of Nations attempt to frustrate our efforts with bureaucracy, obstructionism, or by other mechanisms – we shall go around them, and if necessary, through them. To the people of Haiti, I offer my sincerest apologies for the delays resulting from our attempting to play nicely with others, and the suffering that our attempts to cater to world opinion has caused. I promise to do better.

I am asking my party to concentrate on the basics in this time of troubles, and set aside for the moment many of our long-sought goals. Yes, we need health care reform – but the American people have made abundantly clear that they do not support the current proposals. And much as it saddens me, I must admit that in their place – with the backroom deals, vote-buying, and general corruption surrounding the current effort – that no matter how much good I might think it would do, I would be vindictively angry if I were in the shoes of the average American. It’s time to step back, people, and try again.

Let us break health care down into the things we, Democrats and Republicans, CAN agree on…and move those initiatives forward one step at a time, cautiously, ever mindful that we may be horribly mistaken and need to undo our prior efforts and try a different approach. We’re politicians, not tin gods, and much as we might want to claim we are certain of all the possible effects of our efforts – history shows we never have been, with a plethora of historic accounts of unintended consequences even in the presence of the best of intentions. We have no reason to believe we are immune from this – an incremental approach to health care reform may well be better for the nation, and quite possibly involve less horse trading in smoke filled rooms.

I am further asking my party to acknowledge we are at war, whether we like it or not, and our only choices are between winning – something I believe is possible, if we but have the moral courage – and varying degrees of defeat, one that would make Vietnam look tame by comparison. The impact on human rights alone is horrific to contemplate.

None of us in the administration are so foolish as to believe the above will come without costs. We will, in order to get through this, need to slash the size and function of the federal government to a degree we’ve never seen before – possibly to levels that we’ve not seen since before the Second World War. At the same time, we’ll be re-building our military.

Finally, particularly painful for us, we will likely lose some of our most fervent supporters and dearest friends as we put the nations interests in front of ideology – for we cannot help ourselves or others, if we do not first survive and prosper as a nation. If this costs me a second term, so be it. I will not willingly preside over the destruction of our nation, or of our unique and honorable heritage as the world’s most successful republic.

I ask our colleagues in the GOP to meet us in the middle, and to open a dialogue so we may work together to protect our great nation, and to rebuild our economy. I ask our citizens to step forward, and help us – and where they see those of us in elected office going astray, to write us, call us, fax us, and run against us –and if deemed worthy by the electorate, replace us.

This is not a country of Republicans. This is not a country of Democrats. This is the greatest country in the world, and if we, as elected officials are forgetting that or failing to represent you, our citizens, you need to vote us out of office in favor of someone who will. Today, however - together - we can make it through this night, to a dawn of a brighter future.

Let us together go forth from this session with a new spirit and new hope, undaunted by our nations troubles – regardless of how many of them are self-inflicted – and dedicate ourselves again to the task of leading these United States.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It's not that the man is a Democrat...

It's that he's not only from Chicago, but *succeeded* in the cesspool of what we will laughingly call "Chicago Politics" - what in most of the rest of the country (well, perhaps not Louisiana...I suspect folks there would mainly subtract points for a lack of style and failure to think big enough when it comes to corruption) would be recognized as corruption, bullying, backroom deals amidst smoke and mirrors, and generally all those elements of mid-19th century politics that much of the rest of the country has striven to distance itself from.

To succeed, Obama had to be *better at that game* than the rest...and in his case, farther left. I could tolerate the leftism better if not for the stench of the Chicago machine.

Now Obama must face meaningful political opposition with big stakes for the first time in his career, after the loss of the Dem. super-majority in the Senate last night. Let's see how he does - if he continues to listen to that high priest of the Chicago Machine, Rahm Emmanuel - or if he listens to common sense and begins to moderate his tactics, techniques, and goals.

I am not optimistic.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ah, here we go again..

Yet again, a blogger that posts an anti-gun screed (in this case, fairly mellow) resorts to using the delete key for comments that do not affirm their own viewpoint. Having run into this before, below is my un-moderated response to their original screed.

Now, without saying that it is in true in THIS case, I would say that in my limited experience, such use of the delete key usually indicates a certain intellectual cowardice.
UPDATE 1/15/09: In late-breaking news, the blogger in question first deleted the offending posts, and shortly after, his entire blog.

If we don't want to live in a society where "the biggest grunt with the best health wins all arguments", or the equally fun "whoever has the most brutal and uncivilized band of thugs wins" we logically are stuck with the presence of both a strong right of self-defense and the tools to equal up the odds should such misfortune arrive on ones doorstep.

There are demonstrably folks out there who will engage in a wide variety of violent activity against persons and property for an entire range of reasons - entertainment, "honor", financial gain, vengeance, insanity, or simple convenience in a psychopathic kind of way.

When faced with the possibility of house fires, most folks try to reduce the number of flammables in the area (reduce risk), buy some fire extinguishers (in case risk reduction fails), and trying to resist the urge to play with matches (cutting down on being knowingly stupid).

Now, it makes no more sense to make fun of our folks above that aren't eager to have their house burn down about them...than it does to make fun of folks that aren't excited about the opportunity to be assaulted, raped, beaten, murdered, and/or get molested in one fashion or another.

Such folks have made a choice to refrain from burying their heads in the sand and buying into the whole "it can't happen to ME" fallacy and take positive preventative action and plan for Murphy's law occasionally kicking in - and defeating prevention.

As an example, I'm an adult gay male of decidedly "not-a-delicate-flower" status. I'm 6'2", 260ish and once upon a time worked as a bouncer. I'm also blessed with asthma, a bum shoulder, and enough bulk that my preferred strategy after "being someplace the trouble isn't" of "run away, run away" has, in fact, done run off.

Run 25', fall down, and gasp does not impress me (or many other rational folk) as a particularly good fall-back strategy for "well, avoiding trouble just failed" kinds of situations.

Smiling and taking it also seems to have significant drawbacks, what with hospital bills and all.

I have, as a result, taken out a CPL some years ago, which I keep current. I normally have a firearm of some sort tucked about my person whilst out and about - not because I am seeking trouble, but because I'm aware that trouble seldom politely makes an appointment.

If other folks want to wallow in "can't happen to them", and pacifistic "oh, better I should die or be irretrievably maimed than fight back" memes...they are welcome to it.

For myself, I don't visit high crime areas I can avoid. I don't date the obviously "bad news" folks. I don't hang out with folks I consider an active risk. But I recognize, despite all my precautions...things happen. And I'd rather be prepared than victimized.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Monday, January 4, 2010

An exchange with a Pro-Union sort

GayCynic: Once upon a time, Unions were an unalloyed good thing (well, mostly) in protecting workers from the abuses of late 19th and early 20th century employers.

Given later and current union practices and participation in power politics...maybe not quite so unalloyed.

Union Idealist: I see. It's OK for corporations to engage in power politics, but when working people do it, it's somehow dirty? Maybe you should try working at a Wal-Mart, where they don't even let you pee, and then tell me if worker abuse is somehow a thing of the past.

GayCynic: Not so much. Perhaps, in an attempt to be gracious, I obscured my meaning via euphemism.

I'm not awfully thrilled by the "persuasion of power" (i.e., subtle or blatant coercion, thuggery, intimidation) or even simple corruption - and that lack of thrill is fairly even handed, regardless of whether it is a corporate body or a union out being ... See Morenaughty...thus my view that unions these days are only moderately and intermittently in any way superior to the corporations they allegedly defend workers from...

And as far as either unions or corporations - in many states corporations are forbidden to contribute to political campaigns or to "encourage" employees to do so...I merely support extending the same ban to Unions, to keep the playing field level.


Apparently anything less than unalloyed adulation for the unions is simply unacceptable.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Bicycle Follies

Recently, the Bicycle Mafia faction of urban planners and bicyclists have been, in their sworn enmity to all things self-propelled, engaged in a particularly risky stratagem for enhancing the quantity of misery on the roads while creating sufficient casualties to justify more draconian measures.

In Seattle, this has meant the forcible integration of low-speed/low-visibility/low-power vehicles with few if any audible cues into urban traffic via re-striping urban streets to create "bike lanes" and painting "bicyclist logo's" pavement logo's in many of the remaining lanes.

This kind of re-striping and logo madness is particularly pernicious in the case of a city like Seattle, when under-utilized residential streets exist on either side of the main thoroughfares so damaged. Rather than isolating the more-fragile, less-noticeable, and slower cyclist to the secondary residential streets (not unlike keeping pedestrians on the sidewalks), this approach places them at hazard on primary municipal streets competing with full-sized enclosed vehicles and then gracing them with a sense of arrogance and entitlement such that many bicyclists then assume that being superior, neither the Laws of Man nor the Laws of Physics will affect them.

The results are unsurprising - an increased number of bicyclist deaths and injuries, damage to the area economy by slowing traffic and increasing "dwell time" on the roads getting to a given destination (all imposing an economic hit), and emotional/physical damage to the drivers who squish the cyclists that barring official city encouragement would be unlikely to play tag with a '65 Ford truck.

As a bonus, this approach creates a group of *privileged* road users (way to inspire that road rage there) that require neither driver or vehicular licenses, knowledge of road rules, or payment for parking.

The final icing on the cake during the Nickels (praise be that he is GONE, let us hope McGinn is not as bad) was the creation of bands of hooligans such as Critical Mass that routinely infest the roads with "go slow" protests and the occasional assault - and, unlike any other protest group, get a police *escort* rather than a police confrontation and dispersal.

In closing...all of the above contributes to the myth of "evil car! evil truck! ESPECIALLY EVIL SUV!!" that is the dominant liberal meme around here. And while I am tempted, as I find horseback riding and horse-drawn carriages far more charming, to cheer them on for my own dark purposes...I don't think my own aesthetic transit preferences trump building a strong economy - preferably before we have to do so starting from economic rubble.

To build that economy, we need decent roads..individual/small group/cargo transit options...and to admit that Seattle is simply not built, nor will it be built, to be a real "mass transit" city - for which we should be thankful. To the extent we need to modify those options, we need to make a gradual and logically based transition away from internal combustion *where practical*, and base our choices on facts and logic, rather than idealism and "feels good".

Friday, January 1, 2010

One Barista Triumphs

And THIS is how a stop'n'rob attempt really SHOULD go...never let it be said guns don't stop crime...