Saturday, April 22, 2006

Independence Day

Updating my voter registration was the last concrete step to officially relocate The Home Office. Having to fill out the forms required by the People’s Republic of Maryland presented an opportunity too good to pass up, so I didn’t just change my address, I changed my philosophy.

I’ve been a registered Democrat for thirty years. Even back in those halcyon pre-red and blue days, before “Republican” came to mean “hypocritically conservative” and “Democrat” meant “anything you want it to mean as long as you don’t call me liberal,” the Democrats seemed to more closely share my outlook on life, conveying to me (accurately or not) that we were all in this together and might as well help each other out. Republicans seemed to me more concerned with keeping what they had.

Crossover was permitted in those days. Southern Democrats, even the ones not standing in the schoolhouse door with an axe handle to keep the Nigruh children out, were often conservative. I still mourn the day Sam Nunn left the Senate. Republicans were sometimes liberal; can anyone imagine Nelson Rockefeller being a Republican today?

Times change, philosophies evolve, not always for the better. Today there are black men in this country who might rather be called “Nigruh” than “Democrat.” Democrats would almost rather be called “liberal” again than “Republican.” (Almost.) The comity that allowed political combatants to share a cold beverage after a long day of legislation is gone. Each party sees the other’s name a notch above al-Qaeda on the Vermin-meter.

I sincerely believe the Republicans started this domestic Cold War, but the Dems were not blameless. The hubris derived from being in power since what Archie Bunker would call “The Big One – WW2” (Archie not being a Roman numerals kind of guy) led to the Republican bunker mentality personified by Newt Gingrich during the GOP’s congressional takeover in 1994. Now even Newt is appalled by the tactics and ethics used by his party.

I feel the hackles of my Republican friends rising. Calm down. This is where the Democrats get theirs.

For years they let Republicans come up with ideas, basing long political careers on not offending anyone. Vision and ideas aren’t something you go to some out-of-the-way store in Utica and buy when you want them. Vision and ideas are nurtured and fertilized for years, which the Republicans had to do of necessity. The Democrats watched the Republicans get their act together and let them do it, confident in the misplaced belief the Democratic coalition of interests would keep them in power.

It’s easy to see in retrospect how wrong this was, not just strategically, but morally. Democratic vision shriveled to tinkering with the same programs that hadn’t worked all that well in the first place. The Republican vision may have been unwise and unjust, but they at least had one. When faced with a choice between a party that wanted to do something, anything, and one that just wanted to putz around rephrasing Franklin Roosevelt, people voted for action.

The Democrats have produced “leaders” no more visionary or smarter than the Gephardt/Daschle group that brought the house down around them. The new group thinks that being strident is the same as being tough. They’re saying the same things as before, but louder.

Dubya has given them every opportunity to make hay; Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Howard Dean can’t do anything with it. I’m old enough to remember Democrats like Sam Rayburn, Mike Mansfield, Carl Albert, San Ervin, and Tip O’Neil. Even my flesh crawls at the thought of reading “Speaker Pelosi.”

The locals are no better, sending me endless questionnaires to fill out so they can show how much alike we think after compiling the results. The recent hijacking of the election process reeks. Current ads for County Executive consist of saying things aren’t so good under the current guy, so elect me. No indication is given of what the challenger will do differently or better.

All of this led to me listing myself as an Independent when I submitted my form today. This was not without sacrifice. Independents can’t vote in Maryland primaries. The current governor notwithstanding, Maryland is such a one-party state the primary is often the only election that matters. Here in Prince George’s County, Jesus Christ Himself could run for County Executive and lose, if He ran as a Republican.

I’ll get over it. If they’re going to insist in acting abhorrently, they can’t have my name associated with them anymore. I’m sure they’ll get over it, too. I emailed the party about the recent manipulation of polling hours and got no reply. I returned the survey sent out by my state senator with a note asking for his positions before I gave him mine. No response.

Fine. Earn my vote, then. Start from scratch with everyone else. It may sound like the height of egotism for me to spend a thousand words or so on this, but that’s all I have. An election of a hundred million votes is really a hundred million discrete acts. This was mine. All I’m asking is for you to think that much about how the people who claim to represent actually do represent you, and respond according to your conscience.

It’s more than most of them will ever do.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Settling In

Things are finally settling down at The Home Office. The furniture got moved on March 10, boxes and other miscellaneous items made the eight-mile trek over the weekend of March 11–12. The Crazy Like Me Correspondent is still bringing regular carloads of stuff from her former residence, aka “The Annex.” Rooms are organized, cable and internet are operational, and things are being shifted around as the new place evolves from a warehouse into a home.

The Ancestral Forebear Correspondents were here last weekend, doing what parents do in a new house: helping to hang closet doors, installing backflow valves in the sump pump, giving landscaping advice, shopping, and cleaning. The combination of two households complicated their decision on a housewarming gift; they left cash so we could get whatever we wanted/needed when we had a better idea of what we wanted/needed.

This was, of course, totally unnecessary. There wouldn’t be a new Home Office today if not for their creativity and generosity to provide some extra money for a down payment, qualifying me for an interest rate so low the closing attorney commented on it more than once. No help had been requested; they have an intuitive knack for knowing when something will be helpful, what would be most helpful, and how helpful to be. That’s a gift greater than any individual act of kindness, as it serves those close to them more than it serves them.

This isn’t the first time they’ve come through like this, without strings or any speech about how much I should be appreciating their assistance, and how I should be at the age where I don’t need them to come to the rescue any more. They’d be right. I do appreciate their assistance, and I am at an age where I shouldn’t need their help. Their unique ability to provide that help without making me feel less than adult is another unique skill, one that I can only hope I have inherited, as the Sole Heir could benefit greatly from it some day.

I’ve moved around a lot for someone universally described as a homebody. Since I left Pittsburgh to join the Army, I’ve lived in or near, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and Washington, DC (twice). Some of the above involved multiple residences before loading the wagon, hitching up the team, and moving on to the next metropolitan area. I’ve made friends in every location; some have unfortunately fallen through the cracks as our lives and locations changed.

The one constant in my life has been my parents. They still live in the same house I grew up in. They’ve always been even easier to find than that, though. Any time I need them, they’ll be right beside or behind me, whichever is necessary, and they’ll be there before I’m even aware I need them. Success is too often measured by career or financial accomplishments. My greatest goal is to be as continually good a parent to the Sole Heir as my parents have been to me. No one can be more successful than that.

Friday, April 07, 2006

A Pox on Both Houses

The Home Office has never shied away from trashing Republicans, with good reason. While my politics are somewhat left of center on balance, I’m not dumb enough to think the GOP owns the franchise on unfair, partisan behavior. A recent example right here in the People’s Republic of Maryland gives me a chance to balance out the scorecard a little.

The Maryland General Assembly approved changes to the state election laws last week, after a conference committee consisting of only Democrats rewrote much of the bill. The most controversial component has to do with extending the voting period to several days, all in the name of higher voter turnout. Not every polling place has to be open for days at a time; the twenty-one specified in the law are in predominantly Democratic districts. Coincidence seems not to be a reasonable explanation.

This level of partisanship threatens the fabric of American democracy, and it’s not getting any better. Everyone’s excuse is that the other guys do it: Maryland Dems may consider this a form of payback for the flagrant gerrymandering undertaken by Texas Republicans a few years ago. All it will do is make it easier for Republicans to justify the next round of tit-for-tat. No one will ever win.

Republicans claim the Democratic maneuver is a blatant attempt to prevent the re-election of Governor Robert Ehrlich, and retain the Senate seat of retiring liberal stalwart Paul Sarbanes. Seems a reasonable argument. Democrats have considered Maryland a one-party state for as long as anyone can remember, so it’s likely they felt cheated when Ehrlich defeated then-Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in 2002. Symptomatic of political failings on both sides of any aisle, it never occurred to them that Townsend’s defeat was primarily a referendum on the ignominious failure of the Parris Glendenning regime. Townsend was considered a rising star in Democratic circles, based largely on the “Kennedy” sandwiched into her name. Maryland isn’t Massachusetts; people here actually expect a Kennedy to do more than just be one.

Ehrlich deserves to be sent packing; less certain is either Democratic challenger’s ability to do the job. The General Assembly’s effort to stack the deck forces one of two conclusions: either the Assembly doesn’t think voters are smart enough to know that Ehrlich has to go, or they don’t think Doug Duncan or Martin O’Malley can take him down. Doesn’t say much for their confidence in either scenario, does it?

I have somehow wound up on the local Democratic phone and mailing lists. First came the plea for contributions. I told the caller I blamed Democrats as much as Republicans for the current situation, and wouldn’t give them any money until they provided me with a candidate’s name and some policies. She didn’t even try to argue with me.

Last month I received surveys two weeks in a row, one from my State Senator, and one from the party, wanting to know what I thought about issues of the day. What I want to know is what they think about the issues of the day; specifically, what do they plan to do about them? Don’t get my opinions so you can parrot them back to me in a few months like they were your idea in the first place, asking for my vote and my money because we think so much alike.

I stumbled onto a website full of quotes from Winston Churchill today. One of my favorites was, “I have never accepted what many people have kindly said-namely, that I inspired the nation. . . . It was the nation and the race dwelling all round the globe that had the lion's heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.” Compare that to what passes for leadership today, our “leaders” asking us what they should believe during the few moments each day they’re not on their backs whoring for more money. That’s why we should all cringe when the bad guy du jour is compared to Hitler. Churchill’s dead; if Hitler were alive today, he’d win.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Not Taking Yes for an Answer

It only took fours and a half years and no one knows how many millions of dollars, but it has finally been decided that Zacarias Moussaoui is eligible to be executed. I wouldn’t take the over on any kind of life expectancy wager; the same people who decided he can fry will be deciding if he will fry. Kind of like having your estranged wife acting as your divorce judge. You might not get hosed, but that’s the way the smart money will bet.

It’s not like Moussaoui doesn’t deserve it. The primary reason he’s still around to be tried instead of having become dog food at the White House seems to be his own malfeasance. He’s done nothing to distance himself from the 9/11 attacks, everything to embrace them. He’s a confessed co-conspirator, which entitles him to all the benefits of those who actually killed someone.

The issue is the unseemly lengths the United States Government has gone to get him executed. I can’t think of too many felons who plead guilty and still get lengthy trials. The Bush Administration wants this guy dead so badly, they spent money and other resources like they were infinite commodities while risking the exposure of classified data and intelligence methods to try a guy who said from Day One, “Yeah, you’re right. I did it.” All the government has accomplished during this trial is to give this towel-headed sand monkey a forum. (I trust my pen pal Anonymous will grant that Moussaoui deserves any insults hurled in his direction.)

Felons have been pleading guilty in this country forever. The sentence of life without parole was made to order for Moussaoui. Send him to the worst place the Bureau of Prisons can find, somewhere he’ll never see natural sunlight again, or feel a warm spring breeze on his face, and let him rot there, to be forgotten with then rest of the refuse.

No, that would make too much sense. What we’ll do is give him his forum, then make him a martyr so some other troglodyte can blow himself up along with God knows how many others in Moussaoui’s name. The Bush Administration can’t be bothered to think of consequences or outcomes beyond gratifying their own impulses. It’s government as a form of masturbation, leaving the sticky mess to be cleaned up by someone else.