Monday, March 26, 2007

Corruption as Policy

Every time the Bush administration abuses their power or wreaks a bit of havoc on the country, I struggle to respond appropriately. The problem is that it is just such old news that these people are morally bankrupt. Continuing to point out their follies is just continuing to beat the proverbially dead horse.

The predicament is that this horse is still in power, which makes it not dead at all, but one that continues to charge around the barn, whacking other people, objects and barnyard animals. Plus, there is still a mysterious 30-some percent of people who still approve of the job Bush is doing. I suppose at some point, facts and logic simply don’t matter.

For instance, in the latest flair up concerning the fired federal prosecutors, it seems obvious that they were fired for political reasons. Their sins were to follow up on real corruption by Republicans and not follow up on fake corruption charges in order to smear Democrats right before an election. The justice department didn’t even bother to check on the actual performance of many of them before letting them go.

The administration response? Prosecutors are political appointees, and serve at the president’s pleasure, so he can fire them for any reason. Right. That’s like saying you can beat your wife because you believe yourself to be the head of the family. She serves at your pleasure and if you decide she needs to be more loyal, you will beat her if you need to.

I suppose the administration has forced itself down this route, since enough info has already come out that they can’t plausibly deny they were fired for political reasons. They are just trying to define “political” as “carry out generic policy” rather than “protect Republicans from the law and smear political opponents by any means.” This isn’t carrying out policy. It is simple corruption. Or rather, it is corruption AS policy, the kind of thing I used to expect from third world dictatorships, but now have to soul-search on whether to even complain about, for fear of sounding like broken record.

Perhaps the problem isn’t with the Bush Administration itself, since any administration will lie or spin when caught in an obvious misdeed. The problem is with the Limbaughs and Hannitys and Fox news folks who perpetuate these claims with straight faces and even indignation. It allows 30 percent or so of the people to continue to live in a bubble where it is only the one bomb a day that ruins people’s perceptions of how well things are going in Iraq, or that any and all accountability directed at Bush is liberal media bias.

But, here I go again, getting all unattractively huffy. Probably the right approach with Bush and Limbaugh and Fox news is to simply expect the craziness, point it out with a dash of ridicule, but try not to get too self-righteous or angry about it. I will constantly fail at this, but it is a nonetheless a worthy goal.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

W Can't Get No Respect

It must be hard work to be George W. Bush. Most everywhere he goes in the world, people hold mass demonstrations against him, dress him up like Hitler, and burn him in effigy. Guatemalan Mayans even felt the need to spiritually cleanse a sacred holy site after his visit. Unlike a common tourist, his mere presence was deemed enough to defile the place.

I wonder if this registers with him at all. I’m pretty sure it would affect me if every place I visited acted out the same basic metaphorical burning of the sheets after I left, differing only in local, culturally appropriate ways. Eventually I would start to wonder why people think so poorly of me. Of course, I suppose it depends on who it was. If a crazed lunatic like Pat Robertson were doing the post-visit purifications, I would probably wear it as a badge of honor.

But gentle Mayans? Generating hate from them is akin to having the Dalai Lama spit on you while Mother Teresa knees you in the groin. Sure, they got a little bit militant-y when the Guatemalan government tried to commit genocide against them for 30 odd years. But they’ve completely kicked that human sacrifice habit they had a few centuries ago, and are one of the most spiritually in-tune cultures in the world.

I know this because I am now an expert on Mayans, having read almost an entire book about them (“I, Rigoberta Manchu, An Indian Woman in Guatemala”, highly recommended, especially the parts I read). Plus, I have seen some actual live Mayans, and they definitely seemed gentle to me. And short. They were all short and gentle, and not once did I see them publicly purify sacred sites that gringos were defiling. This should definitely be a sign to W, like a flock of canaries dropping dead as they pass over one of his stripped-mined coal fields.

To be fair, most presidents get a lot of mud thrown at them, and are hated by great numbers of people. After all, Clinton was despised by conservatives almost as much as Bush is despised by the vast majority of the world. I suppose we’d have to get into a long, boring comparison of whether the centrist Clinton should be more vilified for lying about sex than Bush should be for misleading the country into war, ballooning the deficit, doing everything he can to make the rich and powerful more rich and powerful, denying the reality of global warming, illegally wiretapping US citizens and lying about it, firing federal prosecutors for political reasons, gutting the government so it has a hard time responding to natural disasters, and generally destroying the good name of Americans the world over.

But, I don’t have the energy for it today. Having gentle Mayans scorn him is punishment enough.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Evidence That Gas Prices Are Too Low

Today was one of those sunny and fresh spring days, where it finally reached 60 degrees, giving one the slim hope that, just perhaps, we are not doomed after all.

That is, until I picked up my daughter from swimming practice at school. I parked in the lot, to avoid the 15 or so enormous SUVs and minivans waiting in line next to the gym doors. As I walked in, I noted that there were about 20 or so additional enormous SUVs and minivans in the parking lot, many with people in them, with their engines running while they waited. As I passed the enormous SUVs in line, I then noticed that every last of them had their engines running as well.

I understand that there will always be one or two knuckleheads who seem to enjoy unnecessarily pumping CO in the atmosphere for no good reason. But how is it possible that everyone can just sit there with their windows rolled up, presumably running both the heat and A/C together, in an attempt to match the inside of the car with the perfect conditions outside? It is no wonder the planet is dying, with people pooping in their own soup like this. Except that it isn't just their soup, it is mine too, and yours.

I'm wondering what thought processes take place in these kinds of situations. Perhaps it is thought to be too much time and energy to turn the ignition off, only to have to turn it on again 10 minutes later when it is time to go. Perhaps there was concern that the battery would go dead from playing the radio too loud. Perhaps they are making sure that our effort in Iraq will not be in vain, that our right to burn gasoline for no good reason not be impeded, and there is no better time to make this statement than on a fine spring day.

Gas is obviously not nearly expensive enough. That, or perhaps we need new controls in cars that simply dumps all the gasoline in the tank on the ground when it has been idling in park for more than 5 seconds. Sure, it would waste gas the first few times, but I think people would learn pretty quickly. Hopefully.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Spelling Motivation

The problem with most educational tools that are designed to help your spelling is that that they simply don’t have enough violence in them. We recently bought the spelling game Bookworm Adventures, and I am happy to report that they have addressed this glaring deficiency. In Bookworm, you are given 16 random letters, and when you correctly spell a word, the nerdy hero bookworm gets to whack some nasty monster into submission. If that isn’t motivation to spell a really long, cool word, I don’t know what is.

In all seriousness, I was initially appalled that spelling was being reduced to violence in this way. Why can’t they give flowers to the monster, and have his malicious facade melt into a nice butterfly or a happy smiley guy? I suppose no one would buy the game if it were that wussy.

Worse yet, this game is addictive, and even, dare I say it, family friendly. Our nice Mennonite family often gathers around the computer in the evening, shouting out helpful suggestions for the longest possible word we can spell, to inflict the maximum amount of firepower on the evil monster. And worse yet, our kids are becoming pretty good spellers because of it.

The thing is, it is perfectly fine to slay specters or seven headed hydras that will kill you (or your little alter ego of a computer nerd bookworm). Seven headed hydras are, as far as I know, completely evil, and that of God does not shine within them. The problem, though, is that there are no seven headed hydras in the real world. Just messy, complicated human beings, all of whom are flawed and yet retain some redeemable quality somewhere, a place in their soul where God can shine a light and start healing. All too often, and especially since 9/11, I’ve seen too many people unable to differentiate between evil hydras and, say, Muslims, or Immigrants, or Americans.