Friday, November 12, 2004

Nacho Guarache

Nacho Guarche
Originally uploaded by mwthomas87.
Nacho Guarache is a great local comic strip... Far superior to the awful Mallard Fillmore and the nauseating Prickly City. But it can still rub me the wrong way when he goes off on a tangent.

In this strip we have the token liberal - Grandma Fulano - mouthing the following nonsense:

"Maybe it is time we Democrats reevaluate the hard left direction the party has taken the last 40 years"

Last 40 years? What hard left direction is that, Mr. Garza? (Leo Garza is the strip's author) Are you referring to the Civil Rights movement? Social Security and Medicare? Or maybe the New Deal era social justice programs that pulled our nation out of the Great Depression?

She then goes on to say "Maybe we need to seriously reconsider that the party is totally at odds with the concerns and desires and values of 52 million decent and honest Americans."

I assume the 52 million figure is supposed to represent W's popular vote total - which was actually closer to 58 million.
But Garza would have us ignore the fact that 55 million decent and honest Americans voted for John Kerry and find the Republican Party totally at odds with their concerns and values.

Like I said, Nacho is a great strip, but it also has a mean side that comes out most strongly whenever Garza decides to attack people who disagree with his extreme views on abortion.

Playing Whack A Mole in Iraq

As our military wraps up a costly and hard fought effort to subdue insurgents in Fallujah, we are now getting reports that insurgents are popping up in other cities once thought to be under control.

”Despite the apparent success in Fallujah, violence flared elsewhere in the volatile Sunni Muslim areas, including Mosul, where attacks Thursday killed a U.S. soldier. Another soldier was killed in Baghdad as clashes erupted Friday in at least four neighborhoods of the capital. Clashes also broke out from Hawija and Tal Afar in the north to Samarra - where the police chief was also fired - and Ramadi in central Iraq.”

It feels like we are playing Whack A Mole. We bash one mole in Fallujah and three more pop their heads up in different parts of the country.

The Bush administration never thought this process through. They thought the war would have been over six months ago or earlier. So you know they are just spinning their wheels right now with no clue as what to do next. I just hope that those pre-election rumors that Bush would pull the troops out as fast as he could after the election prove to be more accurate than the exit polls. I don’t believe we can subdue an entire nation militarily. We need to pull our forces out and put in a U.N. peacekeeping force composed mostly of Arab and Muslim soldiers to try and clean up the mess that has been made.

A modest collection

I have a rather modest autograph collection that I have accumulated over the
years. I’m not a hobbyist and have never gone out of my way to get specific
autographs so my collections is kind of a random smorgasbord of happenstance
encounters over the years.

My parents got me started on it when I was a kid. I remember my folks
taking me to see “Cowboy Bob” (Bob Glaze) when I was about 6 or 7 and we were living in Indiana - Grissom AFB – in the early ‘70s. Cowboy Bob was the host
of an afternoon children¹s show that was based at WTTV Channel 4 in
Indianapolis. I got a signed publicity photo of him sitting on his horse. I remember he had those long sideburns that were popular back then and somewhat resembled Glenn Campbell.

Around that same time I also got Burt Ward’s autograph. He was the actor who played Robin on the Batman & Robin TV series that aired from 1966-68. A local car dealership had asked him to make an appearance to help them drum up business and my parents took me to see him. I got one of those classic Hollywood publicity photos with Ward in his Robin costume climbing a building. He signed it “Pow, Mike!” with a little smiley face added.

Because we were living on an Air Force Base I had a couple of other opportunities to get autographs. Once we went to see a performance by the Thunderbirds, the Air Force’s precision flying team and afterwards I got several of the team members to autograph my program.
My Dad also took me to see a couple of Apollo astronauts once and I got their autographs as well – Al Warden and Dave Scott.

My autograph collecting kind of dropped off for awhile after my Dad left the Air Force and we moved back to Texas. When I was in high school I went to see Alabama perform at Southwest Texas State University and afterwards I stood in line and got all four of them to autograph a nice color publicity photo. I also got Janie Fricke’s autograph. She was the opening act for them at the time though I doubt many people remember her today.

My senior year I got to go to Gen Con, the big national gaming convention in Wisconsin, with my friend Jimmy. I got several artists and game designers to sign my program while I was there – most significantly E. Gary Gygax the creator of the popular fantasy role playing game Dungeons and Dragons.

In college I had all kinds of fresh opportunities to collect autographs. In 1984 I went to hear former Sen. George McGovern speak and got his autograph afterwards. He was actually running for president that year. I felt a little strange asking for his autograph since I was planning to vote for Reagan, but I was impressed that he was a historical figure.

A few years later, after I had become a Democrat, I went to hear another U.S. Senator who was running for president. His name was Al Gore and he had flown into College Station to give Greg Laughlin a boost in this congressional campaign. I got Gore to sign a slip of paper for me.

Possibly the most significant autograph in my collection was one I came across quite by accident. While living in Connecticut I went to a library book sale in a nearby small town and bought a copy of Lyndon Johnson’s autobiography “The Vantage Point.” As I was walking out I opened the book and saw a piece of paper slip out. It was a bookmark that had been stuck down inside the book where you couldn’t see it and it said “Signed by the author.” I thought “surely not.” But sure enough I flipped to the title page and there was LBJ’s autograph. Wow.

I picked up an autographed copy of Congressman Barney Frank’s book “Speaking Frankly” at Half Price Bookstore.

I got former Texas Land Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Garry Mauro to autography his book “Beaches, Bureaucrats and Big Oil”

I have two books signed by Molly Ivins, my favorite liberal columnist – Her first one, “Molly Ivins Can’t Do That, Can She?” which I got through mail order while living in Connecticut, and her latest “Bushwhacked,” which I got her to autograph in person here in San Antonio.

When I was in Kerrville working for the Daily Times I got to cover a Memorial Day ceremony at the Admiral Chester Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg. They got the actors Eddie Albert and Cliff Robertson, both WWII vets, to come out and support the museum and I got both of them to sign a program.

I have a number of music CDs signed by artists from the Kerrville Folk Festival – most notably Tish Hinojosa and Robert Earle Keen.

I have several paintings signed by my favorite Texas artist Dalhart Windberg.

Last year I got to see Luis Tiant, the former Boston Red Sox pitcher, while he was doing a promotional gig at a San Antonio Missions baseball game. I got him to sign a baseball card and my book “The Long Ball” about the ’75 World Series which he played a key role in.

And my wife has an autograph from James Watson of Watson & Crick fame, the pair who discovered DNA. She saw him while she was at Cold Springs Harbor on Long Island where his lab is located.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

History Lesson

George W. Bush now has four more years to wreak havoc, I mean govern the nation and combined with the Republican gains in the House and Senate there have been predictions of sweeping reforms of government programs - everything from overhauling the tax code to make it simpler and more regressive to privatizing Social Security and Medicare.

When Bill Clinton was first elected in 1992 the Democrats had a 55-45 majority control of the Senate - identical to what the Republcans have today. The Democrats also had a 258 to 176 majority in the U.S. House - an 83 seat advantage compared to the (231-201) 30-seat Republican advantage today.
So did Republicans meekly concede that the election had given Clinton a broad mandate to put forth his agenda? Or did they fight Clinton every step of the way?

You might recall that President Clinton had some grandiose ideas about reforming our health care system that fell flat despite his party’s control of both the House and Senate. That’s because they didn’t have total control then any more than Republicans have total control now. Republicans ramped up their use of filibusters when Clinton took office and managed to block a large number of his initiatives. It was the beginning of the gridlock era.

According to a 1995 survey published in the Brookings Review, there was an average of one filibuster per Congress in the 1950s, eleven per Congress in the 1970s, and nineteen per Congress in the 1980s. The 1991-92 Congress, the last one counted in the survey, saw a total of thirty-five filibusters.

Here is a graph that illustrates how much filibuster usage increased at the start of Clinton’s first term. By 1994, TIME Magazine was reporting that the country was “living through a filibuster epidemic.”

Well, you can expect Democrats to return the favor. So don’t expect to see any radical conservative agendas being fulfilled by this administration. They don’t have the numbers or the support to do the things they are talking about. Fortunately for them, our expectations on what governments can accomplish have been greatly diminished since Republicans have assumed power.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

I'm melting, melting. Ohhhhh, what a world, what a world..

Global warming is back in the news today in a big way. One of the most comprehensive studies ever done has just been released and the results are bad news, especially if you live along a coastline.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Scientists say changes in the earth's climate from human influences are occurring particularly intensely in the Arctic region, evidenced by widespread melting of glaciers, thinning sea ice and rising permafrost temperatures.
A study released Monday said the annual average amount of sea ice in the Arctic has decreased by about 8 percent in the past 30 years, resulting in the loss of 386,100 square miles of sea ice - an area bigger than Texas and Arizona combined....

Did you catch that? An area bigger than Texas gone in 30 years.

...Pointing to the report as a clear signal that global warming is real, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said Monday the "dire consequences" of warming in the Arctic underscore the need for their proposal to require U.S. cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases. President Bush has rejected that approach.

So what approach does Bush not object to? I couldn’t find it in any of the wire stories I saw, but the Express-News conveniently inserted this paragraph into their version in what I guess was some editors attempt at “balance.”

James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said the Bush administration is spending $10 billion yearly on research into climate change and related issues.
“The president’s strategy on climate change is quite detailed,” he said.

Quite detailed, he says, without offering any details. But $10 billion annually on climate research!!?? I find that kind of hard to believe. But since this quote is only in the E-N version of the story and is not on their web site I’m having trouble verifying it. Still, I find it rather outrageous that a 4-year comprehensive study comes out and the Bush administration’s response is to say that we are going to spend more money conducting more research before we do anything about it. I guess they will just keep repeating their studies over and over again until they get a result that they like.

And here is more good news from Reuters:

REYKJAVIK (Reuters) - Global warming is melting the Arctic ice faster than expected, and the world's oceans could rise by about a meter (3 feet) by 2100, swamping homes from Bangladesh to Florida, the head of a study said on Tuesday.
Robert Corell, chairman of the eight-nation Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), also told a news conference there were some hints of greater willingness by the United States, the world's top polluter, to take firmer action to slow climate change.

No wonder most of the coastal states voted for Kerry! Oh, and that hint of greater willingness by the “world’s top polluter” was a reference to the McCain-Lieberman legislation that Bush opposes. So much for that.

Purple blob - Election 2004

Election 2004
Originally uploaded by mwthomas87.
Here is one of the best maps yet that depicts the 2004 election turnout. This illustrates how it was a close race better than those misleading county or state maps with the winner-take-all red versus blue makeup.

Here we have shades of purple to represent percentages of turnout in different areas plus the map has been morphed to give a better representation of population density.

Monday, November 08, 2004

The elitist position

Michael Kinsley has an excellent column this week that addresses this charge that those of us on the left are arrogant and elitist.

There's just one little request I have. If it's not too much trouble, of course. Call me profoundly misguided if you want. Call me immoral if you must. But could you please stop calling me arrogant and elitist?

I mean, look at it this way. (If you don't mind, that is.) It's true that people on my side of the divide want to live in a society where women are free to choose and where gay relationships have civil equality with straight ones. And you want to live in a society where the opposite is true. These are some of those conflicting values everyone is talking about. But at least my values — as deplorable as I'm sure they are — don't involve any direct imposition on you. We don't want to force you to have an abortion or to marry someone of the same sex, whereas you do want to close out those possibilities for us. Which is more arrogant?

We on my side of the great divide don't, for the most part, believe that our values are direct orders from God. We don't claim that they are immutable and beyond argument. We are, if anything, crippled by reason and open-mindedness, by a desire to persuade rather than insist. Which philosophy is more elitist? Which is more contemptuous of people who disagree?