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Monday, March 27, 2006

Lefts and Rights and Neutrals

If you've noticed the links I have to the below right, you can easily gather that I'm a little left. For as long as I can remember, I've teetered around the area that prompts authority figures to assume I'm one of those punks who has problems with authority.

I once replied to a boss after he made such an accusation years ago that it's not the thought of authority alone that makes my spine curve. I truly will respect authority if I feel it deserves my respect, just as I would any co-worker or a new acquaintance.

But authority by itself doesn't gain my respect simply by rank. There are far too many people who have certain jobs or hold lofty offices when they clearly should not. Congratulations to them for capitalizing on their relevant public being easily fooled.

The first name that comes to mind is George W. Bush.

When you're the leader of a mostly free and powerful nation like ours, especially in our current world climate, it is your No. 1 job to ensure the security of its people. That ours is threatened every day means critical information is often left out of White House press conferences.

Smart Americans accept that, but they're also the ones who feel qualified to question the manner in which the administration goes about trying to provide that security. They're also the ones who understand it's their DUTY as participants in our democracy -- albeit an illusionary one -- to keep the house cats honest.

But it's hard to do these days because the current administration is the first in my lifetime to turn the occasional occurrence of a "that's classified" approach into a downright tedious habit. And as the technological age continues to take hold, more of the presidency is televised and livestreamed. More journalists are asking more, different, better, harder and necessary questions. So the purpose of the Scott McLellans of the world is no longer to shed light for the Helen Thomases, but rather to keep her and her colleagues in the dark. I guarantee you there will come a day when an administration will think of a way to make money by convincing Americans that 2+2 really does equal 5. Sounds unfathomable, eh? Well, wouldn't you have said that just a year ago about the possibility of an Arab company guarding U.S. ports?

Spin? Hell, it's more like a double-loop with a side of corkscrew.

Spin has become not only an overly used term, but an all-too-commonly used political practice in places where honesty sometimes used to reside. And staring down the homestretch of W's farce of a run, it amazes me that this short-sighted public genuinely feels like there are areas where we're better off. Take a step back from your usual rant, and this one too, and tell yourself this fact -- millions of Americans think we're a stronger nation now than we were seven years ago.

I can't believe I just typed that, but after watching "You Can't Be Neutral On A Moving Train," the documentary about author/historian/war vet/aging hellraiser Howard Zinn, it's hard not to end my nearly three-week absence here and give myself a kick in the ass to make a difference.

So check back on Tuesday.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Good Punk-Bad Punk

I often catch myself generalizing our culture as though its members are a fairly vigilant group. I manage a television station's news web site, and whenever I create a survey asking users whether they think this former state trooper killed his wife or that guy deserved a particular sentence, the results are always in line. The guy definitely did it and death by firing squad tomorrow morning is far too late.

But then I also catch myself saying I think we're a forgiving lot. We truly allow many to get away with awful things, whether we're talking about folks we've dated or just good friends, or maybe even people we've never met, like O.J. Simpson.

I get a kick out of professional athletes who say things about troubled fraternity members like, "He's a good kid. He just made a bad decision."

You know what? Maurice Clarett and hundreds of others are not good kids. They made poor choices because that's what they do best. They buy guns and use them either to harm others or threaten to harm others. Maurice Clarett is not a good kid; he's been troublesome ever since he stepped foot on the campus of The Ohio State University (to my delight, I'll concede), and has been a problem ever since.

And in Louisville, Ky., there's a guy who, as a teenager, shot and killed his younger brother after a video-game dispute in 1999, was sentenced, then released on what some states call shock probation. This is something that people convicted of serious crimes can sometimes earn if a judge is convinced that once the scumbag spent a short time behind bars, he's definitely learned his lesson. Well, this kid, Aaron Hardin, was let out of prison, then committed some crimes, so was sent back to jail, then probated once more.

Well, guess who's in trouble again?

Yes, a prosecutor now wants Hardin's second shock probation revoked now that the punk is being accused of holding a woman down on the ground so his girlfriend can beat her up.

Yeah, I know, innocent until proven guilty. But there's a thing called the benefit of the doubt. I didn't get it much when I was a teenager because I didn't get good grades and was kind of the class clown. I was a good kid who made bad decisions. Behavioral risks included things like egging houses on Halloween, staying out past curfew and that awful white tuxedo I wore to prom.

They did not, however, include shooting anyone for any reason, let alone a 13-year-old brother who beat me on Atari.

So the curious portion of the community will await a judge's decision on whether to revoke Hardin's probation. Until then, just don't tell me he's a good kid.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Digging For Gold

I've often thought that a lot of our country's jokes about Kentucky were overdone.

Then I drove back to work from my lunchbreak on Monday, March 6.

In a radio commercial about how calcium can help your child's teeth, the narrator asked, "Did you know there are more people with false teeth living in Kentucky than in any other state?"

Before I could reply with, "Hell yeah I knew that," I looked over at the car to my left, in which an unattractive girl was playing a little game of hide the index finger with herself. Yes, she had one-third of her index finger way up her nose.

And at a red light a few blocks later, I watched a man with one big, black, bushy eyebrow dig for gold for quite a while. And once he saw me looking at him, he didn't bat an eye. He just kept searching.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Freak Alert

+ Just your basic, run-of-the-mill, ho-hum story about a grown man waiting outside a public restroom so he can eventually tiptoe inside and drink the urine of teenage boys.

+ And how about the Iowa man who kidnapped his own wife and tried to force her to sign a contract that outlined how/how often she had to shave her pubic area, what types of sex acts were required and how quickly after putting their children to bed she had to be naked ... even if he was away traveling on business?

Seriously, y'all, what is wrong with people? I fully understand that mental health is harder to come by for some than others, but what happens inside your heart or your brain over the years that gradually leads you to think, "Yeah, if I just get some young male urine in me, I'll be all set?"

Now I don't deny that we Americans are tremendously overmedicated, but part of being strong is admitting that you're weak, and knowing when to ask for help. I myself have seen therapists, and while my friends might disagree, I think those visits have helped.

I'll write more later. For now, though, I need to make sure all the bodies are still frozen.