Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Mighty Wind

For those who grew up east of the Rockies, Southern California's often long summers can be a real drag upon one's psyche. Especially in the inland areas that are away from the coast, temperatures into the nineties can hang on well into October. Whereas a week or two after Labor Day, the season changes dramatically in the northern and eastern climes, the scent of autumn does not truly appear until Halloween hits.

With the late autumn comes clearer skies that finally allow inland residents an opportunity to gaze at the magnificent mountains that ring the area but are virtually invisible during the hotter months. But just as one is ready to go outdoors for a hike or a job or a stroll, the mighty Santa Ana winds roar their ugly head bringing with them renewed warmth and the inevitable canyon fires.

As this is being written, the winds have finally subsided but as has been witnessed by the entire nation, many areas of the "Southland" have been devastated by the annual conflagrations. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed by the roaring flames. The fire is an equal opportunity engine in that it hits both million dollar homes as well as entire mobile home parks.

The sad thing is that so much could be avoided if the loose housing restrictions were tightened. Almost always the destruction occurs in the fringe areas; the places where suburbia ends and nature starts. Due to the infinite freeways and a car culture that takes advantage of them, Californians love to live in those semi-rural spots that are still within a decent commuting time of their jobs. This desire for a piece of natural living within a sprawling megaplex feeds the horrors of the yearly burns.

Nature will always take its course. Fires are a natural part of the rhythms of life there. Innocent residents are caught in a world that they should never be allowed to be a part of. Their personal losses are tragic but wholly avoidable. There is so much within the urban and suburban core that can be built upon, that one must wonder how builders and city planners can sleep at night knowing that the homes they sold and allowed to be built were knowingly put in areas that are always in danger of fire and the fierceness of those Santa Anas that sweep down upon lonely mountain passes that should never have large populations.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Was having a conversation with some conservative leaning folk the other day when the following words came out of my mouth: "You know, many of us Democrats would have to say that in the long line of things, perhaps Reagan and the first Bush were not that bad after all."

Now for a fierce partisan like myself that was a lot to say. I went home and began to ponder what exactly prompted such talk. It took a bit of mind crunching before I realized that I was comparing these former presidents to the one we currently have and the one that still might be coming. Yes, in looking at men such as Nixon, Reagan, and Pappa Bush, one would have to say that compared to the second Bush and the still out there Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, these men indeed were centrists and deep thinkers.

No one can doubt that many of the policies put forth by Nixon would be considered slightly left of center in what was up to last week, a nation tilting more and more to the extreme right. Reagan's folksy charm and surprisingly realistic grasp on events and Bush's often cautious tones are characteristics that most Americans wished would have guided George W. Over eight years, given opportunities to shine in some incredibly tense situations, Bush failed again and again to come to grips with what needed to be done. His lack of intellectual curiosity and his penchant for retiring to sleep early every evening (only to wake up and spend hours exercising) kept him from doing much, if anything, with the short eight years he was in office.

Now, conservative eyes and true believers' hearts have turned northward where Sarah Palin is holding court with as many reporters that want to interview her. The reins that the McCain handlers had put on her, have been broken and "aw shucks", its time for the potential 2012 Republican standard bearer to get in her licks. Even "Where in the world is Matt Lauer" has gone up to see her and she will appear Wednesday night on Larry King.

As Bush's failures made one see former leaders in a new light, the folksy cousin of "Joe the Plumber", is so low in the experience, training, and (I dare to say) intelligent quotient, that if Palin gets anywhere close to Washington DC, one would have to wonder if W. also would come under a new scrutiny. His laziness not withstanding, at least his family pedigree and his Yale education are things that Palin lacks.

There can almost never be a doubt that the Obama girls will not find themselves teenage moms. And just like the Bush twins, Chelsea Clinton, and countless other White House children, they are ticketed for fine four year colleges. The presidency is imbibed with a symbolism that those who hold the office, should to the best of their abilities, example the best America has to offer. Already Palin child number one is off to war (yes, a noble effort, but shouldn't he have gone as an officer?), and child number two is pregnant.

It would be hard to believe that there could be a worse leader than George W. Bush, but trust me, if ever the nightmare becomes a reality, Sarah Palin would be a disaster from which our nation would never, ever recover from.

Oh, but lets finish on a positive note. 2012 is four years away and if Obama does even a fourth of what he promised, he will have a second term and a fifty-two year old former Alaska beauty queen might not be that fresh face Americans will looking for almost a decade from now. Like Joe the Plumber, she could become a laughing footnote in our history.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

It's A Beautiful Day

My first thought was to be sarcastic. To say some goodbyes and good riddances to McCain, his wife, Palin, her family, Bush, Dana Perino, and so many talking right wing heads. To put it in their faces after all those inane anti-Obama comments that so many of them spewed out during the last months of the campaign.

But, no, now is not the time to dwell on the negative. Now is not the time for retribution. Nor is it the time to dance on the corpses of those who were utterly defeated. They know what they did wrong and they see the results that Americans brought forth on this past Tuesday.

So, all of us should take a moment of quiet reflection and have a period of grace and gratitude. By a large margin, our citizens voted for their dreams, aspirations, and hopes over fear and hatred. How amazing is it that states like Virginia, (North Carolina), Indiana, Colorado, Florida, Ohio, and on the list goes, turned from red to blue. People from all racial backgrounds, age groups, and religious affiliations, came together to say enough to years of bitterness and extreme partisanship.

Obama is young and yes most likely a bit too inexperienced at this moment. But he has shown an incredible ability to learn and adapt during the trying presidential race. He surrounded himself with incredibly sharp political aides who put together this winning coalition. Now, we should rest assured that he will do the same as he fills in his cabinet and top leaders. He has already signaled a willingness to choose the "best and brightest" regardless of political party.

Obama is a once in a generation leader as John F. Kennedy was. One could only imagine the hope for a new dawn way back in 1960 when the young Kennedy defeated Nixon. Finally after so many decades, we too living in a new millennium, have the opportunity to watch a young leader take the reins of government and point us to an era that although will be full of disappointment and failure, will ultimately try to point our nation on a path of justice, equality, and a brighter life for all.

It is indeed a beautiful day!!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Wednesday Morning

Oh to wake up early on Wednesday morning to know that we did the correct thing by being on the right side of history. To wake up to a "job well done". That our nation voted for hope and the future. That we all put the racism aside that has plagued us for all these many years. That we elected Barack Obama as the next president of this glorious nation.

This is the dream that so many are hoping to experience. But we will have to get past those old negative tapes in our collective soul and reach for the noble lever on the eternal election machine. To go with youth, intelligence, and vision over age-old political think, pessimism, and a narrowing view of the world.

If one would look closely at the polls these past four weeks one would have great hope that all of this will be accomplished on Election Day. All of the signs point to a sweeping Democratic victory. An opportunity to once and for all change a trajectory that has favored the rich and pampered over the tired middle and the struggling poor. No, nirvana will not have been reached and much will be left aside that should be corrected. But a certain step towards making our nation whole for all its people will be something that should be applauded.

Yet until that Wednesday morning arrives, all of this will be a dream. So much can go wrong in this last weekend of the long election cycle. A final McCain arrow might actually find its fertile target deep within a haunted American psyche. It has not happened yet but with so many paying full attention and contemplating their vote, none of us can be certain what the final outcome will be.

So the next ninety-six hours or so will be nervous ones for those who see so much to be won by an Obama victory. The anxiety for those on the Obama side is not rooted in a hatred for McCain (although much negativity is instilled by McCain's VP choice) but by the expectations that the Illinois Senator's election will go a long way to heal our nation and bring us on a new path of righteousness and healing. Obama might not be a perfect messenger and he might still lack all the experience we would want in the person who will be at the helm of the country, but his candidacy really is a "once in a lifetime" opportunity that cannot go unfulfilled. May Wednesday morning bring beams of sunshine from one coast to another and may we all, no matter what our background, join in and and sing, "We Have Overcome!".

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Baseball Interlude

In a way it is poetic justice that rain has fallen on baseball's parade. The same rain that has been dampening the two presidential candidates' jaunts through the Keystone state that just happens to be the site of that very same World Series.

Sometimes it is good for the soul to experience the actual changing of summer into autumn. The suspension of the baseball championships is being viewed universally as a disaster for a sport hungering for a large post season viewing audience. But the rain drops and dark weather that have taken over Philadelphia are giving the players a moment to pause before taking the final actions in a season so unexpected for the participants of the two teams.

When if ever, has a game been stopped in the middle of the sixth inning with the score tied and so much riding on the outcome? When if ever, has one game gone from one day to another day to another day with nothing changing? This break, though torture for the FOX network, gives those baseball purists who like things to last as long as possible, a unique opportunity to wonder what each team's manager's strategy will be in what is essence a three and a half inning contest for the ages.

In a similar vein, seeing pictures of Obama in the rain and of McCain having to cancel a rally in Quakertown, gives a bit more drama to their own championship bout. On Wednesday, the two will have gone on ahead of the Phillies and Rays, to sunny Florida, where the senses and emotions of the four seasons never hit.

A chill in the air, some wind dusting up around the crowd, and some meaningful rain showers are what everyone needs as the long election race winds down to a dwindling few days. One would hope that all of us would take one last moment to contemplate the meaning of this election and the stark positions of the two men running for the presidency. One would hope that Americans would look hard at the young lanky man from Illinois and the grizzled Air Force veteran from Arizona and then go and cast a vote that all of us knows is so important.

But this moment of solemnity will only last for twenty four hours. Obama will be on the networks Wednesday night followed by those precious innings that the two baseball teams will compete. The ads and talking heads will come back to try and convince us to vote for our most shallow concerns. The hope here is that the time off will produce a crisp clean battle in Citizens Park in Philly and an Election Day where millions of Americans will vote their dreams and hopes over fear and doom.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sarah Ambitious

The roaring locomotive that is Sarah Palin is moving out front once again. The woman whose ambition knows no bounds is finding her voice on the campaign trail. The new energy and confidence exhibited by the Alaska governor is aimed at being a boon to her own future not as a help towards her tired old running mate.

The irony is that John McCain's staff did not closely look into Sarah Palin's meteoric political rise. If they did they would have realized that Palin uses everyone for her own advancement. She ratted out the head of the Alaska GOP for making a few political calls/emails while he was on government time. Instead of looking the other way, she cast aside her one time mentor.

Indeed, scores of ordinary folks in hometown Wasilla were pushed away by the eager young mayor. Instead of forging alliances and moving slowly, Mayor Palin took a me vs. them approach to local politics and government in the once sleepy Anchorage suburb.

When she took over the reins of the state, Palin quickly exhibited the same propensity for putting her own cronies in power and axing all that were deemed blocking her agenda and her path to greater glory. Now as the presidential campaign hits its waning days, Palin is sensing that McCain is a wounded duck that needs to be drowned.

The best example would be the recent Brian Williams/NBC interviews where without much prompting, Palin chides in with her own opinions. Perhaps three or four weeks ago, Palin would have played the dutiful VP candidate and only speak up when specifically addressed. This is no longer the case. More and more, Palin's extreme views on abortion, government's role, climate change and other areas are coming to the forefront as she boldly breaks from the chains that the McCain camp thought they had tied securely to her.

All of this is being done to push Sarah. She is not a dummy and is looking beyond what is almost definitely going to be a Republican drubbing. Palin hopes to become the nominal head of a smaller, leaner, and more religiously conservative national Republican Party. This might be good for her but it is also good for the rest of America which looks poised to elect Barack Obama. The make-up, the clothes, the unwavering right-wing views, are not selling with the majority of the nation and are helping to finish that McCain drowning.

Palin is a character right out of Shakespeare. She is good in many things and knows it. She would never hesitate to plunge that proverbial dagger into a modern day Caesar. But what she does not realize is that most of the nation (if the current polling can be depended upon) has moved away from the niche group that she looks to take control of. The thought here is that she remains genuine to her cause and not feign a new independent course that would fool millions of Americans in a future election and take over the leadership of the country. As John McCain and so many others have found out, ultimate power is what drives this woman and we as a freedom loving people do not need to experience such cunning ambition.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Food Stamps & Fried Chicken

The now infamous "food stamp" broadside originates from right here - western San Bernardino County. Located some forty miles due west of Los Angeles, the growing communities of Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, and Chino Hills are now the focal point of national attention over the overtly racist political depiction of Senator Obama inside a food stamp bill decorated with ribs, chicken, kool-aid, and watermelon.

The sad part of this episode is that the area is truly a melting pot of various ethnic groups and economic classes. The perpetrators of the guilty hit piece are the usually quiet and dignified Chaffey Community Republican Women. The group of leading civic women (and by association, elected Republican men) are now being seen as an insular, out of touch, and perhaps racist group. The action of a few of their members who put together the newsletter where the offending Obama depiction was found, casts aspersion on the rest of the area's population.

In so much as something like this has not happened before, one must go outside the women's group to find the real source of such hateful politics. And that is not hard to trace. The campaigns of Senator McCain and Governor Palin over the last three weeks have gone over the line in their portrayal of their Democratic rival.

It is one thing to point out inconsistent statements, perceived lack of experience, and a "liberal" voting record. Unfortunately, it is entirely not right to paint your opponent as "palling around with terrorists", "not sharing American values", and using other coded messages to stir up fear and anxiety among many voters.

Once the national campaign gets sidetracked with such negativity, it would not be hard to imagine local grassroots followers picking up the theme and putting their own take on the message. We would have to assume that the Chaffey women (and most likely other groups throughout the nation) got caught up in the anti-Obama hysteria as they put out their offensive material.

Much has been written about the growing anger being shown at McCain/Palin rallies. The Chaffey incident is a direct response to all of this. With only a bit more than two weeks left in the hard fought campaign, one wonders that if McCain did a 180% about face and called off all the negativity, whether it would be too late as the proverbial cat has already been let loose from its box.