Hail to the Chief 

I feel a little like a guy treading water on the confirmation of John Roberts. It seems to me his confirmation is a foregone conclusion and not worth much of a fight. I can't imagine W nominating anyone I would approve of to the top spot on the Supreme Court, but on the other hand, he is replacing someone as conservative as all but two on the court, and will not by himself change the balance. He might even turn out to be more acceptable than his earlier lawyerly efforts would lead one to believe. An attorney once described himself to me as a hooker, doing whatever the one with the money wished. I'm sure he would happily have taken either side of the argument, depending on who paid for his advice or services. I suspect that lawyers who work for the executive branch are not much different.
 
The main reason I would probably wind up voting for Judge Roberts is that I would prefer to look reasonable and not appear in an obstructionist mode. It's a little like being run out of town. If you hurry to the front you can look like you're leading a parade. I would prefer to keep my powder dry for the real battle, the replacement of the swing vote, Sandra Day O'Connor. 
 
W's numbers have gone down to about the place his performance deserves and, since he is a lame duck, the moderate Republicans can afford to buck him. They don't have to vote against his nominee. They simply need to allow the Democrats to use the filibuster and  prevent the faith healer Frist from invoking the nuclear option.  Most of them know that political approval is a transient gift and that the GOP will one day need to use the filibuster for its own agenda. Faces without noses are not attractive. They also have difficulty breathing. All that can be hoped for, anyway, is to keep the five to four decisions evenly distributed.

Selling Out

I read an article in last week's student newspaper at the local college. It was actually a reprint of an article originally published in the Oklahoma State University student paper and was bemoaning Bob Dylan's selling out to the corporate world by having his most recent album handled exclusively by Starbucks. I figured the article must have been written by a late-arriving graduate student since Bob is older than most parents of today's college students. I believe he turned 64 last May. 
 
He is part of a generation who said you couldn't trust anyone over thirty and now he's twice that.  I could see the parents being dismayed, but most of them lost their fervor when they became parents and their folks stopped supporting them. I'm not being cynical, but it is hard to imagine many fifty year olds still operating out of the same philosophy they had as college age youth. A great many have traded their pony tails in for comb-overs and their youthful zeal for a guaranteed income. Life does that. I still see a few scraggly pony tails on the age group, but  most of them are defense attorneys. I am told that we change every cell in our body every seven years so Bob has had at least four new bodies since his rebellious youth. In most cases each new body has less hair, more flab and less muscle tone than the last one, and it becomes harder to relate to the poor — at least as well as they thought they did in the 60's and 70's.
 
Now these facts do no not make it right for one who made his fortune as a rebel to sell out, but it makes it more understandable.  It looks like high priced, bitter coffee is going to continue to sell, so Bob's income should be guaranteed with his Starbucks' deal. There is no way to guarantee such a return on the open market, and Bob is retirement age. After all, Medicare is only a year or two away.

The American Taliban

 The desire of the Taliban and others of the far right of Islam is to move the world back several centuries in its thinking and culture. The treatment of women, in their thinking, would be similar to that ordained in the early books of the Old Testament. Beings without power and without control over their own bodies is the role they see for them. The Koran, or Quiran, is being pushed today as the basis of law in the "new" Iraq. Theocracies are already more repressive in several of our allies, Saudi Arabia being the chief, but far from the only example.
 
When you listen to the strident voices of the religious right in our country the difference is in degree, not substance. The battle against abortion is for more than the single issue. It is for the place and power of women over their own destinies. It is for the decision making power of the legislature and the executive and the judicial branches of our country. It is for the display of religious teachings and instruction from the Judaeo-Christian vision of God. It is for a theocracy as our form of government. The fact that a secular government is the only sure way to guarantee freedom of religion does not escape them because freedom of religion is not their goal. They have that. What they want is a Cromwellian leader with the powers of a Cromwell. 
 
A little reminder of how well that form worked in England might be worth their study. It lasted until Oliver Cromwell died and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Shortly thereafter, Charles II was invited back from his travels in France to assume the throne his father lost to the executioner's axe. If Pepys' diary is accurate, Cromwell's remains were removed from the Abbey and hung for public display before being tossed in a lime pit. That kind of puritanical government obviously has a limited appeal.

The ignoring of science is loudest in the battle over creation, but the actions of the current administration show how little they wish to let true science inhibit their desire for short term profits. They make a big issue of their pro-life stance, but are led by the chief executioner from a state with a production line execution system. I won't get into the issue of an unnecessary war at this point. Monica hasn't been back in the White House since W came in, but the nation has been deflowered on an almost daily basis. If you read past the front page of most newspapers you will see an article about a change of rules from one or another of the various agencies originally meant to protect us. In almost every case, the safety measures which began with Theodore Roosevelt are being weakened so that the groups this administration represents can rape the environment. Science be damned. It doesn't seem to bother the religious leaders that life in general is being damaged beyond repair.
 
The battle over intelligent design is really meant to replace science texts with the Bible's version of more than creation. It is a power struggle for control of our education system and hence the minds of our citizenry. Every religion has its creation story and most have similarities, but few are taken literally today. They are metaphors or similes to help us understand, in a simple way, a very long and complicated process. Simplistic approaches always sound good — that explains John Wayne's popularity — but life is rarely that simple. 
 
Those who wish to replace the Constitution with Leviticus should be careful what they wish for. They just may get it. The heathen will not be the only ones who suffer.

Blondie, the Original Sweater Girl

For someone who has to be at least 95, Blondie is a real piece of work. She was one of the first, if not the first, sweater girls after the flat twenties, when girls were bound to be flat. I don't remember whether she was as top heavy in 1930 as she is today. At that time I was midway in the journey between seeing a woman's bosom as a food supply and erotic art, so she may have developed during the war when mammae worship hit full stride. I know that the Dragon Lady in Terry and the Pirates grew dramatically during the war.
 
I must have been about seven when she and Dagwood married, because I was able to read the comics without help. I have a vague recollection of her working in an office and having no shortage of suitors, but she chose the dork, Dagwood. I think it came as a surprise to many of the readers who had followed the strip for at least two years. I don't know what Chic Young was thinking except that there was more humor in a family than in the hunt. 
 
At any rate, they both look much better than anyone has a right to expect at 95 or older. Blondie is a beauty in a bathing suit while Dagwood looks like he hasn't started pumping iron as yet, but at least he remains unwrinkled. Perhaps I missed the passing of the baton, but is Chic Young the original cartoonist? If he is, he has to be at least as old as his famous characters and that's quite a feat in itself. Perhaps I'm thinking of the wrong cartoonist. Unlike Blondie and Dagwood, time has not left me unscathed.

Lessons Learned

In fairness to FEMA and the governors of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as mayors of several cities and towns, Rita was handled with a great deal more foresight and preparedness than might have been expected considering the debacle that was Katrina. The military was also better prepared, at both the state guard and national levels. More lessons were learned as the evacuees from Houston faced almost impossible traffic problems. It would be nice for the nation and particularly the gulf region if we could have a year for planning and preparation as well as recovery before another hurricane comes ashore. Nature does not provide such guarantees, however, so I hope the planning and revisions are done immediately.

George W, or his advisers, learned some lessons also. His Mother, America's matronly answer to Marie Antoinette, did not help, but Karl Rove and the other thinkers did. He was positioned for some helpful photo ops, listening to military planners telling him that we needed a national plan for the military. It seemed like a natural conclusion, but our fearless leader sat and nodded his head while wearing an _expression which indicated he was listening and thinking seriously about what was being said. It is to be hoped that he listened enough to get the gist of what was being presented. I thought this kind of planning was one of the main purposes of combining all our eggs in the Department of Homeland Defense basket, but apparently not.

Gays and the Guv

When he was running for the top job in the state, Arnold spent his time throwing T-shirts to the crowds and repeating stale lines from his heroic films made in the town of make believe. Since he had the loyal support of all Republicans and many Democrats, he thought he would be able to do whatever he wished. It was in this atmosphere that he promised to sign a bill allowing gay marriage if the legislature sent him one. It is probably unconstitutional anyway, but now that his approval rating is about as low as the president's, he is going back to his base, which includes a great number of evangelicals who are scared to death of gay marriage. Since most of the gay couples are together already, this amounts to preferring that they live in sin to taking their vows and making it legal.

Since the guv lived in Hollywood for many years, it is logical that he came in contact with many gay couples, given the attraction the arts hold for them. I don't know if the same holds true for body building, his avocation prior to movie stardom. But when you spend hours each day with a group of narcissistic males, lifting weights and posing in front of mirrors, then striking poses in front of other men, and women, while wearing only a coating of oil and a g-string, it does make one wonder. In either case, he has enough experience with gays to know that they are going to stay together as couples about as long and successfully as their heterosexual counterparts. The argument that the battle is to save marriage as an institution rings hollow when you think that heterosexual marriages succeed only half the time—success being the continuation of the arrangement, not any accompanying bliss. I have some opinions on the zeal that church folks display in battling this faux war to save marriage, but it deserves a blog of its own.

The next few months may involve the governator in a more believable fight than in any of his movies. We will have to judge him by how he handles this, particularly watching him perform in front of groups that are other than by invitation only. I think the T-shirts and stale lines will fall short, so watch for his ad libs when the real questions come. I doubt that just opposing gay marriage will do it.

Two Messages

The master manipulator is hard at work. Under cover of the White House, Karl Rove has sent his troops two messages they are to deliver. The first is: This is not the time for finger pointing. There will be plenty of time for that. It is important to get supplies to the needy and to rescue the victims of this horrible accident of nature. There will be plenty of time to assess blame. The second is: Blame the state and local leadership and accuse the victims of impeding the federal rescue efforts with guns, looting and rape, thus diverting the soldiers sent to the rescue. These messages started with the White House spokesman and, if you pay any attention to the letters to the editor, you will already have seen them almost verbatim. The idea is first to silence the critics and while they wait, to send in the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to do the dirty work. A good plan. It's worked before.

It is true that the emergency needs our full attention, but it will pay to remember that those troops supposedly being "diverted" by the victims were several days late getting started, thanks to a dearth of orders from above. The awful truth is we are poorly prepared to deal with a terrorist attack and our leaders have no idea what to do about it, other than to blame the victims.

Lemmings

Having lived long enough to remember when the Solid South was in the Democratic fold and was the burr under FDR's saddle, it is interesting to see how Nixon's anti civil rights group has morphed into the Christian right. The great bulk of them do not live in the style of Pat Robertson, but more along the lines of the rest of the common folk, of which there are many. I can never understand why anyone who punches a clock for a living could think an administration such as the one we have presently could possibly have their best interests at heart. From an economic point of view, it makes no sense at all. If most of them got anything out of the Bush tax cuts, it was the $300.00 the Democrats insisted on. I think that was a serious mistake on the Democrat's part since it dulled the pain slightly and made it appear that something was being done for the bottom of the food chain.

I have concluded that the religious right have three or four things they are against and have visions of a theocracy as their main attraction to the Republican party. They are against gays having any rights and against abortion for women, two groups who are more in the Democratic fold than in theirs. They want prayer in schools even though it has not been allowed in their lifetimes. It just sounds good. They hate the term evolution and want to replace it with their updated version of Genesis I. Whether they stick with the six days and a day off version or intelligent design, they want to replace science with religion and they think they have a better chance with the Republicans than the Democrats. As they must realize, if they bother to think and look at their paychecks, this administration looks out for the wealthy and is in the process of establishing, firmly, an oligarchy. In their case it should be spelled oiligarchy, of course. As a result of these limited goals and one overarching one, they follow like lemmings to the sea, the party which is working on putting them in their proper role—serfs.

As for me, I don't need a guy who spent over half his adult life as a drunk being held up as an icon of morality any more than I need a group of feather merchants teaching me about patriotism. We will talk about what this group is doing to the environment another time, but caring for God's creation, I thought, was a Christian responsibility. Apparently not.

Fiddling Around

There has been plenty of coverage of the disaster in New Orleans and other Gulf cities and a good deal of attention drawn to the shortcomings of FEMA, but one aspect of the delay has not been pressed. Our glorious leader was on one of his many lengthy vacations when this predicted and predictable disaster occurred. Riding a bicycle may be good exercise to get rid of fat around the waist, but in his case, the fat is located higher up the body. It is not surprising that this disengaged leader was enjoying himself far from the seat of government since he pays little attention when he is in Washington, but after his slow start on nine eleven and even slower recognition of the tsunami disaster in Asia, you would have thought his advisors would have awakened him early for this one. His behavior is not without precedent. After all Nero had his fiddle, but Nero didn't have TV coverage to worry about. The president's subsequent sightseeing tours and photo ops have contributed little, but it would have helped if he had alerted those in responsible positions that this was a job for our National Security forces. The weather personnel on the news had been tracking Katrina for a week before she hit land so it was hardly a surprise.

"W" owes his reelection to two things, the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision on gay marriage and the perception that he was the better candidate to provide for our security. The former resulted in several ballot initiatives which drew attention to the fact that gay people wanted to be treated equally ( perish the thought ) and the latter was milked to its fullest extent with the continuous use of the term "war on terror." I don't think the terrorists are going to bring anything more terrifying than Katrina and the failure of this administration was monumental. If I were given to worry, I'd worry about our safety. Second thoughts, anyone?