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July 28th, 2004

11:16 am - Why I don't like the Democrats, and other assorted tidbits of joy

I am a liberal. I have always been a liberal, although to varying degrees over the last 5 years. I believe in liberal values, like diversity, a wide variety of personal rights ranging from free expression to the use of mind-altering substances. I believe that government's job is to guide and protect the population as they travel the paths of peace, prosperity, and freedom. I think it's government's job to regulate business only so far as is necessary to protect the safety of the environment and the citizenry and prevent fraud. I believe that taxation is key to a functional government and society, and that it should be progressive, carefully enforced, and as minimal as is possible without sacrificing essential services. I believe in reason, ethics, and that one of the biggest favors you can do for an honest person is to ask them the hard questions that they've been hiding from.

These are just some of the reasons that I cannot count myself among the Democratic party faithful. The Democrats are better than the Republicans, but the Spanish Inquisition was better than the Holocaust. It's nothing to cheer about. The Democratic vision for the future of the United States is not one of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (to steal a nice turn of phrase from the French). It is one of more equality, more fraternity, and more liberty in some areas, but not nearly enough. It is a future full of special interests and pork. It is a future better than the present but not enough better to be worth supporting unreservedly.

What's wrong with the Democrats? I don't have enough time to type out a full list of sins, so I'll pick a few choice ones at random. Perhaps the most concrete recent example is the way they behaved during the run up to the war in Iraq. Not only did they roll over like good little doggies playing dead when the Republicans shotgunned legislation authorizing the war through the two houses of congress (along with other fun little things like the Patriot Act and whatever the fuck else they wanted after 9/11) but they didn't even have the cojones to try and raise the level of debate to something resembling honesty. Iraq was never about weapons of mass destruction. That's just an angle they played up for the TV News channels because you can slap a nice graphic on it and talk about it in the same hushed tones that you talk about the local restaurants that may be mishandling your meat and making people sick. Why would it matter if Iraq did have those weapons? They didn't have anything like the technology to launch them anywhere near the United States, and despite the fact that Saddam Hussein's niece may have purchased a centerpiece from the same florist who sold a prom corsage to the ex-boyfriend of the cousin of a mid-level flunkie in Al-Qaeda, he wasn't going to give them to Islamic Fundementalists either. Fundementalists, including Osama Bin Laden, hated Saddam. He was #2 on their hit-list after the United States. Some people have claimed, post-facto, that we were concerned for Israel's safety. Israel can take care of itself with all the support we give it. It proved that when it bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor 21 years ago. I support our intervention in Israel's defense if there was an imminent threat, but the idea that Saddam might have some easily manufactured chemical weapons somewhere in his country hardly counts as that. Saddam Hussein was a crippled tyrant ruling over a decrepit country with a military so weak that it barely proved a speedbump on our way to Baghdad after we invaded. He was not a threat.

The invasion of Iraq wasn't about self-defense. It was about a few things. It was about oil, no matter anyone says to the contrary. The way we've behaved after the invasion proves that pretty incontravertibly. It was about establishing a foothold in the Middle East. Read up on the Wolfowitz plan, even if it does seem like something out of a Tom Clancy meets Stephen King novel. It was about doing something after 9/11, because Afghanistan (which actually made sense as a defensive action, seeing as how the Taliban was harboring Al Qaeda and refusing to expel them from the country) wasn't enough. We bombed some rubble, but we didn't overtake a recognizable dictator in a place that most Americans knew about. We needed to do something that felt concrete. It was also about finishing what Bush 41 started. Did the Democrats make this as clear as day? Some did, there were some who spoke out and I respect those individual politicians for that. As a whole, though, they chose to play it safe. They wanted Bush to hoist himself with his own petard so they gave him all the rope he needed. Then they acted outraged that the WMDs weren't there. The WMDs were irrelevant. Who cares if he had Sarin gas? We've got much worse stuff, and so does just about every important government on earth. Russia still has thousands of nuclear weapons and they're neither stable nor overly friendly. It was a total failure in moral leadership that the war in Iraq ever happened, and an even worse failure that it happened with so little outrage from our leadership. I think I lost the last vestiges of my political innocence there.

If the issue was just Iraq, I could get past that. Everyone has failings and failures, and after 9/11 nobody knew quite what the right thing to do was. It's not just Iraq though, not by a long shot. The Democrats have long been the party of pork, although the Republicans have surmounted them in recent years. I hate pork, hate it with a passion. Not just because it's stealing, but because it undermines all the other work that government has to do. Taxes are important for any democracy. The government needs to be well funded enough to execute it's various missions. Taxes are a necessary evil, though. When you take money from someone, backed up by force, you need to do something worthwhile with it. When you spend $50 million of it on an indoor rainforest, or on agricultural subsidies, which would be a bad idea even if they didn't cost anything, or military waste, or the millions of other things that government should not be doing, then you're betraying that person. You're taking their money for your own personal gain, and it's no better than robbery. I have no problem with reasonably high taxes, even above 50%, if they're necessary. I don't mind taking money from people to feed and educate children, or for the legitimate defensive needs of the country, even a little bit for public television and radio so that we can have a media channel free from the control of rich interests (even though there are certainly problems with government funded media.) When you take money for wasteful purposes then you make it much harder to justify taking it for legitimate purposes. When you tax unfairly, as we do, allowing the rich to hide their money offshore and avoid paying taxes through illegal schemes that the government won't unravel thanks to their political contributions. Well, how do you tell a family that's barely getting by that you're taking %30 of their money under those circumstances? I am ashamed of our government's waste, because I know that taxes are a huge burden and they do prevent people from leading better lives, in some cases from getting necessary medical treatment or education for their children. Government waste makes me sick to my stomach, and the Democrats are just as bad as the Republicans in this area. What a betrayal of the people.

Then there's the way the Democrats treat minorities. They're much better than the Republicans, as they actually pay attention to people without white skin or piles of green. That attention isn't always beneficial though. Welfare was a very problematic program that needed reform, but not the kind of reform that it got. Not the heartless anti-parent unreasoning reform the Republicans pushed through. The Democrats could have taken the lead here and offered constructive solutions, but they didn't. They pretended the problem wasn't real, that Welfare wasn't bad for the recipients (which it was in many cases) and they dropped the ball. The Democrats refuse to face up to the serious cultural problems among minority youth today. Discrimination is a major issue, but the issues Bill Cosby talks about are hardly minor. There's a disrespect for academic pursuits, hard work, and morality. Sex and violence are all too common and far too celebrated. Government shouldn't ban any forms of expression, even destructive and crude ones, but it can offer alternatives. It should also put a stop to the violence and fear, we need more discipline in the schools and more police on the streets in the neighborhoods where people are afraid at night. We also need to stop locking up people for non-violent drug offenses. That alone would free up the resources necessary to make an impact in other areas. I can see putting someone away for 20 years if he sells plutonium, but for Pot? The war on drugs is a war on black people, but it's popular among hypocrits so the Democrats support the so-called 'war.' It's a travesty.

On education they roll over to the unions and the courts, which have made disciplining children virtually impossible. The democrats haven't made an effort to fund the IRS or fight corporate welfare. Where's the discussion of inequitable distribution of transportation funds? Alternative energy sources? They are sprinkled in here or there but nothing ever gets done, even when they are fully in power. The Democrats are the better party, but they are not a good party. They are rife with corruption and moral weakness, just as the Republicans are. They don't have many dynamic leaders or exciting ideas. I support them begrudgingly, but they don't excite me or give me confidence. They're a step in the right direction. A single step.

I have a job interview at 2:30 today for a position that doesn't pay well but is at night, which I prefer. It's data entry, though, and I don't like data entry. 6 hours of mindlessness a night for $16 an hour, no benefits. That's what my degree is worth? I might as well hear them out, see if they'll offer me more or a different position, but I want to find something that I want to do. I did well in school and I'm a hard worker. I'm willing to put forth effort, do overtime, and I don't need much money so long as I'm not miserable at work. Ugh.

Theresa Heinz-Kerry makes me vaguely uncomfortable. I don't despise her or anything, but she comes off as unbelievably fake and she married her way to the top. She also used to hate the Democrats and I think she's disingenous about supporting them now. I assume she married John because she wanted to retain political power and he needed money. There doesn't seem to be any 'heat' between them. I can't judge, not fairly at least, but that's the feeling I get.

Yesterday there was a crack of lightning so bright and with so much thunder that it sounded like a building had exploded. It kept rumbling for like 10 seconds. Freaky. Car alarms were going off for the next 20 minutes. It sounded like Aliens were invading.

My friend's very responsible and professional girlfriend got fired from her job yesterday after 2 days there. Welcome to the Bush economy. I'm sure they'll note the job she held for 48 hours as one that they 'created.' Wonderful.

09:35 pm - I hate poker, and breathing

The interview did not go well. It started about as inauspiciously as an interview can start, trouble striking well before I got there. I got ready too late, partially since I dressed up like a responsible adult, with sportscoat, button down shirt, real shoes, and even a nice white tie. Unfortauntely my sportscoat is a little bit too big on me now. It's not really unfortunate, since it means that I've reduced my size a bit, but it made me look more disheveled than I would have liked. I printed out at a local copy place, since I still don't have a printer for reasons of lazyness and lack of room. I was a little behind schedule at that point, at least in my mind, so I rushed to the 110th street subway station. The downtown was closed, so I had to take a cab to 96th street and get on the express from there. Cost me $6 to go those 14 blocks, but in real shoes it would have taken me almost 15 minutes. The express got me down to the job site in time, but I was more than a little bit rattled. When I got there the office had all sorts of cute little inspirational and cloying business cards on the walls. They wanted address information on my references, which I hadn't expected. The interview itself was nothing, she just explained temping to me and asked me silly questions. When time came for me to ask a question I asked a really dumb one and stumbled saying it. I'm not sure why I was so thrown, I don't really care about this and I didn't do anything really embarassing (except get stuck in a small chair I sat in, but I slid out with enough grace that she wasn't forced to acknowledge that.) It might just have been being out there in the "real" responsible world. I might get a call from them at some point, I think I have excellent qualifications and I'll have good references.

I have mixed feelings about entering the real world. On the one hand it's almost certainly going to be drudgerous, soul-numbing, menial labor for demanding and nasty bosses who didn't do as well in school as I do but were more willing to focus on earning money at the expense of doing anything useful or interesting. (Not that I demand to work for someone who got better SAT scores, but I'd prefer not to be under grown-up versions of the blowhards I hated in college.) On the other hand there'd be the money, which would come in handy. Also on the way home I had a break in some of my writer's block and figured out how I wanted to start something. There's something to be said for stimulation, and bouncing from office to office as a temp just might provide that. I'd take anything that was only for a few weeks, just because it would give me a chance to try it out and learn something, maybe pick up a recomendation or two. It makes sense on a lot of levels, but I'm still hesitant because it's not what I want to do and I do feel like I feel better. Maybe it's arrogant, but it's how I feel. In fact, I'd rather do menial physical labor for cheap than menial intellectual labor. Heck, working in a store wouldn't be so bad, a chance to stretch your legs and move around rather than sit chained to a desk and transcribe shit. I've always been told I would have it better than that, at every level in school, from previous bosses, everywhere. On the other hand, maybe that's what I'm destined for. It's a different world out there now and I'm a terrible self-promoter. I think I could be a really good writer, but maybe I don't have that capacity. I don't understand how normal people lead normal lives. It's a concept that escapes me. People find jobs all the time, people with worth credentials. They fall in love, get married, move to the suburbs, feel satisfied. I'm just not wired that way, and I know that some people will claim it's because of a bad attitude or all that other shit that those who get off on believing that happiness and misery are directly tied to merit. It isn't.

I don't know, things will probably work out and I'll have a medium successful life. Produce some stuff I can stand, make enough money that I don't die in the street (supplemented by inheritance and the fact that I won't have children to drain the old wallet) and...whatever else will come along. I've felt good at times during these past 6 months and I'm sure I'll feel good again. I may even feel confident. Right now, though, it's rough. It's a rough time for the country, an economy that's still soft in many key areas and may even slide back into recession if the housing market busts, and a rough time creatively unless you want to get into advertising or somehow convince an executive that that old catwoman script of yours is not the worst idea of all time (P.S. it just might be.) I'm complaining now but I'll get up tomorrow and do the research I need to for the website and then try and write something. I don't have another choice. My only regret is that, despite the fact that I am an absolutely horrific livejournal friends who is way too hesitant to friend back and does an excellent job of scaring people off after short periods, a dozen or so people will read this and lose a few minutes of their day to what is, in the end, futile whiney bullshit. Venting is necessary but public venting is self-indulgent. It seems, at times, it's all I do. I'll try to be more interesting tomorrow. I'll try actually living up to my self-image. I'll try to be more than a futureless file flunky. What's the harm in trying?

11:53 pm - Old people and taking care, short and sour just like you like it baby.

Should people think that I am just a cynic I want to point out that in addition to all the volunteer work I've done helping to educate the less forunate, I also spend a couple hours every few weeks helping my elderly neighbors navigate the minefields of a technologically complex world, showing them how to do things like burn files on to a CD or operate a digital camera. Both of those were things I did this week. On an amusing note, one of them is writing a novel, she's a short, frumpy, Frenchwoman in her late seventies who has always been a little odd (but very nice.) It's not that I find the idea of old people writing funny or silly (it's inspiring when people in their twilight years choose to do constructive things and make art) it's when I see a page of their novel lying about and the first line is "She was the kind of woman who defines the word sex." I'm not sure if it's cute and inspiring or a little icky. I guess it's probably some of both.

A public service announcement for anyone who reads this. You need to be skeptical of social science claims, especially when they're being used to support a particular moral or policy perspective and not being cited from a credible "mainstream" source. To give an example, conservatives often talk about the benefits of marriage, saying it makes men healthier, wealthier, more compassionate, and more involved in their children's lives and their communities. Most of the research that supports this is corollary. Corellation does not imply causation. It may very well be that wealthier, healthier men choose to get married more often than their less fortunate counterparts. Heck, I can tell you from experience that fat, unhealthy, schlubs without good jobs have trouble finding female companionship for Saturday night, let alone marriage. Likewise, the fact that 80% of men say they plan on marrying at some point speaks more of social pressure and norms than any real knowledge of marriage being a benefit to them (it's actually detrimental to women in a lot of ways) Social science can be easily manipulated through a host of means, ranging from self-selection bias to to selective reporting and using different statistical models to determine significance. It's a useful tool for a lot of things, but it's one that's often misapplied and given the veneer of hard, irrefutable fact. People cite it without knowing just how tenuous some of the connections being drawn are. Consider yourselves warned, and don't trust anything unless you can see the raw data and how the samples were selected and the results calculated.
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