Saturday, October 27, 2012

My Name Is Rez Dog And I Am An Undecided Voter

My ballot arrived in the mail the other day but I am still undecided how to cast my vote for President of the United States.  Not that it matters.  I live in solidly Democratic Washington where Barack Obama has an 11 percent lead.  My state's electoral votes are not  in contention.  Much like Arizona's and Virginia's electoral votes were not in contention in all previous presidential elections I knew before moving to Washington.  At least this time around my single vote is irrelevant in favor of the lesser of two evils; Virginia and Arizona were dependably Republican.

Let me make one thing clear:  my indecision does not extend to Mitt Romney.  In no way do I want to see him elected.  If Washington were remotely competitive, I would vote Obama, as I would if I still lived in now highly competitive Virgina.  Not because I am pleased with Obama as president but because Romney would simply accelerate the distribution of wealth upward and the burdens of civic society downward.  Obama is always preferable to Romney.  That is not in question.

But Obama over Jill Stein?  If I follow my heart and values, Jill Stein walks away with my vote.  I was impressed with her in the alternate first presidential debate presented by Democracy Now!  She spoke in Olympia last weekend and gave me some good reasons to vote Green Party for president.  The Green Party platform is a vision of an America far closer to justice and founding principles that either major party candidate offers.  She would end our "slavery to the fossil fuel economy", "bail out students, not banks" and end the George W. Bush militarism so readily embraced by Obama's administration.  How could I not vote for such a candidate?

If I needed more reason, Stein pointed out that a vote for her and the Green Party strengthens an existing that has potential to offer an alternate voice.  I know the odds against a third party in this country.  Not all that good.  But long odds do not diminish the appeal of creating a voice for what Jill Stein called "truth, justice and solutions".  Nor do long odds lessen my commitment to creating that alternate voice.  Casting a vote for that seems more meaningful than padding Obama's victory margin in Washington.

So I guess I'm not entirely undecided.  I'll keep an eye on the Washington polls; if nothing changes between now and election day, I will vote Jill Stein.

Till then I won't say for sure. 

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Best Message Ever

I recall Leslie Gore's "You Don't Own" me as a powerful song but at 16 didn't quite know why.  It just sounded different somehow from the mainstream pop that was AM radio in 1964.  Leslie Gore's voice stood out prominently among male-dominated popular music.  She was among the first female vocalists I admired.

Which is why Lena Dunham's PSA is so much fun to watch.  

I hope it works.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Spirt of the Bayonet

Barack Obama's reference to fewer horses and bayonets in the final debate certainly brought back some vivid memories for me.  I never actually used a bayonet in combat.  I don't recall even seeing one in Vietnam.  Nonetheless, those days of chanting "To kill! To KILL! TO KILL!" in basic training still ring in my brain as does the aggressiveness that comes with charging a dummy and shoving that blade in with a blood-curdling scream.  The yell is part of the drill; it's even come in handy a few times in my post-military life when confronted by aggressive dogs.  They do tend to run when I charge them screaming at the top of my lungs.  (Note:  That only works when you are sure they are not on home turf.)

Bayonet fighting is more than t just the blade.  I also learned butt strokes and smashes.  You can accomplish one hell of a lot of mayhem with a bayonet.  But that's the whole point of combat.  Fucking mayhem.  And the whole point of bayonet training is to train the recruit to kill up close and personal.  That makes it so much easier to pull off routine impersonal killing with rifle, grenade, artillery and air strikes.  Even if I never actually used a bayonet in combat, I realized I could, in fact, kill another person if I were sufficiently threatened.  The situation has never come up but the training alone cost me some humanity.

Bayonets are not obsolete even today.  Obama didn't say "no bayonets", he said "fewer".  Bayonets come in handy at times like this:

So do horses.

Personally, I am happy to have no actual bayonets in my life these days.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What We Have Is Folly

Just finished reading Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Little America:  the War Within the War For Afghanistan.  Chandrasekaran spent three years--2009 through 2011covering the Afghan War and before that the Iraq War.  He had a great deal of access to virtually all of the key players as well as real time access to the war on the ground as seen by both Americans and Afghans.  The book traces American involvement from the original Little America projects of the 1950's through the current war.

Chandrasekaran presents Little America in three parts that pretty.  Part One--Grand Dreams quickly moves from the opening chapter, "An Enchanting Time" to "The Road to Ruins" and ends with "The Surge".  The story does not improve in Part 2--Shattered Dreams; the Surge is largely wasted through incompetence, bureaucratic sloth, institutional rivalries and individual ego.  Part 3--Triage is all about looking desperately for an exit.  The final chapters "My Heart Is Broken" and "What We Have Is Folly" tell the reader that the exit will not be pretty.

Most tellingly, Chandrasekaran understands Afghans, their culture,their history and their rivalries. He understands far more than most Americans he meets.  Throughout Little America he shows how Americans largely ignored the country and the people that we were supposedly helping.  He celebrates the few Americans who do understand Afghanistan in its own terms and chronicles their occasional success and all-too-often not success.  Cultural ignorance and bureaucratic incompetence torpedo  whatever possibilities America might have had for success in Afghanistan. 

The final pages show some real passion, more than is typical for most mainstream reporters.  Chandrasekaran writes as a man who has seen a terrible waste, life and treasure spent for naught, and he's willing to name names:  "The Pentagon was too tribal...The generals were too rigid...The grunts committed too many unforced errors...The war cabinet was too often at war with itself...[R]ivalries were compounded by stubborness and incompetence at the State Department and USAID...For years we dwelled on the limitations of the Afghans.  We should have dwelled on ours."  

If you want to know what America gained for the more than 1,200 dead in Afghanistan since 2010, you can find out in Little America.  The results are not good.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

George McGovern, 1922-2012

George McGovern is dead at 90.

My first vote in a presidential election was for George McGovern.  In January 1972 I was back from Vietnam as that year's presidential primary season was just beginning.  Political junkie that I was even then, I paid close attention, a newly-minted antiwar veteran strongly supporting McGovern and was excited when   won the nomination.  The chaos of the 1972 Democratic convention and bungled vice-presidential candidate selections were early signs that McGovern's campaign was a star-crossed affair but I kept up hope. 

Summer-fall 1972 was a time of change and opportunity for me.  Vietnam--the actual war part--was behind me (so I thought at the time).  I was beginning my first year of graduate school, meeting new friends, who shared my values and hopes.  One hope was to end the war.  George McGovern carried that hope.  I was deeply disappointed when he lost.  I did not like what the results told me about America.

McGovern never waived in his commitment to social and economic justice.  That was the heart of his campaign in 1972 and he continued to write and speak out during a long and active life.  Forty years later, I will say without reservation that he is the most decent person to run for president in my adult lifetime.

 Godspeed, George.

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