Friday, November 28, 2003

Bushwhacked at Thanksgiving

President Bush is getting a lot of play for his surprise two hour visit to Baghdad International Airport, and the lapdog media are playing up the extreme risk of the President's trip, as if Presidents have never taken dangerous journeys before.

Not to disparage Mr. Bush, because is was nice to see him visiting the troops, and without the usual smirk on his face. The soldiers cheered raucously for their President, but one wonders how much cheering they'll do when they realize how badly they've been screwed by Bush's cutbacks in the Veteran's Administration. And sadly, I wonder how many of our men and women in uniform will never come home.

Presidents have visited the troops in wartime before.

The one who took the most risk was also the most vulnerable, physically. In January and December 1943, Franklin Roosevelt visited troops in Africa and Europe, traveling through U-boat infested waters by warship, and hostile skies in an unpressurized plane without the fancy gadgetry Bush had access to. There was even an assassination plot against FDR in Casablanca which was, fortunately, foiled. Roosevelt didn't cocoon himself at an airport, but actually visited troops in the field, pinning medals, handing out promotions, and comforting injured troops in the hospital. On the way, he told General Eisenhower that he would be in charge of Operation Overlord and informed the Germans that the Allies would accept nothing less than unconditional surrender.

And when he got back to Washington, he pushed through legislation ensuring that those who served would be genuinely rewarded, both medically and through the GI Bill of Rights.

Not bad for a guy who couldn't walk.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

A Sad Anniversary

Today is the 40th anniversary of President John Kennedy's murder. One can speculate how different the 1960s would have been had JFK not been killed, just as one can wonder if Reconstruction would have gone differently had Lincoln not been shot (maybe) or if the Cold War would have been avoided had Franklin Roosevelt lived longer (probably not). But I cannot help the thought that Kennedy's premature death robbed this country of much of its optimism.

I had not yet been born, yet today I feel very deeply a sense of mourning. I think the country was substantively damaged by JFK's assassination, a wound which was re-opened and worsened by the murders or Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy in 1968.

For what it's worth, I firmly belive that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. None of the conspiracy theories, nearly all of which contradict each other, have been able to come up with the conclusive evidence (if you will, "the smoking gun") which would prove a conspiracy.

It's unfortunately true that JFK, like many people of note, hid a seamier side. But it's equally true that JFK possessed a rare wit, grace under pressure, and a cool headedness which got the country through perilous times. One shudders to think how George W. Bush would have handled the Cuban Missle Crisis.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

The pope will see you now, unless you're gay.

"The current pope ... will send emissaries to terrorists, he will meet with a man who tried to assassinate him. But he has not and will not meet with openly gay Catholics. They are, to him, beneath dialogue. His message is unmistakable. Gay people are the last of the untouchables. We can exist in the church only by silence, by bearing false witness to who we are." -- Gay Catholic journalist Andrew Sullivan writing in The New York Times, Oct. 19.

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

2003 Election Roundup

The Cleveland Heights Domestic Partner issue passed by a 10% margin! This means that both Gay and Straight unmarried partners there can register and apply for property rights, employment benefits, and hospital visitation rights. Cleveland Heights is the first municipality in the nation to pass such a measure by referendum. Thank you, Cleveland Heights!

And to those who opposed it: if you don't like living in a progressive community, why don't you go live somewhere else, like Alabama?

The Lakewood West End development project was defeated by the narrowest of margins: 39 votes. I must confess to having very mixed feelings about this one. Lakewood is totally built up, with no land available for development unlike, say, Avon Lake. Their infrastructure is outdated and in need of repair, their tax base is inadequate. However, the way the developers and Mayor Madeline Cain shoved this proposal down the citizens' throats was inexusable, undemocratic and an affront to private property rights. The designaton of homes along the West End as "blighted" merely because they didn't have an attached garage and enough bathrooms was ridiculous--the mayor's own home fit the "blighted" description. Frankly, if there's any part of Lakewood that needs to be redeveloped, it's the area along the Eastern border of the city. But that's a discussion for another time.

Also in Lakewood, Madeline Cain was defeated in her bid for reelection, doubtless fallout from her endorsemet of the West End project. And gay city council candidates John Farina and Jeremy Elliot were also defeated.