Tag Archives: politics

Cripes, just say what you mean!

Hot off the presses from http://www.knbc.com/politics/17024705/detail.html?rss=la&psp=news:

SACRAMENTO — Anti-gay marriage groups say California Attorney General Jerry Brown is twisting their words.

Supporters of a ballot measure that would ban gay marriage want to amend the state Constitution to say “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

But last week, Brown’s office changed Proposition 8′s ballot title and summary to say the measure seeks to “eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry.”

Project Marriage coalition spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns says her group plans to sue to get the language changed back.

Uh, why? I don’t mind putting words in her mouth. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that she’s worried that might seem discriminatory. Or hateful. Or — and this is a rough one — less likely to get voted in.

Doesn’t the fact that saying what you mean on the ballot decreases the chances it’ll pass point toward something that’s bad for the voting public? And does Project Marriage think that they can successfully sue to euphemize their ballot without appearing to deceive the very voters they want to woo? What does that say about their regard for the voting public?

My problem with that is completely in addition to and beyond the usual argumentation:

  • It undermines marriage!
  • There are serious consequences!
  • Such as undermining marriage!
  • …which has…uh…serious consequences!

Anyone against same-sex marriage (you can call it anything you like – same-sex marriage, gay marriage, homosexual matrimony, whatever — the terminology in this regard is unimportant) reading this, please listen up. I’m trying to help you — especially if you live in California — by pointing out how you are being Animal Farmed out of legitimacy. The Protect Marriage coalition doesn’t think you’re capable of noticing that “only between a man and woman is valid or recognized” means the same as “eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry.”

Oh, speaking of legitimacy: please explain to me again how anyone’s heterosexual marriage gets undermined when two men or two women tie the knot?

I know two things:

  1. Same-sex marriage has zero effect on my own marriage.
  2. Same-sex marriage, legal throughout the country, would be a tremendous boost in pride for me as a citizen. It would mean that we treat people fairly by offering all the same financial benefits and a shot at being happy together.

Organizations like “Protect Marriage” really get my dander up because “Marriage” is not under attack and does not need protection — except from those who would seek to use it as a tool of bigotry.

Obama in Berlin

Sarah and I were just watching Barack Obama’s speech. Nice work — not Earth-shatteringly good (didn’t move me out of my chair), but pretty good.

I am a little perturbed at the German TV commentator’s reactions to it. One dude said (and I’m paraphrasing here…no TiVo in my brain…yet):

We were expecting something like a rock concert, sure didn’t get that…

May I ask why? I know they were remarking upon the relative youth of the crowd gathered to hear him speak (one guy guessed an average age of about 25). Do you think that was the reason they thought they were going to get something other than what Obama delivered? Were the German commentators expecting a rock concert atmosphere by virtue of the attendees? Should the attendees feel offended? I think I’d be (am?) miffed that the TV commentators thought a youngish crowd to hear a politician speak would bring a rock-n-roll atmosphere with them. I mean, they attended to listen to Obama — they knew what they were in for. Why were the German newsfolk suprised?

This kind of reminds me of the taste left in my mouth after reading about a potentially really offensive headline over at PapaScott.de a while back. It’s not so much that it’s outright offensive — just oddly wrong and out-of-place, like they’re using words they don’t quite understand or just told a joke they don’t really get.

How newsworthy is the media itself?

Tim Russert died recently. He hosted a news/politics show on an American TV network, a show that I’ve admittedly never watched, and he apparently died rather unexpectedly. Sounds sad, like it would be for anyone with a personal connection to him. But I have some honest questions: why have there been three segments on Larry King Live about this? How is it relevant to CNN International’s web or television viewing audience? I don’t get it.

I don’t watch a lot of German TV. In fact, I don’t watch a lot of any TV*, which is included in our cable package as part of our rent (and we pay into the GEZ just like we’re supposed to). But I can’t shake the impression that other cultures wouldn’t flood television or other information sources talking about the death of a person with a similar role.

I mean, do Germans even know the names of their nightly newscasters if you stop them on the street and ask? Maybe they do (but I sure don’t). But I really wonder if this is a particularly American phenomenon. Maybe I’m losing touch with my own roots the longer we live over here, or maybe the limited TV exposure (thanks Mom and Dad) at home growing up didn’t foster a perceived personal connection to the voices and faces in the glowing box. Is this perceived personal connection, or the implication of its existence, a symptom of something very unsettling in modern popular American culture?

I guess what I’m asking is:

  • Have kids grown up with so much television exposure that there is a personal connection to media personalities? Of course it’s a one-way street, so how sick is that? I’m guessing television watching hasn’t decreased at all since the time my skull was still soft, so what are the implications for today’s kids?

  • Is it important for Pfizer, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKlineBeechWellcome and the like that you are fully aware of the Tim Russert tragedy so that you can ask your doctor* about their exciting new product lines designed to keep you — and your other TV-family members — safe from circulatory system problems?

Now that I’m complaining about the media coverage on the media coverage, it feels like I’m part of the problem, and I’m getting a little woozy from looking into that infinite series of mirrors.

Time to head out to the ol’ ballpark. Stay tuned.

Papal Bull

…in the unfortunate sense. CNN is reporting a general threat levied at anyone trying to ordain women to serve as priests.

You’d think that to counter-act the negative publicity from their sex abuse scandals recently they’d modernize their stance on this. I am, of course, in no way asserting that allowing the ordination of women would make up for the sex abuse that has occurred. I just think, in a PR/damage-control kind-of-way that allowing women priests would be a smart move; especially considering dwindling seminary enrollments and parish participation and all that.

But, Catholics among us, just out of curiosity — with what title would you address a female priest? “Mother So-and-so?” It feels little weird in my brain, but I guess I could get used to it. What’s the accepted abbreviation for that? I mean, corresponding to “Father” being abbreviated to “Fr.,” there’s probably a short form for “Mother.”

“Mr.?” Yikes.

Or can we just ask the Anglicans how they do it?

¡ay, Dios mí­o!

¡Hay unos locos en Wisconsin!*

Holy crap: Pledge of Allegiance. Public school. Spanish class. One day a year. “Freedom isn’t free.” Call centers with non-native speakers. “Nationalist oath.”*

Now go read this: http://www.progressive.org/mag_wx042908

Yeah. You read it correctly. Playing the “ultimate sacrifice” card in conjunction with your overdue Chase MasterCard payment or getting that cute top from Land’s End in one size dumber and a vocabulary exercise for a high school class that happens once a year.

Sarah’s observed before that apparently some people are out looking for reasons to get offended. Life must be pretty sweet in Edgerton, WI if a Spanish class exercise once a year is big enough news to cause a ruckus. I am intrigued to see how they tie it into the gas prices next.

Kudos to the school system for standing their ground.

the irony just kills me — but not my work ethic

Today starts my vacation! I’m not officially working again until March 31st.

This vacation isn’t voluntary (unlike the involuntary vacation I got in 5th grade… but that’s quite another story). I have to use up 5 more days of vacation left over from last year, or else I actually get paid less. And I’m not allowed to accrue more than 200 hours of overtime (actually, at 150 hours accrued, alarm bells are supposed to rouse us out of our slumber meetings and inspire us, together with our management, to develop a short-term overtime reduction plan). And I’m not allowed to average more than 180 hours worked per month on a quarterly basis (I’m fudging the numbers here a bit, because the HR coordinator in our department read me the riot act and then gave me the 13-page “work time law” on paper for my reading pleasure , but it’s something like that). What’s the big deal? I’m risking my bosses’ status as free men.

Wie bitte? This is about as weird as not being allowed to call Dr. Tammy “Frau Doktor”, which I very much enjoy.

If I work too much, cause some kind of accident (or maybe go postal), guess who gets in trouble? Well, practically, of course, I do (not to mention Sarah). But also the guy signing my time sheets.

This of course is not good for the company; it is unacceptable for people whose titles include the terms “Vice President” to be open to prosecution like that. So I’m taking pretty much the rest of this month off (with thanks to the Easter holidays as well). And it’ll be tough, but it’s better for the company if I just don’t work on Fridays during the month of April.

Liberal rant, part two

Concerned readers might think me about ready to turn in my passport and apply for citizenship over here, given my post from a couple weeks ago and now this. Rest assured, I’m not even close to that. I’m quite happy to carry U.S. citizenship and nevertheless reap the benefits of Western European residence.

Our pal Sara in KC got me a copy of the Michael Moore movie “Sicko” as a get-well-soon present dating back to my gall bladder removal in November. This weekend, we finally got around to watching it. It was quite thought-provoking.

I’m realizing I’ve had it pretty easy so far:

  1. a hernia shortly after birth (early heavy lifting?)
  2. another one around age 12 or 13
  3. an appendectomy at 13 or 14
  4. a pretty serious (for the car, not for its contents) car accident as a young driver
  5. a couple of stitches-causing lacerations (only one of which involved a chain saw)
  6. the aforementioned gall bladder removal with apparently no lasting side effects
  7. and, knock on wood, no firearms accidents to date

I chalk this good fortune up to

  • parents who insured the family
  • a little prudence on my part (I try to eat balanced meals, be careful with my shotgun, and not drive like a jerk)
  • a huge amount of luck

What’s luck got to do with it? Well, the country I was born in was a first world country. That ups my odds of living a long and healthy life a fair amount right there — and I definitely had nothing to do with that.

But what about people who don’t have insurance? You can’t really attribute that to bad luck — unless they can’t get health insurance due to pre-existing conditions beyond their control (bad genes? flowerpot fell on your head from 10 stories up?). Or worse, pre-existing conditions they developed in the service of others. I’m thinking here specifically about the 9/11 rescue workers featured in “Sicko.”

I know the movie is intended to manipulate the viewer’s emotions (I got misty more than once) and hey, it’s coming from Michael Moore, so it’s probably at least as “fair and balanced” as Fox News is, but still…some points in the movie really hit home with me. I jotted down some quotes from the movie for those who haven’t seen it.

A random young-looking woman in a Canadian hospital waiting-room:

“We know in America people pay for their healthcare, but I guess we don’t undrestand that, ’cause we don’t have to deal with that. We don’t understand that concept.”

Michael Moore, on the phenomenon of socialized-this but not socialized-that:

“I kind of like having a police department and fire department and the library. And I got to wondering, why don’t we have more of these free, socialized things, like health care?”Jennifer Government

Note: if you think you could live with privatized law-enforcement, et cetera, read Max Barry’s Jennifer Government.

A lot stuff this codgy old British guy was saying in the movie was resonating with me — especially the bits in the special features section of the DVD. So we looked him up; he’s a total pinko-socialist-commie type.

Tony Benn, former member of British Parliament on his government’s enlightenment in the face of pre- and post-war economic conditions in Britain:

“If you can have full employment by killing Germans, why can’t you have it by building hospitals, schools, recruiting nurses and teachers? If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people.”

More Tony Benn:

“Because if you have power, you use it to meet the needs of your community. And this idea of choice, which capital talks about, “you’ve got to have a choice,” choice depends on the freedom to choose. If you’re shackled with debt, you don’t have a freedom to choose. People in debt become hopeless, and hopeless people don’t vote. They always say, everyone should vote, but I think if the poor in Britain or the United States voted for the people who represented their interests, it would be a real democratic revolution. So they don’t want it to happen. So keeping people hopeless and pessimistic. See, I think there are two ways in which people are controlled. First of all, frighten them, and secondly, demoralize them. An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern.”

Maybe a little commie-pinko-socialism wouldn’t be so bad; at least for the bottom 92% (by income) of the U.S. population. And for the top 8%? I bet they’d still do just fine, don’t you?

Local peeps: let us know if you want to borrow our copy of the DVD so we can discuss.

Political and Environmental Impact of Just Getting Around

I’ve been thinking about some stuff on the way to Frankfurt. I’m listening to “When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden,” an audio book by comedian Bill Maher. I’ll wager the guy makes some serious sense to you, no matter on which side of the aisle you feel more at home in Congress. Check it out.

Here are some points he makes on the first disc that hit home with me this morning:

  • Americans since WWII treat gasoline as if it were a life-sustaining element like air or water.
  • We throw a tantrum whenever even a small price increase happens on things for whch we already have a pretty good price (compared to the rest of the world) — he names postage as an example alongside the price of a gallon of gasoline.
  • Our standards are illogical. We get upset when we have to pay $2 a gallon to go 10 miles in “the Couchmobile” but tip the valet dude $5 for him to go 10 feet.
  • Conservation is the only short-term option, but it would help a lot. Overall fuel efficiency improvements to the tune of less than 3 mpg would completely eliminate our dependency on oil from the Persian Gulf.
  • What’s up with our car culture? He attributes this to Americans, but from my perspective it’s alive and well here in Germany as well. Why must every new car model be billed “a totally new driving experience?”
    “A totally new driving experience would be a car with wings. Otherwise everything is still basically a Chevy.”

    “Wouldn’t it be great to go to a PTA meeting in a TANK?”

  • Whose agenda are we really serving?

    “Being slaves to cheap oil has corrupted our politics, threatened our environment and funded our enemies and had us doing the dirty work for a lot of royalist dirtbags in the Middle East for a long time.”

This morning before getting on the train, I realized I’ve been traveling so much lately, a frequent-rider card for me would make sense for the company as well. Below are all the trips I have or will have taken by car or train that would have been conceivable by train and taxi in basically the last four months:

October 31: Frankfurt
November 2: Frankfurt
November 8: Frankfurt
November 9: Frankfurt
November 16: Frankfurt (except that I was out that week due to my gall bladder removal)
November 27: Würzburg (overnight stay)
November 28: Frankfurt
[Not sure what travel would have been required of me if I'd not been on vacation until December 18th]
December 19: Nuremberg
January 11: Ingolstadt
January 22: Nuremberg (workshop, overnight stay)
January 23: Nuremberg
January 25: Ingolstadt
February 1: Frankfurt
February 11: Nuremberg (except it got cancelled because someone got sick)
February 15: Frankfurt
February 25: Frankfurt

To be sure, I’ve got a lot of inter-regional travel going on here. I’ve had to miss at least one meeting in Hanover, too (I think I was on vacation or perhaps out during my surgery).

There’s a lot happening via various teleconferencing solutions. Those can be tricky when you’re network-hopping — which I will be doing a lot while network infrastructure issues as a result of the sale of my company from one corporate parent to another are sorted out. And where possible members on our team carpool on business trips. But even carpooling still means someone has to drive, and after a couple of road trips to and from Frankfurt up and down the A3 on Friday afternoons, you learn quickly: driving under those conditions is neither pleasant nor productive. At the smallest level, I’m the only person on my little team in Germany, and I’m the only person related to Purchasing Systems in Regensburg, so I am often traveling by myself. And let’s not forget: the train doesn’t drop you off at the office doorstep. You still have to get from a Hauptbahnhof to the office park or local HQ from the train station somehow. That usually means taking a taxi (not exactly cheap) in addition to the cost of the train ticket (even if it’s reduced by the frequent-rider card). From what I’ve heard, public transportation (bus, subway, or tram) to/from the train station at any of these office I’ll be visiting regularly is really only viable in Regensburg.

So, I’ve decided to ask my company to spring for a BahnCard 50 or at least 25 for me. I don’t really expect the number of road trips to be sustained over the next phase of our integration into the new corporate structure, but despite carpooling and virtual conferencing, I see more travel ahead for me. Our team assistant says 6 trips to Frankfurt and back per year are required before a BahnCard 50 pays for itself. I really should have asked for one of those right up front. But I don’t expect to stop traveling to these other locations altogether over the next year. And over the past 4 years here in Regensburg, along with repeated trips back to North America just to remind me, I’ve learned something important:

View from up in the village of Saint MayI like driving for pleasure on little country roads through places like Provence or Oberammergau or Brenner, but not really very much anywhere else. Anywhere else, it’s loud, a little scary, and generally stressier than I’d like to be.

rainstorm on the waySo here’s to improved emphasis on mass-transit. I can’t honestly say I moved to Germany to get away from driving my truck (and I do miss my Dad’s truck), but I can definitely say it’s one of the factors keeping me here.

Holy crap, that’s supposed to win him some voters?

Read this on CNN.com this morning:

He has reiterated his support for constitutional amendments to ban abortion and same-sex marriage — which he told the Web site Beliefnet.com could open the door to polygamy, pedophilia and bestiality.

If that is a good way to entice voters in general, then I am really scared of my fellow countrymen. If that is just a message aimed precisely at a small minority who need to hear it in order to vote for him, then I am really scared for my fellow countrymen.

In this day and age, who honestly doesn’t know a gay person or someone who has at least considered an abortion? I am sure everyone has a friend from high school or a relative or neighbor or someone in their lives who is gay or faced the prospect of an unwanted pregnancy.

I want Huckabee and his supporters to look at their family members and neighbors and coworkers who are in committed homosexual relationships or need pregnancy counseling and show me how that leads to polygamy, pedophilia and bestiality. I want names. I want relationships. I want specifics. I know you have a slutty nephew who can’t stop knocking up college girls. I know you have a butch sister. Can you look those those people in your life in the eyes and say “yep — supporting you in legal matters makes it more likely for polygamy, pedophilia and bestiality to occur in our country.”

But wait, there’s more:

Huckabee also told a Michigan audience ahead of that state’s Tuesday primary that, “What we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards, rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.”

Mr. Huckabee, you’re in the wrong country. What you need is a theocracy. Give my regards to the Ayatollah.