Monday, December 19, 2005

history repeats

I don't want to usurp the authority or the prerogotive of the publisher, but I have appointed my own guest blogger for this post in the person of my son, Henry, 15 years old, who has written this essay referring to the Patriot Act which, as you may have noticed, is very much in the news lately:

Henry Dingman
05 December 2005

Is there a way for the global community to move forward, past conventional standards of human behavior? History can teach people how to avoid the downfalls of previous societies, by giving telltale signs of problems before they start. Prime examples of this are dictatorships and tyrannies, fueled by the human desire to control others. We can learn from these examples, and avoid oppressive government before it starts, if people can connect the past with today. Learning and applying history is important for the welfare of civilization.
Hitler and the Nazis stand out, by far, as one of the most horrific genocides in the history of the world. This is not necessarily in the number of people killed, but in how institutionalized and efficient the Nazis were in destroying lives of their fellow human beings. Hitler knew how to psychologically manipulate ordinary men to such an extent that they became killing machines. The process by which Hitler gained control, and his network of concentration camps and mass executions was very systematic. Also, the Holocaust was a relatively recent event. People who lived through it are still alive today, and have passed their stories to the next generations. For these reasons, the Holocaust is a very important historical event.
The communist revolution in Cuba displays how people can be exploited in a time of crisis. People accepted communism as a way to solve their economic troubles, without considering that it gave the government a monopoly on everything, including the control of freedom. People in Cuba did and still do live today repressed, and with little personal freedom to choose their destiny. This is a very important, still living, example of how people can be tricked into accepting bad ideas when they're desperate. This can also be applied to any of the other communist revolutions, most notably in Russia and China.
The Patriot Act and other restrictions are important, because they are extremely recent. Most people would overlook these when considering "historical" events, but these hold more significance than they appear to. These are part of yet another plan to take control of a society- people can't see this because it's pure reality to them- sure, they've read about Nazi Germany before, but they weren't there. Totalitarianism probably approached the Germans sneakily, too. This is how tyrannies start- the progression of steps is almost perfectly done, exactly how a ruling body would behave if they were planning a dictatorship. There's been a crisis the government must respond to (the first precursor to any tyranny), which is terrorism. From here the government steps in and "solves" this problem. Constant progression of minor infringements on freedom (in the name of 'freedom') that eventually add up, strong encouragement of nationalism and patriotism, and a negative view towards anyone who questions these, are all definite signs of a coming totalitarian government. This event in history shows that people will always be sitting ducks, ready to be shot down by authoritarianism- no matter how many times history has warned them.
If we, as a people, can see these events and relate them to global society as it stands today, it's possible we could avoid the coming global tyranny. However, it seems that, for now, hardly anyone will learn. It's a simple enough idea- that one would be able to make the connection between history and modern society, but again, it appears to have little effect. True progression of society will only come when it is standard policy to see parallels in history to current events.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Good Offices

As part of our journey from special to ordinary, Atascadero now has a Staples store. We got a card in the mail offering us $15 off our purchase of $15 dollars or more as a kind of get acquainted offer. Of course, we need no acquainting with Staples. We only need to get acquainted with our local store which may have some uniqueness but I could not figure out what it might be on our first visit. Therefore, the idea must be simply that we get acquainted with the idea that we now have a Staples right here in Atascadero City where we ve gone about as far as we can go, so far.

My son insisted that we really needed some stuff and that we really should take advantage of the fifteen dollar giveaway so we went on down to Staples and, with the giveaway, I got away for about fifty dollars. On the way to the car I remarked, to his consternation, that I hoped we had only gotten stuff we actually needed. He assured me that we really did need this stuff.

That was my first trip to Staples Atascadero. Before that we had to travel five long freeway miles to the Office Max between Templeton and Paso Robles, where they also have a Target, Starbucks, OSH, Ross, Quiznos, Carl's, Pier 1 and a number of lesser luminaries in the pantheon of mass merchandisers. Actually, there is Staples in Paso Robles near the Wal-Mart but that is, like, 10 damn miles away. Who's going to travel 10 miles to buy a press board desk kit? Not me, buddy!

But what I wonder is this: why all of a sudden, in relative terms, do we need so many office supplies? I'm guessing it was about a dozen years ago that all we had in the area was Western Office Supply here in town, Mission Stationers in San Luis and a store in Paso, forgive me for not remembering the name. Yes, the population has grown. But have we not also undergone a revolution in business practices that has led us to the paperless office? Why then do we need these mega-stores that sell us paper?

Has our need for office supplies increased enough to warrant this influx of mass office suppliers, or has this influx of office suppliers whetted our appetite for office supplies? In other words, are we buying more because we need it or are we buying more because it is there to buy?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Just Enough

Well, it certainly has been a long time since you heard from me! I hope you've managed to stay amused in the interim. I'm afraid there is no exciting or dramatic explanation for my absence from the blogwaves since Sept. 20, other than the myriad petty demands of my self-centered existence. Plus, my son has been borrowing my laptop a lot. He says it's been for schoolwork. I hope I don't get a bill from Sweden, or some such. Or a call from the authorities.

Now all of a sudden, after my hiatus, I've got two things on my mind. However, I believe I can draw them together along one tenuous thematic thread.

Our senior dog, Lois, had a seizure the other night, about 10 pm. We'd never encountered anything like it before and were naturally quite alarmed. I got dressed as quickly as possible (yes, I was already going to bed), gathered Lois up while my son, Henry opened up the back of our sinful SUV and my wife, Gail, called Atascadero Pet Center to ascertain their readiness to treat Lois. Probably within 10 to 15 minutes of onset I was carrying her through the door of the Pet Center and laying her on an examining table.

The caring and competent tech who had escorted us to that point then called for Dr. Linnaea Stull, who was at the table moments later. Lois had stopped seizing soon after we got on the road, but she was laying stiffly on the table and her heart was beating rapidly. Dr. Stull assessed Lois's condition, asked us questions and answered our questions of her with assurance, professionalism and patience. We determined that Lois should be left for the night, at least, to be monitored and treated for any possible additional seizures.

My wife and Henry picked Lois up the following day and she seems fine. When I got home from work she was as thrilled as ever to greet her big dog alpha male and immediately asked for a butt rub. So we are presently calling the episode an anomaly and hoping for no more seizures.

This was not the first time we'd visited Atascadero Pet Center in an emergency. Our dear departed dog, Ed, once consumed a basket of very fine chocolates on Christmas day. Chocolate, gourmet or not, in case you weren't aware, is toxic to canines. The treatment is to induce vomiting. The emergency vet at Pet Center gave him the appropriate agent and Ed obligingly purged the contents of his stomach on the ride home in the back seat of my wife's new car.

So, I'm thinking, this is a good thing to have 24/365 emergency care for pets available in our town. When we first moved here the closest emergency service was in Arroyo Grande. So this is better.

Now, what makes it possible for Dr. Robert Schechter and his associates to offer this incredible service? In large part, it must be related to area growth. If they come, we will build it. Business, after all, is rarely conducted on metaphysical terms. Even if some entrepreneurial individual is motivated by conceptual faith it isn't likely that banks and suppliers will support the enterprise without demographic evidence that it stands to make a profit.

There is, then, an upside to growth.

Now, this Saturday was Colony Days in Atascadero, when we celebrate the founding of our City as the manifest vision of a tax-dodging publisher of women's magazines. In keeping with the "growth is good theme," it was bigger and better than ever, and staged in our newly renovated Sunken Gardens in front of the earthquake-vacated City Administration Building. Even though I share some of the concerns of the many who have questioned the value of this redux of the Gardens, I'd have to say they looked spectacular to this bumpkin's eyes. The entertainment was first rate in the big tent, and I especially liked Sugar Daddy Swing Kings, who featured my friend and guitar teacher Gary Drysdale as well as Michael Diaz, another friend, on bass and funky dancing. Since I'm mentioning people let me also commend my buddy Rick Munoz for his tortoise table, which was a real hit. The new layout of the park seemed to channel the energy of the event in a different, maybe even more intimate way.

The real hit of Colony Days these past several years has been the Tent City re-enactment. A lot of folks put in a lot of energy to put up a replica of what the first settlers of Atascadero Colony experienced. Local businesses support some of the tents and a troupe of players coordinated by Diane Greenaway dress in period costumes and act in period ways. The presentation has a lot of polish and really puts a shine on the whole Colony Days celebration.

Maybe all this finesse is attributable, at least partly, to the town's growth. I'd venture to think it's so. Still, amidst all the city slickness I was well reminded of small town values. I originally intended just to check out the Atascadero High School band in the parade because they're good and because my neighbor, Nate Welshons, is an integral part of the drum line. Unfortunately, I got way-laid, arrived about a half hour late and missed the band. But I happened to fall into a conversation over latte with my dental hygienist, Ana and her husband, Ken, who spoke about the contrast between the town and the parade these days and the town and parade back when they arrived in 1974. Back then, and even when I arrived in 1988, one would not need to wait for a parade to see horses traversing City streets. On the other hand, some of the parade entries were decidedly less put together than the ones nowadays.

After chatting with them for a while I spotted Don and Judy Nelson and got engaged talking about this and that, to include parents and local and national politics, amongst other things. Then, I decided to walk over to check out the new Sunken Gardens. I ran into Peter Gaw of the Atascadero Fire Department and spoke with him for a while about the new fire engines Atascadero just purchased, motorcycles and music. We've got a really good crew of local heroes, by the way.

On my way to find the port-a-potties (post latte) I saw Colonel Charles and Melissa Bourbeau and we exchanged child rearing updates and general chit chat. Whilst speaking with them I waved to Linda and Justin Euler and recognized Gary Drysdale checking out the bandstand for his upcoming gig. I stopped by Rick Munoz's tortoise display, checked out tent city and then went back to talk to Gary and Michael Diaz as they brought their instruments in for the Sugar Daddy Swing Kings performance. Also caught up with Dr. Karen Bowls, our dog Lois's long time veterinarian, now retired, and updated her on Lois's recent seizure scare. She suggested the same approach as we were advsied by the Pet Center would be appropriate, and I suggested she check out the tortoise table. Then, I thought I'd better address the plumbing problem at home I'd been intending to take care of, so I took off for a while.

But after I purchased the plumbing supplies I needed I decided to drop back in on the Sunken Gardens to see SDSK play. I parked my car right next to Barbie and Steve LaSalle, who were also taking a break from household chores to look in on events, and we had a nice talk on the way to the park. The band was fantastic and the setting was great. I have to compliment event coordinator and City Councilman Tom O'Malley for the nice arrangements all day, but especially the big tent with dance floor and bandstand. During the performance I waved a greeting to City Councilwoman Becky Pacas, who looked fantastic in her Tent City period dress.

So, I'm torn. The development we have seen has put a lot of class into our town and its events. But that has to be weighed against the increased traffic that precludes seeing horses on the main drag on an ordinary day, and against the potential loss or degradation of the kind of small town experience I had on Saturday. I didn't used to have to go to Colony Days to see the High School band because they practiced for the event by marching right by my house. Maybe they still do and I just missed them this year. Maybe we've had just enough development. Can we stop now?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

WE GOT DA FUNK

I am very pleased to see that two of the older homes on El Camino between Traffic and San Anselmo have recently undergone renovation. One of them is going to house a mortgage company and the other, it appears, will still be a residence in what must be a pre-existing non conforming use. Along the same stretch an old motel property being used for low income rentals was spruced up in recent years and rechristened as studios. Several older homes still exist as residences and others yet are serving as homes to businesses, including a carpet dealer and used car dealerships. Famously, there was a brouhaha here in town about the rampant growth of used car dealers who were paving the lots around older homes, most often towards the north end of town.

Down the other way, two older commercial buildings across from Albertson’s just underwent facelifts. One now has a realty in it and the other a women’s gym. The red brick house near the corner of Curbaril and El Camino which sat vacant for some time has been a realty for several years now. I like all this recycling of older buildings. It’s a nice contrast to the monotonic nature of the new commercial structures that crop up with increasing speed. Oh, there are some variations on a theme, but earth tones and tile or standing seam metal roofs abound.

When I first moved to town there was a lot more of the home-spun feel to the city’s businesses. Atascadero doesn’t have grids of classic homes near its core, such as the one’s that serve as attorney’s offices near the courthouse in San Luis. Most of the converted residences are strung out along our two main arteries, El Camino Real and Morro Road. We do have Entrada and Traffic Way bounding the Carlton, and a few older commercial structures creeping North from the corner of EL Camino and Traffic Way. One of the best know of these is the red brick former bakery that Steve Diamond dressed up nicely for his adult store. But the nature of his business generated more response than his improvements to the structure and the City bought him out of it, subsequently selling it to the owners of the Carlton, I understand.

None of the buildings in this so-called City center area seem to be of much architectural merit themselves. But overall they do portray an idyll of small town America and offer a milieu for downtown development on a friendly human scale. It would be a shame to see them all replaced by sprayed-on stucco structures. I’ve got nothing against new stuff. I’m just worried about losing kitsch to less imaginative structures that themselves offer no promise of permanence or class in their visages. So, I hope that we don’t give up the funk as we orchestrate our Main Street vision.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Heavy Rotation

Just driving home with my son from my sister's house in Los Alamos. He was running the radio and staying tuned mostly to The Beach 95.3, 100.5 FM in the North County. They were having some Labor Day "Z" to "A" weekend and even though it didn't seem an especially inspired concept it's a good thing because going through the alphabet seems to call for the use of a few tunes I don't often hear on the play list.

Heard a nice James Brown on the way down and Stevie Winwood "Freedom Rider" on the way back. Love that signature sax hitting the low register. It was a refreshing break from hearing endless loops of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Seeger and the same few Rolling Stone's tunes. And how many times do I need to hear Neil Young's "Southern Man?"

There's so much good music to be heard, why are we stuck in the same limited number of grooves?

I'm not talking avant-garde here. Just dig a little deeper in the catalog. And don't play “Free Bird” more than once a day. I know Lynyrd Skynyrd rocks! I've played in bar bands for years and I often think it doesn't matter what kind of music you're playing, someone will come up and ask you if you do any Skynyrd.

You could be playing trad Country, Country Rock, Alt Country, Blues, Glam Rock, Hard Rock, Pop, Swing, Rock-a-Billy, Fusion, Surf Music, Jazz or Polka and someone will ask you if you do any Skynyrd. So I know its sure to get your listeners pounding on the wheels of their elevated four bys. But take the lead once in a while. Play a little bit more of The Band. Play some Fleetwood Mac pre-Stevie Nicks. Play some Velvet Underground.

Doesn't it seem like some songs are heavier in the mix than they were back in the time they were actually contemporary? Was Stevie Ray Vaughan on the radio all that much back in the eighties? There are some songs that gained their rep mainly as album cuts that are now treated like they were number one with a bullet.

But what happened to the ones that actually were number one with a bullet? Not all of them had the staying power to become “Classic Rock.” Which, in my mind, brings into focus the dubiousness of the heavy rotation concept as far as determining what people really like.

Are songs played over and over again because they're popular or are they popular because they're played over and over again?

Truthfully, I find Classic Rock kind of boring. I'd rather listen to Jazz. So maybe that's why I'll choose talk radio as often as not. Problem is, sometimes you can run into the same problem with ideas as you will with songs. The same concepts and phrases get repeated over and over again until it's hard to tell if they're repeated because that's what folks think or if that's what folks think because they're so often repeated.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Short-aches

There is a fellow in town, wheelchair bound, who has taken to occasionally parking himself at a well-traveled intersection and propping up a sign that says, in effect, “Why should Jesus let you into Heaven if you were to die today?” He’s gotten some coverage in the Atascadero News. First of all, thanks for the cheery thought, Buddy. Second of all, my immediate reaction to your posit was a rash of prideful, cocksure thoughts about my assured entrée to the firmaments, based on a number of factors such as not having harmed anyone (aggressively, anyway), having fought the good fight, having been true to la causa and being a good boy. Oh, I’m going to be saved, dammit. This diatribe of pride, of course, assured me of a place in Hell were I to have bitten the asphalt then and there. Not quite what you were hoping for, I bet. Thankfully, I survived that moment of insolence and lived to contemplate the issue with more measured reflex. And I’m going to be saved, dammit!

My Sister-in-Law, a thoughtful Christian, when I told her about my reaction said I was expecting to be saved by “works.” This is a major Christian theme that I don’t quite get. Or, more accurately, that I don’t quite relate to. I mean, those Christians are doing works all over the place. But my best read on it is: to acknowledge we are not saved by “works” is to say we can’t buy or obsequiate our way into Heaven by doing a few favors for God, especially if we want to be the ones to determine what constitutes a favor. You gotta believe. So, that’s another reason why I’m a gonna be saved, dammit. Because I have Faith. It’s not necessarily Faith in the Man God with the White Beard, but its Faith in the Good God who can’t be defined by wee mortals. So, there. That’s why I’m going to be saved. Shoot, now I’m going to Hell again! Catch me later, death!

Speaking of the Atascadero News, I’ve observed a few shifts in style since Ben Benucchi took over from Lon Allan as Editor. Ben’s editorials seem to tread on less contentious ground. I mean, not too many folks will object to the concepts that Atascadero should have a pool or that the Mid State Fair is a good thing. That’s probably the right posture for a new guy at the helm who is also a new guy in town. Lon’s musings did not push the political envelope, in general, but he was a little more cranky about some things. Chickens, for instance. And Ceasar Chavez. And the sign ordinance. More on that later, but regarding Ben’s “safer” style of editorializing. It is not without merit. Atascadero should have a pool, and keeping that thought alive is a viable task for the editorial trust of the local paper.

To me, though, the more interesting changes are in the coverage the News offers. I think I detect a little bit more regionalism, i.e., more Templeton and Paso coverage. But that may be affected by the extensive Mid State Fair reporting. And maybe there’s a greater tendency to regurgitate the press release. But the most delicious shift I note is the increased use of “perp” photos. We’ve been treated in recent months to a number of photos of criminal suspects that seemed engineered to augment the prosecutor’s case. Invariably, the cheeks are sunken, the eyes dim and the sockets puffy, the hair amiss. Political operatives should hire Police photogs to take pictures of their opponents. The first one that caught my eye was of a local woman accused of hitting and dragging a construction worker while driving under the influence. She looked drunk in the photo! Guilty! Advisory: Don’t drink and drive if you live in a small town.

Onward! Speaking of Lon Alan, I used to think our former Editor got himself a little over exercised about breaches of the City’s sign ordinance. His targets of scorn included the ubiquitous sidewalk sandwich signs our local merchants use to override the restrictions on major signage. My displeasure has been more focused on the observation that big chain businesses, like Burger King, seem to get off-site signage to attract freeway traffic while local businesses do not. I kind of like the placards on the sidewalk. I agreed with Lon when he griped about out of town carpet baggers plastering poles or hiring street folks to stand with bold announcements for gun, train and tool shows and two day car sales, even though I have appreciated the advice and actually attended both the gun and train shows. But I’m beginning to see his point as new merchandisers in town now thrust street-level placards for Marlboro and Camel cigarettes into our frame of view. It’s not the nature of the product I object to, but the nature of the signs, which are not of the homey hand painted nature of those that sell us espresso and Mexican food. I mean, we’re not Carmel, but neither are we Los Angeles. Now, begrudgingly, I see Lon’s point. Give them an inch and they take a mile. It’s a problem with laws and ordinances alike. You can’t just enforce them against the people that piss you off, you have to be even handed. What a drag!

My wife and I finally went to the Carlton for dinner, on the occasion of our anniversary, thanks to a generous contribution from our friend and employer. The meal was great! The staff was young! We don’t have anything against young people. In fact, we envy and lust after them. But the Carlton probably needs a few more jowls on the service corps to earn a four or five star rating, which the very nice young fellow at the hotel desk told us they were hoping for. After our meal we wandered into the hotel to check it out. Everything looks fantastic. But when the meal goes into three digits I want someone who has the sure hand of a career waiter. For goodness sakes, they sang happy birthday to someone at another table. We need to avoid the Chuck E Cheese isms if we’re going to have a respectable wine list, which the Carlton does. And the crew behind the sushi counter was so fresh I was not tempted to test the freshness of the raw fare. I heard it takes at least three years to become a journeyman sushi chef. These kids looked like they hadn’t been in the workplace at all for more than a few months. I want a sushi chef who’s going to kill himself or at least become an alcoholic if any virile bacteria should enter my system via an uncooked entrée.

So, speaking of getting into heaven, that reminds me of one of my favorite jokes. Ok, If you insist: One day Jesus is walking around Heaven on his constitutional and he notices that St. Peter, sitting in the guard booth at the gates of Heaven, is flagging. So Jesus says to Peter, “Peter, go get yourself a latte, I’ll mind the gates for a bit.” “Gee, thanks Lord,” says Peter and he stumbles off to Starbucks (of course, they’re in Heaven!) Jesus sits down in the guard booth but soon he notices some guy in carpenter’s clothing intently scanning the directory they have there at the gates. So Jesus comes out of the booth and walks up to the guy, who is an old man, and says, “can I help you?” The old carpenter says, “why, yes. I’m looking for my son.” Jesus does a double take. The man is very old but he has a familiar look to him. Pleasant memories of his early years on earth flood Jesus’ mind and he says to the carpenter, “Dad?” The carpenter looks at Jesus and says, “Pinocchio?”

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Tom Cruise

I am amused at Tom Cruise’s recent pronouncements on the subject of psychology. He has informed us with great confidence and ardent belief that psychology is, to paraphrase, bullshit. What is the basis of this strident viewpoint on his part? Is it an exhaustive academic inquiry into the science of psychology from whence critical analysis has emerged to render it mortal intellectual blows on each and every one of its various paths of inquiry, endeavor and supposed achievement? No. It seems that young Mr. Cruise (I can say that) is so emboldened by virtue of his advanced personal journey along the course set out by the discipline known as Scientology. Well, that makes sense. Psychology, after all, only has the "ology" to give it heft, whereas Scientology has both the "ology" and "science" as its root.

My point is not that he is wrong. I myself have indulged in a pseudo-intellectual critique of psychology. My take on it has been that one may live one’s life according to a psychological orientation, wherein one seeks to provide rationale for behavior or according to a philosophical orientation, where one behaves according to the guidance of principles. But the truth is that neither I nor Mr. Cruise have suffered any of the pathologies that benefit from psychological treatment. At least we have not suffered to the point where we have acknowledged to ourselves any careening life patterns that might be corralled through the efforts of an experienced psycho-poke. Our empirical data field is a sampling of one each. In short, my point is, neither one of us knows his ass from his elbow on this subject. But that does not stop us from waxing knowledgeable about it.

Isn’t that the way of the world nowadays? Everyone’s willing to speak out on that of which they know little. More significantly, everyone’s willing to base or validate their opinions on the tiniest snippet of information, untested for accuracy or truthfulness. Often the source for this information is biased towards an opposing point of view, i.e., Tom Cruise’s negative take on psychology comes from the teachings of his beloved Scientology, which seems to belittle psychology as part of its own promotion. The issue is not a question of whether or not Scientology is wrong or whether or not psychology is wrong. Rather, it is this: do we go to the adherents of Scientology for an accurate portrayal of what psychology is? The answer, of course, is “NO!!!!”

This plays out in our national dialectic in several ways. One is in the machinations of the entertainment media, also known as the information media, aka right wing media. Left wing media may be guilty of the same sins but there really can be no question that right wing media is the loudest and most predominant voice in our national debate. Locally, for instance, we have talk radio dominated by the syndicated national right wing juggernaut, and our local offerings are centrist. There’s really no left wing voice in the thrash, burn and disrespect style of the right wing. Rush Limbaugh’s stock in trade is to argue against a liberal viewpoint which he himself has presented. Sean Hannity can be heard using the same tactics, i.e., “The Liberals want to teach how-to homosexual sex to eighth graders; I think that’s wrong!” Should we count on Rush or Sean to accurately portray the liberal perspective? I think not!

The other way it plays out in our national debate is in the poorly informed decision making of the current Administration. The whole debacle in Iraq is based on the notion of a crazed corps of chicken hawks known as the authors of The Project for a New American Century or, alternately, George W. Bush’s top advisors, whose core belief is that AMERICANS KICK ASS! Not that they plan on doing any of the ass kicking themselves. They’re more like the nerds who think a joystick is the same thing as a trigger. Do we go to these people for an accurate assessment of what war entails? If we’re George Former Party Boy Bush, Yes We Do! Let’s face it, our international agenda is based on judgment molded out of over-exposure to John Wayne and Sylvester Stalone and forged in a baptism of Nintendo.

But that’s water under the bridge. We’re already there. We’ve kicked some serious ass but we’ve also taken a lot of cold shots and been party to a whole bunch of collateral. How do we get out? And how to we win this War on Terror? I think it would be a good idea to gain an understanding of the enemy and of the conditions that support the enemy. Instead, we have a President who mouths cheap and trite assessments such as, “they hate our freedoms,” or “they want to spread their gospel of hate.”

That’s preaching to the choir, but it's not leading the nation. Everyone knows the terrorists are assholes, but does W really believe all this killing is because they hate the fact that we get to vote? We will never understand the enemy if our explanation for his behavior comes out of our distaste for him. More important, we will not understand the underpinnings that allow him to prosper.

And what is the importance of understanding the enemy? It is not, as Karl Rove might suggest, to coddle him. Mr. Rove’s recent remarks about the difference between the Democratic and Republican responses to 911 only reveal the depth of his shallowness, even allowing for his cynical misrepresentation of truth. (Again, here is a situation where someone offers up a viewpoint not representative of those whom he wishes to criticize, then criticizes them for the viewpoint he has impudently ascribed to them.) We need to understand what is going on in the mind of the enemy and those who allow him to prosper in order to cut his legs out from under him. Failure to understand will only lead us on the path of further failure to suppress terrorism. Continued commitment to the philosophy of kicking ass will continue to create the resentments that foster terrorism. That doesn’t make the terrorists right, it just makes us stupid.

There was the recent incident in the news where a young man was convicted of beating a bully to death with a baseball bat. I wasn’t there to hear all the arguments, but shall assume the verdict was appropriate. Killing the bully wasn’t right. But the bully put himself in the position to be assaulted by virtue of an imperialistic attitude. That’s us. We don’t all know it because our leaders don’t clue us in to what is being done in our name. The average Joe is confused by the antipathy because he thinks everyone wants a world furnished with big block engines and poster girls.

So we keep on keeping on, expecting a different result from the same actions. If it doesn’t work, do it harder. What pathology causes such tunnel vision? Perhaps there’s a psychological or Scientological explanation.