Category Archives: Personal

Last Gas, Fifty Miles and Five Years Ago

Written Last November

For the past week I was on the road, a lot. My father-in-law passed away (more about that on another post) and we drove from Colorado Springs to Southern Indiana in an 18-hour marathon driving session. The last time I did this trip was about five years ago and it really struck me just how much had changed on the trip itself. I don’t mean the usual ‘new housing edition back home’ sort of thing, but simply how things have dried up for travelers themselves.

While we all know that the economy has been in a relative downturn for several years, the drive out and back really drove this point home a bit. Anyone travelling a great distance East and West in the United States will likely find themselves on the long, long stretch of I-70 through Kansas. In fact, in years past, “driving through” has been a bit of a boon to the little towns and interchanges on that lonely highway. Every 40 miles or so, there would be the usual exit to gas stations, small hotels, and convenience stores. Small towns actually sprung up just to provide services for road-weary travelers.

The downturn, though, has hit travel. While most of us instantly think of plane tickets and vacations, the truth is that all travel has been hurt hard. Without exaggerating, nearly a third of the little gas stations and convenience marts that were on that stretch just five years ago were closed, with more very likely to join them in the short term. The “Oasis”, on the western part of Kansas, looked like a deserted ghost town with the majority of stops closed up. Some intersections which had services just a few years ago were completely shut down, making careful planning and watching your gas an absolute necessity.

It’s a bit sad to see the skeletal remains of Stuckey’s lining the Kansas countryside, or the empty gas stations, or hollowed-out convenience stores. Yes, the large, almost mall-like truck stops are doing fairly well an taking up the slack in the market, but it’s clear that they’re not meant for the casual traveler. Indeed, the age of the road-trip for the non-professional may really be over. Rising gas prices and a bad economy has made high-mileage car trips expensive and impractical. If what’s going on in Kansas is just a more obvious example of what’s going on all over the country, then we’re really losing something, and really are reducing nearly all of our huge nation to just ‘flyover country’. And that’s a very sad thing to see.

About Syria…

Truth be told, I don’t like using my ‘daily writing’ up on politics due to the fact that such little snippets are pretty much guaranteed to alienate a part of my readership. Politics have become insanely divisive and spiteful, with anger and hatred often winning out over calm, reasoned discussion over the political issues of our time. In short, it’s a pretty unpleasant exercise pretty much guaranteed to win me no friends.

But every now and then there comes a major issue so important that it’s really time to talk about it, at least just a little bit. Many of my online friends have asked about the current situation in Syria and if we have the right or responsibility to take military action against Assad’s regime. Unfortunately this has become a very partisan question due to our President’s mishandling of other recent events (such as Benghazi) as well as some very questionable statements by some leading Senators who are wanting to rattle the sabers for no more reason than to ‘restore Obama’s prestige’.

Syria is currently led by the Assad regime, which has historically been brutal, vicious, and a major supporter of international terrorism. The regime has been aided somewhat by an alliance with Russia who sees Syria as a ‘counter-balance’ to American interests in the region. Opposing this regime is a hodge-podge of various groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, which wishes to establish their own brand of militant Islam into the nation’s government. The Muslim Brotherhood is the ‘political wing’ of Al Qaeda, the group that attacked New York City and Washington DC on September 11th, 2001. This means that the enemy of Assad is also an enemy we’ve been actively fighting for over ten years.

President Obama has pursued peaceful, if not outright sympathetic, relations with the Islamic Brotherhood in the nations of Iran, Libya, and Egypt, and has even had American troops engage as support for the Brotherhood in other African nations. In fact, in all five current military engagements that American troops have become embroiled, the Islamic Brotherhood figures prominently. In two of them, they are the overt enemy. Yet, in Syria, the goal seems to be to aid this same movement.

The sad truth is that there are no good guys to support in Syria. There is no ‘secular establishment’ with which to build a new Syria after a conflict. There is no ‘moderate political group’ with which the United States can hope to find an accord. All the political groups are enemies of the West, and in some cases, quite literally so. Though our hearts may yearn to aid the victims of these groups, the Syrian civilian population, there are no pragmatic solutions to do so which would not require the United States to conquer the nation – which would not go down well with either Russia or China.

The calculus here is that there are no good options, but that Washington (between Obama’s saber-rattling and threats about ‘red lines’ as well as eager hawkish congressmen) has painted our nation into a bad corner. With only France backing intervention, and most of the world vehemently opposed to it, Obama may have little choice to back down. While this will no doubt harm the prestige and projection of power of the United States for quite some time, Washington’s reckless policies in regards to the Middle East should have never taken us here in the first place.

 

 

Do You Recall?

An older post, just keeping it from the archive…

Once again I’m bending my own writing rules and talking about politics. Today’s a bit unusual, though, as Colorado voters have made a little bit of history by recalling two prominent Democrat state senators from office. Before I go too far with this, however, I want to admit up front that I’m really not totally comfortable with the idea of recalls unless there has been criminal activity or substantial fraud. Anything less makes me worry that we’ll see a stream of ‘anti-elections’ handed out whenever there’s a very close race between the two parties and there’s a chance that the public mood may have shifted direction a little bit well before election time. Upset you lost a close race? Wait for the other guy to screw up and get a recall!

So is this recall any different? That’s a tougher call. I can’t really point to any real criminal activity nor fraud, but if there were poster children for a recall effort, John Morse and Angela Giron certainly would fit the bill. On the surface, the recall seemed to be about expansive gun-control regulation, but it did go far deeper than that. Morse’s committee (which included Giron) engaged in unethical practices to stop testimony, ignore voter concerns, and abuse senate rules in order to ramrod unpopular and ill-conceived gun-control legislation by playing on the reactive emotions of the Trayvon Martin shooting, in particular, as well as Columbine and other shootings.

The law was so restrictive and punitive that hunting has all but stopped in Colorado, at least one major gun manufacturer has left the state (at a time where the state can ill-afford to lose jobs) and the vast majority of sheriffs and police have flatly stated that they would refuse to uphold the laws as unconstitutional. Morse’s response? “The objections were undermining the rulership.” Morse telegraphed to Colorado that he felt he was above the State’s people.

And to top all of this, it was clear that Morse was getting his marching orders not by any political group of Colorado, but straight from controversial New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Morse was perfectly fine ignoring his own constituents but $500,000 of Bloomberg’s money (a much larger sum that the NRA spent in the state) was enough to get his ear. In no uncertain terms, Morse was loyal to Bloomberg’s checkbook, and Colorado could hang itself.

So where does that leave us? Both recalls went through with the opposition, the Republican party in this case, becoming the minority vote. Despite this, Republicans won both seats. That means that, yes, in Giron’s case in particular, more Democrats voted to replace her with a Republican than Republicans! For Morse, the Libertarians made up the decisive difference. Despite the solid evidence to the contrary, however, the leadership of the DNC, along with Giron, couldn’t help themselves to blame a conspiracy of racism and voter suppression. It couldn’t possibly be that Colorado voters simply demanded no more than to have their constituents listen to them rather than a New York Mayor’s wallet?

So, no, I’m not happy that a recall occurred, but it couldn’t have occurred to a pair of more deserving political hacks in Colorado. Maybe, hopefully, this will be a message to the rest of the state house to pay more attention to the people in their community, than the money of a corrupt out-of-state mayor. We may not have had crimes or fraud this time, but there was certainly enough unethical behavior from these two to warrant the end of their political careers.

The Old Blog Rant

This is a repost, really, of my first blog on ‘MySpace’, a service I’m given up largely due to the sheer clutter the site over there has. Still, the post was oddly fitting again, so it seemed natural to repost it here.

Blogs are kind of a weird thing for me. I was raised with the ultimate alpha-male archetypes as role-models to a very destructive level. When you’re raised with that kind of mindset it’s very hard to open up in any way to yourself, much less the rest of the world. In that sense, a blog is a bit of an antithesis of that upbringing. For me, just saying “Oh yeah, I would like to talk to my friends,” is extremely difficult. So that’s probably why I ignored this site for so long, leaving it largely blank.

To this point I’ve become hooked on the show Scrubs, at least in DVD form. Now, while most people I know associate with JD or Ellie, I find myself associating heavily with Dr. Cox. I’m not quite where he is, but that character is the one that makes the most sense to me, and I realize how many mannerisms I’ve had for years that that character embodies.

Fortunately, my life is a lot more stable, I’m not quite as jaded, and I do have much better hair, even if it is gray. So, you know, that’s something.

Anger and Loss

This was a post from late last year, when I had to rush to Indiana for my father-in-law’s funeral. I wanted to make sure I still had this entry, so I copied it over here. It’s still powerful for me.

It has been difficult to put my feelings from last week into words. In the early hours of 8 November, 2013, my father-in-law, Terry Bailey, was killed by a drunk driver near Vincennes, Indiana. The last several days have hit me with a great deal of powerful emotions. Yet as saddened as I am for his loss, and my concerns for my wife, her sister, and the many people left behind, I have to admit that my primary feeling, even now, is that of anger.

I’ve never been particularly forgiving of drunk driving, and I’ve seen the results of it first-hand on several occasions. To be a drunk driver, someone actively has to make a choice to not give a damn about anyone else but themselves, drink up to ‘feel good’, and then get behind the wheel without a thought or care about others around them. And then, despite all their decisions, if the worst happens, suddenly (according to them) it’s not their fault, but the fault of the drink and merely ‘just an accident’.

The basic truth is that the woman who murdered (and, yes, I’ll use that term) Terry knowingly made a series of choices which culminated in her driving on a highway in the early morning at four times the legal limit (which is not the first time she had done this). There was no accident here. There was just a criminal level of stupidity and self-entitlement that resulted in the death of a beloved man and severe injury of his wife.

So I’m angry. I’m angry at the stupidity of the loss, the stupidity of the woman, and even the legal system that let her continue driving despite a history of DUIs and public intoxication. This time I hope the prosecution doesn’t try to ‘settle’ and give this murderess what she legally deserves. I’m angry that such a good man was taken from us out of this sheer stupidity. I’m also angry is that there is nothing, nothing at all, that I can do to fix any of this, or to make any of this right.

If anyone who reads this knows anyone who even thinks about getting behind the wheel while drunk or stoned, stop them. I don’t care how you have to stop them, just do it. No one should ever have to lose their lives because of someone else’s stupidity and callous disregard for the safety of others.