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Friday, August 12, 2005  

Denis Horgan Blogs Again





Denis Horgan has a brand new blog at www.courant.com/horganblog.


posted by dh | 10:48 PM | comment

Saturday, October 18, 2003  

Hello

Thank you for visiting denishorgan.com. I am very happy to say that starting Monday October 20, 2003 I will be writing a new blog column on The Hartford Courant's page, www.ctnow.com/denis. If you should happen to visit that column, it would be greatly appreciated.

This is an exciting new approach for both the paper and for me and represents a bringing together our points of view in the best interests of everyone.
Thank you for your interest and support, it has meant so much to me.

Denis Horgan


posted by dh | 11:17 PM | comment

Thursday, April 17, 2003  

It is with the most profound regret that I am compelled to announce that the editor of The Hartford Courant, a proud and wonderful newspaper of which I am honored to count myself a staff member, has ruled that I am no longer allowed to operate a column on this web page. Despite the fact that this page is operated on my own time and at my own expense, that it does not compete with the newspaper or draw upon any of its resources, the editor has ruled that its operation is a conflict of interest. It is not my role to explain this decision, one with which I disagree deeply, but I have no option but to suspend the column or commentary activities here. The page will remain open as I explore my rights and options. The "Feedback" exchange function will continue should anyone wish to continue to discuss matters of interest. The links to other columnists, services and the Bill of Rights will also remain open for those wishing to explore them.

I am very sorry that things have reached this stage and that the promise with which this effort was launched has been extinguished. To me, it seemed like such a good idea.

Thank you for your support
Denis Horgan


posted by dh | 8:35 PM | comment

Monday, April 14, 2003  

War without end, amen


So, when we get through with the war in Iraq we must now have a war with Syria, another thuggish country whose regime is truly oppressive and which does evil things and represents such a threat and is believed to support terrorism and which may have sympathies for the Iraqis next door and which maintains many weapons, some of mass destruction -- although most weapons cause mass destruction if you are one of those being destroyed. As always this will be preceded by a campaign of shock and awe when the secretary of defense and his twin brother the secretary of state and the lockstep brownshirts, jihadists and McCarthyites of the radio and cable TV will exhort us to resolve this huge problem by going to war and who will savage anyone who might wonder whether we haven't slipped a gear somewhere along the line.


And when we get through with the war with Syria we will have a war with Iran; we do not care for the Iranians and the Iranians do not care for us and we have been at odds with them for a long time and the President has designated them as a charter member of his Axis of Evil even as things were getting better; but because their government is still noisy in its harangues of us, and noisier as it sees its neighbors and co-religionists being defeated by us, and because they oppress their people we will have to have a war with them. You cannot have one part of the Axis worthy of a war without applying the same to the others. It would be disrespectful.


So when we get through with the war with Iran we will need to have a war with North Korea, another nutcake regime honored with Axis status run by a bunch of lunatics who are paranoid and mad and militaristic and menacing as they have been without relief for the past 60 years. Because they are evil they will have to get into the queue to have a war with us, one they rather foolishly seem to want, likely figuring in the addled arithmetic of the tyrannies that, except for the millions of dead and injured, war can't leave them much worse off than their own policies do.


And when we get through with the war with North Korea we will have to have a war with Libya which seems not to have done much lately but was once our primary evil power in the unending sequel of Bad Guys about whom we are routinely and sequentially whipped into a frenzy. Because the government of Libya has left footprints in despicable acts of terrorism and because its leader is a dictator with an unspellable name and whose policies are in such contrast to ours -- notably as regards human rights, basic freedoms and the state of Israel -- the disgust is huge and war in inevitable.


War with Libya done, we will have to have a war with Saudi Arabia, another government that is not kind to its own people and which is riven with inequalities and whose social order is in the sharpest contrast to that of the home of the brave and land of the free (so long as the free support the government) and there is far more vast evidence of Saudi support for terrorists such as the loathsome Osama bin Laden than there even was coming from Saddam Hussein.


And when the war with the Saudis is over we will have to have a war with Cuba, another oppressive, militaristic, trouble-making pain in the neck that we have disliked for more than 50 years. The government of Cuba has been terrible to and for its people and has brought upon them the disdain and rage of the United States over the Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush1, Clinton and Bush2 regimes. Repairing all the governments of the world we do not like, we will have to finally have war with Cuba since Fidel Castro seems to be immortal and our monstrous embargoes have crushed only the innocent Cuban people for a half-century.


That done, we will have to have a war with Qatar for housing Al-Jazeera, the Arabic television network which doesn't broadcast things the way we like ...


The war with Qatar over, we will have to have a war with Northern Ireland as the government there presides over oppression of the minority/majority people (which people depends on you) ...


War after war done, can war with France, war with Germany, war with Russia, war with China, war with Indonesia, war with Lebanon, war with Tonga be far behind?


Not content to crush Iraq, we threaten Syria and all the others in precisely the terms we trotted out as rationale for the march to Baghdad. If we set out to correct all the regimes we do not like who do not like us we will be fighting our wars unto the third generation, grandchildren taking up their fathers' muskets to fight the next one and the next one after that. By it's own logic there will be no end to it.


Heaven help us all.


posted by dh | 8:34 PM | comment

Thursday, April 10, 2003  

I see a tall dark stranger ... giving up a gopher


Great. We have Joan of Arc in the dugout.


The Red Sox are watching their season be looted like Baghdad buildings. No, that's no quite fair; it's not being stolen, it's being given away.


Ah, but hear the inspired manager:


"I had a vision of a ball going into the seats,'' manager Grady Little said after the game Wednesday night, ''but when I had it, I had a vision of Casey throwing it, and that's when I took him out.''


Management by "visions." Not "hunches" but "visions." And you thought the "bullpen by committee" was a zany idea. Little apparently has visions of what's going to happen. He envisioned the home run that swamped the Red Sox the other night at the hands of the lowly Toronto Blue Jays. Magically, like a man eating peyote buds, he saw Casey Fossum giving up the long ball. So he took him out. And watched with sober eyes Ramiro Mendoza serve up a grand slam leaving the Sox battling to break even with the worst teams in the league.


Management by fortune cookie.


Here we go again. There's Pedro on a pace to not win a game all season but have an ERA of less than 1 because the hitters are asleep at the plate. There's the heavy lumber, waking up in games when Martinez is off knocking in dozens of runs and watching the bull pen give up even more. There they are playing the traditional cellar dwellers of the AL East and barely holding their own.


And the manager is making decisions on visions, like Timothy Leary after a particularly goofy LSD trip.


Our own vision is that Ramiro Mendoza is a Manchurian Candidate, a plant by the Yankees sent out into the real world with a ticking bomb hypnotized into him -- the "bomb" being what he throws up to opposition batters while wearing a Red Sox uniform. The problem with picking through someone else's (the Yankees') trash is that you don't know why the owner threw it out in the first place or what germs may be on it. But we know this: There has never once been a moment when the Red Sox and the Yankees were in contention with anything riding on it that the Bostons prevailed.


And the manger has "visions" in his head, not of sugar plums as in the Night Before Christmas but of homers and bombs as in the game of baseball played badly. In the interests of saving a few bucks on a closer while laundering the mock economy as a brilliant new strategy, 10 guys, whose salaries are three times a good closer's, make a hash of game after game after game. And the Swami envisions dancing baseballs at the hands (or bats) of the division's doormats.


Well, it's awfully early, but the vision sure looks like, "See you next year." It's all there in Grady Little's crystal ball.


posted by dh | 8:59 PM | comment

Wednesday, April 09, 2003  

Do as we say, not as we ...


With the current track record of so many traditional marriages, you could wonder where opponents of formalizing same-gender relationships get off saying same-sex unions are a worse thing.


Connecticut's politicians Wednesday let die a proposal that would have recognized some domestic relationships between people of the same sex. A bill that would have acknowledged certain legal rights of those domestic relationships, under withering attack, died in committee, the euphemism for parliamentary homicide. The idea had been assaulted as an affront to the rightness of mixed-sex marriages, which are said to be under siege.


Well, our "regular' marriages may be under siege but it's not from the smaller number of same-sex relationships which pretty much want to be left alone, after some basic fairness considerations are ironed out.


With half of traditional marriages failing and ending up in divorce, you could think society would be inclined to honor relationships that do work, that are based on love and mutual respect. Within that, certainly, would be numbers of same-sex households. Instead, so many argue that the traditional marriages are the only legal and natural way; to argue otherwise, it is said, undercuts the sanctity and perfection of the mixed gender tradition. Anything less than that risks social chaos, it is said with vast solemnity.


Oh?


Suppose you made automobiles, only half of which worked. You'd be out of business. Imagine that you built airplanes, 50 percent of which couldn't get off the ground or stay in the air. They'd close you down. If you sold vegetables, half of which went bad in the marketplace you'd be looking for different work.


Half traditional marriages fail. Not just in the libertine United States, which actually has a middling record in the matter of failed marriages, but across the world. This is not a good thing but it is a real thing. The numbers of children born out of wedlock here is so high as to challenge the very framework of the word "legitimate." This is a bad thing, but it is a common thing. Tens of millions of our children are raised in single-parent homes, a status so widespread as to be happily without prejudice or fault. Good. But it is hardly the "traditional" system so ferociously defended as the sole way to go.


In Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, parts of Canada and in a hundred other councils across the continent communities consider widening the rules to honor those relationships built upon their own love and commitment. The very idea comes under assault, often from people whose own relationships have flopped miserably, often often. Instead of saying, "Up to you, it's not my way but if you people love one another, and follow the rules then more power to you," instead of that people attack, assail, lambaste, degrade. This in the name of sanctity.


History is a mighty big thing with lots of room for different approaches to the same goal: Respect for one another, irrespective of all our strengthening differences.


posted by dh | 9:00 PM | comment

Tuesday, April 08, 2003  

Acclaim, $$$$ pour in for Iraqi "information" czar


Honors and job offers are flooding the office of hothothot Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, the Iraqi information minister who has become a media and PR industry darling across the world.


"This guy can write his own ticket," said executive head hunter, Merle Cosnat in New York. "He's demonstrating all the qualities that are in such demand in the public relations universe today. He's got it all. Hand Big Mo chopped liver and he'll sell it as sirloin. He's the best. Numero Uno with a bullet."


al-Sahaf, known for his signature black beret and hilarious deadpan delivery is a three-time winner of the coveted Merde de Toro, public relations' highest honor. His reports of Iraqi military triumphs when American forces are actually sitting on his front lawn in Baghdad would seem to make him a cinch for a fourth such honor. Indeed, it is hard to imagine the competition even applying for the award. Al-Sahaf's accounts of the Iraqi military victories, "the total defeat of the American military forces who are not within 1,000 miles of the city," have left the world slapping its knees in merriment.


"There was a brief time when 'truth in advertising' and 'truth in government' seemed to have some wispy, fleeting credibility and the PR ranks were shocked and awed into despair," noted Marguerite D. Lemmon, executive director of Truth Ltd., the Public Relations Consortium of North America, Inc. "I know hundreds of PR stalwarts who were looking at the unemployment line when honesty was recklessly allowed back into the picture. It was awful. But then along comes Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, long may he prosper. He's revitalized an entire economic sector."


And earned himself some lucrative attention in the process. By preaching that black is white, that up is down, that bad is good and good is bad, al-Sahaf has restored some of the lost luster to government and product spokesmen. This has put him in white hot demand, and his agents are fielding call after call with offers that would startle even his boss, Saddam Hussein, whom al-Sahaf calls "brilliant, fair, gentle, wise and a poetic soul" to the awe of rookie PR types who barely know how to turn the truth on its head with such flair.


Telephone intercepts have revealed that he has been offered a contract from the tobacco industry, with the proposed assignment to apply his well-known imagination to promoting cigarettes as healthy and lovely social habits and to claim, with his legendary aplomb, that the industry didn't know at all that it was wrecking so many lives. His earlier international triumph, the "side effects mumble' -- wherein the ghastly side effects of profitable medicines, often worse than the condition being treated -- are rattled off at unintelligible, auctioneer speed on TV ads, had already gotten him e-mail offers from the oil industry. His seven-figure assignment: Persuade the dope world that the fact that every gas station in the earth raises its prices up and up at exactly the same amount as the other -- whether supply is up or down -- is only a coincidence.


It is widely known in industry circles that his people have been floating a blockbuster proposal to apply his gifts to justifying gargantuan CEO pay and bonus levels as being a good thing for the morale of the employees who would otherwise be dispirited seeing their own measly pay frozen, their jobs cut and benefits reduced to nothing. He is floating the word that no amount of baloney is beyond him, that, for the right price, he can spin a line of malarkey making any disaster sound like a triumph to anyone who isn't looking very carefully. The only assignment he is known to have rejected as beyond even his gifts is the challenge of trying to explain the Boston Red Sox "bullpen by committee" plan as a good idea.


But with the world being his oyster, experts widely predict seeing Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf playing on a bigger stage than explaining Saddam's military disasters as victories on the order of Napoleon or Genghis Khan. But would he make the jump?


Asked, he set his beret at a jaunty angle and said, firmly: "I have no interest in a new job; I do not wish to make a fortune in America; I will not move. Never."


Considering his approach to the truth so far, PR and spokesmen types everywhere are giving one another the high five that the Master is on his way.


posted by dh | 11:33 PM | comment

Monday, April 07, 2003  

C'est la guerre. C'est la vie. La guere est la vie.


Embeddez-moi.


D'accord, I'll need French a bit better than that but I'm ready to volunteer to be embedded when we invade France.


Clearly the French will be high on the list when we move on after rewriting Iraq's map to find someone else we don't like. France fits the profile: We don't like them; they don't like us. They have weapons of mass destruction. They have nuclear weapons. They have escargot. Thay have Gauloises. They have a lousy attitude.


The French have used their weapons on their own people. In 1848. 1968. Before the Revolution. During the Revolution. After the Revolution. Again and again. The grand boulevards of Paris exist in part to allow the government's artillerymen a neat, straight shot at the barricades that go up every few years in protest at something or another. The people revolt. The government crushes the revolting people. As much as we don't really care for the French people we don't care for the snooty government even more, so it'll have to be regime-changed. And I'm ready to go in in advance and do undercover reporting work, blending in -- on expense account. A modest limitation in the excellent coverage of the Iraq war is that the reporters are travelling with one side or the other; I'd be a mole already there, on someone else's dime. I am that kind of patriot.


(The French shouldn't much mind the military attention; after all, they've been pretty active at regime changing themselves. They don't like the government of, say, the Ivory Coast? They send in the troops, absently forgetting to line up the United Nations' support they count as so important when someone else is playing their game. They go out and kill people on the Greenpeace boat which had the audacity to protest their nuclear bomb testing. Mostly, that hasn't much bothered our government at all, but having a different point of view than ours is a capital crime. Or a capitol one, at least.)


Sadly, sadment, I have very little French. I took it in school but it wouldn't stick. I had a crush on my French teacher in high school but she never noticed that I was alive, except when I mangled some verb form -- an art little likely to strike a romantic chord in the gallic heart. Then or now, I hear.


But I would try my best. I have bought undercover clothes. I have a full set of apache dancer gear, the striped shirts, the nifty beret. the sneer. Repeatedly and suddenly, I leap up and practice the can can around the office, hoping to win the boss' approval. I am rude. I adopt superior airs, when I have no right to them at all.


Embedded in Paris, I would make every effort to become invisible. Rather than blowing my cover, I would file nothing or do anything to call attention to myself such as casting any shadow at all by working. Instead, I would patriotically eat the very best food on the earth. I don't drink anymore but would buy rounds at all the bistros to demonstrate what a bon homme I am, a working expense my bosses could hardly object to. I would sit around cafes all night long. I would make goo goo eyes at les femmes, in the line of duty. I would think that Jerry Lewis is a great artist instead of a doofus. I would paint gibberish and be credited as un grand artiste. It is a difficult assignment but I think I am just the man to do it.


Surely the Axis of Evil has expanded to include at least the French -- even we don't have bombs enough to include everyone who isn't part of our coalition of the English-speaking. The Fourth Estate guys accompanying the troops invading France will have their own rigorous assignments. But these would be as nothing compared to my difficult role of dancing until midnight, attending the opera, sniffing flowers in the shade of Paris' glorious historic beauties. Reporters travelling with the soldiers have an important but limited perspective. An undercover agent embedded with the Left Bankers, masquerading as a bon vivant, a bohemian, a rake and roue, a boulevardier, a party animal, I would rub up against so much more of the frisky side of French society.


Please, hold the applause. It seems the least I could do for my country.


posted by dh | 10:16 PM | comment

Sunday, April 06, 2003  

What's the problem? They're not of any value or anything.
It's not like they're not rich after all.



The good thing about having little kids on the assembly line would be that they take up less space and you could squeeze in more of them. And they eat less so there's no need for unprofitable lunch or toilet breaks or even a decent wage. And they threaten easily. And their coffins don't use up much wood. Yes, bring back child labor.


The Bush administration hasn't got there yet, but it's still early. After all when you're running a full scale assault on the working conditions, the air quality, the tax-fairness structure, the protections workers have enjoyed since the Grover Cleveland administration, well, you have to prioritize. First things first. Rich people first, real people last.


The latest shock and awe attack on basic worker rights is quietly unfolding where the Bush posse is moving to limit the amount of overtime that many people can make. As if it were any of their business, the sweatshop mentality of the Washington establishment says that all this overtime that so many undeserving riffraff are earning offends the 24-karat principles of "Give It All to The Bosses." So they're coming up with new labor codes which will force people into "exempt" status whether they're managers or not.


No one except the loathed shareholders say that the bosses' rewards should be frozen, even at their high and bonus-gorged levels. But the bosses are saying, with the marionette administration dancing like dervishes, that the workers pay should be frozen. CEO pay and boodle booms along as if there was no bum economy, no scandals, no layoffs. But who does the government put in the crosshairs? The worker bees.


Distorting 65 years of worker protection from long hours at the cost-free whim of the management, Bush's proposal would allow bosses to pretty much arbitrarily declare someone making a bit more than the minimum wage to be exempt. If the bosses, laughing their heads off, say that you are performing important work (without necessarily commensurate important pay) they could assign you all the hours they want and not have to pay you overtime.


Since 1938, the federal labor code have been implemented to stop this; labor codes were designed to protect laborers. Now the labor codes are being recast to protect the bosses from laborers. As if the owners and managers didn't have enough going for them already. It deeply offends someone that these lowlife poor and middle-class workers are actually treated with respect. There'll be none of that, thank you.


It is part of a crystal clear movement where workplace protections are under assault from the government of the people, by the people, etc. It is an element of a systematic trend to dismantle environmental regulations, protections of the national parks, the water we drink and the air we breathe lest any such onerous considerations inconvenience the wealthy and their ever expanding tax windfalls, windfalls built on reckless economics whose effects land with a clunk on the workers and their families. And those without work.


When they set up the new homeland security admionsitration, the Bush people wrapped themselves up in the flag of anti-terrorism to demand that civil service rules going back almost 125 years be thrown out the window; anyone who dared criticize the demolition of unions, associations and worker rules was assailed under the shrieks of Code Orange. Hundreds of thousands of workers saw their rights evaporating and there was no one to turn to. The Democrats, who used to care about workers even when there wasn't an election on, went fishing. You expect it from the Republicans but shame on the Democrats.


The Bush administration says a nice thing about banishing pesky overtime is that workers will now know what their pay will be. Yes, they will know for sure that it will be pay unaffected by the terrible uncertainties of going up. They will know that it will be low, frozen and that their lives are ever-more at the mercy of the managers and the bought-and-paid-for politicians.


Can child labor be far behind? Welcome back to the 19th Century.


posted by dh | 9:50 PM | comment

Thursday, April 03, 2003  

Smoking to stop smoking, or vice versa


Let's see if I have this right.


Philip Morris, purveyor of substances of mass destruction, is in a jam because the courts have fined it billions because its products and policies have caused so much pain, death, grief and illness. Got it? Got it. The highly profitable company which makes a bundle selling cigarettes which kill people says it can't afford to pay and threatens to go into bankruptcy which would cut back on the cigarettes which kill people. Got it? Got it.


Now we hear that we are actually supposed to worry that Philip Morris threatens to go out of the business of killing us because we need the money that it is supposed to pay for having been found guilty of killing us so, therefore, we are supposed to work to keep the company going so that it can continue to kill more and more of us to make the money to pay the fines for killing us. Got it? Don't got it.


Judgment after judgment has been delivered upon the cigarette industry, heaping shame and disgust on the monsters who have gorged upon the hurt that has killed and sickened more people in a year than all the Axes of Evil have done in a generation. We count the sick and dead Americans in six figures. Each and every year. All around the world, nations recoil at the monstrous assault on their citizens' well-being. Yet the tobacco companies flood the world with cheap cigarettes to get people hooked on the product of their own doom. The anger is real and it is deep, and it shows up in tough fines and court rulings.


But somehow things happen that leave the companies mooning the judges, juries and corpses stacked higher than the great pyramids.


State legislatures, Connecticut's in the forefront, hijacked the money from cigarette judgments which state lawyers worked so hard to wring from the tobacco industry. Tiny sums are used to fight smoking, to mitigate the affects of smoking. The rest is pirated into general revenues. When the economy sours the judgment money is all that more important to meet the fiscal setbacks. Just as the legislators are addicted to "sin taxes' on liquor and gambling and smoking, so, too, are they hooked on the judgment money to stay in the government business. They "need' the cigarette companies to generate the money.


But how do the companies generate the money? They sell cigarettes -- which continue to poison and pollute us to such a degree that the states' budgets are distorted with medical and social costs. Like any other addict we can't give it up even when we know how bad it is for us. States build their deficit-fighting programs on new liquor taxes, needing more and more liquor sold to prosper, even knowing that when more and more liquor is sold more and more accidents happen, more and more families are battered, more and more careers are imperiled. States turn to gambling for easy cash, when gambling assuredly poisons many and diverts money from the general economy to the casinos and lottery masters, withdrawing from the mix billions of dollars "lost" to games of chance. Some chance.


Most invidious is the dependency on keeping the cigarette people at the business of making money -- through killing us. It is madness. If Philip Morris wants to go into bankruptcy to avoid its monetary obligations (its obligations to humanity are vastly beyond its capacity to reverse; the dead do not rise) let it go under. We need healthy people more than we need cigarette companies continuing to do their ghastly business.

Got it? Got it.


posted by dh | 8:07 PM | comment

Wednesday, April 02, 2003  

Things can never be the same ever again


What on earth did we ever do before we had these computers?


Machines do magical things. Science and technology leap to barely imaginable heights. Doctors commit daily miracles, making their parents-in-healing look like primitive witch doctors. Astonishing accomplishments are made commonplace. Knowledge flows like the Mississippi and Amazon and Nile together. Nothing can stop it. Nothing.


If I want to know something, I Google it up and have the answer faster than I could have even thought about the directions to the library. In the old days. I can find anything, research anything, create anything -- all in a twinkling. Unlike the old days. Covering the horror at the World Trade Center, with the dust and smoke and grit in the air, we looked up information on dust, smoke and grit in our laptops. And found everything we needed except the understanding of how such a monstrous thing could happen. It would have taken a team of researchers forever to do that, in the old days. We are exasperated if the machine takes a few moments to do what once took weeks to do. In the old days.


The old days were five years ago.


Look at us. Writing from my family room and, instantaneously and for better or worse, the result is available anywhere in the world where someone has a machine linked up to the magic computer. You can read this or anything that you want at home, at the office, on an airplane, on the bus. Anywhere a computer can be turned on. You have the world's largest library at your fingertips. You have the ideas of the entire world at your beck and call. What took the pamphleteers of the intellectual revolutions years to move around the society now can be done in an instant. There's no stopping it.


Recently I found myself in Morocco -- which is no caveman place but one which moves at a pace of uplift we would consider slower than our own. The social and cultural system has a firm grip on the populace, age-old practices and attitudes are sustained even while so much else of the world moves on to different things and more open ideas. We were in the ancient city of Fes and near to the hotel was one of the few internet cafes in the city. I watched a line of young Moroccans stretch out the door and around the corner, dozens of people waiting to use the few computers inside. I thought, "This place is going to change. They won't be able to hold the old rules over these people forever. Give them access to the whole world and walls will come down." Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is for history to judge; what's inescapable is that when the window is open to new ideas the world becomes a different place.


In Morocco, in China, in Iran or Norway, in Thailand or Timbuktu, in Des Moines or Rio, the flood of information, ideas and attitude washes over the planet, changing the face of the landscape in the process. Authorities used to iron control over the power of knowledge suddenly find a thousand new voices arguing, disputing, challenging and creating everywhere -- not isolated to a coffee house or cafe but in hundreds of homes, classrooms, offices, restaurants. Tyrants become vulnerable not to the force of arms but to the force of ideas arriving at a hundred thousand homes, unstoppable.


Imagine, only a few years ago it was Elvis and rock and roll that the authorities railed against. In the old days. Now there is no trend, no attitude, no development, no point of view that doesn't have its own blog or web page to overwhelm all, and be overwhelmed in turn. It's wonderful. What on earth did we ever do before we had these computers?


posted by dh | 10:00 PM | comment

Tuesday, April 01, 2003  

Thank you, Keith

I will have Popeye arms from tipping my hat to TV wizard Keith Olbermann, who is now running "Countdown" on MSNBC at 8 p.m. Not only is he a gigantic multi-medium talent and superstar but he is also a wonderful and caring guy who nearly alone reached out a hand to my son who was in hot water. He gave my boy Denis work, shored up his self-esteem and a provided him with guidance and support. As he has kindly and repeatedly assured me, it was no charity case at all but, well, no one else was doing it. Now he has Denis working with him as a producer on "Countdown," an enormous and wonderful opportunity. 'Tis said the Irish memory is richest in matters of grudges. Maybe. But I hope, too, we're as capable of respecting and remembering for a long time the goodness that is done for us as well. Watch his show. He's the best.


'I am right here with the troops somewhere in Monaco ...'


Does everyone believe that Geraldo Rivera should be thrown out of Iraq on charges of revealing secret military information over the airwaves? Does anyone really believe that Geraldo actually had a clue about the information he is accused of revealing? Has he ever been right? Isn't this the same guy who bragged about being at one hallowed place in Afghanistan when he wasn't anywhere near the spot at all? Isn't this the guy who couldn't get out of the way of a flying chair, never mind his own ineptitude?


I think they should let him stay. He is a walking-talking weapon of mass destruction. Mass confusion, at least.


Consider. The reason the military is mad at him is that he could compromise their operations with his glorious stupidity. The enemy could watch him on television and realize, "Hey. You know those bombs that are falling on our empty heads are being dropped on our heads by those Americans right over there." But with Geraldo, the information is likely to be so screwy that the foe will get the wrong message all together. He is a one man ministry of misinformation.


In fact, we don't even know if he has been booted out or not. Some say he has; some say he hasn't. In itself, that says a lot. It's says, "Geraldo." Here's a guy who's made a career out of sensationalizing things and his own life is so sensational that he's managed to make a mess out of two wars in a row. Who else can say that?


The extraordinary presence of U.S. journalists among U.S. soldiers is an astonishing thing, and a huge step forward in keeping America informed about what's being done in our name. The military deserves a lot of credit for this unprecedented program, the knee-jerk and perpetual cranks notwithstanding. There are risks but someone has actually determined that the American people have a stake in this thing and are best served by the nearly unfettered access of the press and TV folks. Amazing.


There being mistakes, blunders, calamities and Geraldo Rivera, things can go wrong. But the good seems to be worth that risk, the military and press alike feel. It was a great secret for a while that we were bombing Cambodia in the Indochina war. Well, it wasn't exactly a total secret. The Cambodians knew it. The Vietnamese knew it. The Russians knew it. The Chinese knew it. Everyone knew it. Except the American people. The only ones the truth was kept from were the good guys -- us. Geraldo likely would grandly announce that we were bombing Tahiti but the Tahitians would know that we weren't and the Cambodians would know where the armament was landing.


Geraldo may be going out the door, but the policy of measured openness isn't. He hasn't made that much of a mess out of things. Count your blessings.


posted by dh | 8:49 PM | comment

Monday, March 31, 2003  

I will NOT win the PowerBall


It's all my fault. Blame me.


The other night I was driving along in the middle of what seemed a January Greenland blizzard; snow swirled blindingly; the wind howled; traffic crawled; windshield wipers clogged. I thought with despair and self-contempt, "I did this."


Twenty-four hours earlier it was 65 degrees, sunny and balmy. Little purple crocuses popped free on my neighbor's lawn, humming merrily. The weather was soothingly beautiful. Birds chirped. The joggers had climbed over the fences of their loony bin and were running everywhere (whenever you see runners running they are usually trying to escape from their handlers and captors.) It lulled me into a total foolishness. I didn't know what I was doing. Walking into the office, I met some friends and I said, "Spring's here. Isn't this nice? It was a hard winter but it's gone now. Good riddance." It was out before I could stop it. What a dope.


You'd think I had just arrived from the Planet Mongo. You could think that I had not been born in New England, raised in new England, seasoned in New England. Imagine saying something so dumb as that.


Within hours the mercury careened downward, razory winds lashed in from the sea, snow marched north, stinging and biting with snake's teeth. All this with April just around the corner. It is cold again. March's lamb-exit was ferociously leonine, and it was my fault.


Of course I jinxed the lovely weather. Anyone who has even driven through New England as the season changes knows not to tempt the weather fates, "Winter is over." What sort of lunatic would describe soft, gentle, caressing breezes in toasty temperatures as anything but, "Will this rotten winter ever end? I can't stand this lousy weather." No New Englander with his marbles polished would ever invite disaster by insulting the weather gods.


I used to think it was an Irish thing to not offend the fates by saying good things which surely would invite bad things. Aye. I used to think it was a Catholic thing to deflect inexorable guilt by adopting the sack cloth and ashes in advance. Then I met Jewish people who made me look giddy in their inherent gloominess. I ran into Asian people more cautious or superstitious than even I: I learned of Eskimos who knew 100 words for snow and needed every one of them as a consequence should they ever say something dangerous like, "The gray sun on the polar bear seems slightly warmer. Maybe the 51-week winter is easing." Bam. Winter World War III. No, it is universal. Right-minded people do not tempt the furies.


Innocent children may talk about how well the Red Sox will do, but their parents will rush to hush them. Simple shepherds may wander down from the hills and talk about how their political candidate will win, how their team will prosper, how their weather will improve but the wiser sheep know enough to keep their mouths shut. They've been sheared too often. They know to never suggest to the powers that the powers are not in charge of things.


So it is, instead, that we discount things in advance: "That cute little puppy will grow up to be a man-eater; the goldfish may be pleasant to watch but will die and break our hearts." "That man/woman may be beautiful/handsome but probably will snore/yodel/squander the inheritance/be a Yankee fan/like lawyers." The reason the UFOs never actually land after flying across the entire universe is that besides only kidnapping people from trailer parks and getting the distorted picture of us as a result, they overhear the human message: "Things are not as good as they seem. What is bright will turn sour. What looks pretty will only cause us unhappiness."


They misread this as sadness and pessimism, figuring we are a race of gloomy gusses when in fact it is merely being prudent. We know better than any unearthly aliens about how mad it is to praise the weather when to do so will invite a hurricane. I know what I am talking about. I did it. Thank heaven the weather will get much worse now, that this terrible warmth will pass and the lovely cold will stay with us much longer.


posted by dh | 9:40 PM | comment

Saturday, March 29, 2003  

The war experience is unfoldingmuchtooquickly


Maybe it's merely a measure of the hasty times, where we OJ everything at a breakneck speed, but it seems like we've already gone through 10 years of war evolution in 10 days.


With inch by inch coverage and a sense of entitlement to every bit of knowledge and with no patience and an microwave nownownow mentality applied to even great events, we seem to have seen nearly the entire Vietnam experience unfold in a week and a half. Not that everything should be compared to that horrid earlier time, but ignoring its lessons and seemingly even its existence is simply foolhardy and tragic for the victims, then and now.


It took a while for Vietnam to become "Vietnam." Iraq may almost be there already. There are differences, but mostly in pace. We ended up without friends or allies in Indochina, a few nations offering merely token support; we begin without friends of allies in Iraq, a few nations -- the coalition of the rented -- offering merely token support. We started out small in Vietnam and started out big in Iraq, or we can hope that this is "big" and not "small" compared to what is to come.


It took years to escalate the war in Indochina but already -- without even a how-do-you-do to the nation or its lawmakers -- the escalation has begun in Iraq. A week in, another 120,000 troops are on the way, and there's more to come. Or go. Bet on it. We started out in Vietnam disparaging the ragtag opponents who would crumple like paper in front of our superior technology and skills. It took a long while, but we came to learn a little more respect for the other side. In Iraq, too, we started out with contempt for the other guy, talking grandly about what we will do after the war, as if the fighting itself wasn't worth a thought. We are much more quickly learning a little respect for some of the opponents, even as we do not like them.


In Indochina, we swaggered on about how we would,"bomb them back to the stone age" and found over time that all the bombing did not break the will of the people at all. Much more quickly we are finding out that the "shock and awe" isn't necessarily all that shocking and awesome in Iraq. In Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia we trusted to incredibly modern gear -- sensors and cameras and tricky weapons -- and learned that in the long haul there was a question of spirit that we hadn't accounted for. We paid a horrible price. In Iraq, we trust to "smart bombs" which, the last time around, weren't always all that smart. We have every kind of night goggle and guns and satellites and cruise missiles but have found already that the very best weapon on both sides is, again, the individual soldier and his great common sense and personal dedication.


It took years for the President then, Lyndon Baines Johnson, to fret about the "Nervous Nellies" who had too little confidence in his military plan. Already, today's President, Lyndon Baines Bush?, is making noises about those who are nervous that the war is not proving the cakewalk as advertised. And we've been at it only 10 days. Johnson, and Richard Nixon after him, saw their grand dreams, the Great Society and a World Order, wither away before the all-consuming war. Bush's grand dreams of more and more tax cuts for the rich have already been rolled back as even members of the elite Republican guard in the Congress see the fiscal folly of spending so much more than we have. And the war started not two weeks ago.


Despite the very best reporting and the most astonishing access in the history of warfare, the cynicism that took an eon to develop in Indochina seems to be growing among the media. And the rhetoric is becoming more heated after a span measured in days and hours, where it took years and years to happen before. It got worse. It will get worse. Already, the antiwar demonstrations often here have an edge that threatens to challenge the civility that has marked the process thus far, good people disagreeing and the crazies muted. Overseas it is worse and will be much worse yet. Already the counter cries against the "patriotism" of those who disagree with this war are being whipped to levels not seen since the Nixon days, made frenzied by the radio goons, nearly to a person military avoiders themselves, who do not accept that supporting our troops extends to wanting them to come home, safe and sound.


After more than a decade, most Americans set aside the belief that you trusted our government leaders because they must know something we don't. That barely existed as this one began. The war started on March 19.


Once there, we must pray that this dreadful business is successful and over quickly and that our children and neighbors come home. What it took a long, long time to learn less than a generation ago is that the easy assumptions don't always work, and "easy" never applies to people killing people. Hopefully that lesson will sink in faster this time.


posted by dh | 7:33 PM | comment

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