The dream must not be lost.

I never wanted to be an astronaut. Of course, my saying I never wanted to be an astronaut is like Ronald Reagan saying he never wanted to be a liberal. I’ve never had a real aptitude for physical sciences. Uncle Sam was pointing in the other direction when he said “I want you!” I have a particularly acute fear of heights. For me, waiting in line for a roller coaster is kind of like waiting for someone to shove bamboo shoots under your fingernails. Me and the space program have an understanding, they don’t want people like me and I don’t want them. Here’s the thing though, I desperately want them to succeed. People ask me why and I have trouble answering. Sure, there is the science – but that doesn’t do it for me. There is the national pride in our technological feats, but I don’t think that is a very good reason either. For me, it is the fact that, as a society we are pushing the envelope, we are moving forward, we are going where we haven’t gone before. It is the dream of accomplishing the impossible, believing that we really can accomplish anything if we just put our minds to it. I fear that if we loose that dream; or worse, if we refuse that dream – we will cease to dream. That is not a time that I want to live through.

Since Saturday I have already read of people questioning the necessity of manned space flight in our time. I’ve heard people saying that it is just not worth the cost of human life to go into space. Do we dishonor the memory of those who have died by forsaking the dream, in their name? I think we do. I hope the tragedy of this weekend results not in the forsaking of the dream, but in a discussion of how we can better realize the dream.

Here’s to hoping.

Try and Fry.

What do you think about capital punishment? Do you think we should try ’em and fry ’em or do you think we should be “weak on crime.” How I feel is irrelevant to the point I would like to discuss (even if I am weak on crime). Apparently there is a new tactic being employed by those who would see the death penalty outlawed, one that has had good results in the state of Illinois. The gist is, how do those that end up on death row get there? The answers apparently led death penalty advocates and opponents alike to seek an end to executions in Illinois. Someone I was speaking to earlier today was not impressed. “What about people whose attorneys fell asleep at trial? Do you think they got a fair trial?”, I asked. Our criminal justice system apparently is overwhelmed, much like all of our other “systems” in this country. As a result, there apparently are corners of the country where appointed legal representation is not exactly world class. I reminded my conversation partner that we, as a society, have decided that legal representation in criminal matters is a basic right. I was advised that F. Lee Bailey does not do pro bono. It’s funny how people tend to make my point for me. I wondered if justice is reserved for those who can pay for it. I wonder if the right to legal representation is satisfied by a license to practice law and a pulse.

I saw the look on the other person’s face and I wondered why I try.

Where is the love?

Just as I was finishing up my entry last week, I heard the comments offered by my governor at his inaugural address. My favorite part talked about the government buildings standing behind him, and his hope that one day they would stand empty – no longer needed. He went on to speak about what he referred to as the fallacy of throwing more money at a problem, that if just one more piece of paperwork got done then our problems would be solved. Now here’s a surprise, in some ways I thought it was a good speech. That might sound funny, coming from a state employee, but I thought it was well said. Many government offices are there to deal with problems that we all would rather not have. Seeing them stand empty would seem to suggest that there was no need for them, and therefore no societal problems. But after I thought about the speech for a while, I kind of felt like he was saying everyone would be better off without me and my coworkers. Judging by his past performance on the job, it was hard not to see this speech as the thoughts of a man who has a genuine dislike of government employees. We live in this, the real world. There are real problems in this real world. I consider myself a realist: we won’t solve one hundred percent of these problems regardless of the amount of money we throw at them. But does that mean that we shouldn’t even try? One way or another, trying usually costs resources, and these resources usually have some monetary value associated with them. The governor is my boss, the leader of our state’s government. Just what kind of leader tells those under him that the world would be better off without the organization he or she leads. What are we supposed to take from that? Are we supposed to be inspired?

I feel like going right out and giving it my al-most, my fifty percent, the old college (drop-out) try.

In the world today.

Does anyone else wonder what the difference between Iraq and North Korea is? Both countries are ruled by a government that we’ve gone to war with. Both countries are suspected of developing nuclear weapons. Both countries have current rulers that seem a bit too unstable for comfort. North Korea has come out and admitted that they are actively developing “the bomb.” Based on what I’ve heard in the news, we know North Korea has some of the materials and infrastructure necessary to actually build one. Based on what I’ve heard in the news, it is rumored that Iraq has been seeking the materials and infrastructure to develop such weapons, but that they are not there yet. Iraq has been known to have chemical and biological weapons. These weapons, while certainly dangerous, do not approach the destructive or killing power of “the bomb.” Meanwhile, we are actively seeking an excuse to go to war with Iraq, in order to prevent it’s leader from developing and using “weapons of mass destruction.” At the same time, we are apparently turning our backs on the North Koreans, despite the same concerns.

Am I missing something?

How do you feel?

On more than one occasion, someone has asked me if I was concerned about events in the world today. It has been more than one person, and at different times, so they weren’t connected. It makes me wonder, is there a prevalent sense of dread out there? Terror is in the news and talk of war is in the air, but I feel oddly indifferent. Are things any different now than they were ten years ago, or twenty. Sure, last fall was a significant event, and it has had a lasting effect on some specific aspects of my life; but my day to day life seems unchanged. Sure, its a little more inconvenient to travel, but I don’t travel that much. How else is my life different? My answer: it isn’t. Furthermore, when aren’t we at war? Since 1991 we have fought in Iraq, Africa, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and now possibly Iraq again. Forgive me if I’m a little desensitized, but I have an overwhelming sense of deja vu. Sure, an invasion of Iraq is a little different than our minimal involvement in Africa, but this still isn’t the first major military engagement of my life time (re: Vietnam and the Gulf War). And who can forget Grenada!

Of course something important is happening in the world, it just seems like business as usual, that’s all.

Also known as mid-term elections.

I’m just now getting over the anguish from last week’s elections. I think I’m taking a healthy approach to all of it though; surely everyone who voted the other way is wrong.

I overheard a heated discussion about one of the amendments that was voted on last week. I did not get involved in the conversation – they were already having enough fun without me. Anyway, I thought I would take the cowardly step of venting my feelings to no one in particular (the vast, silent void that is my audience). Hhhhhhhh…haaaaaa. They were talking about the “no indoor smoking” amendment that just passed. One person mentioned that they could not go into a restaurant without getting exposed to smoke, and took the position that the amendment was a good thing. The other person stated that “it’s your choice to expose yourself to the smoke or leave; to vote with your patronage.” Can you guess their position? The first person came back with the assertion that there were few restaurants that did not allow smoking, and that the only real choice would be to not eat out at all. The second person stated that the issue was personal liberties, disappearing personal liberties. They claimed that if you draw a line that excludes one personal liberty it is a slippery slope to drawing more lines, eliminating more personal liberties. This is where I step in and cowardly submit to all of you that this was a pile of steaming horse crap. Since when did we not draw lines that excluded “personal liberties.” We have a long history of drawing such lines, particularly when “personal liberties” cause others harm. The facts are these: cigarette smoke causes people harm, the harm is not limited to the smokers themselves, and the harm is not limited to abstract, far down the line problems. It can cause immediate breathing problems. It can cause immediate side effects such as eye irritation, nasal congestion and headache. We are not free to wear weapons grade plutonium as jewelry because it can do others harm. We are not free to walk up to someone smoking and punch them in the nose to vent our frustration because it may do them harm. I am not worried that these “personal liberties” have been taken away from me because I don’t think I should have them in the first place. I must say don’t think the smokers are being mean. I do think they tend to dismiss my complaints as being “just in your head.” Smokers just don’t feel my pain. I can understand this because I’ve walked in those shoes. I used to think the same thing about my wife, while we were still dating. That ended one day when her breathing became audible only to dogs and we went for a visit with our friends in the ER.

So go ahead and tell me my raging headache is just in my head. Tell it to my wife who had to walk outside to take a puff on her inhaler. Tell it to the scores of others who have every right pursue life, liberty and happiness, so long as it does not involve going out for a nice dinner. No, I don’t think they should stop cooking in peanut oil because some people have food allergies. We can still go out to eat if we order something that doesn’t have the peanut oil. No, I do not think perfume should be banned. We can refrain from wearing it ourselves, and we can usually avoid it pretty well. It’s rare that I notice someone’s perfume from across the room. cigarette smoke is another matter. The particulates in the smoke carry in breeze like nuclear fallout. We can’t seem to avoid it, unless we don’t go out at all. Is that fair to us? Why can’t smokers step outside for their nicotine fix? Why don’t they stay home if they don’t like it? Better yet, why not quit? Didn’t anyone tell them that smoking isn’t good for you?

Thankfully, the issue appears moot.

Here endeth the rant.

When government should not run like a business.

I’ve just heard that Florida’s wonderful education system pays it’s new top education post more than any other state, and 33% more than the top Federal education post. Many state employees I know fantasize about being a federal employee, and the higher pay and better benefits that come with it. I guess our Education chief does not share those fantasies. Further, I’ve heard that after incentives, the top Florida post will increase more than 33% next year to approximately $400,000.00 per year. This is a state government job? I didn’t think our pay grades went that high. (Maybe they don’t, maybe the normal rules don’t apply.) Now consider that starting teachers average somewhere between $20,000 and $25,000 per year. Consider that one of the reasons our current governor gives for not supporting a maximum class size initiative is that state government will not be able to afford all of the extra teachers we would need to hire. Now we turn around and spend an absurd amount of money on an education “CEO.”

I love this state.

Where’s the vision?

Do “we the people” reward politicians with simplest messages? Call me a cynic, but I think “we” do. It seems that if an idea can’t be summed up in a thirty second T.V spot it’ doesn’t have a chance in hell of holding up in the public “debate”. How often have you noticed that embracing the complex side of an issue = loosing the battle of public opinion.

In my humble opinion, the republican party has done a much better job framing their issues in the simplest terms over the last ten years. I am not a member of the republican party, so this distresses me. My problem is that my rationale can’t be summed up in thirty seconds. Even worse, the democratic party rarely rallies behind one unified message, not when it comes to meaningful legislation anyway. I guess history has taught them not to. Look at the push for universal healthcare in the early ’90’s. Can you say ’94 midterms? The unfortunate result has been a democratic party that stands for nothing but nay saying. I’m ready for a democrat with a healthy dose of “substance-saying”. Painting the democratic party with such a broad brush may not be fair, but I come from a county and a state that is fairly republican, so I have no intimate knowledge of democrats at the local level. I can only speak for our leaders at the national level, and I must lament that no one seems to be speaking for me.

Are you ready for a war?

The other day someone asked me what I thought about a possible armed conflict with Iraq. Like my coworker, I don’t really know what to think. What bothers me is, why is this suddenly so important now? As I understand it, the arguments being used for going to war have been valid for five or six years. You might say it’s different now with a new administration. In other words, it was important five years ago, but the last president was a “dove.” But if that’s so, why wasn’t it an issue in the campaign or a priority immediately after the new president took office? You could say that things changed after last September, but I haven’t heard the administration make a case for tying the two together. So if there is no real tie between the two, and there are no new reasons for doing it, I ask you again: why now? Give me a reason, any good reason and I’ll feel better about it. No one I’ve heard who has some knowledge of the situation, other than spokespersons for the current administration, seem to feel that it is critical that we invade now. So why now?


Do you remember where you were one year ago, when you found out? I was in court, in front of our child support hearings officer in St. Pete. I remember the tone his computer made to alert him of an incoming mail message. That tone gave everyone in the court room a ten second advance warning before each news release. It was a long morning, with a lot of interruptions and a lot of PC alert sounds.