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The Outpost WebLog - 2004

What's goin' 'round and comin' down...

Dan Murphy

Nov 1 - Election Eve Reflections
June 24 - Take Back the Night -- and the Day
June 23 - LaPierre Out of Touch
June 17 - Watergate Anniversary; Spam Avoidance
May 28 - Hold Bush Accountable for Abu Ghraib
May 25 - The price of gasoline
May 17 - A day to celebrate
May 6 - Fire Rumsfeld?
April 28 - The most important demonstration

November 1, 2004

It is election eve of what I believe to be the most significant election in my lifetime. Probably the most important too, but I say "significant" because I believe the results will signify a great deal about the spirit of our country and society.

However... I am not going to say a word in this post about who is the 'better' candidate or who anyone 'should' vote for.

I will say that it is incredibly important, not only that you vote, but that, if you possibly can, you aid your local party workers on election day. This includes giving people rides to the polls, calling people with reminders and checking to see if they need rides, holding signs, etc. Both major political parties know that the election now is so close that the outcome will be determined by which side is most effective in getting their supporters -- their political base -- to the polls on Tuesday. This is what both campaigns have been focussed on the past few days.

If you aren't sure how to do that, check the web sites of the candidates, political parties or 'independent' groups. Believe me, they want you and are making it as easy as possible for you to help.

Other election-eve things I'm pondering:

I hope everyone will be asking themselves tomorrow the question Ronald Reagan posed in 1980: "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" I might also ask, "Are we today more the country we want to be than we were four years ago?"

I was listening the other day to a recording of "Blowin' in the Wind" by Stevie Wonder. He didn't mention any candidates by name, but as he introduced the song, he said "When you go to vote, I hope you'll vote for the candidate who is committed to bringing us together in a spirit of unity." Oh -- this was recorded in 1992.

"How many roads must a man walk down..."
"How many times must the cannon balls fly..."
"How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn't see..."

Suppose we asked, who is the candidate who is most likely to agree with the idea of creating a world where everyone wins?

The Declaration of Independence of our country begins by saying, "...a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that [we] should declare the causes which impel [us]..."

Which candidate feels that we owe "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind", and which scorns the opinions of the rest of the world?

"The answer is blowin' in the wind."

Send comments.

June 24, 2004

Since 9/11/01, fear of terrorism has ruled a great deal of American life. I'm not arguing for the moment that any particular fears are valid or invalid; I only want to notice how our lives have changed because of the fear.

Similarly, fear has been a factor of urban life for a long time. Some people seem to positively enjoy repeating warnings about all the places you can't go and all the precautions you must take lest you get mugged, raped, burgled, swindled, infected, molested, and rejected. Again, I'm not saying that any such precaution is right or wrong, but just to notice how we give up our choices and our power to the fears.

Some years ago, there was a movement called "Take Back the Night". Maybe you remember it. It was primarily a feminist action to reclaim various urban parks and other recreational areas that women had once enjoyed but were then avoiding because of fear of rapists, etc. The action was to get larger numbers of people back to and using these facilities because of both the sense of safety and the actual safety created thereby. The criminals who had indeed been exploiting the areas could only do so when the areas were abandoned out of fear by most everyone else.

This is a classic example of how the fantasy of fear can create the reality of danger, and how the belief in nonviolent strength can create the reality of safety. I wish we had more "Take Back the Night" movements alive in the country today.

By the way, even great writers write WebLogs.  Check out this one by Kurt Vonnegut, to which I'll only add, "what he said."

Send comments.

June 23, 2004

OK, so add my name to the list of those who think Gary LaPierre is just another flaming right-wing asshole along with Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell. These are they guys who will say anything that plays to the Joe Six-Pack crowd -- the lite-brains who seems to think that if we, the great American Master Race, just kick enough ass around the world, all our problems will disappear.

His June 23 commentary, decrying as "Hand Wringers of America" anyone who finds the Iraq prison abuse reports shameful and abhorrent puts him firmly in the camp of the radical extremists of the Right. So Rumsfeld and, apparently, George W. Bush have caved to the HWA? And to those cowardly Nazi-haters too, I suppose.

Wake up Gary. This is America. In our value system, we don't sic dogs on prisoners, heap degradation upon them, or put them on the rack to extract confessions. (By you I suppose the rack would be fine. After all, it doesn't do permanent damage.) If we follow your lead, we'll soon have a government just like the Taliban or, for that matter, Saddam Hussein. Saddam obviously had no qualms about putting a little pressure on his prisoners. We were supposed to be liberating Iraq, not just doing the same old shit under a different flag.

LaPierre sees us "falling all over ourselves to give aid and comfort to the enemy." (Emphasis added.) Besides the fact that this is the same thing Nixon and company said about anyone who dared question the wisdom of our policy in Viet Nam, LaPierre ought to tell us just who he thinks is "the enemy".  Everyone in Abu Ghraib?  They were all certified terrorists?  Well excuse me, but the Internation Red Cross (another bunch of hand-wringers, I suppose) reported that 90% of the prisoners there were randomly arrested and are guilty of nothing more than "walking around while Iraqi."  Whatever happened to that quaint idea of "innocent until proven guilty?"  Another radical-liberal notion, apparently.

If LaPierre were just another rabid talk-show crank, I wouldn't bother to write this. He is, however, the morning news anchor on WBZ and thus among the most visible of the station's images. If this is how LaPierre thinks, what shall we assume about the objectivity of his reporting? OK, I'm not naive enough to believe that true objectivity exists, but the better reporters at least attempt to maintain the appearance.

Therefore, I challenge WBZ Radio to broadcast some direct rebuttals to LaPierre's rants. I also challenge the station to consider the wisdom of having its news anchors not only editorializing, but pushing the party line of the nutcase Right.

Send comments.

June 17, 2004

Happy Watergate Break-in Anniversary!  Yes, it was 32 years ago today that the Watergate break-in took place and began the process that led to Nixon's resignation.  For a musical telling of the entire story, check out "The White House Un-American Activities Rag" by yours truly.  Has Dubya's Watergate already occurred?  Only time will tell.

And now for something completely different...

You probably have an email address and you probably get spam.  If you've had your email address for a while, you probably get lots of spam. Spammers have become very agressive about finding email addresses using automated tools; hence, you'll get spam if your address can be found in any of a number of ways. As a public service, here are some of the ways your address can be found and what you can do about it:
  1. Does it appears on a web site? Spammers constantly use robot software to scan public web sites for anything that looks remotely like an email address. Simple disguises like writing "user at somewhere.com" are no hindrance -- they look for all the obvious variations. Therefore: do not put your address on public web sites such as web boards, etc. The good boards will not reveal subscriber addresses although you will need to provide yours to register. If you have your own web pages, use a cgi message facility rather than a 'mailto' link.
  2. Do you post to any public newsgroup? Spammers scan these constantly and grab any and all addresses. Therefore: Avoid news groups. Alas, spam has made them mostly unusable. For a while, people obscured their address such as user@NOSPAM.somewhere.com, but spammers see right through such tricks.

  3. Do you send or forward things to lots of people that are likely to be forwarded further? Chances are good that your post, and therefore your address, will fall into the hands of spammers before long. Therefore: think twice about forwarding general stuff to lots of people.
  4. Do you have friends who send or forward to you things with many 'to' addresses including yours? This means that everyone else sees your address, just as you do theirs, and if they forward the message, your address is being broadcast to an ever larger number of people. Therefore: ask any such friends to either use a list that does not reveal all the 'to' addresses or to remove your name from such posts.

  5. Do you sign up for free stuff on unknown web sites, especially porn? There are many come-on web sites claiming to offer free stuff, whether porn or otherwise, so you may think, "what's to lose -- it's free." What these sites are often doing is gathering email addresses for spamming. Some are working more serious identity theft schemes. Therefore: be suspicious of any "free" web site that requires your email address to register. Chances are good you'll start getting spam as a result, whether or not the site is otherwise legimitate. Alternately, you can setup different email addresses and use each one for just a few such sites with the expectation that you'll cancel that address after a while, particularly if it starts getting lots of spam.

All of the above will help to keep your address from being found and used by spammers. If you are already getting spam and don't want to change your address (I've stubbornly kept the same one for over 8 years), you'll very likely want spam filtering. It is included now in some email clients, and some ISPs offer it. The latter can be especially useful as it means you can avoid even downloading the spam messages as well as having to sort though them.  For more info and new email addresses, check out ParkBits.com (yes, that was a plug.)

The internet 'powers that be', including both the open-source and commercial companies, are working toward improvements in email standards that will prevent the rampant forgery that now makes spam especially hard to detect and fight and which renders the recent federal anti-spam law mostly ineffective. It will be a while before this gets phased in however, as it will require upgrading at least hundreds of thousands of servers, if not tens of millions of clients.

Send comments.

May 28, 2004

On May 6, I wrote that George W. Bush should be held accountable for the prison abuse in Iraq, not the poor soldiers who happened to be there on his orders.  In Bush's speech earlier this week, he is still doing it -- trying to blame a few soldiers and not his own immensely flawed policies and disregard for traditional American values.  What values?  Ones like honoring the provisions of the Geneva Convention and like not launching preemptive wars.  I planned to say more about that, and some of it has now been said by someone much more well known -- former Vice President Al Gore.  His speech on May 26 begins:

George W. Bush promised us a foreign policy with humility. Instead, he has brought us humiliation in the eyes of the world.

He promised to "restore honor and integrity to the White House." Instead, he has brought deep dishonor to our country and built a durable reputation as the most dishonest President since Richard Nixon.

I invite you to read the complete speech at http://www.moveonpac.org/gore/

I just hope John Kerry and other democrats pick up the torch and speak this bluntly about the current administration.

Send comments.

May 25, 2004

The price of gasoline has been over $2/gallon for a week now.

Some people have tried to organize a "no-gas day" -- a day on which no one buys any gasoline. Alas, this would be meaningless to the big oil companies. We would all just buy the same amount of gas before the no-gas day or after.

Some say that, well at least the higher prices force us to get more fuel-efficient cars. This makes a lot of sense. It is amazing how the roads have been taken over by gas-guzzling SUVs in recent years. The road hogs of the pre-gas-crisis days of the early 1970's have nothing on these beasts when it comes to wasting gas.

There's a catch-22 here though. When the price of gas goes up, it just means we're handing more profits to the oil companies and the Saudi sheiks. Know what I'm sayin? None of the money we pay for gas goes to God or whoever put the oil there in the first place; it all goes to the "middle men". And you can bet that none of the increase will be seen by the workers in the oil fields, at the refineries, or at your local station. Mostly, it will just make the Bush family and friends richer than they already are.

It has been political suicide in recent years to suggest that maybe we should have a hefty federal gas tax in order to encourage conservation. Maybe the question should be framed: do you want to give the money to the US government or to the Saudi sheiks? Not an appealing choice, I know, but there's at least some chance the cash could serve a worthwhile purpose if it stays in the country.

Ultimately, we will develop some kind of alternative fuel cars that eliminate the need for oil. In the meantime, we need the oil and there is simply no good reason to keep giving the oil companies and OPEC ever more money for the same amount of product. We need a President who knows how to pressure OPEC for more production and lower prices rather than one whose family and friends benefit most from high prices and low production.

Send comments.

May 17, 2004

Today is a day to celebrate.

"Gay Marriage" became legal in Massachusetts, and as I listened to various news reports, what I heard was Joy and Celebration. Starting with Cambridge (a town with which I have some kind of psychic connection) at 12:01 am, to Boston City Hall, to the Arlington Street Unitarian-Universalist Church (where I played piano at a Service of Union for a lesbian couple friends of mine a few years ago) -- I heard sounds of joy and happiness.

Any why not?? When people decide to get married and do so, it is a time of excitement, anticipation, joy, pleasure, and celebration.

I put "Gay Marriage" in quotes because it is really just Marriage. What happened today is that the beauracracy of Massachusetts was required to adhere to the principles of the constitution and allow each person to choose their marriage partner without discrimination. Hence, what we have now is just Marriage -- without the restrictions that kept it from being 100% of what it could be.

In a couple of years, if and when the referendum for a constitutional amendment comes up for a public vote, the voters will see that the sky did not fall, society as we know it did not come to an end, and life for most people went on as before. Except for some people, it became much better because their deepest commitment was recognized as legitmate.

Yes, there is still opposition. George W. Bush reiterated his support for an amendment to the US Constitution to outlaw "Gay Marriage". The governor of Massachusetts, while issuing a statement saying he would comply with the law, made it clear he would prefer not to and would look for legal technicalities to thwart it.  That his 'technicality' is a 1917 law which targetted interracial marriage says a lot.

I would ask these two, and all other of their ilk, to look around today. Look around and notice the joy and happiness. Does not our Constitution claim to guarantee us all "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness?" It is not just a few "activist judges" -- it is thousands of people who are finally able to celebrate their relationship and to call it "Marriage." Why do you wish to deny their happiness? Why do you not see that this is one more positive step for extending equal rights and treatment and stopping discrimination in our society?

Every time we have done this in the past -- ended discrimination and extended individual rights -- history has shown that it was the right thing to do. Today is another such occasion, and those who opposed it will ultimately be proven to be on the wrong side of history -- of history, of compassion, and of creating a world where everyone wins.

Send comments.

May 6, 2004

Fire Rumsfeld because of the news from Abu Ghraib?

Yes, it is true that abuse of prisoners violates American values liberal and conservative alike. I see that moveon.org, an organization that I respect tremendously, is also advocating action to force Rumsfeld's resignation or dismissal.


Once upon a time, we had a President who had a sign on his disk: "The buck stops here." That was a long time ago, however, and the current president seems to have a sign that says "I'm infallible; anything going wrong is somebody else's fault."

Well, I'm not buying it. The Iraq war is 100% Bush's responsibility, and so is everything that flows from it. While he may "abhor" what happened, it has happened in every past war. Viet Nam had its Mei Lai and its "we had to destroy the village in order to save it". Problem is, Bush doesn't have the brains to be President, and he just never considered all these practical little difficulties in "liberating" Iraq and avenging his father.

So as I see it, getting Rumsfeld out is just letting Bush off the hook and affording him some cover. Nothing really will change until we get rid of the whole lot of them all at once.

Remember the civil rights movement and how the southern sheriffs would say "we're gonna find out who killed those black folks and bring 'em to justice..." I imagine that's how Arabs and Muslims the world over feel about George Bush's little non-apology on Arab TV yesterday.

Send comments.

April 28, 2004

Yesterday was the big Women's March on Washington.  It was a big success and I wish I had been there.  These demonstrations are important and we need to continue to do them even if the "men in charge" mostly ignore them.

There is one demonstration that the men in charge cannot ignore, and that is the one that will take place on Nov 2 of this year.

I'm feeling that that will be the most important such demonstration of my lifetime, and that covers quite a few.

I have no qualms at all about inducing guilt in anyone who chooses not to participate in the Nov 2 demonstration. If you care about anything at all -- war, peace, civil rights, civil liberties, environment, reproductive choice, privacy, sexual freedom, anything -- the outcome of the Nov 2 demonstration will matter IMO.

If you waste your vote on Ralph Nader, that's the same as not participating.

Send comments.

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