Saturday, April 08, 2006

A Last-Ditch Attempt

Paul Falcone - 10/07/2004 11:54 AM

Obviously, I long ago wearied of trying to change any minds around here. I started to feel like the dorky kid at the back of the bus who everybody else is throwing gum wrappers at (waaaaaah).

But minds do change. Even liberal minds.

Try to read what follows with an open mind. I challenge you.

Michael Totten, well-known self-described liberal columnist from Tech Central Station, on The Liberal Case for Bush.

And Bill Whittle, writer extraordinaire, on Deterrence (Part I and Part II).

See if these pieces don't get some gears turning (in a different direction than the one you're used to). If not? I give up, and I'll bow out of here gracefully.

I've done everything I can.

Joe Code - 10/07/2004 09:10 PM

No need to bow out gracefully or otherwise. Almost everyone on this site has been that dorky kid at one time or another in our lives. One thing I've learned about that over the years is this: In every relationship it takes two. That goes for all relationships including the ones between dorks and bullies.

I have to say that this is one of the few times you've made an attempt at reasoned discourse on a subject that is so fraught with emotion. Most of the time your posts on these subjects have been that of an angry bully and sometimes I was the dork in your line of fire and it wasn't pretty. I understand my responsiblities for this relationship, but I think you should understand yours too.

This was a good post. I would like to see more posts like this from you. Reasonable, pointed, and not a hint of bitterness. In answer to your query, I have read the articles, but the arguments weren't enough to convince me that Iraq wasn't a blindingly huge mistake.

On another tangent, in the long run the many things we say here will not affect world events one bit, so it seems like a total waste of energy to even try to effect a complete change of mind. I remember years ago having a discussion with someone, who is a long time lurker & sometime poster to this site, who observed that when we were all younger we discussed just about everything without necessarily having an opinion. As we got older we changed from discussing things to merely stating our opinions. To some degree I think this is even more so today.

One final thought. You mentioned that "...minds do change. Even liberal minds." If we in the liberal bosom of this site are going to submit to considering a change of mind. You might like to consider that maybe your mind could do with a little changing too.

Paul Falcone - 10/08/2004 02:47 PM

Well, Joe, although I can see a certain anger coming through in some of what I've written on here, it's kinda hard to picture yourself as a bully when you're completely alone in your beliefs and everyone else seems to be marching in lock-step...

Some o' you Ranchers have known me long enough, and well enough, to know that I was at least as liberal as most of you once (if not more so). Aks my brother. Four things happened over the years that changed my viewpoints (gradually): my friendship with Steve Edgerston, who was always what I'd call a practical conservative; working for the US Navy during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian revolution; my marriage to Regina and subsequent introduction to many Russian immigrants, ALL of whom loved Ronald Reagan; and, of course, 9/11, which for me only served to cement many things I already believed by then about the nature of America's role in the world. The similarities between the present age and the onset of World War II are very disquieting. There is no doubt that we are at war with an enemy who is bent on our complete destruction, and that ultimately it's going to be either them or us. I don't see any way to finesse this, and it's not for any lack of trying.

As for me personally, I have no plans to ever become a Muslim. Most of you know that I've been a religious Christian for many, many years. I see what's happening in Europe, among the "dhimmis" who have lost faith in everything but their secularism, and I see that it's only a matter of time before Europe will be under the sword of Islam. I don't want to go there, now or ever--and I don't want my country to go there either. Think of what all our freedoms mean to you... think long and hard about it.

Joe Code - 10/08/2004 10:46 PM

I totally understand what you're saying about feeling completely alone in one's beliefs. I work in a small office that is filled to the brim with conservatives. (There just seems to be something about the freight business that brings them out of the woodwork.) There is one person there with whom I can share my views. He's about as conservative as they come but we're able to discuss touchy subjects because they're dispassionate conversations. We both recognize that there is nothing to be gained by getting in each other's faces.

Others there are not so circumspect. My boss is the kind of intensely passionate debater you often find in night clubs arguing a point whose subject shifts with the winds of the conversation. While I was a consultant there, he and I got into a near-knock-down drag-out that started out about how much money is wasted by PBS stations. It ended up with him impugning my patriotism because I dared to suggest that there are much larger corporate and governmental entities (ie. the Pentagon) that waste far more money than every PBS station combined.

My dispassionate co-worker's goal is to have friendly conversations with people no matter their stipes. He says he gets new insights into things he's never thought about before. My boss' single-minded goal (more of a pastime actually) is to utterly destroy his opponents in any discussion of politics, because he's always right and everyone else is always wrong. As you might have guessed I often engage the co-worker in conversation and avoid it with my boss like the plague; not because he's my boss, but because it's a waste of energy. (He's completely commited to freedom of speech no matter his relationship with his opponent.)

Now if I understand you correctly you feel alone in a sea of "lock-step" liberals. (I dispute the latter assertion, but we'll get to that later.) Don't take this the wrong way, but I have to tell you that from the way you respond to people on touchy subjects it would seem to me that you feel more like a cornered animal. Where others express a range of feelings and/or reaons for their diverse opinions, you tend to growl & bark (sorta like my boss). This does nothing to engage people or get them to be interested in the diverse set of thoughts you must have on the subjects at hand, and when one barks it invites others to bark back. If you respond to an article, on what many in the liberal cabal feel are very important non-9/11 issues, by writing "Who cares! There's a war on!" then you have no right to feel alone and/or angry when some of those liberals throw gum wrappers at you.

As to the "lock-step" crack: We've got every kind of liberal here at El Rancho Marfil; from DLCers to Naderites. We've got some fuzzy-heads, some bleeding-hearts, some working class heroes, some paranoid anarchists, and a smattering of moderates. Everyone of us thinks differently and if you see us as one voting block who all think the same thing then I would encourage you to dig deeper. We agree that big SUV's and McMansions are evil, but we do not agree on many many things related to Bush, 9/11, Iraq, and Islam. That's just how it is. We can be dispassionate in our discussions or we avoid each other like the plague. I for one prefer the former as it's a worthy goal that all old friends should strive towards: verbal discourse, staying in touch, and continuing to be friends regardless of our opinions.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

My Mom Has Chemo Brain

Originally sent 10/31/04:


> She seems to be managing, though weak
> and tires easily. What's your take?

She sure does tire easily and she is managing; both are true. It's a good think my Dad likes to cook. Chemo makes people weak and tired. Yesterday we went to deliver two loaves of wheat-free zucchini bread and she was on the couch, with golf on the TV, out like a light. Last weekend we came to give her a couple of relaxation CDs for a belated b'day gift, but we had to leave them with my dad because she was out like a light. True to chemotherapy she's been sleeping a lot lately.

On Mom's b'day Donna and I visited and she was very animated. More so than I've ever seen her in my life. It's the "chemo brain". It was as if she was a little drunk (which we both know is impossible). She repeated herself, lost track of conversations, changed subjects mid-sentence, revealed little secrets, expressed strong opinions on a variety of subjects, and laughed a lot. She said she was thinking of having a party on the day her hair is supposed to fall out. I half expected her to break out the single-malt scotch that she was "secretly" hiding under the sink and offer us a wee drink.

One of the things she revealed was that she's been a handbag & shoes junkie all her life. This was after she let us know that she really liked Donna's wide rectangular red pleather handbag. Upon getting up to leave she told Donna not to forget it and added that if she did leave it here she wouldn't get it back. I couldn't believe what I was hearing, my Mom was being mischievous. This has never happened before in the all the years I'd known her. Chemo-brain revealed a side of her that I now think has been un-consciously suppressed most of her adult life.

See you during X-mas. Give Ethan our love.

Love, Joe

Sunday, April 02, 2006

It was a beautiful morning. Nothing unusual.

It was a beautiful morning. A mild fall day with a hint of summer. Not a cloud in the sky. I was a consultant at the time so as usual I was up later than most people. I read the morning paper while eating my breakfast. Then I brushed my teeth and got dressed for work. Nothing unusual.

I expected to get to work at my usual time, between 9:30 and 10:00 am. They were located just north of the George Washington Bridge on Route 9W. I was driving down the Palisades Interstate Parkway and around exit 4 I turned on my radio to NPR's Morning Edition on WNYC in New York. They were talking about some colossal accident and the correspondent said they were switching to another reporter in Washington DC to continue the story there. Then there was dead air. This too wasn't that unusual. Radio stations sometimes hand off a story to another announcer who ends up not being there.

What was unusual was that it went on for a very long time. Normally stations realize the problem very quickly and gets back on the air to say that they would continue with the story later, but they didn't. Eventually I pushed another button and switched to WBGO in Newark, NJ. Normally they played Jazz, but this morning they were talking about an "accident" at the World Trade Center. Something about a plane hitting one of the towers. I immediately remembered that the same thing happened to the Empire State Building after World War II when an Air Force plane accidentally slammed into the building. Many people were killed and a couple of floors were demolished, but that was the extent of it.

The more I listened the more we, the radio announcers and I, realized that it wasn't an accident. That it was done deliberately. That both towers and the Pentagon had been hit. All commercial air craft were being grounded and there was a rumor that the Air Force had shot down a passenger plane over Pennsylvania. Then they announced that one of the towers had collapsed. The horrible feeling you get in the pit of your stomach began to grow in mine because that's when it dawned on me, that WNYC went dead at that moment because their radio antenna had been on top of that tower.

All of this news came crashing down on me during that ten mile stretch between exit four and exit one on the parkway. When I got to work everyone was in my boss's office staring at the cable news station watching that first tower collapse over and over. It was a surreal site, like the Loizeaux family had done the demolition work, except there were none of the explosive flashes running down the structural joints at the corners that is typical of building implosions. The structure just quietly collapsed from the heat of the fire, one floor on top of the other.

Most were silent throughout the whole time we were in his office, except my boss who kept up a constant flow of sputtering bursts of nationalistic invective. Eventually the moment came when we all got up at once and went back to work, except that I couldn't work. I sat at my desk with watering eyes while outside on Route 9W the sirens of every municipal fire and EMT vehicle from miles around was streaming towards New York.

I estimate that about 50% of the telephone system stopped working that morning. (We found out later that a lot of Verizon's equipment was in the World Trade Center.) The individual problems were strange, some people could call us but we couldn't call them, and vice-versa. Thankfully I was able to call my house and talk to my wife. As with me earlier that morning, she had no idea what had happened because she also never turns on the TV or radio in the morning.

My friend and fellow colleague at this account didn't make it in because he saw the news and knew that there was no way he'd be able to get near the bridge, but when he tried to call in it wouldn't go through. He was mildly shocked when I called him because he wasn't able to get through to anyone. Several minutes after I hung up a close friend of his rang his extension next to me and I instinctively picked it up. She was crying, because she couldn't get through to his home or cell phones, and was relieved to find out that he was OK.

Since I couldn't work I went home and we sat and watched the proceedings throughout the rest of the day. I tried to call every single person I knew, especially those that worked in the city. Of course many calls didn't go through at first, but over the coming days we were able to get in touch with everyone we knew.

The next day I got the morning paper as usual, and tried to eat my breakfast as usual, but the front cover was a picture of the 2nd tower with a massive fire-ball. I felt even sadder that morning than yesterday and after eating a little I crawled back into bed with my wife and we both cried for a long time. Nothing would ever be the same again and I think in some respects we grieved over that as much as we did over the massive loss of life.