First, the annual reminder about voting.

Next, a repeat of last year's bitch about the ballot.This year was same shit, different slate. The only two contests on the ballot this year were Proposition One, an attempted power-grab by the state legislature under the rubric of 'budget process reform', and Proposition Two, a bond act for roughly three-and-a-half-billion dollars, only half of which would go to improving the transportation system that is used by well over half the commuters in the state.  No on One, Yes on Two - but that's just my opinion. All of the races for offices were 'uncontested' (same definition as last year) or no-votes.

Interesting observation: All of the anti-abortion ranting that makes the media seems to come from people who tend to take positions on other issues that are considered characteristic positions of the extreme wing of the Republican party.  Yet the Right-to-Life party in New York State seems to universally and consistently endorse ... Democrats? Wazzupwiddat?

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to be able to read their friends pages without getting overwhelmed )

I am the flag of the United States of America.
My nickname is "Old Glory".
I fly atop America's tallest buildings.
I stand watch in her halls of Justice.
I fly majestically over her institutions of learning.
I stand guard with her power in the world.
Look up and see me.

I stand for peace, honor, truth, and justice.
I stand for freedom.
I am confident.
I am proud.
I am arrogant.

When I am flown with my fellow banners,
  my head is a little higher,
  my colors a little truer.

I bow to no-one.
I am recognized all over the world.
I am worshipped - I am saluted.
I am loved - I am revered.
I am respected - I am feared.

I have fought in every battle of every war for over 200 years.
I was flown at Valley Forge, Gettysburgh, Shiloh, Appomattox.
I was there at San Juan Hill.

In the trenches of France,
In the Argonne Forest,
Anzio, Rome, and the beaches of Normandy,
Guam, Okinawa, Korea, Khe San, Saigon, Viet Nam know me.

I was there.

I led my troops.  I was dirty, battleworn, tired.
But my soldiers cheered me, and I was proud.

I have been burned, torn, and trampled on
  in the streets of countries I have helped set free.
It does not hurt, for I am invincible.
I have been soiled upon, burned, and trampled on
  in the streets of my country.
And when it is done by those whom I've served in battle,
  it hurts.
But I shall overcome, for I am strong.

I have slipped the bonds of Earth,
  and stood watch over the uncharted frontier of space
  from my vantage point on the Moon

I have borne witness to all of America's finest hours
  and to her deepest shames.

But my finest hour is yet to come.

When I am torn into strips and used as bandages
  for my wounded comrades on the battlefield;
When I am flown at half-mast to honor my soldiers;
Or when I lie in the trembling arms of a grieving parent
  at the grave of their fallen son or daughter,

I am proud.

September 11, 2001 was not the first time that the World Trade Center in New York had been targetted in a terrorist attack. On February 26, 1993, a truck bomb went off in the underground garage. Six people died, and over one thousand were injured (most by smoke inhalation). A memorial was created to those victims; that memorial was destroyed - and only one fragment of it has since been recovered - in the 2001 attack. A new memorial to those victims of the first WTC attack was dedicated today, incorporating that remaining fragment of the original.


On Friday, February 25, 2005, retired TWA flight attendant Uli Derickson died. Ms Derickson was able to save the lives of all but one of the passengers on a June 14, 1985, TWA flight from Athens to Rome, which had been hijacked by 2 armed gunmen. She did this through variously confronting the hijackers, singing the favorite ballad of one of them, bribing a ground crew into refuelling the plane, and hiding the passports she was ordered to sort for "Jewish names". The one passenger that she was unable to save was a US Navy diver. Ms Derickson has seemingly been forgotten, but she is one person to whom the appellation "hero" truly applies.

Having secure my moral right to bitch for the next four years, I'm just going to say that the ballot this year SUCKED.  With all the cross-endorsements for parties that represent things that I cannot in good conscience allow my vote to endorse even indirectly, a good third of the races on the ballot available to me were either no-votes (because all of the candidates were endorsed by no-vote parties), or 'uncontested' (because only one candidate wasn't endorsed by a no-vote party).  This is by far the worst I have seen in twenty-three years of voting eligibility.  And all of the parties were either taken over by their extremist wings, or are by their very nature extremist on their central issue.  Where in bloody blue blazes are the MODERATES, fercryinoutloud?

(For the record: I consider anyone endorsed by the Socialist Workers' Party, the Working Families Party, or the Right-to-Life party to be unsuitable for receiving my vote.  There were fifteen races (counting vote-for-more-than-one races as multiple races, one for each vote to the position I am permitted to cast), and three of them were no-votes and two 'uncontested'.)

Most of what I want to say, I've already said, as far back as 1999, and added to this LJ in 2003. So, for the important stuff, take a look at this entry.

Last yearFour years ago, the voting was a statistical dead heat, and in some states, the margin between the two main candidates was smaller than the number of votes garnered by the third-party candidates. This year, it looks to be much the same situation - which makes it more important than ever to make your voice heard. Most of the choices available are less than satisfactory - but even so, you can make a difference by voting. So go ahead and do it. Then, tomorrow, complain loud and long about the crappy choices you were offered, and keep complaining. But go to the polls and pull that lever, if for no other reason than to show that you care about how your country is governed.

Techie discussion of the Electoral system... )
Three years ago, the world changed.  Three years ago, I began posting to the Usenet newsgroup alt.callahans a series of articles that would eventually lead me into occasionally 'blogging'.  Those articles can be found in the Google archives by searching for the subject containing 'One New Yorker's Impressions', or you can read them at http://home.cyburban.com/~jzeitlin/american/wtc.html.  At the end of that compilation, in an article written a year after the Events, I pointed out the direction that I felt that we, as a country, needed to go.

I have made the error of holding my tongue over the past two years, and saying nothing, as I saw my country head in almost exactly the opposite direction to the signpost that I raised.  I have seen the liberties that have made us what we are become more restricted; I have seen the government arrogate more and more power to itself, in the name of fighting terrorism; I have seen 'sensitive' locations become garrisoned fortresses, where people freely walked before.

We have failed to bear the burden laid upon us by the three thousand people whose lives ended three years ago this day.  We have failed to bear the burden laid upon us by a group of men with a vision, who acted two hundred and twenty-eight years ago to deliver 'a new nation, conceived in liberty'. And we do not appear to care that we have failed in this way.  We have given away our liberty, and not for security, but for an unconvincing illusion of security.  And in doing so, we show - as one of that group of men said - that we are deserving of neither that liberty nor that security.

I do not know what to do.  I can speak out, but I am a small voice crying in the wilderness. I cannot vote to restore what we have lost, because there are no candidates who will implement that restoration. But I know not what other options I have, to wake us up.
I found this on an old floppy disk, apparently saved from an old-style bulletin-board network.

Why Do We Have A Memorial Day?
Because I died...

... at Bunker Hill. Grapeshot tore through my body at New Orleans. Crushing hooves with riders as swirls of blue and grey ... and red ... crashed down on me in strange sounding places like Chickamauga, Antietam, and Shiloh.

The heat and swamp sucked at my last moments in the wilds of Cuba. A green fog of poisonous gas slithered over the side and into my trench, where water stood mixed with slime and blood.

I lay face down in fetid pools clogged with jungle vines, felt the hot sands of Africa burning through my back, lay with cold cheek against wet beach sand, and fell from gingerbread doorways into cobblestone streets. I gaped for air and breathed fire and oily water.

Snow clung to my lashes and ice formed at the corners of my mouth as a tiny wisp of seam wafted from the crimson flow of life out of my ears and stomach.

As I fell forward, I felt the jagged pain of bamboo beneath the water tearing at my flesh.

I fought and died when I didn’t know why. I was killed before I was old enough to vote. I never knew the pleasure of savoring the memories that come with old age. I left mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children, and sweethearts to weep after me. I lay where names and landscapes and faces were all foreign to me. To this day, no one knows where the earth swallowed me.

I was called wop, nigger, dago, spic, kike, honky, and mick. I was tall and short and thin and heavy and young and old and cheerful and sad. I was a shop steward, an insurance agent, a writer, an orange picker, and the head of a grocery chain stretching from Baltimore to St. Louis.

I lived around the corner, up the street, next door, over the garage, across the tracks, on the hill and out of a suitcase. I came from a family farm, a college campus, a factory, a new-car agency, and from Broadway.

I died that we would remain free, that liberty would not perish, that women and children would be safe from terror, that my home would be protected, that an idea would be proven right, that my friend might live, that people back home could make overtime in the plants, and that a sagging economy might be helped.

Sometimes I served my country, sometimes my ideals and sometimes my own ego.

But I served.

On Memorial Day, I hope you pause for a few moments to think on these things. You are still free to think ... and speak ... and publish whatever you wish because I gave the most I had ... my all.

Some of you have known some of my pain, my tears, and the sickness of soul for the waste of human life.

Yet, the giving of my life was not wasted. For perhaps somehow, in some way, people will do something to end my dying.

My death has extended the time given you to do that something.

After the next war, there may be no one left to honor the dead.

— Author Anonymous

Let me preface this rant with a reminder to my readers that I'm in the United States, and am talking about the situation in the United States. What I say here absolutely shouldn't be assumed to apply to you if you're not a U.S. citizen.

One of the favorite pastimes in the United States seems to be arguing about politics ... [more rant] )