Thursday, May 19, 2005

What is a Democrat?

I saw an enormously fat man pumping gas into his SUV the other day and felt some sympathy for him because it was costing him a fortune.

He had a skinny child with him and I thought he’d be better off putting some food into the kid rather than pouring high-priced Arab oil into his tank, but there you go.

Morning was dragging toward noon and it was getting hot. The fat man unzipped his gigantic jacket and I could hear the zipper making a sound like a cat crying in the distance.

My sympathy for the fat man waned a bit when I spotted one of those stupid cartoons of a little boy doing what little boys do in the woods. The cartoon was on the vehicle’s rear window. At the bottom of the cartoon stream were the words “Democrats.”

This passes for political debate in some circles.

It did bring Democrats to my mind, however, and I thought of Theodore Sorenson, who, you may remember, was counselor to and speechwriter for President Kennedy.

The fat man who put his political ideas on the back of his automobile probably doesn’t remember Ted Sorenson, but I can tell you Sorenson is a titan, a man of great intellect and great humility.

Sorenson is a Democrat and has said why. This is it:
- Government's job is more than just to get out of the way of private interests.
- Some problems, created or made worse by an unregulated market, are best solved by government.
- The federal government must work to reverse the decline of real wages and other workers' benefits, seeing to it that workers receive their fair share, reducing the gap between rich and poor.
- Equal opportunity for all citizens is impossible without federal affirmative action in education and employment.
- Devolution of power to states and localities is good in principle but cannot entirely replace national policy-making and national standards.
- Presidents Reagan and (both Presidents) Bush created our huge national deficit. Democrats must, therefore, assure that the poor, the elderly, the unskilled and the ill do not now pay for Republican budget busting.
- Law and order are strongest when the nation attacks the causes of crime by strengthening gun control and assuring equal access to courts.
- Families are strengthened through economic opportunity, not by breaching the wall between church and state or by diminishing personal choices and privacy.
- The USA is but one part of a larger world. The U.S. government must lead in international organizations such as NATO and the United Nations. Democrats reject "protectionism, unilateralism, and fiscal isolationism."
- Government's first duty is to the "little people." The government ought to be there for people too poor to afford their own lobbyists, for ordinary citizens and for underdogs.

What’s wrong with that, I ask you?

My new, fat friend does not know what’s good for him. And he’s vulgar.

GI Jane

I passed by a military recruiting station the other day and I got to thinking that If I weren’t so darn old, I could go into the Army and learn how to be a journalist. That’s one of the jobs the Army says it will teach new recruits.

According to the Army’s web site, they would teach me journalism and it wouldn’t matter if I were a man or a woman. You just can’t be old if you want to be a journalist or anything else in the Army. But being a woman, that’s OK.

The Army has been trying to give women an even break for a long time, and I guess they have had a measure of success. Women are free to get themselves shot or blown up these days and that’s considered progress.

Women can’t actually be foot soldiers in the infantry, but they can get close to the action in Iraq or anywhere else.

Women are not allowed to be on the "front lines" with the infantry squads, but they can drive trucks through the deadly streets of Iraq. The women probably wonder what that means – "front lines" – in a war with guerrillas, saboteurs and insurgents.

At least 35 American military women have been killed in Iraq so far.

And the women can take responsibility when things go wrong, that’s for sure.

If you are paying attention, you might have noticed that of the few people who have been charged in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, a strangely high percentage of them seems to be women. Even though they can’t get out there and mixed it up with the boys in combat.

You remember the trail recently of one of life’s unfortunates, Pfc Lyndie England, 22, the girl who held one end of a leash while a naked Iraqi man held the other end with his neck.

England got both arrested and pregnant. She was ready to plead guilty at her trial, but the judge found the whole thing was so bizarre that he rejected the deal that had been made.
So we now have Pfc Lyndie and her new baby awaiting the next judicial move.

Then there’s another woman, Pfc. Megan Ambuhl, who was charged also. Ambuhl later married Charles Graner, 36, the convicted alleged ringleader of the group who persecuted the detainees. He has been sentenced to ten years in jail. He is the presumed father of England’s baby,
Ambuhl pleaded guilty to abusing detainees and was kicked out of the Army.

The Army also pointed the finger of justice at Spc. Sabrina Harman, a 27- year-old woman Army reservist whose real job back in Virginia was manager of a pizza shop. She was found guilty after a trial and will serve six months in prison.

These women are about as low in rank as you can be and still be in the Army.
There are allegations about one general – a woman. At least she was a general for a while. Janet Karpinski, 52, was the one-star general who was the head of the military police unit that was running the prison.

She has been busted to colonel.

She’s the only high-ranking official in the whole U.S. defense establishment to be disciplined.
A study conducted by the Army last year indicates that many women are joining the Army.

That doesn’t surprise me because when recently I drove by the military recruiting station, it seemed to be having a slow day.

I couldn’t help but think that if you're young with a tendency toward messing up your own
life, the military could make it a whole lot worse – especially if you’re a woman.


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