Monday, June 26, 2006

Out the Republicans in November!

I'm a registered Republican and have been all 40-some years of voting. Actually, I'm more of a libertarian in many areas of my political thinking, but I find the organized libertarians too radical for my taste and not a factor in American politics. But I did not vote for George Bush in the last election, and I remember voting for Bill Clinton when he ran for a second term. Bush was abandoned because his reasons for going to war in Iraq were wrong - that was an unforgiveable mistake. Clinton was embraced because he governed more like an Eisenhower Republican than a Democrat - welfare reform, intervention in Serbia, negotiation with the Republican congress. Monica Lewinski was a true tragedy!

This year we have congressional elections, and Bush is safe for two more years. But it's time to eliminate the Republican majority in at least one house of congress. The reason is simple - it's hard to imagine a party with a sitting president and majorities in the House and Senate doing less than the sorry group who are in power now. I give them credit for major sins of both comission and omission - and I don't blame the Democrats for anything, since they have no power.

What are the sins of comission? The first is easy - no accountability on Iraq after the administration's war rationale and public statements were proved false. Second, no control over the budget - they have created deficits beyond belief. Third, focusing on non-substantive litmus test issues like gay marriage, flag burning, and abortion. Fourth, consenting to the administration's secret analysis of American citizens' telephone calls and financial transactions without supervision of the step closer to a police state. Fifth, Tom DeLay.

What are the sins of omission? The first is easy - the Republican congress failed to get ahead of the curve on alternative energy sources other than the politically correct and Corporate-connected ethanol, thereby delaying our responses to high oil prices and global warming. Second, taking no responsibility for the 12 million illegal aliens in the United States despite their being in power during the time most of these people crossed the border - to paraphrase Colin Powell, "you let'em in, you own them." Third, failing to focus on education reform, the only solution to containing poverty and providing meaningful jobs for Americans. Clinton would have made a national issue of reforming education, just as he did reforming welfare.

So, when the air turns chill and the leaves are gold, that's the signal to forget about all the pork that your Republican legislator brought home. Some, including me, would say the Democrats don't have their act together and give little indication they would do better. No matter - this is all about accountability and the Republicans had the power. They didn't do the job and they should pay the price. We have no way of knowing what "would have been" had the Democrats been in charge, but it's safe to say things couldn't be any worse. Show the Republicans the door!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

On the Appalachian Trail

I've been vacationing on the Appalachian Trail. In early and mid-May I hiked 210 miles of eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, continuing the trek that has now covered 1,340 miles from the trailhead in north Georgia. It was 12 days of pain, but that is what a lot of the AT is about. The offsets are the joy of overcoming the difficult trail and the fun of meeting quite a few equally crazy and often interesting people. Of course, in eastern Pennsylvania one will often meet a timber rattlesnake like the one above.

I stepped on the rock that the snake is "looking at", heard him begin rattling loudly, and stepped back when I looked down and saw him coiling defensively. Once out of range I took his picture. Just another day on the AT...I met another rattler four hours later.

Actually, the most surprising aspect of this 14 day hike was the difficulty of the trail. There is no doubt in my mind why AT hikers call Pennsylvania "Rocksylvania". The eastern Pennsylvania trail is 150 miles of high ridge walking, and the ridges are primarily broken rock that is very difficult to walk on - you need to watch your footfall on almost every step. The rocks where this snake was hiding were routine large broken rocks, smoothed and often re-broken by eons of hot and cold weather. Needless to say, your boots take a real beating in Rocksylvania!

Geologists say that the Appalachians were once higher than the Himalayas, but they are the oldest mountains in the world and have been worn down. It's clear that many rocks have broken off the tops and fallen down into the valleys and onto the mountainsides, just to aggravate the hikers. So there are quite a few places that look something like the picture above. It's great to not have to walk across Bake Oven Knob again!

The AT is truly a national treasure, a wilderness trail over 2,150 miles long. Hiking the trail gives a person new understanding of how big the world really is, of how much uninhabited space there is in the eastern U.S. (an amazingly large amount!), and how many really nice and special people can be found on the trail and in the towns along the way. If you have some determination, some strength, some courage, and about 5-6 months of time to walk, you can hike the entire trail. So think about giving it a try, whether you are male or female and 20 or 75 years old - you might very well be able to do it!