Thursday, December 28, 2006

My Iraq preference

In my column today (Dec. 29), I made a vague reference that I have "a preference" as to sending more troops to Iraq or bringing them home.

That preference (obvious to anyone who knows me) is to bring them home. I have no idea if that will help secure "victory" (whatever that is) in Iraq or if it will lead to new levels of bloodshed, but it's my preference, because American troops never should have been committed to Iraq in the first place.

However, we're stuck now, and there are no good options. It should serve as a lesson to leaders and the public in the future that war should not be entered lightly. Of course, judging from history, it's a lesson we'll never learn.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Can't the holidays all get along?

Cruising through late Thursday, I stumbled across this article:

It's another case of winter holidays — Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa — and the problems that arise when government gets involved.

Religion and faith are generally a private matter. And if an individual chooses to evangelize and make it public, that is his or her right. However, individuals — and groups — have no right to ask the government to foist religious symbolism upon people of other faiths.

Yes, belief in God played a large part in founding this country, and it would be wrong to forget or shy away from the importance of religion and religious holidays in our culture. But hopefully our national awareness has evolved in the past 200+ years to the point where we no longer feel it necessary to enforce religion through government mandate.

And that's what a lot of proponents of civic nativities, menorahs, and the like seem to want. They want official, government recognition of the validity of their faiths. I think it's a pretty sad proposition when the strength of a person's faith is tied to government displays of religious symbols.

I love Christmas. It's the only winter holiday my family has ever celebrated, and I believe the spirit of Christmas should last all year. It's a time for love, giving, caring, sharing and acceptance. But I'm not offended, worried or paniced if my holiday — which happens to be a pretty big deal to a Catholic — doesn't get an endorsement from Big Government. I'm going to celebrate the holiday no matter what the government endorses or does not endorse, and that self-empowerment should be enough for anybody. Not to mention that my religious beliefs are no business of the government's, and the government has no right to peddle religion to me.

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and holiday season; plentiful tables, full houses, and the comfort of loved ones.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

City Council appointment fallout

Several interesting notes from the Steve Abercrombie appointment to the City Council on Tuesday night:

No. 1: Councilwoman Eveyln Tolbert asserted a measure of control over the council. Her one-candidate list effectively decided the appointment process. Tolbert will probably find a ready ally in Abercrombie in addressing issues of gangs and crime prevention (Abercrombie has been involved in the DARE program for years and was a former police officer in Hayward). Tolbert will likely be the major power player behind this new council.

No. 2: Mayor Brent Ives is able to say he is meeting one of his campaign promises: addressing crime and gangs in Tracy. Though community officials refuse to call it a gang "problem," this issue is gaining currency in a growing city, and the appointment of Abercrombie — who knows the community, is actively involved on many levels, and who, by all accounts, is easier to work with than the sometimes-prickly former Capt. Mike Maciel — is a major policital victory for Ives.

No. 3: Councilwoman Irene Sundberg is further isolated. Her continued support of Roger Adhikari for the fifth City Council spot casts her as unwilling to compromise when the council desparately needed it. Before this council appointment, Sundberg had the righteous leverage of wanting a democratic election for the fifth council seat (and this writer agreed with her). Now her position is very tenuous. Her support for Adhikari suggests that she is very focused — perhaps singularly so — on a pair of controversial developer deals, and her arguments and positions are likely to be ignored on this council. Expect more than a few 4-1 votes on this council.

No 4: It sets up numerous 2008 possibilities. With Sundberg's increasing isolation, expect council hopefuls to be licking their chops at a chance to take a run at her. I have a hunch Maciel will take another run at council, and I wouldn't count out Celeste Garamendi. Despite a failed mayoral bid in 2006, the mayor's seat is up for election every two years, and she could be angling to bounce Ives from the top notch. Abercrombie's seat could also be in play, depending on his performance.

Friday, December 8, 2006

What don't these people get?

I find it very scary when people don't understand the purpose of the court system. It happens when discussing Supreme Court rulings quite often. The court serves to interpret the constitutionality of the law, not the popularity or moral veracity of the law. The same misunderstanding happens on a local level. And I find it downright frightening that some people either mistakenly confuse or willfully ignore that prime difference.
So I was pretty frightened after reading a disturbing Letter to the Editor in the Dec. 9, 2006, Tracy Press.
Patricia Gomez, who wrote a letter to the editor, was "Surprised at the San Joaquin County Superior Court judge's ruling on Measure A because more than 2,500 Tracy residents want these sports fields now, not in 20 years."
Um, hello?
The court's ruling against a developer deal that would have essentially exchanged sports fields for housing rights was based on the fact that the deal violated law. Popularity has nothing to do with it.
Judges rule on the legality of issues, and popular support for one side or the other (hopefully) has nothing to do with the final verdict.
Mrs. Gomez, it doesn't matter if you feel "No one can or will stop this community effort because it's that important."
No matter how many supporters line up behind this developer deal or how many people think it's important, it will still be illegal.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Finally: Plugged into the blogosphere

This marks my entry into the blogosphere, a realm much-heralded and -hyped by the media, even while many in the mainstream fear its increasing power over a society plugged in electronically almost every minute of the day.
I've never paid much attention to any blog before, mostly because they tend to be wildly biased and fabulously unresearched. Any yahoo can put a rant online and call it "must-read material."
That's part of what makes this so inticing a medium to me — there's only so much you can print in a family-oriented newspaper. Despite newspapers' claims of being bastions of the Frist Amendment, there's a surprising amount of self-censorship in many newsrooms. That isn't to say the Tracy Press writers look over their shoulders to see what the advertisers want and what business deals the publisher is making or who the editor goes to dinner with. Actually, the writers at the Press do a great job, in my opinion, of only focusing on their job — finding and reporting the news. But there's a limit to what any publisher and editor will allow in print (I know, I edit the copy at the Press).
The world of blogs is more true to the concept of freedom of expression. The lack of general checks and balances is why I am trying my hand here (not to mention that sometimes I get an idea that isn't worth 600-plus words of print in a newspaper). Of course, with no checks and balances, there's no guarantee that the content being published is anywhere close to sensible or balanced, let alone accurate.
So I invite you to be the balance. I'll have my tangents. You'll disagree with me. I'll disagree with you. Hopefully, we'll both learn something.
So write in. I welcome it. Without response, it'll be pretty lonely out here in the blogosphere.