Archive for December, 2004


Friday, December 31st, 2004

I think there are many more people out there like me. I am a life-long liberal/leftist who began to re-evaluate my political thought after 9/11. I don’t personally know anyone who would have even considered voting for George Bush. Well, one guy, one Friend who lives far away. Otherwise no. This presents a real dilemma. I don’t wish to lose friends over politics. It doesn’t bother me if somebody wants to vote for John Kerry. But the reverse is not true. You don’t have to be provocative or pugnacious. You don’t have to be David Horowitz or Ann Coulter and get in everybody’s face. Horowitz eventually made the decision to lose all of his friends. Ann Coulter, presumably, had no liberal friends to lose. But really, all you have to do to be excommunicated is to say something like:

Very meekly and mildly suggest that just perhaps overthrowing Saddam Hussein or the Taliban might just possibly, who knows, be a good thing.

Or that maybe getting rid of Roe V. Wade and turning it back over to the states might improve the political discourse in this country.

Or that America might in some ways be a force for good in the world.

Or that the President of the United States, might be, in some respects, a decent human being.

Or that perhaps there might be unintended, not wholly positive consequences from redefining the definition of marriage.

Or that just maybe there really isn’t a complete moral equivalence between suicide bombers killing innocent people, and Jews building a wall to keep them out.

That’s all it takes, and whamo, you have crossed the line into persona non grata land. There is no longer free political speech in liberal social circles, neither square nor hip. At least that has been my predominant experience.

And so, one is faced with a choice. Whether to keep one’s mouth shut and preserve social relationships, which may also be business relationships to some extent, or to say what you think and burn all your bridges.

Why is it like this? I can’t imagine writing off some old friend of mine because they believe that George Bush is Hitler or America is the greatest source of evil in the world. I am surrounded by such opinions. I hope to God they are kept out of power, but I have no problem with having a lively, no hard feelings, discussion about any of it. We can agree to disagree and go back to enjoying the things we enjoy about each other. I have not seen the same tolerance emanating from the other side. I can’t name names or specific incidents for that very reason. I don’t tell anyone about my blog. I don’t foresee a career as a political activist, writer, pundit. And so I, diplomatically, remain politically silent in social situations.

This is not healthy, in a democracy. And it is not healthy for liberals who wish to regain political power, in a democracy. It is, in a hyphenated word, anti-democratic.

Why You Should Buy Amazon Stock

Tuesday, December 28th, 2004

I know it’s had a big run-up in the last week, but this is just the beginning. It hasn’t sunk in and become the conventional wisdom yet that Amazon has a lock on online retail. The same kind of thing was true of Apple. Nobody was sure that they had a lock on the online music download business, but then all of a sudden, everyone realized it, and Apple went through the roof, just as I predicted.

Everyone is still expecting Walmart to eat Amazon’s lunch, but it isn’t gonna happen. The Walmart corporate culture is: lots of stuff, low prices. The Amazon corporate culture is: the user experience is all. On the web, the user experience is all. That’s why Apple is winning, and that’s why Amazon is winning. Amazon has now become the front end for many, many stores. They have a credit card that gives you $25 Amazon gift certificates on a regular basis. Web sites all over the place have Amazon links that pay them a small commission whenever anyone buys something after coming from their site. The Amazon site welcomes you and presents you with recommendations that get better and better the more stuff you buy and look at. Walmart isn’t doing any of these things. Walmart isn’t about great user experience. Walmart is about low prices for lots of stuff. And here, now we have a website.

At some point it will dawn on everyone that Amazon has it sewn up. And at some point, Walmart will make a deal with Amazon. When these things happen, Amazon stock will double, at least, from where it is now. Amazon (AMZN) is a long term play. I intend to hold it until everyone in the U.S. has a broadband connection to the internet, and then wait a year after that, before I even think about selling.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 21st, 2004

Posted by Andy


                And may the Spirit
                  of the First Amendment*
                    Smile on you
                      Throughout the New Year
Save the three-toed Patagonian warthog!

*revised version               

Mirror Christmas

Monday, December 20th, 2004

The great blue/red schism that has launched a thousand columns and blog posts, has spawned a pair of matching apparitions staring at each other in the mirror. On the red side of the looking glass we have the fearsome bogeyman of the Christian Right, on the verge of turning what’s left of our democracy into a fundamentalist theocracy. On the blue side is the multicultural monster of political correctness devouring Christmas and all other symbols of what was once a great Christian nation.

I realize that what with post-election exhaustion, holiday doldrums, and millions of bloggers joining in the punditry competition, good material is hard to come by, and we are all forced to grasp at whatever straw men are to hand. Keeping the public passions aroused is a never-ending, mostly thankless task.

But com’n people, we have to do better than these vaporous phantasms. A fractional relaxation of paranoia, and they vanish into thin air. The Christian Right of Jerry Fallwell, Pat Robertson, and the Moral Majority made its bid for power years ago, and failed. They’ve been in slow decline ever since. They have their constituency, but it’s as large and enthusiastic as it’s ever gonna be, and it’s not big enough to be more than a colorful thread in the rainbow tapestry that is America.

On the other hand, the pathological aversion to giving offense that has caused the word Christmas to be banned in public, and creches to be removed from the public square, is silly, but it is not a threat to America’s Christian foundations. Eighty percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians. Christians are not an endangered species. Nobody is taking the Christ out of your Christmas. You can cover your house and yard with blinking mangers, shepherds, and wise men, to your heart’s content. Cards that say Merry Christmas are still available. They may even be marked down. The Passion was a huge money-maker.

Perhaps a holiday season moratorium on pumping up the dichotomy, is in order. A temporary cease-fire until after New Year’s. In the meantime maybe we can fill the empty space with thoughtfulness, a little vamping until ready to resume the struggle.

Penguin Lives Series

Friday, December 17th, 2004

My brother, Steve, turned me on to these great little books from Penguin. They are biographies, but short, 200 pages or so. I have finished Napoleon and Buddha, and have started on Winston Churchill. St. Augustine and Joseph Smith are next. I bought used copies on Amazon for a pittance. They’re written by good people and are fascinating, like classic comics without pictures. I am amazed at how little I knew about Napoleon. He killed off upwards of 5 million people in Europe, when there weren’t that many Europeans. Not to mention several hundred thousand horses. And it wasn’t that long ago, early 19th century. Those were the glory days for France. Thank God they’re over. And thank God for Great Britain and Wellington.

The Buddha biography by Karen Armstrong is also great. It gives you a feel for the Buddha’s times, attempts to separate myth from history, and does it all with a profound respect for the Buddha’s attainment and message.

photo blogging

Saturday, December 11th, 2004

Here are a couple of pictures taken in Nashville with my Sony DSC-P41 digital camera:


The Great Satan Possibility

Friday, December 10th, 2004

I was talking to my son, Morgan, this evening, who is a second generation hippie leftist, and he made a salient point. America may not be the great satan, but we have the power to be, if we so choose. And that is what many people in Europe, and even here in the U.S., and elsewhere, are freaked out about. We have the power, and we have a not completely unblemished record, e.g., Pinochet, Saddam Hussein, the fascists in Guatemala, and other scumbags that we supported in the “cold” war. So it is not utterly irrational to be somewhat paranoid about America’s current hyperpower hegemony.

Whether or not we are on the side of all that is good in Afghanistan and Iraq, the fact that we are in a position to be on whatever side we want and there is precious little anybody else in the world can do about it, is an occasion that must give pause to any thinking person in the world who is subject to America’s whims, which is basically everybody. I have a great faith in America’s history, destiny, and intentions, but I must admit that it is understandable that there are people in the world, perhaps most people in the world, who do not share that faith. America is a Christian nation, but it is also a religion of its own, the revolution, that is only beginning to play out, and all people everywhere have a stake, but not much say, in how we go about it.

So, while we can’t ever surrender to corrupt bureaucracies like the U.N and the government of France, we do need to develop a foreign policy style that does its best to alleviate the inevitable fear that our overwhelming power engenders. And we must constantly guard against the hubris that comes with such power. This is where the liberal voice has a role, to which I sincerely hope they, we, are able to rise.

none dare call it, expanded

Wednesday, December 1st, 2004

I’ve expanded the previous post into a longer essay, which has been featured, with minor editing, on

If Abraham Lincoln were president today, there’s a good chance that the doors would be shut at the New York Times and CBS, and Michael Moore, Ted Kennedy, Al Gore, and even John Kerry would be rotting in jail. I’m not saying that would be a good thing. I’m just saying that the line between what is and is not treason in the U.S. has moved a considerable distance in the last 142 years.

In 1862 Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, on his own authority, as a means of dealing with the “Peace Democrats”, better known as copperheads. The copperheads were advocating letting the Confederacy go its own way, rather than going to war. They were actively interfering with enlistments in the Union army. Many of them were congressmen and other elected officials. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton decreed that anyone “engaged, by act, speech, or writing, in discouraging volunteer enlistments, or in any way giving aid and comfort to the enemy, or in any other disloyal practice against the United States” was subject to arrest and trial “before a military commission.” Some 13,000 people were arrested and held without charges as a result of Lincoln and Stanton’s edicts, and prosecuted by military tribunals instead of civil courts. Historians have generally considered this to be somewhat of a blot on Lincoln’s otherwise exemplary record, and that may be so. On the other hand, had the Peace Democrats prevailed, there would be no United States of America, with all that that implies.