Michelle Obama, You Were Right

14 09 2011

I’ve been trying to watch at least part of the Republican debates in the name of remaining well-informed. Frankly,the fact that one of these people might be president disturbs me, but their audience disturbs me more. Last week, in response to a question about the 234 executions carried out during Rick Perry’s tenure as governor of Texas, the crowd broke into cheers. Cheers?!

My issue is not over the death penalty itself. I have my opinions on the issue and I think responsible people can intelligently debate its pros and cons all day long. What I found so jarring was the raucous applause and whoops from the audience. We’re talking about killing people, not a great football play. Whether or not you believe a criminal deserves to die for their crimes, I think we can all agree that executions aren’t exactly cause for celebration.

Last night I had another of those “what country are these people living in” moments. A hypothetical question was posed to Texas Representative Ron Paul about what should happen to an individual who is uninsured and suddenly needs expensive medical care. Ron Paul tends to get a little long-winded, so the moderator pushed him asking if society should just let the man die which lead to several calls of “Yeah!” from the audience. Not as much glee as the death penalty mention some days before, but still creepy.

It isn’t just the fact that the idea of someone dying really pleases a few of these audience members. The thing that blows my mind is that not one of the candidates stepped up to say one of our strengths as a nation is our compassionate nature and that there would be something out there to keep citizens unable to afford insurance from being forced to go without necessary care. Looking out for one another doesn’t mean the “nanny state” is taking over. It means that we are part of a community – local, state, and national. Remember? “E Pluribus Unum”  – out of many, one. It’s on the national seal. (That was our motto before the 1950’s when “god” was added to our pledge to the flag and our money and the national motto became “In god we trust.”) A conservative can still have a soul, but you’d never know it. Empathy is apparently a facet of godless, socialistic, liberalism which must be abandoned as quickly and completely as possible.

In early 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama’s wife Michelle was taken to task by Republicans (and supporters of Hillary Clinton) for saying that America could be a mean country. Well, Mrs. Obama, I have to say that you were at least partially correct. A country which cheers execution, calls for those can’t afford that which will save their lives to lose their lives, and lacks any feeling for those who don’t plump up some corporation’s bottom line is a mean, mean place. The thing is, that mean place is not where I grew up. I don’t even recognize it. When I was growing up, if someone lost their job due to downsizing, lay-offs, and etc they weren’t the problem, whatever lead to their job going away was. A social security check, and the check and medical benefits of a union pension were the well-earned reward my grandmother and many others of the “greatest generation” received for decades of hard, honest work building our modern society. No one ever said they didn’t deserve it or were stealing from their children and grandchildren. Times have gotten harder, but I don’t think getting meaner as a society will solve anything. I’m hoping that logic will overcome whatever makes seemingly ordinary people cheer death and view compassion as a curse.

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John Boehner, Joe Biden, an Unattended, Live Microphone, and What That Should Remind Us

13 09 2011

Before President Obama’s speech on jobs before a joint session of Congress Americans got an unlikely opening act – John Boehner and Joe Biden joking around and talking golf.

Speaker Boehner also had something to say about the Vice President’s wife.

For the record, the Vice President’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, is the one in the red dress. You can decide for yourselves whether or not she’s the “cutest one in the row by far,” or not.

You might be wondering why I’m making a fuss over such a few soundbites that are too mundane to be of any importance. They are just basic human interactions. Well, that is exactly why I’m pointing them out.

We long ago forgot that politicians are, in fact, human beings – much like the rest of us only with better connections. Even on the local level – the level I work round as a camera tech for a small town’s government access television channel – a politician with an opposing point of view is not a fellow town resident with whom you have a difference of opinion. No, they are the enemy and no piece of hyperbolic, incendiary language goes too far in describing them and their kind. These alleged “people” across the political aisle are cruel, inhumane, lying, cheating, unpatriotic, anti-American, etc, etc. Pick your adjective, they are nearly innumerable and if you do run out, take a page from the strategy books of several politicos and make some up. Even the politicians from your end of things seem more like robotic characters – or caricatures, depending on the day and the issue – than flesh and bone human beings. Moments like this briefly point out that is not the case. Neither of these gentlemen is the scheming, devious Disney-style villain we might image them to be and they aren’t. They aren’t androids either, though former Vice President Dick Cheney does come the closest to inorganic life with his mechanical heart. (That’s not an attack, by the way, it’s a fact, so relax.) These two men are merely two guys with big, important jobs who enjoy a joke, a good game of golf, and think that Jill Biden looks particularly fetching.Conversations like these happen in workplaces all across the country and might sound familiar if you swap out a few points. If a comment had been made that “anyone who doesn’t like the Yankees is an asshole,” the conversation could’ve gone like this at the water cooler or in the break room of an office in the real world.

John – Hey, I’m one of those assholes you were talking about.

Joe – Haha, yeah, you’re nuts, man. You don’t know what you’re talking about.We have that meeting today. I hope it doesn’t drag on forever.

John – Yeah. So, did I tell you my in-laws are visiting?

Joe – No, how’s that going?

John – Not too bad if you’re comparing it to, say, a root canal. I swear I have no idea how anyone ever slept in their house. Her father snores so loud you can hear it on the other side of the house! And then this morning I’m woken up by my mother-in-law yelling at her husband through the bathroom door. “Harold, do you have a pair of undershorts in there? You have a pair? Did you say yes? Yes? I can’t hear you! I’m bringing you a pair.” I hope I survive to the end of the week.

John – That’s gonna be the two of you in about twenty years. I’ve been meaning to ask you, did you see that new girl? In HR?

John – Yeah, I saw her. Cutest one in the department. By far.

See? Told you.

Politicians are people, even though they don’t always seem like it and even when they say things that we don’t like. At the start of what is sure to be a vicious presidential election process, I think it’s a good thing to be reminded of. I’m not sure the President’s plan of action for jobs really lived up to all the pomp and circumstance of a joint session of Congress but I think getting all of our elected officials together and talking and so on did get them in a slightly less partisan mood and the country needs that every so often.





Admirable Women – Ahead of Her Time and Misunderstood

5 03 2011

Eva Perón, or Evita, hasn’t really gotten a fair shake, historically speaking. Considering the kind of power and popularity she had in her country and her advocacy of trade unions and her successful campaigning for women’s voting rights, her very public persona, and her power within her husbands’ presidency, she didn’t fit in with America’s Father Knows Best, Wonder Bread, Happy Homemaker view of women and how they should behave. There was also the fact that Argentina still had strong ties with Franco’s Spain. In the immediate aftermath of World War Two, having any sort of friendship with the fascist government was extremely unpopular with most of the rest of the world. Argentina at the time had a large population which was of Spanish descent, so they saw things a little differently. The overthrow of her husband’s government and the incoming government ‘s ban on Perónism also had a lot to do with the way she is seen even now. She was not a saint or without flaws by any means, but I think it’s about time we take another look at her and dispense with the myths and legends and whatnot.

She was an illegitimate child and when her father went back to his wife, her family was thrown into poverty. There was a significant stigma attached to be born illegitimate at the time. When her husband was president, she altered her birth records to make it appear that she had been born to married parents. That’s not good, but her efforts to improve the standing of those who she referred to as “natural children” in Argentina was. As a teen, she left home and moved to Buenos Aires to pursue an acting career. That didn’t really go too far, but she did get a job doing radio shows and eventual she was a co-owner of that company and was making a very good living. Her newly attained socio-economic status allowed her to meet new and more influential people who eventually came to include Juan Perón and the rest, as they say, is history. They married and were extremely devoted to one and other until her death. She toured Europe as Argentina’s first lady and, like all first ladies everywhere, her clothing and hairstyle choices where fodder for columnists who could rarely, if ever, be pleased. Reading her history now as the post Women’s Lib, Millennial, twenty-something that I am, she sounds like the first contemporary first lady – strange blend of Sarah Palin’s fanatical fan base and use of media as a political tool, Nancy Regan’s complete adoration of her husband, and everything bad anyone in the nineties said about Hillary Clinton’s involvement in her husband’s administration, fierce ambition, and solo traveling to other countries. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but a lot has changed since the late 1940’s and being ahead of your time isn’t usually well-received. I find the real story of Evita much more interesting than the movie. It’s hard to believe that she died at 33.





Because Glenn Beck Makes Me Think of Impending Doom

1 03 2011

I really don’t like Glenn Beck. That probably comes as no surprise seeing as the things he says are destroying the country – namely secularism, cosmopolitanism, liberalism, not feeling bad – even feeling proud – about being smarter than a jar of mayonnaise, and a healthy wariness of unbridled, unregulated corporate power – are things which I tend to support. My issue is not that he thinks that people who think the way I do hate their country (not true) and desperately what to turn the country communist (I do not), fascist (nope), or simply reduce it to a lawless, fiery hub of despair (Not even close) or the fact that he spouts this stuff on TV every day while simultaneously insisting that all other news sources are in on the plot and are therefore not to be trusted. My issue is that he’s mainstreaming ideas that, five years ago, would have been considered tinfoil-hat-level crazy. It reached its zenith for me when he started insisting that these popular uprisings for democracy and freedom – ideas I thought the US supported – was actually a signal that the end of the world as described in the Bible is near because those asking for freedom and greater say in the government pray facing Mecca. Yes, ready your survival rations, convert all your money to gold, build a bunker, and pray (in an all-American, judeo-christian way, of course) like your afterlife depends on it because the end of the world is coming! That used to get TV people fired, now it’s all good. A little doomsday theory with your dinner, Ma’am?

So I started to think about what I would need to sustain myself in case of a tea-people revolt, or a ninja attack, or the coming of judeo-christian God into my happy secular world with the intention of kicking my heathen hiney. (Because obviously the thing to do when dealing with something this “out there” is to make a list.) It’s sort of the whole “what would you take with you to a deserted island’ thing on steroids. I’m assuming I have to be alone. Stranger still are the answers I came up with:

  • Astronaut ice cream. Remember that? The stuff you used to get at the Science Museum? Seems like good survival food.
  • Cheese curls.
  • Chocolate. Specifically Cadbury Dairy Milk and Flake bars and Ghirardelli dark chocolate – the darker the better.
  • A wide variety of fruits.
  • The ability to get tri-state area, “good” pizza, and other food delivered.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts coffee on tap.
  • Peach Ramune.
  • Apple cider.
  • Patrón. 😀 (Olé!)
  • As for non-edibles, I’d need a well equipped iPad 2. That’s my books, video games, music, and just about everything else. I’ll assume there’s internet access wherever I’m hiding – hiding while getting pizza and wings delivered and drinking tequila. Sounds like college.

So, in the event the four horsemen of the apocalypse show up, I’m apparently going to spend that last scraps of my life getting in touch with my geekdom. Yes, it’s completely random and makes little sense. That is how I process this nonsense that is taken as granite hard fact by many in this country. A dozen years ago when people started squawking about the world ending in the year 2000, everyone recognized that as a bit nutty and moved on. This guy says it now and people store food reserves. And if you say “Hmm, I think I smell some bullfunky here, then you’re one of ‘them’ – one of those country-destroyers.” The mainstreaming of fear and ideas that used to be the fringiest of the fringe and making people frightened not only of the future, but of a significant portion of the country’s population day in and day out is why I don’t like Glenn Beck.

And the moral of this story? Don’t over-analyze things which every brain cell you have is telling you are bat shit crazy. You’ll come up with something annoying and asinine.

Oh, come on, this post was begging for a picture of someone in a tinfoil hat.





Admirable Women – The Real Trailblazers

25 02 2011

2008 brought a lot of attention to the role of women in the highest levels of elected office. That’s great – I’m all for furthering gender equity – but we got a bit caught up in how historic a moment it was for women. “Oh. My. God. A woman senator is running for President. A woman governor might be Vice President. Oh, we’re soooooo enlightened.” Yeah, not quite. We’d forgotten that we’ve seen women as governors and senators for a while now and we’d seen them running for President and be nominated as vice presidential candidates before too. Time to take a serious look at all the ’08 hype before we get buried in BS of 2012. I’m not trying to diminish the accomplishments of either of these women, but there are a few things that need clearing up.

Hillary Clinton was sworn in as the junior Senator from New York in 2001 and served in the Senate for 7 seven years until 2009 when she was asked to become Secretary of State by President Obama. So, she served a full term, was re-elected, and was then picked to fill a position within the incoming administration. Yes, that’s impressive. What it isn’t is unheard of – at least the different pieces of it aren’t. Let me explain.

  • Hattie Wyatt Caraway (D-AR), after serving in the Senate for a year to fill the seat left open by her husband’s death, won a special election in 1932 and became the first woman elected to the United States Senate. She won re-election in 1938, but lost the 1944 primary.
  • Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for the office of President of the United States… in 1872. Some say the she doesn’t count because her name was never on the ballot.
  • Ok, if you want to be one of those picky people, fine. Belva Ann Lockwood ran in 1884 and 1888. Her running mate in her first attempt also happened to be a woman.
  • Frances Perkins was the first woman to be appointed to a position in the US Cabinet. In 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt named her Secretary of Labor, a position she held until 1945.
  • *In 1972, Shirley Chisholm (D-NY) became the first woman to get delegate votes at national convention for a major party. To date, six women have had that honor – Shirley  Chisholm in 1972, Barbara Jordan (D-TX) in 1976, Koryne Kaneski Horbal (D-MN) and Alice Tripp (D-MN?) in 1980, Martha Kirkland (D-AL?) in 1984, and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) in 2008. * (Updated as promised.)

Hillary Clinton is admirable – she’s done a lot and I’ll get into that in another post – but not for being the first woman to run for president, or becoming a famous senator, or being asked to be a high-ranking official in a presidential administration because she wasn’t first. She’s the one that got the farthest along thus far, but there were many who came before her. She took the individual achievements others had attained and strung them all together in one ten-year period – a feat that in itself is admirable.

Sarah Palin has become not only a celebrity, but something close to a deity in the eyes of many of her supporters. I think any sort of rabid political fandom is a little misplaced – they write laws, not pop songs – but the Palin worshipers really take it to the next level not only in their devotion to the former Governor, but also in the level of their disdain for those who aren’t moved to support her no matter how rational or genuine their reasons for not doing so are. To fail to support Sarah Palin is, to many of her diehard fans, to reveal yourself as everything anti-American. Yeah, that’s crazy. So, what has she done. Well, in addition to being chosen by AZ senator John McCain to be his running mate in the 2008 presidential election – the event which propelled her into the national spotlight – she served as governor of Alaska from December of 2006 until her resignation in July of 2009. With the fuss that was made over her governorship and vice presidential nomination, you’d think it had never happened before. Well, it had.

  • Nellie Tayloe Ross (D-WY) and Miriam A. Ferguson (D-TX) both became governors in January, 1925. Mrs. Ross, sworn in of January 5th, succeeded her late husband.
  • Miriam A. Ferguson, sworn in on January 25th, succeeded her impeached husband. Her first term was plagued with allegations of corruption and she was defeated twice before winning a second two-year term in 1933. That term was also tainted by alleged corruption. (Might it have run in the family?)
  • The first woman to win a governor’s race without being previously connected to the office by marriage was Ella Grasso (D-CT) who was elected in 1975 and won re-election in 1978. She resigned in December of 1980 due to a worsening battle with ovarian cancer which she succumbed to several weeks later in February 1981.
  • At the time of the 2008 presidential race, Mrs. Palin was one of eight women serving as state governors.
  • The first woman to be chosen as a vice presidential running mate was Marietta Stow, the running mate of Belva Ann Lockwood in 1884.
  • The first woman to be nominated as a vice presidential candidate for one of the country’s major political parties was Geraldine Ferraro (D-NY)in 1984 when she was chosen by Walter Mondale to be his running mate.

Dismiss this all as “Palin Derangement Syndrome” if you will, but while there are some things about her life that are admirable, after comparing her to the other women who actually broke down barriers in politics, I’m not singing Mrs. Palin’s praises. She is also still rather young as far as politicians go, so she may yet accomplish something of merit, but for right now I remain highly unimpressed with the political career of the woman people are comparing to everyone from Washington, to Lincoln, to Jesus. Sorry!

There are many women who have done a lot with their lives before what they did was common or even accepted. Being politically involved and female is a combination that just came about four, or ten, or twenty years ago. We’ve just gotten better at it.

These are a couple other links.

A list of women presidential and vice presidential candidates , a list of women state governors, and a fact sheet about women in government as of 2011 from the Center for Women in Politics.