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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The Trickle Downgrade

12 08 2011

I have mentioned that I got a job a couple times now, but I’ve never discussed it too much because it’s sort of difficult to do. I record local government meetings for broadcast on a nearby town’s government access television channel. It isn’t easy to write about what goes on at work because you don’t want to offend people or appear to be imparting a bias. Some issues get people’s blood pressure up and, if their statements are taken out of context, they could seem rather foolish. Actually, a lot of politics and debate is context and that’s why you hear so many people in the public eye complaining that their words are being “taken out of context,” and I can almost guarantee you will hear that phrase a lot more as the presidential election process gets moving. With all that said, this information comes directly from a meeting I covered. The meeting was public and I think this little tidbit of information serves as a reminder of how irresponsible it is for elected officials at the national level to play games with important issue like our nation’s economic stability for the sake of pleasing a small portion of the population. There is no ‘I’ in democracy no matter how many flags you wrap yourself in, how many times you say the word “constitution”, “patriotism”, or “common sense”, or how much you know – or don’t know – about eighteenth century colonial history and historical figures.
The town I work for is small, rather affluent, running a small budget surplus at the moment, and – according to the First Selectman – has the lowest unemployment rate in the state. They use the Moody’s agency to rate their credit. When Moody’s changed its outlook for the US economy from stable to negative because of the ridiculous brinksmanship of some in Congress, they changed this town’s outlook from stable to negative as well because a town, city, or state is really only as reliable as the country it’s in. That makes sense, but it still doesn’t seem fair and that’s not the fault of Moody’s. It’s the fault of those in the House of Representatives who decided to hold their breath until they got what they wanted even if it endangered our nation’s economy. These people have been called a lot of things – and I’m about to say my piece as well – but I will be avoiding a couple popular terms. I’m not going to call any elected official a terrorist. That is a very loaded statement that I’m not going to level at anyone willy -nilly.  I also think that calling these people hostage takers gives them too much power. I’m calling them children because that’s exactly how they behaved – like spoiled, undisciplined children throwing a tantrum until they get something that shuts them up for a little while. Is that how America is led nowadays? Really!? By grandstanding and ranting and putzing around instead of getting things done they are screwing over places that they couldn’t identify on a map if they wanted to. A note to these congress people – think before you act, don’t act before you think!

Then again, they may find the suggestion that they think to be too elitist. Fear not for I have other suggestions for what they can go do.





A Short Review For a Short Book- Coffee, Tea, or Kool-aid: Which Party Politics Are You Swallowing?

28 11 2010

Since I didn’t totally fail at reviewing I thought I’d write another.
With the growing amount of beverage-based politics out there, Erin McHuge’s book Coffee, Tea, or Kool-Aid: Which Party Politics Are You Swallowing? takes a look at it all with more than a bit of sarcasm tossed in to make it fun. If you’re looking for in-depth, serious, non-partisan analysis of our current political weirdness, this isn’t it. I read the e-book and it was only 68 pages. In-depth analysis of any complex issue takes more than 68 pages. While it does have a lot of factual information in it, there is too much snarky humor in it to call it serious. That type of humor can turn people off, but I like it (Surprise, surprise).

The bigger point that needs to be made is that, though the title is even-handed enough, the book is not without an ideological tilt. The author does take swings at both the Tea Party and the Coffee Party, but her take on the Tea Party is harsher. In my opinion, it would’ve been less obvious if she didn’t refer to tea party supporters as “teabaggers” throughout the book. The way I read it, the tea partiers come off as ultra-reactionary, occasionally short on facts, specifics, etc…, and, whether intentionally or not, providing some sense of legitimacy for every kind of conservative kook who eventually act up and cause problems and bad publicity for the group. The coffee partiers, on the other hand, are painted as well-intentioned, good-natured concerned citizens, but ultimately all of their ideas don’t amount to too much and the group is a bit meek for the full-contact sport that is American politics.

Despite the playful tone of the book, there is a good bit of useful information in it. It also provide a good comparison of the two movements. So, while it might not be for everyone, a liberal with a… refined sense of humor would probably like it for a quick read and a few chuckles. Also, since the holiday season has officially descended upon us, I should point out that the paperback version of this is pretty small. Stocking stuffer size, one could say. So there you go, a little gift idea for a book-loving liberal with an attitude.





One More Day ‘Till It’s Over

1 11 2010

Am I the only one who is tired of the endless election cycle this country seems to be caught in? I remember when there used to be actual news reported on “the news” – you know, stories about people, places and events that are in no way connected to voting. Ah, those were the Good Ol’ Days! Now we’ll get a few weeks to recover and then the airwaves will be filled with who is or isn’t running for president. It’s maddening and I can’t help but wonder what we aren’t hearing about thanks to all this election coverage, speculation, pontificating, and general crappola. What are we missing? A lot, I’ll bet, but honestly, would you rather be knowledgable about the world or the Tea Party candidates chances of “taking the country back”. I’m not sure where they plan to take us to, by the way, but they’d like to take us somewhere.

My own predictions? Yes, the Democrats looks like they are about to get monumentally spanked. Yes, they will most likely lose the House of Representatives and the presumptive new Speaker of the House is John Boehner – the Man with the Tan. If they don’t take the Senate it will be very close. Angle will beat Reid in Nevada and O’Donnell will get pwned by Coons in Delaware and prove that just saying you hate DC and liberals and Obama and masturbation isn’t enough to get you elected – you still need at least an ounce of qualification. As for my state, I think Blumenthal will pull out a win, but I doubt that we’ll give up our 20 year love affair with Republican governors – a love affair that I don’t think has been good for us, but hey, what do I know?

I would be lying if I said that I was anxious to vote, or that I thought I would make a difference or anything else like that. I’m apathetic at best and totally unmoved by my choices. There isn’t even a candidate running that I am all that pleased to be voting against. I’m voting because about a month ago I wrote a post about how people shouldn’t complain about the outcome of elections they don’t bother voting in and I know that it will be impossible

for me to not fuss if we end up with two Republican senators misrepresenting my interests. In my opinion, if you campaign for a Republican, you are one. Someone just hasn’t told Joe Lieberman that yet. So I have to vote because otherwise I will be a hypocrite, which would be bad enough, but I know people who read this blog and when I see them they will call me out on not voting. So I will leave my home and go and vote – I’ll even vote for one of those two fools running for governor – in an effort to avoid hypocrisy.

I think that this election will be blown out of proportion by everyone. Democrats will ring their hands and cry “Woe are we” when everyone knows we work best under a bit of pressure. Plus when legislation eventually gets bogged down and fails, the Republicans will have some failures to deal with instead of just a list of things they don’t like. They will now have a stake in the outcome of things and that is a good thing. While the Democrats are “woe”ing, the Republicans will be crowing about how fabulous they are and how they are the voice of everything patriotic and they will ratchet up the anti-Democrat/Obama rhetoric. I won’t be surprised if we hear rumblings about finding a reason to impeach the President and everyone in his cabinet before Christmas. They will have forgotten that the only thing the public at large usually dislikes more than a sore loser in a sore winner.

And then there will be the Tea Party-ers and the pundits who love them. They will decree that this one election proves that the nation as a whole a ready to be “Tea Party-ized” back to simpler times. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there were never “simpler times”. As much as we love to romanticize our history, people have always been the same. Their motives have not always been admirable. Their actions have sometimes been less than noble. Sometimes we were right as a nation and sometimes we weren’t. Also, most if not all of the issues we view as “modern-day”  have always been there in one form or another and have always been contentious. They won’t be disappearing any time soon and they aren’t as easily solved as some might think. Not everyone desires a return to the financial and social climate of the 1890’s or the 1950’s and even if everyone did, you can’t go backwards. The past can always be learned from, but never recreated. So, while I do think the tea party people will have gotten a few of their own into positions of power, I think they are in for a rude awakening as far as how much of their platforms they will actually be able to implement which doesn’t break my heart.

I could be wrong about all of this. Hate my predictions? Well, go vote and maybe something else will happen. Even if you are as apathetic as I am, go out and vote so you can complain about it later.





After the Glow Wears Off – Why Fandom Doesn’t Work With Politicians

26 05 2010

In the aftermath of the explosion of the Deep Water Horizon – that oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico – and the subsequent ecological catastrophe which is, as of right now, still intensifying something is happening in the minds of many Americans. They are realizing that Barack Obama, the President of the United States, is not a super hero. He cannot take out his Super-Duper Galactic Fix-It Ray and make the problem and all the foibles that come with trying to fix it just go away and neither can Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, or anyone else. Winning an election gets you a very big job, a place in the history books, and that’s it. The pants you put on in the morning may be bullet-proof – yes, they do exist – but you still put them on the same way anyone else does.

In the 2008 presidential election, particularly on the democratic side, much was made of the candidates’ personalities and whether or not they were “likable” enough. If it hadn’t been for that, I believe I’d be sitting here kvetching about the latest mistake President Clinton made – President Hillary Clinton, that is. She had everything – money, connections, experience – everything but a triple dose of charisma and that was her downfall. She couldn’t change who she was, so she lost. It’s not fair, but it’s the nature of the game. You have to be “likable” and you either are or you aren’t. For many people Barack Obama was The Man – the man to elect, the man to back, the man you’d want to have a beer with, just the man. In the world of Political High School, he was the captain of the football team and valedictorian all rolled into one while then-Senator Clinton was the jealous, geeky, overachiever on the debate team, and John McCain was the guy who played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. Neither of them had a chance in hindsight.
The problem with popularity in politics is, just like in high school, it’s fleeting. To be known simply as “popular” is to be unknown and invisible in a week’s time. Politics is a business fraught with unpopular positions. With some perpetually contentious issues like abortion, to take a firm stand one way or the other is to alienate a large section of the voting population. The only thing worse than taking a strong stand on a divisive issue is to take no stand at all. That just makes you look weak. If you manage to get elected, a whole new world of “un-likablity” opens up and is furthered by omnipresent mass media. Make one mistake, say one thing out of line, forget to smile at someone and it’s news and news always offends someone. Make a offhand comment about women in the workforce and someone will say you’re against stay-at-home moms and therefore single-handedly out to destroy the traditional American family. Question military expenses and you’re an evil, marxist, terrorist, hippy, America-hater. Innocently point out the good qualities of a colleague of the opposite sex, or of the same-sex if you are known by the public to be openly gay or lesbian, and you may very well end up being dragged by your sinificant other to couple’s counseling and have to explain yourself. Choose not to go to church and you become evil and completely anti-American even though there are plenty of Americans who don’t attend church and are also not enemies of the state.
These things all pale in comparison to what happens when a big problem comes along – unusually polarizing legislation, Supreme Court appointments, some sort of unforeseen tragedy. That’s when that cult of personality really begins to crack under the weight of the task at hand. It becomes blindingly clear that you can’t walk on water or fly or shoot lasers from your eyeballs. You’re still disappointingly human with only twenty-four hour days just like the rest of us. The pedestal you’ve been placed on by your supports erodes away from beneath your feet and you come tumbling down to earth to rejoin the rest of us mortals. People start to ask “What if? What if I’d pulled the other lever or checked the other box?” This is the predicament that our current president finds himself in. It’s not fair, but it’s the nature of the game. Presidents seem like they have more power than the rest of us and to some extent they do, but we forget they’re also astoundingly human. I could go into specific presidential examples of human frailty – the same problems we see every day in our own lives – but why bother. It’s all old news.
One would think that, in light of these recent events, we as a nation would be less inclined to idealize our political figures but it seems more prevalent today than it was two and a half years ago. For example, Sarah Palin could make a statement saying something needs to be acted upon and thousands of people would go out and make it happen regardless of what “it” actually is. The task is completely immaterial simply because Sarah Palin said “it” should be and they think Sarah Palin is the best human being that ever lived and is right all of the time. Ron Paul, the Congressman from Texas, has a similarly devoted and vocal following. Hillary Clinton, the current Secretary of State, still has quite a fan base even after her election lose and employment with the Obama administration, and some of them are fiercely loyal. Just search Clinton 2012 to see the kind of rumors bubbling up as campaign season approaches with all of these diehard fans lying in wait, though, historically, a primary challenger to the incumbent president has never won the nomination and only serves to split the party and make an election victory that much harder to achieve. Even so, hope springs eternal for some of her supporters who view her as the best hope for democrats in 2012. I say that’s a long ways off and a highly unlikely turn of events. Her high approval rating will plummet if she turns on the administration who employed her for three years or so. Nobody likes a turncoat not to mention that putting your sense of loyalty into question is never the best political move.
And what about Mr. Obama and his charisma? Well, while he may recover some popularity for one reason or another – these things go days by day – it’ll never be quite the same now that everyone knows he isn’t a super hero or a jedi knight or some other spectacular being. It’s like having a really attractive roommate. Everyone sees them as this Adonis-like figure, but you’ve seen them at their worst – hung-over, unhappy, angry, first thing in the morning – and you know that they have their moments just like anyone else. You can’t idealize someone after that because you know that they are no more or less than human.





Life Is a Series of Decisions (Bla, Bla, Bla-Di-Bla…)

17 05 2010

Ok, first a recap.


-I turned twenty-five on the fifth – in other words, youth, as it pertains to yours truly, is the stuff of history and perhaps a legend or two. I hope to hit myth status by thirty.


-I’ve been drafted as a mosaic artist to work alongside my grumpy, republican father. To be fair he’s a lot less grumpy when we aren’t discussing politics. I’d say it would make great sitcom fodder but it’s already been done… a lot.


-I’m still looking for work and it still sucks. Happily, my father’s irritation at having a grown, unemployed lump of humanity inhabiting an entire floor of his home whose only achievement of late is not killing off the tomatoes and strawberries she and her mother planted has cooled a little though things can gets heated when the FOX News folks start talking about unemployment as it relates to the economy. I think he’d like to see the able-bodied unemployed put into giant hamster wheel and made to run, powering a generator able to generate half the nation’s electricity until we learn the art of “making things happen.” Well, that or strip us of our citizenship and send us on a one-way trip to Europe. Actually, I’ve always dreamed of living in Italy. Warm Mediterranean sunshine, good food, soccer – no – football, one of the most melodious languages in the world, and let’s not forget the men.


Daria – the best TV show ever – has been released on DVD. It’s only been off the air for eight years. Glad they were so prompt about it. Let’s hear it for the show that helped get people like me feeling OK with being themselves… to the chagrin of the rest of the world. In addition to the “Glass Ceiling” Project and some impromptu tiling, I have a new quest – obtain the DVD set and revel in the snark. (UPDATE – I bought this boxset. It’s great!)


-The World Cup starts June 11th and, unless there’s a change in my employment status, I will be a complete soccer nut for the entire month-long event. ITALIA!

Now to the substantive issue of the day – how badly do I want to see my Congresswoman re-elected? Badly enough to actively participate in the political process? I’m actually not sure. I like Rosa DeLauro. I’ve met her several times – some before I was able to vote – and she didn’t dismiss me because I wasn’t either a baby or a possible supporter. She heard out my child self and, as much as I hate to admit that I fell for the oldest trick in the political book, I have to say, it stuck with me. From a practical standpoint, I share her point of view on many issues. I think hers is a good voice to have in Congress. Also, I’m seeing more – and by “more” I mean more than one – of those Teaparty flags around the neighborhood and, while I don’t see Connecticut’s third district as a hotbed of hardcore conservatism, it might be time for me to enter the fray as a sort of counterbalance.
I also just happen to enjoy politics. Sometimes it’s interesting, sometimes it’s amusement coupled with a healthy dose of schadenfreude, and sometimes, rarely, something really meaningful that betters people’s lives is accomplished. Sounds like a done deals right? Not If you’re me. As much as the political process fascinates me, there is also an element I find unpalatable. I sometimes wonder if we as a nation have outgrown integrity and ethics in general. Usually I laugh at it as I did here but I don’t know how close I want to get to the system itself even though I like the product. I like sopressata, but I wouldn’t want to make it, especially without compensation. Then again, it’s only posters and phone calls, right. It’s not like I’m trying to be the next Hillary Clinton.

I’ll add pics and such later, but I’m finally tired. I’ve been having a lot of trouble sleeping lately and I’m now like a zombie. I have no idea whether this post makes sense or not at this point. I’ll fix whatever’s most certainly wrong with it when I regain consciousness in several hours. (Obviously, I got around to updating.)

UPDATE – I sent in my info to volunteer. Yes, I do care enough to try to get involved. I find myself caring more and more. Now it’s time to wait and see. It would be a new personal low to be rejected as a volunteer.





The Unbreakable Bond Between Bullshit and Politics

27 04 2010

Here in the US, it has become popular to deride the government as a haven of overpaid, out of touch, ignoramuses who are, rather than doing the good, honest work for the interests of those who elected them, spend their days in DC taking whatever piece of… cattle excrement… which is currently popular with their buddies on the same side of the political aisle, polishing it up ’till it’s all bright and shiny, and attempting to pass it off to the voting public as something far better than the pile of crap it really is. This is the sentiment driving the teaparty-ers, and, for that matter, the left-wing activists as well. Actually, if we’re honest, haven’t we all felt that way about the government at least a little bit in the recent past? Many politicians promise to “clean up Washington” and many have been elected on that platform. So many of us would love to see a bullshit-free political sphere.

But is that actually possible? I think not. In fact, I’m willing to go so far as to say that we need a little bullshit in our politics for it to function properly – sort of like DC’s very own yin yang theory.
I mean, how would anything get done without a little bullshit – “No, really, I’d loved to support this bill, except it was written by someone who’s not from my party, so that makes it entirely unacceptable and generally evil.” As much as we hate DC politicking now, it would be exponentially worse without all of the meaningless platitudes, forced smiles, paper-thin bipartisan partnerships and all of the other bullshit they do to make it look like they really are trying to work together. Nobody would be even close to electable. Take away all the “charisma” – a synonym for being able to bullshit the masses with ease – and politicians, by and large, are very much like overgrown, spoiled children – like that girl, Veruca, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

only older, greyer, and wealthier.
If, through some miracle, anyone was elected to any public office without the aid of bullshit, they’d have a hard time getting the public to buy into any legislation because they wouldn’t be able to hide the fact that nothing in life is free like they can now. We would plainly see all the good and bad and where the lobbyists had worked their magic and so on. Who would be able to stomach it? All of this is nothing more than the usual business. It’s gone on as long as this country has – deal-making isn’t a 21st century thing after all – but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a messy business indeed. I won’t even go into foreign policy sans bullshit. Diplomacy wouldn’t exist. Yes, without a little bullshit here and there, this country, and perhaps the world, would cease to exist as we know it. I therefore conclude that bullshit is an essential part of our political system.