What I'm Actually Thinking
Gubernatorial sounds an awful lot like goobernatorial, especially when it's used in a sentence that also contain the words "Arnold Schwartzenegger." Maybe we should get George Lindsey to run. Why not? everybody else is.
On the Ability to Beat Bush
It seems like every interview I hear or read these days with average-Joe Democrats on whom they're going to vote for in the primary has the following gist: "I just want to vote for the guy who can beat Bush." I'm wondering: Is there any Democratic candidate who is so compelling to Republicans that they'll vote for him instead of Bush? And, given this "anybody but Bush" sentiment, is there any Democrat who will vote for Bush just because s/he doesn't care for the Democratic nominee?
My guess, on both fronts, is no. So I guess my real question is: Is there *anybody* who will vote for Bush *solely* because they don't care for the Democratic nominee? And, conversely, is there any Democrat currently in the race who could compel an Independent/Libertarian/Other who voted for Bush last time around to vote Democratic this time? Or is the concern over the ability to beat Bush really a concern that if the "wrong" candidate is nominated, people faced with two unpalatable choices won't vote at all, and that this somehow favors Bush?
I guess there are enough "swing" voters—that is, voters who decide for whom they will vote based on personality, stance on a specific issue, or the lesser of two evils, regardless of party affiliation—to make the difference in this election. Bill Clinton did beat a sitting Republican president, after all (though probably with the help of Ross Perot, who drew votes from Bush the Elder); Michael Dukakis seemed to lose solely because he was portrayed as weak and dorky; and Reagan was loved (or at least preferred to a Democratic party in disarray) by all but die-hard liberals. I might just be hanging out too much with folks who are at one end of the political spectrum or the other (and I might be too far to one end myself) to fully appreciate the power—and the motivations—of the undecideds in the middle, but is the choice between any Democratic nominee and George W. Bush all that difficult to make?
I'm curious: What goes into your decision about which candidate to vote for in the general elections (not the primaries)? Do you identify strongly with one party or another? If not—like me—do you consider yourself liberal or conservative on specific issues that tend to align you with one party or another, even though you might be registered as NPA or Independent? Do you have a litmus test for your candidate (for example, you'll only vote for a candidate who is pro-choice or pro-life)? If the candidate you voted for in the primary (if applicable) doesn't end up being your party's nominee, are you less likely to vote?
Personal attacks or hateful rhetoric will be edited out, so consider stating your case without them.
Voting by Issue
My parents, one of whom is a registered Democrat and the other of whom is a registered Republican, seem to be the swing voter types that I'm so puzzled by. Neither of them is particularly impressed with Bush, but they didn't have a real sense of which Democrat they should get behind. Mom has a strong aversion to Edwards (whom she had occasion to meet while she was head of a Community Watch group in North Carolina), and Dad can't stand Dean (I think the primal scream scared him off), but they didn't really know which candidate they were *for*.
I'd forwarded them the link to a Vote By Issue Quiz that my friend Valerie had sent me, and which I'd found very educational, but Mom didn't understand how to take it, and Dad didn't have time to. So when they came up this weekend to visit, and the conversation turned to politics, Al and I decided to help them take the quiz. It basically outlines all the candidates' positions on 14 different issues—without telling you who holds which position. At the end, you get to see which candidates you agreed with on what.
We read all the issues and all the positions, and Mom and Dad indicated which position they most agreed with for each issue. (Since the issues and positions are presented in random order each time you visit, even though we had two laptops going, they weren't parallel. I recorded Mom's votes directly in the form, and Al wrote down the first line of each position for each issue for Dad, and then filled in the form accordingly when we were done with Mom's quiz.)
I won't reveal which candidates Mom and Dad aligned with, but I did come out thinking that both of them were more liberal than I'd thought—and the one who's registered as a Republican seemed more liberal than the registered Democrat. It made me wish that they'd barred the Dems from mentioning Bush or his administration at all in their position statements, and that the quiz makers had put Bush's positions alongside all the Dems'. It would have been even more interesting to see whether my parents would have chosen Bush over a Democrat on any of the issues. (When you only have Democrats to choose from, you can't help but choose a Democrat.)
In any case, if you're a Democrat or want to vote in your state's Democratic primary, I highly recommend the Vote by Issue Quiz as a tool to help you figure out which candidate shares your views.
Since Pennsylvania doesn't allow voters registered as Non-Partisan to vote in any party's primary, I now have to make the decision whether it's worth re-registering as a Democrat to get a chance to vote. Given that the guy I'd probably vote for has no chance of winning, it might be moot... but if my vote keeps the race ambiguous for just a few days longer, it might be worth it. I don't think it's fair that a frontrunner gets annointed before half the states get a chance to voice their opinions, and I don't think it's necessary to jump on a bandwagon. Would a fight over the nomination at the Democratic Convention be a bad thing? On the contrary, I believe a nomination that isn't a foregone conclusion could revive interest in party conventions, and possibly encourage more people to vote.
Bay Area Bullet Points
Greetings from the Apple store in Palo Alto, CA. Al is getting his hair cut, and I came over here to check e-mail, but the Apple store employees seem to have gotten wise to that ploy—they've stuffed and encrypted the Terminal program. Drat!
I wanted to record a couple of random observations that came up yesterday:
- During a discussion about outsourcing and the jobless recovery, Al noted that back in the 80s, when Japan seemed to own everything, Honda opened a plant in the U.S. Lots of folks boycotted Honda, despite the fact that they were creating jobs for U.S. workers. The reason? The profits were going to Japanese companies. Nowadays there's anger that jobs are being shifted overseas to generate profits for American companies. Which would you rather have in the U.S. if you had to choose, the jobs or the profits? I'm thinking jobs, but that's me.
- While driving back from dinner with our friends John and Kathy, we listened to election coverage on KQED. It was a good 40-minute ride from Palo Alto, where we'd eaten, to San Francisco, where we're staying, so we got to hear lots of news and analysis about the Super Tuesday results, as well as the results of ballot measures and Senate races in California. "See?" said Al. "We don't get this in Philly. I miss good election coverage and analysis." "It's not that Philly doesn't offer it," I replied. "It's that we don't drive in Philly." I'd been touting that as one of the benefits of living in the city—that Al's commute is a 10-minute walk, and I don't have one at all. Now I'm realizing that a small commute could be a good thing...
There was one other bullet point I wanted to share, courtesy of our friend John, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was now. I wish I'd followed my instinct and jotted down a note on my placemat at dinner last night. With any luck, John will remember what it was that made me say, "I need to blog about this" and
comment on this post send me an e-mail. :)
Voting by Issue, Part II
At a family event in Rochester, NY this weekend, my uncle expressed the opinion that coming out (no pun intended) against gay marriage was going to be Bush's downfall. While I do think that gay marriage is a tidal wave in the making, I'm not sure that any one issue can make or break an election. (I didn't get too many answers to my "What goes into your decision about which candidate to vote for in the general elections?" question via comments on The Ability to Beat Bush post, but from talking to people about it in person, I've found that most folks base their vote on at least two or three issues—if not more—rather than one.)
This theory seems to be supported by an article in today's New York Times called "Gay and Republican, but Not Necessarily Disloyal to the President" (bad title, I know; there's no "but" situation here). One quote:
In interviews last week several gay Republicans said they resented the assumption that while straight people worry about taxes or national security, gays and lesbians vote according to their sexuality alone. ... "There are so many more issues involved," said Jim McFarland of Milwaukee, a member of the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians and one of the gay Republicans who met with Mr. Bush in Austin. "I think he would handle foreign policy much better, he would handle fiscal policy much better. I certainly don't want that big tax cut reversed that he passed. There are other issues that have a big impact on my life."
Speaking of that big tax cut, I had assumed some of my older, business- and investment-minded relatives would be firmly behind Bush because of it. Instead, several thought it was just plain dumb. In addition, they thought going into Iraq unilaterally was (in addition to being dumb) downright dangerous. None of them gives a rat's ass about gay marriage (perhaps because they already welcome the long-term partners of gay cousins, nieces, or nephews at family gatherings). They do, however, care about deficits, and about burdening the younger members of the family with a huge national debt. My great aunt, to whom the Republican National Committee keeps sending photos of the President as thanks for her support, will likely be voting Democratic this time around.
Yesterday was the deadline for registering to vote in the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania. (Yep, that's right: Pennsylvania still hasn't had its Democratic primary. That won't happen until April 27, which is about two months after John Kerry was annointed the de facto Democratic nominee.) I let the deadline pass without re-registering as a Democrat. As much as I wanted to vote my conscience, I chose to preserve my Non-Partisan status and save my vote for the November election. The question now is, how will I vote?
The answer seems obvious to me, yet when I took the Vote by Issue Quiz (which I mentioned back in early February, but took in January, before Dick Gephardt dropped out of the race), I didn't match John Kerry on a single issue. He might have been my second choice on some of them, but I didn't research that as thoroughly as I'd intended to.
I'm not crazy about Kerry, but do I want Bush? Hell, no. Against my will I am becoming one of those "anybody but Bush" people. I just wish our "anybody" was somebody else. The good news is that if Kerry wins, I can see in some of the former candidates the makings of a very interesting Cabinet...
Speaking of "opting-out," I finally got around to installing MT-Blacklist, which should make it safe to turn commenting back on until MT 3.0 comes out. Not that I get a lot of legitimate comments anyway, but I'd like the option of starting a discussion without being interrupted by penises and phentermine, Lolitas and Las Vegas real estate. Good riddance, email@example.com!
We're Not *That* Old!
Something's fishy in Philadelphia. I don't know what mailing list Al got on recently, but yesterday we received a photo of George W. and Laura Bush in the mail, thanking us in advance for our support of the Republican campaign in Pennsylvania, and today Al got a membership card for AARP.
OK, so we might be investing a bit conservatively these days, but that doesn't mean we'll be voting conservatively. As for AARP, I'm completely puzzled. Could it be that at the same time the Social Security Administration is raising the retirement age, AARP is lowering the age at which you're considered a senior citizen? (And could they really be lowering it from 55 to 36?)
Random News and Non-News
The New York Times has an article (free subscription required) this morning on bloggers getting credentials for the Democratic (and also the Reuplican) convention. A quote from the article:
"I think that bloggers have put the issue of professionalism under attack," said Thomas McPhail, professor of media studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, who argues that journalists should be professionally credentialed. "They have no pretense to objectivity. They don't cover both sides."
As if traditional media does anymore, either... Hello, Fox News? Or NPR, for that matter?
Speaking of traditional media, I spent an hour this morning working out, folding laundry, and watching CNN's Democratic convention coverage. The main news of the morning was that Teresa Heinz Kerry had told a reporter to "shove it," which seemed to horrify the CNN morning anchors (at least the men; the women anchors seemed less concerned). I could see and hear for myself that Heinz Kerry used the term "un-American" in a speech to the Pennylvania delegates, and that afterward she told the reporter that she didn't say "un-American" or "activities" and that he was putting words in her mouth. What I couldn't hear (or what CNN didn't show) was exactly what the reporter asked her. I heard him say something about "what you meant by un-American", but Heinz Kerry's denial of the *two* words—un-American and activities—suggests that she was asked something else first. What, I'm wondering? The association in my mind was with the House Un-American Activities Committee; was that what the reporter was trying to suggest? Was that what Heinz Kerry was reacting to? Or was the reporter asking a relatively benign question that she misunderstood or overreacted to? I wish I knew. (Story)
Re: The working out, I used to do step aerobics fairly regularly (alternating with Pilates) before I got pregnant, but first-trimester nausea and exhaustion pretty much killed my workout routine. Since about the 12th week of pregnancy, when most of the nausea and exhaustion receded, I've been getting a bit of regular exercise again in the form of nightly walks with my husband. Lately I find myself wanting to get a bit *more* exercise, however, especially since I want to get in shape for all the swimming, walking, and exercise-bike riding I plan to do on our Last Hurrah cruise next week (not to mention all the pushing and screaming I plan to do in December), so this morning I put on my brand-new Gap Body workout shorts with the forgiving, foldover waistband and two sports bras and set up the Reebok step. I moved the step down from level 3 to level 2 and programmed the slower workout songs into the CD player, but I still found it nearly impossible to keep my heart rate under the recommended 140 beats per minute. I found that after the very first song, a song during which I did no leg-lifts or kicks or anything except basic step moves, my heart rate was at about 170. Yikes! I rested for about a minute, got it down to 130, and then tried the (shorter, slower) Body Rock by Moby, but I was still over 150 at the end of the song. Good god, how are you supposed to feel like you're getting any workout at all without raising your heart rate above 140?
I wound up abandoning the step (and the heart rate checks) and just dancing around the basement to the remaining songs. I managed to wake the baby up with all the hip-wiggling and Dance Fever arm-waving; I couldn't tell if he was dancing along to the beat as well or trying to tell me to stop with the pelvic thrusts, already. I hope it was the former, since I found watching the belly in the wraparound mirrors the previous owner left behind exceedingly entertaining. It's a truly hilarious dance accessory, if I do say so myself.
I watched part of the Democratic National Convention last night at my husband's urging, despite my discomfort with watching political speeches delivered live. I'd much rather hear the highlights and analysis post-speech than the live speech, I think because I'm nervous for the speakers. I'm afraid that they'll say something horribly stupid or embarrassing, and that I will be embarrassed for them.
When I agreed to watch we switched over to TiVo, which actually made Edwards' speech easier to take, since we could pause it at any time and discuss some of the points. (Our own mid-speech analysis, as it were.) I was annoyed that Edwards felt it necessary to bring up Kerry's decisiveness and bravery during the Vietnam war AGAIN—and worse, that it was his ONLY example of Kerry's bravery and decisiveness. And hello? Why was there no mention of what Kerry's been doing in the Senate for the past zillion years he's been there? He's been serving his country in Washington, DC longer than he ever served in Vietnam. Let's hear about that, please.
On another critical note, I was a bit disappointed that Edwards didn't make a stronger connection between hard work and equal opportunity in his speech. He laid the groundwork by saying how hard he'd worked, and that he'd had extraordinary opportunities... but then he just told everyone that he and Kerry would work to get opportunities like he had for all Americans. Personally, I'd have liked a little more emphasis on personal responsibility, a "you do your part, we'll do ours" deal. As I said, he laid the groundwork for it with his own story, but he didn't follow through to the logical conclusion, IMHO.
Two things that made me particularly uncomfortable: Edwards' assertion that we would destroy (crush? anihilate? I can't remember the exact word he used) Al Qaeda, and that a Kerry administration would be, in some unspecified way, against outsourcing. For the former, I'm not sure why it made me uncomfortable; perhaps for the same reason Michael Moore's painting of all Saudis with the same "rich, priviledged, having-too-much-influence-and not-acting-in-American-interests" brush in his film Farenheight 9/11 made me uncomfortable. Edwards' mention of winning hearts and minds (or some such) rather than just going in with guns, offered in reference to Iraq, sat better with me.
Regarding outsourcing, I'm still not sure how I feel about it... except to say that we Americans seem awfully (and perhaps unreasonably) indignant that any other country—perhaps especially a "developing" country like India—could beat us at our own game. The answer, in my mind, is not to cry "foul!" like a baby, but to raise the bar, meet the challenge, [insert sports metaphor here]. When factory workers saw their jobs go to Taiwan and China and other countries, all of us smug white-collar smarties told them to suck it up and re-train. Now we're getting a taste of our own medicine, and we're the ones yelling "no fair!" If the Kerry-Edwards plan is to encourage a raising of skill levels, a pushing into new frontiers of science and technology, a turn towards analysis and integration services rather than easily farmed-out basic IT skills, then great. If railing against outsourcing is just another cry for protectionism, count me out. [I guess I do know how I feel about it, after all. :)]
On the positive side, Edwards really got the crowd—and me—when he talked about race and civil rights issues. His line [paraphrasing, here] 'not an African-American issue, not a Hispanic issue, not an Asian-American issue, but an AMERICAN ISSUE' was excellent. Talk about United We Stand. (I was impressed by the camerawork during that part of the speech, as well; the camera guys must have practiced panning the crowd, looking for the appropriate ethnic groups to highlight, ahead of time.)
I'm still trying to decide whether to watch Kerry's speech live tonight; if nothing's being recorded on TiVo, and I can pause at will, I think I might.
Somewhat appropos of the terrorism/Al Qaeda theme mentioned above, Barbara Ehrenreich has an op-ed piece in the New York Times today called The New Macho: Feminism (free registration required). Quote:
So here in one word is my new counterterrorism strategy for Kerry: feminism. Or, if that's too incendiary, try the phrase "human rights for women." I don't mean just a few opportunistic references to women, like those that accompanied the war on the Taliban and were quietly dropped by the Bush administration when that war was abandoned and Afghan women were locked back into their burkas. I'm talking about a sustained and serious effort.
So John and John: Announce plans to pour dollars into girls' education in places like Pakistan, where the high-end estimate for female literacy is 26 percent, and scholarships for women seeking higher education in nations that typically discourage it. (Secular education for the boys wouldn't hurt either.) Expand the grounds for asylum to all women fleeing gender totalitarianism, wherever it springs up. Reverse the Bush policies on global family planning, which condemn 78,000 women yearly to death in makeshift abortions. Lead the global battle against the traffic in women.
Now *there* are some specifics. I hope I hear some from Kerry tonight, too.
In Case of October Surprise
I'm always amazed at how quick pundits are to proclaim, "if the election were held today, I believe [insert name of candidate whose convention just concluded here] would get the nod" after the first convention of the election season. It's like a jury member saying, "well, I think he's guilty" after only hearing the prosecution's case. I certainly HOPE that Kerry, Edwards, and the rest of the Democrats/non-Bushies can sustain the good feeling they've generated this week through to November, but keep in mind that we haven't heard from the defense... er, the Republicans yet.
One pundit who really liked Kerry's chances qualified his assessment by noting that events could intrude between now and the election that could swing things in Bush's favor... such as, perhaps, the capture of Osama bin Laden. I'd like to offer the Democrats, free of charge, my idea for a slogan should such an October Surprise occur:
You've got Osama, we've got Obama. SO THERE!
Just drove back from my sister's house in Maryland. After three days of sisterly bonding, swimming in a fabulous inground pool, and baby-soft fabrics (for both me and the bambino-to-be), I must say that it was quite disconcerting to see highway sign messages exhorting drivers to REPORT SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY posted at regular intervals during the two and a half hour trip. After the fourth sign, I started to wonder if I was driving through Communist China or 1984. I figured that since the signs were in English, it must be my timing that was off, not my location.
Getting Behind the Governator
OK, I will be the second to admit (Al was first) that I might have been wrong about Arnold Schwartzenegger. He's actually starting to look like a pretty decent governor. My main objections to him at the time of the recall were (a) that he was taking advantage of the recall at all; it seemed more like a coup than an election, (b) that there was apparently some disrespect of women and their rights not to be groped in his past, and (c) that he seemed like just another actor who thought his celebrity status made him qualified to be a politician.
As far as his politics went, he *seemed* like the kind of Republican I might actually consider voting for—i.e., fiscally conservative and socially liberal—though I wasn't sure what he'd really be like once he got into office. As it turns out, he's exceeded my expectations on that front: He's managed to adopt a fairly lassez faire attitude on social issues (for example, by saying that he had no problem with gay marriage—his problem was with the handing out of illegal licenses rather than challenging the law banning gay marriages—and encouraging activists to fight it out in the courts), step up on the environment (I worried, as others did, that a 7-Hummer-owning governor wouldn't exactly be environmentally friendly, but he's apparently down to just 3 Hummers now, and he's supporting legislation that would allow high-efficiency hybrids to use the carpool lanes regardless of the number of occupants in the vehicle [more on that below]), and try some wacky new things rather than just govern according to the status quo (for example, selling off junk that the state was currently *paying* to warehouse).
In retrospect, the thing that most stuck in my craw about Schwartzenegger becoming governor—that he never would have been elected if he'd had to run in a "real" election rather than a recall/coup—might be the reason California is being treated to some innovation now. Arnold most likely never would have been supported by the official GOP machine because he's too liberal. Much as I hated the means, the end just might justify them.
What prompted a discussion of Arnold's performance as governor over coffee this morning were two articles in the New York Times: the one about the state garage sale, linked to above, and one titled Detroit Fights California Bid to Open Car Pool Lanes to Fuel-Conscious Import. Detroit's (or, more specifically, Ford Motor Company's and its United Auto Workers') objection to the bill is mainly that it's tantamount to encouraging Americans to buy Japanese because no American-made car would qualify for the carpool lane exemption.
No American-made car would CURRENTLY qualify, they mean. And, of course, no future American-made car would, either, unless there's some incentive for them to do so.
My favorite section of the article:
As things stand now, only the Prius, which is so popular that dealerships report months-long waiting lists, and the far-less prevalent Honda Insight and Civic Hybrid would qualify. The Ford Hybrid Escape, an S.U.V. coming on the market this fall, is expected to average 31 miles per gallon on highways.
In his letter on Aug. 16 to Mr. Schwarzenegger, Mr. Ford wrote that the legislation "puts our workers and stockholders at a competitive disadvantage precisely when Ford is entering the hybrid market with a family-oriented, no compromise S.U.V."
He asked, "How will you be able to tell consumers who purchase this vehicle that they will not be allowed to drive in the car pool lane while other hybrid vehicles can?"
I've got a solution for you, Mr. Ford: If the Ford Hybrid Escape is so "family-oriented", put the whole fucking family in it, and you'll qualify for the carpool lane. Heck, one or two extra family members would do the trick—no need to fill all five seats.
Radio, Radio... Getting Me Riled
I was out running some errands in the car today, and I ended up listening to NPR rather than putting in a CD. In a promo for an upcoming show the local WHYY announcer noted, "One of this country's richest men, Warren Buffett, has a birthday coming up, and it has people wondering..." Was I wrong to assume that she was going to say "what to get him"? Isn't that the thing you usually wonder when someone has a birthday coming up? Instead, she continued, "when he'll retire and who'll replace him." Aw. :(
After some interesting commentary about the day's happenings at the Republican National Convention (which I intend to watch this week, much as it may gall me, so I can understand what we're up against), I was treated to a discussion on abortion on Fresh Air.
First to speak was Senator Rick Santorum, who just drives me round the freaking bend. Every time Terry Gross asked him a question, he objected to her use of the words "fetus", "embryo", and "fertilized egg"—he preferred that they be substituted with "little girl" or "little boy"—which meant that she had to bring him around to the point over and over again in an attempt to get an answer. She wanted to talk about the provision in the Republican Platform to give equal constitutional rights to a fetus and how those might conflict with the host organism—namely, the woman carrying the fetus; he wanted to point out that "over 99% of abortions in this country have nothing to do with the health or life of the mother; they have to do with the convenience or the desire at that point in time in the woman's life not to have a child." Um, how exactly does this have nothing to do with the life of the woman? In the sense that it wouldn't kill her to have a child? Santorum actually uses the phrase "life consequences to the mother" as well, again meaning, I would assume, that it wouldn't kill her to have a child. Does he really think there are no "life consequences" to bearing a child? Regardless of whether the woman chooses to raise the child herself or not, as a pregnant woman, I am here to tell you, Senator Santorum, that there CERTAINLY ARE "life consequences" to carrying a child—ranging from heartburn, hemorrhoids, weight gain, varicose veins, stretch marks, insomnia, and round ligament pain to anxiety, depression, nausea, and extreme fatigue. And for Christ's sake, we haven't even gotten to labor and delivery yet, much less the next 18-30 years of emotional, physical, educational, and financial responsibility. I would argue strenuously that being able to choose whether and when to have children is fundamental to women's rights. (But, of course, giving a fetus "equal" rights isn't really about equal rights at all—it's about valuing the rights of the fetus *above* those of the woman carrying it. OF COURSE THOSE RIGHTS ARE GOING TO COME INTO CONFLICT.)
While I could understand (despite being appalled by) the idea of an exception to a ban on abortion when the pregnant woman's life is in danger being somehow equivalent to committing murder in self-defense, I don't think Santorum ever fully answered Gross' question about exceptions in the case where a pregnancy could compromise the health of the woman. His response was, "Again, the law is very clear on this point... if your life is threatened, then you can respond in kind. If something less than that, then you can respond in less than that." Huh? Is it possible that he's advocating partial-birth abortions? (Sorry, bad joke.) No, judging by his further comments, I suspect he meant that your only possible response is medical intervention (short of terminating the pregnancy) to try to mitigate any negative health effects.
Senator Santorum next pissed me off by asserting the Republican Party line that Democratic judges are somehow "activist" judges who create new law, while Republican judges are "traditionalists" who merely interpret it. Bullshit. Gross was right to call him on that point, to suggest that perhaps the judges the Republicans wanted to appoint had just as much of an agenda—namely, to overturn Roe v. Wade.
It's hard for me to articulate what so frustrated me about Santorum's final story, a highly personal one about his and his wife's choice to perform a risky, in vitro operation on their unborn child in an attempt to improve its chances of living rather than to abort the pregnancy or let the baby die once delivered. I felt great sympathy for them and the hard choice they had to make; incidentally, it's what most women (I'd even go so far as to say "over 99%") go through when deciding whether to terminate a pregnancy. The operation ended up causing an infection, which in turn caused premature delivery of the child at 21 weeks. And here's the part that's hard to articulate, because I can't point to anything Santorum *said* that particularly annoyed me. It was more the sense of awe, the profound effect that witnessing the 2-hour life of his son had on him... and the implication that only someone who truly appreciates life could have had the same reaction. Santorum gave the impression earlier in the interview that women who choose abortion are being anti-life, when most are hardly so cavalier. Most people (yes, women included!) have a profound respect for life, and despite Santorum's assertion that continuing a pregnancy has no "life consequences," I can't think of anything more profoundly consequential. Deciding whether to have children can be agonizing, and whether you choose to go ahead with a pregnancy or not, you are choosing life.
The second half of Fresh Air was devoted to an interview with the President of Planned Parenthood, Gloria Feldt. Even though I support her position, I was a bit disappointed that she was often as given to rhetoric as Santorum. She did, however, make two points that I thought were pretty interesting. One was that Planned Parenthood (along with other anti-violence groups) opposes the so-called "Laci Petersen Law," which makes it a separate crime to harm the unborn fetus of a pregnant woman, because it does not increase penalties for harming pregnant women, who are 20% more likely than non-pregnant women to be assaulted and killed. It does nothing, in other words, to protect pregnant women from abuse. It does, however, establish a fertilized egg as having legal standing as a person. Can anyone say "legal precedent"?
The other interesting point she made had to do with the partial birth abortion ban. Rather than try to rephrase, I'll quote her directly here, because I think she describes the situation pretty well:
The abortion ban, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Bush last November...outlaws abortions even as early as the beginning of the second trimester for any reason. It outlaws a vague and undefined range of techniques that doctors use in order to be able to provide the best care for their patient[s]—and by that I mean doctors are always trying to protect the woman's health and her future fertility, her future ability to bear children. So this law is unconstitutional under Roe; an almost precisely identical law has already been overturned by the United States Supreme Court. And again, Congress knows this, John Ashcroft knows this, George Bush knows this—but the Ashcroft Justice Department is aggressively defending this law in spite of the fact that it is unconstitutional because he [Ashcroft, presumably] hopes that by the time it works its way up to the Supreme Court, there will be a different Supreme Court.
Now there's a chilling thought.
There's Something Stuck in His Throat
Is it just John McCain's speaking style, or is this how he sounds when his heart's not in it?
Please Stop Chanting
I'm listening to Arnold Schwartzenegger speak at the Republican National Convention at the moment, and while he's often compelling, he's not always coherent. I didn't really understand the comment about all the troops he's met not buying the "two Americas" concept—or rather, I didn't believe it. Many of those troops are the best example there is of the gulf between rich and poor, between those who have opportunities and those who don't. How many of those troops *are* troops because it was the only way they could afford college or get vocational training?
So far Arnold's made some good points about what Republicans stand for (as well as some bad jokes about his movies), and he's done his best to make it sound as if there's room for everyone in the Republican Party, even if you can't quite get behind the gay bashing and the desire to roll back women's rights. But I have to say, I found the chants from the crowd of "USA! USA!" at various (inopportune) moments during his speech completely unnerving, and in incredibly bad taste. I love this country, and I feel so privileged to have been born and grown up here... but when people chant "USA! USA!" after a remark about how this country knows better than the United Nations, I feel embarrassed. Please, people, don't make me embarrassed to be an American. Please stop chanting.
[Cue Coors Music] ...And the *Twins*
OK, now I'm just embarrassed.
More Convention Coverage
I put the computer away while Laura Bush was speaking last night, mainly because I needed time to absorb what she was saying before I could comment on it. After the Beavis and Butthead-like performance of the Bush twins (huh huh, heh heh heh), Laura Bush's speech was compassionate, coherent, reasonably upbeat, and surprisingly smirk-free. It's really too bad she's married to such a schmuck.
This morning's Washington Post has a column by Tom Shales (I actually just looked to see who wrote it, and had an "aha!" moment—I used to enjoy his commentaries when I lived in D.C.) worth reading called Man of Steel Flies into Washington. It's mainly about Arnold Schwartzenegger's speech, but it also includes some analysis of the Republicans' use of TV/technology, as well as this hilarious quote:
At the Fox network, the Republican convention is being covered like a happy birthday party for God, with the channel's right-leaning commentators and anchors hanging on for the joyride of their lives, all but turning cartwheels.
We were watching CNN, since neither of us can abide Fox News, but when the TiVo changed channels on us (to Bravo, for the West Wing) at 11pm, I couldn't convince Al to change back to the convention. "There's only so much I can take," he said. He seemed to find it more unnerving and demoralizing than me reading aloud from the 9/11 Commission report.
Look Away, Look Away!
I upgraded the blogs at lori-and-al.com to Movable Type 3.0D weeks ago (though I've yet to rebuild the completely hosed about_town databases, which accounts for why I haven't added to them in forever), but I've been procrastinating when it comes to upgrading over here at avocado8. Well, today's the day I take the plunge. Things might look broken or weird for a while, so please bear with me while I get things organized. Thanks!
In the meantime, for your ranting pleasure, I give you this quote from our country's lead fear-monger:
It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States.
— VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY
Update: Since there's been some controversy surrounding this quote (see the comments), here it is in context, from the transcript. See if reading the surrounding text changes your impression of the original quote's meaning. (I have to say, it doesn't change mine.)
We made decisions at the end of World War II, at the beginning of the Cold War, when we set up the Department of Defense, and the CIA, and we created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and undertook a bunch of major policy steps that then were in place for the next 40 years, that were key to our ultimate success in the Cold War, that were supported by Democrat and Republican alike -- Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower and Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon and Gerry Ford and a whole bunch of Presidents, from both parties, supported those policies over a long period of time. We're now at that point where we're making that kind of decision for the next 30 or 40 years, and it's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on November 2nd, we make the right choice. Because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again, that we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States, and that we'll fall back into the pre-9/11 mind set if you will, that in fact these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts, and that we're not really at war. I think that would be a terrible mistake for us.
We have to understand it is a war. It's different than anything we've ever fought before. But they mean to do everything they can to destroy our way of life. They don't agree with our view of the world. They've got an extremist view in terms of their religion. They have no concept or tolerance for religious freedom. They don't believe women ought to have any rights. They've got a fundamentally different view of the world, and they will slaughter -- as they demonstrated on 9/11 -- anybody who stands in their way. So we've got to get it right. We've got to succeed here. We've got to prevail. And that's what is at stake in this election.
This weekend Al and I were in San Francisco for the beautiful wedding of two friends. When the officiant asked the bride's father, who walked her down the aisle, "who gives this woman in holy matrimony?", the father replied in a booming voice, "she gives herself!" All RIGHT!! As the bride and groom joined hands, the officiant said some things about marriage that I can't begin to articulate now but that were so true they made my heart burst and shoot into my throat—which made my eyes water, of course. Actually, the whole event seemed designed to make my heart swell and my eyes water. The reception was on the 32nd floor of the Westin St. Francis, in a room that featured panoramic views of a city I love (and that the bridge and groom do, too, of course), and the first dance was to I Left My Heart in San Francisco. <sob!> My heart is swelling now just thinking of it, just looking at this snapshot of love.
It was a perfect little weekend that reminded us of what we love and miss about San Francisco (just as we've finally gotten used to Philadelphia, ironically). We stayed in SOMA, near the ballpark, and it was cool to see how that area has grown and improved. We had looked at some lofts on either side or Pac Bell (now SBC) Park early last year, and it's still our first choice for where we'd want to live if we moved back to California. (I think it's more likely that we'll live somewhere else—somewhere other than Philly—before we make our way back to SF, though.) I got to see my friend Kristin and have dessert and coffee at an incredible bakery at 18th and Guerrero (Cafe Tartine—I highly recommend the vanilla cream fruit tarts and the rich chocolate brownies), and together Al and I got to visit our favorite place for dim sum (Ton Kiang) and stuff ourselves silly at the Indian buffet near our old house down on the peninsula (the name has changed from Swagat's to Dastoor, and the food is even better than before). Oh, and we also stocked up on See's chocolates, which can't be found here in Philly. (Is there any doubt now how I've managed to gain almost 30 pounds already with this pregnancy?) Walking around the city and snapping photos inspired me to rebuild the original about town database and add a few more photos to it; I'll add a few more over the coming days.
This coming weekend I'll return to another former home city—Boston—for another wedding. Two friends who have been together since I was a kid are finally getting married, thanks to the Massachusetts Supreme Court's recognizing their right to do so. It's a little shocking to me that so many in this country would want to deny others the love, comfort, and legal rights afforded by marriage. The idea that these two amazing people—who have already been sharing their lives for better and for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, raising children and caring for aging parents, changing jobs and starting businesses, building a nest (and then expanding and remodeling it) for more than 20 years—would be denied the medical decisionmaking, estate planning and inheritance, and other legal rights of spouses is insane to me. Even heterosexual couples who never marry can end up with these rights in many states by virtue of "common law," for pete's sake. This couple's desire to marry *affirms* marriage, strengthens the foundation of our society, inspires others to live lives of love and commitment. I'm eager to witness this affirmation. And I fully expect to cry.
Two Op-Eds Worth Reading
These editorials ran on the same page of Friday's New York Times, and they're both excellent. If you haven't registered to read the NYT online yet, now's the time—it's totally free.
Bush Upbeat as Iraq Burns
By BOB HERBERT
With deaths mounting in Iraq, the world needs more from the president of the United States than the fool's gold of his empty utterances.
Let's Get Real
By PAUL KRUGMAN
President Bush claims that John Kerry's plan to rebuild Iraq is "exactly what we're currently doing," but really it's only what Mr. Bush is currently saying.
Am I wrong or insane for finding this debate so fucking hilarious? Yeah, Bush has made one or two good points—I'm happy to admit that, because he's put me in such a good mood. All the whining, the goofy facial expressions while Kerry is speaking, the punchy emphasis on certain words (VICTORY!), the almost bluesy tone he adopts when talking about what it's like to lead the war in Iraq ("and it's SO HARD [babysittin' these guys]"), the talking points he keeps returning to ("he's a flip-flopper!"), hoping that nobody notices they're nonsequiturs... it's belly laugh-inducing, I tell you.
To help you sound less like a Daily Show segment in the next debate, Mr. Bush, I offer the following observations:
- You sound stupid when you keep asserting that you meet with world leaders and heads of intelligence agencies all the time, mainly because you say it with such pride—like they're magnetically attracted to your power and personal charm or something.
- When you get flustered, you tend to spew random, unconnected words: Poland! terror! injustice! coalition!
- By continually repeating that one can't lead the country if he sends mixed messages, you're actually weakening your argument that you're steadfast and consistent. What you are is repetitive, and possibly intransigent in the face of shifting priorities, intelligence, and political realities around the world.
- I wouldn't be so quick to ask for 30 extra seconds to respond to Kerry's points if I were you. It's obvious that you're shooting from the hip, and you're doing yourself more harm than good. To use a hockey analogy, it's like spotting an open passing lane that will let you clear the puck from your own zone—one that's right through the slot. How are you not seeing the danger of passing in front of your own net? Are you really so focused on clearing the puck that you'd risk getting scored on?
Saying, "listen, I'm not stupid," isn't very smart.Al tells me you didn't actually say, "listen, I'm not stupid." Apparently that was just my impression of what you said (which kinda proves my point). What you actually said was, "First of all, of course I know Osama bin Laden attacked us. I know that." It sounds just as dumb, as if you'd said, "I'm not delusional, you know." That's the kind of thing that makes you sound *more* delusional, not less. As you've probably heard time and again from advisors and critics, saying doesn't make it so. At this point, you've got to prove it.
This is what I hear when Dick Cheney is talking: Blah blah blah murmur murmur blah blah murmur murmur blah blah blah... blah.
This is what I hear when John Edwards is talking: What John Kerry should have said.
Other random observations as I watch the debate:
- When I *am* able to distinguish words while Cheney is talking, he's saying things that should be valid criticisms of Kerry and Edwards—and yet they're falling like punches in a dream. They never seem to land.
- I'm a little unnerved by how Edwards keeps addressing Cheney directly (and I think Cheney finds it downright irritating).
- Edwards is really good at summing up when that red light comes on. And just when I think he's so far off the subject of the question that he's practically on another planet, he somehow turns the ship back toward earth and makes everything he's just said seem relevant by using the keywords from the question. Impressive.
- I'm hating this moderator. Her questions are overly complex and asked too quickly. Bring back slow and steady Jim Lehrer!
- And speaking of the moderator, is it just me, or is she putting Cheney on the spot more than she's putting Edwards on it? Or is Edwards just better at answering the questions (and deflecting the implied criticisms)?
- Gah, what the fuck are you doing, Edwards? Cheney just gave you a golden opportunity on the AIDS question by focusing on the $15 billion the Bush administration appropriated for AIDS treatment *overseas*, when the moderator asked *specifically* about the *domestic* AIDS problem among black men—and then admitting that he didn't know much about the domestic AIDS problem. Instead of jumping on that and talking about domestic AIDS policy, you talked about Africa! IDIOT! Forget what I said before about your ability to come back to the topic at hand. You're starting to suck.
- I think I just figured out why I was hearing "blah blah blah murmur murmur, blah blah, murmur murmur murmur" from Cheney before: he keeps cupping his hands under his chin—and covering the lap mike on his tie.
- Is it bad that we're starting to feel sorry for Cheney? Could the fact that he's starting to seem pathetic work in his favor somehow?
- Was that ripping noise Edwards tearing off strips of paper with which to make spitballs?
Not Just Not the Party of Fiscal Responsibility
It's always bugged me that the Republican Party has a reputation of being the party of fiscal responsibility, since they obviously can't balance a budget to save their lives. (Heck, I wonder if they could even balance a checkbook.) I found it particularly amusing that in the first presidential debate, Bush shook his head and laughed at Kerry's long list of proposals, wondering how he was going to pay for them... and then proceeded to brag about how much his administration has spent over the past four years. And how did *you* pay for this spending, Mr. Bush? Oh, that's right, you didn't! You're sticking our kids with the bill!
Now it turns out that the Republicans are not only not the party of fiscal responsibility; they're also not the party of smaller government. In FactCheck.org's (not factcheck.com, as a certain VP mis-identified it, although I encourage you to visit that site as well) analysis of claims made by the two candidates in the vice presidential debate, I found this interesting note about job creation/loss during the past four years:
Edwards said 1.6 million private sector jobs and 2.7 million manufacturing jobs had been lost during the Bush administration. Both figures are accurate, but omit the growth in employment by federal, state and local governments. The net loss in total employment is actually 913,000 as of August, the most recent figures available. [Emphasis added.]
I have to admit that this was a bit of a shocker: Federal, state, and local government payrolls have actually *grown* over the past four years. Don't get me wrong—I certainly have no objection to jobs being created, or to improving our national security. I just think that if you're still an undecided voter, one that's attracted to the goals of fiscal responsibility and smaller government, you might give some thought as to whether Republicans are really committed to those goals—or whether they're just saying they are. (And what else might they be saying in hopes that you'll believe it?)
Impressions of tonight's debate, the first part of which I heard on the radio while in the car (everything up to domestic policy), and the second part of which I'm currently watching on TiVo (everything from domestic policy on):
- I'd rather listen on the radio than watch on TV, though being able to pause and think about/discuss points made is nice. I'm finding Bush creepily defensive—at the rate he's screeching his responses, he won't have a voice left by the end—and that impression is heightened when I have to watch him walking around, gesturing at the crowd. When I was listening on the radio, I pictured both candidates sitting still, which was a much more pleasant image.
- Heh heh... he said internets, heh heh.
- During the radio portion, we got a giggle out of the fact that I beat Bush to saying, "I've met with these guys!" by about a second in response to a foreign policy question. I knew he was going to say it because that's the phrase he fell back on time and again during the first debate to prove that he's a world leader.
- Bush has obviously stepped up his game for this debate... but Kerry also stepped up his. Kerry has done a great job of attacking Bush while remaining completely dignified. Bush just seems like an angry bee.
- Bush's 30-second responses can be summed up with a single phrase: "because I say so!" I can't believe he really thinks that repeating allegations Kerry just thoroughly rebutted is a good idea. Maybe he thinks that having the last word is more important than that word being reasonable or logical or even true?
- Kerry just gave a brilliant answer on a question about abortion... and Bush responded by saying he supported (a completely unconstitutional) ban on partial birth abortions. (Bush's response also caused a fight between me and my husband over the Laci Peterson law, which Bush also bragged about supporting. I think it's a thinly-disguised attempt to establish a fetus as a human being with individual rights separate from the mother's, and that it doesn't do anything to prevent violence against pregnant women; Al thinks that adding a second charge of murder on behalf of the fetus will actually deter someone from killing a pregnant woman.)
- I could swear I saw Kerry playing tic tac toe on his notepad while Bush was speaking about tort reform.
Some interesting things I learned tonight:
- Kerry has a plan for everything.
- Congress did all the spending that created the multitrillion-dollar deficit. Bush did all the spending that made our lives better.
- Senator Kennedy is the most liberal member of the Senate. (This is not surprising, but do wonder why Bush would mention it during a debate with Senator Kerry.)
- You don't need a plan to create jobs if you have an energy plan.
Slate magazine has an interesting analysis of how Kerry blew the second presidential debate by William Saletan (link via nj). As much as I think Bush is an idiot as a debator, I have to say I agree that Kerry is even worse at taking advantage of what Saletan calls hanging sliders (and what I called pucks flying through the slot after the first debate).
Kerry gave interesting responses, but they often weren't the ones I expected. WHY, oh WHY is he incapable of explaining the "first I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it" remark, for example? (Bush even got the attack wrong this time, somewhat hilariously: "He said he voted for the $87 billion, and voted against it right before he voted for it. And that sends a confusing signal to people." Um, no, sir—I think it's you who are confused.) It's a simple explanation, one that Edwards gave in 30 seconds or less during the vice-presidential debate, but for some reason Kerry said the same thing he'd said in the first presidential debate: "I made a mistake about how I talk about [the war], the president made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse?" Yeah, ok, we know. Bad president. Now, TELL US ABOUT THE VOTE!
The simple explanation is that there were two versions of the bill to fund the ongoing efforts in Iraq. The first was actually supported by Senate Republicans—and Kerry—who were uncomfortable with the administration's version of the bill, which asked for $20 billion for reconstruction. As Glenn Kessler and Dan Morgan wrote in their Washington Post article GOP Prism Distorts Some Kerry Positions,
In a floor statement explaining his vote, Kerry said he favored the $67 billion for the troops on the ground -- "I support our troops in Iraq and their mission" -- but faulted the administration's $20 billion request for reconstruction. He complained that administration "has only given us a set of goals and vague timetables, not a detailed plan."
Of course, we know how much Kerry values a plan—and if the Bush camp wanted to make a joke out of Kerry's vote, they could certainly talk about Plans. And they'd have to, if Kerry would just say to the American people what he's already said on the floor of the Senate (and what his running mate said in the vice presidential debate). Something like this would be great: "I supported a different version of the bill, one that would have provided $67 billion for bullets and fuel and body armor while saving taxpayers the $20 billion the administration earmarked for unspecified 'reconstruction' costs—what amounted to a slush fund for Bush/Cheney cronies like Halliburton."
Last night Al and I watched the third and final presidential debate on split-screen with the Red Sox/Yankees game (the debate was on the TiVo, the game was live). It was a little disjointed this way, since Pedro and Manny and Johnny were often much more mesmerizing than either Bush or Kerry, but it was a perfect use of TiVo. TiVo is my favorite way to watch debates because you can go, "wait a minute, what did he say????" (We also used it to hilarious effect during the vice presidential debate to replay—over and over and over—the sound of John Edwards ripping a strip of paper off his notepad while Cheney was talking, until we couldn't breathe, we were laughing so hard. Don't ask me why we found it so funny; we just did.)
Anyway, here are the (occasionally very rough) notes I took as I watched; I reserve the right to revise and extend my remarks over the next day or two, as I have time to think about what I heard (and how I feel about it). My overall impression: Bush wasn't much better than he was in the previous two debates, but Kerry was generally worse. If I had to say that somebody "won", I'd declare a tie.
- Oh geez, now Bush has a plan—a comprehensive plan, no less. God help us.
- That stupid smile is almost worse than the smirk. Wipe that smile off your face, boy.
- Bush, responding to a question about the shortage of flu vaccine: "we relied upon a company out of England." Was that code for "can't trust our allies!"? Oh wait, we're working with Canada to get more vaccine! So now pharmaceuticals from Canada are safe?
- I'm frustrated with Kerry for being so "on message" that he isn't responding to what Bush is saying.
- Is Kerry sick? He sounds like he's losing his voice, and he looks gray and lifeless.
- "Plan... plan... plan..." How many times did Kerry just say "plan"? (According to the transcript, four times in that one sentence: "Every plan that I have laid out -- my health-care plan, my plan for education, my plan for kids to be able to get better college loans -- I've shown exactly how I'm going to pay for those.")
- It's impossible to even remember what the question was when Kerry really gets rolling.
- Bush is throwing out ridiculous numbers about Kerry's votes in the Senate. I love the smile on Kerry's face that says, "those numbers are so wrong, you stupid schmuck—you have no idea what you're talking about, do you?" But wait, what the hell—where's the 30-second follow-up where Kerry actually gets to SAY that and not just smile it? Demand your 30 seconds, you idiot!
- Did Bush just say, "Whew! I just cain't keep up with this cowboy and all his plans!"? Oh, no; I see from the transcript that he said, "Whew! Let me start with the Pell Grants..."
- What is this bullshit about "telling people how to live their lives?" Can I just say that among the other lies that the Republicans tell Americans—including two I've already talked about on this site, that they're for smaller government and that they're the party of fiscal responsibility—this one ranks as perhaps the most egregious. They say all the time that the Democrats want government to run your lives, and Republicans don't... and yet they're the party that wants to legislate prayer in the schools, that wants to teach only abstinence and not offer sex education, that wants to tie doctors' hands by banning abortion and similar procedures, that wants to amend the Constitution to deny marriage to homosexuals... I could go on.
- Bush just gave a fairly coherent response to a question about homosexuality, but I think he needs to stop talking about "activist judges" right the fuck NOW. Judges in this country are interpreting case law and the U.S. Constitution, not making new law. Amending the Constitution is making new law.
- How come Bush gets 30 seconds rebuttal and Kerry doesn't? BECAUSE HE TAKES IT, and Kerry doesn't. Stop being so polite, Kerry!
- "That's why I fight against poverty. That's why I fight to clean up the environment and protect this earth. That's why I fight for equality and justice." I think Kerry just said he's Superman.
- Bush: "Heh heh heh heh, huh huh." Gads, I thought the smirk was creepy... the laugh is worse.
- Did Bush just say "we need to introduce technology to health care?" Jesus, have you been to the doctor lately? (Oh right, you haven't—you postponed your yearly physical until after the election.) I sometimes wonder if health costs are going up *because* of increased use of technology. Are we undertaking procedures because we can, without asking whether we should? It seems a little cost-benefit analysis is in order.
- If Bush is so keen on "market forces" applying to health care, why did he shackle them in his Medicare prescription drug plan? And for pete's sake, why didn't Kerry ask that? Big puck-in-front-of-the-net moment, Kerry, and you chose it to defend—FINALLY—your voting record. Keep up!
- Bush: Just as incoherent as ever.
Kerry: More wooden and unresponsive than usual.
- Bush: "We're increasing the border security of the United States. We've got 1,000 more Border Patrol agents on the southern border." Why just on the southern border? Aren't you afraid of those Canadians streaming down from the north with their cheap prescription drugs?
- Kerry, it's not enough to say, "he hasn't done it right, and I will!" You have to say HOW.
- Aren't " temporary worker cards" just insourcing? Bush said that such cards would allow "a willing worker and a willing employer to mate up, so long as there's not an American willing to do that job." I'm wondering if it's not the job that Americans would find repulsive, but the wage. What American can support himself, much less a family, on $5.15 an hour? As Bush himself pointed out, however, $5.15 sounds like a princely sum to someone currently making 50 cents an hour.
- Bush, please don't flat-palm the podium like that. You look like a 1 year-old in a high chair.
- Kerry's response to a question on faith and religion was pretty good—and I think he was right to connect "loving they neighborh as you do yourself" to school funding, which is very have and have not right now—but he also qualified quite a bit. He seems incapable of finishing a thought without pausing to qualify it every which way to Sunday.
- Kerry: "My friend John McCain...." If you can't get McCain to endorse you, at least point out that you're better friends with him than he is with the guy he's supporting. (And notice how Bush made sure we remembered that "John McCain is for ME for president.")
- I'm so glad that Edwards was the Democratic talking head CBS got to analyze the debate. He's so good at getting the Kerry message across—better than Kerry is, actually. Funny that Rather described him as "the bottom half of the Democratic ticket"; it'd be more accurate to describe him as the clearer half.
The Flu: Who Knew?
I saw this interesting item on Suburban Guerrilla about the difference in the British and American responses to the Chiron debacle, but I wasn't sure how reliable the source was (especially given the dodgy editing, the lack of attribution, and the numerous server errors I got on my first visit to the site).
It seems the story's accurate, if the Washington Post is to be believed. What's interesting to me is that this could be yet another example of the Bush administration and its agencies being overly optimistic in the face of bad news, of hearing what they want to hear rather than preparing for a worst-case scenario, as the British did. [I do wonder whether the CDC would have been so optimistic under any administration, or just this one; how much influence does the administration have over the CDC, anyway? I know it has some, based on what happened—or didn't happen—in the early days of the AIDS crisis...]
On a related note, I saw an article in a local Lancaster County, PA paper about how many people are positively panicking about the vaccine shortage, harrassing local doctors and calling every medical-related agency and private firm in the area looking to get on a non-existent waiting list for a shot, and that several states are considering making it a crime to give a flu shot to a healthy, low-risk individual. Freaky. I feel kinda bad that I'm high-risk on two counts (asthma and pregnancy), and that I'll have to jump on the give-me-a-flu-shot-now bandwagon. :-/
A Second Term: The Second Coming?
Ron Suskind, author of The Price of Loyalty, wrote a fascinating piece for yesterday's New York Times Magazine called "Without a Doubt" (link via Silt, via my well-read neighbor, Mr. Rittenhouse). It's about the role of faith in the Bush White House—the kind of faith, as George Seaton (and Kris Kringle, in Miracle on 34th Street) put it, that is "believing in things when common sense tells you not to."
I don't know about you, but I'd prefer a president with faith *and* common sense. A guy who goes with his gut, but only after careful analysis. I've made several leaps of faith in my life—buying a house when the numbers didn't add up, because I felt like there was something around the bend that would make it all work out; agreeing to bear a child when I wasn't entirely sure I could endure childbirth, much less parenthood; moving to new cities where I didn't know a single person, without a job and with only a couple hundred dollars in my pocket—so I'm comfortable with a president who occasionally says, "I know this seems odd, but it feels right."
However, it's difficult for me to get behind someone who says, "Look, I know I'm right, and I'm not going to justify it for you" about every decision he makes. Especially someone who clearly ignores—even derides—evidence, analysis, and debate. There's room for faith in the White House, for belief in a higher power, for prayer, for instincts, for going with your gut. But there must also be room—a whole floor would be nice—for discussion, deliberation, and examining opposing views. It's OK to admit that there are things that you don't know—that you cannot know—but you must also make an effort to learn what you can. As President, it's your responsibility to be informed.
Vaara selected a particularly shocking quote from the article to highlight on his site, one in which a Bush aide accused Suskind of being part of "the reality-based community." Several other quotes from the article caught my attention, including this one:
And for those who don't get it? That was explained to me in late 2002 by Mark McKinnon, a longtime senior media adviser to Bush, who now runs his own consulting firm and helps the president. He started by challenging me. "You think he's an idiot, don't you?" I said, no, I didn't. "No, you do, all of you do, up and down the West Coast, the East Coast, a few blocks in southern Manhattan called Wall Street. Let me clue you in. We don't care. You see, you're outnumbered 2 to 1 by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don't read The New York Times or Washington Post or The L.A. Times. And you know what they like? They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it's good for us. Because you know what those folks don't like? They don't like you!" In this instance, the final "you," of course, meant the entire reality-based community.
It's a lengthy piece, but worth the time. Whether you consider yourself religious, spiritual, agnostic, or atheistic, please also consider that the word "faith," as used by the Bush administration, might not mean what you think it does—and that having the Messiah running your country might not be the best thing for the world.
Does That Mean Bush Invaded Iraq To Give WMD to Terrorists?
That was my husband's question when we started talking about the shocking story of missing explosives in Iraq, and wondering whether the Bush administration would characterize the explosives as evidence that Saddam was reviving his nuclear weapons program.
Interestingly, the White House's response to the theft seemed to go in the other direction:
White House spokesman Scott McClellan played down the threat posed by explosives missing from the Al Qaqaa military installation. He said there was no threat of nuclear proliferation, and preferred to concentrate on weapons destroyed, not those lost.
"We have destroyed more than 243,000 munitions," he said. "We've secured another nearly 163,000 that will be destroyed."
But not these ones, apparently. I was pleasantly surprised to hear the Kerry campaign (via Joe Lockhart) attack the Bush administration on this issue immediately and coherently:
"The Bush administration knew where this stockpile was, but took no action to secure the site. They were urgently and specifically informed that terrorists could be helping themselves to the most dangerous explosives bonanza in history, but nothing was done to prevent it from happening," he said.
"This material was monitored and controlled by U.N. inspectors before the invasion of Iraq. Thanks to the stunning incompetence of the Bush administration, we now have no idea where it is," Lockhart said. He demanded the White House explain "why they failed to safeguard these explosives and keep them out of the hands of our enemies."
In the Eyes of the Beholder
Yesterday Bill Clinton, and later John Kerry himself, were here campaigning for the Kerry/Edwards ticket. There was a big rally in and around Love Plaza, which I usually walk through to get to Al's office; yesterday I was turned away by the crowds at 17th Street, about a block and a half away. It was good to see so many supporters of the Democratic ticket earnestly doing their parts to cheer on the nominee and the former President.
In addition to the crowds of supporters, there were also zillions of policemen. I want to like the police in Philadelphia, I really do—but my few experiences with them so far have left a bad taste in my mouth. The main tone-setter was the incident that happened about a month after we moved out here: In attempting to cross Broad Street, a large, divided avenue where that day traffic was being directed by two cops, the first cop signalled us to cross after we'd waited more than five minutes with no walk signal in sight. We made it to the median (about 8 of us, plus at least one baby in a stroller), where the other cop pointedly ignored us until I finally said, in what I thought was a jovial tone, "little help here?"
The cop pointed to the "don't walk" signal without looking at us and said, "that's what you get for crossing against the light." Several of us spoke up at once, "But the other cop told us to go!" This cop then shouted at us, "No he didn't!", which was (a) merely an assumption on his part, and (b) patently false. He then muttered something about stupid tourists, and Al said, "what did you say?" He replied, "I said go back where you came from, asshole!" Yep, that's our friendly Philadelphia cop for you. Way to make us feel welcome, buddy!
So anyway, back to yesterday. There were policemen everywhere (and Secret Service, I'm sure, though I didn't spot any): some directing traffic and pedestrians with a slight overuse of the whistle, some sitting in their cars with the engines running, and some milling about in small groups, chatting. Al passed one of these groups as he walked in to work, and he overheard a snippet of their conversation:
"Who you voting for?"
"Yeah, I'm a Bush guy."
"Yeah, you can see it in his eyes."
When Al related this conversation, I was like, "see what in his eyes, exactly?" The vacuous gaze of a Texas steer? The look that says, "I'm in over my head"? A resolve to stick to his guns against all reason? "Leadership, apparently," said Al. "They said something about the fact that he was a leader." OK, for the sake of argument, he's a leader. But hello, do you like where he's leading you?
Al remarked that he'd so wanted to stop and say, "did you know that Kerry has the endorsement of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers? That he voted to put 100,000 more cops on the street and supported the ban on assault weapons? That he has the support of the Boston Police for refusing to cross their picket line in Boston?", but he didn't. No sense provoking another "asshole" remark from a bunch of guys who, like our current President, obviously value gut feeling (or a vapid stare) over logic and truth.
A few random items:
- dj blurb opened up comments on his endorsement post, and I loved reading
allmost of the different points of view. (Most—but not all—commenters support Kerry, but whom each person supports not as interesting as why.)
- Al and I start childbirth classes tonight. This week's pregnancy newsletter from ParentsPlace.com seemed to suggest that I'd be nervous about the birth by now, but for some reason I'm not.
- I am loving The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill. Fascinating book that is helping me make the distinction between Bush and his inner circle and other, honest Republicans whose views simply differ from mine (or don't, actually). I've been reading huge sections of it out loud to Al, a sure sign that it's a life-changing read (similar to And the Band Played On and Nickel and Dimed).
- I am not a designer. So sue me.
- As promised, I converted the all hallows eve blog (and its archives) to Movable Type last night. I can't wait until Sunday!
- I'm making headway (literally) on my Patrick costume; I got his eyes, eyebrows, and mouth done last night, and I'm looking less like a klansman. This afternoon's project: painting purple flowers on his bermuda shorts (actually a pair of green Gap Body sweatpants, pinned up a few inches).
- Warning: There will be another post about Annie later today. With photographs.
- Today is my 36th birthday. And I feel fine.
What Would Osama bin Laden Do?
Among the comments on blurbomat's endorsement post from a few days ago was this one from a woman named Melissa:
I support Bush for national security...like it or not under the Democrat presidency of Clinton, military/intelligence spending was cut so drastically that this country could not defend itself. Historically the Democrats are not big on a strong military presence. Ask yourself who Al Queda, Saddam, Ossama would vote for...KERRY...so I have to vote against them.
According to a blurb on the front page of the Philadelphia Daily News web site right now, Melissa appears to be slightly off the mark:
Today's Washington Times reports that in Iraq, "foreign extremists prefer Bush, because he's a provocative figure, and the more they can push people to the extreme, the better for their case." Hmmmmm. Who are those foreign extremists in Iraq? Will Bunch says it's al Qaeda, and challenges you to come up with a differing valid interpretation of that quote.
You can find Will Bunch's analysis of the Washington Times article in its entirety at Campaign Extra.
Where's My Voter Information Guide?
When we lived in California, we got an official Voter Guide for every election—one that listed every candidate and every proposition on the ballot, including arguments for and against each. It also listed our polling place on the back, and usually included an application for an absentee ballot (handy if you knew you'd be travelling on election day). I've been waiting patiently for such a book to show up at my house in Philly, but so far, none has come.
The other day I happened to catch my friend Valerie, who moved from San Francisco back to Maine a few months ago, online. When I IMed to see what she was up to, she replied that she was taking a break from her violin practice "to see if I can find any info on our local bond measures so I can send in my ballot. Unlike SF, we're not inundated with info [here])." To which I replied, "Yeah, same here -- I'm like, 'where's my voter information guide?'" Valerie: "Exactly!"
I decided to try Valerie's technique and search the web for information. I found all kinds about how to register to vote, how to actually vote, how to determine whether I qualify for a provisional ballot, and what constitutes proper voter identification, but NOTHING ABOUT WHO THE CANDIDATES ARE. (Nothing at all about initiatives, either. Are there no ballot initiatives in Pennsylvania? Have my expectations been colored by living in proposition-happy California?)
When my searches of official websites failed, I tried the sites of local free weeklies. (In San Francisco, the SF Bay Guardian, a liberal free weekly, published a voter guide that was really useful; I remember voting a "straight Guardian ticket" one year, except for one proposition that I didn't agree with them on.) I even picked up an actual paper copy of Philadelphia Weekly yesterday, but alas, no voter guide. WTF? (I did find a couple of endorsements on the Philadelphia Weekly website, but they hardly constituted a guide.)
Today we received in the mail our voter information cards—which informed us of our polling place (I'd already panicked when one of the official local election websites said I'd need to check the newspaper (!) to find out where to vote, and subsequently followed a link from the Rittenhouse Review to Hallwatch.org, which gave me the scoop), our ward and division numbers, and the fact that we'd have to show ID because this is the first time we're voting in this district. It struck me as a little late to be telling us this stuff, but maybe the Voter Registration Office wanted to make sure we got it close enough to the election that we wouldn't misplace the info.
Along with Al's and my voter information cards, we also received one for the male half of the couple who used to live here; I guess he never re-registered when he moved (or maybe they finally moved out of state, as they intended to eventually, and word has not made it back to PA). In between the voter information cards were two slightly larger, four-color cards, one of which showed a photo of Yasser Arafat with the caption "Role Model and Statesman? John Kerry Thinks So." The other showed a nice Jewish lady by the name of Janet Kreisman, who, we are told, is a Registered Democrat, with the following quote: "I FEEL SAFE WITH PRESIDENT BUSH."
Once again I was left to puzzle, WTF? Why are we getting scare mail...? And then I saw the addressee. *We* are not getting scare mail; the former occupant, who happens to have a Jewish surname, is. I was pretty shocked, and yet glad for once that the former occupant's forwarding order had expired, while his voter registration had not—it gave me an opportunity to see some shady scare tactics that otherwise would have escaped my notice.
Here's my question (and at this point, I've obviously strayed pretty far from my original rant about the lack of voter information here in Philly, though I'll return to that in a moment): Does Bush-Cheney '04, Inc., which authorized the Arafat mailing, or the RNC, which paid for it, really think all American Jews vote based on a single issue—namely, Israel? I find that kind of hard to believe, but not being Jewish, I can't say for sure.
The other mailing, paid for by the Republican Jewish Coalition, focuses more broadly on the war on terror and 9/11 (though it also mentions "President Bush's unprecedented pro-Israel policies"). Ms. Kreisman goes on to say in the mailing that "I've always been a pro-choice Democrat, but party loyalties have no meaning when it comes to my family's safety." (I thought it was kind of interesting that the mailing would make reference to that other famous "single issue": abortion.)
Anyway, seeing Ms. Kreisman's smiling face over the Republican Jewish Coalition's pitch made me think of one more place to try for voter information: The League of Women Voters. Yay, women voters! While this non-partisan organization of course provides no endorsements, they do at least tell you who (and what) is on the ballot in your area. (Just enter your zip code into the box under My Races.)
It was so cool to at least see who was running in my district; now I can Google their names, look up their records, and check for endorsements by various news organizations. I didn't see any ballot initiatives listed, so to test whether (a) the LWV doesn't give info on ballot initiatives, or (b) there just aren't any here, I entered my old address in San Francisco to see what would come up. Sure enough, there was a huge list of initiatives for SF, so I now know that the answer is (b), there just aren't any here.
Now, go vote! (On Tuesday of course. Wait until Tuesday!)
The When of the Weapons
There's an article in the New York Times today (Video Shows G.I.'s at Weapon Cache, free subscription required to view) describing a video shot by a Minneapolis-based TV news crew that purports to show intact IAEA seals at the Al Qaqaa munitions complex, as well as the now-missing crates of HMX explosives. When was the video shot? Nine days after the fall of Baghdad.
I was a bit frustrated by the article; in an apparent attempt to be balanced, they gave full airing to all the doubts the Bush Administration, the Pentagon, and others have been voicing about when (or even if) the explosives were looted. It's easy to finish the article unsure of when exactly the explosives disappeared, so let me clarify for you: They disappeared on or after April 18, 2003, which is when the video was shot.
My favorite "what the hell were they thinking?" moment:
The team opened storage containers, some of which contained white powder that independent experts said was consistent with HMX.
"The soldiers were pretty much in awe of what they were seeing," Mr. Caffrey [the team photographer] recalled. "They were saying their E.O.D. - Explosive Ordinance Division, people who blow this kind of stuff up - would have a field day."
The journalists filmed roughly 25 minutes of video. Mr. Caffrey added that the team left the bunker doors open. "It would have been easy for anybody to get in," he said.
Why Osama, You Look Fabulous!
I love that Wolf Blitzer just said [paraphrasing here], "this isn't the October Suprise everyone was expecting."
The Answer is Obvious
Allow me to direct you to the op-ed piece by Thomas L. Friedman in this Sunday's New York Times, entitled The Apparent Heir. If you don't get the paper, register to look at the online version—it's free.
I'll be voting for the heir on Tuesday. Please consider doing so, too, for all the reasons Friedman outlines in his last paragraph.
Let's Prove the Pundits Wrong
How many people think that tomorrow's election will be a blowout?
Well, maybe not a blowout, but a lot closer than all the pundits are predicting? I contend that it could happen. I believe—and this could just be wishful thinking on my part, I admit—that I will wake up on November 3 and know who the next president will be. (Although it's true that many states will be counting absentee ballots well into next week.)
I even believe—and again, this could be liberal coast wishful thinking—that not only will the win be decisive, but that the winner will be John Kerry. As John Zogby said on the Daily Show the other night, "if the election were between Bush and Not Bush, Not Bush would win." It gets a little more complicated when there's no Not Bush option—only Kerry, Nader, and a few other random candidates—but I think reasonable people who aren't giant fans of Kerry can hold their noses and vote for him anyway as, at worst, the lesser of two evils, and at best, a force for change.
I hate that I'll be holding my nose and voting for a couple candidates in my state and local elections whom I otherwise wouldn't support—mainly because they're less scary than the alternative—but I'd rather do it than wake up and find that the alternative had won.
Please get out and vote tomorrow. Your vote really does count. And though I might question your sanity if you vote for Bush rather than Not Bush, I will applaud you for performing your civic duty and participating in the political process. I'd rather be proven wrong on my blowout prediction and find that this country really is divided right down the middle into two camps, than to find it's really divided into three: good, bad, and indifferent. For those of you already squarely in the Not Bush camp, help prove me right. Let's go for the blowout.
My plan was to vote at around 10am this morning, after the people with day jobs had had a chance at it, but as I woke up at 6:20 this morning and couldn't get back to sleep, and the dryer repairman came at 7:55 and was done by 8:15, Al asked me if I wanted to go vote with him. I agreed, figuring that if the lines were too long, I would just come back later.
The line *was* long, but Al held my place while I went to get a coffee 4 blocks away, and by the time I returned he'd made it about halfway through. It was only about another 15 minutes or so after that. I'd intended to bring my camrea with me, but in the rush to head out with Al I forgot it. As soon as I'm done writing this, I'll head back out to take election-day photos.
Some observations on the day so far:
- What's wrong with waving? I woke up to lots of honking, and I thought, "Jeez, don't you realize this is a residential neighborhood? Get over your petty commuter issues about who pulled out in front of whom and give the horn a break!" After passing a woman holding up a HONK FOR KERRY sign at the corner of 20th and the Ben Franklin Parkway on the way for coffee, however, I'm now wondering if all the honking wasn't in anger, but in support of our next president. Either way, I wish that woman had encouraged people to WAVE FOR KERRY instead of honk.
- Looking for trouble I overheard a guy a few people in front of us in the voting line questioning the volunteer pollworker about whether there were any sample ballots in Spanish. When she replied that she didn't know, he said, "well, there are SUPPOSED TO BE!" Pollworker: "Do you need one? Or do you know of anyone else here who needs one?" Man: "No, but THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO BE AVAILABLE." Pollworker: "Let me ask." When she returned, she pointed out that the sample ballots were already bilingual (every party was listed in both English and Spanish, as were the instructions for voting). The man reached for the ballot she was holding and quickly scanned it. "There's nothing on here about provisional ballots. You have to tell people that they're entitled to cast a provisional ballot." Personally, I'm convinced that if someone who spoke only Spanish showed up and was denied the right to vote, someone else in the line would have told him or her about the provisional ballot option. There are just too many people itching for a fight here to have it happen otherwise.
- Riiiiiiiiiight Al's plan was to vote a straight Democratic ticket (he was a bit nervous that it wouldn't work correctly, so he ended up voting one candidate at a time). When he came out of the booth, he said to me, "I think that volunteer [a different one than the woman with the ballot] was a Republican." Me: "What makes you say that?" Al: "When I walked up to the booth, she said, 'If you want to vote a straight party ticket, just press here, where it says "Republican."'"
- What does it take to get a ticket in this town? After voting, I walked Al to work. At the corner of 17th and Market, we opted not to cross with the green because we didn't get a head start, and if it turned yellow, I wasn't going to be able to run. (I'm feeling a lot of pressure from the baby this morning.) While we waited, we noticed a cop pull up to the red light on Market, while none of the traffic with the green light was moving. Turns out it was because the first car in line, a cab, was taking on a passenger. He finally went just as the light turned yellow—and not one but THREE cars behind him ran the red light. The cop just looked after them, and drove on.
- Yikes! On the way home, I found myself approaching the corner of 16th and JFK just as a fire truck was pulling up to block three lanes of traffic on JFK (there was already a cop car blocking one). As I crossed JFK, I saw the reason for the blockage: there was a man lying under a bloody sheet with paramedics and firemen attending him. I don't know whether he was hit by a car or what, but it wasn't pretty.
More observations (and photos!) from Election Day later...
About Town II Special Edition: Election Day
I'm posting the photos I took between about 11am and 12:30pm today over at about town II. I have a few more to add (including two more of Bush supporters), but we have to leave for our childbirth class now. I'll add them when I get home tonight.
One important thing to note when you look at the photos: I didn't photograph every Kerry sign I saw, but I did photograph every Bush sign I saw. (If I had photographed every Kerry sign, I would have run out of room on my camera's memory card before I'd made it 10 blocks from home.) Of course, since I'm limited to a slow shuffle by the weight of the belly and my flagging energy levels, I was only out in the Logan Square, Penn Center/Libery Place, and Rittenhouse/Fitler Square areas today. When I went out walking in Society Hill a few months back, I saw more than one Bush/Cheney sign (including a huge one plastered on the side of row house).
Back in a couple hours!
Election Day Photos Are All Up
We're back from the childbirth class, and I've finished posting the remainder of the election day photos. A thumbnail sampling of a few of the shots:
Less Than Coherent, More Than a Little Depressed
What I want right now is a box of See's chocolates, to sit here in bed and drown my sorrows in sugar. I probably shouldn't be blogging in this state. I'm exhausted, I'm despondent, and I'm VERY pregnant—a bad enough combination without adding to the mix the fact that I haven't had time to process what happened last night, to think less emotionally about what it means to me, to us as a (soon-to-be-expanding) family, to us as Americans. To ALL OF US as Americans. In short, I have not had time to hyperanalyze the situation, as my sister would say, using the same tone that my mom used to say "Lori, stop being so precocious" when I was little. So what will follow are some random, less-than-coherent thoughs that are mostly fueled by the four super-sweet, not-nearly-as-good-as-See's chocolate creams that I was able to find at the bottom of my backpack next to the bed.
In case it doesn't come through in this blog, I am the kind of person who usually tries to see the bright side of everything. I am a person who will criticize and vilify...until others start to pile on, at which point I will start to argue that perhaps we don't know the whole story, that we should give this villian the benefit of the doubt, that there's room for different viewpoints, that it does no good to hate. I am trying very hard right now to see the bright side. I am trying very hard to understand where 51% of the country is coming from, and whether we can, in fact, get along.
I said to Al the other day that I thought that the country was so divided that—as much as I wanted to preserve the state of the union—perhaps it was time to at least entertain the idea of splitting into separate countries. Al replied, "I think we [and I think here he meant those in the reality-based community] should just all move to California." "Oh," I said. "I was thinking that we'd be the ones to stay. I had this idea that we were the ones who were upholding the Constitution as envisioned by the founding fathers, the ones who wanted to practice religion freely and yet maintain the separation of church and state, the ones who believe it's possible to have a just, moral society without imposing our personal morals on others. We would stay the United States of America." I can be so naive sometimes.
There are also moments when I can be practical and clear-thinking. For example, while all the pundits were saying that the massive voter turnout boded well for Kerry because "people don't stand in line to vote for more of the same," I was busy panicking—because I was thinking of all the social conservatives the Republicans had mobilized, all the people who might not be voting for Bush but rather for their way of life, all the people who hadn't bothered to vote in 2000 and then had to listen to liberals whine for four years about how the election had been stolen, all the people who were thinking, "not this time! This time we're going to make sure we protect our values and make it clear what this country is all about." I was thinking that while a high turnout in heavily Democratic Philadelphia was a GREAT sign, the liberals didn't have a monopoly on anger, and that people outside of the big, coastal cities *would* stand in line to keep the status quo—or to move the country even further to the right.
Last night, as it became obvious that things were not going our way, I started to despair. I was thinking that I wasn't sure I wanted to stay in a country that could not only support this administration and its policies by voting directly for Bush, but also support it by proxy, by voting for more Republican senators and congressmen. I was thinking about where we could go, where in the world would be safe with Bush and the Republicans leading the world's only remaining superpower, when my brother-in-law popped into my head, and I actually started to cry.
I'm pretty sure my brother-in-law, whom I love despite our political differences (he once voted for Buchanan, if that gives you an idea), has at least some respect and affection for me as his wife's sister. And yet, as I thought about voicing this thought about leaving the country at the baby shower my sister is throwing for us this weekend at her home, I could hear him saying, "good, go." It made me very, very sad. It still does.
This morning Al and I were talking about how incredulous we were that 51% of the country could support this president and his agenda. His approval ratings are below 50%! How could people still vote for him? "I don't think they were voting for Bush, or even on the issues..." Al began, but I interrupted him. "Yes they were," I said. "I think they were very much voting on the issues: abortion, gay marriage, gun control, Iraq. We can't assume that people who don't agree with us aren't thinking logically, or aren't voting on the issues. But as far as voting for Bush... I think while we—okay, maybe just I—were busy counting up the votes for Not Bush and thinking blowout, a bunch of people in this country were voting for Not Kerry. Nobody ever talked about the Not Kerry option, but it had to be there. You gotta figure the prospect of a Kerry presidency scared some people more than the prospect of another four years of Bush."
Right now I'm not thinking so much of moving to Canada or South Korea or Sweden, but I am wondering how we're going to get through the next four years as Americans if these election results hold up (or even if they don't). I am scared to death not so much of having a complete goober in the oval office for another four years as I am of what said goober, who saw a 500,000 popular-vote loss as a mandate for his right-wing agenda in 2000, will do with a 3 million vote margin of victory.
My only hope is—and I actually prayed about this last night—that if Bush does go all right-wing agenda on us, that it will lead to some dramatic change in this country. Whether it leads to a backlash that sweeps Democrats into office in 2008, or to the creation of a third (or even a fourth) political party that's neither union/socialist liberal nor religious conservative, or even to an actual split of the US into two countries, I hope that a second Bush term can produce something positive, however unintentionally. Heck, it might even make us coastal liberals decide to sit down with the middle-of-the-country conservatives and try to figure out what we have in common, how we can move forward together without regard to Bush at all. Wouldn't that be fun, to come together as a people, and cut the President out of the loop?
OK, I know, the naivité is creeping in again...but so is the hope. I need some more chocolate.
Is It Moral to Spend More Than You Make?
Federal tax revenue was $100 billion lower this year than when Mr. Bush took office, but spending is $400 billion higher.
Moral values don't come cheap, apparently. My question is: Is it moral to saddle your children with a mountain of debt? Is it moral to ask for a tax cut while saying you support the war in Iraq? (What exactly are you supporting it with, if not tax dollars? Good will doesn't buy body armor, my friends.) Is it moral to ask our President, our country, to fight a war on terror while refusing to make any personal sacrifices? (For the record, standing in long security lines at the airport doesn't count as a sacrifice. Giving up your civil rights probably does, but that doesn't generate any revenue.)
22% Does Not a Mandate Make
For anyone who still believes that "moral values" were the leading issue in the election last week, consider that the "moral values" voters were only 1/5 of those polled. (It's not like this number is a mystery; it's just that everyone who quotes it—and all the major news organizations have—does so as if one fifth is a WHOPPING number. It's not.)
Frank Rich has an illuminating op-ed piece in the New York Times today on this very subject: On 'Moral Values,' It's Blue in a Landslide. It's probably safe to read "blue" as a double entendre in this context, occasionally meaning Democratic (as in "blue states"), and occasionally meaning lewd or prurient (as in "the rather blue programming on Fox"). Give it a read.
MSNBC anchor: "We just heard President Bush mention 'capital,' which seems to be one of his new words since the election..."
Yep, that's our president: Building his vocabulary one term at a time.
News and Weather
I mentioned in a post a couple weeks ago that the weather in Philadelphia had been quite balmy lately, but in the past few days, it's been positively screwy. On Wednesday Austen and I left the house at 10:24am (I was timing us) en route to my six-week post-partum checkup (I'm fine, all systems are go). I was wearing my fuzzy-collared winter coat, but I didn't bother donning my hat and gloves. Soon I even had to unbutton the coat. While not exactly *warm* out, it was too warm for wool and fake fur. By the time we left the doctor's office around noon, however, I was glad I brought my hat and gloves. The temperature was dropping, and the walk home proved a chilly one.
Yesterday was the complete opposite. The temperature in the morning started out about the same as it had on Wednesday, but throughout the day it got *warmer*. Wait, you're thinking, isn't that normal? Doesn't the temperature usually rise as the day goes on? Well, yes, but generally it drops again after dark. Not so yesterday; when Austen and I left on foot at 5:30pm to meet Al at his office, it was about 65 degrees. I was wearing a tiny short-sleeved t-shirt and a lightweight hoodie, and I was plenty warm. I'd say it was still over 60 when we went out again at 10pm in an attempt to quiet the screaming kid, which is where the News portion of this post comes in—more on that in a second. Minutes after we re-entered the house, the skies opened up, and it began to POUR. And guess what? The temperature started to drop. It was 48 degrees when I got up this morning around 8:30 (and still raining heavily), and by noon Philadelphia is expecting snow flurries. Biz-fucking-arre. I'm just glad that by 3pm it's supposed to be partly cloudy, so the kid and I can get out for a walk. I hate being trapped inside with him all day (although right now he's snoring sweetly on my chest and being so kind as to leave my hands free to type).
And now, the news. I mentioned to Al when we were out walking that I was behind on my blog posting; I'd only just finished the posts I'd started on Monday and Tuesday that afternoon, and I hadn't even started writing the one I'd intended to post on Wednesday. The subject of that one was going to be how seeing the Metro headline "Codey: N.J. Should Be Stem Cell Leader" made me wonder whether the passing of California's Prop 71 would start a competition among the states to see who could pour more money into stem cell research. Although I agreed with my friend nj's reason for voting against Prop 71, I can totally see now that *how* the research was funded wasn't the issue: it was that it was funded at all. Prop 71 is probably more powerful as a symbol than as a vehicle for advancing scientific research (although it's likely to do that, and maybe even be more successful at it *because* of its symbolic status).
I think because we were tangentially discussing the Governator and his love of funding projects with bonds, and because Al wondered aloud if Arnold weren't perhaps a Democratic trojan horse in the Republican party, we then started debating whether foreign-born U.S. citizens should be allowed to run for president. Although Arnold started the debate, we were discussing the principle rather than whether Arnold himself should be allowed to run, and I have to tell you that it was thoroughly exhilarating. I am as attracted to Al's mind and conversational skills as I am to the rest of him, and it was such a thrill to talk about politics, current events, and Constitutional law for like 30 MINUTES STRAIGHT without being interrupted by the baby. My mind is still buzzing this morning, and I almost hope that Austen requires another walk or drive tonight so we can talk some more. (I'll be scanning the newspaper boxes when I go out this afternoon for fodder!)
In any case, I was arguing that naturalized U.S. citizens wouldn't necessarily have divided loyalties and thus would make perfectly fine presidents, while Al argued the opposite. I felt that any loyalty issues would come out during the campaign, but Al felt that the last couple campaigns just proved that any idiot could be elected president, even over the strong and logical objections of many—that the media couldn't be trusted to raise the right issues, and that the voters couldn't be trusted to vote on them. Actually, now that I think of it, even if there aren't any interesting headlines in the news boxes today, we'll still have plenty to talk about tonight. We'll just pick up where we left off last night. :)
A Plea for Universal Healthcare
The bill for Austen's delivery and the subsequent 4-day hospital stay arrived yesterday. Together with the bill for the anesthesia, which arrived in December (I'm pretty sure they charged me for both the spinal and the epidural, even though I correctly predicted that a spinal wouldn't work), and the bill for the amniocentesis we got last summer, the total cost of bringing Austen into this world was roughly $20,000. The amount we were actually responsible for paying? $555.45. This doesn't even include all our pre-natal vists or the post-partum checkup, for which we made a single $15 co-pay.
Honestly, I'm shocked. I'm not asking anyone to hit us up for more money (though they might—an additional $200 or so is stil in dispute between the hospital and the insurer), but I wouldn't have been surprised or upset if we'd been asked to pay more. Of course this wasn't an entirely free ride; we do, after all, pay monthly premiums for insurance coverage. While those premiums have been rising steadily, however, they're still far, far less than the COBRA coverage I could have gotten when I left my old job. And what of the folks who don't qualify for or can't afford COBRA, or who don't have insurance for whatever reason? How can they afford to have babies? I know an uncomplicated vaginal delivery only costs in the neighborhood of $5,000 to $8,000, but what if you have a perfectly uncomplicated pregnancy, as I did, an still end up with a C-section (again, as I did)? If you budgeted $5K and end up owing $20K, you're screwed.
There's got to be a better way—one that doesn't involve charging the folks who can actually afford insurance less than those who can't. A way that doesn't involve charging the uninsured the "padded" amount designed to make up for the lower payments negotiated by Medicare and private insurers. (In our case, about one third of the total bill was knocked off because it exceeded the "contracted" amount.) I'm not sure what that way is, but it's got to be better than what we have now.
For the time being, I can be relieved that Austen's birth didn't break the bank. But I also can't help but feel a little guilty about it.
I Forgot What I Was Going to Say
Last night I thought of like five different things I wanted to blog about (some parenthood-related, some politics/media/news-related), but I figured rather than trying to type while holding the baby, I'd wait until I had both hands free today to blog. Of course, now I can't remember what I was going to say....
Random results of the Google search I'm running on my brain in the background:
- We found a new babysitter on Friday, and she started today. So far, so good.
- The alarm system went off in the house at 10:40pm on Friday (when we were in Baltimore) and caused a bit of a panic on our part. The police still hadn't responded 40 minutes after the alarm company notified them, so we asked an amazingly understanding neighbor to have a peek at the house for us. She reported that no windows were broken and house looked intact, and also mentioned that there'd been a hellacious thunderstorm at 10:40, which is probably what tripped the alarm. Phew.
- Live 8: Glad we were gone. Was the TV coverage as bad for Live Aid? Al and I seem to recall that it was...
- We're being jerked around by Sears again, this time for the dryer. We had a repair appointment for 8am-12pm on Friday; when the guy hadn't called or shown up by 1:15, we left for Baltimore. He called my cell phone at 2:20pm to say he was ready to come over. I said too late, we'd left when he was only an hour late. He said that 8am-12pm really means 8am-5pm. Me: "Really? Then why tell me 8am to 12pm?" Him: "I'm just telling you the company policy, m'am. I can come back on Tuesday, 8am-12pm." Me: "Which means you'll be there by 5pm?" When he hadn't turned up by 2pm yesterday I called to find out when he was coming; turns out that he meant NEXT Tuesday, not this one. Fucker. And by the way, this is the same dryer that Nick, the old repair guy, "fixed" back in October.
- Sandra Day O'Connor. Hmmmm. I'm not sure I was totally on board with her case-by-case ruling style, but I'm glad she had the opportunity to serve. I'm curious to see who makes it through next... and I think I'll opt out of the partisan rhetoric (nay, hyperbole) this time around. One thing I will say: How about keeping to the spirit of one of O'Connor's rulings and using race and gender as only one factor among many when choosing a new justice?
- I'm looking forward to Austen's next doctor visit at the end of this month. As of right now, the over/under is looking like 23 lbs. As usual, I'm going under.
- Foods Austen has tried so far: sweet potatoes, peaches, plums, prunes, rice, rice cereal, bananas, avocado, apples, applesauce, watermelon, and organic vanilla-flavored teething biscuits. And paper, of course. Lots of paper.
Stand Together, Now or Never
My, Oh Miers
I think Al thought I was arguing in support of Harriet Miers' nomination to the Supremem Court the other night when I suggested that she might have had some experience writing opinions on Constitutional issues during her tenure at the White House, but I wasn't. At the time, I was reserving judgement. Although I found it deeply creepy that Bush thought it was appropriate to appoint someone on the basis of personal friendship and loyalty, and I suspected that anyone Bush valued as highly as he says he values Miers would be unlikely to oppose any of Bush's views or objectives (because Bush tends to surround himself with yes-men and -women), I wanted to hear more about Miers' background and qualifications, as well as her views on the role of the Court and its justices from her own mouth.
I've yet to hear anything from Harriet Miers, but the more I hear about her from Bush and other conservatives, the more my hair stands on end. Could Bush have been more squirrelly during that news conference yesterday when a reporter repeatedly asked him about whether he'd asked Miers what her views were on abortion? His last assertion, that he couldn't "recall ever sitting down with her," was a cross between a dodge and a bald-faced lie. It's not so much her position on abortion that worried me after I heard the exchange; it was that Bush was so totally unwilling to answer the question(s) about it. A Supreme Court nomination should not be shrouded in secrecy and lies, period, but does anyone else find it unnerving that they're designed to hide something more from the Right than the Left?
This concern seems to be borne out by an article on the Washington Post's website called "Strong Grounding in the Church Could Be a Clue to Miers's Priorities", which on the surface sounds like an alarm to the Left, but which is full of quotes from the far Right regarding their dismay at Miers' lack of conservative credentials. It's a head shaker, that's for sure. Excerpt:
Even in Dallas, home of groups such as the Texas Eagle Forum and the Republican National Coalition for Life, some religious conservatives say Miers, 60, has demonstrated an insufficient commitment to family values. They cited a questionnaire she filled out for a gay rights group in 1989 as a candidate for Dallas City Council, indicating that gay people should have the same civil rights as straight people and that the city should fund AIDS education and services. After her election, she appointed an openly gay lawyer to an influential city board.
"For goodness' sake, why elevate AIDS over cancer? She shouldn't have filled out that questionnaire at all," said Cathie Adams, president of the Texas Eagle Forum. "President Bush is asking us to have faith in things unseen. We only have that kind of faith in God."
Here's the head-shaking part for me: What about stating a belief that the municipal government should provide AIDS education and services says that you're "elevat[ing] AIDS over cancer"? These are the same folks who think that asking to be treated as an actual human, a contributing member of society—with the same rights and privileges as other members of society—is asking for something "special". Puh-LEASE.
In any case, after resisting a knee-jerk opposition to any Bush nominee to the high court, I'm growing more and more concerned about the prospect of a Justice Miers. I'm curious, however, about how the Left will respond—and wondering if they even should. Would strong opposition from gay, women's, and abortion rights groups (as well as Democrats) cause the Right to rally behind Miers, despite their reservations? Would quietly opposing Miers give the various right-of-center groups a chance to in-fight it out, so to speak?
The Democrats I heard on the radio this morning would have you believe that my proposed strategy of letting the right wingers duke it out over Harriet Miers' nomination worked, and that the reason she withdrew her nomination was that she wasn't able to convince the far right of her "conservative credentials". Harry Reid, for one, believes that she was eminently qualified to be a Supreme Court justice, and it was only those goofy hard-core conservatives who got in the way of her confirmation. [INSERT DOUBLE-TAKE HERE.]
Conservative senators such as Trent Lott, on the other hand, will tell you that there was no problem with Miers' views on abortion, religion, or gay rights; rather, the issue was with her experience and qualifications. [FEEL FREE TO GUFFAW LOUDLY.]
President Bush and Miers herself, after emphasizing their close personal relationship and answering questions from Senate Judiciary Committee members with, "the President is a great guy!" and "she's a pit bull in size 6 shoes, that Harriet!" would have you believe that the reason for her withdrawal was that the Democrats were hell-bent on digging into that close personal relationship, and that the only way to avoid violating both both attorney-client and Executive privilege (not to mention releasing confidential White House documents) was, regretfully, to back out now, before confirmation hearings began. [I got nothing. If George was so stupid as to believe "trust me, we're friends!" could take the place of a familiarity with constitutional law, a vast judicial—or at least legal—record, or participation in public debate on national issues, he's an even bigger idiot than both Reid and Lott. But then, we already knew that.]
From an editorial in today's New York Times about the Bush administration finally agreeing to send delegates to the climate change talks in Montreal, as long as any agreements made were non-binding:
But talk is cheap, and nonbinding talk is even cheaper. And talk alone will not get the developing world into the game. Why should India and China make major sacrifices while the United States, in effect, gets a free ride? The battle against global warming will never be won unless America joins it, urgently and enthusiastically. Our grandchildren will look back with anger and astonishment if we fail to do so.
This makes my skin crawl and my heart ache. Oh, how those crafty conservatives must be doing a "you-liberals-think-you're-so-smart-but-WE-WIN!" dance right now, and justifiably so. I don't hate that they get to do that dance because they're conservatives; I hate it because they seem to take such ridiculous GLEE in chipping away at my personal freedoms.
I'm starting to realize how right Molly Ivins is when she complains about Democrats who try to walk the safe political line and thereby fail to take a stand on anything. OK, liberals (specifically Democrats in Congress): Enough caving. Enough compromising. Enough cringeing. Decide what you stand for, what you believe, and then WORK TO MAKE IT HAPPEN. Do it out in the open, or take a page from the conservatives' book and plot, plan, and pull strings behind closed doors. Stop worrying that Republicans will make fun of you; it's time to stand up to that schoolyard bully and GET THINGS DONE.
Homegrown Housegrown Insurgency
From my washingtonpost.com e-mail update this morning, this shocking news of insurgent activity RIGHT HERE IN THE U.S.:
In an Upset, Boehner Is Elected House GOP Leader
Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who ran an insurgent campaign calling for change in the face of a widening corruption scandal, is elected to succeed Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) as House majority leader in an upset over the acting majority leader.
(By Jonathan Weisman, The Washington Post)
I'm Trying to Rise Above This, But I Can't
I'm trying hard not to wish that Bill Napoli could be "brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it." I'm trying hard to find only love and compassion for this man who obviously has no love or compassion for any woman who is not "a virgin[,]... religious[,]....[and] plann[ing] on saving her virginity until she was married." I'm trying hard to pray for this man—who I deeply, firmly believe has, like any other man, no right to make any judgement whatsoever about the righteousness or worthiness of a woman who needs or wants an abortion—that he find the the enlightenment to KEEP HIS FUCKING TRAP SHUT on subjects that, unless my vengeful side wins out and somehow influences the universe to get medieval on Bill Napoli's ass (and somehow impregnate him in the process), he will never know anything about.
Under God, Maybe. Under Constitution, Certainly.
Dark Side and Dark Circles
I think I'd be worn out from yesterday's migraine anyway, even if I hadn't stayed up until almost midnight for the past two nights to watch a Frontline on Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet, and the way the intelligence communities (not to mention a Secretary of State) were used and abused between 9/11 and the runup to the invasion of Iraq. I did stay up to watch that documentary, however, and now I'm exhausted—and fascinated.
I'm one of the few among my friends and acquaintences to have strongly disliked (nay, hated) Farenheight 9/11. It wasn't the subject matter so much as the way the movie was strung together with hyperbole, innuendo, overwrought emotion, and, in many spots, what looked to my narrowed eyes like half-truths. I'm not as well-read as many on the inner workings of the Bush administration and the war on terror, but I have done some reading, and I would have preferred to see a documentary that spoke to my head rather than trying to inflame my heart.
Frontline's The Dark Side was just what I was looking for. From a Boston Globe review of the episode, forwarded to me from Al this morning:
To many, Cheney is the dark side of the Bush administration, and this program will only cement that judgment. "Frontline" chronicles the brutal campaign by two consummate political in-fighters -- Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld -- to decimate the CIA, politically emasculate Secretary of State Colin Powell, and construct a near-limitless concept of executive power during war. While many of these strands are familiar, they have not been assembled as effectively before on television to present a coherent picture of what happened after 9/11.
I highly recommend both the full Globe review and the Frontline documentary, which will be available for viewing on the Frontline website at 5pm today.
Shameful (But Sadly Not Surprising)
This shit just makes me SO FUCKING MAD. Not so much because it's being done by smarmy Republicans; I think I'd be just as mad if Democrats or Independents or Greens were doing it, although for some reason, it always seems to be the conservatives who pull this kind of crap. Actually, now that I think of it, it's more accurate to say that it always seems to be *radicals* who pull this kind of crap. There are some radical environmental and animal rights groups who I could lump right in with the crazy conservatives.
An excerpt from the article, which is about using an automated telemarketing system to push voters to vote for Republicans based on their answers to leading questions:
In Tennessee, after listeners are asked if terrorists should have the same rights as Americans, this comparison between Representative Harold E. Ford Jr., the Democratic Senate candidate, and Bob Corker, the Republican, is given: “Fact: Harold Ford Jr. voted against the recommendations of the 9/11 commission and voted against renewing the Patriot Act, which treats terrorists as terrorists. Fact: Bob Corker supports renewal of the Patriot Act and how it would treat terrorists.”
Now, my response to a question like that would be, "what the fuck kind of question is that?", and I imagine it would be the response of many other Americans, too (although some would probably say "heck" instead of "fuck"; I haven't quite learned to adjust my language now that I'm a mom), even those who happened to support Bob Corker. I worry about those folks who don't understand how biased, leading, and misrepresentative of the candidates' records such a question is, however. I'd like to think that we registered voters are all intelligent, reasonable, well-informed people, even if we disagree on many issues, but the last few elections have shaken whatever faith I had in this country's capacity for reasonable debate. I'm not just talking about the Bush years, either: Clinton's tenure was just as divisive and polarizing.
I'm hating my options this election season. I'm hating the animosity, the slander and libel, the mean-spiritedness and distortion of the current campaign and the several that preceeded it. I'm embarrassed for my fellow countrymen. And yet, I am proud to be an American and ever so thankful to have been born in this country. I can't quite believe that despite many, many missteps on both the domestic and foreign policy fronts, despite popular and unpopular wars, terrorism, depression, irrational exurberance, and despite rising religious conflict, this country is still the greatest democracy on earth. I choose to be hopeful, and to vote on Tuesday. And if I don't like my choices, I vow to do what I can to ensure better choices next time.
President Bush's press conference just started. Listening to him speak is like chewing hot food on the back left molar that desperately needs a root canal.
Keep Up With Congress
My friend John, via his blog, turned me on to Open Congress, a new web site that follows the goings on in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. I'm finding their Congress Gossip Blog (link goes to RSS feed) to be a fabulously useful way to keep up with the issues being debated, and the political machinations involved, without having to read a gazillion political blogs (and mentally adjust for their various leanings) every day. If you have an RSS reader, add the Gossip Blog feed, scan for a couple weeks, and see if you don't feel more informed—more connected to the process of running this country—than you were before.
Michael Pollan on the Farm Bill: Don't Be Fooled Again
Please, please go read You Are What You Grow in the New York Times Magazine. Some of its contents will be familiar to anyone who's read the absorbing, eye-opening The Omnivore's Dilemma, but it's more specifically about the farm bill—which Pollan argues should be called the food bill instead. An excerpt:
If the quintennial antidrama of the “farm bill debate” holds true to form this year, a handful of farm-state legislators will thrash out the mind-numbing details behind closed doors, with virtually nobody else, either in Congress or in the media, paying much attention. Why? Because most of us assume that, true to its name, the farm bill is about “farming,” an increasingly quaint activity that involves no one we know and in which few of us think we have a stake.
Au contraire, my friends who eat. Au contraire.
I'm in San Jose, California for my company's engineering tech summit, which happened to overlap with Super Tuesday this year. Yesterday all my colleagues (well, not ALL of them; the Romanians and Germans were almost as oblivious of the Super Tuesday hoo-hah as I was) kept asking me for whom I voted. "Oh, I'm from Pennsylvania," I reminded them. "We don't vote until it's over."
This year I have hope that this won't be the case; for once in my lifetime, we might actually make it to the Democratic Nominating Convention and actually have a debate over who gets the nomination. The votes that get cast in Pennsylvania on April 22 might actually count for something.
Of course, my vote won't be among them. My vote doesn't count because I'm an Independent. A Non-Partisan. A voter with No Party in a state that has closed primaries. Unless I can get over my amazingly strong distaste for the DNC and the horror of being associated with a party that doesn't seem to represent me (and this is equally—or more—true for the Republican party), I won't have a chance to vote for Clinton or Obama until the general election. (I did review the Republican options as well, and it's hard to imagine voting for any of them. If it were a general election today with all of the originally-declared candidates in the race, Clinton and Obama would still top the list for me.)
Perhaps the ultimate irony is that in the year I that my primary vote might actually make a difference, I'm not particularly inclined to choose between Clinton and Obama. I favor Clinton for her experience and her depth on the issues, but like Mitt Romney, I'm a bit afraid of Bill Clinton hanging out at the White House with nothing to do. (I suspect Romney was trying to plant a picture of Wild Bill screwing interns into the minds of conservative voters, whereas in my nightmare he's taking on the role of Supreme Meddler). Obama, though I think he's light on both experience and details, is charismatic and thoughtful, and would be a bold choice with less baggage. I can't seem to forget that when a reporter asked him early in the campaign which books he was reading currently, he responded, "I'll have to get back to you on that," though.
The Registration Dilemma
After hearing the pundits on CNN postulate that the Democratic race would come down to "a showdown in Pennsylvania" last night, I started thinking seriously about registering as a Democrat so I could vote. For a while there it was looking as if Obama would sweep the rest of the primaries or Hillary would drop out, but after winning Ohio and Texas last night, it looks like we're in for the long slog.
I've railed here before about people jumping on bandwagons before the process was over, and how I wished every state got a chance to participate and have its voice heard, but now I'm getting nervous. Things are turning ugly, and I worry that the Democratic candidates could beat each other up so much in the primaries that neither would have a good chance against McCain in the general. (I'm actually more worried about Hillary undermining Obama than the other way around; she does a pretty good job of undermining herself, even when he takes the high road.)
I'm finding that my support for Hillary is waning as the battle goes on. I still believe she's incredibly smart and capable, and I'm REALLY uncomfortable with—nay, apalled by—the vitriol being spewed at her from the blogosphere and the mainstream media, but her campaign is making me equally uncomfortable. There's an oogeyness to it that brings back memories of the "Slick Willie" moniker, and sometimes I swear I can smell the stale-sweat stench of desperation. It's not pleasant. One gets the sense that Bill and Hillary are answering to themselves and no one else, and it makes me, for one, wonder if that's the insular attitude they'd bring to the White House. I hope not, especially if Hillary's the eventual nominee.
I'm still mulling over whether to make the trek to my county voter registration office to re-register as a Democrat. I'm also wondering where I put my original voter registration card, which seemed to be staring me in the face every day until I actually needed it. Hmmm.
I did it. I voted.
I was torn right up until the last minute, even after long IM conversations with my friends Jay and Kristin in California (in separate windows :-) last night, even after longer conversations with Al over the past few weeks, even after watching Senator Clinton on Keith Olbermann and Larry King last night and the Democratic debate a week ago. Yes, even after the barrage of phone calls from the Obama campaign and its supporters, and even after the Beaner repeatedly urged us to vote Obama.
By the time I walked out the door this morning, however, I'd made up my mind which buttons I was going to push (and now that I write that sentence, I realize that I mean it figuratively as well as literally). One last go-round with Al did the trick; I finally knew what I was going to do.
None of the choices on the ballot were easy (well, except for the races in which only one candidate was running); in the State Senate race, for example, I had a choice between a candidate whose literature was less than coherent (hello, editorial?), one who said he'd refuse to give up his role as union boss if elected, and one who might very well be the puppet of the former State Senator who's now in jail. Certainly, bad writing is the least of all these evils, but for me, it's hard to forgive. Forgive I did, though, mainly on the strength of my neighbor's endorsement. (I love my neighbor Jane and her husband Tully, who work tirelessly for the candidates and issues they believe in.)
Meanwhile, did you know that here in Pennsylvania we get to choose not only the presidential candidate, but also the delegates to the convention? Is that the case in other states? I don't remember ever doing it before, but today I had to choose 9 delegates—specifically 5 women and 4 men—to the Democratic convention. This was quite a privilege, as it allowed me to voice my indecision on the ballot rather than making a clear choice: I voted for Candidate A for president, and then chose 7 delegates for Candidate B and 2 for Candidate A. (I might have chosen all for Candidate B except for the fact that I like and respect two of Candidate A's delegates, and I wanted them to have a chance to go to the convention.)
So I've cast my ballot in the Pennsylvania primary. Crazily, perhaps, but I did it. I'll probably keep agonizing over which of the Democratic candidates I'd rather have as president for several more weeks, but whoever we get, I feel confident that I'll be able to vote for him or her in the general without serious regret.
And THAT'S How You Play Hardball
I was listening to MSNBC yesterday, as I often do while working, when this crazy shouting match erupted on Hardball. I ran into the other room to watch, and then ran back to my computer afterwards to Twitter what I'd seen. Of course, Twitter was down right then, so I pinged my friend Kristin and gave a breathless account of the exchange between Chris Matthews and Kevin James over IM.
Just now, Kristin sent me this link to a thinkprogress.org writeup of the incident. (There's also a video clip.) It's painful to watch, but fascinating. Moral of the story: Know your facts, not just your soundbites.
Taking a Page
Thanks to Al's superior parenting skills (and longer attention span when it comes to playing Car Dealership), I got to spend a lot of time reading this holiday weekend, and I finished Friday Night Lights last night. On Saturday night I came across a section that discussed the conservatism of West Texas in general and the 1988 presidential election in particular, and I was struck by its relevance to the current campaign.
I don't claim that the issues are exactly the same, or that Obama has much in common with Michael Dukakis in general, but the following section was enough to make me dog-ear the page.
Dukakis forces in Texas had thought they could win the state on the basis of the economy. They thought that the issues of gun control and the Pledge of Allegiance were emotional fads that would quickly die out. They never thought that Bush's rhetoric, a kinder, gentler vision of the "Morton Downey Show," would have much lasting effect. They patiently waited for the campaign to get back to the greater good of forging practical solutions to massive problems, but that shift never took place.
Perhaps just once Dukakis should have left the rarefied atmosphere of Boston and Harvard that seemed to entrap him no matter where he was, hopped in a car by himself, and taken a drive down one of those lonely, flat-as-a-pancake roads to the gleaming lights of a Friday night football game. As in ancient Rome, any road he chose would have gotten him there. He could have pulled down his tie and unbuttoned his collar. He could have gone to the concession stand to eat a frito pie and a chili dog and then wash it all down with one of those dill pickles that came carefully wrapped in silver foil. Instead of keeping track of the score, he could have sat in a corner of the stands to listen to the conversations around him as well as take note of what people were wearing, observed how they interacted with their children, listened to the songs the bands were playing, watched those balloons float into the air like doves of peace, and let the perfume of the Pepettes and the Golden Girls flow sweetly into his nostrils. He could have counted how many blacks were there, and how many Hispanics.
There was a heartbeat in those stands that dotted the Friday nights of Texas and Oklahoma and Ohio and Pennsylvania and Florida and all of America like a galaxy of stars, a giant, lurking heartbeat.
Michael Dukakis never heard that sound, and even if he had he probably would have dismissed it as some silly tribal rite practiced in the American boondocks by people who made no difference. But his opponent didn't make the same mistake. He had been down the lonely road to those games, where the heartbeat had resonated more spectacularly than in the healthiest newborn. He knew it was still as strong as ever. He knew what kind of values these people had.
The Consequences of Decisions Deferred
This headline and blurb in today's NYT e-mail blast caught my eye, partly because my thoughts on Sarah Palin finally crystallized over the weekend (blog post coming soon, hopefully), and partly because of Al's enumeration of the issues that were important to him in the coming election:
As Crisis Grew, a Few Options Shrank to One
The downfall of Fannie and Freddie stems from a series of miscalculations and deferred decisions.
If that didn't make me think of global warming, budget deficits, the national debt, and the current economic crisis, this pull-quote from the article certainly did:
"Today's necessary but likely very expensive action for taxpayers is the consequence of regulatory neglect and of a broader political system's reluctance to take on what should have been clearly seen as festering problems."
- LAWRENCE H. SUMMERS, a former Treasury secretary, on the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Something to think about when choosing a president: Do we want a team in the White House that's going to try to tackle the tough problems facing our country, our increasingly interdependent global financial system, and our planet in the 21st century, or a team that's going to stick their fingers in their ears and scream "la la la USA! USA! USA! la la la"?
In Our Interest
Here's what I'd most like to see from the news media, or from any respected institution at all: A comparison of Barack Obama's and John McCain's proposals on the economy/taxes, health care, education, the environment, and foreign policy. If you know of a good source for such a comparison, please link to it in the comments. (Update: Here's one comparison, of the two candidates' tax policies, from the Tax Policy Center.)
I've been interested in getting such info for a while, but a comment by someone I know over the weekend made me even more interested in getting it. This person said, "when you're a small business owner, you don't vote to raise taxes" in reply to my question about whether he knew for whom he'd be voting in November. I knew from his preceding comment, that he was at the opposite end of the political spectrum from me (though I'm not sure he really knows how close I am to the middle :-), that he meant he'd be voting for McCain. But the tax comment puzzled me, because he apparently meant that he was voting his business interests, I wasn't sure that he really *was* voting in his best interests as a small business owner.
It's obvious to me after the last eight years of the Bush administration, and the four and eight years of the Bush I and Reagan administrations before that, that Republicans are for BIG business. But are they for small business? Or do they tout less regulation and lower taxes, while actually making government bigger and more invasive? The latter is my impression, but I'd like some hard facts. Bring on the policy comparisons, please: Help us figure out what's really in our best interests. It certainly isn't Sideshow Politics about pigs and lipstick.
As we peer into society's future, we—you and I, and our government—must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without asking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.— Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Address, January 17, 1960
I do have something I want to write about today, and I still hope to get to it. But I also want to say: PLEASE VOTE. Today if you can, tomorrow if early voting is not available in your state (as is the case here). Take a personal day if you have to. Call in sick if you have to. And please, for the future of our country, our economy, and our people, vote for Obama.
I had an errand to run this morning, and I decided to take a route past my polling place to see how things were going. My plan was to vote at 10am, but if the line was short, I figured I'd duck in.
I don't remember the line ever being out the door. (The room you vote in is at the back of the building.) I wasn't worried about getting in later, after the morning rush, so I was encouraged by the line.
After finishing my errand and getting a coffee, I swung back by my polling place to see if the line had diminished. It was no longer out the door—in fact, I couldn't even see it from the door—so I stopped to sign a petition to get a traffic signal at 22nd and Cherry and then went inside.
I was taking the photo above when I heard someone say "hey!", and I looked up to see Al, who'd just finished voting. He assured me that the line would move rather quickly.
It turned out that I and the three people in front of me—and, I think, the three or four people in front of them—all had last names that began with A-H, so the volunteer who was working the line took the two guys behind me, who had names that began with R and V, I think, into the voting room to sign in.
A couple minutes later I and my fellow A-Hers were led in, and I chatted with a volunteer about the missing hyphen in my last name and the fact that she's always misfiled as well because she goes by her first initial and middle name. She, like most people, blamed the computers; I blamed the people who write the software (or design the databases :-).
I didn't have to show ID because I've voted many times before at this polling place, but I signed the book as usual and was told, "you're ready to vote." WOOOO! I had been waiting for this moment for what seems like EVER. I was asked by another volunteer whether I knew how to use the booth, and I said yes. It turned out I was wrong about that, because I accidentally voted NO on a ballot measure on which I'd intended to vote YES, and I couldn't figure out how to change it. I asked for help, and was told that I had to press NO again to clear it. (Weird, huh? I'd been pressing YES over and over.)
Anyway, I finally succeeded in entering all my choices. I can see from the photo below that there was a "straight ticket" option, but I didn't use it. I always vote in each race individually, even if in the end I choose all Democrats. (In the last election I voted for a Republican for City Council, and I've voted for Libertarians, Independents, and Green party candidates as well. I like to read the names and think about what I know of them rather than voting along party lines. This time there weren't any third-party candidates in local races, as far as I can remember, so my choices were fairly straightforward.)
I was so excited about photographing my ballot surreptitiously (I'd been told when I asked during the primaries that photography in the voting room was not allowed) that I almost forgot to press the VOTE button. I did remember just as I was turning to leave the booth, and I made sure my vote counted. The only other thing left to do was grab an Obama/Biden sticker (I was sad that there were no I VOTED FOR CHANGE stickers available at my polling place) and make a sign for our front door:
Give Him a Hand
This morning I am hopeful, nervous, ready to support, ready to sacrifice, ready to work hard. I can't imagine that anyone would want the job Barack Obama has in front of him, but I think (I pray) he's up to the task. I hope that the candidate I saw close out a long campaign with a mixture of seriousness, sobriety, and confidence that TOGETHER WE CAN CHANGE our country will be able to govern effectively, act practically, inspire us to, in the words of John McCain,
come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.
I am hoping that an Obama administration will be good for all Americans, whether they voted for him or not. I am hoping that my friends and family members who could not get behind Obama for reasons of tax policy or religion or race will still benefit from the changes that will come over the next few years. I don't want to shaft anyone. I want everyone—perhaps those who vilified Obama most of all—to do well.
I hope that Barack Obama spends the next 48-72 hours getting some sleep, and then I hope he reads everything he can get his hands on about the issues that he will face as he takes office. Sponge it up, dude: You're going to need to hit the ground running.
Most of all, I hope. Full stop. I HOPE. I thought this series of photographs by Ariel Meadow Stallings captures the mix of emotions—dominated by hope—that progressives felt last night when the results came in. It's wonderful.
My friends, let's move forward together. Let's make my hope, our hope, a reality.
Save the Free Library
To be honest, I've sort of been ignoring the budget impasse that's been plaguing our Pennsylvania state government. I've been through several of these before in other states (and I remember well a couple federal ones), and everything always turns out OK in the end. There's partisan bickering, a few services that don't affect me shut down temporarily, and every public television and radio station in the state starts freaking out. It's annoying, but the effects are usually limited, and eventually a budget passes.
This time, apparently, it's worse than all that. This budget bickering has gone on so long that services that DO affect me are starting to shut down. I wasn't *too* worried when the PBS station to which I gave a substantial portion of a windfall I received earlier this year called last night to ask for more money; as mentioned above, public tv and radio are usually the first ones to cry out in pain. (Sometimes they cry so often it's hard to tell whether the pain is real.)
This morning, however, I discovered this: All Free Library of Philadelphia Branch, Regional and Central Libraries Closed Effective Close of Business October 2, 2009
At first glance, it might sound like the usual public television "they're going to take away Big Bird!" hyperbole. Our nanny thought it was a joke. It's not. Yes, the closure won't take place until October 2, and yes, it will only happen if the legislators in Harrisburg continue to fail to pass a state budget, but the effects will be felt sooner than that—and given how long the budget negotiations have already dragged on, the threat of Philadelphia's Free Public Library closing is absolutely real.
If you live in Pennsylvania, please contact your state senator and state representative and ask them to act with all possible speed to pass a state budget. Here's the letter I sent to my senator, Larry Farnese, and (with slight modifications) my representative, Babette Josephs.
PLEASE PLEASE do whatever you can to get a state budget passed ASAP. My four-and-a-half year-old son is an early reader and an avid consumer of Free Library books and services. His twice-weekly visits to the library have fostered his independence and confidence in addition to his reading skills. We want him out and about and interacting with the community, not just sitting in his room at home. We can afford to buy him books if the library closes, but honestly, we'd rather pay more taxes to keep the libraries open than use that same money to buy books for our child's exclusive use. Libraries do so much more for our community than an endless supply of books could do for a single child.
Please be a voice for our kid, our libraries, and our district. Please act in the spirit of cooperation and compromise, and encourage your fellow Senators and House colleagues to do the same.