Obama’s Closing Argument

27 10 2008

Barack Obama has delivered a “closing argument” speech that is employs language and cadence vaguely reminiscent of the Clintonian splendor that I used to admire as a teenager. It’s a long read, but it’s a slice of history in the making. Read it here.


McCain’s Warning: Perils Of One-Party Rule

27 10 2008

It is unreasonable to say that electing a Democrat president and having a Democrat majority in Congress equals
“one party rule”.

First of all, the supreme court, the third branch of government, is conservative-Republican heavy.

Second, we were living under the same “one party rule” when Bush was president with a majority in Congress for 6 years. True – it wasn’t a veto proof majority. We had that when Clinton was president, although he was a Democrat with a veto-proof Republican majority in Congress. Count the ways that went wrong.

That brings me to the third point – members of Congress and Senators are elected directly by citizens. If there is a majority in the legislative branch of government, it’s because a majority of people wanted them there. I wish a majority of citizens hadn’t wanted Republicans to have a majority in Congress for six years of Bush’s term – but they did and I lived with that. The bottom line is that my neighbors wanted it, I was outnumbered, and so I had to live with our collective decision. Now my neighbors might want a Democrat majority in Congress – and I support that. I also support a Democrat for president. It is not a package deal – they are individual decisions being made by millions of people. If a Democrat majority in Congress and Democrat President is what the majority of citizens want, then by golly that is what they should get – for better or worse.

This is the democratic system, like it or lump it.

More on John McCain
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Palin Uses Hate to Motivate

8 10 2008

“Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” – Gandhi, 1948

“I’m afraid this is someone who sees, America as ‘imperfect enough’ to work with a former domestic terrorist who had targeted his own country.” – Sarah Palin, 2008

See, here’s the thing. Violence is bad. Murder, rape, assault – that type of violence is destructive and unhealthy. Healthy forms of violence – kickboxing, weight training, running – are good. Going to the gym and working off some rage is good. Raping a woman who just left the gym is bad. Everyone on the same page? Good. Let’s continue.

Inspiring unhealthy forms of violence is exactly what people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi detested (if you can claim Ghandi “detested” anything).

Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.”

Constructive conversation, peaceful action, finding common ground – these are the surrogates of diplomacy, non-violent protesting, and progress.

Leaders throughout history who inspired people by appealing to the angels of their better nature have become symbols of a way. A way to stop fighting without surrendering. A way to look hate straight in the face without hating back.  A way to focus on what binds us instead of what separates us. A way to negotiate irreconcilable differences.  A way to take a little but also give a little.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr., 1958

Sarah Palin is not that kind of leader, and neither is John McCain.

“It’s a dangerous road, but we have no choice,” a top McCain strategist recently admitted to the Daily News.  “If we keep talking about the economic crisis, we’re going to lose.”

The ‘dangerous road,’ however, is not just a generic attack on Sen. Obama’s trustworthiness or honesty.  Rather, the McCain campaign has chosen to stand before campaign rallies and accuse Sen. Obama of hiding sympathies with domestic terrorists–to accuse their opponent, essentially, of being a terrorist.

With the McCain campaign now using the Palin stump speech to accuse Sen. Obama of hiding a terrorist agenda, the McCain campaign has staked its future on rhetoric that skirts the boundary between character assassination and incitements of actual violence against their opponent.

Inspiring progress is good. Inspiring assassination is bad. Ironically, this kind of rhetoric actually makes Palin sound like a domestic terrorist herself.

Rotation vs. Revolution

23 09 2008

2000 – Bush vs. Gore

2004 – Bush vs. Kerry

2008 – McCain vs. Obama

Will we learn from our mistakes?

Have you ever watched the first season of Heroes? How about the first season (and the first half of season 2) of Jericho? Ever see the movie The Cradle Will Rock? Ever read Plato’s Republic? No? Well, that’s OK. Even those of us who haven’t enjoyed the entertainment value of revolutions understand that it is not a passive act of resistance that dominates the landscape of change, though it can be the catalyst. Revolution hurts – it always hurts somebody, and most of the time it hurts a lot of people before it helps anyone. The thing is, even the smallest change is worth fighting for, and even the smallest change can help reclaim our place in the world.

Technology has helped to make our worlds bigger and smaller at the same time. Some people use technology like blogging to connect with other like minded individuals. We share ideas, we challenge eachother, we think, we disagree, we learn, but most importantly seek others’ opinions. Maybe we troll around to other blogs and callously spread our own opinions, thus pissing off people with whom we disagree. That, too, is part of sharing ideas. In these small ways we fight our own private revolutions of the mind, seeking and presenting challenges so that we can grow. Without our predatory hunt for change we become the prey of others’ revolutions. The spirit of determining our own destiny enables us to move toward change in baby steps and on our own terms. Without that proactive search for the next level of understanding, we become stagnant targets of fate’s idle hands.

The Boston Tea Party did not change the fate of our nation out of boredom. Those people took thousands of dollars of merchandise and tossed it into the ocean. Would you board a ship that had $2 million worth of laptops on it and dump them into the ocean? That’s the equivalent to what they did. They weren’t anarchists – quite the opposite. They demanded that the government include them, or there would be consequences. Depending on who you quote, around 2,750 people tipped the crates of tea the night of a heated town meeting. The total population in the colonies at that time was around 275,000. That means around 10% of the population joined together to accomplish a single act of rebellion. That’s the equivalent of 3 million people in the U.S. joining together during this election cycle. In one place. At one time. There are really only two places that 3 million people could gather in the U.S. – 1) the Washington National Mall in D.C. with the Washington monument in the background, and 2) the internet.

So here we are, and the first presidential debate is on Friday night at 9pm New York time. Many of us will be gathering at apartments and houses of political sympathizers to witness the first of four life altering “debates”. But are they really debates? Not really. They’re a pageant – a way of showcasing the best side of each candidate and hopefully exposing a few kinks in the armor of the other person. Most of us already know who we are voting for, even if we’re conflicted about how much we support them. Is that a good thing? Should we know who we’re voting for before the first debate? Is the policy for each candidate set in stone? Could we nudge them one way or the other? I mean, I don’t think we’ll have much luck pushing Obama to be pro-life or McCain to be pro-tax increases. Surely there are areas where each are, shall we say, grey? Raising the minimum wage, regulating Wall Street, investing in roads and infrastructure – these are areas that directly impact the vast majority of voters. Those voters who wish to be heard need to speak up.

Revolution of the mind happens like any other change – one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. Contact your senator and member of congress to let them know what you want. Challenge others’ ideas now, with respect and humility, so they have a chance to catch up to your advanced intellect by Election Day.

Palin Ruins the Party For Everyone

19 09 2008

“Gov. Sarah Palin and other elected officials have been disinvited from an anti-Iran rally scheduled for Monday at the United Nations, organizers of the rally and the campaign of Senator John McCain said.”

“Malcolm I. Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and a leading promoter of the rally, disinvited Ms. Palin, Mr. McCain’s running mate on the Republican presidential ticket, and other politicians after Democrats, Jewish organizations and members of Congress protested that her appearance would turn the rally into a partisan political event.”

“But Mr. Hoenlein said, ‘I hope that we at least will be able to host the governor in the near future.’ ”

“On Wednesday, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that she would skip the rally after learning that Ms. Palin would be there. ‘Her attendance was news to us,’ said Mrs. Clinton’s spokesman, Philippe Reines.”

“For its part, the campaign of Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee for president, had planned to send Representative Robert Wexler.”

“By Thursday afternoon, the cacophony was so intense that Mr. Hoenlein rescinded the invitations to both campaigns.”

” ‘The message of the rally was about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad being at the United Nations and his nuclear weapons program,’ said Mr. Hoenlein, referring to the president of Iran. ‘And that was being obfuscated in the media frenzy.’ ”

” ‘This,’ he added, ‘is not about Governor Palin.’ “

Well, yes and no.

Now, I know that it isn’t supposed to be about Palin. It’s supposed to be about Ahmadinejad and his contempt for Israel. Politics, however, is based in diplomacy – or at least it should be.

As I was reading the comments section of the New York Times article, one blogger wrote,

“…such a serious event really is not the time or place to make a political point, for either side of the aisle.”

True, but politics and events like these are intertwined. Ignoring the state of politics and trying to organize a rally that includes politicians seems suicidal. It’s hard (impossible?) to engage in politics and ignore social mores. Respect, deference, cordiality, politeness – all used in politics as tools of diplomacy.

Senator Clinton, as a New York State senator, had every reason to be included in this event being held in New York City. For all her faults, she is very diplomatic and an asset at any international event. As an organizer for the event, I would have been very careful not to put Senator Clinton, or any high ranking official really, in an awkward situation. Out of deference her team should have been informally asked if it would tick her off to share a stage with Palin – for any reason. Same goes for the hierarchy of officials in attendance, proportionate to their rank. Stupid move on organizers part – and with the publicity this is getting, bad for their relationship with Senator Clinton I’d say.

When I first heard about this I tried to imagine how it would appear if the situation were flipped. What if Palin was my political hero. What if her presence on the presidential ticket was a coup for feminism and indicated a genuine shift in the nation’s direction toward a more equal, inclusive society. And she was disinvited. Why? Because a tyrannical hypocrite was appalled that she was expected to have to share a stage with her, and that hypocrite/anti-feminist withdrew from the event. Well, good – all the better for the cause. In fact what better way to draw a distinct line between a politician who embodies progress and one who represents regression than that exact situation?

And as I thought about this upside down world and how I might react to it, I remembered a key difference – summarily plague vs. power.

This isn’t about Govenor Palin. It’s about us.

It is one thing when the good samaritan begins to travel alongside a force of malice on a winding road and the force of malice is chased away by the very presence of the good samaritan. It is quite another thing when the opposite occurs, and it is important for feminists to note the qualifying differences. To stand one’s ground is often tantamount to victory, even if no further advancements occur. When your mortal enemy is climbing atop your mountain, don’t flee. Giving them that kind of power over you only reinforces the (possibly false) idea that you are not strong enough to face them. On the other hand, sometimes we are indeed not strong enough to face our enemies alone. “Safety in numbers” as the saying goes. There is nothing wrong with asking for help – and if you can’t get it then there is nothing wrong with removing yourself from that situation. Live to fight another day.

I guess it all comes down to knowing yourself and knowing whether or not you can face something without help. It is not surprising to me that Hillary Clinton is feeling more fragile these days than she usually does. It is not surprising to me that rather than face Palin, and the media frenzy that would follow, she has opted to remove herself from the situation. It is not surprising to me that Senator Clinton felt like she wouldn’t have enough support (political, emotional) to help her face Govenor Palin’s loaded presence. What does surprise me is that we can sit back, safe and warm in our private, anonymous chairs, and let it happen.

Who watches the watchers? Indeed, who protects the protectors?

On The Lighter Side

18 09 2008
Thank you, thank you - if you get raped don't come crying to me, thank you.

"Thank you, thank you - if you get raped don't come crying to me - thank you."

“This is about who should run our country. I would love to see Angelina Jolie speak. I think she’s pretty and wears nice clothing and she loves her kids — but that does not make her a VP.”

That’s it! We should get someone like Angelina Jolie to be on the Democratic ticket in the next election if Obama doesn’t win this one! I’m not saying she, whoever “she” may be, should run with Hillary – Hillary can choose her own vp – but if Hillary decides not to run then we should definately put someone like Angelina Jolie on the ticket. Let’s see… we’ll need contenders:

(in no particular order)

  1. Angelina Jolie
  2. Juila Roberts
  3. Susan Sarandon
  4. Meryl Streep
  5. Glenn Close (for irony if not her political views)
  6. Joan Allen (ditto – and if you don’t get that, see The Contender)
  7. Uma Thurman
  8. Daryl Hannah
  9. Angela Bassett
  10. (veto Halle Berry – Catwoman clips=devastating)
  11. Michelle Pfeiffer
  12. Gina Gershon
  13. Jennifer Aniston
  14. Gwen Paltrow (yeah, I put them next to eachother, good catch)
  15. Sally Field
  16. Elizabeth Shue
  17. Natalie Portman
  18. Madonna
  19. Geena Davis
  20. Drew Barrymore
  21. Lucy Liu
  22. Vivica Fox
  23. Demi Moore
  24. Jada Pinkett-Smith
  25. Sarah Michelle Gellar (for good measure)

Now, picture them with short hair, neutral makeup, and a pantsuit. Ok, scratch the short hair requirement – but we’d need a way to make it…functional/no fuss. Oh, and no skirts – though I guess that is covered by the pantsuit. Oh, and no clevage (sorry Meryl). Oh, and not smilng so much as smugly pleased with something (sorry Drew).

Ok, well this should get us started. Mock-up pictures to follow.

(NOTE: most of this is dripping with sarcasm, but it is not outside the realm of possibility to get an actor/actress into the whitehouse. They just need to be a govenor first – though I would accept Senator with a side of solid-management-experience.)

American History Y

10 09 2008

I was reading an article in Politico this morning and I was pleased to read what had already become apparent to many of us:

“Republican Rep. Candice S. Miller says Barack Obama had only one shot at Palin-proofing the Democratic ticket — and he missed it when he passed over Hillary Rodham Clinton as his running mate.”

And immediately following that happy, happy – joy, joy moment came this speed bump on my happy highway:

“ ‘Every woman in America knows what Barack Obama did to Hillary Clinton: He looked at her and thought, ‘There’s no way I’m doing that,’ ‘ said Miller. ‘If Hillary was on the ticket, he’d be in a much better position to win women voters.’ ”

I really, REALLY don’t think that’s the best way to characterize the situation. Yes, Obama was a jackass. Yes, grudges are being held. Yes, even after he wins the race his presidency will live with that stigma. If Hillary was on the ticket then, yes, you would probably win voters who are women. But the reason you’d win them is not because they are women, it’s because they are FEMINISTS. 

What’s happening right now in the feminist community is interesting. Here you have a choice between putting a politician who is a woman in the whitehouse, and protecting feminst values. Well, shit.

The trick is, feminism is very broad and has many facets. Not all women politicians are going to be smart, likable, even tempered, attractive, inspirational or wise. Just like not all men politicians are any, let alone all, of those traits.

Some politicians are just… there. You know the kind. It’s your mayor, county administrator, or representative. It’s your congressman, city councilman, or state majority leader. You need someone to fill the spot, they come to work on time, they seem to really want it, the person isn’t a raving psycho – so, let’s see what happens. Hell, most people don’t even bother voting in their local elections, that’s how little it matters to them who is making decicsions about how to spend their taxes. 

So, in that way, no woman politician should have to be any more qualified / experienced / knowledgeable / accomplished than the least qualified man politician. Sound like a low bar? You bet. But women aren’t supposed to be better than men, they are supposed to be no less than men. You can’t say, “sure you can be on the team, if you can beat the best player we’ve got,” and expect to sucessfully recruit enough women to have equal representation on that team – it’s unreasonable.

Now, does that mean that Sarah Palin should get all the support of all the feminists out there? Hell no. For starters, she’s against some of the biggest issues that feminists stand for, and her runningmate is against the others. Equal pay and right to choice are the easiest to point out, and they are arguably the biggest issues in feminism right now in our country. I wouldn’t like the fact that she hunts moose and prays to a different invisible man in the sky than me even if she DID support choice, but I might consider voting for her.

Even more than that, though: just because we should be gender blind does not mean we need to be politically stupid. What does it matter who it is or what they look like if they strip your rights and set your cause back 30 years? Who cares about the family habits of the politician who believes that teenage girls, raped and pregnant with a criminal’s child, should not be allowed to undergo a medical procedure that would end that pregnancy?

Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, feminism is about empowerment and equality. Would the Democrats have been Palin-proofed with Hillary on the ticket – hell yes. Was it a massive blunder to not have her on the ticket – hell yes. Will they ever fully recover if the Republicans put the first woman in the whitehouse – no they won’t. Will we remember this for a dozen elections – yes we will.

But this is not about being a woman – this is about being a feminist. You can be a feminist and be a man – you can be a woman and not be a feminist. Women who are not feminists are worse than the men who fight against feminism – those women perpetuate the lie every day at dinner. There are women who specifically liked Hillary and that was the reason they voted for her. There are men who have no interest in Palin (shocking, right? what guy doesn’t vote with his little head? – oh, wait, that puts a new spin on reasons for previous election results…).

Feminism can save the Obama ticket, but they’ve made too few efforts in too pale ways to claim that voter block. Remember in American History X when Ed Norton is in the prison yard and he decides that he’s gonna get a beat down no matter how neutral he tries to be? That’s when he decides to show his colors, in his characater’s case it was nazi tatoos, hoping that his fellow prison yard nazis would come to his rescue. And they did. Well, that’s what Obama needs to do – and yes, you’re allowed to mock the metaphor.