Monday, January 03, 2005

 

The Eternal Debate

In this time of global tragedy, I should probably avoid casting aspersions on the Commander-in-Chief. And I have; I would normally call George Walker Bush the Commander-in-Thief (no, I'm not ever letting go of 2000, sorry) or something in a similar vein. Having done him one small favor, I feel no guilt whatsoever in sharing the solution to the debate raging among American liberals today: Stupid or Evil?

The answer: 85% Evil, 15% Stupid.

Our glorious leader's evil-to-stupidity ratio is best expressed using the iceberg analogy. Imagine the iceberg that crushed the Titanic. Only the tiny percentage that pierced the waterline was visible. With Bush, stupidity is the most visible quality. Our president has put his foot in his mouth so many times he has athlete's foot of the esophagus. His wife can't trust him to eat pretzels unsupervised. He enjoys using the Interwebs and is thinking about ways to destroy America -- according to his own public statements. So those on the stupidity side of the debate have a lot of ammunition.

Here's the evil: our president wants to privatize Social Security. This will cost the government $2 trillion, and will add to deficits driven ever skyward by an insane war for which every dollar spent is a dollar borrowed. He wants to do this because it will help Daddy's rich friends. They won't ever need to rely on Social Security and they resent having to pay into it for their dwindling pool of American worker. If you're not rich, if you're working class, try to develop an affinity for wet catfood. It'll come in handy if Bush's insane plan comes to fruition.

No child left behind. The shining light of Bush's education policy is a plan that takes resources away from poor children in failing schools and then dumps those children into schools that had barely been keeping their heads above water. Poorly performing schools are supposedly "punished." Schools are buildings; they can't feel punishment. When you close a school, you deny its resources to the students it once served. The plan holds teachers "accountable" for failure. Teachers don't control school funding. They also are immune from any accountabilty. Teachers aren't slaves. If they receive reprimands because the impoverished children in their care don't score well on a test, they have the option of packing it in and teaching in the suburbs. Or of leaving teaching for a more rewarding profession. When this happens, again, children suffer.

As long as public schools are funded by property taxes, children in poor neighborhoods will always receive an inadequately funded education. No child left behind places even greater emphasis on standardized testing while simultaneously depriving students of resources. So this policy? Clearly evil.

Our president wants to do away with tax deductions to companies that provide health insurance to employees. Ever been without health insurance? Imagine needing life saving surgery and knowing you'll probably never get it because the condition that prevents you from working, prevents you from ever having employer-paid benefits, is slowly killing you. That's my experience of George Bush's grand healthcare non-plan. Now this heartbreak will be shared by millions more Americans. Misery doesn't love company. I see this Bush iniative as evil and will do anything I can to help defeat it.

The president wants to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage. The proposed amendment also bars civil unions. Since marriage rights are the lynchpin of providing full civil rights to gay men and lesbians, Bush's amendment clearly aims to scuttle all the gains gay people have made in this country in the last thirty years. This country was founded by people who rejected theocracy. The Bible isn't our guiding political document. Gay people violate no laws and should enjoy the same rights and priviliges as anybody else. Why Bush and his cronies feel the need to give this one to their Christian right pals is beyond me. It's not like the Bible thumping, cross burning set will ever vote for a liberal from a blue state. Bush has no reason to pursue this other than sheer evil and cussedness.

The war in Iraq. Need I say more?

So, the debate resolves in favor of Evil. But stupidity fans take heart: your cause has ample representation. It gets a second wind every time Dubya opens his mouth.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

 

Queen for a Day

I watched Oprah today (shut up. She's good people). Oprah has instituted a special series of shows called "Your Wildest Dreams." Today, she surprised (nearly to the point of apoplexy) a barrista at a Chicago Starbucks with a shopping spree at Toys-r-Us for her nine children. Oh, and a new house, including new furniture for every room and a bunch of flat screen TVs.

Oprah has caught on to a disturbing new trend in reality programming. Shows like "Extreme Makeover Home Edition," "Renovate my Family" and Very Special Episodes of shows like "Trading Spaces" and "While You Were Out" will find a poor family, exploit them shamelessly for an hour, and then present them with a McMansion tricked out like something out of MTV's Cribs.

Oprah's heart was in the right place. The woman she gave the house to had three children and took in six of her heroin addict brother's kids. She works long hours at a crappy job for tiny wages and was raising the kids in a horrible neighborhood (anyplace where your kids see murders on the way to school qualifies as horrible, I'd have to say).

I have a problem with this. It's pretty sad to live in a country where we lift a tiny handful of families up, deciding that some of them are worthy poor folks who deserve a decent place to live while tens of thousands of others continue to live in the neighborhood with the murders or face homelessness. We have a government that cares nothing for the poor, that actively works against businesses who try to provide health care for their employees, and we have record unemployment, underemployment and a staggering number of children living below the poverty line.

So the government doesn't care, but reality TV does -- especially when they can make millions in ad revenues by holding up poor families to our scrutiny just as Steve Irwin might point out the beauty in a passing insect. Oprah has a billion dollars. She runs a charitable foundation that will no doubt pay for the Starbuck woman's new house. I wonder what Oprah made in ad revenue for the show she aired featuring this woman and her children? Enough to pay the property taxes on the house that Oprah is buying? Enough to educate, feed and clothe nine children through adulthood?

In the end, I don't even think this family's salvation is guaranteed. When she can't make ends meet, she'll sell everything and end up in similar circumstances to the ones Oprah found her in. Maybe Oprah should've paid for her to attend college (though in this economy a degree doesn't automatically mean you'll find a decent job). Maybe Oprah should direct her attention to our newly evil Congress and working on them to put forward a housing bill that will help thousands of needy families, not just the ones with stories "uplifting" enough to guarantee Ty "Fame Whore Supreme" Pennington and Dr. Phil's loser son ratings.

Or the federal government could just continue the plan to give media corporations enormous tax breaks. The extra cash means more poverty-exploiting reality tv shows, so eventually, the poor will receive some trickle down action.

Welcome to Day 29 of the national tragedy. Come on in -- the water is warm and salty with my bitter, bitter tears. But I kid George W. Bush's America -- I kid!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

 

Liberal Forward o'the Week

I've decided to give a little accolade to the piece of liberal e-mail that most terrifies/appalls me each week. Now, I really enjoyed the John Kerry concession parody (thanks 'Chelle!), but it amused rather than horrified. Courtesy of Kelly H., by way of the fabulous Sue M., I got e-mail directing me to info about one's of Dubya's scarier friends.

Karma screams for this guy to be denied access to vagina forever. If he doesn't like it, it's because he isn't reading the bible enough. Honestly, though, I think the old testament queens (Ruth, Esther) would've given a joker like this no quarter.

That's not saying much. I bet even Laura Bush wouldn't let him within fifty feet of...well...Laura's bush. Reading about this appointment makes me want to cross my legs...permanently.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

 

The Nature of Evil

I've been pondering the nature of evil. Basically because Frontline is running a documentary on Wal*Mart.

I conclude that Wal*Mart is evil.

Why? Simple. Not only to they do everything imaginable to bust unions and to keep their employees at wages that wouldn't support anyone (unless they actually enjoy living in a big refrigerator carton and eating out of dumpsters), Wal*Mart forces manufacturers to meet extremely low price points. The only way these American companies can meet those low, low prices is to open factories in China. Wal*Mart actively lobbies its manufacturers to move to China and helps facilitate it by buying direct from them in China.

So not only does Wal*Mart screw its workers and ruin local small businesses, they do everything in their considerable power to make sure American jobs are exported to China. The Chinese workers love it. Fifty cents an hour is a fortune! I wish that was (just) sarcasm. As it turns out, an acceptable wage is twenty-five cents and hour and the average wage in those American Chinese factories is thirty five cents an hour.

Soon, with all our manufacturing gone, most blue collar Americans will be too poor to shop anywhere but Wal*Mart and too desperate for jobs to work anywhere but Wal*Mart. The end times are here, and Wal*Mart is the beast. Soon, low low prices won't be measured in pennies, but in the blood of the innocent. You want a new TV? Give Wal*Mart your firstborn.

So, Wal*Mart? Clearly evil.

I haven't shopped at Wal*Mart since 1998. I'll never shop there again, ever.

I usually call the president evil, too. The great divide among my liberal friends is the evil/stupid debate. I maintain that the two aren't mutually exclusive and see Dubya as both very dumb and very bad. He's a bad, bad man. Evil, even. Most of my friends think he's really, really stupid.

We all agree that Karl Rove (Dubya's puppetmaster, in case you haven't heard of him) is both evil and smart. And scary.

The end times, my friends. Who wants to guard my compound while I go to Sam's Club for a few cases of bottled water? What? Sam's is owned by whom? Noooooooooo! (Cue Carmina Burana/Devil movie music/dark latin chanting).

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

 

Easley in 2008

I'm not the only one talking about Mike Easley. Despite the many typos in this story (shocking in a paper with this sort of circulation), the writer makes good sense. Mainly because he echoes my own predictions for 2008, but also because of...you know, logic and stuff.

Democratic Governor Mike Easley won with a double digit lead in North Carolina. He knows how to get rednec..., er, red state people to vote for him. Mainly by balancing the state budget without cutting essential services and having some pretty ambitious plans for public education. In his second term, he wants to initiate a program that would allow high school students to get an associate's degree if they put in an extra year. I know a lot of people who would have benefitted from a program like this. I know children who could avoid the army or a crap minimum wage job if this program were offered in their state. For parents struggling to come up with college tuition, this would cut the price in half. It's very smart.

An let's not forget that Mike loves his gun. When he was ruining the lives of countless scummy drug dealers as a tuff-on-crime district attorney, both he and his wife (a law professor -- and so cute!) both slept with guns under their pillows.

Maybe Mike could run with Jennifer Granholm? If they ever amend the constitution, it would be possible. They might -- the Republicans loves them some Schwartzenegger. The democrats might trade it for ditching the 22nd amendment. Or changing it so as to allow 3 terms (hello Bill Clinton!).

Okay, so I really don't want Bill to run again...but Jennifer Granholm would be an amazing choice for VP. I know I'm forgetting John Edwards. I may add him to the ANTP list at the left, assuming he finds something useful to do with himself for the next four years.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

 

Seven Days Later

A week ago, I voted for John Kerry. My polling place ran smoothly, perhaps because (as we all know) predominantly white areas are immune to fraud and require no "supervision" by Republican vote challengers. So the Hope United Methodist Church ran its giant election bake sale in peace, and the voters moved through at a decent clip.

After voting, I went to another church in a different part of Toledo. Bethlehem Baptist Church sits on the corner of Auburn and Bancroft in one of Toledo's poorest neighborhoods. Auburn St., the infamous site of a pair of grisly stabbings a couple of years ago, serves as a reminder of both the American dream and an American tragedy. Refurbished Victorians, homes tended with love and enormous pride of place, sit next to crack houses, architectural style inderminate, slowly rotting as the people inside slowly kill themselves. The Bethlehem Baptist Church serves this neighborhood, its grounds beautifully tended and its new life center (complete with state of the art day care facility) a source of strength and pride.

The church hall buzzed with activity as I arrived on that rainy Tuesday. Election Protection, a national group established to make sure anyone eligible to vote could do so without intimidation, flooded the Toledo area with eager young volunteers, lawyers and other sundry personnel. Local NAACP volunteers signed in new arrivals, and I met two ladies who'd worked with my parents. Both of my parents were social workers at the county welfare agency. Being raised by social workers is somewhat akin to being raised by wolves -- if the wolves had strong liberal leanings and way too much knowledge of psychology.

Many of the volunteers came from out of state. I met people from Oregon, Indiana, Kansas, New York, Illinois, Michigan and Washington D.C. Newly minted attorneys, with a hunger for justice as finely honed as Jean Claude Van Damme's (in one of the movies where he's out for justice), took brief breaks in the church hall before heading back out into the rain to polling places in Toledo's central city.

They visited one site, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, repeatedly throughout the day. The Republican vote challeneger there harassed young volunteers on a regular basis. He ripped down posters telling people they had the right to vote. He tried to prevent volunteers from handing out the voter's bill of rights, saying that a decision by a federal judge forbade it (the decision actually said that Republican challengers couldn't wear buttons announcing their party affiliation). The challenger snatched a copy of the decision away from a volunteer, refusing to let her read it. This man didn't live in the community. He didn't know the people he challenged (usually about their residency). He seemed to find the situation amusing, and spent the day laughing at the voters, seemingly with the support of poll workers. So he gave the lawyers a lot of opportunities to demonstrate their skill.

I asked Chris, a lawyer with an international trade firm in D.C., a bunch of questions. Where had he gone to school? How long had he lived in D.C.? He answered with grace and humor.

"So are you part of the Army of Lawyers?" I asked him.

"Not any candidate's army," he replied.

"So you're part of a rag tag band of lawyers, mercenary heroes, loyal only to the American voter?" I embrace any metaphor that equates liberal lawyering with images from Sam Raimi's cult film Army of Darkness.

"Um, sure. Anything you say." Chris had to leave suddenly. I'm sure he had to go prevent disenfrancisement or something.

Throughout the day, I took calls from volunteers at polling places all over Toledo. In addition to fielding at least five calls about Trinity Church Republican Guy, I helped dozens of people find the correct polling place and advised our volunteers on election law (as explained to me by Dave, a rolex-wearing real estate attorney from Indiana). We pored over sections of the Ohio Revised Code and over judicial decisions fresh from the Federal Court for Northern Ohio. At 3:01 p.m., Judge Katz ruled that people who moved within Lucas county could vote at their new polling place on a regular (and not a provisional) ballot. This ruling applied to the whole state of Ohio. Judge Katz gave Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell (exactly like Katherine Harris, only black, male and without the five o'clock shadow) half an hour to make boards of elections aware of his decision.

So we called all of our volunteers and the mobile attoneys and let them know about the ruling. We ate rubber chicken, donated by a left wing caterer, and all the Halloween candy we could stomach. We got call after call that optical scan machines weren't tallying votes. Basically, the machine would increase the number it displayed by one after each vote, but then would stall at a certain point and not advance with new votes. We had our attorneys at the board of election lodge a complaint. I never heard that the complaint had been resolved.

At the end of the day, with all our volunteers reporting that the lines had died down and the people still remaining in the polling places were voting without incident, we declared election day over. A group of high school and college students from D.C. drifted off to find out if their rental car would be replaced (they'd been in an accident that morning and volunteered anyway). Dave went home to Indiana, taking jokes about the Dan Quayle birthplace museum with good grace. People organized car pools to the airport. Out of town volunteers thanked me for my help (which mystified me -- I wanted to make sure people in my own community could vote and thought it my duty to help). Cheryl, the volunteer coordinator and a friend of mine, pulled her 10-year-old son away from a game of catch so that he could shake my hand. We drifted out of the church hall exhausted, having done the best we could to make sure people in Toledo could vote.

We didn't succeed in every case. People got frustrated with long lines and went home. People couldn't afford to wait for hours because their bosses wouldn't allow it. People were so furious at being challenged by Republicans that they left in a huff, refusing anyone's help. Not everyone allowed these obstacles to turn them around. One man went to five different polling places before finally being allowed to vote. Students in Bowling Green waited up to nine hours to cast their ballots. We had some successes and felt like we'd accomplished something on election day.

Now that Bush has accepted Kerry's concession, people all over the Internets are raising suspicions of fraud. Considering my own experiences on election day -- machines not seeming to work properly, vote challengers going out of their way to intimidate and harass people, poll workers (employed by the county, not volunteers) doing nothing to stop the harassment -- I feel that we didn't have an entirely free and fair election. That we returned to the practices of Jim Crow -- in Ohio of all ironies -- will be a stain on the Bush presidency forever.

Some are alleging massive fraud. I don't want to believe the conspiracy theories. I don't want to believe them because, despite my own exhortations for filibusters and courage, I don't know that the Democrats in Congress are willing or able to express an approporiate level of outrage should credible allegations surface. I don't trust the television media, most Americans' primary source of news, to cover the story. And I know that if the Republicans hacked the vote and stole Florida and Ohio, and they get away with it, they will do it again. They could effect a permanent dictatorship, and all of us in our snug homes will sit back and enjoy our broadband Internet and our cable television and will do nothing about it at all.

We could end up with a situation like the civil war in Columbia. I don't want that for my country.

I wish I had a solution. We could work to end the Electoral College, but the Republicans are very hostile to this and have a majority in Congress. It also opens the door to even more fraud because hackers could hit truly isolated locations and do a more subtle job of stealing future elections. At least Florida and Ohio are specific locales and ones with a fairly high population density. If an election were stolen post-Electoral College, it would be stolen in Wyoming and Alaska and Montana and other desolate, Godforsaken hellscapes (Can you tell I'm still a little angry at the truly red states?).

The best way to overcome fraud in a presidential election would be to choose a Democrat who can win in a landslide. Not an easy task, especially if the opponent is John McCain. We need to look at a southern governor with charisma. We need a new Clinton (minus the blowjobs and the shameful advice about gay marriage).

We should also keep the Army of Lawyers. They came to Ohio to chew bubblegum and kick ass. By 2008, they're going to be all out of bubblegum.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

 

Hug a Republican

Watching Andrew Sullivan and Alan Simpson battle Bill Mahr on the season finale of Real Time made me yearn for a simpler, gentler time.

Friends, we need to show the love to our Republican brothers and sisters. Some of you live in Illinois or New York and may not see Republicans on a regular basis. If, like me, you live in Ohio, you know they abound. You can find them at school board meetings, talking about how Harry Potter has a secret satanic message. You can see them on the television (in my hometown, one of them ran commercials claiming her opponent wanted to evict widders and orphans -- she failed to win election on Tuesday). You can see them at Wal*Mart (especially if you're there protesting with other union members -- the Republican is the one shouting "F**kin' Commie!!!" at you as he drives off in his SUV. With the Bush Cheney bumper sticker.)

Find a Republican and begin the healing by hugging him or her. You might want to make sure the Republican is of the opposite sex, or that you make him or her fully aware that the hug isn't a gay thing. As we learned Tuesday, they have a problem with homosexuality and are so terrified of gay people that they voted to limit their constitutional freedoms in eleven states. So make sure to let your Republican huggee know that it isn't sexual or anything. You like them, but not like that.

I ask that you do this so we can heal. So that the Republicans know it's nothing personal when our senators and our representatives do all those long, nasty filibusters. Remember, love the Republican, hate the policy!

Andrew Sullivan wants the left to know that we lost the election because we made fun of people's religious convictions. So I want to let all the 3 percenters out there who swung the election know that Jesus is just alright with me, Jesus is just alright oh yeah, Jesus is just alright. I don't want him for my president. I don't want the bible to replace the constitution. But I respect people of faith.

I wish more people on the religious right knew that secular citizens have morals, too. Atheists, agnostics and even Unitarians try to follow a moral path because we believe it's the right thing to do. We believe in treating other people with respect, kindness and generosity because it creates a civilized society. You don't need to fear us. We have nothing against you, honest.

So hugs all round!!! Show the love. It'll make the next steps in the re-liberalization of America a lot easier.

Also:

When the filibustering begins, and our good Democrats in the House and Senate are casting about for reading material to fill those long hours at the podium, I have the following suggestions:

1) My Pet Goat
This should kill at least...oh, I don't know...seven minutes, give or take.

2) Middlemarch (George Elliot)
In college, I read Middlemarch over one long, hellish weekend. I had a paper due on it, and I figured 1100 pages in two days wouldn't be that bad if the story was good. I still have nightmares about men of sixty marrying nineteen-year-olds. Okay, so maybe the opposition would enjoy Middlemarch a bit too much.

3) Tales of the City (Armistead Maupin)
I think Orrin Hatch will love this one. Okay, so he won't. I think the same could be said of any book aside from the bible and the Book of Mormon.

4) The Book of Mormon (J. Smith & A. Moroni)
It's very long.

5) Anything by Jackie Collins
Because it's all very, very painful.

6) My Life (B. Clinton)
It's very long and very, very painful.

7) The New York Times (Sunday edition)
Edifying -- especially the theater reviews.

8) The 9/11 Commission Report
I should probably stop harping on this stuff for the sake of the healing...nah, not quite there yet. After the hug.

9) How to Win Friends and Influence People (D. Carnegie)
Might help...can't hurt.

10) All the President's Men
I dare to dream of history repeating itself.

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