Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mary's Be a GoodDog Blog: Kansas State University Graduation 2011: phelps-we...

A couple of weekends ago, me, Jeremy and Shanon went to K-State's graduation to help counter-protest the Westboro Baptist Church. The local LGBT group sponsored it, but a lot of others showed up as well. The local Christian Biker's Club, some local families and others all showed up. We stood in front of them telling people "Congratulations" and "Have a good day!" just to help drown out the hate of the Westboro guys.

Some good pictures here of the whole thing...including my awesome BEAR!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I didn't read this article fully--I had to scan it because I needed to breathe and I found myself holding my breath as I read it. From the beginning, with its description as being about the rise of "Mommy Patriots", I knew I was in for a ride--there have ALWAYS been "Mommy Patriots", where do you think Mother's Day came from?

That being the case, instead of dissecting the article point by point (well, not the article, but all the ridiculous stuff that's quoted), I'll only point out a few of the more particularly egregious things.

First, the whole way these women define and understand feminism is just a complete misunderstanding, to the point of ignorance, of what feminism is. The article reads,
When I ask if it’s fair to compare the rise of their movement to the birth of feminism, Doll bristles. If anything, she says, today’s conservative women reject feminist ideals. She remembers when “the feminism thing,” as she calls it, began “creeping into our magazines” in the 1960s. Women were being inundated with articles about the “drudgery” of being a mom and how to avoid the boredom of housework by finding paid employment. “They were really putting our job down,” Doll says.
Feminism was never ABOUT affirmative action. That is a completely different issue. Feminism is about equality--equality not just in pay and opportunities, but in choices. If one read early articles about feminism, and about equality, they weren't about saying being a housewife is boring, they were simply saying assigning women that task/job without any choice of her own was condemnation to a fate not her own choosing. I would imagine most women would agree with this. To quote a great speech by Isabel Allende, "Once, when my daughter Paula was in her twenties, she said to me that feminism was dated and I should move on...if you don't like the term, change it for Goddess sake--call it Aphrodite, or Venus or bimbo, call it whatever you like so long as you understand it, and support it." The way these women speak of feminism reminds me of the way GOProud talks about gay rights--their desire to be "accepted" by the groups in power makes them reject their own advocates out of spite.

Then, there's Michelle Bachmann who claims,
You’re not going to see conservative women demand an affirmative action spot on a presidential ticket. You’ll see conservative women rise to the national stage based on their own merit.
A quick reading of recent history tells us this simply isn't true. Geraldine Ferrarro was nominated as Vice President because she was qualified. Hillary Clinton almost got the Democratic nomination after a lifetime of service. Who have the conservatives (I use a small c purposely) put forward?? Sara Palin and Harriet Meiers. And she claims it's based on merit?

In an impressive bout of not coordinating their messages, two paragraphs later, Christine "I'm not a witch" O'Donnell is quoted as follows:
O’Donnell argues that women won’t be able to reach top political office until they start supporting one another. “Not enough women have each other’s back,” she says. “Women on both sides of the political aisle need to unite so that we can send a message to future female candidates that if you step up into a political arena that is mostly male dominated . . . you’re not going to be alone.”
So, Conservative women don't believe in affirmative action, but should "band together across the aisle to support one another." And, while they speak of a "double standard", immediately she pulls out the gender card to point to why she lost--not because of her ridiculous stances, her inability to articulate herself, her lack of knowledge about basic issues or the fact she was far right of the voters of Delaware.

These "Momma Patriots" cannot have it both ways--they can step into the arena of politics and prove themselves as many, many women have before (on BOTH sides of the aisle), or they can sit down and go away. But, to play up the "momma" aspect and then hide behind it from any criticism but then claim it is also the REASON for criticism is disingenuous, at best. Until the Republicans start putting forward women like Peggy Noonan or even Kay Bailey Hutchison, then yes, the rest of us will laugh and snicker at the likes of the Bachmann's, Palins and other "Momma Patriots".

O'Donnell does try to square that circle, poorly, by saying,
The fact that you’re a good mother almost in and of itself qualifies you . . . There is something very profound in that observation—that there’s a difference between female candidates and mother candidates.
But, to me that's not good enough. That, to me, is ridiculous. The reason why, I think, was best expressed during the debates by VP Biden. When Palin tried to say basically the same thing, he teared up, speaking of his son. He went over the story of their family, and what he'd been through as a father, and said (paraphrase) that if she thought he didn't know what it was like to be a father and parent, then she was dead wrong. In fact, I think this view shows a little anti-paternal bias on her part. Too often we overlook the contributions of fathers to the family and to relationships. O'Donnell, here, doesn't just overlook it, she completely dismisses it.

I don't discourage these women from what they're doing--involvement. That's a good thing. But, the general lack of knowledge that influences what's said here and elsewhere is what bothers me. Our democracy rests upon an informed electorate, and it seems that while the electorate is getting more involved, it's no more informed. That is where the trouble lies. And, candidates like Palin, Bachmann and O'Donnell, who make their ignorance a point of pride instead of a weakness to be addressed, not only prey upon, but encourage more ignorance instead, and that seems Un-American.

Blue Texas?

Just a short note as I have to run, but there is a development in Texas that I think could change the next elections quite drastically. If Rick Perry runs for President, and General Sanchez runs for Senator, depending upon how the economy in Texas is a year from now (with all the cuts the Republicans have been passing there to education and health benefits), it could be a game changer.

Hear me out--I don't particularly like Sanchez (I don't know much about him other than Abu Gharib happened under his watch), however, let's face it--he's Mexican. There are a LOT of Latinos in Texas and like it or not, identity politics still plays a roll. Combine that with anger over how things are going in Texas, a fired-up Democratic base, and you could have the makings of a Texas going damn-near blue in the next Presidential elections.

My first inclination was to say "No Way", but then I remembered that Perry is no Bush. He's not all "folksy" (even though he did assume the crappy fake accent). He's more like the Mitt Romney, Texas version. What I mean is, he's too slick for most of the Texans I met (even outside of Austin) to really love him as emblematic of Texas. And, if Democrats can manage to tap into the Millions of eligible Latino voters, while also banking on Sanchez to drive them to the polls...who know??

Thursday, May 12, 2011

tumble with me

the triumph of politics

My posting has been sparse as my work has been busier than usual--which isn't to say "busy" just "busier".

That being said, a quick reaction to something I'm reading right now that illustrates a point I often make--that politics always trumps policy. One can look at McCain or others over the years, and how their "position" shifts so that immigration reform, while not changing in terms of policy, changes in terms of the politics. So, one year the same policy is "good policy" the next it's "bad" and then it's "toxic" or even, god forbid, "liberal".

See this article about Romneycare where Ezra Klein talks about how Mitt Romney's Health Care law in Massachusetts will drive the Republican debate. His conclusion is written here:
The only solution-like proposal left on the table is to devolve responsibility to the states, and Romney is smart to get there first. The question, I think, is whether the GOP unites around some version of this idea or whether Romney has become so radioactive on health care that by proposing a federalist solution, he actually takes it off the table for the Republicans running against him.
Did you see what happened there? If Republicans coalesce around an idea that is policy-wise right up what they've always preached, it would be politically unpopular, and thus, should be avoided.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

I was just putting jelly on my toast and trying very hard to get it all the way to the edges. They brought my toast out on its own plate, and because I'd also asked for no potatoes, everything was on its own plate. As I held the toast, I suddenly flashed back to fourth grade and Mr. G's restaurant in Lomita.

It was my Grandfather's favorite restaurant, in walking distance from his house and only a block or so away from Saint Margaret Mary's Church. I don't think my Grandpa went to Mass every day at 6 AM, but if I was an alter server with the AM mass, then he went. At the end of the week, he'd take me to breakfast. We'd walk, together, from church to Mr. G's, and stop to buy a lottery ticket en route.

He didn't like his food to touch, and the toast had to be buttered and jellied completely--he ensured each nook in the bread was complete or he wouldn't eat it. His eggs had to come on a separate plate because he didn't like his food to mix.

When I was even younger than that, I liked to have "sleep overs" at my Grandpas. My Grandmother had died already, so he lived alone, next door to me. I'd go over and we'd play go-fish until I won. If I won, he's start playing Solitare. I'd ask if I could play and he's say, with a very stern voice, "No. This is a one person game." And I'd watch him play. I imagine I was annoying. His house was immaculate, everything in its place and the guest room bed being perfectly made (later, when I was in high school, I'd get the bed frame for my own). There was a Sacred Heart of Jesus lighted statue that "bled" electronically and other trinkets that I now know were typically Mexican, but at the time seemed simply "grandfatherly".

I just thought I'd share that with you all today. My Grandpa--someone who died when I was too young to know him as well as I'd like, but who left a great impression on me and probably changed who I am today.

I didn't realize, then, that the memory would stay with me this long.

unpopular but wise idea

It is political unpopular to tax--that's a simple and true statement. However, taxing is not only needed, it's sometimes simply useful. If we assume that the purpose of taxing is two-fold (1. to raise govt. revenues and 2. to encourage or discourage behavior), then a gas tax seems like a simple and good idea. For the last three years or so, gas prices have fluctuated wildly based upon political factors. However, what has happened at least twice now is that when gas prices hit four dollars a gallon (give or take), two things occurred: 1. people began to ration their driving and 2. gas prices dropped.

Why? Because we have discovered the point (and there's an economic term for this I'm sure) where consumers have decided that gas is not worth the cost. We are paying the full cost of our consumption. You could even argue that the political cost of our wars and the political environment we've created is being "paid" at the pump.

Is this a bad thing? I say no. Sure, it sucks paying that much at the pump...but if it just means that the costs of our politics are being shared equitably across the board, and it improves overall behavior, then it's probably a good thing.

That being said, I think a gas tax is probably a good idea...and no, not a couple of cents a gallon--if four dollars a gallon is what makes people stop driving as much, increases fuel efficient car sales and lowers the price of gasoline in the long term, then we should do that. We would raise revenue, create jobs (in the car market) lower costs (roads would be less-used and thus need fewer repairs) and we could use the increase in revenue to improve public transportation.

A gas tax is regressive in nature, so maybe a tax credit for lower income workers would be beneficial as well, but in my imaginary world, the revenues for public transport would also most likely benefit the lower income families the most. (As an example, right now a maid who works in downtown Los Angeles has to drive probably an hour to and from work, costing her quite a bit. If we were to have less traffic and a better public transit system, that maid would have to drive less in both distance and time, and her trip could quite possibly be done via public transport instead. So, while she'd pay more in gas, she'd save in the long run by not driving nearly as much).

Monday, May 02, 2011

my thoughts on Usama's death

Last night, Usama bin Laden was reported killed. I was on my couch when I recieved a text message, watching TV with Jeremy. I'm sure I will not forget that in the future. It's one of those moments that I'll remember as long as I remember the towers falling.

This morning, a saw a message that I will share here, since my reaction to the facebook post is what is prompting this post. The exchange is paraphrased, since it's been deleted:

friend: Pretty sure it's a conspiracy to get Obama re-elected. Just wondering...

Me: Are you serious?

Her: yes.

Me: For this to be a conspiracy is preposterous. It would require lies of omission or commission from SEAL Team 6, the Sec of Defense, Secretary Clinton, GEN Petreaus and the President, at the least. Sometimes not everything is political, even when there are political reprecussions.

Her: Don’t take this so seriously.

Me: When I have friends in Arlington, I will always take these things seriously. (also, in my defense, I gave you the opportunity to say, “I was just kidding”.)

This was followed by an email asking simply, “What does what I posted have to do with your friends in Arlington?”

The response she is getting is longer than expected, but flows from my thoughts last night.
As I sat, watching the news, I felt a catharsis. I thought about all the moments between then (9/11) and now, and what I was feeling, seeing and thinking. The events between then and now seem, in hindsight, to flow naturally, and of course there were plenty of decision points that led us to where we are today and any of them could have changed the outcome. But, here they are, as I remember them:
  1. 1. 9/11- I was just twenty-one years old. I was on my way from my barracks room in DLI to the DFAC and walked past a TV and saw the Pentagon on fire. I thought, “Someone crashed into the Pentagon? Man, that sucks…” by the time I got to the DFAC, people were crying, standing in the aisles unable to eat and the reality hit us—we were under attack. We were studying Arabic and had a test that day on the dual form. We pushed the test back a day, and all of us tried quickly to lean new vocabulary. What was the Arabic word for “terrorist” “crash” “demolish”?

  2. Bush declares we will go to Afghanistan- His speech on TV is one I won’t forget. I watched it in the dayroom with friends, and we knew that he was talking about us—about our future—not something abstract. We, my friends and I, were sure we were going to Afghanistan.

  3. Graduation Leave—The week I graduated West Point, I looked around and realized that it wasn’t a question of “if” but of “who” we would lose in the GWOT. I didn’t know who, but knew that one or more of my classmates would never grasp my shoulder or share a laugh again.

These aren’t the only points in the arc from there to now, nor is “now” the final point. But how do my friends who have given their lives have anything to do with someone calling Usama’s killing a hoax?? Because what they, and we, have been fighting for lasting the better part of a decade happened, partially, yesterday. To some degree, they are vindicated. When we went into Afghanistan, it was for two aims. The first was to deny the enemy sanctuary in safe havens by toppling the Taliban, and the second was to find, kill or capture Usama bin Laden. His death is the rightful vengeance for the violence that happened on 9/11. When I think about my friends, and ask myself, “why” I can now say that, to some degree, Justice was served. Afghanistan may never be a stable nation, Iraq may not be a thriving democracy and the Taliban may not be vanquished—but Usama, the man who has spread for years the myth of a clash of cultures, the man whose ideology and hate started directly or otherwise two wars that have put more of my friends in the dirt than I care to think about, is dead.

To hear, or read, that people think this is an elaborate hoax, involving the President of the United States, from whom we take our orders, verges on offensive to me. To be told not to “take this seriously” when “this”—the search for Americas most wanted—has been going on for the better part of a decade and has adversely affected the lives of almost every single one of my friends, when millions of years of our lives have been wasted sitting in the dirt and reading intelligence reports and patrolling streets and questioning locals, when thousands upon thousands of Americans have lost their lives in its pursuit—that is when I become offended. What happened last night didn’t happen in a vacuum. It happened in a War. It happened in a War that people are fighting, currently. It happened because a politician made the right decision, because service members trained correctly, because diplomats set the stage for the right sharing of intelligence, and it happened because people were willing to sacrifice themselves in pursuit of the goal of killing Usama bin Laden.

That is how my friends and their sacrifice relates to implying that this death is an elaborate election ploy.

(I apologize if this was rambling. Work is hectic and I wrote it in my off minutes here and there over the course of a few hours)

Sunday, May 01, 2011

I spent some time tonight trying to pinpoint the exact moment I realized that saying, "when I grow up..." is no longer a valid option.