Friday, February 29, 2008

Reagan and Obama, two of a kind

So I was driving home the other day when a woman called Sean Hannity to tell him that she had just voted for Obama since her vote wouldn't be needed for McCain and she was sure that it would be better to have Obama in office over Clinton. But oh no! She had heard after she voted that R's were supposed to vote for Clinton because she'd be easier to beat in the fall than Obama. What did Sean think?

Sean heard her confession and then pronounced only blessings on her head for voting her heart (LOL - I thought that's what it's called when we vote for the candidate we want to WIN, not the candidate we hope will take out someone else).

Now absolved, she stumbled over herself to let Sean know that really, she's a lifelong Republican; her first vote: Reagan. Sean warmly chimed in, "Me too! Though I'm sure you're younger, skinnier and prettier."

She added, "My political ideals weren't formed back then. I voted for Reagan because it just felt right. There was excitement in the air. We knew that we could bring about a big change."

Sean replied, "It was an exciting time, wasn't it? I remember that feeling then too."

Meanwhile, my car veered off the road as I contemplated the unwitting similarities to the sense of exuberance and excitement Obama is generating. Neither Sean nor the caller had understood their enthusiasm for Reagan; they just knew it was an exciting time to vote - that somehow Reagan had reached across the TV screens and had cast a vision young people could embrace and risk their first votes on.

E. J. Dionne writes about the similarities between Obama and Reagan here.
Reagan's foes wrote him off as a right-wing former actor who amiably spouted conservative bromides and must have been engaged in some sort of Hollywood flimflam.

Like Reagan's enemies, Obama's opponents concede that he gives a great speech. Indeed, both Obama and Reagan came to wide attention because of a single oration that offered hope in the midst of a losing campaign -- Obama's 2004 keynote to the Democratic National Convention and Reagan's 1964 "A Time for Choosing" address delivered on behalf of Barry Goldwater. But surely speeches aren't enough, are they?

Yes, Obama gets his crowds swooning. So did Reagan. It's laughable to hear conservatives talk darkly about a "cult of personality" around Obama. The Reaganites, after all, have lobbied to name every airport, school, library, road, bridge, government building and lamppost after the Gipper. When it comes to personality cults, the right wing knows what it's talking about.

{snip}

The frustration of the Clinton campaign is understandable. Like George H.W. Bush, whom Reagan defeated for the presidential nomination in 1980, Hillary Clinton has worked very hard, knows government from the inside out and would clearly provide the country with a safe set of hands. The Clintonites argue, fairly, that there is no way to know if Obama can live up to The Promise of Obama.

But the same was true of Ronald Reagan. In that 1980 speech, Reagan quoted a certain Democratic president who "told the generation of the Great Depression that it had a 'rendezvous with destiny.' I believe that this generation of Americans today has a rendezvous with destiny."

Obama is being propelled by the same sense of historical opportunity, and that is why it will be hard to derail him.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

If Hillary were a state, she'd be Ohio

Op-Ed Columnist
Hillary, Buckeye Girl
By GAIL COLLINS
Published: February 28, 2008
If Hillary Clinton can win Ohio — and if she doesn’t, she is as cooked as reheated risotto — it will be because people here worry that Barack Obama is getting show-offy.

If Hillary Clinton were a state, she’d be Ohio.

This is a no-frills kind of place, suspicious of glamour. Barack Obama’s promise to make politics cool again doesn’t necessarily resonate here. Eight presidents came from Ohio, and the coolest was William McKinley.

When I grew up in Cincinnati, we always rooted for the players who worked really, really hard, not the ones who were so talented they made everything look easy. If Hillary were a baseball player, she’d be Pete Rose. Minus, of course, the unfortunate gambling issues and the tendency to scratch inappropriate places while standing in the infield.

So there she was Wednesday here in Zanesville, holding an economic summit in a gymnasium with a huge table stuffed full of participants, including the founder of Weight Watchers; former Senator John Glenn, the heroic astronaut who once put the entire Democratic presidential convention to sleep with his keynote speech; and the governor of Ohio, a vice presidential hopeful who looks like an unidentified passer-by.

“We have to start acting like Americans again, and roll up our sleeves and start solving our problems,” Clinton said, launching one of the least-exciting discussions of economic development in memory.

There she sat, one of the best-known human beings on the planet. The first woman ever to be a serious United States presidential contender; the face that launched a thousand books; a former first lady, current U.S. senator and survivor of the most famous sex scandal of the century. And yet she has managed to become the boring candidate in this primary.

This is one of the great anti-glamour stories in history. How could Ohio not relate?

If Hillary can win this one — and if she doesn’t, she is as cooked as reheated risotto — it will be because people here worry that Barack Obama is getting show-offy... Keep Reading

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Robert Dallek on Obama's lack of experience

After writing my rant, it occurred to me that Professor Dallek may have weighed in on the Obama-non. And lo, he did! The following article is terrific! Hope you enjoy it. (Note that he bookends his discussion with FDR and JFK. Told ya. :)... If Obama wins, will he be known as BHO?!)

Next to JFK, Obama is a newbie, but that's beside the point

Update: Here's an interesting discovery I made in my search for articles by Dallek: the History News Network has a page that shows the list of historians who endorse Barak Obama. You can read the list by clicking on the link. Below is their joint endorsement article.
Our country is in serious trouble. The gap between the wealthy elite and the working majority grows ever larger, tens of millions of Americans lack health insurance and others risk bankruptcy when they get seriously ill, and many public schools do a poor job of educating the next generation. Due to the arrogant, inept foreign policy of the current administration, more people abroad mistrust and fear the United States than at any time since the height of the Vietnam War. Meanwhile, global warming speeds toward an unprecedented catastrophe. Many Republicans and overwhelming numbers of Independents and Democrats believe that, under George W. Bush, the nation has badly lost its way. The 2008 election thus comes at a critical time in the history of the United States and the world.

We endorse Barack Obama for president because we think he is the candidate best able to address and start to solve these profound problems. As historians, we understand that no single individual, even a president, leads alone or outside a thick web of context. As Abraham Lincoln wrote to a friend during the Civil War, "I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me."

However, a president can alter the mood of the nation, making changes possible that once seemed improbable. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and kept the nation united; Franklin D. Roosevelt persuaded Americans to embrace Social Security and more democratic workplaces; John F. Kennedy advanced civil rights and an anti-poverty program.

Barack Obama has the potential to be that kind of president. He has the varied background of a global citizen: his father was African, his stepfather Indonesian, his mother worked in the civil rights movement, and he spent several years of his childhood overseas. As an adult, he has been a community organizer, a law professor, and a successful politician - both at the state and national level. These experiences have given him an acute awareness of the inequalities of race and class, while also equipping him to speak beyond them.

Obama's platform is ambitious, yet sensible. He calls for negotiating the abolition of nuclear weapons, providing universal and affordable health insurance, combatting poverty by adding resources and discouraging destructive habits, investing in renewable energy sources, and engaging with unfriendly nations to ease conflicts that could otherwise lead to war. He takes more forthright stands on these issues than do his major Democratic competitors.

But it is his qualities of mind and temperament that really separate Obama from the rest of the pack. He is a gifted writer and orator who speaks forcefully but without animus. Not since John F. Kennedy has a Democrat candidate for president showed the same combination of charisma and thoughtfulness - or provided Americans with a symbolic opportunity to break with a tradition of bigotry older than the nation itself. Like Kennedy, he also inspires young people who see him as a great exception in a political world that seems mired in cynicism and corruption.

As president, Barack Obama would only begin the process of healing what ails our society and ensuring that the U.S. plays a beneficial role in the world. But we believe he is that rare politician who can stretch the meaning of democracy, who can help revive what William James called "the civic genius of the people." We invite other historians to add your name to this statement. You can do so by contacting mk8@georgetown.edu and/or Ralph Luker, ralphluker@mindspring.com .

Rambling rantings of a lifelong Republican

It's obvious to me that I'm suffering from post-traumatic idealistic Republican syndrome. Though I voted for Carter in my very first election at 18, I quickly caught onto the Reagan revolution like the rest of my pro-life, business major, evangelical Christian friends. We were nothing like the hippies before us. We wanted traditional weddings with twelve bridesmaids, not ceremonies in blue jeans on the beach. We joined sororities and fraternities, we expected to marry, earn money and buy houses, we saw the American dream in terms of how we could achieve our goals without interference, not how we could do great things for our country.

I took two classes my senior year at UCLA with professor Robert Dallek (frequent contributor to the Atlantic Monthly, guest on NPR and cable news programs, noted expert on JFK and American presidents). His favorite president: FDR. So here we were in 1982-83 with the Reagan revolution captivating the new generation of young people and my professor did his best to stand up to us. Dallek would open a mike at the end of every class so that students could throw questions at him and he could debate with us. Our classes had 500-600 kids in them and these debates were my favorite part of class. How could FDR be great when he expanded government? Would social security even be around by the time we were 65? And what about the Cold War? How could we solve the press of communism?

We Republicans wanted smaller government, better business opportunities, lower taxes, pride in our country, protection from communism in our hemisphere, freedom for our religious beliefs, and an end to legalized abortion. We were smitten by Reagan's folksy wisdom and strong rhetoric of freedom and the end to communism, his inattention to detail and his addiction to Jelly Bellys. We never got the irony of Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" being used as Reagan's campaign theme. (Read the lyrics and cringe.)

I did spend time trying to become an educated conservative (not just a knee-jerk one). But one truism about me: numbers don't stick and I'm not good with policy detail. It's just not how my brain works. So I looked at the philosophical ideals that Reagan put forth and I liked what I believed he believed.

And then... Reagan did so many stupid things that the hagiography now in full swing overlooks. The revisionism of history really rankles me. Does no one remember the $500 hammers and nails paid for with our tax dollars to companies like Lockheed for our military? Have we forgotten the phantom MIGs that never were in Nicaragua but were used as pretext for support to the contras in that region? How about the absurdity of "Star Wars," now credited with the end of the Cold War? Have we gleefully ignored the protections we gave to corrupt leaders in Central America while the people suffered and were slaughtered?

And smaller government? Somehow that ideal never gets achieved by Republicans, even when they get elected by the rhetoric. Reagan and Bush have managed to expand spending and the size of the federal government during their tenures as president more than the Democrats before them, yet no one talks about it. Instead we are told to fear what the horrible Democrats will do if they get the power.

But what really ticks me off is that so many Republicans get elected on their pro-life platform and then ignore the issue (offer no real leadership apart from words)... and here we are 28 years past Reagan's first election without any substantive changes in that law or its application.

Meanwhile, regular life is more expensive and less certain, particularly health care. When I was a kid, my mother paid $25.00 for an annual doctor visit. Since I've been married, we've never been able to afford a regular check-up without insurance. That means when we only had major medical coverage, we never went to the doctor unless we were very sick. Caitrin literally had never seen a doctor until she was ten.

I don't think annual exams are all that important (obviously) or we'd have figured out a way to pay for them, I suppose. But what I resent is the implication that the current health care crisis isn't directly related to the free market as it so absolutely is! Having no controls of any kind has turned the medical world into a money-making machine sustained by the fact that we all must have medical care (they have a built-in vulnerable consumer base). HSAs only help if you have money to put in them. Not everyone does. (I know it's more complicated than this - my father paid for my life through malpractice law... so I know it's complicated. The larger point stands: health care is too expensive with no change in sight.)

Government is not smaller, but bigger. Education is a mess. Our relations with the international leaders of the world, fragile. We are in the middle of a war that has killed over 1 million Iraqi civilians. One million! (Usually we only talk about the American soldiers who have died because, you know, the Republicans consider the Iraqis collateral damage - the price of freedom, don't you know?) We spend 12 billion dollars a month. We are disliked in places as seemingly benign as Italy. Italy!

I'm so fed up with the double speak of the Republican party, I could spit! Yes, I'm terrified of "universal healthcare" - shudder, cringe. I hate the words "universal" as to me they mean handing over personal responsibility as well as a one size fits all solution. I also don't trust the government to do a great job with the whole process.

But. Something. Must. Be. Done.

And I no longer can count on the Republicans to do anything resembling their platform. They consistently do not. The tax cuts are a joke. They help no one in my income bracket. Chump change.

Anyway, I still believe in fiscal responsibility, smaller government, humbler international relationships, and respect for life in the womb. I've grown to also want more emphasis placed on working class needs rather than this "everyone can get ahead if they really want to" garbage. Yeah, works great if you are in the right category of people and live in the right places. Not so easy for the restaurant entrepreneur whose customers all lose their jobs at the plant (because they've been exported to Japan or Mexico) that fuels the whole city's economy.

Today, I can't think of a single reason to vote Republican. I'm not a big fan of the democrats, but given the choices, I'll take Dallek's approach. Maybe FDR, JFK - those models really were better for America long term. That really is why I like Obama.

{/rant}

SNL Obama Clinton Debate Sketch

Because I love you all so much, I dug around the Internet to find a legit copy of this skit to share with you (the one Hillary alluded to in the debate last night). It is so hilarious, you'll need a tissue to wipe the tears from your eyes.

SNL sketch

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bill Cunningham surprises no one

with his thinly veiled hate-speech.

At a Republican rally today for Senator McCain in Cincinnati, arch-conservative, self-proclaimed bombastic, radio talk show host, Bill Cunningham, inflamed the crowd by repeatedly calling Senator Obama by his full Christian name: Barack Hussein Obama. McCain, unaware of these remarks, apologized for the following comments:
"Now we have a hack, Chicago-style Daley politician who is picturing himself as change. When he gets done with you, all you're going to have in your pocket is change," Cunningham said as the audience laughed.

The time will come, Cunningham added, when the liberal-leaning media will "peel the bark off Barack Hussein Obama" and tell the truth about his relationship with indicted fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko and how Obama got "sweetheart deals" in Chicago.

McCain wasn't on stage or, he says, in the building when Cunningham made the comments, but he quickly distanced himself from the radio talk show host after finishing his speech. McCain spoke to a couple hundred people at Memorial Hall in downtown Cincinnati.

"I apologize for it," McCain told reporters, addressing the issue before they had a chance to ask the Arizona senator about Cunningham's comments.

"I did not know about these remarks, but I take responsibility for them. I repudiate them," he said. "My entire campaign I have treated Senator Obama and Senator (Hillary Rodham) Clinton with respect. I will continue to do that throughout this campaign."
Cunningham was not amused. He does not take kindly to criticism. His opinion is that he spoke the language of the crowd better than McCain and in fact represents what true conservatism is all about. !THEREFORE! he is withdrawing all support of McCain's bid for the presidency.

On Sean Hannity's show this afternoon, Cunningham laughed through ruffled feathers, defending himself as having done nothing wrong: this is Obama's real name and so why can't he say it repeatedly? He's been doing that on his radio show for months. This is nothing new so why is anyone upset? Without even realizing it, however, he undermined this "innocent" position when he claimed that he had been asked to rile up the crowd and he knew using Obama's whole name was one way to do it. Oh dis-ingenuousness, thy name is Cunningham!

For those not familiar with Cincinnati talk radio, let me illustrate the kind of baseness that is this self-proclaimed "great American." When speaking of the AIDS crisis a number of years when Bono's humanitarian AIDS eradication activism brought him through town, Bill came down on the rock star as supporting immorality and making the American government pay for it. He summed up the real solution to the AIDS crisis this way (this is my memory of his comments so not verbatim): "If men could just keep from doing it up the butt, we'd have no crisis. Seriously." Chuckle, chuckle. "If they can't keep from doing it up the butt, then it's not our problem. Why throw money at men who don't have any self-control? Stop having that kind of sex and you won't get AIDS." Then he and whoever was in studio with him at the time laughed heartily like they had just told the greatest bar joke in history.

I have never tuned in again.

Needless to say, Cunningham's so-called promotion and protection of true conservatism sounds more like endorsing racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism (including Muslims) and mysogeny.... though today he suggested that he might vote for Clinton as a protest vote against Obama and McCain (who has now lost Cunningham's support, and therefore all his loyal listeners, as well).

The only concern I have now is that his loyal following will turn out and vote for Hillary, which would undermine the true democratic process, if you ask me. For the first time, I've wished for closed primaries. That sabotage vote seems really evil and filled with cynicism.

Blech. Time to get some anti-bacterial scrub and wash myself.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tiger peaked at eleven?

Don't you believe it.



What a weekend for golf fans. Can he get any more dominant? It used to be: Tiger wins his first tournament at ______________. Now every time he wins, they simply put another hash mark next to the golf course and tourney, state and month (after all, perhaps we can start saying "He won Torrey Pines three times in February, twice in June, parsing it all the way down to temperature "and once when the temps fell to 42 degrees"). Good grief.

I remember one commentator saying that Tiger will singlehandedly reverse the effects of deforestation as, by the time he's done with golf, all the records will be put on one sheet of paper with his name at the top.

I feel lucky that I get to watch history unfold.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Oscars: 80 years!

Seriously, you need your own six part Berlitz language course to understand any of the acceptance speeches this year.

But what I really want to know: how can we see any of these cool short films? These "foreign films"? So many interesting looking ideas out there and we get stuck with the same story line over and over again.

Update: I gave up on this year's award show. It was the most boring, tedious, poorly written, bloated yet. Worse, none of the winners spoke English (except Daniel Day Lewis who is a God and can speak any language he wants because I will still worship him).

I am so glad we're past the 80th year. The retrospectives were torturous. Remind me not to watch when the 100th anniversary airs and takes 100 hours to get through.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The meaning of the "Barack-lash"

I keep hearing it: Obama supporters are a bundle of warm fuzzies without any real reason for their support. They observe that he makes them feel hopeful and that they believe he will bring change. They can't cite his achievements, don't know his policies, aren't able to rattle off his positions when asked in front of a camera. (I have to ask if random McCain and Clinton supporters are any more able...)

Some of these charges are as vague as the supposed empty support Obama is receiving. This morning's Cincinnati Enquirer included an op-ed by Kathleen Parker where she spends some 800 words explaining what she considers the irrational movement of Obama supporters and yet includes only one comment by one 20 year old from Seattle who is an Obama fan. That's the best Kathleen could do? Find one kid on the other side of the country to substantiate her charge? Meanwhile smear all the supporters.

After clicking around the web, I got a kick out of the insightful comments from the Washington Post that point out that some of these sites designed to make fun of Obamamania, are actually created by supporters!
But most of the sites that poke fun at online Obamamania are engineered by supporters, some of whom are explaining to themselves -- and to lovers, friends, co-workers -- Obama's pull. The Web is an expressive, creative sandbox, a virtual playground where you can be as self-effacing and self-indulgent as possible. It's a place where inside jokes become, when effective, everyone's jokes.
Snip
"To some people, the 'Yes We Can' video is when folks started to think, 'Oh, this is too much,' " says Joshua Levy of TechPresident, the bipartisan group blog that tracks how the candidates are campaigning on the Web. "The Internet is all about authenticity. When somebody gets too popular, too mainstream, their authenticity is questioned. It's like an indie band joining a major label. It's like Kurt Cobain. It's like 'Juno.' "
Somehow this just made me laugh. We sometimes forget that this generation of millenialists were raised in a culture of irony. They are able to make fun of themselves and their heroes. We taught them how.

The criticism that Obama-tons are dangerous has led to all kinds of misguided associations: The Children's Crusade, cults, the Nazi party, rock-stardom and more. Young people are being portrayed as unthinking and incapable of political judgment. (Pretty insulting stuff. On the other hand, much did you know why you voted for a candidate at 18-20?)

Presidential candidates must be able to draw a following in addition to putting forward their ideas for governing. What is striking about Obama is that he has passionate followers, not just party hacks. These "fans" are our neighbors, friends, kids, not just hardcore partisans who campaign every election.

Brenden Neil takes his time explaining why the opposition and political analysts are afraid of the Obamamomentum in this excellent article: Why They're Scared of Obamamania. I made the argument recently that the charges against Obama's supporters aren't all that different than the ones leveled at people like me who voted for George Bush. Neil makes this same point, but even more powerfully.
Indeed, the current view of Obama’s support base as a ‘dangerous’ unthinking blob builds on Democrat attacks on Bush voters during the presidential race of 2004. Back then, Democratic-leaning commentators described the millions of people who were planning to back Bush as mentally unstable – literally. One complained that Americans were voting in a ‘fog of fear’, and thus they could not see the issues, or the ‘real politics’, clearly: apparently, thanks to Bush’s ‘unremitting fearmongering’, ‘millions of voters are reacting not with their linear and logical left brain, but with their lizard brain and their more emotional right brain… It’s not about left wing vs right wing; it’s about left brain vs right brain.’ (8)

So Bush-supporters were lizard-like creatures acting out of irrational and blind fear rather than being sensible decision-makers. Al Gore, the Democrats’ failed presidential candidate of 2000 who has rehabilitated himself through the climate change issue, argued in his recent book The Assault on Reason that America’s generally right-leaning media has warped people’s minds. In Bush-era America, he argued, such is the media’s ‘power of persuasion’ that it triggers in people responses that are no longer ‘modulated by logic, reason and reflective thought’ (9).
Perhaps what is missing in all of this analysis is why there is such a deep craving for a leader who does move us, whose aspirations for change (change that is aimed at reforming the political machinery we all agree is bad for our country) and who invests his political ideals with hope (rather than irony, rather than brandishing his superiority and "care-taking" role) is like food to a starving populous.

It's not that people are being brain-washed. After all, everyone on the right and all the Clinton supporters seem perfectly immune to Obama's supposedly mesmerizing rhetoric. Rather, there is a growing nucleus of Americans tired of business as usual in politics. They want diplomacy that gets away from "evil empire" and "axis-of-evil" rhetoric, who believe that the "empathy deficit" is real. They are sick of the tedious red state-blue state conflict. Neil says:
Much of his support represents a healthy and positive reaction against the deep cynicism and fatalism of mainstream Western politics over the past decade and more. Obama supporters are not cultish slaves: they are people who have had enough of negative, fear-driven, small-minded politics, of both the Republican and Democratic variety, and now – as they keep telling us – they Want Change. Indeed, Obama has become a heroic figure for many young people in European countries as well as in America: it is not so much what he promises, programmatically, to do if he gets into the White House that attracts them; rather they are angry about and repelled by the current state of mainstream politics, and they are drawn to Obama because they think he represents something different, something seemingly positive, fresh, uncynical. Whatever you think of Obama and his coterie, there is unquestionably something interesting, possibly even stirring, in the loud and rowdy grassroots support for his campaign. Whether Obama can fulfil people’s desires for a fresh way of doing politics - that is questionable in the extreme.

However, if anything will confirm to the ‘Obamabots’ that contemporary politics is rotten, it will be the current attempts to write them off as ‘dangerous’ cultists who have no place interfering in the serious business of political debate.
In this last, perhaps the critics have done Obama a favor. By bringing this critique to his movement early, if Barack wins the nomination, he and his followers will be ready to answer the charges that they are a bunch of irrational Obamatons. Truth is, they are motivated to study hard now. I would be surprised if the same can be said for McCain supporters, who may be voting out of a reflexive commitment to being Republican more than true fans of his policies.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

We all heart Rocky

Sorry I've been so silent over here. Between every other day bandage changes at the vet's (which requires two trips and both of them require sitting in a patient's room waiting), orthodontist appointments, tutoring, lacrosse practices, co-op, sewing class, shopping for food and shopping for birthday party presents, I feel like I've moved into my car.

Rocky is doing really well. They took photos of his leg for me today so I could see his progress. Lots of healthy pink tissue growing. Once he's fully recovered, his leg will hardly be an issue at all. For now, they've been changing his bandages every other day and having to put him under to do it. Today we've switched to what they call a "hardening bandage" and he gets to go all the way until Monday without a change. Woo-hoo!

The vet tech (Stephanie) has been adorable. She likes to put heart and tulip cut outs on the bandages. She changes the primary color every time they wrap him up, too. This extra effort endlessly entertains us and makes the whole experience much less tedious. The blue cast with red heart was for Valentine's Day. Here's another recent cast:

Tested the Most

Clinton: She admits to the crises she's lived through, aka Bill. Shakes her head in wonderment. She's gone through nothing compared to the rest of us. She was honored to speak at the Intrepid center with Senator McCain.

She then talks about the feeling of feeling blessed, and that she felt called by her faith and her blessings to work for others to get what she has.

She then does the best move ever: she says she is honored to be here with Barack, that she and Barack, no matter what happens, she will be fine - they have the support of friends and family and will go on. She just hopes we can say the same of the American people later.

Great move! Inspiring. She won that last one hands down!

Iraq

Clinton: Bring them home. Let Iraq determine its future.

Obama: He admits that the surge has worked. But then reiterates his theme that all of our attention is diverted to one place rather than South America or China.

12 billion dollars every month in Iraq. Wow. Who knew?

Commander-in-chief

Clinton: She trots out today's news. How current.

Obama: Blah, blah, blah. Maintaining strongest military on earth - then mentions things like equipping properly, rotations that are appropriate. Using military wisely. He brings up the anti-American sentiment that was generated by Iraq. I like that.

Health Care

There she goes again - really grabbing the mike, really going after him. She really wants universal. Yuck! I am so turned off by that. I don't agree that social security or medicare should be mandatory.

Obama didn't do a great job of responding but I am at least supportive of more choices, rather than forcing. I hate that.

Talk versus Action (and Health Care)

Clinton: Our next president needs to be a lot less hat and a lot more cattle. She's featuring her past history - what she's done.

Makes the low-blow remark that Obama's supporter couldn't remember what Obama had done. Not sure how that will play.

Obama: He's acted a lot, so he says. Passed the toughest ethics reform since Watergate. Makes the accusation that Clinton sees his supporters as "delusional." Wow. Big word.

He follows it up with commenting that they are perceptive of what is wrong with Washington and want to go beyond the divisiveness and gridlock.

Nice job. His fans loved it.

Here goes the plagiarism issue. He now must respond. And Deval is national co-chair of Obama's campaign. I didn't know that. Deval made the suggestion that he use it. (I hadn't heard that. Don't know if that is massaging it a bit.) Mentioned "silly season" in politics. Made me laugh. He went back to the issues.

He complimented his own speeches which is funny! $4000 tuition credit for every year in exchange for national service.

Revising tax code.

Bringing home the troops.

The dig at the end: Don't carry the country down, build the country up!

Clinton: She gets tough now. She says that he lifted whole passages and that if you run on words, you have to use your own words. It's not enough to say that we have to come together, we have to work hard - so she says. She is highly conscious of the fact that she has to get people who oppose her to be overcome.

This language is so hostile to the half the country. I just can't believe that she is still looking at the world this way. It's what doesn't work. It's how Obama looks at it differently (at least in his rhetoric).

Obama: He goes on and on about his plan - reduces costs and wants to give everyone opportunity but not a mandate. He accuses her of going behind closed doors to get that plan in gear. He wants to have everyone involved.

Clinton: She just threw a good punch - that voluntary health care will not work and then pandered to Senator Edwards (for the third time).

Hispanics

Is there a downside for America to become a bi-lingual nation?

Clinton: English needs to be our common, unifying language. She does not support English as the official language. I agree with her. She made that point well.

Obama: Every student should be learning a second language. I wonder if he speaks one. Aha - NCLB failures comment: So narrowly focused on standardized tests that a lot of other learning has been pushed out.

Break.

So my take so far: They both seem so similar in their points of view, I think Obama is going to win. He's not making mistakes and she's doing fine. But I don't see how she is winning over anyone new.

Immigration

Would you consider stopping raids on undocumented immigrants?

Clinton: Leaving children without parents - not the America she knows. Tougher more secure borders, but crack down on employers who exploit undocumented workers.

She would help them create jobs in Mexico... how?

Path to legalization in the first 100 days of her presidency.

Obama: Immigration reform that he worked on and it died in the House. Used as a political football.

1. Absolutely critical that we tone down rhetoric. Undertone ugly. "We are a nation of laws and immigrants and we can reconcile the two."

2. Improve our relationship with Mexico.

So far, it looks like they have the same position basically. Accuses Bush of not creating a better Mexico-American relationship that he promised.

Border Fence - John's question

Clinton: She does a great job of showing the Bush failure about the border and then says she will talk to the people who live along the border. She used the "smart way" and the "dumb way" rhetoric. She suggests more personnel, technology as creating a "fence" (a virtual fence?). Does she realize how big the border is?!?

Obama: He entirely agrees with Clinton. This is an interesting strategy. Because he has the upper hand in the delegate count, he's now enjoying the benefits of agreement rather than differentiation. Fascinating change.

Doesn't want to send everyone back and thinks it's overkill. Comprehensive reform is what's needed.

Can do this immediately: Pass the "dream" act. Allows children who through no fault of their own, are here. Allow them higher education.

Economy

How would Obama be different than Clinton to run economy?

Obama: Economy has to be a priority for next pres. Restore fairness and balance. Stop giving tax breaks to companies shipping jobs overseas. Stop tax cuts to wealthy and tax breaks to middle class ($75K and under). Pay for them by closing loopholes and tax havens.

Trade deals: Strong labor and environmental and safety standards. Opportunities in our economy around creating a green economy.

Love the way he and Hillary both acknowledge agreement. That's so nice. He keeps focusing on how to get it done. We have to focus on creating a working coalition for change.

Clinton: (Great question for her - what is different about her on day one compared with Obama?)

She agrees that this is the democratic agenda (getting rid of the tax breaks). Good comment: The wealthy have had a president, not there needs to be one who will "work for you" (middle class).

Trade time out
Trade prosecutor to enforce agreements we have
Tougher standards (vigorous enforcement)

Foreclosure crisis: crack down on abusive practices of lenders. Moratorium for 90 days on foreclosures. 80,000 in TX and 90,000 in TX. Wow. Freeze interest rates for five years.

Three ways to jumpstart:

1. Clean, green jobs (5 billion investment in clean green jobs)

2. Infrastructure (bridges, roads, tunnels)

3. End Bush's war on science... we need to be the innovation nation.

Cuba

Hillary takes a good stand that there should be evidence before an presidential visit. She seems clear, focused, well-prepared.

Obama: Visits with Cuban leader requires what he calls preparation. "Never negotiate out of fear, but never fear to negotiate." JFK

Feels diplomacy is best with not just our friends, but with our enemies. (Applause)

Obama does not want preconditions, Clinton does.

Both agree that Bush is against our interests. (Interestingly, Bush is at an all time low popularity rating as of today: 19% of Americans say that they approve of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president, 77% disapprove, and 4% are undecided.)

http://americanresearchgroup.com/economy/

Obama feels president should take a more active role in diplomacy. If we think that president has to be a privilege that has to be earned, we retain the idea that we are "above the rest of the world." Wow. I do like that a lot. Very clear. Nice.

Blogging the debate: Opening comments

I liked Clinton's opening. She's got a good tone (though I noticed her emphasis on what she's done, more than what "we" can do - as someone pointed out).

Obama: I like his coming right out with the fact that good ideas aren't enough and that they both have them (and even some overlapping ones). Wants to help America be as good as is promised. Nice line. Gave credit. Smiley

Both are learning a lot on the campaign trail.

Aha! Spanish! the rightwing will be pissed.

Should add: Hillary looks beautiful! Her stylist is great.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Barack-Star Obama

If Bono's ability to move Americans to action through arena rock is any indication, Barack Obama may be the best thing to happen to American politics in a long time.

You guessed it. Here's my UPI article featuring Bono and Barack.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The details of Michelle's visit

(Photo introducing Michelle)
There were 1500 in attendance, over 200 turned away (including Jon, unfortunately). The crowd was electric in that way that Obama crowds always are. The diversity in the room alone inspired me. I spoke with many African Americans who had been Hillary fans originally who've come over to Obama. Interestingly, Hillary hosted an "invitation only" meeting at Skyline Chili downtown causing a traffic jam for over an hour. The people around me were mad both at the level of disruption in town and even more that she would come and limit who got to hear her speak. The whole idea of "invitation only" (even if the motivation was to find major donors) left the regular folk pissed off. They felt disrespected by it.

Meanwhile, the Michelle crowd arrived more than an hour before she spoke, to line up outside in the freezing, icy weather. There was one moment I'll never forget. Michelle talked about how difficult change is for people. They don't like it. Even when unhappy, we often cling to the familiar rather than face change (this resonated with me and explains my vote for Bush last time instead of Kerry - I was afraid of Kerry, but at least knew what I was getting with Bush... mistake, I readily admit now).

Then she said, "For instance, I know that some of you still have plastic on your sofas."

Ripples of laughter, lots of African Americans poking each other conspiratorially, naming the family member or friend this must apply to.

"I know you do. You know who you are! And I know you want to protect that couch from stains, to keep it beautiful. But the plastic is meanwhile turning yellow and cracking. You've got to take a risk that a stain will appear. In this campaign, in Barack's term as president, we're counting on your to risk, to make change happen. You've got to risk what you've got, not just protect it!"

This was how she framed her appeal to us to change! I had no idea what she was talking about. I'm a white girl, raised with lots of money and privilege, no plastic on sofas. I had to turn to Brian's wife, Ty (my friend) to ask her what this all meant. Apparently in the black community, it was true that sometimes you bought one couch and it would be the only couch you'd have for the rest of your life.

I found it humbling to be "in on" the conversation, as an outsider, but getting the chance to hear how it is, how it's been for others. This is also what Obama brings - a chance for the rest of us to hear an alternative perspective so that we can stop the addiction to isolation that has characterized much of my generation.

Michelle Obama in Cincinnati

Or: A confluence of idealisms

We are but a bundle of needs. Some of us need housing, jobs, education, healthcare, opportunity, less red tape and more connection to our community support systems. Some of us need safe neighborhoods and to not be forgotten. All of us need to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of our economic status, our upbringings, our genders, races or families of origin.

We have other needs too. We need to make a meaningful difference. Most of us find it hard to be happy while others suffer, while there's a lack of justice, when we know about it, when we are connected to it. Michelle Obama tapped into both sides of the "need equation" last night, offering a message I found not just inspiring (the criticism of this campaign), but downright prophetic.

We've been told for a long time (my entire adult life, if I'm honest) that Americans wanted nothing more than security from dangers abroad, monetary success, a well-decorated home, children who could go to college on our dime, jobs that offer medical and retirement benefits, the chance to say and do whatever I want that enhances my lifestyle, lower taxes, more choices, freedom from the burdens others impose on my life, less government.

Last night, Michelle Obama painted a picture of another version of the American dream. She described the struggles of most Americans. We do what's been asked of us, yet we never arrive because the bar keeps being raised as to what constitutes success. It used to be enough to keep a savings account for your child's college fund. Now, that's a laughable solution to tuition demands. It used to be possible to own a home on one income. Now, two are invariably required. Health care no longer represents care, but terror. One misstep, one month off of insurance, one enormous medical crisis can plunge a family into financial ruin.

So even when we play by the rules, do what is asked, many Americans find it increasingly hard to live those decent lives of hard work and family. Michelle talked about her upbringing: her parents, her values, her journey apart from Barack. She grew up on the southside of Chicago. Her dad was a blue collar worker, her mom was a "stay-at-home" mom. She explained that her dad did what he knew he was supposed to do - work every day to provide for his family. And he did. She said that back then (not that long ago as she pointed out - she's 44), if you did what you were supposed to do with integrity, hard work and values, you got what you wanted: healthy family, a home, health care, good education for your kids, the promise of a retirement.

She told us that she would not like to be known as the "First Lady" (should Obama win), but as an example of what a decent public education can do. She explained that her parents sent both she and her brother to Princeton on a blue collar salary combined with student loans. Today, that would not be possible.

Along the way, the bar got raised. She explained that each time we "do what we're supposed to do," it turns out to be not quite enough. You can start saving for college and by the time your kids get there, your savings mean nothing. You can work a decent job but get a sudden illness and lose your house over the debt you incur. She explained that today, most people feel it takes two incomes to make it or you stay home with your kids at great financial sacrifice (I could certainly relate to this as we lived this way until 8 years ago).

So this "moving bar" as she called it has the average American feeling discouraged, fearful and isolated. The repeated messages we hear, though, are that if we could just work harder and figure out the system, we'd be fine again. It just means doing "that much" more.

She went on to describe Senator Obama's biographical details: raised by a single white mother in the 1960s, lived in Indonesia as a child for a few years, a grandmother in rural Kenya... a brilliant student who wound up being the first black Harvard Law Review editor who had the world at his feet (could have done anything he wanted - could have taken a big corporate law job and made his millions). But he didn't. She explained that she and Barack are both lawyers. Then she quipped, "Everyone's a lawyer. This room is probably filled with lawyers. Lawyers, lawyers - they're everywhere and we probably would all like a lot fewer of them." (Laughter) She explained that many politicians start their careers amassing wealth through their lucrative law careers so that they can then run for office.

Barack didn't. He went directly into civil rights advocacy in Chicago. She said that his philosophy is, "When you're given the gift of advocacy, you don't sell it to the highest bidder." She told us that for most of his career, each job he took, he earned less money than the previous job. She and Barack only paid off their student loans three years ago. And that was because Barack wrote two best selling books. "I don't recommend that as a financial plan!" she laughed.

Michelle then explained that the core of Barack's message has to do with what he calls an "empathy deficit." Americans have lost touch with the value of community, of pulling for each other. We are pitted against one another instead. To keep up with the demands of making a decent wage and the eroding opportunity for community, most of us don't really know any reality but the one we're living. We are out of touch with other Americans and the realities of their lives.

Yet America's greatness ought not to be based on our big achievements, but on how well we care for the weakest among us. Obama's presidency is not just historical because he is black, but because he brings his own experiences to the table—the realities most of us are living, and then some: connections to life abroad, being raised by a single mother who used food stamps, living between races at a time when race was becoming an enormous issue. Without actually mentioning the Clintons or Bushes, she drew the contrasts sharply - the sense of entitlement and privilege that attend their campaigns and administrations versus the regular lives of the Obamas.

There is within this message a call for sacrifice - not the kind that says "You have to give up your toy for her because I say so" but the kind that says, "If you hurt, I hurt. I have extra. Have some of mine." She talked about the fact that what Obama represents isn't so much change in his own person as much as a changed call or outlook - that Americans want to create a better life for each other, not just for themselves. Leadership in this arena matters. She said that the strong momentum of the Obama campaign is related to this hunger Americans have to do the right and decent thing for each other. They want to know what they can do, how they can do it.

She quipped humorously that they are attacked for being idealistic, vacuous, not substantive in the details of "the plan." "Everyone wants to know the details of 'the plan.'" She went on to say that you can read many of them on the website, but that even more, Barack does care intensely about those details. She said, "And you do want a president who does know the details, believe me."

But then she made this great comment. "Take education. It's no mystery. We already know what makes a good school. We know what classroom size should be, what kind of educational models lead to education; we know what extra-curricular activities enhance the experience—activities that used to be part of the public education system that now cost money and are community based. We know what it takes to give a well-rounded educational experience.

"How do we know that we know we know? Because we have good schools in America. We already have public schools that are doing a great job. We just don't have enough of them. We can look at the good schools and use them as models.

"This is not hard to understand. No Child Left Behind has been a disaster for the power of good teaching and the magic of education. It's time to return to what public schools should be and make them available to every child."

I really liked this common sense approach.

Michelle also went through all the steps in the journey on the campaign. She talked about how each time Barack wins a victory or raises money or meets the latest challenge, they are told that the next hurdle will be the truly defining one. But he is battle tested. This same scenario played itself out when he ran for Illinois Senate too.

What made the difference in that race, what will make the difference in this race, what will matter during an Obama presidency is the commitment and passion to make a difference by participating in the changes we say we want. It will take sacrifices and vision, extending ourselves for others rather than protecting what we've got.

I realized as I was walking out of the auditorium that it's true - we've been told for decades that the good life is a better house, more money, fewer taxes, fewer restrictions on what I want to do. But most of us also want our lives to matter, to make a difference for others. Like JFK before him, Obama is asking us to think about how we can translate our idealism and dreams into practical action that will enhance our communities.

Honestly, I liked the whole night. To think of someone of his background in the White House (not the silver spoon, not the old cronies, not the political insiders)... to imagine someone leading whose aim is to take that advocacy in his background and use it for reshaping how Americans see their "American dream"... well, I'm ready for that. That sounds like change in the best ways to me. That's the kind of experience I'd like in the White House.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Obama-tines

Honk and Wave 4Caitrin and Liam helped out at the "Honk and Wave" yesterday downtown. The "Obama-tines" were pink squares of policy statements combined with heart suckers. This colorful guy was especially friendly and we had a great chat about Obama and his hopes for our country.
Honk and Wave 3

LA Reporter picks the wrong "Brother"



HT: Think on These

The reporter here is trying to paint the honk and wave Obama supporter as driven by emotion rather than substance. He picked the wrong guy!

(I must add that for the next three weeks, this blog may be saturated with Obama-Ohio type news. Just a head's up as the campaign heats up.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hitting the ground running: Obama campaign in Ohio

Obama Volunteer Meeting
With less than twenty-four hours notice, the Cincinnati Obama campaign volunteer meeting convened at New Friendship Baptist a block from Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. tonight. Scheduled for 6:00 p.m., I arrived minutes after 6:00 scrambling for a parking place.

Reading Rd. became a gridlock of parking-spot-seeking vehicles. People of every age, color, both genders, both parties streamed into the Baptist church slipping on ice, shaking snow off of coats, squeezing through the narrow entryway, scooting together to make space for one another in the pews, aisles, along the walls. The event organizers had prepared for 5-600 people, but were overwhelmed by the estimated 1,000+ who showed up. They were turning people away from the doors after the event started! (Not until after the late Obama supporters filled out the vital volunteer information sheets, I'm sure!) The traffic jam lasted until halfway through our meeting... so many people kept trying to get to the church.

The event began with a bang! Right out of the gate, chants and cheers spontaneously erupted from all quarters. Any time a speaker moved to the mike, more chants, more cheers, more applause. A call and response of "Fired up?" "Ready to go!" boomed through the sanctuary.

The Obama ground crew who arrived just yesterday from the east coast were blown away by the turn out. As it is, I had several friends who couldn't make it but wanted to go. I shudder to think of how many more would have come had there been "advanced" warning of say, 48 hours or more!

I had a nice chat with a Democrat woman as we entered the building. She told me that she had worked the Kerry campaign and had been ambivalent between Hillary and Obama, when a friend invited her to this meeting. She read up on Obama and realized that she really could get behind his campaign and suddenly felt caught up in the momentum and enthusiasm of the race.

I sat with another woman who enthused that she loves being a part of campaigns and was thrilled to hear that it was my first. I was far from alone, however. At that moment, in walked another woman who explained that this was the first time she's ever been moved to be involved in a political campaign. We were all warmly welcomed by the old timers.

So much fun to have these little conversations.

I climbed the narrow staircase with the late ones who didn't fit in the lower level and sat in the balcony pews of the church, squeezed between two white middle-aged women on my left and a white 30 something father of two and several twenty-somethings (girls and guys) to my right. All around us were African Americans too. All together I looked out at the crowd and it was as diverse as any I've ever been a part of: elderly, young couples, children, ex-hippies, preppies, business men and women, Cincinnati orthodox and new-to-towners.

The main speaker (an African-American state senator) declared: "I think we've found a way to get white folk into a black church!" Indeed. At least fifty-fifty white/black and loads of women. Who says women are all for Hillary?

The walls were lined with those who couldn't find seats, those of us in the balconies had to prop ourselves on the backs of pews to see over the railing to the sea of people below. Glowing chandeliers, tall green stained glass, the baptismal hinting blue - all these were backdrop to energy, clapping, cheers, neighbors greeting neighbors. It's true that it felt more like a rally than an organizational meeting for volunteers. An eruption of cheering followed every announcement right down to "pass your volunteer information sheets to the center aisles." By then, the room was giddy with joy.

One woman (who is a major volunteer coordinator for the democrats in Cinci and had worked the Kerry campaign) explained how she had organized the volunteers in the past. She loves grassroots movements. But then she went on to explain: she had never seen anything like this before. The whole team seemed moved and startled by the turn out and gushes of enthusiasm!

We were commissioned to talk to ten people and get them to vote early or by absentee ballot. The team said that it's crucial that we set a pace for Obama before the official election date.

Additionally there was a call to talk to ten local women - we want to let women know why Obama is the better choice over Hillary and bring them to his team. It blew me away how many women are for Obama.

The team from the national campaign is very organized for moving in so quickly. All the areas of Cinci have been divided up with team leaders who've done it all before. No one expected the race to be this tight for Ohio so the campaign is utterly out of yard signs, buttons, t-shirts etc. They are having them special delivered this weekend.

Toward the end of the night, the event organizer asked for Republicans and Independents to raise their hands so he could see just how many were supporting Obama. I sheepishly raised mine. I looked out. Wow! Such a surprising number of R's and Indies!! Just in the balcony, there were 15-20. We got applause and then after we broke, several people stopped to talk to me. The guy on my right was terrific. He told me his wife has been a lifelong R also but that after 8 years with Bush, she is throwing in the towel too and turning to Obama.

One thing he said that I enjoyed hearing: he likes Obama's tone in this race. He mentioned what has troubled me about her stump speeches. She often makes inadvertent negative remarks that reflect badly on conservatives, even the ones who support her. I wondered if I was the only one who noticed that. It was nice to hear a died-in-the-wool democrat make the same observation unprompted by me.

We were urged to email our friends in Ohio about why we are supporting Barack, to write letters to the editor, to call into radio shows. We were then told sternly that this is a positive campaign and that they do not want us attacking Hillary or being negative to get votes. Our job is to tell the world why we think Obama is the best candidate, not to attack any others. Isn't that awesome? The "positive campaign" statement brought thundering applause.

I gave my email address to the woman organizing the women for Obama and met the coordinator for our suburb. We have a honk and wave downtown at 5:15 tomorrow night (for those in Cincinnati interested in attending). We're meeting at Grater's in Fountain Square. Saturday, we'll meet at the Cinci HQ at 10:00 for our first widespread canvassing event. If you want to come, email me and I'll give you directions and information.

Truly an inspirational, exciting time in our city. One of our state level officials (now in his 60s) made the comment that his first election was when JFK was running for office. He said that this is the first time since then that he's had the same kind of optimism for and inspiration from a candidate. Something's different. That's for sure.

Photos were taken before the event started. It was too packed once it got going to take any more!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Rocky update


The meds
Originally uploaded by juliecinci
He's back home and looks a bit like a cartoon dog recovering from an anvil dropped on his head. Poor thing!

So far he's peed on two couches, has hobbled out to the back yard only to tuck his tail under and limp back to the glass door with plaintive eyes that seem to say, "Are you kidding me? I'm supposed to pee out there?"

I negotiated the vet hospital bill. Scratch that: I browbeat the poor receptionist who has little to do with setting the terms of the bill when she notified me that they had raised the total $300 past the high-end estimate. Once I unloaded both personal financial woes as well as meticulous analysis of the pre-approved items, she called me back to let me know I was "right" and that they had over-charged me. Ha! Cheaters.

Still, can't complain now that our sweet dog is home. I slept last night. That helped me recover. Now we're all about spoiling him with cheese covered pain killers, pee pads, soft blankets and love.

Earlier, Rocky limped into the living room to find me, heroically jumped (lurched, more like) onto the cushions and then laid his chin and the coffee filter head gear surrounding it onto my shoulder. He closed his eyes and sighed a deep doggie sigh. I stroked his back and whispered sweet somethings into his ear. He relaxed against me and dozed. It was the most tender offer of forgiveness I've ever received. And during Lent. How appropriate.

Recovering dog

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Frank Schaeffer: Why I'm Pro-Life and Pro-Obama

Article from the Huffington Post

HT: Tia

Rocky, I'm so sorry

This morning, I woke to Rocky's little yelp that lets me know he needs to be let out. So I got up, opened the sliding glass door and went to the bathroom while he peed. When I returned to the door, there was no happy dog to greet me. I waited a few more moments and he still hadn't come back. So I went into the yard to call for him, and noticed that the gate was open! (It never is.)

I hurried to the front door (I was still in skimpy pj's) and saw him in our neighbor's yard across the street. Normally I'd go to the other side of the street to get him, but I had no shoes on and like I said - very little clothing. I called to him, "Rocky!" and immediately he turned to me alert and happy, and bolted at top speed toward our house, right into the street... only just as I yelled his name, a car appeared over the little rise out of nowhere. At precisely the wrong moment, the two of them collided, "Bam!" mid-street right in front of my eyes!

The thud was huge and sounded final.

I stood there frozen but screamed "No! Rocky!" The car continued to run right over him. I saw Rocky sideways on the ground, but then his head popped up. He heroically gathered himself to his feet (one paw clearly injured) and with the miracle power of adrenaline, leapt toward the house and dashed past me and a naked Jon right up the stairs. He jumped (who knows how?) onto Caitrin's bed, bleeding the whole way.

I ran after him, gathered him into my arms and brought him into the kitchen. Jon got warm water and towels. I bathed his badly injured paw, blotted his very scraped tummy (it was one large red oozing mess of road burn) and held him while he shook in my arms.

I still couldn't believe he was even alive, that his little head had escaped except for a nasty scrape, and that he could walk at all.

We called the emergency room for pets and drove him to the hospital immediately. Over $1000 later (I'm still sick over the price), we left not knowing how he'll fare. He will certainly live, and we were reassured that his little paw (while stripped of skin and very bloody) was not broken and would heal. We're waiting now for the results of internal organ checks to discover whether or not his bladder, tummy, liver etc. escaped harm.

Update: His internal organs are all fine. That's such a relief.

I still can't believe he's alive! I cried like a baby once he was at the hospital. I feel like the worst pet owner ever. We don't know how or why the gate was unlatched. Our kids assure us they hadn't even been in the backyard for days.

The driver of the other car barely slowed down after hitting our dog. Creep. Jon informs me that he saw the car stop for a moment before going on (probably took off once the driver saw Rocky leap from the ground and run to the house).

Feeling shaken.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

John Boehner (my congressional representative)

on what it means to be a good American

Here's what Representative Boehner had to say last week about the tax refund:
The sooner we get this relief in the hands of the American people, the sooner they can begin to do their job of being good consumers.
When America was founded, Americans believed that our job was to take advantage of opportunities, to work hard, to own land and to freely pursue a vision of "the good life" according to our consciences.

Today, we can sum up American virtue in two words: "good consumers."

Wow.

Catch Phrase

They've been coming to our house over the last three years. Jon taught them as freshmen (well, some of them anyway) and now these Xavier students make the pilgrimage up the 75 every couple of months during the school year. The group evolves depending on friendships, who's dating, whether they can find someone with a car.

Last night three of the old regulars showed up with two newbies. The house is so quiet right before they arrive. Then as one big blast of energy from the cold outdoors, they tumble into our entryway, flinging off thick coats, hugging me, Jon, each of our kids, all talking at once, smiling, laughing.

We move into the kitchen and right away, the regulars notice the new table! and the rearrangement of furniture! and the X-Box Rock Band game! The newbies dive into the snacks waiting for them.

As happens, various conversations break out like sparks flying from a bonfire. Mark and I stray into the family room to flip through Maurice, by E. M. Forster. We're fans; Mark wants to share the moving passage where Maurice "comes out" because he knows I'll like it, too. We digress to politics, Mark justifying his support for Hillary while I talk about Obama. I'm always impressed with the political awareness of this group of students. They read, they care, they make good judgments.

Meanwhile at the table, despite the snacks, hunger breaks out.

I make lots of food when the kids come. Last night: lasagna, salad and garlic bread; followed by key lime and apple pies. We joke with Scarlet who can eat the boys under the table yet is skinny as a rail! Mark is a vegetarian so I make him a separate mini-lasagna, only to discover that Jordan had "gone veggie" in the last week, too. They split it.

Jordan helps me serve in the kitchen while we discuss theology: it's his major. He tells me that his goal is to reform our understanding of Christianity. I tell him I hope he does!

After dinner, we move into the living room for the real objective of the night: Catch Phrase. Jon starts his college classes on the first day with Catch Phrase to loosen up the students, to give everyone a chance to play, to talk, to risk, to get to know each other. Catch Phrase at our house, however, is for one purpose only: to get even!

It's a blood sport in our living room.

We sit alternating to ensure the proper teams as these have become inflexible over the years. We add and substitute the newbies for those who can't come or have moved away. But the core players remain the same which means that Mark, Jon and I are on one team while Jordan, Scarlet and (usually) Jacob are on the other. Jacob was gone last night so he was replaced by the very competent roommate of Scarlet. To round out the teams, Liam played with us and a new student, Iman, played on Team Two.

Still, I'm usually somehow on the losing team. Which means Jon is on the losing team. Which means Mark is on the losing team. And. That. Is. Unacceptable!

We adjust our chairs, we make sure we can jump up and high five without knocking over candles or picture frames. We are ready.

The electronic device whirls around the circle:

It's a dance. A dance like in the 70's... A movie called blank "Nights"

Boogie?

Yes. Then there's a word that's not a word that goes with it.

Boogie Disco, Boogieman, Boogie-woogie?

Yes!

Fling... and the device flies at Mark as it buzzes, while Mark throws up his hands as if to say "I don't have it. It's not in my hands."

Immediately all hell breaks loose:

I threw it to him, but he wouldn't catch it.

It was buzzing before it got anywhere near me.

Shouts, re-enactments, outrage... Over the bedlam, the voice of reason (and impartiality) in an eleven year old body shushes both teams: "It's a 'do-over'."

And we all know, instinctively: we can't challenge Caitrin.

So the night goes - words flying, laughter, dubious hand-offs resulting in more play-by-play reviews than at the Super Bowl.

Yet at night's end, when all is said and tossed, the best team wins two out of three. Yeah, you know how we do.

In a fervor of rehashing the plays, everyone decamps to the kitchen for pie. In solidarity with the events of the night, my crazy whipped cream dispenser loses control and sprays the entire room (hair, t-shirts, table, floor and dog's tongue) to the delicious laughter of everyone.

Then as the night winds down, Jon and his current students discuss how to make his class better. He asks their opinions, listens, makes adjustments, hears their critiques. It's remarkable, really, to see students so comfortable expressing their thoughts to their professor, the man who holds the keys to their grades. Perhaps just as amazing is that he welcomes their viewpoints.

Finally, it's nearly midnight and time for them to go home. With less energy now, they stuff their arms back into bulky coat sleeves, shuffling to the door. Even the newbies get good-bye hugs. We all promise to do it again soon.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Bono for President (U2 3D)

Oh hell, while we're at it: Larry, Adam and the Edge for cabinet.


After a long afternoon of negotiating tall orange cones in preparation for Jacob's driving exam (which he passed! Second time's the charm), followed by the usual rush to figure out dinner and then post meal clean-up, I felt I deserved a little excursion beyond these four lime green walls. So at 9:07, I hopped in my ever-so-soccer-mom van and headed to the local cinemaplex with IMAX screen to worship, I mean, watch the concert I had already seen live twice (once from the floor this close to Bono's spit and sweat).

Ticket bought, I entered the huge theater with assigned seat... to find the auditorium utterly empty. I felt about as subtle as a guy in a trench coat. I ignored my assigned location and picked the middlest velvety fold-down chair available. I donned the conspicuous black and green glasses, scooched cozily and got ready to weep. I always weep when U2 plays.

Without commercials or fanfare, the big screen lit up and the introductory credits to National Geographic (producers of the 3D event) popped out at me. My private, intimate, sentimental journey to two concerts past had begun. And I'd get a lot of face time with Bono.

Suddenly on the right: "Oh my God! Oh my God! This is sooooo AWESOME guys! Oh my God, oh my God!" Thunk, trip, stumble, giggle, smack each other on the shoulder.

"Hey!" one of them called to me. "Come party with us. Come party with us!"

A blonde and a brunette stumbled into the row in front of me, slopping beer, waving arms, followed by three dudes, one of whom sincerely thrust his can of Bud in my direction, "Have some."

"That's okay," I said waving him off.

The girls turned around. "Seriously, come party with us! You have to. Oh my God! Look at him. Bono is gorgeous. Is he gorgeous? Stop it! I swear he is."

The brunette wheeled around at me, "He is so gorgeous! Isn't he? Isn't he?" She wanted support because her boyfriend was laughing. Then her blonde friend agreed and they went back to screaming and howling and woo-hooing and waving their arms and dancing with their beers... followed by more urgings for me to party with them, "seeeeeriously."

"Vertigo" was well under way by then and I was seeeeeeeriously worried. My private church service had been ambushed by drunks who apparently didn't know much of U2's catalog as they barely recognized "Vertigo," and didn't know "Some Times You Can't Make It on Your Own" as evidenced by the question Brunette threw at me. "Is this a make-out song? It sounds like a make-out song. I want to make out!" she shouted to no one in particular.

The three guys directly in front of me stayed seated. The one who offered me beer seemed concerned that my movie viewing experience might get doused by screams. Uh, yeah. So he invited me to sit with him. Ha! "That's okay, bud. I'll stay here."

That didn't stop him from creating a conspiratorial friendship with me. He high-fived me at several key fist-pumping moments, offered me his beer several more times, and finally told me, "I like you."

The girls continued (I'm not kidding) to yell at me to "party with them, you know you want to" for half the movie. I finally told them that I "party in my own way."

Friendly Dude twisted in his seat to get a good look at me. "That's cool. I do too. You know I was smoking a joint before I came in and a cop saw me. I was like, 'Oh dude.' So I tossed my joint before he could see it. Then I was like 'Damn, where is it?' once he left. But I found it. So it was all good. You know what I mean."

One of the girls interrupted again, telling me that having already been to concerts, I had to stand up and party with her. Friendly Dude intervened: "She parties in her own way. Leave her alone. She's stoned." Then he high-fived me. Rock on!

That's the first time in my life I've ever been accused of or gotten credit for being stoned... and I'm 46 years old. Rock on!

He asked me, "You married?"

"With five kids."

That cooled his jets.

He still knuckled me when we both knew that Bono had been extra cool, but the invitations to sit with him vanished.

Now you're probably wondering if I ever saw or could even hear the movie. I panicked initially. I wanted to focus on things I don't get to in concerts - like the purity of the sound, the close ups, the way the Edge struts when he plays, Larry's flying sticks and Adam's craggy face. I wanted to let Bono cast his spell. Would I get that soaring sense of YES that I love so much when I listen to U2, or merely wind up with fodder for my blog?

I had to make a decision. Did I want to be the snob who moved to the back of the theater to be alone? Did I want to come back another night? Suddenly, in an instant, I yielded to the whole experience. Their urgings to join them made me laugh. We talked about the band while they played. I hushed them to silence for "Miss Sarajevo" (my hands-down favorite song from that tour). When Bono finished his operatic virtuoso performance of the Pavarotti part, Other Friendly Dude turned to me to say, "He's money." Damn if he isn't!

Slowly, like spinning a web, I got sucked into the U2 vortex. On that huge screen, with close-up lips and crinkled brow, Bono brought his lyrics to life.

You give me something I can feel

I want to be with you, be with you night and day

See the bird with a leaf in her mouth, after the flood all the colors came out

Sometimes you can't make it on your own

Lay down your guns
All your daughters of Zion
All your Abraham sons
I don't know if I can make it
I'm not easy on my knees... Love and Peace


How long must we sing this song? How long? how long... cause tonight...we can be as one

Across the field you see the sky ripped open
See the rain come through the gaping wound
Pounding on the women and children who run into the arms of America


Is there a time for tying ribbons?
A time for Christmas trees?
Is there a time for laying tables
When the night is set to freeze?


What more in the name of love?

And when I go there, I go there with you (it's all I can do)

We're one
But we're not the same
We get to carry each other
Carry each other
One


Look, I gotta go, yeah I'm running outta change
There's a lot of things if I could I'd rearrange


I can't live with or without you

Take this soul, stranded in some skin and bones; take this soul and make it sing... This love is like a drop in the ocean.

The overarching theme from 30 years of writing songs is that we can't live with or without each other, so we'd better figure out a way to get along. It really is love and peace, or else. The colors do come out after the flood, if we'll pay attention, if we'll recognize that there's a time for everything under the sun. Life is not about making it on your own. Survival means we aren't the same but we get to carry each other. There's so much we'd like to change, to rearrange, but we're stuck with what we've got. So we sing: How long? How long must we sing this song?

Even the plaintive psalm at the end ("Yahweh"): Please make this soul sing... the love I've got is like a drop in the ocean... but it's still love and I'll sing it anyway.

By the end, I was a wreck of emotion. This strange political battle we're in where lines are drawn, convictions are Stood For as proof of some impenetrable value system, where attacks on the opposition prove your inflexibility and credibility... Something has to change! We have to carry each other. We have to have love and peace, or else.

Strangely, I had just lived through love and peace, or else, with my beer drinking stoned movie-viewing mates.

The original final line of "Yahweh" is "Take this heart, and make it break." Last night, as Bono crooned through the 3D credits, a giant heart beat on the jumbo marquis lights screen behind him. It grew in size, thumping and pumping. I expected to see it shatter into a million pieces as he let out the last lyric.

This time, suspended on the final note before, Bono switched the words and ended the song:

Take this heart, and make it safe.

The heart continued to beat.

Bono and his bandmates have been urging us for 30 years to do just that—we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers. It's up to us to keep each other safe.

--

For a review of the actual movie, you can't do better than this one:

Out of Frame: U2 3D

Thursday, February 07, 2008

SBC commentary on Dobson's press release

HT: Exploring our Matrix

Focus on the Folly

All I’m asking is for evangelicals in the Republican Party to give James Dobson the same kind attention we would give to our senile and increasingly erratic grandfathers.

Love them. Listen to them. Laugh with them.

Then make sure they take their medicine.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Obama: The Natural, by Andrew Sullivan

For those with qualms about Obama's experience, I thought this article most insightful.
I asked him directly last year why a voter should back someone who has never run anything bigger than a legislative office. He responded by pointing to his nascent campaign. He observed out that he was up against the full Clinton establishment, all the chits she and her husband had acquired over the years, and the apparatus they had constructed within the party. He had to build a national campaign from scratch, raise money, staff an extremely complex electoral map, and make key decisions on spending and travel. He asked me to judge his executive skills by observing how he was managing a campaign.

By that standard, who isn't impressed? A first term senator - a black urban liberal - raised more money, and continues to raise much more money, than Senator Clinton. More to the point, the money he has raised has not come from the well-connected fat-cats who do things like donate to the Clinton library. His base is much wider, broader and internet-based than hers. It has many more small donors...
Keep reading...

Ledger's Death Ruled Accidental

In case you were waiting for the results, like I was, UPI has released a statement.
NEW YORK, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Heath Ledger's death has been ruled an accident, resulting from the abuse of prescription medications, the New York City Medical Examiner's office said.

The cause of the Australian actor's Jan. 22 death in Manhattan was announced Wednesday.

An initial autopsy conducted shortly after Ledger died proved inconclusive and the medical examiner waited for the results of toxicology tests before determining the cause of death.

A statement released by the office said Ledger died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine.

"We have concluded that the manner of death is accident, resulting from the abuse of prescription medications," the statement said.

Yes. We. Can. Obama '08

California went to Hillary.

Ohio will matter.

This morning I wrote down all the reasons I won't support Hillary as the party nominee. Honestly, if it's Hillary versus McCain, I might end up voting Republican again. Here are my reasons for why I don't think Hillary is a worthy first female president (in no particular order).

1. When Bill publicly humiliated his wife with the most public affair (infidelity) on the most public stage with the most public and despicable of lies, Hillary set women back twenty years by forgiving him.

2. I take that back. She didn't forgive him. She "excused" him. She quickly accepted his terms for how to be married to Bill and moved on. Is that the example I want for my life, for my daughter's?

3. She didn't excuse him because they had some therapeutic, miraculous internal transformation in their marriage. She excused him for the basest of all reasons: naked ambition. Hillary's future as a potential candidate for president hinged on her staying near to the power that Bill offered her. She didn't (doesn't) trust herself to lead. She pretends to.

4. Hillary has been about maneuvering herself in such a way that she can claim the office of president using Bill's record as her own. Sure she's been a senator. How did she get there? Hillary brings to the table her years of sitting up late at night chatting with Bill about his day; that's essentially what it means to say that she's already been in the White House. She sees herself as having gained experience through Bill. In other words, she is running partly on his record.

5. Is that the idea of "first woman president" that I have always had? That the wife of the former president can scoot into position because her husband paved the way, made it easier for her somehow, abused their marriage and then does penance by supporting her White House ambition? For me, it's despicable.

6. What of her senate seat? Certainly it's real. Yet look at how much of it has been constructed to get her to this day - running for president. She wants to be perceived as the candidate in the middle... so who knows what she really believes?

In fact, that sums up my whole feeling about Hillary. I don't believe her.

I want a woman president who got there because she earned her way, she had the guts to stand for her dignity when humiliated and doesn't depend on her husband as a co-president for her credentials in office.

A woman running for president should "get there" without depending on a husband, without compromising what it means to be a strong individual. With Hillary, I get neither. She strikes me as ambivalent.

I'll be very disappointed if she gets the nomination. I don't think she can win. There are too many of us who have traditionally voted Republican who can't get over her. If the party doesn't realize that Obama drew us in and Hillary repels us, I think they are making a big mistake. McCain (though he drives me crazy) is a reasonable alternative for swing voters. I don't know if Hillary can beat him. I believe Obama can.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Introducing: Nicole Rae Studio


One of my longterm, dear cyber friends has just opened her online art and photography store. Her work is extraordinary. She sees color and line in Los Angeles that the rest of the stressed commuters miss. Somehow, she turns that jungle into soothing and surprising glimpses of shape, color and natural beauty. I know you'll love her work.

Please visit! And if you like what you see, purchase something for yourself or a loved one. Valentine's Day is just around the corner. (She hasn't asked me to do this. I just couldn't hold back because I love her work *that* much.)

Monday, February 04, 2008

Super Tuesday: Get to the polls!

Wish I were a voter in California tomorrow. After decades of irrelevance, the great Bear State has a chance to cast votes that matter, votes that say we can make a difference.

Obama raised $35 million in January from supporters like me and you. He's got the grassroots momentum. Don't stay home. If you're in one of the primaries tomorrow, get out and.... Vote!



Yes, We Can: this video was created by Obama supporters. Beautifully made.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Are you kidding me? Eli does it?

What a win! What a come back!

More analysis later. I'm speechless. A game that drew yawns for the first 40 minutes became one for the ages in the last minutes.

Update: Two things. Tiki Barber must be crying in his cereal this morning. Second: The Manning family is ridiculous. Can you imagine being Archie? Good for them.

Tom Petty! SuperBowl Halftime

Opens halftime with my personal anthem: "American Girl." I used to drive my dad's Datsun 240Z (sea breeze green) over the 405 with this song blaring from my speakers, knowing it was just for me. Tom Petty was one of my college faves. He wrote about Ventura Boulevard and Century City... my world.

So far so good.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Succumbing to a Meme

Because James asked so nicely.

Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!)
Find Page 123.
Find the first 5 sentences.
Post the next 3 sentences.
Tag 5 people.

Let's post the quote first and then you can all guess what book it comes from and what on earth the conversation is about. I'm tickled that the book nearest to me was not a crusty graduate school tome.
"Oh, didn't it hurt the poor tree?" Laura asked.

"No more than it hurts you when you prick your finger and it bleeds," said Pa.
And because these memes depend on dragging in other reluctant bloggers, I tag new blogger Greg, Scrabulicious pal Dali, K-Bob, Chuck, a U2 fan, and Schteef, my Bruin buddy.

I resisted tagging those of you who've been subjected to my mimetic coercions before. You can thank me later.

Frozen Grand Central Station



I'm not a big YouTube junkie (I get antsy waiting for videos to end so I can click and go somewhere else). Yet this little clip of Frozen Art stopped me cold. Made me wish to be a part of something like it. Awesome.

HT: Left of the Dial