Archive for the 'Politics' Category


Now This is Change We Can Believe In

I wasn’t a big fan of the dress Michelle wore to her husband’s acceptance speech. But — big deal … I’m just thrilled the Obamas are going to be taking up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania.

Here’s hoping for something a little prettier at the inauguration! She should take a leaf out of RuPaul’s book! This is just gorgeous.

RuPaul as Barack and Michelle Obama


Keep it Complicated, Keep it Real

The most interesting thing about this election cycle — apart from historical significance of the Democratic party putting its hopes and dreams into a race between an African-American man and a former First Lady — is that for the first time in my lifetime the Primaries matter.

Whether you want Obama or Clinton, it’s good to have the debate. I’m sick of people who are saying one or the other should just give up. I think my Clinton-supporting friend’s exact words the other night were “The Democrats need to wake the fuck up.”

But this is naïve and oversimple and short-sighted.

I may have voted for Clinton, but I’m glad Obama is in this. It’s good to have a real race. This is how it’s supposed to work. It’s those years where it’s all sewn up months before the conventions that are the anomalies. Nothing can be taken for granted.


“If you wanna save the planet, let me see you jumping…”

My friends and I waited most of the afternoon yesterday to catch the Madonna concert on TV. Clever of her to conceal it in a worldwide series of concerts designed to raise awareness about — and presumably money to help combat — global warming.

We streamed it online live from London and displayed it on my friend’s wide screen TV. After some downloading and installing and rudimentary hacking, he got it set up just in time for the announcer to say, “Ladies and gentlemen… Madonna!”

She started with her new song, “Hey You,” which I’m not entirely sure I like a whole lot. But she was stunning and angelic in that simple black dress, her platinum-colored hair flowing in waves, her voice fine, soft and strong. With that children’s choir backing her up and the the arms of thousands swaying, it was a very Michael-Jackson-Heal-the-World moment. But better, because it was Madonna. Or maybe, to be more precise, because it was not Michael Jackson.

Then she sent the kids off and got down the business. She strapped on a guitar, took a wide stance, and called out to the cheering masses:
If you wanna save the planet, let me see you jumping up and down! Come on, motherfuckers!

Maybe not the message Al Gore had in mind, but it was easy advice for the obliging audience to follow. But who cares about messages? Madonna probably has one of the largest carbon footprints of the performers on the bill.

What was essentially the Confessions Tour version of “Ray of Light” was followed by the strangest version of “La Isla Bonita” I have ever witnessed in my life. The Romani Gypsies she called out to tear up the joint were totally weird and wild and crazy … and an absolutely perfect accompaniment to the song. My friends and I shot quizzical glances at each other at first, but then it suddenly seemed OK. Madonna wills it, and it is so.

She wrapped it up with “Hung Up,” just like her last tour. Countless performers and celebrities had taken that London stage throughout the day. They had all occupied the space and put in their time, and said kind and sometimes inspirational words and made pretty music. But when Madonna took that stage, she owned it. Duran Duran, Genesis, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Snow Patrol, Keane, Back Eyed Peas, Foo Fighters — all an elaborate opening act for one person.

Madonna brought the party that closed that show. I don’t know if it did much to stop global warming, but it sent the spectators out of Wembley feeling pretty darn good. Maybe it’s just what they needed after a day full of bad news.


In Like a Lion, Out Like A Lamb

    Tony Blair

On June 27, 2007, I will die inside just a little. On that black day, Tony Blair will step down as Prime Minister of the UK.

I’ve had a crush on Tony Blair from the beginning. He’s smart and I’ll even say cute. Then he got even hotter when I began associating him with Bill Clinton, who I would vote for in an instant if he could run for president again. But that’s not what I mean by “crush.”

People alternately make fun of me or express horror that I have an autographed photo of him on a bookshelf at home. Yeah, he’s not the man who was elected in 1997. He was Bushwhacked and hijacked and dragged into compliance with America, into a war his people will not forgive him for, and I hate that. He stands by his decisions, says he still thinks he did the “right thing,” but he acknowledges he may have fallen short of expectations and trusts his people to judge his performance.

The “right thing” may well have been to side with the States. Maybe he’d be equally reviled if he had not stood with our vindictive president, weakening the UK in the process. It was an untenable position for any British PM, and I think he heard the air leaking out of his own credibility the moment Bush declared “Mission Accomplished” on that aircraft carrier off the coast of Florida.

However, I still have a lot of respect for him as a politician who isn’t afraid to also be an intellectual. I can’t imagine most American congressmen going up against a British MP in a debate. American politicians don’t even debate anymore. They cram as many talking points into 30 seconds as they can, whether or not it actually addresses or counters their opponents’ points. And, shame on us, we don’t call them out on it. We accept it. But these are the people we have to choose from, so one of them wins and is rewarded for bad behavior and intellectual laziness.

One of the questions at the first Republican “debate” last week was, “What is the one thing you hate the most about America?” I think it was Mitt Romney who paused for a long while and said something like, “I’m at a loss. I love America,” and then went on and on about rolling hills and streams and the hard-working and innovative American people, bla bla bla

Too bad so many of those hard-working American people can’t afford to keep themselves healthy — to enjoy the mountains and the streams, and to continue being hard-working and innovative. Our ridiculously lopsided and unfair health care system is one of the things I like least about America, but not one of the candidates would dare say something so substantive or meaningful.

But I don’t have a bratty constituency to placate, and I don’t have special interest groups and lobbyists to appeal to, so I can say those things. I don’t have to promise to fix America’s problems even as I paradoxically pretend that America is so great that it has no problems.

Tony Blair has also been accused of being a master of spin. He has been accused of governing like a center-of-attention, American-style president instead of a British prime minister. But I’d trust him before I’d trust many American politicians to carry out good policy. He can function simultaneously and seamlessly as a leader globally, nationally and locally; he can work with or against another president, he can defend Labour policies in his own Parliament, and he can speak to any issue in his home constituency of Sedgefield.

I think he lost more sleep than I did the night of November 7, 2000. And imagine his dismay on the night of November 2, 2004, at the prospect of getting back into the sandbox with us! (Myself, I had a “Tony Blair for President” bumper sticker on my car that year.)

Like most politicians, American or British, I am sure, he started out as an idealist and was driven to realism, even perhaps cynicism, by the forces of the world. I still believe that he has something salvageable of that old pre-Iraq Tony. He can return to idealism after leaving 10 Downing Street. He can run off with Bill Clinton and marry him. (A guy can dream.)

There will be talk ad nauseam of his legacy now. Iraq, Iraq, Iraq, of course. (Great Britain doesn’t exactly have a great record when it comes to Iraq, by the way.) He weakened the House of Commons. He was a hero in Northern Ireland. He has admirably managed the transition of devolution in Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland. He did nothing to reform the House of Lords. He had over-reaching domestic policies and didn’t keep his promises. His foreign policy is a disaster. Economic gains made in the last decade are down to Gordon Brown, not Tony Blair. I know little about politics in general and even less about British politics specifically, but whatever your opinion of Tony Blair’s performance, I think it really comes down to this: Is the UK better off now than it was 10 years ago? The general consensus from anyone except a British Conservative seems to be: “Yeah, sure. I guess so.”

He may soon no longer be prime minister of the UK, but he will always be the prime minister of my heart.


Lake Wobegon Gays

A friend pointed me today to this Slog entry by Dan Savage about a March 14 commentary by Garrison Keillor on about taking care of the kids, in which he extols the virtues of heterosexual marriage and simultaneously defames same-sex parenting. Here’s a sampling:

And now gay marriage will produce a whole new string of hyphenated relatives. In addition to the ex-stepson and ex-in-laws and your wife’s first husband’s second wife, there now will be Bruce and Kevin’s in-laws and Bruce’s ex, Mark, and Mark’s current partner, and I suppose we’ll get used to it.

The country has come to accept stereotypical gay men — sardonic fellows with fussy hair who live in over-decorated apartments with a striped sofa and a small weird dog and who worship campy performers and go in for flamboyance now and then themselves. If they want to be accepted as couples and daddies, however, the flamboyance may have to be brought under control. Parents are supposed to stand in back and not wear chartreuse pants and black polka-dot shirts. That’s for the kids. It’s their show.

Not sure what “stereotypical gay men,” or America’s supposed acceptance of them, have to do with any of the actually quite lovely things he says about kids and the way life can be. He’s so much smarter than this, little more than a catalog of thoughtless stereotypes. Surely his world travels — and his social circles — must have delivered him a broader, truer view of gay men than he lets on.

It’s a cheap shot. The whole two paragraphs are completely unnecessary. It’s an intellectual and moral disappointment.

And then he throws the gays a bone: “I suppose we’ll get used to it.”

Well, thank you very much for that concession. I hope we don’t inconvenience you too much in the meantime.

Keillor’s comments wouldn’t hurt so much if I didn’t respect him as much as I do. Savage, for one, is fighting mad. There’s not much I can add that he hasn’t already said.

In his misplaced, futile and delusional longing for the Goode Olde Days, I think maybe he’s confusing the whimsical, kitschy, also-stereotypical world of Lake Wobegon with the real world. Billy Joel said it pretty well, I think: “The good old days weren’t always good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.”


I’m Not a Hypocrite. I Just Play One on TV.

From the Associated Press story that appeared in today’s New York Times.

    Newt Gingrich
I’ll pull your leg if you pull my finger.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich acknowledged he was having an extramarital affair even as he led the charge against President Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair, he acknowledged in an interview with a conservative Christian group.

Gingrich argued in the interview, however, that he should not be viewed as a hypocrite for pursuing Clinton’s infidelity.

“The president of the United States got in trouble for committing a felony in front of a sitting federal judge,” the former Georgia congressman said of Clinton’s 1998 House impeachment on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. “I drew a line in my mind that said, ‘Even though I run the risk of being deeply embarrassed, and even though at a purely personal level I am not rendering judgment on another human being, as a leader of the government trying to uphold the rule of law, I have no choice except to move forward and say that you cannot accept … perjury in your highest officials.’ “

Translation: The president can’t lie, but the Speaker of the House can. One might even extrapolate: If I were the president and not the speaker, I would not have lied. (Or, I only lied because I was the speaker.)

However you parse it, if this sort of reasoning idiocy brings Newt any comfort, I think it’s pretty clear that Republicans have no business nominating him to run for president. Unless they prefer that the president be someone who can’t be trusted to tell the truth.


Goode Grief!

It’s always great when lunatics on the Right demonstrate their ineptitude and blatant xenophobia as clearly as Virgil Goode, a Republican representative from Virginia. It justifies so many of my liberal convictions.

He objects to the decision of Keith Ellison, a recently elected Democratic U.S. representative from Minnesota, to use the Koran when he is sworn in next month. Apparently some voters in Virginia wrote to complain to Goode — who knows what for, except perhaps to put ignorance, idiocy and irrelevance to paper. Goode rewarded them with a heart-warming personal response in which he incongruously rails against illegal immigration and advocates severe restrictions on legal immigration. According to the Times, some intern somewhere must have screwed up, because the good Congressman’s mailing list accidentally included a guy from the Sierra Club — who had written the Congressman about an environmental issue in Virginia, not a representative from Minnesota. This is apparently the guy who made the letter public.

Goode says Ellison’s decision to make his oath on the Koran is unamerican. I guess what he’s saying is that America is not the land of the free and the home of the brave, but rather the land of the Christian and the home of the white man.

“I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped,” he wrote.

Not that we should make it our business to specifically screen Muslims out of immigration proceedings, but Goode seems to have completely missed the mark here anyway. Keith Ellison is from Detroit. And while that may seem like a foreign country to many people (trust me, I grew up nearby), he can trace his family history in the United States back to the 18th century.

He also wrote that “if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.”

Heaven forbid.

It may have escaped his notice that the Constitution allows for people of all religious stripes to run for Congress. Further, their swearing in does not include the use of a religious text. It’s only at the public ceremony that a book is used.

And why should we care if it’s the Koran or The Lord of the Flies? The Hebrew Bible and Mormon texts have been used in the past.

Goode’s attempt to conflate wrong-headed anti-Muslim sentiment, fueled by anti-terrorism rhetoric, with immigration issues is little more than an admission of his gross ignorance and incompetence.

So, bravo! to the intelligent voters of Virginia’s 5th district for electing this loser to Congress. I hope he gets them everything they deserve.

Virginia Democrats, don’t despair: There are some decent folks in Minnesota who are willing to vote in a competent person to represent their interests to the U.S. Congress. You may want to move up north and cast your lot with them.

(Mind you, Minnesotans are also responsible for the election of Michelle Bachman. There may be no hope anywhere in this country.)


Red, White and Blur

It’s a good day for Democrats.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if it’s more due to the success of Democratic campaigns or the failures of the Republicans. I’m not sure that it matters, frankly. The next two years are going to be tough with a blue Congress and a red Administration.

I certainly hope the Democrats win the senate by gaining seats in Virginia and Montana. However, no matter what happens, I’d rather see them stay red than be mired in recounts. Despite whatever sweeping changes we think we may be seeing in this mid-term election year, VA and MT are like splashes of cold water reminding us that this country is still rather sharply and evenly divided.

Mid-term elections are more fascinating to me than presidential election years.

the untallied hours