And now it appears that roughly half the likely voters in Massachusetts are willing to let the Republicans back into power.
The key phrase there is likely voters. A lot of the people who turned out last year to make history are now disillusioned with Obama. If you deluded yourself that he was the second coming, as so many people did, you damned well should be disillusioned. Obama doesn't walk on water. But let's give the guy a chance to do what's humanly possible, instead of taking our balls and going home when it turns out he can't fix a mess it took fourteen years to make in one. Get off your butt, go to the polls on Tuesday, and give the guy a chance.
(An no, to forestall that objection, I don't think Martha Coakley is the best Senator Massachusetts could get. But Scott Brown is pretty damned close to the worst.)
So today, when I received email from the President of the United States — the first President in a generation whose election would have made my mother feel proud of her fellow citizens — I sat up straight, set my shoulders, and read it carefully. Even though I knew full well as I read it that I was one of probably 15 million recipients, that it was really essentially a message from the Democratic party, and that it wasn't him but a database that knew my first name — even though I knew, in short, that my reaction was absurd. Because, if for no other reason, my mother would have wanted me to be proud.
Worthy of note: they have a suggestion box.
An a-capella tribute to John Williams and Star Wars.² (Note: One guy is clearly not doing all those voices: the youtube sidebar points out that the vocal performance is by Moosebutter. You can buy an mp3 at their site.)
Stop-motion clay animation chess game.³ Which totally fails to describe it adequately. Just watch it:
My new userpic, created by deguspice for noire and snarfed with permission, is based on some fantastic stickers being given away by moveon.org. To quote the message they suggest I pass on to all my friends:
Want a free Obama sticker to celebrate our victory? It's designed by Shepard Fairey, the artist who created the iconic HOPE poster. And MoveOn's giving them away totally free--even the shipping's free.
I just got mine. Click this link to get your free Obama sticker:
¹ Thanks to nakor
² Thanks to remcat
³ Thanks to motodraconis
My faith fell on hard times. The Republicans trotting out the solemn machinery of Impeachment over a blow job. The Supreme Court interceding in an election to prevent ballots from being counted. Congress, when the Ninth Circuit ruled that it had acted unconstitutionally in inserting the words "under God" into Francis Bellamy's lovely Pledge of Allegiance, responding by all but unanimously reaffirming its unconstitutional act. The President condoned torture.
My mother's faith came to seem to me little better than Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny: Tales for children, not something an adult could believe in.
Tonight I sat among friends (thank you again aerynne for inviting me) hanging on the news. I watched John McCain give his best speech of the campaign, a concession speech worthy of the statesman I once thought he was.
And then the President-Elect came on. And I found myself standing up from the couch I'd been sitting on, facing the screen squarely, and standing at parade-rest through his acceptance speech. And toward the end, shedding a few tears.
I don't know how long it will last, but I wish my mom were alive, so I could call her and tell her that, at least for tonight, I have my faith back.
In 1990, a few weeks after I moved to Boston, I was sitting at an outdoor table in Harvard Square. At the next table, a Black man was giving his twenty-something son, who had apparently recently graduated from Law School, advice. He was apparently going down a list of the cities his son had offers in. "You don't want to stay here. Boston's still stuck in the seventies on race. Philly's even worse...." He went on, speaking of some cities with more caution, others more positively. Then "The best place for a young Black man in the Country today has to be Seattle. Why, they just elected a Black mayor. A city that's eighty percent White! Can you imagine?"² I was very proud of my home town as I listened to that, and very homesick.
Eighteen years later, it's been a long time since I heard anyone shout out an ethnic or racial slur on the street (which I did, to my shock, when I first moved here). Two years ago, Massachusetts elected a Black governor, in a campaign in which as best I could tell, race was not an element at all. (My perspective may be skewed: Since I don't watch TV news and don't read the local newspapers, what I knew of the campaign came from Public Radio and the web. I didn't even know Deval Patrick was Black til a week or so before the General Election. If you'd asked me, I'd have assumed, from his name, that he was Boston Irish.) And now, if the polls are right, the entire country is ready to catch up with Seattle and cast their ballots without regard to race. Maybe this time it really is morning in America.
¹ The only contested elections on my ballot were President and U.S. Senator; for the Democratic candidate to fail to carry both is just about inconceivable. I haven't seen polling on the ballot issues, but I assume, perhaps incorrectly, that Prop. 1, a grossly irresponsible slasn-and-burn antitax measure, will go down in flames. I would also like to thank that Prop. 2, decriminalizing marijauna, will easily carry the day — at least until the results are in, I'm going to let myself believe that people have finally started to notice that prohibition is as much a failed social policy now as it was in the 1920s.
² Seattle was actually roughly 10% Black when Norm Rice was elected mayor.
Never in living memory has an election been more critical than the one fast approaching — that’s the quadrennial cliché as expected as the balloons and the bombast. And yet when has it ever felt so urgently true?²When indeed.
So I would like to watch this year's election results unfold, and I would like to do so among friends. If I were to hold an election-night party, at which the TV would be used for web browsing and the live commentary would come from NPR, would anyone want to come to it?
¹ Where effectively means I have a TV — a rather nice 32-inch LCD TV, in fact. What I don't have is cable service or an antenna: what little I watch comes form the Internet or on DVDs.
² "Comment: The Choice," The New Yorker, "The Talk of the Town" column, October 13, 2008, p. 51.
I got mail from the Obama campaign this morning inviting me to donate:
... A previous donor has promised to match your donation to encourage you to give for the first time. This is your last opportunity to partner with a fellow supporter and make your donation go twice as far.I don't really have money to be donating to political campaigns right now — but I donated $100 anyway. As I said to the guy who's matching me (after you donate you're given a chance to drop them a note), he made the value proposition easy for me: "A little more beans and a little less hamburger for a couple of months against $200 for a better future? That's a no-brainer."
Your donation of $5 will become $10, $25 becomes $50, and $50 becomes $100. Double your impact by making a matched donation today:
If you feel the same way, maybe you'd like to take advantage of the matching offer too.
It occurred to me to day that it's been a couple of years since Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, so perhaps Rowling has announced a date for the final installment. Unsurprisingly, the top Google hit for "Harry Potter" is J. K. Rowling's site — where on the main page I found this news item:
Banned Books Week
Once again, the Harry Potter books feature on this year's list of most-banned books. As this puts me in the company of Harper Lee, Mark Twain, J. D. Salinger, William Golding, John Steinbeck and other writers I revere, I have always taken my annual inclusion on the list as a great honour. "Every burned book enlightens the world" — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Aside from it being a nice expression of the contempt book-banners deserve, what struck me about this is that all but one of the authors she names was an American. I'm not at all sure what to make of that; it may just be a meaningless coincidence. But it does lead me to wonder about a tangential question: Is book-banning an especially American phenomenon, in comparison to the rest of the Anglosphere? While I know that books are sometimes banned in, for instance, the UK, I tend to suspect it is a far more unusual event there. But I have no data; merely conjecture.
Two threads of thought lead me to that suspicion. The first is that to the best of my knowledge, the US is unique in making the public education of its future citizens a political football to be kicked around amateur political wannabes. Elsewhere in the world curriculum and other school policies are set by agencies of larger (often national) units of government, staffed by professionals1. And generally, when you hear about a book being banned, it was banned from a school curriculum or removed from a school library — by a school board.
The other is quite a bit more conjectural. I find myself wondering whether having a freedoms enshrined in our fundamental law may not in fact result in people respecting it less. This thought began germinating when I noticed that most, if not all, of the European democracies have an official state religion. Yet religion plays a vastly larger role in American politics than in Europe2. Why is that? Europe endured generations of bloodbaths in the name of God — is that historical memory closer to the surface in the European electorate than in ours? Or is it that in America, the fact that religious freedom is enshrined in the Constitution give those who oppose the idea something to push against? And is it the same story for freedom of the press?
1 While I would be loathe to suggest that a government bureaucracy is good way to achieve anything. But consider what I'm comparing it to. To quote Mark Twain: God made the Idiot for practice, and then He made the School Board.
2 Or, to the best of my knowledge, anywhere outside the Islamic world and those regions of the world where Muslems and and people of other faiths coexist uneasily.
Juliet Eilperin has twelve years experience as a reporter in Washington, six of those as the House of Representatives reporter for the Washington Post. Her new book, Fight Club Politics, is among other things about how the two major parties have conspired to make nearly every congressional seat "safe". (Did you know that 98% of incumbents who ran were re-elected in 2004?.) As Jon Stewart was wrapping up the interview....
JE: ... basically they're only willing to get together when it's protecting their own re-election.
JS: And you, covering this for twelve years — corrosive to the soul?
JE: Yes. And in fact I became so depressed doing it I focused more in the environment....
JS: So you choose to focus on the raping and pillaging of the environment rather than cover politics, because
JE: I find it less depressing.
 Of 435 seats in the US House of Representatives, 402 incumbents ran in 2004. Only 7 of them lost.
I don't understand these people at all. This morning I was driving for a few minutes during... I forget what they call it now, WBUR's post Morning Edition call-in show. The interviewee was a black minister who apparently has written some sort of attack on gay marriage. He was, in short a bigot. Saying exactly the kinds of things white bigots used to say about blacks, trying to excuse his bigotry because, he claimed, skin color is biology and sexual orientation isn't.
I have to say, gay marriage is an idea that had never crossed my mind until a few years ago, when it exploded onto the front pages here in Mass. The institution of marriage has never occupied much of my attention; I'd always thought of it as mostly a legal convenience for parents and not having much point otherwise. And I suppose it hadn't crossed my mind that gay people would want to marry. But the moment I encountered the idea, my immediate reaction was "Well, that's a pretty clear civil rights issue. If there are legal privileges associated with marriage, denying gay couples the right to marry violates their civil rights." Duh.
What's interesting (and would doubtless make a fundie's head spin) is that the gay marriage movement has strengthened my view of marriage. I mostly followed the gay marriage story via public radio, and the thing that struck me, repeatedly, was the longing in the voices of the couples seeking to marry. This was clearly something of tremendous import to them. As a result, I now think of marriage not as a legal convenience, but as a significant social and emotional statement — indeed, as something sacred. A much stronger view of marriage than I ever used to take
No, really, it can happen!. It can't happen here, but it can happen. Let me just give you one reason to read the story: "traffic mimes".
Antanas Mockus is the former mayor of Bogota, and maybe future President of Columbia. His career would have been over before it started here, of course: The media would have endlessly aired footage, carefully stripped of all context that might explain his motivation, of him mooning that audience, and he'd have never been heard from again. (What's that? No. What would make you think I'm bitter about the media sabotaging Howard Dean and paving the way for Shrub's second term.)
goldsquare's journal pointed me to We're Not in Lake Wobegone Anymore. As someone who remembers a different kind of Republican party, and misses it dearly, it's the best thing of its kind I've read. A sample:
The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk. Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we’re deaf, dumb and dangerous.
I'm listening to KUOW, a Seattle NPR station, live via the web in Boston. I do this fairly often, as the hours during which they run Morning Edition and All Things Considered correspond with my go to work around 1 p.m. schedule a lot better than the Boston Station.
Right now I'm listening to an hour long interview with the Governor of Washington, Gary Locke. Live, real time, with calls from listeners. The interviewer (and the callers) ask serious questions. Governor Locke answers them, often displaying mastery of the details, but also frankly admitting it when he's not up on something. And he does this once a month.
Let me repeat that: The Governor of the State of Washington gets on the air live, once a month, on the region's main Public Radio station, and answers citizens' questions.
People in New England always treat me like a slow child when I talk about good government, as if I must be retarded to think things like things like the President of the State Senate's being the brother of the local crime boss aren't normal and acceptable. I can't imagine the Governor of Massachusetts opening himself up to this kind of public scrutiny on a regular basis. Nor, frankly, can I imagine that if he did, the dialog would be as elevated as what I've heard here today.
I record Charlie Rose on my ReplayTV every day. A couple of times this week, it was preempted for coverage of the Mass. legislature meeting in constitutional convention over the "crisis" caused by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court having decided that homosexuals are people too. Today I decided to actually play some of that in background while doing something else. I'm glad I did.
On the Statehouse floor, Sen. Dianne Wilkerson eloquently argued that offering gays the option of civil unions was fundamentally unequal, and recalled her experience as a black woman growing up in Arkansas to make her point.
"I know the pain of being less than equal and I cannot and will not impose that status on anyone else," Wilkerson said. "I could not in good conscience ever vote to send anyone to that place from which my family fled."
Wilkerson's plea echoed last week's Supreme Judicial Court's affirmation of their November decision, saying giving civil unions to gays amounted to the same separate-but-equal idea favored by segregationists and outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court in its Brown vs. Board of Education ruling in 1954.
What they don't say is that she was in tears as she talked about some of what her family had lived through. What they don't quote, that I think deserves to be, is the core of her powerful and heartfelt speech:
"For me, this is about one simple principle: the principle that one group of citizens cannot be almost equal to another.... I could not deny to one group of citizens what I live every day in pursuit for all others. Simply put, this is a civil rights matter. And as such, I feel strongly that it was never intended that such matters be left to the public to decide by popular vote. Everything we know about the climate and tenor of the day in May of 1954 tells us that had Brown vs Board of Education been put to popular vote, things would have turned out differently. As was Brown, today's vote is about a civil right.
"I represent the Capitol City of Boston ... including the plaintiffs in the SJC decision, the Goodridges. I am both proud to be their Senator, and ashamed that we stand here today talking about them as if they were not human beings, or as if they are less deserving of the rights and protections our Constitution affords them. I can assure you --- I know them --- they feel, they care, they love, and they are deserving. And I say again that this is a civil rights issue.
"Historically we look to the sacred document we call the Constitution to define rights we hold dear. It is not a document where discriminatory language belongs."
There's more, and it's all worth listening to. She speaks of standing against the Black Clergy on this, which is clearly hard for her. She speaks more of her family's experience of second-class citizenship. And she speaks more of how this is, to here, simply an issue of equality.