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Who ARE these people?

OK, let me get this straight. The guy who is Majority Leader of the Senate talks in private about another Senator like this:

Reid said Obama could fare well nationally as an African-American candidate because he was “light-skinned” and didn’t speak with a “Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one.”

We know that at least this statement from the soon-to-be-released book Game Change is true, because Reid has already apologized for it.

Saturday, the majority leader said he had used “poor choice of words” and called Obama to apologize; the White House issued a statement indicating that the president had forgiven Reid.

Based on the review in The New York Times and on excerpts of the book that have been published by several news outlets, Game Change, by John Heilemann of New York Magazine and Mark Halperin of Time, apparently focuses almost exclusively on gossip and scandal about the 2008 presidential candidates and their spouses.

What I’ve mostly learned from reading excepts and quotes from the book is that many of the people who are running our country are frighteningly out of touch with modern American culture and language. No wonder they are governing as if we were living in the 19th century rather than the 21st!

Harry Reid is 70 years old–just 8 years older than I am. Yet he apparently uses the term “Negro” in private conversations. As I recall, that term began to be considered inappropriate in the late 1960s, in response to the “Black is Beautiful” movement.

Here is what Matthew Yglesias had to say about this story:

I’m slow on the uptake about this whole “negro dialect” business but it’s a reminder of how weird political apologies get to be. It’s good that Reid apologized, but at the same time you can’t really apologize for being the sort of person who’d be inclined to use the phrase “negro dialect” and it’s more the idea of Reid being that kind of person that’s creepy here than anything else. Doesn’t seem likely to help Reid’s already troubled re-election campaign.

For once I have to agree with Yglesias. Creepy is a very good word for Reid’s behavior. And I recall that this is also the guy who complained aloud about the odor of working class tourists in DC in the summer. This man is creepy as hell. So why is he in charge of the U.S. Senate?

And then we have this:

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and a group of other senators who would back Hillary Clinton’s candidacy encouraged Obama to run for the White House as early as 2006. The concern over Clinton was that she would be a weak Democratic standard-bearer while Obama could energize the party. In late summer 2007, Schumer – using an Obama ally, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), as a back channel – pushed the candidate to “take a two-by-four to Hillary,” as the authors put it.

The backstabbing part I can believe. That’s par for the course in politics, but “take a two-by-four to Hillary?” That’s almost worse than Keith Olberman’s advice to Democratic leaders to get Hillary Clinton out of the primary race by finding “Someone who can take her into a room and only he comes out.”

The language attributed to Schumer does seem in character with his recent behavior toward a female flight attendant who asked him to turn off his cell phone during a flight:

Schumer was sitting next to protege Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, gabbing away on his phone, when a flight attendant told him to shut it down.

Schumer turned off his phone, and then argued with the attendant that he was allowed to talk while the cabin door is open. He lost.

He then muttered his complaint about the flight attendant to Gillibrand.

A Republican aide on the plane, who overheard the powerful Democrat, tattled to Politico.com.

“The senator made an off-the-cuff comment under his breath that he shouldn’t have made, and he regrets it,” Schumer spokesman Brian Fallon told Anne Schroeder Mullins.

What is wrong with these people? Is it just because I live in a large urban area in the liberal Northeast and associate with relatively intelligent and sophisticated people that I find all this so shocking? I know we saw incredible misogyny from the news media during both the primary and general campaigns, but somehow it seems even more stunning to me coming from a supposedly liberal Democratic Senator.

Then there is the treatment of Elizabeth Edwards in the Heilemann-Halperin book. I have trouble buying the descriptions of Elizabeth because of the misogynistic nature of the language that the authors paraphrase and quote. For example,

In the wake of the first Enquirer story about Mr. Edwards’s affair, the authors write, Mrs. Edwards “was sobbing, out of control, incoherent,” and vented her fury on the “very aides who had kept the matter from mushrooming” further.

If “kept the matter from mushrooming” means concealing it from Elizabeth and talking about it behind her back, then her furious reaction seems understandable. Frankly, I think fury is understandable just in the context of learning your husband is cheating on you when you have cancer and that he has just flushed both of your futures down the toilet. Heileman and Halperin write that:

…while the aides had sympathy for Mrs. Edwards’s struggle with cancer, they regarded her as a badgering, often irrational presence on the campaign. “The nearly universal assessment among them,” Mr. Halperin and Mr. Heilemann write of the Edwards aides, “was that there was no one on the national stage for whom the disparity between public image and private reality was vaster or more disturbing. What the world saw in Elizabeth: a valiant, determined, heroic everywoman. What the Edwards insiders saw: an abusive, intrusive, paranoid, condescending crazywoman.”

Apparently there is more gossip about the Clintons in the book than about any of the other participants in the campaign. So what else is new?

Oh, and by the way, the authors of Game Change describe the Obama’s marriage as idyllic.

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Helen Thomas and Craig Crawford Offer Advice to President Obama

Helen%20Thomas%20at%20press%20conf

This is interesting Helen Thomas and Craig Crawford have written a book together in which they discuss Thomas’ recollections of all the Presidents she has covered, beginning with John F. Kennedy. It’s called Listen Up, Mr. President At CNN.com, the two reporters offer “five key insights” for the current President. There is also a great collection of photos of Helen Thomas over the years. Here are just a few brief excerpts from the article.

Insight #2: Forget your privacy: You are a public servant

You are not perfect, Mr. President. So don’t pretend that you are and hide the bad stuff. If you are still smoking, say so directly, and openly share your struggle with the public.

Protecting your privacy can come at a greater cost than simply revealing what you don’t want the public to know. If it is found out — and it probably will be — you not only have the fallout from the exposure to deal with, but you will also be accused of deceit.

Insight # 4: Have courage: Even if it hurts

The theme of your campaign was summed up by the title of one of your books, “The Audacity of Hope.” You’ve given us hope, Mr. President. Now show us the audacity.

In Afghanistan, Mr. President, you risk repeating Lyndon Johnson’s disastrous escalation of the Vietnam War after listening too much to the generals. Again, the Pentagon wants more troops for a tricky war, vowing success in Afghanistan if you only agree. That’s what the British and the Russians thought before they utterly failed to subdue their foes in Afghanistan’s difficult terrain.

Have courage to resist such pleas if your instincts say otherwise, Mr. President. That is why the founders of our nation put a civil servant in charge of the military. You are the decision-maker, not the follower.

Insight # 5: Give us vision: It’s your legacy

A good president, wrote 19th century historian Henry Adams, “resembles the commander of a ship at sea. He must have a helm to grasp, a course to steer, a port to seek.”

The port you seek, Mr. President, is your vision. Those who take this lightly do so at their peril.

But even the most inspirational vision is just talk if not combined with action.

Now is the time to fill in the blanks, Mr. President. The excitement and newness of your presidency has worn off. Turn your vision into reality. Show us that you can deliver results.

It’s excellent advice, gently delivered. If only the President would listen.

This is an open thread.

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Morning Rainy Tuesday Post: Cheney Is to The Left of Obama On Gay Marraige

I… I am speechless.

Dick Cheney rarely takes a position that places him at a more progressive tilt than President Obama. But on Monday, the former vice president did just that, saying that he supports gay marriage as long as it is deemed legal by state and not federal government.

Speaking at the National Press Club for the Gerald R. Ford Foundation journalism awards, Cheney was asked about recent rulings and legislative action in Iowa and elsewhere that allowed for gay couples to legally wed.

“I think that freedom means freedom for everyone,” replied the former V.P. “As many of you know, one of my daughters is gay and it is something we have lived with for a long time in our family. I think people ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish. Any kind of arrangement they wish. The question of whether or not there ought to be a federal statute to protect this, I don’t support. I do believe that the historically the way marriage has been regulated is at the state level. It has always been a state issue and I think that is the way it ought to be handled, on a state-by-state basis. … But I don’t have any problem with that. People ought to get a shot at that.”

And it is so very interesting, isn’t it, that this is just about the exact same position our Current Secretary of State has:

In an appearance early Wednesday evening in front of roughly three-dozen LGBT leaders, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton indicated that she would not oppose efforts by Eliot Spitzer, the odds-on favorite to become the new governor, to enact a same-sex marriage law in New York.

Oh, and…

“Every single time since I’ve been elected speaker, I ever time I’ve picked up the phone to ask Senator Clinton to help the LGBT community, she has said yes,” Quinn said. “She’s assigned staff, she’s taken her own time and political capital to put in on the deal.”

And just to beat the Damned Horse to Death:

In honor of Gay and Lesbian Pride Month and on behalf of the State Department, I extend our appreciation to the global LGBT community for its courage and determination during the past 40 years, and I offer our support for the significant work that still lies ahead.

At the State Department and throughout the Administration, we are grateful for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees in Washington and around the world. They and their families make many sacrifices to serve our nation. Their contributions are vital to our efforts to establish stability, prosperity and peace worldwide.

Human rights are at the heart of those efforts. Gays and lesbians in many parts of the world live under constant threat of arrest, violence, even torture. The persecution of gays and lesbians is a violation of human rights and an affront to human decency, and it must end. As Secretary of State, I will advance a comprehensive human rights agenda that includes the elimination of violence and discrimination against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

This, as the article linked above notes, is to the right of the position Bam has on “Gay Marriage.” Which is described as follows:

Caught up in the debate is the Obama administration. The president has said he supports civil unions for gay couples but that he remains committed to marriage being between and man and woman. His press department has been completely quiet about the recent California Supreme Court case upholding a ban on gay marriage in the state — something that, it seems, Cheney would object to in spirit if not law.

That’s interesting isn’t it, that Dick Cheney is more evolved on this issue than the President is? DICK CHENEY!

You might have noticed that I am slightly obsessed with the issue of Gay Rights, and yes, I am. I admit it freely and without shame.

My identity as a Bisexual Fag Hag aside, the truth is that it was Gay Rights that inspired my half hazard interest in Politics in the first place. (Granted, I have always followed politics since I was very young, but I am talking about politics as a, er… hobby, or whatever you want to call it.) I have mentioned before that a close, old friend of mine committed suicide two years ago. She was a lesbian, and also died in April of 2007. The Presidential Campaign was starting to get it’s water boiling on the stove, but what actually caused me to start paying attention so early was what happened a few weeks after her funeral. That old superstition “Death Comes in Threes” applied in this case. Before she had died, another close friend of mine had also killed himself. And while he wasn’t Gay (he had a crush on me), he was constantly bullied with anti-gay slurs, day in and day out, until he broke.

For those of you who seem to think that bullying isn’t a problem in schools, I’m very happy for you. You seem to live in some kind of alternate reality, and it must be very pleasant: filled with Elves, Unicorns, Journalism, Liberal Baptists, and other things that either have never existed or are now nearly extinct.

But for the rest of us who do live in reality, losing two close friends in one month to suicide can be very hard, to put it mildly. Aside from that, it was just not a good time in my life. The “Third Death” was the loss of a family friend. She was very old and it was her Time, but that didn’t make it hurt any less.

The day after she died, I spoke to one of my friends’ father’s on the phone, and he told me, “You should try to set this aside for a while… focus on something else besides all of this.”

But I have never been good at ignoring or compartmentalizing my own feelings. I could not “set it aside” but I could try to understand why these sorts of things happened to people who didn’t deserve it, on my own time and on my own terms. I could channel my feelings into something important, somehow.

My senior year ended up being only six months long- I graduated from High School early. And thank the Goddess for that. But when I wasn’t working or in school (and that wasn’t very often) I shut myself up in my room and refused to answer phone calls and/or pleading emails from friends and family (before you start lecturing me, I did confide in one person, but that is a moot point). Mostly I was just avoiding my parents, which is always a must, but I was also reading books, thinking, playing Enya on my Xbox to try to make my splitting head aches go away, avoiding my parents some more (I was grounded 99% of the time anyway. Sometimes for breathing too loudly), and doing homework, if it was warranted.

While all this was going on, I was watching The Situation Room on CNN and getting Google updates on the Election in my cell phone. I think the reason I started to get very interested was because of the Research Paper I had to do. It was supposed to be twelve pages, which was the most I’d ever had to write for a paper, and I had to turn it in four months earlier than the rest of my class, since I would be leaving for good after Mid Terms. I tried doing it on a book my old Republican English Teacher had suggested when I asked her for advice, called A Thousand White Women. I liked A Thousand White Women, but there was no way I could do a twelve page research paper on it.

A friend of mine told me I would probably like a book that she was reading called The Mists of Avalon. It was a book, she explained, about King Arthur and Camelot, but it was told entirely from the point of view of the women that wielded power behind Arthur’s “Throne.”

I ended up loving the book. And I did my research paper on it, which ended up being twenty two pages long. The book is focused on Matriarchy; Egalitarianism, even. In the story, Morgan Le Fey is a Druid Priestess and the plot’s tragic protagonist, and the climax occurs when she betrays “Avalon”, the Isle of Apples for King Arthur’s court, causing a sequence of events that eventually leads to the fall of Egalitarian Avalon and the Rise of Patriarchal Camelot through warfare and Religious Dogma.

My paper’s focus was on how the plight of the women of Camelot could be applied to the difficulties women of our society faced. While I was writing it I was all ready keeping track of the sexism of President Obama’s Campaign, even if I did this secretly and thought I was all alone in my thinking.

What struck me most about the story was the sexual antics, the freedom in particular, of the Druid women, particularly Morgan Le Fay. Her sexual orientation isn’t really discussed in the book, but it can’t be described anyway. She loses her virginity to her half brother, has sex with women, copulates with Sir Lancelet, who is Gay, and boinks various other men throughout. At one point she even helps the High Queen Guinevere have a threesome with Arthur and Lancelot so the High Queen can conceive a legitimate child on the throne. (Morgan LF also reminded me of our current SOS… in her character and in the resulting public dehumanization of her by Camelot and King Arthur’s Court that was done by Religious Leaders because of what she was and what she stood for.)

But with the entrance of Patriarchal religious dogma, represented by a rather unflattering portrayal of St. Patrick, women’s sexualities were restricted, their bodies and divinity diminished. In turn, Dogmatic figures seemed almost obsessed with sex, and their intention to control every aspect of a woman’s life seemed to be focused primarily on sex and sexuality.

I noted privately, of course (not in my paper), the duality in our own society. The Clintons had been the last semi-egalitarian Democrats to control the party and the White House, and Right Wing Extremists seemed so obsessed with both Hillary and Bill’s sex lives it was creepy and almost unhealthy.  I was beginning to draw a connection that would take me to the conclusion I am at today: that Patriarchy and Male Social Dominance should be eradicated, or else NOTHING will ever change (you may disagree with me on this if you like, but I will be writing a series on it later, so take it there, if you want to debate it).

Through all this, I remembered a conversation I’d had with my now lost friend, a few months before she took her own life. It was the end of winter break and I asked her what she’d done, and she said, “I came out of the closet to my dad (her father being a phony pseudo religious man). He wouldn’t speak to me all break. He wouldn’t look at me. And on Christmas all he gave me was a Bible with the passages about homosexuality highlighted.”

She was a religious person. There were a lot of factors that drove her to do what she did, and I had long since made peace with her death. That didn’t, however, change my conclusion about that memory. Homophobia, like racism, sexism, ageism, and a number of other things, is a direct result of Male Social Dominance. Homophobia and Misogyny is about sexuality because sexuality and sexual identity is part of being human. And to demean someone on sexual terms is make them less than human.

I graduated from High School on the day I turned in that paper. My Diploma and Community Service Cord was mailed to me a few months later. On the day of my Commencement, I went to  Cedar Point, North East Ohio’s very best Amusement Park, and rode Roller Coasters. To say that I wanted nothing to do with my graduating class and all the baggage that came along with it would be an understatement.

My concern for Gay Rights comes partly from a personal experience. But had that experience never occured, I wouldn’t be writing this right now, I wouldn’t understand the importance of what we are doing here, and at least that is worthwhile. For my part, I still don’t understand what I set out to learn two years ago as a result of those events- but the truth is, I don’t think I ever will.

In other News! This is how a Pro Lifer who is sane and has a conscience

Morgan Le Fay with the Sword of the Druid Regalia

Morgan Le Fay with the Sword of the Druid Regalia

reacts to the News of the Death of poor Dr. Tiller.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin released a statement Monday responding to the murder of Dr. George Tiller, a doctor in Wichita, Kansas who performed late-term abortions.

Gov. Palin has a staunchly pro-life record. She opposes abortion in all cases, including rape and incest, except when a mother’s life is in danger.

Her statement on the Tiller murder was posted on her personal website:

“I feel sorrow for the Tiller family. I respect the sanctity of life and the tragedy that took place today in Kansas clearly violates respect for life. This murder also damages the positive message of life, for the unborn, and for those living. Ask yourself, ‘What will those who have not yet decided personally where they stand on this issue take away from today’s event in Kansas?’
Regardless of my strong objection to Dr. Tiller’s abortion practices, violence is never an answer in advancing the pro-life message.”

Governor Sarah Palin


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Book Confluence: The Penelopiad

 For our first book club selection, we’ll be discussing  Margaret Atwood’s novella,  The Penelopiad: The Myth of Odysseus and Penelope

The Penelopiad retells the story of Homer’s epic poem, Odyssey, from the point of view of Odysseus’s wife Penelope.  Atwood’s Penelope seeks to set the record straight.  While Homer characterizes Penelope as a loyal, faithful wife, Atwood’s Penelope views her husband as a con, remarking “I knew he was tricky and a liar, I just didn’t think he would play his tricks and try out his lies on me.” 

Continue reading

The Book Confluence

A meeting of great books and good friends

As we drift into summer and an uninspiring election season of two sub-par presidential candidates, we Conflucians will no doubt desire new topics of conversation.  We’ll need something to break up the monotony of the continual back and forth between Candidate A and Candidate B over who is more beholden to lobbyists, whose wife has the better cookie recipe, who better represents the Hillary voters, whose VP is more conservative, who appeals more to Evangelicals, who is the greater monger(war or hope), who has the biggest…well, you get the point.  Face it, after one of the most exciting primary seasons of most of our lifetimes, where a gifted, inspirational leader emerged and grew stronger with each passing contest, we’re left with two guys who  “straight talk” but can’t shoot straight.  No better time for a little summer reading. Continue reading