Tag Archives: politics

Stephen Colbert called, my husband had already answered

Last week, Stephen Colbert asked Crosby, Stills & Nash why they couldn’t write a “more positive” political song, called something like, say…. “The Surge Is Working.”

In fact, Dan wrote a song by just that title earlier this year. He and his Wahoo bandmates recorded it this weekend. Enjoy:

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Revolution – it’s easy peasy!

My solution to living under a government that doesn’t represent you, age 9 (click to enlarge & read):
While recently helping to clear out a room at my mother’s house, we unearthed a trove of my writing and artwork from grades 1 to 11 (I skipped 12). I’m having fun revisiting my pre-adult brain.

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Race and gender and guilt, oh my!

“You must have an overdeveloped sense of guilt,” I remember a guy telling me over coffee in college. “I can see why you’d be a feminist and everything, but I don’t understand why you care so much about racism. It doesn’t affect you.”

But it did, I insisted. Even if I couldn’t explain exactly why, I believed in bumper sticker slogans like “no one is free when others are oppressed,” and the simple message of the poetic parable, “First they came...” Moreover, I passionately loved every possibility that the broad strokes of the Constitution painted, a document that made me cry when I read it aloud (I preferred this to, say, auto bingo on road trips). My work-study job was as a student coordinator for a campus organization that saw issues of race, gender, class and sexuality as inextricably linked.

In my personal undergraduate studies of American history and literature, I saw those issues as inextricably linked as well. And after learning as much of the history of non-European races in the U.S. as I could absorb over my first three years of college, I spent my last year considering my own ethnicity in an undergraduate thesis about white identity in America.

I came to believe that one of the roots of racism was the very fact that the dominant, white, Protestant culture didn’t see itself as “ethnic,” despite the fact that, barring Native Americans, most of us came from someplace else. Or lots of places. If you don’t comprehend, let alone appreciate, the diversity within your own bloodline, it’s that much easier to write off the characteristics of the people you perceive as different from you.

You need only read the history of how our railways were built to see, in a less black and white way, how effectively our differences have been exploited for generations, just as you need only listen to American music to see how those differences have enriched us. I came to think of identity as a wheel inside of me – sometimes my female-ness informed my responses and actions in the world, sometimes my white Ohioan-ness, my age, my Golden Rule-obsessed upbringing, or my confusing socio-economic class. But they were all spokes connected to the same center.

So obviously, I read Barack Obama’s speech yesterday, and cried. I am glad he is willing to appeal to our better nature, trust in our intelligence and speak to us frankly in his own words. His interpretation of the Constitution and his vision for America are inspiring. I’m thrilled that he’s promoting unity by embracing the complexity of our population’s make-up instead of trying to melting pot us into soylent green. And I’m glad he smote some of his supporters by reminding them not to distort the readily distortable, because honestly, too many of his supporters have acted intensely overbearing, smug and sexist in his name.

For all that people criticize Hillary for her past and the people around her, they don’t give her due respect for the major thing she has to offer – an epic passion for policy. She and her husband have held idea retreats for wonks for years and years, and no matter how cautious or caustic her campaign might be, that wonkiness ought to have brought her more respect. Truthfully, I have not found her campaign that offensive after seeing past tactics like swiftboating and push polling. (And boy I am glad that the video of Obama’s minister is up for discussion now and not rolling 24 hours a day for the first time in late October.)

But in the wake of this, the broadcast news coverage has been terrible, as it has been of this whole Democratic Primary. What do they do with a stark, candid speech that should serve to elevate the level of discussion about race in America? The same thing they’ve been doing throughout this process – talking about odds and image instead of anything of substance. Even 60 Minutes let me down. I say elect Obama president and let Hillary’s wonks wrestle the airwaves away from the moronic armchair quarterbacks on television (unless they’re working in his administration) so that we can start using our great tools of communication more effectively for once. We’d all be better off.

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I’ve seen a lot of concern and frustration about yesterday’s primary in the blogosphere today. But I’m much more optimistic, and glad my state got to participate in the democratic process.

I have more to say, but this week is crazy.

Here is an interview a former colleague of mine did on the BBC last night about who she voted for and why. Zoe’s Dad posted about his voting experience as well.

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Watching, waiting, donut

The first news I heard after sitting down and comparing policy to policy on the two Democratic candidates’ web sites was this: The governor gave my mom a non-partisan donut at the polling place this morning.

Dan looked out the window at the freezing rain and said “this looks like a day that Hillary can win.” We drove past a park where all of the footbridges had been swallowed by water. The rivers are swelling.

Declan helped me press the buttons, just as I used to with mom when I was little. Dan chided us that it wasn’t legal.

Yo, talking heads on television – Ohio hates it when you try and tell it what to do.

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Hillary folded the map wrong

This little piece of social satire has me mesmerized:

Hillary is mom jeans

Keep clicking.

I think that it may be one of the most insightful things about our cultural view of Hillary out there. (Particularly the nature of biases against her.)

And here’s the not quite as mesmerizing, but still sort of on-point Obama site:

Barack Obama is Your New Bicycle.

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Political stumping

As of now, I am not stumping for anything or anyone, but I am definitely feeling stumped.

For example… how is it that I learned more about Hillary Clinton’s policies during her informal interview with David Letterman (who, as much as I love him, is a mediocre interviewer at best) last week than I did in the entire segment on 60 Minutes with Katie Couric on Sunday night? Why was Barack Obama asked all about his campaign, his future, his family, while Clinton was mostly asked, in not very subtle terms, to please cry about Barack Obama and her apparent perfectionist of a father?

And why, as primary elections plow on, does every newscast I watch seem to paint Clinton as some kind of strange svengali cuckquean? It’s to the point that I, who really wasn’t a big fan of hers, have begun to 1) feel sorry for her and 2) feel that the media is even more ghoulishly, lip-smackingly sexist than I thought.

I remain undecided on the Clinton vs. Obama question, though. Assuming the Ohio primary does still matter, I’m at a loss about who to vote for. And that is rare.

As far as Hillary is concerned, I am not a fan of her war and anti-terrorism decisions, or the middling, poll-driven behavior that her husband was also so prone to. That said, I feel the Constitution has been gutted and skewered for the past eight years, with real “activist” anti-science appointments throughout the court system and trounced civil liberties. Hillary could hit the ground running and begin restore many things more quickly. And I prefer her health care and family policies. Being a member of a self-employed household, health care cuts closest to the bone for me.

On the other hand, I can’t deny that Obama seems to embody a spirit of Democratic renewal for all kinds of American people. The fact that he is pulling so many who may have felt disenfranchised out to the polls is already a vital contribution to the country’s political future. He is damn inspiring, complex, interesting and someone who, because of his lack of baggage, I wouldn’t have to hold my nose to vote for. I don’t know that he could have the immediate impact that Hillary could, but when you think about some of those vaunted, fallen political leaders of the 1960s – the ability to orate well and inspire can ripple through generations.

I am open to persuasion.

P.S. Since Edwards left the race, they have been struggling with this question over at MOMocrats too.

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A political post!

I started paying attention to the presidential debates pretty late in the game, mainly because they started so unbelievably early. But after perking up for the past couple of weeks, I’ve decided that virtually every television pundit is even more full of it now than they were last time we went through this. I’m especially tired of Chris Matthews and Cokie Roberts, who have incredibly myopic, insulting views of the Midwest.

Meanwhile, it is a compelling and historic democratic race. And while I will be one of the first to shed a tear of joy if there is first woman or first African American presidential win, I’m frankly not convinced that Clinton or Obama have the best political agenda for women or African Americans in this country.

I’m more interested in John Edwards, and I’m also bored with the passive-aggressive pundits who keep trying to rule him out. I share several of the opinions of the moms on independent web site The MOMocrats, where the catch-phrase is “Vote for John Edwards or you’re grounded.”

Check them out.

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Charming older homes: Make mine unleaded

The surface paint used on Thomas’ caboose, children’s jewelry or Baby Einstein color blocks for infants, has righteously given all mass-produced toys manufactured in China the stink eye lately. That’s because lead paint is dangerous stuff, especially to children under six.

It’s a substance that has the ability to kill when ingested in a high dose, but most often, it just does slow, sure, serious damage. For one thing, even low levels of lead impersonate iron in a child’s system, stubbornly blocking the nutrient, which is so necessary to their physical and mental development, from being absorbed. It can lower IQ, cause ADD or behavioral problems, stunt growth, cause hearing impairment, and more.

The fact is, we are all exposed to it constantly, in many places that aren’t as obvious or automatically alarming as Elmo’s friendly countenance. A pollutant that’s heavy, but able to reduce to very fine dust, it’s extremely difficult to get rid of. And it was extensively used to build and manufacture all kinds of things in America before (many would also say well after) its risks were understood. It’s embedded in soil close to major roadways where millions of cars and trucks cruised through, fueled by leaded gasoline, for decades. And if you live in a house built before 1978 (especially if it was built before 1960), there’s a good possibility it’s in your home, water or soil. If you’ve had your children tested for lead, you likely know that most of us have some amount of it in our blood because it’s everywhere in varying degrees. The danger lies in how much of it you are in contact with.

Since we faced a brief (and thankfully now past) situation with this, I’ve walked through the lovely older homes of many of my fellow parents and realized just how common this toxin is. It’s important to know what to look for. Risky houses exist in upscale suburbs of a town like mine as well as the inner city.

If you live in an old and charming place, as I do, and have a young child (or even one who visits you regularly), consider having a risk assessment or inspection done. Know that older doors and windows are a common source for lead chips or dust, because they can release it into he atmosphere every time they are opened and closed. Only wet dusting and/or using a vacuum with a HEPA filter can effectively eliminate the dust.

Other things I suggest for prevention at your home, or whenever visiting an older home, based on experience:

  • Make handwashing a regular routine for yourself, and your children, from the moment that they begin scooting around on the floor.
  • There’s a good reason that pediatricians want you to give your baby those awful-tasting vitamin drops for the first two years. It’s important that that infants, toddlers and kids have the right amount iron and calcium in their diet. A full store of iron in the body can help prevent the lead from being absorbed long-term.
  • Wash toys regularly, particularly during the early developmental phases when babies and toddlers constantly put things in their mouths.
  • If you can’t afford to replace windows and doors that may have coats of lead-based paint, they need to be repainted every couple of years. (Note: you risk poisoning yourself and everyone in your house if you try to scrape the paint yourself.)
  • Make lead safety a consideration in any home improvement project you do.
  • If you suspect old pipes in your wall, use filtered drinking water if you can, and let the tap run for 30 seconds before using water for cooking.
  • Don’t buy cheap ceramic and painted plastic items from discount and dollar stores (Walmart and Target included). Products marketed to adults seem to go through even less rigorous screening than those for children, even though many are going to homes with children in them.
  • I love antiques, but be careful with those that are painted/distressed. Consider having them tested.There are many more suggestions here.

Today’s post is in honor of Blog Action Day.

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If a merchant of death can promote peace…

In all the years that I’d heard the winners of the Nobel Prizes announced in my life, I didn’t know what motivated its patron and founder, Alfred Nobel, until they happened to cover it in a high school class I sat in on last year. And that, my friends, is exactly what the man hoped for on his deathbed.

The inventor of dynamite, his obituary was accidentally printed in a French newspaper eight years before he actually died. It said “Le marchand de la mort est mort” (The merchant of death is dead). Rather than wag his finger at the paper and bluster about “typical liberal publishers” or try to get the editor fired or something, he decided that he wanted a different legacy. A few years later, he willed the bulk of his fortune to the establishment of the international prizes for medicine, physics, chemistry, literature, and, of course, work done in the name of peace.

I realize that there probably aren’t many multi-millionaires reading this blog, which is okay, because I don’t think you have to be one to make a difference. I believe strongly that we all have the ability to transform our legacy as Nobel did, whatever our economic status. In the case of healing the ecology of our earth, a lot of personal, daily choices we already make have a bearing on the legacy we will leave.

Just days after Al Gore and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were announced as the recipients of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, over 12,000 bloggers will turn their thoughts toward the environment. On Blog Action Day (this Monday, October 15), blogs that ordinarily carry posts about make-up, photography, news about company x, auto repair, motherhood and who knows what other topics will all share their own perspective on the environment. Since this is blog is largely about things domestic, I’ll share some things about a household pollutant that we have some personal experience with.

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

If you’re a blogger who hasn’t joined, there is still time. Just click on the banner above and sign up. And if you are a blog-reader, be sure to click the banner on Monday and do some surfing to read a variety of perspectives on one day of global conversation about this one important issue.

Life soundtrack: The O’Jays, The Essential O’Jays, “Love Train”
The O'Jays - The Essential O'Jays - Love Train

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