The phone rang. I answered it. A recorded voice said: "Please press one to speak with a live representative."
Had she asked me to press six to speak with an ailing representative, or even eight to speak with a dead one - I'd have considered it. As she asked me to press one, I hung up.
If you've been feeling a sensation around your ankles that's something like an undertow, or a riptide... you're not hallucinating! It is indeed a cultural echo of the Middle Ages sucking at your shins, beckoning you back to a dark time...
In an affluent suburb in Georgia, they're arguing that evolution is only a theory and therefore biology textbooks sold in their school district, that espouse this theory, must be flagged with a sticker... The folks who have demanded the stickers, want children to be aware that evolution ain't the only theory out there - there's also "creationism" and "intelligent design". Those theories don't appear in those books - because, well, they don't meet the minimum standards of even a high school biology textbook. But that's neither here nor there to these folks, they argue that kids should know that those theories are out there too, and even if they don't carry water, scientifically speaking, they carry much more weight with the religious minded. And so children should be taught accordingly...
Ume, who has spent a goodly amount of time considering this debate, wondered... If they put stickers on a biology textbook stating that evolution is just a theory, not a proven fact - simply a theory (that the greater scientific community agrees holds water) - what kind of sticker should they put on the Bible?
You too can explore this sad state of affairs in a discussion on teaching evolution on Talk of the Nation's Science Friday (11.19.04, audio file)
Georgia School Board in Court Over Evolution Flap by Paul Simao (Reuters, 11.09.04)
Suit Challenges Evolution Disclaimers on Textbooks (All things Considered, 11.08.04, audio file)
Judge to Rule on Georgia Evolution Disclaimers by Paul Simao (Reuters, 11.09.04)
Oh yes, the news this week makes it clear that Republicans are well on their way to fulfilling their promise of returning accountability (dare we say morality) to government and ushering in a new era of bipartisan cooperation!
These people are even too good for their OWN rules!!! (In other words, these "morality" rules were an effective tool in defeating Democrats and grabbing power, and so, will obviously be effective against them, so they'd better get rid of them.) It's too beautiful:
House Rule Change Could Protect [Tom] DeLay (All Things Considered, 11.17.04, audio file)
My favorite commentary on this was by Mark Shields on The NewsHour:
I guess Tom Delay might consider it a good week but it's certainly a bad week for Republicans. It took the Democrats 40 years in power to develop a hubris and arrogance to the point where they really signed their own death warrant. The Republicans are fast learners. Ten years after they've taken over they have become terminally arrogant.
Republicans Change Rule to Shield DeLay if Indicted by Joanne Kenen (Reuters, 11.17.04)
"Not only did the House Republicans vote to re-elect the most ethically challenged member of Congress in modern history to lead them ... now, in an act of unprecedented shamelessness, the Republicans have apparently changed their own rules to allow Mr. DeLay to be indicted for a felony and still keep his job as Majority Leader," said outgoing Rep. Chris Bell, a Democrat who lost his seat because of Texas redistricting pushed by DeLay.
"If you are a cop, a judge, a prosecutor, and you are indicted, you step down," [Christopher Shays (Republican)] said, adding that Congress should follow similar standards.
My absolute favorite bit:
[DeLay] said the change in party rules was necessary to protect Republicans against the Democrats' "politics of personal destruction."
Guess yer havin' a senior moment there sweetheart - here are two words for you that might jog your failing memory on which party raised the bar on the politics of personal destruction to sky high - Clinton impeachment.
And does the name Kenneth Star ring a bell?
Goss Message Violates Nonpartisan Spirit of CIA by Daniel Schorr (All Things Considered, 11.17.04, audio file)
Thoughtful, insightful, worth a listen - it's about ten minutes - it's the second half with the short primer in intellectual history that's soooo good:
Conversations on Religion in American Life (NPR's Weekend Edition, 11.13.04, audio file)
At least they're wary...
Texas Officials Wary of Plan to Hunt by Internet by Jeff Franks (Reuters, 11.17.04)
It's an unreal funhouse type atmosphere here in the ol' US of A. You want to analyze it? Lots of folks doing that... and it's easy enough to find 'em... Lots of Democrats doing all manner of soul searching and gearing up to fight the last war in the next election cycle. (I hope they're not, but hope isn't something I find overly reassuring to have to turn to.)
I'm in no mood to analyze anything more challenging than my own dear navel lint and so... Here I am, Creme Brulee, dilettante extraordinaire - staring at my navel and thinking it could use a bit of grooming...
Doings at Camp Brulee have been quite exciting of late. The parrot that moved into the neighborhood a while back appears to have moved out. Yes, the strangulated cat noise has gone away! Blissful peace type sounds drift in through the windows... Portugese polka, muezzin calls, children threatening each other, jackhammering... and other such slices of urban quiet.
Not too long ago, while sitting by an open window, I was treated to the most colorful stream of invective from a public works employee painting crosswalk lines on the street. For a full half hour, at considerable volume, the guy cursed the incompetence of the previous worker who'd painted the lines there. What I found most curious about this drama, was that the guy who was repainting the lines, was following the previously incompetently painted lines almost identically... If he knew they were screwy, why didn't he do something to, say, improve them? Not so much fun, I suppose, as bitching and moaning about them. The result? Freshly painted lines in the incompetent style. It's kinda post-modern, because the artist was fully aware of the incompetence while executing the painting.
Though, I have to say that the same worker repainted the lines of the crosswalk down the street, which previously was rather unremarkable in its utility - but is now also painted in the incompetent style. So perhaps this is more a case of an incompetent line painter masquerading as a post-modern conceptual artist...
I feel that I'm not qualified to make a judgment.
All manner of curious artistic doings in my neighborhood these days... There was a man sitting on the sidewalk with a watercolor set and an open sketchbook. Ever curious, I glanced at his work as I passed. My guess, before my nosey investigation, was that he might possibly be sketching the building across the street - a right fine edifice, brick and stone and all manner of nifty doo-dads on it, that he kept looking up at then returning his attention to his labors on the paper. Imagine my surprise when I spied, not a sketch of the building, but a complex table, all lines and squares, painted quasi-Mondrian style.
I suppose he might have been looking at the building as inspiration for his painting... I suppose... could be, could be... Quite possibly, I thought, he might be exercising something other than artistic impulses there on the sidewalk. I've passed him several times since. I've gathered that he's not so much drawing anything tangible to me, as he may be exercising something all too real to him. Hope it's helping.
The art scene is otherwise quiet hereabouts. Mostly. We have our established anti-establishment artists in residence in a gallery nearby. They alternately gnash their teeth and sulk at you when you have the unmitigated gal to actually enter their gallery. If they don't recognize you on sight - you're suspect, probably bourgeois. And if you don't buy something, you're an ignorant know-nothing bourgeois. <snicker> I'm just having a bit of fun, at their expense - I'm sure most of the folks there are super nice (except the snotty sulky one I spoke to a couple of times). Truthfully, the work in that gallery doesn't generally do much for me so I don't go in all that often.
Used to be another gallery, not far away, I'd visit from time to time - but only on my lonesome. I'd have to leave Ume at home. If I brought Ume there I'd get this odd feeling of invisibility.
"Am I here?" I'd have to ask myself. "I could have sworn that I was here in the gallery, too... but the gallery owner has only seen Ume. I thought I just said something, but he hasn't responded... he's only looking at and talking to Ume. It's odd. Maybe I should pinch myself to see if I'm here - better yet, I'll give him a good pinch..."
Gay men find Ume irresistible. You can almost hear them thinking, "If more women looked like this, I might be bisexual."
I can hardly blame them, and can sympathize - if more men looked like Ume, I might be bisexual, too.
Anyway, about my existential dis-ease in the gallery, Ume says, "It's exactly how it feels to be around you with a geeky guy in the room. See through."
"Gee thanks," says I. "Now that I'm aging, I'm becoming invisible even to the geeky men. Soon, I'll only be visible to lecherous old codgers in second hand bookstores."
"You weren't invisible to the guys in that role playing game store we wandered into the other day - I was afraid there'd be a stampede in there. They were sizing you up to be their stern fairy queen or eccentric pixie princess." Says she.
"Sad, but true. And hardly comforting." I sigh.
"Is there a reason, in particular, that you're missing the attentions of geeky males? Is there something you want to tell me? Should I worry?" She asks.
"Now that you mention it, yes, there is something..." I say.
"I want to be invisible around the geeky men! I want the gay men to be intrigued with me. I'm tired of the geeky men. They're nice enough and sweet in their way, sure, but the gay guys have more cache and whatnot!"
"You're pathetic, you know that?" Ume huffs. "Most lesbians your age would be a little more concerned with how other lesbians saw you, principally - your partner - but not you, no, not you - you're distressed because a gay man pays me more attention than he does you!"
"Well I'm not worried about how you see me, because you're head over heels and hog tied in love with me and there's simply nothing whatsoever you can do about it. Been that way from the first time you set eyes on me. I know that for a fact . You're conquered territory. And so I can explore these taboo subjects with you without straining our deep and abiding affection for one another... or some such. If, however, I started prattling on about my invisibility to other lesbians, you, who claims no knowledge of the baser feeling of jealousy, might blow a gasket while not feeling it. Or you might blow my gasket - hard to tell with you sometimes."
"Give me a minute... I'm still processing the 'conquered territory' imagery..." Says she.
"Ow!" Says I, rubbing my arm where she's pinched me.
"Serves you right. And you've never bothered to notice when people look at you anyway, you're usually too busy bitching about their poor manners, while ignoring your own - why all of the sudden an interest?"
"Well, Ms. Emily Post, I never realized I was getting attention just because I was young and sparkly - I thought it wuz normal, and how everybody got looked at and interacted with. And now I'm old and no longer sparkly and well, people are treating me differently. Kinda odd - that change. It's like when I grew my hair out from short short to long long and women looked at me less and men looked at me more and now neither are, and well... It's just different. And I'm a creature of habit, and my habits are changed, but I didn't change them. You know?"
"No, I don't. Maybe if I drank or smoked something I might, but just now, I don't."
"Just as well, probably. You'd get jealous." Says I.
"I don't get jealous and I think you're stunningly absurd and from your very own conquered territory that should count for something."
I sigh. "Everything, my sweet, it counts for everything."
And we wander off and are saccharine and debauched in the comfort and safety of our very own blue state of mind.
Ooh, la, la - Kinsey's back in the public eye. Isn't sex interesting? There's a new movie, and this nifty discussion about him.
The Legacy of Dr. Alfred Kinsey (OnPoint Radio, 11.12.04)
Yeah, yeah, it hurts, but here's my election hangover remedy in a nutshell - indulging in a bit of the hair of the dog that bit me...
Someone sent me a rubbin'-yer-nose-in-it note that I thought was in poor taste - this link was my reply:
More in that vein - Adam Felber's, now notorious, concession speech.
This one has its obvious shortcomings (a poor grasp of geography for one), but there's an overall sentiment that resonates: http://fuckthesouth.com/
Some keen insights:
Values-Driven by Harold Meyerson (American Prospect, 11.03.04)
For a brief time (page will be up for 7 days, I think, before you'll need to register - it's free to register...), you'll be able to read Maureen Dowd's razor sharp commentary on the election - we apparently agree:
The Red Zone By Maureen Dowd (New York Times, 11.04.04)
States Reject Gay Wedlock, Calif. Backs Stem Cells by Adam Tanner (Reuters, 11.03.04)
Check this electoral map out - wild:
Election 2004 Results
The Moral Agenda by Robert B. Reich (American Prospect, 11.04.04)
Identity Cleft: For liberals, figuring out conservative America has never been harder by Jim Sleeper (American Prospect, 11.04.04)
The Lesson of Feingold's Win (Capital Times, 11.03.04)
Montreal, Toronto, Van Couver, those places came to Ume's mind... Others have been suggested - Belgium, France, The Netherlands, England, Ireland... to name a few.
But I'm not movin' to any of those places. Ume can daydream about it and whatnot, because she's actually lived in Canada for a goodly slice of her life, and so has a goodly deal of affection for points north of the border. And that's all well and good, for sure. But I'm not moving just because George Bush and his nasty lot have reinfected the White House. No siree Bob. I won't be pushed. Mostly because - and maybe some of you haven't thought about this yet, and I mean nothing personal by it - but foreign parts are full of foreign folks! I mean full of 'em. Every place you're likely to go - foreigners - and in large numbers sometimes.
I've spent a little bit of time in foreign parts. (I mean, it only makes sense to travel there, to see what it's like to be a foreigner.) Having experienced it first hand I can say that I'm sure it's fine for them, they seem to like it enough, to be downright comfy really - but it's not for me. Nope, being a foreigner is just not my gig.
Some branches of the Brulee family have been in the states since before there were states. We've done our thing hereabouts and have found it pleasant enough. Pleasant enough to fight the Brits for it, nice enough to have a go at the Spanish - over the years Brulees have become attached enough to even travel overseas to Korea, Vietnam and other such places to express our affinity for things US. I'm kinda attached, you see, by blood, by sweat, and by lots of tears - lots and lots of those. I can sympathize with the folks who think of picking up and setting off, it's a romantic enough notion - but I won't follow them. I might visit, like lots of folks visited the expats in France in the 20's and Mexico in the 50's - but I won't go with them.
Did Mark Twain pack up and go when the US perpetrated a colonial nastiness and killed off over 200,000 Philippinos? No! He got mad and made a freakin' stink about it. Didn't change much of anything, but he made a goodly point while he was on about it. Did Howard Zinn pick up and scoot when he unearthed the motherload of iniquity lurking beneath the surface of US popular history? No! He wrote it all out and pissed off a bunch of right wing extremists... Who in turn took out a contract on America and have been pounding us ever since. Bill Clinton may have outplayed Newt Gingrich and his fetid band in Congress, but I think we know who's laughing now. Which is why people have to get over this escapist fantasy and start thinking hard about how to jump start a liberal/progressive revival. I think we should serve snacks and have music, maybe a little dancing...
After all, it's a world view that's head and shoulders above their neo-puritanical, quasi-nationalistic, fundamentalist, money-as-god, materialistic bullshit fantasy, that so many people have bought - in spite of their own self-interest. As the saying goes, lots of Americans live poor and vote rich.
While I was canvassing in New Hampshire, a fratboy wannabe sneered at a bunch of folks holding Kerry/Edwards signs on the sidewalk, "Tax the rich and free healthcare for everybody! What a great idea!"
"Well," I thought. "Isn't it?" After all, contrary to the delusion many of them indulge in, the rich don't get rich in a vacuum. They don't get rich simply due to their superiority - though you'd be hard pressed to convince many of them of that little fact. Often they feel outright entitled to their gains and see no reason why they should be giving it up to the government who will waste it on lazy people who are nothing but a waste of space. The gap between the rich and everybody else in this country is the greatest it's ever been - I think the rich could use a little taxation - frankly, I'm tired of paying their way.
I was once breaking bread with a couple of rather well-off people - one was sharing a personal dilemma of a good friend who'd bought a lovely loft space in San Francisco. He'd risked buying in a "poor" neighborhood, because it appeared to be gentrifying rapidly. And while the homeless people he'd have to see everyday made the location less than charming, he'd still shelled out a million dollars for it. Sadly, and this is where we get to the dilemma part, the neighborhood's growth leveled out, the homeless people stayed put, and this woman's friend was stuck with a million dollar property in a slum. Poor guy! At this point, to clarify the horror of her friend's circumstance - because I guess I didn't appear to have appreciated the severity of the situation, the woman said, "Could you imagine paying a million dollars for a place in a dump like Podunk, Massachusetts?"
I happen to live in Podunk, Massachusetts.
Oblivious as her station in life had made her, after insulting my neighborhood, she went on to explain that paying a million dollars and having poor neighbors was, well, really sad. And even I should be able to sympathize with that.
I decided to wade into this morass and noted that my neighbors in Podunk, while often mentally and socially challenged, were not poor - furthermore, many of them own their houses - so, happily for them, they're not homeless.
She went on to explain that neither were her friend's neighbors - they were working class. But it's practically the same thing, she argued, when you've spent, and she repeated it, a million dollars on a loft space. "I mean, he has to walk in and out of his house and see them all of the time! They look like bums."
The very idea! All of them should be shot! Issued new wardrobes for his benefit, at the very least...
Well, I guess I too would hate the homeless, the working class and just about everybody else too if I were stupid enough to spend a million dollars and assume the world was going to change just because I had.
Which isn't to say that all wealthy people are callous assholes - it's more to say that myopic shits tend to feel entitled in a way that's less than appealing and less than societally beneficent. And when myopic shits hold power, they're going to push an agenda that benefits them and their other "worthy", "superior" chums, not the lazy do-nothing bums that litter the landscape looking for handouts.
So they'll cut overtime pay, refuse to raise minimum wage, restrict abortion until it's just barely accessible, bring prayer back to public schools, add a few more hosiahs to the pledge of allegiance, implement "tort reform" so that you can't sue a business that's at fault for poisoning your ground water, or get a business to clean up after dumping chemicals in your back yard, or get compensation when someone operates on you and leaves a pair of scissors in your gut - nope, you'll just have to accept that those folks take the big risks making all of that money in a vacuum and that they should assume less risk so that they can get even more rich and you can get even more of what you deserve - the shaft.
If they want to avoid the kind of social unrest that made socialism such a popular alternative back in the day, they're going to have to watch it - because if the colossi of capitalism push hard enough - that's exactly what they'll get. Because the more things change, the more they stay the same. And everything changes - even majorities in the Congress.
So quit your bitchin', roll up your sleeves and get to work. Because you can be sure the Republicans have already identified the vulnerable Democrats they're going after in the mid-term elections. It's time to make a list of our own...
Just when you thought life had robbed you of your best opportunity to practice becoming a zen master (in case you missed it, my landlord got rid of the pigeons on the porch) - it affords you an even better one! The cosmos is truly generous. And so, it's challenged me with four more years of George Bush and Republican majorities of the House, the Senate - and we'll also have a majority conservative supreme court as well.
You can safely say that the electorate, 51% of it anyway, has rejected the authentic populist, liberal/progressive world-view and wholeheartedly adopted and affirmed the authoritarian, neo-conservative, fundamentalist agenda. This is what I'd call a bleak moment.
A moment I thought hilarious, though, during the speculative (fill-the-airtime-until-we-actually-know-something) moments of election night, was when Jim Lehrer of PBS's NewsHour asked commentators David Brooks and Mark Shields why there was such a huge swath of states across the middle and south of the country that had already been counted definitely in George Bush's favor - why were these states so overwhelmingly Republican?
David Brooks, the conservative, said it's about traditional values and the Republican party is the party of morals and traditional values and those red states are strong on traditional values.
Mark Shields, the liberal, answered rather tactfully, I thought. He said that the coastal states, which voted predominantly Democratic for president, were traditionally more... um... open states. Because places on the coast tend to be more... uh... diverse - less homogenous (because they have lots of foreign trade, tourism, immigration, etc.) - so people there tend to be more... um... open... to change (progress, modernity) and new ideas...
Social justice is a new idea? Environmental sustainability is a new idea? Accountability is a new idea? A government that looks after the well-being of the citizenry, not just the wallets of the affluent - that's a new idea?
Here's a chart that extends yet another opinion...
As usual, someone forgot to send me the memo that 51% of the voting public obviously got. The memo that explains how it is that George Bush embodies the kind of quality leadership that will pull us out of the mess in which his stellar management of the country's affairs has dumped us.
After Kerry's concession speech, Bush came out grinning about "unity". How is this social conservative extremist going to reach out to someone like me? I fail to understand how he and his ilk think I'd ever buy his pabulum about unity - when they've made it abundantly clear over the past four years that, to them, unity means bending over and kissing their collective ass? (I have a more graphic image in mind, but will refrain from using it...) If George Bush thinks that campaigning with turncoat Democrat nutjobs like Zell Miller is a way to reach out to Democrats - then ooie! has he got a shock in store for him.
Anyone surprised that Rehnquist found a way to inject himself into this election too (kind of like he did in 2000)? Not me. Their full-court press (excuse the pun) - terrorize the Christian fundamentalist voter drive - was a real success. Democrats, don't despair, take note - regroup.
Happily, I live in New England, which is a lovely uniform blue (voted Democrat for President) this election season. Even New Hampshire. New Hampshire had a lot of help from it's friends here in Massachusetts. I think half the state was in NH pleading with the electorate to vote for Kerry. I know Ume and I were up there - doing what we could to get folks to vote against Bush. And they did. And the Republican governor, Benson, was the first New Hampshire governor to lose re-election since forever - so that was nice. Nationally, of course, the picture's a bit more grim for Democrats - but it's these little things that one hangs onto...
Like the conversation I had with a self-described "lifelong Republican" who told me that even though he voted for Bush in 2000, he'd become a Democrat. When I asked him why, he told me that the Bush crowd had ruined the Republican party - that Bush was a psychopathic liar who mislead us into a war and was bent on destroying the environment (this guy is big into fishing, used to be a hunter as well) and leading the country down the tubes economically. And he said that if I was having trouble convincing people to vote Bush out of office, I should tell them about him.
It's the little victories that will sustain us...
Because we will need sustenance - I'm sure Bush and his people will see this win as the mandate they didn't get in 2000 - when he was appointed, not elected. And we all know that when he lost the popular vote in 2000, he governed as though he'd won a landslide.
Hilariously, I helped someone vote for Bush. I hand delivered the guy to his polling place. Ah well, I thought, at least he voted... And after Ume and I had voted and left our polling place we strolled home. Along the way, an elderly lady stopped us and asked where the polling place was. We tried to give her directions, but she was somewhat confused and disoriented. Her daughter had called her and insisted that she go out and vote - so she was wandering around the neighborhood in the dark, looking for the polling place... We offered to get our car and give her a ride, but she was determined to walk (and who the hell were we anyway? a couple of axe murderers probably). We walked her to the polling place, where she thanked us, sincerely, and insisted she didn't need a ride home - so we left her to do her thing - and decided we'd probably helped another person vote for Bush! But what the hell, Massachusetts was safe as far as votes for Kerry went and helping someone feel a wee bit more enfranchised ain't such a bad thing.
So we live in a Republican country now people, nationally speaking - it's all about morals, or so they tell us. Let's see where we go from here. Can't say I'm terribly optimistic. Ume and I will just sit tight in our little Democratic stronghold, here in Massachusetts, where our Republican governor is looking more and more isolated by the minute (as all of the Republican challengers he backed in the election got flushed). Now this is a state that I can live in!
Oh, and the legislators in Massachusetts who voted to defend the constitution against the anti-gay amendment? They did really well in the election! So there's another small consolation for ya. Ought to save you one, maybe two, doses of heartburn medication this week.
PS. I prefer winning.