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I still like Barack Obama

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620053_f260.jpgI don't watch CNN at home. I don't have a particular issue with it, I just don't care for it. At my parents' house, however, it is often on. Today, I watched a segment about Barack Obama's faith (hint: he's not Muslim!). And it reminded me of something.

I really like Barack Obama. I haven't been thrilled with his presidency so far--he's made some decisions with which I disagree, and hasn't made the kind of gains my wildest dreams would dictate. But I really honestly like him. When I see him speak, I am neither disgusted nor irritated. Mostly, I agree with what he says, and even when I don't, I like the way he says it. I like his smile. I believe that he seems, to the degree possible for his position, to mean well.

This has never been true for me before. I remember presidents back to Reagan, and never before have I felt any particular affinity for the POTUS. And, having never liked the president, I never realized that liking the president would be so nice. Obama doesn't embarrass me. I'm proud to live in the nation for which he serves as leader. Even if he doesn't do a quarter of what I'd hoped he would (and, at this point, I don't think he will), he'll have given me the gift of a president I could stand.

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I still think George W would be SUPER fun to hang out with. I don't like him, and he's usually wrong, at least, or doesn't know what he's talking about at worst. But he seems more fun at a party. I get the idea that the Obamas would invite me to a fancy wine party where I'd have to wear something uncomfortable and feel like I was going to say something wrong while people talked about highminded shit.

GWB is definitely richer, but I feel like his party is more likely to have beer & rice krispy treats and people in jeans.

However, I think Clinton & Carter would also be a pretty fun time. I think young, pre-Nancy Reagan would be cool. Al Gore would be no fun. George Sr actually seems pretty fun--I mean he surprise parachuted into his library opening at 80--that sounds like a dude who is FUN.

I feel the same way. I'm actually proud to have a president who is thoughtful and well-spoken. It's refreshing.

I used to feel that way until I found out his position on whaling. I don't know why pro-whaling bugs me so much, but when I see Obama now I just think of the whales.

lol beapea poor thing, I like him too. I happily step off my soap box regarding how one represents and presents oneself and the entire US to others. (Read as the president should try to sound competent.) As a Muslim I find it baffling why anyone would think he is a Muslim and why we should care what his religion is. If he's Christian, and he is, why it's anyone but his business and if he worships potatoes, why is it anyone's business be his and the potato. lol

I can't imagine what this country would have looked like have Obama not been the president in the last 2 years.

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Indie Christmas shopping fail post

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For the last several years, I've put a lot of thought and time and effort into making sure I could feel ethically good about all of the Christmas presents I give. I've made sure they were used, handmade, or, if it was at all possible, purchased from independent retailers. And I've gotten very good at it. Last year, I don't think I gave a single "commercial" gift.

This year, though, I've completely failed in this task. Living in the suburbs, where I couldn't find an indie retailer if you paid me to, is a big part of it. Love or hate Austin, it was easy to shop indie there. There's also the fact that shopping in a brick and mortar store at all here, is horrible--everything is so crowded--so I've done nearly all of my shopping online this year.

So how bad have I been? Well, take books. I always gift books. I have a book loving family. This year, rather than spending hours browsing for them in a local bookstore, I ordered them from Barnes & Noble and Borders. My parents are getting clothes from Land's End. I've even ordered a few things, God help me, from Amazon.

I have made a few Etsy purchases, though, which makes me feel marginally better. I ordered some magnetic lockets from Polarity for my nieces (I've had my eye on those forever--I'm so happy to finally be giving them to someone). For my cousin's baby, I found an awesome wooden train made by a work-at-home woodworking mama at Woman Woodworker's Natural Wood Toys.

I still have about a third of my list left, and I'm hoping to buy a few more sustainable, moral gifts. I'm thinking Mark's mom might like some colorful printed kitchen towels from Pata Pri.

I shouldn't lay 100% of the blame on my new home. Had I not chosen to be lazy, I could have made the same commitment to indie and handmade gifts this year that I have in years past. This year, though, it just wasn't a priority. That' something I am going to need to try to make up for in 2010.

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hey oregonian, you ever hear of powells? :)

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Want to save $5K a year? Get married!

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I posted last week about the state of my relationship with Mark: we're partners. Since then, I've been thinking a bit more about marriage, and specifically about not being married. Why? Because it keeps coming up.

Not being married is costing me money. And if you're not married, it may well be costing you, too.

Mark's new job comes with really excellent insurance benefits. His employer not only pays 100% for employees, they pay 100% for spouses, same-sex domestic partners, and children of employees as well. So if we were married, I could get free insurance through Mark's job. If we were same-sex domestic partners, I could do the same. As opposite-sex domestic partners, though, this benefit is not available to me. It's not a huge tragedy, for us, since I have coverage through my job. However, that coverage costs me $300/month, or $3,600/year. That's what not being married is costing me.

Another area is taxes. You hear a lot about the "marriage penalty" when it comes to taxation. However, that only applies to folks who don't have a big discrepancy between their incomes. Mark and I do. Last year, our combined (single) tax burden was $8,280. Had we made the exact same money, but been married and filed jointly, it would have been $7,110. Not being married cost us $1,170.

Next, we come to the process we went through trying to find a house to rent. Applications fees on a couple of houses we looked at were $75 per individual or married couple. So, we had to pay $150. A $75 not-married penalty.

Then there's our annual co-op membership. If we were a "family," we'd pay $60. Since we're not, it's $45 each. $30 more for the unmarrieds.

I could go on, but I think I've made my point.

For me, this is an annoyance. It irritates me, and I don't think it's fair, but my life goes on. If it was a huge issue, I could give in and get married. Nobody would stand in my way. But what about people who couldn't just tie the knot? In this case, the largest part of the financial outlay (the health insurance) would be extended to same-sex domestic partners, but in many similar cases it wouldn't, and they'd have no recourse. I may not like the choices I have, but at least I have them.

And so it is a matter of deciding what to do with them. In dollars, what are my principles worth? Knowing that my not being married isn't actually helping anybody, and that the stand I am taking exists mainly in my own head, is it worth doing something I feel is wrong to save some money? How much money does it need to be to make it worth it?

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It is a question of return versus risk. Divorce can be very expensive and actually reduce your assets. I hope things work out well for you two.

There is also a question of principle, given that in the United States, marriage is a segregated institution denied to a minority of citizens.

Sincerely,
-danny

I work as a tax paralegal. I just completed state and federal death tax returns for a decedent who was gay and partnered. His partner was the sole beneficiary of the estate. Had they been legally married, the estate would have paid NO tax. However, since they are not married, the estate paid nearly one million dollars in state and federal death taxes.

I see this scenario often. The couple I refer to above didn't have good estate planning in place, as the death was unexpected and happened while the partners were very young. However, there is no amount of estate planning that will reduce your death tax rate to zero. Getting married will.

My partner and I seriously considered getting domestically partnered, rather than married. Two things happened though that changed out minds. Firstly, it was a PITA. Hard to figure out if its even legal to do that, and if so, where. Secondly, we ended up deciding that we did want the protections marriage offers. We DO want to be able to visit each other in the hospital, be the decision makers, etc. When it comes down to it, much as I dislike marriage (because it is for hets only, because it is sexist, etc.) that's not a battle I want to fight when my loved one is ill. That, for me, was what drove the cost too high.

So we're married, but call each other partners, and see it as a chance to redefine marriage. Its not perfect, but it works for us.

You need to read Beyond Straight and Gay Marriage by Nancy Polikoff. She also has a blog. It made me much stronger in my convictions to not get married.

She frames it by saying that the law intentionally creates inequalities between married and unmarried people, not necessarily gay/straight people. That all people in caring and/or financially dependent relationships should be supported and protected.

I'm moving to Oregon in a month and have emailed her to get her perspective on suing to gain access to the state's domestic partnership registry.

"how is anything ever going to change if everybody just keeps doing what has always been done because it's easier this way?"

What I question though, is the idea that my not getting married makes a difference. How will things change, if I get married against my principles? Because I will work to change them. Because I write my politicians, donate to organizations that support equal marriage rights, etc. I don't really see how not getting married changes anything for anyone else.

It does change things for me, in that it frames my relationship in a certain light that I don't always love...but I feel that being married and not conforming to that is a revolutionary act in itself.

I made this particular deal, for similar reasons to what you have described.

My SO and I also have a big income disparity, so there were tax benefits for us when we got married. And my company does not extend benefits to unmarried hetero partners, so I was paying about $450 out of pocket for insurance for my SO to ensure that he could continue his prescriptions and get good quality care. It just seemed like such a waste. Getting married seemed like a clean, easy way to fix the problem, and in some ways it kind of was.

What most screwed me in the end was not recognizing the slippery slope I was on before I took this particular step. Secretly getting hitched at city hall turned into "let's have a wedding since we're already married anyway", which turned into family drama and chaos, which wasn't worth the heartbreak. But I really hope that no one else would be as naive as me going into this process. :-p

I would do it again, for sure, because the financial burden was just too much for me. I'm not entirely comfortable with being a married person and probably never will be. I think that if I could continue benefits for my SO (or take part in a national health care plan), I would divorce in a heartbeat.

This is a timely post for me, as I contemplate leaving my job and losing my insurance.

I am baffled that a company would offer same-sex domestic partner benefits but not opposite-sex domestic partner benefits. In my case, we are looking at my partner's insurance and it looks like they across-the-board domestic partner benefits. I was told that's how it usually goes - with companies that provide it at all.

Failing that, we may just have to go the certificate/courthouse route, because I have no idea how I get insured otherwise.

I totally hit send on that post too soon.

I meant to say that my goal would be to get people to see the ridiculousness of separate but equal when it came to marriage and DP; what is so special about each that forbids the other? There is clearly a huge concern about invalidating the concept of domestic partnerships in the state, though, so we'll see what actually happens. Even if we lost the case it would still get a conversation started.

Also, you know what helped me figure out when it made sense to get married? To literally put a dollar amount on how much my statement against marriage is worth. When is it literally worth it to me?
What if I got a 100k tax break just for getting married? (And forgive me if this is simplistic, I don't know much about taxes.) What could I have with an extra 100k in my pocket than I have now? We'd travel more. Get a dog. Feel more secure about retirement. On the other hand, though, if we have a potential 100k tax break, that means that we're earning way about 100k between the two of us which means we're already doing good for ourselves.

I'm so, so fortunate that neither of us have major health issues that make health insurance a huge priority. It's going to cost a bit right now, but we can swing it. Paying private insurance premiums costs about $3,600. Am I willing to get married in exchange for that amount of money? No.

Kim, have you considered just asking his human resources department to offer it to opposite sex partners?

Grace, you know me too well. I'm incapable of keeping quiet on this topic. ;-) Glad to hear that a wedding isn't on the table for you and M., even if you do decide to marry.

The one upside of getting married has been loudly and proudly defending my choice to keep my last name, so at least I enjoy that aspect of it. :-)

I think that if equal marriage were legal everywhere, or if they only had locations in equal marriage states, my company would probably drop DP benefits altogether. I work in a very conservative industry, and I assume that they don't really give much of a crap about equal rights - they want to offer benefits to as small a number of people as possible while still remaining competitive. The marriage line is an easy one for the company to draw for hetero couples, since we can get married anytime, anywhere. Makes no sense from an equality perspective, but I can sort of see the perverse business logic to it.

This is why employers shouldn't get to decide what does and doesn't qualify a person for coverage, IMO. Come the revolution, we'll detach health care from relationship status altogether. But that's probably a topic for another day.

Rachel, after I read your post, I did a quick calculation and realized that I have saved almost $20k on health insurance premiums alone by getting hitched to my SO. It just seems so wrong to me that so much can ride on that one little piece of paper.

Hybrid, a lot of companies have outright said that if the state they are located in legalizes gay marriage that they would suspend domestic partnership benefits and require gay couples to marry. I think Toyota or Ford was one of those companies.

Oh, also, Grace, I'm getting a Master of Public Health from Oregon State University.

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Sponsoring the girl geeks

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In one of my earlier posts about BlogHer, I mentioned that I was surprised and happy to see the breadth of the sponsors list for the conference. Now that the final sponsors list is up, I wanted to say a bit more about that.

First, here are the sponsors (this list is pulled directly from BlogHer's site):

Platinum Conference Sponsors

  • Chevrolet

  • Green Works

  • Walmart

  • PepsiCo

  • Tide & Bounce

Gold Conference Sponsors

  • Microsoft Office and Bing.com

  • Ragu

  • Liberty Mutual's Responsibility Project

Premium Conference Sponsors

  • Bill Me Later

  • Ketchum

  • Wiley

  • Hanes

  • PLAYSKOOL

  • all

  • McDonald's

  • Elations

  • National Pork Board

  • BISSELL

  • Suave and Degree

  • Wild Planet

  • Motorola

  • Mary Kay

  • Brother

  • Ann Taylor

  • Michelin

  • Disney Consumer Products

  • VTech

  • T-Mobile

  • Bertolli

  • Eucerin

  • HP

  • Geek Squad

Exhibiting Conference Sponsors

  • Blue Avocado

  • Picnik

  • ZESPRI Kiwifruit

  • Safety 1st

  • CHPA Educational Foundation

  • Sprout

  • Safe Kids USA

  • springpad

  • JumpStart┬«

  • Nikon

  • The Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies

Other Participating Sponsors

  • LeapFrog

  • eos

  • Johnson & Johnson

  • Intel

  • Intelius

  • Pearl of Wisdom Campaign

  • Orbitz

  • PBS Parents

  • Gilbert Guide

  • Motherproof.com

  • Hasbro

  • 20th Century Fox's Strawberry Shortcake

  • PBS Frontline

  • Nokia

  • Dove

A couple of caveats:

First, some of these are companies with whom I strongly disagree on major issues. Some of them are even companies that I boycott. I'm not going to write about that here. I don't censor myself on those issues on this blog, and I may well write again about those companies, but that's not the purpose of this post and I don't want to get bogged down in it.

Secondly, I honestly and completely appreciate each of these companies being willing to sponsor BlogHer. I know they're doing it for business reasons--there is absolutely something in it for them--but I still appreciate it.

Now then:

I've been interested in advertising towards women for a long time, in particular since I wrote my thesis at Reed on Ms. magazine. One of the major problems with Ms. early on was that there both unable to entice advertisers who weren't "traditional women's labels" (cosmetic companies, appliances, etc.) and unable to appease their readership on the subject of morality of advertising "anti-feminist" products. This issue still exists today, obviously, and BlogHer is a great example of how it plays out.

When I last attended in 2007, one of the sponsors was Curves Cereal and Snacks. Some of the people to whom I spoke, particularly those on a panel about blogging and body image, took issue with that. It was a particular problem, I learned, because Weight Watchers had been a sponsor in 2006 and there had already been backlash about that. For my part, I was perhaps not thrilled with Curves' inclusion, but I was generally very happy to see so many companies that are not traditionally "women-focused" on the sponsorship list that year.

This year is even better. Yes, there are some sponsors who are definitely the same ones Ms. would have drawn ire from their readers for all those years ago: Mary Kay, Ann Taylor, eos, and Dove, which are obvious, as well as GreenWorks, Tide/Bounce, Ragu, all, etc., since advertisers still seem to think only women cook and clean. There are several more who are clearly there for the mommy bloggers: Playskool, Disney Consumer Products, Sprout, JumpStart, etc. But there are also a long list of sponsors Ms.'s advertising department would have given up their fringed ponchos for--honest to God gender neutral companies. Some of them are the non-surprising tech companies that go along with a blogging conference, gendered or not, like Microsoft Office/bing.com, Bill Me Later, Motorola, Brother, and T-Mobile. Others, though, I have trouble connecting in any obvious way with women or with blogging, and that makes me inordinately happy. The big one is Platinum Sponsor Chevrolet, but there are also Liberty Mutual's Responsibility Project, public relations agency Ketchum, technical publisher Wiley, Elations (a glucosamine condroitin supplement company), Michelin, and PBS Frontline, among others.

What does it mean that these companies have chosen to put their support behind a fast-growing conference of blogging women? Dare I hope it's respect for women's buying power, not just as mothers, cleaners, or purchasers of clothes and cosmetics, but as full-share American consumers who buy cars and cameras and pork (yep, the National Pork Board is another sponsor) and make investments and watch Frontline? Could they really be seeing us for what we are?

Time will tell. I'll be sure to report back next week on how these sponsors conducted themselves and what impressions I got from them at the conference. In the meantime, again, thanks to our sponsors!

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Chevy seemed very gendered to me--hello minivans! I think it's just that stereotypically in the 60s women wouldn't have had as much of a say in car choice. And there weren't cars designed for moms.

Wow, I meant to sign up for BlogHer this year because it's in Chicago and I'm in Milwaukee, however I totally forgot to sign up. Whoops. I'm totally impressed with the amount of sponsors that they have. Blogging has become so mainstream now and I'm thankful for the voice that I have, and that there is recongition for 4+ years of hard work.

Happy ICLW!

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When the Man comes around

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There's a man going around taking names
And he decides who to free and who to blame
Everybody won't be treated all the same
There'll be a golden ladder reaching down
When the Man comes around

-Johnny Cash

I know many of my readers don't believe in Hell. And neither do I, to be fair. But, for the sake of a thought experiment, pretend you do for a minute. Who gets in?

Say there is a God, a Johnny Cash-style all-knowing all-judging God. How are our lives measured, when we die, to decide who goes to Heaven and who burns? What are the criteria?

The reason this comes up is Robert McNamara. Upon hearing that he'd died, I said something to the effect of "if there is a Hell, he can see LBJ there." I was corrected, numerous times, by people who insisted that McNamara repented for his mistakes and would be forgiven.

Would he? How does one repent for a body count that size? Is being sorry enough, or do you have to save as many lives as you cost to even your balance sheet?

Repentance, as an idea, is interesting to me. It's the subject of some pretty great art and music and literature. It's something we've been obsessed with for centuries. Why? Is it really even possible to repent? And if it is, does that really just mean ask forgiveness/buy masses/do penitence, or is there more?

To add another pop culture reference to this already muddled train of thought, Joss Whedon's work is often about repentance, particularly in the character of Angel. For those who aren't in the Joss-know, Angel is a centuries old sadist vampire who is cursed with a soul so he is keenly aware of all the harm he's caused. In Joss' universe, he spends the majority of his time repenting (well, and brooding). His life is about repentance. This doesn't go too deep in Buffy, but once Joss made Angel's spin-off show, repentance was the overarching theme, not just for Angel, but for other characters as well. And the bottom line always seemed to be that it's never enough. That you have a responsibility to try to repent, but that you never really even your score, not even if you save the world. Pretty bleak, maybe, but ultimately true?

While I don't believe in Hell, or in a judgmental God who is up there keeping score, I do believe in trying to atone. Not to save a spot in Heaven, but to keep some sort of vague Karmic balance. It's not about paying off in the end, but more about getting back what you put out. And maybe that's what I really meant about Robert McNamara. He was personally responsible, more or less, for hundreds of thousands of deaths. Judging by the evidence he left, that weighed on him, and he did spend the rest of his life, after leaving Johnson's White House, trying to do good in the world. Is that atonement? Is there really anything he could have done to balance that kind of Karmic debt? Given that regular old dudes don't usually get the opportunity for Angel-sized world saving, I don't really think there is. He may be sorry, but, on a national level, if not a celestial one, he's not forgiven.

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Where do your taxes work?

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I just got into an interesting discussion with someone who said, among other things, that she had no idea what percentage of her taxes paid for what services or programs. I was sort of shocked by this at first, but then got to thinking about it, and a lot of people probably don't know that (or they have major misconceptions about it). Due to the nature of my graduate degree and some of the jobs I've had, I actually have a pretty fair idea, and, more importantly, I know where/how to find that information, but I haven't really thought too much about it in recent years (being away from school and those jobs). So, I thought maybe it would make interesting blog fodder?

So, a tutorial. If you want to know how much you personally are paying to fund what, here is what you need to do.

Step 1: Determine your tax burden.
First, you need to know how much of your earnings you are paying to the federal government (for the sake of simplicity, we're going to keep this example all federal). You can find this on your tax return. I'll be the example:

As per my 2008 tax return, I paid $4,153 in federal income tax in 2008.

However, the federal government does have other sources of revenue. Personal income taxes only account for about half of total government income. The rest is made up of Social Security payments, payroll taxes, corporate income tax, excise tax, customs duties, estate taxes, etc. If you are like me, the only one of those that applies to you personally is Social Security, and you can get your paid in amount for that off your W-2.

As per my 2008 W-2, I paid $3,373.22 in Social Security withholding in 2008.

Finally, I also paid Medicare tax, which is separate from both income tax and Social Security. This is on the W-2 as well.

As per my 2008 W-2, I paid $788.90 in Medicare tax in 2008.

So, my total personal contribution to the 2008 federal government spending was $8,315.12. For the sake of whole numbers, we'll skip the $.12 and round to $8,315.

Step 2: Determine federal budget.
This is where things get trickier. Federal budgeting and federal spending are not the same thing, any more than your budget and you're spending are (or mine, anyway). A budget is what is planned to spend, not what is spent. That being said, if you are, like I am, looking at the last full year, you are likely to find more solid numbers for budgeting than for spending--it's easier to get your arms around. And, for the purposes a getting a general idea of where your money is going, it will work. So, we need to find the 2008 Federal Budget. The best place to do that, for my money, is the source itself--the GPO Access website. But, as you'd imagine, the federal budget is not exactly a simple document to navigate, and what we want is a simple breakdown. Luckily, someone has already provided that over at the lazy Internet sleuth's friend, Wikipedia.
Fy2008spendingbycategory.png
(Pie chart courtesy of Skiddum, used with permission.)

Step 3: Do the math.
From here, it's simple math. Multiply the percentage of federal budget dollars spent in each category by the total you paid in. For me, it works out like this:

Social Security (21%): $1,746.15
Department of Defense (16.6%): $1,380.29
Medicare (13.3%): $1,105.90
Unemployment/welfare/other mandatory spending (11.2%): $931.28
Interest on the national debt (9%): $748.35
Medicaid and SCHIP (7.2%): $598.68
Global War on Terror (5%): $415.75
Health and Human Services (2.4%): $199.56
Department of Education (1.9%): $157.99
Other on-budget discretionary spending (1.8%): $149.67
Department of Veteran's Affairs (1.4%): $116.41
Other off-budget discretionary spending (1.3%): $108.10
Department of Housing and Urban Development (1.2%): $99.78
Department of Homeland Security (1.2%): $99.78
Energy (0.8%): $66.52
Department of Justice (0.7%): $58.21
Department of Agriculture (0.7%): $58.21
NASA (0.6%): $49.89
Department of Transportation (0.4%): $33.26
Department of Treasury (0.4%) $33.26
Department of the Interior (0.4%): $33.26
Department of Labor (0.4%): $33.26

Obviously, these numbers are only as helpful as you understand what each category represents. And there are some pretty big things left out. For example, the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars aren't funded through the budget, they are funded through special appropriations. So the $1,380.29 I gave the DoD last year? That's without my contribution to those wars.

Government budgeting is an extraordinarily (and maybe unnecessarily) complicated process. These estimates are very, very rough. Given time and resources, I could come up with better ones, but those would be rough too. However, even given its flaws, I this is a worthwhile exercise to get an idea of how much of your personal money goes where. For example, I'm not surprised by the amounts going to DoD and Social Security and the "War on Terror," but I had no idea I was paying $750 a year towards national debt interest, or only $160 on education. However rough they may be, those are enlightening (and horrifying) numbers.

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This is very interesting. I had always thought that, by far, the largest portion of the Federal Budget went to what should be called "defense spending". And yet according to this information, Social Security is now the biggest chunk of the pie.

So are we actually spending more now on Social Security than on Defense, or is this just creative accounting? Given what you said about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars being left out of the budget for DoD, I couldn't help but notice that there is also a separate category for War on Terror (5%), Dept. of Veterans Affairs (1.4%), and Homeland Security (1.2%). In my mind, these should all be under the heading of "Defense Spending", but they are not. If you add them to the 16.6% allotted for DoD, then the total is 24.2%, which is only slightly more than the 21% allotted for S.S. But what about other discretionary spending, like the Iraq and Afghanistan wars? Is this really an accurate picture?

And as a side note, it is more than scandalous that NASA is getting more money than the Dept of Labor, Treasury, Interior, and Transportation. We're willing to spend more money fixing a solar panel on an aging space station than we are to fix or modernize our highways, or provide safe working environments for our people. That's just great.

Thanks, I've been Googling for this information for a while and it's hard to find.

One problem -- none of the sources, including yours, seems to recognize that Soc Sec is self-funding. It depends on money that the retirees have paid in over years. So it's not really fair to say 'our taxes' are paying it.

Even if we look at the fact SS current cash flow is slightly negative, still there has been a big reserve fund from years when there were more workers than retirees. (The problem is that Congress kept borrowing from this fund, and now SS needs them to repay what they borrowed.)

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Yo! Spend local!

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First, a question: how far back to you have to trace something for the sake of blog etiquette? For example, the thing I am about to post was made known to me when it was Google Reader shared by my friend Jenny, who shared this post from ennui will rock you (best blog name ever!), who in turn picked it up from this post on Humble Cuisine. I can't tell where they got it, because their site isn't working correctly on my browser. Now, did I need to tell you all that? If not, should I have stopped with Jenny? With ennui will rock you?

Getting on to the subject at hand:

You in? I'm going to give this a try this weekend. I'm shooting for stores that aren't just in my city, but in my neighborhood. I'll report back.

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As persnickety as I should be about attribution considering my career, I would say this is the sort of thing that's less about who did it and more about getting the word out.

However, I just googled 3/50 and got this:
http://www.the350project.net/home.html

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20 Years from Tiananmen

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20 years ago today, a number of people we'll probably never know (with estimates ranging from 10,000 to the official Chinese government figure of 241) were massaccred by their goverment in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Their crime was protest. They were patriots. And today, I mourn for them.

And when I think of them, I think of this song (pardon my old school hippy call-out):

It Could Have Been Me

It could have been me, but instead it was you
So I'll keep doing the work you were doing as if I were two
I'll be a student of life, a singer of song
A farmer of food and a righter of wrongs
It could have been me, but instead it was you
And it may be me dear sister and brothers
Before we are through
But if you can work for freedom
Freedom, freedom, freedom
If you can work for freedom, I can too

Students in Ohio, at Kent and Jackson State
Shot down by a nameless fire one early day in May
Some people cried out angry
You should have shot more of them down
But you can't bury youth my friend
Youth grows the whole world 'round

It could have been me, but instead it was you
So I'll keep doing the work you were doing as if I were two
I'll be a student of life, a singer of song
A farmer of food and a righter of wrongs
It could have been me, but instead it was you
And it may be me dear sister and brothers
Before we are through
But if you can die for freedom
Freedom, freedom, freedom
If you can die for freedom, I can too

The junta broke the fingers on Victor Jara's hands
And said to the gentle poet, "play your guitar now if you can"
Victor started singing, until they brought his body down
You can kill a man, but not a song
When it's sung the whole world 'round

It could have been me, but instead it was you
So I'll keep doing the work you were doing as if I were two
I'll be a student of life, a singer of song
A farmer of food and a righter of wrongs
It could have been me, but instead it was you
And it may be me dear sister and brothers
Before we are through
But if you can sing for freedom
Freedom, freedom, freedom
If you can sing for freedom, I can too

A woman in a jungle, so many wars away
Studies late into the the night
Defends a village in the day
Although her skin is golden, like mine will never be
Her song is heard and I know the words
And I'll sing them until she's free

It could have been me, but instead it was you
So I'll keep doing the work you were doing as if I were two
I'll be a student of life, a singer of song
A farmer of food and a righter of wrongs
It could have been me, but instead it was you
And it may be me dear sister and brothers
Before we are through
But if you can live for freedom
Freedom, freedom, freedom
If you can live for freedom, I can too

-Holly Near, 1974

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Fox News and the Obama's date night

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Last night on Jon Stewart, Jon mentioned the Fox News criticism of the New York City date President and Mrs. Obama took last weekend. Knowing nothing about it, I gave it a Google. Apparently, the criticism didn't just come from Fox, but from the Republican National Committee, who issued a press release criticizing President Obama for spending the money to take a jet to New York for the evening while the nation is in recession and GM is going under. (Read the Fox story here, but it turns out they weren't the only ones pissed off--political bloggers are all over this.)

Surprise! I have no problem with this! I don't care if it did cost the $50,000-$100,000 Fox estimates (though I kinda doubt it did). I'm OK with that. As a citizen and a taxpayer, I'm cool. Happy to pay not only my 1/10th of a cent ($100,000 divided by approx. 100,000,000 US taxpayers), but yours too! In fact, if you'd like, my entire 2009 tax burden can go to the Obama date fund!

Why? Couple of reasons:

First, this is a completely hypocritical complaint. Was there an outcry every time Bush took a jumbo jet to the ranch? Not that I remember. And he did it all the damn time. U.S. President is kind of an all-expense paid kind of a gig, you know? Can't change the rules on that now.

Secondly, to the criticism that the Obamas should have just gone out in Washington. Sure. They do. They've done it a number of times. But if they occasionally want to go somewhere else, what's the issue? And Christ, they just hopped over to New York--it's less than 200 miles! It's not like they went to Paris for the evening.

This leads me to the criticism about their evening being too extravagant. They went to New York, had dinner at Blue Hill, and went to a Broadway show. Unless there was some undisclosed diamond buying in between, I don't see what's so freaking unreasonable about those activities. Yes, Blue Hill is a nice restaurant (if you are curious, the menu is here--sounds pretty good, actually), but it's within my occasional date night range, so it should certainly be within the President's. Thousands upon thousands of Americans see plays on Broadway every year (and, if I remember correctly, the Bush's asked that Broadway be brought to them in the form of a White House viewing of The Lion King). So the extravagance, really, is the jet, limos, and entourage. You know, the things the President HAS to use to be safe?

Finally, I WANT our first couple to have some R&R. God knows they deserve it, and I can only imagine they need it. And it's not just good for them--I think it's good for all of us to see them, in their hot goin' out threads (they both looked fantastic, BTW), doing something fun together. Looking at them, all stylish, jetting off for a New York evening...it even reminded me of Camelot, and I wasn't alive then. Maybe I'm just misty eyed, but I don't see anything but good in having a little bit of romance in the White House.

1 Comments

Couldn't have said it better, myself.

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An open letter to President Obama

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Dear Mr. President,

I know it is early in your administration to be asking you for favors, and up until now I have done my very best not to expect too much from you. You've inherited quite the mess, and the last few months have only added to it. Though I haven't agreed with everything you've done so far, I've understood why you did most of it, and have been trying very hard to remain hopeful and keep my desires to myself.

However, I heard some news this morning that forces me to break my silence and ask you to prove your advocates right and your detractors wrong in a decision you will soon be making.

Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter is retiring in June. This leaves a vacancy on the court for you to fill. Of all of the many decisions you will make during your presidency, this will likely be one of the most important and long-lasting. As a law professor, I'm sure you know just how vital it is not to mess this one up.

You'll be getting a lot of advice, from all sides, about how to best fill this position. You'll hear calls to be bipartisan (ignore them). You'll be hearing about the importance of a justice who will support X or Y reading of the constitution. You'll have a team to vet the credientials of any possible candidates. It will all be very complicated.

In comparison, what I am going to ask you to do is simple. There is only one criterion by which I don't trust you to choose the next justice, and it is that criterion I must insist you fill.

The next justice has to be a woman.

There are nine justice on the court. One of them shares the gender of half of the country's population. Over the entire history of the Court, there have been 110 justices; 2 have been women. It is far past time for the highest court in the land to better represent us.

As the country's first Black president, you know a little something about the importance of minority representation in goverment. As the man who defeated the most serious female presidential contender in our history, you know a little something about the importance of gender representation in goverment.

I am hoping that means you get it--you understand the importance, both symbolic and literal, of putting a woman on the court. And I'm expecting you to get it. I helped get you elected. So far, I am not at all sorry I did so. However, if you make some lame excuse about identity politics and appoint yet another man to fill this position, we are going to have a serious problem.

Your hopeful contituent,

Grace

P.S. If you are interested, you can read the post I wrote the last time I was failed on this issue.

2 Comments

Would a transman be ok?

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An extremist by any other name

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There was a piece on NPR this morning about young Somali-American men disappearing from the MSP area. The young men's families, and now the FBI, believe that some or all of them have gone to Somalia to join al-Shabab, a "Muslim terrorist" organization. Apparently one of them drove a suicide bombing car in Somaliland last fall and killed 28 people, which made him what the piece called the "first American citizen to become a suicide bomber."

Most of the focus of the story was on how these young men are being recruited. Mostly, it sounds as if they are being convinced that undertaking these types of actions will make them good Muslims. This is, one interviewee said, "some extreme interpretation of the Koran." While they are not being physically kidnapped at gunpoint, many of the young men's families believe that they are being brainwashed, using their religious insecurity, into becoming terrorists.

The first thing that came to mind for me when listening to this part of the story was not the bearded Muslim terrorist Americans have been indoctrinated into fearing these past years. Rather, the image that popped into my head was of Edward Furlong in American History X. A young, insecure man in a bad situation, being brainwashed into activities I'd consider terrorist. In Furlong's case, the organization brainwashing him wasn't Muslim, it was white supremacist (and yes, I realize it's a movie and he's a fictional character, but it's not like those organizations don't really exist). I then thought of a half dozen more examples of places and times in which young men have been indoctrinated into becoming killing machines for old men's' causes, destroying themselves, their families, their communities, and anybody who gets in the way. None of the examples that came to mind were Muslim. You can find non-Muslim examples of terrorist indoctrination looking back as far as you'd like (The Crusades?) or as recently as this week in Northern Ireland.

Our media and our government may be interested in having us believe that terrorism is the province of strange dark people who worship a different God than we do and their rules laid down in a different, unholy book, but that's no more true than it's true that a Somali-American boy who drove a car loaded with bombs on the Horn of Africa this fall was the first American suicide bomber. Fanaticism is a province of religion in general, not just religions that aren't yours. The same set of circumstances--poverty, unemployment, disenfranchisement, poor education--lead to a white terrorist as a brown one. There is just as much blood on the Bible as the Koran.

1 Comments

Excellent points. I saw that movie 'Religulous' (sp?) this weekend and it re-enforced the same point - if you just eat what they're feeding you without thinking...

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An elegant man

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In his acceptance speech last night (for his Best Actor nod in "Milk"), Sean Penn referred to President Obama as "an elegant man." He said something about being proud of this country for having the nerve to elect an elegant man as president. This struck me, and I have been thinking about it since. What does it mean to be an "elegant man"? Why choose that term, over any of the probably thousands of other possibilities, to describe Mr. Obama?

In an aesthetic sense, I get what Penn could have meant--our president is physically elegant. He's tall and slim and extraordinarily well-dressed and moves in a smooth, controlled way. This is, like so many other things, in opposition to our former president, who, no matter how high quality the suit he was in, always seemed a bit out of place being dressed up and trotted out, and struck me as sort of inherently clumsy physically as well as verbally. It is, doubtlessly, a shallow reason to be proud of having Mr. Obama as our president, but he does indeed make the country look good as a physical representative. Though elegant is not synonymous with attractive, I can't imagine that hurts either. I mean, how long has it been since we've had an attractive president? I know some people thought Bill Clinton was attractive, but he certainly never had this kind of style Mr. Obama has.

I don't think aesthetics were what Sean Penn was referring to last night, though. Looking at a room full of the (supposed) most beautiful people in the world, I don't think he was using his 30 seconds or however long they're supposed to get to comment on Mr. Obama's physique or his fashion choices. It could have been, though, a comment on finally having a president who is elegant of thought and speech. After eight years of listening to George W. Bush bumble his way through every press conference, it is a welcome change to listen to real oration again. Lyrical, powerful, elegant oration. I can also see how this would be of special value to people like those in the Oscar audience, who make their livings on words--either writing them, saying other people's and making audiences believe them, or building up the story around them.

Still, though, as politically charged as Penn is (he did spend the majority of his acceptance speech putting in a plug for same-sex marriage), I don't think he was just referring to elegance of speech, either. However, I can't make an argument, at this point, that Mr. Obama's presidency has been politically elegant. Nor am I sure I would want it to be--politics, when they are working, aren't smooth and classy. Politics that work dirty. Politics that work are scrappy and testy and brutish. Politics that work aren't elegant. And though President Obama's campaigning may have been elegant, and may be appreciated as such, I don't think his actual administration will be, at least not for a long time yet.

What, then, is it that made Penn refer to Mr. Obama as an elegant man? If it's not (or at least is only partially) his aesthetic and his oration, and it's not his politics, what is it? What does "elegant" mean in this context? Given that Penn said he was proud of his country for electing elegance, the implication is that elegance is something the country was afraid of, or had trepidation towards. Can elegance, here, refer to President Obama's education and intelligence? In another direct contrast to George W. Bush, President Obama wears his education proudly. In this sense, his elegance is that of an Old World orator, maybe not born into the privileged class, but educated in it. Thinking big thoughts, communicating big ideas, and not pretending that he prefers physical labor to intellectual (I'm remembering, here, eight years of news stories of GW Bush chopping wood in Texas when he should have been in the Oval Office doing his real job).

This, maybe as much as race, is a place where many Americans have had trouble stomaching Mr. Obama--he's just not a good ole boy. Instead, he's an elegant man. And he's the first elegant man to be president in my memory. It's not just GW who put on a fa├žade (in his case, I think it may actually have been at least somewhat real) of preferring to be a "regular person." Clinton did it. The first Bush did it. Reagan and Carter both did it. Nixon did it. LBJ certainly did it. Going backwards, the last elegant president I can find it the one to whom Mr. Obama is so often (I think too often) compared--Kennedy. President Kennedy was an elegant man who didn't pretend not to be. He didn't chop wood on vacation, he sailed. But the America who elected Kennedy was a lot less romantic about being working class than the one who elected Mr. Obama. In electing President Obama, the voters had to overcome the fear that has been instilled in recent years of too much education and too much style. For my entire adult life, and even before that, the middle class has been taught to respect the false working man while looking down on the real one. Now that we've finally elected elegance to our highest office, is it too much to hope that the corresponding condescension towards the people our past few presidents were pretending to be will go away as well? Probably. But still, like Sean Penn, I am proud of my country for finally choosing someone to represent us who makes us look good. My president is, indeed, an elegant man.

2 Comments

Wow - you summed up a lot of great ideas right there! I very much agree with your analysis and hopes.

Great commentary.

Canada has not had many "elegant" leaders, and certainly none in recent history (our current leader is described as "cold" and "scary" by many). While I'm really just an observer up here in the Great White North, I'm very interested to watch Obama's presidency unfold.

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Stimulus 2: what's in it for me?

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So I'm not actually done with the stimulus subject. One question I keep hearing is "what's in it for me?" First off, I think that's the wrong question. I am a member of a society. If (and I realize some people think this is a big if) this plan helps my society, then it helps me. But self-interest is also in human nature, and I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought about whether this plan would benefit me personally. I'm white, young, educated, healthy, and upper middle-class. This plan probably shouldn't benefit me. But you know what? Turns out it just might. These are the things that stick out to me:

1. Increased Broadband access could benefit me, if only because I'm a Broadband user and better access is better access.

2. I have an uncle who is in the moderate stages of Parkinson's and gets his care at the VA. VA funding aids my family, for sure.

3. I drive. Highway investments help me. Not a lot to say there.

4. As I mentioned before, Mark's funding has come/will in the future come from the NSF and NIH, so more money for them means less competition for scarce resources for him, which is good for me.

5. More money for schools keeps the small rural ones I went to open, which keeps my mom employed. Again, direct benefit to my family.

6. Dislocated worker training has benefited members of my family in the past. I have no reason to think it couldn't do so again in the future.

7. There are members of my family on food stamps and other government aid. Their kids need to keep eating. I am a supporter of those programs.

I'm a single woman with no dependents who makes a pretty good living. I am NOT in a low tax bracket. But still, I'm in. Raise my taxes President Obama, I'm with you.

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Step by step through the stimulus bill

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I haven't had a lot to say about politics recently, mostly due to not knowing much about what is going on. I've had my head so far down with everything I have been working on personally that I haven't been paying any attention to the national/international picture. But that's changing, since one of the perks my new job (referred to from here on out as "Cubeland") is a coworker and friend of a decidedly and proudly conservative bent who likes to talk politics. He didn't waste more than a day or two before he started quizzing me on Obama's first few weeks, and in particular the stimulus bill. About which I could say very little, as I haven't kept at all with what is actually in it.

So...I decided to devote a few precious moments and actually read an outline of the package, so I'll be a bit better informed. I got my summary here. And I'm just going to try to tackle it point by point:

Investments in Infrastructure and Science

Infrastructure Improvements
- $7.2 billion for Broadband to increase broadband access and usage in unserved and underserved areas of the Nation, which will better position the U.S. for economic growth, innovation, and job creation.
I have no problem here. I think this is a good idea.
- $2.75 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to secure the homeland and promote economic activity, including $1 billion for airport baggage and checkpoint security, $430 million for construction of border points of entry, $210 million for construction of fire stations, $300 million for port, transit, and rail security, $280 million for border security technology and communication, and $240 million for the Coast Guard.
I don't really think this is necessary, honestly, but whatever, no skin off my nose.
- $4.6 billion in funding for the Corps of Engineers.
I believe this is for things like dams and bridges, right? Isn't that what even the very conservative want government to do?
- $1.2 billion for VA hospital and medical facility construction and improvements, long-term care facilities for veterans, and improvements at VA national cemeteries.
This isn't enough, frankly. But it's a start. All for it.
- $3.1 billion for repair, restoration and improvement of public facilities at on public and tribal lands.
This one I'd need to dig on a bit. What types of facilities? What types of restoration and improvement? This is maybe not the time to spend on things like that, but it really depends what in specific this means.
- $4.2 billion for Facilities Sustainment, Restoration and Modernization to be used to invest in energy efficiency projects and to improve the repair and modernization of Department of Defense facilities to include Defense Health facilities.
For it. Energy efficiency in public buildings of all kinds should be an immediate priority.
- $2.33 billion for Department of Defense Facilities including quality of life and family-friendly military improvement projects such as family housing, hospitals, and child care centers.
Again, probably not enough, but on the right track. We treat the people we expect to die for us pretty damn badly in this country. I'm for anything that improves that.
- $2.25 billion through HOME and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program to fill financing gaps caused by the credit freeze and get stalled housing development projects moving.
Makes total sense, don't see what there is to argue with here.
- $1 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program for community and economic development projects including housing and services for those hit hard by tough economic times.
Again, makes total sense. Unless, of course, you just hate poor people...
- $1 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation to provide clean, reliable drinking water to rural areas and to ensure adequate water supply to western localities impacted by drought.
Yeah, not a lot to argue with here either.

Transportation
- $27.5 billion is included for highway investments
This seems like a lot, frankly. Is the highway really that terrible? How many people will this employ?
- $8.4 billion for investments in public transportation.
Yep. Absolutely.
- $1.5 billion for competitive grants to state and local governments for transportation investments.
How is this different that the previous two? Confused here.
- $1.3 billion for investments in our air transportation system.
Huh. Is this airline bailout money? Cuz I start to take issue there.
- $9.3 billion for investments in rail transportation, including Amtrak, High Speed and Intercity Rail.
Probably a good idea, but right now? I don't know. Again, aren't these private companies? Why do they need $9.3 billion in government money?

Public Housing
- $4 billion to the public housing capital fund to enable local public housing agencies to address a $32 billion backlog in capital needs -- especially those improving energy efficiency in aging buildings.
Absolutely yes.
- $2 billion for full-year payments to owners receiving Section 8 project-based rental assistance.
Yep.
- $2 billion for the redevelopment of abandoned and foreclosed homes.
Not sure on this one. Maybe not the most efficient use of housing funds in a recession.
- $1.5 billion for homeless prevention activities, which will be sent out to states, cities and local governments through the emergency shelter grant formula.
Sure, seems prudent given the economy.
- $250 million is included for energy retrofitting and green investments in HUD-assisted housing projects.
See previous opinions on the necessity of increased green energy. It's long past time.

Environmental Clean-Up/Clean Water
- $6 billion is directed towards environmental cleanup of former weapon production and energy research sites.
This makes me nervous. What happens if this doesn't happen? Are these places a hazard? If so, why isn't clean-up already budgeted? Geez.
- $6 billion for local clean and drinking water infrastructure improvements.
Sure.
- $1.2 billion for EPA's nationwide environmental cleanup programs, including Superfund.
I'm not sure what this refers to. But if it's a way to get the government to pay for environmental clean-up that businesses should be doing themselves, then it makes me grouchy.
- $1.38 billion to support $3.8 billion in loans and grants for needed water and waste disposal facilities in rural areas.
Seems necessary, but I'd need to see more specifics here.

Science
- $1 billion total for NASA.
Screw this one. NASA can bite me.
- $3 billion total for National Science Foundation (NSF).
Yay!!
- $2 billion total for Science at the Department of Energy including $400 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency--Energy (ARPA-E).
Needed investment, though it may be too little and too late.
- $830 million total for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).
Again, probably needed investment.

Investments in Health

- $19 billion, including $2 billion in discretionary funds and $17 billion for investments and incentives through Medicare and Medicaid to ensure widespread adoption and use of interoperable health information technology (IT). This provision will grow jobs in the information technology sector, and will jumpstart efforts to increase the use of health IT in doctors' offices, hospitals and other medical facilities. This will reduce health care costs and improve the quality of health care for all Americans.
Huh. Well, depending on job increase, maybe. But this seems kind of large for right now.
- $1 billion for prevention and wellness programs to fight preventable diseases and conditions with evidence-based strategies.
Good plan.
- $10 billion to conduct biomedical research in areas such as cancer, Alzheimer's, heart disease and stem cells, and to improve NIH facilities.
This stuff funds Mark and those like him. I don't knock this stuff, especially given the cuts NIH has faced in recent years.
- $1.1 billion to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, NIH and the HHS Office of the Secretary to evaluate the relative effectiveness of different health care services and treatment options.
I'm not 100% sure what this means.

Investments in Education and Training
- $53.6 billion for the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, including $39.5 billion to local school districts using existing funding formulas, which can be used for preventing cutbacks, preventing layoffs, school modernization, or other purposes; $5 billion to states as bonus grants for meeting key performance measures in education; and $8.8 billion to states for high priority needs such as public safety and other critical services, which may include education and for modernization, renovation and repairs of public school facilities and institutions of higher education facilities.
This is, from what I know and have seen, absolutely a good idea and a necessary expenditure.
- $13 billion for Title 1 to help close the achievement gap and enable disadvantaged students to reach their potential.
Need specifics here.
- $12.2 billion for Special Education/IDEA to improve educational outcomes for disabled children. This level of funding will increase the Federal share of special education services to its highest level ever.
Seems to make sense to lighten burden on local districts given low property taxes right now.
- $15.6 billion to increase the maximum Pell Grant by $500. This aid will help 7 million students pursue postsecondary education.
Absolutely, though I'd like to see this go a lot farther.
- $3.95 billion for job training including State formula grants for adult, dislocated worker, and youth programs (including $1.2 billion to create up to one million summer jobs for youth).
Can't argue with job training in a recession.

Investments in Energy

- $4.5 billion for repair of federal buildings to increase energy efficiency using green technology.
As previously stated, all for it.
- $3.4 billion for Fossil Energy research and development.
Hmmm...not sure about this one.
- $11 billion for smart-grid related activities, including work to modernize the electric grid.
Seems a like a big investment for this right now. Is there any impact on jobs?
- $6.3 billion for Energy Efficiency and Conservation Grants.
Sure.
- $5 billion for the Weatherization Assistance Program.
Not sure what this is.
- $2.5 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy research.
Sure. Absolutely. Doesn't even seem like enough.
- $2 billion in grant funding for the manufacturing of advanced batteries systems and components and vehicle batteries that are produced in the United States.
Hrm. Shouldn't this be privately funded research?
- $6 billion for new loan guarantees aimed at standard renewable projects such as wind or solar projects and for electricity transmission projects.
Necessary evil.
- $1 billion for other energy efficiency programs including alternative fuel trucks and buses, transportation charging infrastructure, and smart and energy efficient appliances.
Again, probably a good investment.

Help for Workers and Families Hardest Hit by the Economic Crisis

- $19.9 billion for additional Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly Food Stamps, to increase the benefit by 13.6 percent.
Absolutely.
- Child Care Development Block Grant: $2 billion to provide quality child care services for an additional 300,000 children in low-income families who increasingly are unable to afford the high cost of day care.
I'm in.
- Head Start & Early Head Start: $2.1 billion to allow an additional 124,000 children to participate in this program, which provides development, educational, health, nutritional, social and other activities that prepare children to succeed in school.
Had me at hello.
- State and Local Law Enforcement: $4 billion total to support law enforcement efforts.
Huh. Is this necessary?
- $555 million to expand the Department of Defense Homeowners Assistance Program (HAP) during the national mortgage crisis.
Probably necessary, but makes me cranky.

So, as predicted, this doesn't look too bad to my little tax and spend heart. Some of it I absolutely think is a good idea. I'm a little bit taken aback at the lack of emphasis on job creation and re-employment, but other than that nothing here bothers me much at all.

So tell me, folks, why exactly is everyone hating on this thing? Just because it costs too much?

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Commenting on the things you aren't sure about yet:

The infrastructure money to the Corps of Engineers: I'm not sure about bridges, but yes, dams and keeping the Mississippi dredged for boats. The money is basically to make sure projects already underway don't stall for lack of funds.

The infrastructure money for public and tribal lands goes to the Dept. of the Interior, which has been horribly neglected under Republican leadership. Much of it is for "critically deferred maintenance projects" on roads and buildings on national parkland or schools on tribal lands. None of the money appears to be allotted to new mining operations, but does include maintenance on abandoned mines.

The $27.5 billion for transportation in highways goes to state DOTs. Individual states are typically billions short each on maintenance, so this is a conservative amount to divide between the 50 states, as I understand it. While you could probably argue money is better spent on public transit, that takes years to complete and many roads need serious patching right now.

On competitive grants for transportation: I haven't seen that it says this specifically, but my best guess is that this is for new projects where much other funding in this bill is for projects already started that can't be completed without extra funds -- state budget shortfalls and all that.

I don't know anything about the air transit money, but the high speed rail investment includes support of a track and high speed trains between LA and Las Vegas. That's one specific project Repubs have named as pork, I believe.

On redevelopment of abandoned and foreclosed homes under public housing: The Nation magazine did a recent story on a sheriff in Chicago that has refused to do all the evictions his office is charged with and here's an example of why: An appparently common sort of real estate fraud is for a person to buy multi-unit housing, than buy it from himself into a corporation, dividing it up into individual units that somehow either maximizes profit or hides the fraud. That person flees the debt but runs with whatever cash comes of this (not entirely clear on that part), and nonpayment on the debt eventually means innocent renters get evicted AND because the property is divided into so many separate units of sale, the effort to get it all together in a sale to one new investor keeps the property from being used. People become homeless and abandoned property deteriorates.

On the EPA cleanup funding: Yes, there are actual barrels of toxic stuff under govt. jurisdiction leaking because of lack of funding. The Superfund is a Congressional oversight project to help ensure cleanup of private toxic sites happen. Something like 70% of cleanup is funded by responsible parties, but sometimes they go out of business or bankrupt and the govt. has to step in, or even establish liability.

Science: Some of the NASA funding includes climate research, and also repair of NASA sites damaged in the past year by hurricanes and such.

Health care investment: I'm not sure that 19b all goes to info technologies. I think some of it helps state Medicare programs by increasing federal matching funds so fewer people lose service at the state level where funds are being slashed. I know absolutely zero about the IT aspect and its money saving capabilities in the long term.

Education: The money to Title 1 of the ESEA is in support of No Child Left Behind.

Energy: The Fossil Fuel funding researches carbon capture, which mitigates some global warming effects. Weatherization is to help individual homeowners weatherproof their properties (sump pumps, insulation), saving them money and reduce fossil fuel use. The battery research is, I think, meant to jumpstart technologies that reduce carbon emissions of the auto industry.

Some of the state and local law enforcement money is under the Edward Byrne Justice Administration Act, which includes some victim assistance funding. And some money makes sure local hiring freezes don't leave law enforcement too shorthanded, I think.

I agree with you that there's a lack of emphasis on job creation and re-employment. And the price tag might be way too small to make any dent at all in the freefall of job losses.

I find that the hate on this bill is very much Repub ideology -- at least in my neck of the woods -- that govt. spending is always bad. An inexplicable viewpoint to my little tax and spend heart too.

On the air transport part -- one of the biggest problems with air travel, especially in the north, is an outdated air traffic control system that forces planes into certain rigid flight plans. Looking at a summary spreadsheet, the 3b goes to the FAA to upgrade facilities which should help with the process of modernization. It won't be going to the airlines, although reducing delays should help all of they run better and more efficient service.

To add to what Ben said, not only do a lot of the air traffic control systems themselves need to be updated to modern equipment that can actually handle the huge traffic volume (especially in the northeast corridor), but they also need to increase salary and benefits, etc. to the actual workers themselves. Apparently the TSA has been slowly and steadily cutting benefits to the Transportation Union, which has gone largely unnoticed since the union is not very politically powerful. I'd like to see some reform in pay and benefits to the workers in addition to simply upgrading the facilities. Oh, and it would also be nice if some money could be used to upgrade some of the terminals in the northeast. I can say from personal experience that JFK, La Guardia, and Newark airports are s@#$holes that need to be torn down and redone from scratch. Philadelphia's is also pretty bad, although to be fair some of that is due to security restrictions they had to establish after 9/11.

Oh, and I second Grace's "screw you" to NASA! Why is it that they get so much freakin' money, as does the NSF and fuckin' NOAA, but the NIH only gets money to conduct research at their own facilities? Hello?!?!? What about increasing NIH grants to other institutions like, say, MINE?!?!?!?!

Not that I'm bitter or anything. . . :-)

I know that in Colorado the state is negotiating with the police and firefighter's unions for concessions due to the state budget shortfall. We all know that these public servants are underpaid. Plus, statistics show that domestic violence (probably other crimes as well) increases when money gets tight, so police resources are likely to be even more stretched this year.

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So far, so good

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A few days into his presidency, President Obama has issued executive orders to end torture and close Gitmo within a year, run a more transparent White House, and reverse the Mexico City policy.

That, my friends, is what I call a damn good start.

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AND a repeal to the Global Gag Rule, allowing foreign family planning programs that receive US aid to provide abortion counseling & referrals. Wahoo!!

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Morning

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All around the blogosphere, my favorite bloggers are sharing their joy at the election results. People are telling the stories of last night's laughter and champagne, they are talking about the speeches, they are describing the first moment when they realized it was really going to happen.

I was going to try not to add to it, but I just can't keep still.

My mind keeps coming back to the same phrase:

It's morning in America.

Obviously, it is a comically huge misuse to connect this particular phrase with what has happened over the past 24 hours (and the months before). And I hope Reagan is rolling over in his grave, because this phrase does speak to how I feel today.

The last 8 years have been, in many ways, like a long, dark night, filled with horrifying dreams from which we can't wake up. And then, last night, that man, a man of a new color and a new path, stood up there, and he smiled, and he spoke, and day dawned. And now, it's morning in America.

He said, poignantly, I thought, that this is our time. What are we going to do with our day?

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i woke up this morning and it felt like christmas.

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Will the real America please stand up?

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I try, generally, no to talk too much politics here at WINOW. Mostly, this is because I don't like political blogs and I don't want to be one. Even if I did, I don't have the passion or the knowledge to be a particularly good political blogger, so I'd just be one of the zillion or so bad ones. No thanks. Plus, I'm increasingly realizing that some of what I do blog about (thrifting, crafting, dogs, etc.) draws a pretty wide spectrum audience, politically speaking, and although I am of course true to my ideals, I don't want to unnecessarily alienate anyone.

I'm telling you all of this, of course, so that I can go on and make a political post. I suspect you already knew that.

Clearly, I support (and have already cast my vote for) Barack Obama. While I don't have half the love for Obama I did originally, I still think he's a pretty good candidate--the best one I've seen from the major parties in my lifetime, anyway. I didn't have to hold my nose or grit my teeth to vote for him. I am cautiously optimistic about what an Obama administration could look like.

But even if I didn't like Obama, I'd be going out of my way to vote for him. I'm that angry at the McCain/Palin ticket. The reasons I'm angry would take hours to list, much less explain, so I'm just going to focus on one:

I don't like being told I'm not a real American.

Verbatim (via CNN), this is what Palin said:

"We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard-working, very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation."

In and of itself, this would just be an ill-advised comment, and Palin's later "apology" for it would be enough to wipe it from my radar screen. But the comment doesn't exist in and of itself. It exists within the greater context of Palin, a woman who has spent the last several weeks going out of her way to say things that are alienating and insulting to anyone who isn't part of her mythical "real America." People of color. Really poor people (not just the noble poor working class to whom she's trying to pander). Anybody who exists outside prescribed lines of gender or sexuality. And, apparently, anybody urban.

I grew up in Palin's "real America." Spent 18 years there, and have since spent another 11 in the circles and places she seems to be deeming unpatriotic and somehow faux America. And I can tell her, from my experience, that the people on both sides of this line she has drawn are concerned about the same things. We're worried about money, about health care, about dying and killing in Iraq and anywhere else. We stay up at night figuring out mortgage interest and worrying about global warming. We're trying to reconcile the reality of our imperfect government with the ideal of democracy we've all been taught to worship. We're just trying to get by. Palin, and by association, McCain, are trying to divide along imaginary lines, for their own gain, people who need desperately to come together.

Hearing that quote from Palin, my mind immediately went back to two previous comments. The first, probably obviously, was Obama, as the DNC speaker in 2004, saying that there isn't a black America and a white America, there is a United States of America. The second, though, was GW Bush calling himself a "uniter, not a divider." How have things changed so that this focus on uniting isn't a priority for Bush's party? When did it become not only OK, but laudable for Palin to point at imaginary differences between the citizens of this country in order to draw even greater tensions between us, rather than focusing on the things we all need to pull together and do to come out of our current crises?

I've heard a lot of insulting things come out of the mouths of politicians, and Sarah Palin has said more than her share (the thing about community organizers boiled my blood for sure). This, however, makes me madder than just about anything I've heard. It is so fundamentally insulting, not just for those who don't fit into Palin's idea of the "real America," but for those who do, who apparently aren't able or willing to live and work and strive among anybody different than they are. The folks I grew up with, small town or not, were among the most accepting I've ever met. It is an insult to them for a woman like Palin to assume that pandering to their ignorance or suspicion of those who aren't like them will win the McCain/Palin ticket votes.

I'm not trying to change anybody's vote. I figure most people who are reading here have already decided anyway. And I know this is, as far as political blogging goes, "old news." But I've been stewing about it for awhile now, so I had to let it out. I'm pissed off that we're letting these people get away with this type of rhetoric. There is an us against them in this country, but it's not the one they're trying to paint. Rather, it's us, down here, all of us, against them, up there, trying to fit us to our roles in their dramas, trying to line their pockets off our work, trying to create a mirage before our eyes to lead us to the voting booths. They're trying to make us forget that we're in charge here, all of us, together. Not the real America and the faux America, not the coasts vs. the fly-over states, but all of us. This is our country, and it's up to us to fight them if we have to in order to get it back.

I don't quote from Ani much anymore, but I can't resist:
This may be God's country
but this is my country too
Move over Mr. Holiness
and let the little people through.

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Amen! Very well said. The divisive "Real America" stuff has bothered me more than anything else to come out of an already hateful campaign season.

Everything I've read (not much) claims that the current model of dividing political lines up was devised for Nixon and has been pushed very successfully by the big parties since then.

I will once again state how badass Nixon and Kissinger were. Badass! Badaaaaaasss!

It would be nice if we could get over the old arbitrary political tribal divide and come up with a new one. That one is at least 30 years old already.

Don't trust any political tribal alliance over 30!

Badasssss!

Can I get a woot woot!

Wow. Absolutely awesome post. You have summed up exactly what I've been watching unfold and worrying about. This mythical division of the vote and wholly unproductive partisanship that's been happening. It's saddening and unnerving. As a Canadian watching from up North, I worry about (okay, dread) what will come to pass on election day. Your votes affect more than yourselves. We're your biggest trading partner and we're tied closely to your economy. What you do - who you vote for - affects us too. How terrifying is that?!

That was a great post.

I'm European so it might not be my place to say this, but Palin probably made that remark because she knows that in general the more rural communities vote republican, so she's trying to appeal even more to possbile voters? Not sure if this is true, but that's what it looks like as an outsider.
I just think she's scary! I'm all for women in the highest places, but not one like her.
Christine

Very well said.

I'm glad I found your post.


I think there's snobbery on both ends, from people in small towns towards people in the big cities. And vice-versa.

A guy from France told me he had been to America--but only NYC. He wanted to one day come to the "Real America".

But then I sometimes get frustrated when it seems so many novels and TV shows take place in NYC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, or Chicago. It sometimes seems if you went by our fiction alone, the other cities and towns don't even exist.

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Sarah Palin

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I watched a bit of her speech, and had been thinking of posting about it. But Mocha Momma said everything I needed to say on the subject, so just go read her post instead.

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Thanks for introducing me to Mocha Mama - I agreed with everything but the hockey statement. Plenty of poor Canadians play hockey, just not with all that gear. A pair of hand-me-down skates, a hose, and a decent sized area is all you need to play hockey.

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If a Song Could be President

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Go here and listen.

Indeed.

If A Song Could Be President

If a song could be president
We'd hum on Election Day
The gospel choir would start to sway
And we'd all have a part to play

The first lady would free her hips
Pull a microphone to her lips
Break our hearts with Rhythm and Blues
Steve Earle would anchor the news

We'd vote for a melody
Pass it around on an MP3
All our best foreign policy
Would be built on harmony

If a song could be president
We'd fly a jukebox to the moon
All our founding fathers' 45's
Lightnin' Hopkins and Patsy Cline
If a song could be president

If a song could be president
We could all add another verse
Life would teach us to rehearse
Till we found a key change

Break out of this minor key
Half-truths and hypocrisy
We wouldn't need an underachiever-in-chief
If a song could be president

We'd make Neil Young a Senator
Even though he came from Canada
Emmylou would be Ambassador
World leaders would listen to her

They would show us where our country went wrong
Strum their guitars on the White House lawn
John Prine would run the FBI
All the criminals would laugh and cry
If a song could be president

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I have an OTR bumper sticker on my car that says "Detweiler/Berquist '08 If a Song Could Be President" on it that has everyone thinking i'm voting for a fringe indie candidate. ; ) I love it - and them...and if they were willing I'd totally vote for them or any of the people they mention in this fantastic song!

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Marriage

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I gotta get something off my chest.

Everyone I know is getting married. Again. This keeps happening--you'd think they'd all be hitched by now and we'd be done with it. I guess some folks are on their second round, though, so maybe it will just be a perpetual cycle. At any rate, I have at least three weddings of close friends and/or family on my agenda in the next year, and counting. So I am thinking, once again, about the "M" word.

Here is the part where I put in the disclaimer: If you are my friend or family member and you are married or planning to be, you may want to stop reading here. If you don't, you may end up feeling hurt or insulted. I am, completely and honestly, sorry about that. I will, as I've likely already told you, do all I can to support your decision to get/be married. If you want me to put on an ugly dress and be in your wedding, I'm there. I'll even throw you a shower. But none of that is going to change my essential feelings about the decision you're making, and those feelings are what I'm going writing about here, on my soapbox, so read at your own risk.

Now. About marriage.

Marriage in the U.S. is a fundamentally discriminatory institution. Clearly, it discriminates against anyone not in a male-female relationship, but that's just a part of it. It also discriminates against anyone who is unlucky enough not to have someone to marry, or anyone who chooses not to participate. It elevates one set of citizens over another by virtue of their personal relationships and how they choose to legally codify those relationships. This is never going to be OK with me. While it's not by any means my only problem with marriage, it's the top of the list, and it's the one that makes me feel fine about making the following analogy:

When you choose to participate in a legal heterosexual marriage, you are, in essence, choosing to drink from the "white only" fountain. You may not have put that fountain there, you may not agree with its existence, you may do whatever else you can personally and politically to open it to people of all colors but you are still partaking in it. You are buying into an inherently discriminatory system, and by participating in it you are helping, in the slightest way, to keep that discrimination alive and kicking. You may have any number of personal and financial reasons to have made that choice, and some of those reasons may be very sensible, but the bottom line does not change. That isn't OK with me. For me, watching my friends and family make that decision isn't something that feels celebratory. I can be and often am nothing but happy for friends and family members who have found wonderful partners and want to build a life with those partners--but that happiness does not extend to their choosing to participate in legal marriage.

I honestly don't believe that the small number of us who choose not to marry for this reason (or for this among other reasons) are doing anything particularly effective to protest in favor of same-sex marriage. That's really not the point. Even if my getting married doesn't make the slightest difference in eradicating this particular discrimination, I am still committed to not being married. I want no part of an institution built on treating women as chattel, an institution built on "legitimizing" children, or an institution wherein rights and privileges are based on personal or sexual partnerships. And it's not just a "this is my personal preference, you do what you like" type of thing. I think it's morally wrong.

This clearly isn't some sort of deal breaker between my friends and I--if I didn't have married friends, at this point, I'd have few friends at all. Just as I am sure there are decisions I make with which the people who are important in my life disagree, this is a decision that most of the people in my life are making/have made with which I disagree. The difference that I can see is that it's a decision for which most of society will laud you. When you get married, or announce you are going to, you expect congratulations, presents, parties, etc. That makes sense. And it might make it even more insulting when someone among your friends (like, say, me) isn't excited for you, and doesn't say congratulations. Like I said before, I am not going to try to convince anyone I know not to get married. My friends and family members are, by and large, grown ups with their own decision-making processes and I have to respect the decisions they come to. But I am also not going to pretend I'm OK with it, because I'm not, and the more time passes, the less OK with it I get. This is, increasingly, the hill I am willing to die on.

So. There it is. A few of my thoughts on marriage. There are more, but on the slight possibility I still have friends left, I'm going to stop here.

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I always figured you stayed unmarried so you'd be free to slut it up on the weekends.

Obviously, you being against marriage isn't going to hurt my feelings a bit. Your feelings on pornography, of course, enrage me. So, in the interest of having an argument, I will present the following topics that look fit for debate:

1. the utility of boycotting an organization based on wrong from History.There is little point in citing "thousands of years of history" as an argument against marriage. The rhetoric suggests that "thousands of years" make a tendency more significant, whereas I think all you're doing is saying that things have been different recently.


2. the comparison of how we treat our gays to how we treated our blacks under Jim Crow. Denying marriage rights to gays is part of a movement to create laws to deny gays civil rights, but that movement hasn't had the same kind of cultural/legal success as Jim Crow.

ok...go!

Thank you so much for posting this and reminding me I'm not alone. My first peer-type wedding is coming up next month and I'm starting to experience the ridiculousness on a more personal level.

You can't at all suggest that even for a moment that the marriage might not "work" because they'll, in all probability, get divorced in 5 years. And if that does happen, then it is a tragedy of such epic proporations as to rival 9/11 itself. If you're asked "when are you getting married?" you have to giggle and act shy and avert your eyes and say "soon, I hope". And you have to squeal over the matching pot holders and towels and not wonder why they needed a 20 dollar set when they could have picked them up for 50 cents at Salvation Army and for that matter they are grown adults, don't they have some fucking pot holders already?

I refuse to do this. I love them and all and I play this game to the best of my ability. But I can't trick myself into believing that this anything but a way for straight people to show off their mismatching genitals to ask god for permission to play around with them.

I know you know this, Grace, but since you've laid out some good arguments about the elitest nature of marriage, I'll add another: Many people who are disabled cannot get married and keep their benefits. An example: In order to keep their Medicare, which is the only health care they can afford, they must be single, and sometimes even lie about cohabitating.

I think you pissed all your married friends off, because nobody is coming to the Defense of Marriage.

I'd do it, but my tepid defense will be some kind of vaguely intellectual call for "tolerance" of values that are not our own.

So please, married people or people who value marriage: stand up for yourselves.

Ok ok, I err on the side of marriage.

My husband and I "cohabited" for 7 years before we got married. Why did we bother? Because to me, marriage is an outward show of the love I feel for my husband. I made a commitment in front of hundreds of people to say that I love him and will stand by him even when he makes me want to cut his head off!

Now, do I think that everyone looks at marriage this way? No. Not even gay people who fight so hard for the right to "marry" and then get divorced as well. Does it make them any better than a heterosexual?

There are LOTS of people who can't be in a commited relationship and should not make that promise to their SO. Gay or not.

I chose to make that decision, and so did my husband. 11 yrs together now and we are still as strong, if not stronger than before.

And yes, for some, there are benefits to being married. We get a much better tax rate, my children carry my husband's name(although I would be happy with a hyphenated name personally..lol) and we had a fun wedding(low cost, lots of family and friends and CAKE!)..so like I said, I err on the side of marriage-for SOME.

There are just going to be some people who are not suited for marriage. This does not make them worse or better than me, it just makes them different, which is what I love most about this world. Differences. :)

I am marrying simon btw. we will be registered at warhammer40k.com

while I mostly agree, I object for totally different reasons!


1. In no other instance would you be allowed to throw a party and force your grown friends to wear what you picked for them.

2. In no other instance would anyone's friends allow them to stage a bad, tired play directed and starring them, the ending of which we all know by heart.

3. You're in a relationship? Awesome. Why do you have to stage a production to show us all. If you do other awesome things and keep pointing out how awesome you are by having big public ceremonies about it, you'd be called an ass. Not in this case, for some reason.

4. Weddings, like many other holidays, have been coopted to be BUYBUYBUY CONSUMERIST NIGHTmares. YET in this case, people who would otherwise agree, think you are cheap if you dont get them this year's disposable blender. Because they are paying a lot for your dinner. Um, excuse me but who asked you to buy overpriced everything?

5. I fundamentally DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY you would ever involve the state in your religious ceremony. It's pretty much fundamentally the reason why the pilgrims moved here to STOP DOING THIS.

6. Relatedly, I love when people who you've never seen in a church suddenly find their religion for a wedding ceremony because it happens to be a pretty room.

7. Why do you have to announce your relationship in public for it to be real?

8. I AM fundamentally opposed to people having their bad play and saying "till death do us part" when it doesn't mean that at all. You want a lifetime binding contract? You should get one. I mean if anyone is making a mockery of marriage it's the people getting married--they hardly ever stick to it.

9. So wait, now you have double the income and more tax breaks and I, single income no tax breaks have to give you presents and shoulder your portion of taxes? How the fuck is that reasonable?

10. Controversial, but true. Almost 95% of the time people who get married become less fun. I wish this wasn't true, but basically after people get married you don't see them ever again. Why? I have no idea.

11. Also controversial, most married people make some excuse about how they got married because of the kids. This is a total sideswipe at single parents and "bastards." Judgmental much? How is a kid raised by two parents with no piece of paper better than the same two parents without one?

While I agree that marriage comes from a sexist place, I Don't think that means people shouldn't do it--I mean only white, male landowners could vote, that doesn't mean I shouldn't do it now. Also, I am all for taking advantage of stupid laws.

OK, firstly, I'm still your friend. I still love you. But I call BS on your analogy.

I should say that I have been directly and indirectly a part of gay circles since I was a little kid. Through my family I have been raised by, with, and among camp to closeted, butch to queen, bi to curious. I have marched. I have raised money. I have corresponded with my legislators on preserving the right for LGBT couples to adopt. I have probably been to more gay weddings than you've been to weddings total. My own little family is mixed race.

So I'll take some umbrage at being called complicit with systemic injustice paralleling jim crow because I'm married (for the second time, so am I twice as bad?).

I'm also not sure what you mean by marriage: would you consider civil partnership that grants all the same rights and priviledges but not the name? would you consider marriage if you lived in Norway, where gay marriage is legal? what about California?

If all those new couples in California waited for every state to recognize their marriages before commiting, America wouldn't be seeing the images of thousands of couples eager, not so much for the tax break and right to see their partner in hospital (although those things are important), but also because, for many many people, this public, cornball, cliche event is an important acknowledgement of where their relationship is and where they want it to go. Which is why Jay and George, Nike and Renee, and so many others over the past century have had weddings that no state or government or institution recognized. But they registered for pop-corn makers and ladles, hired a musician and a cake maker, and put on a party to say "this thing seems serious".

And maybe that's an option for you as well, when the time comes: get the dress and the bridesmaids and the flowers and the honeymoon trip but skip city hall ... use the venue to say, "we'll only go as far as our friends can go until we can all cross the line together."

Given that you know some of the most progressive, consciously pro-feminist, anti-racist, and generally nice folks, they (we) deserve more credit than to be collectively called passive collaborators in repression. This is not the same, and the country seems to be on the verge of a tipping point in favor of allowing marriage for all.

But progress is coming one state at a time, one country at a time, and marriage means many different things. Do you think we should have waited for Texas or the whole country or the whole industrialized world or the whole world? Would it have been more OK if we'd gotten a civil partnership instead? Would it have been better if we'd had the ceremony/party but kept our legal status "single"?

Sorry for rambling on a bit. Clearly I should be doing this in my own blog. :)

Am married. Feel no need to stand up for myself as I basically agree with Grace, but console myself by reminding myself I had to get married for immigration reasons. I didn't feel it was useful to give up the relationship (which still shows every sign of 'working' [hee] after 6 years.) We thought of divorcing, in solidarity with gays (and the disabled, now that I know about that - I didn't at the time - I come from a country with socialised medicine) but cannot afford the tax. Seriously. Or the fees, or to live separately while doing so. (We couldn't afford and didn't want any kind of wedding either, and I basically agree with your and Rachel's ideas about weddings too.) This doesn't let me off the hook, obviously. If I really wanted to, I could no doubt swing it somehow. I just worry about money too much.

By the way, to the person who likes cake up above.... you can name your child whatever you want, married or not, you know. Whether the name should be that of the parent with the penis is a whole other conversation.

I have no particular use for marriage and do not 'value' it at all. I think we should remove all of the rights attached to it and let religious types do it if they want. If we were in my country, or both from the same country, we'd have no need to, and have never really had any wish to. (As an aside, it was really good fun explaining that once to a 'marriage counselor' - the only type available on the insurance. Oh, that's another thing I like about it. Medical insurance. Don't get me started...)

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A day late and a dryer short

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So Earth Day was yesterday. I had a post composed in my mind to write about that, but my posting ability was curtailed by my attempt on Monday night to cut my thumb off and my subsequent need to spend yesterday afternoon in the urgent care, where they glued it back on. Still, as I drove home from the urgent care, the only passenger in my SUV on a backed up freeway full of other one-passenger SUVs, I was thinking about Earth Day, and about how much we've changed our lives to be more environmentally conscious, and about how much more is needed.

We have definitely made some changes. We still commute by not-all-that-efficient car, which is bad, but we commute together, which is good. We recycle everything our curbside recycling will take, which is good, but we don't save the other stuff and take it to a recycling center, which is bad. We have mostly phased out paper towels in favor of cloth napkins, which is good. I still take a shower nearly every morning and a bath several nights a week, in very hot water, which is bad. We compost, which is good, but my dear partner and in-laws spread chemical fertilizer on our roses this weekend, which is bad. So while we're improving, it is definitely safe to say we're not there yet.

What else, I wondered as I sat in traffic, should we do? What one change should we implement on this Earth Day? But by the time I got home, I'd forgotten all about it. Why? Because I was greeted by a sweaty, ranting Mark and a disassembled clothes dryer. It stopped working. He took it apart and discovered that due to an ill-fitting pipe, hot air and lint have not been going outside, as they should, but back into the dryer's cavity. This, he suspects, has either led a thermostat to trip (good) or the motor to burn out (bad). It also very easily could have caused a fire, but luckily didn't. However, we're not sure at this point if it's something Mark can fix, or if it will have to be repaired by someone from GE. Neither of those things was really going to happen last night. And in the meantime, there was a load of wet laundry in the washing machine.

Mark said he was going to ask our neighbor if we could use her dryer. But it seemed to me there was a far better plan.

A clothesline.

We live in Texas. It's hot here, already. We've got solar energy to burn. We have a decently sized yard with lots of trees to string lines between. Why on Earth have we not been using a clothesline? Why has it never occurred to me? My mom almost never uses her dryer--in the summer, she hangs clothes outside, in the winter, she hangs them inside. Rural frugality works like that. It's ridiculous that I hadn't thought of it before.

So we strung up a rope, hung the bedding that was in the washer to dry, and put dealing with the dryer off. Mark seems skeptical about the whole idea, but he'll come around. He hated the idea of compost to begin with, too. I'm going to suggest we use the dryer on an emergency basis only all summer. And I'm going to go out today at buy some clothespins.

Happy Earth Day, y'all.

5 Comments

Don't you love when the universe answers questions for you!

I actually only hang dry my clothes in the winter....its too humid here during the summer and they tend to get moldy. Even in the winter, I can't seem to solve the problems of stiff clothes (although I've been told a dose of fabric softener should do the trick...I just hate adding another product to my routine) or linty clothes. For some reason, when we hang dry we get all kinds of weird, hard to remove lint.

So if anyone has any tips on resolving that one, I'd love to hear them. :)

Happy earth day!

I haven't had a dryer in over five years and while it would be nice to quickly dry clothes sometimes, I got used to doing my laundry on a schedule so that things I need a couple days from now are washed and then hung out to dry in time. In the summer it only takes an hour or two anyway. And there's nothing like the smell of laundry that's been line-dried!

I strongly recommend a drying rack placed next to the washer, esp. for smaller items like socks. Saves a bunch of time.

Be careful putting things like pillowcases and sheets out on heavy pollen days. That can be a problem.

I used to hang my clothes on a line when I lived in Texas, and in fact still do in CO when it's not snowing or something. It's just how I was raised, in a country where electricity is very, very expensive. Things dry quickly enough, even in the humidity. Also, your clothes stay nice for longer -- so it's all good!

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Hillary's fourth wave

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Jenny asked for my thoughts on this article. I am only too happy to comply.

My first reaction is to ask, as I always ask, who are these crazy people who thought we were in post-feminist space? Who really thought that we'd done all we needed to do and we now live in an equitable world? I'm always puzzled by that. The article implies that you have to be out of your 20s to really "get" how sexist the world is, that nothing other than a decade in the workplace will teach you. I think that's bullshit. Sure, we face sexism in the workplace, but we were already facing it in the media, in our schools, in our families. I'm hard pressed to think of the moment when I first knew sexism existed--not because I never noticed it, but because it has always been there. I absolutely believe progress has been made by each "wave" of feminism, but to pretend it's over is just ridiculous, and it's hard for me to have much respect for someone who needed what has happened to Clinton to prove we still live in a sexist society.

That being said, I do think HRC's run for president and some of the reactions to it have made the depth of the sexism and the misogyny in which we are still steeped a little bit easier to grasp. Some of the bullshit leveled at her has been so outlandishly obvious in its sexism, it's hard to miss, even, I would expect, for those who had previously chosen to believe feminism was no longer needed. Things like why we find her voice "grating" or are more concerned about her "aging" than a male counterpart are subtle, but the Hilary nutcracker sure isn't.

What I am not willing to say, though, is that sexism is "worse" than racism in the U.S., or that the sexism towards Clinton has been worse than the racism towards Obama. It's a bit of a hard thought to put into words, but I have trouble separating sexism and racism from each other. They come from the same place, I think. The land-owning white men who devised this country thought of both Black human beings and female human beings as property, and to my mind, we're still living with the effects of that in both cases, probably more or less equally. I see the slights against Clinton more clearly, I think, because I am used to being a woman in this society, but that doesn't mean the slights against Obama, often brought to my attention by people of color, aren't there.

If people who were previously asleep to sexism are now coming awake, then Clinton's candidacy is worth even more to me than I thought it was. I can only hope that they'll remain alert and not stick their heads back in the sand once the election is over.

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Other than you, I know almost no one who thinks there is much sexism anymore. Honestly and truly. I don't say this to say you have the wrong point of view, just that you have a very odd one compared to most people in America. You (like most people) purposefully surround yourself with people who believe that sexism is omnipresent. But realize that is not true of most people.

The part of the article I think was interesting was not that the Clinton run awakened people's idea that there's sexism, but that it made people aware that discussion of sexism is basically off limits, and mainly pointed to as "hysterical."


The article also interested me in that women I know who are not generally self-hating, said really sexist things about her. With no self-awareness about this. In my discussion of the Steinem article about how people call "Hillary," I was TWICE angrily shot down before I could even complete the idea (which I think is interesting, but haven't decided if I agree with it). I guess my experience is not that I haven't seen sexism, just that in discussing anything related to Hillary Clinton it happens universally and quickly with people who in other arenas would not be "sexist." In a sense it "outs" people. It's a litmus test.


Again, in my experience, most people I deal with think of calling sexism as trite, cliched, and ridiculous. Like saying the word "hegemony" or having a beer bong--something we all did in college but is SO 10 years ago. In fact, when I mentioned *I* felt a popular movie was sexist recently (and, knowing me you know what that would have to entail), a very respected friend of mine said, "Oh I didn't think you were one of THOSE oversensitive people! It's just a movie!" Because he sees gender discrimination in his female dominate career field as completely antiquated and foreign to his experience.


While I agree, re: Obama's racism is worse than Clinton's sexism, I think the point of the article that resonated is that it's more "PC" and accepted to talk about racism over sexism. To me this article was less about the bigotry, and more the ability to confront the bigotry. That's the part that rang true for me, based on personal experience.


I do really wish she would do the equivalent of the Obama race speech.


Honestly I PERSONALLY like Hillary, though I don't agree with her politically, and I think she's somewhat shady. It's interesting though in my friend group, as in this article, it is assumed everyone is pro-Obama.

They think it exists, but not in cities. Like in rural places. :) You know, like Texas?

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Some thoughts on Obama's preacher

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I've been attempting to just skip any political posts the burble up in my tiny brain, mostly because there is plenty of that on the blogosphere already and partially because I bore myself when writing about those things. But I can't not get into this, it's just bothering me too much.

This hubbub about Barack Obama's friend/pastor Jeremiah Wright. It's ridiculous.

First, from what I have heard, the comments Wright made were right on.

Secondly, allegiances between hate-monger preachers and politicians are hardly new. Nearly every Republican since Reagan has been chummy with Faldwell and his ilk. And even Al Gore (back before he became a Nobel-winning saint) had political ties to fag-hater Fred Phelps. Why haven't we been up in arms about politicians having "spiritual leaders" who advocate for the murder of gays and lesbians? Or even the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians?

Because they were white and didn't sound big and scary on a pulpit, for one thing. All over the U.S., white people who have never been to a church that wasn't polite and austere are seeing clips of Rev. Wright and peeing themselves. Power! Authoritative speaking!? From a Black man?! Why, that could get downright dangerous!

And another thing. I just listened to an episode of On Point during which a guest likened Louis Farrakhan to David Duke. Uh, no. See, racism doesn't work the same way in reverse, much as you'd like to think it does. The blood is still on your hands, no matter where you try to smear it.

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Hey! Several years ago I read a couple of Wright's books. Before Obama even ran for Senate. They are mostly his sermons in book form and none of them were about 9/11. But my feelings about them were that they were fairly racist and sexist in a PromiseKeeper sort of way.

Moreover, I found some of it interesting and, living in IL, would have liked to visit the church. But looking at their website, and reading the sermons made it apparent I wouldn't really be welcome. That's pretty sad.

I feel like judging people and making generalizations based on race is racism, whether you say "all black people are lazy" or you say "all white politicians are just slaveowners!"

It is bogus that all Republicans basically have ties to preachers who have said the same thing about 9/11 but I think the difference is a lot of their constituencies (as opposed to Obama's) believe that. And Falwell was forced to apologize as well.

But while I agree with his 9/11 points (or the few I have read) the man thinks some crazy shit. Like HIV is a virus invented by the US government to kill black people? That's just crazy.

Who advocates ethnic cleansing of Palestinians? They're the only people in the world who's population increases during "ethnic cleansing".

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I voted

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i-votedI spent about an hour this morning waiting in line with other people starting their work day a bit late, at a junior high only a few minutes from my house. We were all participating in the democratic process.

The school, and my neighborhood, is mixed race. Across from where we were lined up to vote was a classroom of what I'd bet were fifth or sixth graders, about 3/4 of whom were African American. As they filed in and saw what we were lined up to do, many of them let loose with shouts of things like "Obama '08!" "Vote for the brother!" and "First Black president!" Technically, of course, this was illegal--electioneering too close to the polling place--and it was stopped by their teacher pretty quickly, but they got their point across. These kids were excited. And why I'd have loved to see similar excitement about the a possible first female president, I couldn't help but find their excitement a little bit contagious. Marking that ballot today felt like being a tiny part of history, and I'm glad I was there.

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Smartass

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My friend Jenny sent me this e-Valentine today.

obama valentine

Isn't he dreamy?

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his ears make me swoon.

Hee. Glad you enjoyed it. I have to say the Hillary ones were weak, and only based on taxes. I did enjoy the Obama one that said "Three terms in office qualifies me to say 'Happy Valentine's Day.'"

I used to swoon for GW's ears, but then it turned out I hated him and now his ears remind me that he never listens no more.

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Obigatory Super Tuesday post

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I've not said much here yet about the presidential race, not because I am not decided, but because I'm already sick of reading other people's views, so I figured you'd probably not be all that interested in mine. However, as today is Super Tuesday, I thought maybe I'd come out with.

I'm supporting Obama for the Democratic nomination. I am a feminist woman who is not supporting our first serious female presidential contender. It pains me to say that, but that's how it is.

When it comes down to it, I'm less against Hillary Clinton than I am for Barak Obama, but if I am totally honest I will tell you that Clinton doesn't thrill me as a candidate. Mostly, the problem I have with her is that she's part of a Democratic party machine that has been disappointing me for more than a decade. More than any other single thing in this election, I want someone new.

It's better, though, to focus on what I like about Obama than what I don't like about Clinton. I'll admit I'm swayed by rhetorical style here--I like Obama because listening to him speak inspires me, and that has never been the case of a presidential contender in my life. Listening to him I believe things can change. At this point in my own apathy and in the country's, that is worth a lot.

And I like him because he's new. He isn't an old-school embedded party politician. Some people call this a lack of experience,and that may be right, but to me, right now, it's worth the risk.

None of this, though, says anything about Obama's actual positions. Well...those tend to be on the conservative side for me, but the truth is that nobody who doesn't strike me as too conservative is going to get elected, so I'm not too worried about that right now. I'd prefer he take a harder liberal line on things like universal health care and getting the hell out of Iraq, but I understand why he doesn't, politically, and I'm willing to give him a four-year chance and see how he does.

So that's my Super Tuesday spiel. We'll see how it goes.

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I just have a problem with the same two families running our country for decades.

I like the idea of Hillary as vice president to Obama. It'd be kind of a democratic version of the GW Bush/Dick Cheney ticket.

I can understand how you feel about not supporting Clinton; it's really unfortunate that people who might agree with politics aren't supporting her because she's a woman, but it's just as unfortunate that someone who doesn't like her politics are supporting her just because she's a woman. Kudos to you for supporting a politician for their politics :)

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Armistice

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Armistice: a temporary cessation of fighting by mutual consent; a truce. (From the American Heritage Dictionary, via dictionary.com)

In Europe, it's called Armistice Day. A celebration, from what I can tell, not of war, but of war ending. To me, this makes sense. To celebrate the end of war, the end of dying and killing and brutality, makes sense.

Here, though, we call it Veteran's Day, and the end of war is not something I ever hear mentioned. Rather, we celebrate those who have fought. And it's not that I don't have respect, or at least sympathy, for veterans--I do. But I don't want to celebrate fighting and dying. I want to celebrate the end of it. I want to celebrate armistice.

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

-"Taps"

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HRC and tipping

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I was going to just let this go, but honestly, I couldn't resist.

So I worked as a waitress for several years while I was in high school. Not for a long time, but for long enough to develop the second sense that waitstaff get on who will tip well and who will tip shabbily or not at all.

And I gotta tell you, if I saw Hillary Rodham Clinton walk in (if I didn't know who she was, just someone who looked/talked/acted like her), I'd not be expecting a tip. Her entire countenance screams "I'm too self-absorbed to tip!"

This never would have occurred to me, of course, had it not been for the NPR story about HRC stiffing the waistaff at a restaurant in Iowa. Though the story was later corrected, just the fact that it was brought up, and that it recalled the time during her 2000 senatorial campaign that HRC was accused of and admitted to stiffing a New York waitress, is enough. Because whether she actually did it this time or not, these stories sound very likely to me. Because I already had HRC pegged in my mind as a non-tipper.

This is probably not a fair means to decide who I'd like to vote for. If I was in any way considering voting for her anyway, this story probably wouldn't change my mind about HRC. But I didn't like her anyway, and this is precisely the type of thing that led me to that conclusion.

Obama? I bet he tips well.

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seriously? i mean, i'm sure she *is* self-absorbed but since she's probably the most important woman in the country i think i can forgive that. but she's not alone in politics as a non-tipper. no one in politics pays their own tab, that's why they hire underpaid glorified secretaries. if a server doesn't get tipped, it's *not* the politician's fault. chances are they left 20 minutes before the bill even came. if it's anyone's responsibility, it's the person who paid the bill, not the person they worked for.

yeah i am guessing at campaign stops Hillary isn't the person going up to the counter to pay the check.

On the other hand, living in NYC has made me a bad tipper. Because service here is SO BAD. I have stiffed people about once every couple of months here. Otherwise I am pretty much 20% if someone is normal or good.

I don't much care if she's personally paying the bill or not, if she doesn't make it a priority to make sure that her staff tips on her behalf, that's just as bad. And if she's going to use the story her waitress told her about her life to stump with, she damn well better make sure she tipped!

George W Bush, on the other hand, looks like a very generous tipper.

No...but he does strike me as someone you could likely con a big tip out of...

There is a stereotype that women, especially professional women, don't tip well, which I did not find to be true.

I think if there's a difference in tipping between Obama and HRC, I would say it's more because she doesn't really give a shit what anybody thinks about her (although she has to pretend to to get elected), whereas he strikes me as someone who is almost paralyzed by the need to be liked. A lot of people tip, not because they care about the income of the waitstaff, but because they don't want to look like assholes.

I waited on Ralph Nader when he was running for president in 2000. He paid in cash (!), and tipped me 30%.

As a waitress, I would have to agree with your assessment of HRC. However, when you wrote HRC I was thinking Human Rights Commission and I kept thinking, "but the HRC would totally tip."

GW would tip well, but only because he can't add so he would miscalculate the total.

Well, the thing I like most about GW's "countenance" is that he strikes me as honest.

Good Lord Simon. I do hope you're kidding.

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In which I hate on Michael Vick and the SCLC

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So I have been refraining from posting anything about Michael Vick, mostly because I didn't think my blog readers needed to have their eyes assaulted by the inevitable onslaught of profanity that would ensue. I also didn't think my repeated wishes of great pain and suffering to Vick would put me in the best light. However, today it was brought to my attention that the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is planning to honor Vick at their 50th anniversary celebration this weekend.

Honestly, there are no words for the pure rage that fills me with.

The SCLC has done fantastic work, from the Montgomery Bus Boycott through the March on Washington, voter registration drives, etc. I am fully in support of their history, even if my loyalties tend to lie with more radical organizations. Choosing to honor a man who is currently facing charges of horrendous, sadistic animal abuse, however, is beyond the pale (hit Google if you want info on Vick's case, I really don't have it in me to go through those stories again). How can the SCLC choose to honor Vick for his outstanding humanity? The message they send by doing so it terrible in two ways. First, it implies that Vick's alleged crimes against animals make no difference is his great humanity; and secondly, it implies that they couldn't find any other great black people to honor who actually are outstanding humans. This choice is offends me not only as a dog advocate, but as a human being. It's not just completely without regards to the animals abused and destroyed by Vick and others like him, it's also really racist.

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Kucinich taking a shot at Cheney

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As you probably already know, Representative Dennis Kucinich entered articles of impeachment against VP Dick Cheney yesterday. A lot of people have unkind things to say about this. A lot of liberal people. What I've heard so far has centered on any one of the following three things, or any combo thereof:
1. This is a waste of the Congress' time; they should be doing something more worthwhile.
2. Kucinich is a kook who should work with his party, and Speaker Pelosi already said impeachment was off the table.
3. He's just doing this for attention because he's running for president.

I reject all three of these premises, and I'll tell you why:

First, I have a big issue with the idea that working to impeach Cheney isn't worth Congress' time. Dick Cheney has committed multiple impeachable offenses, not the least of which are the pre-war actions for which Kucinich is taking him to task. It is way past time for someone representing the American people to stand up in the most public possible forum and make it clear that we do not accept these actions from our government. It's not OK to lie in order to get your war on. If you do it, there should be consequences.

Which isn't to say that I think Cheney will actually be impeached--obviously there isn't political will among the Democrats for that (which I think is too bad, frankly). But whether or not he's actually impeachable isn't, to my mind, the point. The point is that I support someone standing up and voicing their dissent, both on behalf of themselves and behalf of the people they represent. Kucinich is hardly the first person who had said that someone in the current administration should be impeached. Resolutions supporting impeachment have been put forth by city councils nationwide, as well as by members of state legislatures in Vermont, Illinois, California, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Washington. There are also grassroots impeachment organizations such as Impeach For Peace and Impeach Bush. A March 2006 poll by the American Research Group showed 42% in favor of a Bush impeachment. Just because Nancy Pelosi doesn't want to do it doesn't make impeachment a radical or ridiculous idea.

The notion that this is some sort of kooky power play by presidential candidate Kucinich, however, is ridiculous. As a candidate for the 2008 Democratic nomination, Kucinich polls at somewhere around 2%. He's not doing this because he thinks it is going to pull him in front of Clinton, Obama, and Edwards. He has no history of that type of behavior, and no realistic reason for it. Kucinich has been pissed off about Cheney's lies and war on false premises for years. He didn't just hit upon the idea. Besides, with so-called liberals taking him to task for wasting everybody's time with this silly impeachment thing, he's probably not making any friends anyway.

So, basically, I completely support and applaud this effort by Kucinich, and I'll be writing a nice letter to my Representative, Michael McCaul, telling him I'd like him to support Kucinich. He won't, of course, but as he's the one who is supposed to be speaking for me in Washington, I'm going to ask him to anyway. Because folks, that's how our government is supposed to work. We are not powerless to sit back and watch these shits we elected commit atrocities in our names. We have not only a right, but also a responsibility to speak up against them, loudly and clearly. To my mind, that's exactly what Kucinich is doing.

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McCaul? Our con.....man?

*Snort*

He's a waste of office space.

Say, do you think his district office in Austin is anything more than a PO Box?

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Not in my name

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Not in my name, not on my ground
I want nothing but the ending of the war
No more killing, or it's over
And the mystery won't matter anymore

-K. Kristofferson, "In The News"

I had a lot of trouble sleeping last night. I just lay there and stared at the clock, watching it count down to a new day, the first day of spring. And watching it count down to the appointed hour at which the government of my adopted state, presuming to speak for me, would, with legal and social sanction, murder one of its citizens.

I thought about turning on the radio to listen for news of a last-minute stay of execution, but I didn't, because I knew there wouldn't be one. And there wasn't. Texas killed a man last night, Charles Anthony Nealy. He was the 9th person executed by the state this year.

If you want to read the particulars of the case, they are all over the web. Dallas and Houston's morning papers both ran the AP story this morning. In bare bones terms, Nealy was convicted of shooting a storeowner during a robbery in 1997 and sentenced to death. Nealy has never admitted taking part in the robbery or killing the victim. He was supposed to be executed last November, but got a stay due to a witness in his trial contending that his testimony had been wrong. The Texas Court of Appeals upheld the conviction and the murder was rescheduled for last night.

As a Texan, or really as an American of any variety, one gets a bit used to one's government carrying out atrocities in the name of the citizenry. No matter how many times it happens, though, I just can't get used to this. It is surreal to the point of seeming impossible that I really live in a place where the government regularly and publicly murders my fellow citizens and nobody cares. I can think of all manner of different arguments against it when I am thinking logically, trying to argue with someone about why the death penalty is such a very bad idea. I can cite the racism, the classism, the possibility of a mistake leading to the execution of an innocent person, the expense of the system. When I'm lying in bed at night, though, it all comes down to being completely floored that anyone can think that the intentional taking of a human life by the state is acceptable. Killing is wrong, and it is even more wrong for a government than for a person. It is a subversion of everything governments are supposed to do for their citizens. It does not keep us safe, it provides us with no collective service and contributes nothing to the collective good. It gives no hand up to the less fortunate among us. It does nothing but exact vengeance upon the weak (a single individual, in this case) by the strong (the state apparatus). And every time it happens, we are all the worse for it.

I'd like to find some silver lining to this dark cloud, but there really isn't one. A few weeks ago, I heard Sister Helen Prejean on the radio, and she seemed so positive, citing statistics that showed the number of executions, even in the South, was going down, and that people's tolerance for government sanctioned murder was waning. I can't find her optimism today, though. In less than three months, my state has executed nine people. Last night, in the first hours of spring, they--no, we--executed a black man who may or may not have met the legal definition of mental retardation days before his 43rd birthday. The dark, bleak winter stretches out before us, and there is no spring in sight.

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honestly, you've totally switched me to the dark side of this issue. i can't believe i used to be okay with the death penalty.

Wow, that's awesome. If my ranting has changed even one person's mind, than I feel a lot better about the amount of time I spend ranting about this.

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