Thursday, July 31, 2008

So many rants, so little time

So I've been conjuring a purposefully over the top treatise on why women should be paid twice as much as men for everything we do--duh, because we have the babies and have to manage all that complicated baby-having-feeding equipment for most of our lives, praying it doesn't grow tumors, bleed us to death or, God forbid, not work; and why women should pay a tiny fraction of what men pay in taxes--because we generally are more interested in, say, oh, anything on the planet other than bombs and tanks, plus we tend not to fill up the frikkin' penitentiaries to beyond capacity with all that testosterone-driven criminal behavior. Has anyone ever added up what women spend on 40 plus years of "feminine hygiene?"

Sadly, it got too complicated to stay in actual hyperbole for the whole essay, since my peri-menopausish enlarged uterus is pushing the laptop out of arms' reach and I've been filing extensions on my own taxes since 2006.

Instead, I'm going to talk about a particular subspecies I had the pleasure of contacting last night, Republican women. Of 15 or so, only two hung up on me, and the rest were polite and cultured. A few sounded grateful for the conversation, even if we didn't agree on every point.

For the last several weeks I've been surveying all manner of Democrats and the Unenrolled (is that a band name or some type of science-fiction typology) for the Maine Dems to see how people think they'll vote in the Fall. Mostly, it's been dull.

The Democrats are down the line Dems except for Susan Collins. Anyone know what spell has she cast on us to make us think she is the least bit reasonable? I'll leave it to others to answer this question. (Calling Alna Dem, calling Alna Dem.) The Us seem simply confused. Guess that's why they're unenrolled. Suffice to say we Ds and Us are a mostly uninspiring group.

For real fireworks get thee to the nearest Republican woman haunt. Anyone have any ideas where that might be? I was calling them at their homes, so I don't know where they congregate around here. Maybe the Christmas Cove club whose acronym I can never remember, or the Wawenock Golf Club.

I'm telling you, the answers I got from these women, many of them in their 70s and a few in their 80s were a total hoot. One well-spoken, slightly hard of hearing woman said she had "no earthly idea" whom she would vote for, Obama or McCain. She said she hated to vote for McCain for fear of getting four more Bush years and that she was "worried about his age." I had to stifle a giggle since the sheet in front of me said this voter was 78.

When she volunteered that Bush had been an unmitigated disaster, I asked about the Constitution and she expressed sincere dismay. When I asked her if she knew that Obama was a Constitutional scholar she practically giggled. "Oh my, no, I didn't know that," she said, "Well, that's really something. That would make for quite a change," she added.

One R-gal I called turned out to be a woman I've known for more than 30 years. The former Audrey Leeds, brother to the fabulous Loring. He and I were graduated from Gould Academy together lo' these many years ago. She and her husband are in the cottage rental and retail business in the Boothbay region and she's in a snit about state taxes, and I mean snit. I could barely get a word in edgewise.

Audrey is a smart, even canny woman. After she vented, I managed to say that Maine is never going to support itself. "We are a debtor state," I said. As long as the national picture is bleak, we're in the soup. She more than agreed that the national picture is bleak and that state taxes and federal taxes might actually be separate subjects. By the time I reminded her that Warren Buffet--whom many Democratic women have never heard of--famously says it's a "crime" that his secretary pays more federal tax than he does--and that our tax rate for gazillionaires has never been lower--oh, except when we had no income tax, she had calmed down significantly.

Then I mentioned the Supreme Court. I said, "You have a daughter, right?" She said yes, an almost nine year-old. I asked her if she wanted her daughter growing up with this Supreme Court and Audrey practically shuddered.

At the end of the conversation, she said her dear brother Loring had told her that "Barack Obama is a gift" and that we have to be ready to receive it.

My favorite Republican woman conversation was with an 88 year-old. She first said she didn't know who she would mark for president. After we talked for a while she said I had given her food for thought and waxed nostalgic for the days of the WPA, when "we did something good for the community AND the people who needed work."

My least favorite were the two who as soon as I said I was calling for the Maine Democrats, said something to the effect of, "Oh no, not your kind on my telephone," and summarily hung up.

Or there was the one woman who repeated my questions for her husband, who fed her the Republican party line answers. Really, she sounded like she'd never given electoral politics a single thought in her life. The piece d' resistance was when I asked her what her most important value was in this election cycle, she repeated the question to her husband and he shouted, nay bellowed, "Christian values." Nuff sed.

What century are we in again? I wonder who would have been in charge of that conversation if women had the the tiniest chance to earn equal pay for equal work. What mad revolutionary talk she might have spouted had she earned a paycheck for caring for her children rather than being dependent on her husband's largess.

Honestly, I don't know whether to laugh or scream and claw my face.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ask the Speaker; Al Gore's in the House NN08

Gina, the famous Gina who has essentially herded us progressive cats to three major conventions in the last three years, has just announced that disruptions at this even will not be tolerated. "Badges will be taken and you will be escorted out." She's moderating the questions from
Lloyd Doggett, local progressive Texas congressman is introducing Pelosi. He's talking about his entrance into Congress in 1994 and the nightmares that were Gingrich and DeLay and lauding Pelosi. I'm trying not to throw up a little in my mouth. Many others are having the same response although they are being polite.
0919--I wish he weren't singing her praises so. It's just pissing people off.
0922--She's massaging us, "You made [my speakership] possible," and Doggett in return. Yes, this is protocol and polite. The natives are a bit restless however.
0925--Young people everywhere have the same message: "They're tired of war." "Words not weaponry" will change things and "you are part of that." "God bless the impatience of youth."
0927--This war is the "biggest national security blunder in the history of our country." Heckler in the back; a bit of shooshing.
0929--:"You make America more American." You should be "persistent, relentless."
0930--First question: Impeachment. She says she supports Conyers and Sanchez's motion for contempt. "What the Administration is doing is saying 'We rule.'" Next is a motion for contempt against Karl Rove. Mucho applauso.
0933--Q. Can we expect 'y'all to arrest Karl Rove and "put him in that little jail cell." Standing ovation.
0935--FISA: Pelosa says 17 Democrats in the Senate made the FISA bill as it stands possible. Five criteria, Exclusivity; protection for those overseas; all electronic communication falls under FISA; she's on a tangent and/or I lost the thread for the other two.
0940--Q. Who are the obstructors to the improvement of this bill? Pelosi's not exactly answering, she's certainly not naming names.
0941--My House democrats voted in unison.
Jeffrey Feldman moderates from the floor. What is the Democratic vision of what government should be?
Four domestic issues: health care; innovation and education (shorthand--science, science, science and science); infrastructure of America, in particular the green infrastructure--spend as much here as we have spent in Iraq; energy security--especially green energy.
0949--Right now in Washington it's faith or science. We're saying it's faith and science--she may even have said faith in science.
0953--"We have to have universal access to quality, care." "It's a competitive issue, not to mention a moral issue."
0955--"Abstinence only is dangerous to women's health." "If you're against abortion, you should love contraception."
0957--Local broadband for our communities? What can Congress do to address the blackout zones? In beginning of our country, communication and transportation were the same thing...with the genius of technology...universal broadband is part of our innovation agenda. In order for us to be fair, it must be universal. There should be no difference. Everybody has to be in on this.
1000--The whole country has to be wired. Net neutrality--I am a strong supporter. People (telecoms) standing in the way are the same people who didn't innovate in the first place.
1002--Q. from Timroff: Why are our soldiers being forced to beg for care packages for sundries like toothpaste and tampons. That is emblematic of bigger needs that aren't being met.

It just dawned on me: I am less than twenty feet from the third most powerful person in the country. She's flawed and human. If we can believer her, though, she wants what we want to a much greater degree than anyone on the other side. Jeffrey Feldman is such a great guy. His follow-up question has to do proposing bills that will symbolically address this and bring it to the front of the conversation.
1007--What more do we have to ask that the Administration ....

1010--Al Freaking Gore just arrived. I may have a heart attack. Standing ovation. He looks mahhvelous. I can hardly listen to what he's saying, though I think it's something about accountability. "The founding bedrock of our nation...we will have a well informed citizenry." The internet is a great new hope that we can reclaim a great new hope to regain the integrity of American Democracy.
1016--We have a great challenge with climate change...North Polar ice pack is normally the size of the lower 48 give or take a medium-sized state. Scientists now say that it could be completely gone in the summer months in as little as five years. If it can come back, if we act very quickly. If we continue to procrastinate, if we fail that test, if we reject the test of being stewards, then it will never come back.
1018--Climate crisis connected to the economic crisis and to national security. The economy is being hurt by rising oil and electricity rates. New emerging economies have been based on imitating economies ...making ravenous demand on oil, price skyrocketing. "The idea that we can drill our way out of this is just so absurd."
1021--"When you're in a hole, stop digging."
1023--"The engines of distraction...[are] already hard at work." More realistic to just sleepwalk off the cliff. There is the possibility right here in this vast room to mobilize public opinion." The Alliance for Climate Change is a bipartisan group focussed on this single objective: We want an army of men and women and families to build a consensus across party lines. I need your help. You connect with so many millions of people I respectfully ask for your help. I promiste you will not see us ...I promise you we will not slow down we will not let up.
1027--Use currenttv to democratize the television. You will tell your grandchildren that this is the beginning of the reclamation of American Democracy and you were here.
I feel like a teenager at a Beatles concert in the 1960s.
1033--Q Will you accept a position in the Obama campaign. Gore doesn't exactly answer. Q. Is meat responsible for more carbon than cars? Takes responsibility for not addressing this issue more forthrightly. Q. Mountaintop mining? A. "Mountaintop mining is an atrocity." Refers to a documentary on the topic--gave an award to the filmmakers. Facilitated by the moral blindness as climate change facilitators. We should guarantee a job in fresh air and sunshine for each former coal miner. "The idea that we can get liquid fuel out of coal is just insane."
1040--Pelosi sings Al's praises. "Without him there would be no Netroots Nation." As a grandmother I see that we have a choice between the past and future. The current administration doesn't even give us the present. Hecklers exit stage right. Pelosi keeps her cool under duress.
Al Gore is still here! Yeeee-hawww!
1047--AG: It's really harmful to have, not only science, but arts, pushed out of the curriculum in order to teach to a test; E-waste--I'm on the board of a computer company; we're focussing on this, Dell and HP are too; we've made progress and could do a lot more.
1055--Even with a Democratic administration and more Dems in Congress, we'll still have a problem. That's why what you're doing here is so critical to reclaiming American Democracy.
1057--Q. Storage for power. Photovoltaic resources prices have dropped.--"When demand for oil goes up the price goes up; when demand for solar and wind goes up the price goes down."
1101--Developed countries must help developing countries to address carbon. It will address injustice and economic growth as well..
1103--Q. Maliki says he endorses Obama's plan for withdrawal, naming Obama. Pelosi says, "the end could be in sight." "This will not happen without the election of Barak Obama." Again, "we have the choice between the past and the future." "We need the information

I shook Al Gore's hand! All I could think to say was, "Thank-you." What a dolt!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Netroots Nation 1.0

My Political Junkie trajectory has converged. Yesterday, I met Brian Lamb's niece on the C-SPAN Bus and today, I got to fawn over John Dean. I shook his hand and asked a few questions--on camera no less. I have some pics of him that I'll post later.

I started watching political shenanigans the summer of the Watergate hearings when my mother fell in love with John Dean. Years later C-SPAN picked up where the Watergate hearings left off.

Mike shot this panel where I met Dean, Adam Bonin and Michael Waldman. We missed Cass Sunstein, who Dean said should be on Obama's short list for Supreme Court Justice. Sunstein convinced me. What a brilliant man! He spoke briefly, yet somehow in a kind of long form, starting with Brutus and Montesquieu and the uses of heterogeneity to the decimation of the rule of law in this administration. He ended with, "'It's the Constitution, stupid,' probably isn't the catchiest motto." I was rapt.

Paul Krugman is before me on the dais for the "How the Media Learned to Bend Over Backward..." along with Digby, Rick Perlstein, who is annoyingly reading from his book "Nixonland," and Duncan Black.

UPDATE: Krugman said when we invaded Iraq he and some fellow journalists wondered, "Who will be this war's Seymour Hersh? (beat) Turns out it's Seymour Hersh." Social editor moment--He looks appropriately cool and comfortable in a blue and white striped, button down collar, short sleeved shirt.

"Yes, there is a vast right-wing conspiracy, but it's not actually the Republican Party"

"Journalists...get really upset when they get negative mail. I must say the first 10,000 pieces of negative mail kind of rocked me back."

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Count your cordwood. Well, measure it anyway

It appears that recent pressure for wood has driven some unscrupulous--or hellishly busy--wood dealers to short their customers. Thanks to an article on (the Internet version of the Globe) I learn where Mainers can go if they find that their wood doesn't measure up.

Anyone who suspects a dealer has delivered a short cord, after getting no response from the dealer, can contact the Maine Department of Agriculture's Quality Assurance section. State consumer protection officials can apparently effectively pressure a wood seller to make good on the sale.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Utterly Preventable

The Midcoast has been bludgeoned by domestic violence again. A 23 year-old Hope man, Steven Pomeroy, allegedly admitted to police that he hit a 22 year-old Waldoboro woman, Jessica Nichols over the head with a frying pan, then stabbed her repeatedly Tuesday evening. According to the Bangor Daily News report she made an unflattering remark about the young man's ex-fiancee.

Pomeroy appeared in Knox County Court--a court generally inundated with more run-of-the-mill domestic violence cases--Thursday. He entered no plea. An affidavit states that the two had been drinking and that Nichols' body was found in the trunk of Pomeroy's car naked and in the fetal position.

As it's the Fourth of July and I'm headed to the Round Pond Parade with Mike, Eli and maybe Kathleen, I have no intention of reporting on this today. The AP report will have to do for now. 

I can add context, however. First, one of the leading murder risk factors for women in Maine is dating, loving, living with or marrying men. Murdered women in this state are almost exclusively done in by their lovers, stalkers or husbands. Effective consequences for domestic violence only exist in counties where there are resources for creativity, like domestic violence courts.

The biggest problem in this state and around the world is the context in which domestic violence can exist. While we are not Pakistan where courts look the other way when men murder wives they suspect of adultery--sickeningly named honor killings, we do have a culture of patriarchy and too often violent male supremacy. 

According to Craig Haney's Death by Design: Capital Punishment as a Social Psychological System our denial of the day to day incidents promoting this culture of sexual violence and male dominance is fueled in part by the media's focus on the bizarre. "And because the media present us with the most distorted and extreme possible versions of violence--individual grotesques that so little relationship to the rest of us that no one in the audience can identify with them--we are saved the unpleasant task of confronting the potential of violence that we all share." (p. 44)

Every time a Maine woman, and I can think quickly of three Midcoast victims,  Boothbay Harbor's Chevelle “Chellie” Calloway, her mother Sarah “Sally” Murray and Rockland's Maxine Witham, is killed by a man, we all must take stock and perhaps begin to take responsibility. Listen and look this holiday weekend for how women are treated on a day to day basis in this state. Drunken weekends are always a good social psychology laboratory.

Knox County is not one of Maine's handful of Domestic Violence Courts. One can only hope that its judges and prosecutors can achieve what justice is available after this, another woman's utterly preventable violent death.