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November 30, 2004

When does Orwell stop being so relevant?

James Connaughton's job title is Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality but he states publicly that our government will "continue their partnership with the oil and gas sector" while working only with environmental organizations who are "constructive" in terms of "prioritizing domestic production."

I don't know if I'm disgusted at the blatant misuse of power slash violation to our environment by those entrusted to protect it or actually relieved that at least they're finally being upfront with their objectives; which are the same as Chevron's and the opposite of the Sierra Club's.

November 29, 2004

Canada Busy Sending Back Bush-Dodgers

Joe Blundo of The Columbus Dispatch recently filed this report about liberals flooding north. I got this sent to me on the Seattle Burning Man mailing list; in looking for a web source for the story, I found this posted several places. You might want to pick one of these links to read it, unless you already have an account on the Dispatch's web site.

''I feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just can't support them," an Ottawa resident said. ''How many art-history majors does one country need?"

November 24, 2004

Reasons to Be Thankful

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving – that means it’s just about time for my annual retreat to Old Europe. Going to Europe feels somehow more significant now, as I arrive with a resident’s visa and I have actually been looking for work there, though more with a sense of capitulation then of adventure. (Before you jump on me for abandoning ship, know that anything I decide to do regarding living in Europe also means being back in time to get residency in a swing state in 2008. At least, that’s the current plan).

Anyhow, as I gather the things I need to pack, I’ve been thinking about what I have to be thankful for that has an American flavor, about things that carry some essence of Americana. Globalization means that you can buy pretty much all the same stuff everywhere, especially if it’s just Europe you’re headed to, so I don’t think so much anymore about how I wish I could get, oh, I dunno, peanut butter. But there are other, sometimes ethereal, American things that I’m thankful for. So in addition to the usual “friends, family, and good health,” here’s a handful of American induced miscellanea for which I am grateful.

1. Al Gore’s World Wide Interweb. Oh my god, I honestly can’t imagine how we got by before the Internet. After all, it’s the web that connected me with you, the nonfamousi! The web keeps my long distance phone bills down when the husband and I are on opposite sides of the Atlantic – hooray for teleconferencing – and keeps me connected with all my friends when I’m snowbound in Austria.

2. Multiculturalism. I’ve got friends of all religions, plus, is there anywhere else in the world where you can have huevos rancheros for breakfast, cous cous for lunch, and pad thai for dinner?

3. Road Trips. I was driving around in my car the other day listening to dinosaur rock and Tom Petty was singing “She was – an American girl…” Then I started thinking about one of my favorite Bowie tracks ever, Young American. Then I started thinking about driving in places where you only get old rock and roll, country western, or Jesus on the radio. I’ve done lots of traveling, but there’s something about hearing “Stuck in Lodi Again” while you’re driving south from Blackfoot with the Rockies on your right….

4. Levis. Yeah, they’re not even made in the US anymore, but they always fit, they last forever, and maybe they go in and out of style, but they’re the most comfortable jeans on the market.

5. “I can do that.” American mentality is just busting with possibility. Europeans I know are always inventing these elaborate schemes around how they’ll get all these necessary people involved with the correct licenses and paperwork and then, they’ll skim off the top while others do the work, and they’ll be rich, rich I tellya! Americans just don’t seem to think that way. They want to start a business? They start a business. They’re not bogged down in credentials and systems. They have an inventiveness of spirit that you rarely encounter in Old Europe. Freelancers, contractors, the free agents you see at Victrola and 11 am on a weekday? Virtually unheard of in my other home.

Another surprising thing I found is that in spite of my heartbreak, it wasn’t that hard to come up with American things I’m thankful for. Yet another reason to be thankful on the holiday. Enjoy the holiday. And thanks.

November 23, 2004

Stockpiling, Redux

Just the other day I suggested that the fine women of Illinois might want to start stowing away those contraceptives in anticipation of the encroaching theocracy. Now it seems the "fairer sex" in Texas and Louisiana might also ponder following the newly issued Bunker Stocking List, 2004 Version.

In Texas: In military jargon, lawmaker and Marine Reserve Col. Frank Corte Jr. says he wants Texas pharmacists to be able to claim "conscientious objector" status.

But his proposal would not exempt druggists from going to battle — it would let them refuse to fill prescriptions that go against their moral principles.

Corte, a seven-term Republican state representative from San Antonio, has pre-filed a bill for the coming legislative session that would amend an existing law that allows doctors, nurses and hospital staffers to opt out of performing abortions.

The bill specifically refers to prescriptions for the so-called "morning-after" pill, but Corte acknowledges its language could be interpreted to include any prescription contraceptive.

And in Louisiana: After Idalia and Jose Moran's son was born by C-section, Idalia Moran's doctor advised her not to get pregnant again for two to three years, and prescribed the pill.

But as CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts reports, when she went to the pharmacy, the cashier said, "You know what? I cannot refill them because the pharmacist says it's against his religion because it's abortion."

Birth control fits nicely on the shelf next to your books by Darwin and that tear-smudged copy of the US Constitution.

By the way, The Handmaid's Tale makes great bunker reading.

Guerrilla Disclaimers

Hey Kids! Here's a handy set of stickers you can use to scientifically validate your textbooks. It's subversive and educational! Click on the image for more stickers you can use.

Textbook Disclaimer Stickers Detail.gif

With thanks to Colin Purrington.

The smoking gun is your finger, dude.

What you see is what you get: a world leader who was too busy making shooting gestures to himself in the bathroom mirror to notice his fly was open. Nice shot George.


November 22, 2004

The Ghost of Harry Truman

I'm pretty sure I learned in grade school civics that a Senator is elected to serve the people. I'm pretty sure I learned that the government was broken up in to three branches for checks and balances so no one wing would have to much power, too. But this all kinda flies in the face of what I read on Slate this morning about Arlen Specter and his loyalty oath.

Here's Dahlia's concise yet terrifying spin: "In order to claim the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter was forced to abandon future personal or independent judgment—the very judgment the people of Pennsylvania elected him to exercise. He has pledged—in advance of knowing who they are—to endorse the president's judicial nominees and to vote for a highly controversial GOP rule change to end filibusters and effectively terminate dissent of any sort in the Senate."

The position Specter sought to hold has been completely declawed by the actions he took to ensure he would hold that seat. Does Specter need a gentle reminder that he was elected to represent the PEOPLE, not the President? Arlen, you've gone from John McCain to Colin Powell with the flick of a wrist. Stand by for the Power Point presentation.

November 21, 2004

Dep't of "I can't make this shit up"

Agenda Inc. has a story that I can barely categorize, much less comment on:

A home makeover-style TV programme in Iraq that offers needy families the opportunity to have their war-damaged homes re-built from scratch has become a massive hit. Labour And Materials, broadcast on Iraqi satellite channel Al Sharqiya, does not merely redecorate a room, but reconstructs entire properties destroyed in the ongoing conflict in the country.

maybe I'm just paranoid, but...

am I the only one who has been targeted by the God Squad SPAM specialists? I have received a number of the following emails - the text is all the same - from people trying to save my eternal soul:

"A eternity of torment is forever.
If you or someone you care about to you has not accepted God please do today.
As he is real and alive you need to realize this.
The following prayer can save you or someone that you love.

Say,"Oh God,save my soul. I'm so sorry that I have
sinned against you, but I have come home. I will
serve you, Lord, the rest of my life. Deliver me
from all my sinful habits. Set me free! I do believe
Jesus died on Calvary for me, and I believe in His
blood, that there is power in His blood to wash away
all my sins, all my sins!" Say,"Come into my heart,
Jesus; come on in,Jesus.Come on in!"

If you meant it, He has come. If you meant it,
Jesus is yours. Start reading your Bible, pray daily
for all those you care about,including your dead loved ones,
and believe that somebody's listening; His name is Jesus,
and you are now saved."

What's most disturbing for me is the automatic nature of it. If I meant it, I'm saved. Personally, I think it should be a lot harder than that. I think it requires living a life dedicated to tolerance, charity and love of your fellow man every day without exception. I don't think Jesus Christ is the only way to live a "saved" life. And I think you've got to do more than say a few words and mean them at the time.

So, here's this liberal's challenge to the religious right - Live lives dedicated to tolerance, charity and love for your fellow man every moment of every day. Throw away your dogma and embrace all of your brothers and sisters in a single community. Pledge yourselves to inclusion and reach out in love. You'll be met with love.

November 20, 2004

Happy Second Birthday, Nonfamous!

Yes, it's true-- Famous and Nonfamous Strangers is two years old today! Our first post was written November 20, 2002.

I never imagined how successful--or how much fun--this blog would be when I sat in my bedroom on 61st Street struggling with HTML and CSS getting it going. And needless to say, I had no idea all of the amazing changes in my life I'd end up writing about--proposing to David in Maui, buying a home we'd call Casa Nonfamous, visiting Moscow, Paris, London, Sydney and Adelaide, Vienna, and Florence with him--let alone the immeasurable joy of getting married in Vancouver. I could only imagine the pleasures of reading Paulette's posts from Spain. Swallow Don't Spit wasn't even a glimmer in my (slightly intoxicated) eye.

There was no Pam in our lives, no Jamie and Mike, no Jason--can you imagine? We'd never loved, worried about, or mourned poor little Dozer. I never dreamed that a post would get David profiled and photographed in the New York Times. And who can forget the time I lost on Jeopardy! While I did expect we'd all have quite a bit to say about politics, I did not really expect the quality of writing and depth of commitment the site would bear witness to. Needless to say I never really imagined that 51% of Americans would turn the site into an extended exercise in group therapy/platoon activation. But I did hope that it would reflect, as fully as pixels can, the passion that all of us bring to the business of living, loving, eating, drinking, traveling, working, and politicking. That it has done, and I am so proud and thankful.

So what are our vital statistics? With almost 1,000 entries, we're humming along quite nicely. Our most recent author additions--Terry, Marti, Jamie, Jason, and Erik--continue to post amazing stuff, joining David, Paulette, Pam, Gary, and me. (Nonfamous, for its birthday, really wants to get Anika and Julie Anne posting, not to mention Rachel if only she could conquer her fear of the Internets.) These writers are being read by 300-500 unique visitors a day, and our Google AdSense revenue is trickling in at a rate that pays for the site's hosting. But most importantly, we have proved that a group blog can do exactly what I hoped it would--replicate online the amazing sense of community, conversation, and convivality that our group of friends demonstrates in the flesh. Our family and friends in Australia, Oklahoma, New Jersey, New York, England, and Poland can see what's happening in Seattle and hear the thoughts in our heads. We get the occasional reader from Finland, Japan, and even Saudi Arabia. It is an amazing thing, and I want to thank every person who posts to, comments on, or just reads this site.

So what of the next two years? I honestly believe that the quality of writing and commentary we offer is as good or better than sites that are read by thousands, or tens of thousands, of readers every day. While I don't mind staying, well, nonfamous... I think we can take it to the next level. Blog strategy is increasingly part of my business--helping companies use blogs to connect to their best customers and most honest critics--so I'm going to be talking to more of those "A-list" bloggers and raising the profile of in the blogosphere. I'm happy to stay nonfamous... but I really do want to launch Paulette's cooking-show career. More on that later.

But to sum up, thanks for reading, thanks for posting, and thanks for passing our link around. Thanks for keeping paranoia at the lowest healthy level, however high that may be. I think Jeannine would be proud (though still crazy).

November 19, 2004

Emergency Rations

Along with canned goods, bottled water, and first aid kits, it looks like the ladies of the federal government might want to add contraception to the list of things they're stockpiling in the bunker.

On Sept. 13, OPM officials announced the launch of a faith-based health insurance program for federal workers in Illinois. Operated by OSF Health, which is run by the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, the plan specifically will prohibit payment for contraceptives, abortions, sterilization or artificial insemination.

Call me crazy, but if you don't "believe" in those things, wouldn't you avoid participating in them? Do insurance companies get to legislate your faith-based medical choices? Why is it that organizations that insist on not paying for abortion also insist on not paying for contraception?

"This is, in effect, a kind of backdoor way to try to limit this [coverage] down the road, to try to get family planning services out of the program" Martinez said. "You shouldn't be designing government health programs based on religious doctrine."

I'm a watchdog over precendent these days, and establishing a plan like this as a "choice" means that it's okay for insurance providers to establish faith-based exclusions. Combine this with the FDA eyeballing RU-486, and new justices soon to be on the bench, and we're looking at the bad old days all over again.

The ACLU and Planned Parenthood are two good places to send money right about now.

November 17, 2004

The Mind Is a Funny Thing

Over 34 years, an Ohio man squirreled away more than one million pennies— organized by year of minting and mint— in 575 cigar boxes. (Organizing by president would have been simpler.) For a relaxing evening, the 78-year-old man enjoyed going down to the basement and counting some of what became about five tons. I suspect smoking might also have been involved.

A different article on the same story (which I was only able to view once before being required to create an account) reveals that Mr. Sukie also has collections of playing cards, matches and pencils with logos on them, and about two thousand Hot Wheels.

I've had collections, too. When I was in my first couple of years of elementary school (and would have been ecstatic about having two thousand Hot Wheels), I liked to collect sugar packets from the diners that my family seemed to frequent, because they typically had pictures printed on them. (And they contained one of my favorite drugs.) I especially liked those that commemorated the nearby tourist attraction. Later, I got more space-conscious, and I'd empty the sugar from the packets prior to storage. I'm not sure when I stopped collecting sugar packets, but I do remember that for quite a while, I couldn't find a sugar packet that had anything but a company logo on it. The thrill was gone.

November 16, 2004

War Is Hell, As It Should Be.

The latest news from Iraq has a US Marine shooting an unarmed Iraqi prisoner inside a mosque. After instant media disapproval and outrage, the incident is under investigation.

I saw an edited clip on CNN this morning and was neither shocked nor disturbed. I may be wrong on this, but, isn't that war? You kill people. Lots of them. You face death 24 hours a day. Ostensibly within minutes of landing in Baghdad on your tour of duty, you learn to hate the enemy. A seething, animalistic, survivalist kind of mentality takes over. If it doesn't, you're more at risk that the next.

This––I could only imagine, for I have never served in an armed force––is normal behavior. What that soldier did, in my opinion, wasn't wrong. He'd been shot at for days, maybe even lost a few friends along the way, and rather than calculate the possibility that the injured and unarmed man slumped over in front of him wasn't concealing a weapon, he chose to protect himself and his fellow soldiers as efficiently as humanly possible.

What's ultimately wrong is that he, along with every other brave, hungry, and tired US soldier beside him, is in that very position. War is fucked up. But again, that is war. This wasn't the first time something like that happened, nor will it be the last.

The only reason that video is controversial is because it's on video.

Why stop with Darwin?

If evolution is now just a liberal theory, what's next for the fashionable Christo-nut? Geocentricity, apparently. That's right: Copernicus got it wrong. And the Bible tells them so.

Help GI Joe call mom

Maybe it's because I have strep throat and am doped up on vicodin, but this post on Steve Gilliard's News Blog made me cry. The upshot: the soldiers lying in beds at Walter Reed Army Hospital with broken bodies and missing limbs, can't call their families. Because the damn government doesn't provide them with free long distance. Is that too much to ask--that the people who come back from BushWar III (that's Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iraq, if you're counting) should be able to call their families? A lot of the poor kids (and I mean that literally) who are there now will be stuck there through the holidays.

I'm going to go to Costco and get a whole bunch of phone cards-- you can get 100 minutes for $5-- and write "From a Democrat in WA" on them, and send them to this address:

Medical Family Assistance Center
Walter Reed Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20307-5001

It's not much of a Christmas present, but it's a start.

Condi takes charge

How wrong was I about the Sec'ty of State? SO wrong! This is un-frickin-believable.

November 15, 2004

The Depressed Democrat's Guide to Recovery

I don't know why Salon hasn't been adding new content from Mark Fiore lately, but Mother Jones has: The Depressed Democrat's Guide to Recovery. "Feelings of inadequacy, disbelief, and delusion may recur."

Ohio Recount Ready To Go

Thanks to the presidential candidates of the Libertarian Party (Michael Badnarik) and the Green Party (David Cobb), there will apparently be a recount of ballots in Ohio. After raising about $150,000 for costs related to the recount, the candidates are now looking to raise another $100,000 for costs associated with fielding observers. There's more information— and an opportunity for you to donate— on Cobb's web site.

There's no doubt in my mind that we as a country need to resolve ballot-counting problems, both those lingering from November 2 and those likely in the future. I also have no doubt that we and the world would be in a better state in four years with Kerry at the helm. However, I'm not so upset that Bush is the one in office with the meager majority of support and facing the resolution of problems that he started or stirred up. I'm hopeful that the country can learn some lessons from four more years (barring impeachment) of Bush that it might not if his supporters could pin blame on Kerry. A landslide election for Kerry would have been great, but I'm not sure about a win from a tiny majority.

Cheney: horse-hung or just incontinent?

See the photo to back up all the most unsavory rumors on them Internets today. If this is original equipment, it clearly explains the heart trouble. Though one would expect Lynne to look a little happier once in a while.

Who we're fighting for, and the unexpected allies we have

I don't know how I missed thisWaPo article about a gay teen from a small town outside Tulsa. Whatever fears we have can be easily put aside when we think of the hardships kids like Michael Shackleford face. Read the article. (Update: then read part II, which starts with Michael's suicide attempt. Crushing.)

Then read the followup from this month, when the writer goes back to Sand Springs to cover the town's response to Fred Phelps' sick attack on the poor kid. Amazingly, the town comes together to support Michael--moving from "fag-bashing" to "leave our homos alone." This gives me so much hope--even the reddest corners of a red state know what hate is when they see it. And they reject it. Our challenge is to show how there is a Phelps hiding under every Dobson. When these hypocrites are unmasked, even deeply conservative and religious Americans will reject the division and discord they sow.

Now I want to figure out what organizations are doing the most to help kids like this.

The Changing of the Guard, Part Deux

No one but no one is the least bit surprised about Colin Powell, right? I skipped that bit of news and went right on to finding out the buzz around who's next in line for the Sec'ty of State.

I'm sure it could change over the course of the week, but this morning, the press suggests the pick of the litter is John Danforth. Salient points for me about this guy? He went to Yale where he studied Divinity and Law. Oh, and look, he's heir to the Ralston-Purina fortune. Also on his resume? Mediation of the civil war in Sudan.

There's more detailed lefty dirt on Danforth here. It's worth checking out. We gotta keep a close eye on these people.

Okay, next up: Condi?

November 14, 2004

Why we love The Stranger

Someday soon, you'll be feeling down again. This image will help you. bigcover-1.jpg

So, of course, will that week's issue of The Stranger.

November 13, 2004

Take Paulette's Advice: Shake It Out

At Jay & David's 'wagon circle' the other night, Paulette recommended seeing some live music to help exorcise any demons lingering and festering from Black Tuesday, or the appropriately Euro date order, 2-11.

Apparently, a Russian punk band inspired Paulette to mimic her dog shaking out water in his fur -- kickstand legs, starting at the tip of his nose, working its way through the head, neck, body, limbs and tail. The effect was less ridding her body of a cold-inducing layer of liquid and more a physical fighting off of frustration molding into despair. She felt bathed and clean afterwards, surprisingly refreshed and invigorated.

Yeah, I thought, I could really use some of that. I think I smell rot.

My Eastern European punk band took the form of Wilco last week and Blonde Redhead last night. A combined one-two punch to my sad soul. Jeff Tweedy even asked if we were "bummed about the election." He lamented his own bummed-outness but went on to say the election was supposed to be a "political solution" while "tonight was a spiritual solution." He asked if we understood how amazing it was to be alive and feel the human spirit. To feel the power of transcending the world for a few hours and "get our minds blown at a rock show."

No. Show me. So they did, a head-nodding two hours later replete with a killer "Don't Fear The Reaper" cover. Nice dude.

Am I cured? Absolutely not. I'm despondent. Frankly, I've been deeply hurt by this either grossly misinformed or downright malevolent country. I don't know how to overcome it. I'm still getting used to this never-expected concept of another Bush term.

That said, a good shake is a god-send. Thanks for the advice Paulette. And for those meatballs. Good lord.

November 12, 2004

Now THIS is news

Haven't we all gotten a little gloomy lately? Let's ignore (just for a minute) that the sky is falling and dish. Here is big news in the British actors world-- Hugh Grant is retiring. Isn't it fun to think about? Now the Brits are down to two men they can try (and fail) to pass off as hunky-- Colin Firth and Jude Law. (I saw a preview of the new Bridget Jones movie last night and it looked to me like Hugh started his retirement before filming began!)

Wasn't it nice to think about someone vaguely charming?

Zombie therapy

Chris Frizelle's "LEAVING THE HOUSE ISN'T ESCAPISM, IT'S A POLITICAL ACT FOR THE WEEK OF NOV 11-17" kind of ties in with the whole discussion we had here last week about retreating into the happy little lefty enclave that is our Seattle. It's a bit of a love-letter to the eccenticity of our city. And a call-to-arms for those of us who like being different from the rest of the zombies in the flyover states to take a stand and support those differences by going out and living it up for the next week.

And it just made me kind of happy reading it.

Kerry, Mary, and the Mullahs

AMERICAblog has this charming little post about the gigantic knicker-twist some of America's favorite Christians mullahs have decided, in its post-eclection orgy of self-righteousness, to give themselves. It's hard to believe it was only a month ago when Kerry was evil, evil, EVIL for merely mentioning that Mary Cheney, Professional Lesbian, was a, um, lesbian. Now, read what the preznit's allies at the Family Policy Network are saying about her:

"The day after George Bush was elected president again, because of this morals revolution taking place in our country, he allows his vice president to not only put his lesbian daughter on the platform, but to bring her lesbian 'partner' up on the stage with him," Glover says. "It almost seems to be a slap in the face from the get-go against the very conservatives that re-elected the president at a time when he ought to paying them some homage and respect." Glover says the Cheney daughter's open flaunting of her homosexuality is the antithesis of what the administration claims to stand for -- and that the post-election display sends a mixed message to Bush supporters.

Clearly, the GOP can't tolerate any mixed messages (strong leader, rezzaloot). Luckily, Bush and Co. have some visiting experts on theocracy hanging out at Gitmo... I think what Glover really wants is to have the Taliban up for a little pan-fundamentalist love-fest where a bunch of straight monotheistic landowning men can get together and stone Mary Cheney to death. After which Lynne Cheney will, undoubtedly, blame it all on John ("not a good man") Kerry.

[And in a final note: do we think it's technically correct to say that a woman who looks so much like Dick Cheney in a bad wig could really flaunt anthing? If Mary is going to be America's Most Controversial Dyke for the next four years, can someone take her shopping? Ellen, she's a Republican but a sister first-- can you help her out?]

November 10, 2004

the king is dead, long live the fool

Jerry Falwell is at it again.

Why, oh why must we take people like this seriously? Isn't there some sort of legal challenge that can be brought against this type of activity? Isn't it illegal to enforce a religious test upon public officials? Yes, I know, it is illegal for the government to do it. How do we get this guy to go away?

I want my country back.

November 09, 2004

soldier as citizen

I have never wanted to serve in the military. However, I have family members and friends that have either served or are serving in one branch or another of our nation's armed forces. While not all of those currently serving are in Iraq, a few are and I worry and pray for them everyday. I have told them and others who serve, past and present, "Thank you for putting your life on the line so that I can enjoy my freedoms."

One of the reasons that I won't serve in the military is that once you are in, you are the property of the US government (for at least 30 years). Now, while this may not be true legally (de jure), it is technically (de facto). And I am growing more and more concerned for the civil liberties of our men and women in uniform. (continued)

Stop-loss measures and the recall of the Individual Ready Reserves are threatening the basic citizenship rights of these people.

While the US military operation in Iraq is generally referred to as a war, it is not a congressionally declared war. The California lawsuit challenging the use of stop-loss by the Bush administration is an action that we should all be paying close attention to as it will challenge the legality of the Iraqi military operation.

So, this is not a declared war. Does it meet the criteria of a national emergency? The current spate of stop-loss orders was initiated by executive order after 9/11. Normally, it is Congress that provides the armed forces with the authorization for this type of action as it did during Vietnam and the Gulf War. Has the Bush administration overstepped its legal authority? Could this be grounds for impeachment?

One can only hope.

Good news! Everything's fine!

Apparently not a member of the "reality-based community" John Ashcroft announced that he is resigning as Attorney General because "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."

I am breathing such a sigh of relief. I'm putting away the bat signal, since there's nothing to worry about. Think of all the money we no longer have to spend on police, 911, Homeland Security. Everything will now balance out even WITH all those tax cuts for the rich.

Nothing like letting off a little steam

There's something really satisifying in reading someone else spout off what you've been thinking for the last several days. Lazy, but satisfying.

November 08, 2004

Gary Hart on faith and politics

The NYT today ran this this Op-Ed by Gary Hart. Lest it vanish into the either, I've posted it below. It's important, and important to me--Gary Hart attended the Christian college where my parents met, and he's a Yalie (Div and Law degrees). As a fellow recovering Nazarene, his take on all this strikes home with me. (For those of you mystified by his admission of being a sinner, I have two words for you: Monkey Business. Because only Republicans get forgiveness in American politics.)

If America has entered one of its periodic eras of religious revival and if that revival is having the profound impact on politics that is now presumed, to participate in a discussion of "faith" one must qualify oneself.

I was raised in the Church of the Nazarene, an evangelical denomination founded a century ago as an offshoot of American Methodism, which, the church founders believed, had become too liberal. I graduated from Bethany Nazarene College, where I met and married my wife, who was also brought up in the church. I then graduated from the Yale Divinity School as preparation for a life of teaching religion and philosophy.

The Nazarene Church abhorred drinking, smoking, dancing, movies and female adornment, believed in salvation through being "born again" and in sanctification as a second act of grace, and resisted most popular culture as the devil's work. In doctrine and practice, it was much more evangelical than fundamentalist.

A neglected thread of church doctrine was the social gospel of John and Charles Wesley, the great reformers of late 18th-century Methodism. The Wesley brothers preached salvation through grace but also preached the duty of Christians, based solidly on Jesus' teachings, to minister to those less fortunate. My political philosophy springs directly from Jesus' teachings and is the reason I became active in the Democratic Party. Finally, in the qualification-to-speak category, I will seek to pre-empt the ad hominem disqualifiers. I am a sinner. I only ask for the same degree of forgiveness from my many critics that they were willing to grant George W. Bush for his transgressions.

As a candidate for public office, I chose not to place my beliefs in the center of my appeal for support because I am also a Jeffersonian; that is to say, I believe that one's religious beliefs - though they will and should affect one's outlook on public policy and life - are personal and that America is a secular, not a theocratic, republic. Because of this, it should concern us that declarations of "faith" are quickly becoming a condition for seeking public office.

Declarations of "faith" are abstractions that permit both voters and candidates to fill in the blanks with their own religious beliefs. There are two dangers here. One is the merging of church and state. The other is rank hypocrisy. Having claimed moral authority to achieve political victory, religious conservatives should be very careful, in their administration of the public trust, to live up to the standards they have claimed for themselves. They should also be called upon to address the teachings of Jesus and the prophets concerning care for the poor, the barriers that wealth presents to entering heaven, the blessings on the peacemakers, and the belief that no person should be left behind.

If we are to insert "faith" into the public dialogue more directly and assertively, let's not be selective. Let's go all the way. Let's not just define "faith" in terms of the law and judgment; let's define it also in terms of love, caring, forgiveness. Compassionate conservatives can believe social ills should be addressed by charity and the private sector; liberals can believe that the government has a role to play in correcting social injustice. But both can agree that human need, poverty, homelessness, illiteracy and sickness must be addressed. Liberals are not against religion. They are against hypocrisy, exclusion and judgmentalism. They resist the notion that one side or the other possesses "the truth" to the exclusion of others. There is a great difference between Cotton Mather and John Wesley.

There is also the disturbing tendency to insert theocratic principles into the vision of America's role in the world. There is evil in the world. Nowhere in our Constitution or founding documents is there support for the proposition that the United States was given a special dispensation to eliminate it. Surely Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator. But there are quite a few of those still around and no one is advocating eliminating them. Neither Washington, Adams, Madison nor Jefferson saw America as the world's avenging angel. Any notion of going abroad seeking demons to destroy concerned them above all else. Mr. Bush's venture into crusaderism frightened not only Muslims, it also frightened a very large number of Americans with a sense of their own history.

The religions of Abraham all teach a sense of personal and collective humility. It was a note briefly struck very early by Mr. Bush and largely abandoned thereafter. It would be well for those in the second Bush term to ponder that attribute. Whether Bush supporters care or not, people around the world now see America as arrogant, self-righteous and superior. These are not qualities of any traditional faith I am aware of.

If faith now drives our politics, at the very least let's make it a faith of inclusion, genuine compassion, humility, justice and accountability. In the words of the prophet Micah: "He hath shown thee, O man, what is good. What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" And, instead of "O man," let's insert "O America."

Gary Hart, the former Democratic senator from Colorado, is the author, most recently, of"The Fourth Power: A Grand Strategy for the United States in the 21st Century.''


What we need is more color in our lives. The blue to red spectrum map at the bottom of this page makes me feel less lonely.

Szymborska speaks

My friend Jan in Poland, who is braver every day than most of us are called to be our whole lives, is nonetheless worried about us.

His kind words remind me that we should think always of the people around the world--known to us or complete strangers--who look to America (as a nation and as individual Americans) for inspiration. We should be thankful for them, and thankful that even in a dark time the abiding values of freedom and dedication to liberty still shine out in the world. We must not, cannot fail them.

Jan sent me this note, which I happily share:

"I am sending you two poems by Wislawa Szymborska, a Polish 1996 (I guess) Nobel Laureate. They might have bearing on the elections, Bush, humanity, history or whatever. Hope they help in anything."

They have bearing on all of the above, and more. I'm copying them below. Read them for their lyric beauty and moral insight. But as with so many things these days, they are for when you're ready to fight--not when you're ready to cry.

Thanks, Jan, from all of us.


See how efficient it still is,
how it keeps itself in shape--
our century's hatred.
How easily it vaults the tallest obstacles,
How rapidly it pounces, tracks us down.

It's not like other feelings.
At once both older and younger.
It gives birth itself to the reasons
that give it life.
When it sleeps, it's never eternal rest.
And sleeplessness won't sap its strength; it feeds it.

One religion or another--
whatever gets it ready, in position.
One fatherland or another--
whatever helps it get a running start.
Justice also works well at the outset
until hate gets its own momentum going.
Hatred. Hatred.
Its face twisted in a grimace
of erotic ecstasy.

Oh these other feelings,
listless weaklings.
Since when does brotherhood
draw crowds?
Has compassion
ever finished first?
Does doubt ever really rouse the rabble?
Only hatred has just what it takes.

Gifted, diligent, hardworking.
Need we mention all the songs it has composed?
All the pages it has added to our history books?
All the human carpets it has spread
over countless city squares and football fields?

Let's face it:
it knows how to make beauty.
The splendid fire-glow in midnight skies.
Magnificent bursting bombs in rosy dawns.
You can't deny the inspiring pathos of ruins
and a certain bawdy humor to be found
in the sturdy column jutting from their midst.

Hatred is a matter of contrast--
between explosions and dead quiet,
red blood and white snow.
Above all, it never tires
of its leitmotif--the impeccable executioner
towering over its soiled victim.

It's always ready for new challenges.
If it has to wait awhile, it will.
They say it's blind. Blind?
It has a sniper's keen sight
and gazes unflinchingly at the future
as only it can.

"The Turn of the Century"

It was supposed to be better than the others, our 20th

But it won't have time to prove it.

Its years are numbered,

its step unsteady,

its breath short.

Already too much has happened

that was not supposed to happen.

What was to come about

has not.

Spring was to be on its way,

and happiness, among other things.

Fear was to leave the mountains and valleys.

The truth was supposed to finish before the lie.

Certain misfortunes

were never to happen again

such as war and hunger and so forth.

These were to be respected:

the defenselessness of the defenseless,

trust and the like.

Whoever wanted to enjoy the world

faces an impossible task.

Stupidity is not funny.

Wisdom isn't jolly.


Is no longer the same young girl

et cetera. Alas.

God was the last to believe in man:

good and strong,

but good and strong

are still two different people.

How to live--someone asked me this in a letter,

someone I had wanted

to ask that very thing.

Again and as always,

and as seen above

there are no questions more urgent

than the naive ones.

New category

I'm hoping it's obvious what this is for. If you're still wondering, check out the Tom Paine quote at right.

November 07, 2004

November 06, 2004

Minor site tweaks

Armed with my fearsome HTML prowess, I screwed around with the site template a bit this morning. The silly calendar thing is gone, the Google ad thing is smaller, and I updated the blogroll extensively to include sites David and I read to a lot. This is step one in my campaign to get us linked more broadly by other sites... more on that later. In the mean time, if there are any links you feel I've missed egregiously, please let me know and I will add them.

I'm also thinking about adding an "our greatest hits" section with hard links to our favorite posts... to make it easier for new visitors to get to know us. Smith and I have some thoughts, but please let us know what you think those should be.

"A victory for people like us"

This WaPo article is required reading. It is important we try to have compassion for these people, who have been thoroughly deceived. They are not the problem. But the part of me that believes, like they do, in "personal responsibility" hopes they realize at some point that you can't eat "moral values," and that when your three kids get sick, health insurance is a bit more expedient than prayer alone.

November 05, 2004

A few words of comfort

Jay's posting of that awesome quote by Thomas Paine led me to look up some other words that might provide some comfort (or at least a reminder that the country has been through roughness of this magnitude and greater and survived) and inspiration. I hope some of them serve you well:

"If the Constitution is to be construed to mean what the majority at any given period in history wish the Constitution to mean, why a written Constitution?" --Frank J. Hogan, President, American Bar Assn. (1939)

"One man with courage is a majority." --Thomas Jefferson

"The whole of the Bill of Rights is a declaration of the right of the people at large or considered as individuals…It establishes some rights of the individual as unalienable and which consequently, no majority has a right to deprive them of." --Albert Gallatin of the New York Historical Society, October 7, 1789

"When my country, into which I had just set my foot, was set on fire about my ears, it was time to stir. It was time for every man to stir." --Thomas Paine, 1788

"The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections." --Lord Acton, English historian, 1907

"It is the American vice, the democratic disease which expresses its tyranny by reducing everything unique to the level of the herd." --Henry Miller, American author, 1947

"There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America." --Bill Clinton

"The countries the most famous and the most respected of antiquity are those which distinguished themselves by promoting and patronizing science, and on the contrary those which neglected or discouraged it are universally denominated rude and barbarous. " --Thomas Paine

"There are two things which cannot be attacked in front: ignorance and narrow-mindedness. They can only be shaken by the simple development of the contrary qualities. They will not bear discussion. " --Lord Acton

"The power of a movement lies in the fact that it can indeed change the habits of people. This change is not the result of force but of dedication, of moral persuasion." --Steven Biko

"The government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian religion. "--John Adams


How handy that I come from a culture that has a whole set of rules for mourning. Sitting 'shiva' lasts for seven days, though you are supposed suspend that during the Sabbath. Your diet should include eggs and lentils, which, like meatballs, are round and symbolize the cyclical nature of life. During the seven days that you mourn, you should "suspend all worldly activities, and devote full attention to remembering and mourning the deceased." Even God is supposed to have observed 'shiva' following the the great flood - "seven days for the destruction of the world."

I mention this tradition because there's a ton of mail and commentary kicking around about how things "aren't that bad" or how we should "buck up and get back to work." And to all of you who are already there, I say Hallelujah to your accelerated recovery and thanks for getting right back on that horse. But I'm going to sit out for a few more days and mourn. There's nothing wrong with me and there's nothing wrong with the idea that I should contemplate my loss.

Yeah, it might be tainted with bitterness and anger but hopefully reflection will bring me out to the other side. After all, it was optimism that made me put my shoes on and spend all that time on the campaign. I think the joy of involvement was apparent on the faces of everyone there. There was an incredible amount of good there.

But hey, Michael Moore, John Kerry, and especially George W. Bush, don't talk to me about healing and reconciliation right this minute, okay. I'm in mourning until next Tuesday.

"At the conclusion of the Shiva, it is customary for the mourners to go out of the house and walk around the block. This act signifies, on one hand, the beginning of a return to the world of daily living, and on the other hand, a symbolic escorting of the soul of the departed." Tuesday, I'll go take a little walk around the neighborhood.

Read more about sitting shiva here.

A great, sad email

The wise men at Lawyers, Guns and Money post a long and thoughtful email from a gay friend of theirs at Microsoft. Do any of us know this guy? He needs a hug and big round of applause. (Do not read this if you're feeling really bad, or starting to feel better.)

Kind words from Tena

Tena at First Draft, kind of a spinoff of Eschaton, has a message I needed to hear:

No link, just another editorial. But this is important and I must say it publicly.

I have never in my life been so disappointed in people as I am in the so-called liberals who are all over the blogosphere bashing gays and blaming them. If y'all want to be fascist appeasers, then be my guest, but you are not going to have me as a companion on your particular road to tyranny and hell.

I will never give up my principles. I will not alter my morality. I will stand with my gay and lesbian and transsexual fellow citizens to the bitter end. It is non-negotiable. I will go where they go and I will fight for them with my last breath. That's final.

Those of you now joining the witch hunt can go to hell. Fine bunch of progressives some of you are. I cry "Shame" on all of you who are daring to blame same sex marriage for the loss of this election.

Apologies all around

Let the world know you're sorry about what happened.

In the Ghetto

My friend C. came for dinner last night. C. was born in England and he's lived here for many years. C. is gay and like all my gay friends, he's spinning over the 11 states that voted against marriage rights. He's been joking, in a not very funny way, about starting to wear a pink triangle. He's also been reading the Nuremburg laws to see if he can pinpoint the place at which things started to change. The whole idea makes my skin crawl, not just because I'm Jewish. We weren't rushing to conclusions about how we are now just like Nazi Germany, we're more sensible than that, but we did both ask what, exactly, it was that made people know it was time to start packing. By the time they got to Kristalnacht, it was way too late, but were the marriage laws the turning point?

This led to us talking about the ghettoization of intellectual culture. When you look at the map, either the map that divides the vote by state, or if you can stand the loneliness, the map that divides the vote by county, you see how we've insulated ourselves in these little outposts - the Northeast, here in Seattle, you know where you are and who you've surrounded yourself with. My nearest neighbors are a lesbian couple and a gay man. My best friend? Gay. The crowd I see the most at dinner parties are a surprisingly religious bunch, both Jewish and Christian, with a huge thirst for knowledge about the world beyond their doors.

And me? I'm a bookish, free-flying independent with a fine arts degree who's managed somehow to build an odd little compromise with corporate culture so I can make a fair living while avoiding working all year round. I married a foreigner but I don't live with him, I have zero desire to have kids, and I drive a 20 year old car.Last night when C and I went out, I realized only my shoes, socks, and underwear did not come from a second hand store. To top it off, I play the ukulele. Oh my god, I'm a total hippie.

So what? So this: We're in the ghetto. We love it here in the ghetto because it's safe. We're surrounded by people who may not be exactly like us, but they don't judge us. They do more than accept us, they embrace us and pull us in to their families, making our ghetto the warmest place you'd ever want to live. Nobody sent us here to the ghetto, we came here under our own volition because we feel at home here. But we are ghettoized all the same.

This is a rude awakening for me. See, becuase I grew up in the ghetto, I thought the whole world was like this. My parents worked for desegregation of the public schools. As kids, we learned that art and music and literature were things of great value. My father insisted that we study liberal arts because those things taught us how to think which was way more important than learning how to DO a specific thing. My mom was - and still is - and incurable reader. Our house was full of books and art, not prints from Cost Plus. Not posters. Original art.

I don't want to leave the impression that I had this rose tinted Rennaissance upbringing. There was a nasty divorce. I was a foster child for a while. Later, my dad did some time for white color crime. The point I want to make is that I've ALWAYS lived in the ghetto, I've never known anything else. I've stayed in the ghetto my whole life, even out of the US. I was an exchange student the same year I was a foster child. I've hitched rides from Palestinians while I was working on a kibbutz. I lived in Brixton, for crying out loud, the site of the British race riots in the 80s. I went out to see the world when I was 16 and I thought I had my eyes open.

But I have spent the whole time blinded to what America is. When I first met my husband and we would talk about America, he would totally get down on it. And I would fight back every time. "Americans are A, B, and C" he would insist. I would argue vehemently against that. Because the America I knew was never A, B, and C. It was always X, Y, and Z. "I AM A TYPICAL AMERICAN," I would say, over and over and over. "Nope. Not even close," was his consistent response.

The thing I have learned from this election is that he was right. I am nowhere near a typical American. I want to force my values on others as much as I want theirs forced upon me, which is not at all. I react to strangers with more curiosity than fear. I have hardly any interest in "getting ahead." I am not a hammer. Everything is not a nail.

Until Tuesday night, I loved my country. I felt truly patriotic, in spite of the damage that the Rove-ing band of thugs have caused at home and abroad. I believed we could take it back. I believed that my values (a word that now feels profane) were shared by enough people that change was imminent, inevitable.

Now I just feel stupid. How could I have not seen it? How could I have been so blind? Typical American? My ass. To the NASCAR dads and security moms, I'm a fucking joke. And, hey, how handy for them, they needn't give me a date for relocation, I did it already.

Come on in and make yourself at home. No the walls aren't new, they've been here the whole time. I can't imagine why you never noticed them before. I'm making cornbread and veggie chili, will you stay and eat?

Welcome to the ghetto.

really, help is on the way

It's true. It might take a while, and certainly with the loss this week, it's easy to forget that some incredible things happened during this election. Incredible things that, if we can keep momentum around, mean that we can still turn this country around.

I was actually very hearted by Eli Pariser's mail to the MoveOn faithful today. We lost this battle, but we've got a lot of new recruits, and they're young, they're going to be voting for years to come, and it's up to all of us to keep them feeling a part of the process.

Keep reading for Eli's message. And take heart. Please.

Dear MoveOn member,

As the Wall Street Journal points out, Bush's victory was "the
narrowest win for a sitting president since Woodrow Wilson in 1916."
Narrow defeat still hurts. But today, the staff here at MoveOn
can't help but be hopeful, even elated, by the clear impact we've all
had together.

In the shadow of our loss, it's easy to forget what a difference our work
made. Together, we changed the lives of thousands of people, one
conversation at a time. We brought people to the polls who had never
voted. We challenged our neighbors to rethink the information they had
been given by Fox News and the right wing echo chamber. We turned
co-workers into activists. And in the end, we turned out enough voters
to provide the margin of victory in several states.

You don't have to take our word for it. Just look at the numbers. Our
goal in this program was to turn out 440,000 extra voters for Kerry. We
figured only about one third to one half of them would actually check in
with us after they voted. This morning, we figured out that the number
of people who HAD CHECKED IN ALONE was over 472,000 -- an outstanding
success. And the actual total number of our targeted voters who showed
up is much higher.

In New Hampshire, where Kerry won by 9,171 votes, 9,820 people on our
target lists got to the polls. In Wisconsin, where Kerry won by only
11,813, we turned out over 37,000. The 119,000 people we got out in
Pennsylvania almost exceeded the margin of victory there, too. The
effort that all of you put in clearly had a decisive impact in winning
these states.

And that impact wasn't just at the Presidential level. In Colorado, the
voters that we brought out helped elect a new Democratic Senator, win
back control of the legislature for the first time since 1960, and pass
progressive ballot measures. In Minnesota, as one TV channel pointed
out, "Kerry supporters turned out, and they sparked a [Democratic] rout
in Minnesota House races, nearly toppling the Republican majority." In
fact, Kerry won Minnesota by a larger percentage of the vote than Gore
did in 2000.

All of the media hullabaloo about the "missing youth vote" is false,
too, by the way. More people between 18 and 30 turned out this year than
ever before, even though the total percentage of young people in the
population is smaller than it was in previous races. And the youth age
bracket voted emphatically for Kerry -- a good sign that future
generations are more progressive, that history continues to move in our

But the numbers only tell part of the story. You helped build a new
progressive movement, a movement that is just beginning. And because of
the work you've done, because of the relationships you've formed and the
people you've brought in, we are stronger now than we were when we
started this campaign. Because of groundswell that you have created, we
are better able to stop Bush in Term 2 than we were in Term 1.

Victor, one of the precinct leaders, wrote:

"This program helped me overcome a sense of passive hopelessness about
our country leading me to become empowered to work for a positive
change. One of the best outcomes of this experience was meeting and
becoming friends with a host of like-minded neighbors. This election was
just a first start for us. Realizing how much power we have to effect
the political process when we work together as part of a well organized
team, has changed us and prepared us for future battles.

"I am going to be keeping a list of my team members (and encourage other
precinct leaders to do likewise), and will distribute this list to all
team members. When it is time for our next political action, we will hit
the ground running."

And there's a historical precedent for believing this is a beginning,
not an end. In 1972, Richard Nixon ran against George McGovern, a
progressive populist with a great message about stopping the Vietnam
War. McGovern lost in a landslide, winning literally only one state even
though the Watergate scandal was swirling around Nixon. But a year and a
half later, Nixon resigned; two years later, reformist Democrats won
back control of both legislative chambers.

History is on our side. We look forward to working for you and with you
in the months and years to come. You're real heroes to all of us on the
MoveOn staff. Thank you so, so much, for everything you've done.

--Eli, Adam, and the whole MoveOn PAC Team
Thursday, November 4th, 2004

P.S. We'll definitely want to learn as much as we can from you about how
to make this process better the next time through. We'll be sending you
a survey next week; we really want your input.

November 04, 2004

God bless Molly Ivins

Via corrente:

Some people think you cannot break a dog that has got in the habit of killin' chickens, but my friend John Henry always claimed you could. He said the way to do it is to take one of the chickens the dog has killed and wire the thing around the dog's neck, good and strong. And leave it there until that dead chicken stinks so bad that no other dog or person will even go near that poor beast. Thing'll smell so bad the dog won't be able to stand himself. You leave it on there until the last little bit of flesh rots and falls off, and that dog won't kill chickens again.

The Bush administration is going to be wired around the neck of the American people for four more years, long enough for the stench to sicken everybody. It should cure the country of electing Republicans.

And at least Democrats won't have to clean up after him until it is real clear to everyone who made the mess.

A fun NYT article about SS+K

The NYT's Stuart Elliott has a great article about our recent win of the Boots cosmetics account. In a week of terrible news, it's heartening to see my company in a nice story. The world still turns--so women, homos, and metrosexuals still need beauty products! So read and buy!

Kerry Won

Greg Palast, the reporter who uncovered many of the details in the 2000 Florida election fiasco, now claims that Kerry won Ohio. The culprit, he claims, is not provisional ballots, but undervotes and hanging chads: just like last time. Unlike last time, though, we didn't even get to a recount after the Republican Secretary of State for Ohio loudly claimed it was a "statistical impossibility" for Kerry to win.

In a nutshell

This, at least, made me smile:


It Rings Hollow

I was duped.

Up until yesterday, I thought the 2004 Presidential election was about the important things. The war. Terrorism. The Economy. Jobs. Healthcare.

I was wrong.


The 2004 election was about values (as expertly described by Terry in the discussion about morality yesterday). What's more, this election has always been about values. This election wasn't lost by the left on Tuesday, or in October, or even this year. It was lost four years ago, when the Bush Administration's strategy for re-election was set. This strategy has been brilliantly executed since then, and I'm horrified in the realization that we were part of the tactics.

Karl Rove's re-election strategy for Bush was, from the outset, to mobilize the "base" of fundamental conservatives who (somewhat suprisingly) did not turn out in droves in the 2000 election -- perhaps dissuaded by eleventh-hour revelations about Bush's drunk-driving conviction. Although we knew about this strategy, I think we missed some of the tactics, which in retrospect seem perfectly clear. To mobilize the base, values have to be the primary issue, which means that there can be no sacrifices from the electorate to the war in Iraq or the war on Terror before the election -- meaning that the bill gets added to the ballooning deficit rather than paid by a war tax. Government involvement in faith-based initiatives is necessary, so that the campaign can use church lists to drive evangelicals to the polls. Policies of opposing stem cell research, the elimination of funding for pregnancy-prevention programs overseas, and the widespread attack on science all served to fire up the base. And the masterstroke was the support for the Federal Marriage Amendment (which Bush was against before he supported it -- almost certainly at Rove's behest). The FMA had no chance of succeeding as legislation, of course, but it sure did serve to fire up the base. With hindsight, it almost seems likely that the failure of the FMA was the objective, not a setback to the Bush campaign. With the failure of the FMA came successful state-level constitutional amendments in 11 states, all either traditional Red states or swing states like Ohio. These amendments attracted fundamentalists to the polls in droves, with devastating effect for Kerry in Ohio.

Think about that for a moment. An entire swathe of policy, from social issues, to the war, to taxation, to the deficit, may have been adopted not because they were best choices for Americans, but because they were cynical tactics in a ploy for re-election. Cheney recently claimed that Kerry would say anything to get elected. But as President, it seems that Bush would do anything to get re-elected. And as President, with the power to set policy in alignment with the strategy to mobilize the base, Bush had a powerful advantage that Kerry was unable to overcome.

The absolute cynicism of this incenses me, but worst of all, I feel used. Activists on the left were part of the Rove strategy, and we played along exactly as we were meant to do. It horrifies me that was part of Rove's strategy. Its effect was probably small in comparison to Gavin Newsom marrying gay couples in San Francisco, or Andrew Sullivan's blog, or 30 minutes of Fox News at any hour of the day, but the possibility that we could have contributed to Bush's re-election in any way horrifies me to the core.

But most of all, I'm afraid. I'm afraid because this strategy succeeded. Despite massive turnout drives on the left, we still lost. And that means there are more of them than there are of us. I couldn't really understand the emotions I felt yesterday -- the closest thing I could compare it to was grief. But then I realised it was shock -- shock that fully 50% of the people in this country hate me and hate who I am. Suddenly, I felt like I no longer belonged.

That's what I'm afraid of: them. Today's Op-Ed piece in the NYT today, The Day The Enlightenment Went Out, captures it perfectly: there are more people in this country that believe in the Virgin Birth than believe in Darwinian evolution. (Thanks, Rachel, for pointing that article out.) And I have a real fear that things can only get worse in that regard. As the article points out, "it is often observed that enemies come to resemble each other". I am truly afraid that with the rise of fundamentalism over the next 4 years that this country is going to become more like Iran than like any country I would want to live in.

In his victory speech yesterday, Bush said this:

So today I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent. To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support and I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust. A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation. We have one country, one Constitution, and one future that binds us. And when we come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America.

But the promise rings hollow. By invoking the Constitution, in which Bush sought to enshrine bigotry and hatred with the FMA, he belies his true intentions. After the 2000 election, Bush promised to be a uniter while embarking on a specific strategy to divide the nation for the purpose of his own re-election, so why should I believe him now? The only hope I have is the very fact that this time around, he's not seeking re-election. Perhaps the best strategy for the Republicans is to move back to the centre to broaden support. It's certainly the only strategy that offers any hope to the other half of us.

Yesterday, I was terrified that I was going have to leave this country with Jay and lose almost everything else I loved: my home, my urban family, the city and the mountains I love so much. I didn't know whether I had a choice -- not because Jay would insist (he wouldn't, and he hasn't), but because I wasn't sure if I could live in a country that doesn't want me. Last night I told Jay that I don't want to leave, and he asked me what it would take, how much worse it could get, before I would go. I said I didn't know. But now I think I can answer in the negative at least -- I know what would keep me here. I've decided to hold onto that small sliver of hope that the second Bush term will see a move back to the centre for the Republican party. That the next Supreme Court appointment will not be a fundamentalist determined to overturn Roe v Wade. That foreign policy will more towards cooperation and conciliation, not hostility. That environmental, health and educational policies will again follow science and not doctrine. It's a small hope I know -- as I mentioned on election night, divisiveness is the convergent strategy in modern politics -- but I'm going to hold on to it for now.

But if it doesn't pan out, and Bush moves even further to the right, I just don't know what I'll do.

And you thought you were bitter!

Adam Felber's Fanatical Apathy blog posts his own concession speech, worth reading in toto. The best bits:

There are some who would say that I sound bitter, that now is the time for healing, to bring the nation together. Let me tell you a little story. Last night, I watched the returns come in with some friends here in Los Angeles. As the night progressed, people began to talk half-seriously about secession, a red state / blue state split. The reasoning was this: We in blue states produce the vast majority of the wealth in this country and pay the most taxes, and you in the red states receive the majority of the money from those taxes while complaining about 'em. We in the blue states are the only ones who've been attacked by foreign terrorists, yet you in the red states are gung ho to fight a war in our name. We in the blue states produce the entertainment that you consume so greedily each day, while you in the red states show open disdain for us and our values. Blue state civilians are the actual victims and targets of the war on terror, while red state civilians are the ones standing behind us and yelling "Oh, yeah!? Bring it on!"

More than 40% of you Bush voters still believe that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. I'm impressed by that, truly I am. Your sons and daughters who might die in this war know it's not true, the people in the urban centers where al Qaeda wants to attack know it's not true, but those of you who are at practically no risk believe this easy lie because you can. As part of my concession speech, let me say that I really envy that luxury. I concede that.

Healing? We, the people at risk from terrorists, the people who subsidize you, the people who speak in glowing and respectful terms about the heartland of America while that heartland insults and excoriates us... we wanted some healing. We spoke loud and clear. And you refused to give it to us, largely because of your high moral values. You knew better: America doesn't need its allies, doesn't need to share the burden, doesn't need to unite the world, doesn't need to provide for its future. Hell no. Not when it's got a human shield of pointy-headed, atheistic, unconfrontational breadwinners who are willing to pay the bills and play nice in the vain hope of winning a vote that we can never have. Because we're "morally inferior," I suppose, we are supposed to respect your values while you insult ours. And the big joke here is that for 20 years, we've done just that.


AmericaBlog: Did gays cost Kerry the election?

AmericaBlog gives a good answer to the question that has been keeping us up nights:

So did gays cost Kerry the election? No. Gays and lesbians did not push the issue forward and did not press Kerry to be more forthright. It gained national prominence because of court rulings and the natural desire of U.S. citizens to claim their basic civil rights. The Bush campaign played on hate and bigotry -- constantly making gay slurs about Kerry and Edwards, passing out fliers in some states that lied and said Kerry would allow gay marriage and ban the Bible, going back on his word and pushing a Constitutional Amendment that for the first time would take away basic civil rights of Americans rather than bringing new people to the table and the list goes on. Gays didn't lose Kerry the election. But hatred and bigotry against gay Americans certainly helped Bush win.

Blaming gay Americans who believe they deserve the same basic civil rights as everyone else for losing the election is like blaming slaves for the Civil War. Gays aren't too uppity. Bigots are too backwards.

There's more, but that's the core of it. Well said.

MoDo today

Think she's feeling a little bad about being so hard on Kerry? Great column today, but don't read it if you're still feeling shaky.


With the Democratic Party splattered at his feet in little blue puddles, John Kerry told the crushed crowd at Faneuil Hall in Boston about his concession call to President Bush.

"We had a good conversation," the senator said. "And we talked about the danger of division in our country and the need, the desperate need, for unity, for finding the common ground, coming together. Today I hope that we can begin the healing."

Democrat: Heal thyself.

W. doesn't see division as a danger. He sees it as a wingman.

The president got re-elected by dividing the country along fault lines of fear, intolerance, ignorance and religious rule. He doesn't want to heal rifts; he wants to bring any riffraff who disagree to heel.

W. ran a jihad in America so he can fight one in Iraq - drawing a devoted flock of evangelicals, or "values voters," as they call themselves, to the polls by opposing abortion, suffocating stem cell research and supporting a constitutional amendment against gay marriage.

Mr. Bush, whose administration drummed up fake evidence to trick us into war with Iraq, sticking our troops in an immoral position with no exit strategy, won on "moral issues."

The president says he's "humbled" and wants to reach out to the whole country. What humbug. The Bushes are always gracious until they don't get their way. If W. didn't reach out after the last election, which he barely grabbed, why would he reach out now that he has what Dick Cheney calls a "broad, nationwide victory"?

While Mr. Bush was making his little speech about reaching out, Republicans said they had "the green light" to pursue their conservative agenda, like drilling in Alaska's wilderness and rewriting the tax code.

"He'll be a lot more aggressive in Iraq now," one Bush insider predicts. "He'll raze Falluja if he has to. He feels that the election results endorsed his version of the war." Never mind that the more insurgents American troops kill, the more they create.

Just listen to Dick (Oh, lordy, is this cuckoo clock still vice president?) Cheney, introducing the Man for his victory speech: "This has been a consequential presidency which has revitalized our economy and reasserted a confident American role in the world." Well, it has revitalized the Halliburton segment of the economy, anyhow. And "confident" is not the first word that comes to mind for the foreign policy of a country that has alienated everyone except Fiji.

Vice continued, "Now we move forward to serve and to guard the country we love." Only Dick Cheney can make "to serve and to guard" sound like "to rape and to pillage."

He's creating the sort of "democracy" he likes. One party controls all power in the country. One network serves as state TV. One nation dominates the world as a hyperpower. One firm controls contracts in Iraq.

Just as Zell Miller was so over the top at the G.O.P. convention that he made Mr. Cheney seem reasonable, so several new members of Congress will make W. seem moderate.

Tom Coburn, the new senator from Oklahoma, has advocated the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions and warned that "the gay agenda" would undermine the country. He also characterized his race as a choice between "good and evil" and said he had heard there was "rampant lesbianism" in Oklahoma schools.

Jim DeMint, the new senator from South Carolina, said during his campaign that he supported a state G.O.P. platform plank banning gays from teaching in public schools. He explained, "I would have given the same answer when asked if a single woman who was pregnant and living with her boyfriend should be hired to teach my third-grade children."

John Thune, who toppled Tom Daschle, is an anti-abortion Christian conservative - or "servant leader," as he was hailed in a campaign ad - who supports constitutional amendments banning flag burning and gay marriage.

Seeing the exit polls, the Democrats immediately started talking about values and religion. Their sudden passion for wooing Southern white Christian soldiers may put a crimp in Hillary's 2008 campaign (nothing but a wooden stake would stop it). Meanwhile, the blue puddle is comforting itself with the expectation that this loony bunch will fatally overreach, just as Newt Gingrich did in the 90's.

But with this crowd, it's hard to imagine what would constitute overreaching.

Invading France?

Who is really being used here

From Daily Kos, a heartrending story. It's very easy for us gay folk to feel like we're being used and abused by Bush, Rove & Co., but we are far from being the worst off. The Republicans are preying off the poor, sick, and ignorant because people who are all three are the easiest to exploit for political gain. If you doubt that, read this:

I work at a domestic violence shelter in a rural conservative district in Mich. that is has had its economy gutted by NAFTA and where Christianity dominates the culture.

Yesterday while reflecting about 4 more years of Bush I was talking with a woman staying in the shelter. I will give her a fake name, lets call her Laura B. Laura is 28, pregnant, (never considered an abortion). She finished highschool and did a year of college before dropping out to have a couple of kids with her military husband. Living in Virginia on base with her autocratic mate (he doesn't allow the boys 3 and 4 to say "yeap" they have to answer "yes sir") drove her crazy and she was hospitalized for suicidal thoughts. Military dude divorced her and has custody.

She came home to Mom in Mich and ended up at our shelter to try and sort out her life. (Mom has no money either and her own problems.) We, like all secular agencies, have seen a steady erosion of funds.

Laura B. has found a job working in the kitchen at a local faith based Christian College. She makes $6/hour. She drives a dying Ford Escort wagon pays $2.15/gallon for gas. Her latest crisis is her insurance expired on Oct. 9 (her ex-partner cancelled policy). She needs to come up with $211 to get insurance for one month or face a $1,000 fine if she gets caught driving with no insurance. We have some public transportation, Dial-a Ride, minibus runs between 7 am and 6 p.m., M-F $1.50 one-way. She has to be at work at 6am.

She has been walking to work lately but it is about 2 miles she is 5 months pregnant, it is dark at 5 am, and winter is coming. Solution? Go begging at the churches who seem to have money for these things. They will give her the money if she attends bible school. So last night she was at bible school until 9 p.m.

She has never attended our domestic violence support groups as she is too tired at night and goes to bed early but the bible study was not optional.

She was excited about "God's message" when she came back.

This week she moves into low income subsidized housing. Her newest crisis is she has found out when the college is closed for the Christmas holiday (one month) she has no employment. She is hoping to find temporary employment as a seasonal retail worker if the Christmas sales are brisk to tide her over. She doesn't know what she will do when the baby is born, hopes she can work up till the last week (she is on her feet all day with this job). She will be eligible for subsidized daycare.

She voted for Bush because of his "family values."

New Map

Although I'll give up on the US of A long before I cede Jesus to the crazies, since five people have sent me this I feel I have to post it.


Oh, Carol also sent me a link to our best bulwark against the planned depredations of our rights. If you are not already a member of the ACLU, join today.

Garage Sale Reading

If you've got wi-fi, you might find this useful to read while you're out there on the curb getting rid of your belongings. (And hey, wear a hat. It's nasty out there and no one likes to sit next to the person with the cold on the airplane.)

"So the wrong candidate has won, and you want to leave the country. Let us consider your options. "

November 03, 2004

how "morality" is crippling our democracy

I found myself at 1:00 am pondering the bizarre result that "morality" was one of the most important drivers for voters at the polls. Equally disturbing is that an overwhelming majority of those waving this particular flag voted for Bush. In this particular election cycle, "morality" became the pollster/network shorthand for divisive social issues; abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, equal pay... "Morality" in the United States has become intolerant, hateful and politically handy. (continued)

According to the definition of moral is: “of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior; ethical.” Morality is “a doctrine or system of moral conduct.”

I think it is important to start with “right” and “wrong.” In the “morality” debate when someone is “wrong” they become sinful, shameful and well, not human, somehow. Because a person is in support of making a medical procedure legally available and safe or funding groundbreaking medical research, in the “morality” debate, they are murderers and therefore disenfranchised. Because a person is in favor of extending equal protection of law to individuals regardless of sex or sexual orientation, in the “morality” debate, they are perverted, mentally abnormal, and therefore disenfranchised.

Everyone likes to be right, correct, virtuous, if you will. However, you only get to be right if someone else is wrong. It is this most basic of human vanities that the Republican Party and the evangelical community has seized upon and made their most powerful weapon in political discourse. Some would accuse the GOP of “dumbing-down” complex issues. However, it is really a very sophisticated psychological trap that has caught voters in their most private moment of yearning to appear more honorable than they are in their everyday choices.

Introducing religion into what should be a discussion about the civil responsibilities of a government to its people in a country that has an explicit separation of church and state should be a non-starter. But in the “morality” debate this line is not only blurred but erased in the name of “right.” Yes, our founding fathers were church-going, God-fearing Christians who were tremendously grateful for the grace that blessed them with their opportunity to prosper in a new land. However, even they understood that religion and politics don’t mix. The history of religious persecution in France and England, as well as the divine right of kings was not what they wanted for our nation.

The political activism of the evangelical community has not only derailed the Republican Party from its historical track of “champion for personal privacy,” it has created a vitriolic atmosphere for any type of social issue where the rights of the individual are in direct competition with religious dogma. In this argument the individual will always be “wrong” and religious doctrine ensures that they are damned into the bargain. The longer this state of affairs is allowed to continue, the harder it will be for our government to ensure the rights of our social and racial minorities. A ruler who prays for strength or is strengthened by the prayers of others is one thing. A ruler who states his religious conviction as one of the primary reasons he rules as he does is a problem. This is too close to divine right for comfort.

We have started down the slippery slope to a theocracy parading as an oligarchy. The most intriguing part of this is by using “morality” as the switch of political indoctrination the evangelical/Republican alliance has convinced people to vote against their own economic and environmental self-interest. It is as if “virtue” has indeed become the only reward.

As a nation we are becoming as much an international leper for our persecution of individual rights as Islamic nations have been over the rights of minorities in their own societies. For now we still have economic and military might to keep the rest of the world polite while at our table. We will rue the day when, like all the empires that have gone before us, we are eclipsed by the next.

Dear Mr. Bush

I cried tears of rage and sadness upon learning that John Kerry had stepped down and you had been given the Presidency. You should know that I am not, by nature, a crier and I am not a bitter person. I am not given to melodrama. But I cried and it appears I haven’t finished crying. Furthermore all of my friends have confessed to exactly the same reaction: men, women, white, brown, Jews, Christians, Hindus, we have all wept openly over your success.

Perhaps it is easy for you to dismiss us as overly sensitive liberal pansies. But you might take a minute to listen to what it is that has us so worried from the voice of at least one American.

Plainly put, you terrify us.

Your vision of the US as the champion of democracy at the helm of policies that are perceived as bullying and imperialist in the eyes of our global neighbors puts us in danger when we leave the country.

Your zealous tenacity to anti-abortion rhetoric leaves us in fear that abortion, which will never go away, please don’t fool yourself, will return to back alley institution that threatens the lives of the unfortunate women - and sometimes children - who find themselves pregnant without wishing to be so.

Your narrow minded application of the term “family values” to the desired exclusion of civil rights for our gay friends and neighbors makes us fear for not just them, but for the precedent this sets for denying rights to other classes of citizens.

Your profligate spending of our tax dollars on war to the detriment of social services, including those for our soldiers, makes us wonder what will happen to the poor who have no place to turn for assistance.

Your callous disregard for the environment, including your desire to release our treasured national parks and wilderness areas to exploitation, makes us ask what the glories of Yellowstone, Sequoia, Yosemite, and other precious areas of natural beauty will look like to future generations.

These are only a few of the things I’m crying about. You said in your acceptance speech that you will work to earn our trust. Understand that you do not have it now. You have not worked in the past to establish it. You have pushed us away with your war-mongering, your untrammeled spending, your restriction of civil rights, your disregard for the things we hold valuable. Right now, you’re the president that made me cry. You might start by reassuring me that the things I hold dear, my rights and my American sense of pride, are not at risk on your watch.

I am a patriot. I worked long and hard to see you defeated and for that work, I received no compensation. I did it because I did not trust you to hold the nation’s honor for me. I dare you to prove me wrong. I dare you to give me cause to stop crying and to calm my anger. I dare you to give me reason raise my head and be proud again.

PM, Seattle WA


Hey Nonfamousi: Write to the President, okay? (president(at) And send a copy to your local paper, too.

And no, I'm bloody well not done

I want to keep the category "Help is on the way" around, because it might be delayed, but I'm not ready to give up on the idea that it will get here.

I had a few more thoughts I wanted to share that have come up as a result of this election.

First of all, you can count on me not to take my vote for granted ever again. I will be there first thing in the morning every election day until I die. And I'm going to devote at least some time to pestering friends, neighbors, coworkers, or just more people in Tukwila to do the same.

I will not support this president, but I AM a patriot, and I am not going to stand for him insinuating (much less stating) that criticism of his reckless policies is anything but patriotic. I care, probably more than I ever have before, what happens to this country, and I want to make this place better.

I also will not stand for the right of this country co-opting the notion of values. How many times last night did we hear the news outlets say that of those people who listed "values" as their top issue, Bush was their guy. I have values, deeply held ones that jibe very well with my Christian upbringing, and I am sick and tired of the right confusing bigotry and fearmongering with anything related to "values."

So from now on, I want us on the left to support candidates who are strong on our values: who believe that all people are of equal value, that one's gender, race, religion, country, and sexual orientation don't make one iota of difference in how we should be valued; who believe that if God gave us this earth as our home, then we have a responsibility to take care of it and treat it with respect; who will remind us all that Jesus said the most important thing to remember was that whatever we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do to him; and who will not relent in their defense of OUR family.

Our offensive suffered a really crushing defeat yesterday, but bloody and limping, I'm willing to keep fighting. It might happen that one of these days, we need to admit defeat and get out before it's too late. I haven't yet ruled out that possibility, but I still think it's a fight worth continuing.

Oh, and yeah, I know how hokey that all sounds. But I really do mean it.

Getting through this

I have been composing my post for today all morning, mostly unsuccessfully. There's nothing I can really say that Jay hasn't already, and much more eloquently than I could have, but I also don't want to let this day go unmourned. The hurt, the anger, the fear, and the sadness need an outlet, or might just lose it. They need to be expressed, but I'm not going to guarantee that they'll be expressed with much coherence or grace today. Like Pam, the word that's currently bullying it's way in front of all the others that want to come out is "FUCK!" Still, I'll give it a go.

Misery apparently does love company. It’s made me feel somewhat better knowing that you all are taking this as personally as I am. I woke up this morning not sure how appropriate my emotional response to the election was, the crying, the anger, the profound sadness. But then, reading what Jay and Pam wrote, talking to Anika and Erik, I felt, at least, that I wasn’t alone in wanting to declare a national day of mourning, or some other such recognition of what happened. And maybe something to help steel us against what’s about to come.

The thing is, it does feel personal right now. I assume I am not the only one who was more than a little surprised by how good it felt to go and cast my vote yesterday. Good, that is, in a satisfying, country-loving, wanting to make a difference and feeling like I can sort of way. This was the first time I’d ever gotten involved in a political campaign. The first time I’d canvassed, given money to a candidate, attended a Democratic party event. This was the first time I really felt like my involvement was needed. I’ve followed politics, but I’ve always been more inclined to get involved with specific issue-related causes. Like many other people, I’ve become incredibly jaded about the political process. Politicians are all crooks, that sort of thing. And even the candidates on the Dem side have always been so far to the right of my own beliefs that I never thought of them as particularly representing me.

This time, it was different. The stakes were really high, and I wanted, really, truly wanted, to make this country a better place—to save my home from the madman who is using it to advance his own agenda. I actually felt like it was my duty to get involved, as much as any soldier might feel that it’s her duty to defend her country from external threats. Because I really did feel like getting involved was all about defending my country. I’d taken this place for granted my whole life, and then watched Bush destroy so much that was good and unique about it, and go on to threaten more of the people and ideals I hold dear. I signed up, got involved, cared—deeply—and had hope that things were going to change. That the country I was taught to love but never really gave a thought to was about to be rescued.

And then we lost. And not by the evil machinations of the Bush family disenfranchising thousands of voters or “activist judges” appointing a president, but by the will of the people of this country. So many of us fought so hard against the evil that a majority of this country willing chose yesterday. Which leaves me angry, flabbergasted, and sad. I don’t understand how they could want more of this, and I don’t really know how I can face a country that finally opened its mouth and rejected everything that I thought made it worth loving.
And that’s why I am taking this so personally. I tried to help, but in the end, the people of this country preferred to stay with their kidnappers. I feel rejected by the country.

Which, I think, is also why I’m taking heart in how many of the people are love are in the same place I am. It’s not as lonely as it might seem. We’re here for each other, and the strength that we share with each other will get us through this. And we will get through it, one way or another. The country we hold in our heart is still waiting, and if all we can do is keep the idea of it alive in our little corner of it, then so be it. We’ll nourish it, draw strength from it and each other, and mount the rescue effort again in 2008.

And so I don’t want to end this on a hopeless note, though I’m not feeling much hope at the moment. I want to retreat into the sanctuary of my little world, which is so comfortable and safe, with all of you around me, and pretend the rest of this never happened. But I am taking heart in two other things right now, which I’ll share with you.

Even when the world ends, it seems puppies still wake you up with their wet noses demanding some cuddling. And peanut butter and jelly sandwiches really do have therapeutic value. They’re small things, and certainly don’t begin to make up for what we all lost yesterday, but if there are things that still feel good, it can’t all be lost, right?


I thought I should tell you, in case you haven't heard it directly, that our European friends are deeply sorry for our loss. They're in my email and voice mail and they've called, and they want us to know that they're really proud of the hard work we did to try to prevent this from happening, they know we didn't just sit on our fat American asses and let them take it, that we tried to make a difference. They're as mystified by it as we are and they want us to know if there's anything they can do to help.

They know. And they are really sorry for our loss.

When reality fails me

While I am reality-based, many of you know I am a person of faith as well. Reality is failing me today, so I ended up at Saint Mark's on the way to work. The letter below, which I just emailed to my family, is the result.

The bit at the end will not sit well with some of you, but the battle ahead will be as much for the soul of America as the ballot box. So we can't ignore the role that religion will play, or the role of people of faith in making sure that religion becomes, once again, a positive force in our country.

Dear Family--

I am sure that a lot of you are wondering what to say to me in the aftermath of this election. Quite frankly, nothing will console me. I think you all know my views on the dangerous direction Bush is taking our great country, both domestically and abroad. I certainly hope that I am wrong in my fears about what the next four years hold.

But I am certain about one thing: the buck now stops with George W. Bush. With strong majorities in both houses of Congress, there can be no blaming anyone else for the results. As Colin Powell said famously (if not quite correctly about store policies) about Iraq—“Pottery Barn rules: you break it, you buy it.” That goes for this country too. Bush will have almost unprecedented leeway in instituting his policies, and if they fail to produce positive results it will be impossible to hide.

I suppose I should be glad this election was not won, like the last one, by dirty tricks and court challenges. But I am not. Because this election was won with a strategy that is far more reckless and much more personal for me and for David. Bush won by appealing to the basest prejudice and bigotry, with a strategy that put gay marriage at the center of an appeal to people of faith. There is no question that turnout on the anti-gay amendment in Ohio produced the turnout that drove Bush’s victory.

Some of you may feel that Bush was right to do whatever was needed to produce a victory. I would ask you to think long and hard about the “moral values” that lie behind such a strategy. I will never, ever forgive him or his party for the terrible slander they undertook against my family and my person. If any of you really believe that my marriage to David in any way, shape or form could possibly damage anyone else’s relationship to their spouse, please tell me—so that I can be certain to stay far enough away from you to ensure that this will not happen.

Sounds a bit ridiculous, doesn’t it? But that is exactly the logic that won the election for this president—an entirely theoretical and baseless supposition of threat that David and I and many of our dearest friends pose to “normal” people. Across the nation, in ten states including Oklahoma, marriage has been “protected” from the likes of David and me. I really hope that this does some good—that straight couples and above all Republican politicians stop divorcing, having affairs, and abusing their spouses because of these laws “protecting marriage.”

Yes, I hope these laws do some tangible good because they have served very effectively to make me feel less safe, less respected, and less welcome in my own country. Not to mention in Oklahoma. The thought of going home fills me with a dread that I daresay few of you have ever had to worry about—I am a member of a minority that is hated, feared and abused, and I have to watch as that fear and hatred is stoked and manipulated for craven political purposes. Again, if that sounds silly to you, please compare my fear of being harassed or beaten—something that happens to gay folks with increasing frequency in this country—to the supposed harm David and I do to everyone else’s marriage. One fear is real, and one is the figment of Karl Rove’s twisted political imagination.

So celebrate victory, as is your right. But please NEVER ask me to respect this president, because he has no respect for me, my vows, or my deep and abiding love for David. And as for Senator Coburn… well, have fun with that one. He’ll be useful to my side for the next six years, saying the outrageous things that many Republicans think but are too politic to say—assuming that there are any limits left in political discourse.

What, you way wonder, are we doing? David and I are in very terse negotiations about moving to Australia. I, frankly, am not sure I have the heart to stay and watch what I fear is unfolding here. Even if everything else turns out well, the crushing burden of debt the country has taken on threatens to cause economic ruin—even the most conservative among you can agree with that. David had talked of moving before the election, but when our fears became fact he became very upset and said “I’ve moved all my life and finally found a place to call home—I don’t want to leave.” We both love Seattle and our “urban family” here, so I imagine we will wait and see.

But any student of history knows that the situation for any minority that has basic rights stripped away by popular vote if truly dire… if we are a “threat” today, how long until we start being called “terrorists”? There is a very real possibility—felt by all thoughtful gay people I know—that this could be the beginning of a time when violence against us moves from mere speech to devastating action. We will not wait for our Kristallnacht, our Reichstag fire—we will speak up and fight for the rights we are due but if the tide turns we will leave for safety’s sake. Words have costs and rhetoric incurs responsibility; if that horrible time comes, it will be due in large part to the low, dishonest rhetoric used to win yesterday’s election.

Though many people I know would consider this to be counterintuitive given the role of religion in this election, I am asking you all to pray about this, for me and for David, and for our country—because that is how I started my day. As I often do when I don’t know what else to do, I stopped by my church on the way to work this morning, a little late for the 8 am service. The nave of the austere Cathedral was open though, and the organist was preparing for a Requiem service to be held Saturday. I slipped into the sanctuary quietly, welcomed by its complete emptiness, and kneeled at a pew in the back of the great open vault. As many times as I had been there, and as many burdens as I had brought, I had never been alone in the Cathedral and that sense of aloneness was both terrifying and deeply beautiful.

The organist played gloriously but it was indeed a rehearsal, with the stopping and repetition that always entails. I heard the same passage four, five times before the organist, high above me in the rafters, moved onto the next. Luckily for me, it was not a particularly dark part of the Requiem, but a lighter section that sounded hopeful, thankful. Suddenly my sitting there and listening was not about music but about all that we imperfect humans do to try to perfect ourselves and the world. Sometimes the feeling is right but the notes are not and we have to try again.

As I listened, I wept, and hoped that the music we all hear today is just a rehearsal—that in the future we will try this again and do better, that when we speak of religion we can speak of love and unity instead of hate and division. However hopeful the notes I heard today, they were part of a Requiem and the part of me that is fearful hopes that it is not a Requiem for the country that we love, that loves freedom and extends hope to those who are suffering and oppressed. Please keep praying, and pray for an end to the false divisions that separate us as a nation and a family. Please pray for me and for David and for all of us who are left feeling frightened. I will pray for you, for understanding, for tolerance, and for the grace that is greater than any sin that we might pridefully impute in each other.

Much love always,


The Pottery Barn presidency

I sent this in to the Seattle Times Backyard Blog this morning... we'll see what they do with it.

OK my Republican friends... you have the White House and strong
majorities in Congress. Do what you will, but please don't carp about
obstructionist Democrats. And please tell your President to stand up
and start taking responsibility for his actions. Please let the buck
start stopping with him.

Just as Colin Powell invoked the "Pottern Barn Rule" in Iraq--as in
"you broke it, you bought it" (which iss not actually Pottery Barn's
policy but you get the idea)--so is it in play here. There will be
nobody to blame the next four years on. So good luck, godspeed--and
know that a loyal opposition will be taunting you with our
"reality-based" outlook. Unless Bush starts publicly admitting that
God is telling him personally how to run the country, a bit of reality
might actually be a worthwhile contribution to the public discourse.

On a final, personal note, I'm sorry that I lost this election for the
Democrats. Watching as ten states banned gay marriage, it became
painfully clear that conservative voters who turned out for "moral
values" and against the "homosexual agenda" made the difference, just
as that blasted Karl Rove said they would. I'm sorry that David and I
selfishly wanted hospital visitation rights, protection for our joint
property, and the right to pay our taxes together. Apparently, this is
so repugnant to Americans it swamped all other considerations. So it
looks like our status as "walking, talking wedge issue" is ratified.

At this point, the marriage vow that David and I made is what is
holding us together and keeping us here. As we went to bed to bad
news, we said, "Whatever else happens, we have each other." I would,
honestly, prefer to leave the country. Or rather, I feel that it has
left me and moving would just be a matter-of-fact recognition of this
reality. It would be easy to move to David's native Australia--and my
Mother, stuck in Oklahoma, is egging us on, with the proviso that she
wants to join us.

But David, God bless him, wants to stay. Hearing him talk of his love
for Seattle, our home, and our friends here, I realize it would break
my heart to leave. Maybe it already is broken. And maybe that's the
"Pottery Barn Rule" that really matters--your heart belongs to the
country that breaks it.

This is my country, however much so many voters want me to be a
second-class citizen. I can still vote, still march, still protest,
and still raise my voice in celebration of all that is good and
beautiful here. From wherever I go, that's what I will be doing. So
this is no end, just a new chapter. Thanks to the Seattle Times for
the chance to write, and thanks to everyone who has been reading along
the way. From here on out, my friends and I will be on
trying to make sense of all of this. Because blogging, like politics,
is a way of life.

November 02, 2004

11:50 PM

What are we going to do now?

How voters have ruined democracy

So it looks like the election, whatever the result, is going to be very close. Once again, just as in 2000, the margin between the Democratic and Rebublican presidential challengers will be close to 50-50. How has this happened again? We've seen this not just in the US, but also other major democracies -- recent elections in Australia and the UK have also been just as close.

I blame polling. Not the polling booths of election day -- I'm referring to those surveys, focus groups, and think-tanks that modern politicians use to gauge the popular will before the election. Let me explain. Think of politics as a game (I know, not hard to do) where the objective for each party is to modify its policies in the run-up to an election in response to polling, focus groups, and suchlike, in order to maximise its percentage of the popular vote. In winner-take-all democratic systems like that of the USA and UK, the game is played within a system where there are two contending parties. As this game plays out over time, each party will quickly identify those policies which, if adopted, will cause its popular vote to drop below 50% and thereby lose the election. If so, the logical choice for that party is to adopt the policy of the opponent, or something close to it. The result? On major issues that are relevant to most of the electorate, the parties converge in policy. What's left are those issues that the parties are willing to stand upon on principle and won't lose them the vote. Sadly, in modern politics, the desire to win far outweighs the propensity to stand on principle, and so all we are left with to differentiate the parties are the "wedge issues" at the extremes of politics.

This leaves us with the paradox of modern politics as reflected in the current US election: the two major parties are very similar in the major issues (the economy, the war) but differ wildly in the wedge issues (mainly social issues). And the parties, according to polls, are very, very close to 50% each. Since each party converges to 50% support, election results are no longer driven by any real choice in policy, but rather intransient and essentially random factors. These include the effect of third-party candidates, reliability of polling machines, and which party can most effectively get its supporters to the polling booth.

The irony is, that this is the epitome of democracy. Today, on every major issue, the policy of the ruling (or elected) party represents the will of the majority. Likewise, pluralities determine policy on wedge issues. Problems arise when the will of the plurality determines policy for the otherwise uncommitted majority. Even when the plurality is the majority, the majority can still be objectively wrong.

For this reason, strict democracies aren't a great medium for social progress. (The famous quote sums this up well: a democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner.) When slavery in the US was abolished, much more than 50% of the population was against doing so. (In retrospect, we should all agree that the majority was objectively wrong here.) But slavery was abolished because the US was then, much more so than it is now, a representative democracy. We elect leaders and entrust them to make decisions that will benefit us not just now, but also into the future. But today, those leaders are driving by the popular will through the proxy of the poll, rather than by their own judgement. Could slavery, if it existed today with the same popular support it did then, be abolished by today's politicians? The current reactions to the gay marriage issue makes me fear not.

And so we come to the irony of ironies: the voters, via the pollsters, have ruined democracy as we know it. From now on, the decisions that affect our lives in fundamental ways will be driven by Nascar Dad, New York Liberal, and Flyover State Mom.

I am so depressed.


Midnight: Just got home from the post-election "party." We closed up shop in Shoreline at about 8:30 after the last of our poll watcher data came in. We had CNN on and the mood visably deteriorated as the results started to come in.

About 1/2 hour ago I was sitting next to one of the teenagers who came up to Everett with me to volunteer for a day. "What did we do wrong?" She asked. "We didn't do anything wrong," I said. "And neither did you. You were there and you worked really hard - I SAW you do it."

But I wonder. I talked with her mom for a while at about 10pm. We both wondered if things wouldn't have turned out differently if the party machinery wasn't so fucked up. But now, I'm going to bed. I'm going to try, for now, to believe that I did all I could for this election. Washington is a Kerry state right now, and Patty Murray kept her seat. That's what I worked on and for now, for the next 24 hours, it's going to have to do.

5pm Update: We're still cranking out the vote here in Shoreline. Our second shift is working really hard - we finally lost Gretchen at about 4pm and she got here first thing this morning right after we opened the doors. The high schoolers are here too, they got in a little after three and they helped us finish up our call lists - we're in round two, now we're just calling people who we left messages for earlier today.

I just spent a little time talking with one of our canvassers, a tall guy wearing a "Canucks for Kerry" button. He told me that in Canada, they're not allowed to broadcast results until the polls are closed on the West coast. Of course, here, we'd have to wait for the Hawaiians to close up shop if we did that, but I can't help but wonder what would have happened in 2000 if we'd done it the Canadian way. The Web has certainly thrown a wrench in the works - a private citizen was taken to court for publishing the results on his own site.

We're running our final poll check at 6:30, but so far our turn out looks really good. We're checking results online when we get a lull in the action, but it's a little like being in the eye of the storm. We're working really hard here and we don't have a lot of time to see what's going on out there in the world.

Short update: Jay Inslee came in and shook hands with all the volunteers and headed out again into the rain. We had so many people show up we had to set up an overflow phone bank with the Sierra Club down in Fremont. We also got a pile of cell phones that were supposed to be used by the canvassers - we put our callers on them.

Chris, one of the staffers, walked through around 11 am to give us the numbers and we cheered like crazy.

Apparently there was some kind of snafu around lunch because we ended up with three boxes of KFC for 100 volunteers. The pizza showed up later, but only one box made it down to us. I grabbed a slice and headed back to Cap Hill to go to the polls. I'm going to vote and head back up to Shoreline, but what I really want to do is take a nap. Whew, it's going to be a long day.

I'm at the front desk at the Jay Inslee campaign office where I'll be spending my day. We got here at about 6:50, the place was already packed. It's pouring rain, but the team captains have come out in force, wearing rain pants and hats and carrying umbrellas. They're having snacks and getting their maps and in about 1/2 hour, they're off to the neighborhoods to get out the vote. My phone bank team has gone on a coffee run - we didn't want to get you out of the shower to answer the phone, but we'll be starting our efforts around 8 and we'll be here until 8 tonight.

It's the big day. Let's vote, people.