Friday, October 31, 2008

palin and women

so this spam from mccainland tells me that hillary clinton's female supporters and other women are complaining that obama's ad in which gov. palin is depicted winking at the camera is sexist.

now, i've been a feminist for 40-something years. true, i've also been a [shudder] leftist, so i'd be unlikely to vote for mccain in any case. but i would love for him to have picked a worthy republican woman as his running mate--someone i could disagree with but whose intelligence i could respect. we need that image in this unquestionably male-dominated world of american politics.

palin is shrewd, and she's loaded with personality. but she doesn't come near the intelligence a vice president [which is to say, a potential president] needs. she's uninformed about things a third grader should know. and she gets---well, . the reason the dem's used that picture of her winking is that she bloody winked! i have no doubt that had a male candidate winked for the camera, they'd have used that too. it's . i would hope that all clinton supporters know that hillary clinton wouldn't act like a valley girl.

no, the real sexism is from mccain and whatever advisers foisted the governor on him. did they really think all women would vote for a woman simply because she was a woman, regardless of her politics, her intelligence, and her demeanor? she's feisty and pretty, and she has several child, one of whom is a down's syndrome baby that she chose to have. that's cool. that's nice. but it doesn't offer a reason to vote for her as vice president.

her politics are not pro-woman, or at least not pro-less-than-rich woman. and her scope of knowledge is not such that she would be able to handle the job of president with any of the skill demanded of that job. indeed she has made a mockery of the presidential campaign and of professional women.

obama is male, and i don't know how deep his committment to women's issues go. but he's intelligent, informed, and more of a feminist than gov. palin. and he knows how to pick a vice president who could, if need be, do the job of governing the country.

women have been relegated to the "cute" for far too long. i'm sure palin earned her Miss Alaska title. but she's not fit to be Madame President.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


There have been so many things said by GOP folks at so many different times that people can get confused. Thus I am putting it all together in a chronological tale. Of course, I can't vouch for the accuracy of any of it--but then, neither can the GOP...

Barack Obama was born sometime around 1960. I have not heard the Republicans cite the date, so I don't know it. However, it is enough to know that he was born way after Senator McCain, and thus lacks enough experience to be president. He was born before Governor Palin, but he still has less experience because he has never seen Russia from his window.

Little Barack was named Obama because it was his father's last name and also because it looked and sounded like the name of someone who would attack America 40 years later. His middle name was chosen because his prophetic-if-evil parents wanted to pay tribute to the man who would one day be very good at hiding weapons of mass destruction and who was easy to mistake for the one who would attack America because they both came from the same general area. Witnesses at little Barack's christening reported that he grinned and gurgled his approval when the minister spoke these names.

When he was 8, Barack joined the terrorist Weather Underground. It was there that he first met and began palling around with Bill Ayers. As Barack carefully wrapped his little fingers around the bomb he was building, Ayers made a promise to the the lad. "When you grow up, I will invite you to sit in my living room so that I can make you president of the United States."

They became briefly estranged a few years later, when little Barack, at the advice of his minister, Reverend Wright, was converted to Islam and became an arab. (This, however, has recently been argued by Senator McCain, who said that Obama was not an arab, he was a good man. Thus the English language has acquired a new antonym, the opposite of "good" no longer being "bad," but "arab.") His conversion naturally expanded his penchant for terrorism, since, as anyone who has never read the Koran knows, all Muslims like to kill people. All arabs also like to kill people. Indeed, all Muslims are arabs, and vice versa.

As he grew older, Barack began to evolve even more subversive ideas. Billionaires should be taxed more than poor people, he said. This caused his enemies to accuse him of wanting to spread the wealth. He also fought against people named Hockey Mom or Joe Six Pack, and he told a man named Joe the Plumber that he would not raise his income tax if he became president and Joe the Plumber bought his own plumbing business. This was a shrewd promise because it turned out that Joe wasn't really a plumber and wasn't going to buy the business and never paid taxes anyway.

Eventually Obama got bored with being a Muslim socialist, and there was no Weather Underground any more, so he hooked up with a group called ACORN which was dedicated to inventing voter names and thus destroying democracy.

Later he decided to run for president in order to tax everyone who earned more than 22cents a week and to destroy people like Joe the Plumber who just wanted a piece of the American Dream.

This is all I know about Senator Obama, but there are 18 days to go before November 4, so Senator McCain and Governor Palin and their friends may give us some more exciting facts about the person no one knows, that one there, or "the real Barack Obama."

Sunday, August 10, 2008


this morning when i got up i looked out my window. across the street, a man and a woman were walking past each other. both wore jeans and elbow-length white shirts, and they walked at the same liesurely pace. they looked like expanding bookends, and it felt like they encompassed all the wisdom the world would ever need, in the space between them....

Saturday, August 9, 2008

i hate mainstream politics

i wanted john edwards to get the Democratic nomination. i was sad when he didn't. not because i thought he was any better, or worse, than any of the other likely choices, but b/c i thought he had a better chance to win. he was white, he was male, he was a good ol' boy.

luckily, i was wrong. the country is racist and it's sexist, but it's also puritanical. very puritanical. we want our presidents to be Pure. murderous is ok. starving out poor kids is ok. adultery is not.

personally i don't care if my president keeps a harem, as long as its inhabitants are adult and free to leave at any time.

so it isn't edwards' adultery that upsets me. i'd be perfectly happy if elizabeth edwards kicked him out of the house after assaulting him in such a way that he never would have sex with anyone, ever again. but that's her business. i have never felt entitled as an american citizen to know about my candidate's sex life.
on the other hand, i am concerned about my candidate's intelligence. edwards talks intelligently. i had mistakenly beleived that meant he was intelligent.
well, he isn't. i could forgive clinton his monumental stupidity in the lewinsky fuss. after all, we have a long history of the press's gentleman's agreement with pols; we see no sex, hear no sex, and print no sex. clinton got caught in a new era, when the press reports everything a prominent pol does.

2006 was well after the lewinsky hearings. a smart pol considering running for president would have looked at the pretty lady, sadly said, 'sorry, babe, maybe after the end of my administration.' a shot at the presidency, or a night of illicit merriment?

so suppose our smart pol had gotten carried away with lust, like a 16-year-old schoolboy. afterwards, what could he do? probably what edwards did do--pretend it never happened and hope she would too and no one would be the wiser. only then the press finds out. wouldn't the dread words, 'i never had sex with that woman," haunt him? wouldn't that be time for either a manly confession or at least a dignified refusal to discuss personal matters in a political campaign?

politicians lie. of course they do. machiavelli knew it 500 years ago, and we know it now, however much we collaborate in the lies by pretending they're not possible. but as machiavelli also knew, they have to be shrewd, they have to know when to stop lying because they're going to be found out anyway, and they need then to appear as if they have integrity in spite of their lapses. they need, that is, to know when to switch to a new and more subtle lie.

i enjoyed the image of the dedicated husband. i'm willing to beleive that in his own way, he has been a dedicated husband. if his wife can deal with his infidelity, i don't see why the press can't or why the american public can't. anyway, i can.

but i'm afraid of a stupid president--after 8 years, i should be. and for all smooth talk and boyish charm, john edwards has revealed himself to be a very stupid man. i hope he has hurt only himself and his family; i very much fear he has hurt the Democratic party, and thus done his own little part to give us four more years of bush-hood.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

TV and the campaign season

it's that time again. there's a Democrat and a Republican candidate (well, almost: the conventions haven't been held yet, so it's more like the prewedding dinner than the reception), and with them, the inevitable onslaught of complaints about the media, in particular television. i'm one of those who complains about television, which Newton Minnow would surely say remains largely a vast wasteland. but i also get tired of people acting like television has created the problem of inane political discourse. anyway, the attacks have begun. in this past sunday's Boston Globe is an op-ed piece by Rick Shenkman called "the dumbing down of voters."

It's an odd and contradictory article, since Shenkman insists in the beginning that "politics today is conducted at a lower level than it used to be,'' and then tells us how uninformed the US voters were in the 1940s. We're no better, he says, even though we have a higher level of education than they had 60 years ago. I wouldn't argue with that. He cites sad statistics: only two in ten americans know we have 100 senators; only a third know Congress has the power to declare war, and a slew of equally dispiriting findings. He gives several reasons for this--the "collapse of the traditional two-party system" (i didn't realize it had collapsed--does this mean we'll have a Socialist or Libertarian president next year?); and the collapse of unions.

but the real villain, is, inevitably, television. "once television replaced newspapers as the chief source of news, this happened around 1965, shallowness was inescapable as americans began judging politicians by how they looked and acted." earlier, he had opined that "Not many voted against william howard taft because he was fat or abraham lincoln because he was thin. One can't imagine franklin roosevelt being judged by how badly he bowled or how convincingly he knocked back a tumble of scotch.''

Maybe not. but roosevelt himself cared enough about image to make certain that he was never seen, let alone photographed, in public in his wheelchair. that, supposedly, would show him as a 'weak man.' indeed roosevelt famously told orson welles that they were the two best actors in america.

nor did it start there. the media--whichever media there were at a given time--have always reported shallowly when the politicians gave them the chance. And the politicians usually did. in the early 1840s, william henry harrison ran against incumbent martin van buren, using the now famous ditty based on harrison's army triumphs 20 years earlier in the battle of tippicanoe, and on van buren's height ('he's a little man'). van buren answered with a ditty from his own supporters, which if less famous was equally fatuous.

television did indeed jump into the fray in the very beginning. who can forget the sight of richard nixon earnestly explaining to the camera that the democrats wanted to take away his children's puppy, the adorable little Checkers? and yes, the public bought it.

and in the same era, television also brought us edward r. murrow.

it's always like that.

so today, we get soundbites, and anemic "debates." we'll hear for weeks and weeks about obama's alleged connections to islamic terrorists and to che guevara. once the conventions are over, we'll hear equally unsubstantiated but entertaining reports about mccain. we'll know more about both candidates' wives than most of us ever want to.

but that isn't all we'll get. we'll channel surf and find bill moyers on pbs, examining issues closely and seriously, as we have done at least since watergate.
this past week, the nation has been stunned by the loss of a tv commentator whose committment to full, honest exploration of american politics was palpable. tim russert was beloved for a reason. he was a popular host on a major network tv show he made popular, even in its sunday morning time slot. he gave us content and context, with intelligence and civility. his death was a shock in part because he was fairly young (58), energetic, and apparently healthy. but it was also because he was a fixture in american political reporting, and it's hard to imagine the upcoming election without him. that his colleagues and friends mourn him is moving, but inevitable. that his loss affects so many average americans says volumes about what television can, and often does, do. that it doesn't do it enough is true. but just as its drivel is symptomatic of our public, so is its occasional depth. we are no better or worse than any other generation. television is no better or worse than any of the media that preceded it--from the 'bread and circuses' of the ancient romans through the elaborate pageantry of the Tudor monarchs' "progresses," through tippicanoe and tyler too, through FDR's make-believe walk, through poor little checkers, and beyond and probably before.

there will never be another tim russert, as there has never been another edward r. murrow. but there are and will be good television reporters and analysts, and stations that now and again give them a place to be heard.

it's up to us to listen.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

semi-staged opera

i have become, in recent years, a great fan of opera. i get to new york and the met a couple of times a year, and to whatever opera is in the boston area when it's here.

it's an expensive hobby, even if you get the cheapest seats. and if you don't live in new york or london, there usually isn't a lot around. but the boundaries expand if you get to concert operas--operas which, as their name suggests, are performed as if they were concerts and the singers extensions of the orchestra, standing in place and singing. for me, this has worked fairly well: if you are very familiar with the opera's story, you can follow it well enough, and usually you are provided with a decent explanation in the program. i've seen two at the boston symphony orchestra, conducted by the wonderful james levine. the first, 'moses und aron,' was new to me, but i was able to follow it. the two main singers were extraordinary. they had done this at the Met fully staged, and were able, even in this confined presentation, to display in body language as well as voice the emotional content of the piece. that was last year; this year they did 'les troyens,' a two-opera sequence about the trojan war based on 'the aeneid.' i know the aenead well, so i had my own 'production' visually clear in my mind. what an astounding expereince!

but there's a third kind of production that i've come to cherish--the 'semi-staged' opera. in boston at least this approach has expanded, and often performances defined as 'concert opera' turn out to be semi-staged. usually the singers wear the formal evening wear of the concert opera--gowns and tuxedos. sometimes, as with the yearly Boston Baroque opera, they wear their own clothing, not necessarily formal, and often match the clothing to the character. but in either case, while the orchestra and chorus are on the stage as in any concert, the singers act out the action, even ocassionally with very small props [a small table, a glass, a pen and paper, etc.] most importantly, they don't just stand there; they interact according to the plot. often the women vary their clothing [typically a woman will wear a plain gown, with different shawls or scarves].

these productions tend to be less expensive than fully staged operas, for obvious reasons. sometimes they are far better--large choruses, etc. and they extend the operagoing possibilities for the audience. they engage the imagination, and at the same time enlarge the visual and emotional information. there was a wonderful 'carmen' here recently, semi staged but artfully including the orchestra and chorus into the theatrical elements [in the first act, the vamp carmen flirted not only with the various male characters but with the conductor himself! clever, and leaving no doubt about the character of carmen, and the fate of her doomed conquest don jose.

a wonderful invention, semi-staging!