Saturday, May 28, 2011

Travelin’ man

Pawlenty tweetEarlier this week, Tim “Mr. Charisma” Pawlenty let out his inner mean girl and posted this snarky tweet. A few of us decided to respond. My tweet was something like “So if you become President (haha), are you going to forgo all diplomatic trips? Quit being a dick, okay?”

Yeah, I said it.

I’ve seen other comments here and there about President Obama’s recent European trip, saying that he’s just out having fun, spending money, blahbittyblahblah. Cut the bullshit, people. He’s the President of the United States of America. He does diplomacy and junk, okay? Let’s look at his 6-day schedule, shall we?

Monday: A meeting with the Irish president and prime minister. A visit to the village where his great-great-great grandfather lived. A pint of Guinness. A speech in Dublin about Irish-American ties.

Tuesday: Off to London for lunch with Queen Elizabeth. Laying a wreath at Westminster Abbey at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior, an important part of every state visit to the U.K. Attending a state dinner hosted by the queen at Buckingham Palace.

Wednesday: A meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron, followed by a news conference with the PM. A speech to Parliament. Hosting a dinner for the queen at the home of the U.S. Ambassador to Britain.

Thursday: Off to Deauville, France, for a G8 meeting. A major topic included how this group of the world’s top economies can assist countries in the Middle East and Africa that are experiencing the birthing pains of democracy. A meeting with Russian President Medvedev.

Friday: More G8 meetings. A meeting with French President Sarkozy and Japanese Prime Minister Kan, then travel to Warsaw. Dinner with several leaders of Central and Eastern European countries.

Saturday: A meeting with Polish President Komorowski, lunch with Prime Minister Tusk, followed by a news conference with the PM. Visits to several cultural sites, including the laying of a wreath at the Warsaw Ghetto, where so many freedom fighters fought and died during WWII.

So, Pawlenty...what did YOU do this past week?

Obama and MedvedevHas President Obama traveled overseas more than any other recent President? Yes, slightly more than Bush the Elder. Not an outrageous amount. If you recall, he also had plenty of ground to make up, considering that Bush the Younger left our overseas relations in a shambles. (We really weren’t very well-liked for some time. Remember that?) This is part of what the President does. He meets with foreign heads of state, both abroad and at home, and fosters good will while discussing policy. Many scoffed at his quaffing of a pint in Dublin, but he was very well-received in Ireland and generated a lot of good will.

Many also seem to take issue at the state dinners that take place at the White House. I get the impression that people think that when President Hu and his wife pop in from China, they should all just get together for fried baloney sandwiches and Pringles. That would save the taxpayers some money, right?!

I remember having a “discussion” with my Dad, who thought it was ridiculous that President Obama took Air Force One everywhere. I said, “Dad...he’s the President. He can’t just fly coach. There are security concerns.” He did seem to concede the point, but I have noticed much more outrage over President Obama’s travels than I noticed in any other Presidency. I don’t recall anyone complaining about George H. W. Bush’s Japan trip in 1994...except maybe for the Japanese Prime Minister who got puked on. (You’ll all be glad to know that I censored myself and did not include a link to the video. I DO respect the Presidency, and President Bush was very ill. I really don’t laugh at that.)

But really, folks. Get a grip and stop criticizing the President for doing part of his job: diplomacy. You can criticize him for his policies, but his overseas trips are vital to our relationships around the world, both those that have been solid for years (the British) and those that are newer and perhaps somewhat shaky (the Chinese). This is just nitpicking bullshit, and Pawlenty’s snarkiness showed him to be puerile, petty, and pandering to the teabaggers who automatically hate anything Obama does. Definitely less than presidential.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Dimmer Twins

Palin empty headAs originally published on BlogCritics

Palin and Bachmann running for President? How interesting.

The speculation has been endless, especially when it comes to whether or not Sarah Palin will enter the race. Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann has also shown signs of throwing her toque in the ring.

Bachmann has said that her phone has been “ringing off the hook” with those wanting her to enter the race, and CNN reports that it is looking increasingly likely that she will enter the race.

Palin was thought by most to have taken herself out of the running, but her recent purchase of a home in Arizona (it would be easier to run a campaign from the mainland than from Alaska), news of a movie about her governorship (Shortened though it might be, through no fault of her own. Oh, wait.) in Alaska premiering in Iowa, and the announcement of a bus tour have fanned the flames of speculation once again.

In some ways, I welcome this news (more about that in a moment), but overall, I am both appalled and amused. Let me count the ways:

1) As a woman, I applaud those of my gender being involved in politics. It was a man’s world for decades, if not centuries, and the more women that get involved, the better. However, I would prefer that such candidates have a lot more substance. Love her or hate her, Hillary Clinton had a boatload of gravitas; Palin and Bachmann seem to be more about sound bites and appearance than policy. They are very good at firing up their base. They are sorely lacking in the ability to reach beyond that base and deliver their message to others who need to be convinced. Frankly, I find their demeanor and lack of knowledge concerning the Constitution, policy, and various other tough questions thrown their way (things like “Which newspapers do you read?”) an embarrassment to women everywhere.

I have no problem with attractive women in the workplace or in politics. Indeed, it can sometimes be an asset, and I would be lying if I said that I felt that it hadn’t helped me in my career at some point. However, you’d better have the knowledge to back it up. I worked with some attractive women during my laboratory career, but if you didn’t have the knowledge about what you were doing or the processes that took place in the lab, you didn’t get ahead. I expect the same from any politician, whether male or female. When women have often had to work harder and be smarter in order to be taken seriously in many endeavors, I find it a setback to hear some men say, “That Palin is sure a looker, ain’t she?” You don’t get to run the country because you look good in a designer suit and high heels.

I don’t doubt Palin’s or Bachmann’s toughness (although Palin has a disturbing tendency towards vindictiveness, and she seems to have a hard time shaking off the inevitable criticism that comes with being on the national stage), because you can’t be a politician in this country without having a good measure of toughness. However, I also want a good measure of intelligence, and a willingness to work across the aisle rather than simply hammering home every agenda at the expense of the well-being of our country and our citizens.

2) As a progressive, I simply do not care for their agenda. I fundamentally disagree with most of, if not all, their nebulous policies, and their basic philosophy of less government, more local control. Such a doctrine was rejected by our founding fathers (the same founding fathers that Palin and Bachmann seem to love so well, but understand so little about) when they rejected the Federalist papers in favor of the Constitution. The Constitution states clearly in what is known as the Supremacy Clause that federal law is the supreme law of the land. The concept of states’ rights was fought over in the Civil War, and it was rejected. I honestly do not understand this effort to let states reign supreme; if that were the case, there would still be segregation in many southern states.

Palin, Bachmann, and the teabaggers call for a return to the way things used to be, a return to American exceptionalism. They seem to be enamored of post-WWII America. To be sure, it was a time of booming prosperity, but it was also a time of discrimination against blacks and other minorities, women (unless they stayed at home; that was okay), and homosexuals. As for American exceptionalism, they seem to have missed the news that we are falling behind other developed countries when it comes to health care, infant mortality, and education. Part of the latter has much to do with the endless attack upon science education, an atmosphere where teachers are sometimes afraid to teach the scientific facts of evolution because of the blowback they get from highly religious communities. Which brings me to this.

3) Palin, Bachmann, and their acolytes seem to want nothing more than to make our country a theocracy. As someone who firmly believes in the separation of church and state (again, those pesky founding fathers and their assertions that we are not to promote ANY religion; another part of the Constitution that is conveniently ignored by many), I find this the most disturbing of all. One would think that the readily accessible example of various theocracies throughout the world (let’s use Iran as an example) would lead anyone to understand that basing our government upon any sort of religion is exactly what we should not and must not do. It was definitely not the intent of the writers of our Constitution. We do not base our laws upon any religious text. Both Palin and Bachmann seem to be taking their cues on whether to run or not from God, and when Palin met with Billy Graham, she asked him about what the Bible says concerning Israel, Iraq, and Iran. If you want to base your foreign policy on what the Bible says about the End Times, the Rapture, and Armageddon, kindly step slowly away from my government.

4) Finally, as someone who is highly interested in politics and also loves to laugh, I think it would be very entertaining to have these two enter the race. The debates will be hilarious, and will provide plenty of comedy fodder. I suspect, however, that it will not be any sort of a boon to a Republican party that wishes to be taken seriously. For all the talk of Paul Ryan’s “serious and daring budget” (ignore that Medicare part, okay?), I find it a downright knee slapper that the possibility exists that we will see the Dimmer Twins soon engaged in battle. I await such a development eagerly, and I’m sure my fellow progressives do, as well.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Fine Art of Surfacing

Fine Art of SurfacingAfter a good night’s sleep, I got up today and was feeling better. Shortly after I got up, my sister Diana called, and we talked for an hour. It was a great start to my day, and we talked about things good and bad, spoke of philosophical matters, and had lots of laughs. She is less than a week away from retirement, and I am so happy for her!

One of the things that she has resolved to do upon her retirement is to lose weight and exercise. I said that one thing that has really helped me and made me feel good is working out, and I usually do it five days a week, 45 minutes at a time. She said, “That’s great!” I said that I was really working on my arms and trying to get Michele Obama arms. She got a kick out of that. I’ll keep working on my definition and put a picture up! Anyway, we laughed a lot, and that was a very good thing. Diana is super cool.

I’ve been ordering lots of CDs lately, and one I got recently was one of Keith Richards’ solo efforts, “Talk Is Cheap.” I listened to it when I as working out today, and you all know how much I love Keef...but when I listened to this, I thought, “This is why you and Mick are a team.” Honestly, Keith is a great guitarist and writes some great music, but the sparks don’t fly without Mick. I also had a discussion with some friends on Facebook about Aerosmith and Steven Tyler. Could Aerosmith continue without Tyler? I don’t think so. Joe Perry is badass, but Tyler’s voice is so distinctive. Can you imagine the conflict that musical teams like this have? I’ve read that it was the same with Lennon and McCartney. Knowing that your success depends so much upon another person would be really hard. I can’t help but think about things like that when I read about such artists. I find it fascinating.

I finished Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants, today. I want to be her when I grow up. I’m not sure what I want to read next. So many books to choose from! I’m catching up on Time issues at the moment.

It was warm and humid today, and after I worked out, I put on a bikini and sat out in the sun and read for about a half an hour. Vitamin D is important. Enjoying the warmth and sunshine after a long winter and some sad times is also important.

Tomorrow I’m having lunch with Cousin Shane and Matt. We’ll talk and laugh, and I’m looking forward to it.

I apologize if this is disjointed, but right now, simple thoughts are about all I can process. I’m working on coming up for air. There is much to discuss in the political realm, including Mitch Daniels deciding not to run for President, but right now that stuff doesn’t seem all that important to me. Well, I know it’s important, but right now I just don’t care. The rhetoric is becoming increasingly ludicrous, and it’s amusing to watch people scramble to clarify, pander, and pontificate. There will be time to address that in the near future. But not right now.

I want to thank everyone for their kind wishes, good thoughts, and yes, their prayers for me and my family. You are all very kind people, and it is very much appreciated. If you have a moment, stop by my friend George’s site and give him some good thoughts, too. He had to say goodbye to one of his sweet kitties today, and I know that many of us know how much that hurts.

Here’s to better things. This is one of my favorite songs. For you, George.

Here's wishing you the bluest sky,
And hoping something better comes tomorrow.
Hoping all the verses rhyme,
And the very best of choruses to
Follow all the doubt and sadness.
I know that better things are on the way.

Here's hoping all the days ahead
Won't be as bitter as the ones behind you.
Be an optimist instead,
And somehow happiness will find you.
Forget what happened yesterday,
I know that better things are on the way.

It's really good to see you rocking out
And having fun,
Living like you just begun.
Accept your life and what it brings.
I hope tomorrow you'll find better things.
I know tomorrow you'll find better things.

Here's wishing you the bluest sky,
And hoping something better comes tomorrow.
Hoping all the verses rhyme,
And the very best of choruses to
Follow all the drudge and sadness.
I know that better things are on the way.

I know you've got a lot of good things happening up ahead.
The past is gone it's all been said.
So here's to what the future brings,
I know tomorrow you'll find better things.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

World, Shut Your Mouth

Atlas tomatoOkay, I’m pissed.

My Uncle Burt died today. It wasn’t unexpected; he’d been in poor health for some time now, and we all knew it was going to happen sooner rather than later. I think he was 92, or thereabouts. He was my Dad’s last surviving brother. Only Aunt Gertrude is left now, and she is in a nursing home in Fort Wayne. I wonder who will be calling Aunt Gert? Maybe my Mom, maybe they’ll let her sons know and they will tell her in person. I don’t know. I know it will make her cry. She’s the only one left.

Uncle Burt was in the Navy during WWII, and served on a ship in the Pacific. He came back and opened a body shop, which his son (Cousin Doug) runs now. They still do a great business, and are well known in the community. Uncle Burt and Aunt Margaret had a cabin in Minnesota (north of Bemidji), and I spent many happy weeks up there in the summer with my family when I was a kid. That’s where I learned to fish, and I got to see bears in the wild, a guy who made birch bark canoes and farmed wild rice, and I got to watch Uncle Burt and my Dad clean fish. Uncle Burt often made pancakes on an electric griddle, and I remember a mounted deer head in the attic that I just loved. There is a picture of a little me somewhere in my nightgown, with my arm wrapped around the deer like it was my best buddy.

Our summer vacations in Minnesota were like a week at camp. I learned to bait my own hook, I caught fish, and I got leeches on my feet, which I removed myself. I would catch leeches at the dock and pour salt on them and watch the bastards die. (I probably wouldn’t do that now, but it seemed like it was okay after I was dangling my feet in the water off of the pier and a leech glommed onto me.) When I caught a fish, everyone cheered, and when I said excitedly, “I’ve got a bite! I’ve got a bite!” and it turned out to be a weed, everyone thought it was cute and funny. They had a sign up at the entrance to their cabin and it said “Burton and Margaret’s Cabin,” or something like that. I was little and couldn’t read very well, so I called them Button and Maggie for a long time. They thought that was cute, too.

One time, my sister Sue and I rode up with Uncle Burt and Aunt Margaret while our Mom and Dad took their own trip by way of Niagara Falls to celebrate their 25th anniversary. I sat in the front seat between them, and when we drove through Duluth by Lake Superior, Uncle Burt would say, “Look at the ships!” and when I turned to look, he’d kiss me on the cheek. Aunt Margaret would do the same thing. I pretended to be all upset and would brush their kisses off of my cheeks, but I loved it. And I loved them.

Grief eyeThey were a big part of my childhood, and I cherish all of those memories. I’m having my cry at the moment, and I’m okay with that. I’ll be proud to attend Uncle Burt’s funeral this week and be with my family.

But I am also giving life a rather steely-eyed glare at the moment. Many things have been thrown at me in the past year and a half. I’m not going to rail against some unseen entity or ask “Why me??” As Christopher Hitchens said, “Why NOT me?” No one is causing this, no one is to blame. Death is a part of life, and I am of the age when my elderly relatives are going to die. That is reality, and I understand and accept that.

I spent some time this afternoon sitting outside on what was a beautiful day. About 80°, sunshine, everything is getting green and lush, birds were visiting the feeders. I planted some tomatoes. I’m feeling a bit of “Fuck you, life” right now, but I don’t really mean that. There is a big thunderstorm passing over right now, but I know that the sun will come out again. Literally and figuratively. I look at times like this and I’m all like “Bring it on, bitch.” I get frustrated at those with a defeatist attitude, because this sort of thing only brings out the fighter in me. And those of you who have been reading me for a while know that I’m nothing if not a fighter. I may be small, but I’m scrappy. [wink]

Sometimes things can seem overwhelming, but as I told myself today, “Nutwood abides.” Not just here, but everywhere. I’m sure that someone is fishing on Dora Lake near Bemidji...the lake where I fished with my Dad and Uncle Burt and my cousins. If not now, perhaps they will be tomorrow. I hope they catch a fish for my Uncle Burt.

Julian Cope - World Shut Your Mouth by UniversalMusicGroup