Monday, June 23, 2008

cultivating my garden

It's been a while since i wrote a non-political diary here, and the honest-to-blog (as Juno might say) truth of the matter is that I've been exhausted.

That's it, bottom line, no fancy excuses, just that: I've been wiped out. At first I think it was simply physical; the end of the school year this time around took quite a toll. Not only did I have my annual Oh my God I have all of this to grade still?!!? moment sometime the week before finals, but on top of that I was told that I had to pack everything in my room into boxes by the last day of school so it could be moved to a new room over the summer.

Now let me put that in perspective for you:

I've been in the same room for about eight years. Before that I was in the same room for ten years. When I last moved, they just took everything from one room to the other. And let me tell you: I've accumulated a whole lot of stuff over eighteen years in those two rooms (not to mention the other twelve bopping around elsewhere). A month before school ended, we were having a department meeting in my room and the superintendent came in.

"Whoa," he said, looking around. "This is the best classroom I've been in." He meant that it seemed to be comfortable, to be lived in, to be real as opposed to some clinical shared space. And I am proud of that, but this was the price I was about to pay: pack those years into boxes. At the same time I was supposed to be grading my finals and getting everything else done.


After eight consecutive school days of desperately working in my room until at least 6 PM (much of it physical labor, too...while I had those grades hanging over my head), I finally got it all done, but the stress was getting to me, and when it was all through I basically came home and crashed. This is not the right way to begin a summer vacation.

Ah, but I do have one of those. And in that I am indeed fortunate: the ultra-mega-perk of being a teacher. Summer vacation. I spend mine with my kids and writing. Some less cash-bereft folks travel. But it's great to have the time to regain some equilibrium after the chaos of the end of the year. It's taken me two weeks to begin to reclaim some sense of my own but it's coming back; I can feel it. Instead of worrying about everyone else in the universe, I get to spend a little bit of time concentrating on this little patch of ground around me: my home, my "garden."

In Candide, Voltaire's characters, having come to the recognition (through horrific experience) that this is not indeed the "best of all possible worlds," decide that what they must do is the one thing they have control over: "We must cultivate our garden." It's a short-sighted world view, I guess, but for a lazy summer day it is just what I need sometimes. My garden was wilting; it was overstuffed with grades and deadlines and room-packing and politics and so many kinds of insanity that I think the flowers were simply choking from want of air. There are still plenty of things to be done and there is still plenty of world to worry about, but the deck is comfortable and there is a nice breeze, and maybe a hummingbird will visit the feeder.

My mental garden needs to be tended; I'm going to lie here and help it to bloom.

Monday, June 9, 2008

intuition: why obama will win in a landslide

“I feel there are two people inside me - me and my intuition. If I go against her, she'll screw me every time, and if I follow her, we get along quite nicely.” --Kim Basinger
I have always been a huge devotee of the value of intuition. All of my life I have had a powerful inner voice, a strong and focused something within me helping me to understand and react to my world. I have--almost always--respected it. On those occasions when I have failed to listen, I usually have found myself wishing that I had.

Intuition is, I think, at times simply a wonderful moment of clarity when we sense something beyond that which is possible in any physical way to sense. Sometimes, my intuition has worked that way. More often, though, I think intuition is simply the ability that many of us possess to look at the realities around us with clear and unambiguous eyes and see what is happening, and then to make the kind of creative leaps that unfettered imaginations make when confronted by blank canvasses.

It's this kind of intuition that makes me know that Barack Obama's victory in November will not be close, no matter what the pundits say. It will be a landslide.

The first kind of intuition is a rare one. Call it clairvoyance, but I don't know if I truly believe in that, and in any case it's only occurred a few times in my life and has never been something I control; it is a thing unto itself. And it has, on occasion, not been entirely accurate, so clairvoyant would be a difficult word to apply.

In May 1985, expecting my first child, I had a run of incredible intuitive power. A radio station was giving away what then were the just-released new Apple Macintoshes. Call in if your name is called and win. I sent in my post card and I knew they would call me. They did...but I was (sadly) not listening at the time. A second wave of intuition hit me: they would call again! They did, and I got the computer. That summer, so convinced was I that the child would be a girl that we never chose a boy's name; it was a girl.

These are small things, I know. But I think they are the first kind of intuition: the purer kind, the kind that some could call chance or serendipity and, hey, who could argue with them?

Regarding this election, though, I am talking about a very different kind of intuition. It is the kind that comes from clear observation. This intuition too kicks in, as I say, randomly. I do not get these absolute convictions all that often. In the late 80's I was in Seattle and had some coffee at a tiny kiosk. I had never had anything so great. I told myself that when this company went public I wanted in; it was going to be huge. There was no doubt in my mind that it would happen. Of course Starbucks did, but alas I had no money to invest, so I am still in debt up to my ears.

I have been a strong supporter of Senator Obama since he began his US Senate run here in Illinois in the winter of '03/'04. In a crowd of political hacks and wannabe's, he was something clearly different. He stood out for his honesty, for his message, for his clarity of vision, and for, among other things, the simple fact that he refused to talk down to the voters. Back then I was unsure he had a chance: he was a "skinny black guy with a funny name" fighting against a whole lot of more connected and better financed candidates (including a millionaire or two trying to buy their way into office). But there were a couple of scandals to eliminate a couple of the better known names, and suddenly he was more viable. And when he won the primary, it was not a great shock: he had earned it.

After Kerry's "defeat" by Diebold, it seemed a foregone conclusion to everyone that Senator Clinton would be the next Democratic candidate. But I was watching the skinny kid with the funny name. I note in recent "historical" diaries that I was not alone: Kos on DailyKos apparently had an eye on him too: evidence that this kind of "intuition" is the product of observation and imagination.

I began telling all of my friends in mid-2005 that the next President of the United States would be Barack Obama. The pundits, as Jon Stewart made abundantly clear on the day after Obama clinched the nomination, were saying something rather different. See this blog by kos as DailyKos to witness the fun.)

My friends thought I was nuts. Though there was always speculation that he might run, absolutely nothing pointed at the time to an '08 run by the freshman Senator. But he was hungry; that was clear. And he was smart; that was clear. And his ideas and enthusiasm and honesty and, quite simply, his freshness, would make him a very appealing candidate. I knew this, and (obviously) so did he. So I kept telling them he would win: Hillary, I said, would suffer the problem of the oversell: she is too familiar, she is too much associated with the past, she is too disliked by the GOP and even by some Democrats. Though she could be a potentially strong President, no one would ever allow her the chance to be. A new voice in the mix, a strong, idealistic new voice, would energize the base and would be exactly what this moment in time needs.

And Obama is smart enough, I said, to know one other fact: Senators historically don't win the White House. The longer he stays there, the more of an Insider he becomes. He will no longer be able to run, as he can right now, as someone who is out to change Washington. He will be too much a part of Washington.

So, I said, he'll run. And he'll win. When I saw his 50-state strategy, an extension of Dean's brilliant Democratic strategy that was at least as responsible for regaining control of the congress as anything Rahm Emmanuel did (though somehow Emmanuel managed to get all the credit), and I saw how he was using the internet, there was no doubt in my mind.

"Intuition comes very close to clairvoyance; it appears to be the extrasensory perception of reality --Alexis Carrell

Which brings us to now: why will he win in a landslide when all of the pundits keep telling us how tight this is?

Look at the trendlines. Not just now, in the polls, though the latest ones, and every new one every single day, continue to be pro-Obama. I'm talking about trendlines over a much longer period of time. We have an economy that is so deeply in the mire that you couldn't drag it out with a fleet of haulers, and even the staunchest Bushies have begun to worry out loud about it. We have an ongoing war that is costing America trillions of dollars and thousands of lives, a war that is nose-diving in support and threatens to rival Viet Nam in more than merely the waste and ineptitude, but the anger of the masses as well. We have an Administration that lies and obfuscates so readily that they cannot even see anymore that they are doing it, and how transparent their lies have become. We have congressmen openly talking about impeachment and novelists advocating for murder trials and generals accusing the President of war crimes. A President who once boasted of the highest approval rating in history now possesses the lowest one, and he has managed to drag international respect for America from its highest point to its lowest as well.

Look at the trendlines.

This is not the time for any Republican, let alone one who cannot seem to make up his mind whether he is or is not Bush III, to be elected President. But then examine Senator McCain, whose popularity peaked, apparently, eight years ago. In 2000, heck, I might have considered voting for the guy. In 2000, he was what he still claims to be: a true maverick. Since then, he has sold his soul. I don't need to sit here and list all of the ways he has done that; this diary is getting long already and we all know the many ways Senator McCain has pandered to the right wing in order to secure this nomination.

(BTW: his nomination itself was another example of my crazy random intuition. During a debate before Iowa, listening to the GOP idiots beating up on each other, I started wondering which of them could actually manage to win this thing and oppose Obama. I knew it couldn't be Giuliani with his stupid Florida strategy. Huckabee played well in the Bible Belt but even the GOP is more than the Bible Belt. Romney is too slick and too smarmy even for the GOP. And I started looking at how they were beating each other up and who was eliminating whom and I suddenly realized: no one was hitting McCain! They were just letting him play the statesman! His campaign had been deemed dead for so long that they had utterly forgotten about him. It was at that point that I knew he was going to win, and I have to say it shocked me to realize it. I told my husband, and he agreed with my reasoning, which was nice: he never agreed with me about Obama beating Clinton.)


McCain continues to make foolish mistake after foolish mistake, and I am reminded of Bush at this stage of the 2000 campaign. If you will recall, he sounded like a complete idiot at times as well. But there is a difference: Bush was a neophyte in the national and international spotlight. He had a long learning curve, and--though we often deride him as being stupid--he did at least know enough to know that he needed to learn a thing or two and listen to those folks who could teach him. Senator McCain, who never seems to be able to open his mouth without saying something that is either completely false, completely ridiculous, or completely contradictory to something he said a year ago, a month ago, or yesterday, is no neophyte. He does not learn. (Note that he repeated his "Al Qaeda in Iran" error only moments after Leiberman corrected him.) And something in his formerly maverick nature still exists: the part that makes him go his own way and do and say his own thing, which, given his decreasing ability to keep his thoughts straight, is a recipe for disaster.

I have no doubt that Senator McCain will have some excellent moments between now and November, but I cannot see him cutting into Senator Obama's base. Nor can I see him slowing Obama's momentum as the Illinoisan edges deeper and deeper into what has recently been "safe" GOP territory. So do not worry when you see Obama spending time and money in states he "cannot" win. I am not certain that there are any states he cannot win. (Yep, that includes Arizona.) And even if he loses a bunch of them, his presence will aid down-ticket candidates.

I take all of these early polls for what they are: early polls. They could say Obama by 25 or McCain by 25, and I'd say the same thing: it's June. Remember what the polls and pundits said about how hard it would be to unite the Democrats a scant two weeks ago? Uh huh. It's June. Nothing means anything. But...

Put this in the bank: Barack Obama will be our next President. And it is not even going to be close.

“The only real valuable thing is intuition.” --Albert Einstein

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

this time i know why i'm crying

Two weeks ago, on a night when Keith Olbermann read his second "Special Comment" about Senator Clinton and the Democratic primary race was, to be frank, at its absolute nadir, I wrote a diary called "Why Am I Crying?" Though one commenter (erroneously) believed that my tears were a metaphor, I apparently touched a nerve: there were a lot of us that night who felt that things had simply gone too far, had sunk too deeply into the mire, and that a very, very special campaign had been, perhaps irredeemable, tainted by darkness.

This morning, on my way to work, listening to radio excerpts (again) of Senator Obama's victory speech, the Speech Heard Round the World, and thinking of how far all of this has come as the news folks talked about it, the tears came again. (And, as before, I am not being metaphorical here.) I felt, as Michelle Obama said months ago, "proud to be an American," perhaps moreso than I have ever been in my life. I felt, as she did, proud to be a part of a country that could put its history of racial divide behind it and, despite an occasionally rancorous campaign, nominate an African-American (and for that matter one for whom that appellation actually means something very literal) for President.

And after the last seven years of lies and deceit and evil in our nation's capital, I listened to the beautiful words of hope coming from this nam...and the tears came.

All of you chose to support a candidate you believe in deeply. But at the end of the day, we aren’t the reason you came out and waited in lines that stretched block after block to make your voice heard. You didn’t do that because of me or Senator Clinton or anyone else. You did it because you know in your hearts that at this moment – a moment that will define a generation – we cannot afford to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We owe our children a better future. We owe our country a better future. And for all those who dream of that future tonight, I say – let us begin the work together. Let us unite in common effort to chart a new course for America

This is the culmination of a year and a half of brilliant campaigning. I am willing to bet that, in the future, pilitical science students will study Barack Obama's 2008 campaign vs. Hillary Clinton as one of the most perfectly devised of all time. How anyone--especially the Senator from New York or the Senator from Arizona who, presented with a gift of a bunch of knuckleheads to run against in the first place and then in the second place months of bitter infighting within the opposition practically designed so that he could gift-wrap himself as an elder statesman--could claim this guy is too raw to succeed is surely a sign of their own inability to grasp reality.

But it is the beginning of a new battle, one that goes on not only for the next several months against Senator McCain but for the next several years: the battle to undo all of the damage that Buch/Cheney have done to the United States of America within our own borders and in the eyes of the world community.

On WXRT Chicago this morning (home of "the best political team in rock radio"), Mike Flannery of CBS Chicago News, sleepy after a long night in St. Paul, spoke of sitting next to a Brazilian reporter last night during Obama's speech. The Brazilian woman told him of a friend of hers--back home--a woman who was so taken by Senator Obama and what he stand for that she had plastered pictures and articles about him all over her room. In Sao Paulo! Look at the incredible array of international headline posted on Huffington's front page (while they are still there), a mere sampling of what is out there. What we fail to appreciate sometimes is the sheer magnitude of this race: this is not merely about the United States Presidency (and I use the word "merely" advisedly). It is about nothing less than the revival of faith and hope in the entire world. Despite Bush/Cheney, the world still believes in what this country has always stood for. The world wants us back again.

In our country, I have found that this cooperation happens not because we agree on everything, but because behind all the labels and false divisions and categories that define us; beyond all the petty bickering and point-scoring in Washington, Americans are a decent, generous, compassionate people, united by common challenges and common hopes. And every so often, there are moments which call on that fundamental goodness to make this country great again.

It is indeed time for this country to become great again. The world wnats it and we all want it. Somewhere deep inside, even those 27% of us who, for some reason only they can come close to explaining, believe that Bush/Cheney are doing a good job probably want it. And when they see an America once again respected by the world instead of reviled, when they witness what might have been after 9/11 when almost the entire community of world nations was behind us and our leaders thumbed their collective noses at it and tossed its support aside, they will know then that they wanted it all along.

It will be a fight. It will be a battle. We will not, of course, get everything we want, nor will we get anything easily. There are entrenched powers that do not wish to be unseated so easily. But this battle has been waged before, as Barack Obama intoned, and under much more severe circumstances.

So it was for that band of patriots who declared in a Philadelphia hall the formation of a more perfect union; and for all those who gave on the fields of Gettysburg and Antietam their last full measure of devotion to save that same union.

So it was for the Greatest Generation that conquered fear itself, and liberated a continent from tyranny, and made this country home to untold opportunity and prosperity.

So it was for the workers who stood out on the picket lines; the women who shattered glass ceilings; the children who braved a Selma bridge for freedom’s cause.

So it has been for every generation that faced down the greatest challenges and the most improbable odds to leave their children a world that’s better, and kinder, and more just.

And so it must be for us.

So I was driving to school this morning to grade my exams and pack my boxes so my classroom can be moved over the summer and I found myself crying. But unlike the tears of two weeks ago, these were not inexplicable tears, tears I would have to spend hours wondering about, poring over, analyzing in order to understand. No, these were much, much simpler.

These were tears of joy.

America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love.

The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment – this was the time – when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals. Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

visiting dickens: PRISON SHIPS?

I feel as if I have stepped into the pages of Great Expectations and everyone has become Magwitch, transported to Australia in shackles aboard some vessel designed for the purpose of housing and transporting criminals at sea. But of course that was the 19th Century...and earlier. That's not now. Right? And then, along comes today's Guardian report. And I am left with one reaction:

We have bloody prison ships? Prison ships?

Actually, the truth--the very, very sad truth, is this: I am not at all surprised.

Nothing that W and his Constitution-shredding cronies could do or conceive of doing would surprise me. This is a man whose Presidency began with a concerted vote-stealing effort orchestrated by his brother and ratified by the allegedly apolitical Supreme Court.

It is a man who coldly and callously used bigotry and hate in a successful tactic to mobilize Christian Right voters after the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision authorizing gay marriage in 2004. BTW: Have you noticed how the institution of marriage in that state has completely broken down?

It is a man who, halfway through his first term of office, bought the 2004 electoral votes of the state of Ohio through his connections to Diebold Corporation, whose CEO pledged to do whatever it took to get him re-elected and then managed to get his paperless machines installed in key precincts throughout a key state.

It is a man who, having utterly wasted his first nine months in office (most people seem to forget that he had already been consigned to the historical scrap-heap by pundits after his--what? five hundred or so?--excessive vacations that year), ignored the direct warnings of his intelligence community that (what was that memo called again, Secretary Rice?) Osama Bin Laden was planning to attack inside the US and then, after he did so, managed to squander worldwide sympathy for our country in an amazingly short period of time.

It is a man whose response to such a catastrophe as 9/11 was to become emboldened to break down Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and international accords.

It is a man whose appointees to important positions have been almost uniformly incompetent or just plain bad, starting with his string of "Bush first, country and law a distant second" Attorney General appointees. (And the image of Ashcroft covering up that pornographic Lady Liberty remains one of the distilling images of the Bush years in my mind.)

It is a man whose first actions in office were to allow his Vice-President to hold secret meetings with oil executives to set energy policies, policies that have worked so well for America that gas prices have tripled at the pump since he took office while oil company profits have soared.

It is a man who has ordered his cronies to ignore direct subpoenaes from Congress.

It is a man...

Oh I'm making myself ill.

G. W. Bush is a man guilty of criminal activity, large and small, national and international, from staging two non-violent coups to take over and retain the Presidency of the US to the absolutely impeachable offenses that led us into Iraq, which had done nothing to us, while ignoring the enemy who bombed our country.

No, I am not surprised at prison ships. I would not be surprised if he had secret prisons on the moon, built and maintained by Haliburton.

I am all in favor of trying to reconcile the political enmity that has permeated American culture for the last two decades, but I pray that President Obama finds a way to bring this treasonous and vulgar man and all of his cronies to justice for what they have done to our country and to the world for the last eight years.


Sorry. Next time I won't hold back so much. :-)


it's your hair that i notice first
streaked with morning
it frames your face
you lying there eyes closed
soft breath not quite there
i follow its path as it bends the sheet
and i can touch you there
touch what i feel is you
in the spark of daylight
you'll rise
pull on the wrinkled shirt from last night
say something you think is beautiful
drink some coffee
from behind my paper
and drive away,
leaving a kiss on my lips
and a hole in my heart
where a fire ought to be

Favorite Films

  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • Amelie
  • The Princess Bride
  • Casablanca
  • Annie Hall
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • All That Jazz
  • Citizen Kane
  • Love Actually
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Big Fish
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Almost Famous
  • Bull Durham
  • Notting Hill
  • Apocalypse Now (Redux)
  • Magnolia

All-Time Favorite TV Shows

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Gilmore Girls
  • M*A*S*H
  • The West Wing
  • The X-Files
  • The Daily Show
  • Ally McBeal
  • Picket Fences
  • All In The Family
  • Seinfeld
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  • Star Trek
  • Firefly
  • Wonderfalls
  • Northern Exposure
  • Get Smart
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show
  • Twin Peaks
  • The Larry Sanders Show
  • Monk
  • Felicity
  • St. Elsewhere

Current TV Shows I Enjoy (in no particular order)

  • Perception
  • Major Crimes
  • American Horror Story
  • Louie
  • Suits
  • The Newsroom
  • Falling Skies
  • Franklin and Bash
  • Veep
  • Scandal
  • Fairly Legal
  • Girls
  • Don't Trust the B---
  • Justified
  • Portlandia
  • Psych
  • The Middle
  • Person of Interest
  • Happy Endings
  • Hart of Dixie
  • Real Time with Bill Maher
  • Nikita
  • Raising Hope
  • Castle
  • Drop Dead Diva
  • Covert Affairs
  • Elementary
  • Rizzoli and Isles
  • Revolution
  • The Last Resort
  • Alphas
  • SNL
  • Revenge
  • Community
  • Suburgatory
  • New Girl
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Grimm
  • Nashville
  • Downton Abbey
  • Smash
  • Homeland
  • Fringe
  • Glee
  • Haven
  • Community
  • Warehouse 13
  • Modern Family
  • Vampire Diaries
  • The Daily Show
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Colbert Report
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Leverage
  • Rachel Maddow Show

xkcd - A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and