Politics Wednesday–No KO, Again

Willard M. Romney was certain he’d score a knock-out on Super Tuesday yesterday, and, once again, he had to settle for a split decision. In the key primary–and national election–state of Ohio, Romney beat Rick Santorum by just one percentage point. Santorum won Tennessee and Oklahoma, Newt Gingrich won Georgia (not a surprise), and Romney’s hope to lock up the nomination so he can concentrate on President Obama was dashed. Yay!

Romney spun it well, but so did Santorum. And Gingrich again, as he did after Florida, gave what sounded like a victory speech–victory as in “I’m in Bizarro world where multiple third and fourth places mean I won.” Ron Paul, well, you didn’t hear a peep from him, but he’s still there, like the loony relative you don’t send invites for family functions, but he somehow finds out and shows up.

What the results show is that Romney, the pretend conservative, has difficulty winning in the deep south. His Florida and Virginia wins aside–he and Paul were the only Republicans on the ballot in the Old Dominion–Romney has trouble appealing to the voters who traditionally go for candidates to the right of Ivan the Terrible. This could mean the primary battle will extend through the spring and into the summer, if Santorum continues to do well in southern states. Gingrich and Paul show no sign of dropping out of the race any time soon, even though it’s coming down to a Romney/Santorum bout.

I initially thought, yes, let it be Santorum; Obama will cream him. Besides, there’s no way people will vote in Rick Santorum as President. Then, I remembered I felt the same way about George W. Bush, and America elected him. Twice. Granted, Santorum’s social, economic, and policy positions make W look like a, well, Massachusetts Moderate, but if the Republican base can get motivated and if progressives stay home in a huff, Santorum could… No, I won’t put it in print. Just thinking about it will give me dystopian nightmares.

Romney, I believe, will be the nominee, after a long, protracted process that will leave him emotionally spent, and the President will be fresh as a daisy. The polls look good for the President now, but it’s March. We’ve got eight months to go, and we can’t take a single thing for granted. As the Republicans disinter the rotting corpse of the War Against Women and flail its stink about, we need to remember that few Republicans with national presence denounced Rush Limbaugh’s odious words about Susan Fluke; we need to remember that Republicans brought up the Blunt Amendment, which would allow any employer to not cover any medical procedure or medication for any one for any reason. (That was defeated, thank goodness.)

I can’t list all the things we need to remember come Election Day in November, but as a progressive who has been disappointed by some of the President’s policies, I know he has my vote. The alternative is just too dark and reactionary to consider.

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One of my readers who thinks I’m an “ultra-feminist” (I am, but it doesn’t bother me.) can stop reading here, so his blood pressure doesn’t elevate.

The shenanigans of the Virginia Legislature–personhood bills, trans-vaginal ultrasounds, etc.–have made national news. Our reactionary-laden legislature seems determined to return us to the 1950’s in terms of many things, chief of which is women’s right to decide what to do with their bodies. It’s something men do without thought–who to fuck, when to fuck, whether to use protection or not–and for some reason don’t want women to do. To protest the legislature’s actions, several hundred men and women held a silent protest this past Saturday at Virginia’s capitol building in Richmond. Several of them stood on the Capitol’s front steps. The governor claims he didn’t send in SWAT, but it’s obvious he did. The police arrested people who were doing nothing except sitting and standing, handcuffed them, and locked them in a bus for nine hours for something that is normally a ticketable offense. (Hello, America; wake up and smell the police state.)

Last weekend at the Richmond protest, there was one sign that said it all for me, that reflects my sense of deja vu, my feelings about having to fight–yet again–to make sure women have the same choices men do, and here it is:

Politics Wednesday – Feminism, NASCAR, and Danica Patrick

Maybe the brouhaha of the past few weeks over contraception, transvaginal ultrasounds, and aspirin between the knees has put my inner feminist on edge. And rightly so. The “battles” of access to contraception so you don’t have to opt for an abortion and women having say over what goes in their bodies, I thought had been fought and won a long time ago. Regardless, I’m ultra-sensitive to any hint of gender inequality lately.

Now, you might wonder why I’d be surprised at juvenile remarks aimed at newly minted NASCAR driver Danica Patrick by male NASCAR fans. It’s sadly true that my racing buds are notoriously gender-equality challenged.

Patrick, who raced a limited number of Nationwide Series races in 2011, often had trouble fitting in the No. 7 GoDaddy car fronted by JR Motorsports. Other male drivers were in the car when she wasn’t, and though most racers are not big guys, she had to deal with issues of being able to reach the controls. (As a woman pilot, I struggled with the fact that most small airplanes were built with tall, long-legged men in mind, so I can empathize.) There was an exchange on the radio last year with her complaining about being hot while moving slow on a caution (remember, most of her racing was in open, Indy-style cars) and her crew chief explaining to her how to use her hand at the small, side window to “cup” a breeze into the car.

“I can’t reach it,” she said.

The color commentators proceded to make comments about how she needed to learn how to take the heat,  their premise being the spoiled, Indy driver, famous for her allegedly prurient GoDaddy commercials, shouldn’t be in the car if she couldn’t hack it.

Now, Patrick is far from perfect or from being a top racer. In her Indy Car career, she had but one win, in a little-known race in Japan, but she did have a lot of top 10 and 15 finishes. More importantly, she never gave up. When she acted with the aggression male drivers ooze, she was a bitch. When her soft side came out–weeping over Dan Wheldon’s death last year–she was too weak-willed.

Patrick gets the attention because she’s in a sport that has admitted few women then excoriated those who did get in. She’s a different type of female racer–she can take it and dish it back. She has been known to climb from a wrecked car, toss her helmet aside, and corner the perpetrator of the wreck on pit road–just like, say, Kyle Busch. So, the men of NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup need to understand she can give as good as she gets.

In 2012, Patrick will be a full-time Nationwide Series driver for JR Motorsports, owned by Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and his sister, Kelli, herself a former driver. Dale Sr. once remarked of his three children who raced–Kelli, Kerry, and Dale–she was probably the best. Kelli Earnhardt is a shrewd racing businesswoman, having made JR Motorsports one of the premiere owners in Nationwide in just a few years. She brooks no nonsense from her drivers, her brother included. Kelli has indicated that before Patrick became a part-time employee, she only knew her by reputation, the one perpetrated by mostly male racing sports journalists. When introduced to Patrick, Kelli found her a modest, caring, congenial person, willing to work hard and take instruction. In other words, a model race car driver. Patrick will also drive in a limited number of Cup races for Stewart-Haas Racing, including the Daytona 500.

Patrick isn’t going to take NASCAR by storm in one year. She will have failures–big, obvious ones–and she will have modest success, like any driver male or female who’s come before her. As someone who was a fan of the amazing Shirley Muldowney, I’m looking forward to rooting for Patrick this season. Hey, I’m a Dale, Jr., fan; I’m accustomed to disappointment.

So, I was excited to see Patrick had won the pole for the season-opening Drive4COPD 300 Nationwide Race this past Saturday at Daytona. “Winning the pole” means having the fastest time around the track in qualifying, so she was faster than everyone else–all men. Some of that is the car–perfectly tuned and balanced. A lot of it is the driver.

Then, came the juvenile remarks–“Heh, heh, that’s not her first ‘pole.'” Or the insidious–“Ah, the guys were told to slow down so she could get it. It’s a publicity stunt.” The prurience or sour grapes aside, she deserves a chance, like any other driver.

Though it has expanded its outreach to minorities and has some Hispanic and African-American drivers in its smaller, local racing series, NASCAR is still way too white and male where drivers are concerned. That will change. It is changing, far too slow for some of us, but change is incremental. And I’ve been a fan long enough to remember when drivers of a particular era said similar disparaging things about black drivers trying to break into NASCAR.

Patrick’s drafting partner nudged her a little too hard a few laps before the midway point of the Nationwide race, and after contacting the wall, she had to go to the garage for extensive repairs to the car. She re-entered the race 49 laps down with 30 laps to go and finished in 38th place–not last but not the win she coveted. Two days later, a massive wreck on lap two of the Daytona 500 again sent her to the garage, but she returned, 63 laps down, to finish 38th in a field of 43.

Politics Wednesday – No Religious Test

The right wing nut jobs always fall back on the Constitution to bolster their specious arguments. Some, in fact, consider it handed down from God, though the word “god” appears nowhere in it. You’d think God would have cleared up any future debate about the alleged sanctity of the Constitution by dropping his name a time or two.

Unless you’re a constitutional lawyer (like President Obama) or a nerdy political scientist (like Rachel Maddow), you’ve probably never delved past the Constitution’s Preamble (“We the People…”) or the Bill of Rights. There is an obscure clause–obscure only the the RWNJ’s chose to ignore it–about something called “a religious test.” The Founding Fathers, believe it or not, were fed up with Anglicans’ having a chokehold on political jobs. Anglicanism was the State religion of England, after all. Virginia’s statute on religious freedom, written by Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, was to support Baptist congregations the state’s Anglican-laden government had thrown into jail for not being Anglican.

The Founders embraced that Jeffersonian principle of freedom of religion in the First Amendment, but they also wanted to make certain that no single religion would dominate the government they were creating. Tucked away in Article VI, paragraph 3, is this gem:

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required [emphasis added] as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

I’ve blogged about this before, when a poll showed one in five Republicans believed President Obama was a Muslim. Somehow, in their minds, that deemed him ineligible to be President because he wasn’t Christian. Certain evangelicals make the same argument today about Willard Romney’s Mormonism, but Article VI applies in his case as well. We had the argument fifty years ago when John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, ran for President. The argument then was his top allegiance was to the Pope, not to the Constitution.

The fact that the Founders put the religious test prohibition in the main body of the Constitution testifies to the importance in which they held. They truly envisioned an egalitarian society (for landed, white men, of course; unfortunately, they were men of their time) and wanted to make certain there was no Anglican takeover of the newly minted U.S. Government.

Because the economy is clawing its way from the abyss the Republicans put it in, and on President Obama’s watch, the RWNJ’s have to disinter the rotting corpse of The Question of the President’s Religion. Franklin Graham, an apple that fell miles from the tree, did a rant this week about being born Muslim. If your father is Muslim (the President’s father was), when you’re born, you’re a Muslim. Franklin, who, as a missionary evangelical, preaches the only way you can be saved is by converting to Christianity, apparently feels that’s not the case when the son of a Muslim accepts Christ as his personal savior, gets married in a Christian ceremony, and talks about his Christian faith far more often than I like. Franklin must think “Muslim blood” is really powerful, if his God’s omnipotence can’t overcome it.

And I say, if that’s true, if a parent’s religion makes you that religion at birth, so what? Much like Romney’s Mormonism, a person’s religion–or lack thereof–cannot disqualify them from office.

Oh my Holy Lord, you say, that means a Devil Worshiper could become President!

Technically, yes, but Devil Worshipers don’t have much interest in politics, I would think. Selling their souls and pleasing their Dark Lord are probably more important to them.

Oh my Holy Lord, you again say, that means a, gasp, atheist could become President!

Indeed. You’ve already had a couple of those. They’re called Deists, the “religion” of many of the Founding Fathers, several of whom became President. Trust me, if you’d called Jefferson a Christian, he would have brought out his copy of “Jefferson’s Bible” and showed you where he’d removed all reference to myth. It was a very slim volume.

We have to stop judging people by their religion or their lack of religion. I’ve known some theists who were the vilest human beings you’d ever not want to meet, and I’ve known atheists who were the kindest, most “christian” people I’ve ever known. And vice versa, of course. We need to assess our Presidents and Presidential candidates on their merits, their position on issues, and not how or whom they worship.

Franklin Graham needs to come to grips with the fact he’ll never be his father, who is a humble and forgiving man who acknowledged the times he was wrong, like about segregation. Re-bury that question of the President’s religion and focus on jobs, the economy, the environment, equal rights–you know, things “We the People” are concerned about.

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For a good understanding of just what four, key Founding Fathers believed or didn’t, read Founding Faith: How Our Founding Fathers Forged a Radical New Approach to Religious Liberty by Steven Waldman. It will change your mind, if it’s open, about several Founders and clear the RWNJ mythology away from history.

Politics Wednesday – Reactionaries

Reactionary – adjective; of, pertaining to, marked by, or favoring reaction, especially extreme conservatism or rightism in politics; opposing political or social change.

Reactionary – noun; a reactionary person.

That’s the modern definition of a reactionary. One of my political science profs was more succinct: progressive = forward thinking; reactionary = backwards thinking.

That “backwards thinking” seems to be part and parcel of being a Republican lately. The Repugs seem to have a disturbing nostalgia for the way things used to be–women not working outside the home, women not being able to use birth control, women not being paid the same as men, women not needing legislation to assure police take their claims of domestic violence seriously, etc.

I hope you’ve picked up the common theme here. In case you haven’t, it’s women. Republican men–and some Republican women–in state legislatures across the country have proposed or enacted some of the most backwards laws regarding women’s health and a woman’s right to decide what she does with her body.

In response to a story about the high number of rapes and sexual assaults of women in the military, Liz Trotta, an “analyst” on Fox News, said that women who go into the military should just expect to be raped. I don’t know which is worse–the “lie back and take it” attitude or the assumption that men are just born rapists. My mother said the same thing when I went to work at the FAA, a then male-dominated workplace, but my mother was certifiable.

Rick Santorum, in addition to opposing any form of birth control (So, why is your wife not pregnant again, Rick?), recently said that women working outside the home is harmful to families. He also said that having women in front line positions in the military would mean male soldiers would be distracted by their desire to protect them. If a woman is raped and becomes pregnant, he says, she should just accept God’s gift of life. The more outrageous things he says about women and their place in society, the higher he surges in Republican polls.

In my home state of Virginia, the state legislature just passed a law requiring a woman who wants an abortion in the first trimester to get an ultrasound, even if her doctor says she doesn’t need it. The theory seems to be if the woman sees a fully formed baby she’ll change her mind. The reality is the fetus isn’t fully formed in the first trimester–it’s so small the ultrasound has to be done trans-vaginally. That means the ultrasound device is inserted in a woman’s vagina to obtain the scan of a fetus that is 2.5 inches long and weighs less than an ounce. In case you didn’t get it, I’ll repeat: Inserted. In. A. Woman’s. Vagina. What is it we call penetration of a woman’s vagina against her will?

This longing for a world where women were less than equal partners, where constant childbirth brought early death, where domestic violence was considered a “family matter,” puzzles me. Why would anyone want to go back to a social, political, and economic era that was thinly disguised patriarchy? Do we have to fight that battle all over again?

If it’s because the male ego can’t handle women as equals, get over it. This is life now–women get to choose whether to work or stay at home; whether to have a child or use birth control; whether to serve their country or not; whether to have a rapist’s baby or not. Get over yourselves and your obsession about controlling women’s bodies.

We won’t go back to that. We won’t be like Callista Gingrich who knows the only reason she’s at Newt’s side is to stand there and look pretty as she smiles at him and nods. That’s her choice; it won’t be the choice of women capable of standing on their own two feet.

Sorry, Repug guys, we’re not taking off our shoes, bunking in the kitchen, cleaning the house in pearls, or staying pregnant our entire married lives. We will move forward. You can be the reactionaries.

Politics Wednesday

I find it amusing that when it comes to prayer in school, right-wingers have no problem in taking down the wall between church and state. Almost to a man the current candidates for the Republican nomination have decried the fact that children can’t pray in school. Trust me, kids pray in school, especially on exam day; rather, an authority figure isn’t leading them in a specific prayer from a specific religion.

Yet, when it comes to an Affordable Care Act requirement that employers pay for birth control, suddenly the same right-wing talking heads flaunt the First Amendment and Separation of Church and State when it comes to Catholic employers. They want the separation there, but not when it comes to school prayer or teaching creationism in science class.

Trust me, this sudden righteous indignation about the Catholic Church’s having to go against it’s principles, is pandering. It isn’t sincere. That, and the Repugs needed an issue when the current economic news was so positive for President Obama. They have to make it look like the President is forcing the Catholic Church to his will.

Really?

Here’s the deal, the Church is whining loudly about this because it turns the light of truth away from the big problem with the Catholic Church hierarchy–that it either turned its collective head away or, by inaction, condoned the systematic buggering of children by priests who, lured by the false promise that god will take all afflictions away, had free rein to traumatize children then stand on the altar and decry homosexuality, pre-marital sex, and birth control in hypocritical homilies.

I’m a former Catholic–not lapsed, not non-practicing, not fallen. I left the Church because I realized it never really welcomed me. I was a woman who advocated a woman’s right to control her own body. No matter what I had accomplished in my career or personal life, no priest could acknowledge that I lived and worked by my own rules, not his, not god’s, and that no job I had was more important than being a wife and a mother. And what would he, alleged unmarried celibate, know about it?

The Catholic Church needs to drop preaching against birth control. Given the small size of Catholic families today, Catholics are using birth control, and it’s not the rhythm method, which had conditional approval from the Church. More than half the Catholics polled about the Affordable Care Act’s provision for employers’ providing coverage for birth control concurred with it. The sanctimonious talking heads, however, see an opportunity to attack the President couched in the cloak of religion.

The Catholic Church took too long to “sorta” allow the use of condoms to prevent AIDS, confining their use to sex workers but not their clients when they go home to have sex with a spouse. It’s nuts, and if the Church wants to be a viable force in the world, it needs to accept current reality, not a medieval one.

And there are other religions–notably many evangelical or fundamentalist protestant ones–who don’t believe in birth control. Why aren’t the Repugs displaying indignation on their behalf? Well, Catholics are a large group in the U.S., and some Repug strategist somewhere has cynically pointed out that maybe, if they can turn that Catholic bloc against the President, they might get the flip-flopper elected.

If anything, Catholics are realists, which is why they use birth control and why they ignore the Church’s dictum that sex is only for the purpose of reproduction–otherwise why haven’t Newt and Callista had a bunch of kids? By her own testimony in Newt’s divorce proceedings, they began an affair in 1993, when Callista was 27, and she had no children. They married when she was 34, and they’ve had no children. The Gingrich’s have obviously used birth control–or they’re following Church dicta and not having sex. Yeah, right. I’ll concede that perhaps either she or Newt has a physical problem that prevents conception, but, again, sex without the intent of reproduction is a “sin.”

Are you beginning to see why I left the Catholic Church?

So, whenever Newt–or any other Catholic–decries President Obama for interfering with the Church’s teachings, can he or they do so without being a hypocrite?

I doubt it.

Politics Wednesday 5

n 1984 my mother got the news no woman wants to learn. She had breast cancer, the first woman in generations of my family to have the disease. Being the person I am, I set out to research the subject as much as I could since her diagnosis had a distinct effect on my future.

What I discovered was that medical research funds from the public sector for breast cancer research were minimal at best–lung cancer and heart disease got the brunt of those meagre dollars. Soon, however, there was an organization, which raised money privately for breast cancer research–the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Its “Race for the Cure” events across the country raised millions.

When Linda Daschle became the FAA’s first female assistant administrator, she created a team of FAA women to run/walk in the annual Washington, DC, Race for the Cure. I was an eager participant. Well aware of my ambivalent relationship with my mother–who died six weeks after being diagnosed–I donned my race number and a placard with her name on it–I was racing in her memory. It was something I could do for her and not face her criticism.

Over the years, then, I donated, generously, to the Susan G. Komen Foundation and participated in several, additional Races for the Cure.

No more. Susan G. Komen Foundation announced this week its grants to Planned Parenthood to enable that organization to screen poor women for breast cancer for free were cut off. Their excuse? Right-wing nut-job pressure because Planned Parenthood does abortions. Of course, they didn’t say that–the announcement was couched in PR-speak.

Susan G. Komen Foundation has a policy not to partner with organizations “under investigation.” That’s a recent change, by the way. Republican Congressman Jeff Stearns from Florida has initiated a Congressional investigation to determine if Planned Parenthood used public funds for abortions, which is prohibited by law. Planned Parenthood’s accounting shows that’s not the case, but the investigation proceeds–slowly.

But the truth is obvious–right-wing nut-jobs are so concerned about controlling women’s bodies and so dispassionate they will force an organization that did so much good to take an action that puts women in jeopardy. RWNJ’s don’t care about women; they especially don’t care about poor women. If you didn’t know that before, know it now.

Planned Parenthood’s focus has always been pregnancy prevention, family planning, and health screening for women who can’t afford to go to a doctor. Performing abortions has always been a small, a very small, portion of their services. No matter to the RWNJ’s–one abortion is one too many for them, so they work to shut down an organization poor women depend on for health services beyond birth control and family planning.

I’ve written to Susan G. Komen Foundation directly and explained exactly why they’ll no longer be getting any money or any support from me. I’ve signed an on-line petition denouncing the Foundation’s ill-considered decision. They’ve put money from rightwing organizations before the health of women. That’s unconscionable.

Credo Action has the on-line petition I signed. I’m sure there’ll be others. Make sure the Susan G. Komen Foundation gets the message they made a bad choice. Contact Rep. Jeff Stearns and explain the concept of “unintended consequences” to him.

Politics Wednesday 4

This is probably going to come off as a movie review, but I’ll try to bring it around to politics.

I go to movies to escape reality, not to ponder the vagaries of life. The occasional thought-provoking indie movie is great, but most of the time I’m interested in action–car chases, shoot-outs, and a good looking actor who takes his shirt, or more, off. Hey, I may be old, but I’m not dead.

Anyone who’s gone to a movie with me knows if there’s anything aviation-related in the movie and it’s not correct, I’ll bitch and moan throughout the showing. It’s like listening to physicists’ complaining about how Star Trek gets it wrong.

And if the movie is about an era in history I’m familiar with, that’s just another possible nit for me to pick.

So, the George Lucas film “Red Tails” is about the human condition, about aviators, and about World War II. A potential strike-out, right?

I left this movie feeling so up-lifted after all the snide, coded racial baiting done by Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum for the past few weeks. Here was a positive story about the Tuskegee Airmen–African American men who flew bomber cover in an all-African American aviation unit and how they did it so well, despite the prejudice of the Army and their opponents. Yes, the movie is hokey in places, and I didn’t see the need for the love story, except to add a little pathos at the end.

A lot of the flying sequences are computer-generated because there are just not that many WWII vintage airplanes available to portray a large bomber group and its fighter escort accurately. But the CG is seamless in its integration with real flying scenes. All the maneuvers are doable, i.e., airplanes aren’t made to do things they can’t do without pulling the wings off. This is not to say a little dramatic license hasn’t been taken, because it has, but the important thing is the story of these men. That is correct.

I had the honor and the privilege of working with several of the Tuskegee Airmen, as they ended their careers in the Federal Aviation Administration and I began mine. It was a rare event for them to call attention to themselves. As one of them told me when I interviewed him for a story for the magazine I worked on, “We just did our job.” Another told me, “Being in America at that time meant we weren’t the freest of the free, but it would have been a lot worse under the Nazis, so there was no question but that we would fight for our country.”

They always had a good snippet of career advice for me since they had navigated being black men in an agency of mostly white men. I was a woman in a then mostly male agency. Work hard, do your best, and no one can deny your skill. That echoed exactly what my own father had told me, and I owe my career to him and them.

I remember in particular Mr. Weathers, who would stop in the hallway or in the cafeteria to ask me how it was going or if I needed anything from him for an article I was writing. I wonder how he would react to hearing Gingrich’s comments about food stamps and welfare. Mr. Weathers was actually Lt. Col. Luke Weathers, Jr., and he probably would have fixed an officer’s no-nonsense glare on the 4F reject from Georgia, and that’s all he’d need to do.

But that won’t happen. Mr. Weathers, like so many WWII veterans black or white, was buried last week in Arlington National Cemetery, with the dwindling number of Tuskegee Airmen in attendance. Mr. Weathers was the epitome of someone who was judged by the content of his character and not the color of his skin. Someone like Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum will never understand that. Never.

“Red Tails” was a movie the Tuskegee Airmen had long waited to see made. Yes, if you go see it, you’ll get George Lucas’ Hollywood-ized version of history. In this case, that’s not a bad thing.

Politics Wednesday 3

Several years ago I was mentoring a new manager in my division. Her secretary was my former secretary, and where I had no issues with the secretary’s work ethic or performance, this new manager did. So, I got them both in my office one morning to do some mediation.

Normally, I wouldn’t mention gender and/or race, but in this instance it was important. The new manager was a white female, born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan who admitted she didn’t see a person of color until she went to college. The secretary was an African-American woman, born and raised in the District of Columbia. She was the mother of two boys, both of whom had the same father, the man to whom she was married.

We started off with the typical mediation scenario, and we were making some progress toward improved communication. Then, the new manager decided she’d make an attempt to find common ground with the secretary.

“My family was on welfare and got food stamps, too,” she said, “and my sister has children out of wedlock.”

It truly wasn’t said with malice, but it was ill-spoken. After figuratively peeling the secretary off the ceiling–from which she had loudly proclaimed, “My family has never been on welfare, I’ve never had food stamps, and I’m married, and my mother and grandmother were married!”–I dismissed the secretary and tried to explain to the new manager what she had said was inappropriate. I asked her why she said it.

“Well,” she said, “I just assumed…” And we all know “assume” makes an ass of you and me.

This event was in the 1990’s, a decade past the welfare-queen lies of Ronald Reagan, but this woman, much like Newt Gingrich today, didn’t bother to check the facts.

Most of the people on welfare and food stamps are white because, well, more people in America are white. (Not for long, but that’s another story.) That’s the same reason most out-of-wedlock births are by white women. Yet, the Republicans have perpetuated the myth that black people are only interested in lining up for handouts from the government–your taxpayer dollars–that they don’t know how to work and don’t want to work, that they have no concept of a traditional family. The saddest thing is, some people still believe that.

Because of the ruined economy given us by the Republicans and their pro-rich people policies, we have a high unemployment rate and, as a result, more people than ever on food stamps. When you have a family to feed, you get over what everyone has told you is a stigma, and you’re grateful for the means to put food on the table.

Yet, Gingrich turns that statistic around to say, “Obama has put more people on food stamps than any other President in American History.” Wink, wink. You know what he means–black president, increase in food stamp recipients… Wink, wink. The South Carolinians in the debate audience Monday night got it. Gingrich received a standing ovation for his blatant racism. And he did it on purpose. He knew his audience. He knew he could get away with it, and he did.

The manager I was mentoring I can excuse–she was ignorant. Gingrich’s cynical play to the people who refuse to acknowledge the Civil War is over is unforgivable. Without ever resorting to typical racist language, Gingrich has shown us his true color–and it’s lily white.

Gingrich sees himself as a focal point in history–his words, not mine. He has done nothing to earn that distinction. Like the crass racism he exploits, he needs to be but a footnote to history. And a small one, at that.

Politics Wednesday 2

Yet another serendipitous day for political blogging–the morning after New Hampshire.

This “first in the nation” primary has always had a dampening effect on the momentum of a presumed front-runner–Johnson in 1968, Muskie in 1972, and, most recently–until yesterday, that is–Barack Obama in 2008. In the days before the primary, Obama had what appeared to be a solid lead; then, Hillary Clinton showed the rest of the world what I knew all along–she’s a human being. I’ll disclaim here and tell you I was a Clinton supporter right up until Obama won the nomination, and then I was an Obama supporter, and you won’t find a more stolid one than I. I fully understood what Obama’s election meant to African Americans: It was how I would have felt about Hillary Clinton’s election.

But I digress.

Last night’s NH primary seemed like a step closer to a coronation–the Republicans like those, I think because they haven’t given up visions of empires and emperors. In fact, I can see Romney as Napoleon, impatiently snatching the crown from the cardinal and placing it on his own head. Actually, he’s done it already. He’s been running for President for the best part of eight years, and he figures he deserves the nomination. He’s earned it with that square jaw and photogenic family, not one of whom has served his or her country in any way except as campaign props.

That Ron Paul polled in the 20th Percentile in the “Live Free or Die” state shouldn’t surprise anyone.

The tiny ray of hope for the Republican Party was Jon Huntsman, who surged to a decent third-place showing. I thought his put-down of Romney’s sneering disrespect of Huntsman’s service as Ambassador to China was perfect–“I will always put my country first.” What a breath of fresh air in a party whose “leaders” put their wallets or their presumed social and political status first.

Santorum and Perry are off the radar, unless the uber-conservative South Carolinian and Floridian voters can give them a little altitude. Gingrich is in limbo, teetering between falling off the radar and presenting a serious challenge to Romney in the South. Wherever he ends up, I’m sure Callista will be standing there, hair and make-up perfect, that eerie smile fixed on her face.

The predominant thread among pundits–and in the exit poll results from NH–is that Romney is the “most electable,” the one who can beat President Obama. But here’s a photo I found yesterday on AddictingInfo.org that tells me the President may be harder to beat than the Repubs think. Can you imagine Mitt Romney in this picture?

Politics Wednesday

It was coincidence that my writing work plan sets Wednesday as politics blogging day, and the first such blog of 2012 comes the morning after the Iowa Caucuses. Coincidental but serendipitous. That throwback to the days of smoke-filled rooms, the caucus, left plenty to talk about.

First, Willard M. Romney got a win he can’t really puff his chest up about, and he appeared to be somewhat muted on the Wednesday morning gabfests. I believe that eight-vote margin is one of the smallest in election history, especially for a national office. The other bad news Romney has to take away from this is that, after essentially four years of campaigning, he won the same percentage of Iowa Caucus votes as he did in 2008. On paper, it’s a victory, but it must leave the taste of ash in Romney’s mouth.

Though he came in second, Rick Santorum is the real winner. He did in a few weeks what Romney took four years to accomplish–get twenty-five percent of the votes. A month ago, Santorum was in the low double digits, and he gained a lot of ground and even led by more than 100 votes on occasion throughout the evening. Of course, he gained that ground by appealing to the basest instincts of the white voter–by fronting that stereotype that black people don’t want to work and by doing his best imitation of Tim Tebow without bending a knee.

Ron Paul. What more can be said about him? He wants you to have the right to drink raw milk if you want. I grew up on a farm. I’ve drunk raw milk, and, Mr. Paul, you don’t want to know the crap (literally) that’s in raw milk. Paul wants to withdraw within our borders, have no foreign entanglements, and let everyone within those borders fend for themselves. He’s no fan of Lincoln because Lincoln got us into an unnecessary war. WTF? I say that a lot about Ron Paul. Yes, he’s grandfatherly. Yes, he sounds like the eccentric uncle who only comes to visit on holidays and upsets everyone, but one-fifth of the Iowa voters like his vision for America. And that’s scary.

And, can you imagine, Newt Gingrich got relegated to a somewhat distant fourth place? How dare they? How dare they ignore someone of his self-declared intellect? But you just wait. He’s not going negative. He’s just going to tell the truth. (Cheers and applause) His truth, of course, which is somewhat detached from our everyday reality. As a former federal employee, I remember Newt’s fit of pique when he and other members of Congress had to exit Air Force One from the rear stairs–he shut the government down because President Clinton wouldn’t acknowledge Gingrich’s odd notion he was the co-President, not Hillary. His suck-up to Santorum and his “watch out, I’m coming to get you” riff to Romney was pure, nasty Newt.

The Village of Texas is getting its other idiot back. How nice for them. It’s hard to believe there is actually a Texas politician who can make W look like a Rhodes Scholar, but, good old Rick, he proved there was. Perry brought nothing original to this campaign, and it serves no point to waste any more blog space on him.

I wonder how Michelle Bachmann feels this morning after all that praying for a miracle from the entity she knows makes miracles. I guess she didn’t pray hard enough because the miracle didn’t happen. She essentially came in dead last, since Huntsman, Cain, Roehmer, and “No Preference” together garnered less than one percent of the votes, and none of them campaigned in Iowa. As of this writing, she has canceled her trip to South Carolina for that upcoming primary and will hold a press conference later today. At least I won’t have to listen to her carping about being disrespected because she was a woman. The hypocrisy of someone who has done all she could to reverse or disdain the accomplishments of the women’s movement who then uses sexism as an excuse for her personal shortcomings just astounds me. I hope she’s back in Minnesota for good.

The real winner in my opinion–and others more knowledgeable than I agree–is, ultimately, President Obama. Many people think Romney is the “most electable” Republican choice when paired against the President. I think the square jaw and the whitener-enhanced smile only go so far, especially for someone whose profession was to shut down companies and move jobs overseas, for which he received tremendous remuneration. When it comes down to the person who represents my values, it’s President Obama. Mind you, I’d like to have a talk with him about a few things, but the hope and the change still do it for me.

Here’s the most telling thing. If you haven’t noticed, none of the candidates refer to the President by his title–it’s Obama or Barack Obama. Now, trust me, I had trouble uttering the words “President” and “Bush” together, but I always tried to say “The President.” (Or President Shrub when I was really pissed.) This refusal to acknowledge the President’s status is indicative of a privileged (because they’re white) section of society–they just can’t wrap their heads around the reality of someone in the White House who is not white.

What I took away from the Iowa spectacle was a post-caucus interview with a white man in his fifties. When asked why he voted for Romney, he said, “He’s the best one to beat [slight hesitation and the beginning of a sneer] Mister Obama.”

That says it all. Unfortunately.

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Writing Work Schedule update:

Monday afternoon:

  • Edited the review for Linkage: The Narrows of Time Series (Volume 1) and sent interview questions to the author
  • Drafted a review of Loki and Sigyn: A Love Story
Tuesday:
  • Morning: edited a short story called “The Drink” and sent it to an on-line critique group I’m in (got very constructive comments so far)
  • Afternoon: pulled out my 2009 NaNoWriMo manuscript and reviewed it to see if, with a few name changes, it could be a good candidate for a Kindle Publication
Wednesday:
  • Morning: Blog on politics (see above)
  • To do for the afternoon: work on editing/revising a novel (depends on how tired and sore I am from coughing)