I am afraid for tonight

Tonight is the first Presidential Debate. I am afraid. Reading this article in the Washington Post only makes me moreso. If this election has really come down to the debate(s), wouldn’t we be better off with John Edwards up there instead of John Kerry? He’s better in front of a camera, he thinks on his feet, he never missteps, he’s got that megawatt smile…

I worry.

The people voting for George W. Bush

Intelligent Republicans or otherwise conservative voters are re-registering as Independents, announcing they will not vote Republican, or out and out saying they will vote for Kerry as the better of two bad (in their view) choices.

Here’s who I think are the people still voting for George W. Bush.

People who don’t understand finances beyond their own checkbook. People who don’t care about any community beyond their own church. People who are not exposed to any culture beyond what they find on TV. People who do not think for themselves. People who have no curiosity, no desire to learn, nothing to reach for, no hope of anything better.

They want a leader who will tell them everything is all right, and will only get better. They want a President who tells them that they don’t need to understand the details, because he’s taking care of it. When he says, “I’m here to tell you that this country is on the right track,” they feel comforted because they don’t have to decide for themselves.

Hand them a dollar while you take two away from their schools/firemen/towns and they think they got a good deal. Newcomers, outsiders, people who are different are viewed with suspicion. They do not value diversity, questioning, or intelligence. Instead they value tradition, obedience, and loyalty. And while those are good things, sure, they are not enough to sustain a vibrant, growing, Democratic society.

Do you know some of these people? Get them a vacation to India. Or Brazil. Give their children books for birthdays. Show them pictures of your last trip. Tell them a funny story about your black/white/latino friend. Get them to see that the world is larger than they think, but closer, too.

If you can, ask them why they believe what they do.


My weight

I’ve been meaning to write about this for, like, a year. At least it seems that long. When we had Aidan, I gained the requisite pregnancy pounds along with Tiffany. After he was born, what with the moving, and the thesis, and the moving, and the sleeplessness, and the house selling, and the house buying, and the moving… it kept on going up.

By August of last year, 2003, I weighed about 213 lbs. I’m 6’2″, for those of you keeping count, and before then, I had never weighed over 200 lbs. When Tiffany and I were attending regular gym services (before the Life-Destructor came into the picture), I was hovering around 195.

So last year, about this time, we decided to do something about it. I started following the Weight Watchers plan (Tiffany actually attended meetings, I just freeloaded). And I’m a believer. Not in the plan, necessarily, but in the principles behind it. By apportioning “points” to your food, and having a limited number of points you can use in a day, you are forced to think about what you eat. And a little active engagement in their own life never hurt anyone.

Two things I noticed. First, I ate a lot of high-point foods (the usual suspects: Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Arby’s, and Hy-Vee deli food). Second, my portions were much bigger than, say the average two-person meal.

I now weigh about 188 lbs. Tiffany is down to below her pre-baby weight, which is awesome. She’s been very disciplined, and I only hope I have been helpful.

We stopped tending to our diet early this summer, what with a lot of travelling and the like. At that point I weighed about 185 lbs. While neither of us have really gained back much weight since then, we both agree that we need to get back on the horse here.

The trick at this point is adding exercise to the mix, and neither of us know how we’re going to accomplish that. Maybe if I get up at 5:00 am instead of 5:30…

Ham and beans and pears with mayonnaise… yum!

Try spelling mayonnaise five times fast.

Tonight, we had a scrumptious meal from Tiffany’s childhood. It started with a hankering for soup. Ham and beans, to be precise. Then she added canned pears with mayonnaise and shredded cheddar on iceberg lettuce, from last Christmas. And finally, our standard cornbread recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook.

We had cornbread fixin’s (well, we had to make sour milk to use instead of buttermilk) and mayonnaise, but nothing else, so I was dispatched to the store for provisions. At the store I bought iceberg lettuce (the smallest, cheapest, whitest ball of lettuce I could find. Then I bought the most expensive can of pear halves on the shelf, the ones marked “Lite” and packed in grape juice concentrate, instead of in heavy syrup. Finally, I bought two cans of Campbell’s Classic Bean and Bacon condensed soup.

It was simply delicious. The soup may have been a little salty, but Aidan requested two more helpings (and he’s getting it for lunch tomorrow, watch out bowels!), and the pears were great. Easy to make and hard to beat.

Did Piper Leigh think nobody would notice?

Tiffany and i were cooking/watching Aidan, listening to the radio. Omaha’s local folk show was on (in the 4:00 pm hour on a Sunday, what else would be on?) and they had as a guest a folk singer from Wichita, Kansas. Her name is Piper leigh, and she has a website.

She introduced one of her songs, “You Left Too Soon”, and we missed the part where she either did or did not say that she’d written it. On her web site it does distinctly say, “by Piper Leigh.” It also, handily enough, provides the lyrics, reprinted below, just in case, and a Real Audio file of the song. (Unfortunately, the ram file seems to be broken.)

As we half-listened to the song, we both did a double-take. “Didn’t that sound like the Indigo Girls?” I asked. Tiffany agreed. So we paid more attention, and she did it again. A little incredulous, we kept listening, but after the song she never made any mention of the Indigo Girls. So we dragged out our CDs (how quaint, a fixed medium!) and qeued up Love’s Recovery.

And sure enough. Somebody copied somebody. And since all over it says that Emily Saliers wrote the song, I’m guessing she’s not the one that ripped it off. Even the melody is a direct rip-off, where the words are the same.

Does this burn anybody else? ‘Cause it pisses me off.

For your perusal, the lyrics, emphasis mine, hover your mouse over the linked lyrics to see what the other one sings…

You Left Too Soon, by Piper Leigh Oh how I wish we had a second chance So that we could change our circumstance Put some happier words to this tune But nobody gets a lifetime rehearsal Our decisions become universal The knowledge we have now is what we already knew Baby, you just left too soon Insecurity is the wall I hide behind To let it fall would hurt your pride and mine How could I show my face beyond this room Guilt is the cancer of my intellect The act of love is soon neglected And lays dying in the strength of its cocoon Baby, you just left too soon Chorus You left too soon to know the wonder that your life would be The prophecy of God’s will come alive You left too soon to know the thousand things that make your life unique The harmony that heart and beat combine You left too soon to know that you were mine I see myself in younger days Counting the stars and mapping the ways My life and love would be Watching for curves and misdirection I put my faith in love’s perfection But there’s no future in a past that wasn’t meant to be…baby Chorus


Love’s Recovery by Emily Saliers During the time of which I speak It was hard to turn the other cheek To the blows of insecurity Feeding the cancer of my intellect The blood of love soon neglected Lay dying in the strength of it’s impurity Meanwhile our friends we thought were so together They’ve all gone and left each other In search of fairer weather And we sit here in our storm and drink a toast To the slim chance of love’s recovery There I am in younger days, star gazing Painting picture perfect maps Of how my life and love would be Not counting the unmarked paths of misdirection My compass, faith in love’s perfection I missed ten million miles of road I should have seen Meanwhile our friends we thought were so together Left each other one by one on the road to fairer weather And we sit here in our storm and drink a toast To the slim chance of love’s recovery Rain soaked and voice choked Like silent screaming in a dream I search for our absolute distinction Not content to bow and bend To the whims of culture that swoop like vultures Eating us away, eating us away Eating us away to our extinction Oh how I wish I were a trinity So if I lost a part of me I’d still have two of the same to live But nobody gets a lifetime rehearsal As specks of dust we’re universal To let this love survive Would be the greatest gift that we could give Tell all the friends who think they’re so together That these are ghosts and mirages All these thoughts of fairer weather Though it’s storming out I feel safe within the arms Of love’s discovery

The sheer, unmitigated gall. Does she think she made it better? Did she think nobody would notice? That someone in a creative profession would take another’s work and call it their own… it just floors me.

You know we’re in trouble when Pat Buchanan makes sense

We just watched our TiVo’ed copy of Meet the Press, and boy, am I floored. Who was that guy masquerading as Pat Buchanan? Bob Graham (D-FL), sitting next to him, could hardly believe it. He kept adding in, “Pat’s exactly right…” or “I agree with Pat…” Will Alan Keyes start sounding reasonable next?

Most shocking to me was when Pat made the point Tiffany and I have railed against for years. The Bush Administration consistently plays on the fears of Americans by saying that Muslim extremists kill us because they hate our freedoms, and the American way of life.

BUCHANAN: “I believe it is our policies, not our principles that are causing these attacks.  Osama bin Laden wasn’t sitting in some cave in Afghanistan and stumble on the Bill of Rights and go bananas.  It is because of what we are doing. They attack us because of what we have done, not what we represent. Maybe we support those policies, maybe we don’t. But the Administration argues that we don’t reason with terrorists because they are crazy, not because their demands are unreasonable. That is the height of irresponsible.” ((See a full transcript of Pat Buchanan’s out-of-body experience from 9/5/04.))

Anyway, I was left kind of speechless by Buchanan’s arguments. If that really was Pat Buchanan.

NYT shows some brass

Two days ago, the New York Times ran with a cover photo of the recent bus bombing in Israel. They chose a particularly bloody photo, with a dead woman hanging out the window of the bus.

Times officials are quoted as saying that they did it because “there are times when our readers would not be well served by a sanitized version of events.”

You go, gray lady.

From Newsdesigner.com, NYT’s Israel Photo, warning, real life violence ahead.

Have the Republicans won? Over my bloody corpse.

Tonight, Tiffany and I watched John McCain on The Daily Show. He was, as he always is, reasonable, intelligent, calm, and he delivered a couple of good jokes.

Afterward, Tiffany and I really got into it over the following matter: She believes the country would be better off if there were more compromise between the parties. That is, if there were less polarization in the country. And I cannot disagree. While we lived in Iowa, she even gave serious consideration to voting for a Republican to represent her in Congress, because he was moderate, reasonable, and believed in compromise. (This was Jim Leach, for you Iowans in the crowd.) He won handily in a pretty liberal district, probably precisely because of those characteristics.

Where I drew the line in our argument, and where we eventually had to just agree to disagree, was this: I would always vote for a Democrat over a Republican, no matter how moderate. It is a black or white issue for me. It wasn’t always that way, I must admit. As I reflect, there was a time when I might have voted for a McCain or a Leach. I would surely prefer one of them in office over DeLay or Bush. And yet, I would now rather see a Democrat than any of them, however liberal-like their positions. Why? Because I’m not in power. I don’t feel any need to compromise, in the name of a better country. Let them take the first step. Until then, I will hold on to what I can of the environment, of social programs, of education and the rest, with my bloody nails.

McCain, Arnold, Powell, Giuliani… if they are so moderate, if they are so forthright, why are they endorsing Bush? How can they stand up there and declare that George Bush is leading this country true, and deserves to stay in office so he can continue to lead us on this path? How can John McCain, who has declared on many occasions that this Administration took us to war under seemingly false pretexts, and who has called for higher accountability for the prison abuses, how can he get up there in front of millions of people and declare his uncompromising support for George W. Bush?

Oh, sure. The Parties are really big coalitions, and the members compromise their positions in order to further the aims of the Party. I get that, I even ascribe to that view of American two-party politics. But you can have a coalition without fawning over the majority’s figurehead. Maybe you could even attract more voters if you show the world there’s room under the Big Tent.

But John McCain, and yes, Arnold, and Giuliani, and Pataki, and the rest of them, they are stumping to be the next leader of their Party. They are using this National Convention to further their political fortunes by toeing the Bush line. That seems a flimsy plank on which to rest your ethics, and yet, McCain comes on TV and still plays up his “we must fight the war, not each other” line. For that, I cannot respect him.

When the liberals eventually come back to power, then maybe I will be willing to spread the olive branch rightward. Invite them to add some point to my hopelessly liberal agenda. But I cannot think of one piece of their Platform that I would be willing to accept in order to “mend fences.” They (they being Bush and his crew, but also those who quietly follow in his shadow) have taken important social programs and environmental programs and International goodwill and ethics and the rule of law and ripped their heads off and spat down their necks and I say, screw ’em. If that is how they want to play, I will take my bruises and I will beat them.

Am I angry? Damn straight. Do I have any other choice?

Do tell.