The rally to restore something

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
Image by Matt Ortega via Flickr

The Geeky family headed out Saturday morning to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.  We made a sign that said, “There’s nothing to fear but fear itself . . . and zombies.”  The other side said, “Why can’t we just get along? Humans + zombies = <3”  I wanted to make a sign that said, “This is not a sign.” But I ran out of time.  I saw that sign there anyway.

We left our house at 8:30 a.m. (1/2 hour later than planned) and did not arrive on the mall itself until 1:45.  Four hours of driving, 1 hour line at the metro, 20 minute metro ride and then, voila, we poured out onto the street along with several thousand other people.  It was quite the experience.  I’m not going to say it was earth shattering because it wasn’t, but it was fun.  Surrounded by thousands of people, I laughed and clapped and w00ted along.  There were lots of different kinds of people, different ages, different races, different political views.  As we left the rally and wandered around to see the aftermath, people were sitting on stairs and curbs and walls, holding their signs, nodding as people laughed at them.  At one corner, a guy on top of a streetlight shouted out state names and people on the street yelled when they heard theirs.  The wait for food at any restaurant within about a 2-mile radius was about 2 hours.  A couple of places ran out of food.  No one cared too much.  They shrugged and tried the next place.

Over at 11D, Laura thinks the rally sounded boring, and disturbingly a-political.  And maybe it was, a little.  I felt no outrage or even earnestness, and I don’t think many other people did either.  As Sullivan says, in his piece, most of the people there feel weird about belonging to any group.  This group was for those people.  I told Mr. Geeky on the way home that it seemed like this was the collection of people who had no where to go in high school or college.  They weren’t jocks or cheerleaders or even completely geeks or brainiacs.  They never quite fit anywhere, or they never wanted to, more likely.  I served as judge of elections for a reason, because I believe the election process should be fair and I liked playing a role in making it so.  I still believe that voting is the most powerful thing one can do.  The things I’m most upset about right now are things that take away that power from the people.  Citizens United and general campaign financing issues are at the top of my list of problems in America right now.  Could the rally have focused on those or other issues? Sure.  But my issues are not the same as everyone else’s.  From the signs, what I gathered were big issues were legalizing pot, legalizing gay marriage, and not hating on the muslims.

There’s debate in the comments about whether those folks who attended the rally were politically active.  Not every person has to volunteer for a campaign or participate in a get out the vote drive to be active.  I suspect that many of the people there were informed about the issues.  You could probably ask any one of them who was running for office in their area and they could tell and tell you what the issues were and where the candidates stood on them.  To me, that’s being active.  That’s thinking about what your choices are and what you think is the best option for the country (often driven by personal needs and desires, of course).  And those people will vote. That’s more than many people will do.

I have to say, I know I’ve changed a few minds over the years just by being reasonable when discussing politics.  I leave my mind pretty open for the same.  If someone comes in with a reasonable argument–and Obama is a socialist is not a reasonable argument–I might change my mind, too.

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Other things on my mind

I know the last couple of posts have been all “omg, I have so much stupid stuff to do I can’t see straight,” but I do actually think about other things outside my domestic sphere.  Here are some of them:

  • The oil spill.  It’s just awful, and I think I’ve decided that the profit motive has screwed up everything, from BP’s lack of preparation for the event to the governments oversight and response.
  • For-profit education.  The argument about for-profits used to be that their quality wasn’t up to snuff.  That’s not so much true anymore across the board.  But there are some issues with the business side, specifically the way they are handling student loans.  Watch College, Inc., read Dean Dad’s responses, and then read this article in Business Week.  For-profits fill a gap, but at what cost?
  • Facebook and Apple as evil entities.  I’m on a Mac as I speak with my iPhone plugged in.  Facebook is not currently open, but all bets are that it will be at some point.  We could add to this all kinds of other entities that basically hold monopoly power over us as consumers–cable companies, mobile phone providers, internet service providers, maybe Google?  For Apple products at least, I like the experience I get from using their products.  They generally work, and they’re fun to use.  I rarely become frustrated when using my mac or my iPhone.  The same is true of Google products, and quite frankly, a little blip is less of a problem, I’m not really paying for them (well, I am, through the use of my data, but no actual cash exchanges hands).  Facebook is not as important to me, and as I mentioned, I’m still on the fence about its practices.  Those other companies–cable, etc.–totally piss me off.  It costs an arm and a leg for phone and internet service.  I agree with DD, I want to have a selection of companies that I can buy all those things from.  So, I could go to Comcast or Verizon or another company and say, “I want internet (both home and wifi), phone (both landline and mobile), and tv for a single price that won’t kill me.”  Or I want those companies regulated like hell.  Landlines are cheap despite having a monopoly because they are regulated to a degree.  Same for the electricity.  If Facebook can be a utility that can be regulated, as danah boyd argues, then why can’t the mobile service providers?  Just saying.

Other than that, I’m mostly planning for the fall, dealing with household crap, carting kids around.  What a life!


Joe Sestak
Image by lorda via Flickr

Yesterday was Pennsylvania’s primary and I’m happy to say that a) for the first time in years, I didn’t have to work and b) my guy won.  The last senate primary, in 2006, my guy lost.  This time, not so.  Joe Sestak beat out Arlen Specter.  Although Specter has been a republican, I’ve actually liked some of what he’s done, especially during the Bush years.  He looked positively liberal back then.  And it wasn’t so much his politically motivated switch to the democratic ticket that made me vote against him, but that I really like Joe Sestak.  He’s been our congressional representative and I was actually at the event many years ago that launched his original congressional campaign.  He brought me a hoagie when I was working the polls.  He’s been a proponent of health care reform and a supporter of labor (despite not winning their endorsement).  He’s not perfect.  No politician is, but I think he’ll do a good job.

I always thought of Specter as a statesman, as someone who truly did feel that he was being of service to the people (until this last move of his, I guess).  I respected him for that even when I disagreed with his point of view.  I think Sestak is on that same track of becoming the consummate statesman rather than a self-serving politician.  I’m not too idealistic not to realize that there’s some politicking that goes into a campaign and into serving as a senator, but I get the feeling that Sestak tries to minimize that.  November is far away and coming too soon.  I’m crossing my fingers.

Wall Street Gate

President Nixon giving a televised address exp...
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I actually hate that every scandal gets -gate attached to it in order to liken it to Watergate.  But the more I’ve been thinking about the financial crisis (or meltdown), and the more that comes to light about what many of the big banks were up to, the more I think that this scandal is more like Watergate than many of the other -gates we’ve seen over the last few years.  The news is awash with stories about Goldman-Sachs improprieties, some of which are being exposed through inter- and intra-office emails.  This Frank Rich column argues that it’s about time the banks were held accountable and that he’s ashamed that our government hasn’t done more.  As during Watergate, it’s the press that’s been exposing many of the problems that were at the root of the banking crisis.  The fallout of Watergate, many believe, is a loss of faith in our government to be honest and straightforward.  It exposed not just that the government used doublespeak to cover up bad things it was doing, but would resort to illegal activities in order to maintain power.  It’s why we often go there when our faith in presidents is shaken.  Maybe, just maybe, we think, they’re another Nixon.  But Watergate didn’t bring down our entire country.  Our democratic processes spun into action and we recovered.  The financial crisis has shown us to be chumps.  Many people trusted the big banks to, at the very least, not completely screw us over.  But we were wrong.  We believed the snake-oil salesmen, and unfortunately, the unveiling of the charade didn’t just bring down a single man and a few of his co-conspirators.  It brought down the whole economy.  It took with it millions of people who lost their homes, lost jobs, lost their entire savings.  Nixon was forced to resign.  Goldman-Sachs just awarded millions in bonuses.  What’s wrong with this picture?

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Obama on school

I can’t believe the controversy that’s surrounded Obama’s planned speech today about school. It’s bat-shit crazy. If I felt certain that smart people always won the day and that dumb people who take their kids out of school because they think the President of the United States is indoctrinating our children, I would have no concern over it whatsoever. However, I know that sometimes dumb people win out, especially if they’re loud enough. Sigh.

I just read the speech and it’s really good, and I hope that kids do listen to it and take much of it to heart. The main message is that it takes hard work to succeed, a message that I think is important to any of us. He also connects the lessons of school to future work:

Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.
Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.

I love the “if you want to be x, then do x in school” logic of this and other sections of his speech. If my kids don’t see it in school today, we’re going to watch it together later. Kids need to be inspired and the President, any president, regardless of party, is inspirational to kids. What kid doesn’t think they might be President some day? I feel a twinge of sadness that this whole thing has become a controversy, fueled by ignorance and hatred. What a small-minded country we’ve become.

Women’s Right to Life

Over three years ago, I wrote this post on Blogging for Choice day, explaining that when I was 16 years old, I had an abortion. That act, as painful and troubling as it was, gave me the life I have today.

As I was watching the coverage and reading the blogs about George Tiller’s death, I felt not just sad for Tiller’s family, but sad for our country. I’m really tired of the hate-mongering that ends in tragedies like Tiller’s death. We have let that rhetoric control the debate for far too long. We need to quiet the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. They are inciting people to hold this hate inside and act on it. I’ve never been to a Pro-Choice Rally where hate or violence is advocated or even spoken of. Abortion is not a pleasant experience. It’s certainly not pleasant to think about, even for those of us who want them to remain legal. And yet, the hate mongers on the right not only want abortions to end, but they want to teach abstinence-only in the schools. They want to deny that human beings have sex and that the result of that is often pregnancy, but that through the miracle of science, we can prevent that result. Pfizer is offering free Viagra if you’ve lost your job. Do you see them offering free birth control? Some insurance companies won’t even pay for birth control. Don’t you think having another baby when you’ve lost your job might be more of problem than not being able to get an erection?

Women around the country may now be fearful of obtaining care that is their right to have legally. Their lives might be literally at risk and certainly, their lives might not be filled with the kind of opportunities they could have without an unwanted child. Already, according to reports I’ve seen, in over 85% of the counties in the US do not have access to abortion services. In many places, doctors and clinics are not even allowed to tell women where they can obtain an abortion. We’re talking about health care here, people. Since when would it be okay for a doctor to say, well, I can’t perform this surgery and I can’t tell you who in the area can. You’ll just have to figure that out on your own. There are states where there’s only one clinic in the whole state where abortions are performed. There are more states with waiting periods, meaning two trips and two days off work for women seeking services.

Why do we let this happen in our country? There are a lot of people who are calling this terrorism and who are blaming the hatemongers on Fox News and talk radio and on the blogs. Sure, I blame them. But I blame us as well, for letting it happen, for not standing up to these people, for not standing behind practitioners who are just doing their job, for not speaking out if you’ve had an abortion, putting a human face on that action which makes it harder for people to rail against it. I am writing my senators and congressman today. If I could I’d go to the vigil in Love Park in Philadelphia today at 5:30. Women have a right to life. Let’s truly support that in whatever way we can.

An Historic Day

Sunday, I flipped back and forth between the Eagles game and the concert for Obama. I’ll admit to getting choked up watching Pete Seeger sing “This Land is your Land.” And I also got a kick out of seeing Garth Brooks sing “Shout.” I would actually love to be on the mall today to be a part of what is bound to be a very emotional ceremony for many people. My son is watching the inauguration with his whole school. Geeky Girl is going to ask about it. I’m recording it just in case.

Barbara Ganley tweeted that the inauguration reminds her to recommit to community involvement. Me too. Something I’ve been thinking about for the last couple of months is in what way I should get involved. The PTA doesn’t appeal to me because they’re more involved in cookie baking than school reform. I am already somewhat involved with our local democrats, but I want to find something that crosses political lines. As it happens, our state representative is holding a business disctrict revitalization meeting this week, a couple of hours before the school board meeting. I’m planning to go to both.

I think it’s going to take a lot of effort not just by the administration but by all of us to get through the wars and the economic fallout. I hope the Obama administration encourages that kind of participation as his campaign did. I think many of us stand ready and hopeful.

Update: Also read Leslie’s amazing post.

What Michelle Obama represents

I finally got around to reading this Salon article on Michelle Obama’s slide from professional working woman to traditional First Lady/Mom. I’ve seen this happen to so many women in my life, including myself to a large extent, that it’s a familiar story. And I can’t decide if it’s a sad story or not. I think it’s yet to be seen. I’m looking forward to the possibility of Michelle focusing some attention on the dilemma many women face of trying to balance work and family, especially for those who decide to take some time away from the fast track to tend to children. Perhaps we’ll see some policy changes that help people balance their work and family lives.

The money quote for me in this article:

Barack continues, “No matter how liberated I liked to see myself as — no matter how much I told myself that Michelle and I were equal partners, and that her dreams and ambitions were as important as my own — the fact was that when children showed up, it was Michelle and not I who was expected to make the necessary adjustments. Sure, I helped, but it was always on my terms, on my schedule. Meanwhile, she was the one who had to put her career on hold.” Barack considers his dawning realization that in his wife, as in so many working women, there was a battle raging. “In her own mind, two visions of herself were at war with each other,” he writes. “The desire to be the woman her mother had been, solid, dependable, making a home and always there for her kids, and the desire to excel in her profession, to make her mark on the world and realize all those plans she’d had on the very first day that we met.”

Like many men his age, Obama is “liberated” in the sense that he recognizes that women have the right to have the same ambitions as men, but doing to the work to make that happen locally is hard. I also think that women have that same battle Michelle had (has?). I think women recognize more than men do (sometimes) the value of good childrearing and even if they can afford it, have a hard time handing that over to others.

In just the week that I’ve been away from work, I’ve already seen positive results from my being around. Geeky Boy told me this morning on his way to school how glad he was to have all his homework done, that it felt really good. After all the homework battles I didn’t have the energy for after work, dinner, cleaning, this was music to my ears. And proof at least to me that parently presence is important, at least for my family.


Line of Voters 6:55 am
Originally uploaded by lorda.

This was the line at 6:55 a.m. yesterday morning. It was like this until 9:00 a.m. People brought books and newspapers, prepared to wait it out. We had a steady stream with at least 10 people in line until after noon. By 2:00, we realized about 60% had already turned out. I began my day at 6:00. After closing the polls and counting 75(!) absentee ballots, I took everything to the courthouse to be counted and got home at 10 p.m. I was so focused on getting everything done, I have no idea how my precinct voted. I know our township and our county went for Obama. We’re pretty evenly split, so it could have gone either way. Nearly 1000 people voted in our precinct. 916 showed up in person, 75 voted via absentee. There are just over 1100 registered voters in our precinct. That’s a huge turnout.

As some people on Twitter have said, now the real work begins. And that is so true. A woman on CNN said last night, “We are going to hold Obama accountable, and he should hold us accountable.” I think we should stay as engaged in politics now as we were during the election. I’m excited but still anxious about all the problems we will need to face together.

Today is the day

Everything could change. If Obama wins, my biggest hope is that Obama can truly bring the country together. I really do think that I have a lot in common with my Republican neighbors. It’s really a rare few that I disagree with completely. I want for the disagreements I may have to be minor, inconsequential. I don’t want to be called a latte-sipping liberal and I don’t want my neighbor to be called a dumb redneck conservative. I want us to work together so that all our kids have a future. We’re going to need to work together to solve global warming and the energy crisis, to settle our financial future and to defeat terrorism. My hope is that Obama will rally us all around these common goals.

And it starts by voting. I know most of my readers are regular voters, but I urge you to get your friends to go vote, your neighbors. We have a chance to make history, to change our country for the better, to heal the wounds of the last 8 years. Go vote! Change the world!