catholic-mass1

Mass Confusion

Creatures of habit and ritual do not generally react well to change. Oh, you should be with me when I cantor Sunday mass these days.

For those of you who aren’t Catholic (or are, but haven’t been to church in a length of time not to be judged or even discussed herein): there is a very set ritual of prayers we say during mass. Recently, the Church changed the words to some of those prayers. The whole Church. Every Catholic who goes to mass now has to say different words, no matter what country they’re in (presumably). It’s because Pope John Paul II years ago ordered a re-translation from the original language into all the languages of the world, because things strayed a bit too far from home and now not everyone was really saying the same thing. He spoke seven languages, so I guess he would know. And we’re all supposed to be saying the exact same thing. It’s about unity. One Church.

So anyway. The answer to a priest’s “The Lord be with you” used to be “And also with you.” Now it’s “And with your spirit.” We’ve been saying “And also with you” since 1963 when the Church ixnayed Atin-Lay, but now, holy hell, the words are different. We say “And with your spirit” no fewer than five times during a mass. For the first several weeks of the new translation, we took special care to remind people of this before mass started. It got to a point when sometimes we were practically yelling it.

~”The Lord be with you.”
~”AND WITH YOUR SPIRIT! I got it that time!”

I was incensed (haha, Catholic joke – get it? Incense?) when the most pious of our priests decided to sing a high mass a couple of weeks ago. No, high mass does not refer to too much incense. It’s when a bunch of the prayers are chanted. I actually gave him a dirty look when he started in. People weren’t comfortable with those chants before we changed all the words. Now, there’s absolutely no musical precedent for them. I don’t know what to sing. The people are all, “Uh, hey cantor, what do we do?” and I’m all, “Uhhh, just… wiggle your voice around a little.” I hope you’re happy, Father.

My music director wisely changed some of the prayers we sing to the new translation weeks ahead of time. The idea was that people would be comfortable with them by the time we got to the mandatory switch-over, and they’d sing them confidently.

False.

We’ve been doing the new music for three months now, and I still see all these people with their faces buried in the prayer cheat sheets. Where the music, which they know, is not written.

I don’t know why, but for a Church based entirely on believing what cannot be seen, these people have some serious trust issues.

I’m not even going to start on the Nicene Creed or how everyone panics every week because “maybe they changed the Lord’s Prayer, too.” (They didn’t.)

Catholics are accustomed not only to ritual but also to a certain rhythm. We have a way we say things, you know? A cadence. When they changed the words, the cadence got all screwed up and now nothing is said together. Which is ironic, given the purpose of changing the words. Now everything’s scattered all to hell, and it comes out sounding like, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive my roof under you, but only say the word and I shall heal my own soul or …something. *Cough.* And with your spirit?”

That bit gets said at the most important moment of the mass: the consecration. It’s the moment when the bread and wine is turned into the body and blood of Christ. This is a very holy moment. Which makes it an excellent time for Patrick, the deeply baritone and hard-of-hearing usher/sacristan, to hock up a crapload of phlegm on the other side of the altar wall, very loudly, out of sight, like the Voice of God has been stricken by post-nasal drip. He does it at the exact same time every week.

Priest: “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, holy Father,–“

Patrick (off): “Aaachhhuugggllll!”

Priest: “–almighty and eternal God, through Christ our Lord. For he assumed at his first coming the lowliness of human flesh, and so fulfilled the design you formed long ago, and opened for us the way to eternal salvation–“

Patrick (off): “AAAYYYYAACHHHHUUUGGGGLLLLL. Uh-gull-accchhhh.”

Priest: “–that, when he comes again in glory and majesty and all is at last made manifest, we who watch for that day may inherit the great promise in which now we dare to hope.”

(I don’t have that memorized. I looked it up. I had the old prayer there memorized. But that’s gone the way of the backward-facing celebrant.)

Sadly, another fairly regular ritual at my church is the Fainting of the Faithful. The vast majority of attendees are seniors. And, God love them, sometimes they don’t have breakfast, or they forget to take a pill, or whatever, and boom. Down goes Mrs. Frazier. It’s happened so frequently that the parish has had to mark off a little connecting road between two parking lots with orange cones so that nobody (read: me) parks along the side of it because, if they do, the ambulance can’t get through.

I almost parked there yesterday, in defiance, because I was late and I really hate having to drive to the lower lot and hoof it up the hill to get to the church, out of breath just in time to sing the entrance hymn. Good thing I didn’t park there, though, because all of a sudden, right at the very beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist (the part leading up to that all-important moment of the consecration)… down went poor old Mr. McKinley.

I made that up, I don’t know his name.

Father saw it happen, and, when he finished the prayer he was on, he discreetly asked for any medical professionals present to attend to this parishioner. Apparently I worship at a very medical church. About six people rushed over. Had the choir been there, three more would have joined them. My church is, for reasons both spiritually and practically obvious, a pretty good place to lose consciousness.

This is always a very awkward thing for the celebrant. He has to continue with the mass. But he kind of doesn’t want to. He feels like he’s plainly ignoring the fact that one of his parishioners may or may not be dying about 20 feet away. Yesterday, because Mr. McKinley’s episode went on for so long, he calmly told the server girls as they prepared the altar for the consecration to go and get the other priest over in the rectory.

I remained prone, remembering I’m supposed to be an example up here in my lay ministry, kneeling as Saint Peter or whomever told us to do, but wondering what was taking the ambulance so long. They’re right across the street. Naturally, half the church was basically staring at the spot where Mr. McKinley had keeled over instead of paying much attention to that most holy of liturgical ceremonies, and I have to say that, as I watched the priest, he was a little distracted, too. It’s good, though, kind of, because it distracted everyone from Patrick’s lung evacuations.  And then, of course, the medics arrived exactly when the bread and wine were elevated for the big moment. (Former Catholics: think “ringing bells.”) You cannot pick a worse time to be disruptive.

(left): “Sir, are you having trouble breathing?”
(from altar): “Through Him, with Him, in Him…”
(off): “Ayyyucchhhhgggllll!”
(left): “Any chest pain?”
(from altar): “In the unity of the Holy Spirit…”
(off): “Bllluuugrrrghhuhgglll…”

Adding to all of this? The words to the hymn we sang at closing. “Let All Things Now Living.” Really? Oh, this is awkward. “Let all things now living (I hope) a song of thanksgiving to God our creator triumphantly raise! Whose passion has made us, protected and stayed us by guiding us on to the end of our days! (Which is hopefully not today)… Til shadows have vanished and darkness is banished as onward we travel from light into light!” (Go toward the light!)

I don’t know what happened to Mr. McKinley. The medics carted him off just before it was time to line up for Communion, with Father Pious High Mass tagging along.

I wonder if the prayers for the Anointing of the Sick changed, too.

jacksonville debate

To the Moon, Alice!

Well, alright. If it’s going to be like this.

Last night was another debate. This one was in Florida, Land of the Hanging Chad. What did we learn?

We learned that Wolf Blitzer, in addition to having the most awesome non-fake name ever, will not take crap from Newt Gingrich. He asked Gingrich for his thoughts on Romney’s taxes, Gingrich tried to play his The Media Suck and Every Question They Ask That I Don’t Want To Answer Is Stupid Game, and Wolf said, “But, Mr. Speaker, you made an issue of this, this week, when you said that, ‘He lives in a world of Swiss bank and Cayman Island bank accounts.’ I didn’t say that. You did.”

Gingrich’s response:  “I did. And I’m perfectly happy to say that on an interview on some TV show. But this is a national debate, where you have a chance to get the four of us to talk about a whole range of issues.”

Boo-freakin’-hoo, Mr. Speaker. Wolf told him that, if he’s going to say something like that publicly, he needs to explain it when asked. And that’s when Mitt Romney hit him with the follow-through: “Wouldn’t it be nice if people didn’t make accusations somewhere else that they weren’t willing to defend here?”

There was, yes, a lot of arguing in this debate. Bitter arguing. You know who didn’t do any of it? Ron Paul. He rose above everything and came out unscathed. But we heard in a speech after the South Carolina primary that he never expected to get this far, really. He said his campaign was about promoting an idea, and then when he saw how well he was doing, he realized that getting elected is how you further the ideas. He’s flying by the seat of his pants at this point, doing fine because he pulls in contributions and he really never varies his stance on anything.

-"You're a pompous ass!" -"Well you're a stupid phony!" "Smile, there's a camera."

Gingrich and Romney did the most jabbing, with some flavor thrown in by Santorum, who took Romney to task, and I mean to task, on the Massachusetts health care plan. Santorum effectively made Romney explain it a little better than before. He said 92% of the people already had insurance, and the 8% who did not have insurance had to choose between finding their own insurance or “paying the state for part of the cost of their free healthcare.” Which, by definition, means it’s not free, but I digress. Santorum used the description to point out that, in the plan, Romney required all Massachusetts residents to buy healthcare or pay a fine. He said the fine is lower than a lot of health care plan costs, and therefore more people in Massachusetts have elected to just pay the fine, which he says amounts to taking a free ride.

I think that might have been the most effective deconstruction of this long-hashed out subject to date.

There was also further discussion of the immigration question, and a plan I hadn’t heard of before. It’s called “self-deportation,” and apparently it works by giving legal immigrants cards that verify their legality and allow employers to give them jobs. The illegal immigrants don’t get those cards, so if employers hire them, they lose their jobs and the employers are sanctioned stiffly. As Romney said, “If you do that, people who have come here illegally won’t be able to find work. And over time, those people would tend to leave the country, or self-deport.”

Raise your hand if you believe that.

You’ll note I’m still typing. I am still using both hands.

We learned, perhaps a little surprisingly, that The Newt might be considering Marco

"Gingrich/Rubio. Hmmmm... Let me think about that..."

Rubio as a running mate. We learned this when a woman in the US island of Puerto Rico asked the candidates to name which Hispanics (her word) they might consider for cabinet positions. Gingrich said he’d consider Rubio for something a little more  “dignified” and “central” then being in the cabinet, “but that’s another conversation.”

Ree-hee-heeeeallly? That’s an interesting play. I don’t see it happening, but it’s an interesting play. Rubio is popular with the Tea Party and Gingrich may have bought himself some Florida caucus votes with that comment. And not a moment too soon: Gingrich’s poll numbers are slipping below Romney’s again.

Santorum decided not to spend any money on TV ads in Florida. I suspect it’s because he wants to go the distance in the race and he really doesn’t have the war chest to fund the whole shebang. It will be interesting to see what happens with him in Florida, then, because if he doesn’t finish at least a strong second, I think his numbers just dwindle from there. He also said in a post-debate interview that he’s not staying in the state the day of the primary, because it’s a wasted day, and he’d rather go campaign in Nevada, where the next primary will be held just days later. Super Tuesday is approaching and with more states dividing up their nomination votes by percentage of primary votes, Santorum is just hoping to stay alive until summer.

One of the best moments of the debate was when Wolf Blitzer asked the candidates why their wives would make the best First Lady. Ron Paul’s answer was sort of superficial: she’s a mom, she’s a grandma, she wrote a cookbook. Okay. My mother could be First Lady based on that. (Not the cookbook part.)

Karen Santorum

Santorum’s answer was something we’ve heard before: mother of seven children, one severely disabled (their youngest child has Trisomy 18, a chromosomal defect so severe that kills the overwhelming majority of those who suffer it before birth, and most of those who make it to term die during birth. The great majority who survive that die within the first year. Bella is 3 1/2 and highly physically and developmentally challenged). In addition, the Santorums lost a child, Gabriel, mid-term. Karen Santorum wrote a book about that experience that Rick Santorum says “saved hundreds of lives” when expectant mothers read it and decided not to terminate their pregnancies.

She also wrote a children’s book about manners. She sounds like fun.

Ann Romney

Mitt Romney explained that his wife has multiple sclerosis and is a breast cancer survivor, two things I’m not sure I was aware of before (and both eerily reminiscent of the conditions Gingrich’s first two wives were suffering when he left them). He said she’d be able to understand and reach out to those who suffer, and that she’s also worked on helping young women make family choices that emphasize marriage before children.

Callista Gingrich

But the part that I was most intrigued by was Newt Gingrich’s wife. Callista seems like a Little People figure. Her hair never moves and she never speaks. She is a slash of severe red lipstick on an all-white head. But apparently, she is also an accomplished musician and singer, and the arts are her passion.

That warmed me up to her a little. I’d love a First Lady who made the arts, and particularly music, more important. However, the supposedly devout Catholic had a six-year affair with Gingrich while he was still married to his second wife, which sort of knocks her down a peg. And I will say it in black and white, plain: I don’t want her husband in the White House.

Perhaps a White House on the moon, where he suggests the US should build a colony by 2020, and perhaps the citizens of said colony could petition for statehood.

The moon. A US state.

Imperialistic much?

Most ridiculous thing I have ever heard in my life. Explore space? Absolutely, when it’s fiscally feasible. I don’t want to end space discovery – far from it. But claim the moon as American space soil? It’s the moon, for God’s sake. Nobody can own the moon.

Moonpie. (image from infowars.com. Clever folks.)

Here was perhaps the most delightful touch of the evening: Ron Paul was funny. Not just “holy crap, he’s off the reservation again, look at him go” funny, but actually witty. His line about the moon? “Well I don’t think we should go to the moon. I think maybe we should send some politicians up there.” When they were talking about what kind of relations should be maintained, if any, with Cuba, Blitzer asked Paul, “What would you say to Raul Castro if you were talking to him?”

“Well, I’d ask him what was the purpose of his call?”

He was the comic relief for a relatively tense night of debating who the best candidate is for the Republicans. I don’t know if it got anyone closer to a decision, and I think Gingrich’s performance, for all his belligerence, was flat. Romney was a little more commanding and he came off not giving a flying fig about how rich he is – something he’s really struggled with because of the current economic climate of the country. He has a new debate coach. It might have worked.

The transcript: http://archives.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1201/26/se.05.html

sotu

One Bad Joke and A Drinking Game

(Disclaimer: I don’t know what the hizzie is wrong with the format today. It doesn’t matter what I do – I can’t get this post to space properly in paragraph form.)
There are lots of reasons to be glad that women have come into their own in Congress despite lower numbers now than in 2008). One of my favorite reasons is that they add so much more color to the floor during the State of the Union. Seriously. All the men wear suits in varying shades of blue or gray, but the women? They pop. They make sure they shine, stand out in shades of chartreuse, fuscia, purple, kelly green, red. You know where they are and you know where they stand.

Women of color! They're the sparkly flecks in the boring granite.

Obviously, that’s a completely moronic obseravation about the State of the Union address. Still, it’s true.
And by the way, when the president said that women should earn equal pay for equal work, all the women stood immediately. I couldn’t help but notice it took the men a little longer.
I like to find things to laugh about in the annual speech. Not so much in the speech itself, but in the reactions of those who are there to hear it. For instance, I turned it into a drinking game. (Not for me, but for others who might have been allowed to imbibe freely while watching.) Drink every time the president is interrupted for applause. Two sips if they stand. A full shot when Vice-President Biden makes a funny face. Oh, and if Speaker Boehner cries? Chug.
Obviously that wasn’t going to happen last night. But my sister texted me to say he looked constipated.
I also laughed about the fact that House Majority Whip and Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor had to look around for people who liked him enough to shake his hand when he walked in after the president. It took him five rows to find anybody. “Hi. Um… I’m Eric Cantor? I’m the majority whip…? You.. I’ve called you… h–hi–hi! Oh, hi! Yes, shake hands! Good!”

"Is there anybody over there who likes me?"

Not a terribly popular fellow, Mr. Cantor.
I always sort of swell with the glory of patriotism when I hear the applause that greets the president and endures until he takes the podium. I like the sign of respect, even when half the people in the room aren’t big fans of whoever holds the office. Obviously, the room can’t very well fall silent as the president walks to his post – that would be awkward, so clearly they have to do something. But when the president did get to his position, the applause stopped so suddenly I was a little surprised.
Was that… recorded applause? Did they clap-sync along until someone hit the STOP button?
Obviously, the president knew to lead with the wins, the stuff nobody could begrudge him. Hey, the war in Iraq is over. Oh, Osama bin Laden? He’s dead. We did that. The Taliban (which the president pronounces correctly and always sends me into a chorus of “Day-Oh!” “Come, Mister Taliban, tally me bahnahnah.”) is vastly weakened. The auto industry? Saved it. Three million jobs in 22 months? Got ‘em.
Speaker Boehner wasn’t sure what to do with himself right then, by the way. It’s hard to convince the country that there are three million new jobs when it seems the same number of people don’t have any. And nobody who didn’t favor the auto industry bailout likes to admit that it worked.
We can hash out the seven program or agency proposals that spending hawks will say only cost more money. He even told states and education institutions that they needed to stop relying on federal funding and find ways for themselves to be more cost-efficient, which sounded to me a lot like the unfunded mandates that governors complained about under the Bush “No Child Left Behind” plan. Yes, new programs usually do cost money, but every SOTU is about outlining new plans. It’s about the president laying out his ideas for what he would like to see get done in Congress. And did you catch his notation that most Americans don’t believe anything’s going to get done, anyway?
“The greatest blow to confidence in our economy last year didn’t come from events beyond our control. It came from a debate in Washington over whether the United States would pay its bills or not. Who benefited from that fiasco?”
Holla! Called ‘em out! It’s like he read my rant about the deficit and debt ceiling debate. I’m sure that’s exactly what happened. He read it. Totally.
Right after that, the president asked Congress to send him a bill banning insider trading for members of Congress. And people booed. 
What?
Are we, like, in favor of insider trading now, or something? Somebody call Martha Stewart.
Mr. Obama did lay out how he wants to help loosen up the crippled cogs in the Congressional wheels. After asking for that ban on insider trading, he asked to limit any elected official’s holdings of stock in companies they impact with legislation. He asked that people who bundle contributions for Congress can’t lobby Congress, and vice-versa (if I read that right, it’s a reference to Super-PACs).  And he asked that he be given the authority to consolidate the “federal bureaucracy” so that he can make government “leaner, quicker, and more responsive.” Sounds like a plan to shrink the government, or at least an homage to the idea.
The president actually said several things last night that made me think he was beginning to run more to the right. He pointed out that, contrary to some opponents’ criticisms, he has approved fewer regulations in the last three years than President George W. Bush did in his first three. He crowed about the benefits of the bailouts and then said they’d never happen again. He said, “An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody.”  And all that was the opening salvo to his introduction of the country’s new consumer advocate, Richard Cordray. Another tough moment for Speaker Boehner and crew, because nobody thinks it’s a bad idea to have someone look out for average Americans in dealing with credit card companies and the like… but the Republicans held up Cordray’s confirmation for six months and the president did an end-around and appointed him during the holiday recess. Heehee! To clap, or not to clap?
But while expounding on the virtues of ending senseless regulation and instituting sensible regulation, Mr. Obama tried to make a funny.
Milk, it seems, was once considered a bit of a hazard if it spilled. Now, I’m sure that’s an overstatement for why dairy farmers had to spend $10,000 to prove they could contain a spill, but the president’s joke went like this: “With a rule like that, I guess it was worth crying over spilled milk.”
Um, did Sasha write that joke? C’mon, Mr. President. You’re wittier than that.
By the way, I checked the text of the speech as prepared for delivery. That line is in it. It wasn’t ad-libbed. The president is funnier when he ad-libs.
I’m going to skip all the stuff about tax code and who should pay what, because everybody already knows that song, and nothing about it was funny, except the use of Warren Buffett’s secretary as a prop for the argument, sitting in the First Lady’s box seats. Really? That wasn’t a little opportunistic?
It was a good speech. It highlighted what the president wants to accomplish without beating a drum too loudly. It highlighted some of what he has accomplished without too much chest-thumping. It kicked off his campaign for re-election quite nicely, since it reached back a few years instead of just covering the last 12 months. And it put in the most positive of terms that which was difficult to parse: early on: “The state of our union is getting stronger.” And in the end, “As long as we’re joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, our future is hopeful, and the state of our union will always be strong.”
A more pride-stirring approach than an analytical one. Probably a good way to go.
I’m going to leave you with a photo of what I think was the most priceless moment of the evening. Sure, it was somewhat planned; the president knew who he was going to see and there was time for the network’s cameras to maneuver into position to capture it. But the emotion of the meeting seemed so genuine, and the joy of it so full, that it could not be ignored.
The president hugged Representative Gabrielle Giffords gently but completely, wrapping the tiny woman up in his lanky frame. And as she lingered with her head on his shoulder, he rocked her back and forth in a simple motion of elation at her survival and recovery.
That’s a political maneuver we can all embrace.
Now on my bookshelf: The Paris Wife – Paula McLain

What the…? A Non-Political Post. (Mostly.)

I have no material with which to write a regular post and I’m trying to give you a break from the politics. I’m not even going to write a full post on Gingrich winning South Carolina despite his ex-wife accusing him of asking for an open marriage two days before the primary, probably because he took John King to task over asking him about the interview and King totally wussed out instead of telling Gingrich to stick it. (See? Debates matter.)

So instead of writing about that, I thought I’d present you with a Summary of the Ridiculous, Week of Jan. 15.

******

At the chiropractor on Friday, while she was making me do all sorts of things against my back’s will, the doc asked me a bunch of random questions that seemed rather disconnected. But none of them threw me like the one she tossed out while she was trying to feel the iliopsoas muscle that runs under the abdominal organs.

“Do you have trouble gaining weight?”

“Ummm…” I started to reply. And then I stopped.

Wait, what?

I don’t understand the question. Do I have “trouble?”

Ow!

What are you saying? I’m not too thin, surely you’re not saying I’m too thin.

Do you feel some sort of bad organ in there? Some sort of weight controlling organ?

Are you a real doctor?

Ach!

I groped for an answer to the question as all these thoughts ticked through my head. I finally blurted: “Why would I try?”

She just smiled.

Now I’m afraid that her treatments are going to somehow make me gain weight.

******

Someone posted a link on Facebook that made me go cross-eyed with despair for what is going on in local television news these days. There’s a politician in Cleveland up on 26 criminal corruption charges. But there are no cameras allowed in the court room, and these kinds of stories, while important to the local community, are dry and have no video to go with them. How to present? How to solve the dilemma of imparting important information on people who will be bored by it? You won’t believe the answer WOIO came up with.

Just watch.

I can’t even…

Just… Here.

*****

There was a freak-out on the interwebz last night because everybody thought Joe Paterno had died. He didn’t die until this morning. Turns out, CBS Sports had reported it last evening, and Huffington Post, People Magazine and a few other outlets picked it up – but here’s your first clue it’s not a sure thing: CBS News didn’t run with it. CBS Sports got it from some student website (onwardstate.com), which is clearly about as reliable as a Yugo. A Paterno family spokesperson denied the report. Then there were tweets from two of Paterno’s sons, also denying the report. He was (as of last night) very seriously ill, but not dead.

Now he’s dead.

It’s a sign of the danger of using unreliable sources. Clearly I am your only reliable source for information. Remember that.

******

Sister 1 posted a video of Twin Neph 2 on Facebook Monday. He was chanting the beginning of a particularly angry “alternative metal” song: “Let the bodies hit the floor! Let the bodies hit the floor!” over and over again. He is four years old, and so freaking cute that you almost overlook the fact that he’s chanting in his speech-impeded way about bodies hitting floors. Drowning Pool (the band that recorded the song) says the lyrics are about “the brotherhood of the moshpit.” My nephew loves music, but particularly two kinds: hip-hop and Disney songs. “Bodies” is neither. But the beginning of it is spoken, and that’s close enough to hip-hop for him.

******

On Tuesday night, Entertainment Tonight presented a full complement of coverage it had no business doing on the Costa Concordia cruise ship tragedy on the Italian coast. What did they call it? Check out the graphic.

Psst. ET. There’s a reason everybody knew how the movie ended. Morons.

******

It got really cold here and snowed a bit – just a bit, but the cold was enough to make me try something I never do: a hat. My parents brought me a handknit Irish wool beret when they went to Ireland last year. It’s beautiful, but not being a hat person, I wasn’t sure I could pull it off.

I was right.

It has a pompom on the top, which, since it’s a beret, is not really the top so much as it is a jaunty cockeyed adornment. It doesn’t seem right on me. I tried just pulling the hat down straight. I wound up looking like the top of a ceramic sugar canister.

Sigh.

I do better with bucket hats. Can I get a wool knit bucket hat?

gingrich

Mary Poppins To SC, Please. Newt Needs Sugar.

Last night’s GOP debate (yes, another one) brought forth little new information, but did present one nugget of something I think we’ll all find valuable. A viewer asked, via Twitter, what each candidate thought about the SOPA issue we bloggers have been so aware of (I don’t have a banner on my page because I can’t get it to work. In my head, though? Totally against it.)

Newt Gingrich got to answer first, and of course managed a really snide comment about a Republican considering the defense of Hollywood liberals before actually getting to his answer. Which was this: “Well, I favor freedom… We have a Patent Office, we have copyright law. If a company finds that it has genuinely been infringed upon, it has the right to sue… But the idea that we’re going to preemptively have the government start censoring the Internet on behalf of giant corporations’ economic interest strikes me as exactly the wrong thing to do.”

Mitt Romney said Gingrich got it just about right. “…[T]he law as written is far too intrusive, far too expansive, far too threatening to freedom of speech and movement of information across the Internet. It would have a potentially depressing impact on one of the fastest- growing industries in America, which is the Internet and all those industries connected to it.”

Rick Santorum’s response was slightly less satisfactory, but only in the end, and I think I know what he meant, so I’m giving him a pass:  “I don’t support this law, and I agree with everybody up here that it goes too far. But (there is something) …that can and should be done to protect the intellectual property rights of people. The Internet is not a free zone where anybody can do anything they want to do and trample the rights of other people. …In this case, we’re talking about entities offshore that are …pirating things… I’m for free, but I’m not  for people abusing the law… But the idea that, you know, anything goes on the Internet, where did that come from? Where in America does it say that anything goes. (Boos, cheers.) We have laws, and the respect of law and the rule of law is an important thing, and property rights should be respected.”

Ron Paul, perhaps obviously, is also against SOPA, but he went a bit further, calling out “fellow Republicans (which he’s not)”:  “I was the first Republican to sign on with a host of Democrats to oppose this law. And we have had a concerted effort, and I feel like we’re making achievements. This bill is not going to pass, but watch out for the next one. (He’s referring to PIPA here.) And I am pleased that the attitude has sort of mellowed up here, because the Republicans, unfortunately, have been on the wrong side of this issue.”

SOPA is not going to pass, by the way. It’s been shelved since before the internet protests, and the administration has said there’s no way they’d let it through, regardless. So PIPA is the one that we have to watch; it’s currently in the House.

As for the rest of the debate, again I won’t belabor the points that have been made previously (see my Political Snark category if you want debriefs on any/all of the previous debates except for one that I missed). Last night started out being all about Newt Gingrich, his affairs, and the accusation his second wife made on Nightline last night about him having asked her for tolerance of his affair with his current wife, Calista (who looks like an ice queen – I’m sorry, but never a hair in a different place from the day before and she never speaks. What is that?) As with a lot of other things, Gingrich started out saying he wasn’t going to talk bad about his ex-wife, and wound up saying she’s made the whole thing up. But he has admitted publicly that he’s had these affairs and he always mentions that he’s gone to God for forgiveness. He does not mention that his first wife was fighting cancer when he left her, and his second wife had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a few months before he asked her for a divorce – over the phone, while she was visiting family. She says that came before he asked her for the open marriage.

John King, who moderated the CNN debate, opened it by asking Gingrich if he wanted to respond to his ex-wife’s interview. And with what has become trademark transference, Gingrich lambasted the media for reporting the story. While I can appreciate that there are times the media like sex and conflict to sell a story, this one sells itself and John King had a job to do; starting a debate with that question is a no-brainer. This wasn’t old news; it was happening literally as they spoke. Newt Gingrich has a history of ethics violations and a history of breaking marriage vows,  yet he’s going around the country talking about traditional marriage values. He led the charge to impeach President Clinton for lying about his West Wing activities with Monica Lewinsky while he was carrying on his six-year affair. (And the president should have been punished – she was a kid and he was the most powerful man in the world – it was supremely arrogant, mindless and stupid, but Gingrich made it about the sexuality, not the lie.) For Gingrich to think that he’s above a character attack like this one is obtuse, willfully ignorant and sanctimonious. Once again, if I could, I would remind the former Speaker that he is running for president and the People (which include the Fourth Estate) have every right to ask him whatever they damned well want. If you didn’t want to deal with questions about your improprieties, perhaps you should have kept your zipper up. Deal with it or leave. The rules apply to you, too, sir.

Rick Santorum is angry at Gingrich, and it shows on his face. They barely looked at each other all night, most notably during an exchange in which Santorum noted with a bit of humor Gingrich’s tendency toward grandiosity and skewered him with accusations of not standing up for what was right or best for the country, instead choosing to preserve the interests of his own ambition. Gingrich responded with a litany of incidents in which he’d taken people down from positions he found ill-gotten or ill-maintained without regard for Gingrich’s own political well-being.

But then Mitt Romney mixed it up, telling Gingrich he’s always taking credit for things he did during the Reagan administration. ” I looked at the Reagan diary. You’re mentioned once in Ronald Reagan’s diary. ..He says you had an idea in a meeting of young congressmen, and it wasn’t a very good idea, and he dismissed it. That — that’s the entire mention. And — I mean, he mentions George Bush a hundred times. He even mentions my dad once.”

HA!

I’m sorry, but I loved that. Gingrich got a dose of much-needed humility in this debate, reinforced by Santorum’s hits on how there was a coup from the Speaker’s own party after three years under his leadership and he was forced out in the fourth year.

So why all the body blows to Gingrich? Because yesterday was a big day in politics, and when Rick Perry dropped out of the race in the morning, the lead for South Carolina’s primary switched from Romney by a 7-point margin to Gingrich by one. The backstage whispers have gathered urgency, pushing for a non-Romney candidate to win in South Carolina so there’s time for momentum to swing toward someone else. Right now, it’s Gingrich, because the kingmakers seem to think he’s still more electable than Santorum on a broad base.

I think they’re wrong.

I think, as time goes on, the Republicans feel more and more like they are going to lose in November, no matter what.

The transcript: http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2012/01/south_carolina_gop_cnn_debate_.html

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perry wave

Alright, Now It’s Just Fun

There is some serious political news today, y’all. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, two political posts in a row… but you don’t want to hear me whine anymore about my failing body (feeling better, by the way) and I don’t have anything funny to share with you right now except Dave the Dirty Old Co-Worker’s ongoing ministrations to pregnant women (and new dads, turns out – I guess that is a defense against sexism?). So instead I’m going to tell you what made me giggle this morning.

Texas Governor Rick Perry dropped out of the presidential race and endorsed…

…Are you ready?…

…Newt Gingrich.

Are they... are they holding hands?

When I read this, I bounced in my chair and clapped with delight. “Heeheeheeeeee!”

No, really, I did.

I know. I need a hobby.

Now, there are three reasons Rick Perry dropped out of the race. Lack of support, diminishing campaign funds, and… um… what was the third one? Uh… Wow, um… I can’t.

Oops.

Perry’s campaign has had more than one mini-implosion since he got into the mix in August. He wasn’t really ready for the national spotlight. He was not prepared for his earliest debates. I mean not even close. And when he couldn’t remember the three federal departments he would eliminate if he became president, he came off as flaky, uncommitted and unconvinced. A series of gaffes followed him around, and if you’re willing to forgive gaffes, we can put those aside and instead point out the ways he may have alienated the base: his position on illegal immigration being a critical one. But when he said last week that the Obama administration had “overreacted” to a photo of four Marines urinating on the bodies of Taliban fighters, it seemed like a bridge too far.

Perry has always been a staunch defender of the military and was, he rightly claims, the only candidate who voluntarily joined up. But to say that it is anything less than incendiary, offensive and absolutely wrong for America’s military men and women to be photographed happily urinating on the bodies of men they’ve killed made it clear that Perry does not understand the implications on the global scale of pissing on… and pissing off… the organization behind so much of our strife in the last decade. It’s not about respecting the Taliban. It’s about not making them want to kill as many of us as possible all over again. It’s not that all American service members are well-behaved. It’s that there are photos.

Again.

This is not what American values are about. And if Rick Perry wanted to tout American values, he fell off the box.

His other profound misstep was telling his supporters (and the country) that, after a poor showing in Iowa and staging no effort in New Hampshire, he was going to go home to Texas to think about the way forward. The next morning, he announced he was going to be in South Carolina, but by then the fatal blow may have been dealt. The South Carolina primary happens on Saturday and Perry never gained any traction. He now joins Jon Huntsman in nixing the run before the votes are even cast.

But if you were paying attention during the debate the other night, you heard Perry basically concede the nomination early on when he told Mitt Romney that the country can’t un-nominate Romney in September if they find out then about a problem with his tax returns.

Gingrich under fire

So why the endorsement of Gingrich? Gingrich, who is standing squarely under fire for his comments about welfare (seemingly forgetting that there are a lot of white people on welfare, too) and with an indicting story from his second wife, Marianne, in the hopper for tonight on Nightline? Gingrich, whom several prominent Republican congresspeople have said they would not like to work under again because his time as Speaker of the House was such a struggle?

It’s because the Republican voters are so not solidly behind Mitt Romney that the candidates are trying to give them a way to avoid him as the nominee.

Romney ducking shots

It has long been my opinion that, if Mitt Romney gets the nomination (and I believe he will), Republican voters who are not behind him will stay home, and that will hand the election to President Obama. Perry and others are trying to keep that from happening. Just Tuesday night, Sarah Palin told Fox News Channel’s audience that “If I had to vote in South Carolina, in order to keep this thing going, I’d vote for Newt.”

That’s not exactly an endorsement. The prepositional phrase there is key. What she was likely saying was that if Romney wins South Carolina, it’s all over but the shouting, and pushing Gingrich to a win there would at least give him, Santorum and Paul a little room to work. But it came off, to those who may not realize the nuance, as a nod.

Things are looking up. But does it matter?

The other fun news of the day is that Rick Santorum actually won the Iowa primary.  (This is the part where I do my little I Knew It Dance.) An official count released today shows that he beat Romney by 34 votes, reversing the previous result of Romney’s eight vote win over Santorum. There were eight precincts whose votes were not certified by 5pm last night, which disqualifies them. They could have gone either way, but officially, Santorum was the winner. Will that change the trajectory for Mitt Romney? Probably not. It’s too late for people to care now; they’ve moved on from Iowa to New Hampshire where Romney’s win was overwhelming, and now to South Carolina. Iowa never picks a nominee. South Carolina does.  South Carolina has picked every nominee in the Republican party since 1980.

The irony of the Perry drop-out is that it may push votes Santorum’s way despite his endorsement of Gingrich. Santorum, despite what some less evangelical voters consider to be prejudicial stands on social issues, doesn’t come off as nasty and know-it-all as Gingrich does.  Maybe they’d rather have religion than elitist condescension. And really, I’m not sure the people driving the truck care either way. Right now, it’s all about taking the ball away from Romney. Because if he does win South Carolina decisively, he’s going to run right to the end zone with it, to the deafening silence of the crowd.

"I'm open! Right here! Guys? Here!"

 

Now on my bookshelf: Then Again by Diane Keaton

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myrtle beach debate

Superbad

Well, the guy who speaks Chinese is out, and the guys who talk trash showed up in force.

Debate #16. Which I’m not going to belabor here today. I’m going to use this post to belabor something else instead.

The debate was full of arguing. Real, acrimonious, barely civil arguing. (I don’t care what you think politically about Newt Gingrich; the man is a condescending, sanctimonious, know-it-all pr–k. And that’s not a word I ever use. Ever.) The stuff that’s been happening up until now? That was just warm-up. And I think it’s going to be worse this year than ever, because of two relatively small words.

Citizens United.

It sounds so lovely, doesn’t it? Citizenship and unity? Kumbaya. Ha. Yeah. Not likely. Citizens United was the legal case that wound up in front of the Supreme Court in which that illustrious body decided that corporations were people and would be allowed to donate as much money as they wanted to support a candidate indirectly (i.e., not going straight into the candidate’s campaign coffers).

I thought only “liberal” judges were “activist.”

Legal lecture

This was the decision, you may recall, that led to President Obama’s eyebrow-raising hand-slap of the Supreme Court during last year’s State of the Union speech. (That was the one in which a United States Congressman did not yell “You lie!” The You Lie speech was the year before.) But the reason the president upbraided the Court for making the decision is becoming oh, just so crystal clear now.

 

The Super-PAC. It’s going to become the thing you hate most about Campaign 2012, whether you know it or not.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to be a critical enough consumer in the next ten months to read that little print at the bottom of the TV commercials for or against any one candidate or the other. If it says “paid for by” anybody other than the name of a candidate, you’re being snowed by a PAC or a super-PAC. If you have to choose the more evil of the two, it, predictably, is the super-PAC. That’s the one that’s built of ridiculously high donations and contributions, largely from companies that won’t be listed at the bottom of the screen.

Running on principle

Comedy Central standout Stephen Colbert was not invited to last night’s debate in Myrtle Beach, hosted by Fox News Channel (again). But he is running for “president of South Carolina.” He saw a poll that said, even without his name in the race, he was ranked ahead of poor, sad Jon Huntsman in South Carolina. Recognizing the patent ridiculousness of that particular situation, and some other stuff, Huntsman dropped out of the race officially yesterday. I’m sad about that, because even though there was no chance he’d be the nominee, I’d enjoyed watching him develop as a campaigner and yelling at him to please, for the love of all that is holy, drive the point home about China owning so much American debt already. Alas, it is not to be. But Colbert (who is telling media outlets he’s formed an exploratory committee to be on the SC ballot) is doing his thing not to make a mockery of the system, but rather, quite the opposite. He’s doing it to make a point that super-PACs are damaging the already mangled political system in a big, big way.

If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you check out his breakdown of how a super-PAC, full of money and its own misguided virtue (regardless of whose side it’s on), can be run in veeeeerrrry close proximity to a candidate who is not technically allowed to talk to it. Like when your brother would stand with his finger an inch from you and chant, “I’m not touching yoouuuuu…” (First you have to understand that Colbert created his own legitimate super-PAC as the beginning of this point he’s making. And you have to know that some super-PACs are run by candidates’ former staffers.) It may be comedy, but it’s an accurate explanation of how it can legally work. And yes, that guy on the left really is Colbert’s lawyer.

Super-PACs can now do stuff like this. But worse. (This was from the Bush campaign.)

Upshot: super-PACs can say anything they want, about anyone they want, while giving the candidate they purport to back a complete pass on responsibility for the content because they’re not legally allowed to be involved in the ad. And when I say “anything,” I don’t just mean they can put a nasty negative spin on true stuff. I mean they can literally say whatever they want. They can make it up entirely, should they care to court libel law. And nobody can stop them. Even if they did draw a lawsuit, the message would have already been out – that’s the only way the lawsuit could be filed. Begging forgiveness instead of asking permission. And the stations and channels that run the ads are prohibited by FCC law from altering the ads. Remember the anti-Dukakis Willie Horton ads of 1988? It’ll be worse than that.

Are you pickin’ up what I’m layin’ down, here?

Super-PACs are awful. Regardless of who the ad is for or against. Nothing is off-limits. The only thing that reins them in is the judgment of their own people.

And whose fault is it? Not the candidates’. Not really. We all know they’re in it to win, but they don’t totally love the concept of these groups because A) it makes them look like terrible people when an ad from one of their super-PACs runs; and 2) they don’t want to see anyone else run an ad like that against them. They have already – all of them – spent so much time explaining or defending or disavowing what a given super-PAC ad says that it drove a major portion of last night’s debate. Mitt Romney said flat-out that he’d love to get rid of super-PACs entirely. Everyone has said (publicly) that if an ad contains falsehoods it should be removed – but they can’t demand the removal because they’re not allowed to coordinate with the super-PACs. So it’s really not their fault.

It’s the Supreme Court’s fault.

“Corporations are people.” This is what that means.

This is why it’s increasingly important to be informed. Watch the real candidates and listen to what they say. C-SPAN TV and radio are great for this. It’s unedited, so you get the full context. Check out the candidates’ websites, but remember they’re biased and spin-crazy. Read credible sources instead of just the first thing that pops up on Google. Read a lot of stuff, so you get a better overall sense. Read my Political Snark category for all my posts since the dawn of time (aka long-ago beginning of this campaign season). Most of them contain direct breakdowns of debates and candidates’ positions, even if I do use humor and snark here or there. (I make it a serious priority to tell you what the candidates truly said – and in some cases did not say – about a given topic, so you really will know where they stand.)

In case you haven’t figured it out yet… I’m never going to stop telling you it’s important to be active in your citizenry.

The transcript from last night’s debate: http://foxnewsinsider.com/2012/01/17/transcript-fox-news-channel-wall-street-journal-debate-in-south-carolina/

That’s Life

Yesterday was one of those days on which everything I tried to do seemed destined to be a failure and made me cry.

Indulge me; this is going to come across as another post of complaints. I write it because I’m sure some of you can relate, and that makes it a little better for all of us, yes?

For the last several months, I’ve been dealing with significant lower back issues. It started when I threw it out in March, not for the first time, but definitely the worst time.  I have no love for chiropractors, but it seems I will have to go see one. Art the Indistinguishably Asian Massage Therapist said to me on my last visit, “You don’t trust a doctor, but you trust someone like me?”

Not a comfort to hear from a guy whose hands have been all over your naked body for the last 90 minutes.

Point is, the back issue is making it harder and harder for me to do anything productive, or, you know, not. Lay on the couch and watch a movie? Nope. Sit on the couch and watch a movie? Nah. Sit in a chair? No. Drive to work and back? Not without pain. Get out of the car? Oh, fun visual for anyone who happens to see it. Get out of bed? It’s a process. Put pants on? We’re damned lucky I’ve been clothed for the last 10 months.

Anyway, it’s better if I’m moving, and I had stuff to do at home yesterday so I figured I’d make it work. But a couple of things wound up making it harder. For instance: the cat peed on the guest room floor, for reasons she still has not explained, and got the bed’s dust ruffle, too. So the dust ruffle had to come off to be washed.

You know how hard it is to flip a mattress by yourself?

There was no way I was going to be able to get the mattress off the bed. I’ve done it before, but it wasn’t going to happen this time. So I had to settle for attempting to lift the mattress just enough here and there to pull the dust ruffle out from under it. It sounds like a perfectly feasible plan, but it wasn’t working.  After several minutes of trying to nudge the mattress up and pull, I was about 15% done and the dust ruffle was stuck. A few more attempts yielded no result. I tried a different approach to little effect. My back wasn’t making it easier, and on top of that, the bending and lifting wasn’t helping the acid reflux I’ve battled of late.

At one point, squatting next to the bed, I really did put my head on it and cry.

I wasn’t crying from pain. It was frustration and fear. I wonder how many people, at the age of 34, feared for their future because of their present. Maybe a lot, I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about it lately. I am, indeed, too damned young and too damned healthy to have to eat boring, bland food and do stretches every hour just to get my body to function. I don’t understand why it’s happening, but frankly, it scares me. What will I do if things continue on this track?  If I just keep getting worse? Will I be one of those sad old women who can’t do anything, stuck in her house all the time? Will that happen sooner than later?

And of course, I’ll be broke, because there will be no social security and I will have been trapped in a career that paid well enough to handle the bills and food but not well enough to buy real estate on my own that would (allegedly) earn me some money for later. The market has done very little to increase my IRA or 401(k) since 2008 – what if that continues, too? I will have spent too many years getting older in a windowless basement, nights and weekends, never able to retire, only forced to stop working by disability. Living somewhere that’s filthy because I’m physically unable to clean it and financially unable to hire someone. With no one to take care of me.

Yup. That’s where all this went in my head. What started as an additional load of laundry ended up an existential debate about my life.

Don’t you love it when that happens?

I never hear anybody talk about this stuff. It happens to people, but nobody talks about being afraid it will happen to them. I suppose that’s either because I’m a crazy neurotic freak and nobody else goes down these roads, or it’s because everyone figures the same thing I ultimately figure when I do: that’s life. Independence is a great thing when your body allows you to be independent, but when it doesn’t, you start to realize: this is why people got married back in the day, and had lots of kids. It wasn’t for love. It was so someone else was around to help with the hard stuff.

And back then, you died at 50. I’m starting to see why.

Thank God my brain works in circles, because just as I started feeling very Grapes of Wrath about the whole thing, that thought led me to this one: okay, so you’re falling apart, and you’ve got this other person around, but they’re falling apart, same as you. Fat lot of good that does you both. Now neither of you can get the dust ruffle off the bed, at least one of you is laid out on the floor and the other can’t do anything to help, and you wind up getting rid of the cat because it’s the easier solution.

Not better. Just a misery loves company situation.

I am, before you laugh at me (or after), very well aware that the reflux might yet go away (six more days of the OTC stuff, and then, I promise, I’ll go to the doctor if it’s not gone) and a chiropractor might be able to help me with the stupid problems I’ve had for nearly 20 years. I am very well aware that I do not suffer nearly as mightily as many others. I am aware that I am mostly able-bodied despite having a back that cries for massive doses of ibuprofen and a gut that won’t allow it. But I’m also aware that I’ve got a ways to go (quite possibly) and it’s a scary thought sometimes.

Yesterday, though, after I cried with my head on the bed for about fifteen seconds, I just got really mad and got the damned dust ruffle off. And then I spent a while in the icy chill of high winter winds trying to get the Christmas tree that’s been lying out on the balcony for a week out of the stand that it had apparently grown fond of, over the balcony railing and down a block to its rightful post-Christmas place. Despite the challenges, I got stuff done. Because that’s life.

But I can’t say when that dust ruffle will be back on that bed.

heartburn

On the Menu: Air. Water. Little Else.

Can someone please find me a day’s worth of food and beverage that is not spicy, fatty, rich, caffeinated, or acidic?

I bet you can’t.

Not quite two weeks ago, I detailed to you (well, maybe not you – readership seems to have dropped off a bit – where are you people? It’s the politics, isn’t it?) a stunning attack of heartburn that made me think I was going to either spontaneously combust or bleed to death inside. Good news: that hasn’t happened again. Bad news: it apparently touched off an enduring episode of acid reflux.

I’ve had this once before, and the most interesting feature of it by far is that the bumps at the back of my tongue get all hot and bothered. Well, not hot. But bothered. They swell up. The effect of this is the sensation of something being caught in my throat. Or, that I’m about to choke to death. Nothing hurts. Nothing even burns. But apparently the acid sloshes up my esophagus so far that the back of my tongue gets all irritated.

Are you grossed out yet?

It’s not really gross, except that I guess it’s kind of like I’ve been eating batteries. As of yet, I have not turned into a fire-breathing dragon. Though that might be kind of cool and is something to aim for if things don’t improve.

*Burp*

Anyway. I’ve been taking this over-the-counter stuff for a few days now. One of those meds that used to be prescription only and now it’s available without the hassle of going to the doctor, having the doctor say, “You have acid reflux,” getting a prescription filled and fighting with the insurance company about the whole thing. The OTC meds are a 14-day course. You take one every morning before you eat or drink anything and it’s a time-release deal. Lovely.

But today as I was swallowing the pill I read the side of the box that told me what to avoid eating and drinking, and frankly I might as well have just become Gandhi.

What we thought was principle may have just been a peptic complaint.

“Avoid heartburn-causing foods such as rich, spicy, fatty or fried foods, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol and certain fruits and vegetables.”

The medicine box was an a$$hole.

Now, look. I know that those things can cause heartburn. And although I love me some rich & fatty, I try to stay healthy with the food. But under these guidelines, I defy you to come up with a list of stuff I can eat on a given day and not have it be filled with boiled chicken and nothing else.

Plus, these are perfect restrictions, since I have chili and tomato basil soup in the fridge, half a homemade – from scratch, people – chocolate cake on the counter, and half a bottle of cabernet on the table.

I cannot waste that.

*Burp*

The fruits and veggies may be the unkindest cut of all. No citrus. No tomatoes or tomato-based foods. No onions. No peppers. No potatoes (potatoes?! Seriously?). No scallions or garlic. No vinegar-based or creamy or oily salad dressing.

Well what other kind of salad dressing is there?

Most of this is off the table

And obviously the “no fatty foods” thing applies to any meat that isn’t super-lean. And cheese. Also, I’ve been wondering if peanut butter counts as a fatty food. And is fiber bad, or good?

So, like I said. Boiled chicken. And maybe some plain rice.

How very... blah

Why does my lower esophogeal sphincter muscle have to be such a tight-a$$?

…she asks as she sips her coffee.

Hey. Some things are required in order for me to be a decent human being.

 

 

 

GOP-NH-NBC-ws

What We’re Not Hearing

Confession: my last post was half-assed. Like the candidates themselves, I wasn’t really into it, and even though I figured out a direction to go in, I could have done it better.

I know. You’re devastated. You feel let down. You don’t trust me anymore.

I guess I can run for office now.

Going forward, though, I’m starting to gel some things that I’d like to see the candidates discuss… things that either aren’t asked about or aren’t probed enough.

Not the same thing. Not intended to be.

The Constitution vs. the Bible (not as in “pitted against”)
I am a lover of history and a pretty patriotic person, but I’m struck lately by all the talk about what is in the Constitution and how it alone contains the answers to how the country works… no ifs, ands or buts. I think the founding fathers had an amazing thing going. To be brave enough to sail off to a “new world,” found colonies, organize societies, work the land, build a home… that takes guts. To start a country that disowns the King of England… that takes serious guts. And smarts. But somehow, over the course of the next 235 years, some parts of the nation have come to believe that the founding fathers were demigods. Infallible. That the Constitution they wrote and ratified on parchment somehow set in stone the values that they would have had even 235 years on, the things they would have said or believed or stood for even after 235 years of societal change, growth, and the onset of a global marketplace and a global interdependence to maintain peace. I am not saying that we need to rewrite the Constitution, that we need to make dramatic changes, that we need to create a new flurry of amendments to add to the 27 we already have, that we should in any way disregard what the Constitution says. I think it is the most solid foundation we can grow from, and I find most modern calls for new amendments to be calls for the implementation of one group’s values as federal law.  But I believe that the Constitution does not hold the key to every lock. I believe it is intentionally vague sometimes, and all the fighting we do over what it really says is sometimes silly, because it might not really say anything that determines the answer to a question at hand. We cannot ignore that the nation has changed, her people have changed, the world has changed. To insist that a strict interpretation of the Constitution is the only way the nation can be properly governed lends that amazing document the same heft, the same authority, that fundamentalist Christians give to the Bible. Christianity is a religion. American government is a political concept. There is only one Bible. The Constitution is not it.

Unless you believe a black person is merely 3/5 of a person, and a Native American is not a person at all.

The true effect of eliminating the Department of Education

Less technology in school if DoE doesn't rule?


I don’t know the true effect of eliminating the Department of Education. I genuinely have to ask the question, because I have this concern: if we send total responsibility for educational standards and practices back to the states, doesn’t that mean we will be condemning the children in poor states to a lesser quality of education? Doesn’t it mean that there would be an under-representation of  certain states in colleges and universities? Wouldn’t that result in the children from those states, on average, earning less, thereby perpetuating the relative poverty of states, thereby perpetuating lackluster education? And doesn’t that mean, if we extrapolate it out, a risk to national security because of a lack of competitiveness in intellectual property?

Super-PACs gobble up corporate cash and load TV up with unfiltered ads

The effect of the super-PACs on campaigns and campaign ads
Super-PACs are essentially the product of two rulings: the Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission decision in the Supreme Court and the Speechnow v. FEC decision in the DC Circuit Court. These are the rulings that led the way for corporations to be considered people and for them to be subject to no limits in what contributions they make, provided they do not make the contributions directly to the candidate’s campaign itself (because federal election law limits the amounts that can be donated on each occasion of donation and does not allow general funds from organizations like labor unions, etc., to donate to a given candidate). And they can say and show whatever they want; the FCC does not allow television stations to in any way censor or alter political ads.

Already, there have been several ads released by groups in support of one candidate or another that launch nastier-than-usual attacks at opponents. And by law, the candidates these ads purport to represent cannot interfere with their production; they are not allowed to communicate with the super-PACs.   This has already resulted in candidates getting questions on whether they really support the accusations presented in the ads.

The effect of the super-PACs may, to some, not seem any different from any other PAC campaign ad (the ones that are paid for by any group other than the candidate’s campaign itself). But the fact that it is unlimited money from corporations means companies will play a bigger role than ever in electing the next president… and candidates will spend much more time talking about ads they, by law, cannot control.

Why Ronald Reagan is so constantly invoked
No one does it more than Newt Gingrich, who tells everyone with every chance he gets

Not sure this would work

that he worked with President Reagan in the early 80s. One of the things that frustrates me about the current campaign is how much it hearkens back to the 80s. President Reagan left office 23 years ago. It doesn’t sound like that long ago, but a lot has changed since then, and I am afraid the American people will believe that things now are just like things then, so the fixes should be the same. Mentioning President Reagan reminds me of one of my favorite scenes in The American President (yes, a liberal president): “You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character.” Sounds fine, right? But it’s a bait-and-switch. It’s the poison cup that feels all warm and fuzzy going down. There are plenty of people who could remind us of the struggles and hardships of the Reagan Era, and plenty of them would invoke a different phrase: “trickle-down economics” – the idea that the top echelons of income are job creators and if the government gives them tax breaks, the money will eventually make its way down to the lower echelons. Sound familiar? That was Reagan’s economic approach. I don’t know how many people truly believe that works – maybe you do, but I have always thought that if you give a company more money, it will not give the money to its lowest-level employees, and it will not necessarily hire more people with it, either.

If he had the money, he'd go negative in a heartbeat

The real reason some candidates vow they’ll run a “positive campaign”
It’s not about principle. It’s about money. The people who say they won’t run negative ads are the ones who don’t have the funding. Negative ads are expensive.  When you hear a candidate say they won’t run negative, it doesn’t mean they’re virtuous. It means they’re broke.

That’s my whole-assed post for the day. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch part of the HBO series John Adams. Who — memo to Newt Gingrich, Historian — did not write the Constitution.

By the way, even though I didn’t see the NBC debate the morning after the ABC debate, I did listen to it on C-SPAN radio during my commute. (Have you not figured out by now what a total geek I am?) You can watch it here.