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I voted this last Friday, dropping my ballot into the box at the county Elections office down the street. I’ve followed the campaign pretty avidly, and I’m keyed up, waffling between optimism and terror that some statistical oddity, some stealing of the the vote, some awful twist will hand Romney the White House. Not just a GOP a White House, but a soulless White House.

I was incredibly on edge about the 2008 election, but in some ways this seems tighter, more determinative. The stakes do seem higher. While in retrospect I think McCain could have been an awful president, at the time I didn’t so much fear him as the Republicans already in the executive branch. I sincerely wanted Obama as president, but was feeling more grim than alarmed at the idea of McCain winning. And I was pretty sure he wouldn’t, for all the Sarah Palin related reasons you can supply.

This time it really is alarming to think of a Romney presidency. The man has no moral core when it comes to governance; he swings where the winds of opportunism guide him. He can be bought.

Compare that to an administration that, despite the heaviest partisan opposition I can remember, got quite a number of things done, changes that expanded civil rights, job opportunities, the manufacturing industry, put constraints on the health insurance industry and opened paths to getting health care coverage, and, oh yeah, some military stuff and dragging the economy away from the brink of complete collapse.

Oh yes. I enthusiastically, proudly, confidently cast my vote for Obama.

The Clinton Magic

Jamelle Bouie reflects on Clinton’s wonderful speech at the DNC convention in Charlotte:

What made this speech great was Clinton’s ability to forge a connection with viewers through this mix of charisma, intelligence and deep policy knowledge.

via Big Dog, Unleashed.

I loved the speech. Figuring (correctly) it was supposed to be a 20-or-so minute speech, I was never bored for the three quarters of an hour it actually took.  I don’t think the audience was either – I saw a few people shifting from one foot to the other, but I never saw anyone looking bored.

I love Clinton – I confess I’m an unabashed Clinton supporter, have been since he first appeared on Arsenio Hall’s show in 1992 when he was waging his unlikely but ultimately successful campaign. That show sold me – google it – and I’ve been a fan based on policy level from just before his nomination and ever since.  And – please note, trend watchers – I say this in the absence of many a woman’s strange attraction to the Big Dog. That’s not why I adore him.  No, I adore his mind. Honest.

In any case, one of the many things I adore, and something that played strong and true at the DNC, is that Clinton NEVER talks down to his audience. He always assumes that we have the ability to understand the deep stuff, the nuanced stuff.  I don’t imagine he thinks his audience is predominantly well-educated, particularly in the subtle workings of the economy, yet he always talk to us as if we can understand. He might use slightly less wonkish language, but he never seems to doubt our intelligence.

You know, I imagine that I’m not the only listener to respond this way. And Clinton’s assumption of our intelligence – not education, but intelligence – plays not just to our own self-importance, but more importantly, to our ability to think about what this election means, in the deepest sense, to the voters.

Love ya, Big Dog. Thanks so much!

Andrew Sullivan has been tracking the Ad Wars between the Obama and Romney campaigns.

New research from Kantar Media’s CMAG paints a dramatic picture of the unprecedented amount of ads that voters are being exposed to this cycle – as much as three to twelve times as many as in past elections:

via Ad War Update: The Ad Election – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast.

It occurs to me that this will be the first presidential election in which I won’t be inundated by campaign ads. I won’t even be coming home to robo-calls from Susan Sarandon and Robert Redford, now that I’ve been land-line free for 3 years.  I won’t be completely ad-free, but my main contact with campaign ads would normally be the TV – and in the light of the recession and the fact that I work when most of my fave shows are on, and tune into them on websites, not on cable… well, suffice it to say: it made the best sense to dump all the expensive cable packages, and I won’t be seeing many ads this year unless I intentionally que them up online.

Weird. And somehow comforting!

But I will still miss my celebrity voice mails….

Ta-Nehisi Coates comments on a New York state assemblyman’s sexual harassment of his staff, after the accused grudgingly admitted he made a “mistake” – really? You think? Prompting this from my new favorite blogger:

Sexual harassment laws were basically invented for people who think “I’d like it better if you didn’t have a bra on” qualifies as management-speak.

via Why We Have Sexual Harassment Laws – Ta-Nehisi Coates – The Atlantic.

And part of what I love is that the writer is a man.  20 years ago, I would have been truly amazed to read this coming from most male writers, certainly the ones writing for magazines like The Atlantic. Now, I am pleasantly surprised to find a succinct line of criticism, which could have just as easily come from a female perspective.

Things do change!

“Something that ordinary men do”

…..We refuse to accept that nice guys rape, and they do it often. Part of the reason we havent accepted it is that its a painful thing to contemplate – far easier to keep on believing that only evil men rape, only violent, psychotic men lurking in alleyways with pantomime-villain moustaches and knives, than to consider that rape might be something that ordinary men do. Men who might be our friends or colleagues or people we look up to. We dont want that to be the case. Hell, I dont want that to be the case. So, we all pretend it isnt. Justice, see?

Actually, rape is very common. [….] Its so common that – sorry if this hurts to hear – there’s a good chance you know somebody who might have raped someone else. And theres more than a small chance he doesnt even think he did anything wrong, that he believes that what he did wasnt rape, couldnt be rape, because, after all, hes not a bad guy.

via Laurie Penny: Its nice to think that only evil men are rapists – that its only pantomime villains with knives in alleyways. But the reality is different – Commentators – Opinion – The Independent.

[emphasis mine]

Good post, keying off the author’s reaction to Julian Assange’s supporters defending him against rape charges.

And where it took me was to a conversation – many connected conversations, actually – between myself and a college buddy, Jack. He would tell me, all men look at every woman and assess her sexually, even if all it amounts to is “too old, too young, too ugly, too married” – whatever the result, his point was that men assess women sexually all the time. He suspected it was hard-wired, shaped by social attitude and custom, but hard-wired in essence. Fact of life, maybe a sad one, but something to remember when thinking about how men interact with women, and with the world around them.

His other point was that any man – and he included himself – is capable of rape. And that for most men, himself included, the sense of right/wrong, the breaking of a kind of  interpersonal social contract (this was an interdisciplinary political science program we were enrolled in, after all), the shear horror of hurting another person, keeps them from committing rape.

That was scary stuff to hear. I don’t know that Jack was right in every detail of what he spoke about, but I do think he was correct, essentially. At first it made me nauseous – and Jack knew that it would have that kind of effect on me. The first time we spoke of these things (I remember it well, sitting late at night in the common room at an lake-side academic retreat in the foothills of the Olympics) Jack was very gentle – I think he knew the effect on me and another woman sitting with us. But he wanted us to know – not to terrify us or impress us or some other twisted “guy” thing. He wanted us to know because he thought all women should be aware of that, but there were few women he could talk to about it. Mandy and I heard it in the sense I think he meant it: an offering on a subject that is too scary to talk about most of the time, something men don’t talk much with each other about, and especially scary for men and women to talk about together.

But we did. And Jack and I threaded that hard truth through many conversations afterwards. I’m still having that conversation, mostly within my own head, because there are few women, and fewer men, who want to talk about it.  Still, it resonates, because it holds truth, because it helps me think carefully about rape, not knee-jerk style as the tendency runs in us quick-assessment humans.

Thank you, Jack. Thanks for trusting me with that insight you have about yourself and other men.

Writing it, reading it there on the screen above, seems weird. I’m thanking this guy, who I’ve only had occasional contact for the last 3 decades, for telling me that all men have a propensity to rape? that all men assess women (or men) sexually all of the time? Well … no. I’m thanking him for being willing to talk deeply with me and any one else willing about something so essential to the subject of rape, but too threatening to talk about openly for most people. I thank him for being the catalyst that took a suspicion in the back of my mind, and pulling it out into the air, where it was still scary, but less threatening, somehow.

It’s one thing for a woman to tell another woman that she thinks all men are capable of rape. It’s another thing for men and women to talk about it together. It reminds me a little of how hard it is for an honest conversation to happen about white racism in a mixed race group of people – not impossible, and after all, we’ve been working on this one for a while, but still hard. White guilt confounds honest discussion about race – “but I’m not a bad person!” or “some of my best friends/ political activism/ church work/ reading/ musician/ actor/etc” just being the start of a whole line of defensiveness which can waylay a good conversation on race. Discussions about rape between men and women are a bit like this. Awkward, defensive, faltering.

But you have to start somewhere. The conversation that Jack and I started in 1984 seems a long time ago in some ways, very present for me in others. After the initial nausea came anger, resentment, and a lot of deep thought. I think the best thing I pulled from all that was the conviction that if all men are capable of rape, most men are capable of learning – and do learn – not to rape. And if we talk deeply, honestly about all kinds of rape, not just the stranger-in-an-alley version, we have a better chance of raising up successive generations of men who “get it.” Who don’t rape. Who don’t turn their eyes when other men rape. Who teach their sons and nephews and students where to draw the lines between their desire for sex or power, and actually harming someone.

Some hard conversations lead through dark places to hope, to gradual change, to better … human communities? well, whatever the lingo, to groups of humans who hurt each other less.  Maybe less and less as the millennia churn by.

A girl can hope.

When Todd Akin first scoffed at the notion that rape victims can get pregnant, he defended himself by pointing to the medical judgment of someone named Dr. John Willke, former president of the National Right to Life Committee, who has been pushing this argument for many years.

Indeed, just this week, Willke told the New York Times rapists don’t impregnate their victims because, “This is a traumatic thing — she’s, shall we say, she’s uptight. She is frightened, tight, and so on. And sperm, if deposited in her vagina, are less likely to be able to fertilize. The tubes are spastic.”

via Romney and Mr. ‘Spastic Tubes’ – The Maddow Blog.

[Insert BIG HEAD-SLAP here]

Ohhhh…kaaaaay….. so does Mr Spastic Tubes (love it!) think human women pop out an egg when we have “legitimate” sex? And how big does he think a little sperm is, that our “tight tubes” could keep them out? Or does he have that Fallopian tube and vagina thing mixed up? Is it possible he has never actually investigated the arrangement of the female pelvis?

This is why we can’t have nice things. Or even shabby functional things.

Ta-Nehisi Coates put out a short and thoughtful post on Senate candidate Todd Akin’s comments on how women magically destroy sperm during “legitimate rape” (vs. ???) – and TNC nails the attitude that makes trying to have logical discussions with these folks nigh to impossible:

At any rate, I think what’s interesting here is the assumed power. I have the right to objectively define pregnancy from rape as rare. I have the right to determine separate legitimate rape from all those instances when you were in need of encouragement, wearing a red dress or otherwise asking for it. I have the right to manufacture scientific theories about your body — theories which reinforce my power. If the body doesn’t “shut that whole thing down” then clearly you weren’t raped, and there’s no need to talk about an abortion. And even if I am wrong on every count, I still have the right to dictate the terms of your body and the remaining days of your life.

via Rape, Abortion, and the Privilege of Magical Thinking – Ta-Nehisi Coates – The Atlantic.

TNC writes about his own response to this redefining of rape, and how it relates to the use of abortion:

Whatever qualms I have about abortion (and increasingly I think it isn’t even my right to have qualms) the idea of putting medicine in the hands of people who think that, in the instance of rape, the female body can “shut that whole thing down” or “secrete a certain secretion” to prevent pregnancy is utterly terrifying. [emphasis mine]

Couldn’t agree more, even while possessing a difference experience than TNC.
And about what I bolded in that quote: Mr. Coates, you ABSOLUTELY have every right to feel qualms. You probably can’t even stop those feelings if they crop up – you can counter them, test them, explore them, but you can’t very well stop that kind of thing.

But you can refrain from imposing rule, regulation and condemnation based on those qualms. And that’s a major difference.

Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish blog, an angle on Social Security and Medicare which I hadn’t considered for a long, long time:

A reader writes:

Many analysts assume there will be a war between the generations regarding who benefits and who pays for social programs like medicare and social security, both programs open to the vast majority of elderly, retired, or disabled Americans.

This misses a key point of both programs.

My own case as an example. I get both medicare and social security now that I’m 67 years old. But my first benefit from the programs came when I was 19. My parents sent me off to college, and sent my sister the next year. This would not have been possible without social security and medicare, which were available to my grandparents – the first generation to come of age under these programs. Without these programs, my family’s money would not have stretched to cover my college costs. It would have gone, as it did in countless generations before, to taking care of elderly parents and grandparents.

via The Coming Generation Wars, Ctd – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast.

The future years for my mother – and for me, as a potential caregiver, or at minimum, a sort of family overseer – have been weighing on my mind. She’s 77, still working about 30 hours or more a week. Thank goodness for Medicare, for Social Security, for all the things that got her to a relatively healthy, and definitely active seventh decade.

But if all of that wasn’t there, could I take care of her? Certainly not in the style to which she as managed to accustom herself. The modern manifestation of the New Deal and the Great Society have affected me, not so much as a direct recipient, but as the child of those who did, and who are now reaping the benefits of the bargain they made:  Work hard, let us take some out of your earnings toward your future, and you will be taken care of, and not be a burden to the next generation.

Also, for some reason, I keep thinking of The Grandfather and The Grandmother in the sickly sweet but fascinating children’s novel, Heidi. There’s more to that story than would appear, below its surface. Family is almost always willing to sacrifice. The question is, how much do they actually have to give? And for some, it’s precious little, though they’d willingly give it all.

Jamelle Bouie, at The Plum Line, offers a compelling case for why THIS election actually matters more than most, and a common take on Medicare changes proposed from the right:

a complete overhaul of Medicare that would end its promise of guaranteed health care for seniors, and move it to a system where — ultimately — you get the care you can pay for.

via Yes, this campaign is negative and nasty — and that’s a good thing .

… which is not news, just a jumping off point for MY rage, as in:

If I don’t get the Medicare I’ve promised my entire working life, can I sue for benefits I worked for but never received?

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that I will have to cough up another $6,500 bucks a year that would have been otherwise covered by Medicare.  Say I start collecting Medicare at age 65.  Let’s assume that I live a long time, like most in my family, and that I make it to 90 years old, a somewhat pessimistic estimate given the rather large number of my relatives who’ve lived into their late 90s or even early 100s.  That puts me at about 25 years on Medicare.

Okay, I understand that with the “premium support” (aka Lousy Voucher) program covering less and less each year, I’d likely have to put out more that $6,500 as the years went by, but for this discussion, let’s say it stays at about $6,500 for the duration.

That’s $162,500.

That’s a wompin’ butt-load of money for most people.  It certainly is for me. And so, dearest Government of mine, I’m puttin’ you on notice:  I might just be coming after those lost benefits, should Medicare-as-we-know-it fall to the wayside.  And guess what, I bet I can get a whole lot of my fellow citizens to join in.  Because, you know, we worked for it.  We paid into the pool. We contributed to our future, on the understanding that we’d be taken care of.  And you know what? I expect to get the benefits I was promised.

Another reason that the reassurances to “those 55 and older” read like betrayals to those of us 54 and under, and generally just piss me off.

[edited 8/22/12 for clarity in first paragraph]

I see a lot of this sort of thing, both from the GOP headliners, and the chattering classes:

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have had some success in obscuring the health care debate by pointing out that Ryan’s proposal does not change Medicare for people currently over 55 years old.

via The next frontier in the case against Paul Ryan – The Plum Line – The Washington Post.

Oh…kay….

But I’m 53. So, ya know, what’s that gonna do for me?

I’ve been paying into Social Security and Medicare for about 30 years now. There’s been some modicum of security in the idea that, if all else fails, at least I’ll have health care, eventually.  And I paid in to that system, each and every paycheck I received, deducted from my pay on the promise of that old age security.

Needless to say, I’m not too warm to the idea of a check I’m supposed to put toward the best of the rotten health care plans I can find.

If I can find one. Because of, you know, pre-existing conditions.  That was something you wanted to chop off the health care tree as well, wasn’t it, Misters R & R?

*sigh*

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