Friday, 8 May 2009

The Way We Live Now

Half a million jobs lost in a single month is considered... relatively good news.

The United States economy lost 539,000 jobs in April, the government reported on Friday, a sign that the relentless pace of job losses was starting to level off slightly but was still nowhere near ending.

A year ago, the loss of more than half a million jobs in a single month would have seemed like a disaster for the economy. On Friday, experts were calling it an improvement.

Heaven help us.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Deep Thought II: Truth is BETTER than Fiction

For eight long years the TV show The West Wing was my survival mechanism - the fantasy Presidency I was vicariously living through because I could hardly stand to look at the real one.

But recently I've been re-watching old West Wings on DVD and it keeps hitting me: I'd take Barack Obama over Jed Bartlett any day. Bartlett's crotchety and moody; Obama's calm and reflective. Bartlett is theoretically liberal, but prone to symbolic gestures rather than taking on massive policy re-thinks (he toys with ending the war on drugs but doesn't, plays victim time and again to Republican tax cut proposals and in the eopisode I just watched actually allows a 25% cut to his foreign aid budget); Obama is theoretically a pragmatist but is pushing progressive policies pretty effectively so far on the grounds of that very pragmatism.

Plus - the kids are cuter, there's a dog, and even Stockard Channing (before whom I bow) is at least equalled by the amazingness that is Michelle Obama. So if you gave me the choice of my fantasy President and my real one... I'd take the reality. How weird is that?

Deep Thought: Republicans in their Own Little World

So as part of some research I'm doing I needed to have a little look at the Republicans Abroad website. And on their page entitled citizenship, came across this interesting quote:

"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds might have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust, sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again. Because there is no effort without error, there can be no achievement without setback.

The credit belongs to the man who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms and the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause.

Who at best, in the end, knows the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, should he fail, at least fails while daring greatly.

For his place shall never be among those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt

Question: Does anyone out there think that today's Republican party is really the doer of deeds, or can we all get together with the notion that they are currently acting as the critic? Anyone? Bueller?

Monday, 4 May 2009

Six Months Ago Today...

Dear Friends,

On November 4, 2008 – six months ago today – you and millions ofpeople just like you, all across America and around the world electeda new President of the USA and a new vision for America. The shockwaves of what you did are still reverberating, as ourPresident starts to deliver on his bold new agenda, and as activistsaround the world are more and more looking to our campaign’sremarkable story for lessons in how they can use the power of the people to change the way politics operates.

TELL US ABOUT IT.... (Just write your answer in the Comments)

In that spirit, I hope that you will take two minutes of your timetoday to answer some questions about the Obama campaign and what itmeant to you. This request comes to you from a UK organisation called38 Degrees, which has been co-founded by Obama’s North Carolina NewMedia Director Ben Bradzel. Ben and the 38 Degrees team are eager hearfirsthand from Obama’s UK supporters how they were able to organisefor him, and to learn from that experience to start translating it into grassroots efforts here in Britain.

Please click here: (Just write your answer in the Comments)

Meanwhile, here’s a reminder of that amazing night:

And a taste of just how much we have achieved since then.

Six months on, we’ve come a long way – but we still have so much todo!

Best wishes,


PS: In honor of all the amazing work Democrats Abroad did to getPresident Obama elected - I hope you'll consider making a $100donation to keep their efforts going. I hope to see many of you this Wednesday night at our monthlySpeakeasy.

Miss California - Here's What's Truly Offensive

In case you haven't been following this story, recently Miss California - AKA Carrie Prejean - caused a bit of a ruckus with a confused but ultimately disapproving answer on the question of Gay Marriage during the Miss America pageant.

Thence followed ongoing argumentation, in which gay blogger Perez Hilton (who asked the question in the first place) seemed to go to war with the anti-Marriage community (confusingly named the National Organization for Marriage - but... they want to stop people from getting married. Does not compute) - and there was much hullabaloo.

Prejean has now agreed to appear in an anti-gay marriage commercial for the NOM folks, despite the fact that, as best I can figure, the women doesn't actually have an opinion on gay marriage. I mean, she'd like people to have rights like hospital visitation and stuff, and she thinks it's great that we live in a country where people can have a choice and all between regular marriage and "opposite marriage"(umm... we do?) and she really couldn't say whether or not she supports civil unions because, "I don't have the answers to everything, you know, in the world out there."

This woman doesn't have offensive opinions about marriage - she doesn't HAVE an opinion. So there's not a great deal of point in discussing her lack of any informed view, really is there? I mean this sort of thing isn't really her area of expertise is it?

But why not spend just a little bit of time - maybe a fraction of the time spend obesesing over her non-opinion on the marriage issue - and talk for just a second about something that very muchIS this woman's field of endeavor: the pageant itself.

Here's the thing: I'm not offended by the idea of beauty contests - that would be silly. I mean, what's the point of pretending that we aren't being judged all the time on our looks. Young women get ahead all the time because they happen to be pretty or - worse - fail to get ahead because they happen not to be. So if they want to put that on my TV screen, fine; it's just another thing for me to not watch. In the age of The Batchelor, it's by no means the most sickening display of shamelessness on our screens.

But the thing that DOES offend me about beauty pageants is precisely the thing that everyone always points to as evidence for their social value - the scholarships. Winners of these pageants aren't given a hefty lump sum of cash that they can blow on fast cars and cosmetic surgery. They're given the money in the form of scholarships to attend university.

What on earth is the crying social need to make sure that by all means really pretty girls don't have to pay their own way through school? Don't you think maybe there's a stringy haired, glassy-eyed budding scientist out there who hasn't been spending her time perfecting The Look because she's been huddled over a bunsen burner that might deserve a scholarship slightly more on the merits? You want to reward young women for being pretty - fine. And I'm sure many if not all of the young women who win these competitions are lovely and hard working people who will succeed academically. But the ability to walk in a swimsuit and heels, while an impressive talent that I do not myself posess, is not per se evidence of academic merit.

But, you know - I'm glad I come from a country where you can chose to participate in degrading social rituals if you want to. But - no offense to anyone - I don't think you deserve an academic leg up because of them. That's just the way I was raised.