Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Stopping by Woods on an Icy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
...
Between the woods and frozen lake
...
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Driving through the woods of the rural part of New Hampshire where I live has been oddly disturbing these last few days and it's taken me until today to figure out why. On the small country roads I mostly drive on, one's eye becomes accustomed to the rhythm of the woods as you pass, the long straight lines of the trunks, punctuated by the fractal puffery of branches. Seasons paint the trees and branches different colors but the stark pure lines in winter have their own power. Something's been wrong though, in the last few days. My peripheral vision has been telling me something is...naggingly, irritatingly, off... about the landscape. Finally, today, I realized what it was. That clean rhythm of straight lines and syncopation of branches is broken. Trees, branches, everything are smashed and dragged down, no longer vertical, but horizontal, diagonal, everything they shouldn't be.

Things are not as they should be, in the cold and in the dark.

I drove out to my house tonight, from the office at the factory where I work, to look in on my cats, and check the water in my basement, and learn from neighbors if there was any news of when electricity might return to my little town.

Tonight, maybe, or tomorrow, or maybe the weekend, I'm told. The school has power now; school will be back day after tomorrow. Good thing; I'm not sure my wife and daughter will survive one another much longer. "When do you think you'll get power again?" has become the first topic of conversation at the office. I'm lucky, really, because the power lines to my house are fine. Once the power on the town road is restored, I should be okay. My boss had the line connecting his house to the main power line knocked down by a falling branch. It may be several more days until his house gets power back, as individual homes are at the bottom of the priority list.

I checked into the house, put down food and fresh water for the cats. I looked down into the basement, tool; there's not much more water in there than there was over the weekend, which I suppose is somewhat of a good thing. It means that maybe the furnace won't be too damaged when I can finally get the sump pump running again, after the power comes back.

After, that is, the electrical crews turn long inert cords of metal wire back into the lifelines we didn't really appreciate they were.

In small-town, rural New Hampshire, there is no town water. There are no town sewers. No natural gas lines. No curbside garbage pickup. Wells, septic tanks, oil and propane tanks and the transfer station, respectively, do for us. When the electricity fails, EVERYTHING fails. Without electrical power, furnaces and wells do not run. There's no point in opening the transfer station for people to drop off garbage if the massive compactors can't be powered. Backup generators and alternative heat sources can provide some coverage for a little while, but not for long and not for everyone. Either solution dumps large amounts of either gasoline exhaust or woodsmoke into the environment.

I'm very lucky, in turns out, that I have good insurance, and that my home was damaged in a tornado last summer, so I'm living in an apartment, in a larger town. It means I'm not living in my house right now, and not having to cope with all of that reality every moment, unlike several thousand of my fellow Granite Staters. Instead, I only lost power for 48 hours or so and had to only cope with 2 frigid nights. Unless of course, the power, which went out again this afternoon, according to my wife, is still out when I get home....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Regarding Hillary

I think in all of the talk about Hillary, there's been one simple obvious explanation that's been overlooked.

Naming Hillary to Secretary of State makes some sense - she does have real qualifications, true. But the same could also be said for Attorney General and or Secretary of Health and Human Services. My best guess is that this is The Deal. This was the price Hillary put on her unconditional support for the general election - she gets to be the first person offered a cabinet position, and it's one of the Big 4. Honestly, I think that's a fair price, really. If I'm right, in practical terms it came down to State or Justice - Hillary doesn't have the technical background for Treasury or Defense. The problem with any cabinet post for Hillary is this unique, multi-dimensional boat anchor she's married to. Interestingly, any and all concerns regarding Bill are probably magnified at State compared to the 2 most plausible alternatives (Justice and Health and Human Services)

The Clinton Foundation has been much discussed, but it may be the smallest real concern It's possible something genuinely problematic turns up in the vetting process about President Clinton's foundation. He has always been willing and able to skate extremely close to the ethical edge. It's a consequence of his character that, frankly, prevented a good President from being a near-great one. It created one opening after another for his political enemies to attack and kept his political allies on the permanent defensive. Eight years as President didn't change that, eight years out of office sure as hell won't. But Clinton always went right up to the edge, never quite truly over it, the way, say, Dick Cheney does. So forget that for the time being.

There are 2 other concerns about Bill, though. One is high politics and the other is low farce. Which would rather hear about first? Yeah, I thought so. We're still doing the politics first.

As a matter of high politics, William Jefferson Clinton is an ex-President of the United States. While no longer in office, his word and opinion can, properly used, carry weight and meaning in world affairs. Jimmy Carter is the preeminent example of how this can be done right. Ex-Presidents are very useful folks in international relations. They are the guys you send when you want to send a public, not private signal, that you care, but not to the point of official action, about some matter of interest. But that is partly precisely because ex-President's can't be given diplomatic instructions, marching orders, or hell, even talking points they're likely to pay attention to. However, the role of the spouse of the Secretary of State of the United States is basically twofold: 1)Be gracious at diplomatic receptions, parties, etc as required. 2)Make no news whatsoever. Bill can handle 1. 2 is flat impossible for the man, both by his own nature and his position as ex-President. This will enormously complicate Hillary's job as Secretary.

As a slightly trivial matter, there's also the protocol matter of an ex-head of state being the spouse of a minister. In diplomatic protocol there's a well-established pecking order and protocol for head of state, head of government, and government minister with corresponding protocol for ex- all of those. I'm not sure that Bill being an Ex-head of both state and government doesn't create some technical headaches in this area.

So that's the high politics. The low farce...Bill Clinton was willing to publicly humiliate his wife when he was governor and President both by chasing, well, pretty much anything with a pussy and two legs. Rumors are that behavior hasn't changed, either. It's Hillary's lot and choice in life to choose to put up with that or not. At the end of the day, she knows what her husband is like and her call what to do about it. But now the shoe will be on the other foot - now, Hillary will be the public face of the United States representing us to the world, and Bill is her private citizen spouse. Bill chasing after free poontang now - and getting caught - is public mortification to our Secretary of State, and possibly a diplomatic incident. Is Bill ready - is Bill even able - to keep it in his pants for 4 to 8 years?

Monday, November 10, 2008

There Ain't No Such Thing As A Second-Class Child of God

This is something you'll here me say a lot. Here. In person. Elsewhere on line. This is the LGBT marriage version of this.

It sounds like a blitheringly, blindingly obvious statement. It is. Living up to it is the hard part.

Let me put my cards on the table here. I am not just privileged, I am about as uber-privileged as you can get.

White (as it gets. Trust me. I AM that joke)
WASP (with some German bits thrown in)
Episcopalian (by baptism, same as one parent)
Upper-middle class (dad was a lawyer in a firm founded in the 19th century)
Prep school. (Catholic, Jesuit, and the best school in town - was and is a prep school if not quite prepared to admit it then)
Ivy League (Dartmouth, if you really wanna know.)

Short of an actual trust-fund of meaningful proportions, I am about as privileged as you can get in American society. The rules were made by and for people like me.

(And I think that fucking sucks, and kinda undermines everything we hold ourselves out to be, but nevermind.)

The first person I knew well who came out was black, dirt-poor, and fundamentalist Christian. She was also a Dartmouth student which is how we knew each other. I watched her struggles and her first girlfriend's to reconcile their identity as lesbians, Christians, and African-American women. I'm not sure if her first girlfriend ever succeeded, and it's not my story to tell what kind of peace my friend made for herself, although I know she did.

But knowing and loving Deb as I did helped teach me this lesson: There ain't no such thing as a second-class child of God. None. But knowing that and living it are 2 different things.

Now some of you to whom these words come are probably agnostic or atheist or follow other faith paths. Bear with me on this for this next part. I am Christian, if a liberal one, and the people I'm speaking to, I think mostly are as well -- much though I doubt any will read it -- so that is the language I'm using. Feel free to sing the same song in a different key if it helps.

The language used to talk about gays as different, as other, as somehow not accepted by God, as somehow not beloved children of God, is the same language, the same tired-ass worn-out rundown hungdown bullshit that has been used to talk about, well, everybody.

The Jews.
The Irish.
The Catholics in general.
....to pick just a few from the long and awful hit parade...

And, oh yeah, in this country, most especially, and particularly, people of color.

So when you hear an argument about what's wrong with letting gays and lesbians get married or have equal rights or in anyway shape or form, remember, if you're a person of color, that your parents and grandparents heard that same shit pointed at them.

It was bullshit then and it was bullshit now.

Because there ain't no such thing as a second-class child of God. We are all God's beloved children. Each and every one of us, period, no exceptions. Start acting like it. Start treating others like it. Start expecting it.

Jesus said the first commandment is to love God and the second commandment is to love one another as he has loved us. From these 2 commandments he said, hang all the law and the prophets. That's it. Simple to explain, harder to do.

But impossible to square with saying that 2 people who love each other shouldn't get married.

Monday, November 3, 2008

It's time

....8 years after Anthony Scalia whored out his principles and his good name to put an unworthy man in an office he was unqualified for.

....7 years after the world changed in a tower of dust and smoke

....5 years after a war founded on lies, hypocrisy and wishful thinking

....4 years after a skinny kid with a funny name had me standing on my feet in my living room, screaming and gasping for breath.

....2 years after my state turned blue for the first time since the nineteenth century



....It's time.



This country has not always been as good as its promise. But its promise has been the light and hope and wonder of the world for generations. And when it has even touched the edge of that promise it has accomplished the greatest things the world has ever seen.



...It's time.



"Not by the color of their skin", the man said, "but by the content of their charcter." Comes now a man of grace and dignity, humor and gravitas, humility and brilliance -- what matters the color of his skin?



...It's time.



...7 hours after my fellow Granite staters gave Obama his first wins

...It's time

...45 minutes before I leave to go to the local school to stand in line to vote...

It is so completely TIME

YES WE CAN!!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A modest Introduction

Well, this is my first blog post in my new blog.

A s'atori, if you didn't know, was a sudden spiritual flash of insight. So, yeah, the name of the blog is a pun about sudden flashes of spiritual insight at weird times. What? Do you know me?

Anyway, this will be my little place to blog away about anything and everything. There will be some politics, some history, some rants and raves, some 4th step stuff you might not notice, the odd bit of news, and well, basically whatever the hell I feel like. This includes also math, science fiction, funny cat pictures, bad puns, and other odds and ends.

Peace, Namaste, Godspeed

Dan