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Much has been made of this country’s political system’s division, the schism between the left and the right in American government today.  Little has been said of one thing both sides have in common.  It is the demand that our election process makes upon our candidates to sell out their ideals, their principles, their integrity and, ultimately, even their souls, in pursuit of elected office. The higher the office, the fiercer the demands.

Worse yet, the candidates’ willingness to do so.

Usually, I am more Pollyanna-esque in my regard of the political process.  Every four years we prepare, as a country, to hand over the key to the office of our commander-in-chief.  If our candidate doesn’t win, we may grumble and complain, but we do not break out machine guns.  It’s a minor, peaceful miracle and it is repeated again and again.  I love that.

Certainly politics has its dark side: whoring one’s self for contributions, back room deals and special interests are just the tip of morass of evils.  However, one of the saddest aspects is watching an individual lose themselves, deconstruct their moral fiber, debase their integrity and all on the twenty-four hour media cycle.  Not only do we, the electorate, allow it, we demand it.  We flip the channel if not entertained, judge candidates on gaffes and soundbites, rather than substantive issues, and allow the media to appeal to the worst in us.  It’s become our own presidential campaign version of The Hunger Games, televised for all to see.

Watching the 2000 presidential race will remain burned in my brain for the rest of my life.  Each week the American people were introduced to a different, new and improved version of Democratic candidate, Al Gore.  There was the every man Gore, the intellectual Gore, the sexy Gore, the athletic Gore, middle-of-the-road Gore… didn’t the man ever think, maybe I should just run as I am, actually as Al Gore?  The real Al Gore was lost in the never-ending imaging and focus groups.  It was a shame, all that rebranding and spin, and for what?  He won the popular vote, but lost the electoral college and, at least for a while, his dignity and purpose.

If 2000 was a shame, then 2008 was quite simply: a tragedy.  It hurt, I mean actual physical pain, to watch John McCain in the final months of his campaign.  This was an admirable man, a war hero, someone who really had crossed party lines and demonstrably bucked Republican leadership.  The term “maverick” actually meant something, at first.  I always admired the Straight Talk Express of 2000, but the name was empty in 2008.  McCain was forced to prove himself as a Republican, becoming more extreme on issues he had formerly been more moderate .  He even spoke against legislation he had crafted.  And then, Sarah Palin as his running mate?  It was painful.

Here we are 2012 and I can’t help shaking my head.  What is Mitt Romney at the end of the day?  He’s a wealthy husband, a father, a Mormon, the former moderate governor of Massachusetts and a one-time executive at Bain Capitol.  Yet on the campaign trail he has had to deny, change or suppress most of that.

Don’t believe me? Check this out.

Romney can’t talk about his wealth; he needs to show he’s “in touch” with the needs of average Americans.  Hence, the hush-hush regarding tax forms.  What if we knew how much money he has, or what he’s done to protect it?  While Governor Romney often references his faith, he has, largely avoided, talking specifically about his Mormonism.  His conservative Christian block of voters has decided that getting rid of Obama is worth having a Mormon as a nominee, but don’t want reminding of the fact.  One of Mitt Romney’s greatest political achievements was being governor of Massachusetts, but he has to be careful how much he brings that experience up.  He was much more moderate on many issues when he held office in a blue state, not to mention the fact that their health care system provided some of the model for the plan President Obama championed and was passed into law.  Lastly, there is his business background, which should be a winning attribute for a candidate running in a race during a slow economy.  Nope, he has to avoid that, too.  All those nasty allegations of companies being broken up and sold in parts, jobs being outsourced over seas and it goes back to those tax returns again.  How much money did he make and how did he get out of paying his share of taxes on it?

Hey,Romney can still talk about his experiences with the Olympics!  Oops, he insulted the British on his trip to London three weeks ago, better leave that out, too.

You might have noticed that I focused on Gore and McCain, both of whom lost their respective races.  Does that mean that I feel George W. Bush and Barack Obama somehow managed to retain more of their integrity?  Not at all, but I do think that in winning these two likely retained more of their sense of self.  Whatever debasing they did of their own moral currency while running their races, they came out of it with egos intact.  I should say, their sense of self was not unchanged.   They lost just as much integrity and committed the same crimes of spin and focus groups to mold and reshape their professed views, but we as voters gave them a new image to cling to, they were winners.  As a society we have different standards for winners and losers.

The point is, we contribute to and feed this system.  Thanks to the twenty-four hour news coverage that resembles Entertainment Tonight more closely than 60 Minutes, voters are impatient, ill-informed and fickle.  If we focused less on image or slogans, and more on specific plans or policies, we might get candidates giving us their real views and backing them up, rather than flip-flopping with the latest poll.

We are a government of, for and by the people.  The voters have their stake in this race and their responsibility.  I would dearly love to see more actual conversation, less name calling.  Imagine an election with an informed electorate, asking candidates real questions, not scripted talking points at “town-hall meeting.”  Picture an America where we access the best in ourselves in our debates, rather than rolling in the proverbial mud.

I know, it’s the Impossible Dream.  I don’t care, go big or go home.

Because, we can do better, all of us.


Some people wonder why I dedicate one column a week, sometimes my only column (depending on my “real” life’s demands) to music.  The reason, at least for me, is that music is passion, inspiration, motivation, angst and love.    Songs encompass memories, launch dreams and take us to far away places.  Music, like laughter, is universal and, thus, at times it intersects with a larger debate.   These Musical Mondays have been about the music, certainly, but they have also been framed within the larger context of other conversations.  Some of my readers skip the M.M,’s, preferring to wait for the more “serious” pieces.  Frankly, sometimes, the “serious” pieces do not come as I am consumed with my family, my novels and my running (in that order). 

My Musical Mondays aren’t fluff, well, they aren’t usually fluff.  In these pieces we’ve explored loss, conducted eulogies, examined contractual differences, fought intolerance and bullying, debated home schooling, dreamed of world peace, railed against bigotry and hate.  Not bad for a Monday when all one really wants to do is crawl back into bed and search for Saturday.

On August 11th, 2012 presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney chose a running mate, ultra-conservative, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.  There are a great many things about the Congressman that I like.  He values physical fitness and healthy living, he is a father of three (a daughter, then two sons, as I am a mother of a son and then two daughters), happily married, no evidence to the contrary, he loves his country, and he is an avid outdoorsman, enjoying bow hunting and mountain climbing.  That’s the good news.  I’ll go into the bad in just a tick.  Oh, one last thing we have in common, just a year younger than I am, Paul Ryan loves his music, citing : Led Zepplin, Rage Against the Machine and Beethoven as his favorite musical fare.

Well, I’ll say this for Mr. Ryan, he has an ear for the bombastic.  Really, no Wagner?

Rage Against the Machine are not one of my go to groups, although, I have the deepest respect and admiration for their guitarist, Tom Morello.  This gentleman is all that… and a bag of chips.  I kid you not.  I find it the purest form of irony that Representative Ryan should cite this band of all bands.  Rage’s left-wing slant is blatant.  They speak for the 99%, they are passionate and intelligent.  Above all else, their lyrics are in your face, nakedly honest and devoid of subtlety- in a good way.

For example… check out Take The Power Back

One can certainly understand why, with this musical pedigree, I would be curious to see what the members of Rage Against the Machine themselves would have to say.  This was a question quickly answered.  Please see below on what guitarist Tom Morello of Rage, Audioslave, The Nightwatchman and Street Sweeper Social Club had to say in this Ob-Ed piece for Rolling Stone Magazine.

Not your average headbanger- His father was the first Kenyan Ambassador to the UN, his mother had a Masters and raised her son alone. Tom Morello graduated high school with honors and holds a degree from Harvard. A staffer in the eighties for Democrat Alan Cranston, Morello now is a cofounder of and runs Axis of Justice- an organization dedicated to musicians raising political awareness.

August 16, 2012 6:44 PM ET

Last week, Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan, the Republican architect of Congress’s radical right-wing budget plan, as his running mate. Ryan has previously cited Rage Against the Machine as one of his favorite bands. Rage guitarist Tom Morello responds in this exclusive op-ed.

Paul Ryan’s love of Rage Against the Machine is amusing, because he is the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades. Charles Manson loved the Beatles, but didn’t understand them. Governor Chris Christie loves Bruce Springsteen, but doesn’t understand him. And Paul Ryan is clueless about his favorite band, Rage Against the Machine.

Ryan claims that he likes Rage’s sound, but not the lyrics. Well, I don’t care for Paul Ryan’s sound or his lyrics. He can like whatever bands he wants, but his guiding vision of shifting revenue more radically to the one percent is antithetical to the message of Rage.

I wonder what Ryan’s favorite Rage song is? Is it the one where we condemn the genocide of Native Americans? The one lambasting American imperialism? Our cover of “Fuck the Police”? Or is it the one where we call on the people to seize the means of production? So many excellent choices to jam out to at Young Republican meetings!

Don’t mistake me, I clearly see that Ryan has a whole lotta “rage” in him: A rage against women, a rage against immigrants, a rage against workers, a rage against gays, a rage against the poor, a rage against the environment. Basically the only thing he’s not raging against is the privileged elite he’s groveling in front of for campaign contributions.

You see, the super rich must rationalize having more than they could ever spend while millions of children in the U.S. go to bed hungry every night. So, when they look themselves in the mirror, they convince themselves that “Those people are undeserving. They’re . . . lesser.” Some of these guys on the extreme right are more cynical than Paul Ryan, but he seems to really believe in this stuff. This unbridled rage against those who have the least is a cornerstone of the Romney-Ryan ticket.

But Rage’s music affects people in different ways. Some tune out what the band stands for and concentrate on the moshing and throwing elbows in the pit. For others, Rage has changed their minds and their lives. Many activists around the world, including organizers of the global occupy movement, were radicalized by Rage Against the Machine and work tirelessly for a more humane and just planet. Perhaps Paul Ryan was moshing when he should have been listening.

My hope is that maybe Paul Ryan is a mole. Maybe Rage did plant some sensible ideas in this extreme fringe right wing nut job. Maybe if elected, he’ll pardon Leonard Peltier.  Maybe he’ll throw U.S. military support behind the Zapatistas. Maybe he’ll fill Guantanamo Bay with the corporate criminals that are funding his campaign – and then torture them with Rage music 24/7. That’s one possibility. But I’m not betting on it.

I hope everyone caught the caption on Mr. Morello’s photo above.  This is one well spoken and smart individual.  I love when people surprise us.  Incidentally, that’s one of the things I loved about my late, great fallen hero, Ronnie James Dio.  No one rocked harder, yet, he spoke thoughtfully and intelligently on a variety of important subjects.  I love it so very much when the book is light years more than the cover.
Again, I digress.
If Mr. Morello is Christmas come early in terms of the Renaissance man personified, then Mr. Ryan is a caricature of right-wing catch phrases.  It is, in polite language, disheartening.
I feel a Blog Series coming on, so I’ll be brief.  Trust me, we’ll be revisiting this… and his little friend Akin, too.  Troll.
Put briefly and in the plainest terms.  Ryan’s America is an anathema to free-thinking, tolerant people of compassion.  The highlight reel is too large, so I’ll hit the greatest hits only and, bear in mind, this is subjective, there’s just so much to get angry about, your picks might be different, yet, I think you’ll end up just as angry, even if you choose different highlights.

Vice-Presidential hopeful, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin

1.)  Ryan would like to privatize Medicare for everyone under 55.  Mind you, the Stock Market being oh so reliable since the days of deregulation left everyday investors at the mercy of unscrupulous gamblers.  Wait, who voted to rescind those protections? Right, that would be Paul Ryan.
2.) Ryan voted against the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd, Jr. Hates Crimes Prevention Act, saying it was an area that government should not be involved in,it’s a “states’ issue.”  Right, because a teenager beaten for being gay and then left to die of exposure and a man beaten for being black and then dragged behind a truck is someone else’s problem.  I know, people close to me would argue I’m not being fair, I’m letting my emotions get the best of me.  They’d be right.  Our emotions make us human.  They are justified and true… voting against this bill was crap.
3.) The organization National Right to Life gave him a 100% rating.  Um, guys, I’m not citing this statistic because it fills me with rainbows and butterflies.  This is NOT a good thing. Again, a blog series may be in order.
4.)  The Human Rights Campaign, a GLBT organization gave Ryan a 0/100.  Again, this is NOT good.
5.)  Ryan supports the jailing of women who have had abortions.
6.)  He would criminalize not only abortion, but also in-vitro fertilization and certain forms of birth control, particularly those forms given to women after a rape.
7.)  He claims to be a “Deficit Cutter”, but voted for some of the biggest spending bills since (and including) The New Deal:  TARP, the two Bush tax cuts, the 2003 Medicare Medical Prescription Part D Plan, and the 700 billion (that’s billion with a “B”) bank bailout. As well as what critics have characterized as two un-funded wars.
8.)  Ryan voted against: The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, the Credit Card Holders Bill of  Rights Act of 2009, and the Dodd-FRank Consumer Protection act.  This last Ryan characterized as “class warfare”.  To be accurate, on this final topic he was right.  The 99% were declaring war on the un-Godly rich 1%.  You got a problem with that Mr. Would-Be-Representing-the-Entire-100%, buddy?
There’s more, but I need to take a breath, do some research and remember that Paul Ryan is a person, just like me.  He doesn’t get up each day asking himself how he can best screw up the world.  He approaches each day as we all do, trying to do the best he can.
To see why Paul Ryan doesn’t like Rage’s lyrics, I have included the words to Take the Power Back.  And people… for the love of our rights… take the power back.

The album “Rage Against the Machine” released November 10th, 1992.

Bring that shit in!
Yeah, the movement’s in motion with mass militant poetry
Now check this out…uggh!In the right light, study becomes insight
But the system that dissed us
Teaches us to read and right So called facts are fraud
They want us to allege and pledge
And bow down to their God
Lost the culture, the culture lost
Spun our minds and through time
Ignorance has taken over
Yo, we gotta take the power back!
Bam! Here’s the plan
Motherfuck Uncle Sam
Step back, I know who I am
Raise up your ear, I’ll drop the style and clear
It’s the beats and the lyrics they fear
The rage is relentless
We need a movement with a quickness
You are the witness of change
And to counteract
We gotta take the power backYeah, we gotta take the power back
Come on, come on!
We gotta take the power backThe present curriculum
I put my fist in ’em
Eurocentric every last one of ’em
See right through the red, white and blue disguise
With lecture I puncture the structure of lies
Installed in our minds and attempting
To hold us back
We’ve got to take it back
Holes in our spirit causin’ tears and fears
One-sided stories for years and years and years
I’m inferior? Who’s inferior?
Yeah, we need to check the interior
Of the system that cares about only one culture
And that is why
We gotta take the power backYeah, we gotta take the power back
Come on, come on!
We gotta take the power backHey yo check, we’re gonna have to break it, break it,
break it down
Awww shit!Uggh!And like this…uggh!Come on, yeah! Bring it back the other way!The teacher stands in front of the class
But the lesson plan he can’t recall
The student’s eyes don’t perceive the lies
Bouning off every fucking wall
His composure is well kept
I guess he fears playing the fool
The complacent students sit and listen to some of that
Bullshit that he learned in schoolEurope ain’t my rope to swing on
Can’t learn a thing from it
Yet we hang from it
Gotta get it, gotta get it together then
Like the motherfuckin’ weathermen
To expose and close the doors on those who try
To strangle and mangle the truth
‘Cause the circle of hatred continues unless we react
We gotta take the power backYeah, we gotta take the power back
Come on, come on!
We gotta take the power backNo more lies
No more lies
No more lies
No more lies
No more lies
No more lies
No more lies
No more liesUggh!Yeah!Take it back y’all
Take it back, a-take it back
A-take it back y’all, come on!
Take it back y’all
Take it back, a-take it back
A-take it back y’all, come on!Uggh!Yeah!

Yep, I went on vacation so I’m like behind on everything.  This is my excuse for weighing in on this topic long after our twenty-four hour news media has already cycled through it.  Still, here’s my two cents…

Mitt Romney owes Ann Romney a nice, big “Honey, I’m sorry I screwed up” bouquet of flowers.   Let me explain why.

Unless you live under a rock,  it’s possible you might have caught a word or two on the whole “Hilary Rosen attacks stay-at-home moms” extravaganza.  Basically,  as I understand it, during part of Mitt Romney’s stump speech he includes a reference to the role his wife plays in helping him stay in touch with the concerns of women in this country.  To paraphrase Governor Romney when he wants to know what is most on the mind of American women, he asks his wife.

When discussing this choice of women’s issues/economic advisor on the campaign trail  Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen made an observation.  “His wife has actually never worked a day in her life,” Rosen said on Anderson Cooper’s “AC360” show. “She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school and how do we — why we worry about their future.”

This whole bruhaha illustrates some of what I find most irritating about the relationship between politicians and the so-called pundits:

1.)  The ability, or sheer crass stupidity, of both parties to be able to willfully misconstrue any statement.

2.)  The rapidity by which a candidate can deplore a position he or she backed only weeks before, despite videos and voting records to the contrary.  Do they think we’re so dense that we’d forget???

3.) The condescending brass balls on these yokels towards me as a woman and as a stay-at-home-mom.  Do they think I’m so brain-damaged… scratch that, yes, clearly, they do.

Let’s start with my first point.  Eric and I were on a cruise went this story broke and as we watched CNN, we both looked at each other and said, “You’ve GOT to be kidding?”  Mind you, Eric is Mr. Republican and I (duh) am Ms. Democrat and we BOTH agreed on this one.  Ms. Rosen was not guilty of saying stay at home moms don’t work.  The inference was clear.   What Hilary Rosen meant to say was Mrs. Romney had never worked a day in her life OUTSIDE THE HOME.  Which is true.  Ms. Rosen was guilty of forgetting one thing… every word is examined and then deliberately misunderstood by today’s media.  This goes equally on both sides of the aisle.

Moving on the my second pet peeve, and frankly, Romney has been guilty of this even more than most politicians, changing his story.  Suddenly, now being home with your children is sacred and above reproach when just weeks ago Candidate Romney urged the parents of young children to return to the work force so that they might enjoy the “dignity of work”.  In a town hall address in Massachusetts this past January (2012), he had this to say,  “While I was governor,” Romney said, “85 percent of the people on a form of welfare assistance in my state had no work requirement. I wanted to increase the work requirement. I said, for instance, that even if you have a child two years of age, you need to go to work.”

Furthermore, while Governor Romney made it clear on the Massachusetts state assistance to low-income families (TANF= Temporary Assistance For needy Families) that raising a child did not count as work towards the law’s mandated work requirement to qualify for said assistance.  Mind you, I’m not knocking this particular piece of legislation. (I haven’t done the research to do so.) However, I am knocking the hypocrisy of Romney jumping on the lynch mob bandwagon by going after an accidental “moms don’t work” comment by Rosen when he himself has clearly, and with purpose, planning and public crowing of it, held the position for years that being a stay-at-home parent is not defined as work under the law.  (See this link for more on the specifics.)  Hey buddy, no fair getting all whiny now, you can’t have it both ways.

Though Lord knows, you keep trying.

Make up your mind, sir.

Make up your mind, sir.

This brings us to point three: the cajones on behalf of the Right Wing of the GOP.  In the past six months they’ve attacked my access to contraception, my right to a safe and legal abortion (not to mention questioning my ability to discern whether I want one), my pride in my own sexuality (unless it coincides with a socialital demand to squeeze out as many children as God decides to send), my privacy to make all these decisions with my doctor or my husband as needed, even my rights as an individual to fight employment discrimination.  (And that’s just off the top of my head, I’m sure there’s more, but I get so mad when I think about it I have to be careful or someone could get hurt.)  However, now, suddenly they’re running to my “defense” with a condescending pat on the head because I am a SAHM.  Save it, folks.  I didn’t feel attacked and I sure don’t need your platitudes. You want to help us moms out?  Help make our family planning choices affordable and accessible.  Quit second guessing our ability to make decisions regarding our own bodies just because it makes you feel uncomfortable.  Or, hey, make sure our kids have access to open and honest sex education, to health care and the ability to make informed choices.

Because ultimately choices, or the lack thereof, is what Hilary Rosen was trying to talk about.  Eric and I chose to have one parent stay home.  In the beginning, we weren’t sure it would necessarily be the wife.  Ann Romney also chose to stay home.  She chose to have a housekeeper, to live in what I would call your basic mansion and to drive two Cadillacs.  An incredibly small number of parents have such choices in their lives.

I don’t think Ann Romney or Hilary Rosen deserve any censure, either for not working or for any remarks they’ve made.  I think the one who screwed up here was Mitt.  He made his wife his de facto expert on women’s issues, a role she is simply not qualified for.   Like anyone else, she can only speak to what she knows.  So, if she’d like to talk about her husband’s wonderful personal qualities, his faith, his performance as a husband or father, she’s your go-to-girl.  I can’t tell you the concerns of the uber rich woman and she can’t attest the worries of a mom in the burbs like me.  Frankly, neither of us can attest to the worries of most working mothers and fathers because we have something they do not.  We have choices.   While my job as a SAHM has been and continues to be hard work on many fronts, after fifteen years in the actual work force I can say it is not as hard as many jobs outside the home which many women (and men) shoulder in addition to their job as parent.  Most of these parents didn’t leave their children and go to work because they CHOSE to, they went because they HAD to.  To say that Ann Romney can understand the worries of those parents for their children’s futures, education, health care, even putting a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs and food in their mouth is ludicrous.  That’s what Mitt Romney did when he used his wife as a source of information she clearly does not possess, he cited the ludicrous and Rosen was right to call him on it.

Governor Romney, you made yourself look out of touch, again, worse yet, you made your wife look vacuous.  Go buy that pretty lady some flowers.

Who me? What'd I say?

Who me? What'd I say?

Now, when do we get to talk about those idiot Secret Service Agents in Colombia?  Who’s cheap enough to try to not pay the poor hooker her $47?  I mean, really???

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