Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Make It STOP!

Once again, what passes for political discourse in this country, as the election date nears, ad-hominem attacks, smears and rancor dominate.  I've already made up my mind.  This administration has been a complete disaster.  They care more about their own power than they do about government.  Soundrels through and through--their motives are to line their own pockets and those of their friends and allies.  Never in my memory has the power and treasure grab been so cynical and so transparent.  However, I'm not sure it would be much different in an administration helmed by Hillary R Clinton or John McCain.  It's lovely to think so.

I want to go to sleep and wake up the Wednesday after next Tuesday.

My mood has been extremely labile lately.  Thoughts of death recently.  This morning I had a second hearing test.  My left ear has a hearing deficit, and when such deficits are asymmetrical, it raises the possibility of a tumor in the ear canal.  My reaction upon hearing this?  Joy.

That's not normal.

I felt better contemplating a plan for the future.  Starting tomorrow I'm going to rise one hour earlier (accounting for the hour that we gained when we switched to daylight savings time) and strive to write an hour a day from 7:20 to 8:20.  No e-mail, no blogging: fiction.  One hour.  It's not so much to ask, is it?

But I've been so terribly blocked the past few months.  I can't seem to summon the motivation to write in the evenings.  So I'm going to try it in the morning, when I'm fresh...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Public and Private Stakes

I want to blog about this today because it's on my mind.  A question came up in class the other night about stakes--how can stakes raise beyond a life and death situation?

In life, that's true.  Survival is the highest stake of all.  But in fiction, everything is written in context.  Thus life and death stakes are only relevant in context with the theme of the novel.  In fiction, life only has relevance in connection with value.  In order for the reader to feel the need for a character to survive, the character must express a value, or values.  In life, life only has meaning to the extent we possess and express our values.   That is also true of fiction, but in fiction it is enhanced.  So, the stakes of a character in a life or death situation can only be felt when living or dying will affect a value.  It is important for the character to survive in order to write a wrong, correct an injustice, make the world safe for democracy, save another character who's in jeopardy, etc.

Thus, the phrase Torture is Bad is true, it speaks to a personal desire to see the practice end, and a public desire to protect America from being devalued by practicing it.  However, it has no relevance to story unless a character who believes that value confronts it.  As the stakes deepen, the character undergoes torture, or is forced to perpetrate it.  Depending upon how the story turns, and what emotion the author intends his audience to experience, the ending of that story will be either cynical (pessimistic) in which the protagonist becomes what he loathes, or idealistic, in which the protagonist manages to escape his predicament, or ironic, in which the protagonist might unwittingly bring about a resolution that supports what he despises.

Thus, strong character value systems translate into strong personal and public stakes.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Let it Be

I'm tired of the Foley scandal already.  Dennis Hastert was elected to be the third most powerful person in the United States, not a babysitter.  He rightly delegated that responsibility to the people in charge.  When confronted with perversity, he said "take care of it."  The indivdual responsible for this debacle is Mark Foley, none other.  And I'm tired of the blatant homophobia on both sides.

Of course it's all politics.  But the democrats' reactions sound increasingly strident and hysterical, aimed to separate the GOP from its evangelical base.  They'll never vote democrat, as long as the democrats remain intractable on a woman's right to choose.  Furthermore, I think they've taken so much abuse from the democrats over the years that even if the party of Jefferson were to repudiate reproductive choice, the evangelical base would still hold them in contempt. 

No, the aim of the democrats is not to attract voters to their side, but simply to cause the evangelicals enough grief and dispair that they'll stay home on election day.  That's cynical and contemptible.  It's Karl Rove lite, and if democrats stoop to such evil, then maybe they'll start to believe, as does the GOP, that the ends do justify the means.  At that point, the soul of America will be lost.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Let the Posturing Begin

Just a week ago the GOP was suffering from the 1-2 punch of Bob Woodward's new book and the Mark Foley Page scandal.  Now, in a move apparently calculated to assist the Republicans in November, Kim Jong Il has detonated a nuclear war head.  Of course it's foolishness to view everything in the world through the lens of partisan politics.  Call me foolish, I guess.

Bob Woodward is a Cliff Note.  The Foley scandal has a little more traction because it's salacious and hypocritical on its face.  The spin has started:  Limbaugh reacted by blaming the page!  The little Lolito brought it on himself.  There you see the opinion and values of the non-Christianist wing of the Republican party regarding sex.  Cherchez la femme inverted.  Cherchez la fag?  The Christianists are, as to be expected, blaming The Gay.  Ecce homo.  The Republican party is riddled with hummasexyools and must be purged.  Look for a Night of Long Knives in the very near future.

Let this be a lesson to the bluenoses and the ethics professors among us--there is no point to accusing the Republicans of hypocrisy.  Like the fact that Macintosh computers are better than Windows-based computers--it simply doesn't matter.  The only thing that matters is what sells.  The Republicans will always have a scapegoat.  And they, because of their conservatism, can rest easy on the point of view that the evil you know is far preferable to the evil you don't know.  Whereas democrats, as progressives, must sell idealism to the masses.  The democrats have a much more difficult task.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Killer Elephants

A quote from Slate magazine, regarding an article in the New York Times Magazine:

    A recent spike in elephant attacks on humans in Africa and Southeast Asia can be traced to psychological damage from decades of poaching, a cover story suggests. Scientists have long ascribed pachyderm aggression to high testosterone levels and competition over resources. But now psychologists point to "a kind of species-wide trauma" with many of the same symptoms as post-traumatic stress in humans: "abnormal startle response, unpredictable asocial behavior, inattentive mothering and hyperagression." Rehab centers now use "passive control" therapy to heal dysfunctional elephants. "She's as sweet as can be," says the founder of Elephant Sanctuary about one formerly violent animal. "You'd never know that this elephant killed anybody."

Which life has more value--an elephant's or a human being's?  Do the math.  Human beings outnumber elephants 10,000 to 1.  From a simple statistical standpoint, if rarity has value, the elephant's value is far superior to the humans.  So here's a lesson to the people: if you're anywhere near an elephant--stay out of its way.  Nobody's going to put the animal down for turning your head into jelly.  And that's the way it has to be. 

There are too many people.  Puget Sound is dying.  Underwater gardens that used to provide a burgeoning sea life, clams, crabs, vegetation are barren, littered with cell phones and car batteries.  When the sea dies, the rest of us will follow.  I just hope the Republicans go first.  But elephants have a higher value than donkeys.

Friday, October 6, 2006

The Last Refuge of Scoundrels

The last refuge of scoundrels used to be politics, but modern politics is so full of miscreants that they need yet another refuge within their refuge and they've found it:  The Betty Ford Clinic.  Imagine behavior so beyond the pale that it even gives alcoholics a bad name.  Well you don't have to imagine it--it's on the front page.  Whether it's Mark Foley or Mel Gibson, blaming demon rum has to be the exact opposite of the acceptance of personal responsibility that conservatives value.  But remember, there are conservatives, and there are Republicans--and they are NOT one and the same. 

Demoncrats.  Repuglicans.  Political discourse in this country has never been so depraved and indifferent to the well-being of society.  The atavistic thirst for power and control by both political parties has set in motion a pathological rhetoric that sets neighbor against neighbor, husband against wife, son against father. 

While I believe that it was Lee Atwater who ushered in this crass, cheap, and populist form of negative colloquy, and Karl Rove who raised it to an art-form, arguably both the Right and Left Wings of the political spectrum in America must agree to truce.

The problem is, it works: for them.  The people are held hostage by this faux colloquy which exists by and for politicians.  When I was young there were simple rules of good manners: you didn't discuss politics or religion.  You also didn't discuss how much money you had, or how much something cost.  We've lost something of the innocence of those times, as well as their civility, and I grieve it.

When I read the papers, especially the op-ed pages (to which I am addicted--as they fill me with fear and loathing and this fulfills the addict's crisis mentality) I am struck by the level of vitriol by someone like an Ann Coulter.  She responded to the Foley debacle by calling him a Democrat (as everyone knows--he is a Republican).  This is skirts hate speech.  She said that when republicans get emboiled in a scandal they step down and have the good grace to show their shame.  Yes, Foley did say that he accepted responsibility for what he'd done--but they were merely words.  He hasn't suffered the consequences of anything just yet.  Furthermore, he followed that statement with excuses that weren't excuses:  too much drink--prior molestations in his own past--framing himself in the role of victim.

None of this has any substance whatsoever.  This is grandstanding.  When are we going to really start talking about what really matters?  Healthcare.  Pollution.  Poverty.  Reckless, out of control, corporate hegemony?  Dismay is high.

Monday, October 2, 2006

Pederasty in the USA

Congressman Mark Foley (R-Fla) has been brought low by hubris and his alleged interest, professed via the internet, in a 16 year old penis, in particular the 7.5 inch one belonging to a congressional page from Louisiana.

Schadenfreude:  The perverse delight in viewing the misfortunes of others from a distance. 

Foley is a Republican and by extension a family values man and a paragon of morality.  As everyone knows, Repuglicans have embraced the radical Christian Right and promised to use the awesome power of the government to advance their agenda--especially their desire to limit abortion and gay rights.

Point of Irony No. 1:  Until very recently, sexual relations between people of the same gender was illegal in the District of Columbia and in Foley's home state of Florida.  Lawrence v. Texas invalidated Florida law making it not technically illegal for Foley to allegedly pursue his 16 year old page.  The Supreme Court invalidated sodomy laws over the strenuous objections of Republicans.

Point of Irony No. 2:  Very, very recently, between the finding in Lawrence v. Texas and the passage of Adam Walsh's law this year, sexual relations between people of the same gender was legal, even if one of them was 16 years old.  But the Republicans this year signed into law the Adam Walsh Child Protection Statute which essentially raised the minimum for age of consent in the United States to 18 years. 

Point of Irony No. 3:  Mark Foley stood behind President Bush as Adam Walsh's law was signed (without one of President Bush's famous signing statements that allowed him to ignore it if he so chose.)

Point of Irony No. 4: Even if Foley hasn't technically violated Adam Walsh's law (he didn't have sex with the boy--he merely communicated lewdly about the measurements of his penis by instant message) he may be in violation of a law that he himself helped draft, which criminalizes immoral communication with a minor over the internet.

It doesn't get more Sophoclean than that! 

So what are we left with?  Here we have Foley--let's assume for the sake of argument, that the allegations are true.  He may or may not have broken a law.  Is he gay?  No.  Though Foley is unmarried, being gay is a political statement which Republicans are in large part incapable of--the miniscule exceptions to the rule are theLog Cabin Republicans who boldly defy their party's prejudice and continue to be a presence inside their "big tent" to the consternation of nearly everyone else.

If the allegations are true, Foley is what used to be called a pederast, a middle aged man with an attraction to teenaged boys.  This is quite different than an attraction to a prepubescent boy.  Although both may be pathological, one is certainly depraved and sick on its face (pedophilia).  The other (pederasty) has some room for debate--as is evident from congressional action on Adam Walsh's law earlier referred to.  The technical term is Hebephile, though that can mean an adult who is sexually attracted to or molests postpubescent adolescents of either gender.  Pederasty, by contrast is only a man/boy issue.

Oh, it is so wonderful to see Republicans stumble and fall.  This is the kind of hubris that occurs from unchecked power coupled with religiosity--whether it be a catholic priest, or a member of God's Own Party.