Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Some dank cave of the American Id"

The other day I suggested that fear was at the root of much of the reaction we see to President Obama. Today Charles Pierce puts my writing skills to shame in response to the news that this President has had three times the number of threats on his life as past presidents.
...there has been a wildness in the air around this president ever since it became clear first, that he was going to be the nominee, and then, that he was going to be the president. It was as though the glowing enthusiasm and the occasionally embarrassingly messianic fervor of his supporters back in 2007 and 2008 summoned up a dark energy on the other side, a Nemesis out of some undying part of the national soul, out of some dank cave of the American Id.
We all have tried to find ways to deal with that "dark energy." I don't you about you, but this one speaks as much to me today as it did six years ago.

Let's not kick out the darkness...Make the LIGHT Brighter!!!

Some good news about the midterms

Over the last few days we've been inundated with bad news about the midterms when it comes to polls. Yesterday Nate Silver wondered if it was time for the Democrats to panic. I say a resounding "NO!" to that one. Instead, Democrats need to do what Derek Willis documents that they're doing.
With a strong possibility that Democrats could lose control of the Senate in the midterm elections, they are investing heavily in voter turnout efforts.

In states too close to call like Alaska, Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina, Democrats are making much greater investments in the ground game than Republicans.
So while Republicans continue to spend their money on television ads and direct mail, Democrats are focusing on getting voters to the polls. The difference in expenditures on staff and voter contact operations is dramatic.
According to the Upshot’s tallies, Dem outside groups, parties and candidates are outspending their GOP counterparts in Alaska ($1.9 million to $224,800); Colorado ($4.4 million to $556,100); Iowa ($1.4 million to $105,000); Michigan ($1.4 million to $767,400); and North Carolina ($3.2 million to $835,000).
Greg Sargent points out the critical issue.
The crucial thing here to watch is whether Democrats have success in registering — or inducing early voting by — people who might otherwise not be inclined to vote. In a year when core Dem voter groups appear less inclined to vote than core GOP voters do, anything that can marginally shift the electorate in a Democratic direction could conceivably make a difference.
Basically, if the electorate in 2014 mirrors the electorate of 2010 (in other words, if the status quo is maintained), Democrats will likely lose. The only way to ensure that doesn't happen is if more women, young voters and people of color show up in November. And the way to do that is to invest heavily in the ground game.

President Obama demonstrated to the political world that an effective ground game can change the course of both presidential primaries and general elections. At least in the states discussed by Willis, we'll soon learn whether or not the same thing can be said for midterms.

You're not going to hear much hoopla about this in the media. But I'm extremely happy to learn that Democrats are doing EXACTLY what they need to do to.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bust a meme: President Obama's approval ratings

I can understand why Republicans want to spread a false meme that President Obama's approval numbers are tanking. Their whole goal in the midterms is to nationalize the election and ramp up the Obama derangement syndrome with their base.

But one has to wonder why some liberals are so intent on doing the same thing. Case in point: Elias Isquith at Salon. He sites polls taken recently in California and New York showing that the President's approval ratings have dropped in those blue states and then opines:
Put simply, my guess is that a growing number of liberals have decided that after nearly six years, and with no reason to believe a Democratic congress is on the horizon, Obama’s done nearly all he’ll ever do and the verdict is in. And although Obamacare seems to be a policy success, and Dodd-Frank is reportedly working better than many expected, many liberals have concluded that these balms are not enough to soothe the lingering pain of their unmet expectations.
Ahhh...the old "disappointed liberal" meme. Its interesting how that one tends to always come up right before an election. These folks are always sure that THIS TIME President Obama has finally crossed the rubicon and lost the support of his liberal "base." Isquith lays the blame this time on his decision to delay action on immigration and the fact that he's "acquiesced in the face of the U.S.war machine." Surely these polls are proof that the President has finally lost liberals.

But are they? I thought I'd take a look. The first thing I noticed is that both polls he referenced are state polls that also serve the function of polling local elections. As such, the results they report about the drop in presidential approval rating come at the same time that polling firms tend to switch from polling "registered voters" to "likely voters." Could this explain the results he's focusing on?

One way to check that is to take a look at Gallup's presidential approval polling. First, a disclaimer. A lot of people have pointed out problems with Gallup's polling and they make important critiques. But whenever a pollster consistently uses the same (however flawed) methodology while asking the same question, you can trust the trend lines, even if you don't trust the actual numbers.

With that said, President Obama's approval amongst liberal Democrats is currently at 85% and has hovered in the low 80's for over a year now. In other words, there has been NO drop as a result of his policies lately.

Overall, the President's approval rating has been remarkably steady except for surges upward at the time of his inauguration in 2009 and re-election in 2012. I'd propose that those are the only times during his tenure that the American people actually had an alternative to compare him to.

So whether its conservatives trying to twist the data to pretend like the country is turning against President Obama or liberals suggesting (once again) that he has lost "his base," they are both opinions in search of facts to back them up. Lets bust that meme, shall we?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Nancy confronts her naiveté

I've spent the morning reflecting on how naive I was 4-5 years ago. You see, back then when poutragers were busy railing about how President Obama dropped the public option from health care reform and his stimulus bill was too small and he had abandoned the effort to end DADT, I thought that the success of this President's pragmatic policies would lead them to take a second look at the assumptions they were making about him.

Now here we are years later and its clear that Obamacare is both reducing the number of people without health insurance while is slows the rise in costs. It turns out that the things President Obama fought for - like Medicaid expansion, the medical loss ratios and competition on the exchanges - have all been at least as important (if not more so) than the public option would have been.

Not only has Michael Grunwald educated us on the "hidden story of change" contained in the Recovery Act via his book The New New Deal, President Obama got a "second stimulus" in exchange for temporarily extending tax cuts for the wealthy. All told, he was successful in getting over $1 trillion to boost the economy.

On ending DADT...

Nuff said. 

My early expectations were never that these critics would agree with the President. I simply thought that these successes would entitle him to some respect that would be demonstrated by a willingness to give his ideas a second look before jumping into nefarious assumptions about him. Didn't happen.

I know...you're all going to lecture me about how its way past time to have given up on this hope. And it didn't just fall in one fail swoop recently. But when you see things like Michael Moore saying that President Obama's only legacy will be that he is the first African American president and Tavis Smiley says that on every measure blacks are worse off than when Obama was elected, I can't help but scratch my head and wonder what reality these folks are living in. Its certainly not the same one I inhabit.

Frankly, I see very little difference between those statements from Moore/Smiley and the tea partier's ongoing belief that Barack Obama is a Kenyan Muslim socialist. Neither one bears any resemblance to the facts. 

The recovering therapist in me wants to delve into trying to understand this phenomena. But I'm not sure that's a good use of my time. Suffice it to say that the human mind is an incredible and complex thing - with an amazing capacity to cling to distortion in order to avoid the dissonance of reality.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

How money corrodes our public discourse

The argument we're used to hearing is that the tremendous amount of money in politics these days corrodes our politicians. There is obviously a lot of truth to that.

But lately I've been seeing how it also corrodes our public discourse. That happens when an argument is made that people disagree with and the response is to assume that the person making it doesn't really believe what they're saying but has simply been influenced by money. It happens ALL THE TIME. I'd invite you to begin to notice how often.

While I've been aware of this for awhile, I was motivated to write about it when immigration activists actually pulled it on none other than Delores Huerta because she suggested that they avoid criticizing President Obama for delaying action on immigration until the end of this year.
On the whole, Obama’s Latino defenders all have a financial stake in his regime. They are all recipients of largesse either from the administration directly or through his party or allied private foundations. They belong to the corrupt patronage system and have gladly accepted their proverbial role as house peons who run to save the master’s burning house faster than the master himself. The most immoral observation about their behavior is the lack of transparency about their personal moneyed interests and positions as they implicitly defend massive deportations of historic dimension.
That literally makes me sick. I don't personally know Ms. Huerta. But I know of her legacy with the Latino community. And when/if you decide to go after her with garbage like that - you better have something more than rage to back it up!!!

The fact of the matter is, these activists and Ms. Huerta disagree about how to respond to President Obama's delay. But rather than discuss those differing arguments, these folks decided to simply trash her and claim she has personal moneyed interests that drive her opinion.

We see this happen all the time. The other place its popping up a lot lately is from the people who are mad at AG Eric Holder for not prosecuting Wall Street. Rather than researching reasons for his decisions, they simply claim that it was all about Wall Street money and patronage. All you need to know, these folks claim, is that he worked for big corporations at one time. There...that's proof. It reminds me of the kind of arguments the tea partiers make (i.e., he palled around with terrorists). As an alternative, they might actually address the reasons an expert in the field - Jed Lakoff - outlined. Of course that would take time and thought. You might also have to challenge some of your own assumptions about Holder. Its much easier to claim that he was simply bought off.

It could be that then-Mayor Cory Booker made his inept remarks about investment firms during the 2012 election cycle because he was bought off by them. Or it could be that he was very aware of the fact that thousands of working and middle class employees of his city depend on them for their pension and retirement funds.

It could be that Sen. Mary Landrieu has been bought off by the oil companies that operate in Louisiana. Or it could be that she is aware that thousands of her constituents depend on their work for those companies to put food on their table and a roof over their heads.

When we simply jump to the former argument in each of those cases, we fail to get to the issues that underly the latter. In other words, when we make one group of people (bankers, oil companies) the "enemy" that needs to be destroyed, we fail to see the interconnectedness that will lead to unintended consequences. And those most often fall on "the least of these" that we, as liberals, claim to care about.

The truth is that - whether we like it or not - money plays a powerful role in all of our lives and the decisions we make. I'll just take a moment here to recommend that you read one of the best books I've ever come across about that subject: The Soul of Money by  Lynne Twist. While we need to keep working to limit the influence of money in our politics, we shouldn't give it more power than it actually has. Because that robs us of the kind of conversations in which we need to engage.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The choice: fear or hope?

Imagine with me for a moment that the United States elects a new president seven years after 9/11 while we are engaged in 2 wars in the Middle East that the voters want to end. All this is happening while the mastermind of the worst terror attack on our country continues to plot against us.

Now, imagine that president ending those wars and approving a high-risk plan to take out the mastermind - and its successful.

Further, imagine that this president assembles a coalition of 40 countries to go after a new threat that arises from Middle Eastern terrorists.

And yet, 55% of the country disapproves of his handling of foreign policy while some actually buy into the idea that he's is a secret Muslim sympathizer (warning: wingnut link).

OK, so you don't have to imagine it at all. That's the true story of President Barack Obama.

What blows my mind is how - in an age when data and information are universally available in a way we've never known before - so many people buy into mythologies and propaganda that have zero grounding in facts. Why are they so quick to believe the lies and distortions?

This all goes WAY beyond a basic disagreement about policies. If that were all this was about we might be able to discuss how Presidents Bush and Obama agreed about how to end the Iraq War and that is one of the primary reasons Obama kept Gates on as his Secretary of Defense. But that kind of rational analysis is not possible in this environment, is it?

We see the same dynamic on the economy. Despite the fact that even Forbes Magazine says that Barack Obama is the best economic president of the modern era, 55% disapprove of his handling of the economy while some Republicans continue to insist he's a socialist out to destroy our country.

There are probably complex reasons for this dissonance. But I'd suggest that its mostly based on fear...fear of a changing world and a changing country that is currently being run by a black man (i.e., he's not really one of us).

And so, President Obama was right the other day when he said that we're at a crossroads between fear and hope. The challenges that face the globe will continue and the changing demographics of America will not be altered. Those are simply the facts we have to deal with. It is on each of us to decide whether we respond out of fear or join the President in saying...
For America, the choice is clear. We choose hope over fear. We see the future not as something out of our control, but as something we can shape for the better through concerted and collective effort. We reject fatalism or cynicism when it comes to human affairs; we choose to work for the world as it should be, as our children deserve it to be.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Eric Holder: A nation of cowards

In honor of Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement today, I'd like to invite you to listen to the speech he gave to staff at the Department of Justice during Black History Month 2009. No U.S. Attorney General has ever spoken more boldly or acted more aggressively on behalf of civil rights for all Americans.

Why there will be no American boots on the ground

In one of my favorite articles about Barack Obama before he became President, Ryan Lizza tells this story about his time as a community organizer in Chicago.
Not long after Obama arrived, he sat down for a cup of coffee in Hyde Park with a fellow organizer named Mike Kruglik. Obama's work focused on helping poor blacks on Chicago's South Side fight the city for things like job banks and asbestos removal...

On this particular evening, Kruglik was debriefing Obama about his work when a panhandler approached. Instead of ignoring the man, Obama confronted him. "Now, young man, is that really what you want be about?" Obama demanded. "I mean, come on, don't you want to be better than that? Let's get yourself together."

Kruglik remembers this episode as an example of why, in ten years of training organizers, Obama was the best student he ever had.
You might wonder what that story has to do with my title above. Lizza points out that Obama didn't ignore the panhandler. But an even more important point is that he didn't simply hand him some money. What Obama DID do was challenge the man to do better for himself. That's exactly the same thing he is saying to Iraq today.

President Obama made it clear that the United States would not join an offensive movement against ISIS unless and until Iraq had formed a government that would be inclusive of both Shia and Sunnis who need to work together in order for the country to stabilize. In other words, he didn't just jump in to rescue them,  he said: "come on, don't you want to be better than that? Let's get yourself together." 

Yesterday at the United Nations, the President made a similar point more broadly about sectarianism and extremism in the Middle East.
Ultimately, the task of rejecting sectarianism and extremism is a generational task – a task for the people of the Middle East themselves. No external power can bring about a transformation of hearts and minds.
When you see people assuming that President Obama is simply repeating what George Bush did in Iraq (like this absurd cover of The Economist) or when they suggest that he is not sending in ground groups due to political considerations, just remember that those folks are too lazy and/or ignorant to be able to grasp the strategy here. I suppose we could ask them the same question: "come on, don't you want to be better than that?" ;-)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly today, President Obama opened with this:
We come together at a crossroads between...

War and Peace
Disorder and Integration
Fear and Hope.
Then he issued this challenge:
Fellow delegates, we come together as United Nations with a choice to make...We can reaffirm our collective responsibility to confront global problems, or be swamped by more and more outbreaks of instability.
Jennifer Bendery noted that in this speech President Obama used the word "collectively" 4 times, "together" 12 times, and "cooperation" 4 times. In other words, he suggested that we are at the crossroads of choosing between the blade of dominance and the chalice of partnership.

There are ancient prophecies that suggest that this is indeed an era of powerful potential.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Start Close In

As I was writing the previous post about crafting the steps necessary to reach our vision, I was thinking about this poem.

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something

To find
another’s voice,
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

~David Whyte

Never mistake a paragraph with the entire story

Have you ever known someone who had a great vision for the future but was completely clueless about how to get there? I sure have. They tend to make grand promises but very rarely follow through with actual progress. Real leadership requires not only vision, but the skills to develop strategies that form steps towards the goal.

In the beginning, an awful lot of people were inspired by Barack Obama's vision for America. Since then, too many have become discouraged that he hasn't gotten us there yet. I would suggest that they missed this part of his victory speech on election night 2008.
The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.
First of all, he was clear that it was never "Yes He Can," it was always "Yes We Can." But secondly, there was that part about "block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand." He was talking about the step-by-step strategies that would be necessary to enact our vision.

President Obama explained his own process of breaking goals down into strategies when he addressed the young people at his town hall meeting on the My Brother's Keeper initiative.
And the truth is I still set goals every day. Every morning, I’ve got a checklist of here are the things that I need to get done. And it starts off with big goals -- so let’s just take My Brother’s Keeper. My goals is to make sure that every young person in America, if they’re putting in the effort, they can succeed, and they’ve got ladders of opportunity to take them where they want to go regardless of what their talents or interests are. So that’s a big goal. That’s a 40,000-foot goal.

But if I just stay there, I’m not going to get it done, right? So then I’ve got to break it down into, well, what are the component parts of that? Well, number one, I’ve got to make sure the school system works well. So then I’m going to talk to my Secretary of Education and I’m going to say, what are our goals this year in terms of improving whether it’s early childhood education, or making sure that young people can read at grade level by the time they’re in 3rd grade, or what have you.

But then it’s also there’s a criminal justice component to it, because I’m trying to figure out how do we get more young men into college and fewer of them into jail, which means that I’ve then got to talk to the Attorney General, Eric Holder, and I’ve got to say, what are our goals for trying to revamp how we think about the interaction between law enforcement and young men of color.

So I’ll break it down into those parts. But that’s still not at the best level, because now I’ve got to say, what’s our specific plan to do it and what am I going to be doing this week, what am I going to be doing this month, and what am I going to be doing this year to get that done. And so you keep on breaking it down from the very general down to the specific. And ideally, what I’m producing then is every day when I wake up I’ve got a checklist of here are the specific things I’m going to do today to achieve my goal.
I would suggest that much of the disappointment we're seeing today comes from those who have failed to make the connection between what is on President Obama's "to-do list" today with that grand vision. You've probably heard the old adage about the difficulty of turning the poetry of campaigning into the prose of governing. That's exactly the challenge I'm talking about. A single step viewed in isolation often bears very little resemblance to the vision at the end of the journey - but that's where it has to start.

Because President Obama's vision is about building rather than destroying, it is a slower and more deliberative process. He is also secure enough in himself to be able to incorporate a vision that will last beyond his own tenure in the White House.
“I think we are born into this world and inherit all the grudges and rivalries and hatreds and sins of the past,” he said. “But we also inherit the beauty and the joy and goodness of our forebears. And we’re on this planet a pretty short time, so that we cannot remake the world entirely during this little stretch that we have.” The long view again. “But I think our decisions matter,” he went on. “And I think America was very lucky that Abraham Lincoln was President when he was President. If he hadn’t been, the course of history would be very different. But I also think that, despite being the greatest President, in my mind, in our history, it took another hundred and fifty years before African-Americans had anything approaching formal equality, much less real equality. I think that doesn’t diminish Lincoln’s achievements, but it acknowledges that at the end of the day we’re part of a long-running story. We just try to get our paragraph right.”
We should never mistake a paragraph with the entire story.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Photo of the Day: Solidarity

The re-trial of Michael Dunn for the murder of Jordan Davis began today. In a powerful display of solidarity, Jordan's mother was joined by Oscar's uncle, Emmett's cousin and Trayvon's mom. 

This one is not the media's fault

Folks that read here regularly know that I'm not hesitant to criticize our media. But I won't be joining the chorus complaining about how they didn't cover the Climate March that took place in New York (and other cities) yesterday. The reason they didn't cover it is because it wasn't really "news." Sure, it looks like 300,000 people showed up. But then what? 

The mantra of a lot of activists is that "we need to take it to the streets." In our era, most often that is assumed to mean a march like the one that happened yesterday. As a pragmatist, I am inclined to ask some simple questions about how that works. I start with: what are the goals of the march? If it is to bring together like-minded people to energize them for a cause - then a march that attracts 300,000 is a success. But if the goal is to reach the skeptics and opponents of your cause, its a waste of time. And frankly, if the goal is to challenge the power structures that fights change, this is a MUCH more effective action.
...on Monday, a collection of institutional investors that manage $50 billion among themselves will announce that they will divest entirely from fossil fuels. Prominent among the group is the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, whose assets were accumulated by the Rockefeller family’s many decades of producing petroleum, first under the Standard Oil brand and later under Exxon. “John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, moved America out of whale oil and into petroleum,” explained Stephen Heintz, President of the Fund. “We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy.”

“One announcement alone isn’t going to tip the balance, but when one announcement is followed by another and then another, that gets CEOs to pay attention,” Tom Steyer, the billionaire climate activist who has funded numerous electoral campaigns on behalf of climate action, told The Nation. “CEOs pay a lot of attention to their shareholders, just like everyone pays attention to what their boss thinks. So actions like this send a powerful message.”
I remember thinking the same thing during Occupy Wall Street. Activists got SOOO angry when Wall Street executives watched them from a balcony while they drank their champagne. But that should have been a message...the occupiers were posing ZERO threat to the financiers. Meanwhile, one young woman organized a movement to get people to take their money out of big banks and put it in smaller ones and/or credit unions. THAT'S where the seeds of change were really happening.

In the end, even if the media is to blame for not covering the march yesterday, I fail to see the point of simply complaining about that. Its time to accept the fact that the media doesn't cover marches and - if the goal is to get their attention - be creative in coming up with actions that will.

Frankly, for years now I've been totally bored with the left's apparent love affair with the tactic of marches. I finally realized why that was when I read Al Giordano reporting on the consultations the resistance movement in Honduras received from members of Otpor! in Serbia. Giordano relates their answer to the question "How do you give your opponent a headache." Right away you know this is going to be good - because they're asking a fascinating question. Marches - even ones attended by 300,000 people - give no one a headache. Instead, Otpor! talked about creating a dilemma for the authorities.
During our struggle, every morning when we would get together we would ask ourselves the same question: how can we give the regime a headache today?

What matters now is who is going to make the next move.

If the regime makes the next move, you have to react.

If you make the first move, then they have to react.

The whole game is to calculate the next steps, to put the adversary in a position where he can’t react well...

What we wanted to have is something that is going to provoke a response and make the regime look stupid. This is what we called a “Dilemma Action.”
I'll let you click on the link if you want to read further about the dilemma action Otpor! came up with to challenge the authorities. Suffice it to say that it included a barrel and a picture of Milosevic.

If your goal is to attract more people to your cause rather than give the authorities a headache, Giordano came up with a great suggestion...flashmobs. Emma Goodman was right: "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution."

Add a coherent political message, banners, leaflets, a dance tune that resonates with the message, and such to a dancing musical flash mob like these and you have the seeds of a new, more effective, kind of protest than the tired old marching around in circles of the last century that has ceased to win any cause for anyone.
The truth is that the possibilities are endless. All it takes is a little creativity.

But if people on the left want to keep doing the same thing over and over again, then complain when the media doesn't find it interesting anymore,  I just have one question for you...

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Women's Tales

As I embarked on my 30's during the mid-1980's, my reading habits underwent a pretty dramatic change. I found that I could not read any more books by or about men. It was as if I'd spent my life up until that time starving for real stories about real women and had to do everything I could to feed that hunger. And so for the next few years, I indulged myself.

I'm currently undergoing something similar when it comes to television and movies. Even in the 21st century, have you noticed how much of our entertainment culture still centers on the common theme of a male hero with his female sidekick and/or love interest? Certainly there are exceptions, but the default lives on.

A few months ago I gave up subscribing to television and am now dependent on Netflix for home entertainment. In my search for interesting things to watch, I've run across some gems that break the mold. I thought I'd share a few of them with you.

At the top of my list would be the BBC series Prime Suspect staring the amazing Helen Mirren. The cops in this series tackle some difficult social issues - which makes it worth watching. But Mirren's character is strong, smart, and perhaps even more importantly - a flawed human. 

Speaking of flawed human beings - along comes Glenn Close in the series Damages. This one is so well-written and acted, you wind up rooting for Close's character - even though she is cast as "the evil one."

Set in post-WWII England, the BBC series Bletchley Circle finds four women who secretly worked as code-breakers during the war setting out to use their skills to track down a serial killer. 

The characters is the BBC series Call the Midwife are a bit softer than the ones I've mentioned up until now. But given the fact that they are tending to the needs of (mostly) women in the East End of London during the 1950's, the stories are pretty gritty and real.

I'm not normally into sci-fi, but I love the CBC series Continuum partly because the main character played by Rachel Nichols is a bad-ass cop from 2077 with very human emotions and limitations. But its also fascinating because the time travel back to 2012 provides all kinds of interesting morality questions about the choices we're making today.

At first, the storyline of Last Tango in Halifax is just sweet. Its about two 80 year-olds who were sweethearts as children and find each other again after their grandchildren get them signed up on Facebook. But the acting and plot gets much deeper as it also tells the story of their two adult daughters.

Sarah Lancashire (who is becoming one of my favorite actresses) plays a cop in the BBC series Happy Valley. She's also a 50-something divorcee who is raising her grandson after her daughter committed suicide. 

The Assets tells the story of Soviet spy Aldrich Ames from the point of view of the two female CIA officers who were primarily responsible for tracking down the mole in their midst. 

All of the above are series that are available for streaming on Netflix. I could do a whole other list of movies and series that you can watch on DVD. But for now I'll suffice it to say that - on the latter - I've watched one season of Borgen so far and it is fantastic. And I'll just mention one AMAZING movie you can stream.

Cloudburst is the story of two 80 year-old lesbians. Olympia Dukakis' performance as a totally butched-out dyke will blow your mind! You'll laugh and you'll cry as she fights to save her partner from confinement to a nursing home. Oh, and the scenery in Maine and Nova Scotia is spectacular.

That's some of the best in women's tales that I've been watching. I'm always looking for more, so please tell me whatchu got :-)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The journey to integrity

If you haven't already read Charles Blow's excerpt from his book Fire Shut Up in My Bones in the New York Times today, please do so immediately.

The particulars of Blow's life are unique. But the journey he describes is universal.
My world had told me that there was nothing worse than not being all of one way, that any other way was the same as being dead, but my world had lied. I was very much alive. There was no hierarchy of humanity. There was no one way to be, or even two, but many. And no one could strip me of my value and dignity, because no one had bestowed them. These things came into the world with me.

I had done what the world had signaled I must: hidden the thorn in my flesh, held “the demon” at bay, kept the covenant, borne the weight of my crooked cross. But concealment makes the soul a swamp. Confession is how you drain it.

Daring to step into oneself is the bravest, strangest, most natural, most terrifying thing a person can do, because when you cease to wrap yourself in artifice you are naked, and when you are naked you are vulnerable.

But vulnerability is the leading edge of truth. Being willing to sacrifice a false life is the only way to live a true one.
I was immediately reminded of a poem by David Whyte titled: Revelation Must Be Terrible.

It is the people who have had the courage to take that journey that I respect and trust. Because it is the only path to integrity.