Friday, December 28, 2007

Death of a Shero

(Photo Credit: Ahmad Masood/Reuters; the coffin bearing Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, 12/27/07)

Tragically, my friends, the Benazir Bhutto death watch, begun in Roxie's World when the former prime minister returned to her country in October despite threats to her life, ended Thursday with Bhutto's assassination in Pakistan. We mourn the loss of this brave woman and deplore the misguided policies of the United States that contributed so much to the instability in Pakistan. (For our previous commentary on Bhutto, click here, here, and here.)

NYT obit is here. Times slideshow of highlights of her life is here. Coverage of the assassination is here. And here is Bhutto in her own words, blogging this fall on Huff Po about her risky decision to return to Pakistan. Here is some of what she had to say then:
I long ago realized that my personal life was to be subjugated to my political responsibilities. When my democratically elected father, Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was arrested in 1977 and subsequently murdered, the mantle of leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party, our nation's largest, nationwide grassroots political structure, was suddenly thrust upon me. It was not the life I planned, but it is the life I have. My husband and children accept and understand that my political responsibilities to the people of Pakistan come first, as painful as that personally is to all of us. I would like to be planning my son's move to his first year at college later this month, but instead I am planning my return to Pakistan and my party's parliamentary election campaign.

I didn't choose this life. It chose me.

Words fail us. Pray for peace, beloveds. And work like hell to make it happen.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Stocking Stuffers

Goose wanted my legions of loyal fans, all of whom have been such good little boys, girls, and genderqueers this year, to have this holiday treat from the real king of (rock 'n roll) kings, Mr. Bruce Springsteen:

Moose wanted you all to see this editorial from the latest Nation, which opts to endorse not a presidential candidate but the idea "of a broadly based small-d democratic movement, as only such a movement can create the space necessary to realize this moment's full potential." The editorial offers a fairly even-handed assessment of the three leading Democratic candidates and acknowledges that Obama has been less innovative in his policy proposals and more centrist in his positions than progressives mights have hoped. Roxie's World is certainly on board with the idea of using the occasion of the election to build broad public support for transforming the country and moving in a more progressive direction.

The Department of Shameless Self-Promotion encourages you all to click over to BuzzFeed to see who's leading the list of best links on the subject of Oprah campaigning for Obama. You guessed it, kids -- It's your very own favorite dog blogger in the provocatively titled "Once You Go Black." Remember to click on the link to my post from BuzzFeed to help keep us in first place!

Last but not least, the obsessive close readers in the Department of Eye Candy insisted that we toss up this extraordinary photo (from NYT) of Bill and (we presume) Hill out on the campaign trail:

(Photo Credit: Brendan Smialowski, Getty Images)

Ole Blue Eyes has just about mastered that adoring spousal gaze that is so essential to the role of First Lady, don't you think? If I didn't know better, I'd swear the guy was a puppy dog with those big beautiful eyes!

Happy Solstice, sweet children of the sun. On this day, Roxie's World remembers Moose's dad Frig, who loved the winter solstice because it meant that summer was on its way. He taught Moose that even on the coldest, darkest day of the year, you could close your eyes and feel the warmth of summer reaching toward you. Close your eyes, beloveds, and let yourself feel it now.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Who Loves You?

We love you here in Roxie's World, and so, one week before Christmas, we have a little holiday treat for you that we sniffed out over at our new blog crush, Joe. My. God. Here's the most honest Republican campaign ad you will never see:

I dare my Auntie Faye to send this to her mom for Christmas! ;-)

Peace out, beloveds. Moose is on a grading binge.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"The Times Demand Results"

Des Moines Register endorses Clinton in Iowa caucuses! (Boston Globe endorses Obama. So what? Wa Po weighs the significance of the endorsements.)

(Photo Credit: Jim Cole, Associated Press; Senator Hillary Clinton campaigning in Manchester, NH)

Acknowledging the strength of the Democratic field and the enormous potential of chief rival Senator Barack Obama, the editorial board of the Des Moines Register today endorsed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in terms that should thrill her campaign and may persuade a few hearty voters to lace up their ice skates and turn out for her on caucus night. Here is some of what the influential paper had to say:
The choice, then, comes down to preparedness: Who is best prepared to confront the enormous challenges the nation faces — from ending the Iraq war to shoring up America’s middle class to confronting global climate change?

The job requires a president who not only understands the changes needed to move the country forward but also possesses the discipline and skill to navigate the reality of the resistant Washington power structure to get things done.

That candidate is New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

From working for children’s rights as a young lawyer, to meeting with leaders around the world as first lady, to emerging as an effective legislator in her service as a senator, every stage of her life has prepared her for the presidency.
The endorsement goes on to map out the professional and life experiences that have prepared her for the presidency and to praise Clinton for her toughness and her ability to learn from her mistakes. "Tested by rough politics and personal trials, she’s demonstrated strength, resolve and resilience," it admiringly notes. The endorsement acknowledges that some voters have found Clinton less inspiring than Obama and admits that he more than she inspired the board's imaginations. "But it was Clinton," the editorial concludes, "who inspired our confidence. Each time we met, she impressed us with her knowledge and her competence."
The times demand results. We believe as president she’ll do what she’s always done in her life: Throw herself into the job and work hard. We believe Hillary Rodham Clinton can do great things for our country.
The board's framing of its choice between a leader who inspires the imagination and a leader who inspires confidence reminds me in some ways of the choice my moms faced a few years back when they were picking an architect to re-design our house. After careful research and several months of dithering, they had narrowed the field down to two talented yet totally different guys. The first guy was a fancy fellow whose name you might recognize who came to their first meeting with his latest coffee-table book and seemed ready to start tearing down walls before he had even said hello. "If you want to make an omelet, you gotta break some eggs," he declared to a quizzical Moose. He took phone calls in the middle of the meeting but enchanted the moms with fantastic visions of the postmodern wonder he could make out of our humble little red brick cape cod. The other guy, by contrast, rode up to our house on his bicycle, came in, and sat quietly at the dining room table while the moms struggled to put their dreams for the house into words. He listened intently, asked numerous questions, and nodded thoughtfully as Moose stumbled from one architectural tag cloud to another: "Um, you know, arts and crafts, um, Frank Lloyd Wright, um, Sarah Susanka. Eclectic, really. We're pretty eclectic."

As they wrestled with the final decision, the moms went to a party and Moose found herself explaining their dilemma this way: "Coffee-table book guy, well, he's like poetry, you know, and bicycle guy is like prose. Coffee-table book guy sweeps you off your feet, makes you feel all tingly and nuts, but bicycle guy is the one you end up marrying. For something like this, though, shouldn't we go with poetry rather than prose?" A wise friend with a knack for cutting to the chase looked Moose right in the eye and said simply, "Prose doesn't have to be boring." Moose looked back at her in amazement and suddenly recalled that she had devoted much of her career to the study of prose she found to be anything but boring. Indeed, she uses words like "luminous," "soaring," "gorgeous," and "delicious" to describe the prose she likes best. She reads it aloud to her students and goes weak in the knees at a particularly fine turn of phrase or a metaphor that surprises and delights.

Long story short, the moms hired bicycle guy and worked with him for a year and a half in a satisfying creative and professional partnership that resulted in their vague dreams being beautifully realized. They wake up every morning in a house that shelters their bodies and feeds their souls. One of the best decisions they ever made was to go with the low-key guy who inspired confidence, listened closely, and worked tirelessly with and for them to achieve the desired results.

As it is in the building of houses, so may it be in the leading of a nation. Who is best equipped not only to make us dream but to do the hard work of making dreams real? Is it the guy whose every word is a poem or the prosy woman who has never walked away from a fight -- for kids, for health care, for her marriage, for accountability in government? In 18 days, voters will finally start weighing in on that decision. Roxie's World gives a PAWS UP to the Des Moines Register for effectively framing the choice and for coming down on what we see as the best side. Fasten your seat belts, though, kids. Democracy's a-comin'!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Once You Go Black

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jim Cole; Senator Barack Obama and wife Michelle campaigning with talk-show host Oprah Winfrey in Manchester, NH, 12/9/07)

(Post Title Credit: Robert Reid-Pharr)

How did you survive Oprahpalooza? Moose got through the avalanche of pretty pictures and the orgy of second-coming press coverage by toying with a theory about how the Oprah card might play in election '08. Before I divulge the theory, though, I will remind you that Roxie's World has officially endorsed Hillary Clinton, but we bear no ill will toward the handsome junior senator from Illinois. We just think the next president of the United States ought to have a little more than a learner's permit before being handed the keys to the car of state. Oh, and we think Obama is far more centrist than his swooning progressive fans seem to think he is. Don't believe an old dog with a leaky heart and a Hillary widget on her blog? Check out Paul Krugman's recent critiques of Obama's health-care plan (here and here) and his naive position on Social Security (here). If your holiday shopping is finished and your grades have been posted, run on over to see Digby's thoughtful response to the Obama campaign's overheated response to Krugman's fairly mild criticisms. (That's here.) We heart Digby a little bit more every day, by the way. We think she's doing some incredibly thoughtful stuff on the presidential campaign.

Anyway: Moose's theory. Playing the Oprah card is a high-risk strategy for both Oprah and Obama. For her, it risks alienating broad swaths of fans who have accepted her enormous cultural authority and influence because they perceived it as largely nonpolitical. Oprah got them to read challenging books -- Toni Morrison's Paradise, for heaven's sake! -- but she has never challenged her viewers to do much more than feel good about themselves. By taking a partisan position and actively campaigning for a candidate, she makes herself vulnerable to discovering that influence is not the same as power and that her audiences care less about what she thinks than about how she makes them feel -- about themselves, not about the world. The truth is Roxie's World gives Oprah props for taking those risks, though we got over her billionaire-girlfriend-next-door shtick way in the last millennium.

The risks for Obama in playing the Oprah card are arguably even greater and harder to predict. He could win big if her influence actually affects voters' behavior, which celebrity influence usually does not. The strategy could backfire, though, if voters come to feel that the substance of Obama's campaign -- which is already on the thin side in this blog's opinion -- is being overwhelmed by Hollywood style and spectacle. Whites are comfortable with African Americans as entertainers and athletes, but it remains to be seen whether they would vote for an African-American candidate who is short on policy experience and long on showmanship.

Even harder to gauge is how voters will respond to what can only be described as Oprah's blackening effect on Obama, an effect that is partly visual and partly rhetorical. Obama has always presented himself not so much as a race man but as a multiracial man, as someone who, because of his mixed heritage, is uniquely qualified to close the nation's racial divide. He has faced skepticism in the African-American community for not looking or acting "black enough," while whites have seen him as black enough to make them feel good about their open-mindedness but not black enough to make them feel threatened. (I realize we are trafficking in crude generalizations here, but we are trying to make a point. Direct all complaints to Moose, though -- It's her theory.) Those gorgeous tableaux of the Obamas on stage with Oprah, though, are striking in part because they make the candidate seem "blacker" by placing him in a racial context that is, for viewers of the presidential campaign, unusual. We are accustomed to seeing Obama on stage with the other Democratic candidates, where he looks comfortable, handsome, and just about white. Standing next to Michelle and Oprah, he looks comfortable, handsome, and a whole lot blacker than you thought (or imagined) he was. At the same time, in her speeches at the rallies, Oprah further "blackened" Obama by promoting him as a civil-rights politician (which he has never been) by invoking Martin Luther King and speaking in a churchy cadence clearly aimed at black voters. Watch and listen (though you'll probably want to skip the weird message at the end from a group called Christ for Barack Obama. Or maybe not.):

The risks here are multiple. Some voters will see this positioning as disingenuous and at odds with the centrist, beyond-race politics they thought Obama represented. They'll see it as pandering to black voters and therefore the basest kind of "politics as usual." Others will be threatened by it, suddenly finding Obama's politics a little too black or radical for their comfort. Roxie's World doesn't endorse any of these readings (well, okay, maybe we'll stand by the disingenuous part). We're just saying that playing the Oprah card is as risky for Obama as playing the gender card or the Bill card is supposed to be for Hillary. We might want the campaign to be a vigorous debate of issues, policies, and positions, but we can't deny that subtle subjective perceptions are going to matter even more than usual in an election that offers voters the first credible non-white, non-male candidates battling for the highest office in the land. In politics as in poker, you play the cards you're dealt, but you gotta remember that once they're on the table you can't pick them back up.

For a no-holds-barred critique of the Oprah-Obama alliance from an African-American perspective, see this hard-hitting piece by Bruce Dixon in Black Agenda Report.

For a thoughtful discussion of idealism and pragmatism and how those terms apply to Clinton and Obama, see this piece by Sean Wilentz on Huff Po. It's nice to see that bastion of Hillary hatred putting up something positive about the poor girl. We're as idealistic as you can get here in Roxie's World, kids, but we have a healthy respect for pragmatism, too. When push comes to shove, we like actually getting things done.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Randomly Scented

(Photo Credit: My Aunt Isa)

On the grayest December Sunday in the history of low-hanging clouds, Roxie's World is so quiet you can hear the trains on the tracks a mile or so from our house. The moms are mellow from a weekend of holiday fun that isn't over yet -- Moose still has a fundraiser to attend tonight before the Non-Lady Terps' ACC opener against Boston College. (Goose is staying home to catch up on work before the last week of the semester hits.) We took a vote and decided we're way too sleepy to wrap our minds around the weighty subject of Congressional briefings on waterboarding or the astonishing news that Oprah has voted for as many Republicans as Democrats. Instead, we'll pass along some links to stories you might have overlooked in the course of your own holiday revels. Pause for a moment in the midst of the madness for some pointing, clicking, reflecting, and possibly some head-banging over the state of the silly world.

Wa Po launches a series of stories on the leading presidential candidates with a long piece on Hillary Clinton (by sports writer Sally Jenkins) called "Growing Up Rodham." It focuses on the influence of her formidable conservative father, Hugh Rodham, and the softening counterbalance supplied by her mother, Dorothy. The Clintonistas interviewed for the story seem to have decided to use it as the occasion for proving that Clinton is genetically wired for the middle of the road. Her lifelong friend Betsy Ebeling says Clinton is "triangulated" in her very fabric, a condition she vaguely attributes to "that Midwestern thing, cheesy or all-encompassing as that sounds." Jenkins also cites a story Clinton's mother told biographer Gail Sheehy about having taught her daughter how to read a carpenter's level:
"Imagine having this carpenter's level inside you," she said. "You try to keep that bubble in the center. Sometimes it will go way up there," she tilted the level. "And then you have to bring it back."
The resident Midwesterner in our house said she felt a little burning in the back of her throat when she read these treacly paeans to post-war heartland values. She, too, was raised by small-C Midwestern conservatives. She emerged from the experience with a firm conviction that the middle of the road is where animals get killed, though she also escaped with a mighty fine recipe for cheesed olives. She is willing to share that recipe with the Clinton campaign in an effort to lure the hungry housewives of Iowa out on caucus night.

Speaking of women looming large in the public eye, Wa Po ran a piece earlier this week on one of the major deities here in Roxie's World, Maryland women's basketball coach Brenda Frese, who, as we have previously noted, is pregnant with twins and coaching a team that has a serious shot at winning Frese's second national championship. It's a great story, though the b-ball fans here in the home office are nervous as heck about how the coach, her mostly new staff, and her incredibly devoted team will handle the multiple stresses as the season and Frese's pregnancy advance.

Here's a funny (as in interesting) story on blogging in Japan you probably overlooked in the course of your busy week. According to Technorati, Japanese-language blog postings slightly outnumber English-language blog postings, though English speakers outnumber Japanese speakers 5-1. The story also explores the significant differences of style and tone between Japanese and American blogs. No snarkiness, please, we're Japanese:

Blogging in Japan, though, is a far tamer beast than in the United States and the rest of the English-speaking world. Japan's conformist culture has embraced a technology that Americans often use for abrasive self-promotion and refashioned it as a soothingly nonconfrontational medium for getting along.

Bloggers here shy away from politics and barbed language. They rarely trumpet their expertise. While Americans blog to stand out, the Japanese do it to fit in, blogging about small stuff: cats and flowers, bicycles and breakfast, gadgets and TV stars. Compared with Americans, they write at less length, they write anonymously, and they write a whole lot more often.

Finally, an occasional reader from New Jersey put us on the scent of this NYT story about Dogster, the social networking site for dogs. (It's here.) No, your favorite dog blogger does not have a page on Dogster, yet, though some of my canine blogging pals do. We'll look into that when the grades are in and the stockings have been hung by the chimney with care.

Oh, and a parting shot and one last lick for Ripley, a feisty little Cairn terrier who commented here occasionally. Ripley's human companions are the fabulous DC BasketCases. They pass along the sad news that Ripley "crossed over the Rainbow Bridge" earlier this week. Our condolences to Eileen and Judith. And safe travels to Ripley, wherever the bridge takes you.

Peace out, kids. Go find something you love and snuggle it. Trust me, you'll feel better.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Braver One?

(Photo Credit: Charley Gallay/Getty Images; Jodie Foster at the Women in Entertainment Breakfast, 12/4/07)

Hot News from the Tinsel Town office of Roxie's World (with a big PAWS UP to qta for calling this to our attention): Has actress Jodie Foster decided it's time to open up the door of her crystal closet? Has the two-time Academy Award winner been lurking in Roxie's World and taken to heart our open letter urging her to stop being so darn coy about her sexuality? Could be, kids, it just could be!

The Scoop: Foster accepted the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award on Tuesday at the 16th annual Women in Entertainment Breakfast. (I bet the men get dinners, don't you? With, like, hot hors d'oeuvres and cocktails and everything? Did the women even get valet parking?) (Greg Hernandez's LA Daily News report on the event is here. Many photos of the event are here. Film clip here.) Foster gave a sweet if hard to believe acceptance speech in which she professed to be clueless and weak:
I don't feel very powerful. I feel fragile . . . unsure, struggling to figure it all out, trying to get there even though I'm not sure where there is . . . I've been working in this business for 42 years and there's no way you can do that and not be as nutty as a fruitcake.
"Oh, yeah," Moose muttered from the couch when she read that. "I'm full of self-doubt, too, sweetheart, and I don't rake in $10-12 million per project. Let me tell you about feeling fragile." "Moose," I said, "that isn't the point." "Oh, right. But, Rox, according to After Ellen, she also said she felt like 'something of an impostor.' Don't you just hate that kind of public self-deprecation from powerful women?" "Please, Moose, if we edited all the self-deprecation out of your daily speech, the transcripts would be blank." "I think you're the one who's off-point now, Rox."

On the other hand, Foster also described herself as a "professional" and a "gentleman," a curious bit of gender-bending that Roxie's World's Special Task Force on Butch-Femme Secret Codes and Signals is struggling to decipher at this very moment. Most importantly, though, near the end of her remarks, Foster finally paid public tribute to Cydney Bernard, the woman widely reported to be her life partner. (Foster's two children are named Kit Bernard Foster and Charles Bernard Foster.) Prominent among those Foster thanked in her speech was
my beautiful Cydney who sticks with me through all the rotten and the bliss.
"I like that," Moose said. "Me, too," I replied. "Why do you like it?" "Well," she said, "you know -- that's what sharing daily life with someone is all about: a certain amount of rotten and a certain amount of bliss. You slug through it or soar through it day by day until the days turn into years and the years slowly add up, and if you're lucky or stubborn or foolish enough, someday you'll find yourself standing up in public and feel moved to thank your beautiful Cydney or Goose or Tammy or whomever just for hanging in there with you through every single bit of it." "And is that as good as coming out?" "Silly dog," Moose said, with a scratch behind my ears, "that is coming out, and you know it."

Welcome to daylight, Ms. Foster. We're glad to have you with us.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Sex Pervs for Hillary!

That post title ought to boost us up in the search engines, dontcha think, kids? Of course, it might also jeopardize our status as Unofficial Dog Blogger to the Hillary Clinton Campaign, but what the heck. Here in Roxie's World, we're fighting off the post-turkey, pre-Santa doldrums. Moose wanders the halls muttering about how fat she is. Goose keeps threatening to declare e-mail bankruptcy and delete her in-box. I wake up periodically to eat or get my hair done, but mostly I curl my creaky old bones into a ball and nap, figuring I'll just sleep through the whole cycle of Obama is surging / Hillary is stumbling news stories.

That cycle may have been broken by the bizarre hostage-taking incident that occurred yesterday at Senator Clinton's campaign office in Rochester, NH. The astonishing fact that something actually happened in the course of a presidential campaign woke the press from its holiday nap and gave the Clinton campaign a chance to show the candidate doing a full Rudy by shifting into crisis management and response mode. The golden girl took full advantage of the opportunity, as this MSNBC video shows:

Clinton: 'Relieved' no one got hurt
Clinton: 'Relieved' no one got hurt

David Paul Kuhn in The Politico gives Clinton and her team a thumbs-up for their handling of the incident. As events were unfolding, the moms and I briefly imagined that Clinton would don a flak jacket and, with a gun-toting Jodie Foster at her side, storm the building and free the hostages herself, but having her look calmly presidential while expressing maternal concern for the young campaign workers was probably a better, though vastly less entertaining, way to respond to the situation. (Note to the political division of Roxie's World: Please add Jodie Foster to Clinton Fantasy Cabinet. She'll be the director of Homeland Security, which will have to be given some fancy, possibly French, name that sounds a good deal less creepy than "Homeland Security.")

Back to my provocative post title: Another bit of good news for the Clinton campaign came yesterday in the release of a Hunter College poll showing the senator has the support of 63% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual voters likely to vote in Democratic primaries. Pretty boys Barack Obama and John Edwards earned the support of just 22% and 7%, respectively, of those polled, which either means a disproportionate number of lesbians responded or -- and our money's on this explanation -- that gay men are trending in the same direction as the Candy Man and QTA, Roxie's World's co-chairs of the Pretty Boys for Hillary Caucus. The poll shows that 72% of LGB (no T's in the survey, alas) voters consider Senator Clinton a supporter of gay rights, "with Senator Obama at 52 percent and former Senator Edwards at 41 percent. On the Republican side, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was at 37 percent, followed by Senator John McCain at 13 percent."
These findings suggest opportunities. Clinton benefits from a high turnout in this very Democratic bloc; her opponents would benefit from making their stated support for gay rights more visible to LGB voters,” said Murray Edelman, a distinguished scholar at Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute and one of the study’s investigators.
Memo to the Clinton campaign: Don't waste one minute worrying about Oprah's decision to campaign for Obama. You've already got yourself a gay general. The photo at the top of this post suggests you're on friendly terms with Elton John. I can loan you a queer English prof or three for the duration of the campaign. I'm thinking that with a couple more appearances on Ellen, an Indigo Girls concert or two, and perhaps some timely references to relationship equality and Project Runway, you will sew up the gay vote and with it the nomination. Here's a tip, Hill: Queers may be the new Christians. The Hudson poll suggests that gay voters are more interested in politics and more likely to have contacted a government official in the last 12 months than the general population. After seven years of an administration willing to traffic in homophobia in order to swing elections, gay voters will be strongly motivated to vote for a change in direction. Present yourself, proudly and without apology, as the change gay voters want to see, and we will carry you right to the White House, where, I promise, you'll be met by a team of burly dykes ready to unpack your boxes and a team of pretty guys ready to pull off the grandest makeover this country has ever seen.

Let's go, girl!