Posts Tagged ‘primaries’

Pine Cones, Politics and Power

Friday, January 19th, 2024
The pine cone revolution. RJ Photography

The pine cone revolution in Pine Bush.
RJ Photography

By Bob Gaydos

    Ivan Pavlov, who knew a bit about how to figure things out, had this bit of advice which can apply equally to journalists as well as scientists: “Don’t become a mere recorder of facts, but try to penetrate the mystery of their origin.”

     In a week of mysteries (to me, at least), the big mystery around my neck of upstate New York right now is why  there are so many pine cones on the ground. Even allowing for recent rainy weather, it’s been a mystery since the phenomenon started appearing on our property in the fall. Hundreds of cones were strewn about, still are, and social media chatter confirms that lots of neighbors have remarked on the same phenomenon, alternately complaining and wondering what to do with them.

      Responding as Pavlov would have me do, I tried to find answers, which proved to be not that simple. For me, the easiest answer to the pine cone glut appears to be evolution, which is both common sense and remarkable. The theory is that every two or three years (called “mast years”), pine trees produce far more than their normal number of cones, which contain seeds, in order to throw off the seed-gathering routine of their natural predators, such as squirrels, insects and birds, thus assuring the likelihood of enough seeds surviving and turning into future pine trees.

    Survival of the species. Something that is still taught in our schools. I think this is pretty darn clever of the pines, if you don’t mind crunching on the cones while you walk your dog, which I don’t. Mind, that is.

     What I do mind very much is a mystery which I have been struggling to understand for more than eight years. That is how an amoral, self-obsessed con man with no understanding of or regard for the Constitution has captured the minds and votes and loyalty of so many Americans.

    That phenomenon played out again in Iowa this week as Donald Trump swept the Republican caucuses for the party’s presidential nomination without even participating in any debates. Instead, he gave speeches about ordering mass deportations on his first day in office, if re-elected, talked about getting revenge on his enemies, and insisted he was immune from prosecution for the 91 felonies with which he is charged, many of which stem from his continued lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

     The mystery to me in Iowa (though not exclusively there) is that more than 90 percent of Republicans who said they voted for Trump also said they believed Joe Biden was not their legally elected president. This, after all the evidence produced to the contrary over nearly four years.

      Following Pavlov’s suggestion, I think the origin of this magical, self-deluding thinking might be found in the failure of schools and religious institutions in Iowa (and elsewhere) to actually fulfill their purported missions. Certainly, there has been little obvious evolutionary progress in many states in the development of tolerance and respect for others or for the value of actually learning something in school. Anyway, that’s my operating theory.

      The operating theory behind that theory is that it’s all about wealth and power. Control what people are taught and you can control the people and how they think and vote and there are wealthy, influential people behind the scenes doing just that within today’s Republican Party.

     The other mystery of the week took place in Denmark, where Queen Margrethe, the longest reigning monarch in Europe, which is big on monarchies, abdicated her throne to her son, Crown Prince Fredrick.

     My puzzlement is not so much over the 83-year-old queen turning over the keys to the kingdom to her son after 52 years of ruling, but rather why there is still a royal family being treated royally in Denmark. 

     While the queen’s role is purely ceremonial, with no connection whatever to the government, many Danes apparently like the history, fairy tales and traditions associated with their country, home of fairytale master Hans Christian Andersen. A kind of once-upon-a-time power.

     Margrethe was also very popular for her earthiness and rapport with other, non-royal, Danes. Some said they felt she explained to the world what Danes were all about.

      For this contribution to the Danish reputation, the royal family received 88.9 million Danish crowns, or a bit more than $13 million, in tax funds in 2022, a pittance, compared to what British royalty receives, but still, we’re talking millions.

       There’s no word yet on what the new king and his wife, soon to be queen consort, will receive as an allowance from grateful Danes. But this tradition of paying a “ruler” a handsome sum just because might explain why a certain greedy American politician might be doing all he can to take this crown-fighting democratic republic back to the days of rule by royal edict. Devolution from the revolution. The Danes’ fairy tale story would be an American horror story.

     At least the pine cones make sense.


Women and the GOP

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

By Emily Theroux

Tuesday turned out to be another “scarlet-letter” day for American women fighting their way through the humiliating cultural thicket of the GOP “war on women.”

In Arizona, the state’s august Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-2 to endorse a bill that would enable employers to require proof from women who work for them that any contraceptives covered by company health insurance policies are not being prescribed for them to prevent pregnancy. “Law Will Allow Employers to Fire Women for Using Whore Pills,” the Gawker website proclaimed. This dubious act was proposed by Republican Senator Debbie Lesko, who insisted that her bill would enable us to keep our freedoms, because “we live in America; we don’t live in the Soviet Union.” The catch — and there’s always a catch — is that the “freedoms” she extolled are the religious freedoms of authoritarian men to oversee women’s reproductive health choices. (You can always tell, by the use of the word “freedom” in its plural form, exactly whose freedom is being preserved; the “s,” in the estimation of the Republican presidential candidates and their legislative cohorts, probably stands for “subservient.”)

In Missouri, Mitt Romney, who came up short in the two presidential primaries he hoped to win by pandering to Southern voters about “cheesy (sic) grits,” blurted out to a reporter, when asked how he would reduce the national debt, “Planned Parenthood, we’re going to get rid of that.” It’s going to be really entertaining to watch how the gaffe-prone Romney wiggles out of that admission. If he says he only meant getting rid of government funding for Planned Parenthood, wily “socialist” Rick Santorum is lying in wait to trip him up (and it’s true – Santorum really did use that terrible epithet, thereby violating Ronald Reagan’s cherished Eleventh Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican”). Rick will claim that Mitt doesn’t loathe Planned Parenthood enough to wipe out the entire institution and every last one of its affiliates with Predator drones. If Romney lets his foolish proclamation stand, then women all over the country will rise up, just as they did during Komen-gate, and smite him at the ballot box.

In New York, where Newsweek/Daily Beast editor Tina Brown hosted her third “Women in the World” summit this past weekend, Hillary Clinton told the crowd that “extremists” are out to control women, “even here at home” in the United States. That caused agita Tuesday night at Fox News, where Megyn Kelly clashed with former Hillary adviser Jehmu Greene over the secretary’s remarks. Greene ticked off the rest of Kelly’s conservative panel by citing Rick Perry’s “vicious, vicious attacks on women’s health” (e.g., the Texas bill requiring that women seeking abortions first undergo mandatory ultrasounds) as evidence that a “war on women” really is being waged right here at home.

In additional “fair and balanced” news, Peter Doocy carped, in a story predictably titled “The Fairer Half,” about President Obama’s 2012 battle plan to woo women voters, a majority of whom helped elect him in 2008, back from the clutches of the valiant Republicans who spirited so many of them away during the strident Tea Party jousts of 2010. “Women are the ultimate swing voter,” Doocy quoted Republican political analyst Tony Sayegh. “They’re less ideologically rigid and they make very pragmatic decisions when it comes to who to vote for.”

Doocy added that Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant predicted before Tuesday’s primary that because women liked Romney so much, he would emerge the victor in the Southern primaries! “Fifty percent of the people voting in this primary will be women,” Bryant told Fox News. “Governor Romney has a great favorability rating with women, and I think a southern female professional woman is going to say: ‘That’s who I want to vote for.’ ”

So much for pre-game prognostication. A very different result on Tuesday night astonished Romney cheerleaders and cable news pundits alike. At 30 Rock, during the surprising aftermath of that day’s Republican primaries in dear old Dixie, poor Karen Finney found herself in a progressive pickle. After Santorum, the champion of the hour, figuratively told Mitt Romney to “kiss his grits” by winning both Deep South primaries, the ugly truth came out. Some 49 percent of the working women who voted in Alabama gave their electoral blessings not to Romney but to Santorum, who has been roundly excoriated by Democratic pundits like Finney, as well as much of the public, for his anti-feminist views and policy proposals. (Romney won only 20 percent of the votes cast by women who are employed full-time in Alabama, while Newt Gingrich won 23 percent.)

Finney’s reaction? She “shared her pain” on the air – something a woman is never supposed to do in public, as Hillary Clinton discovered just before the New Hampshire primary in 2008. During an exit poll analysis broadcast Tuesday night on MSNBC after both Southern primaries had been called for Rick Santorum, Finney declared, “This woman vote really hurts me!” – a sentiment for which she was pilloried the following morning all over the right-wing blogosphere.

A recent New York Times story indicates that the tide against right-wing misogyny may already be turning among women in America’s heartland. The reporter interviewed moderate Republican and centrist women in various regions of the country about whether they were still planning to vote for a Republican in the 2012 general election, as they did in prior years.

“ ‘We all agreed that this seemed like a throwback to 40 years ago’ said [Mary] Russell, 57, a retired teacher from Iowa City who describes herself as an evangelical Christian and ‘old school’ Republican of the moderate ‘ mold,” wrote Susan Saulny.” ‘If they’re going to decide on women’s reproductive issues, I’m not going to vote for any of them. Women’s reproduction is our own business.’ ”

There’s at least one problem with this hopeful outlook: As Saulny points out, not many of the women who turn out for Republican primaries call themselves “moderate” or “centrist.” In “flyover country,” do “wingnuts” truly rule the roost? I’m not sure, but you can count on this “lefty” to ruffle feathers about it until the day primary season is over.

Emily Theroux, a Middletown resident and former magazine editor at The Times Herald-Record, writes occasional political commentary on social media sites.