Tuesday, September 30, 2008

America Deserves an Explanation

Congress got a wake-up call yesterday. Actually it was more like a big flying F.U. Colossal failure of the bailout package yesterday sent Wall Street sinking and the political machine began to take Tums. How did this happen? It's what I've been saying all along. No one has bothered to explain to the American public anything about this economic "crisis". If you expect Americans to support spending $700 billion to bailout Wall Street and--let's face it--the real American elite have been pulling down six- and seven-figure salaries for decades for little or no leadership or risk, you'd better be damned ready to 'splain yerself, Lucy.

“The risk we run now is we will have a much deeper and more protracted recession than what we had before,” said Mark Gertler, an economics professor at New York University.

He faults politicians and government officials for not doing enough to help Americans understand why the crisis on Wall Street could start to hit home on Main Street. He also thinks no one bothered to spend enough time explaining to Americans how the proposal would work, leading many Americans to see it as simply a handout for Wall Street fat cats.

The proposed $700 billion bailout plan failed to pass the House of Representatives on Monday amid political squabbling and fears that a vote for the plan would impact what lever ordinary voters pull come Election Day.

“This is really a failure, at a massive level, of the political system,” Gertler said.

Politicians have been treating the American public like a bunch of little kids. Fear of runs on banks, massive sell-offs of stocks and the like does not give our elected leaders the right to keep us in the dark and demand we walk in lock-step with an administration we no longer trust. Why should we give billions to already rich people who seem to have no concern for the people they are now raping for tax dollars? Those little guys let their representatives know that they would show their disapproval of a "yes vote" with their votes in the fall. Game over.

If this issue really is bigger than individual elections, Congress needs to grow some cajones and communicate with the American public. I'm pissed off about this. I'm a citizen, too. And I've been TRYING to learn about why this bailout is necessary. I don't think even the media understands. Somehow GWB, Harry Paulson and Paul Krugman get it and I'm supposed to just, you know, believe them. It is a massive breakdown of the political process. As Krugman notes, "We've become a banana republic with nukes." Oh, and we should thank John McCain. Because, you know, he was so instrumental in bringing everyone to the table and getting them on board.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Television that Changed My Life

Someone challenged me to come up with my top ten all time favorite television shows. Impossible. Well, maybe not impossible, but given that I haven't watched television regularly for the past 8 years, it's difficult for me to do so in any meaningful way. I've probably missed a lot of great shows.

But for now, I'll just tell you about shows that I feel had a significant impact on my childhood. I was a tv junkie. Here goes.

The first one you already know about. The Flip Wilson Show. Flip Wilson was the funniest man I ever saw. He had great characters like Geraldine. Geraldine had a boyfriend, Killer, and no matter what she did, the devil made her do it. There was my absolute favorite character, Reverend Leroy of the Church of What's Happening Now. But the Flip Wilson show was a variety show and he had a large number of fantastic black artists. Don't underestimate it. It was an important part of integration in America. Flip was....Flip. He was black and never tried to be anything else. He was outrageous and out there. He was Laugh In, only better.

Speaking of which, number two is Rowan and Martin's Laugh In. Oh, I remember Goldie Hawn and Ruth Buzzie, and Jo Ann Worley and Arte Johnson, and...yes....the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate awarded every week by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin. But my favorite was always Lily Tomlin's Edith Ann. Who, as I recall, liked to sit on the bathtub drain as the water emptied because it felt good. Say goodnight, Dick. Goodnight, Dick.

Variety shows were pretty important in my life. Enter the Carol Burnett Show. It wasn't for years that I appreciated the ensemble that was the CBS. Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, and Vicki Lawrence (and later Lyle Waggoner). I always liked it when she took questions from the audience and the woman had the best Tarzan yell of anyone. No question about it. *ear tug*

Now when Colombo started, it was part of a weird group of dramas called the Mystery Movie that included McMillan and Wife, McCloud, and Hec Ramsey, Banacek, and some others. I didn't much care for McCloud, although it was popular, but I really liked the others. But, by far and away, Colombo was my favorite.

This list would not be complete without the king of the private dicks: Jim Rockford. The Rockford Files starred the perpetually broke Jim Rockford, who was handsome, cool, and aloof, but somehow my dad liked him. Besides, one episode had Issac Hayes on and he kept calling Jim "Rockfish". It had classic and likeable characters in the dad, Rocky, his former cell mate from San Quentin, Angel, and a parade of leggy brunettes and redheads that apparently were turned on by his messy single-wide or maybe it was that rockin' Pontiac Firebird. One of the all-time great theme songs.

Apparently, I was taken by shows about private eyes. Joe Mannix was one of my favorites. Of course, I thought he had a secret thing going with his secretary Peggy, but she seemed to always be above reproach. These guys were the coolest. They fostered in me a desire to become a detective. I actually think I would make a good detective. All except for that working with criminals part.

Ok, and now I'm going to show my hand. There was an important show (to me) called Daktari.

Set in east Africa, this was my first show about science. And megafauna. From here on out, I wanted to be a vet. Or a cop. Or maybe a vet-cop with a cross-eyed lion named Clarence.

From a very young age, I was addicted to late-night television. I used to watch Johnny Carson every night in the summer and after that a show with Tom Snyder. I think that show was called Tomorrow. But Johnny was a huge hero. I loved when he had on any of those old type Vegas types like Dean Martin or Joey Bishop or Buddy Hackett. But best, best, best of all were George Gobel, or Jonathan Winters or Bob Newhart.

Speaking of whom, my list would be incomplete without the Bob Newhart Show. Howard, Jerry, Marcia, Emily and Bob. This was the Seinfeld show before Seinfeld even began to think he was funny. I guess I'm a sucker for dry humor. Nothing much ever happened on the Newhart show. But his clients were entertaining and the show always pleased.

Finally, I'll end this list with a weird one.

Disney's Wonderful World of Color, aka Wonderful World of Disney. This had everything from cartoons to Disney Movies presented in series to nature shows that invariably followed some critter getting into the ranger's cabin and wreaking havoc. I loved this show. Disney was the Discovery Channel, The Cartoon Network, and Animal Planet of the pre-cable era. It had it all and Uncle Walt, too.

Well, thanks for taking this walk down memory lane with me. The 60s and early 70s were my childhood. Sometimes it's good to remember being a kid again. There is only one more show that I would include in this list, but it came later. That would be MASH. Maybe I'll do a television walkthrough of my adolesence and include that.

When Good Dogs Go Bad

So I had this coupon and decided to go to Penneys after work. They were shorthanded at the store and it took me longer than I expected to get out. By the time I got on the road, the rain and thunder and lightning was upon us. Unfortunately, I had left a window cracked. This is what Jake does when you leave a window cracked.

Oh, and before you think I don't know what cracked means. Think two fingers. Jake is a resourceful fella.

As I drove up the driveway and saw the window, I knew what to expect. Jake was long gone. But it was getting dark. I whistled and whistled and whistled but Jake didn't come. He usually comes. He's usually close. He's usually hiding under the wheelchair ramps or something. But it was really pouring. I doubt he could have heard me even if he was close. I got in the car and drove down what I thought was every road in Dowell. I shouted out the window for Jake.


I drove up and down I-51 looking for a hurt dog on the side of the road.

Thankfully, nothing.

Finally, a phone call came in. Jake was in Dowell in someone's garage. This is what I found when I got there. He was coated in a film of mud. His fur was speckled with grass seed. He was soaking wet. He was exhausted. I had to call him several times. He seemed not to recognize me. Finally he realized we were going home. He hopped in the car and laid right down. He got in the house and ran in the pantry and began to clean himself.

Tomorrow, I'll worry about the bath. For tonight I don't have the heart to stress him out anymore. Damn Midwestern thunderstorms.

Glad to have you home, buddy.

Seducing the Swing(er) States

Man, this is delicious.

All Barry needs is a bottle of Couvoisier. Johnny needs some hair. And Gary (sigh).

I love it that Barry and Johnny are flipping him off at the end. LOL

Sunday, September 28, 2008

SNL just keeps getting better

My Childhood Idol

This is for Liv. She had no idea who Flip Wilson was. I'll tell you who he was. He was my childhood idol and the Flip Wilson Show was my favorite one of my favorite shows. (I almost forgot about that period that I wanted to BE Carol Burnette.) Although my favorite character of Flip's was Reverend Leroy of the Church of What's Happening Now (can't seem to find any video of that), I certainly was fond of the sassy Geraldine. Enjoy.

Interesting thing about this clip, too. Boxing was a lot bigger when I was a kid. It probably had everything to do with Muhammad Ali's float-like-a-butterfly-sting-like-a-bee persona, but boxing dominated back then.

Flip died in 1998 of liver disease. What a loss. But what a funny, funny man. And for those that think television and success change people, keep in mind that Flip Wilson quit television so he could be a better parent to his 4 children.


Whoa. You don't see this on television every day

Jack Cafferty is a bit upset about Sarah Palin. The volley with Wolf Blitzer at the end is the best.

Cafferty's lead in: There is a reason that the McCain campaign away from the press. I want to play an excerpt that Palin did with CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric where she was asked about the bailout package.

He then plays the now infamous Couric bailout question.

His response?

“Did you get that? If John McCain wins, this woman will be one 72-year-old’s heartbeat away from being President of the United States. If that doesn’t scare the hell out of you, it should. Here’s the question: is Governor Sarah Palin qualified to be President? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.“

(To Wolf Blitzer) “I’m 65 and have been covering politics, as you have, for a long time. That is one of the most pathetic pieces of tape I have ever seen for someone aspiring to one of the highest offices in this country. That’s all I have to say.”
Blitzer: “Yeah, but she’s cramming a lot of information….”

Cafferty: “That’s…there’s no excuse for that. She’s supposed to know a little bit of this. You know. Don’t make excuses for her. That’s pathetic.”
Blitzer: “It was not her best answer. I…I agree with you.”

Also here:
Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria eviscerates Sarah Palin's selection as McCain's vp.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Everything I know about banking, I learned from this guy

Don't recognize him? That's Mr. Banks (David Tomlinson) from Disney's Mary Poppins.

George Banks was the model of discipline, restraint and temperance. He wouldn't even let his kids spend two cents to buy some seed for the birds. Bastard! But bankers are supposed to be bow-tie sporting, wing-tip wearing, ultra-conservative dicks. Not some coke-snorting, risk-taking seat-of-the-pants-flying, over-paid cash whores on a bender in a college town. And that is why this economic "crisis" leaves me with a very large 1980s hangover.

I can't believe that anyone, bankers and investment professionals included, can't understand that if you build your house on a bed of sand (and suck all the cash out of an enterprise), one day the whole house collapses.

In any event, I found this interesting article in the Business section of the Times today that at least can explain to me HOW we got here, if not why we got here. At least I feel like I can educate myself on these topics. Better late than never.

Presidential Debate, Part I: The economic crisis

Ok, I decided to give myself a 10-hour breather before diving into my review of Presidential Debate I: Foreign Policy.

The Preview. Glad Mc-too-busy-saving-the-world-to-appear-on-David-Letterman was able to make it. McCain's theatrics leading up to the debate itself were high drama. Unfortunately, trying to position yourself as Savior of Everything came off as more than a bit flaky, impulsive, and an exhibition of poor judgment rather than "maverick" or "agent of change". Four snaps for Obama's comment that presidents have to multi-task. Clear winner: Obama.

The Hallmark Moment. Obama lopes across the stage like he's f'ing Cary Grant and extends his hand in genuine friendship or at least geuine sportsmanship. By God, if he spoke with a British accent, I'd be throwing my thong up on the stage. McCain looks like he's being forced to kiss fat Aunt Helen who smells like rose water and antiseptic. Ok, I get that his arms are restricted, but is that why he can't look Obama in the face? He reminds me of Napoleon. McCain has never looked older. Obama has never looked more like the Young Turk. Clear winner of the shake off: Obama.

Opening Volley: the economic crisis.
"Gentlemen, at this very moment tonight, where do you stand on the financial recovery plan?"
Clearly, neither man understands the question. A good starting point would be to summarize the financial recovery plan. D'uh! Either they haven't read the plan or they don't want to be pinned down. Obama: oversight, collateral for taxpayers, no golden parachutes, help for homeowners. D-disappointment meter: off the charts.

MCCAIN PLAYS THE KENNEDY CARD! Yellow flag on the field! 5 yard penalty and down over.

McCain: When he began by saying "we're not talking about failure of institutions on Wall Street. We're talking about failures on Main Street" and then paused, I thought "Holy Mackeral, is he actually going to blame this on us? You know, the same good people we grow so good in our small towns? I feared this debate was over in the first four minutes. But he turned it around by talking about bi-partisanship (which caused my bullshit meter to top out after his partisanship leading up to this debate). Ok, I don't remember Dwight Eisenhower or the Normandy Invasion and I have no f'ing idea what the story about the two letters was supposed to represent. Does he think that GWB should resign? The entire Repub party in Congress? *head scratch* He had nothing else of substance to say except that this is the end of the beginning and the beginning of the end for the American economy. What a tool.

Review: I expected someone to offer a clear, concise reasoning about why the American taxpayer should shoulder this burden versus, oh I don't know, the people who got us into this mess. Obama gets brownie points for getting McCain to use his dichotomy of Wall Street and Main Street. Clear winner of the economic crisis: The Republican Party and GWB who are getting off scott-free for creating then ignoring the problem over 8 years while their donors got richer. The O-lion missed a great opportunity to pick off the oldest in the herd here. Why not a little tasteful jab at McCain's shenanigans over the past week? Mewonders if Obama has the killer's instinct.

Round 2:
"...are there fundamental differences between your approach and Senator Obama's approach to what you would do as president to lead this country out of the financial crisis?"
McSnowjob: the economic crisis is the result of Republican excesses, earmarks, bear DNA.
"As president of the United States, I want to assure you, I've got a pen. This one's kind of old. I've got a pen, and I'm going to veto every single spending bill that comes across my desk. I will make them famous. You will know their names."
Back away! Quickly! He has a pen! And if the ink hasn't dried up, he's going to veto every single spending bill that comes across his desk. Yes, government will grind to a halt. The man is so old/unprepared/confused/pissed off, he has managed to f-up his best talking point.

Obama: Why oh why, my lovely, did you not nail his ass to the wall for this answer? Oh that I could have whispered in his ear at this moment. Sometimes, my darling, you need to speak forcefully. You needed to get angry here, not rebut with complete calmness. This is not a problem of Congressional spending! This problem is a Republican fiasco caused by deregulation and Republican-sponsored raping of the American worker. I wanted to see your little bony hand pound on the lectern. A little lesson in economic theory delivered in a silver bullet to the heart would have finished that little man off. Barack, Barack, Barack. If you keep this up, I'm sliding my thong back on and crossing my legs. Clear winner: McCain for surviving to play another round.

Oooh, oooh, oooh. McCain brings up and lies about Obama's tax plan. I felt that Obama should have said things like "John, that's just plain wrong. Here is my plan...." He did a mediocre job of setting the story straight. Clear winner: Obama by default. McCain concedes that his tax plan is Bush's tax plan, a proven failure. And that he's not Miss Congeniality. Seriously. Does this dude have a beauty-queen fetish? It's kind of scary.

Round 3:
"As president, as a result of whatever financial rescue plan comes about and the billion, $700 billion, whatever it is it's going to cost, what are you going to have to give up, in terms of the priorities that you would bring as president of the United States, as a result of having to pay for the financial rescue plan?"
Obama: reasoned answer. Don't know what the budget will look like, can't predict revenues. We have to concentrate on health care, energy independence, education, and infrastructure. I love a man with good talking points. Contrast this with:

MCcain: I'd remove ethanol subsidies? Huh? You are going to pay for the bailout with ethanol subsidies? And why ethanol? No explanation. Do you want gas prices to go up for the American public? As for defense spending, I have no idea what a cost-plus contract is. Demerit points for using vernacular. I'm not sure who at Boeing or the DoD that he "fixed" or "killed" or sent to jail but he completely lost me here. Here's what I heard: "I'm a daft old man who thought my partisan tactics would work and I thought I really wasn't going to have to debate tonight so now I'm just rambling incoherently."

And then he did it. He shook me out of my apathy with two words: SPENDING FREEZE.

Spending freeze? For everything except defense, veterans affairs, and entitlement programs? No infrastructure? No more paid holidays for federal workers? No more tours at the Washington monument? No more money for NSF, NEH, NEA? No more Department of Energy? You are going to shut down 90% of government? This man is daft! Clear winner: Obama. Why is McCain still breathing. God man, do I have to slay him myself?

This is about the point when D walked away from the TV in frustration and fixed dinner.

Fade in: Is McCain really talking about taking care of our veterans? After voting against veterans issues for years? Why is Obama letting him slide? Aaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrghhhhhhhhh. I must also admit that I got an ewwwwwwwww moment thinking of the Bush Administration engaging in an "orgy of spending". Trying to erase that mental image of Cheney wearing a gay motorcycle getup smacking George Bush's ass with a riding crop.

And on that note, I'm taking a mental break. More later.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Is there a Bad Aura in that House?

This is the house next door. It's got an interesting history just since I've been here.

When I first moved in a widower lived there alone. He had no children, only a niece and nephew-in-law in Michigan. He needed heart-surgery and his only family came and took him back to their home. The house stood empty for two years except for 2 weeks a year. Once in early summer and once in early fall when they all returned to spend a week fishing. What a commitment they made to the old man to bring him back to his home to do something he loved.

There was only one problem. The nephew-in-law cleaned the fish they caught every afternoon in the backyard and never cleaned up the fish carcasses. They stayed for a week, the carcasses piled up, and then they returned to Michigan. The fish stink didn't really get good until about 3 weeks after they left when the first of the summer's hot weather began. The stink was so overwhelming that I couldn't use my yard for most of the summer. The first time it happened, I thought there was a dead raccoon under the old man's bass boat. I actually went to talk to the folks at the village hall about it. The process was repeated in the fall, and the only bright spot in this scenario was that cold weather generally put the kibosh on the stink, so that I generally got a nearly 6-month reprieve.

When the for sale sign went up in the yard, I was pleased. Whoever was supposed to be taking care of the house and the yard wasn't doing such a hot job.

Oh, had I known then that the devil known was better than the devil unknown.

The house sold and my new neighbor, a young single woman moved in and promptly got a dog. She built a kennel in which she stuck said dog every day. Whoever poured the concrete for the kennel failed to level it properly such that it held a large puddle for days after any sort of rain. The dog was forced up onto the dog house to keep his feet dry. Or maybe it was to avoid stepping in his own waste, which she never cleaned once in 3 weeks. It got so bad, I guess even she realized that she couldn't put the dog in there like that anymore. The kennel remained unused and uncleaned for a full year.

And I thought the fish stunk.

But this year, she has added a new twist. She hasn't mowed her back yard since July. The other day, I was admiring the prairie she had going and decided to measure it's growth. Back in I went for a ruler.

Oooh, was gonna need a larger stick.

Average height of the grass inflorescences: 26.5". That's about thigh high on me. And to give you an idea of the dichotomy of our yards, I offer this overview:

Oh, and the wheelbarrow? She finally cleaned out the kennel after a year...into the wheelbarrow, which has been sitting there since about May. She did not fix the problem with the pitch on the concrete so it is still retaining water.

So here's my question. Is it the house? Is it just rotten luck in neighbors? I dread when I put my house on the market and have to complain to the city about this. NO one is going to want to move in next door to that stink-ass yard. And Liv thought she had let her yard go. She's got nothing on this chick.

Jon Stewart has some competition

Where the hell did the biting commentary of Craig Ferguson come from? I love this guy. First of all, the name Craig Ferguson just screams for a Scottish accent. Go ahead. Do the accent while you say his name out loud. I'll wait.


See? Told ya.

I think I have a new TV show to watch in addition to the Daily Show. God, I love America.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I think I've lost my hillbilly cred

I grew up in eastern Kentucky. The foothills of the Appalachians. Honestly, if there is a hillbilly, by all rights, I'm it. Oh, I wasn't part of that destitute poverty that politicians like to point to when they don't want to export prophylactics to AIDS-ravaged countries in Africa but I did go to school with kids who didn't have indoor plumbing and by God, that's hill people for ya. I used "ain't" like a badge of honor. My idea of a summer vacation was a week at the grandparents' in West Virginia. My godparent was a McCoy. Of the Hatfields and McCoys. I have the accent that will never, ever, ever, ever go away. I am about as urban as Ellie Mae Clampett. Appalachia has left it's permanent imprint on me. It's like a limp. You learn to live with it. It adds character.

But I didn't realize how far removed I have become ideologically from "my people". Despite spending every waking moment in high school dreaming of getting the heck out, I never thought that I would one day be an outsider in my hometown. But it has happened...I have lost my hillbilly cred.

I know those people though. I know their pride and prejudices and the fallacies they buy into. I know how the high school boys read just enough about the civil war to pick up the "state's rights" argument and convince themselves that those rebel flag licence plates on the front of their Cameros don't really represent institutionalized racism. I know the ones for whom a label of gay accusation of "homo" is an invitation to an ass beating. I know how fathers sweat it when no boys seem to be sniffing around their daughters by the age of 15. I know people who use nigger among family and black people in polite company, but they always put too much emphasis on the word "them". Them people ain't like us. I know when the phrase "You ain't from around here, are ya?" is more than a gentle poke at an outsider and a downright indictment of alternative opinions. Back home, they don't much go for those newfangled ideas of gay marriage or interracial dating and equality of races, and they are more than slightly opposed to abortion and you need'nt make exceptions for rape and incest because those sorts of things just don't happen around here. That world is a small, safe, familiar place. You meet your best friend in first grade. People don't move away, they just die and a new generation moves in. You grew up down the street from the sherrif or maybe your cousin-in-law is a state cop and you have no worries in the world for the rest of your born days.

Well, I moved away and my world got bigger. It got a lot bigger.

In high school, my best friend was Rachael. Rachael will live out her days in our home town. She "admires" me for getting out and doing the things she only dreamed about. When I see her again, it's like not a day has passed that we were apart. I always thought it would be the same with my hometown, but it's not. I'm an interloper and it hasn't been comfortable in years.

I don't like to go home. It's not the poverty and depressed economy. It's the people. It's the racism and sexism and the unbearable stifling intolerance. I don't know when it happened, but I started looking on them as less. Folks in the mall shopping at Christmastime. Less. Folks in the restaurant. Less. I know they wouldn't approve of me and the things I do. The things I like. The choices I make. The only reason I can walk among them invisibly is because I lay low back there. I don't take my business home.

At the same time, I can't just accept the racism and sexism and intolerance and keep my mouth shut. I'd rather not go home at all.

Now when I think of home, I think Chicago. It's that skyline my heart yearns to see. I'm not sure if I'm an orphan from Appalachia, but I know where I feel most comfortable. Sweet home Chicago.

McChicken Little: The Sky is Falling, The Sky is Falling

Ok, only a quick note this morning because I have to teach and I can't find the slides the kids are supposed to use.

John McCain has suggested that both presidential candidates suspend their campaigns and cancel the debate this Friday to concentrate on passing a bailout for the beleaguered financial markets (i.e., Wall Street). He is actually saying he's not going to show up for the debate unless some bailout is passed by Friday.


If you are very, very quiet, I think you can hear John McCain blink. How do you feel about a candidate that wants the world to stop so he can concentrate? On a crisis (supposedly) that no one has *IMO* given a strong and compelling reason the American public should shoulder. Weigh in with your opinion here.

I guess we should stop the world for McCain, because, you know, a president might not have to deal with the pressures of two wars, suicide bombings in Israel and Pakistan, the escalation of a new Cold War, your daughter's illegitimate pregnancy and underage drinking problems, and an economic crisis of epic proportions at the same time.

Ok, IMO, John McCain has already suspended his campaign by his own failure to have his ticket communicate with the American public to the legitimate news media. But let's give the old man some slack. The youthful running mate isn't much help in the economic department either. An interview between Sarah Palin and Katie Couric emerged last night. She doesn't think America is interested in Obama's approach to this crisis? Is she daft? And the McCain ticket doesn't want to help homeowners who are caught between the cross-hairs because they made bad decisions and doing so might help predatory lenders. She can't even offer even one specific example of McCain's pushing for more regulation on anything without "getting back to ya". Spoiler warning: it's painful to watch. She just keeps repeating the ticket's idiotic lies and rambles incoherently.

Another video emerged of this witch-hunting African preacher praying for Sarah Palin to win the governor's house. Hat tip to Mudflats, where you can find breaking and facinating updates on the Troopergate investigation.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Campbell Brown is my Hero of the Day

I have embedded a new video on the sidebar featuring D-fav Campbell Brown's latest rant.

Enjoy her completely accurate rationale.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

All Poltics Is Personal

I have a brother in prison. You probably wouldn't believe it if you met him before. He is charming, gregarious... a great storyteller. He was popular in school. He was successful at work. He is a family man. He made a mistake. One very big, life-altering mistake. My brother drove drunk and killed someone. When I explain to people how I came to have a brother in prison, no one feels sorry for him. Even I find it difficult to feel sorry for him. He rightly has to pay for his poor judgment.

My brother has in him both the best that we look for in ourselves and the worst. He worked hard his whole life, and I do mean hard. He was ambitious. He did everything he was supposed to do, right up until the day he went to prison. He worked the last week before he went in to provide as best he could for his family. A family that hates him now, I might add. A family that thinks he did this to them. On purpose. They think they are the victims. I find them quite laughable, actually. There is only one person in a casket. The rest of us are pretty damn lucky if you ask me. But I digress. He pled guilty. He accepted his sentence and is doing every day of it.

But this isn't a story about my brother. Not really. This is a story about all of us.

I am not ashamed of my brother. I tell his story often as a lesson and a warning to others. Because few of us are without sin. If we are honest with ourselves, I think most of us should be reminding ourselves: there but for the grace of God, go I. Who hasn't stretched the limits of sobriety and driven? Who hasn't engaged in risky sexual behavior and breathed a sigh of relief to learn you weren't: 1) pregnant or 2) going to die from some awful STD? Who hasn't done something, sometime, that could have resulted in disaster? and most of the time, we get off scott-free. There's that big Whew! moment when you realize that fate was denied. But there is a difference between my brother and most people. My brother did this behavior over and over again.

I hope my telling of my brother's story teaches others the same lesson it taught me. The law of averages works. If you engage in risky behavior often enough for long enough, something bad is going to happen.

Which brings me to our current economic woes. Whaaaaa, you say? Well, as I see it, members of the financial community engaged in very risky behavior for a very long time and they did so not to feed an addiction (such as alcoholism) or for sexual pleasure, but rather for the love of money. And they got away with it once. Then twice. And then their confidence turned to cockiness. Just like my brother, they gambled with other people's safety for their own selfishness. And they did it long enough and often enough, until the bad times came home to roost.

Most people who gamble short eventually meet up with a fella named Fingers or The Nose, or Crazy Vinny. Men who remind gamblers that there is no free ride. I guess because these short-sellers are Wall Street elite, we are supposed to feel sorry for them and call off the dogs? Instead of paying for their own sins, we are going to pay for them.

What makes these people so different than my brother? By what rights do they walk away without consequence? By whose authority do we not only forgive their bad behavior, but also reward them with more money for f***ing the rest of us to hell?

George W. Bush's authority, that's who. He's got brass ones, I'll give him that. The same man who brought us non-existent WMDs as an excuse for an open-ended, unprovoked, illegitimate and ultimately immoral war in Iraq. The same man who has failed in 8 years to bring the money behind the 9/11 attacks to justice. The man with a C average in history at Yale.

Earlier, I made allusion to the fact that Wall Street elite seem to be acting like the robber barons of days of old. I don't think this is an exageration. Concentrating decision-making in the hands of a few (or in this case, one!) individuals is a risk that I am not just uncomfortable with, but that I think is a threat to the republic. There can be no good to come of this.

Now I don't claim to be an economist. I don't understand the larger ramifications of a bailout or lack of a bailout, but I am a pretty astute judge of human behavior every once in a while. It makes no sense to punish some and reward others for what is ultimately the same behavior. I don't think you trust the coyote to run the hen house. There are good people left in America. Trustworthy people. People who have proven their worth. Can we really afford to put our fate in the hands of a man and his cronies who knowingly lied to us about so many things? Oh no. Hell to the no.

It is absurd. We can't afford absurdities in a crisis. I will believe in this bailout when George W. Bush steps back from it. When he doesn't have a single ounce of influence in it.

There can be no blank check. Not ever. Not with this man.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Home Sweet Home

I officially have been in my house 5 years now. Only 10 more years and it's mine, all mine I tell ya.

*rubs hands together devilishly*

But I've made some big changes. I guess I should have added "a good house project" to that list of things that make me happy. And now, for a blast from the past.

Fall 2005, I began the landscaping (right). Oh what a difference two years make (left is 2007).

The mint green in the kitchen made me feel like I was in an ice cream shop. So I added a splash of yellow rain coat.

More mint green in the living/dining area. Not that I'm opposed to green, just that I think a darker shade is better.

The bathroom was a disaster. 1960s wallboard: white with gold stars. The medicine cabinet was an eye sore. So I took things in my own hands.

Half way through this project, I began to regret it. There were surprise holes in the walls under that wallboard. The plaster walls were completely unfinished. The plaster beneath the window had rotted, I assume by years of water leakage. And atop it all, eight (!!!) layers of wallpaper. I kid you not. Peeling off that wallpaper was like taking a blast through the past. The simple geometric paper. The swans on blue water wallpaper. The tropical fish on black background wallpaper. And the bright yellow daisys on a striped yellow and green background. In fact, it was a stroll down tacky lane.

But I got a little help....

Two years later, voila!

Next project? Front porch.

Ridiculously Stupid Things that Make Me Happy

  1. radiator heat
  2. chocolate brownies
  3. Jake and Nevada (both of whom are ridiculously stupid)
  4. drinking a beer, sitting on my porch swing after I've finished cutting the grass
  5. flipping through the new Ikea catalog
  6. socks
  7. organizing things around my house
  8. talking to Guv when I'm bored
  9. making someone smile when you know they don't feel like it
  10. sitting in the dark at the movies with a great big tub of popcorn
  11. Nevada's snoring
  12. The way Jake gets all excited when I bark and growl at him
  13. Sleeping in late, then reading the NYT in bed on Sundays
  14. The first really nice day in Spring
  15. Orange soda on the hottest day in summer
  16. not having to go to the laundromat anymore
  17. when someone does something nice for me for no particular reason
  18. losing myself in writing
  19. my garage door opener
  20. trying out a new recipe

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Troopergate Firing Tied to Anti-Sexual Violence Trip

So Sarah Palin is saying that she fired Walt Monegan for taking an unauthorized trip to Washington, D.C. to seek funding for an anti-sexual violence program. According to ABC News, the program, expected to cost $50-100 million dollars over five years, would have been the first of its kind in Alaska, which leads the nation in forced rapes.

She fired the guy for seeking funding for a program to help end forcable rape in the state with the worst rates for that crime in the nation?

I consider the lack of support for Mr. Monegan's trip to be nearly as criminal as her unjust firing of him. However, she may well have shot herself in the foot on this one, because apparently her chief of staff approved the trip. Last I heard, perjury is a felony.

Open Thread on Bailouts of the Securities Industry

The current financial crisis in the US is likely to be judged in retrospect as the most wrenching since the end of the second world war. It will end eventually when home prices stabilise and with them the value of equity in homes supporting troubled mortgage securities.
Allan Greenspan in The New York Times

All this recent huggabaloo about the bailouts of Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Lehmann Bros, and now a broader bailout that assumes that the industry is about to collapse.

I have to admit, I believe that the economic problems are a national crisis, and I am not above spreading the damage around. We all benefit if the economy turns around. However, I am concerned about the enormity of it. I worry about the long-term implications. And I'm not the only one. more than a bit miffed about things like CEO salaries, especially when they do things like run companies in the ground and leave in disgrace (well as much as one can with a disgustingly large golden parachute package). I am pissed that those with the funds to invest in companies are reaping ALL the benefits on the backs of the workers who are receiving declining benefits and real wages. This is a lop-sided arrangement that has been perpetuated since the gilded age following the Industrial Revolution and has only been slightly modified (through civil unrest) to be slightly more favorable to American workers.

But I suspect that this bailout is far more reaching. And once again, it is disproportionately going to be shouldered by the American working class. It's a classic case of privatizing profits and socializing risk.

I am a biologist. I know embarrassingly little about economics.

I did hear an interesting idea wherein the banking industry is required to pay into an "insurance policy" against failure. I wonder what people with some understanding of economics think about some of these kinds of ideas. And so, I am opening up the discussion to you. Here is your chance to educate me. Spout off about your concerns. Invite your economist friends. Invite your CEO friends. Invite your political friends. Invite a Republican or two. Spread a little education around.

No fist fights, please.

I am a Feminist from Way Back

My earliest memories are of Monroeville, Pennsylvania. We moved to the Pittsburgh suburbs when I was a toddler. My father, recently graduated from college, had gotten a job at US Steel. For a brief moment, it looked as though I wouldn't be saddled with the accent of my parents. Alas, it didn't happen. We moved back. Nonetheless, the first enduring memory I have was of the fallout when my brothers lit a bit of wooded area behind our rented house on fire. I remember Halloween that year. I remember visiting my grandfather's horses at a local farm there. Fleeting memories. We lived in the rented house while our house was built in Irwin.

What does all this have to do with being a feminist, you ask?

I attended my first birthday party in Irwin. I was in kindergarten. My best friend was my next-door neighbor, Gina Stewart, who in reality, was a spoiled, insufferable little brat. We didn't hang that much. I did a lot of playing alone in our flat, unlandscaped back yard or swinging on the swing set. But Gina and I went to the party together with my "real" best friends, Randy and Roger Oates (the twins), but of course a girl wasn't allowed to have boy best friends back then. In any event, I have no idea who the party was for. I do recall what seemed like endless row upon row of tables with paper covers, each with a place setting and a child's name, and a party hat. I found my place and my hat. It was a nurses cap.

A nurse's cap.

*rumpled brow*

A nurse's cap?

But I didn't want to be a nurse. Nurses sucked. Slowly but surely, it began to sink in. I had gotten a nurse's cap because I was a girl. The boys had policeman caps and fireman caps and doctor caps. The girls had nurse caps and teacher caps that I think had rulers and such on them.

I was being indoctrinated into a sexist society in kindergarten.

What amazes me more is that I refused to wear the hat. I rejected the assumption. If they wouldn't give me a police hat or a fireman hat or a doctor hat, I wouldn't wear a hat at all. I remember some female adult, possibly the mother of the birthday child, encouraging me to wear the hat. I flatly refused and it was dropped.

I'm sure the last thing a mother hosting 30 children needs is an irate four-and-a-half year old feminist on her hands.

It was quite possibly my first instance of social disobedience.

PS: Whoa! I can't believe I found this. Here is exactly what I'm talking about. The kid holding the baby in this video is wearing the hat. It is also from the 60s.

Sarah Haskins and The Romance of Housework

Friday, September 19, 2008

Shiver me Timbers!

Just a reminder, folks. It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Don your best peacock-feather adored hat, your eye patch, and do some serious swashbuckling.

Aarrrgh, matey. I'll be walkin' de plank over you.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

When Two Worlds Collide: Evolution vs. Special Creation

D-friend John is a Jehovah's Witness. Not just a JW, but a minister of the church. He is also an eager student of evolution. Whaaaaaa? Yes, indeed.

He is a man of with an incredibly open mind. He was called upon to lead a discussion of evolution in his church and he wanted some input. He goes to great lengths to ease my discomfort at being the spokesperson for evolution. I am encouraged by his willingness to listen to my answers with an open mind (and not in that creepy way that some religious people do where you know they are devising arguments in their minds to discount everything you say).

Earlier this summer, John sent me some information he was going to use to lead his discussion at the church. There were several pointed questions.

1. What view does the fossil record support? I assume that the views they were considering were evolution vs. Biblical interpretation or church doctrine. A quote that followed was from Darwin, indicating that if numerous species came into existence at the same time, evolution would be disproven.
2. Have sufficient fossils been found to draw a sound conclusion? This is followed by a quote from a Smithsonian scientists indicating that the fossil record gives us "an excellent picture of the life of past ages".
3. What does the fossil record actually show? This question is followed by a series of quotes that give a somewhat biased view of a decade's old view of evolutionary thought. The first quote indicated (correctly) that the fossil record has been used to justify acceptance of Darwinian evolution, but that the geologic record is incomplete and does not offer a picture of the fine gradation of species over time. A second article mentions the "Cambrian explosion" and then periods of little to no change or no fossil record. A third quotes a zoologist stating that the fossil record does not support Darwinian evolution and the "facts" are best supported by the special creation (I assume of ALL organisms) by God, and finally they quote Carl Sagan saying that the fossil record could be consistent with the idea of a Great Designer.

Now I honestly believe my friend (he has been an exceedingly trustworthy person and I have a great deal of respect for him despite our differences of opinion on God) when he tells me that this is just meant to be a learning experience for his church group, and at least to me this discussion appears to me to be a desire for an honest review of the topic. I am somewhat disappointed by the "debate" feel to it and I would be much happier if instead of jumping to the topic of "which is right, religion or science" (which itself is a false dichotomy) that they spent a season of studying evolution by itself. How can one make an informed decision about anything if you don't understand what you are arguing for or against?

Anyhoo, he asked for my thoughts on the matter.

I explained to him that there is nearly universal acceptance of evolution by natural selection among scientists with an -ology to weigh in on it. I explained that there are holes in the fossil record and that we can't expect seamless understanding of the history of life. I explained how and why evolutionary biologists integrate this understanding into evolutionary theory. I explained how the Modern Synthesis (modified and) strengthened our understanding and acceptance of Darwin's theory. I tried to point out the Creationist talking points that were intended to lead people off the path of fact and purposely introduce false doubt where really none existed. Finally, I explained to him the limits of science in "proving" theories. John was of the opinion that theories grow up to become laws if they are "proven".

After all this, John wrote me with some very interesting information. He wrote me back about his beliefs. I must say, I know nothing about Jehovah's Witnesses and even though I know one or two, religion interests me so little that I had never bothered to look into it.

He said that he didn't believe the Bible to be either a science or history textbook. The Bible was the inspired word of God.

Then he asked a very interesting question.

One thing that you said was that there is no question of whether evolution occurs but whether it occurs by natural selection or not. I am curious as to how you define evolution here – does the laboratory document a change form one species to another? Or does it demonstrate variety within species?

For a minister of any Christian church, I'll give him a great deal of credit for bothering to ask at all. I wrote him back about cellular evolution up to the point of speciation. Of course, this is the easy part. Any evolutionary biologist can do that. Still, organizing that into a (hopefully) coherent email that someone with little science background could understand was challenge enough for one evening.

And you know that he wrote me back with more questions.

I thank you for clearing up my thinking on evolution. I see what you are saying about the small changes within species. That is without doubt evolution. I don’t have a problem with that at all. But can we really apply that thinking to the appearance of all living things with their various characteristics?

....Do evolutionists consider the jump from non-living to living organisms? There are so many things to consider Liz, I really like to hear your opinion. You are more in touch with current scientific thinking than I will ever be – It is like having a living encyclopedia at my disposal…

Awww geez. Don't you hate when someone says something like that? I mean I can cobble something together and (let's admit it) probably make this guy believe whatever I wanted. But I don't want to do it wrong. I want him to really understand. Ok, I can handle the abiogenesis discussion, but what in the world do I do in an email to someone asking for understanding of everything from character evolution to Evolution with a capital "E"?

I admit I am a bit overwhelmed. I am not a paleontologist. I can't point to a single lineage and trace the evolution from one organism to another. Not even humans. I'm feeling entirely inadequate. I know what to tell this man, I just don't know how to do it well.

And so, I'm asking for help. If you have any ideas at all about communicating the Big E Evolution, please, let me know. Really.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

But I'm a Socialist, Damnit!

Stupid quiz of the day. What are your political leanings. I suspect this quiz is not statistically accurate. Why? Check out the results, I garnered. LOL

You are a

Social Liberal
(73% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(11% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also : The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

Monday, September 15, 2008

Why "I Do" are the most Dangerous Words in the English Language

I'm not a big fan of marriage. I think I've made that abundantly clear. When people ask me what problem I have with marriage, I reply, "You get married in a church, but divorced in court." People tease me with "oh, you'll get married again, you just wait."

I won't. I will never be married again. Not when hell freezes over. Not when pigs fly. Not when it means the difference between letting someone else make medical decisions for someone I love. Not when it denies me the ability to inherit property. The answer is no.

That is not to say that I don't hope one day to have a long-term monogamous co-habitating type relationship. I would like that very much. But it will not involve walking down the aisle and saying "I do." The first reason is purely selifsh. I want someone to choose every single day to be with me. Not to be there out of obligation or because it is too expensive to think about getting out. Trust me, I know the toll such conditions can take. My blood pressure toward the end of my marriage was 160/91, I drank Pepto Bismol for breakfast, I had a constant headache, my teeth hurt, and the skin on my head was taught from the never-ending aggravation. I recall thinking that death wold be preferable to spending one more day in that house with him. The second reason is that I firmly believe that my personal life is none of the state's damn business. End of discussion.

The real reason I've come upon this topic is that I have been thinking about the Equal Rights Amendment lately. Many of you have probably never heard of it, but in the mid-1970s, the Equal Rights Amendment was the culmination of the women's movement. It proposed, quite simply, that equality of rights would not be denied based on sex. The Amendment was hard-fought in Congress, but never ratified. What I didn't know until I started poking around on this topic, was that the ERA has been proposed in every congress since, and STILL it isn't taken seriously. But, I'll get back to that later.

Marriage has entered the political arena over the past decade or so as the gay community has pressed to have same-sex unions recognized as marriages. They maintain, and I have to agree, that marriage comes with rights and privileges that they are denied. Currently, marriage between men and women is permitted, albeit regulated, by every state in the union. Marriage between same-sex couples is permitted by only two states: California and Massachusetts. What do I mean by regulated? I mean that the state gets to decide whether a marriage is legal and has the right to prohibit illegal marriages.

Call me a libertarian, but my ultimate question is, why the hell is the government involved in my social, sexual, economic, and familial relationships? Interesting question that, so I set out to do some research.

Turns out, the government got interested in regulating marriage about the time some black and white folks wanted to tie the knot, jump over the broomstick, or take a spin around the altar. Since we all know what sorts of mayhem can result when big black bucks weave a spell of romance over our lily-white daughters, the state got involved by requiring a marriage license. Efforts to outlaw miscegenation is how the states got involved in your love life. IMO, the marriage license is the state's silent but subtle support of white morality--more specifically, white male superiority--over the other dirty races. It's like asking the KKK if it's ok for you to get married. I believe that marriage licenses were the way for white men to prevent themselves from becoming obsolete and to maintain white privilege and white power. I'll leave it at that.

The marriage license is an insidious little instrument that basically says that marriage is a privilege, not a right. So you have a marriage license, a driver's license, but a death certificate. I guess everyone has a right to die.

So, my original flippant remark about marriage isn't exactly right. The states are involved up front. Any marriage conducted without a marriage license isn't valid. Common law marriages are the only exceptions. Not all states recognize common law marriages. And this is where is gets muddy. States with common-law statutes don't say a damn thing about the gender of the participants. Only that they are husband and wife. Since husband and wife are not, to the best of my understanding, legally defined, it stands to reason in my head anyway that same-sex partners need only identify themselves as husband and wife, not husband and husband or wife and wife. Shrugs. I'm sure there's a loophole in there somewhere.

The Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 defines marriage as that between a man and a woman, and offers a specific exception to the Full Faith and Credit Provision of the Constitution. So a same-sex marriage in California or Massachusetts need not be recognized in Kentucky or Colorado. Furthermore, the DOMA specifically prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions as marriages, even if the states do. This is pretty heady stuff. For instance, the Full Faith and Credit Provision is what prevents deadbeat parents from fleeing to other states to escape support orders. It is what accounts for our liberal extradition laws. I'm not sure, but I would imagine that the Full Faith and Credit Provision prevents other states from disenfranchising felons, when the state in which they were incarcerated enacts laws re-establishing their suffrage. (I bring up the right to vote because it is holds special significance in our republic. Four of our 27 Constitutional amendments deal directly with the voting rights of the people.) The second provision (that prevents the federal government from recognizing the state marriages as marriages) seems inherently unconstitutional. Why? Because any right not specifically given to the federal government is given to the states or the people. If the states are the ones with the right to determine what is a legal marriage, then that seems to prevent the federal government from abridging those rights. Without a Constitutional amendment establishing marriage as that between a man and a woman, the DOMA (at least as it pertains to the federal government), seems to be unconstitutional.

But I'm no constitutional scholar.

So why the hell have I just researched and written all this on a subject that I'd rather die than enter again? It's the issue of rights. As I understand it, the Equal Rights Amendment has been proposed in every Congress since 1923. In 1970, it managed to get to the floor but it was not ratified before it expired. It has been proposed in every Congress since.

The state maintains that marriage is a privilege. In fact, the issuance of a license (and not a certificate) reinforces the precedent that it is a privilege, not a right. However, it seems to me that there are certain rights afforded married persons that are denied unmarried persons. For instance? Well, husband and wife are considered to be "blood family". They have rights of inheritance, rights to make medical decisions on behalf of their spouses and children, and so forth. Family rights are most definitely seen as off limits by the states. Therefore, these "family rights" should appropriately be considered civil rights, not privileges. If they are civil rights, they can't be denied or abridged by the state. So while marriage itself may be a privilege, the rights assigned to married persons are specifically denied to unmarried persons. Therefore, certain civil rights are provisional and are being infringed by denying same-sex couples from marrying.

The Equal Rights Amendment as proposed in the 70s said that no rights may be denied or abridged based on sex.

Do you see where I'm going here?

We could kill two birds with one stone. If the gay community and the feminist community managed to get the ERA ratified, it would be a de facto ratification of gay marriage. All it would take is one successful court case that argues that rights afforded to married persons but denied to single ones is based on sex.

The reasons that the ERA failed to be ratified in the 1970s are many. It had to do a bit with the cultural climate--women had only begun to enter the workforce in numbers. Remember, Title Nine was enacted in 1972 and think of the stink it causes still.

In the end, I have no idea why gay people would want to marry. I don't see any use in the institution at all. But if they are determined, no reason they shouldn't have the right to suffer high blood pressure and chronic headaches, too. I hope they like Pepto Bismol. It's the breakfast of married people. And I wouldn't scream if it did something--anything--to address income, opportunity, and other inequalities of women in America.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Nuff said?

From Mudflats

Blowin' in the Wind (with new updates)

Ike has arrived. Sorry about the sideways viewing, but I didn't realize you can't rotate video. If anyone knows of a way you can, leave me a comment.

Here's the view out of the front door this morning.

And then out of the back.

Remember that lovely tree in the lot next door? Looks like it succumbed while I was in here uploading the above videos. It is no more.

Morus Fiesta!

Last night, Olivia, Tammy, Elizabeth, Bin and I went to the Apple Festival. Olivia and I rode the biggest, baddest carny ride they had available. I think it was called 1001 Arabian Nights. Probably because that is how long it will take before you stop being dizzy. I called it a vomit rocket. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of that.

We listened to a few really bad fiddle players in the bluegrass fiddle competition, and one or two really good ones. Why does it seem that all the great fiddle players these days are women? Interesting, I thought.

I do have pictures of dinner (insert your favorite double or triple entendre comment here):

These two awesome ladies are Elizabeth and Olivia. Elizabeth does a damn good job on the piano, and Olivia is, in fact, not just a great tour guide to the west, but also a world-class screamer on scary carny rides. She does upside down at 70 mph pretty good. Doesn't she look fearless?

Damn tootin', mister.

Then we toured around the festival. Here's the ever popular carousel.

The midway shot:

Delicious and nutritious food offerings. I highly recommend the carmel apples smothered in peanuts.

And some of the other entertainment available.

We had a very nice evening, topped off by beer and great conversation at Olivia's house. Well, Tammy's beer holder gave out half way home, but we had plenty to share. And as for Liv's insistence that southern Illinois does not have a beer selection, I pony up this evidence. I will admit that the selection isn't great, but it is slightly more than just Bud. After all, I can CLEARLY see that there is also Bud Light.