Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hey Bristol, where's your baby?

When Bristol Palin's impending glorious event was revealed, her due date was estimated to be December 18-23. Ever since the Repub Natl Convention, she has pretty much been out of sight.

Amid all the controversy surrounding her teen pregnancy, I submit the following Top Ten Reasons Why Bristol's Baby is Purposefully Delaying His World Debut:

10. To give his daddy Levi Johnston time to earn more money working on the North Slope. Levi dropped out of high school in his senior year to earn some baby-having dough. Might as well let him earn the price of his forfeited high school diploma, too.

9. Before he knew he'd be a daddy, the non-condom-using Levi said he "didn't want babies", so why not gestate a little longer? A more fully mature infant might bypass the "baby" stage. Afterall, they grow up pretty fast in Wasilla. You bet'cha!

8. To give his mama Bristol a hard time. The baby's birth in December was supposed to clear her of any suspicion of secretly being Trig's mom. If the birth is in January/February, that issue will remain unresolved. *wink*

7. To make his birthday coincide with Bristol and Levi's wedding date, set for March 2009. Over the long run, combo celebrations will be much less expensive for his teen parents.

6. Grandmothers -- both of them! From what the fetus has overheard, they are both going to be lousy grandmas. Drugs versus aerial animal kills ... which is worse for the unblemished baby's soul?

5. He does not relish being born in the middle of an alaskan ice blizzard to a 17-yr old mom, 18-yr old dad, high school drop-out parents. What's the hurry? Talk about a Bridge to Nowhere!

4. The womb looks much safer than a collapsing world. He's in no hurry to confront global warming (climate change), species decline, economic disaster, and an earth where the Taliban and Darfur and Robert Mugabe are standard operating procedure.

3. To give Uncle Joe, the tax-cheating unlicensed plumber, a chance to earn some money selling his memoir book so he can pay his tax liens and buy the business license that is preventing him from testing Obama's tax plan. Did you get one for xmas, or have you ordered yours yet? Joe wants to contribute to Bristol's baby's college fund!

2. The thought that dead moose and elk antlers will form his crib.

1. John McCain will be his Godfather?!? 'Nuff Said!

Oh heck, Bristol is probably in the midst of giving birth as I post this. Hope it's an easy labor for her. She's got enough trouble ahead of her as it is. Gotta find an odd name for him, too. Maybe ... Pelt?

ps, feel free to add your own reasons or name choices. I'll leave this open until the baby appears! I mean, it's has to be any day now, right? So, she's 10-days overdue. No one would purposefully lie about the due date, would they? hmmm...

oh, pooh, see update in comments 12.29.08: tonight, Rachel Maddow reported Bristol had baby TRIPP yesterday. Tripp (7-lbs, 4-oz) and Bristol are reportedly doing well. No mention of Levi. The news is confirmed by People Magazine and the Anchorage Daily News, both stating the baby was born Sunday, but further news won't be released until Tuesday. So I guess she really WAS in labor when I posted this!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Haunted

The last week of the year sometimes seems haunted.

Here is a very sweet Sinead O'Connor and bad boy Shane MacGowan of the Pogues, in 1995, before Shane went off the deep end, 4-mins:



I still love The Pogues. Click here for Waltzing Mathilda (8-minutes), a favorite ballad. Be sure to read the narrative in the "more info" section on the right. Shane has a gift for trainwreck delivery of haunting words. Around Christmas, you can't escape Fairytale of New York (Shane singing with Kirsty MacColl about a relationship gone bad; RIP Kirsty). note: that link is to a clean music vid because I was tired of seeing so many commenters fixating on Shane's downhill slide. As one of my grandpas would say, his troubles are his own.

The Pogues' Thousands are Sailing (5.5 minutes) is a story familiar to many of you with irish ancestors. One of mine, whose transport ship from Liverpool was refused landing in New York, came in through Canada, eventually making his way across that country before dropping down into the western U.S. Without reliable records, I rely on family tales of a man whose inner toughness and physical hardiness enabled him to survive almost unimaginable conditions. By the time their ship was finally allowed to dock in Canada, the "human cargo" was mostly dead or dying. He was so weak that he supposedly had to be carried off the ship, but insisted on being put down to walk the final step ashore on his own two feet. He promptly keeled over and landed face down in the dirt. The family story is that he bit into the soil, pushing a handful into his mouth, and declaring that american soil was "sweet but a bit dry" ... this was a plea for a drink ... whether water or alcohol is unclear ...

List of Failed Banks

News you can use (but hope you don't have to):

FDIC's official list of Failed Banks.

If anyone knows how to find out when a bank begins to experience large withdrawals (because insiders always know what is happening, they get their money out BEFORE a bank fails), this might be an important clue that a bank is about to fail. So far, the failed banks I've done business with have both been taken over by larger banks, so FDIC insurance was not a factor, but the day is coming, folks. The increased FDIC-coverage (part of TARP) expires next year, so CDs that mature beyond then, are not covered. With the Fed rate effectively lowered to 0%, the next batch of treasuries may yield less than the purchase price. Treasuries are considered a "safe place" to park your money. Methinks a cheney-man-size safe might be a better investment.

Scary times, hunh?

kind of like watching a patient slowly bleed to death...

and aren't you glad that I waited until after xmas for that image?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Final Christmas Santa, laughs and good cheer to all

My final christmas laugh is from Cheech and Chong, 6.5 minutes:


"Recession, repression, it's all the same thing."

May you all have a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas filled with love and good cheer! Hug everyone you care about (and even a few you could do without) and give special treats to all your beloved pets!

I have especially enjoyed the wonderful beautiful people I have met through the blogs ... I promise, I will be back blogging on the other side of this holiday!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Santaland Diaries

If you're looking for something hilariously irreverent to do this time of year, I hope the stage play of "Santaland Diaries" by David Sedaris is being performed in your area.

If you can't attend a live play, you can read the comic essay in David Sedaris' "Barrel Fever" and also "Holidays on Ice" books.

Santaland Diaries is the story of Crumpet the Elf. It meshes Christmas capitalism and woes of unglamorous work strife as it tells the true tale of Sedaris’ employment as a santa elf in the Santaland display at Macy’s in New York City. It’s a world that places him amongst a cast of out-of-work actor coworkers, schizophrenic Santas and a varied waiting line of obnoxious children and parents. Among those who like a non-traditional seasonal tale, Santaland Diaries has become as much of a holiday tradition as A Christmas Carol or It's a Wonderful Life.

To listen to Mr Sedaris read a 7-minute excerpt on NPR in Windows Media: click here

Or, if you prefer Real Media: click here

Or, here is a 1-minute youtube teaser:


It has become a family tradition in my house to read Santaland Diaries aloud every christmas. This christmas may be especially poignant as so many people find themselves out of work and considering temporary christmas employment as a stop-gap measure to stave off the wolves at the door. Might as well go to the poor house laughing!

Another annual D.K. xmas tradition is to watch "Bad Santa". This hilarious Coen Brothers gem lives up to their skewed worldview. Billy Bob Thornton as Santa is your first clue this is not a normal xmas movie. His Santa is a bad-tempered washed-up alcoholic criminal who seems beyond redemption until he meets a very sad little boy. It was also John Ritter's last movie appearance. I believe he died as it was being filmed, and rather than try to rework his part, his odd character just disappeared. Only later do you realize, hey what happened to John Ritter? The x-rated DVD version is Badder Santa.

Friday, December 19, 2008

More Snow

In case anyone is wondering WHY I keep posting snow photos, it's because snow is pretty rare down here. Most winters, although we see snow in the higher elevation mountains around us, we only get snow in town a few times, and it melts as soon as the sun comes out, usually that same day or next day. This is the first time I've seen snow stay on the ground for this many days in a row. Does that mean we are in for a rough winter? Hope not.


We got dusted with another 3 - 4" overnight, so here's what I woke up to this morning.

At the far end of our backyard is a rough stone waterfall and pond which might be visible if it wasn't all snowed in and frozen over.

People have asked us why we don't keep Koi Fish in the pond. I cannot imagine subjecting them to this in the winter, followed by baking hot 110-115 degrees all summer. Besides, the pond is pretty small, just big enough for me to worry that Clyde might fall in if he slips in this snow. {click to enlarge any photo}

The sun finally came out late today which made for a nice walk.

Here's Clyde's and my snow outfits. I probably overdid it with my big double-thick Eddie Bauer stadium coat, but if I don't wear it now, when will I ever?

Why does Clyde look so unhappy? Because he hates wearing clothes! For half of the walk, he shakes his head around trying to fling them off. Eventually he gives up and resigns himself to being humilated for the balance of the walk.

According to blogger count, this is my 150th post! I never thought I'd make it this far. But it is really Enigma of Watergate Summer who deserves many thanks for setting up this blog in the first place. She even named it! She must've thought I had something to say ....

So, for Enigma and anyone else who sees a resemblance between Geo W Bush and Richard Nixon, and is glad one is already gone and the other leaving soon, here is a vintage, but very timely, Phil Ochs singing "The Land you've Torn out the Heart of" ...


Click here if you want to know more about Phil Ochs.
For a real heartbreaker, listen to his When I'm Gone.
Joan Baez' cover of There But for Fortune is probably the biggest commercial success of a Phil Ochs song. If you search YouTube, you'll be amazed at his body of work and how many people have covered his music over the years.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow on the Mountains

With temps expected to reach 40 today (wooo-hooo, a day above the 30's), the clouds lifted enough to get a few pics of the view from my backyard. More snow is expected tonight, temps dropping to 25. No sun, the sky is white.

Here is what the little red hills in back of us looked like yesterday. Because of the snow cloud cover, you wouldn't know there was a 10,000-ft tall mountain directly in back of them:

Here's how it looks today (see I told you there was a huge mountain in back of those little red hills). This is Pine Valley Mountain. The highest point is Signal Peak Summit (10,365-ft):

Pine Valley Mountain is a large rock outcrop surrounded by desert. It is part of the Pine Valley Laccolith, one of the largest laccoliths in the United States. Since Pine Valley Mountain is isolated from other mountain ranges, it is an interesting geological anomaly.

Here are some snowy Las Vegas palm trees :



Hey, if this snow keeps up,

maybe we can build a snowcat!

(with catnip whiskers)

yummm...


Monday, December 15, 2008

VIVA ZAPATOS!

VIVA ZAPATOS!

No, not Emiliano Zapata (at least not in this case, though I think Zapata and his Army of Liberation would approve of this shoe revolution).

Zapatos are Shoes, as anyone who has taken a first-year Spanish course can tell you. (P: Donde estan mis zapatos? R: Los zapatos estan a sus pies.)



Hundreds of Iraqis joined in anti-US demonstrations to protest at Bush's farewell visit to Iraq on Sunday. In the aftermath of the 2003 U.S. invasion, Iraq was plunged into a deadly insurgency and near civil war.
Throwing shoes at Bush was the best goodbye kiss ever ... it expresses hatred of all things Bush. It was the least thing for an Iraqi to do to Bush, an unrepentent war criminal who has killed two million people in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I have a feeling Bush has not seen the last of shoe throwing.
To learn more ...

NYT writes of the Shoe-Hurling Hero:
"Calling someone the 'son of a shoe' is one of the worst insults in Iraq. But the lowly shoe and the Iraqi who threw both of his at President Bush, with widely admired aim, were embraced around the Arab world on Monday as symbols of rage at a still unpopular war." The article says he is being hailed as a hero and may receive some kind of Medal of Courage.

Or read The Rude Pundit:
"Someone should be there every day of Bush's life to throw shoes at him. Hell, someone should market a fuckin' game that includes a Bush face mounted with velcro with tiny shoes that'll stick to his puss." He also says he is mailing old shoes to Bush today with a note inside, "this is a farewell kiss from the American people, you dog" ... He visualizes "giant sacks of shoes heading to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC, 20500"... just in time for Xmas!

Snow Wimp

Yes it's true. I am a snow wimp. To me, this looks like a lot of snow! Temps dropped to 22 overnight. The high for today is predicted to be 33. At least the wind has died down. Glad I am not driving anywhere.

Here is the scene from my courtyard (front porch to you easterners). I think snow looks prettiest with red rocks poking up through it:


Palm Trees look out of place when dusted with snow ... like something is wrong with the universe.

This is about as White Christmasy as we will get.

I hope.

Too many years of California sunshine has turned me into a snow wimp.

**********

Clyde is worried about his daily walk. Very worried. There are still many neighborhood inflatable santas and reindeer that need to be peed on. Here he is standing under a protective deck cover considering his dwindling options of where he might pee and not get any of that floating white stuff in his eyes. Maybe if he is very quick about his business, the redhead will let him back into the warm house. She's pretty strict about outdoor bathroom facilities for dogs, although she promised to truss him into his fleece coat for the walk. Clyde is not sure which is worse, snow or wearing that coat, but it is better to stay on her good side because it is freezing ass cold out here!

**********

We just heard Andrea Mitchell telling us that the shoe incident yesterday (see post below) is being celebrated in Iraq today. Citizens are marching through the streets of Baghdad with shoes on poles. I bet they have signs, too, but she declined to show us any photos. She interpreted the shoe incident as Iraq saying to Bush, you are worth less than the dirt beneath our shoes. I just hope Blackwater can keep their guns in their pockets. Does anyone remember how our own revolution started? The shoe heard 'round the world!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Early Holiday Gift

In some countries, the children leave their shoes outside the front door so Santa can fill them with goodies.

In other countries, the shoes themselves are the holiday gift.

Instead of spending this weekend working on his ideas for an auto industry loan, like he promised would be done this weekend in order to have something concrete to present on Monday, President Bush staged a surprise visit to Iraq.

Surprise, surprise! Santa doesn't like it when promises are broken. He knows when you've been bad or good, and when you've been very bad, beyond lump-of-coal bad, he arranges for one of his elves to throw shoes at you.

"This is a goodbye kiss, you dog!" said the shoe-throwing journalist. The shoe heard 'round the world!

For the background story with short video and slide show, click here (Huffington Post).

For the full C-Span coverage, all 38-minutes, Click here.
FFWD to Minute 17 to watch the shoes fly. C-Span cameras caught a different perspective. You can see blood on the carpet and hear the reporter screaming as he is drug away. I don't know why all the reporters are shhhushing. I couldn't see where Dana Perino was in order to get injured. Keep watching for Bush's press conference afterwards. The reporter's screams can still be heard coming from outside the room. You can skip everything after the presser ends.

ps, nice dodge, mr bush. nimbleness may become an important skill in your future. today it's shoes, tomorrow maybe subpoenas.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sinterklaas

This is a David Sedaris audio essay about St Nick. He is not exactly the Jolly Old Saint Nicholas we enjoy in the United States. Our St Nick is an obese compulsive cookie and milk eater who falls down your chimney with wrapped presents to disburse under a dying decorated fire hazard tree. The decidedly unique St Nick of The Netherlands, who travels with 6 to 8 black men, is known to mete out harsher punishment than a lump of coal to naughty children. The scenes in this 6-minute version seem to be from the annual St Nicholas Parade in Amsterdam (warning, there are no similar parades in the US):



That was a truncated somewhat sanitized version of the fuller-bodied hilarious Sedaris story which you can read by clicking on: "Six to Eight Black Men". One of Sedaris' many non-writing jobs was as a Macy's Elf which may explain why he was personally insulted to learn that Saint Nicholas would consider elves to be silly and unrealistic (more about that in a future post).

David Sedaris' offbeat observations about Christmas celebrations meshes perfectly with my less than Christmasy feelings this year.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

50 of the 533,000


533,000 U.S. jobs were lost in November. This is the story of 50 of those jobs...

Employees Shocked to See Famous Dave's Closed November 23rd:

The local Famous Dave's Legendary Pit BBQ restaurant closed its doors Sunday, with management citing sluggish sales figures. The news came as a shock to restaurant employees when they arrived Sunday to begin their work shifts. None of the employees were notified of the impending close, including those working the late shift Saturday night. After the Saturday night shift ended, moving trailers arrived to remove the interior furnishings and equipment.

"I came into work as usual, but everything was getting packed up and moved onto trailers," said Dan B, a former server at the restaurant. "Nobody knew what was going on. They could have at least told us." Dan's fiancee, Ashlee, who waited tables at the restaurant, said she was devastated to see her job vanish overnight. "I would've appreciated any type of notice," she said, "in order to have time to find another job". Dan and Ashlee now face the grim reality of unemployment as they struggle to provide for their 3 children in the midst of a nationwide economic crisis.

Scott Morton, the area director for Famous Dave's franchise locations in Utah, said he was notified last Friday of the decision to close this location by the parent company, William Tell, Inc. He said the employees were not given prior notice in order to prevent them from skipping the last few days of work and/or from stealing valuable items during the final days.

Some employees, including Dan, were offered compensation for Sunday if they helped load the moving trucks. "Some work is better than no work," Dan said of his decision to spend the day hollowing out the contents of his former employer.

Famous Dave's is a franchise operation. While the local restaurant originally employed 100 people when it opened here in 2004, it had reduced employees down to 50 over the last year as revenue dropped due to poor sales. Famous Dave's has over 100 franchise locations in 40 states. The local Famous Dave's is part of the William Tell Inc regional group of franchises, which includes Applebee's Restaurants. The owner/president of William Tell Inc is John Prince who has, to date, expressed no regret over the way the employees were treated.

***********

DK's remarks: The people who live in my isolated smallish town are generally courteous and quite mannerly. Rudeness is not normal behavior. That's why I find this story particularly egregious. It was like an early bird combo Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas eff-yew to Famous Dave's local employees and their families! I can't help but wonder if the woman with the carload of kids who withdrew her last $2 from the bank just prior to Thanksgiving was one of their employees (see post below).

If the store manager or franchise management were so afraid of employee theft, why not just have laid them off Friday morning and given them 3-days pay (Fri-Sat-Sun) while they moved out? It's not like they were making any money by having them work those days. From what I understand, the local Famous Dave's was losing money every day it stayed open. I bet it would've cost them less to pay those employees for 3-days of hourly wages than it did to keep the doors open and attempt to sneak out in the middle of the night.

It is quite a personal slap in the face for employees to show up for their work shift and find that their job is no longer there. It's also a slap in the community's face to brazenly betray so many workers and leave them with nothing. They will now have to start from scratch in a tough job market. I understand the labor laws here did not require any notice to hourly workers, but what about the employer's personal code of conduct or sense of fair play?

Yes, the employees will be able to claim unemployment compensation, but that is cold comfort when what they really need are jobs. No doubt some of them will end up enlisting in the military as an employer of last resort. Ashlee and her 3 kids may reside in some ramshackle base housing unit while Dan goes abroad to explain democracy to Afghanistan or Pakistan!

I will no longer be eating at any Famous Dave's. I'm also boycotting Applebee's since they are part of the William Tell regional group of franchises that owns Famous Dave's. In fact, the other night we ate at a locally owned restaurant, Scaldoni's. The prices were higher than a franchise, but it was worth the splurge for our anniversary (33-yrs!). Besides, I was happy to realize that the money spent in a local business stays here, rather going to line the pockets of a slimeball like John Prince.

To paraphrase an old TV series, "There are 533,000 stories in The Naked City, and this has been 50 of them"!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The tranche trance, and other thoughts today

TRANCHE (of french derivation, so swallow the "n" & say something like "twrawhsh"): I first heard it from Secretary Paulson, then Congress, next the Obama economic team, and now even TV newsreaders are using it to spice up their repertoire. It sounded so exotic, I figured I should look up how it pertains to treasury matters ...

Tranche: Certain securities, such as collateralized mortgage obligations (CMOs), are made up of a number of classes, called tranches, that differ from each other because they pay different interest rates, mature on different dates, carry different levels of risk, or differ in some other way. When the security is offered for sale, each of these tranches is sold separately.

Wow, I feel so tranchy now (remember to swallow the "n")!

Other Thoughts Today ... A, A, B, B, B and V ...

A = Auto Industry: The Big Three upped their "bridge loan" request to $34 Billion today. It was $25 Billion last week before Congress asked them to submit a business plan. Well, preparation of business plans cost a lot ... $9 Billion in this case.

A = Auto Workers: The UAW says the Big 3 CEOs can agree to work for $1/yr and every union worker could agree to work for free, and it still won't save the american auto industry! This really floored me because it's pretty much an admission, by the guys representing the 3 million workers who are facing unemployment, that the Big 3 are going down no matter how much we throw at them. I hate to agree that Mitt Romney may have a point that perhaps the best solution for them is to reorganize under bankruptcy. Tough Love!

B = Bush (remember him?): Listening to "W" try to weasel his way out of analyzing his failures is such fun. Analysis would require introspection and we all know he doesn't do "do-overs"! So, he thinks the big failure of the Iraq War was that he fed himself bad intelligence?!? Cooked intelligence must taste like depleted uranium. He reminds me of Frank Sinatra singing, "Regrets, I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention".

B = Bill Richardson was formally named as Secretary of Commerce today. This cabinet post is ready for some vast expansion due to Obama's sweeping economic plan for job creation. If Congress confirms Richardson, it puts him in the cabinet and ready to move into another cabinet slot should things not work out with anyone already there (like Hillary or Gates). It's no secret he was very interested in Secretary of State. I congratulate him for not pitching a fit and for being ready to help wherever needed. I, too, liked Richardson's beard and was sorry to see it removed. So sue me.

B = Bank Story (a sad little story of how bad things are): I had banking business that had to be conducted INSIDE the bank last week. While sitting at the bank officer's desk, waiting and waiting for them to process my request, I notice that from my position, I can hear every conversation that the drive-up teller has with a drive-up customer. I hear a woman asking the teller to check the available balance in her account. The teller says "$2.48". I can hear a carload of kids screaming in the background. The woman then says, "how much can I withdraw and still keep the account open?" ... the teller says "$2.00" ... the woman is silent for a few moments (kids still screaming in background). The woman then sighs and says, "OK, then can I please get $2.00 cash now?" ... the teller processes her request and the woman & carload of kids drives away. This was right before Thanksgiving.

V (click to read) ... "What would happen to the Chevy Volt if GM failed?" ... The Chevy Volt is supposed to be available in 2010. It has been promoted as a revolutionary break-through in plug-in electric cars. This was all announced well before such technology was available for production at an affordable price, but apparently GM figured they would somehow be able to get the price down. Earlier this year, GM started making noises about problems being encountered in the plug-in concept. In October, Congress approved a $7500 rebate for purchasers of the first 250,000 Volts if they are plug-ins. Limited numbers of Hybrids like Prius already get smaller rebates. Toyota has said that they COULD produce a pricey plug-in, but why should they when their hybrids are so popular?

Would you personally be interested in a Chevy Volt at $35K? How about $25K? We are talking a 40-mile gas-free range between charges, no gas, no emissions. There will be a 400-mile overall range provided by a small gas engine whose only purpose is to recharge the batteries. The state of Hawaii is already considering setting up plug-in recharging stations, like in Wal-Mart parking lots. Would this affect your decision? The way I see it is if no one is interested or can afford The Volt, then there is no hope for the american auto industry.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Is This News?

The National Bureau of Economic Research confirmed today that the U.S. has been in a recession since December 2007.

The NBER is a private group of leading economists whose mission is to officially date the start and end of economic downturns. A recession is defined by 2 consecutive quarters of negative GDP. An official depression occurs when real GDP declines by 10% or more.

Does anyone else feel they've been purposely lied to? Remember all the assurances we were hearing all year about how sound our fundamental economy was? Turns out we were already in a recession, but up and down the line, most govermental spokespersons kept blabbing about temporary real estate market problems, soft landing corrections, short term small hike in inflation, how the 2nd Qtr GDP was not a loss, etc. Of course, all this came crashing down in September, with only Senator McCain failing to get the memo: ix-nay on the ound-say undamental-fays!

How long will the recession last? Here are the historical figures:


....(click to enlarge this table) ....
and note it does not even include Depressions, as in The Great Depression (which drug on for 10+ YEARS)!


So now it's official, wooo hooo! And all those who had been feeding so furiously at the Free Market Deregulation Table are loudly screaming for a share of federal bailout rescue money. They know $700 billion is only the tip of what will be required, and as usual, they are first in line for any free money. They know we will do whatever it takes to turn things around. It's up to us to make sure it is NOT free, that the strings attached to the money will ensure that it accomplishes the purpose of economic recovery.

Paul Krugman recently wrote, "anything that has to be rescued during a financial crisis, because it plays an essential role in the financial mechanism, should be regulated when there isn't a crisis so that it doesn't take excessive risks".

It's up to us to make sure the regulations that were so cravenly discarded, regulations that were put in place after the Great Depression to prevent it from ever happening again, are reinstated AND redesigned so that we can better understand how the system works to prevent future malfunctioning. It's my opinion that all the overly complicated financial products introduced as a sort of shadow banking system in the last 20-yrs were very disruptive. They weren't boring, but no one really understood them. By design?


Here's a brief recap of how billions of rescue dollars have been spent so far in 2008:

WALL STREET BANKERS:
$1.6 trillion in loans to banks in exchange for unwanted collateral (the Fed raised its monthly auction limit to $300billion in Oct '08).
$70 billion PER DAY "lent" to investment banks, since March '08.
$92 billion PER DAY "lent" to commercial banks.
$250 billion out of $700 billion allocated to banks in exchange for equity shares (no word on who got what or how they are using it).
Fed rates cut down to unbelieveable 1% in October 2008.
Unlimited Dollars to 13 foreign central banks (the cap was $24 billion in December '07, raised to $620 billion in October '08, but now it will be "unlimited" because apparently $620billion is not enough american dollars for foreign banks).

CORPORATE GOODIES:
$200 billion to bail out Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac (The Fed also took control of these firms & their $5 TRILLION in home mortgage loans).
$29 billion to Bear Stearns.
$152.5 billion to AIG.
$345 billion to prevent Citigroup from failing.
$25 billion in the works for automakers.
$270 billion in corporate debt commercial paper purchases ($1.4 TRILLION has been allocated for this program).
Business stimulus of $68 billion in tax breaks.

MAIN STREET: Stimulus checks totalling $100 billion earlier this yr.
$8 billion to expand unemployment benefits.
$15.5 billion drawn down from FDIC reserves after 22 bank failures in 2008 (I believe this brings the total reserve down to $40 billion).
$50 billion to insure money market funds, followed by $69 billion in direct money market debt guarantees. Then in October, the Fed said it will loan up to $600 billion directly to money market funds over the next six months (anyone smell another bailout on the way?).
$300 billion approved for at-risk home mortgages (but lenders aren't cooperating because they weren't mandated to, only encouraged to).
$100 billion more to underwrite cheaper home loan rates through Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac.
$800 billion approved for consumer loan products, incl credit cards & car loans (once again, lenders are not cooperating).
FDIC coverage increased to $250K per depositor through 2009.

This adds up to a staggering and unprecedented $7 TRILLION. Since some of this money is investment, it's not a total loss. However, "a lot of it will be lost" said Dean Baker, co-director of the center for Economic and Policy Research. Comforting?!?

I don't know about you, but after seeing how much has already been thrown at this beast and how little it has accomplished, Recession is starting to look a whole lot like Depression to me:


Debtor's Prison, or Detention Dungeon?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Things I Have Done ...

OK, I know I just said I didn't feel like blogging, but this doesn't feel like a blog, it feels like fun! I found this meme at MauiGirl's Meanderings.

Try it while you're laying there on that couch, after having consumed more food than is possible to fit in a human stomach, and debating whether to watch more football or try to swallow one last sliver of pumpkin pie.

To participate, just copy and paste the list in your own blog, and color all of the things YOU have done (mine are in red, but you can use any color you want). Things you haven't done will be in black. Happy discoveries!

I HAVE...
1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightning at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Ridden an elephant

Wow! only 52 out of 100 -- so many things still to do, though I don't really want to be transported in an ambulance (#46), or kill & dress an animal (#87). I'm sure singing in the shower wouldn't count for #10, nor would those old family home movies count for #55 (though I did give the royal wave in many of them, to my imaginary fans, huzzah). I decided, based on absolutely nothing, that if you can't say you've done at least 50, you need to get out a lot more.

Re: #36, I didn't answer "I have" because I took spanish in high school ... but isn't it really your own effort that actually teaches your brain another language? It's not like a teacher can just force-feed it into your brain! Still, the way it was worded, I couldn't answer "I have". I think most of the things I have NOT done reflect a lack of wordly travel (which I hope to remedy someday) and/or chickenness (which may have no cure, brroccckkukuk).

If you like David Sedaris, be sure to see/hear the sad romance of The Squirrel and The Chipmunk (posted below) .

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Squirrel and The Chipmunk

Today was the last sunny day I will see for awhile. Our first big winter storm is due to hit the SW Wednesday. Rain and wind, mudslides in So-Cal, maybe even snow up here. So much for our Thanksgiving camping plans! Forget that Thanksgiving BBQ, too!

Instead, we might see a movie or a play, anything where we won't have to drive too far. I might be forced to cook (ackkk, run for the hills!), but it won't be turkey (Sarah Palin has wrecked that idea completely). I will also be using the long weekend to catch up on some indoor projects. All boring stuff, nothing to blog about. And I'm not much in the mood for politics right now.

So until I can think of anything more to say, I'm posting one of my favorite readings by David Sedaris, from stories of Hope and Fear, This American Life series on NPR. I saw David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell performing live together in California a few years ago -- a thoroughly enjoyable evening of understated wit. At the time, I had only just read Barrel Fever, so I had NO idea what to expect.

This is the story of The Squirrel and The Chipmunk, a romance killed by miscommunication. Hint: JAZZ and bigoted family members are involved. No visuals, so you can listen while you work. This is one of many of his own short stories Mr Sedaris has read for NPR.
(7-minutes):



Does anyone else love David Sedaris? I'm planning a David Sedaris Christmas blog. You will have to stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, HAPPY THANKSGIVING, everyone! I suspect many of us will be giving thanks for the same thing this year -- i.e., that our presidential election turned out as it did. What are some of the other things you are thankful for this year?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Seventh Grade Memories

For me, seventh grade was a watershed year. Here are a few highlights and lowlights, a brief snapshot in time:

Junior High School was a world away from my Elementary School cocoon where I knew every student and teacher.

It was a tough adjustment to suddenly find myself in a sea of strangers, many of whom seemed dangerous. There was the unaccustomed movement of students from classroom to classroom. The whole arrangement seemed so impractical. It necessitated hauling around books & sweaters & coats (we were not lucky enough to have an indoor mall-type school). It demanded student lockers to store what wasn't needed for the next class. It created great swirling masses of kids scurrying between classes. I thought it quite inefficient & disorderly, compared to the one-classroom/one-teacher elementary school system.

Unlike Elementary School, there were different teachers for every class. I recognized that each teacher had their specialty, some seeming to enjoy their specialty more than others. I liked the teachers that liked what they were teaching. For instance, my English teacher obviously hated both his subject and his subjects (us students). The first day of class, he told us we didn't need to bring our school-issued textbook to class since he didn't intend to teach from it. We spent the rest of the year listening to him recount his travels to Portugal. Interestingly wierd. My favorite teachers that year taught seventh-grade science as a pair. I don't know why it took two of them, maybe because of our large class size, but they were so engaging, it was a pleasure to hear they were actually engaged, and planning on marrying over the summer break.

These were baby boom years, so all the classrooms were very crowded. Unlike Elementary School, I never knew even a small percentage of kids in my Junior High classes. If pressed, I could barely name any of them today. As I said, some students seemed dangerous, but that may be more the perspective of hormones, because the hormones were definitely hitting all of us at different levels of intensity. Phys Ed was where the rubber met the road in the physical maturity dept. Always a scrawny girl, I blitzed through the mandatory group showers, hoping to wrap up in a towel as quickly as possible, lest someone should notice that the boob fairy had not visited me yet. I even developed a convoluted way of getting partially dressed with my towel still wrapped around me. Later that year my mom bought me a glorified elastic band known as a "teen bra" which was a tremendous confidence builder. She also showed me how to shave my legs, so I could wear nylons. woo-hoooo, the whole womanhood thing seemed fascinating!

At the beginning of each school year, the school nurse gave the students a vision test. The kids would sit on benches waiting our turn to go behind a curtain and read the eye chart. All through Elementary School, my eyes were good, at least 20/20 as I recall. But in Seventh Grade, the nurse had so many kids to test, she got sloppy and left the curtain partially open. As I was waiting my turn, I noticed something had happened to my vision ... I could read the eye chart perfectly with my right eye, but hardly at all with my left eye. For some reason, the thought of eyeglasses terrified me (the popular rhinestone catseye style was particularly horrifying), so I took advantage of my waiting time to memorize the eye chart, top to bottom, left to right, right to left, row by row. When my turn came up, I aced the vision test, but who was I really fooling? I later learned that many kids have vision changes associated with puberty. This would finally catch up with me in high school, but by then, glasses were kind of cool, especially the frameless "granny glasses" style.

Junior High was my first experience with lunch time cafeterias. Our school was an older one with an outdoor cafeteria, so it was usually a miserable time, either roastingly hot, freezing cold, or raining. We were herded outside into a fenced off area with long tables. They locked the doors to the school behind us. This must be what prison yard time is like. The cafeteria was also my first experience with "cliques", where I found out that you couldn't just sit & eat at any table of students and expect them to welcome you. Being pretty shy, it was pretty painful. Every lunch time, I couldn't wait until they unlocked the doors back into the school area proper, so I could escape the cafeteria nightmare. Some days I stayed in the school library and didn't eat lunch at all. No wonder I was so scrawny.

For some reason, I ended up with a music class elective. This was a massive screw-up on my part. I thought we'd be studying musical theory, or maybe dissecting the influences of the classical composers, or something. It turned out the class was just a bunch of kids singing or messing around with some ancient and none-too-clean instruments for the entire classtime, while the teacher constantly fiddled with a broken metronome & tried to instill order. After the teacher found out I couldn't sing or play an instrument (actually I could play the accordian, but I would never reveal that in public), I ended up banging some cymbals or tinkling a triangle for the rest of the semester. The teacher never even wondered why I could read music or why I'd sometimes play one-handed piano as a joke (this is the sure sign of an accordian player).

There was one teacher at the school who went nuts or had a psychotic breakdown. I did not have any classes with her, but had heard from other students that she was "a woman on the edge". Here's all I know: I had only just gotten used to the P.A. system (we never had that in Elementary School). At first it was quite jarring to hear music blasted at us over loudspeakers at the end of each class and accompanying us down the corridors between classes. Even more jarring was "Home Room", the first class of the day, where we would have to sit quietly & listen to some school administrator babbling incomprehensibly over the P.A. about upcoming school events (think Rydell High) -- incomprehensible because the P.A. speakers were so scratchy, you could never be sure what exactly was being said. Anyway, the teacher who had a imminent date with the men-in-white came on the P.A. speakers one day in the MIDDLE of one of our classes. That had never happened before; the speakers had never crackled to life in the MIDDLE of a class. We were all treated to a great whooshing sound, then banshee-like wailing, then finally these words I've never forgotten, "I am Casper the friendly ghost. wwwooooohhh", followed by a great THUNK, and then the mike was switched off. WTH? It was all very strange and scary! Later that day, we found out the "woman on the edge" had been taken away in an ambulance to the Psych Ward. I had to ask my parents what all that meant. I guess if you ever find yourself thinking you're Casper the friendly ghost, better just check yourself into a sanitarium right then, so you don't scare the kiddies.

But the defining moment for my Seventh Grade year, indeed for the rest of my life in ways I couldn't possibly fathom at the time, happened on November 22, 1963. If you've read this far, you know exactly what I'm talking about. For me, it happened while I was in Science Class. Once again, the P.A. system crackled to life in the middle of class, so naturally we all thought, WOW, which teacher has gone nuts this time? But it wasn't a teacher talking over the P.A. No, no, no, this time it sounded like someone on break in the Teacher's Lounge had accidentally turned on the P.A. system while they were listening to the radio. It wasn't music, though, but what with the crackly speakers, we couldn't make sense of what was being said. Really, it seemed like a welcome disruption, an excuse to resume the non-stop gossip-fest that students so enjoy, since it was so loud, the teachers couldn't conduct classes until whoever turned it on figured out their mistake.

After a few moments, one of the Science teachers (remember, we had two), yelled at us to STOP TALKING AND LISTEN! The other teacher ran out of the classroom (we assumed he was going to the Teacher's Lounge to rectify the situation because someone was obviously asleep at the switch in there). But we quieted down enough to hear what was being broadcast. That's when we heard that the President had been shot.

Now it's very hard for most 12-year olds to really grasp the true meaning of those words, but I think we all grew up fast in those few moments. We listened as the radio announcer gave details about the motorcade in Dallas. We watched our teacher put on the kind of stoic face that scares kids more than anything. Her face told us that this is serious, that the world has just changed completely.

Then the other science teacher came bursting back into the classroom and nodded his head. They both sat down at their desks and put their heads in their hands. I remember looking around and seeing many other kids doing the same thing. No one said a word for the remainder of the class.

But time did not stand still. Science class ended and off we went to our next classes. My next class was Home Economics, an all-girl class because at that time, boys would never consider learning how to cook or sew or organize a household budget. During the break, the students were all walking around like zombies, straining to hear every scratchy word coming out of the P.A. speakers. Some of the kids who lived nearby left school at that point. That frightened me because I'd heard other kids talking about foreign military assassinations and war. Up to this point in my life, assassination was only a word I'd read in history books.

We had been in the midst of a sewing project in Home Ec, so we all took up positions at our rows of sewing machines, still listening to the P.A. system. We heard that President Kennedy had been shot in the head and that he had been taken to the hospital. We heard that Jackie had been in the car with him, but she was unhurt. Naturally, we began speculating. As we worked our sewing machines, we speculated about being shot in the head. I remember saying I'd never heard of anyone getting shot in the head and surviving. Someone else mentioned the word, vegetable. Oh yeah, like we were all suddenly medical experts!

That's when the radio announcer said it had now been confirmed that President Kennedy was dead and that Lyndon Johnson was being sworn in. Our sewing machines were all stunned into silence. The next few moments are etched into my brain.

There was a very pretty blond girl named Joyce who was at the sewing machine in front of me. I watched her head pitch forward and hit the sewing machine hard. She then slumped to the floor. I and a couple other girls helped her back up to her chair. She was crying so hard, we all started crying just watching her cry. Crying can be contagious!

And that's when the ugliest girl I have ever known, folded her arms across her chest in a defiant way, and said, "I don't care that he died; my family is Republican!" ... Her name was Brenda.

I have recounted that incident many times over the years, and every time the girl in question becomes uglier and uglier. Was she really physically ugly? Or was it her inner ugliness that has made her so ugly in my mind? All I know is that I was so horrified by her statement that she has become the most hideous visage in my memory.

The rest of the day is blur. I do remember watching TV coverage, but no one seemed to be talking about what it all meant. It really did seem like the world had changed. I was no longer an innocent babe, and we as a nation were in mourning over both the tragedy and for what might have been.


That was 45-years ago.

John F. Kennedy was 46-years old when he was killed.

He may not have been a Knight in Shining Armor, but he was a Beacon of Hope the likes of which we had not seen.

He provided a glimpse of what a smart, capable, charismatic president might do, given the chance. I hope some part of his spirit still resides in the WH.

If you're in the mood for some Billy Joel, "We Didn't Start the Fire", click here (5-mins). A fire was lit 11/22/1963. It has sputtered many times since then, but it truly feels like it reignited this year.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Bliss was it to be alive ***

OK, so I'm still obviously on a high. You wanna make something of it?

Here's Bill Maher's post-election NEW RULES (6-minutes). Some humor hits, some misses ... a nice tax plan for Joe the Phony Plumber, a beautiful Saudi goat, and some advice for us all ...


Even though it's a horribly dreary day here, dark and rainy and nasty, I can sense sunshine just around the corner. It feels so good to know that things do change ... that we are finally heading toward something positive. Who knows, perhaps we might even flourish instead of just trying to cope, for the way in which we tackle the immense problems that lie ahead may provide a path toward greatness.

*** "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven" -- penned by William Wordsworth, about the commencement of the French Revolution. Click here for full poem.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Shhhh ... Secrets of the 2008 Campaign

Newsweek has published a seven-part in-depth look behind the scenes of the 2008 presidential campaign. Their reporters were granted year-long access on the condition that none of their findings appear until after Election day.

While I do not think details that would be important for voters to know should be kept secret, I am enjoying reading about these details now. And I am wiping my brow with relief that the election turned out as it did!

I contemplated printing out all these to read later, but then I got the bright idea to link them on my blog, so I can read them at MY leisure ... and so you can read them at YOUR leisure, if you are so inclined.

The links below are to the "print version" of each of the seven parts, which is the way I like to read long articles. Even though print versions don't have all the linky-links, each part is all on one page instead of having to click forward through page after page. If you want the full linky-linked multi-page versions, click here & follow the chapters listed near the top, under the heading "Secrets of the 2008 Campaign". Otherwise, here ya go:

HIGHLIGHTS: Hackers and Spending Sprees (this is just an overview which you can skip if you intend to read the whole series anyway) ...

PART ONE: How He Did It (how Obama grew as a candidate)

PART TWO: Back From the Dead (how McCain's campaign made a comeback with a new narrative)

PART THREE: The Long Seige (Obama and Clinton's primary battle)

PART FOUR: Going Into Battle (the McCain campaign's best hopes for bringing Obama down)

PART FIVE: Center Stage (last minute worries and an impulsive veep pick for the base)

PART SIX: The Great Debates (different strokes for different folks)

PART SEVEN: The Final Days (the path to victory) ...

CHANGE HAS COME TO AMERICA, yes it has (or will, beginning 1.20.09)!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

President-Elect Obama

Today has been the oddest day. Floating on Cloud Nine, with only intermittant thoughts of the storms ahead. Thinking how beautiful it is to have a President actually Elected, not Selected or snuck in by hook or by crook.

But it was while watching scenes of the global celebration of President-Elect Obama that I finally understood an underlying truth. It was not America the world hated. It was our president and his insane agenda. It is him and his cronies and enablers that are despised worldwide. Whether we deserve it or not, we have been given another chance.

I like the way Paul Krugman summed it up today, short and bittersweet ...

The Monster Years (by Paul Krugman) :

Last night wasn’t just a victory for tolerance; it wasn’t just a mandate for progressive change; it was also, I hope, the end of the monster years.

What I mean by that is that for the past 14 years America’s political life has been largely dominated by, well, monsters. Monsters like Tom DeLay, who suggested that the shootings at Columbine happened because schools teach students the theory of evolution. Monsters like Karl Rove, who declared that liberals wanted to offer “therapy and understanding” to terrorists. Monsters like Dick Cheney, who saw 9/11 as an opportunity to start torturing people.

And in our national discourse, we pretended that these monsters were reasonable, respectable people. To point out that the monsters were, in fact, monsters, was “shrill.”


Four years ago it seemed as if the monsters would dominate American politics for a long time to come. But for now, at least, they’ve been banished to the wilderness.

***** And if you're a Michael Moore fan, like me, click here to read his message today.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Democracy is coming to the USA

As usual, Leonard Cohen says it best. Here is the 3.5 minute version:



If you're a Leonard Cohen fan, click here for the full 7-minutes ...

"It's coming from the sorrow in the street, the holy places where the races meet; from the homicidal bitchin' that goes down in every kitchen to determine who will serve and who will eat. From the wells of disappointment where the women kneel to pray for the grace of God in the desert here and the desert far away: Democracy is coming to the U.S.A."

If you haven't already voted, stop everything else you're doing,

and GO VOTE NOW!

While you're at it, drag a few friends with you.

This day is what DEMOCRACY is all about, the peaceful transfer of power. This is what our ancestors fought and died for.

Monday, November 3, 2008

one more thing ... Joe the Lieberman ... updated

Click here for a pretty good voter guide for watching the election results, especially for those of us who will be watching from the far western states.

And can I just say one more thing?

If the Democrats manage to end up with 60 seats in the Senate, can we finally strip Joe the Lieberman of any committee chairs and other important positions he holds due to his pretense that he "caucuses with the Democrats"?


I am so sick of him being a replicant toady, smiling like the Cheshire Cat at McCain rallies. Bust him back down to the lowliest most unimportant committee position possible, like wiping the sweaty ass stains off the senate leather chairs!
*****
UPDATE! Reid meeting with Lieberman 11/6/08. Doesn't look good for Joe, boo hoo. Go away, Joe!

odds and ends


I've been so unproductive in blogging lately, I thought I'd share a few odds and ends of my week.

New Eyeglasses: For some time I've been trying to find new glasses that look decent on me and yet allow a large enough field of vision. Many lenses of the newer styles are smaller than my eyeballs! Kind of defeats the purpose, in my opinion. See photo above for my final choice. What do you think? They were my second choice. Here is the story of my first choice:

My husband was checking out the sunglasses while I was trying on eyeglass frames. One style in particular seemed perfect, so I put them on to check the look. I thought I looked great in them, so I called out to the husband to get his opinion. He turned around, took one look, screamed and ran out of the store! WHY, you may ask? Because they are the exact same glasses that Sarah Palin wears! I tried coaxing him back into the store by pointing out how perfect they were & how great they looked on me, but he wasn't going for it. What cinched the deal was when I noticed the Sarah-frames were $395 (vs $150 for the ones I finally purchased).

Early Voting: check! done and done! The poll workers said they've never seen anything like the turnout this year. I must admit I wasn't too reassured when I saw the DIEBOLD name stamped on the back of our voting machines, but there is a little roll of paper that runs alongside the screen which allows you to verify the paper trail is correct. I hope it isn't printed with disappearing ink.

Wal-Mart Women: this is a phrase I've been hearing this week. It has Karl Rove written all over it, doesn't it? Just remember the previous phrases of "soccer moms", "security moms", and "values voters" -- all used to justify why exit polling did not match election results for Bush. I have a feeling Tuesday is going to be an allnighter, possibly even an allweeker.

W: We finally went to see the movie, W. Now I remember why I hate going to movie theatres. If the endless commercials and previews weren't enough to keep me at home, the deafening sound system is. If this is what is being installed in expensive Home Theatre Rooms, I want no part of it. But we wanted to see W before this election, just to remind ourselves of what we are voting against. In that regard, the movie was a great success. Unfortunately it was not a great movie. However, it did capture the cockiness of W, the toadiness of Rove, the yes-womanliness of Condi and the shadowiness of Cheney pretty well. If you saw it, do you think Colin Powell ever really told Dick Cheney to fuck off? I hope he did, but I have my doubts. There's also a good scene with Tony Blair that shows him being double-team bullied into supporting our effort at Empire. I choked up over the footage of protestors around the world, because of course none of it ever made one bit of difference to the people pushing U.S. into Iraq. The callousness of these war thugs is astounding!

Democracy: Democracy cannot survive without an informed and motivated citizenry. The U.S. has a dismal record of voter turnout. Other democracies regularly see over 90% voter turnout. If you don't bother to vote, don't be surprised to find many more W's in our future -- a prospect that almost defeats the word "future".

Massive Voter Turnout: watching the scenes of long voter lines on TV fills me with a renewed sense of hope. One of the biggest crimes of the last 8-years has been to make people believe they have no power. That is a bogus argument designed to suppress the vote. We have ultimate power. We always have. It starts with voting, of course, but it does not end there, especially if we see another stolen election. We just have to decide to exercise our power.

We have the power -- People Have the Power (Patti Smith):



Click here for the complete lyrics. It's full of inspiring images, but I think my favorite line says "the armies ceased advancing". I saw Patti Smith some years ago at the Belly-Up Tavern in Solana Beach CA. She became my hero when some young guys in the audience yelled at her between songs, "Just how old a woman are you?"... She responded, "Old enough to know better than to answer fools like you"! BTW, she is even more intense in person than on camera.

Drill Here, Drill Now: In case you missed it, Prez Bush has started his end-of-term enviromental deregulation. 11 Million acres of federal land in Utah will be open for oil and gas drilling interests, as well as off-road vehicles, risking priceless artifacts and some of the most breathtaking open spaces in America if the Bureau of Land Management, guided by Dirk Kempthorne, the interior secretary, has their way. About 1 Million acres near the Grand Canyon will be open for new uranium mining, without any environmental review of potential damage to air and water. This same type of deregulation has to be going on in many other states, too.

Well, I'm sure there were many other odds and ends this week, but I'm also sure that these have been amply covered in the news and on the blogs. If I don't make it back before Tuesday, let me say once again, that in this election, any non-Obama vote is a vote for McCain. You don't need me to do the math for you. This is not just a hope-filled dream; it is the most important election in all my voting years. It took 40 long years to come back to the place we once were and recognize it for the first time (click here for link to T.S. Eliot). Sorry, I cannot be cynical when so much is at stake.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sarah is a Secret Democrat!

Where can I buy one of these big red white & blue non-elephantine repuglican "FASHION NOES"! I lifted the following directly from Jason Linkins in Huffington Post today:

"OH NOES! Why on earth is Sarah Palin wearing a Democratic Party keffiyeh, festooned with donkeys and the word "Vote?" Why won't McCain question her on her ties to radical leftist accessories?
So, yeah. I'd say that this is money well spent by the RNC! In my imaginings, this scarf cost Palin $15,000, and all proceeds went directly to ACORN."
DK says: and what's up with those earrings? Are they miniature versions of her trademark glasses? Some kind of special FastGasPass for filling up Todd's snowmachine at ExxonMobil Gas Stations? What?

Palin's personal shopping expenses, RNC list to date:
* Saks Fifth Avenue: $49,425.74
* Neiman Marcus: $75,062.63
* Macy's: $9,447.71
* Barneys New York: $789.72
* Bloomingdales: $5,102.71
* Hair and make-up products: $14,716.49

Sarah has spent more on 2-months worth of clothes & cosmetics than the assessed value of Joe the Phony Plumber's house ... more than the Avg Joe & his hard-working spouse TOGETHER earn in 2 YEARS (per their joint tax return) ... more than the price of FOUR brand-new PRIUS's ... more than the amount of federal income tax paid by GM, Ford, Chrysler combined (ok that last item was a cheapshot since most large U.S. corps pay little or NO fed income taxes)....

Oh, and she's gonna give the clothes to charity after the campaign? That's really rich. How many Size 3 homeless women have you seen?

Here is Jon Stewart's take on the Palin family of grifters:


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dude, where's my sign?

Everyone I talk to who has put out Obama yard signs has had them stolen. It usually happens late at night. I don't know if this a Freedom of Speech issue or plain old theft of private property issue, but if this is the master plan of the republicans, they really must be desperate.

I was talking to Jan at the Red Coyote Cafe last week. Her cafe enjoys an nice location on the main highway into Zion National Park. As I was complimenting her excellent taste in Obama signage, she sighed & told me how many times it has been stolen. Sometimes the sign-stealers are not content to just take the sign. Sometimes they use it to destroy her patio plants. She always replaces it and wonders what the sign-stealers are really trying to say. Are they saying she is not entitled to express her own political opinion on her own property? As she serves her tasty Breakfast Burritos, she wonders if perhaps one of the customers is enjoying her food by day and coming back to steal her signs at night. She worries that the sign stealers may turn violent, but that hasn't stopped her from putting out Obama signs.

After a woman in a nearby town had her Obama yard sign stolen a few times, she mounted one on a branch of a big tree in her front yard. A few days later, she found the tree branch laying on her lawn with a rope hanging from it ... no sign of the sign. Was this done by her neighbors, she wonders, or just some drive-by McManiac? She now takes her sign inside each night at dusk.

Apparently this is a national phenomenon.

In North Carolina a couple of stolen Obama posters were wrapped around a murdered baby bear which was left at the entrance of Western Carolina University.

In Sacramento CA a family had so many yard signs stolen, they put out a sign saying if you steal our sign we will donate money to the Obama campaign. It was stolen, so they now have put out 100 yard signs & donate a dollar every time one is stolen.

In Portland OR 16-yr old Preston Fosback has mounted a webcam to watch his Obama sign after having a few swiped. People all over the world are now monitoring his sign every night.

It's happening in Texas. "What are people thinking? Signs don't vote!" East Texans are attributing the theft to racism.

In Virgina a baptist minister found his 4x8-ft Obama yard sign replaced with a big Confederate Flag.

SWASTIKAS were spray-painted on some Obama signs in Albuquerque NM ! (link includes video) ... what does this say about THE REAL AMERICA, the one humped by Sarah Palin ... does that place even exist anymore?

I don't normally put out political yard signs because I live on a dead-end street and my neighbors are beyond political redemption. However, I'm rethinking that position because I came home tonight to find this little message stuck in my front door:

"VOTE PALIN-McCAIN ... Palin will go to work cleaning up corruption in Washington DC just like she did in Alaska. Palin has a record of transparency. You can bet she will fight for drilling for oil ... immediately! ... She has a record in Alaska of fighting unreasonable environmentalists, like the polar bear claim. Thank you for your vote."

You notice, not a word about McCain, except to put his name 2nd? Wow, I knew Utahns weren't impressed with The Mav-prick, but did not realize they consider HIM the afterthought to the Republican ticket. And what to say about the brazen ignorance of Palin's attributes they so lovingly cited? Maybe it's time to finally put out my Obama sign and see how long before it is stolen!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

coincidence?


M cCain - P alin

=

M P

=

M ilitary P olice !

coincidence, or crap?

Friday, October 17, 2008

WOW, is there ANYTHING this guy CAN'T do?

Ask any comedian, comedy is hard work. You need good material delivered with a deft touch and natural timing. Roasting is the hardest comedy of all. Great care is necessary to assure that you don't go into unfunny mean territory. Here is Obama doing an impressively funny roast speech tonight at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner (10.5 minutes):



Now here is McCain speaking at the same dinner (you know it won't be pretty ... in fact, it is practically a concession speech):

Thursday, October 16, 2008

McStalker?

sorry, couldn't resist posting this shot.
last night's great debate moment!
I can't even begin to analyze this posture,
but McTongue sure does look hungry for Obama's ass.
too bad he got handed his own, instead.
* * * * * * * * * *

if you want some tax analysis, scroll down and
read why "Joe the Plumber is a Selfish Prick";
also tell me what you thought about "Intervention" (below) ...

Joe the Plumber is a Selfish Prick

Disclaimer: I don't know Joe the Plumber from Joe Blow, but after hearing about him and his tax problems throughout the debate last night, I have to say he is a selfish prick. Here's why:

He claims to be unable to buy a business he has been working for because Obama's tax plan would make it unfeasible. Apparently, the additional 3% tax increase Obama would impose on any of Joe's net business income over $250K per year will make it unprofitable for him to realize his dream of purchasing his own plumbing business.

Where to start? Let me address Joe directly ...

Joe, you do realize that in "purchasing" an existing business, as you are proposing to do, you must first come to terms with the seller on the selling price? If this additonal tax is going to cost you too much of your prospective net profit, you must realize it is also going to cost the seller more of his net profit if he does NOT sell the business. This is, therefore, a negotiable item that both you and the seller must take into consideration in agreeing on a purchase price. You are in the catbird seat here, Joe. If you can't handle this type of negotiation, perhaps you should not be in business for yourself in the first place.

You also realize that once you are a business owner, virtually every expense you incur in your business is tax deductible? It is only the NET business income that is taxable, and under Obama's tax plan, only the net income over $250K will face a tax increase. And just to be extra clear, it is not so much a tax increase as it is allowing the Bush Tax Cut for the Wealthy to sunset as it was intended to do in 2010 regardless of WHO is president. This means income tax rates will return to their pre-Bush level, back to the time when our government was not running such huge deficits because the income tax rates were high enough to cover our national expenses ... kind of like the way you would hope to run your own business, Joe.

Do you realize the "onerous" tax increase you are facing under Obama, the one that is precluding you from purchasing your dream business, is only $1500 for every $50K you net over $250K? Remember the $250K is NET, meaning you have already deducted every possible business expense from your gross revenue and still have over $250K left for yourself. And the Obama tax plan has incentives to help you realize immediate deductions for capital expenses, which will help you further reduce your net taxable business income.

You talked about Obama's tax increase being so high as to not allow you to employ "people". Since you said "people", I assume you are talking about at least 2 people, in addition to yourself. Having run a small business myself for 25-yrs, I know how much it costs to employ "people". It generally runs the employer about 1.5 times the actual salary of the employee. This includes paying the employer share of payroll taxes, state unemployment and workers compensation fund insurance, and any employee benefits you intend to offer such as health insurance and pension. The Obama tax plan has incentives in the form of a tax credit for each new employee you hire, which will help reduce your cost of each employee.

I've estimated that in order for any Obama Tax Plan increase to even begin to impact you, Joe, your prospective business would have to be generating gross sales revenue of around $2million/year. Using industry standard expense figures, your direct costs would be about 70%, or $1.4million, leaving $600K to cover 10% avg overhead expenses (=$200K) and 2 employees at $75K each (=$150K) ... which would leave you a net taxable business income of $250K.

Now here is why I say you are selfish, Joe:

From your complaint, it's obvious that your prospective plumbing business must be grossing a lot more than $2million/yr, therefore netting you a lot more than $250K/yr. Well, Joe, I don't mean to sound like I'm picking on you, but if you're netting more than $250K/yr, maybe you ought to be paying your employees more. Every dollar more you pay them reduces your net taxable income. Think about offering better benefits, like increased matching pension plans and family medical coverage. Whatever benefits you offer your employees will also be available to you, TAX-FREE (unless McCain gets elected because he will make some of those benefits taxable)! Or think about hiring additional employees, which would provide the jobs our country needs to help get our economy back on track. Think about new equipment purchases which will not only help your business to run more efficiently but also help the economy in general (remember every dollar you spend on these business items is a sales dollar to some other business). All these expense items will help you grow your business while reducing your net taxable business income, so you won't be stuck paying the IRS that extra 3% on net income over $250K/yr! While you're at it, get yourself a knowledgeable tax accountant (his fee will be another business expense to help reduce your net taxable income), because you obviously do not have the skills to do this yourself.

And if after all this, your business is still netting more than $250K/yr, then I say, congratulations, Joe! You are a successful business owner and should be proud to pay your fair share of taxes in order to keep the country that made your success possible sound. Now, if you don't care about contributing to keeping our economy sound, if all you care about is Joe, then I say you ARE a selfish prick and your business venture is probably doomed to failure, no matter WHO is president and no matter what their tax plan is.

***** UPDATE: In addition to everything else, Joe the Plumber was probably a republican plant! Read HelenWheels & follow her links today. Looks like "Joe" is related to Charlie Keating. McCain may regret making "Joe" the centerpiece of his debate points. Well as the Church Lady would say, how conveeeenyunt!