Saturday, March 13, 2010

Let the Red Flames Light the Sky

In the future, where we have jetpacks and that 20-20 hindsight, let us not confuse what we wish with what we are doing. An example: last July, bluegal wrote:
A fellow blogger had a fit last night via email, because that blogger heard a rumor that possibly abortions would not be covered under the Public Option. I. Just. Winced. All. The. Way. To. Bed. We don't HAVE a public option yet. It's not a sure thing. We have to wait for the insurance companies to fail before single payer is maybe possibly back on the table, but let's pour a heaping cup of the most divisive issue of the past fifty years into the pot right now, because it's so very critical.

These are the words of a fake feminist, no matter how she denies it. These are the words of a person prepared to change the subject when other people's problems disgust her. I'd like to make a joke, but what is there to say when a woman who makes panty jokes kicks people below her on the ladder? I lost my cool.
but let's pour a heaping cup of the most divisive issue of the past fifty years into the pot right now, because it's so very critical.

I'm sorry you're squeamish about this but it is, in fact, very critical. Further, I can't really tell what point you're arguing here. Are you saying that we construct a public option, which is already a poor compromise from single-payer, then decide what's in our compromise, and then give away our reproductive rights?

Because: no. No.

I have three words for her: Bart. Fucking, Stupak, whose coming perfidy was visible for miles. She responded:
Tata I'm saying, particularly with this issue, don't throw gas on a flame until you know what you're burning.

We are going to have to work out what's covered and what isn't, sure. For instance, I don't want public option to pay for Arianna's botox injections.

I'm also not going spend one minute this summer getting into an abortion rights versus free-abortion-on-demand rights argument here. And I don't think Congress should, either.

But here's the deal: if Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh get to call Public Option a baby killer option we're politically done.


I wouldn't be surprised at all if some cunning insurance lobbyist floated that rumor just to run the public plan off the rails. It just might work.

That explosion you just heard? Yeah, the top of my head blew off. There was no point in trying to show her the future - except what was certain.
O'Reilly's going to be all over that by dinnertime tonight. You've bargained away the repro rights of the people the plan is supposed to cover without a fight.

Game, set, match for the forced birthers.

The health insurance bill will set back repro rights in ways we will spend decades discovering, which makes me so angry I can hardly see straight. What makes it worse is when women like bluegal, who should have been able to see past her Ick Factor problem to observe that strategically when women's groups didn't get out in front of this issue, we lost everything. Again. The reason it was completely foreseeable is it happened every year since Roe v. Wade was decided. Bluegal is supposed to be smart - her masthead says as much - so she either knows that or doesn't care if repro rights survive. The argument she makes is a dead giveaway.

Here we are, in the completely foreseeable future. If you can't guess what's going to happen next, maybe you could ask her what she thinks won't.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

You Won't Hear From the Messenger

Earlier today, Dr. Mark Hyman's bleakly titled article at the Huffington Post caught my eye. Haiti Journal: Hacksaws and Vodka was everything you might expect about the grimness of the field hospitals, but also gently heartening. The situation is slowly improving. The coverage of the crisis has been bugging the shit out of me, and at the bottom of Hyman's page, we find a striking image of why.

Four sage white dudes. I feel safer already.

In the first days, I noticed two stories: black people trapped, injured, starving and white people shaken but unharmed. Black people looting. White people, well-fed and healthy, clucking about horror. Black bodies are loaded onto dumptrucks with bulldozers. White missionaries in Connecticut tell Haitians they'll be back. Bill Clinton keeps a straight face. Wyclef Jean is in tears. It couldn't be more obvious, but nobody says a word, and the media seems not to realize it runs this script over and over again, every few years, somewhere in the world.


Thursday, November 05, 2009

To Memory Now I Cannot Recall

As I watch Congresspersons preen, bicker and bargain away our reproductive rights for the illusion of healthcare, I am bracing myself for the return of commonplace botched back alley abortions and the deaths of our nieces, sisters, daughters and friends.

One of my sisters votes Republican and refuses to consider what that means. "Roe v Wade will never be overturned!" she hisses when the subject comes up, but there is no balm in Gilead. Democrats have made common cause with the anti-choice mob and since women will still need abortions they cannot afford, women will die. It has nothing to do with right or wrong but everything to do with money, shame and social control of women. Today, I believe this is coming, that Americans will have the nerve to be shocked and scandalized and we will have to start the fight all over again because we do not learn and remember.

Months ago, feminists were warned not to mention abortion in the context of the healthcare fight. Blue Gal scolded me about it. She said mentioning abortion was asking for trouble. It's in her archives somewhere. I said then and I say now: we have only the rights we are willing to defend, and we should have taken this fight straight to Congress, because the antis were always going to do that. You saw it today. That was always going to happen, and they're not going to stop.

Perhaps in daylight, cooler heads will prevail on other matters, but not on this one. It's all over but the tears.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Too Long To Wait Too Long

I am all out of faith. It's time for me to think less about politics and more about direct action for the greater good.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

And Words Are Made To Bend

Watch CBS News Videos Online

This morning, I watched the re-airing of part of this report on CBS' Early Show and I was struck by the language of the video piece and the framing within the show. This morning's report more blatantly slathered on the talking points than what I was able to find on CBS' website. I really couldn't believe my ears.

Anchor Maggie Rodriguez introduced the piece with remarks about how a new insurance industry study out yesterday indicates that without individual mandates premium costs for families would increase an average of $4000. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the insurance companies would issue such a report, but the report itself is not the question the video is about. No. That question is: are the insurance companies happy?

I was getting ready for work and very busy, but I stopped what I was doing to make sure I was hearing this right. At the end of the video, the reporter - Chip Reid, I guess - said that for now the insurance companies were still at the table. Rodriguez, though, actually asked what we can do to make the insurance companies happy.

Let's speak plainly: there's no need for health insurance at all. People do not need health insurance. People need health care. Health insurance companies as for-profit businesses actually deny customers the needed service to make that profit, so customers by definition cannot buy what they need. Even common decency is too much to ask.

I don't give a flying fuck if the insurance companies are happy. In fact, if it were up to me, we'd burn the system to the ground and prosecute the executives, as we created a national health service, where everyone regardless of means was treated exactly the same way. That would be justice. That would be the fulfillment of the Constitutional promise to promote the general welfare. That would be the cheapest, smartest business model for America.

Instead, we're left to ponder the happiness of the motherfuckers stealing our money and our lives.

Crossposted at Brilliant@Breakfast.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

You Won't Hear Me Leaving

Jim Bell
Executive Producer, The Today Show

Mr. Bell,

Yesterday, many news services reported you'd hired Jenna Bush Hager as an education reporter. This is offensive on a number of levels. Hager has no resume, no experience, no competency and nothing to offer. I'm afraid this hiring does not just betray NBC's political leanings; it also argues against your news organization's basic ability to gather news.

I have been watching your show for decades. Several years ago, I wrote to The Today Show twice to inform you that when Ann Coulter appeared on your show I changed the channel or turned off the TV. Ann Coulter continues to appear on your show. Recently, I wrote to tell you that Jim Cramer's presence also caused me to change the channel or shut off the TV. I should have mentioned, perhaps, that Erin Burnett's every pronouncement made me feel cheap and dirty, but some people like that. You should have disclaimers on the screen each time Cramer and Burnett speak, describing their culpability in the financial crisis, but even honesty is too much to ask. This, hiring Hager, is the last straw for me. NBC has lost all credibility. This is an insult to serious people of all kinds who train, hone a craft and polish their skills.

This morning, I switched the channel, and I won't be back until your organization does some very serious growing up. I won't hold my breath.

Sincerely yours,
Princess Ta

Sent to:

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Find It Hard To Write the Next Line

How often do you read a headline and groan? Buckle up.
Henry Louis Gates Jr. Arrested, Police Accused Of Racial Profiling

So I used to work in this punk rock bar where pretty much anything could happen, but what happened every weekend was the employees got tanked after closing, told very funny stories and did all kinds of things we won't talk about until indictments are unsealed. One night, the bar's owner Doobie told us one time some guy picked a fight with Doobie's wife Connie. Hauled off and hit her. Knocked her off her barstool. Doobie groaned, "Oh man, you shouldn'ta done that." Connie stood up, punched that guy straight in the face and knocked him out.

I read this article and groaned, "Oh man, you shouldn'ta done that." This is very bad:
[Gates' attorney, fellow Harvard scholar Charles] Ogletree said Gates gave the officer his driver's license and Harvard identification after being asked to prove he was a Harvard professor and lived at the home, but became upset when the officer continued to question him.

"He was shocked to find himself being questioned and shocked that the conversation continued after he showed his identification," Ogletree said.

Ogletree declined to say whether he believed the incident was racially motivated, saying "I think the incident speaks for itself."

Some of Gates' African-American colleagues say the arrest is part of a pattern of racial profiling in Cambridge.

Allen Counter, who has taught neuroscience at Harvard for 25 years, said he was stopped on campus by two Harvard police officers in 2004 after being mistaken for a robbery suspect. They threatened to arrest him when he could not produce identification.

"We do not believe that this arrest would have happened if professor Gates was white," Counter said. "It really has been very unsettling for African-Americans throughout Harvard and throughout Cambridge that this happened."

The Rev. Al Sharpton is vowing to attend Gates' arraignment.

"This arrest is indicative of at best police abuse of power or at worst the highest example of racial profiling I have seen," Sharpton said. "I have heard of driving while black and even shopping while black but now even going to your own home while black is a new low in police community affairs."

Ogletree said Gates had returned from a trip to China on Thursday with a driver, when he found his front door jammed. He went through the back door into the home – which he leases from Harvard – shut off an alarm and worked with the driver to get the door open. The driver left, and Gates was on the phone with the property's management company when police first arrived.

Ogletree also disputed the claim that Gates, who was wearing slacks and a polo shirt and carrying a cane, was yelling at the officer.

"He has an infection that has impacted his breathing since he came back from China, so he's been in a very delicate physical state," Ogletree said.

But wait, there's one more gut-punch:
The Middlesex district attorney's office said it could not do so until after Gates' arraignment.

Arraignment. Arrested for disorderly conduct in his own home.

Karmically speaking, we are about to see some shit go boom.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Be Loved Or Be Forgiven

Tonight as the sun sets on a rainy afternoon, neighborhood children released from the captivity of some fearsome rec room run screaming in a sopping backyard. Under the canopy of tall oaks and maples, sounds echoes, amplified, distorted. What sounds like a rampaging mob may be two enthusiastic Marco! Polo! players, but whatever it is, it's nearly over as bedtime approaches. I've been having that dream again in which I'm chained to the stake and the flames are rising, so I hope they sleep well. Someone should, but I keep getting up for little glasses of water.

Yesterday's brief issued by the Department of Justice defending the Defense of Marriage Act knocked the wind out of me. It was plain during the long campaign that Candidate Obama was a corporate centrist, which while better than the alternatives was miles to my right. I didn't have high hopes for progress, but I hoped we wouldn't lose a lot of ground. Unfortunately, a whole lot of President Obama's supporters have discovered since 1.20.09 - I have the t-shirt and everything - that their groups' love wasn't returned. Some of these groups overlap, but if you happened to be a phone-tapped pot-smoking union anti-war mortgage-holding uninsured olive-skinned pregnant lesbian with credit card debt, man, you are shit out of luck. But who among us is not?

As light fades under the trees, the echoes yield to the sounds of rain dripping from rooftops onto pitted concrete. It's quiet, but quiet has layers. Traffic on the highway on the other side of the river rumbles but this sound is neutral and somehow unlike noise. The Defense of Marriage Act clearly defines GLBT people as second class citizens, and I cannot make this work in my tiny brain. So many words, so much talk, so little compassion and the result is that some people diminish the lives of other people for no reason and in ways they refuse to apprehend. It is difficult to ponder the psyche that actively seeks to harm, but this we must, over and over. The thing that is most puzzling about this oppression is that in the putting down no one is raised up. No one's life is improved when GBLT cannot comfort one another in hospitals. No one's marriage is strengthened when GLBT people cannot marry. No children live better lives because GLBT people cannot adopt them. No one benefits. We allow all this love to slip through our hands is because it's easier to stick our fingers in our ears when people suffer than to embrace them.

Once, I was sitting in the fenced-in cafe of a girl bar in Asbury Park on a sunny day with my lover, my live-in boyfriend, a woman I sometimes cozied up with and our friends. That was quite a weekend. I spent a lot of it sticky. As the long rays of afternoon light combined with the beer and no particular need to go anywhere or do anything, bottles sailed over the wall and crashed at our feet. It wasn't the first time, and certainly not the last as the neighborhood, once gay-friendly and quiet, was changing. Nothing really happened, you see. No one was injured, but if someone had been, no one stood to gain.

Even now, so much is lost you have to wonder why.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Without Ever Knowing the Way

Edith and Andy in Guatemala, 1976

Today is the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.
The worst factory fire in the history of New York City occurred on March 25, 1911, in the Asch building, where the Triangle Shirtwaist Company occupied the top three of ten floors. Five hundred women, mostly Jewish immigrants between thirteen and twenty-three years old, were employed there. The owners had locked the doors leading to the exits to keep the women at their sewing machines. In less than fifteen minutes, 146 women died. The event galvanized support for additional efforts to be made to increase safety in the workplace. It also garnered support for labor unions in the garment district, and in particular for the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.

Crooks and Liars, 24 March 2009:
Lanny Davis enlisted by Big Business to promote a "Third Way" Corporate Compromise on EFCA

Money never misses a chance to lock the doors and let us burn.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Extra Time And Your

Her name is exactly what you think it is when you look at her but we're calling her Doris. She's the hygienist at my dentist's office and I have seen her exactly twice. The first time, two weeks before my braces came off, was the week her husband left her and the children. I don't mean to sound insensitive, but the last thing you want is someone having a crying jag while sticking sharp objects into your gums. I love my dentist but it was two years before I worked up the nerve to make an appointment for another teeth cleaning.

Mercy, mercy, Doris' life is moving on even as time stops while I'm sitting in her chair. She remembers me. She asks how I've been. I can't tell the nice lady with the sad blue eyes that the memory of our last encounter haunts me and causes me to brush longer, so I tell her two years ago my life turned upside down, but things are better, and here I am. She tells me her brother drank himself to death and her estranged sister-in-law won't release the ashes. On a case by case basis I can be a compassionate person, but Doris' case has lost its handles. Thank Vishnu I've been using an electric toothbrush.

Speaking of not handling things well, there may be a better way to handle this.
Stop smooching.

That's the message of a new sign that went up outside a train station in northern England on Monday.

The goal is to stop departing passengers from pulling up in their cars at a crowded drop-off point and pausing to kiss each other farewell.

Virgin Rail says it installed the sign while refurbishing the station after a local business networking group said the place had to become more efficient.

But profit margins may have been a factor, too.

Virgin Rail says that if passengers want to share an embrace before they part company, they should pay to park their cars nearby where they can kiss all they want.

I can't wait until a local government ANYWHERE ON EARTH puts up a sign that says PARK HERE AND KISS. If this happened in America, those delicate flowers home-schooled on abstinence-only sex ed would take that as an order. What else could go predictably wrong?

Well, for starters, Doris wants me to floss.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Where She Is Now I Can Only Guess

ThinkProgress: this fucker doesn't make the cut on the varsity cogitating team.

Jesse Taylor:
Kefalinos denies intimating that Obama would be assassinated, and insists that the cookie is "not unflattering. I think it's a fun face… And anyone who says anything else should be ashamed of themselves." Besides, nobody got upset about the "Dead Geese Bread" he sold after the recent Hudson River plane crash. (We’re NOT making that up.) Also, Kefalinos insists he can’t be racist because, for one thing, “my brother-in-law, he’s Cuban."

I like that ubiquitous "I can't be a racist because [someone else] is [something]" rationale. It's priceless. By that reasoning, I can't be a racist because sasquatch is lemurs.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Unto Others As You Would Have A Turn

Sometimes it's hard to feel fucking peaceful.
Insurance loophole claimed in fire deaths
Company says smoke that killed 3 was 'pollution'

Wha - wha - what?
An insurance company with a potential $25 million liability from a 2007 Houston office fire is claiming smoke that killed three people was "pollution" and surviving families shouldn't be compensated for their losses since the deaths were not caused directly by the actual flames.

Great American Insurance Company is arguing in a Houston federal court that the section of the insurance policy that excludes payments for pollution — like discharges or seepage that require cleanup — would also exclude payouts for damages, including deaths, caused by smoke, or pollution, that results from a fire.

Here is a brick.
Hold onto that. You might need it.

Before we go on, I'd like to make a point: we will all be dead a whole lot longer than we are alive. I assume you're alive, but you know what they say about assuming. A lot of people in every story believe in an afterlife in which they will have to explain their actions. Okay, continuing then -
Great American has asked U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal to find that the deaths caused by the smoke, fumes and soot from the March 2007 fire set by a nurse working in the building will not be covered by the policy because there is a specific exclusion for pollution and it mentions smoke, fumes and soot.

"Listen, Saint Peter, I couldn't not do it, right? Millions of dollars were at stake, not to mention our S&P rating. Plus, it had the merit of being practically diabolical - oops..."
In October, vocational nurse Misty Ann Weaver was sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to three counts of felony murder and one count of first-degree arson for setting the fire to conceal that she had failed to complete paperwork on time.

Great American's legal request, filed in late November and set for hearings in February, notes that there are four pending lawsuits against the property owners for wrongful death and injury, and contends that the insurance company should not have to pay on any of them.

Kevin Sewell, the Dallas lawyer who filed the request, did not return phone calls Tuesday afternoon. Great American spokeswoman Diane Weidner said company policy is to not comment on pending litigation.

"I can explain! Let me explain! See, the people were already dead, so it wasn't like we were hurting them or anything, and who knows, maybe they really liked smoke. It's tasty on ribs, am I right?"
Seth Chandler, a University of Houston Law Center professor who teaches insurance law, said while the insurance company's maneuver wasn't out of bounds, it will test the limits of the law.

"This is pushing the boundaries of the absolute pollution exclusion," Chandler said. "We're going to have a battle between the literal language of the policy and the way people speak of pollution."

A question of semantics
He said the issue is an ongoing conversation between the courts and the insurance industry. Chandler said he doesn't know of any other Texas cases on this issue. Nationwide, he said, even carbon monoxide poisoning has been found to be covered by insurance despite a pollution exclusion.

Despite this slightly-less-evil fucker's assertion that it's all words it is NOT all words. This is a question, as so many are, of common decency. That insurance companies employ vicious bastards is one of the main reasons insurance companies cannot be trusted, and there is nowhere where they prove it day in and day out like on the issue of healthcare. Frankly, the whole premise of health insurance doesn't make any sense when insurance companies are for-profit since there's no incentive to provide decent healthcare. There's plenty of incentive to deny claims. Every denied claim is greater profit. We're in sad shape, but there's a glimmer of hope: the incoming administration has promised reform.
The Obama transition team is having people organize house parties to give their thoughts on health care reform. They are open, deliberative processes. So of course the insurance industry is seeking to sabotage them.

Now, about that brick...


Monday, November 03, 2008

That Emptiness Brings Fullness

I can't form a coherent sentence anymore about politics. The absolute worst thing I've ever heard was the suggestion that the Democratic candidate killed his grandmother today for sympathy votes. My response to this has been swift and direct: god damn it, I'm going to knit some fucking cat blankets in my extreme and shitty frustration that reprobate howler monkeys qualify to vote, and put some Good after Bad. Fuck!

And I urge you to give a street person a quarter and a granola bar, put spare change in a parking meter, feed some stray cats, because we have seen enough, and you've probably still got a quarter.


Monday, October 27, 2008

From the Highest Tower

This morning, I walked to work. It was tough going, what with the fuzzy lungs and me allergic to cashmere. While I was dramatically infirm, I noticed a new recruitment ad for the military that made me delicately irate. In it, an older man of color asks an olive-skinned woman if her son is still talking about joining the military. She says the young man talks about nothing but. The older man asks if she is still opposed to her son joining. She says her son can be very persuasive, and her mind is opening to the idea. The older man says he's impressed with both of them.

Congratulations to the US military, which has finally managed to convey what some of us have known all along: our sons are born to be cannonfodder in self-perpetuating imperialist wars. It is only our stubborn belief that children matter individually preventing the military from snapping them up like dropped pennies and turning them into gravestones or worse. And if mothers and fathers would stop being so damned picky about that whole PSTD-head injury-full-thickness burns-lost limbs-depression and suicide thing, it would just be so much easier to conduct these endless, pointless wars that are such a boon to the military-industrial complex. So this morning, when I walked around a ROTC flag raising ceremony because the sidewalk was blocked by shivering crew-cut teenagers, I was in a bit of a snit. But why talk about architecture when we can dance about war?


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Nice Day To Start Again

This is my grandmother Edith, my father's mother, my refuge, anchor in life I still miss daily seventeen years after her death. And an, um, friend. Edith called this picture "Two Mules." She was six when it was taken and always hated it. You can see - or at least I can - that she never really had a child's face, though it is charming to see her nose before she broke it playing football with her brothers. As the middle of seven children and the oldest girl in an immigrant Sicilian family, she always carried more responsibility than she should have had to bear.

I like the detail of the shoes, and that this picture was taken, if I recall correctly, in New Brunswick, where no one ever sees a mule just in passing anymore, though if one did, one would not expect this mule's jaunty joie de vivre.

We are a long way from a post-racial society, at least in part because the issue of race makes us stupid. We say stupid things. We act against our best interests because we stupidly can't see what they are. I can't claim to be smarter than the next idiot but I can tell you this: anything that creates or prolongs suffering adds to the Stupid, and whatever works for the Common Good speaks for itself. Perhaps that is why I love this picture, below, so much. It's nothing, it's just a young man and his grandparents. They could be anyone and I would still feel the same way about it.

Very few of us are simply, genetically, one thing. There are remote places where people have not intermingled much with the world, but you should expect to find few teeth and supernumerary digits. Further, history is full of raping, pillaging, slavery and diaspora, so no matter how you slice it, a picture of your family tree will inevitably come up short a few branches - or maybe you're missing from someone else's.

I take the election season's racial dogwhistling very seriously. It's not hard to predict the outcome. When the Towers came down and Americans waved flags, I said, "Brown people are now going to die, as they do every time jingoism is the zeitgeist." And now I say we are about to revisit that part of our comparatively recent history where white people act on their basest, most vile impulses and truly believe they are acting in the interest of White Pride or White Heritage or ...whatever. But Americans really ought to know in 2008 that there is not now nor was there ever any such thing.

There is, however, you and your grandchildren. You and your grandparents. You and your cousins. You and your people, who may not be who you think they are. You and your own people are our people, and now is the time to ask yourself who they might be, because we cannot truly, absolutely know. You can't know.


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

To Keep On Keeping On

dday reports:
Yesterday, at two major rallies for the Republican candidates, audience members yelled out that Obama is a terrorist and that he should be killed (or maybe that Bill Ayers should be killed, hard to know from the context, but when you're talking about someone approving of murder in the presence of a Republican candidate, it's a distinction without a difference). Today, an audience member screamed "Treason!"

The right has made a cottage industry of whipping up their side into a frenzy, demonizing liberals, blaming them for every ill of society and ramping up that rhetoric louder and louder until it essentially has no distinction from eliminationism. And as much as the conservative noise machine gets all wounded and indignant when you say this, such rhetoric does play itself out into acts of violence.

Indeed, John McCain has actively shielded domestic terrorists from prosecution through his votes in the 1990s. These are the characters, the Randall Terrys, the Chad Castagnas, that are never subjects of ads or whisper campaigns.

Republicans, in the words of the immortal cinematic antihero Marcus Brody:

You're meddling with powers you cannot possibly comprehend.

For the complete, terrifying rundown of rightwing hate groups operating in the US, the authority is Dave Neiwert, and the last word is Orcinus. If I were a registered Republican voter, I would give very serious consideration to with whom these candidates make common cause.


Monday, September 29, 2008

A Kinder, Gentler Machine Gun Hand

Nouriel Roubini:

Over the past year, whenever optimists have declared the worst of the economic crisis behind us, Roubini has countered with steadfast pessimism. In February, when the conventional wisdom held that the venerable investment firms of Wall Street would weather the crisis, Roubini warned that one or more of them would go “belly up” — and six weeks later, Bear Stearns collapsed. Following the Fed’s further extraordinary actions in the spring — including making lines of credit available to selected investment banks and brokerage houses — many economists made note of the ensuing economic rally and proclaimed the credit crisis over and a recession averted. Roubini, who dismissed the rally as nothing more than a “delusional complacency” encouraged by a “bunch of self-serving spinmasters,” stuck to his script of “nightmare” events: waves of corporate bankrupticies, collapses in markets like commercial real estate and municipal bonds and, most alarming, the possible bankruptcy of a large regional or national bank that would trigger a panic by depositors. Not all of these developments have come to pass (and perhaps never will), but the demise last month of the California bank IndyMac — one of the largest such failures in U.S. history — drew only more attention to Roubini’s seeming prescience.

As a result, Roubini, a respected but formerly obscure academic, has become a major figure in the public debate about the economy: the seer who saw it coming.

Roubini argues that most of the losses from this bad debt have yet to be written off, and the toll from bad commercial real estate loans alone may help send hundreds of local banks into the arms of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. “A good third of the regional banks won’t make it,” he predicted. In turn, these bailouts will add hundreds of billions of dollars to an already gargantuan federal debt, and someone, somewhere, is going to have to finance that debt, along with all the other debt accumulated by consumers and corporations. “Our biggest financiers are China, Russia and the gulf states,” Roubini noted. “These are rivals, not allies.”

The United States, Roubini went on, will likely muddle through the crisis but will emerge from it a different nation, with a different place in the world. “Once you run current-account deficits, you depend on the kindness of strangers,” he said, pausing to let out a resigned sigh. “This might be the beginning of the end of the American empire.”


Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Tiny Insect In the Palm of History

Times Online:

McCain camp prays for Palin wedding
The marriage of the vice-presidential candidate’s pregnant teenage daughter could lift a flagging campaign

Yeah, you read that right. Stop gasping and read some more:

In an election campaign notable for its surprises, Sarah Palin, the Republican vice- presidential candidate, may be about to spring a new one — the wedding of her pregnant teenage daughter to her ice-hockey-playing fiancé before the November 4 election.

Inside John McCain’s campaign the expectation is growing that there will be a popularity boosting pre-election wedding in Alaska between Bristol Palin, 17, and Levi Johnston, 18, her schoolmate and father of her baby. “It would be fantastic,” said a McCain insider. “You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week.”

There is already some urgency to the wedding as Bristol, who is six months pregnant, may not want to walk down the aisle too close to her date of delivery. She turns 18 on October 18, a respectable age for a bride.

Hello, dahhhhhhhhhhhlinks. I'm Ta, your hostess here at flaming, shameless Poor Impulse Control. Can I get you a drink? Have a seat. Let's have a chat, but not the one I expect you're - it's okay to laugh - expecting.

As a matter of fact, I was a pregnant teen. No matter what any debutante tells you about fighting your or someone else's babyfat, this experience is highly overrated. In fact, if you must procreate, I recommend waiting until you're staring menopause in the sweating face so when you retire your children are too young to follow you to your adult community. That's for stealing the car, Junior! Fund your own tattoos!

Being a grandparent is - and I can't say this enough - made of awesomeness. Mazel tov to Mr. and Mrs. Palin! Their children and grandchildren can play together! It'll be a blast, so long as Mom and Dad remember who's who, which will be tougher than they think. We're getting to that age where finding our car keys becomes a challenge on a par with the Riddle of the Sphinx. But don't worry. Their children will pretend to "help." But it's not our recalcitrant teen's situation we should discuss. No. I am a woman close to Sarah Palin's age, I have a daughter and a grandson, and I have extensive experience with being the poster child for Maybe We Should Sober Up First, but beyond that scintillating resume, I also used to be a writer of some skill. Let's talk about me.

I was a big believer in letting characters write themselves. If you let them tell you about themselves you can't end up with Mr. Darcy playing with Tonka Trucks or anything by Jeff Foxworthy, but you're a sucky writer if you force characters to do stuff that'd be outside the range of their personality. It's a complex business because people are so complex. Learn from events. What do they mean? If you close your eyes, and listen, and let yourself feel your way around the psyche of your imaginary friend, you will be okay. This technique also teaches you - meaning me - when people are doing something outside of their ordinary behaviors. In other words, when Samantha stutters, Darren - either Darren - knows Endora's camped up in the nursery, because Sam doesn't stutter. Instinctively, you know the basics. You don't trust people who smile all the time and speak slowly, and when calm people start blinking they're rethinking a situation under stress. In other words: they're lying. So let's draw a character for a moment, remembering that there are no easy answers, and let's call her Sarah Palin.

You're a saucy damsel raised in the kind of End Of Days church athiests cross themselves and avoid, you've been married to the same snowmobiling dude for about twenty years and you have a pack of children you may or may not pay much attention to over a long period of time. You seem to believe in the fire and brimstone stuff, but you're an elected official and not home baking cookies. You believe you're on a mission from God, which means you're allowed to eliminate your enemies. They deserve it. One day, you're a free-wheeling state governor, when your political party's presidential candidate calls and asks what you're doing next week, and for the next four years. So far, I understand you as a character. As a poet or novelist, I could help you walk, talk and sign distasteful bills into law. But then something happens. Your oldest daughter, who had better knock it off, comes up pregnant and everyone, everywhere, says something stupid. Weeks pass, and the presidential campaign may be in trouble.
Inside John McCain’s campaign the expectation is growing that there will be a popularity boosting pre-election wedding in Alaska between Bristol Palin, 17, and Levi Johnston, 18, her schoolmate and father of her baby. “It would be fantastic,” said a McCain insider. “You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week.”

Poor Impulse Control reader: you're a creative, empathic person. You know that most teen marriages fail spectacularly within five years, usually with lifelong repercussions. You know this is a disaster in the making. Our character did not have to agree to join the candidate on the trail, or when the rabbit died, could have retired to the governor's mansion. In a quiet moment, ask yourself this question for which there are no easy answers: what kind of mother, what parent, what human being, what psyche places her daughter's shotgun wedding in a presidential election season and invites the international press?


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

High And Dry, Out Of the Rain

What the fuck is this?

Rehab is not glamorous. Rehab is what happens when you've been drunk since the baby was born and the social worker is losing her patience and the waiting list is so long you pour yourself into the bottle and someone in your family has thousands of dollars he or she spends several times over. Rehab is no picnic, no day at the beach, no walk in the park, baby. Rehab means you need new friends, a new job and a new place to live because you've fucked up so badly you need a court-ordered time out. Rehab is a dreaded ordeal and not a beauty treatment. So I thought.

Thank Christ Bioré, Paris, Lindsay, and Britney have set me straight.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Lies And Deceit

Gained A Little More Power

Pete and I just came back from the feared, loathed and loved Somerset Diner, where Sixty Minutes was on five or six giant flat screen TVs, muted, with closed captioning scrolling down the page at an energetic clip. Thing was: the transcriptonist must've been Welsh or Israeli or something where vowels were optional and word breaks were created with delicious whimsy. The result was - and I hope you saw this at home - gibberish. I looked up a few times and came within inches of inhaling french fries, which would have made me miserable because those french fries were really good. In any case, Wall Street is melting down, and anyone still advocating deregulation and socialized losses for the rich deserves not a promotion but a turn at public humiliation.

Fortunately - did I mention it? - Sixty Minutes was on, Scott Pelley's an absolute moron, and there was public humiliation for viewer, interviewer and candidate alike.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Know When Or Where To Go

Jill breaks out some very exciting numbers that should make every person earning a paycheck sweat. Get ready to dab:

Many of us pay the employee share of our medical premiums with pre-tax dollars so that our taxable income is lowered by the amount of our premiums. If McCain wanted to stop this practice alone, that would be bad enough. But it goes beyond that. His "health care plan" would also treat the employer share of your health insurance premium as income on which you would pay taxes.

I just received my COBRA statement from my previous employer. The premium on my health plan from said employer is just over $1100/month for family coverage. When I was employed, I paid about $300 of that per month. Under John McCain's plan, that approximately $13,000 cost of the health insurance plan would become taxable income.

Let's say you are single, and your taxable income after deductions and exemptions is $32,000/year -- not an unreasonable assumption for many working Americans who do not live in major metropolitan areas. Under John McCain's "health plan", your taxable income, if you had this insurance plan, would now be $45,000. So instead of paying about $4400 in Federal income tax in the 15% bracket (10% of the first $8025 and 15% of the rest, so his actual tax percentage is 13.75%), you would now be in the 25% bracket, and your Federal income tax liability would be $7594 (25% of the amount over $32,550 plus $4,481.25).

Now let's take a higher-paid worker with the same plan; say, someone with a taxable income of $150,000/year. He's currently paying $35,978 in Federal income tax (24% as an actual tax percentage. Under John McCain's "health plan", his taxable income is now $163,000. He just manages to squeak in under the $164,550 limit to the 28% bracket, so he isn't bumped into a higher tax bracket. His Federal income tax is now $39,618 -- a jump of $3640.

McCain's "health plan" proposes giving these workers a $2500 tax credit to "help pay for the cost of health care", which drops the tax increase on the $32,000 worker to $694. But that worker is still paying 2.1% more in taxes because the cost of the plan is now counted as part of income. For the $150,000 worker, this credit drops the tax increase to $1140 - an 0.7% tax increase.

So John McCain's "health plan" is really nothing more than a huge tax increase on the middle class. The higher your income, the less of a tax bite you receive from having your health insurance premiums counted as income.

And that's assuming your employer decides to keep providing health insurance.

This is about as important as an issue gets. I'm in a relatively secure situation and for me, this would mean choosing between health insurance and eating. I can't imagine what it would mean to retirees on fixed incomes - or worse: I can imagine. We cannot allow this to happen.

Please read the whole thing.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Burn My Shadow Away

Faster than I can hope to respond come things requiring responses. Some of these things are political, some not. I can't write letters fast enough to suit myself, and sometimes I stop. Friday morning, I lay down on the couch and couldn't get up until just about lunchtime. That's okay, I was just watching Drusy stand on three legs and scratch the back of her head and I couldn't do that, either.

It's Sunday night. I believe the fever's passed. What'd I miss?


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Sudden Sun Discloses

One, two, three, four -
tell the people what she wore!

What we are, what we aren't, who and how that happened. A turned ankle, a border incursion. The waving of the spear and the crashing of the wave. You are nothing, you are nothing, you dance with the Devil in the pale moonlight, which you forget when you wear the red shoes. The snap of bone as the machine rolls this way. All that is important and serious in this world arrives, brighter than a thousand suns. All she wanted was the quiet of the shoe store, or so you believed. But it's too late now.

The bomb will not start a chain-reaction in the water converting it all to gas and letting the ships on all the oceans drop down to the bottom. It will not blow out the bottom of the sea and let all the water run down the hole. It will not destroy gravity. I am not an atomic playboy, as one of my critics labeled me, exploding these bombs to satisfy my personal whim.

- Vice Admiral William "Spike" Blandy

That’s "Atomic Playboy" Vice Admiral William "Spike" Blandy, his wife (in the matching hat!), and Rear Admiral F.J. Lowry, celebrating the end of Operation Crossroads in 1946 with an ominously shaped cake. The photograph, titled "Atomic Age Angel Food" drew heavy criticism from around the world, presumably not because it wasn’t delicious.

Operation Crossroads [wiki] was a series of nuclear weapon tests, conducted by the United States in the Bikini Atoll, to study the effects of thermonuclear
explosion on warships.

Two weeks later, French fashion designer Louis Réard trademarked the name "bikini" for his latest swimwear collection. Bikini became famous shortly afterwards, because "like the bomb, the bikini is small and devastating" and the realization that "atom bombs reduce everybody to primitive costume."

This guy in my office who is young enough to say something stupid to me now and then just said that the Olympic medal count was important because it gives us bragging rights. "It doesn't," I said, "I'm pretty sure I have nothing to say because I didn't get up early and run a single lap."

He said, "It's the sports mentality! Aren't you proud of your country?"

I said, "I come from a different sport. Every pushup I did I did for me. Not you."

He said again, "It's the sports mentality!" like it wasn't stupid the first time. "What sport?"

I said, "I spent most of my athletic life involved with gymnastics, which teaches you you act for yourself." What I didn't say is that gymnastics schools talk big talk about team sports but they don't really give a shit so long as their stars are going great guns, which means they'll win anyway. Mostly. It's complicated -

"Don't you want to see your team win?"

"No." I took a breath because I knew he wouldn't understand: "I want to see each gymnast performing the best routines of his or her life and I don't care who wins."

So we talked about the mysteries of scoring, some of which I grasp. He walked away thinking, I'm sure, that professional sports with tribal identities are the only ones, and that I just don't get it. I do get it, and I know that he is invested in his tribal identity to such a degree that he claims credit for the work of others.

Once, I visited friends in Wisconsin. We did what people do: we sat in a bar, talking. One guy said, "So, you're from New Jersey. A Jets fan!"

"No," I said. I was trying really hard to be nice. "I'm from New Jersey."

"A Giants fan?" he asked, wide-eyed.

"No," I said again. "I'm just from New Jersey." When I refused to identify with a tribal structure he understood he didn't understand. I felt a little bad about it. I was wearing a red sequinned dress, fishnets and combat boots and his wife was nice to me anyhow.

It's tempting to remind the Guy With Guy Friends in my office that I was the only girl in the weight room in the seventies before he was born, that women athletes are real athletes, that individual accomplishments are seldom achieved without Mom and Dad getting up at 4 a.m. for long drives to the rink, the pool or the gym for decades on end and WE had nothing to do with it. In fact, if we had any contact with that kind of dedication, WE would probably regard it with scorn, because in real life, WE don't believe anyone is that special and that person is not being realistic. So WE say, and I would tell him all this if I thought he would hear it, but I know better.

I know better because WE think that, even at 45, even in 2008, I am just a girl and girls don't get sports.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Bottom of the Bottomless Blue Blue

Comedienne Paula Poundstone had an excellent bit about kittens. I can't do it justice myself, so I'll humbly paraphrase: Sometimes we're proud of the wrong thing. My cat climbs the curtains. I don't want her to do that, but she's way up at the top. When she's way up there, what does she say? "Mom! Mom! I'm up sooooo high!"

This protester, whose zen-like white middle class obliviousness has been disrupted by high oil prices, an uppity Negro with the gall to run for high office and Italian lettuce, is digging her adorable kitty claws into the curtain rod.

Via Dependable Renegade.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Stumble, You Might Fall

It's not often you see stone crazy self-loathing and bona fide eeeeeevil homophobia in one creepy package, but this one is starting to ooze.
'God Hates Fags' pastor blames gays, judges for Saturday church fire

Oh. This pasty fucker. Again.
"No doubt the work of fags or fag sympathizers," Rev. Fred Phelps said in a recent YouTube message of the Saturday morning fire that broke out at Westboro Baptist Church.

"This is the latest in a long line of criminal acts perpetrated against us by the mean-spirited citizens of this evil, hellbound nation." Also to blame, according to Phelps, are "unfaithful, oath-breaking judges," law enforcement, the media and the "filthy, fag-riddled military" in a perceived declaration of "open season" on Westboro and its property.

"Shame on you, black-robed monsters," Phelps tells the aforementioned members of the judiciary, "you are going to Hell."

While earlier reports estimated damages to Westboro property at $10,000, Phelps himself put the figure as high as $30,000.

You're thinking to yourself, 'Self, nobody could be that believe that shit, right? That guy's gotta be doing some utterly righteous performance art.' Well, get a load of these traumatized people who're watching their church burn down and their first thought is far from Christian love.

But wait, these terrible people are so terrible they're horribly funny - by which I mean they're HILARIOUS. They've made an unpleasant media splash protesting at the funerals of veterans, sparking responses from bikers and transvestites, a plot twist I didn't see coming. Frankly. But few things are funnier than to hear Fred Phelps describe his philosophical differences with designers and design-impaired Americans in his own words. I couldn't get past the cheery spinning God Hates Fags satellite before spitting coffee at my monitor, but the blinking Fag Media Shame is just the living end!

Truly, Fred Phelps is one of our finest young comedy writers. For instance, the logo. I thought it said Fag Court 14 as created by a really really straight graphic designer, but no. The upside down flag is like a duvet sewn by a gay, presbiotic Betsy Ross! Oooh! That's a stick figure, sticking out its rump for a sticking, and another stick figure sticking around to do it! Get it? Get it? They're gonna have - can you believe it?! - yucky GAY BUTT SEX! Omigod omigod omigod! I can't look but I can't NOT look! Wait, you look for me! Are they DOING IT YET?

Honestly, when you're that upset that men love men - which is also to say that women who love women may be of some passing, scandalized, prurient, not at all vicarious interest - you don't need a pulpit. You need a date with a musclebound libertine who charges by the hour and - and I can't emphasize this strongly enough - EVERYONE KNOWS IT, MISS PHELPS.


Monday, July 14, 2008

All My Love And You Showed No Mercy

Oh fuck this shit sideways:
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Women's rights groups and the state Attorney General's Office are preparing to challenge a judge's ruling that determined it's too easy to get a restraining order in New Jersey.

It's on my To-Do list: get a manicure, have the dog waxed, file for a restraining order. You want to do lunch? I could rearrange a few things.
Although the numbers have declined over the past five years, about 40,000 domestic violence complaints are filed annually in New Jersey. From those, roughly 30,000 temporary restraining orders are issued, with most of the rest withdrawn by the accuser. Nearly 80 percent of the complaints are filed by women.

The recent ruling by a Hudson County judge, however, threatens to make it more difficult for victims to prove they have been beaten or threatened and could scuttle the state's Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.

State Superior Court Judge Francis B. Schultz found that some elements of the 17-year-old law are unconstitutional. Among them: a low threshold of evidence _ just a "preponderance" _ to get a restraining order violates due process protections. Instead, judges need "clear and convincing" evidence to issue a restraining order, Schultz said.

[Sic] and very sick. In fact, with all that spinning, vertigo is almost inevitable.
In New Jersey, about 9,000 people bring criminal charges each year that a restraining order has been violated, sometimes with tragic results.

For example, prosecutors in Essex County have charged Kenneth Duckett with murdering his estranged wife, Monica Paul, by shooting her to death in front of one of their children at the Montclair YMCA on June 26. The couple had separated in August, and Paul obtained a temporary restraining order in October. It was made final later that month, according to prosecutors.

Bruce Eden, civil rights director for the state chapter of Dads Against Discrimination, contended that such cases are rare, and that a majority of domestic violence complaints involve no physical contact. Complaints can be filed for making threats.

He applauded Schultz' decision. "This will make it more difficult for false allegations," Eden said.

I wonder if I could projectile-vomit all the way to Bruce Eden's house. It would have to be a record of some kind. Who's with me? Eat something chunky!
Michael Argen, president of the New Jersey Council for Children's Rights, said that a parent will not get custody of children once a restraining order is issued.

"If this ruling continues, it would help truly battered people more, because it would limit the resources that are being used on truly frivolous cases," Argen said.

I'm thinking gravity's a little weak at Argen's house. Either that or he's confused by pesky words like homicide and manslaughter when they apply to women.
Schultz also found the law violated the New Jersey Constitution's separation of powers mandate because the Legislature usurped the state Supreme Court's role by dictating court procedures, including what to consider in setting bail.

"If it's allowed to stand, it certainly would be a significant problem for victims of domestic violence," said Sandy Clark, associate director of the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women.

"They are typically the only witnesses to the abuse. So to have to show by clear and convincing standard would certainly be challenging," Clark said.

She considers New Jersey's law among the best in the country, since it provides restraining orders of indefinite length, along with mandatory training for police and judges. Other states have tougher standards to obtain restraining orders, she said.

Prosecutors are also alarmed at what would happen if the ruling stands.

"You're going to have a chilling effect. That's the bottom line," said Deputy Chief Assistant Essex County Prosecutor Debra Cannella, who led the office's domestic violence unit for 11 years.

"We're very concerned about this because elevating the standard of proof will make it more difficult for victims of domestic violence who desperately need relief," Cannella said. "The next time that victim is assaulted, they may not come back to court because there were rebuffed."

The victim might not come back to court next time because she's inconveniently dead, but that's less important than a legislative pissing match.

Hey, girl: once again, your rights take a beating. Do us all a favor and take it like a man.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Receiver I'll Make You

Sometimes, I feel like I've lost my mind. CNN:
Catcalling - creepy or a compliment?

Catcalling a compliment? I'm fucking speechless.
"I call it street abuse," says New York City filmmaker Maggie Hadleigh-West, 49. "It's unwanted attention and invasion of space."

In her 1998 documentary "War Zone," Hadleigh-West confronted catcallers and filmed their responses. Many of the men literally ran away to avoid talking to her about why they whistled or made a provocative comment. The Department of Defense has used the film since 2002 to train branches of the military about issues surrounding sexual harassment and sexism in general, she says.

"Being in a public space with a strange man who is being sexually aggressive is potentially dangerous," Hadleigh-West adds.

On the other hand, some women appreciate the attention in certain cases, like Jessica, a 31-year-old health-care educator in Los Angeles, who declined to use her last name to protect her privacy. "Yeah, it's objectifying and all, but you know, if I walked down the street and didn't have men looking me up and down and catcalling, I'd think, 'Boy I must really be getting old and dumpy,'" she says.

Oh fuck you, just fuck you, collaborator. And while we're at it, just fuck you for making it a little harder for everyone else. Besides that, fuck you. Guess I'm not totally speechless.
According to existing studies and her own findings, [researcher Holly] Kearl says, some men are simply ignorant about how their behavior is perceived. Kearl, who completed her thesis, "Direct Action, Education, Consciousness-Raising, Activism and the Internet: Methods for Combating Street Harassment," last year, thinks posting on Web sites like HollaBackNYC is preferable to resorting to anger and violence.

"A lot of men have no idea that women don't like being talked to in this way," she says. "It never crosses their mind, and yelling doesn't educate them. If you yell, they often don't understand why you are upset and so they take it personally."

Often, Kearl says, an assertive, clear response can illicit a kinder reaction than one expects.

"A lot of the time, I find guys will just say, 'Oh, okay, I didn't realize it made you feel that way. Thanks.'"

Men don't know what? That women don't like feeling afraid for their safety in public spaces? Of course, men know that. Men who catcall count on it. In two thousand-goddamn-eight, to say that men don't understand the power imbalance that permits them to behave this way is to infantilize and excuse abusers and rapists, so fuck you, too. Fuck CNN for running that fucking headline on that fucked-up article. Fuck that writer for presenting a "balanced" picture of misogyny. I mean, fuck that.

That's enough. I'm going to go drink something decaffeinated and try not to picture myself saying the same thing ten years from now, when douchebags still act surprised that women are human beings.


Friday, May 09, 2008

But the Earth Is All We Know

Despair, Inc.

Email can save your sanity.

Tata: Got any gum?
Darla: Nah, I'm trying to quit. Smoking cigarettes seems to help.

I haven't lit a Lucky in three years but I might need a carton and an intervention after this.
The United Nations suspended relief supplies to Myanmar on Friday after the military government seized the food and equipment it [sic] had already sent into the country.

Earlier, in a statement, Myanmar’s military junta said it was willing to receive disaster relief from the outside world but would not welcome outside relief workers. Nearly one week after a devastating cyclone, supplies into the country were still being delayed and aid experts were being turned back as they arrived at the airport.

In the statement, the government said it would distribute international relief supplies itself.

Yes, and I am the Doublemint Twins, which makes it easier to turn the other cheek several times.
The U.N. World Food Program said on Friday it would resume aid flights to cyclone-struck Myanmar, despite the military government's seizure of deliveries at Yangon airport.

"The World Food Program has decided to send in two relief flights as planned tomorrow, while discussions continue with the Government of Myanmar on the distribution of the food that was flown in today, and not released to WFP," Nancy E. Roman, WFP's communications director, said in a statement.

The U.N. food agency had previously said it would suspend aid flights over the seizure.

In other news, my appointment to get my long luxurious tresses re-blonded couldn't be better timed. This evening, Carmelo and I will discuss great gobs of hilarious nothingness, which will prove theraputic and result in a certain shallow happiness for me. Otherwise, I might stay home and desperately quilt nicotene patches.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

You're So Unbelievable

George Vomvolakis, lawyer for accused stalker Jack Jordan, said,
"To me, her fear seems a little exaggerated."

Clearly, women armed with kitana swords have nothing to fear from note-wielding schizophrenics besides paper cuts and copier jams but that's beside the point. We live in a society where movie stars have the right to tantalize us with their super yumminess, far exceeding whatever yumminess non-movie stars can muster in these yumminess-deprived times - and yet we have no recourse to threaten suicide if they choose not to let us, individually, grab a spoon and slurp. I for one am outraged, but not as publicly outraged as the note-wielding schizophrenic's lawyer, Mr. Vomvolakis, who over the weekend actually said into microphones - and here I must cut to the bone - har har! - until I can find supporting video - that while he supposed Miss Thurman might see his client's behavior as threatening "no normal woman would."

His mother must be so proud.

Correction: Video here. At :46 to the end, Mr. Vomvolakis says, "She may very well be a very sensitive person and thus was reacting the way she was. I don't think that - that most people would have been - most women in that situation would have been reacting the way - the way she did." Nice.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Rotten Peaches, Rotting In the Sun

From this morning's A Word A Day:
The best way to be more free is to grant more freedom to others.
-Carlo Dossi, author and diplomat (1849-1910)

Today's New York Times Online:
Immigration Issues End a Pennsylvania Grower’s Season

Let's stop for a second and gaze into our crystal ball. Ours is a special crystal ball, in that it lets us look back and forward without fear or regret. We will simply observe. This time, we see what minstrel told us a year and a half ago:
This post was inspired by a family farmer out near Show Low. He had a gorgeous crop of peaches. Beautiful, inspired fruit. He was unable to find labor to pick this crop. Thank you all you border crawling sons of bitches. You're down here on my border screaming your racist, isolationist bullshit and a decent 4th generation farmer is going broke because you are off on some fool's errand to take focus away from Iraq, which your side fucked up beyond all repair, from the economy, which your side is selling to the Chinese for fucking counterfit yuan they are printing by the bale, from Katrina and the overall incompetence of their policies.

The farmer who grew these peaches got so frustrated and depressed that he put a box for donations by the side of the road and a sign that said "I'd rather you pick everything you can carry off than watch it rot."

I canned 30 quarts of peaches and made 8 pies. The pie recipe will come later. And, in case anyone might ask. I did leave a donation. I left what I thought was a fair market price for the fruit my son and I picked. Then I dug a little deeper and left some more.

That would be infuriating and heartbreaking if we weren't gazing matter-of-factly into our factful crystal factinator - for facts. Now let's cast our eyes again on that New York Times Online article.
Finding and keeping the field hands who can pick 10,000 tomatoes a day during the hot months of August and September is no less a test of organizational traction than any get-out-the-vote drive.

For 35 years, Keith Eckel, 61, one of the largest tomato growers in the Northeast, had the workers and the timing down to a T: seven weeks, 120 men, 125 trailer loads of tomatoes picked, packed and shipped.

This year, however, the new politics of immigration — very much on the mind of many of Pennsylvania’s voters, even if overlooked by the presidential candidates campaigning in this state and around the nation — has put him out of business.

State, local and federal crackdowns on illegal immigration have broken his supply chain of laborers. Most of those were Hispanic men who had come every year for decades, and whose immigration status Mr. Eckel recorded with the documents they provided to him. He kept them all in the file cabinets at his neat farm office — the Migrant Seasonal Farm Worker Protection Act forms, the Labor Department’s I-9 forms, the H-2A agricultural visa privilege forms — though he knew that, for the most part, it was a charade.

“It’s a ludicrous system,” he said the other day, sitting behind his desk in a light brown windbreaker that matched the fallow hillside beyond his office window here, 10 miles north of Scranton. “If the national statistics are correct, 70 percent of the documents in those cabinets are fraudulent.”

A year ago, my brother Todd and I discussed the mania surrounding immigration, legal or otherwise. I maintained it was a political red herring and Republicans would regret the strategy of villainizing the very same Latin demographic they were courting and would need to remain relevant in an increasingly non-white America. Todd, who lives in Los Angeles, had a different take on the matter, which changed abruptly when immigrants decided that, peacefully, they'd had enough.
They swept onto the Mall by the tens of thousands, waving American flags and chanting, in Spanish, "Here we are, and we're not leaving."

With voices raised in protest, with placards in English and in the language of their homelands and with slogans scrawled across white T-shirts worn to symbolize their peaceful intent, the assembled mass delivered a simple message: We are Americans now, too.

Demonstrators swept onto the Mall by the tens of thousands on Monday; Ranks of young men who listened in respectful silence, high-school students taking advantage of their spring break, immigrant mothers arriving with young children and day laborers who live in fear of deportation turned out in force.

Todd wasn't the only person who saw seas of faces in every city, crowds teeming with peaceful protestors in white shirts, and said, "Holy shit, what's going on here?" Conservative pundits crapped their pants when they realized that not only were they surrounded by the offended but that they hadn't the first clue that the offended could effectively organize in the big Conservative blind spot: Latin mass media in the United States.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the English-speaking mainstream media forgot about this almost immediately, and legislators resumed legislating most Draconian. Once again, the crystal ball clears and we see that Pennsylvania farmer today.
For years Mr. Eckel went along. “But in the current political climate,” he said, “I just can’t take the risk of planting two million tomato plants and watching them rot in the field.”

This is the crux of a tense, if largely unspoken, conflict between politics and reality in a state with 40,000 commercial farms. On many of those farms, crops requiring hand-picking are either not being put in this year, or are being planted by farmers who cannot be sure they will have the workers to harvest them, farm experts say.

Yet, in more than a half dozen state legislative races, getting tough on illegal immigration has become the premier issue in this state, as it has in many others.

In the 10th Congressional District, where Mr. Eckel’s 700-acre farm is located, the incumbent Democrat, Representative Christopher Carney, has made the enforcement of strong penalties for illegal immigrants and their employers a signature issue in a tough re-election campaign; Mr. Carney is one of two dozen incumbent Democrats singled out for defeat by the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee.

“Over the last couple of growing seasons, farmers have been feeling a tremendous amount of stress over the way this issue has been playing out,” said Gary Swann, governmental relations director for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. “And if people think all we have to do is raise wages and hire local workers, they are simply mistaken.”

Local workers will not do the job, Mr. Swann said.

The gentleman who sent me this URL spent his early years as a migrant farm worker. Today, he is a famous mycologist. Sometimes, I see him on television. His only comment is, "Expect food prices to skyrocket."
After newspapers and television stations in the Scranton area publicized Mr. Eckel’s decision to forgo planting tomatoes, he received a phone call from Senator Barack Obama’s agriculture adviser, Marshall Matz, who arranged a meeting for later this month.

But firestorms of protest have greeted nearly every proposal to regularize and temporarily legalize the supply of workers, like the immigrants who harvested Mr. Eckel’s crops. He said he did not expect anything to change until there was a broad new consensus about immigrant labor, which might never happen.

“I’m going to wait until February to decide whether I’ve planted my last tomato crop,” he said. By then, there will be a new president and a new Congress. But the tractors and seeding equipment in his warehouse will not wait forever. Their resale value is good for another year at most.

“This is all about economics,” added Mr. Eckel, who served as president of the state farm bureau for more than a decade until the mid-1990s, and whose office walls are decorated with photos of himself shaking hands with Ronald Reagan and the two presidents Bush. “I’m not trying to make some political statement.”

If one were to want to, though, three weeks before a state presidential primary would be good timing.

How delightful it is, when the sky is falling, to make jokes at the expense of the frightened. That shows real character. I wrote the snarky reporter a bon mot of my own.
"If one were to want to, though, three weeks before a state presidential primary would be good timing."

Cleverness is neither wit nor wisdom. You wrote a story about the consequences of xenophobia in real life and the future of food security for the country, and the most important observation you can come up with is "D'OH! Obama on Line 1"?

Maybe you could sit down, re-read what you wrote and recognize the horrors it predicts. I feel sure a different final paragraph will come to you. Eventually.

The crystal ball, however, has more to show us.
Driven by a painful mix of layoffs and rising food and fuel prices, the number of Americans receiving food stamps is projected to reach 28 million in the coming year, the highest level since the aid program began in the 1960s.

The number of recipients, who must have near-poverty incomes to qualify for benefits averaging $100 a month per family member, has fluctuated over the years along with economic conditions, eligibility rules, enlistment drives and natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, which led to a spike in the South.

But recent rises in many states appear to be resulting mainly from the economic slowdown, officials and experts say, as well as inflation in prices of basic goods that leave more families feeling pinched. Citing expected growth in unemployment, the Congressional Budget Office this month projected a continued increase in the monthly number of recipients in the next fiscal year, starting Oct. 1 — to 28 million, up from 27.8 million in 2008, and 26.5 million in 2007.

The percentage of Americans receiving food stamps was higher after a recession in the 1990s, but actual numbers are expected to be higher this year.

U.S. government benefit costs are projected to rise to $36 billion in the 2009 fiscal year from $34 billion this year.

"People sign up for food stamps when they lose their jobs, or their wages go down because their hours are cut," said Stacy Dean, director of food stamp policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, who noted that 14 states saw their rolls reach record numbers by last December.

One example is Michigan, where one in eight residents now receives food stamps. "Our caseload has more than doubled since 2000, and we're at an all-time record level," said Maureen Sorbet, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Human Services.

One hundred dollars a month...and food prices on the rise. Hmm. The cost of our mania run amok may be the starving in the street. Once a person cannot feed his or her children what more is there to lose?

Common decency would have cost us a great deal less.

Crossposted at Blanton's & Ashton's.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Me While You're Looking Away


From the Times Online:
Far from heeding international calls for dialogue with the Dalai Lama, China has accused Tibet’s exiled god-king of colluding with Muslim terrorists to destabilise the country before the Olympic Games.

Ha haha ha hahahahahahaha hahaha...

Wait - the Dalai Lama's a - hahahahahahahahaha haha haha Flying Spaghetti Monster, that's a good one. I wish - ooh hoo! - I wish I'd written that one. Well, unfortunately there's more, reminiscent of the comic stylings of Dick "Heart of Darkness" Cheney.

State-run newspapers have issued prominent leading articles that are part of a campaign to portray the Dalai Lama as the mastermind of the deadly riots that have rippled through Tibet and ethnic Tibetan communities.

In Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, yesterday local TV issued the No 7 list of those most wanted in connection with the riots on March 10 in which Chinese officials say 22 people were killed, including a baby boy burnt to death in a garage and one paramilitary police officer.

The latest list included six women and one monk and brought to 45 the number of people the security forces were seeking. The police sent out text messages to all mobile phone users in Lhasa urging those involved to surrender and exhorting others to turn in rioters in return for a reward.

The Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile in the Indian town of Dharamsala has put the death toll at 99, comprising 80 in Lhasa and 19 shot dead as the violence spilt over into neighbouring provinces with a large Tibetan population.

China’s Communist rulers have presented the violence as a plot supported by only a minority of Tibetans. The People’s Daily said that the Dalai Lama had never abandoned violence after fleeing China in 1959 after a failed revolt against Beijing. “The Dalai Lama is scheming to take the Beijing Olympics hostage to force the Chinese Government to make concessions to Tibetan independence.”

It also accused Tibet’s spiritual leader of planning attacks with the aid of violent Uighur separatist groups seeking an independent East Turkestan for their largely Muslim people in the northwestern Xinjiang region of China. It said: “The Dalai clique has also strengthened collusion with East Turkestan terror organisations and planned terror activities in Tibet.”

The Dalai Lama described the accusations by China as baseless.

Never in a kerjillion years would I have described the Dalai Lama as violent, which just goes to show you my vivid imagination is not the stuff of explosive political greatness. I'm almost speechless at the artistic license with the truth issuing those statements would require. Jon Lovitz would turn down this role.

Until tonight, I have opposed boycotting the Olympic Games. I love the Olympics. The 1980 and 1984 Olympic boycotts hurt thousands of athletes and proved that diplomacy's failures make messes of absolutely everything. Tonight, I am not sure whether Beijing is urbane like Barcelona or doomed like Sarajevo, or if the Games will be peaceful like in Montreal or deadly like in Munich. I am now willing to consider the idea of a boycott. What do you think?


The family toy store sells all kinds of fascinating things I would never otherwise see. The other day I was looking at books for Panky and found Braille ABC Blocks With Sign Language. This find caused me to alert dogs within a square mile to my joy. Oh, the barking, but that's not all. The town, tiny though it is, is a hotbed of multilingualism, so nearby sat Russian, Hebrew and Spanish letter blocks. I made an exotic joke about wishing for Egyptian hieroglyphic blocks.

You know what? Uncle Goose makes them.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

And Countless Screaming Argonauts

Let's play a game. It's called What Happens Next? Here is our game's logo. I stole it fair and square from an image bank because I like the implication that thinking can keep you very busy!

Okay, you be you and I'll be sitting on this glamorous bordello-red couch with patterned swirls while the pussycats make crunchy sounds with vivid green tissue paper but if you don't play with them they might leave you alone long enough to play this game but only if you don't have mackerel in your pockets, which you don't. Our first question: got any gum? No? Okay, moving on, then.

1. Lucky you! Your new neighbors are a married couple named Ricky and Fred. They have two daughters named Lucy and Ethel. In this scenario, your marriage is suddenly:

a. far more exciting, as you and Ricky exchange shibari tips;
b. DOOMED! DOOMED! DOOMED! by teh gay death bomb;
c. irrelevant, but your wife sure is nice. Look! She took over rice crispy treats!

What happens next?

2. You share an office with a gentleman observing Ramadan. After a few weeks, he looks a little worn out. Do you:

a. construct a scale model of the solar system to determine sundown in your zip code;
b. offer him a pork chop and apple sauce, isn't that swell?
c. make lively conversation to pass time. Have you seen the spring schedule at MOMA?

What happens next?

3. The best restaurant in your neighborhood is Oaxacan, and the food is so good you dream about the tamales. You only speak English but the staff, being from Oaxaca, does not. For lunch, you:

a. learn enough Spanish to get delicious tamales;
b. get frustrated and stomp off to McDonald's;
c. Dos burros carne asada, dos tamales con puerco y dos horchatas. To go, por favor!*

What happens next?

Let's look at our scores, shall we? If you chose a. in any situation, you're on the right track. If you chose both a. and c., congratulations! Not only will you have a peaceful neighborhood, see good art and eat great food but you are cosmopolitan and get along well with others. Enjoy the tamales! You've earned them! I'm afraid that if you chose b., you've got a little work to do on polishing your karma. But when you do: tamales! Huh? Huh? Yeah.

*I am not claiming to speak Spanish. That would be douchy of me. You could take back my tamales for such a claim.