Monthly Archives: January 2010

Good afternoon

Grey and rainy outside, windy enough to hear it inside. Love a day like this. Especially here in Florida, where it’s a rare treat. Just spent 45 minutes on the phone with a long lost publishing friend in New York. It’s great fun to suddenly be in touch like this – after almost 20 years, because the conversation begins with “as I was saying.”

It’s also the 114th day of the ninth year of the War in Afghanistan.

Who doesn’t like being right?

On September 27, I said , speaking of my brother in law:

I often call him in distress over such essential things as the Supreme Court and how it’s about to legitimize corporate control of the political life of this nation.

Good afternoon

Well, lookee here, we seem to have ourselves the 113th day of the ninth year of the  War in Afghanistan.

Before it goes away

The BBC could proably pull this from YouTube any moment, so I hope it’s still here. A delightful take down, British style, of television news.

Wolf moon, I saw you shining alone

Jane alterted me. Tonight is the wolf moon – the biggest, bestest, brightest moon all year. And tonight Mars gets into the show too – sitting right to its left. Tonight, tonight. Just was out there with the binoculars and indeed it’s a lovely sight. Take a look.

Um. Wow.

Look what our friends over at Catch the Latest have brought to the table. (From US Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

I could swear that's going in the right direction . . .

Friday night oldies

They really were my favorite group back then.

A calm voice of reason

“subjective evaluations of Presidential speeches are notoriously useless.”

Nate Silver always sets things straight. He is the emperor of context and wears a full suit of clothes.

Plus he’s got some very very good analysis of what today’s economic growth numbers mean. Which you’d expect from a numbers guy. Catch the Latest put me on to this one.

Well lookee here!

My President has needed some good news. He’s needed some good news very badly.

In today’s media world, only headlines count, so here are a few headlines that will make it to the top of the newscasts. It’s not jobs, but it’s a welcome bit of good news.


U.S. economy soars in fourth quarter of 2009


GDP Expands at 5.7% Rate


U.S. Economy Grew at Fastest Pace in 6 Years Last Quarter

Good morning

The punditry is abuzz, the citizenry is getting on with it, the weather is getting mild (will it last?) and Elvis is still dead. Plus it’s the 112th day of the ninth year of the War in Afghanistan. Sigh.

Well h-e-l-l-o t-h-e-r-e . . .

Say Hi! to Lucas Daniel Luis. He showed up today in Seattle and demands our attention!

He’ll be called Luke, and someday he will come get me for posting this picture. But I’m a great aunt again and it’s all I’ve got.

UPDATE: In an email, his father said he looks forward to the day he can say “Luke, I am your father.”  Heh.

Maybe it would have been better with that Cherry Garcia

This was nice

I don’t think Obama’s speech last night moved things forward at all. Perhaps that’s not what the State of the Union is supposed to do. I’ve never really been clear about that. One thing I did notice is that he didn’t employ the standard line of the speech, usually at the end of the first paragraph: “The state of our Union is [strong, vibrant, sold, secure, pick a word].” He didn’t use that line at all. Instead he said that he personally was confident about the country’s future. Well, okay.

I wanted to hear urgency; I wanted of course to hear something new, something bold. I didn’t hear that.

I didn’t want to hear legislative laundry lists. And forgive me, but I didn’t want to hear any more tender cloying stories of heroic Americans facing hardship with spirit, which often come down to “my life is shit but it’ll get better”. I did hear a lot of that.

A line I didn’t like: “when I ran, I promised I wouldn’t do just what was popular”. Presidential boilerplate. George Bush said it standing in the same place.

A line I did like when he was talking about people who need health care: “I will not walk away from these Americans, and neither should the people in this chamber.

There was a point when I felt a change in the mood, a point where my eyes were riveted on him and, I thought, so were the eyes of those  ‘in the chamber’. This excerpt has its share of clichés of course, but somehow, at this point, people seemed to be listening. I certainly was. (He was looking straight at the government of the United States.)

“Unfortunately, too many of our citizens have lost faith that our biggest institutions -– our corporations, our media, and, yes, our government –- still reflect these same values. Each of these institutions are full of honorable men and women doing important work that helps our country prosper. But each time a CEO rewards himself for failure, or a banker puts the rest of us at risk for his own selfish gain, people’s doubts grow. Each time lobbyists game the system or politicians tear each other down instead of lifting this country up, we lose faith. The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates to silly arguments, big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away. . . But I also know this: If people had made that decision [to turn away from the hard decisions] 50 years ago, or 100 years ago, or 200 years ago, we wouldn’t be here tonight. The only reason we are here is because generations of Americans were unafraid to do what was hard; to do what was needed even when success was uncertain; to do what it took to keep the dream of this nation alive for their children and their grandchildren.”

I’ve heard that before; but it never resonated with me quite as it did last night.

Did he even mention it?

Does anyone remember Obama actually naming Afghanistan? I remember him talking about ‘wars’ but not by name. Correct me if I’m wrong. It matters to me because today is the 111th day of the ninth year of the War in Afghanistan.

Drinking games . . .

If I could still drink, I’d jump enthusiastically into the multitudinous SOU drinking games around the intertubes.  So in lieu of a sip of  Johnnie on the rocks, I’ll take a big spoonful of Cherry Garcia. Oh, wait! I don’t have any Cherry Garcia! In fact, it’s not looking too celebratory anywhere in the fridge (not that I’ll be celebrating unless he comes out with Ali and some gloves) – I don’t think grape tomatoes will do it. The spinach was so old it went into the pasta sauce concoction thingee in the skillet this evening. And that leaves V-8 and some arugala. Also some Brie. Lots of condiments. Ahh, eggs? Skim milk. Butter! Popcorn. It’s come down to popcorn. And so it will be.

Let the games begin.

Whadda we want? Taxes! When do we want them? Now!

Well. This is interesting.  Bucking a long long trend around the country, voters in Oregon have just said YES to new taxes. They don’t want their schools to close early. They don’t want to lay off their teachers.

They seem to have snapped out of that all-American certainty that all we’ll flourish if we just keep cutting those taxes. Could this, like Scott Brown in Massachusetts, signal a new trend in voters’ preferences? Could it be that the day approaches when we will accept that roads and bridges and armies and school and hospitals and ‘stuff’ like that cost real money? A single vote does not a trend make, but perhaps a door has been cracked open.

“The double-barreled victory is the first voter-approved statewide income tax increase since the 1930s. Other states, facing similar budget woes, are watching the outcome closely because Oregon, after all, is a state that capped property taxes and locked a surplus tax rebate program into the constitution. “

That’s not unlike the situation California voted themselves into 25 or so years ago with Proposition 13, which began a nasty process that nearly took the job of governing out of legislative hands and into the hands of the ‘people’, allowing direct democracy, otherwise known as mob rule. That worked out so well for California, that it destroyed what was the finest public university system in the world. One they’ll not get back anytime soon.

Something to keep an eye on. If it happens again, expect all hell to break loose.

Good afternoon

Because there’s no hope for me, I had MSNBC on early this morning, listening to that table of silly talkers . . .

Altogether too much attention was being paid to that ultimate carpetbagger, flip-flopper extraordinaire, Harold Ford of Tennesse New York State. There was gossipy speculation about who Chuck Schumer would really support in the upcoming primary – Ford or the sitting Senator.

This is why we get the big bucks

But they couldn’t actually know, because, as the always-sharp-as-a-balloon Joe Scarborough asked “Where is the truth? We need some truth tellers out there.”

Out there??? Out there?

This clown thinks he’s staring at a camera on a news channel because millions want to look at him.  He may as well have said “Well I”m just going to sit right here and keep a sharp eye out for some of them thar truth tellers.”

Because it would be a distraction to look beyond his oddly oversized nose to see if  there’s anything going on in Afghanistan, where his nation is engaged in a War, as it has been for nine years. Today is the 110th day there.

No one, apparently, cares

And that is a very good thing. Makes my day. The Onion has written a faux self-loathing op-ed – by Rush Limbaugh and about Rush Limbaugh. The headline:  “I Don’t Even Want to be Alive Anymore.” Typical Onion.

Today, the Onion story makes it to, a political news aggregator and one I check often. As with most aggregators, it grabs the original story and links to all those sites htat have picked up on the original story or the basic subject matter.

For the first time ever, today, I see an original story without any relevant links. No one cared enough to write about it. Enough people read it at The Onion, but no one wrote about it afterward.

Heh. Heh.

We’re too too busy

In an earlier post about the Supreme Court corporate cash decision, I said the media was ignoring the implications around foreign corporations involving themselves in US politics. I’m seeing that discussion online and on the better news shows (PBS, BBC). But the professional talkers have moved on anyway – there’s a speech tomorrow night and guesses must be made.

Good morning

At 9:05 am, on CNN, I just learned all about our troop strength in Afghanistan, all about what soldiers do, all about . . . I heard a pure press release coming out of the mouth of someone whose paycheck is signed by CNN.

12:34 UPDATE: MSNBC is about to air ‘an exclusive inside look at what goes into making a Navy SEAL.” Sigh. The military press offices must be pretty busy.

I used to write press releases for a living and I know the form when I hear it. So now it appears that even with their own ‘boots on the ground’ , this global pioneer of 24 hour news, cannot even bother to look out from under the comforter to see if anything is happening in the war zone where insurgents recently bombed the palace in Kabul. Why bother, when the military arm of the Federal government is glad to do it for you?

And where it is the 109th day of the ninth year of the War in Afghanistan.

Good morning

CNN is on the teevee telling me that as of last week, Laredo TX, a city of a quarter million people, has no bookstores.

Access to books – an essential ingredient of a free society. Maybe they’ll get a book store when the troops come back from Afghanistan, where it is the 108th day of the War there.

After all, George Bush told us we were fighting for our freedom.

“American suicide”

That is how a fellow blogger describes what the Supreme Court did last week.  He has a lot of good reading on the subject, so drop by CatchtheLatest. (Also known in these parts as macandcouch and talkandpolitics.)

I love hearing something entirely new

A week ago, my brother in law recommended a blog post from the NY Times Perscriptives blog, which covers the health care issue with some depth. I finally got around to reading it this afternoon and was introduced to an an idea, a theory, that is entirely new to me and so wonderfully commonsensical.

It is something called Baumol’s cost disease, named for an 88-year old economist, William Baumol.

“Dr. Baumol and a colleague, William G. Bowen, described the cost disease in a 1966 book on the economics of the performing arts. Their point was that some sectors of the economy are burdened by an inexorable rise in labor costs because they tend not to benefit from increased efficiency. As an example, they used a Mozart string quintet composed in 1787: 223 years later, it still requires five musicians and the same amount of time to play.

Despite all sorts of technological advances, health care, like the performing arts, suffers from the cost disease. So do other public services like education, police work and garbage collection. While some industries enjoy sharp increases in productivity (cars can be built faster than ever, retail inventory can be managed better), endeavors like health care are as labor-intensive as ever. “

Back when Baumol was advising the late Senator Daniel Moynihan on Clinton’s health care proposals, he explained his theory to the Senator who then said “You have now explained to me why the Democratic Party is called the party of tax and spend, because we are financing all the things that are affected by the cost disease and Republicans want to short-change them”

Very very interesting column. The whole blog in fact is a great place to track what’s going on with health care legislation.

We’re not in Kansas anymore

The scales of justice. The promise of America. One man, one vote. Equal opportunity.

And now we have – what? – we have Thursday’s Supreme Court decision that cavalierly created an expanded definition of free speech. It gave corporations the constitutional right to directly campaign for or against political candidates and spend unlimited money doing it.

I’ve been trying to organize my thinking about this and write something coherent. But my outrage kept turning it into a rant, which isn’t my style. Now, having read and listened to the arguments pro and con (mostly con), I find two things missing from the discussions.

Number 1: Money – the amount of it.

Equating the potential access and political effectiveness of for-profit corporations with unions and advocacy non-profits is preposterous. And yet we hear it everywhere – ‘it’s not just the corporations! Unions can do it too! And the Sierra club’! So it’s fair!

No. It isn’t. Consider: today, in terms of percentage of donations, unions for instance are heavy hitters, often ranking near the top in some Democratic campaigns. But now, after this very un-democratic ruling, it will no longer be a matter of the percentage of money, it will be a matter of HOW MUCH money.

Unions and non-profits do not have access to anything near the billions in profit in the for-profit world. And industry wide, it’s often trillions in profits. Oil and finance alone could leave every advocacy group in the US gasping for air.

That could be what the Sierra Club competes against. And according to the defenders of this dreadful decision, that’s equal. That’s speech – available to us all.

Number 2: Nationality, allegiance to and who is the person anyway

Corporations have no nationality. Or moral imperatives. They have a single obligation – stay alive and make money for their shareholders.

Their shareholders are not all people. Their shareholders are not all American. Nor must they be. Many of their shareholders are investment funds, pension funds etc from all over the world.

Will we see a rush of foreign corporations rushing to our shores to create new subsidiaries – incorporated in the US of course – so they can have political ‘speech’ too?

Roberts and Alito are young. Even Scalia and Thomas are younger than their liberal counterparts. I guess we may expect more of this.

Good afternoon

Light blogging or not, even with scaled down ops due to alien laptop on my desk until own dear machine is returned with new motherboard, I still know that it’s the 107th day of the ninth year of the War in Afghanistan.

Bonus Friday oldie

Blame it on someone else. It can NOT be my own fault that last night’s Oldies post was a dupe! A bandersnatch surely snuck in here and played a trick on us all. Well, we can’t have that, so here is a bonus oldie. (actual music begins at 2:20)

Bob Herbert is angry

. . . and he’s angry for you and for me. His Friday column is a case study in restrained rage. Sort of restrained.

A snippet:

The question for Democrats is whether there is anything that will wake them up to their obligation to extend a powerful hand to ordinary Americans and help them take the government, including the Supreme Court, back from the big banks, the giant corporations and the myriad other predatory interests that put the value of a dollar high above the value of human beings.

The Democrats still hold the presidency and large majorities in both houses of Congress. The idea that they are not spending every waking hour trying to fix the broken economic system and put suffering Americans back to work is beyond pathetic. Deficit reduction is now the mantra in Washington, which means that new large-scale investments in infrastructure and other measures to ease the employment crisis and jump-start the most promising industries of the 21st century are highly unlikely.

What we’ll get instead is rhetoric. It’s cheap, so we can expect a lot of it.

Ewww, wouldn’t it be loverly . . .

“The effect of this most recent Limbaugh calumny is, in my opinion, a clear SOS to mature and caring radio broadcast leaders to finally censure the man or, better yet, remove this dangerous hate-monger from the airwaves where he is increasingly and irresponsibly spreading his demagogic poison to the radical right and the emotionally vulnerable.”

Radio Ranch founder and Creative Director Dick Orkin, January 2010, in a letter requesting the National Association of Broadcasters to remove his own plaque from the Hall of Fame, until Limbaugh’s is removed. He doesn’t want to be in the smae company apparently.

Haiti and Cuba and us

I’ve been wondering about Cuban involvement in Haiti relief efforts, but hadn’t seen anything on it till today at TPM.

And about Haiti

“What the hell are they doing down there?! Why isn’t more getting done? What’s taking so long? Who’s in charge?”

I’ve been hearing that for quite a few days now. (Shades of New Orleans? Do I need to re-evaluate? Not really. It was a very different situation.)

This may be a level of natural disaster entirely new to us – a level that tears down an entire society-  its buildings, equipment, communications and infrastructure. Even today, the government is unable to determine where all the ministers are or if they’re even alive. Haiti won’t even be able to collect taxes for some time. So how to fund government functions?

I cannot get my head around the fact of up to two million(!) homeless in an already  overpopulated city without water, shelter, food, income or medical care. Subject to very dangerous continuing aftershocks. Plus decomposing bodies throughout the wreckage. Nowhere to put the wreckage. Roads impassable. Human waste. Garbage. Prisons and the insane roaming the streets. Orphans, elderly without care. No phones. No electric.

That income thing – it’s evaporated. The people in a poor country do not have savings – even assuming the bank still stands and can access records. People in a poor country live on earnings. They won’t be earning for quite a while.

An airport with single runway. Only a few planes at a time able to land. And it takes hours to unload, before they can take off again to make room for another plane. Delivering supplies requires knowing where they’re needed, working trucks to transport it and roads for the trucks. This was and – even with visible improvements – horrific.

Civilization is a thin veneer – in Haiti and in New York. Remove the water and electric and communications and any society devolves very quickly. So far, looting and disorder are very isolated incidents, which is really remarkable.

Their situation is so fragile that even rain would be a double edged sword, capable of degrading whatever shelter they’ve been able to fabricate while providing some fresh water.

We, and the rest of the international community – especially from the Americas – will be there for years. Years.

‘Hope for Haiti Now’

Watched the Hope for Haiti concert last night. Well done, but I found it annoying that the producers chose not to identify any of the performers or hosts. It wouldn’t have distracted from the importance of the ‘why’; I think it would have added gravitas by showing the world – especially Haitians –  who  participated. They bore witness for us; I wanted to know who they were. And it smacked of pretentiousness – the assumption was viewers knew who they were, and thus how important they were.

 Thanks goodness Rolling Stone was liveblogging because otherwise I’d not have known that the man singing so beautifully, so movingly at the top of the show had a name. He is John Legend and I am now a fan. And Justin Timberlake with Matt Morris – a stunning bit of sweetness and harmony that made me want more. And Madonna can still sing. Who knew?