Thursday, May 19, 2011

I've Moved

Visit me at my new home at WordPress ....


I Already Hate WordPress

Blogger got buggered again yesterday and I'm so over it. Had to do a bunch of crap to my cookies to be able to access my dashboard. So I've started setting up a new home at WordPress but I can tell you all, I already hate it. Despise it. It's completely illogical, totally not Mac friendly. This was created by people who use PCs, I can already tell with their instructions to "right click" this and that.

I hate it.

I can't get my freaking blogroll set up, and frankly at this point it may never happen. So if you aren't on my new site when I go live it's not because I don't love you.

Also, the dog is farting up a storm from snacking on cicadas. Maybe the fumes are getting to me.

Visit me at my new home, tell me what you think of it ....

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Americans Live Within Their Means & Other Wingnut Fantasies

Of all the tired, old bromides which have worked their way into our discourse, the old “American families have to live within a budget, and so should the federal government” meme is one of the most annoying. It's annoying because it's so easily debunked; the very people spouting this bullshit are the ones riding mountains of credit card debt, for crying out loud!

I’ve written about this before but my first response is always: No! No we don’t! Since when? American consumer debt, which doesn’t include mortgages, is $2.43 trillion as of March 2011. Total U.S. revolving debt, which is almost entirely credit card debt, was $796.1 billion, as of March 2011. In fact, in March U.S. credit card debt increased for the second time since 2008, which the Wall Street Journal presented as a good thing:
U.S. consumers in March increased their credit-card debt for the second time since the financial crisis flared, giving a sign of hope that consumer spending could boost an economic recovery that has lost some steam.

In its monthly report Friday on borrowing, the Federal Reserve also said overall consumer credit outstanding rose, up $6.02 billion to $2.426 trillion. The increase, the sixth in a row, was bigger than expected. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast a $4.8-billion rise in consumer debt during March.

I’m not going to say whether this is bad or good, I’m just saying it completely debunks the ol’ “American families have to live within their means and so should the government” meme. No, we don’t! We never have! We have always been a country of consumers who satisfy their every need and whim with the swipe of plastic. We have well over a million people who declare bankruptcy every year. And our economy depends on this debt! Imagine if Americans did live within their means, paying cash as they go, never borrowing. Our entire economy would implode!

It just annoys me that no one ever calls the pundits and politicians on this shit when it’s so obviously wrong. So thank goodness Jared Bernstein writes about it on his new blog. Bernstein was Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and a member of President Obama’s economic team before leaving the White House to become a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

He writes:

But there’s another fundamental way in which this family budget analogy gets misused.  Families borrow to make investments and to get over rough patches.  They run deficits too.  I went into pretty deep debt to finance college and grad school and I’m glad I did.

The whole credit system is based on the fact that if we had to pay cash-as-we-go for everything, we’d seriously underinvest.  And that’s true for families and governments—and yes, you can overdo the borrowing thing.  But to flip too far the other way is equally dangerous.

So, while it sounds good and has some merit, I’d use the “gov’t budget=family budget” argument with care and I’d discount those who want to use it as a hammer to insist on instant cuts.

American families borrow money to buy houses and cars and invest in their businesses. They run up credit card debt and take out loans to pay for college. Families default on their loans all the time. We don’t live within our means any more than anyone else does. So can we please retire this stupid analogy once and for all? I mean it's ridiculous, I hear people repeating it whom I know to have declared personal bankruptcy or have had their cars repo'd. It's like people don't even engage their brains before opening their mouths to repeat these tired old pieces of supposed conventional wisdom. Have they all been brainwashed?

How Dare Those Uppity Plebes Forget Their Place

When I first read Felix Salmon’s “Ben Stein's Top 10 Lines About DSK” I thought these were humorous “summaries” of Steins’ column defending Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

They were not. They were direct quotes.

And oh my God. Without further ado:
Was Riker's Island really the place to put him on the allegations of one human being? Hadn't he earned slightly better treatment than that?

No, he has not. Justice wears a blindfold.

If he is such a womanizer and violent guy with women, why didn't he ever get charged until now?

I dunno, maybe because we have douchebags like Ben Stein telling mere “hotel maids” that they should keep their lips buttoned when the powerful elite assert their dominance in unpleasant ways?

The prosecutors say that Mr. Strauss-Kahn "forced" the complainant to have oral and other sex with him. How? Did he have a gun? Did he have a knife? He's a short fat old man.

I have nothing to say to this except that Ben Stein is a horrible toad of a man. That comment alone should get him banned from the networks forever. Go talk to some rape victims, you asshole. Then you might learn something about how a woman can be forced.

People accuse other people of crimes all of the time. What do we know about the complainant besides that she is a hotel maid?

Ah yes. A mere hotel maid. That’s the crux of it. If the accuser were Countess Lady Gotsalot that would make all the difference, wouldn’t it?

You know, didn’t we fight a revolution to rid ourselves of attitudes like this? Wake up and smell the class warfare, people. Yesterday we read that Newt Gingrich ran up a $500,000 tab on his Tiffany’s credit card (in other news, Tiffany’s offers credit cards?) Well good for him, with three wives and Lord knows how many girlfriends he probably needs it. But don’t for a minute try to label my side of the political aisle “limousine liberals” and “out of touch” and “elites” and all the rest.

It’s really hard to present yourself as some kind of budget-conscious populist when you’re racking up the big debt on your Tiffany’s credit card. And it’s really hard to present your ideas as some kind of rational, pragmatic conservatism when you rally to the defense of a powerful French banker by attacking the victim.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I’ll Take Things It Shouldn’t Take 30 Years To Do, Alex

Waaaaay back in 1990 a law was passed that required the Dept. of Defense to get its books in order so we can do a full financial audit, and yet even though their deadline isn’t until 2017 it seems they won’t be making that deadline. That would be 27 years to do a financial audit of the Pentagon.

And they can’t do it.

Whew. Okie dokie, well thank goodness we have a bipartisan group of Senators who have a little problem with that :
“Based on the findings of today’s FIAR Plan, it appears unlikely that the Department of Defense will be able to meet that 2017 requirement,” they said in the statement, obtained by POLITICO.

“Today’s report by the DOD’s comptroller shows that while a few small agencies within the department have reached the required financial audit level, the vast majority of the department had not,” the statement said.

“Further, while the report shows that DOD has a fairly complete road-map of how the Army, Navy, Air Force and other defense agencies will each reach the auditability requirement by 2017, implementation of these goals faces major challenges.”

Past GAO reports have found a high risk for waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement at the Pentagon. The senators want their new GAO report in time for a hearing on the subject in July.

Okay I get that the Pentagon is huge and might need a little more time to get itself audit-ready than, say, your typical ice cream stand. But 27 years? Areyoukiddingme?

But don’t worry!

In the progress report submitted Monday, Defense Department comptroller Robert F. Hale said audit readiness has been a goal for many years but has been difficult to achieve because of the department’s size and complexity.

Hale said American taxpayers should understand that “although the department does not yet meet commercial audit standards, their tax dollars are being managed responsibly.”

Ha ha ha! Nothing to see here, move along! Don’t worry, be happy! Government should operate like a business! Blargeddy blargh!

For example, by all means do not investigate Darpa:

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) asked for the inquiry after news reports that Darpa handed out $1.75 million in contracts to a company owned in part by agency director Regina Dugan and her relatives. What’s more, Dugan is owed $250,000 by her family firm, RedXDefense. POGO wants to verify that Dugan had nothing to do with the contracts, and to determine if “any Darpa employee” dealing with the company knew of its connections to the woman at the top.

In a letter to the Pentagon inspector general written on Monday, Danielle Brian, POGO’s executive director, calls for an investigation that goes beyond Dugan, who recused herself from any dealings with RedXDefense upon becoming director.

Brian cites recent comments from Kaigham “Ken” Gabriel, Dugan’s deputy, calling financial conflicts “prevalent” at the agency, since Darpa’s highly technical work requires it to recruit talent from many of the firms and researchers who bid on its contracts.

“We urge the DoD IG to immediately pursue an audit to ensure that Darpa selects and awards grants and contracts with integrity,” Brian writes in the letter to Inspector General Gordon S. Heddell. Perhaps “more  stringent measures” are needed to prevent potential conflicts of interest.

POGO also questions just how closely the Pentagon oversees Darpa. The Pentagon inspector general’s office hasn’t audited the agency’s contracting methods since 1997.

I realize $1.75 million is small potatoes but it's also the tip of the iceberg. The point is: fraud and waste are endemic throughout the Pentagon, not just in things like $700 toilet seats and building fighter jet engines the Pentagon doesn't even want but some Senator needs the factory to stay open or they'll face a tough reelection campaign.

No, this is the kind of shit that goes on under our noses while everyone has hissy fits over the "Muslim Brotherhood" donating to NPR. I wonder if any Breitbart acolytes have considered dressing up as pimped-out Raytheon execs seeking research money to finish work on their invisibility cloak and time travel machine? Of course not! Because in right-wing land, every penny spent on the Pentagon is honorable. There’s never any such thing as “government waste” when the Dept. of Defense does it.

With that in mind, this bit from the Politico article amused me:

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are divided between those who want to include deep defense cuts in any debt reduction plan and those concerned about the impact of such cuts on national security.

That’s hilarious. Yeah, you know, when your country spends at least five times more on defense than any other nation in the world, I’d say you’ve got nothing to worry about.

I really find it hard to believe that any Republican doesn’t think there’s waste and corruption at the Dept. of Defense. There’s a vast river of tax money flowing through the Pentagon, and you can bet your sweet bippy there are greedy, corrupt assholes trying to get their hands on it. But since the Pentagon still isn’t audit-ready after 27 years, I guess we’ll never know.

Instead, let's talk about how the budget deficit is forcing us to kill Medicare and Social Security.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Stressed Out And Grumpy

So, Nashville is in the throes of a 13-year cicada bloom, and normally these weird little critters wouldn’t bother me except my dogs love to eat them, and apparently they are 100% pure protein, which to a dog is like being on a five-day crack binge so I’m going nuts.

Just imagine: an 8-month-old pitbull on a five day crack binge. There simply are no words. Riley has been in timeout three times today.

I mean, Jesus.

I think I know how the parents of two-year-olds feel. Well, no, actually, I don’t. You can’t lock your toddler in a wire crate and grab a glass of wine while he howls in the other room.

Can you?

Republicans In Disarray!

Thank you, media Villagers, for bringing us constant, breathless reports from assclown Donald Trump, who -- wait for it -- has decided not to run for president.

Oh, I’m shocked! Shocked, I tells ya! Oh wait, I’m not.

Nothing illustrates the sheer uselessness of our Washington media elites more than the Donald Trump rabbit trail. I said Trump was the Balloon Boy of politics and I was right. Well, y’all got pwned, just like I said you would. Now please go away and do something useful, like basket weaving or crocheting or something. The grownups have important stuff to worry about.

So now, who do we have among Republicans for 2012? How about Gov. Chris Christie! The media keeps shoving him our collective face, too. Please run, Christie. With approval ratings like this you’ll be lucky to carry your own state:
By 5:1, NJ Voters Say Governor Christie Should Not Run for President in 2012: New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie, beloved by some and despised by others for his bluntness, has a Minus 18 job approval today as speculation continues about whether Christie should run for President. 38% of NJ adults approve of the job Christie is doing, 56% disapprove.

I just have to wonder where the “Republicans in disarray!” storyline is. I mean, "Democrats in disarray" is such an oldie but a goodie, it’s always trotted out by the media around election time. But it’s the Republicans who can’t find their ass with both hands and a map.

Ah well, it’s always good news for Republicans.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Travel Plans

Mr. Beale and I are making our summer travel plans. We welcome any suggestions folks may have for fun things to do in Seattle, great places to eat, any neat clubs, etc. We're not into super touristy stuff but obviously if there's something that's a must-see the city is known for we will want to hit it. Space Needle? I dunno. We hate touristy crowds but might hit it in the early morning for the views. We only have a few days in Seattle before moving on.

Leave your suggestions in comments -- we'd appreciate it! We both love museums, botanical gardens, aquariums, stuff like that. We're old farts, probably won't be booking any rappelling expeditions. Ow, my hip! We will hit the Pike Place Market for sure, though.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Who Thinks Like This?


Just looking at the comments I'm ... well, stunned. I simply don't understand people whose default position seems to be a fear that all of our nation's problems will be solved by calling in the law. Aren't you people the ones telling us the free hand of the market solves everything? Why do you assume the American people will call in the National Guard to fix every problem like, for example, a shortage of rural doctors? Why wouldn't your default position be that we'd reach for market-based solutions and incentives (which is what we've done?) Or perhaps reach for other government solutions, such as funding doctor recruitment programs at the National Health Services Corps? I mean, it's like your worldview is so narrow, you can only imagine the government as having a narrow police state enforcement function.

Again: what the fuck is wrong with you people?


The headline says it all: Health Insurers Making Record Profits as Many Postpone Care. Yes Libertarians, please run on how health care is not a "right" and health insurance is completely necessary.


Rand Paul is a nutwagon. Via Digby, who transcribed his rant equating healthcare with slavery:
With regard to the idea of whether you have a right to health care, you have realize what that implies. It’s not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery. It means that you’re going to enslave not only me, but the janitor at my hospital, the person who cleans my office, the assistants who work in my office, the nurses.

Basically, once you imply a belief in a right to someone’s services — do you have a right to plumbing? Do you have a right to water? Do you have right to food? — you’re basically saying you believe in slavery.

I’m a physician in your community and you say you have a right to health care. You have a right to beat down my door with the police, escort me away and force me to take care of you? That’s ultimately what the right to free health care would be.

Oh my God. Who thinks like this? Is he fucking nuts or what? No one is saying this at all. Free healthcare? Where? Where does he get this shit, from Aqua Buddha? Has someone been hitting the bong a little too hard lately?

What Rand Paul is really saying is: if you think you have a RIGHT to healthcare, that means you will FORCE ME TO TREAT YOU. You will HUNT ME DOWN and force me to be your monkey and give you glasses.

And trust me, I would not go near that guy, not if he were the last breathing optometrist or ophthalmologist or whatever the fuck brand of medicine it is he allegedly practices because swear to God the guy is crazy and I don’t want crazy treating me for anything. Dude you are the last physician I'd want touching me, I promise you. So put down the crack pipe, dude, and chillax. No one is forcing you to do anything.

Who the hell thinks this way?

You know what my problem with Libertarians is? They’re a bunch of whiny babies. Whaaaah! Because someone, somewhere, feels they should be allowed to access our healthcare system at the same fair price as everyone else without some insurance company flunky telling them they can’t, suddenly it’s all about Rand Paul being oppressed! His freedom has been infringed upon and the jackbooted liberal thugs are gonna come and force him to give people glasses.

Grow the fuck up, already. People are dying because of assholes like you, folks who harp on about your precious freedoms, like the freedom not to treat someone (anyone in particular, perhaps? Hey, based on your past comments about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it's a fair question.) Why dream up crazy-assed scenarios like the police breaking down your door forcing you to treat someone? What the hell is wrong with you? People are dying, do you even get that? That’s not an abstraction either, that’s called reality. If you don't want to do your job, fuck off, we'll find someone else who can. You're not the last physician on earth.

Get over your damn self. Jerk.

Here’s the video:

Friday, May 13, 2011


Apparently "regularly scheduled maintenance" Wednesday night gave Blogger a bellyache. I’m really tired of Blogger sucking. I’m going to have to move the blog somewhere else, I just don’t know where. I’m not that technical and it’s got to be super user-friendly. Idiot-proof, with a decent commenting system.

I'll keep you posted.

Oh yeah, and all comments since Wednesday got deleted. Thanks, Blogger.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

When They Say States Rights You Know They Mean Mississippi

Seriously, this move by the GOP to allow states to basically opt out of any federal law they don’t like would be laughable were it not so scary. Didn’t we already fight this battle? Literally?

Anyway, what’s appalling to me is the hypocrisy. Republicans are all about “states rights” until a Blue State passes a law they or their corporate cronies don’t like, and then they’re all about repealing it, citing the supremacy of Federal law. But Mississippi could bring back Jim Crow and they'd be all like, "well, states rights!"

A few recent examples:

• In 2001, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft issues a directive effectively nullifying Oregon’s Death With Dignity Law, launching a series of lawsuits before getting smacked by the U.S. Supreme Court.

• In 2002, the Bush Administration joins auto manufacturers in suing the State of California over its Zero Emission Vehicle mandate. They argue that Federal law supersedes California state law, and so GM’s electric car program was killed. Until, of course, the sheer stupidity of our gas-guzzling ways came back to bite us on the ass. By which point the Japanese had already surpassed us in technology and manufacturing. Wow, way to go, folks! Really brilliant move!

• In 2005, the Republican-controlled Congress nullified a New York state vehicle liability law which had been on the books since 1924 by slipping a provision into the massive Federal transportation bill.

• In 2005, the Republican Congress passed a bill -- signed by George W. Bush -- keeping Terri Schiavo on life support and requiring a new inquiry into the entire Schiavo affair. Ah yes, one of Bill Frist’s finest moments. [/sarcasm]

• In February 2011, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously voted for tort reform. I love this one because the Democrats, all unanimously opposed to the measure, called them on their hypocrisy:
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) quipped that the Republicans had changed their tune on states’ rights within the span of a few hours, noting that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli had told the panel earlier that the health care overhaul was unconstitutional because it includes an individual mandate requiring everyone to buy insurance.

In the afternoon, she said, Judiciary Committee Republicans argued that the federal government can impose its will about medical malpractice laws and “intrude on states’ rights.”

“You can’t have it both ways,” she said.

Of course they can! Because the rule of modern American politics is always, always IOKIYAR. For example, Atlanta Journal Constitution columnist Jay Bookman asked a logical question:

More importantly, where exactly in the Constitution does it say that Congress shall be empowered to dictate to state governments, state courts, state judges and state juries how they should handle state cases of alleged medical malpractice? What’s the source of that federal authority? I’ve looked in my handy pocket Constitution, and I can’t find such a provision anywhere. Under conservative legal theory, it certainly can’t be the commerce clause, given that the commerce involved is strictly intra-state, not interstate. Most people do not cross state lines to get medical care.

Curious, I went digging into the Congressional Record. Under new House rules, remember, sponsors are required to cite congressional authority for their proposed bill. And sure enough, on Jan. 24, the bill’s sponsor — a “Mr. Gingrey of Georgia” — cited the commerce clause as his authority.

Whoa! It most certainly was the commerce clause! The very same one rightwingers claim does not apply to healthcare reform, making the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.


Yes, of course they can have it both ways. They always do. Republicans will not be in power forever, nor will they have the majority of state legislatures forever. That’s just reality. And you can bet your sweet bippy that as soon as they get the White House back, or state legislatures turn left, they’ll all be walking back that states rights stuff so fast your head will spin.

I mean really, it’s just hard to take any of these people seriously about anything.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

4 Years & Counting

Today’s my Blogiversary! I just checked my very first blog post and read the following:
It's not even mid-May and it's already 88 degrees outside. Shoot me now.

My goodness, how nothing has changed! At all! I just checked the forecast and yep, they’re calling for it to be 88 degrees today.

I can’t remember why I started this blog, other than to give myself a place to vent. I think my logic at the time was, if I vent about something once a day on my own blog, I can devote the rest of my time to other writing instead of farting around on the internet all day. And then Satan invented the Twittahz and Facespace thingie and I was doooomed. Hah!

Anyway, don’t know what the future of this space is but clearly I’m too addicted to it to give it up. I’m humbled that anyone bothers to come over here and read my rants and look at videos of my dogs, but these personal connections in a very impersonal place like the internet are a big reason why I keep coming back. So, thanks for reading.

Cutest Damn Dog Video Of The Day

Lately I've caught Riley chasing the white tip of his tail and it's just too cute not to share:

PC-USA Approves GLBT Ordination

Big news in the church world: the Presbyterian Church USA -- not to be confused with its more conservative cousin, the Presbyterian Church of America -- has finally approved allowing the ordination of GLBT ministers. It only took 33 years!

Well, no one can ever say that they needed more time to discuss the issue!

Pastor John Shuck has the details for those interested in the technicalities.

To me this is just another brick felled in the wall preventing full inclusion in our society for gays and lesbians. Try as some folks might, you can’t stop the culture from changing. They couldn’t stop blacks and whites from marrying, and you won’t be able to stop the gays, either.

Meanwhile, yesterday we read news that the U.S. Navy was preparing for the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” by writing guidelines for performing same sex marriages on Naval bases. This prompted the usual freak-out, and an immediate reversal:
Washington (CNN) -- The Navy did an abrupt about-face late Tuesday, suspending earlier guidance that could have allowed same-sex marriages on military bases once the Pentagon scraps its present Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

A memorandum from the Chief of Chaplains, Rear Admiral M.L. Tidd, suspended one he issued about a month ago.

"My memorandum of 13 April 2011 is hereby suspended until further notice pending additional legal and policy review and inter-Departmental coordination," Tidd wrote on Tuesday to all Navy chaplains and "religious program specialists."

The green light for gay marriage on military bases prompted a new round of Congressional opposition to ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Of course it did. But don’t worry, brothers and sisters. The bricks are falling. This one will, too.

Years ago I served on the session of a local Presbyterian church which had welcomed several openly gay families into our congregation. These people were talented and active in the church; we knew they had a lot to contribute to the life of our congregation, so we nominated two individuals to be part of the church’s Session, which is basically the church board. And then we all had to be reminded that in approving their inclusion on our church session we were running afoul of official PC-USA policy. While no one expected this to happen, it was possible our pastors could be removed from their positions.

This was a sobering thought, and it hardened our resolve. We approved their nomination and became what I believe to be Nashville’s first PC-USA church to have two openly gay elders serving the congregation. It sent a powerful message when these folks went to Presbytery meetings and other denominational functions. Several other congregations followed. And now the entire denomination has changed.

This is how change happens. The first step is always the hardest, but those steps have already been taken, long ago. Throughout our history, as our understanding of the human family has grown, we have opened the doors of our society wider to more people. Those fighting against full equality are marginalizing themselves by standing on the wrong side of history.

Monday, May 9, 2011

What Exactly Are Republicans Good At, Again?


Apparently the video is no longer available on YouTube but you can see it on his Facebook page, or if you don't do the Face-space thingie, it's right now on his homepage.

Bill Maher asked the question Friday night, which you can see here at around the 2:50 mark. Enjoy:

Saturday, May 7, 2011

We’re All Getting Older

I’ve Earned These Gray Hairs, Dammit

At the beginning of the year I wrote about training for a half marathon. It was supposed to be last weekend in Louisville; I had to give up after pounding too many miles on concrete in the winter ice and cold; my hip gave out. Seriously.

You know you’re old when you say things like, “my hip gave out.”

All of our animals are getting older. Believe it or not, Cleo used to be a glossy deep brown, all over. She’s a Chocolate Lab/Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, meaning she looks like a Chocolate Lab with two swirls and a pronounced ridge down her back. She’s around 12 years old now.

The thing that breaks my heart about watching Cleo get older is, she needs me now more than ever. She needs me to give her a little extra time on our morning walks so she can go a little slower. She needs me to give her extra time to get up the stairs and she needs a few more belly rubs. Unfortunately, with two puppies in the house requiring training and raucous playtime at the dog park, she isn’t getting what she needs.

Also our oldest cat, Sylvie, is nearing her end. I’ve had to turn our spare bathroom into a hospital room. She gets subcutaneous fluids twice a day, is incontinent and hasn’t eaten in a week. I’ll probably have to intervene next week. But she still purrs -- loudly -- and still looks at me like she knows who I am. These decisions aren’t easy to make. And all of this takes time away from Cleo.

I can’t tell you how much I love this dog. Moms aren’t supposed to play favorites with their kids but let’s be real, we all do it. I got Cleo from Metro Animal Control -- the old pound, when it was out by the Bordeaux dump, and rated one of the worst animal control facilities in the nation. I got her when I was interviewing Jennifer Kinley of The Kinleys, whose big cause back then was reforming our pound; every interview she did then was at the pound to call attention to the issue. Big props to her for that. But I knew I couldn’t show up for an interview at the pound and not come home with an animal. Honestly, I figured it would be a cat, since I’m really a cat person. No one was more shocked than me when I came home with a large dog.

Cleo was in a run with about six other dogs, all of them barking and lunging at the fence and trying to get my attention. It just about broke my heart. But Cleo was different. She was calm, very Zen -- maybe even a little sad. I was later told she’d been at the pound for weeks past her expiration date; even the animal control employees knew there was something special about her.

I have lots of stories I could tell about Cleo but I think my favorite one is about the time we went to Florida. It was just two weeks after I adopted her and while I normally wouldn’t take a new dog on a road trip so soon after bringing it home, this vacation had been on the books for weeks. Obviously, I wasn’t going to send her to a kennel after she’d been in the pound all that time. So off we went.

I’ll never forget it: after two days of driving and a night at a hotel in Montgomery, Alabama, we pull up to our rental house right on the beach. I let the dogs out of the Jeep and there’s Cleo: she looks at the waves crashing on the sand, looks back at me, then back at the ocean, then back at me. A huge grin breaks out on her face, and her tail starts wagging so hard she nearly knocks herself over. Everything about this dog was saying, “I can’t believe this is true! That this is really, really happening! That I’m really here!” It was one of the best moments of my life.

Making a dog happy is a ridiculously easy thing to do, but it never stops warming my heart.

Cleo still has a few good years left in her. This isn’t a memorial. I’m just sad to see her get older.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Oil Speculators & Gas Prices: Is Feature, Not Bug?

I’ve already written plenty about the dishonesty of “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” (for a rundown, check here.) That’s a nice little bumper-sticker slogan that caters to the low-information crowd who still believe in simplistic supply and demand models -- something we all know does not apply so easily to oil and gasoline. Frankly, I don’t see that message getting much traction outside Fox News; American consumers are a little more sophisticated than that.

One thing I haven’t talked about too much though is the influence of Wall Street speculators on our gas prices. In that regard I found a recent interview with Ed Wallace on NPR’s “Here & Now” quite interesting. The interview built on his column of April 19, but then went into what interviewer Robin Young dubbed “provocative” territory. If you get a chance, give it a listen, it’s only around 15 minutes long.

I found his theory fascinating. He says that banks and investment houses need to make up for the money they lost in the mortgage meltdown, so they're gambling it on oil futures instead of loaning it to small businesses and consumers. This is sending the price of oil soaring.

In the radio piece (around the 11:00 mark) he specifically blamed the Federal Reserve’s policy of loaning money to the nation’s banks at virtually zero interest. The idea was, banks would send that cheap money back out into the economy in the form of small business loans, consumer loans, and the like. But as anyone knows, banks are not giving loans these days. They’re being downright stingy in that department, actually. Wallace says it’s because they’re trying to get a bigger return on their investment by speculating in commodity futures like oil. The banks are making tons of money but they aren’t sharing the wealth with the rest of us; in fact, they’re costing us, because this speculative activity has sent gas and food prices soaring.

And while President Obama is calling for an investigation into such practices, Wallace thinks it’s all so much Kabuki theater. Indeed, the "provocative" thing is, he thinks this situation is a feature, not a bug. I’ve transcribed part of the interview Robin Young conducted here:
RY: But why can’t it be exposed?

EW: Because I think they have to keep it this way. And this ... now let me speculate on my own story. The housing crisis is not over yet. They say that somewhere between 13% and 15% of all homes in America are now sitting vacant. Not all of them have been sold. The Wall Street Journal -- what was it, last September? -- did a story, said at our current sales rate for used homes in America, it’s going to take 9 years to clear off the backlog of these homes off the bank’s books and actually get them sold. That means they haven’t taken the losses, Robin. So how do you get the banks into a position where they make so much money they can slowly work out of this mess?

RY: You give them oil!

EW: You give them so much money at virtually no interest they can make money in commodities, food, oil, whatever. And these huge profits you’re piling up are actually gonna go to probably handle the losses that are still coming our way and will come our way for years to come.

RY: So it sounds like you’re saying that the government needs to keep this inflated oil market there because that’s how banks, investment houses, whoever these speculators are, can sort of offset their losses in homes.

EW: I think that’s as logical a theory, and I’m not saying that’s absolute, but why else would the government let it happen when the government’s the one that knows exactly why it’s happening, they’ve studied it. And yet they do nothing?

Why indeed!

It’s certainly a complicated issue, and while a few of Wallace’s ideas seem shaky -- who is to say the sales rate of homes will stay at its current rate, for example? -- I do think he’s onto something here.

Unfortunately, Americans can be intellectually lazy. Rather than exercise the gray matter on such intricacies as the global commodities markets and real estate inventory, they’ll jump on board the more simplistic “demand is up so gas prices are up” tale Grand Old Petroleum is selling. And any attempt to pressure the Fed to change its policy and prevent such gambling by banks in the Wall Street casino will be viewed as unpatriotic, Socialism, Fascism, tinkering with the free hand of the market, class warfare, punishing the rich, etc. etc. etc. I mean, we've seen this movie before, haven't we? Instead we'll get more oil leases off the coast of Viriginia and in the Gulf of Mexico, which won't do a damn thing because the oil companies are already sitting on more untapped, unused leases than they know what to do with. And gas prices will go up, and on and on. Lather, rinse, repeat.

C'est la guerre!

[UPDATE]: I just realized I contradicted myself when I said the "drill here drill now" slogan wasn't getting much traction outside of Fox News audiences, and then concluded that Americans are intellectually lazy. I guess what I meant is that while I believe most Americans understand the price of gas and the price of oil are complicated issues affected by more than just how many oil platforms are in the Gulf of Mexico, they aren't necessarily researching this stuff on their own to find out all the many ways prices are manipulated. It's too easy to grab onto whatever message the media is peddling today and buying into certain assumptions, such as "demand is high!" Um, well, no, actually, it's not. The media also likes to conveniently blame China and forget about the role of refineries which have cut capacity, something Wallace goes into in his April 19 column.

So, as always ... 'tis complicated.


That was fast. Gosh I hate it when I’m right. I said we'd get more oil leases off the coast of Viriginia and in the Gulf of Mexico and that's exactly what our clueless House of Representatives has authorized.

I'm not worried about this. As I've said before, the oil companies have more leases than they know what to do with. The problem is not oil leases. They already know where all the oil is, the problem is pulling it out of the ground (or, in this case, the seabed.) There will be windfarms off the coast of Virginia long before there are oil platforms.

But if Congress wants to do something to lower gas prices, they're barking up the wrong tree. And perhaps, as Wallace suggests, that's all part of the Kabuki theater. They want to give the appearance of taking action, all the while knowing that what they're doing won't affect anything at all. Because they want this oil speculation to continue.

I dunno, it's a theory ... but a damn good one.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Things That I Don’t Get

Apparently the Senate Indian Affairs Committee is holding a hearing today because members of the Native American community are upset Navy Seals gave Osama bin Laden the codename “Geronimo”:
The use of the code name Geronimo to refer to Osama bin Laden has generated a fair amount of controversy. Mere days after the iconic phrase, “Geronimo EKIA” (Geronimo, Enemy Killed In Action) Congress is even saying that it will look into the matter, calling the name “inappropriate” and “devastating.”

To be fair, almost any name chosen for Osama would generate this kind of indignation. Bin Laden by any other name might smell as sweet, but call him a rose, and the flower lobby would be out in force. Call him Romeo, and the Anti-Shakespearean-Character Defamation League would be hooting and hollering and carrying on. Yes, Geronimo was a conscious choice, perhaps because the Native American leader was famously elusive, and there’s a hostile history there. Geronimo wasn’t even his original name. (That would be Goyahkla, “One Who Yawns.”) But say what you will about the history of wildly misappropriated terms for Native Americans — Washington Redskins, anyone? — the objection boils down to the fact that a code name for Osama that referenced anything with any redeeming qualities whatever would be drawing fire from some quarter.

I don’t know about that but I will say any group complaining about this is not going to find a lot of sympathy. Native Americans have plenty of legitimate complaints, and making an issue out of this trivializes everything else, if you ask me.

But hey, the Senate committee is having a hearing so what the hell do I know. But it seems like there would be better ways of making your point. Am I missing something here?

Sore Losers Much?

Republicans never passed up an opportunity to grandstand before: waving purple fingers after the 2005 Iraqi elections and renaming French fries “Freedom Fries” in the House cafeteria come to mind. Oh, and then there was that whole "flying in to rescue Terri Schiavo" thing.

But honoring the military that took out Osama bin Laden is apparently a bridge too far:
House Republicans say they have no plans to follow the Senate in passing a resolution honoring the military mission that killed Osama bin Laden.

The decision by GOP leaders follows new rules they enacted in January scrapping the tradition of congratulatory measures, which they complained clogged up the House floor.

Oh that’s just so convenient, isn’t it? Can you imagine if President Bush (or, God forbid, a President McCain) had got bin Laden? There’d be parades down Pennsylvania Avenue, resolutions and Medals of Honor, “Mission Accomplished” banners, you name it -- "new rules" be damned.

Well, suck on it, assholes.

Here’s a photo that’s been going around the internet the past few days, which just cracked me up. I think it aptly depicts why Republicans are so pissed off:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


I’m still half asleep and haven’t quite formulated my thoughts but I wanted to share something from last night’s Nashville Predators game.

When an announcement was made midway through the game congratulating the Navy Seals "for the events this week," the arena went nuts, cheering and clapping and shouting. Earlier in the game there was a gag on the Megatron featuring our team mascot intercut with scenes from "Top Gun" and bin Laden's face in gun sights; again, the arena went nuts. People waved the American flag and chanted "USA! USA!", which I've never seen before at one of our hockey games. Of course, we played the Vancouver Canucks but still, we’ve played Canadian teams before and I’ve never seen such a vocal expression of patriotism.

I guess I hadn't realized how deeply the country needed this until I experienced that crowd reaction. There was no partisanship, no "ha ha suckaz, Obama did this" or "Democrats this, Republicans that," it was "America got him." Getting bin Laden was a “win” that was a huge boost for the country, psychologically speaking. It was a taste of that unity Glenn Beck claimed he wanted, and which those same fringe righties seem unable to participate in now. Which I find very telling: if you hate President Obama so much that you can’t be happy for the country now that the mastermind of 9/11 was brought to justice, then that tells us everything we need to know about you.

I don’t know what’s been happening at other sporting events around the country this week, and I’d be interested in hearing if there’s been a similar reaction to what I saw in Nashville last night. Nashville is close to Ft. Campbell, and the hockey team has a military outreach bringing lots of Ft. Campbell families to each game, so we might have seen something others didn’t. It’s important to remember that thousands of people joined up for military service in the wake of 9/11 for the express purpose of capturing bin Laden: not to protect oil shipping lanes, not to bring democracy to Iraq or Afghanistan, but to catch the people responsible for 9/11. This was their “Mission Accomplished” moment.

I think sometimes we forget the deep and lasting impact of 9/11 on the American psyche. The bickering, partisanship and gridlock of the past 10 years may have been there anyway, but coupled with the national hit to the ego that was a deadly attack on American soil, it allowed some of our uglier tendencies to emerge. I’m thinking of the fearmongering, the Islamophobia, even the homophobia, as ordinary people wrestled with the idea of an America the vulnerable. Coupled with all of the other changes in our society -- a shrinking middle class, wage stagnation, technological changes, cultural changes like marriage equality and increasing racial diversity -- and the result is a lot psychological instability for a country of 300 million people. We might have been able to handle the cultural and social changes but add an attack in there too and no wonder we went a little nuts.

Anyway, as I said, I’m still just hashing around some ideas. But I thought that was interesting.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Buyer Beware

I guess technically speaking sewage sludge is "organic" in the strictest definition of the word, though not in the sense that consumers associate it. But regardless, peddling sewage sludge laden with toxins as "organic" is apparently illegal, so you might want to take a pass on this stuff if you see it at the local garden supply center:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Gone

Celebrating at Ground Zero:

Outside the White House:

And at Ohio State:

George W. Bush might not have been that concerned about Osama but it's clear that the American people were. Celebrations are underway all around the country. It's an amazing thing to see. Donny Deutsch on "Morning Joe" just called this spontaneous eruption a "national fist pump"'; even Peggy Noonan just referred to it as a "visual return of competence." I'm hearing "yes we can" again. There is jubilation in the streets, which is something we haven't seen in a long, long time.

This is a moment our nation desperately needed.


And this is for those Debbie Downers who claim there's nothing to celebrate because the country still faces problems:

Thanks, you know, sometimes it's hard to tell which side you're on but this time you've made it really clear. You and the rest of the Obama haters of the right can STFU for just one day, 'mmmkay?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Holy Shit

I don't know if this is correct, but it's blowing my mind:

Jill Jackson is a producer for CBS News covering Capitol Hill. Details to come at 10:30. Can we leave Iraq now? And Afghanistan? Of course not.

But I think it's safe to say we won't be talking about birth certificates anymore.

That Said ...

... I thought this was funny. No one can make a subtle dig at the GOP like President Obama. Never forget, the Grand Old Petty Party really did try to defund the President's Telepromptr: