Sunday, January 31, 2010

STFU Already

We're coming off the week in which the President tried to reset the agenda button for his administration. By many objective standards he's done OK, particularly given the big steaming pile he was handed by the Republicans.

To no one's surprise, the Republicans have been out to sink this Presidency - just as they were out to sink the Clinton Presidency from day one. Fortunately, these two Democratic office holders are not given to panic, and not given to losing the battles they face. Clinton overcame the "vast right-wing conspiracy" (remember how the press mocked Hilary for saying that - turns out it was true). I'm sure Obama is going to do the same.

What I'm less sanguine about are the chances for the Democratic party as a whole. One of the reasons I'm less sanguine about that is because of the tendency of the press to make the controversy the whole story. A second reason is that the left leaning pundits continue to insist that it's there way or the highway.

Arianna Huffington, for example, has long insisted that the Obama economic stimulus plan is all wrong, is a big give away to big business and the big banks and oh, we're going to have a terrible time if we don't adopt her plan.

Robert Reich, likewise, has been sounding increasingly shrill. George Lakoff, who I find eminently sensible, began his latest column at Huff Po sensibly. Look, I think he said, we're not going to get anywhere by all trying to tell the President what he should have said. But then he went on to make the argument he'd made in "Try Not to Think of an Elephant" and that Thomas Franks had made in What's the Matter with Kansas. We're voting against our own interests, attacking our own President, because we progressives have lost the framing war. We've "talked down" to conservatives, particularly rural and southern conservatives (85% of Texans are against Health Care Reform, only 66% of Texans have Health Care Insurance).

I think Lakoff and Franks have points, but they miss some crucial evidence - the Right Wing and Popular Preachers are constantly telling their acolytes what they ought to do. They talk down to the flock and do so rather cynically. Watch Sunday morning TV.

I suspect that a young woman I heard Extemporize yesterday got closer to the truth.

This young woman was given the topic, "What must the Democrats do to hold on to their majorities?" Her answer, win back the people's trust. That's pretty obvious. It starts with not fighting among ourselves. It continues with some holding of the tongue on the part of the chattering classes.

One thing this young woman said that was particularly telling, "Democrats (her family voted Democratic in the last election) should stop picking on Republicans." Really, that's happening much?

It isn't, but the pundits and the news are making it seem like it is happening, and Republicans are quick to cry "Oh, uncle, you're hurting me." Then, when the Democrats back off, the Republicans, in true bully spirit get up from the ground, throw sand and run report us to the principal.

With press assistance are now living in a politically toxic slough of despond.

Charlie Brooker, a British journalism critic, describes how this works in his report on Radical Islamic Critic Anjem Choudary (Can't embed, sorry)

Brooker's point is to demonstrate how the news value of conflict, when followed by reports on the reporting about the conflict create the publicity that both sides denied was the goal of the newsmaker. In other words, people get a view of the world that isn't true because the news demand for greater and greater controversy.

Russell Peters observed the same thing, but in a comedic fashion:
Russell Peters - Stereotypes
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So, what's the answer.

Bob Cesca writes:

Yelling at the president won't change the fact that a considerably large chunk of the American electorate is moderate and independent. The Democrats need the middle in order to win because the left simply isn't large enough. But if we systematically and deliberately change minds -- if we're disciplined about taking the longview approach and convincing voters that progressivism is the best way to govern, then we will eventually force politicians to move leftward as the electorate does.

Until then, we need to accept (albeit begrudgingly) the political reality that the president will occasionally have to do things that appeal to the middle in order to get other things done.

It's a good idea. It's not unlike my idea - that we should STFU at least for a little while. Let's end the toxicity by stopping being toxic ourselves.

For three months, two months, maybe even just two weeks, let's see if we can't support the President and keep some of our critical speculation to ourselves. Let's even see if we can't make my young forensicator's complaint (Stop picking on the Republicans) a reasonable request.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tie Your Shoes

I recently turned 50-10. This week I discovered that I don't know how to tie my shoes. How sick is that. It isn't hard to tie them properly - but I didn't know how to do it until this week.

Here's the video that shows how

Thanks, Runner's World.

Thanks Republicans

Ahlseen was gloating, Kris was reporting bad news and I lost sleep over the combination, wondering who to thank for the extra hours of thinking I got in this night.

Why, I guess I ought to thank a Republican for giving me more time to ponder my future as an aging baby boomer.

At Rotary last night Mark Ahlseen deposited his happy dollar (which is a rare thing for him) with a gloat over Brown’s win in Massachusetts. He was happy over the end of health care reform. I’m sure he was, because he’s not just a Republican, he’s a Ron Paul Republican who sees no need for government – not even in education of our children.

Kris came home and discussed a meeting she’d had with her supervisor. She works in education, working with young parents. It’s part of the public education system, and it is a vital part, giving a leg up to the parents and, in some cases, preventing troubles for the living babies. It’s called Parents as Teachers, and it has been a strong advocate for early childhood education. Because of its advocacy money for Early Childhood Education has been restored to the state budget.

But districts are hard pressed and PAT crosses a number of school districts. So the superintendents may not want to keep their portion of the program in their budget. In other words, Kris may well find herself out of a job. That has to be because the state’s economy can’t afford a rise in sales taxes. It’s good for the state economy to put teachers, experienced teachers on the street. Thanks Republicans.
Of course, if Kris’ job is eliminated she’ll look for another. It’s not likely that she’ll be able to find another job in education. The jobs just aren’t there. In an instant our income will be cut in half. Let’s see what a wonderful gift that will be to the economy, all thanks to the Republicans.

If Kris loses her job we’ll be cutting back and/or not doing any travelling. I was planning on a trip to see my son this coming summer. That’s a $2,000 trip, most of it paid in the airline tickets. So my little contribution to the travel industry is going to be cancelled. Thanks Republicans.

Right now I’m fairly generous with my cash. I give to a number of environmental organizations, political organizations, Rotary International, the church and the college. Yes, I give a portion of my salary back to the college, as well as make my own contributions to my retirement plan. I also put money aside for drugs and co-pays. All of the extras will go. I’ll keep my political contributions, since I think that may be the best investment of my money for the long term. But in the mean time I have to cut. So the contribution to the college will go. Some of the environmental groups will suffer. It’s not much, but it is my way of helping keep someone else working. That will have to go. Thanks Republicans for refocusing my attention on myself.

I’ll reduce what I put in medical cafeteria funds, and I’ll reduce what I spend at the Dentist, the optometrist and the drug store. I won’t let my health go down, but I will definitely think twice about going to the doctor and about taking every prescription the doctor says is good for me. I definitely can postpone going back to the eye doctor, and I can probably do only what is needed at the dentist. That’s all going to help our economy. Thanks Republicans.

I have too much pop culture at home: digital cable TV, home internet. Going to have to find a way to reduce that, if not eliminate it altogether. That’s going to help the local economy. It’s also going to help my teaching, you know, I don’t teach anything about the interface of popular culture and high culture. Nah, I don’t need this to teach Mass Media. Well, regardless, I’m going to be doing without. Thanks Republicans.

Of course we’ll get to choose health insurance options for Kristine should she lose her job. We can either buy a very expensive policy on the open market – which will exclude any pre-existing conditions and have a waiting period before she can even go to the doctor. Or we can add her to the policy I have with the college. Of course, we can just do without and gamble that she’ll stay healthy for the next fifteen years, until she qualifies for Medicare. I know that our friends in the Republican party are working to eliminate that too, but it seems unlikely that they’ll be strong enough to privatize that program before we retired. In the meantime we have so many choices in health insurance, thanks to the Republicans. And they’re all so good for the Isaacson economy, not to mention the state economy.

Did I mention the house repairs and improvements? We were going to insulate and close in the basement, using local labor. We were going to buy a new vanity and sink and three new faucets. We were thinking about installing new windows, maybe hire a local company to do that. Instead we’ll be buying health insurance. That’s much better for the local economy than doing something foolish like improving our home. Thanks Republicans.

Our Taurus, a 98, now has 180,000 miles. Kris’ job requires her to drive a lot of miles. Dwight Swisher tells us that this Taurus has got a “sweet little engine,” so we can put 200,000 miles on it, easy. But we were getting a little nervous about it and were thinking about trading. That’s not going to happen. We’re not going to contribute to the recovery of the American auto industry any time soon. Thanks Republicans.

So if you’re a main street business with whom I used to do business, sorry, but you won’t be seeing much of me. I won’t be going to Walmart of another of the big box stores instead of shopping with you. I just won’t be shopping anywhere for much of anything. Don’t thank me, thank the Republicans.
Teachers, who like my wife, are looking at being out of a job – or feeling very nervous about your future on the job – if you voted Republican, this is exactly what you voted for.

Parents who don’t like the educational system, who think that the schools don’t do enough to help your child excel in math and sciences and prepare to compete in the new world: with 30 in the class, how much attention is your child going to get now? If you voted Republican, this is exactly what you voted for.
Republican policies, Republican ideas, Republican politics are what have brought our economy to the brink of meltdown, thrown most of the middle class in this country to the side of the road, created agricultural practices that are focused on the seed companies and not on people who need food nor on land use that’s sustainable. The bad things that are happening to our country and our world are a direct result of Republican policies. Electing more Republicans will perpetuate the bad news of the 8 years of Bush misrule.

So gloat away Mr. Economist Ahlseen. Taking money out of the pockets of those who serve the public is not the way to help the economy. But thanks for giving me an extra hour of awake time to think about the issues and remember whom to thank.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Farm Jobs Too?

This week's LNR has a column by John Schlageck of the Kansas Farm Bureau. In the column Schlageck cites the increasing pressures on the grasslands, the water resources and the ability of the American farmer to produce crops at an affordable cost. Schlageck is obviously more competent to comment on agricultural issues than I, and he is finally tenaciously optimistic.

But he seems to accept the "invisible hand" theory of how the economics of agriculture work. There are mysterious market forces at work, not manipulated by agro giants, nor ordinary human greed.

Seems to me that there are forces, primarily the forces of businesses that can't accept good stable profits but are always demanding ever increasing profits at the expense of everyone else - in other words forces of Greed - that are pushing and manipulating the markets. The outcomes, as we say a year ago, of this unbridled greed are not good, despite Gordon Gecko's assertion to the contrary.

We've shipped the manufacturing jobs to China - and brought back the pests that are ruining the American ecosystem - at no costs to the importers, or the manufacturers. Are we now going to ship American agriculture elsewhere - and what will come back with the imported foodstuff? And with what will we purchase these goods?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Topeka Rev. Heading To Haiti

Topeka Rev. Heading To Haiti Read this one on I have to wonder about this guy's going to Haiti. He says he loves the Haitian people - just like Wycliff Jean - and like Jean he doesn't seem to have any skills in disaster relief.

It seems to me that none of us who aren't specialists in disaster relief need to be anywhere near Haiti right now. No matter if we have family we're desperate to find, nor if we love the Haitian people, nor even if we have decided that beyond physical relief the people of Haiti also need evangelical comfort.

If we aren't there to help with the physical needs of these people at this time, we're just getting in the way. Moreover, we're going to need food and water, which means that there are four or five more mouths to feed and hydrate.

So, big hearts, I'm guessing the best thing is to follow the advice of former Presidents Clinton and Bush and stay home and send your cash to work through one of the many credible relief organizations.

Friday, January 15, 2010

"Hey! Wait for me!"

"Hey! Wait for me!"
Originally uploaded by Hannes R
We've lost all our snow. Perhaps seeing where the snow still lies thick on the earth, like a cold white comforter, will touch others as it touched me.

As important as the stories are coming from Haiti and Topeka, I need an occasional glimpse of the beautiful, the playful, or just something else, to help keep my spirits up. Life is full of hard knocks. I want to help, but I feel so powerless. Hey, wait for me.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Being a Rotarian in Troubled Times

The church taught me that I should do good for the family of humanity.

The Rotary Club has given me the means of doing good. With the tragedy in Haiti it is imperative that we get together and do good for a near neighbor. Perhaps it is time to pull together and raise an additional $1000 for a shelterbox to house a family in Haiti. I wonder if I can manage to raise the funds to get that done in a hurry.

So many other tasks calling for my time, but none of them will mean life or death for other human beings. I wonder if I can do it, using the power of the internet.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Olberman's Terrorist Rant

Keith Olberman is on a rant about the New York Republican Congressman's suggestion that the Democratic President hasn't used the word "terrorist" often enough. Republicans are just lying their asses off, insisting that the President hasn't been willing to call the wars we're in wars, that he isn't willing to call terrorism terrorism, a terrorist a terrorist. Nice lies, Repugs.

Over on Fox news there was a ridiculous assertion that the only terrorists in this world are the Islamists. There is a fascinating piece on on the rise of the White supremacists in America. Those are the home grown terrorists, all of them claiming some kind of Christian allegiance and insisting that this is a White Christian nation. But the Repugs, when the Department of Homeland Security warned of a resurgence of these folks, screamed and yowled like little piggies.

Nice going Repugs. You don't deserve to be in office.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bush Did It Right?

Richard Reed, shoe bomber.

Torture and murder of those we kept in custody - some of whom were innocent.

Never got Osama bin Laden.

Made everyone take their shoes off and put their fluids in 3 oz bottles (because 3.5 ozs will blow up a plane).

The idea that we did things right under Bush and we're doing things wrong now is bushit. Trying to keep us scared shouldn't work. I refuse to be scared!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Family Portrait

Originally uploaded by Ike60
This is family. I feel fairly sure that this is family. But I don't know which part of the family. I got the photo on this visit to my sister's house, scanned it it, and took all the notes that there were to take. They weren't much. In fact, there were no notes on the photo.

It's from Haparanda, so it is probably family. It could be one of the uncles who came to America, or it could be my farfar and farmor. I just don't know.

It's a little frustrating, but at the same time a bit of a challenge. I like the challenge. It, along with a prompting from a cousin in Sweden, caused me to go looking for ancestors. Found only one on this search, but I've now reason to call the distant cousins who've done the work it takes to get to know the lost family.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Rick Warren's Claim

Pastor Rick Warren announced that he was a little short this month - nearly a million short - and would we all mind kicking in a little more so his megachurch could go on with their mega ministries.

Suddenly, mutatis mutandis, a miracle and the Pastor got 2.4 million "all in small bills," or whatever.

I have some trouble believing his claims. Either the church wasn't a million short, or he didn't get two million in small change, found in the sofa cushions. I believe the church got the 2.4 million, but I don't think it was in spontaneous giving.

I also don't believe that the money is key to keeping open the ministries of care, like the food bank, support groups, etc. Warren is a real piece of work and I wouldn't believe much that he said. But maybe I'm just being cynical.

Just read Barbara Ehrenrich's new work, all about the perils of positive thinking. Warren's no better than all the contemporary Rev. Ikes she chronicles in her book. Highly recommend the book.


Twelve days away. On six of those days we spent the majority of our day in the car. We can make it from Lindsborg to the Twin Cities in one long day, likewise Chicago, but we prefer not. In fact, we have a couple of Iowa spots where we enjoy spending a night. One of those is Elk Horn, Iowa, at the center of the Danish Villages. It's our favorite small town after Lindsborg.

Last night we ate at Den Danske Kro, the Danish Inn. It was a Danish American smörgåsbord, decked out for a Saturday night. Lots of salad, pickled herring, frickadallen, rödkol, rolled pork, and prime rib. It was called "a Danish-American smögåsbord." It was a great model for what the Crown could have done. Ah, well. I'm not in charge so I should let it go.

Lots of video to come from this trip. I'll be posting a video that I call "the fail that wasn't" sometime tomorrow.

Glad to be home to our cat, our house, and even back to Kansas. It's not the only place I'd ever live, but it is better than other places I could be living. Here I can breathe the air and enjoy the stars.