Sunday, August 29, 2010


This is my 500th post. I wasn’t sure I was going to make to this milestone. Lately, the crap that passes for American culture these days has so disheartened me that writing about almost anything lost its appeal.

It would be entirely too easy to give into this ennui and bury my head in the sand. After all, what can I do with this blog except rant about things that I can’t influence to people who mostly feel the same way? I don’t exactly have a huge audience. I don’t even have resident trolls to keep the dialogue moving.

It would be simpler to avoid the nastiness. After all, I’ve honed that skill to a fine art. I have relatives that “like” things like this on their Facebook page:
Crowds Mass in Washington DC for Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin Rally.

I mean, truthfully, how do you respond to someone you’re related to who thinks Glen Beck is on to something when you think he’s the reincarnation of PT Barnum? I can’t call this person stupid or any other of the endless list of epithets that come to mind.

So I do what I’ve gotten truly skilled at – I ignore it. After all, if forwarding an email to a family member regarding the health care debate from the White House last year can illicit a diatribe about government propaganda that devolves into a cap and trade screed and then ends with “If you want to talk more, I’m willing. Just don’t forward propaganda”, what other response is there? Rational discussion isn’t possible in the face of this much anger.

It’s not just people that I’m related to by blood or marriage either. It’s the person who works in my building who has bumper stickers on his car like this:

I have no idea who this person is. I’ve never seen him, but every time I see his car, I get pissed off. I feel a strong urge to key his car. Not very helpful, but still viscerally fulfilling, in a temporary manner at least.

In short, I cannot talk to people like this without getting just as angry as they are. Reading their emails, comments on my blog or posts on Facebook fills me with dread and fear and a physical sensation that feels like a knife to the gut. Their fear and anger just breeds more of the same.

I read about people like Beck ranting about “divine providence” or Franklin Graham talking about “the seed of Islam” and wonder how anyone can take these people seriously. The fact that so many do scares me absolutely shitless. I have no desire to reside in a post-modern Christian theocracy. I’m not the “right” kind of Christian. I’d be rounded up with all the other non-desirables - non-Christians, non-Heterosexuals and non-Whites - and sent who knows where in that brave new world.

It’s not just the Religious Right that frightens me, either. There seems to be a movement, one long standing and well cemented in our culture, that believes that everything Government run is bad and everything Private Sector run is good; that corporations deserve to make as much money as their coffers will hold without little things like morality and responsibility to hinder them.

I begrudge no business their right to make a profit but when they do so at the expense of the very people they’ve contracted with or the expense of our environment, they’re thieves of the worst sort. What we allow corporations, like BP and Exxon/Mobil or Humana and WellPoint, to get away with we would never tolerate in our elected leaders. Governments have crumbled in scandals far less than the likes of a Deepwater Horizon or Exxon Valdez.

We call politicians who screw their constituents for money corrupt. We call Michael McCallister, CEO of Humana, and Angela Braly, CEO of WellPoint, masters of commerce despite the fact that their companies have routinely cancelled the policies or refused treatment coverage to people in dire need. The two of them earned a combined compensation package – including salary, stock and options, and incentive plans – of $19,617,650 in 2009. Their companies earned $95.9 billion in revenues that year.

But hey, that’s okay. After all, these are for profit companies. They have to make a profit to stay in business. Never mind that they’re all providing a product that this country literally cannot function without. Never mind that while they raise the prices of their products and keep increasing their bottom line through shortcuts and culling of the herd, they pay our political leaders to look the other way.

This wrong on a level so fundamental that I find it incredulous that everyone cannot see it.

No doubt there are those out there who would call me a socialist for even daring to think that the government might be better suited to the job of running health care. I have no doubt there are others who would call me a member of the intellectual elite based on my expressed opinions here. When did having a brain and not being afraid to use it become something our country denigrated? If having a college degree, voting Democrat and speaking out against the demagoguery make me an intellectual or an elitist then I think I’m okay with both of those terms. I embrace them even.

I know that it flies in the face of popular convention when I tell you I attend church regularly and consider myself a Christian but still believe that gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry, that all LGBTs should be treated as full and equal members of society including being able to serve openly in the military, that health care is a right not a privilege, that we are a nation of immigrants and stronger because of that fact and yet vote for Democrats more often than not.

I tell you that those things are more Christian than what the Religious Right has brainwashed us all to believe.

We must stand up to the greed-is-good, intellectuals-are-bad, gays-are-out-to-corrupt-your-children and real Americans are bible-believing, gun-toting, Republican-voting Christians meme and shout to the world that there is another way.

If not, then we deserve whatever comes our way in November and all the Novembers yet to come.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Michael O'Hare and the future of America

This is a letter written by Michael O'Hare to his students. I found it on Obsidian Wings. It says a lot about the state that we've gotten ourselves into.

Welcome to Berkeley, probably still the best public university in the world. Meet your classmates, the best group of partners you can find anywhere. The percentages for grades on exams, papers, etc. in my courses always add up to 110% because that’s what I’ve learned to expect from you, over twenty years in the best job in the world.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that you have been the victims of a terrible swindle, denied an inheritance you deserve by contract and by your merits. And you aren’t the only ones; victims of this ripoff include the students who were on your left and on your right in high school but didn’t get into Cal, a whole generation stiffed by mine. This letter is an apology, and more usefully, perhaps a signal to start demanding what’s been taken from you so you can pass it on with interest.
Swindle – what happened? Well, before you were born, Californians now dead or in nursing homes made a remarkable deal with the future. (Not from California? Keep reading, lots of this applies to you, with variations.) They agreed to invest money they could have spent on bigger houses, vacations, clothes, and cars into the world’s greatest educational system, and into building and operating water systems, roads, parks, and other public facilities, an infrastructure that was the envy of the world. They didn’t get everything right: too much highway and not enough public transportation. But they did a pretty good job.
Young people who enjoyed these ‘loans’ grew up smarter, healthier, and richer than they otherwise would have, and understood that they were supposed to “pay it forward” to future generations, for example by keeping the educational system staffed with lots of dedicated, well-trained teachers, in good buildings and in small classes, with college counselors and up-to-date books. California schools had physical education, art for everyone, music and theater, buildings that looked as though people cared about them, modern languages and ancient languages, advanced science courses with labs where the equipment worked, and more. They were the envy of the world, and they paid off better than Microsoft stock. Same with our parks, coastal zone protection, and social services.
This deal held until about thirty years ago, when for a variety of reasons, California voters realized that while they had done very well from the existing contract, they could do even better by walking away from their obligations and spending what they had inherited on themselves. “My kids are finished with school; why should I pay taxes for someone else’s? Posterity never did anything for me!” An army of fake ‘leaders’ sprang up to pull the moral and fiscal wool over their eyes, and again and again, your parents and their parents lashed out at government (as though there were something else that could replace it) with tax limits, term limits, safe districts, throw-away-the-key imprisonment no matter the cost, smoke-and-mirrors budgeting, and a rule never to use the words taxes and services in the same paragraph.
Now, your infrastructure is falling to pieces under your feet, and as citizens you are responsible for crudities like closing parks, and inhumanities like closing battered women’s shelters. It’s outrageous, inexcusable, that you can’t get into the courses you need, but much worse that Oakland police have stopped taking 911 calls for burglaries and runaway children. If you read what your elected officials say about the state today, you’ll see things like “California can’t afford” this or that basic government function, and that “we need to make hard choices” to shut down one or another public service, or starve it even more (like your university). Can’t afford? The budget deficit that’s paralyzing Sacramento is about $500 per person; add another $500 to get back to a public sector we don’t have to be ashamed of, and our average income is almost forty times that. Of course we can afford a government that actually works: the fact is that your parents have simply chosen not to have it.
I’m writing this to you because you are the victims of this enormous cheat (though your children will be even worse off if you don’t take charge of this ship and steer it). Your education was trashed as California fell to the bottom of US states in school spending, and the art classes, AP courses, physical education, working toilets, and teaching generally went by the board. Every year I come upon more and more of you who have obviously never had the chance to learn to write plain, clear, English. Every year, fewer and fewer of you read newspapers, speak a foreign language, understand the basics of how government and business actually work, or have the energy to push back intellectually against me or against each other. Or know enough about history, literature, and science to do it effectively! You spent your school years with teachers paid less and less, trained worse and worse, loaded up with more and more mindless administrative duties, and given less and less real support from administrators and staff.
Many of your parents took a hike as well, somehow getting the idea that the schools had taken over their duties to keep you learning, or so beat-up working two jobs each and commuting two hours a day to put food on the table that they couldn’t be there for you. A quarter of your classmates didn’t finish high school, discouraged and defeated; but they didn’t leave the planet, even if you don’t run into them in the gated community you will be tempted to hide out in. They have to eat just like you, and they aren’t equipped to do their share of the work, so you will have to support them.
You need to have a very tough talk with your parents, who are still voting; you can’t save your children by yourselves. Equally important, you need to start talking to each other. It’s not fair, and you have every reason (except a good one) to keep what you can for yourselves with another couple of decades of mean-spirited tax-cutting and public sector decline. You’re my heroes just for surviving what we put you through and making it into my classroom, but I’m asking for more: you can be better than my generation. Take back your state for your kids and start the contract again. There are lots of places you can start, for example, building a transportation system that won’t enslave you for two decades as their chauffeur, instead of raising fares and cutting routes in a deadly helix of mediocrity. Lots. Get to work. See you in class!
The comments on O'Hare's original post say even more. Those comments, like so much else in our nation these days, seems divided squarely into two camps. One comment sums up the frustration of so many on O'Hare's side:
It is amazing how the greatest generation gave birth to the absolute worst generation of all-time. What a bunch of no good, selfish whiners. The boomers ruined America.

Technically, I'm a boomer, barely, but I've always associated myself more with GenX. I was born in 1964, which places me at the transition point for these two demographic groups. I understand where the commenter is coming from, entirely. It often seems to me that the Me generation, the greed is good folks, are the ones that have set us on the path to ruination.

The other side is represented by a woman who calls herself "sick of hands on my pockets".
Is this the land of the free or not? I personally am sick and tired of people TELLING me I am responsible for anyone other than my husband and children. I am not!! If I want to be charitable, I will be charitable. But if I choose to not to be charitable, that is MY choice. I have been endowed by my Creator with unalienable rights. The US govt does NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO FORCE ME TO BE CHARITABLE! God loves a cheerful giver, but it is my choice whether or not I WANT to give. GOD gave me FREE WILL!!! So, if you want to give, DO. And if you don’t, don’t. But don’t tell me I have to just because you want to. Think me stingy, I am not, I give plenty! But I refuse to be forced or guilted into giving!”
My point. Our govt is too big. Each person is responsible for THEIR OWN WELL BEING. I reap what I sow. And if I choose to sit on my @$$ and not work…then the natural consequence will be I go hungry. Period! If you want a ” good life” you have to work for it. That means going to college, trade school, or getting a job. No one deserves anything!
Get rid of 90% of govt. Keep only what is absolutely necessary. Stock options & Day trading are not necessities. The less the 535 people in DC meddle in our lives, the better! Investing on yoursrlf gives the most return on your investment
Sounds familiar. Personal responsibility was the trademark of my parent's generation. They understood the idea of working for a living. I'm not knocking that at all. At some point, however, taking that idea to its extreme and being unwilling to help the greater good is essentially selfish.

And really, we shouldn't be surprised that the Boomers are so anti-government. As youth, they rebelled against their parents, were avidly anti-establishment and seem to have carried that idea to its logical conclusion with the Tea Party. 75% of Tea Party participants are over the age of 45, which places them squarely in the Boomer generation. 

Let's hope the Millennials do a better job.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Corporate Takeover of American Democracy

I read a transcript of President Obama's weekly address on the Daily Kos this morning and got reacquainted with the man I voted for in 2008.

He's misstepped a time or two or three since then but overall, he's been the right person at the right time. Can you imagine where we might be now if McCain and Palin had been elected. I shudder to think.

This week's address went to the heart of campaign finance and the disastrous Supreme Court ruling of Citizen United.  The Republicans blocked legislation that would have undone some of the harm perpetrated upon our Democracy by the Citizens United ruling. In clear language, the President let them have it.
"But the Republican leaders in Congress said no. In fact, they used their power to block the issue from even coming up for a vote. 
This can only mean that the leaders of the other party want to keep the public in the dark. They don’t want you to know which interests are paying for the ads. The only people who don’t want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide".  (emphasis mine)
The Republicans don't want us to know who is paying for their advertising. Special interests can hide behind names like Citizens for a Better Future and we won't know who's footing the bill.
In addition to the lack of transparency the Citizens United ruling allows, it also allowed News Corp and Rupert Murdoch to give the Republican Governors Association a cool million. With unlimited donations possible and no restrictions on foreign investing, our elections are now open to the highest bidder.

Which is just what the Republicans in Congress are telling us they want by blocking this legislation.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Prejudice held by the majority is still prejudice

When I was a young'un growing up in the 80s and waiting for the bombs to fall and end this charade we call civilization, lots of people talked about a certain group of other people, calling them evil and godless and intent on our destruction.  Back then it was the people of the Soviet Union that was the enemy du jour. Today, it's Muslims.

Back then, the Soviet Union was the godless Evil Empire and all its people somehow less than human because of the politics of their leaders. That was no more true then than calling all Muslims terrorists is now.  I took a particular interest in Russian history in high school and college. I'm no historian, but what I learned led me to believe that the Russian people were and are not that different from ourselves.

Back then, it was harder to see this essential truth. The images and words we had to tell us about average Russians were limited. Today, we have the Internet in all its unseemly glory. It's one of the great strengths of the Internet age that it allows us to meet ordinary people from all over the world, to hear the news through the filter of another culture and to see through the vicarious lens of video the lives and struggles of people on the other side of the planet.  It's not perfect by any means. We are still limited by language and cultural differences when we try to meet average Muslims residing in the Middle East. The sheer amount of information available is daunting. Yet, it is worth the effort.

When we choose to view those on the other side of an ideological divide as inherently wrong or evil we deny our common humanity. No matter where we are from, what language we speak, whom we love or what faith we follow, we all share certain traits with our fellow travelers on this planet Earth - we all love our children, we all worry about providing for ourselves and our families, we all grieve the loss of loved ones. We have more in common than we realize.

When we label anyone as less than human because their faith is different than ours, because they love differently, or because they look different than ourselves, we do ourselves and them great harm. A prejudice held by the majority is still prejudice and no less wrong for the numbers that hold it true.

We are a young and immature species. And like most children, we fear what we do not know and what is different.

We need to grow the hell up.

H/T to Zen, Texas for the inspiration.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Braggin' Rights

Okay, I must share this or I might explode.

This is Youngest's final project for her Intro to Stage Make-Up. She ROCKS! w00t ! My  kid is officially AWE-SOME!

The best part is that they went to Wendy's while Harvey here was in full make-up. Can you imagine serving him?

Congratulations, babe. Ya done good.

RTT - I'm baaack! (sorta) maybe not really *sigh*

It's Tuesday and time for the fun with Keely. Stop on by and grab the badge.

I bought a kettlebell last weekend. In case you don't know what one of these things are, let me enlighten you. It's a torture device with a cute name. Seriously. The first time I used it, I thought I was gonna pass out. And then my legs hurt for 3 days. Funny, though. The next time I used it (Sunday, after recovering from the first attempt) it wasn't nearly so bad. Made it through the workout without pausing the DVD and the next day I was only a little bit sore.  Let me tell you, I am not an athlete. I am a certified couch potato and it kinda secretly irks me that this exercise thing might actually make the difference in the ever popular weight loss attempts.

I am also walking. 15 minutes in the morning at work before the Texas heat makes venturing out on asphalt a quick and unpleasant way to pass out from heat stroke. (It was 105 yesterday in Austin.) I also walk in the evenings on the days I'm not torturing myself with the pink devil. (Yes. The kettlebell is pink. Didn't even think to look.) I'm trying to do 30 minutes. I have to wait until it's almost dark to walk. Monday, it was still over 90 when I went walking. 

I have stopped trying to walk the dogs until Hubby is finished with his report. Myrddin and Aibhne escaped when I tried to take Rowan (no way am I taking more than one of them at a time). If the doofus would just walk out the front door calmly without having to screw up the courage, they wouldn't have had room to squeeze past him and make a mad dash around the neighborhood. Bastards.

Speaking of the dogs, Aibhne, the little goat, is not losing any weight that I can tell. Still solid as a rock and twice as dense. She's sweet and adorable and lab stupid and strong as the proverbial ox. If I ever have to escape the impending ice age or the zombie hordes, I know who I am hooking up to the sleigh/wagon. She may run like a goat (if you've seen the end of "Men Who Stare at Goats" you have seen Aibhne run) but she pulls like a, well, like an ox.

I have been absent of late and the last time I posted a Random Tuesday Thoughts was in June. Work has been actual work of late and added to the general i-can't-take-it-anymores I've been feeling of late, I have been a bad blogger. I'm trying. I make no guarantees that I will improve.

This month, the last roll of Kodachrome was processed.  Steve McCurry, once a photographer for National Geographic, shot the last manufactured roll of Kodachrome. A great choice, I think. After all, he has one of the most iconic photographs of the last century:

You give us those nice bright colors
You give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah!
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So Mama, don't take my Kodachrome away
More lyrics:
Too bad Paul Simon wouldn't cooperate with McCurry. It would have been a fitting end.

Check out Keely at The Unmom for more randomness.

Monday, August 16, 2010


We've all seen this bumper sticker -

At least I have. A lot. I'm in Austin, after all. The liberal mecca for Texas. I've always wanted one and I just ordered one tonight, so the graphic is paid for.

Any way, all the talk about the "Ground Zero Mosque" has gotten to me. The final straw was when I saw a friend of a friend post this on Facebook:
If you think that putting up a mosque 600 ft. from ground zero and having the inauguration on the anniversary of 9/11/11 is immoral, inhumane and a complete lack of respect for the memories of all that perished there, on that day and their survivors ~ That politicians are doing a grave injustice to the fallen heroes, their families and all the people of New York City THEN COPY AND PASTE THIS TO YOUR WALL.
I did not copy and paste that onto my wall and moved this person into my Limited Profile group. Meaning, they know get to see virtually zilch about me. Then I find out that Sen. Harry Reid has decided to join the religious bigotry and come out against the center.

It makes no sense to me. Didn't we establish with the First Amendment the idea of Freedom of, and Freedom from, Religion?
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Equating all adherents to Islam to terrorists makes as much sense to me as saying all Christians are part of the Religious Right. When we paint all followers of Mohammed  (Peace be upon him) as radical terrorists out to destroy America and all followers of Christ has gay hating, intolerant bigots we do both groups of people a grave injustice. Yes. There are Muslims whose most fervent wish is to blow up infidels. Yes. There are Christianists whose most fervent wish is to see all homosexuals dead. Neither represent the true face of their respective faiths, and I, for one, am sick of being lumped with the crazies.

Not only are we talking a clear violation of the First Amendment but most of the facts, and I use that term loosely, spouted by the right are just plain wrong. The community center is not a mosque. It is not located at Ground Zero or across the street from it and even within sight of it. It's two blocks away.

Much has been said about this "mosque" being an insult to the victims families. What about those victims that were Muslims?  One was even a NYPD cadet, Mohammad Salman Hamdani. Does the grief of these families mean less somehow than that of the non-Muslim families?

When we give into this irrational hate of all things Muslim, we lose. Osama bin Laden and his terrorists will win the war on terror they began on September 11, 2001.

We must be better than this.

h/t to The Village Voice and Politicsusa.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In Absentia

I've been MIA for a while. Lots of reasons why. Mostly, it's an overwhelming sense of  ennui.
World English Dictionary 
ennui (ˈɒnwiː, French ɑ̃nɥi)
— a feeling of listlessness and general dissatisfaction resulting from lack of activity or excitement
Yep. That about sums it up - general dissatisfaction resulting from lack of activity. Politics is just so much of the same old, same old. The Right is still as screwed up as ever. The Left is just as discontent today as they were in 2008. The Corporations are solidly in control of the country and Rick Perry is still Governor of Texas.

Even the good news, like the overturning of Prop 8, can't keep my interest. As predicted, the Right went nuts and the Left was smug. The BP well seems to be plugged and has fallen off the news grid. The oil is still there, but now that it's no longer pumping into the Gulf by the millions of gallons a day, it's no longer news.

And then there are things on a more personal front. Last month, I finished a book by Orson Scott Card, "Empire", that my Eldest recommended. I was complaining about something one of the characters said and how, in general, the book was a testament to Card's conservative craziness when my husband called me a left-wing extremist. That still rankles. It bubbles up in my brain at random times and makes me stew. And saddens me. The things we say when frustrated and fed up are often reflective of our deepest beliefs. That or meant to be purposefully hurtful. If he thinks I'm an extremist, it's like saying that I am no better than those that I find so repulsive and indeed, we are kindred spirits. That's enough to throw anyone off their game.

I just can't maintain the outrage in the face of the endless supply of right-wing craziness, corporate greed and Democratic spinelessness. And then to be called an extremist was just the icing on the cake.

I've fought with clinical depression several times in my life and I feel the apathy interspersed with irritability returning. It's odd. In some ways, my life is better than ever.  I'm exercising and losing weight. My job is going well and we're not behind on the mortgage. No one is ill. No one is pregnant. No one is threatening to move back in tomorrow.

But. (great word, much maligned, and makes a sentence all by itself no matter what the grammar police say)

My husband is deep in the throes of end of report craziness. He's worked overtime every night and all weekend for almost a month with the exception of two nights off.  He's cranky. I'm cranky. Only the dogs are on an even keel. Which is to say, their usual neurotic selves. When he disappears like this for weeks at a time, I start to get majorly pissed off. I can't say anything to him without getting my head bitten off. It's like his frustration trumps mine and I can't complain without looking like a first class bitch. Which I can be, don't get me wrong, but this is one of those situations. You know, the kind where you're damned if you don't and doubly damned is you do? It is hard to be supportive when he's either grouchy or uncommunicative. When he takes a day off and says that unless we make "plans" that are more than sitting in front of the TV, he's going back to work, it's kind of hard to be sympathetic. It's as if I have to provide a schedule of entertainment he deems worthy of participation in order to justify his absence from a project that's already sucked him dry and spat him out the other end. Add in there the fact that we only have one vehicle. I'm either stuck at home or returning to work to pick him up long after I'd rather not be on the road. It's exhausting. At least this time, it's just me. Trying to feed and keep track of a teenager while he was absent made me want to punch something. Generally him.

To complicate matters is the fact that I don't have any one else, besides you anonymous people, to talk to. I have no friends, certainly not in the female sense of the word. You know, those people you call up just because and end up talking to for hours? Or the person you call to invite to a movie or coffee or a wild night of drunken debauchery? (Ok, maybe that last one isn't a female kind of friend) Those kind of friends. I won't count my Eldest, who has been known to call me and talk until the batteries die on the phone. She's my daughter and just doesn't count. Hubby is really the closest thing I have to a friend which is great but problematic when he is the person AWOL. It must be some kind of flaw in my personality that keeps me from making friends or stops people from thinking of me as a likely companion to ease their boredom. I never found the knack for making friends. Certainly not ones who I managed to keep for any length of time.

Ahhh. Enough whining. Plus Blogger or my browser is being persnickety and there is a serious delay between my typing and the words actually appearing on the screen. Must be a sign or something. And incredibly frustrating and I have enough of that right now.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Prop 8 overturned!

30 May 2009, Fresno, California, USA. "Me...Image via Wikipedia
Great news! California's Prop 8 has been declared unconstitutional!

Opponents to gay marriage have already said they will file an appeal, but for now this is great news. Expect the blogosphere and twitter and the MSM to erupt.