Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Church people and self discipline

New research indicates devoutly religious people have an edge on us heathens.

Church people tend to do better in school, live longer, have more satisfying marriages and be generally happier.

After reviewing eight decades of research, two Miami shrinks have concluded that religiosity promotes self control. Devout people were found to be more likely than others to wear seat belts, go to the dentist and take vitamins.

Tough choice: dentist and vitamins versus whiskey and wild sex. Which is more heavenly? I’ll have to think about that. Join me for a drink?

My wantonness notwithstanding, I find the article fascinating. You might, too. Click here and be sure to read all the way to the last paragraph. That’s where I rest my case.

You sure you don’t want a drink?

Monday, December 29, 2008

God -- philosophers weigh in

Got your feet up? Wearing your new casual pants? Eggnog.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is designed to be slow. Each of us needs a chance to reflect and re-charge. It’s been a hard year.

Let’s take a break from politics. Too much bile.

Instead, let’s talk religion. Choirs of angels, miracles and spires.

Whoa, you say. An intellectual discussion about religion can be just as volatile as talking politics. And skeptics among you might label “intellectual discussion about religion” as an oxymoron.

Regardless, I find comfort in the philosophers.

And that’s where we shall jump-start this topic by turning to the January/February issue of the BostonReview wherein the writer proclaims:

“God has had a lot of bad press recently. The four horsemen of atheism, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, have all published books sharply critical of belief in God: respectively, The God Delusion, Breaking the Spell, The End of Faith, and God Is Not Great. Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens pile on the greatest amount of scorn, while Dennett takes the role of good cop. But despite differences of tone and detail, they all agree that belief in God is a kind of superstition. As Harris puts it, religion “is the denial—at once full of hope and full of fear—of the vastitude of human ignorance.”

The author fairly roils about dragons, martinis, blue marbles and more…

(click here and get back to me later)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The future of journalism?

A friend from college has been the ombudsman at the Washington Post for the past several years after spending a life-time as a journalist. She writes a good-bye column from her unusual catbird’s seat.

A Farewell Hope for The Post's Future

By Deborah Howell
Sunday, December 28, 2008

My term as ombudsman ends with this column. My hope for the future is that readers, our lifeblood, will find in The Post, in print and online, journalism they can believe in and that the paper will both engage and enrich the many communities in this region.

Journalism has changed tremendously since my early days covering police and courts in Corpus Christi, Tex. Typewriters and Linotypes are ancient tools, and the Internet sometimes makes ink on paper seem so yesterday. What doesn't change is fact-gathering and analyses that inform readers and help citizens to form a more perfect union.

Journalism is better than it was in my early days and changes in technology have opened up a new world. My worry is that journalists aren't as connected to readers as they were in the days of my youth, when the city's newspaper was the equivalent of the public square. Then, reporters tended to be folks who often hadn't graduated from, or even attended, college, and they weren't looking to move to bigger papers. They knew the community well, didn't make much money and lived like everyone else, except for chasing fires and crooks.

Now journalists are highly trained, mobile and, especially in Washington, more elite. We make a lot more money, drive better cars and have nicer homes. Some of us think we're just a little more special than some of the folks we want to buy the paper or read us online.

That's a mistake. Readers want us to be smart and tough and for the newspaper to read that way, but they don't want us to think that we're better than they are. We need to be worried sick when people drop their subscriptions and think of ways to prevent that.

An unpleasant fact about journalists is that we can be way too defensive. We dish it out a lot better than we take it. It's not that we have thin skin; we often act as though we have no skin and bleed at the slightest touch.

Journalists need to find ways to be more a part of their communities and their interests -- without crossing the line to partisanship -- and to engage with readers in improving the newspaper and its Web site to be sources readers can't do without. If something drives readers nuts, what can we do to help them?

Journalists need to be tough enough to face down a mayor, a police chief or the president of the United States, but we also should be tough enough to respond to honest criticism. The worst part of my job as official internal critic hasn't been dealing with readers, though that has been both daunting and rewarding. Taking those complaints to reporters and editors has been the biggest challenge. I'm grateful to those here who took them seriously. Some readers had complaints that I just couldn't get to; I regret that. Some journalists think I have been unfair to them. If I have, then they know how people who believe The Post has treated them unfairly feel.

Journalists' defensiveness is heightened by the uncertainty that grips our business. The Post has changed in my term. Its news staff is smaller, and so is the space available for stories. Sections are being dropped, and there's a tightening feeling everywhere.

The Internet was on everyone's radar screen in 2005, but its importance wasn't uppermost in everyone's minds. Now it is. The future of journalism is online even as the print newspaper remains by far the biggest revenue-producer. That many readers want to read it in print remains our bread and butter.

The paper has a new executive editor, Marcus Brauchli. The Post had only two top editors in the previous 40 years, Ben Bradlee and Len Downie. Brauchli's job is a huge one -- keeping The Post strong journalistically while trimming its sails financially. He deserves good luck.

And there will be a new ombudsman on Feb. 2 -- Andy Alexander, former Washington bureau chief of Cox Newspapers -- a longtime friend and colleague. He's as good a journalist as I know and is more than up to the task before him. I will be lightly monitoring your mail until he takes over. The Post is to be congratulated for continuing the ombudsman's job.

I cannot leave without saying that I owe a debt of unreserved gratitude to the editorial copy desk, which edited my column, and especially to its chief, Vince Rinehart, an extraordinarily fine copy editor. They have saved me again and again and made my columns better for readers.

In this time of uncertainty, here's a quote from Bradlee in a recent interview with Bob Woodward: "I cannot envision a world without newspapers. . . . I can envision a world with fewer newspapers. I can envision a world where newspapers are printed differently, distributed differently, but there is going to be a profession of journalism, a band of brothers and sisters working intensely together. Their job is going to be to report what they believe the truth to be. And that won't change."

That's my own fervent wish -- along with wishing that readers will appreciate journalists' work. Most cities don't have as good a paper as The Post. A friend who moved away told me that she misses The Post more than anything else. And she's a conservative Republican.

Deborah Howell can be reached at ombudsman@washpost.com.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Barack the magic Negro

Chip Saltsman, a candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee, sent committee members this month a holiday music CD that included "Barack the Magic Negro," a parody song first aired in 2007 by national talk show bigot Rush Limbaugh.

So, this is a test. It is a test of our sense of humor. Is this funny? Is it parody? Satire? Or just another form of racism?

Here it is for you to judge: Barack the magic Negro


You know what I think. This is ignorant racism no matter how much you try to deny it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays thanks to the pagans

We owe a lot to the pagans.

Most of our holidays can be traced back to their rituals which were based on the growing seasons from the sun.

For example, I suspect Stonehenge was built as a precursor to the Weather Channel. Planting time was crucial to the first farmers. Ask any Amish.

I’ve always admired the Winter Solstice. It is what it is – the shortest day of the year. That means all the coming days will be taller. Surely, a signal for glad tidings. More mead.

Over the centuries, many religions have risen out of the mists to sponsor special days like the solstices. Over time, we have misplaced the memories of the first time the early pagan looked at the sun and stars and exclaimed: “I can make some money with this.”

So take time this holiday season to remember the First Retailers, the pagans.

And know that in the fullness of time, the bailouts will eventually reach Main Street. Or is that just another holiday fable?

Regardless, may your coming days truly get taller. Clink.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bailouts beginning to smell

The more I read about the bail-outs, the more steamed I get. We need to do something to halt this madness.

Bankers, who teetered at the brink of failure, have the unmitigated gall to continue to reward top-level management with bonus packages lined by taxpayer dollars. Their greed knows no shame, no limit, no ethic. Take the money and party!

As you know, it gets worse. This week the banks refuse to tell us how they are spending the taxpayer’s money they are rolling in. But they damned sure are not lending it to the people who need to buy a car. Or save their home.

The Congress and the Bush Administration handed out billions and billions of our money without adequate controls, guidelines, regulations, direction…without much thought.


Stop the bail-outs. Wall Street is still standing. Take some time to really think this through.

To continue is criminal. Someone should go to jail.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Send Mr. Smith to Washington again

This is blasphemy, I suppose. But I’m not crazy about the idea of handing the NY senate seat to Caroline Kennedy. That’s not easy to say for a card-carrying liberal.

But before the posse forms, let me also say that I am opposed to Jeb Bush becoming the next U.S. Senator from Florida.

A seat in the United States Senate is not a legacy. Our upper chamber is not the House of Lords. Not yet. But we are on a steady course of turning it into a fiefdom. By definition, the U. S. Senate is already the most exclusive club in the world.

So don’t field a familial ticket. I’m weary of Bush, Kennedy, Clinton, Dole and all the rest. Politics is not a gene. But wealth must be. The thing those familiar names have in common? It’s ka-ching. They can raise campaign money.

Surely we can do better. From a 305 million population base, surely we can find a qualified candidate named Smith. Or Garza. Or Chan. Or ... you get the idea.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Anti-biotics, vitamin C and whiskey

Apologies for the hiatus. We’ve been blitzed by bronchitis. Rough stuff but things are getting better. We made it to the grocery and bought cookies.

I think I’m running a fever. The meds only serve to amplify the Walter Mitty world that I live in. By merely closing my eyes, I am often visited by a delegation of agricultural workers. And a few stray firemen.

Once, I dreamed Obama got into more trouble because of his governor than he ever imagined because of his preacher.

In another feverish dream, Gov. Sarah Palin had a favorable/unfavorable rating among Republicans of 73-13 percent. More codine!

I told you I was running a fever.

The Mystery Woman tried to convince me it snowed in New Orleans.

Anyhow, this is my lame excuse for not writing this week. I can provide a letter from my doctor(s). I’ll be better by next week. Meanwhile, wash your hands with soap and water after reading this.

And drink lots of liquids.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Gov. Palin looking better all the time

Dear me, I was wrong yesterday when I told you Gov. Sarah Palin spent $110,400 on two hair and make-up stylists during the nine weeks she was on the campaign trail.

The number is closer to $165,000 and it was for three stylists.

Yes, dears, I know that is more money paid out in two months than most Americans make working all year long. Maybe she needed lots of remedial work?

Take my advice, Governor Honey, next time hire just one worker who goes both ways. There are many professionals who can do both hair and make-up.

A penny saved…

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thank you, Gov. Palin

Sarah Palin is the gift that keeps on giving.

The Republicans spent more getting her pretty than they first admitted. Gov. Palin’s traveling makeup artist was paid $68,400 and her hair stylist received more than $42,000 for roughly two months of work, according to a new campaign finance report filed late Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.

That’s a lot of lipstick and stuff. Even for a hockey mom.

The $150,000 clothing tab was also amended. Add another $30,000 to the wardrobe allowance. Two months of clothes, nearly $200,000. Joy.

Palin protests that the clothes will be returned. What? I didn’t know Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus were in the rental business. That’s cheating. It abuses the liberal return policies of several high end retail stores.

And it begs the question: have the clothes been returned?

Meanwhile, thank you, Gov. Palin. This post election period has been difficult for political junkies. It’s comforting to know we can count on you for entertainment.

I can barely wait until 2012.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Big Brother is watching -- at last

It’s the little things.

Like air filters built low, electrical outlets installed high. No steps. Doors wide enough for a wheelchair to pass. Just some of the stuff that should be built into housing for the elderly.

Next on the horizon – remote monitors that alert your cell phone if dad forgot to take his heart medicine, or if nobody has been in the kitchen for a long time, maybe a clue that someone has fallen. Sure, it’s Big Brother. But it is also peace of mind that allows seniors to live at home longer.

Check it out at http://tinyurl.com/59vqjt

At our homes, we are in the sandwich. The three of us are retired and getting older. Gran is 88 and living in her own condo about half a block away in our Texas digs. It’s closer and better in Minnesota, with Gran in her own apartment attached to the house with only a doorway separating us.

But even that arrangement has problems. Once, her chair leg broke and she hit her head on the way to the floor. Thankfully, she was not really hurt, just shaken. But it would have been hours before we found her because we just don’t go to the back of the house that much.

So the remote devices coming on the market can meet a real need for everyone whether you live on the other side of the door or across the country.

I’m a candidate, too. Any day now, I’m expecting a device that will sit on the nightstand and monitor my pacemaker overnight. It will send alerts to the doctors if I have an attack. And on cloudless nights, it will get Wolfman Jack.

Works for me.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Count your blessings

By memory, I returned to one of the last full-service gas stations* in Austin. Maybe one of the last in America. Needed some power steering fluid.

As I lowered the window, an old man stuck his hand in to shake my hand.

“How can I help you, mister?”

A simple question. But it came out of the misty past. Nowadays, you pull into a sterile self-serve and puzzle over the instructions while trying to tune out the piped in advertising messages. Cussing.

“How can I help you mister?”

As he filled the tank, checked the fluids and observed my Minnesota license plates, I got to know Leroy a little bit. Not by what he said – but by what he asked.

“You retired? What did you do before you retired? How old are you? Seventy? You are blessed, Mister.”

Leroy, who is 71 and still working, paused for a minute to remember former congressman Jake Pickle with me. “He was a good man.”

I think Leroy is a good man, too. He prides himself on taking care of business. And on taking care of his customers.

I paid a little more for the gasoline. And he never did get around to cleaning the windows. But I left the service station a happier man. Maybe even a blessed man.

All because of Leroy.

*M.E. “Gene” Johnson Station and Garage, 4801 Airport Blvd. Austin, Tx.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

It works best as an action verb.

Want some? Give some.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The fugitive(s)

This is personal -- the recount in the Minnesota senate race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman. That campaign could send the Mystery Woman to the federal penitentiary. And her 88-year-old mother, too.

Voter fraud. Or at least what will look like voter fraud at first glance.

The women voted voted once but appear to have tried to vote twice. They were acting on the advice of Minneapolis election officials.

This sordid tale began when someone stole our out-going mail from the mailbox on the front porch. Three envelopes were taken that day: one was a packet of stuff to a friend across town and the other two were their absentee ballots because we were planning to hit the road before election day.

Well, the friend received her packet. But, with the heavy absentee voting, there was no way for election officials to dig through sacks of incoming mail perchance to find the ballots from our aforementioned felons-in-residence.

“You girls just come on down and vote early,” intoned the election official on the other end of the line. “If your ballots have arrived, it will show up on the voter list and you just walk away. If not, you vote.”

That was before the tight senate race triggered an automatic run-off. What with all that scrutiny, our formerly good citizens are bound to be discovered. True, they only voted once. But the mail-in will make it look like a second attempt.

Worse, when the federals knock on the door of our Minneapolis home, they will discover we have flown the coop. This is looking worser and worser.

Stay tuned for the final outcome. Will Al Franken win by two votes? Or lose by two?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mad Max in a minivan

Get back in your house. Do not follow us.

We are the last of a kind. We are hunters/gathers. We are snowbirds chasing the sun, searching the horizon for the mountaintop experience -- and a place to get our prescriptions filled.

Only the toughest survive the semi-annual trek from north to south, from lefse to Tex-Mex. We won’t even discuss lutefisk or mountain oysters.

I know. You have romanticized the open road all your life. But remember that Jack Kerouac and Willie Nelson wrote that stuff while still in their thirties. And if he were alive today, Marlon Brando couldn’t mount a Harley with a footstool.

Forget the images of Errol Flynn and Maureen O’Hara in rut. Clear your mind.

Now, imagine Gabby Hayes in his trusty Conestoga bitching about his sore backside and looking for a Best Western before sundown.

Get ready for the rigors that start with making 42 contacts (via phone, computer, post card, or smoke signal) regarding change of address. Hell, I doubt I still have 42 friends still living.

Besides, the Post Office is going to screw it up for the first six weeks no matter how many Forever Stamps you buy.

Pioneers are always intense.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A bailout to nowhere

What is it about the proposed auto industry bailout that causes Congress to blink? After all, the federal government has given out billions and billions more to the greedy bastards who run the financial world. And those Wall Street SOBs have rubbed our face in it with crazy spending sprees at resorts and with incredible bonus packages -- and still they ask for more. More!

At least the car makers have a product, you say.

Yes. And that’s part of the problem. Auto manufacturers don’t have the right product mix. Gas prices are high and interest rates are higher but Detroit keeps on trying to sell us big trucks, big cars and big price tags. As if anyone could even get a loan these days.

Management is stupid. Fire them all. None of them can even spell G-R-E-E-N.

The unions are not much better. We pay around $30 more per hour than our overseas competitors. Fire the unions, too.

Analysts propose we drop some U.S. car brands and close some plants. This would be painful, costing perhaps hundreds of thousands of jobs in the hopes of creating millions of future jobs to build better American cars. Tough choice.

And then there’s the bigger problem – the world wide economic meltdown.

Frankly, I think Congress needs to get out of the bailout business. Just look at how Secretary Paulson has ignored legislative intent, ignored the homeowners and helped his palls on Wall Street. Billions and billions. Hundreds of billions.

And it’s not working.

We need to stop this give-away madness. Let’s start over. I don’t want to be a Socialist.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The high road is less traveled

What do we do now? Most of us were consumed by the 24-hour election news cycles. Like most who blog about politics, I devoured the stuff. Fodder. Gimme. Gimme more.

It was easy to bash George W. Bush. Easier still to take on the whack job, Sarah Palin. Although, I did have a soft spot in my heart for McCain.

And, I must admit, I liked banging on the incompetents in the GOP.
Rich targets.

But that changed when Obama won. He’s taking the high road. Inviting former enemies to join his team. For me to continue blasting away is counter-productive. After all, we want him to unite our country. He is the best chance America has had in decades.

I’m going to try to follow my leader. I’ll try to hush.

I hope we can all stop the assaults, verbal and written. Give this nation a chance to heal.

At a family dinner last week, we were discussing this very thing when someone at the table blurted out: “I’m ready for Obama to tell me what to do. I’m ready to pitch in. I’m ready to work.” Our nation is in trouble. Shared sacrifice.

That’s the spirit.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Remembering President Kennedy

See that icon on the left. It’s the cover of “When the News Went Live,” a book written by four of us who were young reporters in Dallas that fateful weekend when the world lost JFK.

If you are in Dallas this week, come remember that pivotal instant in history. We’ll be part of the program, Thursday, Nov. 20, at 11 a.m.

Starting today, the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas presents “The 45th: Remembering President Kennedy."

Speakers are:

November 18, 7 PM -- Dr. Kenneth Salyer was a resident neurosurgeon who briefly tended to President John F. Kennedy at Parkland Hospital the day of the assassination.

November 19, 11:00 AM -- Retired Dallas Police detective Jim Leavelle talks about the investigation of President Kennedy's assassination and the day he became internationally recognized as the detective handcuffed to Lee Harvey Oswald when Jack Ruby shot the assassination suspect. A Q&A follows the presentation.

November 20, 11:00 AM -- Bob Huffaker, Bill Mercer, George Phenix and Wes Wise, veteran Dallas news reporters and authors of When the News Went Live, present their personal accounts of the Kennedy assassination and its aftermath, including how radio and TV news has changed since 1963. A Q&A and book signing event follows our talk.

November 20, 7:00 PM -- The Reverend William Holmes, minister of Dallas' Northaven United Methodist Church in 1963, was provoked by the assassination of President Kennedy to preach a sermon critical of Dallas' social and political climate at the time.

November 21, 4:00 PM-- Author John Kelin discusses and signs his book, Praise from a Future Generation: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy and the First Generation Critics of the Warren Report. Kelin gives a history of the early Kennedy assassination conspiracy theorists who did not accept the commission's conclusion.

November 22, 8:00 PM --Now the anchor and managing editor of HDNet's Dan Rather Reports, Mr. Rather shares his experiences covering the Kennedy assassination and other major events over the past 50 years. He served as anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News for 24 years.

The Sixth Floor Museum sits on hallowed ground. Hope you visit the site sometime.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Strike up the band

Ours was an excused hiatus. The semi-annual migration between Texas and Minnesota consumes more energy than you might think. Usually takes us about a week or so to adjust to the new humidity. Did you know you can see Mexico from Mount Bonnell?

This season, the trip had unintended consequences. We had to quit watching political news for four days straight. That’s cold turkey.

We are still on the wagon. But we wander the house looking for something that isn’t there. When we do turn on the news, our old familiar friends are still there talking too loud, but it’s just not the same.

I think I’ll take up the guitar. Poetry, maybe.

Soon enough, we'll learn whether Obama is as good at governing as he is at campaigning. For the sake of our nation, I hope so. And that's what the polls are showing. There is more hope afoot in the nation since the election.

Thus far, Obama has taken the high road. But the wingnuts still campaign with angry, racially charged emails. Sinister stuff. Give it a rest. Daunting problems ahead. Daunting.

Maybe I'll take up the drums, too.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Snowbirds R Us

OK class. Today, we’ll do weather. This may be more than you want to know.

Click onto that bulge on your weather map – the one howling from Wasilla to Des Moines. You can see Canada from Des Moines. Especially today. Can you spell b-r-r-r-r!

We are into Day Two of our semi-annual migration between Minnesota and Texas. Weather-wise we are headed in the right direction: South.

Earlier, we had planned a side trip through the Black Hills just to wash the election grime from our souls. But the blizzard dropped seven inches of snow in Rapid City. This is a very serious storm.

Recognizing the chill was headed our way, we chose to make our getaway straight south via I-35 for as long as we can stand it.

Back to the weather map. You’ll notice snow is predicted for Des Moines, where Canada is actually falling from the sky. It is snowing in Minneapolis. We win!

But I wander. Back to the map. See that red spot slipping down the warm side of the front (the eastern edge)? That’s us, cruising: the Mystery Woman, Virginia, the matriarch, and Bella, the ailing and loveable little dog. With luck, we’ll miss the heavy rains of yesterday.

In a few minutes, we are leaving Cameron, Mo. Next stop: Van Buren, Ark. Has everybody made a pit stop?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The song in our hearts

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassion'd stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.

America! America!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

O beautiful for heroes prov'd
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life.

America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine.

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears.

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bring us together

Can he bring us together? No matter who wins today, that is the question. Can he bring us together?

Americans are tired of hating each other. We are weary of wedge issues, campaigns based on fear, based on going negative. We are tired of this crap. And with the Internet, we can now dig through many of the lies.

Full confession: it will be a helluva lot easier for me to come together with my conservative brethren if the liberals win.

Why? Consider this. Today, a member of the Texas State Board of Education refuses to retract her claim that Barack Obama is plotting with terrorists to attack the U.S. She also suggests Obama would try to expand his power by declaring martial law throughout the country. She actually believes the crap she is spewing. What a nutcake. I have never been so proud of my home state.

That kind of ignorance is difficult to take. And we have Karl Rove to thank.

OK. OK. If facts won’t work, maybe humor will. I was heartened by a NYT article in Science Times purporting that conservatives do indeed have a sense of humor. Maybe even better than liberals. Outrageous, but possible, I suppose. Clearly, we need a recount on the research.

Sex won’t work either. Liberals and conservatives have long debated which side gets more action. Each thinks the other does. Duty trumps booty?

Now we’re getting to the other question of the day: why do people vote at all? Surely each of us knows that our single, solitary vote does not an outcome make. Your chance of changing an election is about the same as getting hit by lightning bolt (which might help that dame from Texas).

We vote because it is the right thing to do. We vote because of patriotic duty. We vote because we believe in America.

And maybe today’s victor can build on that. Hope so.

So go vote if you haven't already.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Breaking News Everywhere You Look

It’s difficult to maintain my election frenzy. The falling leaves are so beautiful. I keep getting distracted by their grace and whimsy. Much better than Zoloft.

We have become election news junkies. I probably devote four hours daily glued to the computer, the TV and the newspapers.

You, too? We are not alone.

Researchers have been checking regularly with 20,000 registered voters. Recent findings: 61 percent of the voters had browsed the Net for political info in the last week, 50 percent has succumbed to political e-mails and within the past 24 hours, 53 percent had shared some low talk about a candidate.

Beer has been an election night staple for as long as I have been voting. This year, however, both hands will be full. One with the remote, the other with the mouse. I told you we were hooked.

This year, we’re keeping track of election stats by more than merely “Breaking News” on the cable news shows. We’re following raw data via media outlets that were not around just four years ago. Think of it. YouTube did not exist the last election. Facebook was mainly Ivy League. No Huffington Post. I’m not sure about when Politico ginned up. News aggregators. E-mail alerts. Weather out west.

Which is the relevant news source anymore? The answer: there is no single source now that each of us has control of the information joy stick. No longer will we be content to be spoon-fed by Brian Williams, Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric. Full disclosure: I’ll miss Katie more than the others.

If you think election coverage is snappy this year, just wait until the election four years from now. Chances are, we will be watching one interactive screen that combines data streams, video streams, and perhaps newspapers, too. Plus probably some device or application we haven’t thought of yet. One day in the future, we may even be able to vote from home.

Here’s the good news: That should leave the other hand free for the beer.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Kick the football, George

Sometimes I get the weirdest responses from strangers whom I’ve just met. Always funny. And always unexpected.

Example #1: once the airline cancelled our plane and rescheduled the next day on one of those little regional prop jet jobs. I got on the plane – and got right off. “Too damned small,” I told the flight attendant. The pilot looked at me kinda funny.

By hook and crook and circuitous routing, I did manage to fly to Minneapolis in time for a short business deal.

A few days later, the Mystery Woman and I were at the airport when I decided I needed to double-check on our seat assignments. As I walked up to the ticket counter, the aforementioned pilot happened to walk by. “Hey,” he said to the ticket agent behind the counter, “That guy walked off my plane.”

Before I could open my mouth to ask about my seat assignment, the agent looked me in the eye and wanted to know: “What kind of chicken shit are you?”

True story.

Example #2: We were at the cash register at the venerable old Haufbrau’s eatery in Austin. “How was everything?” asked the guy behind the counter. “My steak was kind of tough, “ I said, holding out my money. He grabbed my twenties and grunted: “It’ll be better next time.”

True story.

Example #3: I was talking to the postal inspector because someone had swiped two envelopes containing absentee ballots right off our mail box. “Wait a minute,” she said. “Before we go any further, who did you vote for?”

True story.

How do these strangers know I will think it’s funny? Seriously. Is there a Charlie Brown sign on my back? Maybe I should scowl more?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Give politics a rest

Let’s take a break from all this political BS.
The best selling book in America is not copyrighted. The Bible. I thought the Gideons owned it.
A couple of weeks ago, TV Guide sold for a dollar. Not just the magazine. The whole damned business. Such is the steep decline of Old Media.
Hummingbirds spend most of their lives within hours of starvation. So says Sheri Williamson, author of “A Field Guide to Hummingbirds of North America.”
A strange thief visited our mailbox and swiped three envelopes. Two were Absentee Ballots. The third was a large manila envelope with a hand-written address to a friend across town. It was delivered. The two Absentee Ballots were never seen again. We can only speculate the thief grabbed the ballots after seeing the Obama sign in our front yard. But why would he go to the trouble to drop the third envelope in the blue mailbox down the street? Minnesota Nice?
Paul Douglass, long-time Minneapolis weather guru, wrote this today in the StarTrib: “Pundits have been connecting the dots between weather, election turnouts and potential upsets for decades, but new research suggests that it may be more than hot air…the 2007 Journal of Politics suggests precipitation can greatly affect voter turnout, much more than temperature…rain favors Republican candidates; every inch of rain translates into and extra 2.5% of the vote. Proof that Democrats have the more sunny disposition.
OK. Break’s over. Return to your fighting positions.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sarah Palin carries diva vote

I am ready for this election to be over. Nobody has anything new to say. All we’re doing now is waiting for gaffes and gotchas -- or, god forbid, snipers.

Dignity is in short supply. Fear is plentiful. Ideas are old. Candidates are tired. Voters are tired.

Thanks to early voting and absentee voting, more Americans have voted than ever before. That volume muffles last-minute claims/counter-claims. Polls have hardened. But the campaigns keep slinging vitriol like it really matters.

It’s still the economy.

The primaries run too long; the general election too short. We need less time picking the party favorites and more time vetting the principle candidates. Election reform.

I have never seen a campaign so filled with rancor, lies, and nasty robo calls. The right has demonized the left. And the left has ridiculed the right.

I’m worn out. I don’t even want to hear my candidates speak anymore. And I sure as hell don’t want to hear theirs.

Here’s where I fall off my high horse. I race for the mute button every time I hear the shrill, sarcastic voice of the She-Bush. That woman single-handedly has kept the $150,000 wardrobe issue alive for a full week. Sarah Palin has certainly locked up the Diva vote. I'm weary even of her hotness. Substance, not merely style.

What was McCain thinking?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

McCain stumbles on Meet the Press

Several times John McCain got lost in his own words today while appearing on what had always been a familiar show in the past. Meet the Press is a regular haunt for the old warrior. He should have been comfortable on the set.

Maybe it was fatigue, maybe it was age. But several times he fumbled with words as he struggled to keep his thoughts on track. The final slip came when he tried, and failed, to name the five former secretaries of state who have endorsed him. Twice he tried to dredge up the name of George Shultz. And twice he lost the thread. In the final attempt, McCain again named four but the fifth eluded his recall and ended with his voice trailing in despair, “and one more.”

As host Tom Brokaw was laying out the next question, McCain blurted out “George Shultz. It was George Shultz.” Obviously he was not listening to Brokaw but rather, he was struggling to close the open gestalt in his head.

Each of us of a certain age have experienced the same kind of stumble. But not on Meet the Press. And not while running for the highest office in the country.

McCain and I are about the same age. He’s old. And Sarah Palin could be next in line.

I don’t want Sarah Palin to be a melanoma away from being president. Nor a heartbeat. Nor a stroke.

I don’t want that woman anywhere near the White House.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Palin pays hair stylist $22,800

Palin stylist draws higher pay than foreign policy adviser


WASHINGTON (AP) — An acclaimed celebrity makeup artist for Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin collected more money from John McCain's campaign than his foreign policy adviser. Amy Strozzi, who works on the reality show "So You Think You Can Dance" and has been Palin's traveling stylist, was paid $22,800, according to campaign finance reports for the first two weeks in October. In contrast, McCain's foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, was paid $12,500, the report showed.

McCain's campaign said the payment covered a portion of her work in September and a portion of October. An earlier campaign finance report showed Strozzi was paid $13,200 for a portion of September.

In recent days, McCain and his running mate have tried to douse a furor over how their side spent their money. The Republican National Committee came under scrutiny after the party committee reported earlier this week that it had spent about $150,000 in September on wardrobe and cosmetics after Palin joined the GOP ticket.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune and Fox News on Thursday, Palin said the clothes bought for the Republican National Convention were not worth $150,000 and said most have not left her campaign plane. She also said the family shops frugally.

"Those clothes are not my property. We had three days of using clothes that the RNC purchased," Palin told Fox News in an interview that aired Thursday night.

There was no evidence of additional clothing purchases in the most recent reports.

The Obama campaign has said it paid for hair and makeup costs associated with interviews or events, but neither the campaign nor the Democratic National Committee has paid for clothing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sarah Palin doesn't wear well

Actually, I did not want to write about politics today. But the Republicans make it necessary. Mandatory. Obligatory. And so damned easy.

The RNC spent $150,000 to dress up Sarah Palin. That’s more than I paid for my condo.

And then the handlers prop her up in front of Wal-Mart to give a Joe Six Pack speech.

What’s the word I’m looking for?


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Newspapers just an old habit?

Before I retired, I usually read four newspapers every morning. It was part of my job for years and years. Decades.

And now, no matter where I live, I always subscribe to at least two newspapers: the local rag and the NY Times. Before you heat the tar and fluff up some feathers, I don’t read the NYT solely for hard news.

Rather, I fancy the NYT opinion writers plus the paper’s coverage of arts, science, book reviews and features of all sorts. Some of the best writing in America (unlike this sentence fragment). Besides, I rather like having ink on my fingers.

Today, there was a new dawn. I accepted that I had gone over to the dark side. Without realizing it, I have become part of the news consumption future.

For years my morning routine has been to make coffee, turn on some classical music and read the newspapers. Period. I’m a hardcore news junkie. Gotta have it to get my pacemaker pumping. Anticipation.

This morning, I realized I made coffee and turned not to my newspaper but to my computer so I could scan various news aggregators. Whew. Nothing much happened overnight.

Then, before sunup, I sat down with the first newspaper of the day. Twice while reading the StarTrib, I got up to check the computer. Plus a quick peek at CNBC to see how the stock market opened. Back to the newspaper. On deck -- The NY Times.

Then it dawned on me – the newspaper was not current enough for today’s 24-hour news cycle. My newspaper, not even a day old, was filled with old news.

The new reality is that the newspaper industry must come up with a vigorous new business model if they are losing old junkies like me. And they better hurry. I've watched the delivery guys and only four people on our block have home subscriptions.

Excuse me, I’ve got to check CraigsList for a new minivan.

That’s a cruel inside joke. Craigslist has hurt newspapers more than any other electronic innovation. When is the last time you looked for a car in the classifieds?

What? You say this is old news?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Saturday Night Live tasteless, juvenile

For a long time, I had difficulty understanding how the Saturday Evening Post could come out on Friday. I never figured it out.

Add to that the troubling thought that Saturday Night Live comes out on Thursday, too. Sigh.

And now I am weighted down with the vision of Sarah Palin's guest shot on a show where one of the skits featured a guy shooting ping pong balls out of his butt. She didn’t need to go anywhere near there. Seriously.

I didn’t think SNL was funny, except for Tina Fey’s brief riff on Palin. Nor did I think Palin was funny. And I’m positive she did not need to risk eternal hellfire and damnation by sharing the stage with such tasteless, juvenile humor. Seriously.

She does that quite well enough with her own teleprompters. Seriously.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

McCain, Palin stir hatred

Now it begins. Death threats.

An ACORN community organizer received a death threat and the liberal-leaning voter registration group's Boston and Seattle offices were vandalized. (AP)

What the hell is this? Civil War Two? The civil rights fights of the 1960’s?

Hundreds of thousands of anti-Obama robo calls (maybe millions) are fomenting unfounded fears across the country. Yet they have produced scant evidence thus far to support their claim that Acorn has committed wholesale voter registration fraud across the nation.

If Republicans are so afraid of “the wrong people voting” why doesn’t the GOP mount a similar voter registration drive in friendly precincts? Wouldn’t the higher voter turnout be a net gain for America?

Instead, their lawyers file lawsuits to suppress voting. While the robo calls roll on.

Sarah Palin and John McCain are running a two-faced dirty campaign. In public, they piously point to McCain taking the microphone from the misguided Minnesota woman (kudos). But then they sign the checks for more robo calls.

Now comes GOP Congresswoman Michele Bachman’s charge that the media needs to expose “un-American” members of Congress. Just Google McCarthyism and HUAC witch hunts. A Republican gestalt left open all these years?

Death threats.

It only takes one nut, one bullet and a gun.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Angry man runs angry race

He did to Joe the Plumber what he did to Sarah Palin. John McCain thrust Joe into the national spotlight without proper (if any) vetting. Tax dodger. Unlicensed. Unloved by the plumbers union.

Backfire. Once again, anger has clouded McCain's judgment.

In Joe’s defense, he has held more press conferences than Gov. Palin.

By Thursday night, McCain was apologizing to Joe for dumping him onto the national stage – without any concern for the consequences to Joe.

At this hour, it is unknown if McCain has apologized to Palin. But he should. He used Palin without any regard for her or for the nation.

Country First my ass.

His campaign is faltering despite goofy stunts in which McCain attempts to turn the national attention away from the national economic crisis.

Democrats have someone to vote FOR: Barack Obama. Republicans only have someone to vote AGAINST: Barack Obama. Their anger is not patriotic. It is hatred.

Republican lies have not worked. Character assassination has not worked. Grandstanding stunts have not worked. McCain has run a lousy campaign ever since he turned it over to the hate-mongers from the Karl Rove team.

Racism is the only hope McCain has left. I hope I'm wrong.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Say goodnight, Sarah

A well-meaning conservative friend sends me Joe Biden gaffes followed with the question: “What if this were Palin?”

Here’s one of the better Biden quotes: “Look, John's last-minute economic plan does nothing to tackle the number-one job facing the middle class, and it happens to be, as Barack says, a three-letter word: jobs. J-O-B-S, jobs.”

Why doesn’t this make national news? Because it is not news. Long ago, Joe Biden accepted full ownership of his gaffes.

That one (Sarah Palin) doesn’t even know when she is goofing up.

Media bias? I submit it’s more a case of ignorance about the way media works than bias. Frankly, I am glad the media has the courage to withstand the withering incoming fire from the right. Spiro Agnew has not yet left the building.

As for last night’s debates – thankfully, they are done. Old news soon.

Poor John McCain. The format hurt him as well as his own words. He lost the battle of the split-screen. At times, he looked downright scary. He talked scary. He was scary. But Obama never took the bait and remained cool, collected. (Am I biased? Of course.)

After the last eight years, we don’t need another cowboy in the White House.

The presidential race is not over, certainly, but if he were smart, McCain would re-focus his twilight on an attempt at saving GOP seats in the U.S. Senate. But I don’t think his ego will allow him to share the spotlight.

There's a reason he's a maverick.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It's the stupid economy

This is the new national conversation.

Last week we met some friends for burgers. We looked forward to the low-key evening. How are your kids doing? Grandchildren? Any trips planned? Do you think you’ll go back to work? Should Brad Childress get fired? How about those ‘Horns.

Often (at our age), the big question is how’s your health? Not this time. Almost immediately, the conversation jumped into the economy.

Bam. One son has not been able to find steady work for a year, is divorced, and living in his parent’s home.

Bam. Another adult child is having a difficult time getting pre-approved for a home loan.

Bam. The ten-year-old van needs replaced but it is worth very little as a trade-in and credit is very expensive -- if you can find anybody who has money to lend.

Bam. One guy wants to sell his business but the economic slowdown has caused the value of the business to drop to near nothing.

Bam. A friend has seen her retirement savings shrink by 40 percent in a matter of days. The funds took a life-time to build.

This is personal.

Not once did anyone mention the presidential election, nor either candidate, nor either political party. Not once.

Our problems are real. Our problems are bigger than politics.

I wish our politicians were.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Main Street versus Wall Street

I desperately wish I could write that either the Democrats or the Republicans have THE ANSWER to our financial crisis. But I cannot.

Here’s the truth: the economy is out of the hands of either John McCain or Barack Obama. For the short term, our fate is in the hands of Secretary Paulson and Chairman Bernanke. Are they smart enough, tough enough? We’ll know soon enough.

The bailout, most believe, will be a double-header. Next up – the credit crisis. One of those guys will be our next president and will get his turn at bat.

So will his grandchildren – the payoff for these massive bailouts will last a long, long time.

Unfortunately, this mess has crystallized into a national attitude of “us vs. them” where Main Street feels like we are told to pay for the excesses of Wall Street. And we are.

No wonder we are angry. This is wrong on so many levels.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Screw politics, screw the economy

As you know, the news lately has not been good. The presidential campaign has turned mean and the economy has turned even meaner. Not a happy time in America.

Not until I stepped out on the screened porch (where I’m writing this).

The Fall season is gentle and beautiful at my adopted home in Minnesota. Next door, our neighbor’s front yard is beginning to fill with red leaves. Deep red leaves. From just the right angle, you can frame her red tree in the same picture with the orange tree across the street. In three-part harmony, our other neighbor’s tree is turning yellow.

An easy wind hums softly through the tree tops. This fall day is absolutely gorgeous. In an instant, I forget about politics and finance. This day is too good to miss. Intoxicating.

This summer, we’ve had a chipmunk (or maybe ground squirrel) living under our front porch sidewalk. Fast little creature. Curious but stand-offish. As I neared the screen door, there he was looking at me, cocked and ready to run if I got too close. I froze, not wanting to scare him away.

In a reflex move to stretch this delicious moment, I did something I’ve never done in my life. I was surprised to hear a gentle tune coming from somewhere inside me. I was singing to a goddamned ground squirrel. The little bugger seemed to enjoy it, too. He hung around a few moments more before scampering into his hidey hole.

I told you the day was intoxicating.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

McCain-Palin dancing in the dark

A word or two of clarification regarding my remarks yesterday about John McCain. Don't mistake my words for affection. I do not like the MoFo. But I do honor his military sacrifice and am saddened by a campaign that does not match his past service to his country.

In truth, neither presidential campaign can wear a halo. But the McCain/Palin campaign is descending into the dark netherworld of hatred and bigotry. The politics of fear.

A growing number of respected conservative writers agree.

This week, nationally syndicated columnist David Brooks described Sarah Palin as a cancer on the Republican Party. Can’t get much stronger than that.

I try to rise above the muck. Sometimes, like with yesterday’s first post, I succeed. But often I feel obliged to shovel back.

That’s what worries me. America is in for some tough economic times Check your mail for third-quarter losses to your 401K. Tough times ahead. Likely for years.

We need to be pulling together – not apart.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sarah Palin -- U.S. Senator?

I just had the most frightening thought of my entire life.

What if Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, is found guilty? His case is about to go to the jury.

Stevens is up for re-election and obviously it’s too late to nominate someone else. His name will stay on the November ballot.

He could be re-elected – as he has been for 40 years – and then have to step down. Gov. Sarah Palin could then nominate herself to fill the vacant seat when she and McCain lose the presidential election.

Oh noooo. Say it ain’t so!

Free John McCain

I hate to see an honorable man like John McCain get so trashed. Not by Obama, but by his own campaign. The hacks are in control and it shows.

What a sharp contrast there is in Sarah Palin by day and John McCain by night. The disconnect is jarring. Palin is all attack all the time. Yet at last night’s debate, McCain was as near civil as he could get while sharing the stage with someone he disdains.

Palin needs to dial it back. Her incendiary remarks are dangerously close to inciting violence. She needs to take control of the audience. Cries of “kill him” should be squashed on the spot. Immediately.

McCain is losing. I think he will lose. The deck is stacked against him.

The economic downturn will not be resolved by election day.

He has not raised enough money and is beginning to pull out of key states like Michigan.

He cannot draw a decent crowd without Palin at his side.

His stunts have not worked. Grandstanding has not worked.

Dirty campaigning is not working.

Most political observers know that the John McCain running in 2008 is not the same John McCain that ran in his last presidential race. The difference? This time, he has let the dirt merchants from the George Bush campaigns muddy his campaign with their hate, lies, and division, Karl Rove lives.

Free John McCain. He’s going to lose. At least let him lose with his head held high. Let the man talk about the issues that he believes in his heart to be right.

Let John McCain describe his unique solutions for the America that he loves.

We owe it to him.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Where have all the statesmen gone?

Shut up. Just shut the **** up.

Don’t waste my time with any more negative campaigning. I’m sick of it. No more personal attacks. We don’t have time to waste on who did what with whom in the past (McCain/Keating or Obama/Ayers). Stop the swiftboating. Who cares?

We have an escalating worldwide financial crisis that will consume the next president. We are fighting two wars. Our jobless rate is at warp speed. Social Security and Medicare beg for a fix as Boomers start to line up. Plus health care, education.

National debt is in the trillions. Our government is at the abyss of socialization.

And the best you can come up with is Keating? Ayers?

Give us a plan. Not a press release.

How long have we been subjected to attack ads? Twenty years? Thirty years? Forever? Going negative only feeds the polarization. Dirty politics begets dirty government. And the bastard offspring are dangerous.

For the sake of the country, don’t vote against someone – vote FOR the candidate you genuinely believe can best lead us over the mountains.

Until further notice, choir practice has been canceled.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Best investment advice: shoebox

The yacht is usually the first to go. Then the Jag and the vacation homes. But don’t think the Wall Street titans are facing a soup line like many Americans. Not yet, anyway.

Their accumulation of wealth has been astonishing. In 1982, it took about $159 million to make the Forbes 400 list. Entry price today is $1.3 billion.

What did the greedy bastards do with the money? They put on a never-ending party. Last year the head of a private investment firm spent $5 million hosting his own 6oth birthday party. The excesses are unbelievable. Click here to read more.

Showy oceanfront homes are on the block. Does $32 million sound like a bargain to you?

Brokers like it hot, and just months ago they were spending $50,000 – even $100,000 – in high end strip clubs. If they liked the performer, tips ranged from a $10,000 line of credit at Bloomingdales to a pair of $125,000 earrings. Guess what? The big money guys are still going to the NYC strip joints.

If more voters only knew …

This just in: a 12-ounce bag of Lay’s Potato Chips costs $7.39; a 20-ounce bag of Cheerios, $8.29; and a 19-ounce of Progresso beef barley soup, $4.29. That’s in Akiachak, Alaska.

Not here. Not yet.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Bailout money going fast

The new definition of fast money. Two weeks ago, the federal government bequeathed $85 billion dollars to American International Group to tide them over. AIG has spent $61 billion already. As of Friday.

MIDLAND, Texas (Reuters) - President George W. Bush said on Saturday that benefits from the recently passed financial bailout would take time to show up in the U.S. economy.

In 2003, Americans owed about $593 billion in home equity loans. Today, the tally is in the neighborhood of $1.1 trillion. That amount does not include mortgages.

Most frightening observation uttered on Wall Street this week: “We’re dealing with the next situation.” Meaning: there’s more to come. The stock market did not rebound despite getting the $700 billion ransom when they held a gun to Congress’s head.

Students starting college this year likely have never dialed a telephone.

There IS hope. Boutique movie theaters have opened in Minnneapolis complete with full service bars. The sommelier recommends a fruit-forward Chilean cabernet to accompany your Raisinettes.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

I hate spunk

Damn these 24-hour news cycles and their short attention spans. I think the vice presidential debate will play a bigger role than we imagine in the history of America. The debate offers a two-way window into the candidates' heads -- and into ours.

I commend this wrap-up by Nancy Kruh published in the Dallas Morning News. For the record, I do not know Ms. Kruh nor do I know her politics. I just think she did a good job of compiling differing reactions. As for me, I'm with Lou Grant – I hate spunk.

Balance of Opinion: Style versus substance

Reaction to the Thursday face-off between vice presidential nominees Sarah Palin and Joe Biden has turned into a war over what wins a debate – style or substance – and which of the two matters most to voters.

Peggy Noonan is dazzled by Ms. Palin's performance, affirming her as "the star" of the event, while Mr. Biden was "the second male lead."

"Her syntax did not hold," the Wall Street Journal columnist writes of Ms. Palin, "but her magnetism did. ... There were moments when she seemed to be doing an infomercial pitch for charm in politics. But it was an effective infomercial."

So much so that Ms. Noonan declares that the Alaska governor "saved John McCain again. ... She is the political equivalent of cardiac paddles: Clear! Zap! We've got a beat! She will re-electrify the base."

Creators Syndicate columnist Michelle Malkin describes Ms. Palin as "warm, fresh, funny, confident, energetic, personable, relentless and on message. She roasted [Barack] Obama's flip-flops on the surge and tea-with-dictators declarations, dinged Mr. Biden's bash-Bush rhetoric ... and exuded the sunny optimism that energized the base in the first place.

"Mr. McCain has not done many things right," Ms. Malkin writes on her blog. "But Sarah Palin proved that the VP risk he took was worth it."

The Washington Post's Michael Gerson senses that "people who deal with words for a living will probably find Mr. Biden's performance more professional. But the most consistent goal of the candidates was clearly to be seen as the Main Street populist. And here Mr. Biden simply cannot compete. For all his talk of Scranton and Home Depot, he is a senator playing at being an average person. Ms. Palin – on the evidence of 'Yah,' 'Doggonnit!' and 'Darn right!' – is an average person. That may not be the best qualification for high office. But I suspect that many Americans find it attractive."

Mr. Gerson's colleague Eugene Robinson has other suspicions: "Whatever you think of Ms. Palin's mugging, eye-rolling and other theatrics – some viewers doubtless saw it as evidence of freshness, resolve and spunk; others, like Lou Grant in the old Mary Tyler Moore show, must have been muttering, 'I hate spunk' – you still wanted to hear what she and John McCain proposed to do about the mess we're in. That was something she didn't deliver, and my hunch is that we'll hear that assessment from voters in the coming days."

Andrew Romano doubts Ms. Palin "convinced many skeptical swing voters that she's qualified to lead the free world." In contrast, the Newsweek analyst writes, Mr. Biden "did what he came to do – make a clear case against John McCain. And he did it with answers that were more detailed, less rhetorical and far more responsive to the questions. You may disagree with his arguments. Many will. But it's impossible to say he wasn't polite, persuasive and well-informed."

To Joe Klein, "the fact that Ms. Palin made it through the debate without running off the stage shouting, 'I can't do this!' should not obscure the fact that there was only one person whom anyone with any sense – even John McCain, I imagine – would trust as president. Mr. Biden's performance was strong and, happily, gimmick-free. ...

"What [Ms. Palin] did show was some folksy charm and some energy," the Time columnist writes. "But that's not enough to change the trajectory of this race, especially since nothing that was said in this debate will be remembered, or remarked upon, a week from now."

Nancy Kruh is a freelance writer in Dallas; her e-mail address is nkruh@balanceofopinion.com.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Sarah Palin, Sweet Thang

She winked at me. Several times. Sarah Palin, aka Sweet Thang, winked at me through the television camera during the debate. She’s so cute.
What a flirt.

But, Sweet Thang plays by her own rules. And she darned well wasn’t going to play by the moderator’s silly rules. She did not answer many questions and, instead, answered questions that only she could hear. That’s slick. She’s slick. Ask her a question—any question – and she’ll tell you about energy. Just like the Energizer Bunny. Sweet Thang makes a good bunny. Yes, I know that’s sexist but she started it. Beauty Queen.

Sweet Thang said she wants the little ole Constitution to give her more powers as vice president. She means she wants control of the U.S. Senate. She got the idea from Dick Cheney. I told you she was smart. Smartest Beauty Queen of all.

In a yet-unnamed morning newspaper, Sweet Thang probably read the bad news about the jobless report. It’s not “looking backward” if you read it real quick, hon.

“The government is out with more bad economic news this morning: The job market began to deteriorate even before the financial crisis reached a more serious stage two weeks ago.

“Employers cut 159,000 jobs in September, more than twice as many as in August or July, the Labor Department reported. It was the biggest monthly decline since 2003, when the economy was still losing jobs in the wake of the 2001 recession.

“Forecasters had been expecting a loss of about 100,000 jobs in September.

“The new number was especially worrisome because the government conducted its survey during the week of Sept. 8, before the credit crisis took a new turn for the worse on Sept. 17.”

But don’t you worry your pretty little head about it, Sweet Thang. Maverick is going to get money from Cowboy to give to Wall Street and it will surely trickle down. You follow? No? Heck. Let’s get a six-pack and talk about energy. Drill, baby, drill.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sarah Palin, terpsichorean

Sarah Palin is ready for her dance with Joe Biden.

Palin, also known as wife of the First Dude, has been studying the mess with the stock market. And she’s got the numbers down cold. A bear market means the kids get no allowance.

Her handlers had Palin rehearse at McCain’s ranch so she would be more comfortable. Palin could see Mexico from Arizona.

Jay Leno thinks she’s ready: “I think she knows all three branches of government.

Full disclosure. All of this is a lift. For two reasons:

(1) to have a little fun, and
(2) to underline how quickly Sarah Palin became a national punch line.

McCain and his handlers from the Bush Administration would have been much smarter to let Palin loose in real-time press conferences where she could have polished her rough spots. The outcome certainly could not have been any worse. It was a mistake in both tactics and strategy.

Breaking News: we’ve found Sarah Palin’s playbook for tonight’s debate between the vice presidential candidates:


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Veep debates should be a good show

The veep debates haven’t even started and moderator Gwen Ifill is already taking fire for her new book “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.” Conservatives say this points to bias – and racism. The book hits the shelves in January.

Review Ifill’s interviews on PBS. She has earned a reputation for even-handedness.

Not me. I’m biased. Without apology.

Ifill has had a rough start. This week, she was carrying a stack of research for the debate when she fell and broke her ankle. The injury won’t stop her from doing the show, however.

Palin will just have to come up with some other excuse if she wants to cancel. (A college professor dryly observed that someone’s grandmother always dies just before mid-terms.) And McCain has a history of canceling campaign events going back years.

Did you see where Dave Letterman caught John McCain in a bald lie about canceling a guest shot because the senator had to get back to Washington for the economic crisis? Instead, McCain was caught on camera getting make up for an interview with Katie Couric. In fact, McCain did not go to Washington until the next day.

Question: if McCain will lie to David Letterman, what makes you think McCain will tell the truth to you?

I told you I was biased -- but that's a good question.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Best of the best

Best question from a news anchor came from Katie Couric to House Minority Leader John A. Boehner: "What in the world are you people doing?"

Best remedial money move I’ve taken this week: I’ve stopped looking for a VW Vanagon on CraigsList.

Best cautious wisdom coming from a growing list of top CEOs in America: we may not need this bailout.

Best advice to McCain from conservative writers like George Will, David Brooks, et al: let Palin be Palin.

Add your “best” list below:

Monday, September 29, 2008

Paul Newman ruined my marriage

Our sex life was so bad that I got a life-size poster of Paul Newman and thumb-tacked it to the ceiling in our bedroom. I was hoping that looking up at Cool Hand Luke might inspire my then-wife.

No such luck and I soon forgot about the poster on the ceiling.

Later, her elderly parents were visiting and we always gave them our bed. The old people never said a word about the Paul Newman sharing their bedroom. During the third night, I heard this muffled scrumple and a yelp.

The poster had fallen on the in-laws. And I left it to her to explain.

I thought the alimony award was excessive.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Who won the debate? This might surprise you.

We won the debate. You and me. Deep inside, I’m just a patriotic fool who loves John Wayne and loves his country. And the country won last night.

The candidates spoke and both sides can be proud. Prediction: Debate II will be better after both sides have had a chance to review the game film.

I would like an answer to one big question: where the hell was Sarah Palin after last night’s debate? The Dems trotted out Joe Biden and let him make his gaffes and take his shots. But the Republicans could only dredge up Giuliani for the debate post mortem.

I’ll bet Sarah Palin is mad as hell and I don’t blame her. Her boss belittles her by his actions while he praises her out of his mouth. Uh uhh.

Memo to Sen. McCain: take the muzzle off your pit bull. Your bizarre witness protection treatment is ruining her self-confidence.

That’s cruel and is no way to treat a human being. If you really love her,
let her go.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Brother, can you spare a dime?

There’s a lot of hooey from Washington about the financial crisis. Political theater, political drama. Fascinating if it weren’t so frightening. Ask a Washington Mutual stockholder who just lost everything this morning.

However, for those of us who think we aren’t being told the complete truth, there’s this viewpoint from the left:

"It's more hype than real risk," said James K. Galbraith, a University of Texas economist and son of the late economic historian John Kenneth Galbraith. "A nasty recession is possible, but the bailout will not cure that. So it's mainly relevant to the financial industry."

“The Paulson plan will get some bad assets off the balance sheets of troubled Wall Street institutions and commercial banks. That may help thaw the lending freeze.

“But it wouldn't reduce the crush of homes in or near foreclosure, said Simon Johnson, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That's a problem that will surely grow worse if the U.S. economy enters recession, leading to greater job losses, which feed a vicious downward spiral of even more foreclosures and defaults on car loans and credit-card debt.

“Americans are spooked by talk that financial Armageddon awaits.”

Mebbe. But the credit market froze up this morning. The first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Were it not for the seriousness, I would change channels. Frankly, I am weary of John McCain’s stunts. His antics are dramatic – but lacking in real, substantive leadership.

And I never thought I would say this, but I am beginning to feel sorry for Sarah Palin, who is clearly in over her head. McCain fed her into the meat grinder with but one thought in mind – winning the election.
How calloused.

C’mon. let’s go get a cup of coffee. And see if we can still cash a check.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Just the facts, ma'am

I only post when there's a formatting issue George isn't comfortable with, so please pardon this intrusion from his out-law.

I get a lot of email forwards from friends and family, usually of a sensationalist nature, and they almost always turn out to be false. Before you hit that "forward" button, and certainly before you trust anything sent to you via email, I urge you to make a habit of checking Snopes.com first.

Snopes is an independent group (mostly a husband and wife) who make their living figuring out if a given urban legend is true or not. That's spilled over into the land of email forwards, and their resource is absolutely invaluable. If you want the straight dope on something, give them a try first; they're fair, objective, and hard-working.

Particularly helpful in this campaign season are their sections on the candidates. I know I can't even count any more the number of messages I've been helpfully sent that Barack Obama is the anti-Christ or that John McCain declared on 60 Minutes that he was a "war criminal".

Here in one convenient place are links so you can tell your mom/friend/wife/husband/neighbor to quit forwarding false information.

There is no entry for poor Joe Biden, apparently he doesn't register on enough radars to be worth a page of his own.

I'll slink back into the shadows now and turn thing back over to their rightful owner.

Vote no on Bush Bail-out

This is so wrong.

Former GOP Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich says the Bush Bail-out will drive the engine of corruption as Wall Street insiders play the system.

This is so wrong.

Warrant Buffett pumps in $5 billion and gets preferred stock. The Bush Bailout would turn taxpayers into bottom feeders buying trash stock at low tide.

This is so wrong.

Many observers compare the Bush Bail-out with the Resolution Trust Corporation but it was no great success. RTC lost $125 billion in six years.

This is so wrong.

To function, RTC had to hire 10,000 people to work the debt load. The Bush Bail-out is twice that big. How long does it take to find and hire 20,000 people? The weekend timeline is artificial, political and cynical.

This is so wrong.

But it feels so familiar. Like the tactics used in the run-up to the Iraq war.

This is so wrong.

In the end, Wall Street will continue to run the show.

This is so wrong.

This morning, I hear the children playing in the school yard. Poor darlings. They have no idea of the debt they are going to have to pay. They have no idea that they are going to have to explain it to their children, too.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ransom note

This anonymous note is getting a lot of play on the Internet:

put one trillion dollars in a bag by the side of the road or you will never see your economy again

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Slow down just a little, honey

What if the Congress does not take the bait and enact the bailout? It would not be pretty.

Credit markets would seize up, trillions would disappear and jobs would vanish. Without enough jobs, nothing much else happens.

Some guessers think as many as 11 million Americans could lose their jobs if the big money business and housing markets are left to find their bottoms. That’s almost ten percent of the U.S. work force. Not pretty.

Despite the Bush Administration’s best in-your-face efforts to get in our wallets, there is a slow-down mood gaining traction in Washington committees.

Is it wrong to ask for a little more foreplay before we get screwed?

Conservatives are beginning to shy away despite pressure from Bush; liberals instinctively have questions. Don’t forget, up until last week, Treasury Secretary Paulson was wrong at every step about the severity of the economic crisis. Is he right this time?

A rich guy from Houston paid for a full page ad in today’s New York Times that calls Bush, Paulson and Bernanke “the new communists.”

Harsh? Overboard? Yes. And I would not go that far. But so is a trillion dollar bailout that does not punish bad behavior. That's unbelievable.

I don’t pretend to have the answer. But I am worried about my retirement accounts and I am thankful the Congress has not yet panicked into giving George Bush and his cronies the license to plunder the U.S. Treasury. With no legal recourse?

What arrogance.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Wall Street greed knows no bounds

“Even as policy makers worked on details of a $700 billion bailout of the financial industry, Wall Street began looking for ways to profit from it.” NY Times.

Please read that again.

The biggest bailout in the history of the world is underway and financial firms are already lobbying to expand the scope. The greedy are not satisfied. They want more. They want to make money on taxpayer misery. Misery that Wall Street brought about.

Treasury Secretary Paulson is asking for Congress to spend nearly a trillion dollars – without holding hearings – and everybody in Big Money wants on the gravy train.

You know something is wrong when liberal thinkers like Paul Krugman agree with conservative writers like William Kristol that this “cash for trash” plan is fraught with danger.

America is on the verge of nationalizing the financial world. Who is next? Airlines, automobile manufacturers, credit card companies?

Insane. This is insane. It was greed that got us here. If Congress is our best hope, then we are doomed.

"Give you an idea how bad the American economy is -- Mexico is
now calling for a fence along the border." – Jay Leno.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Trust Bush? Are you kidding?

The Bush Administration is asking congress for powers of a dictator to fix the economy. No one knows if the new rules will work. But Bush wants immunity from the courts in case the unprecedented governmental intrusion into Wall Street fails.(click here.)

Trust Bush? With absolute power? Reward his banking buddies' bad behavior with a trillion dollar bail-out financed by the American taxpayer? Not on your life.

We trusted Bush after 911. Look what his team of incompetents brought us.

I don’t know the consequences of doing nothing. But I like the odds better than giving Bush the power of a monarchy to play with our money. This isn’t Monopoly.

Let the market freeze up. It might anyway. Then we can cherry pick which institutions to save with a bail out.

Do not, I repeat, do not give George W. Bush these powers.

There is only one man in America smart enough to sift through this mess without being blinded by either the power or the conflict of interest – Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, is rich enough to have first-hand knowledge of our markets and markets throughout the world. I don’t know if Bloomberg is Democrat or Republican. I think he’s been both. He is an honorable man in that den of banker greed.

Warren Buffet suggested we make Bloomberg our economic czar. Do it now. If we must give up such extraordinary power to save American capitalism, give that power to Bloomberg. Do it now. Fill in with necessary legislation tomorrow.

I vote aye!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

From Wall Street to Main Street in real time

Wait a minute. Wait a goddamn minute.

Local TV just carried a story predicting home equity loans are fading fast. In six months, such line of credit loans may not exist.

Wall Street gets $700 billion gift of my tax dollars and I can’t get a loan on the equity I’ve built in my home? That’s my money. Come bail me out, Mr. Bush. I’m retired. I really could use the money. My money.

I don’t buy this stuff about “plenty of time for finger-pointing later.” The bulk of this economic damage happened on George Bush’s watch. That’s the truth of it.

Somebody should go to jail.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Economic crisis stock tip

Pssst. Buy bananas. In these uncertain financial times, buy bananas. I’ll explain shortly.

But first, a little history:

E. F. Hutton

S&L scandals, RTC

Freddie Mac

Fannie Mae

Lehman Brothers


You get the picture. It’s stark. The biggest bailout in the history of the world is underway. Big government is coming to the rescue of big money. Greed seems to be its own reward. But pity the homeowner trying to avoid foreclosure. No help in sight.

Now, a look into the future:

For starters. airlines, automobile manufacturers, credit card companies. If the federal government can bail out the stock market, why not these companies too? Print some more money. China is happy to back us up.

That’s where bananas come in. The U. S. government is spinning around the edges of becoming a banana republic. The feds buy another banana every time they put another buck into saving big corporations from big mistakes. We are nationalizing private business at an alarming rate.

Buy bananas. While you still can.

Put me in, coach

To get our minds off politics and the financial melt-down, let's talk a little football.


Surely you’ve asked: why do football players wear wristbands up around their elbows? A medical advantage? A physical edge. No and nope. It’s vanity. The players like the look. Most wear the bands on one arm only. Both arms would just be too too.

Three and a half seconds. That’s about all the time the quarterback has to decide where to throw. While it’s not rocket science, algebra is of no use (takes too long). The QB is processing info on a level that even he might not understand. Emotional signals travel the fastest. Duck!

Who is the bigger diva – quarterback or wide receiver? Well, receivers gave us the first end zone dance. And head shrinkers describe receivers as “confident, assertive, talented, high self esteem, vocal, and may act without regard for criticism.”

Do football players hit harder these days? They should. Since 1970, the players weigh 20% more. Speed has picked up, too. And that’s where Newton Second Law of Motion kicks in. You do the math.

Just give me the damn ball.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

McCain, the economy and BS

The federal government is going to own 80% of the world’s largest insurance company? Does this mean we are finally going to get affordable health care for all Americans?

That's a stretch.

I can’t find the source again, but I agree with the economics professor who said this bail-out seems to privatize profits and socialize losses. Why? Because the U.S. taxpayer will be responsible for the bad investments made by the greed-driven private sector.

Yet John McCain has said over and over that the U.S. economy is fundamentally sound. That’s not bullish, Senator. That’s bull s**t. If there was any doubt before, McCain just underlined the truth of his earlier statement that he doesn’t know much about the economy.

Don't forget. John McCain wanted to privatize our Social Security. The horror.

Speaking of BS, where is President George Bush? This is the largest financial crisis facing our nation since the Great Depression. Why has he gone underground? The President should go on national television tonight and reassure the nation with a plan to fix the massive financial hemorrhage.

Take a break from politics

Frank Mundus has died. He’s the salty old shark-hunter who was the inspiration for Capt. Quint in “Jaws.” Capt. Mandus lived out his last days at a small lemon-tree farm on the Big Island of Hawaii.
At 2,000 feet above shark level.

Cornelius Vander Starr, also dead, founded the American International Group not in the U.S., but in Asia -- with 300 Japanese yen, the equivalent of three bucks at today’s exchange rate. And yesterday, the U.S. government ponied up $85 billion to keep the messed up company afloat. That’s $85 billion at today’s exchange rate. Sort of makes you wish what happens in Wall Street stays in Wall Street.

Sorry, but I think wind turbines are ugly. If ever you are asked, reply that you prefer Don Quixote’s view rather than Sancho Panza’s.

You might need to know this if she gets elected. The moose meat delicacy saved for the elders includes the aforemention’s liver and nose.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Conservative writers turning on Palin

Sometimes I surprise myself. But I never, never thought I would be urging people to read these conservative columnists: George Will, Charles Krauthammer, David Frum and Ross Douthat. Today, I cross that line. Google up these guys and see what they have been saying about one of their own—Sarah Palin.

Each of these right wing writers suggests she is unready.

The best of the current crop of conservative writers is David Brooks. He is funny and thoughtful. He thinks before he types. To read what Brooks has to say in today’s NY Times, click here.

Still not convinced?

Try this: Lyda Green is the sixty-nine year old Republican president of the Alaskan state senate and represents the district that includes Palin’s home town of Wasilla. This woman has the bona fides. She and Palin were friends and allies throughout the nineties.

Green says: “She’s (Palin) not prepared to be governor. How can she be prepared to be vice president or president?” Read more.

To counter this obvious shortfall, Palin’s handlers include a growing list of disgraced neocons from the Bush administration. Karl Rove confessed to being on the campaign staff and is fast becoming McCain’s brain, too. Just imagine what he’ll do with hers.

Read David Brooks today. You’ll be glad you did.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Potato, potahto

Ours is a small community at this blog. Like I’ve pointed out in the past, although I’ve enjoyed nearly 40,000 visits, I suspect it’s mostly my retired friends who have time on their hands. The hits come from the same twelve people.

Yes, we are small but we reflect the larger world about us. Same narratives, smaller print.

Take, for example, the difference between liberals and conservatives (or Democrats and Republicans, if you prefer). Somehow, the conservatives are painted as sacred while the Democrats are profane. Same story on the national level. Thinking about it worries me.

During the Democratic national convention, I wept. I cheered Obama. I knew they were right. During the Republican national convention, as I watched the faces in the crowd, I realized half my circle of friends were feeling the same thing while Sarah Palin spoke.

Who is being duped? How can we look at the same thing and come to such different conclusions? Are we hard wired differently?

Note: there is a school of thought that conservatism is a form of mental illness. Hold it. Before you join the posse, there’s a similar school tainting liberals.

Oy vey. Wish I had the answer.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sarah Palin is slick

Sarah Palin held her own during the interview with Charles Gibson. She’s too glib for my tastes (no surprise). More style than substance despite all the coaching. High potential for gaffs. I don’t think she is going to wear well. Her handlers fear this and will continue to limit her press availability. That's smart politics but shameful leadership.

If you want an evaluation of how the press covered the show, turn to Howard Kurtz, the media critic for the Washington Post. Click here.

I'm going on a bike ride to get some fresh air.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The difference in pit bulls

Since the current election cycle seems to focus on pigs, lipstick and other critters, these stories about two of the pit bulls in my life.

Yesterday, the Mystery Woman was talking with the guy down in Texas who voluntarily helps her with her modest retirement accounts. At work, he’s the lone Democrat in an office of 32 Republican financial advisers.

When Bush was first elected president, our friend challenged two co-workers: “OK. Republicans control the White House and the Congress. Let’s see what you can do.”

Eight years and two Bush terms later, he asked: “What happened?”

His co-workers grinned: “Are you making more money than you were?” His reaction? "The man on the street might be hurting because I am making more money." Fallout, you see.

True story. For these Republicans financial gurus, making money is more important than anything else. How calloused.

The next story comes from my sister, who volunteers at a food bank in a small Central Texas town.

Yesterday, three women came to the food bank on their lunch break - they work full time and can't feed their families. Read that again, please. They work full time and still cannot afford to feed their families.

The facility has lots of bread but no tuna or peanut butter - almost no protein. A church brought 28 lbs of red beans and there were only 6 bags left at the end of the day.

One grandmother said, "I have exactly $42.15 to last the rest of the month and I haven't paid my car insurance."

Burnet County, Texas, has about 4,700 residents. The Food bank serves around 900 individuals and 300 families. That’s up 20% over last year. By June of this year, they had served more people than last year.

You get the point.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sarah Palin - another day, another scandal

Evidence is building every day that Sarah Palin is a fraud.

Consider the latest mini-scandal about Palin billing taxpayers for the 300 nights she spent at home during her first year-and-a-half in the governor's office.

Curiously, her expense report covers reimbursement for sending her husband on state-paid “errands.” She also got paid back for her kids’ travel.

Her official excuse is that she didn’t spend as much as the last governor. Weak.

It’s not the dollars; it’s the ethics.

Palin was away from the state capital so much that Alaskan legislators wore yellow pins asking “Where’s Sarah?”

She’s a huckster. Her approach to government is riddled with lies and omissions.

The chef? Still on the state payroll. She didn’t really fire the cook but merely reassigned the job to a different part of the budget.

The bridge to nowhere? She never reveals that she kept the millions of federal money in Alaska anyway.

The airplane? Not sold on eBay as she carefully alludes. McCain, caught in her propwash, swears she sold it on eBay at a profit. Actually, the plane sold at a loss to an Alaskan businessman.

The trooper? He should have been fired.

Sarah Palin has an awful record which has only been revealed to us in the few days since she became a candidate. Makes you wonder what else is out there?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sarah Palin, hottie

I try to shake off my political past. In my declining years, I would rather laugh than fight. More fun for everyone is my current motto.

But the presidential campaign is too weird to let pass. I'm coming out of retirement.

Sarah Palin is a hottie. Not my words. That’s a Rush Limbaugh observation.

She is also a liar. Doozies: selling the state airplane on eBay, opposing the Bridge to Nowhere, opposing earmarks. All lies. We may learn more if the Republicans ever release her from that secure, undisclosed location where they are shielding her from the press and the public.

Palin told her fundamentalist church it was “God’s will” that the federal government put up $30 billion for a gas pipeline in Alaska. And she said the war in Iraq is “a task from God.” Isn’t that also what the Muslim fundamentalists say about the war?

Look me in the eye, Senator. Do you really think she is qualified to be commander in chief. Really?

After the past eight years, do we really want four more of the same?

Repeat after me: the economy. Say it again. The Bush government has run up a near-record deficit of $407 billion.

Shake your head and mutter: the mortgage crisis, gasoline crisis, banking crisis. the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac crisis. It’s the economy.

More: the Katrina bungle, the war in Iraq bungle, the Abu Ghraib bungle, the Justice Department hiring bungle. And where the hell is Osama Bin Laden?

Alberto Gonzales, Scooter Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, Jack Abramoff.

The politics of fear: Dick Cheney. Karl Rove. George Bush.

John McCain has voted with the Bush administration 90% of the time. The question bears repeating: After the past eight years, do we really want four more of the same?

I don’t.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Knee jerk

It was an unexcused absence. I decided to take a break for the Labor Day holiday and just never got back to speed. Retirement can be like that. But I’m back.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that I haven’t been crowing about my basketball prowess lately. Blew out my knee. Hurt like hell every time my knee clicked into place. Insert knowing glances here. No self-respecting 69-year-old man should be out on the playground.

I checked to make certain I had the right equipment. Yes, the instructions said the basketball was recommended for males 12 and up. Apparently, there is no cut-off.

I miss it. As the Spalding box proclaims: “No flash. Just honest passion for pure play.” Emphasis on play.

But, as the knee pain was fading, my gout returned. Where did I put my cane?

Plus school has started (the basketball court is on school grounds) and they don’t want old guys lurking about the playground during school hours. Weekends will have to do. But this weekend, we had a cold morning rain. Then the 8th grade bullies came out in the afternoon.

Next weekend, for sure. Horse, anybody?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Eat, drink, be merry

Police reporters have more fun. A Minneapolis teenager told police his breath smelled of booze because he had been kissing a drunk female. Nice try kid. Here’s your citation.

A guy in Connecticut is helping save a breed of cattle that may have helped with the Revolutionary War. The herds’ ancestors likely pulled the cannons from Ticonderoga to defend Boston way back when. The bovine heroes nearly went the way of the dodo with only 15 remaining on the planet. Today, there are some 300-400. Don’t ask. OK, you asked. The cattle are slaughtered at eight months and sold as Randall Lineback rose veal. It can be found in only six restaurants. Best served slow-cooked with smoked peaches.

While we are on the subject, the Dexter is an Irish breed of cow that has a big future in England. The little cow stands no taller than a large German shepherd dog, gives 16 pints of milk a day that can be drunk unpasteurized, keeps the grass “mown” and will be a family pet for years before ending up in the freezer. Let’s mooove on. Sorry.

A British food and wine writer slicked The Wine Spectator into giving its prestigious award to a place that did not exist. The Osteria L'Intrepido di Milano was the figment of the imagination of wine writer and author Robin Goldstein, who invented its existence in order to expose what he regards as the lack of rigour in the granting of many food and drink awards. Cheeky.

Dave Freeman, co-author of “100 Things to Do Before You Die,” dead at age 47.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Happy Hour ammo

It's OK. You can recycle beer bottles with limes inside. Clink.


George Orwell, blogger? Yup. His copious diaries are now being published daily in blog form by a group of scholars who think his writings are still relevant for young people. They have lots of fodder. Orwell’s collective writings fill 20 volumes. Guess where he got most of his inspiration? Newspapers.

Globally, golf tee sales reach $100 million annually. Amazing, when you consider you could hit off a thimble just as easy. Claim is you can improve your accuracy and distance with any number of new tee designs: three little prongs that hold the ball up, or a smaller concave inny atop a wooden tee, or a tiny composite brush that nests the ball more freely, and biodegradable tees made of corn starch. Wouldn’t a reliable swing do?

It wasn’t the invention of electricity so much that changed the world. It was invention of the electric meter that enabled them to charge us for it.

What is the best-selling car of all time? Mustang? Beetle? Model-T? All wrong. The title goes to the lowly Toyota Corolla with 32 million in sales since its introduction in 1968. Second is not a car; it’s the Ford F-series pickup. Third, the VW -- but not the bug – the Golf. Huh. my favorite is still the ’57 Chevrolet.

When Taryn Davis’ husband was killed in the Iraq war, she decided to honor his memory and help others through their loss by filming a documentary of the somber routines and protocols of a military death. Ms. Davis criss-crossed the country to record the reactions of other survivors in the making of “American Widow Project.” It will be released online next month but a preview can be seen on YouTube.

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