Thursday, February 28, 2008

Geezer? Not me.

Return with me to yesteryear when being old was like living in a petting zoo. People and grandchildren would pat the old people on the back. All the time. And barely listen to what they were saying. Consumption and the vapors were the disease du jour. Incurable, too.

What the hell ever happened to aging gracefully? Today, there’s more contact with your inner child than your inner geezer.

What’s going on? Is denial contagious? We’ve become a nation of aging thrill-seekers. Even George H. W. Bush is jumping out of airplanes. Wanna see my abs?

Damnation. Do they even make rocking chairs anymore? No place to rock anyway. They stopped making front porches in the 80’s.

Foolishly, I was thinking old age would be a bit more comfortable. You know, slip a little bourbon into the oatmeal and start telling stories.

I blame the goddamn baby boomers. They’re the ones who invented Botox.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Red wine, new cars, cold February

Funny how some things reserve a place in your memory. I still remember in the early 70’s, when the Washington Post editorialized against the month of February. They denounced it as pestilence followed by disease. I concur.

In Texas, trees are already in bud. In Minnesota, our friends and neighbors were hunkered against below freezing temps for 27 days. I cannot imagine such.

Breaking news: word just in from Paris. It’s officially OK to drink red wine with oysters on the half shell. Screw-tops permissible. But not boxed.

Car deals. Consumers prefer to kick the tires in person. Today, direct sales of new cars over the Internet are expected to grow from 100,000 in 2007 to 300,000 in 2012. That’s not a big jump and represents only 1.7 percent of all new cars sold. But, if you are like me, you spend time on-line looking at Craigs List, CarFax, CarSoup, NADA, etc. before you buy your next vehicle, be it new or used.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ralph Nader, unsafe at any age

He’s 74. He’s running for president as an independent – again. Even after two earlier, disastrous attempts at the top job, Nader is having another go.

Isn’t it enough that he helped give us George W. Bush as president? Now, he wants to give us John McCain.

Know what I think? I think Nader needs to get in touch with his Inner Geezer. Like many aging warriors, he’s trying to prove he still has a stinger. The need to still wear a badge, to still have clout, to spill testosterone – that need dies hard in some men.

Hang it up, Ralph. Show some grace. We don’t need two old white guys running.

Footnote: NBC political analyst Chuck Todd made a profound observation on Hillary Clinton’s cheap (and dated) Xerox line in the Texas debate. He said, “I don’t Xerox. I copy, cut and paste.”

Time marches on.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Early vote numbers are astonishing

Want a non-partisan read about the Texas electorate before the March 4 primary? My old business partner and current editor of Texas Weekly has crunched early voting numbers without prefix or suffix. Ross is a political junkie with no dog in the hunt. He just can't help messing with your head. This is a peek at his work which is normally open only to paid subscribers:

It's Busy Out There

On the first three days four years ago, 52,226 people voted. On the first three days of early voting this year (Tuesday through Thursday), 238,866 showed up. And the vote patterns are changing, too, with urban counties outvoting border counties in the Democratic primary.
--Read on at Texas Weekly.

Now, for those of you prefer your red meat more partisan, try this good-bye site. You can post your own get-outta-town message to George W. You can also purchase T-shirts. Full disclosure: I get no kick-back other than grins.

Although I make no secret of my disgust of the current administration (they earned it), I welcome cross-fire from the loyal opposition. If you have a site you like, tout it here no matter whether it be Democrat, Republican or independent. Click on "opinion" just below. Have fun. Keep it clean.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Birds, bees, rubber dolls

Now comes worries that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs have cognitive side effects. Maybe Lipitor can make you stupid. Pause. So can Viagra.

Hurry, they say, switch from the old fashioned incandescent light bulb to the new spiral fluorescent bulbs. Save the planet. Use 25% of the energy and get 10 times more use. We did. But they failed to tell us that each of these new fangled thingies has a tiny bit of a dangerous toxin. Specifically, about five milligrams of mercury. Nearly 300 million of the new bulbs were sold last year. When the time comes, how do we throw them away? All those dots add up.

Election fever is epidemic this year (according to the NY Times):
--at Democratic caucuses in Maine, over-flow crowds meant they had to keep hauling pumpers out of the firehouse to accommodate the surge. In one town, the caucuses overlapped the dinner-theater crowd causing one man dressed as Rumpelstiltskin to stand before both crowds wearing a green coat, an elf hat, a tall staff and long pointy shoes. He's for Obama.
--in Wisconsin, so many people are talking politics at work that one office manager ordered the "suspension of debate" because the Republicans were feeling alienated and the Democrats couldn’t stop passing notes and giggling.

The following may be difficult for some to read: breast, testicles, cervix, colon and prostate. Now, pretend you are a doctor and your job is to touch these parts on strangers. Not easy, huh? Not easy for some doctors either. Some social restraints apply. So a surgeon at Northwestern University medical school has taken these matters into her own hands. She builds simulators so wannabe doctors can practice. Some items, she has to buy at sex shops. And, it seems lima beans are excellent facsimiles for tumor tissue. More here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Shameful Supreme Court Shield

Think fast: do you want a government bureaucrat to have have the final authority over your heart? Or your breast?

More specifically, do you trust the Food and Drug Administration to really know whether your pacemaker or your breast implant is up to the job?

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled American citizens could not sue the manufacturer if the implants were initially approved by FDA and built to specs.

Think about that.

Now, recall that it was our government that sent our troops to war in humvees built to specs -- only to get blown to hell because the armor was too light. (Different agency, I know, but the same government.)

Remember also that just last year, a leading U.S. manufacturer of pacemakers got in serious trouble over a faulty wire (approved by the government). People died.

I'm sporting a pacemaker. And I have complete faith in my medical team. They saved my life and gave me more good years to live after I suffered an undetected heart attack.

Although my first implant worked well, I find little comfort in the thought that my future generators could be built by the lowest bidder. Will we become a nation of test mammals with no protection? No recourse?

George W.Bush packed this Supreme Court. Damn, I can hardly wait until he packs his bags. Problem is, of course, it will take years for us to replace the current justices.

Until then, I fear that We-the-People will continue to get screwed by Them-the-Rich-Corporations. Over and over again.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Grumble, snarl, gripe, complain

What’s the problem? A NY Times financial writer accused Wall Street dealmakers of BlackBerrying a letter around town. Am I the only person concerned that BlackBerry has become a verb? And with two capital B’s.

The Titanic was just a shrimp boat when compared with the behemoths of today’s cruise liners. Two biggies are coming soon from Royal Caribbean. The next world’s largest ship will be 1,181 feet from bow to stern. That’s nearly four football fields. And it seems like a long way to walk just to get out of the wind.

A Texas minister, wouldn’t you know it, has started some of the faithful across America believing that IH-35 from Laredo to Duluth fits the description of the holy highway found in Isaiah 35. Son, if you’ve driven it as many times as I have lately, you’ll come to think it looks more like Purgatory than Paradise. Especially the rush hour traffic in Dallas and Kansas City. That’s where I regularly commit blasphemy.

The Republicans have nearly ruined PBS. Gone are the days of Monty Python, Upstairs Downstairs, and the French Chef. Admit it – you rarely watch Antiques Roadshow any more. And that’s about the best of the programming remaining after eight years of Bush whacking. Pity.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

JFK conspiracy nuts-start your engines

Without question, the Dallas district attorney did the right thing in opening a courthouse safe that held a trove of information on the JFK assassination.

The question is: why did the long line of DA’s over the past 40 years choose to keep the secrets locked up in the dark? Each knew of the stash.

Researchers need this stuff. History needs this stuff. The American people need this stuff. Because of the secrecy for decades, conspiracy nuts will take wing once more. Sigh.

What is it with law enforcement? Why this need to keep information only to themselves? Anal? Ha. That’s just half the description I would use in this case.

Warning: tout ahead.

Four of us wrote a book about our experiences as young reporters covering those four days for KRLD-TV in Dallas. Three of my co-authors knew Jack Ruby and had been to his strip joint. Wes Wise, who later was elected mayor of Dallas, even won a twist contest at the Carousel Club and his wife did not kill him. Still married, too.

I was too new to even know who Jack Ruby was or what he looked like. So, I didn’t know it was Ruby standing right next to me in the police basement just before he stepped out of the crowd and into history by firing one shot killing Lee Harvey Oswald. You’ve seen my film of the shooting on TV.

Go to Amazon and buy our book” “When the News Went Live." We wrote it for history.

And stay tuned.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Stolen mostly from the NY Times

The Mystery Woman and I go all the way back to 1956. Sometimes we have relapses. Just today, I told her: “You’re more like you were than you ever have been.”

You’ve wondered, no doubt, who rings the Notre-Dame bells now that Quasimodo is gone. Five guys and a computer, that’s who. And every so often, caretakers must turn the bells so the clapper hits a different part to reduce wear. Bells? Yes. Four.

Ticker-tape parades just aren’t what they used to be. New Yorkers tossed only 36.5 tons of paper after the parade celebrating the NY Giants Super Bowl win. By comparison, on V-J Day, marking the end of WWII, jubilant New Yorkers threw 5,438 tons of confetti and ticker tape. Not much ticker tape these days; some ripped fodder from phone books. And not many windows open in tall buildings. Now you know.

Did you read about the new thingy they can strap to your knee and generate enough electricity to power 10 cell phones just while you walk. Hell, if they made a similar gizmo for your elbows, we could light up a whole city while we drink.


Thursday, February 7, 2008

We've come a long way

If you listen to Rush Limbaugh (and gosh, who doesn’t?), then you must think three liberal Senators are in the running for president. He counts McCain. Repeat: he counts McCain as a liberal. Ahh, that Rush, ever the comedian going for the laugh instead of making sense.

You can bet your last dollar that Rush, Ann Coulter and their radio ilk are praying like never before that the Democrats will win in November. Why? Because Obama and Hillary present such target-rich environments. A Democratic victory ensures Rush and Ann can keep their lucrative jobs for at least four more years.

Nobody asked me, but I think a seismic shift has rearranged American politics. Think of the wonder – either a black man or a white woman could be our next president. The Civil Rights movement was not that long ago. We have truly made progress.

Oh sure, people my age still grapple with old stereotypes. But the young people don’t. Just ask an elementary school teacher. They will tell you the kids come to public schools these days without much sense of discrimination in their daily lives, among their playground friends, on television, in the movies, etc.

Racism will always exist. But we have come a long ways in assimilation in this great country. That gives me hope.

And the fact that George W. Bush has less than a year to serve gives me joy. Great joy. Right now, I would accept any of the three “liberal” candidates. Anybody would be better than Bush.

But what I’m looking for is another Great American.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Why do so many Republican pundits hate John McCain?

From time to time, I'm honored to publish input from curmudgeons-I-have-known. Today's bit was written by Jeff Hebert, who doubles as my son-in-law and as an urban thinker immersed in a rural format. He and my daughter enjoy living on their ranch outside Burnet, TX. With all that livestock, he would be more tolerant of the campaign horseshit this political season, so you might think. You would be wrong.
By Jeff Hebert

An awful lot of the Republican punditocracy hates John McCain, and I've been trying to understand why.

On the surface, it doesn't make much sense. McCain has one of the most conservative voting records in the Senate during his tenure. He's been staunchly pro-war, wanting us to stay in Iraq for another hundred years. He sings eloquently of the need to bomb bomb bomb Iran as well. He's consistently pro-life and wants to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. He thinks creationism should be taught in schools if the local board wants to.

So why do Rush Limbaugh and James Dobson and Michelle Malkin and the rest of the right-wing punditocracy loathe the guy so much, to the point that even Ann Coulter -- Ann Coulter! The woman who wrote "If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans"! -- would endorse Hillary Clinton over McCain?

I'll tell you why. If the first Republican Commandment is "Thou shalt speak no evil of a fellow Republican," the second (and only slightly less imperative) one is "Thou shalt never consort with Liberals." The Limbaugh/Coulter/Rove empire was built on the basic idea that liberals are evil and should be crushed in every possible way at every possible opportunity. Liberals are not just people whose views are different than conservatives, liberals are The Enemy, America-hating traitors who will destroy our country if given half a chance. That is what has built and what sustains the far right wing of the Republican party, all of those best-sellers, all of those television and radio shows. To hate a liberal is the raison d'etre of the Republican punditocracy.

And yet you have John McCain standing with the "Gang of 14" to prevent Republicans from eliminating the Democrats' ability to filibuster judicial nominees. Joining with ultra-liberal Russ Feingold to pass the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform bill. Speaking kindly of a possible Hillary Clinton presidency, and even having considered running as John Kerry's VP during the 2004 elections.

Here in Texas, that's called "consorting with the enemy", and John McCain is guilty of it a thousand times over. That is simply unacceptable to the right wing of the party and its advocates. You expect your political opponents will fight you -- that's their job, after all. But it's incredibly hard to forgive or forget getting stabbed in the back by one of your own, and that's exactly what McCain is believed to have done by an awful lot of Republican leaders.

If you're a Democrat, imagine for a moment how you'd feel if Joe Lieberman were the Democratic nominee this year. The same Joe Lieberman whose Judas kiss to Bush and whose enthusiastic support for the Iraq War has so undermined Democratic efforts to fight it. The same Joe Lieberman who's contemplating speaking at the Republican convention this year. The same Joe Lieberman who refused to abide by the Democratic primary rules and ran as an independent after getting defeated, who still takes up a valuable Senate committee chairmanship even though he's not really a Democrat any more.

McCain is the Republican Joe Lieberman. He has betrayed at least one trust too many in the minds of many of the party faithful, and he cannot be forgiven; better an honest enemy than a friend who betrays you.

And that, in my opinion, is why so many members of the Republican punditocracy hate John McCain.

Money talks

I've been enamored with wolves ever since I was a member of the Wolf Patrol in my first Boy Scout troup. They are magnificent creatures.
Oft maligned.

Recently a save-the-wolves group ran a full page advertisement in the NY Times protesting the Administration's new rules allowing western ranchers to shoot to kill. Those ads are very expensive, costing in the neighborhood of $150,000. Which makes me wonder – wouldn't that buy a lot of wolf food?

Next: The U.S. dollar is in free-fall, depreciating around 10 percent against the euro. Now comes news that NY liquor stores will accept payment in euros as well as dollars. If that's globalization, it's scary. Clink.

Speaking of money and the mortgage crisis, some 225 United States lenders who rolled the dice in the boom/bust cycle are gone. Say that again; 225 lenders have bailed out, skipped town, skulked away. Their crime? Greed.

Think about this: as Baby Boomers retire, they will cash in their stocks. Some prognosticators worry that will cause the market to bust. Doubtful. But rich Chinese are ready to buy. And will, unless we go to war with them. Neither solution works.

Enough of this. I've got to go find a bank with no ATM fees.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Jerry Jeff Walker groupies

So. The Mystery Woman and I were groupies this past weekend. We went to a Jerry Jeff Walker concert, and, judging the age of the audience, mine was not the only pacemaker in the room.

The aging outlaw did not disappoint; he rocked the joint and brought the audience to its feet, albeit slowly, several times.

The venue was One World Theater, a strangely wonderful big old Tuscan home in the western hills outside Austin. It was sort of like having Jerry Jeff in your living room if you were filthy rich.

The Mystery Woman has been away from Texas, her native state, nearly 30 years but Jerry Jeff has always been her connection to home. She nearly swooned. When she wasn't jumping up and down, clapping, whistling and hollering. Simultaneously.

Long ago, Jerry Jeff transcended his accident of birth in New York to become a true shit-kicker. He is a story-teller set to music. A song-writer of both lyrics and melody. And he can still belt out Mr. Bojangles and Red Necked Mother with raucous abandonment after all these years.

But the mellow side of the man enriches other forms of music. At times, he is even a jazzman, and always a troubadour.

It was a wonderful evening. His set was not long enough. Even though I was willing to drive at night.

Final note: since the theater was out where I once published the Westlake Picayune more than 20 years back, I hoped I might run into old friends. And I was not disappointed. Not my doctor nor my accountant -- but the car guy from consignment lot where I've purchased half a dozen cars. Sucking on a cold beer.

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