Saturday, February 28, 2009

Saturday night

Got up late today -- well past noon. I'd gone to the gym last night and then got hungry late, so I stuffed my face with Melba toast and whatever else and didn't get tired till much later. I should never eat after a certain time at night, especially if I have to get up in the morning (which I didn't). I rarely do on a weeknight, and when I do I regret it.

Watching a show on CNBC about the booming marijuana business (I've seen part of it before). It's the biggest crop in the country. All the more reason for making it legal and taxing it. Also, if you made it legal here you'd put the violent Mexican gangs out of the business.

Today I worked on the short story for six hours and finally got it written through to the end. So now I just have to go back and make it beautiful (or unbeautiful -- whatever works).

Jindal's Office Spins Itself Into Deeper Hole On Bogus Katrina Story

TPM story here.

Bobby Jindal's office was apparently thrown into full crisis mode today after a spokeswoman admitted that a key story of Katrina heroism the governor told in in his GOP response speech Tuesday was false. But, with some help from Politico, they only succeeded in digging themselves deeper.

See here also (includes video of Jindal telling same story last year, only with more embellishments).

Obama gets bump in polls following speech

From MyDD here (see graph).

A new Gallup poll taken the day of and the two days following President Obama's first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, finds the President's approval rating has jumped up 8 points to 67% and his disapproval has dropped 4 points to 21% from the prior 3-day period. Obama's term-high approval rating was 69% just after his inauguration. . . .

A 12 point net gain virtually overenight shows just how dramatic an impression President Obama made Tuesday night. What's even more dramatic though is where this newfound support is coming from:

Obama's approval rebound is due to increased support from all political groups, but especially from independents and Republicans, whose support had been waning. Over the past week, independents' approval of Obama dropped from 62% to 54%, but is now back to 62%. There has been a sharp increase in support among Republicans, from 27% to 42%. Democrats' support for Obama was already extremely high at 86%, but even this has climbed slightly, to 90% in the latest polling. . . .

Obama challenges lobbyists to legislative duel

AP story here. Video below.

President Barack Obama challenged the nation's vested interests to a legislative duel Saturday, saying he will fight to change health care, energy and education in dramatic ways that will upset the status quo. . . .

Culture Corner: One More

Finale of "Orpheus in the Underworld" with Natalie Dessay

Watch wider-screen version here.

Culture Corner: Tenor Nikolaï Schukoff

From "La Grotta di Trofonio"

Singing "Maria" from "West Side Story"

Culture Corner: Husband and wife Laurent Naouri & Natalie Dessay sing together

The "Fly Duet" from "Orpheus in the Underworld" (R-rated) (with English subtitles) (click here for no subtitles) (& wider)

Singing Haydn

Friday, February 27, 2009

'Chilling'

From The Left Coaster here.

Just watch. And understand, as Senator Whitehouse describes how horrified we may be as the facts are revealed, that he sits on the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. In other words--he knows some of what's coming. He's not offering hypotheticals. He's telling us to be prepared.

Holder Indicates Federal Raids on Marijuana Dispensaries Will Stop

TalkLeft post here. (My comments below.)

Here is the video of Attorney General Eric Holder's press conference yesterday. At 25 minutes in, he is asked whether DOJ will continue raids on medical marijuana dispensaries (in states that have legalized medical marijuana.)

Holder says "what the president said during the campaign, you'll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we'll be doing here in law enforcement." He says Obama is "formally and technically and by law my boss now, and so what he said during campaign is now American policy."

Holder said this standing right next to DEA Acting Administrator Michelle Leonhart, who has overseen the most recent federal medical marijuana raids, including those that took place after Obama's inauguration.

The Republicans always talk about "states' rights," but they were raiding these places like crazy. But the hysteria over using marijuana is historically about race and prejudice and immigrants. Using "states' rights" arguments to oppress minorities is OK in their eyes, but it's not OK when the states change their laws in a way that would appear to expand the rights of the minorities they hate (brown people, gays, etc.).

As brown as the Republican party is trying to be these days (viz. Condolleezza Rice and Jindal and the crooked Steele), it still doesn't wash. As long as "the base" is wrapped up in the culture wars and tax cuts for the super well-off (which George H.W. Bush called "voodoo economics"), the Republicans won't be able to get out of the hole they're dug for themselves starting with Ronald Reagan.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Keith Olbermann on Kenneth the Page

(Aisha Tyler is hilarious.)


VIDEO: Page on '30 Rock' responds to Jindal

From TPM here. (Wasn't able to embed video.)

The guy who plays Kenneth the Page on 30 Rock responds to Bobby Jindal's unauthorized imitation of him in the GOP response last night. . . .

Thursday night

Speaking of health issues. Tonight after work I drove up to Bed Bath and Beyond to check out a pillow I'd seen online. (My neck is still not right, even with the new latex pillows.) I wanted to check out a pillow that has memory foam in the interior, surrounded by down. They didn't have them in stock. They did have special Tempur neck pillows that cost a bundle. I wouldn't buy something that expensive unless I had a 20%-off coupon. I just had one that expired, and the lady at BBB said you can still use them. I wish I'd known, since I threw it out. (I just found one that expired in January, however.) Honestly, it hurts when I try to turn my head all the way to the right.

Here I sound like an old person. (I'm older than Obama but not as old as Hillary, who looks fantastic, by the way.)

Just in from Brave New Films

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Unborn Jindal was "pre-existing condition" when parents immigrated to U.S.

[Updated.] (Re: Jindal's speech.) I don't know what Jindal's point was exactly. Jindal was four months in the womb when his parents immigrated here from India. The parents got jobs but their insurance wouldn't cover the costs of Jindal's birth, since he was a "pre-existing condition." So his parents had to pay for the costs of Jindal's birth out of their own pockets.

Is Jindal trying to say that having a pre-existing condition that prevents a person from getting health coverage isn't necessarily a bad thing? And he is living proof? (According to the WSJ, having a baby costs around $10,000 these days.) You have to watch Jindal's speech, if you haven't seen it.

I think Jindal made the sad state of our health care system here look worse. (But it's still better than India's, I guess.) So we should just be thankful for what we have, since (as Jindal's father pointed out to him after he was birthed) they don't even have groceries on the shelves in India. Now the Republicans are comparing us (favorably) with a country that has horrible slums and widespread, abject poverty and huge discrepancies in income (and which still has a caste system)? And we look better for that and should be proud? I don't think so. It makes the U.S. look like its standards are slipping. I'm doubt that if the Jindals had emigrated to Europe, say, they would have had to pay out-of-pocket for Bobby's delivery because he was a "pre-existing condition."

I think the point that was inadvertently made here is that health insurance companies -- big players in our health system in the U.S. -- do everything they can to avoid covering people who actually need of health care.

We'll see how universal health care plan that Obama has called for and begun to fund in his budget works out. Watch the insurance companies try to get the government to pay for the sick people while they reap big profits covering only the well people.

(I have nothing against India, by the way, and trust that they'll do the right thing in addressing their social problems.)

Perry ponders Madea's demise

Full AP story here.

Feb 25th, 2009 LOS ANGELES -- Tyler Perry wants Madea dead.

That may come as a surprise, given the big-hearted but foul-tempered, pistol-packin' granny has emerged as director-writer-producer-actor Perry's signature character -- and, now, his cash cow.

"Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail" topped the U.S. box office last weekend with $41 million in its first three days of release. The dramedy marks Perry's all-time opening weekend, and is poised to sprint past the overall take of his top-grossing film, "Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion" (2006).

Still, Perry confesses: "I would love to see Madea die a slow death in the next film."

The reason? It takes a lot of effort to turn the 6-foot-5-inch Perry into big momma Madea.

He knows she's "a whole lot of fun to watch. But to do it is a nightmare," Perry says.

"It's all one suit that I'm zipped into, so it's all heavy. The hips are heavy. And the more I sweat, the heavier it gets. I see why women have back problems who have large breasts. Holding those things upright can be tough." . . .

'Indecision On The Financial Crisis'

From Big Tent Democrat here.

Why was I asking for specifics in President Obama's speech last night? Because the severe problems we face need more than vague platitudes. To put it bluntly, the Obama Administration is fiddling while our financial system burns. Here is Krugman on the nonexistent plan for the financial crisis:

Ben Bernanke’s testimony over the past two days gives us our best clue yet about where the administration and the Fed are going with bank rescue. And the answer seems to be … nowhere. . . . More and more, it looks as if we’re headed for the decade of the living dead.

Pretty speeches in February 2009 won't be worth a hill of beans in elections in November 2010 and 2012.

Wednesday night

Had planned on going to the gym but decided to chill instead. So I was over at the Starbucks drinking green tea and reading about Lesbian separatists in the 1970s. I had planned to chill last night, but decided to watch the speech. (Watching speeches by our side always drains me.) Then I'd been rattled when I went to the mailbox earlier and had a statement from the condominium association saying I owed over $700 in back maintenance fees (including a $25 late fee). I could feel my blood pressure rising.

I've never missed a payment or been late. I went over the statement carefully (when I should have been chilling) and spotted an odd, unexplained charge for over $600 in December. I was going to call the office about it today, but saw the manager in the lobby as I was on my way to the bus stop this morning. I sidled up to her and showed her the statement, and pointed out that I wasn't behind in any payments. She believed me and took the statement -- I told her it was my only copy -- and said she was going to clear it up with the secretary, who sends these notices out. I guess that's been taken care of. Whew!

I did watch the Jindal speech on YouTube tonight (with MSNBC's annoying, new audience-response meter running at the bottom of the screen). Lousy speech. He's certainly no orator. (Obama has nothing to worry about.) Stephanie Miller and her crew were making fun of it this morning on the radio, saying he sounded like Mr. Rogers addressing a group of children (and he did). It got two stars on YouTube, by the way, while Rachel Maddow's take on it (below) got five. Also includes remarks by Wonkette (Anna Marie Cox).

Keith Olbermann just said that Jindal's story about the volunteer Katrina rescue was false.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tuesday night

Watched Obama's speech. I was impressed. He said everything I wanted to hear him say, and more. Good vignette about the good banker from Miami (see here). Leonard Abess was sitting in the audience and was on camera for several seconds.

I didn't watch Jindal's speech--I had errands. From the commentary I've been seeing, it wasn't good. Watching Rachel Maddow's live, post-speech show now. She pointed out how Jindal (governor of Louisiana) used the government's response to Katrina as reason for people not to rely on the government to help them in a time of crisis. Wow. So we're just supposed to put up with bad government all our lives? (I have to go back and read his speech.)

I also hear it was the same old stuff that hasn't worked for the Republicans (like tax cuts for the well-off) and which, in the crisis they've precipitated, has seen them lose the confidence of the public, and as a result of which we have Obama and Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. I really don't think the Republicans deserve a rebuttal. But I'm glad the rebuttal was a failure.

Took a good nap after work with Bootsy. Lucky felt left out afterward but I tried to make it up to him with lots of affection while I was watching the speech.

Just for fun, found this video today via Salon here.


By the way, letting the Bush tax cuts for the well-off (those who earn over $250,00) expire amounts to about a 3% increase (they're still in a 30-something % tax bracket, which is pretty standard). And even McCain said that that was fair. (He believes in a progressive tax system. Had a blog post on that.) People who make that much money can afford everything they need, and more. And they should be thankful they live in a country that allows them to become so prosperous. "Winner take all" is a bankrupt idea now. Look at how the bankers are taking junkets now on bail-out money.

And you see where greed on Wall Street has gotten us. Obama spoke out against that.

Monday night late

Another non-stop day at work. Then a bad nap and back to the gym and then the store. If I really want to get a good nap, I have to keep Lucky out of the bedroom. He jumps around too much and wakes me up. Actually, he prides himself on his ability to do perfectly arcing, long jumps. Very impressive, but not while I'm trying to sleep. And then he presses up against me and starts cleaning himself once he's settled down. Not conducive to napping.

I normally need a decent nap before I go to the gym. So the cats will be banned from the bedroom henceforth. (Sorry, Bootsy.)

Inspectors are supposed to be coming here tomorrow. They'll be let in by the "handy guy." I'll be at work.

Cats are doing well

Monday, February 23, 2009

Anger really can kill you: study

Yikes. Full story here.

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Anger and other strong emotions can trigger potentially deadly heart rhythms in certain vulnerable people, U.S. researchers said on Monday. . . .

Lampert said the team specifically asked questions to get people to relive the angry episode. "We found in the lab setting that yes, anger did increase this electrical instability in these patients," she said. . . .

Joan Walsh: Joan Walsh: Who's Obama courting with bipartisanship?

"It's not John McCain or Eric Cantor, it's the American public, watching the GOP make trouble as the president makes nice." Column here.

On the eve of an informal State of the Union address set for Tuesday night, President Obama has some political wind at his back. Eighty percent of those questioned in a new Washington Post/ABC News poll said Obama had so far exceeded their expectations, and almost 70 percent said he was delivering on his promise to bring change to Washington.

The bad news in the poll, according to the Post, is that only 37 percent of Republicans approve of the job Obama's doing. But I think those are fine numbers, given that only 9 percent of Republicans voted for Obama in November. Two-thirds of independents approve of Obama's performance, along with more than 90 percent of Democrats.

Watching Obama at the "Fiscal Responsibility Summit" on Monday, it became clear to me that the audience for his displays of bipartisanship isn't so much Republicans in Congress as the voters beyond them. I share liberals' worries about the possibility of needless "compromise," especially on Social Security, for the sake of pleasing the GOP, but we haven't seen that -- yet. What we saw Monday was Obama seeming supremely warm and welcoming, calm and reasonable, hosting Republicans again, from his November opponent Sen. John McCain to the GOP turncoat Judd Gregg, who changed his mind and rejected Obama's offer to be commerce secretary two weeks ago.

Obama even let McCain ask the first question (though McCain was described in a media pool report on the summit as "irritable and close to losing his temper at one point"). McCain challenged the purchase of a new fleet of presidential helicopters that predated Obama's tenure, and the president said he was inclined to agree. Even Rep. Eric Cantor, the geeky wannabe Gingrich who ensured Obama got no House GOP votes for his stimulus, got to make a comment, and as Obama closed the summit, he singled out Canter again as he promised to keep reaching out to Republicans. "I'm gonna keep on talking to Eric Cantor and some day, sooner or later, he's gonna say, Obama had a good idea!'" Obama joked.

But that won't be the measure of his success, and Obama knows it. He's trying to make it clear to voters that he's including the other party, even if they keep snubbing him -- even if Cantor's band of rejectionionists never gives him a single vote, and even if ideologues like Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, South Carolina's Mark Sanford and Mississippi's Haley Barbour want to hurt their own states by rejecting stimulus funds that extend unemployment insurance. Right now, it's all helping Obama.

Proof in today's poll that Obama's strategy is working? According to the Post, "61 percent said they trust Obama more than the GOP when it comes to economic matters, just 26 percent side with the Republicans in Congress. Obama's advantage on that question is bigger than George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, or George H.W. Bush ever had over the opposition party in the legislature on dealing with the economy."

Florida nips fish pedicures in the bud

AP story here.

Feb 23rd, 2009 TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A trendy pedicure with fish that nibble dead skin from the feet has been nipped in the bud. The Florida Board of Cosmetology has banned the procedure, even before it was known to be offered anywhere in the state. The board said salons had been inquiring about its legality and decided to preemptively strike.

The treatment is popular in Asia and has spread to some U.S. cities. A client sticks feet, hands or other body parts in a bowl or pool, and the small fish chow down on soft decaying skin.

Texas, Washington, Massachusetts and New Hampshire have also outlawed the practice. A spokeswoman for the Florida board says there's concern because there's no way to disinfect a pool of fish in between uses.

Oscars host Hugh Jackman gave the job his all

Complete AP story here.

Don't blame Hugh Jackman.

This versatile performer clearly showed up for the Oscars prepared to put his all into the hosting job.

He was a solid choice to help bring needed new life to what's all-too-routinely billed as "Hollywood's biggest night."

As an actor, movie star, song-and-dance man and People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" (among other credentials), Jackman would seem to be capable of most anything.

Maybe he'd even be willing to try fixing the economy. . . .

See here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

'France defies its heritage to condemn alcohol'

Story here.

TO the anger of the wine industry and disbelief of lovers of a good drop worldwide, the French Government has told its people to stop drinking wine.

The French Health Ministry has made alcohol one of the chief villains in a drive against cancer.

"The consumption of alcohol, and especially wine, is discouraged," say guidelines drawn from the findings of the National Cancer Institute.

A single glass of wine a day will raise the chance of contracting cancer by up to 168 per cent, claims the ministry's brochure.

Forget those 1980s findings that antioxidants in wine were good for health, according to the French experts. "Small daily doses of alcohol are the most harmful," institute president Dominique Maraninchi said. "There is no amount, however small, which is good for you."

Authorities elsewhere have been telling people in recent years to go dry if they want to stay healthy. But the advice was especially sobering, coming from the Government of France, where wine is part of life and the national heritage.

The pleasantly illustrated ministry brochure makes grim reading. The institute collated hundreds of international studies and summarised the relation between types of cancer with food, drink and lifestyle.

Apart from wine, the dangerous stuff includes red meat, charcuterie and salt.

A pave de rum-steak might not sound so mouth-watering after reading: "The risk of colon-rectal cancer rises by 29 per cent per 100g portion of red meat per day and 21 per cent per 50g portion of charcuterie." Alcohol facilitates cancers of the mouth, larynx, oesophagus, colon-rectum and breast, the guidelines say. Wine producers are crying foul, accusing the health lobby of trying to kill one of France's glories. They note the suspicious coincidence that France now has its first teetotal president. Nicolas Sarkozy sips mineral water and orange juice when all around him are knocking back the champagne and burgundy.

"This persecution of wine has to stop," said the General Association of Wine Producers.

The growers say the scientific evidence is contradictory and they point to a World Health Organisation study that found moderate consumption helped to prevent cancer. Xavier de Volontat, president of the wine producers' association in the southwestern Languedoc region, said: "The extremists must not be allowed to take consumers hostage ... wine consumption has dropped by 50 per cent over the last 20 years in France, but cancer has increased. You have to admit, that's a paradox.

"We never said that alcohol is not dangerous for health. We are for responsible, reasonable and moderate consumption ... it is not in our interest to see our consumers dying of cancer or in car accidents."

One of the comments to the story: "Lies damn lies and statistics. You might not live any longer, it will just seem like it."

Fla. Gov. Crist talks stimulus on 'Meet the Press'


He's right.

Governors spar over stimulus cash

'Smart'

From Hullabaloo here.

Richard Shelby [GOP Senator from Alabama] left the Democratic party in 1994 finally signaling the final success of the Southern Strategy and the long overdue gathering of all conservatives under the same banner. It was a good day for Democrats. We may be a lot of bad things, but at least we don't have to claim this nasty, braindead piece of work:

Another local resident asked Shelby if there was any truth to a rumor that appeared during the presidential campaign concerning Obama’s U.S. citizenship, or lack thereof.

“Well his father was Kenyan and they said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven’t seen any birth certificate,” Shelby said. “You have to be born in America to be president.”

According to the Associated Press, state officials in Hawaii checked health department records during the campaign and determined there was no doubt Obama was born in Hawaii.

That's a US Senator we're talking about, not some wingnut talk radio "entertainer." But then, Shelby's been making no sense for a long time and his economic incoherence is more obvious by the day. (He's no better on national security.)

Between Jindahl, Barbour and Shelby, the Southern Republicans have hit the trifecta. If you live in one of their states and are counting on getting through this economic crisis with even the shirts on your backs, you probably need to think about relocating.

From TPM here ("Grandstanding Jindal").

As you can see in our feature story about Louisiana Gov. Jindal refusing $98 million of the stimulus money headed for his state, that amounts to under 2% of the total money Louisiana will be receiving. So not exactly going out on a limb. We were all set to have that be our headline. But what's less clear is how much of the total $7.68 billion his state is getting he's in a position to turn down. A lot of it doesn't go through him in the first place. So we felt compelled to leave it implicitly clear that Jindal had apparently found the ideal number that would give him some shred of credibility with the neo-Hooverite right while also allowing him to get through his term as governor without getting impeached.

Paul Krugman smacks down George Will

From Firedoglake here.

Poor George Will. It happened again.

Engrossed in his own pontificating, watch as he triumphantly punctuates his Very Important Insight Of The Day with professorial hand gestures and his "I'm. Smarter. Than You." cadence. You can feel the self-satisfaction, the preening. "I just got that fancy pants Roubini to nod approvingly!"

Then Professor Krugman brings the hammer.

Schools him like a sophomore. Waves off his objection. . . .

(Bad link to Novak piece. Beware!)


Quick change artists

(You may have seen this one.)

Terry Fator, ventriloquist

'Please don't divorce us'


"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

Saturday night late

Had a really good day today.

Health care industry in talks to shape U.S. policy

It appears universal health care is going to happen, with a mandate that everyone be covered (something more akin to Hillary's plan). Only with everyone being required to have health coverage can the insurance companies expect to make any money off this, especially since they'll have to cover people with "pre-existing conditions," i.e., sick people. See full story here.

Since last fall, many of the leading figures in the nation's long-running health care debate have been meeting secretly in a Senate hearing room. Now, with the blessing of the Senate's leading proponent of universal health insurance, Edward Kennedy, they appear to be inching toward a consensus that could reshape the debate.

Many of the parties, from big insurance companies to lobbyists for consumers, doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, are embracing the idea that comprehensive health care legislation should include a requirement that every American carry insurance.

While not all industry groups are in complete agreement, there is enough of a consensus, according to people who have attended the meetings, that they have begun to tackle the next steps: how to enforce the requirement for everyone to have health insurance; how to make insurance affordable to the uninsured; and whether to require employers to help buy coverage for their employees. . . .

While President Barack Obama is not directly represented in the talks, the White House has been kept informed and is encouraging the Senate effort as a way to get the ball rolling on health legislation. . . .

The ideas discussed include a proposal to penalize people who fail to comply with the "individual obligation" to have insurance. . . .

The proposal for an individual mandate was one of the few policy disagreements between Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton in their fight for the Democratic presidential nomination. She wanted to require everyone to have and maintain insurance. He said he wanted to "ensure affordable coverage for all," but would initially apply the mandate only to children. . . .

Their motives vary. Some say the moment to overhaul the health care system has arrived because of a confluence of events, including Obama's election, the growing number of uninsured and the relentless increase in health costs. Some want to protect the interests of their members and could ultimately oppose the legislation, depending on its details. . . .

James Gelfand, senior manager of health policy at the United States Chamber of Commerce, said: "Forcing individuals to purchase insurance in the current market would be a disaster. Before we even have that discussion, we need to make health care more affordable and improve its quality."

The current efforts contrast with the Clinton administration's approach in 1993-4. The Clinton White House demonized health insurance companies, accusing them of "price gouging" and profiteering. Kennedy is trying to keep insurers and other stakeholders talking together in the same room. Getting affordable health insurance is now a top priority for small-business owners, who helped kill the Clinton plan. . . .

A business lobbyist involved in the talks said: "The lack of acrimony, the air of cooperation toward a common end, is quite refreshing. If the Republicans were a party to these intense discussions, that would ease the path to enacting health care reform." . . .

Many businesses, crushed by soaring health costs, say they now support changes in the health care system as a way to control their costs. But in its summary of the recent discussions, Kennedy's office said, "There was little consensus on the employers' role."

Many insurance executives say they are willing to accept stricter regulation, including a requirement to offer coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions, if the federal government requires everyone to have coverage. . . .

Business Update: A rough week

How bank nationalization would work

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Beautiful day in the neighborhood

Perfect weather today. 69 F. with scattered clouds.

Looking east from the terrace, with the strip of Miami Beach in the background.

Looking west. The sun is a white speck in the lower right, beneath the palm frond.

Shepard Fairey

He's the guy who created the Obama posters. See here and here.

I have this sticker on my truck.

TGIF

Tired. No let-up at work today. Came home, napped, went to the gym, had a tea across the street while reading an article on Donald Barthelme (article not available at The New Yorker without subscription). I never read him but I don't think I'd like him (judging by the excerpts in the article). This from Wikipedia:

Barthelme's stories typically avoid traditional plot structures, relying instead on a steady accumulation of seemingly-unrelated detail. By subverting the reader's expectations through constant non sequiturs, Barthelme creates a hopelessly fragmented verbal collage reminiscent of such modernist works as T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land and James Joyce's Ulysses, whose linguistic experiments he often challenged.

I found this excerpt that was included in the New Yorker article:

The judicial form contemplated in the agreement is that of a free trade zone to be transformed gradually into a customs union. As Emile Myerson has said, "L'homme fait de la métaphysique comme il respire, sans le vouloir et surtout sans s'en douter la plupart du temps." No woman is worth more than 24 cattle, Pamela Odede B.A.'s father said. With this album Abbey Lincoln's stature as one of the great jazz singers of our time is confirmed, Laura La Plante said. Widely used for motors, power tools, lighting, TV, etc. Generator output: 3500 watts, 115/230 volt, 60 cy., AC, continuous duty. Max. 230 V capacitor motor, loaded on starting -- 1/2 hp; unloaded on starting -- 2 hp. Control box mounts starting switch, duplex 115 V receptacle for standard or 3-conductor grounding plugs, tandem 230 V grounding receptacles, and wing nut battery terminals. More than six hundred different kinds of forceps have been invented. Let's not talk about the lion, she said. Wilson looked over at her without smiling and now she smiled at him. This process uses a Lincoln submerged arc welding head to run both inside and outside beads automatically. The rate of progress during the first stage will determine the program to be followed in the second stage. The Glamour editor whose name was Tutti Beale "moved in." What's your name girl? she said coolly. Carola Mitt, Carola Mitt said. The Viennese Opera Ball continued.

This is crap, or to be more charitable, not my taste in literature. As Paul Verlaine wrote: "L'art tout d'abord doit être et paraître sincère / Et clair, absolument: c'est la loi nécessaire /Et dure . . . ." ("Straightaway, art must be and appear sincere and clear, absolutely: that's the necessary and hard [or tough] law . . . .")

Socks: The video

San Francisco man faces fallout from 'Wife Swap'

Full AP story here.

It's safe to say Stephen Fowler probably wishes he never appeared on "Wife Swap."

Fowler's stint on the ABC reality show last month, in which he called a rural Missouri woman spending two weeks in his San Francisco home stupid and simple, has made him famous in the worst way.

His performance has inspired a Web site, StephenFowlerSucks.com, a Facebook group, "I Can not Stand Stephen Fowler from 'Wife Swap,'" and public condemnation by his own wife, who on her blog urged him to get professional help.

What has generated such wrath is Fowler's condescending treatment of Gayla Long, a mother of four from rural Missouri whose family likes fast food and paintball. In wince-producing remarks, Fowler, who is British, wrote off middle America with such pronouncements as "Your two languages seem to be bad English and redneck."

Three weeks later, Fowler's "Wife Swap" antics are still a YouTube sensation, with at least 10 postings from the show's Jan. 30 episode displayed on the Web site, most with headings such as "ridiculous elitist" and "elitists gone wild." . . .

It really is bad. Watch below.

Socks, the Clintons' White House cat, dies

Complete AP story here. (For further details, see here.)

Socks, the White House cat during the Clinton administration who waged war on Buddy the pup, has died. He was around 18.

Socks had lived with Bill Clinton's secretary, Betty Currie, in Hollywood, Md., since the Clintons left the White House in early 2001.

Currie confirmed Socks' death Friday evening and said she was "heartbroken." She did not give details, referring calls to the Clinton Foundation office. . . .

Socks had reached his late teens -- an advanced age for a cat -- when reports surfaced in late 2008 that he had cancer and Currie had ruled out invasive efforts to prolong his life. . . .

Socks was what feline-lovers call a tuxedo cat -- mostly black with white down the front and belly and on his feet, suggesting a fashionable dandy in a black satin evening jacket with a snowy shirt peeping out. He had markings that looked a bit like a mustache and goatee. . . .

After the Clintons left in early 2001, Socks moved in with Currie. Buddy, meanwhile, made the move with the Clintons to Chappaqua, N.Y., but he was struck and killed by a car the following year. . . .

Bootsy tonight

Friday, February 20, 2009

Thursday night

Have a good night.

P.S. Today when I got to work, I had a voice-mail message from the plumbing inspector, from yesterday morning (at 7:52 and I was up at 7:30), saying he was coming to inspect the plumbing in the kitchen and verifying that I would be here to meet him. (As you know, he didn't show yesterday.) So it turns out that Home Depot's general contractor had given the inspection department my work number to call while I was here at home waiting all day long for inspector. How dumb is that. Today I faxed a memo to Home Depot with a copy to a lawyer and the Customer Service people in Atlanta. Basically, I took a day off for nothing (except to pay the electrician's bill).

I've been told that Home Depot is no longer dealing with this general contractor.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Va. inmate forcibly carried to death chamber

Not only is the death penalty not a deterrent, but sometimes innocent people get killed (I don't know whether that's the case here, since I haven't followed this.) So why have it? For "closure" for the family of the victim? Is that moral? (We're talking about state-sanctioned murder.) Full AP story here.

An inmate declared his innocence Thursday after he was forcibly carried into Virginia's death chamber, where he was executed for gunning down a police officer. . . .

"To the Timbrook family, you definitely have the wrong person," Bell said in the death chamber, addressing the victim's family. "The truth will come out one day. This here, killing me, there's no justice about it." . . .

"Eddie's case is an example of how the system does not catch and correct errors," said attorney James G. Connell III.

Bell, 43, was condemned for shooting Winchester police Sgt. Ricky Timbrook as the officer chased him down a dark alley on Oct. 29, 1999. . . .

Bell was the 103rd Virginia inmate executed since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. Virginia ranks second only to Texas in the number of executions since then.

I attended college there for two years and have family there going way back. "Virginia [was] for lovers" at the time. (What would Jesus say now?)

'MT Senate Passes Bill Abolishing Death Penalty'

I lived in Montana for a couple of years, to be with someone I'd met at my alma mater. Had a nice job there in the State Capitol, my first "real" job out of college. Montana was progressive then. (My ex was from Missoula, across the Continental Divide from Helena.) From Talk Left here.

Good news out of Montana: The state senate passed a bill abolishing the death penalty.

With a 27 to 23 vote, Montana State senators on Tuesday approved a bill that would abolish capital punishment. Montana is one of 36 states that currently has the death penalty and bill sponsor, Democrat Dave Wanzenried of Missoula, hopes that will change. His bill would replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole. . . .

Wanzenried says the death penalty is not a deterrent to murder and cited neighboring state North Dakota having a lower homicide rate with no death penalty.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wednesday night -- open thread

So you know what I did tonight. I should add that I met B. at that place on W. Dixie. I'll also add that I didn't go to the gym, as planned. I figured I got enough exercise last night, cleaning.

So now it's clean enough and I'll have the manager let the inspectors in. I'm glad she provides that service. Taking time off from work to wake up early and sit around and wait is not a desirable use of my time off. Especially when (a) one of the inspections isn't necessary since it's already been done, and (b) the inspector for the necessary inspection doesn't show up at all. At least I got the electrical bill paid, under protest. I did what Home Depot told me to do and we'll go over the bill next week.

I thought it was interesting that the electrician supervisor didn't leave me a copy of the itemized bill, even though he showed it to me and we went over it. The electrical contractor had sent this guy in solely to pressure me into paying their bill--even though I'm supposed to pay bills through the store's kitchen expediter and not deal directly with the subcontractors. I looked through the papers after they left, and there was no copy of the itemized bill. I'll bring this up with the District Services Manager when he gets back from vacation. Meanwhile I'll call the electrical people tomorrow and try to get a fax of the itemized bill. We'll see what they say. I don't trust them. Look at the way they immediately (without question) knocked off over $200 after I pointed out a discrepancy in their own paperwork.

I'm glad this is (almost) over. I'm not cheap but I'm not going to let someone try to take advantage of me, and these people are shady. But the work they did seems to be adequate and "up to code."

Wednesday night - Slum boy edition

According to Nate Silver on Keith Olbermann's show tonight, "Slumdog Millionaire" is going to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Tonight I finished reading an article in The New Yorker ("Opening Night" by Katherine Boo) about the real life of an impoverished teenage boy (turned thief) living in a slum of Mumbai, outside the airport. Toward the end of the article, which I don't believe is available online, there's this (I'm typing it):

Sunil knew nothing of the movie that ends with an airport-slum boy finding money, love, and fame. However, he might have recognized one of the movie's conceits: that deprivation may give a child a certain intelligence. The other conceit -- that a child's specific miserable experiences might be the things to spring him from his deprivation -- was a lie. It was the movie version of the electrified fence. The women who had been manicured and exfoliated and blown out would linger at the premiere past 1 A.M., then head to the after party at the JW Marriott. They could relax, not just because the film about the slum boy had a happy ending but because the boy's suffering had been part of the solution. . . .

Earlier in the article:

This was the marvel of many great twenty-first-century cities, including New York and Washington, whose levels of inequality now match those of Abidjan and Nairobi.

'Dixie Lounge'

A couple of years ago, the nearest gay bar closed down. It had been in decline for a number of years, and then a bartender was shot and killed in a senseless robbery and the place went kaput. It was about a five minutes' drive from here and I'd been stopping in there for years and had a lot of buddies there. It was located on W. Dixie Highway, but originally located on U.S. 1, just north of 135th Street (now a BankUnited parking lot). It was the only gay bar around. I really miss the place and seeing "my people."

Someone recently told me that the space on W. Dixie had reopened, so tonight I was in the neighborhood and drove by and got out of the car. The place was named the "Dixie Lounge; Sports Bar." The outside lights were on and there was a sign on the door advertising Happy Hour till 8:00, seven days a week. "Sports bar" of course means straight bar, but I wanted to peek inside just the same. I walked up to the door, and it was locked (I tried it again, and it was locked). I guess the place didn't make it.

It was kind of sad, but I'm glad I went by there, just to satisfy my curiosity. I'd hoped that I would open the door and see some of my old buddies sitting inside, like the "good old days," but no.

Obama's new homeowner rescue plan


Later that same day...

The plumbing inspector never showed up! I talked to the building manager here, and she said she lets inspectors into the units all the time, during office hours (9:00 a.m. - 4:30). I then called the general contractor and asked them to re-schedule the inspection for another day, after 9:00, and they said OK. And then she can schedule the final building inspection likewise, unless there's some compelling reason for me to be here. Hopefully no more days off for Home Depot! Yay!

'Greenspan backs bank nationalisation'

Story here via TPM.

The US government may have to nationalise some banks on a temporary basis to fix the financial system and restore the flow of credit, Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, has told the Financial Times.

In an interview, Mr Greenspan, who for decades was regarded as the high priest of laisser-faire capitalism, said nationalisation could be the least bad option left for policymakers.

”It may be necessary to temporarily nationalise some banks in order to facilitate a swift and orderly restructuring,” he said. “I understand that once in a hundred years this is what you do.”

Mr Greenspan’s comments capped a frenetic day in which policymakers across the political spectrum appeared to be moving towards accepting some form of bank nationalisation.

“We should be focusing on what works,” Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, told the FT. “We cannot keep pouring good money after bad.” He added, “If nationalisation is what works, then we should do it.” . . .

Also see here ("Political Cover from Greenspan") and here ("Sen. Graham defends view on nationalizing banks").

Wednesday afternoon

No inspectors yet.

[Later...] The electrician came at around 1:00, followed by the inspector and a supervisor from the electrical contractor. It turns out that the final inspection had already been done (in November!). The electrician said the city must not have entered it in their computer. But when I called the city myself a couple of days ago, I said the electric had already been inspected twice, but the lady said, yes, but those were rough inspections. I don't think they know what they're doing. The inspector himself said today that the final inspection had already been done. On the building permit, "ELEC. FINAL" was signed off on 11/13/08.

Now I'm waiting for the plumbing inspector. ("PLBG. FINAL" is not signed off.) I called the city to make sure he's coming, and they said he was scheduled, if he hadn't already been here. I've been up since 7:30, and the city told me the other day that the inspector doesn't leave the HQ to make inspections until 8:00. So he hasn't been here.

I paid the electrician's bill. I pointed out that they charged $488 for something they said (in writing) that they "usually" charge $266 for, so they subtracted $488 and charged $266. The total bill came out to around $2,200. I'm still going to question another $488 charge. Why shouldn't that be $266 too? (These are for installing separate circuits for the dishwasher and the microwave.) Why should one be over $200 higher than the other?

"Burger King Exposed"


Wednesday morning

You'll rarely see me post in the morning, unless it's in the wee hours.

Having a Tennessee Pride sausage biscuit and waiting for inspectors now.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tuesday night

I guess I'm ready for the inspectors. Spent the last 1 1/2 hours cleaning. Vacuumed and scrubbed floors. Also washed throw rugs and some laundry. The kitchen and guest bathroom in particular are almost spotless (by my standards, at least). Had a tall Earl Grey tea at Starbucks first, to get motivated. Got some exercise. Now tomorrow I have to get up earlier than usual to begin waiting for people to show up. Actually I'm excited.

I'm not naturally motivated to clean floors, but I will rise the occasion. Now I have to clean the floors that these guys won't see (e.g., in the bedrooms).

Home Depot was very helpful today. I'd been a little panicky, since the electrician called me again today about paying their bill tomorrow at the inspection. Home Depot told me to go ahead and pay whatever the electrician says; any disputes can be resolved after the fact, when the District Services Manager comes back from vacation on Monday. He was supposed to call me three weeks ago to "go over the bill," which is why I was panicky. I even called the lady in Atlanta (and didn't hear back from her). Tomorrow I'm supposed to receive a formal, final bill when the electrical contractor gets here for the inspection. I'm ready for them. The plumbing inspection is in the morning and the electrical in the afternoon. If the inspections pass before 2:30, we can have a final building inspection on Thursday. Yay.

I'm glad I called the City of North Miami this morning, since I found out that the inspections had been cancelled. The general contractor cleared that up right away, however, after I called them. I don't think they know what they're doing (which is why I made sure to call the City myself to confirm, since I'm taking precious days off from work here). The kitchen designer had told me a while back that Home Depot is no longer contracting with this company.

P.S. I hid the Peugeot salt and pepper mills, in case anyone might be tempted to steal them. These are my new babies.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday night

Slow news day, as they say.

Shopping and preparing the soup took longer than I'd planned, so no gym tonight. It's a holiday anyway. Best split-pea soup I've ever made, although I always make basically the same recipe (from Joy of Cooking). The peas didn't need soaking, so first I made a stock with 8 cups of water and two smoked ham hocks I had in the freezer. When the stock was ready, I removed the hocks and added the split peas, onions, carrots, celery, etc. and cooked till the peas were done (only 1/2 hour). Toward the end I added chopped fresh garlic and thyme. Then I removed it from the heat and pureed it with a hand blender, blending in 2 TB gravy flour (Wondra), and let that thicken back over low heat. Meanwhile I fried up a large ham steak and then trimmed and chopped it into cubes and added it to the pot, along with the juices and deglazed "fond" (brown stuff) from the frying pan. Had two bowls for dinner with a few roasted-garlic whole-grain Melba toast rounds on the side. Excellent. Will take some of the soup to work tomorrow for lunch.

(All the pork notwithstanding, this has to be a pretty healthy dish, and I trim the ham steak of fat, although it's fairly well marbled. (I do have high "good" cholesterol.) I also ate the marrow out of the bone in the pork steak (as I always do--my father taught me to eat it when I was a child). Then last night I heard on Anthony Bourdain's show that there was a lot of "good" cholesterol in bone marrow, as he was sucking marrow out of bones with a straw in Malaysia or somewhere. Ugh was my initial reaction.)

After dinner, had a green tea at Starbucks while reading this dream-like story by Italo Calvino. The weather was really nice today.

Chelsea Lately on at 11:00. Opening monologue was the best part, with her tribute to Obama on Presidents' Day; Round Table not so great; interview with Aubrey O'Day (never heard of her, but what do I know). (She has a page on Wikipedia.)

Lazy day

Got more sleep than I needed. Made a 3-egg omelet with left-over ham and cheddar cheese (excellent). Finished off the sugar-free coffee ice cream. (No more ice cream for a while, but today was a holiday.) Watched a few episodes of a show I'd never seen before. Pretty interesting, and the host was nice to look at. Learned a new word: "parge" (to apply ornamental or waterproofing plaster to).

It's back to work tomorrow. Gym is open normal hours, so I'll go later. First to the grocery store for stuff to make the split-pea soup.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday night

Had a good day. Haven't left the apartment, unless I count being out on the terrace, where I swept leaves and watered the plants. It was nice out there. The front door is still locked from last night. No need to go out today. Weather cooled down earlier.

Did dishes, paid bills, made dinner -- ham steak and Bush's canned butter beans -- and watched "Desperate Housewives." Pretty good tonight. I especially enjoyed the Eva Longoria material. She was cute and funny. So the screws are turning on crazy Dave, a little slowly, it seems. When are they going to identify the dead doctor's remains from the fire? That's been a while now. (Dave killed him and, we found out tonight, has assumed his identity via the doctor's BlackBerry.) Will Dave kill Mike? He's planning on it. Since Nicollette Sheridan is leaving the show, maybe Dave will end up killing her (i.e., Edie, his wife).

I just found this on Wikipedia: "And according to E! Online Sheridan's character Edie Britt will be killed off the show. 'If there are no script changes, Edie will die before the season ends. She will find out that Dave plans to kill her. When he tries to, Edie escapes only to get involved in an accident that involves her car and an electrical wire.'" Thanks for spoiling it!

I wonder whether HGTV is renewing "The Stagers." I haven't seen any new shows in a while. I think Matthew Finlason is a trip.

Writing went well this afternoon. I wasn't even sure I'd feel like working on the new short story. I made some coffee and held my breath. Actually I'd made a dent yesterday and not even realized it. Yesterday -- Valentine's Day -- was mostly a downer for me.

Cats are doing well. I just tried to take a picture of them snuggling together, but then Bootsy got up to eat.

We have tomorrow off for Presidents' Day. I plan on making a big pot of split pea soup with ham. Then it's back to work on Tuesday, then Wednesday and Thursday off for dreaded kitchen inspections. If those pass, I'll have the place back to myself at last. (The under-mount sink is working fine, by the way. It's finally stopped moving.)

I will get out of the apartment tomorrow, since I need some more groceries to make the soup, plus I need melatonin, which I'm taking now. Nite!

What the states are getting for infrastructure

After California, Texas and New York, Florida is getting the most, ahead of Illinois and Pennsylvania. See here.

Joan Walsh: '"No one's as smart as Rush Limbaugh!"'

Here.

A great way to end a bizarre week: Watch Saturday Night Live's hilarious takedown of Congressional Republican leadership. Dan Ackroyd returned to play John Boehner with Darrell Hammond as Mitch McConnell, and together they lead a debate over who's smarter, Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, ponder whether to impeach Obama now or in April, and plot a creative line of attack against Sasha and Malia Obama, noting "The whole country is waiting to see those kids taken down a peg!"

Enjoy:

This is for real

Late Saturday night -- Gross-out edition

Was about to go to bed earlier but then noticed Bootsy wasn't clean so I had to clean his behind in the bathtub (sorry, Bootsy). I don't think all this canned cat food is good for him. He's way too heavy and lumbers around. I'm going to take him to the vet soon. I just want to hear what the vet has to say before I do anything drastic. Also, Bootsy needs a check-up anyway.

I started amping up the canned cat food when Lucy was sick, trying to get her to eat. Then I kept it up after Lucy died and I got Lucky, since he was still growing, even though he'd been used to eating dry food. Now I think I should amp it down or stop it. I just want to make sure Bootsy's teeth are OK to eat the dry food again. I would think so, since he'll eat it in a pinch.

Lucky was 8 months old last Feb. 2, when he went to the Humane Society. (I adopted him last July.) It's already Feb. 14, 2009. So he's over 20 months old. I would think he's grown to capacity.

The cats won't like it if I start cutting down on the canned food, but let's see what the vet has to say first. Unfortunately, you can't get out of the vet's office nowadays without forking out $100.

P.S. Bootsy is happy I cleaned him up.

Is this for real?

Ryan Seacrest

Katy Perry

Here's the original.

Ivri Lider

What do I know, but I'd never heard of him until tonight. Interesting. A hugely successful, gay Israeli pop singer.

How I found out about him was: tonight I was watching the latest Chelsea Lately show, and Chelsea had singer Katy Perry on as her guest. (Show was really funny, BTW.) Perry is famous for "I Kissed a Girl." I wanted to post a video of her singing the song and found this video by Ivri Lider. Nice. Hope you like it (if you haven't already seen it).

Here's the "Jesse" video.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saturday night

Made it through Valentine's Day, alone.

Fried, Frank Associate Files Complaint Alleging Anti-Gay Discrimination

While we're on the subject of "diversity." Story here.

A former litigation associate at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson has filed a complaint against the firm with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming the firm denied her partnership because she is openly gay before firing her after a mediation last month.

Julie Kamps, a Harvard Law School graduate who joined Fried Frank in 1998, said that during her ten years at the firm, "there has never been more than one openly gay partner and no openly gay partners in the New York litigation department," according to a statement announcing the action. "Fried, Frank's diversity efforts stop at the door to partnership."

A firm spokeswoman did not immediately return a call seeking comment. A call was also placed to Fried, Frank managing partner Justin Spendlove, who was not immediately available for comment.

In an interview, Kamps tells The Am Law Daily the mistreatment began sometime in 2006 but got worse this fall. She says the firm began taking work away from her, leaving her with nothing to do. She declined to comment further on the exact nature of the harassment, saying it would become public when the case goes forward.

In her complaint, she claims the firm was retaliating against her for complaining about the alleged discrimination. Part of that retaliation, she claims, was denying her a promotion to partner even though all her performance reviews were "outstanding."

"I've never been given a reason why I wasn't promoted," she says.

Kamps says firm higher-ups knew she was gay for years, though she's not sure they knew this when they hired her in 1998. . . .

Kamps is listed as a co-author (along with a Fried, Frank partner) on at least two pieces recently written for the New York Law Journal . . . .

'Lesson Learned?'

From Todd Beeton at MyDD.

The Wall St. Journal reports on an interview with Rahm Emanuel in which he concedes that striving for bipartisanship derailed the administration's stimulus message.

Mr. Emanuel owned up to one mistake: message. What he called the outside game slipped away from the White House last week, when the president and others stressed bipartisanship rather than job creation as they moved toward passing the measure. White House officials allowed an insatiable desire in Washington for bipartisanship to cloud the economic message a point coming clear in a study being conducted on what went wrong and what went right with the package, he said.

But, he said, Washington should have learned something about Mr. Obama as well, with the shift from bipartisan overtures to outright mockery of his opposition.

He has an open hand, Mr. Emanuel said. But he has a very firm handshake.

Of course, in the same interview, Emanuel insisted that the president would continue to reach out to Republicans. "That will not change," he said.

OK, well what I hope does change is the prioritizing of this cute little hobby of his. Bipartisanship for its own sake, which, let's face it, is what the president has been engaging in (lacking any cooperation from the other side) should not trump making good policy. Yes, Republican input is welcome and their votes would be lovely, even beyond the very few that are necessary for passage, but not at the cost of the agenda that was ratified by the American people in the landslide last November.

But just in case the administration needs a reminder, Think Progress documents the bipartisan outreach by Obama and what he got in return . . . .

On Countdown just now, Eugene Robinson expressed his expectation that the message Rahm Emanuel is sending here is, as Keith put it:

"Burn me once, shame on you, burn me twice...that's not going to happen."

Let's hope so.

Stimulus bill passes: The video

TGIF

Chilling out and half-watching HGTV's "Dream Home."

The give-away house this year is in Sonoma, California. I was there a couple of years ago with B., on a tour of the wine country, with one side of my face swollen out the size of a grapefruit. I'd woken up that morning with an abscessed tooth but wasn't about to cancel the tour. Afterwards I went straight to a dentist next door to our guesthouse on Castro Street (just north of Market) (the "Inn on Castro") and was prescribed some penicillin and a painkiller (Vicodin), which made me nauseated. I stopped taking that--I didn't need it anyway--and enjoyed the rest of our vacation.

It was a really nice tour, in a minibus, narrated by the driver. Not a lot of people. The bus left early in the morning from Fisherman's Wharf. Too bad I wasn't in the mood for much wine-tasting, plus I was very self-conscious about the way I looked. I'd never had that before. B. had a nice time, however. I hope he remembers it. (And he did pay his half of the vacation).

So they're using Silestone quartz for the kitchen counters in the Dream Home, and not granite. I used Silestone here.

Bootsy and Lucky were playing rough tonight. Actually, Lucky was going after Bootsy, right for the throat. I broke it up a couple of times. I felt bad for Bootsy since he's getting older and appears to be put off by it. Bootsy will counter-attack, however, but mostly he prefers to lie at my feet these days. I felt bad tonight when I stepped on his tail, but I couldn't see it against the black throw rug under the computer.

Lucky has sharp teeth (and so does Bootsy). I've refrained from rough-housing with Lucky myself, as I'd rather not go to work with bloody bite marks on my arm.

The illustration is of the Inn on Castro. B. and I stayed there twice, both times during the week of Labor Day. There was no smoking allowed in the guesthouse, so I spent a lot of time sitting out on the front steps at night, and it's nippy even at that time of year. No air conditioning needed, which is great, but then there's the street noise at all hours of the night in "the Castro." B. and I stayed in a room with a window facing the internal courtyard and slept well. Also they supplied earplugs.

See how steep Castro Street is in front of the Inn? There it's declining southward toward Market Street, not even a half a block down. We got a lot of good exercise.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

'Up Out of a Macro-Economic Dark Age'

Full post at Firedoglake here.

Paul Krugman has said we are living in a "Macroëconomic dark ages" where knowledge of the past is "being lost." Specifically he points out how long exploded fallacies are being offered up as deep scholarly truths. To be a classicist for a moment, there was, in fact, a Dark Ages during the Bronze Age when the Greeks lost their knowledge of writing. It was during this post-literate era that Homeric poetry came into being. It was part of a larger transition to the iron age. The fall of Rome hasn't been the only fall from light.

He repeated those points at the Thinking Big conference yesterday. Which featured a double barreled blast of the case for economic sanity. Highlights included Robert Borosage making a persuasive case that there is no going back to the "old economy" and Larry Mishel laying out how insecurity and broken labor markets have left us at the edge of the precipice. The idea that public good led to higher incomes was something known to "The New Liberalism" of the late 19th century, [not to mention] the 20th century.

There is empirical evidence from politics of how badly confused the American public is. While as much as 80% of the American public wants some kind of stimulus bill passed, the support for the stimulus bill being placed before them hovers in the mid-fifties. What makes this a sign of an economic dark age is the internals of that number. Only 51% of people in the Gallup poll thought a stimulus bill was "critically" important, and Rasmussen's tracking poll has support improving but at 44%, still below half of the American public. What's interesting is that 55% of Americans fear the bill is "too large." The reality is that the stimulus bill, as written right now, is almost certainly too small.

What is going on here is the "family budget fallacy." This is when people look at a national budget, and think as if it is their family budget. They think of family income, which they cannot do much to improve, and think that the country is the same way. Income rains down from someplace else, and if times are bad, the only thing to do is cut, cut, cut, and cut some more. However, this is exactly wrong. A country as a whole has a potential earning power; when output falls well below that number, borrowing to boost it back up increases the total income of the nation. The output that is created would not have happened otherwise. . . .

Friday night

Today at work we had over three hours of mandatory diversity training. I can't say that I gained a lot from it, but the (free) deli sandwiches and pasta salad were good. Also had a brownie but ended up removing the chocolate chips. Apparently some people think you can't get enough chocolate in something that's already chocolate, but I prefer walnuts in my brownies.

Home Depot called this morning to schedule final kitchen inspections. Electrical and plumbing inspections are scheduled for Wednesday. If they pass, there's a building inspection on Thursday. If they don't pass, more work will have to be done and new inspections scheduled. Let's hope they pass.

Yesterday I had early-morning voice messages from the electrical contractor about paying the final bill (which I'd questioned). The District Services Manager had told me over two weeks ago that he would call me to "go over" the bill and hasn't called. So yesterday I called the kitchen expediter and the designer and was able to talk with them. The District Services Manager is supposed to get back with me (he didn't call today, so let's see what happens tomorrow). Home Depot has told me not to pay the contractors directly.

I hate taking time off for these inspections, since I have to wake up even earlier than I normally would and then sit around, for hours usually. It's a waste of my vacation days and more stress than work, actually. But this is almost over.

Lately I've been OD'ing on Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow (not to mention the usual news) and getting all riled up about the financial crisis (to-wit, the wannabe Rockefellers on Wall Street). I'm still riled up but certainly won't let it destroy me. I can't do anything about it myself, and it appears to be under control (or at least way up in the public consciousness). Now back to watching HGTV. More placid.

Wednesday night

Back at gym tonight, then made big roast beef sandwich to take to work tomorrow. This sirloin tip roast is pretty good.

Today I found out that one of my co-workers lost her mother Monday night. So sorry. I lost my own mother over 20 years ago and I was a mess. She was only a week shy of turning 60. But, as I've related here, I now dream about her all the time. We were very close and still are, in a sense.

Merrill Lynch showers $3.6 billion in bonuses before takeover by B of A

$3.6 billion? Unbelievable. I heard on another program tonight that that's more than we give the entire continent of Africa in financial aid. (AC360 had a really good report on the bonuses but I can't get it.) These people are taking taxpayer money for their failure and destruction of our economy and meanwhile rewarding themselves billions. They just don't get it. They don't deserve this money and should pay it back, even if it means tightening their own belts and getting rid of the house in the Hamptons and some of their other perks. This is outrageous.

I'm glad it's coming to light and something's being done about it. These Rockefeller wannabes must get real.