Thursday, December 31, 2009

Rush Limbaugh Deathwatch

Early reports had him actually dead, which means he likely suffered a very serious attack before they were able to clamp him down with bungee cords to use the AED. I wonder what whaling vessel they called in?
But I digress.
Perhaps the time has come to pronounce Limbaugh "all but dead" and to determine what he will leave in his wake, besides a steaming trail of slug slime?
There's a small part of me, a very Christian, liberal part of me, that likes to think that deep down inside Rush is a scared little boy. You see, twenty, twenty-five years ago, this slug of a man, this Jabba The Nut, emerged with a shtick that saw him alter the reality of political talk in America, changed the direction of a major political party, and became a gravimetric force for evil.
Half-jokingly, so he could maintain the veneer of "comedian," Limbaugh launched anger as a weapon in the national political dialogue. Not that this hadn't happened before, Father Coughlin springs to mind, but the hatred that Coughlin spewed was not so much anti-American ideals as just random hatred.
Limbaugh, on the other hand, just hated that he was behind the times, and since he couldn't muster the effort to keep up, he set out to deliberately drag the nation back to him. It wasn't about advancing a political agenda. It was about self-promotion.
In that respect, Limbaugh had no qualms about stepping over boundaries that anyone who actually loved a nation would never set foot near, accusing anyone and everyone of being a Nazi or a commie, or an Islamofascist, or worse...a liberal!
"Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. Liberals created Medicare. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act. What did Conservatives do? They opposed them on every one of those things...every one! So when you try to hurl that label at my feet, 'Liberal,' as if it were something to be ashamed of, something dirty, something to run away from, it won't work, Senator, because I will pick up that label and I will wear it as a badge of honor." -- Matt Santos, The West Wing
Rush conveniently forgets that, if not for liberals, Rush himself would be begging loose change in exchange for butt-fucks in the Kansas City railway station. Rush, you see, the bastion of conservative, up-by-the-boot-straps, rock-ribbed self-sufficiency, was on both welfare and unemployment insurance.
But now this hatred Limbaugh has spewed all over the land, this sludge of toxic waste, has morphed into something that, if it had been submitted to DC Comics, would have been laughed out of the office, and if it had been submitted to Mad Magazine, would have been met with stone-cold silence in its unbelievability.
Consider the birther movement. Consider the teabaggers. Consider the hatred spewing from the extreme right wing like an oil gusher that has not yet been capped.
I think Rush is terrified. I suspect it is this deep deep fear in him that forces him to marry every five years, to bloat up like a corpse in a cesspool, stopping only to blurt out what now sounds like almost moderate venom. He sees that the monster he has unleashed threatens to tear apart the very party he claims allegiance to, the party he claims he would like to see leading this nation. He sees that party slide into a cartoonish obscurity of obsolescence and obscenity. And with each passing election, he watches the internal strife of moderates versus radicals become more and more obvious, more and more spiteful, more and more divisive. And he watches his party become a footnote to history because of what he instigated.
He's lost the spotlight.
I don't give him much time.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Right To Primacy

I have long believed, ever since Amy Carter, that the minor children of politicians should remain off-limits until they become of age. I didn't care much for the jokes about Jenna and Not-Jenna in the first Bush term, certainly I was disgusted when Rush Limbaugh called Chelsea Clinton "The White House Dog," and I'm pleased to see the right wing has kept hands off Sasha and Malia Obama.
Mostly. I'm not aware of any outright major blogging with respect to them and a quick Google search uncovers only the Beanie Babies controversy from February.
So it's with trepidation that I approach the news yesterday that Bristol Palin lost her fight to keep the records of her custody fight with Levi Johnston private.
See, Bristol Palin presents a problem: on the one hand, she was a minor when she was dragged out of the Arctic obscurity of Wassilla into the hot lights of the Minneapolis mayhem, and her private pain fully disclosed.
On the other, she presents prima facie evidence of at least Sarah Palin's inability to keep her own house in order, much less take over the White House.
My suspicion here is there's a reverse-discrimination issue at play, at least as far as the Chris Crocker wing of the GOP is concerned: after all, none of them had any problem when Al Gore's son was arrested for possession, calling that an example of the poor family values of the liberal Democratic party.
My instincts tell me that Bristol's name ought to be kept off the lawsuit. It's too late now, of course. Even if the ruling was reversed, it wouldn't take much to figure out which court docket was hers and to publish the details from it.
Which leads me to the dilemma. Legally, there is no question that the public's right to know is far smaller than the right to privacy that Tripp Palin is entitled to, and this is a nation of laws.
On the other hand, there's the whole nasty issue of Sarah Palin's exploitation of Tripp Palin. That cannot be ignored or denied, and that complicates the legal issue.
Part of Johnston's fight has been to protect his public image, which is his right to privacy such as he can maintain and the right to go about doing his business, whether it's being a public figure (which appears to be his destiny, however pathetic that career will be), from the smears and slanders of another public figure, Sarah Palin.
To privatize the records of these hearings is to shackle Johnston's hands from protecting himself. Indeed, his filings in this matter speak to that:
In an affidavit, he [Johnston] says he wants the case to be open to "public scrutiny as a check against anyone's need to be overly vindictive, aggressive or malicious." He adds that he's referring not to Bristol but to her mom.
Clearly, there are no winners here, only losers, especially Tripp. My suspicion is the testimony and evidence presented at the trial will speak to both sides of the family being rather...ugly...with perhaps Bristol the only one coming out of it with any chance of an improved public image.
Sarah Palin will be forced to spin, spin, spin mightily the testimony. That Johnston has already landed a few pre-emptive blows in his interviews with regards to how Palin behaved behind the scenes tells me that's about all he was allowed to say by his lawyers, and that there's more, much more, to come.
Which would be consistent with her harping image from the campaig trail, the "pitbull with lipstick" writ small.
For my part, I'll likely ignore the trial, except to note when there will be real damage to Palin's Presidential aspirations.
But she really only has herself to blame for that. She could have been a better parent.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Devil In The Details

When you bargain with the devil, sometimes you win. Most times, he wins.
You may recall back in '06 when Howard Dean decided to revitalize the party by energizing the machinery in all 50 states, regardless of traditional voting patterns. Everyone thought it was brilliant, because hey, it was Howard Dean. I thought it was idiotic.
But the results of the 2006 and 2008 Congressional and Presidential elections proved me wrong. Sort of.
Unfortunately, it has brought front and center the very wing of the Democratic party that we need to continue to run the country and there's the rub:

Before 2009, most Americans never heard of Sens. Ben Nelson, Max Baucus or Kent Conrad. More have heard of the Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman as a result of his Democratic vice presidential bid in 2000.

Yet now they are the movers and shakers in the Senate. Anyone who follows politics knows exactly who they are. It could not be further from 2005 when Nicholas Confessore in The New York Times wrote that "centrist Democrats today struggle with an unfriendly environment."

Throughout the Senate debate over health care, the centrists repeatedly forced the president's hand by insisting on changes to the legislation that made Obama's liberal base furious and which will constrain the impact of this legislation. Health care was the second major victory for centrists this year. They also were able to cut down the size of the economic stimulus bill back in February 2008.

Despite the poutrage from the liberal community, this is a simple fact: we can't run a 50 state strategy if we're going to lose the Baucuses, Nelsons and Conrads of the nation. How easy would it be to say to a voter in, say, Colorado "See what them libs did to Lieberman" and scare off a potential vote?
Let's turn back to CNN for a moment:

Why is this small group of senators so influential and will this change? The first reason has to do with the nature of the Democratic Party. Democrats have never been as ideologically disciplined as the Republicans, and they have been less successful containing party differences.[...]

The second factor behind the new kings of the hill has to do with the sharpening of the partisan divide on Capitol Hill. The impact of growing party polarization since the 1970s has meant that winning votes from the other party is extraordinarily difficult. Except for rare moments, neither party can count on winning significant blocks of votes from the other side of the aisle.[...]

Finally, institutions matter. The U.S. now has a Senate that operates as a supermajority. The Senate now requires 60 votes on any piece of legislation given that senators are willing to use the filibuster on almost any bill. If the majority party needs 60 votes to pass a bill, and it can't win votes from the other side, a handful of moderates wield tremendous power.

Expanding a voter base is a lot like breaking ground in a garden. You have to work the soil, amend it, fertilize it, then you can seed. Once you can begin growing things, you can thin and weed out the garden, thus insuring a healthier crop.
The basic flaw in the strategy of Karl Rove's attempt at a permanent Republican majority was in underestimating the ground that was shifting underneath him. He believed it was more solid than it was, but in point of fact, the number of solidly blue or red districts (much less states) in the nation is very small. And as CNN points out, generally you can count on 45% of any district to go Democratic, 45% to go Republican, meaning you are scrambling for less than ten percent of the vote.
Unless you can alter your party's image sufficiently that you can peel off voters from the other party who are frustrated with the lack of response from their own party. This is how Obama won in 2008. It wasn't the liberals that got him elected, altho the youth vote was a large factor.
Instead, it was the perception that he was not a radical Muslim liberal hippie pinko commie Volvo driver. Why do you think the radical ight chose the ridiculous tropes they did, day in and day out, to stain the man? 
And it's funny how our side missed that message completely, while the other voters got it almost from day one (and certainly the day after McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate).
So for now, we're stuck with these guys. If you read on in the linked article at CNN, you'll find the three options Obama and the party leadership have for dealing with them. If we as liberals are truly interested in helping this administration, we'll opt for Number Two:

The second option would be to use the power of the bully pulpit, as well as the famous but now forgotten campaign network from 2008, to go into the states of these senators and build grassroots pressure to vote with the party. Thus far, the president has been hesitant to take this path.

What if, rather than waiting for his instruction, we lifted the burden off his shoulders for him? You know, the man's a little busy and right now needs these guys but if we can get underneath their pins and start to push outward, they might decide they need to shift left a little in order to shore up their chances of winning re-election.
After all, ain't that what it all comes down to? It's all fine and dandy to have campaign money flowing in from corporations, but if you have no office, that tap gets shut off faster than beer in a Prohibition raid.
Ay, but then, the devil's in the details. How many of us really care that much?

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Modest Proposal

Little noticed in the hoopla over the failed terrorism attempt of Christmas Day, with the concurrent fingerpointing (these rules were instituted under the Bush administration, something jackasses like Rep. Peter King (R-Frontrunning Poser) seem to forget) was an item that made me think a little:
WUHAN, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) -- The Wuhan-Guangzhou high-speed railway with the world's fastest train journey at a 350-km-per-hour designed speed, started operation Saturday.

    Two passenger trains rolled out the Wuhan Railway Station and Guangzhou North Railway Station at about 9 a.m. and reached the terminals within three hours, compared with the previous 10 and a half hours.

    The service between Wuhan, a metropolis in central China, and Guangzhou City, a business hub in the southern Guangdong Province, was put into trial operation on Dec. 9, reaching a maximum speed of 394.2 km (ed. note: roughly 250 miles) per hour.

Not quite as fast as a jet airplane, but no one drove a train into the 90th floor of the World Trade Center, either. And given the delays in airline terminals sure to arise from this incident, bullet trains might begin to make more sense.
Several reasons drive train travel in Europe and Asia that seem not to affect Americans: higher fuel prices due to government taxes, shorter distances between hub cities, less developed road systems (really, the Autobahn and perhaps Englands motorways are about the closest any nation comes to the US interstate highway system) creating slower speeds and longer travel times, among other reasons.
Indeed, China may be the only nation who suffers from both the need to have citizens in two places at once as well as the staggering large distances between those places.
Now, Barack Obama did propose investing in high speed rail systems, particularly across the heartland of the United States. So far, the only firm proposal is for a rail link between Disneyland and Las Vegas (courtesy of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid). I'm not entirely sure what the advantage is for having this. Do you drop your kids off with Goofy in the morning and pick them up at night after you've blown the mortgage payment?
But I digress. We have an opportunity now to invest in something that a) makes sense to do, given the economic catastrophe that higher fuel prices will create shortly, b) can be shovel ready within months, c) would help wean us off foreign energy sources, d) could employ zero-emission power plants strung along the rail lines, e) would reinforce homeland security, both from a macroeconomic point of view as well as a micro-security viewpoint, and f) would give us a goal that most Americans can appreciate and wrap their minds around.
After all, rail travel has been around 150 years and there's a whole litany of romantic notions with regards to it. Imagine going from Chicago to Denver. It's a 17 hour drive. It's a three hour plane flight, plus two hours at security. At 660-odd miles and 250 mph on a train, it's 2 and one-half hours. And you're in downtown at both ends.
Makes sense, right?

Friday, December 25, 2009

A (War On) Christmas Carol - Coda


Jesus looked down, ten years later, to see what time had wrought.

Timmy had entered rehab, grown up, and began a modestly successful store for the wheelchair bound, selling surgical supplies and lifestyle-assisting devices. 

Marcus had been sentenced to twenty years to life, but because of the extenuating circumstances involving the sexual abuse of his wife, the judge threw the sentence out, and gave him three years in a minimum security prison, plus an additional ten years on probation. 

Barb had found work as a housemaid in the Bronx, and managed to duck most of the publicity, although occasionally someone would recognize her when she would shop for the family. When Mark was released from prison, and Timmy had completed rehab, they reunited. Mark began to work in as an apprentice on a construction site, and after a short while, completed his electrician's certification. Barb then quit her job as a maid, and went to work for Mark's boss as office manager and sales rep.

And Ed...Ed still toils silently in his own little private corner of hell, mocked constantly by circumstances and his own private Satan.

After all...he was privileged!


A (War On) Christmas Carol - Pt XIV

Ed fell for days without end, the constant flutter in his belly and tingling in his nether regions a testament to his continual downward progression. He neither sped up nor slowed down, but felt every molecule of air as it rushed past him. He hungered, thirsted, but had neither food nor water. But oh yes, he had waste products flowing out of him! It made for quite the sight.


For a moment, Ed lay there on the warm graveley ground, and assessed the damage. It felt like he had all his bones, with no extras. The fall should have killed him, yet he was conscious of all around him, including, as he opened his eyes, a pair of walking sneakers. Black. Velcro.

"Wel-hell! What have we here?" a male voice, purposely pitched higher into a sing-song tone, rang out in his near-deafened ears. "Hello, newbie."

Ed propped his hands under his shoulders and pushed up a few inches. The struggle to crane his neck upwards took forever and exhausted him. In silhouette, he saw a man of moderate age, wavy-haired with a widow's peak. He blinked, then slowly slid his legs under him to sit up.

"Don't speak, Hughes. You'll need your strength. As you may have gathered, you've had a long journey to an unpleasant place."

Ed tried to open his mouth and shuffle some syllables out, but found he didn't have the strength, sure enough. He let his eyes do the talking, and gave this stranger a blank stare.

"What's that? Three ghosts? So who am I? I'm surprised you haven't figured that one out yet, Amy, but keep pedalling. You're a shoo-in for the big girl X Games. Now, I have to figure out what to do with you..."

The stranger stopped talking, and gaudily rubbed his chin with his hand in a mockery of Ed. "Hmmmmmmmmmm...."

As he stood there, Ed managed to slip his feet under his torso, and began to squat, steadying himself with his palms on the ground.

"No no, newbie! No need to stand up! You have to learn to crawl before you can walk here! So what kind of skills do you have...let's see..." said the stranger as he scanned a clipboard he was carrying. "No. No. No. No. N----ahhhhhhhhhhhh! But no. No. No. No. No. Ever play the harmonica? No? Too bad, we would have use for you in the homophobe No. No. Wait! No. No. Nnnnnnnnno! Well, you're pretty mnuch useless to me."

Ed stood up.

"Well, look at you, standing up, all proud of yourself. Bet you want to switch to the pull-up big boy pants now....Look, Hughes, here's the deal: you're a twisted sick son of a bitch who hates nearly everyone, yet has no usable skills. There's a special place for people like you who call the 'waaaaaaaahmbulance' anytime you feel the slightest bit injured, and you're in it. In fact, we have a special level reserved for you. No, no! Don't try to speak! Sit...well, no, because that rock's on fire, and you won't listen then, so stand and listen: Being good didn't mean lecturing other people on being good. It meant, well, being good. MOW-THE-ING the words was meaningless. You had to do good, and live by the teachings to be good. In your case, all you had was your mouth, so guess what? Down here, you lose your voice! Do you understand what I'm trying to tell you, newbie?"

Ed took a deep breath, opened his mouth to speak, but couldn't remember how to form words. Or make sounds. For that matter, he had to force himself to exhale.

"I guess you do. Good. So your challenge throughout eternity is to try to get people to understand you somehow. It ought to be interesting to watch YOU relying on the compassion of other people. But I digress. Didn't it occur to you somewhere along the line that you might want to reconsider making fun of people who are different from you? Who needed your help? You had a platform to use to help people. Instead, you turned it into a weapon that, rather than unify your fellow citizens, served to highlight the differences, segregate the cultures, and ultimately, well, youuuuuuu fucked yourself, newbie, because the very people who could have been praying for your soul are the ones who you needed to persuade The Man Upstairs that you had earned a place at the banquet. I've watched the tape they send down with each newbie. It ain't pretty, the things you did, especially tearing that poor kid apart who lost his father on September 11. For that alone, I almost came up to claim your soul."

"Did you even read the Bible? Damn, son, because if you had, you'd know I was thrown down here for a lot less than you were, and that was before, y'know, the whole 'only begotten son' thing went on. You, you trampled on the Word and picked out the wrong bits to focus on. Honestly, I'm not sure how proud you have to be to focus on the trimmings and not on the main course of the meal. See, life isn't about you. It's about them," said Satan as he swept his arm outward, gesturing to all the other people around him. "Even I got that much. Do good by people, and people will do good by you."

"If it helps, you should have thought about it this way: The afterlife is like one giant game of 'Reverse Survivor', where everyone gets to vote you on the island, but only He can make you come down here. Get it now?"

Ed stared in disbelief, then slowly nodded his head.

" your job down here..."

Let Us Pray

Our Heavenly Father,

2,009 years ago, the Son of God was made incarnate. With this act, You renewed Your vow to mankind that You had grown up, that you had become a better God than He who destroyed mankind for being evil. That You had matured. That You had evolved. Thank you, Father.

In this holiday season, we ask You and Your Most Holy Gift to hear our prayers. At this time of the renewal of the vows of faith, we ask that You look down upon us, and help us in a critical time of need. Our planet is suffering degradations by the bucketful, and those who serve us forget that they are our servants; instead they serve mammon. We ask that You inspire them to higher goals.

We ask that you fill their hearts with the passion of position, that to do right is to do good and to do good is to do Your work here on earth.

We ask that You give us the patience to tolerate those who oppose our views with good humour and delicate persuasions. They are not many, but they are louder than they are large and in this nation, loud often substitutes for right.

We ask that You find it in his heart to fill our President with a reminder of where he came from and how hard it is, particularly now in this time of recession, for an individual to make his way thru the long cold nights and short brutal days.

We'll take care of the rest. We will feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help the poor, heal the sick. We can do that. We want to do this. We just need to move obstacles and inspire people and we know there is no rock so immovable that You cannot move it.

To Your cause, we re-dedicate ourselves. Amen.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A (War On) Christmas Carol - Pt XIII

Ed stared into the void of the hooded robe for what felt like an eternity. He had learned one thing as the world's most confrontational interviewer: he could make any man break with his glare.

Nothing. Not a reaction. No flinching. 

"Surely, something can prevent all this? Someone?..."

The hood stayed rock-steady still.

"What must I do?"

They rose once more...

"So this Happy Holidays...this is all a bunch of malarkey for you people, designed by liberals to destroy Christianity?"

"No, Ed, we don't want to destroy Christianity or Christmas or Christ. All we want is what Christians want: the right to practice our beliefs without reprisal or judgement. That's what this country was founded upon, and that's what we're entitled to in our Declaration: liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

"That's a load! This is a Christian nation! Our Founding Fathers were Christian and they even wrote about divine providence in the Constitution and the Declaration!"

"They also wrote about freedom of religion, which means that the government must respect all faiths, including the unfaithed, and by extension, so must society!"

"By taking the Christ out of Christmas?"

"No! But the holiday season has many more holidays than just Christmas."

"Oh shut up already! We'll be back after these messages..."

Ed felt the hand grip his shoulder once more, and they Long Island. Levittown, not Westbury. 

They settled to the ground like two leaves, and stood at a graveside. The freshly turned earth smelled sweet. There was a ceremony going on. They listened.

" Thy servant departed, that he may not receive in punishment the requital of his deeds who in desire did keep Thy will..." Father Tom intoned. 

A handful of people stood close by. A few scattered TV trucks, mostly NewsNet and its affiliates, and a smattering of gawkers, behind police tape about twenty yards away. Some carried signs: "Burn In Hell!", "Christians For Tolerance", and one or two carried old subway advertising boards. One bright light held up a "burning" Christmas tree, by pasting gold and red mylar to the branches.

Ed scanned the small group gathered graveside. There was Dad, of course, and two of Ed's three wives, and two of his children. Raquel looks like she skipped the service, but that's in keeping with her style: she was always jetting off somewhere. With someone. It was never enough for her.

And the head of NewsNet, a pixie-faced Aussie who made a boatload of money by first creating controversies and then attacking the same controversies. His master stroke? Publishing a book and then setting up a nationally telecast interview with a certain notorious killer, then killing the whole deal when his news division mercilessly attacked the idea. He made gobs of advertising money in the middle of the November sweeps, and still managed to release the book and make the million dollar advance back and much more. He was here all the way from Shanghai, with his lovely (fifth) wife.

And that was it.

Wait...that was it? None of the crew? OK, not Barb, but no one else?

"May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace."

With that, the hooded figure reached up and pulled his hood back. Before Ed stood a tall handsome North African man.

"I am Joshua, son of Joseph. Some have called me Jesus. Ed, I am here to judge you." 

With that, Jesus picked Ed up and flung him into the grave.

A (War On) Christmas Carol - Pt XII

The cold night air pierced Ed like an icicle dagger. He hadn't felt this cold since that a long time ago when he was struggling to make it as a reporter and the station sent him out to cover a blizzard. He had assumed he was working in-studio, but the wife of one of the editors complained about something he had said to her when he was drunk at the holid...Christmas party, and then grabbed her tit.

The hooded figure pointed...

Timmy was crying, sitting in his chair at the kitchen table. Barb was sobbing, practically beside herself, as the two female detectives offered her a handkerchief.

"I'm sorry, ma'am, but we have to go over this one more time. Can you tell us precisely what Mr. Hughes did to you last night?"

"I-it's hard for me to tell you. It's so embarassing."

"We understand, Ms. Croce, but please understand that we want to be fair to everyone involved. You said in your statement that he touched you. Where, precisely?"

"T-t-timmy...please go to your room for a while...OK...Ed...he...," and Barb pointed. "He sli-slid his hand up my dress, and tug-tugged away my panties, then f-f-fondled..."

"I'm very sorry, Ms. Croce. Please forgive us for asking these questions. We'll finish this up quickly so you can have some peace."

"Did he do anything else?"

"Y-y-es. He pulled out his...penis...and started telling me it in my mouth."

The two detectives didn't need to exchange glances, but they did. This wasn't the first harassment claim against Hughes, altho the records were sealed when the settlement was quietly made, but there had been an arrest, of sorts. 

"Thank you, Ms. Croce. That will be all for now. Please accept our apologies again on this."

"Thank you, detectives."

The door closed quietly behind them, and Barb let out a wail, which made Timmy wheel into the room. "Oh, Timmy! I've lost your father! And I've lost my job!" She buried her head into his shoulder as he reached out and hugged her.

"That's alright, momma. We'll get by. Jesus is looking out for us, and we'll make it. Don't be scared."

Ed felt the hand grip his shoulder again, and they rose, settling near a cold street corner.

A young man in a wheelchair, nose dripping, wearing shabby gloves and clothes, sat with a cup in his lap.

"Anyone? It's Christmas. Please. Help me. I can't...I can't take much more!"

"Alright son, you can't stay here. The building management says you're creating a nuisance, blocking their sidewalk," the cop, reluctantly, said.

Ed looked up. It was the building he lived in. Used to live in. Whatever. He stared at the young man. It was Timmy, and it was almost....could he?

As Timmy wheeled himself away, he looked straight at Ed...and his look clearly said "You did this". 

"Jesus! Why?!? GOD BLESS US, EVERYONE!" Timmy cried as he wheeled down the block.

Christmas Music Blogging

Don't Be A Jerk (It's Christmas)
SpongeBob & The Hi-Seas

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Music Blogging

Holy Shit, It's Christmas!
Red Peters

Proof That Wingnuttia Is A Pandemic

You may think that rightwing conservatism is a brand best kept bottled in the springs of Red State America, but then you'd miss all the imported goodness of fine British whine:

There is scope for debate – and innumerable newspaper quizzes – about who was the most influential public figure of the year, or which the most significant event. But there can be little doubt which word won the prize for most important adjective. 2009 was the year in which "global" swept the rest of the political lexicon into obscurity. There were "global crises" and "global challenges", the only possible resolution to which lay in "global solutions" necessitating "global agreements". Gordon Brown actually suggested something called a "global alliance" in response to climate change. (Would this be an alliance against the Axis of Extra-Terrestrials?)

I'll get to that last clever construct shortly.

Some of this was sheer hokum: when uttered by Gordon Brown, the word "global", as in "global economic crisis", meant: "It's not my fault". To the extent that the word had intelligible meaning, it also had political ramifications that were scarcely examined by those who bandied it about with such ponderous self-importance. The mere utterance of it was assumed to sweep away any consideration of what was once assumed to be the most basic principle of modern democracy: that elected national governments are responsible to their own people – that the right to govern derives from the consent of the electorate.

Because, you see, no government has ever made a treaty with another sovereign nation.

The dangerous idea that the democratic accountability of national governments should simply be dispensed with in favour of "global agreements" reached after closed negotiations between world leaders never, so far as I recall, entered into the arena of public discussion. Except in the United States, where it became a very contentious talking point, the US still holding firmly to the 18th-century idea that power should lie with the will of the people.

I wonder what planet Janet Daley lives on? The "will of the corporations who can afford to contribute millions to the coffers of those greedy and plastic-moraled enough to run for government" is the order of the day, madam.

Nor was much consideration given to the logical conclusion of all this grandiose talk of global consensus as unquestionably desirable: if there was no popular choice about approving supranational "legally binding agreements", what would happen to dissenters who did not accept their premises (on climate change, for example) when there was no possibility of fleeing to another country in protest? Was this to be regarded as the emergence of world government? And would it have powers of policing and enforcement that would supersede the authority of elected national governments? In effect, this was the infamous "democratic deficit" of the European Union elevated on to a planetary scale. And if the EU model is anything to go by, then the agencies of global authority will involve vast tracts of power being handed to unelected officials. Forget the relatively petty irritations of Euro‑bureaucracy: welcome to the era of Earth-bureaucracy, when there will be literally nowhere to run.

Welcome to the party, pal! Decades late and a few marbles short, Ms Daley has suddenly awoken to the New World Order that George HW Bush and his scion have inflicted on America. She proves the adage that even the galactically stupid can somehow squeeze out a brain fart.
Only instead of seeing conspiracies in, say, oil pricing or outsourcing of jobs, Ms Daley chooses to focus on issues that, indeed, DO affect the entire planet. It's a little hard to solve global warming unilaterally, toots!

But, you may say, however dire the political consequences, surely there is something in this obsession with global dilemmas. Economics is now based on a world market, and if the planet really is facing some sort of man-made climate crisis, then that too is a problem that transcends national boundaries. Surely, if our problems are universal the solutions must be as well.

Strawman in

Well, yes and no. Calling a problem "global" is meant to imply three different things: that it is the result of the actions of people in different countries; that those actions have impacted on the lives of everyone in the world; and that the remedy must involve pretty much identical responses or correctives to those actions. These are separate premises, any of which might be true without the rest of them necessarily being so. The banking crisis certainly had its roots in the international nature of finance, but the way it affected countries and peoples varied considerably according to the differences in their internal arrangements. Britain suffered particularly badly because of its addiction to public and private debt, whereas Australia escaped relatively unscathed.

You might think that, Ms Daley. But you'd be wrong. (note that one of those articles refers to a piece in the Dec. 2007 issue of The Economist calling the banking crisis almost to the day it breaks)
That a problem is international in its roots does not necessarily imply that the solution must involve the hammering out of a uniform global prescription: in fact, given the differences in effects and consequences for individual countries, the attempt to do such hammering might be a huge waste of time and resources that could be put to better use devising national remedies. France and Germany seem to have pulled themselves out of recession over the past year (and the US may be about to do so) while Britain has not. These variations owe almost nothing to the pompous, overblown attempts to find global solutions: they are largely to do with individual countries, under the pressure of democratic accountability, doing what they decide is best for their own people.
...mostly by borrowing from other nations. But it's not global, noooooooooooooooooooooooo!

The word "global" has taken on sacred connotations. Any action taken in its name must be inherently virtuous, whereas the decisions of individual countries are necessarily "narrow" and self-serving. (Never mind that a "global agreement" will almost certainly be disproportionately influenced by the most powerful nations.) Nor is our era so utterly unlike previous ones, for all its technological sophistication. We have always needed multilateral agreements, whether about trade, organised crime, border controls, or mutual defence.

Global Thermonuclear Annihilation must have Ms Daley's vibrator set to stun. Suddenly, she acknowledges an internationalist community of longstanding, but hey, global agreements have never been around. The United Nations is a sham theatre created by the American right wing in order to placate the dirty Third Worlders.
But note too the rather silly claim that "a 'global agreement' will almost certainly be disproportionately influenced by the most powerful nations," when in point of fact, what held up the Copenhagen accords and kept the most powerful nation on the planet out of Kyoto was the limitation of power imposed by these agreements. can't have it both ways, Ms Daley: either the most powerful nations on the planet impose their will or they do not.
Note too that she feels the Mafia rates a global agreement, but global warming which will create more devastation and destruction, corruption and criminality than the Mafia ever dreamed of, not so much.
I could go on, but suffice it to say that, for this American, the blatant idiocy of this column makes me think we may have a new columnist for Renew America. If she can slip into this country illegally.

A (war On) Christmas Carol - Pt XI

"Our top story...Conservative talk show host Ed Hughes was found murdered this morning. Police have a suspect in custody, but have not released his name yet."

Ed's deepest fears had come true. He knew he was controversial, but he always believed that no one would dare actually harm him. He never caused anyone any real harm, at least that he was aware of.

The hooded figure grabbed him by the shoulder and guided him once more upwards.

Barb held Timmy in her lap as they sat, waiting. Mark was led in, handcuffed, by two police officers who plopped him down in the seat across the table from them. The room was windowless, one bright lamp above them, with a large mirror on one wall.

"Mark, I'm so sorry. I should have left years ago, but we needed the money, and he'd never been as bad as that."

Mark sat, stone silent. He'd already met with his lawyer, and so would say nothing. Barb sensed this, and quickly changed the subject.

"Do you need anything, Mark? I can run home and bring it here."

"No. The arraignment will be first thing in the morning, and it's only for my own safety that they haven't taken me to Rikers. No telling what some cracker guard might have in mind. I'm scared, Barb," he said, almost adding he wished he'd hadn't done it.

"I know, baby. I know."

"Listen, you and the boy should leave. There's a pile of press outside the station, and so stop at the desk and see if they can get you home."

The figure swirled around Ed to watch his reaction. 

Nothing. He grabbed Ed's shoulder and pushed him forward and upward.

"Fiona, you need to come home. Ed's been killed....yes, I'm sure of it. The cops just left, and the news programs are all over it. I suspect you'll see it on the Beeb..." Here, John sneered. "...any moment now....Well, I can hold the funeral up for...six weeks? For heaven's sake, Fiona! This was your son too!...he did well, Fiona, no matter how awful you think he is. Damn you!"

And with that, John hung up the phone, and took another slug from the bottle of MacAllen's he'd opened after the cops left, belched, and aimed the remote and fired off an infrared beam to change the channel. "Bloody bastards. Probably some Jew who took offense at the Holocaust denial show. Bastards always find some nigger to do the dirty work, or a spic."

Ed cringed a little, listening to his father. He’d never had the nerve to tell his dad he worked for a Jew. He remembered the argument they’d had when little Eddie informed his dad that Christ was a Jew.

The hooded man seemed to stare at Ed, then turned on his heel and began walking.

"Wait! Is there anything I can do to prevent my death?"

The figure stopped, walked back and grabbed Ed by the shoulder and almost threw him skyward.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Music Blogging

Spirit of Christmas Past

The New Scientist

I was watching Suzuki Speaks on LinkTV the other morning.

If you have DISH Network you can catch it on channel 9410 twice more this week. If not, why in the hell are you handing good money over to corporatist American media???

In it, David Suzuki talks about man's relationship to his environment in ways that will profoundly impact the way you think about your life. I won't ruin his message by summary here, because you need to watch the entire program. Suffice it to say, it got me thinking.

But I digress...

Suzuki talks about how, when he was growing up in London, Ontario, he would spend summer days wallowing in the marsh behind his house. His mother never complained about dirty laundry. His father encouraged his exploration. He would bring home tadpoles and fish eggs and raise them. It's no wonder he ended up not only in biology, but in genetics research.

Which got me thinking: in this day and age of videogames and Avatar-like movies, where do our new research scientists come from? Where is the wonder of picking up a rock and finding a bunch of slugs or worms and spending day after day, picking that rock up and studying their habits? Where is the boy with his Erector set, engineering his first four story scale model building? Or the girl cracking open a hunk of shale and discovering a trilobite inside?

Sure. There will be astronomers. The stars are an awesome attraction, the moon hangs in the night sky like a lighthouse beckoning a sailor upward. And perhaps oceanographers and marine biologists, as children go down to the sea with their parents and build sand castles, discovering clams and crabs as they dig.

But who's going to dig in the muck of an old dump and discover that, indeed, worms aerate our kitchen waste and create compost, and who knows what can come out of some boy or girl discovering a new way of recycling? Who's going to splash around in a marsh and uncover a new beetle that could potentially cure a disease?

Have we so removed ourselves from nature that we will be unable to see the forest for the trees? Have we lost the wonder of being children in our sophistication and technological savvy?

I guess this is why I enjoy scuba diving so much: it's a new environment and I'm immediately drawn into playing in little as possible. It's important not to damage an ecosystem as fragile as a reef. But to pick up a rock and look at it, and then notice that it lay next to a tiny fish that you would have missed if you had just swum by, or to examine a gorgonian, a soft coral swaying in the current and to see a flamingo tongue nudibranch ("slug", if you will), bright and pink and orange and just sitting there, slowly crawling up the trunk, is to remember why we were kids in the first place: to uncover the world around us.

Sure, there's a place for technocrats and technological discoveries. Math and physics will always be important in understanding the universe around us.

But there's also a universe in a single drop of pond water.

And we've lost that urge.

A (war On) Christmas Carol - Pt X

Ed sat in the dark room for a while, catching his breath, trying to take in all he had just seen: his father, his mother, Barb and her family...was that a threat he heard? Maybe he should talk about it on air next week, and scare this Marcus off?

He guzzled the last of the second glass of scotch and found himself at the bottle again, pouring a new one. "Steady fellow," he whispered, "You still have to get home."

Ed began to change clothes, his mind swirling from the liquor and the...hallucinations. Yes. That must be it. He hadn't been feeling all that well today...he seemed feverish. Yes, it must all be made up in his mind! Good.

He buttoned up his coat, and began the walk down the narrow hall from his dressing room to the elevator lobby. Passing the guard, Murray, he threw him a quick wave and managed to shout "Merry Christmas!" to him. 

Murray was Jewish, and Ed knew this. But Murray sang back a "Merry Christmas" to Ed, knowing full well Ed would try to get him fired if he said "Happy Holidays".

Ed poured himself into the back of his limo, the one with a bodyguard for a driver and bulletproof glass. Ever since that day when a radical liberal group stormed into his studio and commandeered his show, he'd lived in dread of an assassination attempt.

"Where to, Mr. Hughes?" Paul Lowe was a stocky former NYC cop with a black belt in three different martial arts, and a Glock 9 in his armpit.

"Home, Wait. It's nearly midnight, right? Take me to mass. Not St. Patrick's tho...too many people would be there...I need some solitude. Church of Our Savior. Park and 38th."

Lowe eased the limo into the light traffic of the outskirts of the Theatre District, and spun around the block to head east, then south. Ed shivered in the back, despite the warm air blowing across his feet. 

The limo swung out of traffic after a few minutes, and stopped in front of the church. By Catholic standards, it was small, but this was midtown Manhattan, so space was at a premium. Jesus didn't mind, though. It still drew large crowds...large crowds who made lots of contributions to the Diocese.

Ed slipped in just as the last organ strains of Puer Natus echoed against the stone walls, and sat in a pew. The priest raised his arms, palms up, and said "A prayer."

The congregation knelt. Ed found the red velvet covered pew cushion, and listened as the priest began, "Lord, in this holy season of prayer and song and laughter..."

Ed felt a chill hand close about his shoulder. He opened his eyes and strained them around his socket to try to see peripherally who was there. He saw a robe. A long black robe. He glanced up over his shoulder.

" we sing the ironies of Christmas, the incomprehensible comprehended, the poetry made hard fact, the helpless Babe who cracks the world asunder..."

The hooded figure grabbed his shoulder hard, and yanked Ed to his feet. A fleeting thought that he had been recognized by a liberal activist had flashed in his brain, until he looked at the figure eye-to...eye to hood. He couldn't see an eye. Or a face, for that matter.

The figure pointed with his other hand towards the door. No hand showed, just the wool of the robe, dangling off least it felt like a he...arm, nearly to the floor.

Ed scooted crab-like along the pew, and slid out into the nave, reminding himself to genuflect and cross himself as he left. The figure hestitated for a moment, then Ed swore he could hear a small chuckle.

His hand still on Ed's shoulder, the two walked towards the large red wooden doors of the church...and began to float upwards.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Music Blogging


Bringing Home A Winner

It's hard to believe that Obama might have accomplished two things this weekend he set out to do, albeit far below his hopes:
The great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said "from chaos comes order".

It is difficult to foresee the order that may result from the chaos of the Copenhagen climate change conference (COP15), but as the dust settles, traces of a path forward are becoming visible.

It's true. This is not the deal liberals have waited for ever since Kyoto was smacked down by the Senate way back in the 1990s. It's not even the agreement we need to see. But it's a start.

Think about it: there has never been a meeting like this. Included in the accord are both developing and developed nations. The meeting showed that everyone, including China, India and the US, are on board with global climate change and how to correct it. Green economies will now be implemented worldwide.

No, no targets were established. There are no steps to verify that a nation is complying. But still, it's a beginning.

Just as the other victory, hollow as it may be, is:
"This country, the greatest and richest the world has ever seen, is the only advanced nation on earth where dying for a lack of health insurance is even possible," [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid said. "

The bill would extend health insurance coverage to 30 million Americans who now lack it, and bar insurance companies from practices such as denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Most Americans would be required to purchase health insurance for the first time, with subsidies provided to those who cannot afford it.

It's not perfect. It may not even be particularly good. But it's a start, and now we can hammer out the final bill in conference.

It is embarassing that the bill includes no provision for a public option (unlike the House bill, to which it will have to be reconciled) and that much of this is about political theatre as opposed to passing a real bill.

But here's the thing: in over one hundred years, four attempts have been made to bring the United States into the 20th Century in terms of healthcare for its citizenry.

It may be from the dark ages of the early 20th Century, but this bill finally does that, and it cracks open a door that cannot be shut again.

For that, we should be grateful.

A (War On) Christmas Carol - Pt IX

"Marcus! Marcus! Dinner's almost ready!" Barb cried out as she put the last of the figgy pudding on the hot plate to warm. 

Barb's husband, Mark, came into the kitchen, little Timmy hanging off his strong forearm, his legs dangling beneath him. Mark worked days at the Transit Authority bus yard on Second Avenue, which meant he could be close to home if Barb needed to get to the studio early. Although they were starting to make ends meet, they still had a long way to go, and so lived as modestly as possible. Timmy's medical bills as well as some of the debts that Barb and Mark had rung up before they had to go on welfare, were still hanging over them.

Mark sat Timmy down, and tucked his napkin into his collar, then took his own seat, just as Barb came in and pulled her chair out. "So how was church?"

Mark smiled at Timmy. "Oh, the know, I didn't really want to go, but Timmy insisted. He hoped the people saw him in the church because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day it was He who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see."

Barb scolded Mark, "He's not a cripple, he's disabled!"

"You? With the people you work for, are being politically correct?" And they all laughed.

"Timmy, would you like to say grace?"

"OK, mom....Dear God, we thank you for the food we are about to eat and for all the blessings of our family. And we thank you for the greatest gift you've given all men, your only begotten son. God, please bless us, everyone."

When dinner was finished, including the figgy pudding, Barb announced that Timmy had to go to bed, and they'd open presents in the morning.

"OK, mom, goodnight! I hope Santa leaves me something nice under the tree!"

Mark carried Timmy to bed, and read to him while Barb cleared the table and put the dishes in the small sink, and ran some water to let them soak overnight. The dinner was small, but filling.

Mark slipped up behind Barb and held her tightly around the waist. "Merry Christmas, baby, you sure look fine tonight."

Barb turned around, and kissed him. "Mark, I couldn't be happier than I am right now."

"Yea, baby, me either...except I wish you didn't have to work for that creep. Damn, but that man makes me want to get a gun!"

"Aw, honey, he's really harmless once you get past his...well, somewhere in there is a heart."

"He probably stole it from someone."

And they snuggled and kissed some more.

"I have to tell you, Mark, I work hard not to be alone with him. I think he's been alone too long, and it scares me to think..."

"It's OK, honey. Don't ever be alone with him, and you have nothing to worry about. All that talk of his about Jesus and'd think he'd have learned by now that being a Christian is about loving, not being loved. All he does is take, take, take, and he never gives. I pity the fool. Until he touches you."

With a thud, Ed landed back in his chair.

Paul looked at him, and intoned, "Just one more, Ed. Just one more."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Music Blogging

Credit Crunch Christmas
Mickey P Kerr

A (War On) Christmas Carol - Pt VIII

Ed slowly scanned the darkened dressing room. The rustle of activity out in the hall had subsided. Normally after a show, there is a flurry of noise lasting well into the late night. Ed ought to know, many has been the time he's invited a "guest" to spend time in his dressing room and had waited until the studio emptied out before making his move.

There was that one time with that certain blonde "conservative" commentator who had a predilection for dating pornographers, when she thought they were all alone, so he took her back onto the set, and stripped her naked and took her. That tape was sold back to her for a handsome fee.

Christmas Eve. Right. People were rushing home, abandoning their tasks until two days from now. 

"Fucking people. No commitment." And with that, Ed sucked his glass of scotch dry and stood up to pour himself another one. Swirling in his brain alongside the barley malt extract was the vision of his heritage in New York City: the Irish, his people, hated. Treated like subhumans, despite their achievements. Mocked and poked fun of. he thought back to his own childhood, to school, to classes, and remembered how Tommy Vitoro used to poke fun of his father's accent all the time, especially when they were playing tag. Tommy used to punch Ed hard and say "You're it, Mickey!" He always punched Ed. In fact, he always made Ed "it."

Ed steadied his hand on the dresser, and then unstoppered his decanter, and poured himself another scotch. Walking back towards his chair, he felt his foot...well, miss the ground, and he flopped forward, to be caught in the arms of...nothing. He felt someone there, but saw no one, and could not feel anything beyond a presence: no muscles, no sinew, no skin, no bones. 

"Ed, you really didn't think that you'd get off easy now, did you? After all, wasn't it you who who claimed illegal immigrants were all criminals and should serve jail time? If you're such a stickler for the law, then know you're not going to be given special treatment."

With that, precipitating out of thin air, was a lanky man, wearing a very nice suit. Ed knew the face, but couldn't place the name.

"Paul O'Dwyer, Ed. We met many years ago when you were first starting out on channel 5. And I am your second visitor this evening, and let me tell you, I'm very ashamed for you." Paul took the glass from Ed's hand, and carefully placed it on the arm of his chair.

And the room dissolved yet again...

The tiny apartment was in a part of town that was drifting towards oblivion. As Paul and Ed peered through the window, John Hughes sat there in his undershirt and boxers, drooling as his head nodded towards his chest. Fiona had left him years ago when his drinking and his anger boiled over nightly to the point where, having no son around to beat, he'd cuff Fiona about the head. He hadn't heard from her since she'd mailed her American passport from England, torn into little bits. For that matter, neither had Ed.

A thin, dry Christmas tree, about three feet tall, stood on the dining table behind John's easy chair, shedding needles as it stood there. A crucifix hung on the wall with a half inch of dust like snow. Mail lay about the room, willy nilly. On the floor, across the room from the television, sat Ed's Christmas card, unopened. 

A wind rose up and swirled, and in an instant, Ed's mother appeared into view, but this was not his father's apartment anymore. No, it was a small house on the southern coast of England. Fiona gathered up the wrapped boxes on the table, and scurried towards the door as fast as she could into the living room where an enormous gathering had assembled.

"Aunt Fiona! Aunt Fiona! Please!", the children cried, as Fiona handed out presents left and right, sipping an egg nog as she sat in the very comfortable chair. "And tomorrow, children, we will go skating! And to the movies! And then we shall walk along the cliffs, and shout wishes to the sea!"

Scanning the room, Ed noticed there was no crucifix to be seen, anywhere. The room swirled. Again.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Music Blogging

Let It Snow
8 Bit

In honor of today's events on the eastern seaboard.

A (War On) Christmas Carol - Pt VII

"Jackie, me boyo, let me tell you something. If ye want ta make it in America, ye're gonna half ta be better than anyone else around ye!" The blustery fat old man with the ruddy cheeks said to John Hughes. "No one likes us Irish, they think we smell and that we're drunks and hot tempered. And we're Catholic in a Protestant country. They don't trust us, think we're all spies fer the Vatican. We hold services in Latin, and they're afraid we'll be having them speak Latin if we ever get a chance."

The ruddy man laughed a belly laugh that shook the room. "So Mort, ye take care on th' streets! And don't be making time with no Eyetalian girl, eh, boyo? Ye fook 'em, en' marry an American girl, er an Englishwoman, got it?"

The streets of New York were filled with poor people, all struggling in the first throes of the Great Depression. Men forced to abandon their families to find work, or even just to survive for themselves. On nearly every street corner was a beggar. Or a floozy. Nobody stuck their necks out to help anyone else. Why should they? Hoover had asked big corporations to take one for the team, and they agreed, grudgingly, to try to hold onto more workers or lower prices, but ultimately greed got the better of them, and they laid men off in droves, hiring no one. And everyone looked for a scapegoat.

Women had it the worst of all. You could almost peer into their kitchens as they sat there, preparing food nearly every minute of every day, when they weren't scraping dirt off the floors or nursing a sickly child or washing clothes. And that was after they'd come home from housekeeping some other family's home for pennies a day, and being yelled at because the sheets weren't clean enough and the food wasn't fresh enough, and being manhandled by the man of the house when the wife wasn't looking, knowing they couldn't say anything about it or they'd get fired, so the hands could roam up the shirts and fondle and squeeze nipples or up the skirt for the womanly parts of a servant. And god forbid the man had a drink or two and caught her in the linen closet!

So why would an ordinary Joe go out of his way to help his fellow man, who'd be as likely to stab him in the back for a crust of bread as to thank him? 

"Especially the Irish," bellowed a street corner philosopher. John could hear him. They always made a point of speaking loud enough so all the families on the block could hear them. They stood there, goons on either side, and preached the most disgusting hate imaginable, about the filthy Mick immigrants, and the "shiftless niggers" who took all the jobs no one else would do. And they made sure they were heard by the people they hated. If it drove even one “sub-human” away, they'd done their jobs.

The Irish couldn't catch a break. Yes, things were better now than they were in the 19th Century, sure. An Irishman could walk down the streets without being in danger of his life. And to be sure, it could have been worse. They could have been Jews, and really have had people look down on them, but the simple fact is they were still different even if they were running the fire department and police department and picked up the garbage and drove the cabs and the trains. They were still drones, blue collar workers. 

And there weren't anymore signs saying "Help Wanted: No Irish Need Apply", but that was more because there were just no jobs to be had. Oh sure, there was some help arriving. Governor Roosevelt had made stabs at trying to prop up the jobs market, but Mayor Walker seemed to not give a hoot that people were dying in his streets. And an Irishman to boot! It didn't help the Irish much that he was a boozer and a womanizer, so bad that the Cardinal had to denounce a fellow Irisher. No, no help at all.

Even Christmas got darker and uglier as he grew up. When he was a wee lad, he recalled that his mum, God rest her soul, and dad would take him to the pub on Christmas day, and they'd spend hours there, singing songs, greeting relations and friends, and then going around to different homes to savor foods and drink, and meet people. Now, it was church. Only mass. And home. And quiet. All too poor. All too troubled. All too grown up.

John Hughes took all this in across the course of his childhood, and as he grew up and watched his dad go from a jolly elf of a man, ruddy-cheeked and larger-than-life to a withered, bitter old man who counted every penny and cried foul anytime he thought anyone was cheating him, even if he made it up most of the time. He vowed his kid would get better from him than he got from his dad.

Ian turned to Ed. "Do ye see that? The poor Irish. Someone always had it in fer us, no matter how good things were. We were th' scratching post of America. So were th' Poles. And th' blacks. And th' Italians. And th' Jews..."

And with that, Ed flopped out of his armchair, half standing, half crouched in a bundle, as if he had been slapped in the face.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Music Blogging

The Christmas Song
Alvin & The Chipmunks

(Boy, what does it say about culture that a Sixties cartoon has its own website?)

Nobody Asked Me But....

1) Iranian. Cyber. Army? As I've said many times in the past, Twitter is for twits.

2) Good for you, Senator Franken!

3) The man wasn't scared by terrarists, but giving poor people healthcare has his widdle panties in a knot!

4) In addition to the usual "ten best/worst of the year" countdowns we have to endure, some people consider this the end of a decade. The ten worst sports stories of the '00s. Nowhere in there is the Mets implosions of 2007 and 2008.

5) Ben Nelson: Lord Douchebag.

6) On the healthcare debate here in America, I believe there is room for liberals to steal back a term that's been used against us: elitist. Class warfare has been upon us for decades, as the Republicans have raped and pillaged the people of this great nation in the cause of populism.

Who among us will rise to the occasion and take the blinders off the people?

7) Because clearly she has no other hats.

8) I'm not sure how erotic a "zero-emissions" vibrator is....

9) The largest US city without a bookstore? Is deep in the heart of Texas... Hope you weren't expecting a surprise, there.

10) In keeping with the theme of "top ten", the ten most annoying celebrities of 2009. Um...can someone clue me in? I know Joe Jackson, Michael's father, and have heard of Jon Gosselin (why Kate isn't on the list is beyond me), but who the fuck...? Oh. Because I have many Canadian readers, here's your list. Apparently, the British are too polite to publish their own list.

11) Because this is likely the last of these you'll read before Christmas...yes, it's NEXT Friday...please accept my fondest wishes in this holiday season for a healthy, happy time and a good new year.

A (War On) Christmas Carol - Pt VI

The Christmas tree loomed large over the chair which Eddie stood next to. His dad plunked himself down, and pointed to his lap. Eddie knelt next to his father, like the good altar boy he was, and lay across his daddy's lap.

John pulled Eddie's pants down, curled the belt around his fist, and raised his hand up high. The smell of vodka and gin and beer sunk down to Eddie's nostrils as the hiss of the belt seared the air, ahead of the blistering impact of the belt. Eddie involuntarily tensed, his body nearly rolling off his father's lap.

Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssclap "If you FUCKING move again, I'm going to beat you twice as hard, boy!"

Eddie's left hand gripped the edge of the recliner tightly. Not only did he want to please his father, but he knew if he moved, the belt would catch parts of him that weren't so padded. He gritted his teeth and tried to hold back the tears as the belt drilled down on him five more times. His cheeks were shiny and wet, but he managed not to scream in agony. Much. That had gotten him the fifth strike.

As he stood up, and gathered his corduroys about him, his dad rolled the belt tightly around his fist and began to relax. "Do you think we're made of money, Eddie? I worked hard to buy you that bike, and this is the gratitude you show? Throwing it in the driveway? Why not just throw the damned thing away, Eddie? In fact, why don't we do that with all your toys? You don't need toys! You're a grown-up now!"

Eddie was mortified! His bike? His top? His hula hoop?

Eddie sniffled back his new-found tears hard, and said "I'm sorry, daddy."

"I have a good mind to tell Santa what a bad boy you've been. Now go wash up for supper."

Eddie stormed to his room to change his sweatsoaked shirt, then limped his way to the bathroom. He could hear bits and pieces of his parents arguing.

"Don't tell me you aren't drunk"...."what was her name? You're a creep!"..."And you're a whore, you fucking pill-popping whore!"

The next morning, December 24, was a Saturday. Normally, mom and dad slept in, while Eddie fended for himself, watching cartoons like "Crusader Rabbit," but this morning, he watched at his bedroom window as his father packed up the car with all kinds of boxes, some wrapped, some unwrapped.

Christmas morning was solemn and quiet. John and his wife and son dressed in suits, and drove the 3 miles to Our Lady Of Sorrows in Westbury. Their church, not the church three blocks from their house. Appearances must be kept! Eddie, still smarting from the spanking, stepped into the rectory and donned his white robe, and reported to Father Tom for altar service.

"No, Eddie. Your father told us what happened and asked that you be kept out of God's service today as punishment."

"Not a nice man, yer father. Didye ever wonder why?"

 Ian stood there, expressionless.

Ed shook his head. He was not one for psychoanalysis, even though two marriage counselors had tried to get him to go. 

"Let's go find out, shall we?" And with a twinkle in his eye, Ian vanished in a flash, taking Ed with him.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Music Blogging

I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas
Gayla Peevey

Good Riddance!

You think Barack Obama is glad to see 2009 end?

1) Climate Change Conference Stalled

2) Democrats Squabble Over Healthcare Reform

3) Whiny Republicans Throw A Temper Tantrum

4) First Time Jobless Claims Are Surprisingly Higher

5) Obama's Support Is Winnowing Away

This closely mirrors the first Bush year, when he could get nothing done and was falling apart, until one fateful day in September of 2001.

We hope Obama will not resort to allowing a tragedy on his watch, but one never knows for sure.

I wouldn't say he desperately needs good news, but it's certainly looking as though he could stand a bit of picking up and the clock is running, after all. He needs something in the first half of 2010 in order to consolidate the gains Democrats have made over the past six years in Congress.

Curiously, it's the attacking from the left that flummoxes me. I get that an awful lot of hope (pun intended) was placed on Obama's shoulders, but come on! The economy this year, the worst since the Great Depression, has hampered any effective legislation he could possibly have been expected to pass, AND he's had to herd cats from his left and his right in order to do what he has been able to accomplish.

And it's most assuredly NOT helping that the moronic leadership in Congress has been nipping at his heels instead of assisting his agenda.

Hell, you'd almost be tempted to blame Bush/Cheney for sabotaging the nation, poisoning the well ahead of Obama's takeover, in order to give one final bird to the people of the United States.

If liberals, and I count myself a liberal, albeit one with a mind, are going to blame anyone, then let's shift the focus to where the blame truly belongs. If Republicans could blame Clinton (or worse, Jimmy Carter) for Bush's failings eight years out, certainly we can be sporting enough to blame Bush for failing to live up to his fiduciary duty to protect the nation and its citzenry, just one year down the road.

Perhaps what we need to do is to take all the naysayers, left and right, stick 'em on a rocketship and send it off to Earth Two.

We could call it the "B-Ark"

A (War On) Christmas Carol - Pt V

Ed stumbled more than walked to his dressing room. He felt beat up. The sight of Mort Downey was enough to make this cocky self-sure man lose his grip on enough reality to doubt where he was and what he was doing. Shakily, he leaned into the wall with his hand to steady himself as he wandered down the hall.

Closing the door behind himself, Ed hurriedly slipped out of the Mortet and, more important, the tie he wore tonight. He sat down heavily, and took a deep inhale and held it for a count of five, then slowly exhaled. 

There. Much better. It must have been an hallucination. That's the only possible explanation. Yes. He'd been working too hard. When other hosts were already off for Hanukkah or because their kids were on break, he'd worked right up to Christmas. Overworked and stressed. That must be it. Maybe he was coming down with something, too. 

He slowly rose out of his chair, and stepped across to the small chest of drawers opposite the mirror. On top was a bottle of scotch. He took a paper cup and poured out a small amount. And then a little more. And then filled the cup. He gulped it down in two mouthfuls, then collapsed again into his chair. His big comfy chair. And drifted off to sleep...when he felt the cup being taken out of his hand, and crumpled up.

"Barb? Is that you?" Ed struggled to clear his eyes, bleary with the tiredness. When he looked up, he saw a nattily dressed young man with bright red hair and a tam.

"My name is Ian. Mort told ye to expect me, didn't he? Well, here I am, but let's see where ye've been shall we? Now don't be afraid! Yer a good little shaver, I wager." And with that, and a click of his heels, the room dissolved away.

Little Eddie Hughes rode his Huffy bicycle up and down Doral Court in Levittown, a new development in suburban Long Island, racing past the row of cookie-cutter houses that seemed to spring up and multiply overnight. It was nearly 6:30 this winter night and Dad would be home any second now.

Life seemed safe and happy. Mom, dressed in a pearl choker with a Bobbie Brooks blouse and a skirt from Sears, had dinner on the table precisely at 6:30, when Dad would walk in the door, dressed in his suit and tie from Robert Hall, a slim leather briefcase in his right hand. 

Dad would leave his job at Con Edison as a manager in the billing department precisely at 4:30, ride the subway to Penn Station, and hit Toots Shor for a drink with his buddy, leaving just enough time to hop on the 5:20 bar car. He'd disembark the train, and detour from the parking lot to O'Reilly's to have one last beer before driving the 2.2 miles to Doral Court.

Life had regularity. You could use it to time eggs. 

Mom always made sure to have his martini waiting on the table in the vestibule. She actually made the big shaker full of them, the one they brought out for parties, but then transferred the leftovers to Dad's special shaker after pouring his one.

And her two. Something to ease the pills down her throat.

Christmas was coming soon, and Eddie knew if he wasn't home before Dad, he would be warned about Santa not coming because he was a bad boy. This message was usually reinforced with a boxing of his ear, or a knuckle rap on the top of his head by his dad.

Corporal Hughes had been a low level clerk assigned to the quartermaster's office in Devon, England, where he listened all day long to the monotonous staccato of rubber stamps, not gunfire, although the fight with Germany was over already. There, he met Miss Fiona Weldon, a pretty English girl for whom Americans were both a mystery and frightful, noisy and dull. Except for John Hughes, of course. 

They married shortly after it was discovered that Miss Weldon was carrying Eddie. Such marriages were frowned upon by his superiors, but the Weldons held a small private ceremony in their church with tea afterwards in the rectory, so little notice was paid by the Allied command. 

Within a year the war in Europe was well over and all American personnel had shipped out, and the Hughes' were heading to New York. Although they struggled those first few years, John took advantage of the GI Bill and got a college degree and a GI mortgage, buying one of the brand new houses that Arthur Levitt was building on an old potato farm on Long Island. A ranch! It even sounded exciting!

Ten-year old Eddie never really knew of want or need. In fact, his parents did so well, they often bragged of being from Westbury, an affluent community the next town over, rather than associate with the working classes of Levittown, the plumbers and carpenters and factory workers. It didn't hurt any that Mom's Southwest English accent, with its hint of Welsh, gave an air of aristocracy to his family. How little Americans know about dialects. It branded her as just a farm girl to be fucked and left back home, much like a country hick accent in America would be treated.

Eddie wheeled his bike around and sped home from the corner when he saw a pair of headlights float down the road towards him. He dropped his bike in the driveway, and ran inside, when he heard a crunching noise, and the immistakable voice of his father growling "Aw, motherfucker!"

Eddie's bike was in ruins, crushed under the wheels of the Mercury. He blanched as his father stormed up the driveway, and started yelling, "You fucking moron! What's the idea leaving your bike in the driveway? Hah? What is your fucking problem? Answer me!"

Eddie started to burble out an answer, when John's hand flew out of the darkness like a beige bat and smacked him across the ear. "You wanna cry? I'll give you something to cry about!"

Eddie sobbed back his tears as best as he could, but as scared and angry as he was, he finally lost the battle: "I...was..*gasp*...WAAHHHHH!"

John turned Eddie around and smacked his behind five times, hard, then told him to go inside and get in the living room. As John entered, he pulled his belt off.

Ian turned to Ed. "There's more, innit there?"

Ed nodded. He remembered this day well now, after he saw the bike.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Music Blogging

War Is OVer (Happy Xmas)
John & Yoko

Person? Of The Year?

A bald man with a gray beard and tired eyes is sitting in his oversize Washington office, talking about the economy. He doesn't have a commanding presence. He isn't a mesmerizing speaker. He has none of the look-at-me swagger or listen-to-me charisma so common among men with oversize Washington offices. His arguments aren't partisan or ideological; they're methodical, grounded in data and the latest academic literature. When he doesn't know something, he doesn't bluster or bluff. He's professorial, which makes sense, because he spent most of his career as a professor.

He is not, in other words, a typical Beltway power broker. He's shy. He doesn't do the D.C. dinner-party circuit; he prefers to eat at home with his wife, who still makes him do the dishes and take out the trash. Then they do crosswords or read. Because Ben Bernanke is a nerd.

He just happens to be the most powerful nerd on the planet.

Now, look, I'm a nerd, so I suppose I should have some support for this news.
And it cannot be doubted that Bernanke has been front and center of the news this entire year. Or rather, his policies and oversight have. Too, I have nothing against a guy who hasn't married a DC pundit and whirls around the DC cocktail party circuit like a banshee. In fact, I rather like that about Bernanke.
But seriously...person of the year? This presumes that Bernanke's policies will have far-reaching effects throughout the economy for a period of time extending beyond this year, and that's up for grabs, as far as I'm concerned.
Indeed, from what I've seen, Bernanke has both been a factor creating the problems we've encountered and acted as a bandaid now that those chickens have roosted.
If maintaining the status quo is the most newsworthy thing a person can do in this "Year of No," then perhaps the real person of the year should be Joe Lieberman, whose insistence on being a slave to the corporatocracy while millions of Americans sicken and die under his thumb will have a far greater impact on American and by extension world culture than the few dribs and drabs and wrist-slaps of the Fed chairman.
A better choice: how about rewarding the courage of Olympia Snowe for getting on board the healthcare reform bandwagon and insisting that, come what may of the bill, it should be subject to serious debate and discussion in the halls of the Senate? I get the title is for the person who has made the most news this year, but it seems to me that means bucking the partisan trends of political thought to actually get something done. Without her, there is no healthcare discussion much less the pitiful reform we're seeing take shape.

A (War On) Christmas Carol - Pt IV

"...And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom..."

Ed stared into the camera, trying to focus on the teleprompter and not the fact that SOME ASSHOLE WAS PLAYING HIS GODDAM MUSIC TOO LOUD somewhere in the studio! Frikkin' idiots KNOW that "ON AIR" means SILENCE!

"For we are all Americans, and all of us have always had the blessings of this great nation, founded under God. We are supposed to be identifying ourselves with that, and not by what country we come from or what religion we practice...and to hell with them that try to bring their culture here, with their foreign languages and their customs that don't fit in Christian society..."

The studio seemed to, it was black. 

"Hullo? Hullo? Am I still on? Barb? Anyone?"

"Hello, Ed..." a whispered voice floated across from behind the camera. A pinpoint of light began to glow and enlarge. It was a man, older, frailer than Ed, with white hair and an immistakable grimace on his face, like his teeth constantly hurt.

"Mort? Mort...Downey?" Ed Hughes was stunned by the site of his friend and predecessor standing in front of him.

Well, not standing. More like floating. And not in front of him, but all around him, even if most of him seemed to be facing Ed.

"I don't have much time, Ed, so let me never were much of one to follow tradition, were you? I see you've totally changed my set! Anyway, I've been sent with a message for you."

"From whom? Mort, what are you doing here? Am I dreaming? Who the hell slipped mesca--"

"QUIET! Now...let's just say that you've been brought to a certain someone's will be visited this evening by three ghosts, who will try to right your ways for you. I suggest you listen to them carefully. I didn't, and look what happened to me."

Ed scanned Mort's body. He seemed to be OK. Well, for a dead guy at any rate. Nothing too bad.

Then Mort slowly turned away from Ed. All around himself, Ed saw the marks...slashes and cuts and stab wounds.

"Ed...they stuck me in...well, nevermind that. Let's just say they have unique ways of making you see the light. I have to go now. Remember...three ghosts..."

And with that, Mort collapsed into a singularity, which disappeared, taking the air with it. 

Ed was in pitch black again, until he heard hissing "Ed! The script!"

He had been sitting there, silent, as if he'd had an ischemic attack, staring into the camera for ten seconds, according to the clock. And TV hates dead air.

Scanning the teleprompter, he found a spot that sounded familiar:" Into Christian society...we must be eternally vigilant, but for one more year at least, the war on Christmas has ended in victory for America. This is Ed Hughes saying good night, God bless, and merry, merry Christmas."

The studio went dark again, silent, punctuated by "And we're out!" and the shuffling of feet.