Friday, November 27, 2009

Nobody Asked Me But....

1) Feeling stuffed, still?

2) As hotly debated as the climate change issue is here in the US, over some of the sickest silliest claims made by the non-believers, the rest of the world is very alarmed at the factual evidence before us.

3) I wonder how many other White House events have been crashed?

4) I'm actually eager to see this movie. The book, a Pulitizer prize winning novel, was a total disappointment, but I'm curious to see how the director adapts it into a movie.

5) Yeeeeeeeeeeeeah, but we don't need a public option, right?

6) There's an interesting "freedom v. privacy" issue a-brewing on this. Index here. I'm not sure how I feel about this, but instinctually, I think it's a good thing to have this knowledge released to the public. However, perhaps a little time could have been taken to weed out the non-essential IMs.

7) All those nights spent standing in front of speakers at rock concerts may have SKIN deaf???

8) MEMO. To: Tennesee. If u r using ur ring finger, ur doin it RONG! Please do try to keep up, mmmmmmmmmmmmmK?

9) Normally, I refuse to shop on Black Friday, but HELLLLLLLO, Austin!

10) And why don't I shop on Black Friday? Ohhhhhhhhh, I don't know....

But if you must, please be safe and have a healthy and happy holiday weekend.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thank Yous

There's not much to be thankful for this year, and maybe that's the thing to be thankful for. It throws years like 2008 into sharp relief when the comedown off the high, and the hangover, are as fierce as 2009.

Before I get to the maudlin bits, let me thank you, my readers and friends, for putting up with my crap for yet another year. My blog has grown surprisingly so that I am now considered by the ranking service Technorati to be a "large blog," meaning a lot of people read this stuff.

Oddly enough, this comes on the heels of my vow for this year to specifically not pursue the popular stories.

And ThumbPer, who has been my faithful companion and blogging partner (he's sitting on my lap, paws on my computer stand, as I type this).

I'm sure I'm giving short shrift to a lot of people, places and things, and as they occur to me, I'll note them at the end of this piece. I refuse to turn this into one of those treacly columns where Mom, apple pie and the Boy Scouts feature prominently.

I'm thankful that I'm safe, for one more year, from the ravages of this horrible economic crisis. I sit insulated and isolated safely in a warm house, with at least two turkey meals ahead of me, and warm clothes to put on. And I sit here, I remember that I'm safe but others are not.

Brother, don't you walk away. Food pantries are bare nationwide. Hunger is creeping across the land like a dark plague, picking off the weakest, poorest among us. People who can only afford a candy bar because the local grocer charges $1.50 for an apple, a browned, bruised battered one at that, are dizzy with need, aching for a real meal. They need comfort and food and comfort food.

More and more people sleep on grates and subway benches. It's hard to tell if they are derelict or destitute, but this is America and they deserve the dignity of our compassion and assumption of destitution. We cheer heroes in sport despite their cheats and crude behavior, so why cannot we not find it in our hearts to look past a drinking or drug problem and reach out to cheer these folks on as well?

Right now, today, there are millions of people working too hard at jobs that pay too little. I think of this woman in my neighborhood, she looks Mayan or Incan. Her features are sharp, as if they were chiseled onto the head of an axe, her long black hair kempt under a woolen cap. She could be forty. She could be eighty. Sometimes on the weekends, I see her with two young children. She stands just under five feet tall.

She pushes a shopping cart through my neighborhood each and every morning. She's done this for years, picking up deposit bottles, going through the trash and recycling bins. I make a point of it to neatly bundle my beer and soda bottles for her in plastic bags and leave them by the bins. I've probably made her a hundred bucks a year.

The cart overflows with her currency: huge plastic bags filled with empties, standing sometimes six and a half feet high. Seven days a week, which means that seven days a week, she has to go to a store and exchange them. I once estimated that this probably pays her twenty bucks a day. A hundred dollars a week for digging through stuff everyone else has discarded, the nasty smelly stuff. I don't know how many hours she logs doing this, how big a family she's struggling to assist, and if she even has a husband or other adults.

I don't have to know that. I see her dedication, and think to myself, there are people in this nation who would gladly have her arrested and put on a boat home. It wouldn't matter to them if she was legally here or not.

Worse for her, there are sharks in the water now. I've seen them: angry men who come by in the afternoons, turning over garbage can lids, looking for bottles to return. Angry white men, frustrated by the sparse pickings (she is thorough). This is a post-apocalyptic world for them, and their fear manifests to anger, and anger to rage, and rage to violence.

I only pray to God I can be there to protect her when these guys get the hint they'll have to roll out of bed early. Hell, they scare me and I'm bigger than they are. But they have anger, which makes them dangerous, but brother, don't you walk away!

Where are our Steinbecks, our balladeers? I pondered that question as my head lay on a soft pillow under a warm blanket. Who will write our Grapes of Wrath? You? Me? Who will be our Dorothea Lange? Our James Baldwin? Who will record this generation lost, so that the starkness of existence as most Americans live it can be contrasted with the moneybags of Goldman Sachs, so that accounting can be made and responsibility assessed?

Things to be thankful for
Reunion. Old friends new once more. Life. Art. Courage. Wit. Compassion. Spirit. That I'm not Glenn Beck.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Feats Of Clay

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Former CNN anchor Lou Dobbs is seriously considering running for U.S. Senate in New Jersey as "an intermediary step" that could lead to a run for the White House.
Dobbs told former Sen. Fred Thompson's radio program on Monday that he had been urged to run for president and would talk to some people about it.
Ironic, isn't it, that Dobbs would make this rather curious statement on the radio program of a fellow dragged into a Presidential primary season he was neither enthusiastic or prepared for.
But I digress...
We speak often of politics as a bubble in this country, that people who run for office and particularly incumbents, are out of touch with the common man and the common problems we face.
You'd think this would not be the case for a man who just spent his entire adult life covering news stories. Three years ago, I might have agreed with you. 
I think the downfall of Dobbs from CNN was less a matter of his instigating commentary on his program, in particular with regards to immigration reform, and more about hubris

"Some leaders in media, politics and business have been urging me to go beyond the role here at CNN," Dobbs told viewers, "and to engage in constructive problem-solving, as well as to contribute positively to a better understanding of the great issues of our day."

Pho, as they say. That's quite the load Dobbs is asking us to swallow.
Dobbs has lived in an echo chamber these past few years, I suspect. He's had his ego stroked, pampered and inflated because, well, yes, he brought in ratings.
But he brought in ratings based on anger and hate, not because he proposed solutions to problems that either made sense or could be enacted. Rounding up 23 million people (rough estimate) and sending them on their merry way, then shutting the door behind them would not be easy, and indeed, would be economically disastrous for American workers.
Anyone who watched or read Dobbs' articles would have been struck by the intense anger this man feels towards people who, admittedly, are here illegally. It's almost as if his wife had an affair with one of his gardeners or something.
But here's Dobbs, willingly naive about the popularity he enjoys beyond his insular and insulated bubble.
Good for him, I say! Let him run, and be a shining example to the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs of the world. It's easy to sit on your fat ass and postulate, pundulate, and prognosticate from the comfort of your Herman Miller Aeron chair, but to actually get up and go out and meet people and try to explain your hatred to an audience sitting sober and in a formal setting....meh, not so much!
Dobbs will have his lunch eaten and his hat handed to him, and that will be the end of advocacy journalism as we know it. Good riddance, says I.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Did We Blow Up This Morning?

The CERN collaboration's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) sent beams of protons flying around its 27 km length in each direction over the weekend, and Monday saw them run two beams simultaneously and slam them into one another, producing the collider's first ever particle collisions. It would appear that any time-traveling quantum bird sent by the Higgs boson was unable to disrupt yesterday's run.

Last fall, the LHC team came close to reaching this same milestone, but fell short when a massive quench failure damaged a number of the superconducting magnets that are used to help guide, accelerate, and squeeze the beams of particles as they move around the tunnel. This failure occurred only nine days after the first particles were circulated, but was only one in a series of setbacks that the collider would experience. Broken support structures, helium leaks,  and frayed wiring all required that the equipment be warmed up from the frosty operating conditions of 1.8 Kelvin. The most recent mishap involved a bird dropping bread into an electrical transformer. All of this has caused some to speculate that the Higgs boson—the elusive particle that is the basis of mass—is actually causing these failures to occur from the future. Presumably from its fortress of doom and solitude.

OK, there's some "inside baseball" that needs to be explained here.  The Higgs boson is a theoretical particle...OK, it's a particle that's predicted to exist but has never been seen (and this is the easy stuff to explain!)... and is a key particle to many cosmologic theories. Indeed, the Higgs boson has been linked to the origin of mass in the universe, it's that fundamental a piece of the subatomic picture.
Without it, in other words, Jonah Goldberg wouldn't be fat. Under the theory, the Higgs works like molasses through which one might drag, say, a pearl necklace, to which the molasses now sticks adding weight and mass.
The Higgs is also called the God Particle, because of this mechanism, distorted by the media, of course. No one has seen a Higgs, just as no one has seen God.
Naturally, in a semi-serious paper, a couple of scientists postulated that to create a Higgs would so endanger the planet that the Higgs itself would reach back and destroy the attempt.
Hmmmmmmmmmmmm. Of course, the beauty of this prediction is that it can only be disproven if in fact a Higgs is produced, and of course, the world ends or Cthulhu shows up.
But I digress...
The implications of the appearance of a Higgs are so wide ranging, it would be next to impossible to even begin to list them here. Suffice it to say that, indeed, it would account for nearly every aspect of why (not just how) you are sitting there, reading this blog.

Monday, November 23, 2009

One Step Closer

The Senate is ready to begin a volatile, high-stakes healthcare debate that's sure to be punctuated by tense and unpredictable battles over some of the most incendiary issues in American politics today.

Debate on the $848 billion bill to overhaul the nation's healthcare system is expected to start next week, after the Senate returns from its Thanksgiving recess, and many lawmakers already consider it a golden opportunity to win long-sought projects and local aid for their constituents.

The flashpoints will be familiar -- abortion, federal deficits, government involvement in healthcare decisions and other hot topics -- and many Democrats already have said they want to see, and are well-positioned to seek, changes in the bill.

In fact, the legislation is moving ahead only because it got 60 votes Saturday night to proceed -- the minimum needed -- two weeks after the House of Representatives' version squeaked through by five votes.

I had a feeling that Lieberman, nor any of the other shills for the insurance industry operating under the sham of "protecting the American people from Big Government" would hold true to their promise of filibustering this bill to death.
Seriously, how hard is this to do?
If anything, the Democratic Senators who have come out and stated opposition to the bill, Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu and Bob Nelson, all stand to see hundreds of millions of dollars funneled into their states with the introduction of a public option.
Contrast that with the $223 million dollars Alaska tried to rip off the US taxpayers for that "Bridge to Nowhere". At least these hundreds of thousands of dollars give us tens of millions of healthier, happier and more productive Americans, not a slightly easier access to an island for a few thousand tourists each year.
77% or so of Americans WANT some form of the public option. That's all you three need to know (I drop Lieberman off the list because he's so far up the asses of the insurance companies, they're lending him out to do colonoscopies).
So what to do to bring our little ducklings back into line? After all, this is all about getting the re-elected, and the millions in campaign contributions they can garner by holding Americans hostage.
Threatening them with primary opponents might work, except it didn't do much with Lieberman except make him a little more likely to play the "leave the caucus" card. And it would be difficult to keep three senators in line like that.
There's a deal to be made here that doesn't involve taking the public option off the table. Unfortunately, I do not know what that deal is, and there's a kicker: it has to be structured such that these three jackasses can save face (even tho you and I will know they folded cynically). I find it hard to believe that they would either turn their backs on hundreds of millions in pork OR on tens of millions of Americans.