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.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Music Blogging

Trending Positive

One thing about being educated in America in the second half of the 20th Century: you forget just how rare you really are:
About 30% of Americans 25 and older have at least a bachelor's degree; in 1988 that number was only 20% and in 1968 it was 10%.
Re-read that. And for you Republicans, let me spell it out. Less than 1/3, one in three, Americans. Have. A. College. Degree.
Hard to believe, I know, considering the high price businesses place on a college education in the workforce. And note that this is after the Vietnam War when pursuit of a college degree was the best way to avoid the draft. You'd think the percentages would be much higher. Curiously, that rate is second highest in the world (Canada is number one,) but it's slipping.
So how is this "trending positive"? Well, over the longer term, politically speaking...well, let me have Petrilli finish his thought:

As less-educated seniors pass away and better-educated 20- and 30-somethings take their place in the electorate, this bloc will exert growing influence. And here's the distressing news for the GOP: According to exit-poll data, a majority of college-educated voters (53%) pulled the lever for Mr. Obama in 2008—the first time a Democratic candidate has won this key segment since the 1970s.

Or, as Karl Rove so eloquently put it, "As people do better, they start voting like Republicans - unless they have too much education and vote Democratic, which proves there can be too much of a good thing."
Rule of Thumb: Smart people vote Democratic. Dummies vote Republican.
Not that this is the salvation this nation needs. After all, it still means that 70% of the country doesn't have a college degree, and the current graduation rates have about 17% of people 25-34 with degrees. Now many of those are likely in the armed services and will get their degrees on the GI Bill's dime, so let's be generous and say it will be twenty percent by the end of 2015 (allowing for the Iraq and Afghan pull outs).
This means we have a short window to show our stuff, to encourage the less-educated folks in the heartland to stop listening to people who want them to remain dummified, and to pay attention to the world around them. We have to defuse the old Nixonian "east coast intellectuals" trope, which has evolved into the wide perception of "liberal thought," period.
In other words, we have to lift people up to our vision while not talking down at them. From my observation within the walls of cyberspace, that's not going to be an easy trick. Liberals tend to assume that the people they want to lead want to be led, but here's the thing: autocracy works in an atmosphere of violence, fear, and hatred, but is not well-suited for a free society. Free societies tend to think freely, and the tendency of liberals in a free thinking atmosphere is to, well, overthink things.
Not that this is a bad thing, but you have to keep in mind that 70% of the people considering your thinking don't have a grounding in philosophy beyond the Good Book, have never heard of Descartes much less Sartre, and are going to be put off by that kind of roaming thought-process.
You have to find a visceral connection to these people, too, because you aren't going to win many elections with the 17% of the people with degrees that are represented in the 2008 exit polls. As much as we liberals poo-poo the Blue Dog Democrats, like it or not, they represent a large enough voting bloc that they cannot be ignored, and indeed, have to be put first.
On a practical basis, as I pointed out yesterday, it means making a connection between a complex issue like the bank bailouts, the greed of bankers, and the opposition viewpoint that greed is good, and then selling that image to these voters. It means calling the heads of Citibank and Goldman Sachs "fat cat bankers," even if their past campaign contributions put you in power.
It means making an issue like a public healthcare option so identifiable to the mass public that they can't help but support it, so much so that Joe Lieberman has to shrug his shoulders and give up. Maybe a "Katrina" moment would do it, where we see who is most affected by the lack of insurance: the most vulnerable among us. People just like the people we need to help get liberals elected.
It's Christmas time, it could work, you know.
We do best when we talk up to people, not down to them.

A (War On) Christmas Carol - Pt III

Ed Hughes had trained himself to put gaffes out of his mind quickly. On TV, particularly on a talk show where you were the man, if you dwelled on a mistake you could be guaranteed to make many more. If it was big enough, he'd correct it the next night but this wasn't big enough.

"So there you have it folks! 2006...a year of change, a year of signposts, a year that we saw the further erosion of our traditional America values. Next up, our final segment: how did we do fighting the War On Christmas against the heathens and pagans and liberals who want to take it from us and turn it into a secular holiday."

Ed turned slightly sideways in his chair as the red light darkened, and sipped some water quickly. The show was going well, and Ed was keeping his cool. The interview with the Father Tom of his hometown church went well, allowing the Father the chance to remind people about Jesus' birth and what it means to us all, the sacrifices Jesus made for His people, and the love we should all have for our fellow men. Hughes even managed to slip a few jabs in at liberals, talking about how they wanted the rest of us to "give unto Caesar" when they couldn't give unto God. 

Father Tom almost seemed to bridle at that. I guess he hadn't been warned that Ed would do something like that. Always about getting a leg up on his competition and using liberals as building blocks. Nonplussed, Ed explained that he was talking about the all-but-certain tax hikes he felt were coming in the new Congress, but how gay marriage and stem cells would be featured as well. 

Father Tom sat stone silent as Hughes began to warm up for his blistering opinion segment at the end of the show. When Hughes was finished railing, Father Tom spoke of Jesus' love for ALL His people, and that His sacrifice was made to save us all. 

Hughes was writing notes. He had some ideas for the last segment, and then moved onto the next question for the Father. He caught Barb's eye at that point and winked at her. He could see Barb putting on her coat, her full breasts yearning to break free of their confinement and find their way to Ed's tender touch. He shook his head to clear the image.

“Must be a particularly full moon tonight,” he chuckled to himself, “they look rather swollen.” 

The stage crew was scurrying back to places. Ed had his monologue ready. A few more minutes, and Ed would be done for the night. Barb had waved goodnight during the break after Father Tom's segment. He was hoping he could convince her to let him buy her a drink this evening to celebrate Christmas. Maybe two. Maybe he'd slip her some of that special potion he had gotten from a friend. He could always put her in a cab afterwards. Timmy was probably asleep by now anyway.

"Finally, as the clock ticks towards Christmas Day, we should take a moment and reflect on precisely what this holiday means. Christmas isn't about commercialization, or how many presents you get or give. It's about remembering the birth of Our Lord. As such, the holiday should remain sacrosanct. It should never be used as a 'me-too' excuse by the politically-correct left and minority religions in this country who feel slighted by the sight of a tree with ornaments on it, or a creche with the baby Jesus in it. I'm frankly tired of celebrating 'diversity,' which is code for 'I'm better than you.' I'd much rather see the United States unite rather than divvy itself up into shards and pockets of people. We may be Jews or Irish or black, but underneath it all, we're Americans, and we should act that way..."

A strange ringing began in Ed's ear.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Music Blogging

Jingle Bell Rock: Literal Video
Hall & Oates

Easy Money

This is a kind of strawman argument to make by Obama, but nonetheless it will resonate:

In an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" programme, he said he did not run for office to be "helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street".

Later on Monday, the president will meet some of the US's top bankers face-to-face.

He is scheduled to hold a meeting with executives from Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup.

He is planning to tell them to step up lending to small businesses and get behind legislation to overhaul Wall Street regulations.

The term "fat-cat bankers" is one of those totems of neurolinguistic programming that I have been urging Democrats to pick up on for quite some time. We are not in a race war in this nation, nor are we truly in a political fight with the right.
We are, however, in a class war, one that pits the monied interests against the hundreds of millions of Americans who not only are not wealthy, but stand absolutely no chance of ever becoming wealthy. ("No chance" includes a rounding error to account for that small percentage, perhaps one-tenth of one percent, who might actually get lucky and hit the lottery or write a novel that takes off).
"Fat Cat Banker" raises the image of Mr. Monopoly, Rich Uncle Pennybags, complete with top hat, morning coat and striped pants, wearing a monocle and smoking a cigar, or the image used in so many mortgage and business lending commercials prior to the banking crisis, with a wood-paneled office, drinking brandy from a snifter which the banker then uses to crush the poor little guy trying to get a loan from Megabucks Bank.
But it's the rest of his remarks that truly intrigued me.

""They don't get it," Mr. Obama said. "They're still puzzled why is it that people are mad at the banks. Well, let's see. You guys are drawing down ten million, twenty million dollar bonuses after America went through the worst economic year that it's gone through in decades, and you guys caused the problem.[...]

Much of it was due to the irresponsibility of large financial institutions on Wall Street that gambled on risky loans and complex financial products seeking short-term profits and big bonuses with little regard for long-term consequences.[...]

What's really frustrating me right now is that you've got these same banks who benefited from taxpayer assistance who are fighting tooth and nail with their lobbyists up on Capitol Hill, fighting against financial regulatory control," he said.

And here's the most effective point he's made while raising the image of the greedy banker: not so much that the banks were greedy for their own sake, but that they owe a debt of gratitude to the small business owners and taxpayers who stood by them when the shit hit the fan. 
See, any idiot with a degree in accounting or finance (like me) could have told any banker that the risks they were taking by lending to anyone and everyone who walked up with a hat in hand were enormous and unnecessary. That the bankstahs spent more time listening to the shareholders who threatened mutiny if this quarter's earnings didn't meet or exceed last quarter's earnings and the board of directors who insisted on pay-for-share-performance than they did to the people warning them of the cliff they were about to drive over means they now owe a debt to the people who not only warned them, but who got down under the cliff and caught the bank before it crashed.
 Greed is pervasive in the capitalist system. Hell, it IS the capitalist system and used wisely, greed is good. I'm not about to stick my neck out on the chopping block unless there's a better than even chance that I'll end up better, much better, off than when I knelt in front of it.
But here's the thing: that same greed should recognize the people who stood by me, my workers, my investors, my community. That same greed should acknowledge the role of my customers and my vendors. AND that same greed should reward the government that put me in a position to take the chance, by creating a framework that was safe for me to do business in.
And if anyone of these groups, these stakeholders, goes above and beyond the call of duty to assist me when I am in trouble, then greed should absolutely be given to them, not me.
The parallel in my mind is alcoholism. If a man is supporting his family and giving to his community and keeping up with his obligations, then by all means, if he's a drunk then let him drink.
But keep an eye on him, because at some point, the drink, the greed, will overtake him and someone needs to be prepared to step in.
The right wing knuckleheads will tell you that this should be a function of his family (the company), taking care of his alcholo problem (his greed), but they may not notice or worse, may not care. That's when someone else needs to step in and stop him.

A (War On) Christmas Carol - Pt II

Ed stretched as the commercial break started and the lights dimmed. He was on a roll, roaring about Christmas trees and the sanctity of Christ's birth and how holy this time of the year was.

He didn't say it, but he left an inference that it was all the Jews fault for making up Hanukkah, and then the Muslims came up with Ramadan, and the blacks had Kwanzaa...he hated anything that didn't smack of pure Christian thought and belief.

He glanced over at Barbara, who was studying her clipboard and jotting down segment air times for archiving later. She was gorgeous. A great body, luscious lips, and a face that he pictured many times under his shower head, peering down at her, her ebony face bobbing up and down on his knob. Too bad she was happily married, not that he hadn't come up with a plan for that.

It was her kid, Timmy, that was the real obstacle. Timmy was born when Barbara was still struggling to get a handle on this job. NewsNet, a fledgling network, had hired her out of a halfway house for women coming off welfare. She fought her way up the ladder as promotions came fast and furious in the first years, people leaving because, well, it was NewsNet and you couldn't have that scum staining your skin for too long.

Because she was making a bare minimum wage when he was born, the doctors really didn't pay much attention to him. She couldn't afford the insurance premiums at NewsNet and her Medicaid had been cut off when she started working. Timmy had a degenerative spinal condition that required draining weekly. He'd never grow tall and handsome like she'd hoped he would and would need constant attention.

Her husband had been a saint about it when they first met, and it was for this reason she gladly married him after a year. Between the two of them, they made enough to afford some of the things Timmy needed, but never enough of what he would truly need: time with him, and comfort.

Sadly, even this latest job, with its glittering title and high profile, was still underpaid by a lot, and try living in the city! But they had to, for her job but also for Timmy. The commute to the doctors would have killed him.

Ed briefly imagined what it would be like if Timmy had died, would he be able to make his move, but this ashamed even his jaded appetites, so he quickly rearranged his papers and began to focus on the next story, the recap of the year.

Family values, dammit! That's what sold his radio program. He spent many years out in the wilderness, just one of the pack of talking heads railing on about this politician, that corrupt program, but once the Clinton/Lewinski affair took full bloom, his career began its upward arc. It was much more fun to gossip and slander, and it made for better television. Too, it allowed Hughes to bring the token defender of Clinton onto his show, and shut him up as a "soft-headed liberal."

His audience got the vicarious thrill of telling a tree hugger to stop preaching and leave them and America alone! And ever since then, any scandal that could in anyway be tied to the "liberal agenda"-- gay marriage, abortion, husband killing wife, woman abandoning her children-- he would take a potshot at liberals. Family values was his ticket.

He ought to know about family values, too. "I raised two sets of kids and one stepson in my three marriages! I know what holds a family together!" As they were coming out of break, he found an item to pin the recap segment on and scribbled a few last minute notes. He knew Barb would be furious, but fuck her. That's what she gets for spurning him ten years ago.

"And now, the year in review. And what a year its been. If I told you that a Congressman's inability to keep from liberal temptation would change the entire course of the nation, you'd never believe me, and yet, that's precisely what Mark Foley's weakness has done..."

Ed droned on through his copy, but there was a spark in the back of his mind that caught a piece of a fleeting memory and began kindling his neurons. Christmas. Tonight was Christmas Eve. He'd go home, put on his robe, sit down in front of the television with a glass of whiskey, and relax in the blissful comfort of solitude. He didn't need anyone around him to have a good time. All he needed was a good book and some scotch, and he'd be fine. But it wasn't always like this. When Jack Marley was alive, he and Ed would hit the town any night, even Christmas Eve, and manage to find a party where some bimbo would give it up.

Hell, it was how he met his third wife, and he's still paying child support to prove it!

"...finally, no review of 2006 would be complete without a look at the situation in Iraq. Folks, we're not far from winning this war. Yes, the insurgency is still active, but this is merely people who have had no power for decades jockeying for position to divvy up the spoils of their oil fields once those become active again! We shouldn't abandon the root cause of trying to bring democracy to a people who so richly deserve it after all we've done to them. I mean, for them.


Where the hell did THAT come from?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Music Blogging

Jasper's Worst Christmas
Whit Hill and the Postcards

A (War On) Christmas Carol - Pt I

"Barb! It's twenty minutes to air! I want to see the final edits now, dammit!"

"Ed, we've worked together for ten years. Have I ever failed you?" Barbara Croce purred back. For ten years, she had been producer of the wildly successful, for cable, at any rate, Ed Hughes Show, a nightly roundup of news and opinion on NewsNet, a facet of a global media conglomerate with a simple agenda: tell the story our way, damn the facts.

"Barb! I need to make sure my commentary syncs up with the vid! Don't make me remind you about Juan!"

Ed referred to an incident three years ago when Hurricane Juan hit Halifax. Although it did significant damage to trees and property, and although it killed only four people, Ed had claimed it was barely a tropical storm even though the video showed winds ripping roofs off and whipping trees around.

Barb muttered under her breath. While Ed Hughes was an impossible man to work with, and NewsNet was a network mentioned only with a subvocal chortle by her peers, Barb was proud of how she had taken the Hughes Show and turned it into a cultural icon. She wasn't proud of how she had to do it, though, and always felt karma had been at play in the birth of her youngest, Tim.

"NOW, Barbara! NOW!"

Barbara ran into the make-up room, and popped the data disk into the always-on computer, so Ed could watch. He mouthed his copy as he stared into the screen, pausing occasionally to mark a word for emphasis or check if he had made the appropriate change. She stood with her back to the wall, her ample figure visible in his line of sight in the mirror.

He glanced up, "So? A winner tonight?"

Barb smiled back, and said "Of course, Ed. Always. Listen, if you don't mind, I'd like to leave a little early tonight. It's Christmas Eve and all, and I'd like to spend some time with Timmy and the family."

Ed's expression was easy to read. "No, Barb! This is the most important show of the season! Millions of people will be watching my final piece on the war on Christmas! How that airport in Washington state took down their Christmas trees rather than put up a menorah!"

"But it's Christmas, Ed! C'mon, even YOU have to stop working once in a while!"

Ed Hughes glared at her over his half-glasses, adjusted them on his nose, and said, "No, but I tell you what: you can leave right after the last commercial break."

"But that's at 9:5-"

"Final offer, Barb."

"You are the single stingiest bastard in the world!"

"OK! Enough! 9:30, take it or leave it!"

Barbara Croce gathered up her will. She really wanted to walk out, but to give up this job at this time and let Ed Hughes get a head start on smearing her in the business before she could draft her resume..."Very well, Ed."

She turned and stormed out, tears lingering on her cheeks like shards of liquid spaghetti on a fine porcelain doll.

"Five minutes to air, Mr. Hughes."

Ed turned back to the mirror, stared into it and grinned. He won. He always won, because he didn't care about the price of winning, only about the price of losing. It was how he got this job after Jack Marley died, ten years ago. He stepped on every toe, crushed every finger, smashed every head he had to so he could get the 9PM slot. He wanted it desperately. He wanted to be The Man.