October 31, 2009

One Down...

Yesterday I posted my latest Pet Peeve of the Day (PPOD), which related to the constant bombardment of ads in support of (or denigrating the opponents of) candidates for New York's 23rd congressional district, which is open due to the appointment of Rep. John McHugh to Secretary of the Army.

Today I'm able to report that one of the three candidates, Dede Scozzafava, has left the race. While I'd love to pretend that I had something to do with her leaving (maybe a guilty conscience about all of the money she's been receiving from folks outside the district?), the reality is that my post had nothing to do with her leaving; in fact, it was lousy support and a weak third place finish in recent polling that caused her change of heart.

Sadly, one leaving leaves two left to slam each other for the next few days, which I'm sure will continue with abandon. But at least one third of the screaming is gone.

October 30, 2009

PPOD 10/30/09: I'm veritablepastiche, and I Approve This Message

Back in September when Rep. John McHugh resigned his seat in New York’s 23rd congressional district to become Secretary of the Army in the Obama administration, I didn’t really pay a lot of attention. I didn’t know much about McHugh, other than he was the representative from the North Country, and I knew less about his district. Here's what I've learned since then:
  • NY’s 23rd district encompasses not only the North Country, but also much of the neighboring counties immediately to the north and east of Onondaga County, where I live. It also spans two major television regions, the Capital area and the Central New York area.

  • The median income is about $35,000, and the district has upwards of 600,000 residents.

  • It also has the attention of Sarah Palin, New Gingrich, Nancy Pelosi, President Obama, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Fred Thompson, and a whole other mess of characters that don’t live in the district, or even New York.

The race to fill McHugh’s seat is the only congressional race this year, and so it’s been designated The Test – the test of the Obama administration, the test of the Pelosi House, the test of all of the Us and Thems that anyone can manufacture. It’s also attracted at least $3 million in outside-the-district contributions. It features a Democrat, a Republican, and a Conservative. A lawyer, a rich Reaganite, and an Assemblywoman. Two liberals and a true conservative. A liar, a liar, and a liar. Oh wait, I must have been listening to their ads again. And the ads – that’s my Pet Peeve of the Day.

During the last fifteen minutes of the evening news, every night, we see usually four or five consecutive ads for Bill Owens
, Dede Scozzafava, and Doug Hoffman. The other night, nine out of ten ads were for one of the three of them, interrupted only by a Fucillo ad. This week, while I’ve been on staycation, I’ve seen literally tens of dozens of ads for this race. As I type this post, there have been three ads in the past two minutes. The three million dollars that has poured into the race is being used to flood the airways locally, and I imagine in the Capital region as well.

I appreciate that this is the only game in town for the national Congressional committees, and for other support organizations who are interested in changing the legislative landscape. However, for those who live in the district, the best information doesn’t come from slick ad agencies or folks with wads of cash – it’ll come from the three running for office.
For folks like me who live in the neighborhood, all this nonsense makes me long for a simpler time, when the Used Car King was the most annoying advertiser on local television.

And yes, three more ads have appeared while I typed these last two sentences.

October 19, 2009

PPOD 10/19/09: Cash for Reefers

Oh, please – when will this end! Now the government is offering a ‘cash for clunkers’ program for refrigerators, ovens, and dishwashers, and it's my Pet Peeve, or PPOD, of the day.

While the program was originally announced a while back, I’ll be honest, I likely put it out of my mind because I thought it was dopey then…and I think it’s dopey now. Particularly here in the Empire State, where we’re pretty adept at taking a dumb thing and making it worse.

Unlike some states that are offering the rebates now, we’re not going to – we’re holding off on doing anything other than announce that the rebates will be available in February.

Sure stinks to be a salesman who’s trying to make a living between now and then, since there’s no real impetus to buy before the modest rebates kick in. Stores are offering their own discounts, or offering rebates equivalent to the anticipated 2010 amount, so folks will come in, look around and maybe – just maybe – make a purchase.

But here’s the thing: stores do that all the time. Every day. Sometimes twice a day, it seems; you can’t get out of the way of the ads on TV, the Internet intrusions, and flyers in the daily newspaper, not to mention direct mail campaigns begging us to shop. And while I appreciate that retail markets are sputtering, I don’t appreciate that our tax dollars are being used to prop up cherry-picked industries that have the loudest lobbyist or bureaucrat in their corner. Unlike Cash for Clunkers for cars, with Cash for Reefers you can get the rebate without turning in your old energy-guzzling model, so the old 'this is good for the environment’ argument can’t even be made.

What I really don’t appreciate is that we’re discouraging people from making purchases as responsible consumers, with free will and financial power over whether or not they spend their money. We’re becoming a nation that can’t act without a sweetener from the Totally Addicting Rebate Program, or TARP. Oh wait, that was the 2008 Stimulus package, now we’re into the 2009 stimulus program. How about America’s Recurring Rebate Addiction, for ARRA?

Like we used to ask folks on prank calls when we were kids, “Is your refrigerator running?” If the adult who answered the phone said yes, we’d say “well, you better go and catch it!” Today I’d add, “If it’s not, for heaven’s sake go buy a new one – just don’t wait for me to help you pay for it.”

October 9, 2009

Special Edition Trifecta 10/9/09: What a Day it Was!

In what can universally be described (at least by us non-scientists) as anti-climactic, fizzling and boring, NASA shot the moon, literally, with millions of dollars worth of equipment. The goal of the mission was to determine if there’s water on the moon; NASA thinks there may be, based on some data gathered several years ago. The thinking was that we’d crash the two pieces of equipment into a polar crater, and the moon would reward us with a giant plume of stuff (a highly technical term) that we could then study to learn if water was really present.

The six mile plume that we were led to believe we could see using a telescope, or barring that, on live TV, either didn’t materialize at all, or it was monstrously dwarfed by that which followed the announcement that Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

I can tell you, I thought I was reading The Onion
this morning, when I saw the breaking news banner about the Peace Prize. It was pretty early, I don't even think it was 6AM, when I saw the news and there wasn’t much out there that I had time to look at before getting an early start on the workday.

Remarkably, he’s being honored “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”
but not for any actual accomplishments. The announcement from the Committee goes on to state that “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future.”
What makes this interesting is that the award is being given to someone not even nine full months into his presidency, and to a person who has not actually accomplished much of anything.

  • Guantanamo Bay is still a prison and not likely to be closed any time soon, as promised, because politicians and Americans can’t be convinced that we can keep these folks safely confined even in our SuperMax prisons, and also because we can’t convince any of our international partners to take these prisoners either.

  • The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continue, as does conflict in Pakistan, and we’re on the verge of sending in more troops not bringing them home as promised.

  • Iran continues to move ahead with their nuclear programs, and even though they say it’s for energy not weapons, there’s not a whole lot of trust in this conversation.

At home, we’re more polarized that ever; a small but vocal portion of the population thinks that Obama is not even eligible to be president. What counts for debate on health care, the economy, or the war comes off more like a bunch of harridans shrieking from the sidelines. Many folks look at dissent and see racism instead. We don't have much lately that resembles any concerted effort at consensus, and no one's leading the charge to get us there, including the President.

Is Obama deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize? Not in my book; at best it's premature - and frankly he may never be worthy of it. I think he was nominated on the basis of the speech he made in Berlin as a presidential candidate, more than anything else. The challenge now becomes the difficult task of living up to the world’s expectations, in addition to those of us here at home. It’ll be interesting to see how things play out.

And last, the other noteworthy news of the day? Hummer is now a Chinese brand.
For some reason, that just doesn’t seem right.

October 4, 2009

The Weekend Trifecta 10/04/09

A trifecta is generally described as a type of bet where, in order to win, the bettor must pick the top three finishers in the correct order. Here are the weekend’s top three:

  • Pumpkins, cornstalks, and apple fritters (yes, we had them again). I was talking with a friend of mine in our Rochester office the other day. He and his family used to live a few minutes south of here, but sold their house and moved closer to the Mother Ship. One thing he misses since he moved is getting pumpkins at Hourigan’s Farm. They have the best selection, all different sizes and shapes and yes, colors – and all pumpkins are $2 or less. They also have gourds, and pie pumpkins, and corn stalks, and Indian corn, and seasonal squash for sale, and even hayrides. It looks right, it smells right, and it’s always on our list as well. Today we got several pumpkins and some corn stalks with great tassels for the porch and for the fences in the front garden,as well as gourds for inside. I got everything decorated, and we look pretty good. And, happily, the orchard with the great fritters I mentioned a couple of weeks ago is between the pumpkins and home, so we made a stop there as well.
  • Fall in the garden. The black walnuts were all picked up, the lawn is mowed front and back, and we’re still getting quite a bit of blooming for this late. Roses, including the ones in My Sweet Baboo’s garden, a couple we have in pots, and my minis and Happy Chappys are all blooming, as are a few of my remaining Simplicity hedge roses. The mums are all coming along now, as are the asters, and we both still have blanket flowers blooming along side the several different varieties of sedum that are very pretty this time of year. And dandelions – sadly, I saw one of the bright yellow demons today when I was mowing - it just doesn’t seem fair! I got the first 50 bulbs in today – daffodils and most of the green tulips I ordered. We started getting the more tender of the houseplants back inside, and I’ve put some time into trying to figure out how they all came out of the house, since I can’t figure out where to put them all now…
  • ...Which brings me to number three on the list – rearranging furniture. It’s not so much the rearranging that puts it on the top three, it’s the being done with rearranging that helps this one make the list. A couple times a year, I rearrange the plant room. Saturday I decided that this was the time to do it, since we were bringing some of the plants back in. In my family, rearranging furniture is always done by the women, and usually when it’s dark. My Mom and I never used to even start until dark, and typically didn’t finish until well past our bedtime. Today, I got an uncharacteristically early start – around 5 – and had most of the heavy lifting done before dinner. After that it was a piece of cake to at least get everything back in the room. I’ll do the final stuff tomorrow but at least I don’t have a coffee table in the dining room anymore.

Hope you were able to take advantage of this fantastic weekend!