October 4, 2011

Distractions of Dad

Since my Dad died in January 2007, I’ve gone through what I figure are normal cycles of remembering him and missing him. Not that I don’t always remember and miss him – of course I do.  Most of the time, he’s tucked safely away in my heart; but occasionally I feel he’s sitting right next to me, walking along side of me, or looking over my shoulder. It’s happened twice in the last week, and both times it’s been the most marvelous experience.

The first time was Saturday at the grocery store.  I had left My Sweet Baboo in the cat food aisle and headed off in another direction, and stopped short when I saw a man start to toss something across a low display case to his wife, who was on the other side with their cart. He was gesturing with his hands, making a tossing motion, and she was gesturing right back at him, clearly indicating with both her facial expression and her hands that she wanted no part of his pitch and catch game. He kept trying, she kept saying no, and eventually he gave in and walked over to her, handed her the item, and went off to get something else.
I stood there giggling, and the woman looked at me as if I was nuts; after all, she clearly communicated that she thought her husband had been acting like a child. I apologized to her for laughing and told her it could be worse: when I was a kid, my Dad would roll cat food cans, paper towels, and whatever else he could get moving down the aisle, and my job was to scoop everything up and put it in the cart. Sometimes I missed; things would slide by, and Dad and I would laugh, go pick up the cans, and move on to the next aisle. I thanked her for reminding me of that fun; she smiled and walked away, and secretly I wished her husband would try my Dad’s favorite trick – tossing something across the top of the shelves, from one aisle to another! He didn’t try it often, but it was fun when he did.  (Note that we lived in a small town, with a small family-owned grocery store; I don’t think our behavior would be as well received in a larger store like Wegmans.)
Today it was snickerdoodles. One of my co-workers stopped by this afternoon with a container full of them. They were my Dad’s favorite cookies, mostly because every year at Christmas his sister would make some for him. She’d pack them in a coffee can, put on a pretty bow, and put them under the tree. At some point, we kids would sneak the cookies out from under the tree (preferably while everyone was in the room), and hide them. Even though everyone knew the drill, it was still fun to go through the process, coming up with more creative ways to steal, hide and then rediscover the cookies. One year my aunt made two containers, one for stealing, and one which she triumphantly handed to my Dad, a huge ‘so there, kids!’ moment. In the silliness that followed, my brother stole the second batch and hid that one too.  Another year, we actually left the cookies behind; I remember there was much feigned indignance for a couple of days after Christmas, which ended when the cookies were safely delivered.
Two wonderful memories, completely unexpected, and made that much more enjoyable as a result.  Thanks Dad, for the distractions.

September 13, 2011

The Problem of Health Insurance and Poverty

Every Monday, my hometown newspaper, Syracuse’s The Post-Standard, publishes a listing of judgments and bankruptcies.  Like many people, I read these with a combination of curiosity (anyone I know?) and discomfort (no joy in someone else’s misfortune).

This week, of the 97 judgments listed, 31 were filed by local hospitals or physicians, totaling over $371,000. Throw in a judgment satisfaction and a bankruptcy, and it’s closer to $380,000.

Anyone see a problem?

New Census Bureau numbers came out today, and show that almost 50 million Americans – 50 million – do not have health insurance. The number would likely be higher, except that PPACA (the Job Killing Health Care Law) provides coverage for kids under 26 who can now remain on their parents’ policies.  

The number of Americans living in poverty is now just over 15%, or 46 million of us, the highest number ever recorded.

Anyone see a problem?

Last night at the GOP debate, a smattering of the audience applauded the concept of letting a comatose man in his 30's die outside a hospital, untreated, because he doesn't have health insurance.  A larger number of them cheered the concept of churches and neighbors handling his care.  

Anyone see a problem?

September 11, 2011

Returning 9/11, Redux

Two years ago, on the eve of the eighth anniversary, I proposed that we ‘return’ 9/11 to America, and to Americans. I thought then that we should consider moving on – not that we should forget, because there’s no way that will happen – but that we allow the day to have all of the myriad emotions, circumstances and possibilities that all other days are afforded, including happy ones.

At the time I wrote the post, (read it here ) I was thinking about a friend whose birthday falls on 9/11, and how difficult it was for him to have a ‘normal’ birthday, without feeling guilty about having fun on what had become such a dark day for us. After all, it’s hard to imagine behaving normally on a day when so many lost their lives, when so many had their lives forever changed, when the path of our country was so dramatically changed.

Today, I watched the coverage of the anniversary ceremonies in New York, Washington, and Shanksville. I listened as the names of the innocent were read aloud, by their moms and dads, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, friends and strangers. My emotions (and tears) swelled listening to Yo-Yo Ma, James Taylor, and Paul Simon perform their particular magic. I was transfixed by Amazing Grace, so beautiful on the solo flute, and so different emotionally from the more traditional bagpipes.

But perhaps the most moving of all were the comments not of the politicians and talking heads but of the children of the victims, and how in an almost quintessentially American way, they have made their very difficult lives worthwhile since 9/11. Living up to the memories of those they lost; making sure to be worthy of the sacrifice; to make sure their lives will make a difference. Not only so that people don’t forget, but so that people can feel comfortable moving forward.

For me, they are the reason to move forward.

We can mourn the innocence lost on 9/11/01, but ten years later on 9/11/11, while celebrating the lives of those who perished, we should more importantly celebrate the lives of those who carry forward their memories and ideals, and celebrate the resilience of the American spirit.

September 9, 2011

This Bill, This Bill: Obama Goes Country

I don't want another standoff
Boehner doesn't need another cry, no
We’ve already learned the hard way
America says hello, oh no, goodbye
Got no money in their pocket
Jobs aren’t falling from the sky

It's the way I see things
How to fix this mess
It’s bipartisan motion
It’s the path, the best
It's that pivotal moment
It's, ah, possible
This bill, this bill (must pass it!)
This bill, this bill

Obama said to McConnell                        
"How did we get so off course, huh?
Was it damn Reid and Pelosi
with their bleeding hearts and ideals?
Ride me out of the big White House?
Mitch, you must be smoking crack!"   

It's the way I see things
How to fix this mess
It's the crap you asked for
Screw the liberal left
It's that pivotal moment
It's all possible
This bill, this bill (you’ll pass it now)
This bill, this bill

You can call me after midnight
Talk about our common goals, (or not)
You can stall and delay if you dare but
Americans can’t wait that long
Don’t kill this in cold slow motion  

Don’t let everything slide
You got me angry, you got me riled

It's the way I see things
How to fix this mess
It's my grand proposal
Save my presidency!
It's that pivotal moment
It's, ah possible
This bill, this bill (you criminal)
This bill, this bill

It’s the way I see things Boehner
It's the way I see things Cantor, yeah  

It's the way I see things
How to fix this mess
It’s bipartisan motion
It’s the path, the best!
It's that pivotal moment
It's, ah, possible

This bill, this bill, (You’ll pass it John)
This bill, this bill

It's the way to see things, Boehner
It's the way to get re-elected', yeah

It's the way I see things
How to fix this mess
It's bipartisan motion
It’s the path, the best!

September 6, 2011

Who do you prefer the least?

The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll is out, and the results are (not surprisingly) ugly.  

President Obama is not doing a good job as president (51% disapprove), or handling the economy (59% disapprove). On foreign policy (45% disapprove) and Libya (38% disapprove) he's doing a little better. 

On the 'Kumbaya' question - the one that asks how the respondent 'feels' about the person or group referenced by the pollster - no one does well. Obama generates the highest very negative sentiment, a mere one percentage point higher than the Tea Party, but he also has the highest very positive, slightly more than twice that of the Dems and Teas, but three times higher than the Reps.
  • President Obama: 24% very positive, 30% very negative
  • The Democratic Party: 11% very positive, 25% very negative
  • The Republican Party: 8% very positive, 23% very negative
  • The Tea Party: 11% very positive, 29% very negative
The big ugly number on the survey is that 73% of respondents feel the country is headed in the wrong direction. Hopefully, this will not be a surprise to any elected officials, or to any of the candidates out on the campaign trail. 

I've read that many of our representatives and senators took a beating at home over the August break; Obama took a beating for taking a vacation; and of course we had the childish nonsense surrounding the scheduling of the President's big jobs speech, which I think was handled poorly by everyone.  

Although politicians always say they don't pay any attention to polls, I'm hoping they take a look at this one, take the message to heart, and somehow come up with a way to move us forward.

July 21, 2011

Ronald Reagan for President?

The other day I answered the phone to hear a recorded voice telling me Dick Morris had an important message for conservatives like me. I stayed on the line and listened to the former Clinton advisor-turned-hater babbling about his new book, about the scourge of the socialist Obama presidency, and about how loyal Conservatives like me can get involved in driving POTUS out of the White House in 2012. 

Now, if you know anything about me, you know I don't typically identify as a Conservative, much less a loyal one.  I was even more confused when a woman came on the phone and advised me she was in Washington DC and was calling local Conservatives with a one-question survey. I think her GPS needs some work.  

But the fun really began with the survey.  The question was "Which of the current Conservative leaders is the one you think is best suited to lead our party" and help save the world, secure our future -- you get the drift. I was kind of surprised that she didn't give me any names, especially since I'm not a loyal local Conservative and am not really up on all of them.  I laughed and asked who the choices were.  She replied "Well, here are some of the answers we're getting in the survey: Michele Bachmann, Chris Christie, Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin, Herman Cain. ..." and named a few others I don't remember; she may even have mentioned Rush Limbaugh.

Excited that I had such great options, I responded emphatically "Ronald Reagan!" The woman answered, with a chuckle, "Yes, he seems to be a popular choice."  

A dead man is a popular choice to lead the Conservatives forward in their mission to take back America?  Really?  A dead man?  

I pointed out that it seemed that a dead man (even a dead former president) being a top mention as a 'leader' of the Conservative movement said either quite a bit about their message, quite a bit about loyal local Conservatives, or both. Mostly I think it says a lot about the state of affairs in America today. 

Either we're so cynical that we'll say anything (like me), or we really long for days gone by (Clinton, Bush I, Reagan but not a lot of Bush II), or political cold callers have a wicked sense of humor. I'm not sure which, but I'm hoping it's the latter.

After our discussion about bad choices on both the left and the right, the woman advised that Dick Morris was going to be paying for full page ads in local papers and was looking for Conservatives like me to have our names included in the ad as supporters, and would I be interested?  After letting her know she was talking to a life-long registered Democrat, we had one more laugh and wished each other a nice day.

A dead man?  Really?

July 12, 2011

McConnell's debt 'plan'

When is a plan not a plan?  When it comes from Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky).  His idea, a 'plan B' for solving our debt problem, offers zero compromise and zero leadership. 

Here's how the plan works:
  • Both houses of Congress must pass (and Obama must sign) a bill allowing the debt ceiling to be raised on an installment basis.  Then Obama immediately requests a $700B increase in the debt ceiling and must submit a list of spending cuts equal to the increase.  This is to get us past the August 2nd deadline. 
  • If Congress chooses to pass a ‘resolution of disapproval’ it goes to Obama for signature. He vetoes the resolution, and it goes back to Congress to override the veto. The Republicans don’t muster the 2/3 majority needed to override the veto, and so the debt ceiling increases take place.  Or, if Congress doesn’t do the disapproval resolution, the increase takes place automatically. 
  • Then he has to ask for $900B this fall, and then another $900B in June of next year. If this were a shampoo bottle, the label would read 'Lather, rinse, repeat.'  
So, what does this do for the Republicans?  Well, they get to vote against raising the debt ceiling six times (three resolutions plus three veto votes) between now and the next election. They get to force the President to outline spending cuts equal to $2.5 trillion.  They get to completely ignore the spending cuts they demand the President give them. And they prevent the president from putting any revenue increases on the table to help alleviate the debt (the Plan does not incorporate revenue increases). 

What does this do for the Democrats? It forces them to take 100% of the responsibility for defining  spending cuts and for raising the debt ceiling, or for failing to do so. Sounds like a pretty good deal, right? 

Can you tell this came from the Senator who declared “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president” ?

July 11, 2011

Boehner's Job Creators

When I listen to John Boehner these days, I’m reminded of a dinner table conversation from when I was a kid. 

My brothers and I, at times, were not always interested in eating everything that my mother had cooked for dinner.  Don't get me wrong, Mom was a good cook, but sometimes what she made was not anything that got us excited.  When we were fidgeting at the table, pushing food around our plates but not eating anything, it was customary for my Dad to say something to the effect of “there’s lots of starving children in (India, or China, or some other country) who would love a nice hot meal like this.”  Well, one day, after hearing Dad’s standard comment for the umpteenth time, my brother fired back with “Name one!”  

Needless to say, my other brother and I were aghast, but Mom and Dad both fought with all their might to keep from laughing out loud. I remember Dad holding his napkin in front of his face, his shoulders shaking silently as he tried to regain control.  And that’s the position I find myself in listening to Boehner.  Here’s a sample from his press conference today:  
The president and I agree that the current levels of spending, including entitlement spending, are unsustainable. The president and I do not agree on his view that government needs more revenues through higher taxes on job creators.

He went on to say this:
“I agree with the president that the national debt limit must be raised, and I’m glad that he made the case for it today. But the American people will not accept – and the House cannot pass – a bill that raises taxes on job creators.”

Seriously, Mr. Speaker?  The American people will not accept a bill that raises taxes on these mysterious job creators that are so important that you feel the need to protect them in any deal to solve the debt crisis?

All I can say is, name one!

July 2, 2011

Sidebar: DSK, others behaving badly

Rumor has it that Dominique Strauss-Kahn was a notorious womanizer, even if in his most celebrated incident it turns out he’s guilty only of marital infidelity and extreme stupidity.  A number of reports came to light when he was arrested for the hotel maid incident suggesting that he had been aggressive towards women for years, but that didn't seem to have any impact on his success. 

We don't need to import bad boys; we have our own share of prominent and equally stupid men, including John Edwards, he of the sex-tape-with-pregnant-girlfriend fiasco which occurred while he was running for president.  Edwards was recently indicted for allegedly using campaign contributions to cover up his affair. 

And of course we have 'Governator' Arnold Schwarzenegger, who admitted that he had fathered a child with a member of the household staff. Generally I think he would have gotten away with being a serial groper, as alleged during his successful campaign for governor of California, and could have easily withstood the negative publicity about the extramarital homemaking had he not been married to Maria Shriver, of the Kennedy clan.  

Shriver filed for divorce on Friday. Unlike some of the other wives of scandalously behaving men, such as Eliot 'Client #9' Spitzer or former President Bill Clinton, Shriver made the decision to stand for herself, her family and her dignity instead of standing by her man.  Or, likely, she’s been standing by her man all these years when many others might have left a long time ago, but the teenager out of wedlock was too much.  

Last we have Anthony Weiner, rising star of the liberal left, who gives great speeches and also great photo.  Weiner, married to a top aide of Hillary Clinton, can’t control himself with a camera or a keyboard, and resigned from his Congressional seat.  His situation, some think, would have been surmountable had he not lied about the pictures.  But lie he did, to the press, the public and his colleagues, and that was more than they could bear. Governor Cuomo has decided that the special election to replace him will take place in September, on New York’s primary day.

One can only hope that, some day, men in high places will master the fine art of keeping their whatever wherever it belongs.

July 1, 2011

Lessons from the DSK case

Getty Images
We sit here now, watching as the sexual assault case against former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn falls apart, as his life has fallen apart since that infamous night at the luxury New York Sofitel.  From the time this came to light, since he was removed from his plane moments before takeoff, the perp walk, the suicide watch at Rikers, and then finally the house arrest with private police to the tune of  $250,000 per month (on top of the $6 million bail), this case has been larger than life. 

Widely presumed to be a strong contender for the French preisdency, and one of the most powerful men in the world, it seemed odd that DSK could be brought down by a hotel maid. It now seems possible (if not likely) that charges will be dropped, either because the woman is lying or because her credibility overall is so suspect that the case won’t be able to go forward.  

The hotel maid apparently lied on her application to come to America, including about having been gang raped. She apparently lied about some financial issues, including multiple cell phones and numerous deposits into several differnt bank accounts in her name. And she was taped in a conversation with a prison inmate discussing Strauss-Kahn’s wealth. More importantly, she apparently lied about her actions the night of the alleged assault.  

This one might have been doomed to fail from the very beginning. Too famous a perp, too glitzy a hotel, too eager a DA, too crazy a story to beleive.  But one thing is certain. We cannot let the outcome in this case mean anything more than just this case.

Victims of sexual assault deserve their day in court, and having a less than stellar background does not mean that a woman can't be assaulted. Likewise, people charged with crimes are innocent until proven guilty, even when they're larger than life characters. Regarding perp walks, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said "The real sad thing is if somebody is accused, does the perp walk, and turns out not to have been guilty. And then society really should look in the mirror and say we should be more careful the next time."

We need to be sure we learn all of the appropriate lessons from this one.

June 28, 2011

SCOTUS decides in favor of speech

In Monday’s decision striking down the California law preventing sales of violent video games to minors, the Supreme Court worked hard to make sure we understood the difference between pornography, which is not protected speech, and violence, which is protected speech.

In case it’s confusing to you, as it is to me, here are some clarifying points, courtesy of Justice Scalia’s majority opinion.
"Like the protected books, plays and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas – and even social messages – through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world. That suffices to confer First Amendment protection."
"Because speech about violence is not obscene, it is of no consequence that California's statute mimics the New Yokr statue regarding obscenity-for-minors... "
"...disgust is not a valid basis for restricting expression."
Just one question, though.  Why is it that a baker's dozen of naked folks plotting to explore another character's development, complete with steamy background music and clearly expressive (albeit limited) dialogue, is not considered protected speech?   I mean, it's got all of the elements - characters, dialogue, plot, and music - that Justice Scalia said make the violent video games protected. 
Oh wait - it's that disgust factor, isn't it? 

June 27, 2011

Rand Paul: Spending to Save

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s comments last week during a committee hearing on Primary Health and Aging brought controversy to something that would typically have flown under the radar.

The hearing including panelists who related stories from senior citizens who often struggle to make ends meet and don’t always get enough of the right nutrition; speakers also encouraged additional spending on nutrition programs under 1965’s Older American Act.

The committee presented a lot of research on the impact of senior nutrition programs which can be read here. One interesting fact to keep in mind from that research: One day in a hospital is equivalent to the cost of a one-year supply of home-delivered meals.  Wow. Almost seems like the money spent on the food programs would save money down the road, if our seniors were home, health and well fed instead of in the hospital, right?

 Not if you ask Rand Paul:
 “It’s curious that only in Washington can you spend $2 billion and claim that you’re saving money,” he said. “The idea or notion that spending money in Washington somehow is saving money really flies past most of the taxpayers.” 
Really?  Do “most of the taxpayers” not understand how this works?  Here are a handful of easy examples. 
  • Home owners, auto, life, and health insurance.  
  • Oil changes, tune-ups, and checking the air in the tires of a car.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors.  
  • Home security systems and car alarms.  
These are the kind of things that most tax payers have at least some working knowledge of and that fall under the bucket of spending money to save money.  I'd hazard a guess that, even in Kentucky, these are not foreign concepts. Rand Paul may even partake of some of this kind of spending for saving himself.

But back to that committee hearing. Paul went on to question whether the federal government should spend even more than the $2 billion. He asked Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for the Administration on Aging, “If we are saving money with the two billion we spend, perhaps we should give you 20 billion. Is there a limit? How much money should we give you in order to save money? If we spend federal money to save money, where is the limit? I think we could reach a point of absurdity.”

Leave it to Minnesota’s Saturday Night Live Senator Al Franken to reply “I think you just did.”

June 26, 2011

Shots Fired: NY Marriage Equality

Author's note: this post was updated to correct a formatting issue. The content is the same as when originally published in June 2011.

Not surprisingly there've been many quotable moments leading up to and since the NY Senate voted 33 - 29 to allow same-sex marriage and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill Friday night.  Here's a sampling:
"I just probably committed political suicide." Republican Senator Mark Grisanti to a Buffalo News reporter after the vote. Grisanti, a lawyer and a Catholic, also noted that he could find no legal reason to deny same sex couples the 1300 rights that he and his wife enjoy because they're married.
"With the world watching, the Legislature, by a bipartisan vote, has said that all New Yorkers are equal under the law." Governor Andrew Cuomo, in a statement after the vote. It was barely bipartisan, but it was enough.  
"I'm sure our committee will comply with that." Onondaga County Conservative Chairman Austin Olmstead, on his state party's promise not to support anyone who voted in favor. No surprise here.
"I knew there were countless people who would welcome my vote and I knew that there were countless people who would be angered by my vote." Republican Senator Stephen Saland, the first of the undecided to support the bill. Saland was instrumental in securing the religious exceptions and ensuring that if those don't past legal muster, the whole bill becomes null and void.
"You can't teach something that you don't have, so two men will never be able to show a woman how to be a woman."  NY Giants Super Bowl hero David Tyree.  Wondering how single moms and dads are handling this today with their sons and daughters, respectively?
“Heck, I work for Fox, man, they’ve got Glee on T.V.”  Michael Strahan, another NY Giants hero, on the potential for repercussions on supporting same sex marriage. What a great line!
“You don’t see two male dogs sleeping in the same dog house together." Clinton County legislator Sam Trombley, who also noted there would be an "HIV epidemic if this passes." Um, really? When I was younger, we had two male dogs. Winnie was a shepherd/husky mix; Sam was a spaniel/dog-down-the-street mix. The two slept curled up together all the time. Maybe it was because they had such gender-neutral names?  
At the end of the day, the world did not come to an end after the vote; it probably won't come to and end when the next state passes it, or the next one, or the next one. 

June 18, 2011

More Palin Poetry

Not everything Governor Palin had to handle was critical business. For example, here's an exchange on health and wellness, from November 20007:
If someone could pick up some fresh fruit
and the girls say the sunbed
should go up
in the cedar closet
If you can squeeze it up there.  
Listen for an elliptical thingy if you can. 
That’s easier on my knees
than treadmill.
And any old weights. 

And there's this directive, from July 2008, when the team got something accomplished that folks thought they'd never get done:
Can you let the public know of this?  
Remember critics said we’d 
never follow through with this.
Alaskans need to know
of your great work with this.
We can do a presser. 

And then there's this note to staffers about that pesky media, from August 2008:
It may drive me crazy trying to catch
all the corrections
we’ll be reading and seeing in the media.
But please
help me catch them.

More to come.

June 17, 2011

Garden Notes, 6/17/11

Earlier this afternoon, I was sitting in the gazebo in the back garden, being entertained by a woodpecker hammering away on a locust tree a couple of yards up the street and by a houseful of baby wrens about twenty feet away from the gazebo.  When they’re awake, they keep up a constant chirping which turns into quite a clamor when their mom or dad comes by with food.  When I first went out to the gazebo, I was heckled by one of the parents, who eventually figured out I was not a threat. The parents remain very vigilant when they’re pestered by the cats that now call our garden home.  

Last December we lost our cat, Michael T Michael was a great garden cat.  He was no threat to the birds, or to our thriving woodchuck population either. We used to think MT and the chucks hung out, watching TV, drinking beers and sharing stories. And I was convinced that a bird could land on his head and he wouldn’t care. 

While he was a friend to most garden creatures, it was only on the very rarest of occasions that we’d see another cat hanging around.  Now that Michael’s gone, we have several. There’s a fluffy black and white one we’re pretty sure is Bubbles from next door. There’s a petite gray tiger (with a collar) who has a regular path she follows when she stops by, meandering through the garden closest to the house then down the shady walk leading to the rose garden, checking everything out along the way. 

We also have another larger (collarless) grey tiger, who stalks the area around the bird feeders, which is very troubling. There’s a Mutt and Jeff pair of white cats, liberally decorated with gray. The smaller one’s short haired and skittish; the larger one’s long-haired and grumpy, usually snarling at or actually fighting with his mini-me. And last, there’s a long-haired black cat; this one we also think might be a neighbor, as we’ve seen a similar one in the upstairs window next door.

My Sweet Baboo tells me that a garden needs a cat. I know it’s hard for him this year without Michael, who kept him company here for 14 summers. And I'm honestly trying to get comfortable with the idea of letting ours outside, free-range, instead of keeping them be in their kitty playpen.

But I think everyone would agree that having six that don’t belong to us is a bit much.

June 12, 2011

Poetry: Sarah Palin Emails

In case you didn't know, emails from Sarah Palin's aborted governorship of Alaska were released, long after they were requested when she was John McCain's running mate.  Thoughtfully, the New York Times has posted the entire set on their website, and offered readers the chance to review and flag anything we found interesting. 

What I found interesting right off the bat was that the governor had a Yahoo mail account. You know, the kind like us normal folks have -- which means that many of the emails she sent as governor of the The Last Frontier included pitches for Yahoo's services. I wonder if the Times could find out if there were any contributions to the state coffers or Permanent Fund Dividends paid to Alaskans as a result of the advertising?

Here, in verse, are the Yahoo tags on emails from January and February 2007. 

Tired of spam? Quit your job.
Take classes online and earn your degree in one year.
Start today! Ahhh…imagining that irresistible “new car smell”?

Bored Stiff? Loosen up….Download and play hundreds of games for free.
We won’t tell! Get more on shows you hate to love (and love to hate).
Don’t be flakey. Want to start your own business?

Learn How. Be a PS3 game guru.
Have a burning question? Looking for earth-friendly autos?
Fire up a more powerful email and get things done faster.

Don’t get soaked. Take a quick peak at the forecast.
Find a flick in no time! Finding fabulous fares is fun!
Need a quick answer? Get one in minutes from people who know.

Sucker punch spam with award-winning protection.
Turn searches into helpful donations. Make your search count.
The fish are biting.

Get more visitors on your site. Now that’s room service!
Food fight? Enjoy some healthy debate.
Need mail bonding? No need to miss a message. Cheap talk?

It’s here! Your new message!
Don’t pick lemons.
Get your own web address. Have a HUGE year.

Now, don't worry - there's a whole lotta poetry in those emails, you betcha.  I'll have some of the Gov's own words coming up this week.

May 15, 2011

Sunday School 5/15/11: A place where good things do happen

This morning’s Syracuse Post-Standard brought yet another article about the Jordan Elbridge School District. The articles have been coming for the past several months, going back to last fall; each is more eyebrow-raising than the rest, and unfortunately none of them are about the good things that happen there.

JE (my alma mater) has been under a microscope for a host of reasons, including the buyout of the former superintendent’s contract; firings, suspensions, and sudden retirements; a $600 per day interim administrator; a possible loss of funds set aside to pay towards an district-wide improvement project; upheavals in the coaching staff on the eve of the spring sports season; and a host of lawsuits filed by former administrators and by district residents. According to comments made at school board meetings, in some classes there were not enough supplies or books to go around, and both students and teachers were struggling with the pressures of the goings-on.

All of these problems are allegedly the result of a school board with an agenda; three board members, including the embattled president, are not seeking reelection and, remarkably, four candidates have come forward to run to replace them. JE is facing a tough budget season, as are many schools in the area, and the budget proposes a significant tax increase. At least a portion of that increase is because the district has incurred significant legal fees since the churn began last year. Taken in that context, today’s announcement about the Director of Operations contract was a tough blow.

But something positive – very positive – happened at Jordan Elbridge today. This afternoon, over 70 students received awards from the school’s Dollars for Scholars program, now in its 26th year. Since 1985, close to $670,000 has been given to more than 1130 students. The kids honored today included several who will attend local community colleges, some in degree programs and others who will springboard to continued education, but also some who will attend SU, RPI, RIT, Clarkson, Ithaca College, Niagara, St John Fisher and Cornell, among others.

There were kids pursuing careers in nursing, physical therapy, psychology, anesthesiology, and a few who declared more generally ‘pre-med’. Others are shooting for engineering, bio-technologies, fine arts, special effects makeup, culinary arts, political science, international relations, and even one girl who seems destined to become involved in auto racing one way or another.

The awards handed out today included several from local businesses and organizations, a number from local families in honor or memory of their loved ones (including the one I presented), and from teachers, administrators, and the alumni organization. There were 'named' awards that have been given for many years, and three awards which were new this year and will hopefully be given for many years to come.

What the kids and scholarships had in common was that Jordan Elbridge is a place where good things can and do happen. A place where achievement is encouraged, where achievement happens, and where achievement is celebrated. Where students appreciate each other, their teachers, guidance counselors and the administrators who have advocated on their behalf.

It was fun to be there today, and to help recognize kids who have done very well, in spite of the actions of many adults around them.

May 2, 2011

Shots Fired: Osama Bin Laden is Dead

Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice. We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. ~ President Barack Obama

The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done. ~ Former President George W. Bush

It is unusual to celebrate a death, but today Americans and decent people the world over cheer the news that madman, murderer and terrorist Osama Bin Laden is dead. It has taken a long time for this monster to be brought to justice. Welcome to hell, bin Laden. ~ Mike Huckabee, former governer of Akransas

The Kremlin welcomes the serious success the United States achieved in the war against international terrorism. Retribution inevitably reaches all terrorists. ~ Statement from the Kremlin

This is a thunderous strike for justice for the thousands of my fellow New Yorkers -- and citizens from all over the world -- who were murdered on 9/11. It took close to ten years, but the world's most wanted terrorist has finally met his deserved fate. New York's heart is still broken from the tragedy of 9/11, but this at least brings some measure of closure and consolation to the victims and their families. ~ Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

The killing of Osama bin Laden does not lessen the suffering that New Yorkers and Americans experienced at his hands, but it is a critically important victory for our nation -- and a tribute to the millions of men and women in our armed forces and elsewhere who have fought so hard for our nation. New Yorkers have waited nearly 10 years for this news. It is my hope that it will bring some closure and comfort to all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. ~ Michael Bloomberg, NYC Mayor

Today, the American people have seen justice. The leader of the United States' top enemy has gotten what he deserves for orchestrating the deaths of nearly 3,000 innocent Americans on September 11, 2001. In 2001, President Bush said 'we will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.' President Bush deserves great credit for putting action behind those words. President Obama deserves equal credit for his resolve in this long war against al-Qaeda. ~ Rep Peter King (R-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security

This is great news for the security of the American people and a victory in our continued fight against al Qaeda and radical extremism around the world. We continue to face a complex and evolving terrorist threat, and it is important that we remain vigilant in our efforts to confront and defeat the terrorist enemy and protect the American people.  ~ House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)

Nine-and-a-half years ago, Osama bin Laden masterminded the horrific attacks against the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people. As we remember those who were killed on that dark day in September and their families, we also reaffirm our resolve to defeat the terrorist forces that killed them and thousands of others across the globe. ~ Harry Reid (R-NV), Senate Majority Leader

The war against terrorism is not in the houses of innocent Afghan civilians. The fight against terrorism is not in bombing children and women in Afghanistan. The war against terrorism should be carried out in his safe haven, sanctuary and his training camp, not in Afghanistan, and today this has been proved right. ~ Afghan President Hamid Karzi

9/11 was an attack not just on the United States, but on all those who shared the best values of civilisation. The operation shows those who commit acts of terror against the innocent will be brought to justice, however long it takes. So this is a huge achievement in the fight against terrorism but we know the fight against the terrorism and the ideology that Bin Laden represents continues and is as urgent as ever. ~ Tony Blair, former British Prime Minster

Osama Bin Laden was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people. Terror was brought to many countries on his direct orders and in his name, against men, women and children, Christians and Muslims. Osama Bin Laden claimed to be acting in the name of Islam, but in reality he made a mockery of the basic values of his and all other religions. ~ German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Getting rid of Bin Laden is good for the cause of peace worldwide but what counts is to overcome the discourse and the methods - the violent methods - that were created and encouraged by Bin Laden and others in the world. ~ Ghassan Khatib, spokesman for the Palestinian Authority

Osama Bin Laden was responsible for the deaths of thousands of people, including New Zealanders, in several different parts of the world. While his removal will not necessarily bring an immediate end to terrorist activity, I have absolutely no doubt that the world is a safer place without Osama Bin Laden. ~ John Key, New Zealand Prime Minister

The world is a better and more just place now that Osama bin Laden is no longer in it. I hope the families of the victims of the September 11th attacks will sleep easier tonight and every night hence knowing that justice has been done. I commend the President and his team, as well as our men and women in uniform and our intelligence professionals, for this superb achievement. ~ Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)

Amen to that.

April 30, 2011

The long-form birth certificate makes me sad

No matter what I read on the subject of the release of President Obama’s long-form birth certificate, whether from the left or the right, the feeling I’m left with is sadness.

Back when Barack Obama was merely a candidate, and the question of where he was born first came up, I thought it was silly and ridiculous; that someone would even try to run for president who wasn't eligible was inconceivable to me. The chatter didn't stop once Obama was elected, and I was convinced that he should let the crazies make fools of themselves as long as they wanted. After all, the ‘birthers’ were really nothing more than group of fringe nutcases, right?

Over the past several months, Republican leaders and their stand-ins on the intranet, TV and radio did nothing to stop the clamor; the ‘mainstream media’ not only allowed it to fester but encouraged the birther issue by raising it repeatedly. And when blowhard Donald Trump began chest-thumping about it, I still felt that there should be no response from the White House or the president.

Sadly, not only did they produce the document, but Obama himself met with the press to provide the reasoning behind releasing it, not the least of which was that the continued interest was distracting us from the important business at hand.

Adam Serwer, writing in The Plum Line, posted this thought:
Aside from being one of the most idiotic moments in American political history, this marks a level of personal humiliation no previous president has ever been asked to endure.
Trump, proud of his role in getting the birth certificate released, insists that he doesn't want to talk about it anymore (all the while talking constantly about it); instead, he wants to talk about real issues. Like whether the President was qualified to attend Columbia and Harvard, from which he graduated magna cum laude. To that end, Trump is now suggesting that Obama release his college transcripts.

Birth certificate. College transcripts. What’s next?

A sweaty jockstrap? Because those pictures of him playing basketball may have been faked, you know. Maybe a sperm sample and a DNA test, to prove that he really fathered his daughters?  I mean, does he really look fit and virile, or is that faked too?

Leading Republicans have done a quick 180 and are saying that this is a non-issue, it’s always been a non-issue, and the country has more important things to worry about. And we let them get away with that, by covering the stories, and yes, by repeating them in blogs, and talking about them with our friends.

This whole thing is seedy. It’s beneath the office of the presidency, not just the current occupant. It’s beneath everyone who aspires to that office, and anyone who has supported this insanity should be summarily ignored. And you’ll have a hard time convincing me it’s anything other than racism, plain and simple -- and sad.

Oh - one more thing.

The President is right – we do have more important things to worry about. Notably, he worried about them by leaving Washington Wednesday to tape an appearance on Oprah and then attend a fundraiser.

And that, too, is sad.

April 26, 2011

Poll Watch: We're Miserable.

According to a recent New York Times /CBS News poll, we’re miserable, and it’s not the weather that’s got us down.  Americans are more pessimistic than we’ve been practically since the beginning of the Obama administration, and that pessimism is widespread. Here's a sampling:
  • 75% disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job
  • 70% think we’re heading in the wrong direction
  • 57% disapprove of how President Obama is handling the economy  
  • 56% don’t have a favorable opinion of Republicans  
  • 55% have an unfavorable opinion of Sarah Palin
  • 49% don’t have a favorable opinion of Democrats  
  • 45% negative approval rating for Obama  
  • 45% don’t approve of how Libya is being handled
  • 41% disapprove of John Boehner’s performance  
  • 29% think that cutting the deficit would cost us jobs
Young people aren’t immune from the malaise either. In a survey of 18 to 24 year olds conducted in February and March, the Associated Press found that:
  • 75% thought the economy was poor
  • 42% didn’t have a job
  • 55% of those who did have a job thought it was just something to get them by, not a career
In addition, the majority of those surveyed believe it will be harder for them to buy a house, raise a family, make enough money to support the lifestyle they want, and save for retirement than it was for their parents.

Finally, in a recent Fox News poll, here’s more misery:
  • 60% feel they’re getting a bad deal for their tax dollars 
  • 49% feel their tax dollars are spent less carefully than in the past 
  • 43% think they’re paying more than their fair share in taxes
So tell me: anyone got any good ideas for getting us out of this funk?  Clearly, the same-old, same-old fight and stall tactics we're used to aren't working. Where's the next great idea coming from?

April 24, 2011

Sunday School 4/24/11: The Trump Card

We’re back from spring break, and right back into the fray we go. Lots of talk about his Hairness, Donald Trump, today. There was some other good stuff today too, but we'll get to that another time.

First up, on NBC’s Meet the Press, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), was asked by David Gregory whether Trump was someone McCain could support. McCain answered:

“As you know, I’m staying out of it. I think that Mr. Trump is having the time of his life. I congratulate him for getting all the attention that he’s getting.”
Gregory followed up by asking if McCain thought The Donald was a serious contender; McCain's answer:
“Well, look, I’ll let the people decide that. I’m glad he’s willing to enter the arena. I think we have a lot of good candidates, and I’m not endorsing any of them. I would be happy if Sarah Palin got in. I’d be very happy with many of the governors we have running now. I think we’ll have a good candidate at the end of the day.”
Gregory asked Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) a Trump question too. This time, he went about it from the moral side, recalling that Coburn had said that New Gingrich doesn’t have the commitment to marriage to be a good candidate, much less president, and wondered if Trump with similar baggage would have similar issues. Coburn:
“We need somebody who’s demonstrated sacrificial leadership, that has demonstrated consistency, and an ability to lead based on a life that’s modeled on what American ideals are.”
What would 'sacrificial leadership' look like, I wonder?

On ABC’s This Week, host Christiane Amanpour talked with Reverend Franklin Graham about presidential candidates, among other things. Graham indicated that he thinks Sarah Palin will not run; in Graham's opinion, she doesn't like politics much, but does like talking on the issues.  When asked if Palin did run, would she be his candidate, Graham answered that it depended on who else was running, which opened the door for the Trump question. Graham’s response:
“Donald Trump, when I first saw that he was getting in, I thought, well, this has got to be a joke. But the more you listen to him, the more you say to yourself, you know? Maybe the guy's right.”
Graham also refused to discount the whole birther thing, noting that he himself was born at a hospital in Asheville NC and that Obama could "solve this whole birth certificate thing pretty quickly.” But the thing is, he's already shown us his birth certificate, so I'm not sure what's left.

Chris Wallace was not immune to asking about Trump, either. His guest on Fox News Sunday was the other larger-than-life New Yorker, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Wallace asked if Bloomberg took Trump seriously as a candidate, and about The Donald’s focus on the birther thing. After stating very clearly that Obama was born here, he went on to add:

“I think the Republicans are making a terrible mistake making this a big issue. We have immigration. We have the deficit. We have the economy. Those are the things that the public cares about. My girlfriend always says it’s all about housing and jobs – my house, my job. That’s what the public cares about. If the Republican Party doesn’t start addressing that, they will lose and they deserve to."
Smartest words I heard today, bar none. 

April 17, 2011

Dirty Snowpile Awards: Buerkle, Obama, Kyl, Gingrich, & More

(Editor's note: this post from April 2011 has been updated to correct formatting issues.)

Today's lesson of Sunday School has been postponed so that we may bring you the following special presentation: the 2011 Dirty Snowpile Awards. The DSA were presented for the first time last year, and included a mostly New York State focus.  This year, snow was prevalent in many areas outside the Empire State, and where you have snow, you will always have dirty snow. Without further ado, the winners. 

The Rookie of the Year Dirty Snowpile, to Ann Marie Buerkle (R-Onondaga). A freshman member of the House, Buerkle won a closely-contested delayed decision last fall, and went to Washington representing a deeply-divided district. There’s no divide, however, in her allegiance to the Issas and Cantors and Boehners; in fact, she’s actually told us, her constituents, that what she thinks doesn’t matter – she’s there to do what she’s told by the House Leadership. Her (ahem) refreshing honesty the key reason she’s deserving of this award.

President Barack Obama (D-USA) gets the All Talk, Very Little Action Dirty Snowpile.  Doesn’t matter what the issue is, Obama talks a very good game – some of his speeches are both inspired, and inspiring – but they don’t generate the action needed to actually get things accomplished timely, or even at all.  He’s too willing to throw stuff  out there but not willing to roll up his sleeves and work to get things accomplished until the bitter end.  He’s too willing to let people slip and slide along in the icy streets, all the while talking about the need for snow to be removed from the sidewalks.  It’s time for him to pick up the shovel and throw the first pile of snow…and the second…and the third...

Jon Kyl (R- AZ) gets the 90% Dirty Snowpile. Senator Kyl is just one of the folks who has been mouthing off about Planned Parenthood supposedly spending federal tax dollars on abortions, which has been illegal for some 30-odd years and which no one has proven. He’s the who recently said that abortions represent something north of 90% of what Planned Parenthood does - when in fact, it’s about 3%.  But it’s OK – he didn't mean for the statement to be factual, and he only lies about things he cares about. Besides, the dirt on his snowpile is only skin deep; it's not like its really 90% dirty. 

Contract with America author and exploratory 2012 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich gets the It’s Not My Fault Dirty Snowpile, for his bad marital behavior. First, he admitted that he himself was having an affair at the same time he was engaged in impeaching Bill Clinton for, well, you know, Monica and stuff. And allegedly perjury, but really Monica. More famously, though, Newt has blamed his cheating on his patriotism. Seriously. Clearly this filthy snowpile simply could not be his fault. 

The 50/50 Dirty Snowpile goes to elected officials around the country – and you know who you are. With very few exceptions, 50% of the time, you can’t believe a word they say and the other 50% of the time, you know even they don’t believe a word they say. About the only ones in Washington who are spared this mountain of dirty snow are the Gang of Six, who are actively trying to come up with a budget plan that helps us move forward, without being beholding to the flavor-of-the-day special interests. 

For those outside of Washington who ran on one platform and began immediately doing something else, this snow’s for you.  For those of you in statehouses across the land, of both stripes, if you tell a lie about why you’re doing something, this snow’s for you.  For those of you at local levels across the country, who gerrymander districts, refuse to consider consolidation or other money-saving opportunities, take obscene salaries and benefits from taxpayers, obstruct progress, and pander to your base, this snow’s for you. Like I said, you know who you are. And so do we.

And a special award, the You’re So Vain, You Probably Think This Snowpile’s About You Dirty Snowpile, goes to Donald Trump.  The Donald, who’s flirting with a run for President, didn’t
even know where his polling place was a while back, and lies about President Obama's birth certificate and a few other hot topics even as he's doing well in the polls, but that's not why he's getting this award. 

It's because he's got the "number one show on NBC" (Celebrity Apprentice) and it would be "unfair" to announce a potential candidacy because they'd have to cancel the show. Honest.

So there you have it – the cream of the crop, this year’s Dirty Snowpile Award winners. There are likely a plow-ful of other likely candidates - who would you have chosen?