Archive for June, 2010

It’s easy to say “no”

Thank goodness.  Congress is on the verge of passing a financial reform bill.  Like real people, Barney Frank and Chris Dodd stayed up late to push the damn thing over the finish line…even though nary a Republican felt inclined to be associated with it.

No more shudders when I go into my local bank, queue up to the tellers and wonder “how is this big, bad institution going to screw me today.”  No more worries about how much money my bank is putting into those nasty hedge funds.  No more giving me a big mortgage without asking me if I actually have a source of income to repay the loan.  And the real biggy…I can get a discount for paying cash instead of shoving plastic at the waitress.  Whew.  It boggles the mind.

And a big thumbs-up to the auto dealer lobbyists.  They managed to exempt their angelic clients from scrutiny by the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  Doubtless because no senator has been victimized by bait and switch, inflated loan fees and expensive, unnecessary add-ons like rust protection in California.

No surprise that the Party-of-No decided to continue its unblemished record of contributing nothing, doing nothing and hoping for nothing.  It’s at times like this that I think back to the good old days when we were the minority and could relish lack of achievement, point fingers, and look forward to reading the NY Times every hour on the hour…hoping for more bad news.  News that would turn us back into the majority.  As someone once said, be careful what you wish for.

But if we were the minority, I wonder if we would have deep-sixed the extension of jobless benefits like the current minority-in-residence did.  Forgetting about the late-lamented trillion-dollar financial institution bail-out, and using the shop-worn argument that deficit reduction trumps the extension of the princely sum of $309 a week in jobless benefits, the Party-of-No deftly avoided the real impetus for their intransigence…the protection of tax breaks for those who earn considerably more than $309 a week.

At a time when nearly every economist in the country agrees on the importance of consumer spending in digging us out of the recession, the Party-of-No is willing to keep jobless benefits out of the hands of those who spend it on food and shelter…as a wedge to maximize the wealth of those who need it least.

I hope that, come November, the 1.2 million folks who lost their benefits will remember who to thank.  In particular, they might consider the following statement by that great deficit hawk, Senator Orrin Hatch.  Proposing an amendment that would require drug testing of all who apply for jobless benefits or welfare, he said…This amendment is a way to help people get off of drugs to become productive and healthy members of society, while ensuring that valuable taxpayer dollars aren’t wasted…Too many Americans are locked into a life of a dangerous dependency not only on drugs, but the federal assistance that serves to enable their addiction.

Then again, maybe it would be better if we stay in charge.  It could be a whole lot worse.

Where are Ronnie and Clint when you need them?

I love the News Hour with Jim Lehrer.  I especially look forward to Fridays.  When David Brooks and Mark Shields intelligently face off about the week’s disasters.

David’s a button-down kind of guy with a conservative bent while Mark, an old-time liberal, is lucky to have his pants zipped up.  To their credit, and unlike their flamboyant cable counterparts, they are less interested in promoting themselves or scaring us to death, and more interested in giving us a fair take on the news.

When the president speaks, I watch it on PBS.  Principally because I don’t have to suffer the talking heads who populate the other networks.  But also because Shields and Brooks can be counted on to offer an intelligent critique of what President What’s-His-Name said.  Usually.

Last night Sweetie and I watched Obama speak from the Oval Office.  All about the oil leak.  I think he said…it’s a bitch of a problem, folks are suffering, I’ve made some changes to improve things, BP is going to pay through the nose, we’ve got to stop sucking on foreign oil, and the leak is more than Joe the Plumber can handle.  Simple stuff that even my grandkids can grasp. Much as I hoped for it, I didn’t hear any magic bullet solutions.

On to David and Mark.  “Nice speech but where’s the beef?” David said.  “Remember when FDR spoke about the war?  He told the public to spread a map of the world on the floor and then he walked us through all the places we were headed to beat our enemies brains out.  Island by island and beach by beach .  Now that was a speech.  That was a plan.”

Mark chimed in. “David’s right.  Good speech but same old stuff we’ve been hearing for weeks.  No four score and seven, no damn the torpedoes, not even an ich bin ein Berliner.”

Crestfallen, I looked over at Sweetie.  Asleep.  How could she abandon me when I needed someone to share my belief that what I had heard from the commander-in-chief was a ray of sunshine in a sea of goo.  Another glass of wine didn’t take away the pain.

I began this morning by skimming the NY Times on the web.  Maureen Dowd has become an ardent critic of Obama.  It’s as though she has leftover brickbats from Bush’s tenure and needs to hurl them before she loses her frequent flier miles.  Today was no exception.  Mo begins with…

Of the many exciting things about Barack Obama’s election, one was the anticipation of a bracing dose of normality in the White House.

and ends with…

Nobody needs to see the president yelling or pounding the table. Ronald Reagan could convey command with a smile; Clint Eastwood, with a whisper. Americans need to know the president cares so they can be sure he’s taking fast, muscular and proficient action.

Great.  What we need is another right-wing actor who was upstaged by a chimp or a fictional hero with a big gun.

Ronnie would smile while regaling us with memorable quotes like…

A tree’s a tree. How many more do you need to look at?

Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement.

And Clint, my all-time guy.  Bet if Obama plagiarizes these pearls, the Louisiana shrimpers will be like putty in his hands…

If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster.

I tried being reasonable, I didn’t like it.

As one responder to Ms. Dowd put it…You might prefer Captain Kirk, but we’ve got Mr. Spock, and that’s fine with me.

But he’s only sixteen

We went to grandson Morey’s confirmation on Sunday.  Mo and twenty-five other awkward sixteen-year-olds regaled the crowd with their thoughts about the world, us, and their future.

A free-wheeling liberated bunch, they were given their heads and encouraged to say whatever needed saying.  One pimply youngster proudly exclaimed “I don’t believe in God.  I don’t need God.”  Heady stuff after the culmination of years of religious study in a venerable house of worship.

Following the ceremony we were treated to a buffet lunch and a discussion of what Mo wanted to do with his summer vacation.  Deftly avoiding any mention of a job, he said “I want to leap across the Grand Canyon with a rocket pack on my back.”

I asked “Why in the world would you want to do that?”

“I’ll be the youngest person ever to do it.  It’ll be in the record books until I’m a very old man.  Maybe even thirty years.”

Having had nothing alcoholic in the previous twelve hours, I asked “But isn’t that a bit dangerous?”

“Not any more dangerous that driving an automobile.  Did you know, Papa, that ten thousand teenagers are wiped out in cars every year?”

Point well taken.

“But, Mr. Smarty Pants, what experience do you have leaping canyons with a rocket on your back?”

Extending to his full fifty-seven inch height, he proclaimed “Lots.  I’m on the cross-country track team, in the concert band, and I studied geography a couple of years ago.  I won’t get lost.  Oh, and I can trampoline.”

I thought a bit.  “You know, if you fall into the canyon and float helplessly down the Colorado River, the National Park service will have to mount a dangerous, very expensive rescue effort.  Other people could get hurt.”

“Isn’t that what they get paid for?  If it wasn’t for daredevils like me, they’d be out of a job and slinging burgers at McDonalds.”

I turned to Mo’s mother.  “Nancy, talk some sense into this kid.  He’s too young.  He hasn’t a clue about what he’s getting into.”

With a confident smile on her face, she said “We’ve talked about it a lot.  He’s watched the Evel Knievel documentary five times.  He’s a bright kid.  He got mostly A’s.  If he shows as much skill with the rocket pack as he does with his X-Box game, I think he’ll make it.  Plus it’s not that far from home.”

“And, with his religious upbringing, he’ll be in good hands.  Just like Abby Sunderland.”

Photo Shows are for Losers

It’s that time of year again.  My turn to come up empty at the Ojai Art Center Photo Show.  I’m beginning to feel like the Cubs.

Sweetie had her 70th birthday in May and we celebrated by visiting the jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Pretty heady stuff.  The thought of submitting a prize winning photo rattled around in my head during the trip.  Couldn’t even concentrate on the otter feeding frenzy while I pondered what to do for this year’s show themed Eat.

Back home again, I thought what better way to showcase my ample talents, while at the same time celebrating Sweetie’s  birthday than to photograph her with her signature cookies.  A sure winner.  Who could resist that combination?  Luscious cookies, a beautiful woman, careful attention to composition, obeying the rule-of-thirds, leading the viewer to the principal point of interest, immaculate printing, and careful attention to framing would reveal the holy grail I had been seeking for years.  Recognition and reward lay ahead.  For sure.

So what happens?  Same old thing.  I arrive at the Sunday reception expecting praise and congratulations while humbly accepting a fat check.  My gaze is directed like a lazer beam at my photo hung in an enviable spot on the wall.  Where’s the blue ribbon?  Nada.  Not even an honorable mention.  Depression.  Devastation.  Defeat.

How could this be?  Three big money prizes and six honorable mentions.  Nearly the entire show and I’m left out in the cold.  That perennial fancy-pants Susan Magness gets first prize with her pears.  Just because it’s perfect, eye-catching, brilliant and unique shouldn’t have been enough to overshadow my cookies.  Tiny Myrna Cambianica earns second spot with a twisty-turny thing that focuses the viewer’s mind on the scarcity of food in the third world.  What a sneaky, thoughtful thing to do.  And finally, the ultimate insult.  Another guy named Fred, Fred Magness, wins the last money slot  with his infrared composition that draws the viewer right into the scene and refuses to let go.  The creep.

And so my friends, I wash my hands of the whole thing.  No next year.  No more disappointments.  No more heartaches.  I’m finished…unless the theme is depression.

Meanwhile, you can visit the show until July 7.  And I wish you would.  Go ahead.  Take it all in and then see if you don’t agree that I shoulda won.  I await your judgment.  But keep any negative thoughts to yourself.


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