Saturday, March 31, 2007

One Good Homage Deserves Another...

This exercise sounded like fun...with thanks to SF for the idea.


If I was an hour of the day... I would be lunch hour.
If I was a planet... I would be Pluto, distant, with one foot in another galaxy yet fighting like hell to still be called a planet in this solar system.
If I was a direction... I would be “make sure all components are properly aligned before use.”
If I was a piece of furniture... I would be an armoire, stuffed with treasures.
If I was a liquid... I would soak into the carpet.
If I was a sin... I would be blasphemy.
If I was a rock... I’d be metamorphic.
If I was a tree... I would be a weeping willow. (they’re stronger than they look, you know)
If I was a fruit... I would have to divorce my husband. (And no, this is not meant to be a slur of any kind. Anyone who knows me knows better)
If I was a flower... I would be an African violet…difficult to maintain but worth the effort.
If I was a musical instrument... I would be a lute.
If I was an element... I would be oxygen.
If I was color... I would be Pantone #370.
If I was an animal... I would be a Siamese cat.
If I was a sound... I would be the rhythmic whirring of an MRI.
If I was music... I would be anything sung by Billie Holliday.
If I was a music style... I would be big band.
If I was a feeling... I would be that moment of dread when you just realized you locked your keys in your car.
If I was a book... I would be a dictionary. (Hey, that’s where ALL the words live)
If I was a food... I would be California rolls with a side of pickled ginger and wasabi.
If I was a place... I would be that point in the horizon where two parallel lines intersect.
If I was a flavor... I would be vanilla almond.
If I was a scent... that smell coming from behind the wall that no one can quite identify.
If I was a word... I would be “verisimilitude.”
If I was a verb... I would be either “write” or “survive.”
If I was an object... I would not necessarily agree with my subject.
If I was a part of the body... I would be the hollow in a collar bone
If I was a facial expression... I would be a raised eyebrow.
If I was a cartoon character... I would be – who else – Bugs Bunny.
If I was a movie... I would want to be "Koyanaskatsi” but I’m probably more like “The Philadelphia Story.”
If I was a form… I would be the one they make you sign proving you didn’t have to fill out the other form.
If I was a number... “I am not a number!! I am a human being!”
If I was a season... I would be January Thaw.
If I was a sentence... I would be a fragment.

Friday, March 30, 2007


By now you might have heard that the Hilltop Children’s Center in Seattle has decided to ban Legos. You remember Legos, those innocuous little colored plastic blocks that you snap together to create anything your imagination could concoct…and in the last couple of decades, less than your imagination could concoct, because they all seem to come in kits that form specific things.

Anyway, let’s put that argument aside and go back to the one at hand. When I heard this story, I was stunned. And tried to think of the reasons why this toy would be banned. OK, the little bricks are small enough to be a choking hazard, and maybe they don’t want the younger kiddies to have access to them. They’re not large enough for the kids can beat each other with them, as is/was the case with larger wooden blocks, which did quite a bit of damage when I was a young’un, but I didn’t even know if they were still a staple in schools. It’s not even a case of those prepackaged kits (Make a Star Wars flying vehicle! Make a pirate ship!) stifling creativity.

No. Nothing like that. According to the two teachers who defended the Hilltop’s policy, it has something to do with “social justice learning.”


I don’t remember this being part of the curriculum when I was a preschooler. Naptime, yes. Story time, snack time…social justice time?

All right. Now that I parse that through, I can understand what “social justice” might mean in the “Lord of the Flies” atmosphere that comes from interacting with other children in school. Learning the rules of games, sometimes the hard way. You win some, you lose some. You take somebody’s toys, they either hit you and it hurts or they cry, which gets you yelled at by the teachers. You knock somebody’s books out of their hands, they meet you later with somebody larger and you get beat up.

Were the kids stealing each other’s Legos? Were they – gasp – not sharing??

But…but…the very name “Legos” comes from a Danish word meaning “play well.” (and sorry, I can’t admit to that being a nugget of info I pulled out of my head…Google is God, kiddies)

But it was nothing as simple as Romper Room’s advice for kids, “Don’t be a don’t bee.”

According to an article the two teachers wrote and published in “Rethinking Schools” entitled, “Why We Banned Legos,” teachers Ann Pelo and Kendra Pelojoaquin describe how the kids at Hilltop built “a massive series of Lego structures we named Legotown……“a collection of homes, shops, public facilities, and community meeting places.”

They went on to write, “We recognized that children are political beings, actively shaping their social and political understandings of ownership and economic equity. We agreed that we want to take part in shaping the children’s understandings from a perspective of social justice. So we decided to take the Legos out of the classroom.”


The problem, as I read later in the article, does have a little to do with my previous speculation that perhaps the kids weren’t sharing. There were skirmishes about who was using the “cooler” pieces, and disputes where bigger kids shoved the smaller kids, et cetera. In other ways, the way young children normally react when placed in large groups with a variety of toys.

And learning how to work out these disputes is a very large part of childrens’ socialization.

But instead of recognizing this, and guiding the children toward making better decisions and learning the consequences of their behavior, (essentially one of the job responsibilities of early educators) the Legos simply were banned.

With the evil nasty lawn-dart killer Legos out of the picture, the teachers began a program of re-education (are you getting shivers of five-year programs and armies of young people doing calisthenics in the square?)

“Our intention,” they write, “was to promote a contrasting set of values: collectivity, collaboration, resource-sharing, and full democratic participation.”

So instead of say, learning anything practical, like the alphabet, the teachers developed a special game for the toy-deprived children. “In the game, the children could experience what they’d not been able to acknowledge in Legotown: When people are shut out of participation in the power structure, they are disenfranchised — and angry, discouraged, and hurt. ... The rules of the game — which mirrored the rules of our capitalist meritocracy — were a setup for winning and losing. ... Our analysis of the game, as teachers, guided our planning for the rest of the investigation into the issues of power, privilege, and authority that spanned the rest of the year.”

The teachers then agreed to return the dreaded Legos after “months of social justice exploration” because the kids had absorbed the lesson that “collectivity is a good thing.”

The only conditions were: [comments in brackets are mine, as if you couldn’t tell]

• All structures are public structures. Everyone can use all the Lego structures. But only the builder or people who have her or his permission are allowed to change a structure.
 [but only if the proper public officials are sufficiently bribed]
• Lego “people” can be saved only by a “team” of kids, not by individuals.
 [but can be bought on the black market]
• All structures will be standard sizes. [except if you are a government official]

Holy crap. I so don’t want to be living in the Seattle area in, say, twenty years. Everyone will have the same jobs and drive the same hybrids and drink the same coffee. And as these people breed, their capacity for independent thought will become a vestigal appendage.

Perhaps instead of banning Legos, they should have banned the teachers.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Batter Up!

Ever since I’ve been a baseball fan, I’ve secretly wanted to be an umpire. Not because the facemask and chest protector are especially flattering, but because of othe power – to call the game, to scrutinize the plays up close…I also thought I’d be good at it. I love the signs and signals, the signature grunts and bellows that identify each umpire, and one in particular, who spirals up his right arm while growling something that sounds like, “hyuuuuuuuuuuppppppp!” to signify each strike.

But today, another woman gets that chance. Today marks a milestone in baseball history. This afternoon, for the first time in nearly 20 years, a female umpire will work an exhibition major league baseball game.

Ria Cortesio, who will start the season in double-A ball, is set to ump today’s spring training game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Chicago Cubs in Mesa, Arizona.

This hasn’t happened since Pam Postema called an exhibition game in 1989. But she only made it as far as spring training for two seasons before she was given her walking papers. And before that, in one of the greatest mysteries in baseball, Bernice Gera fought her way to become the first female umpire in professional baseball when she worked a New York-Penn League (single A) game on June 24, 1972, She then, promptly, resigned and never umped again..

However Cortesio, 30, seems in it to stay. Currently the only woman umpire in professional baseball, she’s starting her ninth year overall and her fifth in AA ball.

"It's awesome," Cubs star Derrek Lee said, in an interview with New York Newsday. "I think it's about time. Female eyes are as good as male eyes. Why can't they be umpires? Good for her."

Cubs reliever Scott Eyre also liked the choice.

"I could care less. [if she’s male or female] If she can call a game, she can call a game."

However this will not be Cortesio’s first appearance on a big-league field. She worked some of the All-Star exhibitions last year in Pittsburgh, and also worked the Home Run Derby.

Although she began her career in baseball’s Pioneer League, she doesn't see herself as a pioneer in a male-dominated profession.

"I don't do this job to get on TV," she said last July. "But I hope it will raise the awareness a little."

She also earned one of baseball’s uncelebrated badges of honor – criticism by New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. He complained about her strike zone after she umped a game thrown by Roger Clemens when he was in the Florida State league recuperating from an injury.

Also an instructor at the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring, this year she’s in line for a promotion to Triple A ball and has major league aspirations. Although a move to Triple A would give her a chance to be evaluated by major league supervisors, it puts her in no greater stead than a Double A ump to be drafted to the majors, as a Double A player has a greater chance of being picked up than an umpire.

Still, this is a great milestone for her and I hope it inspires more women to follow in her cleat-prints.

Read more about Rita at the Pioneer League's web site.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Axioms of Television and Movies

But First, The Idol Minute

I have nothing more to say about Sanjaya except to speculate that perhaps his sister got the lion’s share of their parents’ attention when they were growing up.

And when he looks back at this footage, say, twenty years from now, he’s going to be mortified.

Given that, look for either Chris to be sent home tonight.

Now back to our regularly scheduled broadcast.

Some of you might have read Roger Ebert’s book in which he lists all the clichés in movies. For instance:

• The night watchman dies first in any horror movie.
• Bad guys can’t shoot worth a damn.
• All you have to do to make the “ugly duckling” character into a mega-babe is take off her glasses and shake her hair out of its ponytail.

Over the years I have a come across a few additions, including some from television:

• In a comedy (especially a romantic comedy) at least one individual from any couple shown paddling a canoe or any kind of oar-operated floating device will wind up falling into the water.

• Ditto any main character in fancy dress near a swimming pool.

• The baddest villains take the longest time to die. I think Al Pacino spent the last half of “Scarface” tumbling down the stairs while bleeding to death.

• If a platoon of soldiers is seen in a moving vehicle, and they are joking around, in the next few minutes they will probably be blown up.

• If a male character (especially if he’s a little pompous or chauvinistic) is slated to meet either a doctor or a new boss, odds are the character will be female. And probably gorgeous.

• Any pregnant character will give birth either as the season finale, or during sweeps week. In movies, any pregnant character (with “Fargo” being the only exception I’m aware or) will deliver by the end of the film.

• If the camera focuses too long on a plate-glass window, somebody is going through it.

• A platonic couple shown will fall in love, either by the end of the film, or, if on television, some time during the run of the series (depending on the ratings). Look for this romance to be hurried along if the series is in danger of being cancelled.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sallying Forth With Not A Clue…

I know just a hair more than zip about the stock market, and being half of a married couple that owns a few, I thought it was about time I learned something about what our money is doing down there on Wall Street.

Husband watches those stock programs on TV, where neo-yuppies in shirtsleeves and club ties and slicked-back hair (who look like they’d be just as comfortable zooming through a half-pipe as they would on the trading floor) pronounce what’s hot and what’s not. But the language it’s couched in, to me, is not like anything I learned in school resembling English. I tune in for a while, until my head starts spinning around. I might as well be watching one of those Spanish soap operas, for all I’m getting out of it.

The poor, patient dear has tried to explain a few things to me (like why you can’t buy or sell when the market isn’t open), and that’s where the “hair more than zip” occurred. Another hair wired its way into my grey matter when one of the TV stock guys – the one who screams so much I fear he’s going to have a coronary on the air – had a special show for neophytes explaining how to pick a stock and what separates a good stock from a bad stock and how to develop a stomach for risk. But I still didn’t feel like I had enough practical knowledge.

And now I have a chance. CNBC, one of the financial networks, is running a contest. You sign up, they give you a million dollars in fake money to play with, they let you buy and sell stocks as you please, and whoever has the most money in May wins a real million.

So I can get my feet wet without risking a penny of our own nest egg.

But boy, am I out of my element. All these armchair traders, all these people who actually know what they’re doing are in this thing, and there’s me, the one who took a double major in college so I wouldn’t have space left to take things that gave me hives, like economics.

Now I wish I’d used a few credits on that subject.

But I started. First I dipped a toe in the water, bought a couple of companies that I knew about. And made nothing for my efforts, as well as barely knocked a dent into my million. “No,” Husband said. “You have to get more aggressive. It’s not your money, so go crazy.”

Crazy. Hah. Anyone who knows me knows that “crazy” I am not. I am safe. I am secure. I am the stock market equivalent of a retired schoolmarm spending her Saturday night rocking in her chair with the thermostat turned down to save a few pennies.

But I watched a couple of shows the network aired for people in the contest, with a few recommended strategies and suggestions for stock picks. And then I went back to work. And in just a couple of days, I’d spent a million bucks. Still hadn’t made any money, but I was on my way. And now I’ve crossed the line into the top fifty per cent of traders and I’m buying and selling like a pro.

Well, a fake pro. But at least it’s a start. I don’t expect to win, but when I’m done with the contest, maybe I’ll be able to read and watch financial news without a translator.

Meanwhile, anyone got a good stock pick?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Why John Edwards’s Campaign is Screwed

First of all, I feel for the Edwards family. Cancer is a horrible disease, and watching a loved one go through it wrenches you inside out. I admire Elizabeth’s strength of character (or maybe it’s a distraction) for wanting her husband to soldier on with his campaign.

(This is the part where I’m going to hell. Please, if you don’t want to get singed by any stray lightning bolts, don’t stand that close to me.)

But arranging a press conference and appearing on 60 Minutes? Call me cynical (it’s all right, a lot of people have, and I’m sure that lot of people are, with some embarrassment, singing this same song) but however sincere they might think they’re being, to me it comes off as calculated as the Clinton’s interview early in the 2000 campaign when Bill said he was sorry he’d been bad and Hillary vowed to “stand by her man.”

The Clintons took a calculated risk. He could have bowed out, like Gary Hart, caught red-handed with a chickie-babe on his lap on the good ship “Monkey Business,” (Google it, kids) and made some lame excuse like he wanted to spend more time with his family. But what Bill and Hill did worked, because Bill Clinton, from the extrapolations by his political posse, had a strong enough campaign to weather the fallout. And he had that unusual rapport with the American populace that also got him reelected in a race where the turnout was among the lowest in recorded history. (Also, Bob Dole ran a pathetic campaign)

But John Edwards’s campaign simply isn’t that strong. It wasn’t that strong when he ran in 2004, when he came off as an inexperienced one-note Johnny, talking about his rise from poverty and the “two Americas” and such, and from what I’ve seen so far, he doesn’t seem to have changed. Yes, he talks about health care now, but who isn’t talking about health care? You have to in order to be in this race.

Yet in his 60 Minutes interview, he said that if you are planning to vote for him because his wife has cancer, then he doesn’t want your vote.

I’m having a hard time believing that. I’m not saying that he sat down with Elizabeth and said, “Hey! I know, I’m behind in the polls so let’s tell everyone about your cancer and we’ll get the sympathy vote and win!” But when life hands you lemons – especially if you’re a politician…especially a politician who wants to be President (which I think means something is wrong with you already) – you’d be foolish not to squeeze them dry. Or squirt a couple in your opponents’ eye. (And the deep dark very cynical part of me is wondering, with Hillary looking at a black man on her left and a guy whose wife has cancer on her right, if she’s thinking about urging Bill to pound back a bunch of Big Macs until he needs another bypass.)

Anyhow…the Edwards’s announcement could swing several ways for them. Either people will think: “Oh, how sad that his wife has cancer, and how strong they’re being, Edwards is my man!” Or, “if it were my wife I’d drop out of the campaign and spend time with her; what’s wrong with him?” Or “But if he gets to the White House, won’t he be distracted if her cancer gets worse?”

And with a campaign that’s pretty weak to begin with, I think when all the opinions are put together, it’s going to turn out to be a wash. Also, with the 2004 loss, he’s got that stink of “loser” on him that Americans have grown a disdain for in recent decades. In the past, a candidate could be on the losing ticket then run the next time and maybe win. But when was the last time that happened? Has anyone heard from Mike Dukakis or Lloyd Bentsen or Jack Kemp? And for all their rumblings, doubtful that Al Gore and John Kerry would hit the campaign trail again, except to stump for another guy with a donkey on his chest. Nader is the only one who keeps on going, and nobody but him really knows why. You have to go all the way back to Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and 1956 and Thomas Dewey in 1944 and 1948 to find a losing candidate who chose to run a second time. (which they both lost) Bob Dole also had the dubious honor of running as VP on the 1976 ticket then losing the top spot in 1998. Edwards also has that Senator curse on him, too (as I mentioned in an earlier blog) and doesn’t quite have that star quality to overcome it.

So with new reports coming out that the cancer is worse than originally reported in the press conference, I think the best thing the Edwards’s can do is hunker down and be together for the time that Elizabeth has left.

And good luck to them.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Unsolved TV Mysteries

Last night I felt crummy and flopped in front the television, and I found myself clicking back and forth between ladies’ figure skating (one of my secret pleasures) and American Idol Rewind, which is basically a rerun of old seasons (which is new for those of us who didn’t catch on until last year).

I think it was Season One, and co-hosting with Ryan Seacrest was this droopy looking guy, Brian Dunkleman (who bore a slight resemblance to Dana Carvey), who disappeared some time between Season One and last year when I started watching.

Which led me to think about other mysterious TV disappearances. Such as:

• In the Happy Days’ pilot, Ron Howard’s character had an older brother named Chuck. He apparently attended college and when on camera, seemed always to be holding a basketball. Then he vanished, and for the entire run of the show, no reference to a third Cunningham sibling was ever made again.

• Most TV aficionados know about the twin Darrens in Bewitched and the two Darlenes in Roseanne (and that the actresses were both named Sarah, one of which, Sarah Chalke, went on to star in Scrubs). But also, in Seinfeld’s first season, Jerry had a different character playing his father than in the rest of the episodes. And a good thing, because that guy was grumpy and unlikable versus the “newer” actor, who was grumpy but likeable.

Gilmore Girls had a couple of characters bloopers in its first season, Laine (Rory’s Korean friend) had a father, who like the mysterious Vera on Cheers and Maris on Frasier, was referred to but never seen. And then he was never referred to again. And in an early episode, the actor who ended up playing Kirk appeared under another name as a cable guy who’d come to install DSL at Lorelai’s house.

And then a few I had to look up, because if you know me, you know what happens once I get curious about something:

Good Times was a spin-off from Maude. Esther Rolle’s “Florida” was Maude’s maid, and in that show, her husband, played by John Amos, was called “Henry,” yet when the spin-off was spun-off, the writers had changed Amos’s character’s name to James.

• The Dunkleman mystery: He quit AI after Season One to “pursue his acting career.” (In case any of you were wondering) The producers of AI were probably relieved, because they weren’t that thrilled with him. In a 2006 interview, Dunkleman said that the decision had “probably been a mistake” (are you listening, David Caruso?) and that he’s now a stand-up comic. Also, he’d been unable to tolerate the “cruelty” of AI.

Malcolm In The Middle: We never learn the family’s last name.

Well, that was all I could find, except for, you know, things like Donald Trump's hair or why AfterMASH was ever made. Let me know if you are aware of any others.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Third Party Candidates: Will Any Have An Impact on the 2008 Elections?

Ross Perot did it in 1990 and 1996 with the Reform Party. John Anderson, the media-monikered “College Student’s Candidate” of the National Unity Party was a mere pebble in Ronald Reagan’s 1980 landslide. And you’d have to have been living on another planet not to know the role Independent candidate Ralph Nader played in the 2000 and 2004 elections (although he claims not to have taken any votes away from the Al Gore and John Kerry at all).

They’re the third-party candidates, and while the disenfranchised and passionate have been trying to crack through for the last century or two, none have made it to the White House.

Doesn’t mean they don’t keep on trying.

Here is just a sampling of the rainbow of citizens on a mission, thanks to Ron Gunzburger’s Politics 1 web site:

For the Constitution Party, wrapped in the American flag and waving the Bible:

*Chuck Baldwin (FL) – Baptist pastor, radio talk show host, conservative activist, and 2004 VP nominee
*Jim Clymer (PA) – Party National Chairman, frequent candidate, and attorney
*Jerome Corsi (MA) – Author, journalist and conservative activist.
*Jim Gilchrist (CA) – Minuteman Project Founder, retired accountant and ’05 congressional nominee.
*Alan Keyes (MD) – Former US Ambassador, conservative activist and frequent candidate
P. Dale Thomson (KY) – Businessman and Christian Rock musician

For the Green Party, proudly waving their recycled eco-flags high:

Elaine Brown (GA) – Ex-Black Panther Party Chair, nonprofit group executive and author
*Pat LaMarche (ME) – Businesswoman, National Party Co-Chair, talk show host, 2004 VP nominee, ex-state Rep and Democrat.
*Cynthia McKinney (GA) – Former US Congresswoman, ex-state Rep and Democrat
*Rebecca Rotzler (NY) – New Paltz Deputy Mayor, Party National Co-Chair, businesswoman and community activist.
kat “this is really how you spell my name” swift (TX) State Party Co-Chair, progressive activist and newspaper credit manager.

For the Libertarians, wishing everyone would just leave them the heck alone:

Jim Burns (NV) – Ex-State LP Chair and frequent candidate
Gene Chapman (TX) – Anti-tax activist, lay minister and truck driver
Dave Hollist (CA) – Bus driver and frequent LP Presidential hopeful
Bob Jackson (MI) – Businessman, former Congressional candidate and ex-Republican.
Mike “Jingo” (hey, his nickname, not mine) Jingozian (OR) – Software company founder and former city council candidate.
Steve Kubby (CA) – Businessman, former Governor nominee and (there had to be at least one) marijuana legalization activist.
Alden Link (NY) – Manufacturing executive and Army veteran.
Robert Milnes (NJ) – Progressive activist.
George Phillies (MA) College profressor, writer, LP “Reform” activist and former US Senate nominee.
*Wayne Allyn Root (NV) – Sports handicapper, author and TV show host.
Christine Smith (CO) – Progressive activist and writer.
Doug Stanhope (AZ) – Comedian

For the Prohibition Party, which is kind of an oxymoron, isn’t it?

Gene Amondson (AK) – 2004 Nominee, Temperance lecturer, minister and artist.

For the Independents, wearing whatever the heck they want to

Stephen P. "Steve" Adams (Independent-Kentucky)
Terry "Tee" Barkdull (New American Party-Nevada)
John Taylor Bowles (NSM/American Nazi Party-South Carolina)
Orion Karl Daley (Balanced Party-New York)
Cris Ericson (Marijuana Party-Vermont)
Vinnie Ferrari (Indepenent-DC)
Alex Hammer (Independent-Maine)
Bob W. Hargis (Independent-Oklahoma)
Dan Imperato (Reform/Independent-Florida)
Frank McEnulty (Independent-California)
*Ralph Nader (Independent-Connecticut)
Arthur J. Regan (Independent-Massachusetts)
"Average Joe" Schriner (Independent-Ohio)
Jonathon “The Impaler” Sharkey (Vampire, Witches & Pagan Party-New Jersey)
Ben Thompson (Independent-Minnesota)
Lanakila Washington (Humanist Party-New York)
Rick Williams (Independent-Tennessee)

* = not yet declared

Here are my picks for who’s going to ultimately end up on the ballot (sadly, below the Democrats and Republicans, as always):

Constitution Party: I’m betting we’ll wind up with Alan Keyes (because of his experience and financial backers) and Chuck Baldwin (ditto.). But just for the heck of it, check out P. Dale Thompson’s web site. He’d be the first Christian Rocker in the White House. Free concerts in the Rose Garden!

Green Party: I think this party has the best chance of making it to the top of the heap. Look for Pat LaMarche and Rebecca Rotzler to wind up in a primary. While Cynthia McKinney is a big name, her clear anti-Semetic bias is going to be a problem in this party that stands for diversity. I would have liked to see Jason West (Rebecca Rotzler’s boss, the mayor of New Paltz who performed a slew of gay marriages a couple years back) get into the race, but perhaps he’s been too busy dodging lawsuits and trying to get the village to give him a raise (a perennial local brouhaha.)

Libertarians: From a scan of their web sites, and what I’m hearing around cyber-land, it looks like Jim Burns, Bob Jackson or George Phillies will get the nod. Although a comedian would certainly make the State of the Union messages less of a snoozer. And I love this quote from Gene Chapman’s web site: “Your only Non-Communist Third Party Slave Freedom Alliance candidate for President of The United States, seeking the Libertarian, Constitution, Southern, Goldwater-Reagan Conservative, Independent, Reform and Boston Tea Party nominations.”

Prohibition Party: Only one choice here! Although I’m surprised it still exists. Can you really make a living as a Temperance Lecturer anymore, outside of Utah and the Middle East?

Independents: I love the Independents. This is where you get the wackiest extremes in the spectrum, from John Taylor Bowles of the American Nazi Party to Cris Ericson of the Marijuana Party (now that would be a party) to Jonathon “The Impaler” Sharkey from the Vampire, Witches and Pagans Party, whose first act as President would be to blow Mecca to kingdom come.

Other than vowing to impale your enemies on a stake, this party is where politics can really get interesting. Yes, the big question on everyone’s minds is, “Will Ralph run again?” So far, he’s made no commitment. Although if he did, I’d peg him, Steve Adams and Ben Thompson as the strongest candidates.

I know the 2008 elections are a long way off (light years away, as far as America’s attention span is concerned) but if I had to make a call now, I’d say that while third party candidates will add their usual color to the bottom of the ballot, and some may even fight their way into the debates, I doubt that they will make much of a difference when it comes to who will be putting their hand on the Bible in January, 2009. After eight years of Bush, I have a hunch the populace will want to go with a known-quantity Dem.

It'll be interesting to see which.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

American Short-Term Memory

Is it me or am I just too old to get these things?

OK, it’s Wednesday and for all of you non-American-Idol fans, that means that the remaining number of contestants have performed last night, and tonight will be the Results Show (which Husband has coined the Rejects Show).

And I know some of you may not like it, but even though this is merely a reality show, I’m rather brain dead by about eight o’clock at night so I’ve become a reluctant fan. And with my overinflated sense of justice, I feel a need to report on the judges’s treatment of each performance, and, following tonight, on how “America” voted.

If you don’t care for reality shows, you may just skip past these parts (I promise you, except in extreme cases of injustice, that these rants will not be long) and continue on to the rest of the day’s RFG commentary.

First: Is it just me or did Ryan cut off Simon before he had a chance to say anything negative about Sanjaya? Did they all take a vote beforehand and decide to stop torturing this untalented but sweet young man and wait out the moment (please, let it come quickly) when America will finally come to its senses and figure out that no matter how many times he changes his hair, no matter how much he pretends to be the next Donny Osmond (Google it, kids), he simply does not have the chops to compete with the rest of the gang?

Honest to God, put him out of his misery already.

And second: Why is it OK to chastise Gina (the punker of the crew) about choosing style over substance (I think she did a rather fine cover of the Stones’ “Paint it Black.”) when Sanjaya did exactly the same, (wriggling and screeching through a Kinks song when he couldn’t even lace up Ray Davies’ pointy-toed boots) and nothing was mentioned? Or was Paula simply too overwhelmed with lust to think straight?

Now on to the rest of our broadcast day.

Who Wants To Be President, Part 2

I know it’s as impossible to keep track of current presidential candidates as it is to understand Federal tax law, and the election is a long way off, but here’s an update of who’s still got their hat in the proverbial ring: (leaving out the unofficials like Al Gore and Fred Thompson)

For the Democrats, wearing blue shorts and an air of entitlement:

Hillary “It’s My Turn” Clinton, Senator from New York
Barack “Not If I Have Anything To Say About It” Obama, Senator from Illinois
Christopher “I’m Sorry” Dodd, Senator from Connecticut
Dennis “Why Am I Doing This To Myself Again?” Kucinch, Rep from Idaho
Joseph “Yawn” Biden, Senator from Delaware
John “Pretty Boy” Edwards, former VP candidate
Bill “I Speak More Spanish Than Bush” Richardson, Governor of New Mexico
Mike “Who Am I?” Gravel, no discernable job whatsoever

And in the Republican corner, wearing red shorts and with a look that would stop an incoming SCUD missile:

Rudy “Make My Day” Guiliani, formerly “American’s Mayor”
John “The Backstabber” McCain, Senator from Arizona
Sam “Brokeback” Brownback, Senator from Kansas
Mitt “Mormon Matinee Idol” Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts
Mike “The Other Man From Hope” Huckabee
Tommy “Used To Be Somebody” Thompson, former HHS and Governor of Wisconsin
Jim Gilmore, Advisor of some sort
Tom “Comb Over” Tancredo, Rep from Colorado*
Duncan “Huh?” Hunter, Rep, California
Ron Paul, Rep, Texas*

*Undeclared but have formed exploratory committees

First of all, we can eliminate a whole bunch of candidates right off the bat. Face it, with the megabucks required to run for office and the way state primaries might start stacking one atop another, very few of these contenders will be able to stick around for very long. Especially the ones who have not yet made a commitment. So that leaves us with:

For the Dems
Hillary Clinton
Barack Obama
John Edwards
Bill Richardson (my pick for Dark Horse)
Al Gore (should he choose to run)

For the GOP
Rudy Guiliani
John McCain
Christopher Dodd
Joe Biden
Mitt Romney
Newt Gingrich (a long shot, should he declare his candidacy)

Now, the second round of eliminations. With very few exceptions (John Kennedy being one of them, and Gerald Ford, under duress, and Richard Nixon, only because he'd been VP), not too many presidents of late have gone across the mall from Congress to the White House. The reason being that while those in Congress are good campaigners, they don’t actually run anything. If you take a spin back through the past few decades, the majority of presidents have been Governors. Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Bush II…all governors and none of them from the Northeast. (Bush I, while from the Northeast, rode to the top on Reagan’s coattails) Which leaves Mitt Romney in the cold right away. Ditto Joe Biden, John McCain (he’s got the double whammy of having ticked too many people off), Christopher Dodd and John Edwards (sorry, Charlie, why don’t you find some nice teaching job somewhere or go on a speaking tour…or make a documentary). Al Gore, while a liberal wet dream of revisionist history, simply doesn’t (and didn’t) have enough of what Idol judge Randy Jackson calls the “yo!” factor to make it to the top. Sorry, Al. We appreciate what you’ve done for us, but here’s your gold watch and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. And congrats on the Oscar. Maybe you can hook up with Michael Moore and do something. I hear he needs his credibility shored up.

So now we’re down to our finalists:

Dems: Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama (yes, both senators, but yes, both have that certain curb appeal that outweighs the Congressional Curse) And possibly, Bill Richardson.

GOP: Rudy Guiliani and (maybe) Newt Gingrich or John McCain

There. I’ve saved everybody a whole lot of money and time. Those not selected, you may take your parting gifts (a seat on the corporate board of your choice) and go home. Thanks for playing.

Everyone else…you’re going to Hollywood, man!


Next installment: Third Party Candidates – who’s in, who’s not, and who you hope will find something else to do instead of screw everything up like the last two elections.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Winter's Last Laugh

Winter’s last laugh was on us, apparently.

I went to writing group last night. It had been a long time since I’d been able to make the trek (it’s a 40 minute drive with traffic and a 32 minute one without) and I needed their camaraderie and a chance to laugh and get my mind out of my body and into my writing. Snow was forecast but only a dusting, the weather report claimed. The roads had been cleared since the big storm, our driveway was navigable, and even if there was a little wet snow, the temps were hovering slightly above freezing so I didn’t worry about any of it sticking to the roads.

But my usual weather forecasters, the most reliable ones I’d had experience with, were wrong. As I started driving, the skies turned from flecked with the occasional flurry to a more persistent snow shower. Yet still the roads remained merely wet, my outdoor temp monitor continued to read 32, and I felt that reassuring crackle as salt pellets rattled around my wheel wells. (those of us in the north know that this means the sander trucks have been by, reducing our chances of going slideways off the roads) Which was very important to me, because with the mild winter I hadn’t bothered to put on my snow tires.

I had fun at group, which I always do, and had a chance to read a piece of my current novel in eternal progress, and see a DVD of one of our member’s comedy act, and then I ducked out early, since I have less confidence in my driving ability as the night gets later.

But I had a good couple of inches of heavy, wet snow to clean off of my car first, and it was now coming down hard. I took a deep breath, settled into my seat and started home. The side roads were lightly dusted, and the main roads wet with a bit of slush, but when I crossed the bridge and continued heading north, it got worse. I didn’t have the confidence to go over 45 even though it seemed like other people (with better tires) were going faster. Steady but surely, I kept driving. Then I had to turn onto the side road that eventually would lead to my neighborhood. That good couple of inches were down on that road, and it looked like nothing resembling a municipal sander or plow had been by. This is an area fraught with dips and twists, one particularly evil one where you’re heading steadily downhill and into a curve. I made it through that but started to notice that I was having a little problem making it up hills. Like a marathoner running out of steam. I took another deep breath, prayed that the force be with me, and kept on going. Finally, I got to the place in the road – a greenhouse – that always was my signal that I’d made it, that one short little quarter-mile or so and I’d be in my neighborhood.

Well, thank something, I thought, when I pulled off and discovered that our neighborhood was maintained better than the town roads.

But I still had to climb the big hill to my house. And as I climbed, the snow got deeper, and I was having more and more trouble. I couldn’t get purchase, I’d give it more gas, I went into a lower gear and that helped, and I fishtailed a little around the big curve at the top, and finally, finally I passed our house and got to the neighbor’s, where I could turn around. See there’s a trick to our driveway. I might have mentioned this before, that it hooks backward from the road and in bad weather, you have to turn around in the neighbor’s driveway and approach our drive from a better angle, and gun the engine so you can make it up the hill and around the curve of death, as I’ve lovingly grown to call it.

But last night the problem lay in the turning around part. In low gear, going forward, I was getting enough traction to make it through. In reverse, I had no purchase at all, and just spun my wheels. After a few attempts and turning, I ended up sliding my front tires over the lip of the pavement and landing with my nose in a snow bank.

Fortunately, the neighbor whose house I’d wedged myself in front of were the hardy sort, even owned towing gear and a Bobcat. Cursing at my stupidity and condition of my tires (oh, why hadn’t I put on my snows, oh, why, oh why????????), I trudged up their driveway. And I do mean “up.” This place ain’t called the hill for nothing. And the last time I walked up a steep hill I paid for it. But I wasn’t thinking about my back at the time. My mind was afroth concocting Plan A, then Plan B, then Plan C.

Neighborette answered my plaintive knock, in her beddy-bye gear, and I felt guilty as hell. I hadn’t woken her, she said, but she and hubby were about to settle into bed and watch “Dancing With The Stars.” (which reassured me that we weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the guilty pleasure of dumb reality shows) But still, I felt bad. She got hubby up and they got dressed and followed me down their walk and then the driveway (she, shoveling a clear path in front of me, bless her) and pushed me free. I thanked them with all of my heart, then put my heart back in my chest when I thought, “I still have to get up my #$*%@($& driveway.”

But at least I was pointed in the right direction.

I hit the gas. Not too hard, because that would send me sliding, but just enough to try to gather enough momentum to get up the hill.

Apparently, though, I hadn’t. Because I got stuck on the straight run up that leads into the curve of death, and all the gas I gave it couldn’t do more than make my tires spin and create that awful burning rubber smell. I feared backing down and trying to gun it up again, but I had no traction in reverse and would only slide all the way down to the road, if I ended up in the road at all.

So I did what any independent, post-feminist babe would do. I yanked on the emergency brake and trudged up the rest of the drive to get my husband.

I knew he wouldn’t be happy. Yes, he’d be happy that I made it home in one piece, because he warned me that he’d seen a weather forecast that said we’d be getting 1-3 inches (and when those Alberta Clippers come by, normally we get another inch or two on the hill) and I left blithely telling him I wasn’t concerned, because my source, my most reliable source, called for only a dusting.

But he wouldn’t be happy if he had to dig me out of some snow bank, because he’d pulled a muscle in his back a few days ago and didn’t want to strain it again. I didn’t want him to do that either, and thought he’d have the guts I lacked to ease the car down the hill, get back up the road and channel Tony Stewart to gas it up and make it to the top of the driveway and into the garage.

Which wouldn’t strain his back at all.

He was gone for a long time, which made me worry. At least I didn’t hear any tire-spinning. Or hadn’t gotten any calls from a neighbor telling me my husband was ass-up in a ditch. Then, when I couldn’t stand it any longer, I poked my snoot out door to the garage. And my car comes rolling in. Husband gets out, triumphant. And retrieves our snow shovel from the back sheet.

Oh, crap.

He explained how he had to shovel a little from the front and from the back to get the car going with any kind of control, and backed down, then did the Tony Stewart thing, yadda, yadda, yadda. “And,” he said, “I pulled my back again!”

Oh, crap.

“But I got your car up the driveway,” he says.

I explained to him that people are worth more than cars, but I had a sense that I was just wasting my breath. I thanked him for saving me and rubbed some magic healing ointment on his back.

He’s not a happy camper today, nor am I (the hill I hiked up bit me in the butt shortly after I woke up this morning), and I'm feeling very guilty about dragging him out into the snow, but I think he’ll be OK. And so will I.

The sun has gotten to the driveway and I can see from the upstairs window that the place where I got stuck is now clear down to blacktop, as is the road below.

And I am pretty sure that this will be the last of the snow. (I said that last time, too, I believe)

But if I’m going out at night again in the next few weeks, I might do well to take a survey of weather forecasts. Because it seems too late to put on the snows.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Resuming the Résumé

Since in recent days I’ve gotten a few writing leads that look promising, I spent a couple of hours updating my resume. Yes, for some reason, even if you’re up for a freelance job these days, some people still want to see a resume. I guess it’s proof that you’re not an illegal alien or didn’t just get sprung from twenty or thirty years in maximum security for mowing down your former coworkers.

Anyway…I dusted it off, polished it up…added that weak little line at the top that sums up what I’ve been doing professionally for the past two years (actually more like eight months) - writing for the web and that’s about it…and took a good hard look at the page.

Damn. Whoever that person was before that weak little first line at the top, I wish I could hire her. She’s a whiz-bang go-getter, that one, skilled in juggling multiple priorities and executing this and managing that. Proficient in a world of software programs and competent in—

Wait a minute, I thought. I’m still that same person. I didn’t undergo a personality transplant. I still have all relevant lobes of my brain intact. All right, my memory isn’t what it used to be and some of my chops have gone a little slack, and after having survived my twelve-step program (for recovering workaholics) I’m no longer willing to stress myself out to the point of bodily harm to make a deadline, but I’m still that same basic person.

And I’m proud of what I’ve done.

There have been a few zigs and a couple of zags as the volatile field of commercial design evolved, but I did what I could to stay marketable and make a living. Too bad it doesn’t say what happened between those pumped up verbs. That at some jobs I used to have fun. I liked some of my coworkers and even a couple of bosses. That even in my early thirties, laid off from a job, I saw that my psyche needed a break from the field in order to spend more time and energy at my fledgling avocation - writing fiction – so I took a position that was less challenging but left me brain space to write. And then, when I grew bored with that (actually I was growing bored with it about the same time as the company went belly-up) I went back to something more challenging.

And challenged myself right into disability.

But every one of those entries – even the empty spaces and the weak lines - has a novel or two (or three) in it.

And I’m glad I waited until my thirties to start writing them. Perhaps if I knew I wanted to be a writer earlier, and got my degree in writing in college, and went to those fancy seminars like Iowa or Breadloaf, I wouldn’t be the same person who’d made the same mistakes and took the same risks and had the same joys and sorrows. In short, the stuff that makes good writing.

And now my weak little top line is looking stronger. Or at least it will once I fix the typo. Damn. The whiz-bang manager-coordinator-executor-software-operator would have found that one.

But it doesn’t matter as much as it used to.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Kid Stories

For some reason Sundays remind me of my childhood and one little leap beyond that came a couple of memories of some of the conversations I've had with other people's children over the years. Hey, just because I don't have any kids doesn't mean I don't get to tell stories. Feel free to add your own. (Don't worry, nephews, there's nothing embarrassing about you guys here. Unless you want to share something.)

Rebecca is the eldest child of the couple who owned the house next to ours when we lived in town. The houses were literally so close together we could pass each other the ketchup over the alley. Sometimes I'd look out the window and see Rebecca watching our television from her living room (she was not permitted to watch television) Anyhow, she was all of about four when this happened. I was going out to dinner with my mother and grandmother (who was up from Florida for a visit). We'd agreed that they would swing by and pick me up, as the restaurant we'd chosen was fairly close to my house. Since it was a nice day, I was waiting for them on our front steps, and since I was running a little late, I stuck what few cosmetics I used in my bag and planned on finishing up my "toilette" al fresco. I pulled out my pressed powder compact (MAC, ivory, in case anyone's interested) and started patting the sponge over my face. Rebecca had been playing in the side yard and came over. She asked what I was doing. I said I was making myself beautiful. She took a long look at my face. Then said, "It's not working."

The Girl Up The Hill (name withheld to protect the innocent)
Our neighbors here on the hill are wonderful. One family, knowing we don't usually do anything for Christmas dinner, often invited us over. They are very religious, and we're not, which is not a problem, but the traditions are very different for me. They say grace before meals, and there's a lot of talk about God. They're great people and I always feel honored that they'd share their holidays with us. Christmas we'd said grace, the food was passed, we'd started to eat. I don't know how the conversation took this turn, but it seems like it came out of nowhere. Their little innocent daughter looked up at me and asked, "How many men did you go through before you found your husband?"

I think I kind of stuttered something about not really going through men, but...

Then she said, "Because my mom went through seventeen guys before she married my dad."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

That's two...

I warned you guys before.

Don't make me come down there.

Now We Know...

So Khalid Sheik Muhammed has confessed to masterminding the 9/11 plot, the previous WTC bombing, various other bombings, and plots to destroy US landmarks and assassinate several former US presidents. But our RFG spies have found out (don’t ask us how we found out or we’d have to kill you) that he also claimed responsibility for a number of other events previously unreported by any other media.

For instance:

• He was the lone gunman on the grassy knoll
• He fathered Anna Nicole’s baby
• He killed Marilyn Monroe
• He developed New Coke
• He secretly bankrolled Ralph Nader’s ’00 and ’04 presidential campaigns
• About a dozen years ago, he convinced Mark Burnett that producing a reality show in America would be a “really great idea”
• He was behind Betamax
• He wrote the screenplays for “Ishtar,” “Waterworld,” and “Heaven’s Gate.”
• He killed Jimmy Hoffa
• He got Milli Vanilli a grammy
• He was responsible for Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in Indonesia
• He rigged “just a couple” of voting districts in Florida and Ohio
• He told Michael Jackson that he really ought to marry Lisa Marie. Oh, and that his nose could use some work
• He coined the phrase “it is what it is”
• He bankrolled the Ugandan Space Program
• He was the one who really invented the Internet
• He advised Monica to keep the blue dress
• He started wearing his jeans down below his boxers before anybody else
• He made a few “revisions” to Skylab’s specs before it was built
• He convinced Korea to export cars to America
• He was responsible for artificial turf and the designated hitter rule
• He rigs the “American Idol” vote every week to keep Sanjay around so he can see what hairstyle he’ll choose next
• He told Britney Spears, “You know, I think you’d make a really great mother.”
• He invented Olestra
• He sent the first chain e-mail (don’t delete this!!)
• He thought the captain of the Exxon Valdiz looked nervous, and suggested he have a belt or two before taking to sea
• He designed Janet Jackson’s halftime-show outfit
• One word: “Barney”
• He suggested that maybe OJ ought to try on the gloves in court
• He is the mastermind behind global warming

Sunday, March 11, 2007

How Green Are Your Lungs?

Husband has asthma, and has been using a rescue inhaler for years. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one of these jobbies, but they are constructed by inserting a little metal albuterol (or other drug) canister into a plastic sleeve. This plastic sleeve acts as a mouthpiece and a pump so that he can spray the medication into his lungs during an asthma attack, and, one would hope, breathe.

With his last refill came notice that rescue inhalers are going green. Here’s the text of the message:

HFA – an environmentally friendly alternative to CFCs

CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) are chemicals that are often used as propellants in spray cans. Most rescue inhalers, including this one, use CFCs to deliver medication to your lungs. CFCs hurt the environment and damage the ozone layer that protects the earth from the sun’s rays.

The US has agreed to stop using CFCs by Dec 31, 2008. They have already been removed from products like hair spray and deodorant. Hydrofluoroalkane, or HFA, is an environmentally friendly alternative to CFCs for delivering the medication to rescue inhalers. HFA inhalers are CFC-free. HFA is safer for the environment.

HFA inhalers are currently available. The HFA rescue inhalers contain the same active ingredient that is found in CFC rescue inhalers and they are just as effective as CFC inhalers.

Well, yippee. Practically every other product on the shelf has been CFC-free for years, some for decades. Finally, someone in the bloated, wasteful pharmaceutical industry is going green.

But despite what this might do to reduce the average asthmatic’s carbon footprint, I have other concerns.

First, kudos on the industry that the propellant used in inhalers is now going to be environmentally correct. But there’s a bigger problem afoot. Every time you order a refill, you get both the plastic mouthpiece/pump and the metal canister, even though the mouthpiece is technically reusable (currently it is against FDA regulations to simply supply the canister alone). So when the container is empty, you have to dispose of both the spent metal cartridge and the plastic sleeve. A call to my pharmacist confirmed my suspicions that neither part is recyclable. So they’ll end up in some landfill, with the dregs of the albuterol leaching into the water table and the plastic lasting until the ozone layer – along with the rest of our atmosphere - completely disappears and the sun melts us into oblivion. Good job, guys.

Second, if the propellant is so bad for the environment that it can burn through ozone like nobody’s business, then why the heck have we been letting people spray this into their lungs? I don’t know if you’ve seen the statistics lately, but for the last two years, the numbers of children (especially African-American children) being diagnosed with asthma has increased. Yet for decades, the pharmaceutical industry has allowed these products to go unchanged. Yes, I imagine they were required to have some degree of testing done so that whatever propellant they substituted would not be dangerous. But in the time the FDA spent developing and approving drugs like Viagra, for God’s sake, they could have come up with a substance that would propel asthma drugs into children’s lungs safely and effectively. And there are many other populations that use inhalers, for asthma as well as other breathing difficulties.

Believe me, I’m all for doing what we can to keep our ozone layer intact. It gives me a nice and secure feeling having it up there, knowing that a step out of my house to get the mail isn’t going to give me skin cancer. But come on. Let’s use our heads about this. Or we could end up making our environment worse.

Friday, March 09, 2007

This Is No Idol Threat...

What he...and could....HOW COULD THIS HAVE HAPPENED?

OK. Everyone who voted for Sanjaya on Tuesday. Yes, you. Until you can show me that you can use your cell phones responsibly, your privileges will be recinded (that means "taken away") and all of your Justin Timberlake downloads will be removed from your iPods.

And I'm not kidding this time.

Just try me.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

An Amendment to the Previous Rant...

OK, I did more research and found out that the argument behind the "income taxes are illegal" stems from the fact that some think that the 16th Amendment (whereby income taxes were established) was never legally ratified. Read more about this here.

Duck Season…Rabbit Season…Tax Season

Well, it’s a week into March, and I’ve got my feathers in a ruffle once again about the insanity that has become the United States tax system.

Forget the dance of finding all the receipts that are lying around the house. Forget the downloading of the necessary forms (for it’s been years since we merely needed the ones that came in the book) and taking the time to parse through the directions and fill them out and assemble them in the correct order and…

How many of you actually read the beginning pages of those tax books? You know, where they communicate what is new for this past tax year, and what is to come?

Let alone the intro letter from the Commissioner, that begins, “Paying taxes is a unifying experience fundamental to democracy and the rule of law…”

I want whoever constructed this sentence tied to a chair and slapped very hard, repeatedly.

OK, I can get behind democracy. Sometimes, it’s a good idea. It’s definitely better than some other forms of government, where they take half your income and piss all over your civil liberties and…OK, never mind. But “unifying experience?” A plane crash, a funeral, surviving a natural disaster…these are also unifying experiences yet I have no wish to experience them every year with my fellow Americans, let alone pay the government for the privilege.

And let’s talk about “the rule of law.” There are some who say that there is no federal law that requires income taxes to be paid. That it is only considered a “voluntary contribution” and that the laws set up by the government protecting themselves are corrupt. There’s a very small but vociferous movement out there (I’d tell you more about them but the government demanded they take down their web site) touting this, and once in a while someone (like Wesley Snipes, most recently) tests it by not paying their taxes, only causing the government to come down on them as hard as whoever that woman was who wore a “Bush Sucks” t-shirt to the Republican National Convention. So they the IRS does little coercive things like plant stories in newspapers and on the web about people who get arrested for tax evasion…coincidentally, these pop up just before the filing deadline.

So if you flip to page 11 of your tax form booklets, class, you will see an item that reads, “Personal exemption and itemized deduction phaseouts reduced. Taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes above a certain amount may lose part of their deduction…”

One: “Phaseout?” Are these exemptions and deductions being “phased out??” If so, when is this happening and why did nobody tell us? This is HUGE. Unless they are about to tell me that they are being phased out and into a flat tax, what’s going on here?

Two (and I know I’m going to start a large argument here): Why is it that people get their panties in a bunch when ANY kind of tax increases are announced (although apparently this is OK with the populace at large, as people seem to be shrugging and opening their wallets nonetheless) but tax increases for the rich (actually for the AGI limit the IRS has set, this includes also the not-so-rich), there seems to be a tacit agreement that this is their obligation. The US is supposed to be the “land of opportunity” where immigrants can come over with a few hundred dollars in their pockets and parlay it into a fortune if they work hard, but hard work is punished with additional tax burdens. And don’t give me that “tax loophole” argument. There are just as many tax loopholes and goodies and deductions for lower-income people. They are also eligible for free tax help and if they have children, can take the Earned Income Credit. The ones who really get screwed are the middle classes and the married couples with no children.

Damn, I knew I should have had a few of those.

Another item on page 11: “Expired” tax benefits include tuition. What are we telling people now? That education beyond the 12th grade is no longer a priority for this government? That we’re supposed to be unqualified for the increasingly technical jobs this country needs, yet not supposed to make enough money to pay for the tuition ourselves?

No wonder all the good jobs are moving overseas.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Few Idol Thoughts…

When someone mentions Barry White, I’m willing to bet that you don’t immediately think “overweight man.” You probably think first about his sonorous, sexy voice. (And, maybe that he’s dead, but that’s not what this post is about.)

When someone mentions Ruben Studdard, you might remember that he won American Idol a few seasons back and has a terrific voice. I’m willing to bet that you don’t immediately think “overweight man” (even though he went on that Subway diet).

But I’m willing to bet that Lakisha Jones, who is probably the best singer in this season’s crop of Idol hopefuls, (with Melinda Doolittle a close second) won’t make it to the final vote.

Because, like Mandisa from last season (who didn’t make it), she’s an overweight woman.

The rules aren’t the same for women.

That’s how I know she’s not going to become the next American Idol - because this is the way the world works. The world of entertainment is visual, and this is leaking into so many areas of public and private life (with women of a certain age shooting themselves with Botox to compete with younger players on the job, the little girls starving themselves to look like Tara or Ashley or whoever is thin and popular at the moment).

It doesn’t mean I have to like it.

But often it feels like I’m the sole dissenting voice in the universe. And speaking of voice, this is supposed to be a singing competition, isn’t it (as Simon constantly reminds us)?

So I’m casting my vote to eliminate the “America Votes” part of American Idol. Because apparently the American public doesn’t know good from gravlax. (I mean, come on. Taylor Hicks?) Yes, let the cell phone owners of America call and cast a vote for who they WANT to win. But I want the judges – who actually know singing talent and probably would have wanted Mandisa (and Jennifer Holliday, for that matter) to win – to make the final call.