Archive for January, 2011

Still Too Easy

January 31, 2011

This skit was on Saturday Night Live this past weekend.  With my swearing off of my fave public target, it is just so easy to find a replacement.  How wanting is the state of American politics when the number of idiots is so numerous and overrunning us?  Anyhoo, I found this video to be even funnier than the ones by Tina Fey satirizing you-know-who:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/31/snl-michele-bachmann-gets_n_816166.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+HP%2FPolitics+%28Politics+on+The+Huffington+Post%29

We Need a Break: Try Snuggling, Spooning With a Seal

January 30, 2011

In light of all the unrest and turmoil in our world, treat yourself to five minutes of peace.  I guarantee this video will lower your blood pressure substantially.

Snuggling on the Beach

This unique video is of a tourist who sat on the beach to watch the seals and penguins on Gold Harbor,  South Georgia.  Unexpectedly, one of the seals is apparently attracted to her and, slowly works his way over to her.  He seems to ‘fall in love’ and snuggles and flirts with her.  It is quite an unusual and interesting scene.  The seals are huge (600 lbs), yet she never seemed afraid . . . more amused . . .. while someone shot the video of this incident.

Gold Harbor, South Georgia, is located off the southern tip of South America. (sub arctic)  It is a small bay five miles SSW of Cape Charlotte, with Bertrab Glacier at its head, along the east end of Georgia.  The west end of the beach where a glacial stream flows is a breeding ground for various types of penguins and large seals.  It is not a frequent destination for tourists.

The Absence of Angels

January 29, 2011

Another perplexing dilemma has invaded my brain.  This time it concerns the turmoil in Egypt.

Haven’t we seen this scenario many times before?  The United States supports a repressive, corrupt regime to avoid an anti-Western faction from taking over.  We supported the Shah of Iran, financially, militarily and ideologically, to prevent the Communists from moving into Iran.  Never you mind that the people of Iran were living an existence that resembled death more than life.  The booty that the Shah collected from other countries was funneled directly into his own coffers, not to the people.  The end result, the uprising that caused the Shah to exit Iran forever, was not only the logical next step, but also allowed for more extremist, religious groups to take over ruling the country.  This was exactly what Western governments feared, yet they never forced the Shah to deal with these deep, underlying problems.  So the outcome was predictably worse than the initial problem.

The same sequence of events occurred in Panama, with their American-supported dictator, Noriega.  Things there also turned against the American-backed forces and lo and behold, Noriega now sits in an American jail.  America supported the horrible tenure of Hussein In Iraq and look what happened there.  What appears like a more beneficial and sympathetic (to America’s interests) situation often turns out to be, in reality, even more destructive to the foreign nationals and the cause of world peace.

Today, in Egypt, the Mubarak government is about to fall.  Yes, we have had a “peace” (albeit a very tenuous, hypocritical truce) with Mubarak for the last thirty years.  Certainly, our American diplomats believed that the Mubarak regime was a far sight better than a Communist takeover and crucial to equilibrium in the Mideast.  Equilibrium for whom?  The party in power?  The wealthy?  The United States and their distorted, biased vision of the balance of power?  Certainly no equilibrium existed for the Egyptian people.  They were starving, they had no freedom of speech nor freedoms at all.  The wealthy upper class had all of that.  The 1 1/2 billions of dollars that the U.S. gave to Egypt annually went for weapons and other life enhancements of the ruling party to protect themselves from the bubbling anger of the proletariat.  This frustration and discontent has reached the boiling point this week.  The tear gas canisters that the government forces hurled at the protesters this week were marked “Made in the U.S.A.”

Mubarak, per his own request, has accepted the resignation of his cabinet.  What good is that when the poison at the top of his organization, Mubarak himself, refuses to step down?  Symbolism just does not cut it here.  He will wind up, down and out, on his elite, dictatorial ass.  Notice the true markings of a genuine dictator: Mubarak has shipped his sons off to safety in London.  First priority: protect the lineage of power.  Thus, Mubarak’s refusal to step down is more easily understood —- and his overriding priority,  the preservation of his throne, becomes painfully obvious.  Democracy NOT!

I do not live in a fantasy world.  I am well-aware of the benefits of maintaining relationships with our foreign allies for a more stable political climate.  Surely, during his reign that scanned five American presidencies, Mubarak has kept his hands off of Israel for decades, has aided us in trying to rectify the Iranian nuclear situation, kept the oil tankers free-flowing through the Suez Canal to our shores and been somewhat helpful in the pursuit of extremists.  I am aware that we need allies across the globe, even if they are not our perfect ideological twin.  My major complaint though, is that these foreign allies always seem to place the liberty of their people as the last item on the agenda when citing such sweeping goals as political stabilization, economic opportunity, social reform and world peace.  The United States tacitly, more often than not, accepts this relegation of the masses to the supposed “higher” principles.

The correct response from President Obama and other world leaders is not strictly black and white.  Rather, the response is going to have to be well-thought out, cautious, flexible and quite complicated due to the nuances of the situation.  Developing events, such as Mubarak, for the first time in his tenure as President, appointing a Vice-President and a Prime Minister, will alter our day-to-day, if not hour-to-hour, rejoinder.  Shall we continue to prop up the powers that be, hoping that the prevailing government will institute reforms, or shall we withdraw our support and deal with an entirely new power structure, hoping for the best but unsure if our current standing with the Mubarak government will continue to be acknowledged?  This explosive situation in Egypt is in a constant state of flux and the outcome is anybody’s guess.  All I know is that the deservedly defiant Egyptians should not be punished and murdered for their pursuit of justice.  Their battle should not automatically take last place over the desire to maintain control.  This is a real tightrope of a dilemma and I surely do not envy the decisions facing Mr. Obama.

Why do you think that al Qaeda and other extremist religious factions have risen to such power in the world?  The former, prevailing governments were so corrupt and abusive to their own citizens, that once a crack in the system developed, the extremists were welcomed with open arms.  The Communists were never a threat, as their power base crumbled twenty years ago under the pressure of keeping up their appearances and military might.  Is this lack of enlightenment obvious only to me?

Twenty years ago in Eastern Europe, after the fall of Communism, Russia could not hold back the wave of formerly communistic nations seeking their independence.  The process was uplifting, yet the resulting governments are no less corrupt than the one they broke away from.  In Iran about a year ago, the Green Revolution sputtered under the quashing of their rebellion by the religious party in power, a party that came into being after they overran the Shah.  I do not know which path Egypt will follow; if they will succeed in establishing a semi-democracy or if they will replace one counterfeit ruler with another.  Moreover, who is to say that the successor government in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Egypt will not bring their own particular brand of baggage to the table?  I certainly do not believe that a new government necessarily means a new level of reform and care for the people.

Once the freedom train has left the station, sometimes it succeeds at reaching its destination, and sometimes it does not.

The United States has made this error in judgment over and over again.  We supported repressive regimes to ensure our own economic and ideological policies.  Just a couple of weeks ago, we repeated this morally empty, self-serving stance when President Hu visited from China.   Human rights were not a major item on the agenda of talks, at least not publicly.  The lack of any human rights extended to the Chinese people who criticize their government is a given and is not open for international discussion.  Furthermore, China’s intention of culturally dismantling Tibet is an ongoing process.  They imported millions of native Chinese to the region and outlawed any language except Chinese.  This process is erasing the culture that existed in Tibet.  The Chinese believe that a clean slate will forever wipe away any remnants of Tibetan culture and thus, all of their objections to being absorbed into China.  Wrong.  The Chinese need only to look at the histories of Iran, Iraq, India, Panama and Egypt.  Additionally, isn’t this cultural extinction exactly what we perpetrated against our own native Americans so long ago?

America insists that they are on the side of angels, but their policies, both national and international, do not point to such high and admirable principles.  We talk a good line, and then send aid and support to exactly those forces that are clearly detrimental to the existence of the greater good.  Perhaps the underlying problem is that there are no angels.  Facing up to that reality might also be warranted at this point.

However, based on history, the replacement government might turn out to be even more repressive, a la the religious oligarchy that replaced the Shah in Iran.  Like I said, there probably are no angels, especially when money and power dominate the mix.

So my “perplexing dilemma” is no such thing at all.  The injustice, corruption and substitution of one repressive regime for another is simply the order of the day, all across the globe.  Where trouble is fomenting, whether it be economic or political, there is always the next dictator to step in and save the country.  Oh yes: he will protect that nation from itself —- for himself.

The Piracy of the Power Grid

January 28, 2011

Funny that my last “serious” post was on pirates and profiteers.  The last two days I have experienced such disgusting behavior first hand.

When the fast and furious storm hit us on Wednesday afternoon, we lost power at dinner time.  Our new generator kicked in and has been a blessing.  However, only part of the house is serviced by that generator and even though my computer is hooked into the alternative power source, my server (COX SUX), went down.  I just got the Internet back, although my power has yet to be restored.

My electric company is Dominion Virginia Power.  Their constant use of the term “customer service” is a farce.  When a customer calls them to report an outage, all we get, after going through six recorded menus, is a robot.  This live person, as well as her supervisors, have absolutely NO decision-making authority.  They are paid their wages to “yes, ma’am” you to death.  The company’s worst sin however, is that they will not provide their customers with the names and phone numbers of the executives at their corporate offices in Richmond.  These top company officials have built the perfect firewall around themselves.  They are fully protected from the ire of their customers.  The robots who do answer the phones are perfectly content to protect their masters.  There is no denying that the executives in Richmond, while sitting on their toasty asses, have no regard for or offer any compensatory actions for their cavalier service.

If any of you have access to a Value Line survey, which lists the corporate info on publicly-held companies, please look up the name of the CEO of Dominion Virginia Power and the direct phone number of its corporate offices.  Then please relay that info to me.  At the minimum, I guarantee that there will be a phone number for Shareholder Relations.  Mind you, NOT for customer service (which is a figment of their imagination), but definitely for shareholder concerns.

About twice a year, we see Dominion trucks pruning the trees and foliage around the above-ground power lines.  Idiots: to trim a few inches is not the solution.  Whether these trees are on state-owned land or private property is irrelevant.  These pretty arbors must be clear-cut.  That is the only way to avoid these constant and frequent outages.  How come the powers-that-be at Dominion in Richmond have not figured this out yet?  Such rocket scientists are they who earn millions of dollars a year.

Do not tell me that this was an act of God over which we have no control and that we have to roll with the punches.  Preventative measures , like significant tree trimming and burying the cables are viable solutions.  However, one has to be smart enough to tackle these issues BEFORE the big one hits.  Instead, the Dominion bigwigs pocketed their huge salaries into their own bank accounts.  As long as they are fat and happy, who needs to actually prepare their system for these major storms?  Even an act of God does not allow for a total repudiation of transparency and accountability.  The upper echelons of corporate management are getting away with murder simply because they can.

More pirates and profiteers.  Just what we need.

Hosanna!

January 27, 2011

We lost our power.  Lo and behold!  Our brand new generator kicked in after 13 seconds.  I am thrilled.  I am elated.  I have my computer and I am watching Wheel of Fortune.  Furthermore, the sweet potato soup with rum cream and the crab cakes are delish.  Life is wonderful.  Who could ask for more?

Hosanna! Glory be!

Cooking Up a Storm

January 26, 2011

Third time’s the charm.  No such luck for the fourth go-round.  So far this winter, the D.C. metro area has avoided the three snowstorms that besieged New York and Boston.  This storm is here and we are getting hit, probably to the tune of five to ten inches.  Piece of cake after last year’s three blizzards.

Photos will follow but meanwhile, I am cooking up a storm.  Homemade crab cakes (only jumbo lump permitted) and sweet potato soup with rum cream, a recipe from The Inn at Little Washington.  To die for.  Plus, my hound is sitting here right by my side.  What could be better?

Gotta get back to the stove.  I wish you safety from the storm and I wish you could join me at my table tonight.

Recipe requests will be honored.

Profiteering: Pirates and False Patriots

January 26, 2011

Perchance you were wondering where I was last night during President Obama’s SOTU address?  I was sound asleep, having toastily tucked myself in at 8:30 P.M.  Do I regret my decision to forego the hoopla of the evening?  Not one bit.  I got my eight (more like ten) and am raring to go today.

No matter how idealistic President Obama’s plans are, I just do not see the value of investing ourselves with much hope if our other laws, i.e. gun ownership, are at odds with our general well-being.  What is the sense of bettering our education system, of repairing our infrastructure, of cleaning up our environment, of providing decent and affordable health care (need I go on?) if we allow violent  gun power to arbitrarily maim and murder?  Is it merely a numbers game, meaning we still have to face the needs of our citizens because there are many more Americans still alive than have been shot down?  Go tell someone who has lost a family member, a child perhaps, a friend or someone who was much admired, that their tragedy is not that meaningful because we have so many living Americans for whom we have to provide.  I guarantee that the numbers game argument for forging ahead with relevant policies does not hold much water for those who have been victims or known victims of random, destructive gunfire.

Until we truly protect our citizens from our distorted, unregulated and unenforced second amendment rights, why bother with the facade of legislating for their benefit?  What amazes me is that the group of Americans who are against the liberal gun laws and obvious loopholes do not rise up as vociferously as the supporters of gun proponents.  As Americans, we are entitled to safety and protection.  If that right is ignored, no other right matters.  Why should I worry what gun-toting lunatic escaped a background check and was able to purchase a semi-automatic weapon in order to slaughter tens of people at a time?  What about my rights to live in a country that actually protects me instead of making me a target?

So that is why I was sound asleep by 8:30 last night.  My doldrums surely may be an overreaction to recent events, but in all reality, we need to rethink our personal and professional standards for safe and sane policies.

Today, I have reviewed the video and read the text of the President’s speech.  His words lived up to all I believe to be the essence of Obama and the overview of the medicine this country needs to regain its foothold in leadership.  What good is a “Sputnik moment” if we walk in fear every day of being gunned down?  Unfortunately, for me, his ideas are all pie-in-the-sky until and unless each and every American faces up to the crux of the problem and that is, plain and simple, profiteering.  This piracy occurs on either or all of economic, governmental and personal levels.

Tell me that our almost total collapse of our economy could have been avoided by responsible and accountable business practices, and that those unregulated behaviors are not in effect today.  Can’t do it, can you?  Tell me that our publicly elected officials are on the up-and-up about serving their electorate first and foremost and are not in the public servant business to profit for themselves.  Can’t do it, can you?  And please, do tell me how upstanding and stellar our leaders’ private behaviors are, i.e. homophobes condemning equality for gay people, stalwarts of family values sleeping around and making babies out-of-wedlock and right-to-lifers condemning abortions yet in the same breath, demanding as liberal as possible gun laws so that we can kill those lives that were saved through their anti-abortion policies.  What?  You say “Not that stellar?”

The court of public opinion is the only hope of saving us from ourselves.  All the grand and glorious political solutions are useless unless it is built on a foundation of morality and altruism.  Any other formula is hypocrisy and profiteering.  To label people who live and work for the greater good as not patriotic is the epitome of self-serving behavior.  The name-callers are truly the false patriots.  Don’t allow these pirates to fool you.

So before I can get excited about President Obama’s agenda, I need to see a lot more work done on an individual level.  Having politicians from opposite sides of the aisle sit next to each other doesn’t do it for me.  Did it work for you?  Our pirates in Congress, in our corporate halls and in our daily lives, are counting on the symbols working for them and being accepted by us.  Symbols can be beautiful things, but in this case, they are excuses for doing the real hard work.  Put the guns away (wouldn’t it be grand and maybe even effective to substitute Viagra —- even for women—- for guns?) first and then we can talk about the substance needed for the nation to progress.  Until such time when we protect our non-gun carrying public as well as we protect the armed, why bother with bettering our lives when the loopholes and  laws on the books can snatch away those lives in a heartbeat?

RELEVANT READING:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/18/opinion/18herbert.html?_r=1&hp

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/matt-taibbi-the-crying-shame-of-john-boehner-20110105


Substitutes for You-Know-Who: Too Damn Easy

January 24, 2011

This is too easy.  My withdrawal from you-know-who was just made tolerable by the fact that my former senator, George Allen, has announced he will run against Jim Webb to try to win back his seat.  You do remember Allen, yes?  You know, Macaca returns.  The flexibility and capacity for human nature to evolve and rehabilitate never ceases to amaze me.  NOT!

Surprisingly, Allen will be the least conservative on the primary slate and that preliminary battle will be his toughest.  Additionally, there is no predicting what Webb will choose to do.  He is an independent cuss and he deplores the fundraising requirement of public office.  Not to worry.  I assume that should Webb bow out, Tim Kaine will step in and be an even stronger force for that seat.

But back to the “easy” part of my post.  The list of public figures who got religion and were thus redeemed goes on forever.  Mayor-For-Life of D.C. Marion Barry (“The bitch set me up.”) went to jail, got re-elected, continues to evade paying taxes and yet, if he ran again for Mayor, he would probably win another term.  Ain’t forgiveness grand?  Then we have all of those homophobic officeholders who turn out to be gay.  Only last week on one of the pundit shows, Joe Lieberman lowered himself, when faced with a well-read and persistent Arianna Huffington, and resorted to the demeaning retort, “Read the report, Sweetheart.” That comment was, just like Allen’s use of the derogatory term “macaca”, more symptomatic of the speakers’ self-hatred and insecurities than the receiving persons possible short-comings to whom the comments were directed.  The unctuous tone that Allen and Lieberman assumed during their name-calling was downright sleazy, smarmy and demeaning.  The reflection of such ingratiating behavior only emphasized the speakers’ lack of self-worth, frustration with losing the battle of the moment and, as obvious as the nose on your face, was clearly instances of  resorting to base behavior, without consideration of appropriate, civil conduct, because it felt good at the time.  Allen and Lieberman both lashed out at innocent people, who had gotten the best of these seasoned politicos in the twinkling of a helpless, retaliatory eye.  Racial slurs and gender bashing are poisonous, especially when it boomerangs back on to those doing the name calling.

Do you really think that having Republicans and Democrats play musical chairs at the State of the Union address is going to solve our deeper problem of self-loathing?  Hell no.  It is apparently acceptable that “keeping up appearances” is 90% of the battle.  Now that the GOP has “repealed” health care, I cannot wait to see how they affect climate control, immigration reform and infrastructure repair.  They will deal with these issues just as completely as they did with the repeal of HCR.  The appearance of legislating is a much easier on-the-job retainment process than actual governing.  True?  Appearances are so much important than getting the job done.

Thus, my cup is still definitely half full.  With liars like Allen and Lieberman lashing out to stop their own boats from sinking, there is plenty of fodder around to make up for the vacation from you-know-who.

This is too damn easy.  Give me a harder one, please.

Banishing Palin

January 23, 2011

I am taking up Dana Milbank’s challenge: a month-long moratorium on commenting on the antics of our Sarah.

Instead of providing Palin with a public platform for her deep-seated need for recognition, the translation of which morphs into millions of dollars for her, which in turn is plowed right back into efforts to spout her venom, I will cease commenting (let’s face it —- it is unadulterated criticism) for the next 30 days.  This is going to be difficult for me and my posts probably will not be as much fun, but I am going to give it my best shot.  These little personal contests are healthy every once in a while.  Who knows?  I might benefit from the lack of conflict.  This dare just might stretch my intellectual capacity by forcing me to pay attention to targets and issues that are not such a slam-dunk.  Maybe Palin, would also take a vow of silence, and would benefit from a month’s retreat from her public presence by picking up a book or two.  So sorry: had to get in one last jab.

During the interim, I will be keeping careful track, but not posting, her public discourse.  At the end of this period, I will either inundate you with a flood of Palinisms or extend my period of peacefulness.

Dana and Yo Mama: let’s see who breaks first.  I guarantee you that our Sarah will be the first to open up her mouth about our Sarah.

Virginia’s Newest and Greatest Theme Park: The Commondearth

January 20, 2011

Welcome to the nation’s newest theme park: the Commondearth of Virginia!

Our astute and freedom-loving guv, Bob McConnell, has just ruled to allow guns to be openly carried (as opposed to “concealed”, which already has the seal of approval) on the premises of our state parks.  Did you know that in this great state’s parks, it is legal to use alcoholic beverages within the limits of a state park only within the confines of a cabin or camp (tent) site?  But now we will have much more open access to our firepower than we even have with our right to imbibe alcoholic beverages, since the remaining restrictions on our gun-totin’ were removed by McConnell today.   This move, paired with Virginia’s loophole allowing sales at gun shows without background checks, sets the stage for a wild west show that surely will exceed our greatest expectations.  Imagine: partaking in all that our state parks have to offer, plus a couple of six-packs of beer coupled with the absolute freedom to bear arms.  This provides a very conducive atmosphere to the greatest shoot-’em-up show on earth.  The massacre at Virginia Tech a few years ago was nothing compared to what this new, state-wide walk-in-the-park regulation removal may offer.  The  power of the potential fireworks could be stupendous!

Hmmm ….. let’s see.  “Common” means applicable to all of us.  “Wealth” means prosperity for all of us.  Put them together and you have “Commonwealth”, a term used in the title of our state.  Seems to me that there is nothing commonly good or prosperous in extending firearm rights within our state park system.  What?  There hasn’t been enough violence in our schools?  Now we have to extend that gun violence to our state parks, an emblem of a family value kind of place, also?  How utterly self-serving to those who invest in havoc and mayhem.  All in the supposed name of freedom.  The Commonwealth is not only a Commondearth now, but even more appropriately, a Commondeath — of reason, sanity and safety for all Virginians.

Trust me: there is not an iota of meaning in our state’s title of Commonwealth.  Rather, there is a dearth of all of that term’s connotations.  Crappy for the sustainability of a healthy family life, but superb for a joy ride at the world’s most tempting and tantalizing theme park.  Does the mere thought of violence set your hairs on edge?  Are you engulfed in a frenzy of excitement and exhilaration at the prospect of sniper attacks set beneath some of the world’s greatest natural beauty?  Come to Virginia!

If you consider yourself among those who place excitement, danger and risk above the value of our state’s residents, do join forces at any one of our state parks.  Could be the ride of your life.

Adhering to our oath of “liberty and justice for all” (no need to include “safety for all” in that pledge), I am properly attired, armed and am heading to visit my state’s newest theme park.  This pistol-packin’ Mama is all fired up and rarin’ to go.  Care to join me?  If so, don’t forget the six-packs.