Archive for July, 2011

Maine: By Sea and By Land

July 29, 2011

Movin' on up. I almost drove off the side of the road when I saw this sign on a house.

We had a great day of sailing. Puffy clouds, bright sun and a good wind. Sinbad and his Mama had a day to remember.

Colossal clouds, yet weightless.

Sinbad the Sailorman.

Although looking ominous, these clouds stayed "nice."

All hands on deck.

Pirates ahoy! Where's Johnny Depp?

Back on land, the wonders never cease.

Endless mounds of hydrangeas.

The blue color is unbelievable.

Plain weeds glowing in morning's first light.

My wildflowers never disappoint.

A gateway of roses.

Day's end, last light.

And a rainbow appeared after the rains at dusk. Perfect end to a perfect day.

Schumer: Dignified Dirt

July 28, 2011

As if the real crises America faces aren’t serious enough, our Congress has chosen to make themselves the issue at hand.  They are self-serving entities unto themselves.  Our unemployment rate is the highest it has been since the Depression, our housing industry is under water, our infrastructure is crumbling, our concern for a livable climate is non-existent, our deficit is at record levels, and all these idiots talk about is the deal they personally want to pass for their own legacy.

I was watching Chuck Schumer being interviewed by MSNBC.  His one talking point was that the Senate’s plan was the “best one”.  He threw in all this “analysis” of our system of government and why compromise is the only solution, albeit very difficult.  The American electorate is sick and tired about hearing about procedural snags as an obstruction to fixing our problems.  These great leaders love to quote chapter and verse of how our divided government works, yet avoid at all costs the difficult political decisions that are required to make the government work at all.  Schumer thought he was such a dignified, wise, old man of the party by speaking in generalities about our form of government instead of fulfilling his duties.  Dignified?  No way.  A pompous Senator substituting grand political discourse for avoiding his job duties —- yes.  The whole gist of his interview was an advertisement for Schumer.

Despite Schumer’s effectiveness in amassing votes both at the polls for other Demcratic candidates and within the Senate, he was, in this interview today, a Senator as full of hot air as any Republican.  It was the Emperor’s new clothes all over again.  How dare these politicians, who are so filled with interest in themselves, take so long to make these crucial deficit decisions?  They have had months to hammer out this agreement and used that time to play politics.  The fun and games of the last four months might have provided Congress with chilling, daring risks the closer they got to the debt ceiling deadline of August 2nd.  Can’t they get their thrills elsewhere, without risking the viability of an entire nation?

They may have very well past the critical period for a solution.  They just might have pushed themselves over the point of no return.  The stock market has been down 400 points over the last three days and still, this is not enough of a warning sign for these self-absorbed officials to sacrifice their personal political power for the greater good of our country.  Now they want another short-term deal to take us up to the 2012 elections, hoping for a change in the make-up of Congress and once again, avoiding responsibility by banking on a wish and a prayer that there will be a consensus in another year.  Meanwhile, our nation is in the toilet and its credit rating will most probably be downgraded.  There is no respect or love of country here on the part of our leaders; there is only concern and love for themselves.

At this point, even his fellow Democrats are urging President Obama to activate the Fourteenth Amendment.  I know my President can sit on the fence pretty good, but I do believe that he will take charge of the debt-ceiling issue.  Face it:  whether the President has to go it alone or with some kind of Congressional compromise, the blame will be all Obama’s.  As wishy-washy and pragmatic as he can be sometimes, I think he will do what needs to be done.  I only wish that he would add a huge F*** You to the whole country.

Apparently, Robert Reich feels the same despair and anger that besets me.  He is quite harsh in his words for President Obama.  I understand his intent, but I am not yet convinced of his premise.  Not yet, but I could get there any day now.

I am pissed as Hell.  This financial volatility is totally self-imposed.  Regular Americans are going to take it on their chins, whether their financial security is threatened or their social safety net is damaged, while our elected officials tease and then pull back in their game of Russian roulette.  This approach-avoidance behavior is poison for the country, despite being so tantalizing for our Congressmen.  Let them get tantalized elsewhere.  They will have to get their jollies by risking their own lives, not ours.

The debt ceiling must be raised.  Without  a bond market, there is no equity market.  Congress is playing with fire here and the most ironic part is that the bond market is the epitome of Republicanism.  Congress  has manufactured this crisis by their failure to act and as a result, their interests will take a beating.  Bondfire of the vanities.  Citizens, cities, states, our international standing and good name will all fall due to the stupidity and risky machinations of our revered Congress.  Is all of this chaos, calamity and catastrophe worth it just so the GOP can oust Barack Obama from office?  The GOP seems to think so.  Their political calculations have priority over the financial and moral demands of our nation.  Talk about a bondfire.  Talk about vanities.

However mad as hell as I am, I know as our Congress knows even better, that there ain’t a damn thing that I can do to assuage my anger.  The voting booth holds just so much sway.  Besides, the devil you know really is better than the devil you do not know.  Ask Schumer.  Little snot.

Maine Haystacks and Farms

July 27, 2011

I am up in the north woods and lucky enough to have my son also here.  He always takes me to the most interesting places.  Today, we visited the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts.  Last year, this cutting edge arts school celebrated its 50th anniversary.  Of course, having Chuck by my side, we found the architectural history to be fascinating.  The school’s setting is perfect and the architecture fits right into the surrounding nature.

Haystack Mountain School of Crafts.

Shingles and nature.

The bell tower calling all artists.

The grasses, mosses and forests are a work of art unto themselves.

The Four Season Farm is only ten minutes from our house.  It is  wonderful in its philosophy and produce.  The carrots taste like candy.

The flowers at the Four Season Farm are as delicious as the produce.

Wool felted puppets at the farm's little art gallery.

Sunny perfection.

All in all, a pretty perfect day between the haystacks and farms.

Punting To End the Deadlock

July 25, 2011

WE HAVE A DEAL!!!!!!

The historical negotiations finally produced a signed, sealed compromise that will ensure that America the Beautiful will endure.  Both sides of the impasse are happy and the American public is overjoyed.  There truly is nothing scarier than not knowing if the essence of the American spirit, ingenuity, talent and importance would get this chance at such a late hour.  Surely this agreement will go down in history as the epitome of differing factions agreeing for the common good.  That IS America.

Yes Siree Becky: we got football back.  God Bless America.  So what if we might not have a country left.  Come Sundays, we can throw ourselves into what really matters —- that old pigskin game of pass and kick.  Oh wait: that’s the game our Congress has been playing for months now.  Perhaps the NFL negotiators should step in and teach our government officials exactly how to punt.  On second thought, I think our esteemed elected officials are doing just fine in that department.

REWRITE: Powerless Boehner, Paralyzed Congress

July 25, 2011

Paul Simon nails it every time.  From his latest album, “So Beautiful or So What”, the fourth song is called “Rewrite.”  Who wouldn’t love to rewrite the script of their life and change the ending?  Thus, Simon’s poetry reminded me of the empty efforts of our Congress to rewrite what they haven’t even written in the first place:

John Boehner, supposed leader of the pack, cannot consolidate any power whatsoever.  One minute he is meeting with President Obama at the White House and the next minute he is walking out of those talks.  This must have happened three times already.  In one breath he says we need a short-term solution to the debt ceiling problem and then in his next breath, he says that we need a $4 trillion budget cut over ten years.

It is quite obvious that this budget impasse is due to the political games of the GOP.  Boehner wants HIS name on this budget deal, not that of Mitch McConnell.  What we are witnessing is simply a power play within the Republican Party, essentially a tug of war between Boehner and McConnell.  Both leaders have basically dismissed the Tea Party members of their party, but nevertheless, use that faction as a convenient excuse to cutting a deal.  The danger in Boehner’s and McConnell’s strategy is that their lack of compromise is going to harm our country more than it is going to advance them politically.  It is utterly incomprehensible  that these two savvy geniuses haven’t figured that out quite yet.

Certainly, President Obama has given more than the GOP could have ever imagined, much to the chagrin of his fellow Democrats.  Yet, and yet again, the Republicans keep saying “No.”  I’ll tell you what: the political middle, the “silent majority”, is not going to abide this standoff for much longer.  Even the slow-to-come-to-the-party American population will approach their burning point soon.  This will especially come to pass if our government’s lack of action leads to monetary losses for our all too patient public i.e., higher interest rates, financial market downturns and the shutting down of many governmental agencies which may result in no entitlement checks and the shutting down of our air controllers’ agency, just to name a few consequences.  The American public, that great, patient electorate, is very near its tipping point.  The final straw will be when this government dysfunction hits American citizens right in their pocketbooks.  Will the stock market crumble today in reaction to all of this uncertainty?  The financial markets can fend off good news and bad news, but uncertainty plays havoc with investors.  Perhaps this is the wake-up call that Congress needs to spur itself into action because Boehner and the GOP persist in preventing a decisive plan to go forward.

The behavior of our Congress is now a total embarrassment to our own country and to the world.  Mind you, this debacle has been wholly self-inflicted.  Americans on the street have commented that if they did their jobs the way our Congress has done their’s, they would be fired in a heartbeat.  We are being led down the path of indecision, turmoil, default and bankruptcy, both fiscally and morally.  One would think that if Boehner was so preoccupied with leaving a legacy, he would stop his clownish antics and sign a deal.  He has not shown any consistency in his negotiations, but instead has repeatedly, through his actions and words, vascillated between “I’m in.  No wait, I’m out.”  Talk about a power vacuum.

That shark, Mitch McConnell, has now come up with a new drastic plan: to create a “Super Congress” that would oversee these important deficit decisions that need to be made.  What?  Our regular Congress refuses to do their jobs out of concern for the political  implications so why not hand over the responsibility to a new Congress?  We already have one paralyzed Congress; we do not need another one.  This is the epitome of passing the buck to the max!  Jeezey Wheezey, they just keep on adding layer upon layer of incompetence, bureaucracy and impotence to justify the avoidance of making the tough choices.  Total masturbation.

Just last night, Harry Reid put forth a new proposal: $2.7 trillion is cuts with no revenue increases.  This is a knee-jerk, band-aid approach that would take us through only 2012.  Now watch.  If you ever doubted that the only goal of the GOP was to get that Barack Obama out of office, this will be the final proof.  The GOP will undoubtedly decline this new offer as well, even though it fulfills their ideology.  To accept this deal would mean a “victory” for the President in the sense that the debt ceiling was raised.  The GOP could never let that happen.

Oh yeah: a rewrite cannot happen if nothing was written in the first place.

And here is a toast to our Congress, an august institution hell bent on relishing the perks of their jobs but not the responsibilities:

Five surgeons are discussing who were the best patients to operate on. 

The first surgeon says, ‘I like to see Accountants on my operating table
because when you open them up, everything inside is numbered.’ 

The second responds, ‘Yeah, but you should try Electricians! Everything
inside them is colour-coded.’ 

The third surgeon says, ‘No, I really think Librarians are the best;
everything inside them is in alphabetical order.’ 

The fourth surgeon chimes in, ‘You know I like Construction Workers.
Those guys always understand when you have a few parts left over at the
end, and when the job takes longer than you said it would.’ 

But the fifth surgeon shut them all up when he observed, ‘You’re all
wrong. Politicians are the easiest to operate on. There’s no guts, no
heart, no balls, no brains, and no spine, and there are only two moving
parts – the mouth and the asshole – and they are interchangeable’.

Timeless Reminder: A Soldier’s Letter Home From the Civil War

July 24, 2011

Can you tell from the frequency of my posts that I have turned into an agoraphobic, due to the heat wave we are experiencing?  Temps are reaching 105 and heat indices are approaching 115.  I remain housebound and finally have some time to comment on some of my favorite things.

This past week marked the 150th anniversary of the first major battle of the Civil War at Bull Run in Manassas, Virginia.

For those of you who are lucky enough to have married the love of your life, for those of you undying patriots and for those of you who are just plain old bleeding hearts, I present to you an extremely moving video.  It is from Ken Burns “The Civil War”, a dramatic and musical masterpiece in and of itself.

While the audio of the following clip is taken from “The Civil War,” the video are scenes from the movie “Glory:”

This excerpt is of a letter written by Major Sullivan Ballou, a Union soldier from Rhode Island.  The reading, by Paul Roebling,  is another amazing story, which is detailed in the Washington Post article linked below.  The accompanying music is titled “Ashokan Farewell” and was composed by Ken Ungar.   It is funereal, based on a Scottish lament.  Nevertheless, if I had my life to live over again and was able to pre-pick accompanying music,  to musically score the important events, this would be the song I would choose for my birth, marriage and death.  All of these three elements, the letter, the reading and the music, combine to result in a most hauntingly beautiful tale of patriotism, love of a soul mate and a lasting legacy left for the  children.

Enough said.  Have a listen and cry your heart out about an atrocious war that almost split apart our Union, not to mention the personal, destructive toll it wrought by its outright savagery.  Following is the the link for the fantastic Washington Post story, that inspired me to write this post,  on this heartbreaking letter:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/civil-war-soldiers-heartbreaking-farewell-letter-was-written-before-death-at-bull-run/2011/07/11/gIQAFe3MQI_story.html

Was Sullivan Ballou’s plaint more a love letter or more a statement of patriotism?  In the end, it doesn’t matter.  Senseless wars (and is there a war that makes sense?)  undeniably annihilate every form of love.  If at any time you feel the need to fight, turn around, look at your family, listen to this agonizingly lamentable letter and magical music —- and then retreat.  To engage is to lose.  Rise above the rhetoric, even though the principles may be correct.  Our methods in battling for good causes must be re-evaluated and altered.  What good is a new bloodbath used to end a previous bloodbath??  No good at all.

So take a few minutes of solitude to listen to this piece of history accompanied by this spiritually moving score.  Its beauty and lasting impression has stayed with me for over twenty years.  For me, this small piece of “The Civil War” documentary has yet to lose its meaning and impact.

MORE INFO ON “ASHOKAN FAREWELL” AND SULLIVAN BALLOU’S LETTER TO HIS WIFE:

http://www.nellaware.com/blog/sullivan-ballou-letter.html

Boehner: Lost At Sea

July 23, 2011

John Boehner is a bumbling, ball-less, blundering fool.  Every time he and President Obama work out a deal to raise the debt ceiling, accompanied by huge spending cuts that any Republican could have never envisioned and NOT including tax increases at this time (another heavenly policy for the GOP), Boehner comes back and says “No deal.”  Just as he is an obstructionist, so are his Republican cronies.

Boehner takes the plans to Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor and other members of the Republican party, and then returns with a no-go verdict.  This article outlines the latest proposal very nicely.  It is beyond belief that the GOP can walk away from this plan, which encompasses deeper spending cuts than the best Republican ever dreamed of.  Additionally, specific tax increases aren’t even in this plan;  they are to be decided at a later date.  McConnell has publicly stated from day 1 of the Obama administration that the one goal of the GOP was to remove Barak Obama from office.  Now, with the viability of our nation at risk,the Republicans will refuse any and all proposals simply to make the President look bad and hopefully get voted out of office.  Check out the last sentence of this paragraph:

At this stage, the most viable proposal left on the table appears to be a far less ambitious debt plan put together by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Their proposal, dubbed a “fallback option,” calls for $1.5 trillion in cuts, generates no new revenues and would put the onus fully on Obama to raise the debt limit, without Congress. It would also require the president to raise the debt ceiling in three increments over the next year and a half — a politically driven requirement by McConnell aimed at making Obama take responsibility for all debt ceiling hikes ahead of the 2012 elections.

My cousin jokingly accused the GOP of treason.  That idea is probably not far from the truth and is no joke.  The United States is on the verge of financial default.  This is not a matter to be toyed with.  Yet, that is exactly what the GOP is doing.  Boehner has no control over his party, whether that be the close-minded Tea Partiers, the mainstream members or the selfish, single-minded McConnell.  In the absence of any firm plan, our financial markets will experience a bloodbath.  Maybe that will force the GOP to stop saying “No.”  As a defense to their obstructionism, many Republicans are screaming that all they want is to reduce our deficit by enacting a long-term policy.  In reality, they have no concern for that motive but want a disastrous short-term answer that would force the President’s hand and translate into getting him out of the White House.  Talk about treason.

Additionally, the financial rating companies will have to downgrade our debt, causing higher interest rates for all Americans and creating a domino, rippling effect globally.  American corporations are sitting on trillions of dollars of cash, afraid to spend it on hiring, research or marketing, because they fear Americans will not loosen up their wallets due to the incredible uncertainty  and inertia of our government.  The GOP’s nod to politics over legislating for the good of the people, their refusal to uphold our Constitution and their wandering wiles is indicative of treason.  What a shame, all for naught, because it is quite obvious that the debt ceiling will be raised.  All of this game playing is very dangerous and so unnecessary.

Could any reasonable person actually believe that our Congress, even after witnessing the economic near-collapse in Greece along with the civil unrest and contagion spreading to the entire continent of Europe, continue to play chicken with the very essence of our nation?  Does history and forethought have any place in the decision-making powers of our Congress? I suppose not.  Apparently, the risk our leaders are subjecting us to is well worth advancing their own political careers.

Boehner needs to power up his role, tell the Tea Party and especially McConnell to stick their contrariness where the sun don’t shine, to actually lead and prevent this nation from collapse.  Compromise, conciliation and cohesiveness are the top priorities right now.  Boehner has shown weakness in standing up for what must get done.

Time is running out for a possible solution.  A rescue may become immaterial.  No wonder that the GOP is aimless: Leader Boehner is lost at sea, drifting aimlessly towards disaster.  Unfortunately, he will take an entire nation with him.  Treason indeed.

Wild Beauty From Maine

July 22, 2011

Although I am not physically in Maine (soon, soon), my son’s friend who was visiting was kind enough to take some amazing photos of my wildflower meadows.  Heaven on earth.  Thanks, Drew.

Loves me, loves me not .......


Great buzz.

Eensy, weensy spider .......

Grasshopper camouflage.

Pure sunshine.

One in a million.

Butterfly kiss.

Billionaire Bundling, Middle Class Mumbling

July 21, 2011

Aaah …… perfect.  Nicholas D. Kristof writes a stupendous piece in the New York Times today about elevating our country by showering our wealthy with even more riches and privileges:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/21/opinion/21kristof.html?_r=1&src=ISMR_HP_LO_MST_FB

Kristof did, though, omit some glaring additions.  The middle and lower classes should be damn grateful for the minimum wage that has so generously been bestowed upon them.  That $7.25 hourly wage is totally sufficient: working a typical 40-hour work week, take home pay, before taxes, would be just under $15,000 a year.  If that worker should show some initiative and double up on his weekly work hours to 80 hours, his gross pay would be a whopping $30,000 per year.  That is truly an extravagant number for a family of four, not to mention the inherent luxury of that salary if the worker just has himself to provide for.  After all, the 2011 HHS poverty level for a family of four is $22,350 and for an individual is $10,890.  Certainly the minimum wage provides for an existence well above these poverty standards.

Kristof also left out the fact that wealth and privileges come to those who earn it, e.g. our Congressmen.  The salaries, raises and benefits they receive are surely appropriate for these public servants who work so long and hard to uphold our Constitution, enact laws and maintain our nation’s stellar economic standing and reputation.  Some ungrateful people are actually calling for major changes to the pay benefits of our Congress:

Congressional Reform Act of  2011

1.  No Tenure / No Pension. A  Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

2.  Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All  future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.  Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/12.

The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.  Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.  The  Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

How ridiculous are these proposals?  Imagine: outlawing the self-rule of the powerful and wealthy.  Honestly.  What’s coming next —- dunning the upper echelons of American wage earners by imposing new taxes to help the lower echelons through hard times?  Is this democracy?  Is this capitalism?  Is this freedom?

Finally, what a great idea to rent out the Capitol for weddings.  I will go one step further: make the White House available for such festivities and I will be first in line to rent that venue for a renewal of my 37-year-old marriage vows.  If you thought the Obama election party was excellent, just wait.  Just be sure to bring your own food and music because I refuse to pay even the minimum wage for the staff.

The Washington Post: The Pot Calling the Kettle Black

July 21, 2011

I swear.  As if our politicians aren’t inflammatory and divisive enough, the media is right up there with these have-no-shame, self-serving defenders of the Constitution. And the press apparently is willing to stoop to even lower standards than our lawmakers.

Today, the Washington Post had a brief article on page 3 reporting that Michele Bachmann stated that her migraines will not hinder her.  Now if you are a regular reader of this website, you know that I have nothing but disgust, discredit and dread for Miche.  However, the Washington Post has stooped to an even lower common denominator of fiction, audacity and contempt in journalism by publishing the following excerpt:

About 30 million Americans — an estimated 6 percent of men and 18 percent of women — suffer from migraines, which can range in severity from mild to debilitating. It once was derided as a “neurotic women’s disease,” said Mayo Clinic researcher David Dodick.

The short report, written by Sandhya Somashekhar, included the above merely as an antagonistic aside to Miche’s medical problems.  The statement had no place in this article.  As if quoting the history of migraines, which has been shown to be erroneous and dead wrong, is a reflection on Miche herself.  Thanks but no thanks.  Her narrow-mindednes, repressive social policy and other right-wing antics are quite sufficient to discredit her.  There is no need to cite ridiculous theories on her medical condition.  Miche’s words and actions speak for themselves.

Nevertheless, the Washington Post and author Somashekhar should be ashamed of themselves.  What else is new?