mercredi 24 décembre 2008


I just read that Claudie Haigneré tried to commit suicide. She is a French scientist who is best known as France’s First Lady of Space Travel. Later, and many mauvaises langues would say she was trading on her fame, she was appointed to a ministerial position in the Raffarin government (he was a Prime Minister under Chirac). Apparently, she took a bunch of pills Tuesday night in her Paris apartment, but was found conscious and taken to the Paris hospital where all the government people are taken for care, the wonderfully named Val-de-Grâce. It is being reported that her life is not in danger.

Claudie Haigneré (née Claudie André-Deshays) is an exceptionally well-educated 51-year old woman. The joke in France is that she has a "bac + 13." In other words, 13 years of higher education after high school. She has studied biology, sports medicine, aeronautics and rheumatology and probably I'm just skimming the surface. So she’s like a PhD and an MD all rolled into one “sur-diplomée” they say in France. Over-educated, we would say in America. She's a super nana, quoi.

She fell in love with an astronaut, Jean-Pierre Haigneré, who was sent on a space mission with the Russians three years before she was. They got married in 2001, and she continued her life in space for awhile. Then she got the call from then PM Raffarin–and made her political début as minister of Research and New Technologies. This was perhaps the first time she had ever encountered anything but success and applause; she was quietly transferred to another government post—European Affairs—where she stayed until May 2005, when the third government of Raffarin resigned. In France, when PM’s get into trouble, they tend to do cabinet shuffles, moving the same old people around, getting rid of a couple, adding a couple.

For now, nobody knows why Claudie Haigneré tried to commit suicide. I am tempted to make what would come off as an untimely joke. I hope it wasn’t because she had invested all her savings in a feeder fund that in turn invested in Bernard Madoff.
Because we learned yesterday that another Frenchman, Thierry de la Villehuchet, an aristocrat (un particule) who had invested other people’s money in Madoff, tried to commit suicide and succeeded. He was 65 years old. I read that he had spent the last week frantically trying to get some money back for his investors. I doubt he was part of the Ponzi scheme. He was fleeced. He was an avid sailor, had no children, and had invested more than one billion euros on behalf of a number of his friends.

Claudie Haigneré is someone I have always admired, in a way. She never came off as a show-off or a smarty-pants. She always seemed kind of reserved, but not exactly shy, under the gaze of the media. But I always thought she looked a little sad, a little depressed, a little affectless. As an astronaut, she was liked and admired. As a politician, she was suddenly under fire. It wasn't as if she was unused to stressful situations and having to think on her feet -- she trained for and carried out missions in space, after all -- but I don't think she was prepared for the nastiness of politics. She looked like a deer caught in headlights much of the time. I don't know what she has been doing for the last three years. The government she was part of was dissolved about eight months before I left France. Maybe the key to her gesture is to be found in her life since May 2005. On some level, and I think many French people would agree with me, ça la regarde. In other words, it's her business but not ours. Her husband has just stated that, although she had many "soucis," and wanted to sleep, she did not intend to commit suicide. The blogosphere is dubitative.

mardi 23 décembre 2008

Since when am I friends with Hot Moon?

Does anyone ever read the ads on the right-hand side of Facebook? I usually don't, but one caught my eye this morning. This may be because it was tagged "for a woman over 40." Underneath this teaser is a photo of a large (excessively large) handback slung over the shoulder of a headless woman (over 40, I presume). I don't mean she has been beheaded, only that her head has been cropped out of the photo. I guess that's so all of us women over 40 can relate.

I cannot say I wasn't forewarned. I was told that the link would take me to a site called Hot Moon, described as "the name of a new friend. A friend with a philosophy of style and life who understands your needs and who you've become." Right. So I have just visited the site and have seen some terrible things. Sophisticated comfort, ombre wraps, all very expensive. We're talking 500-dollar sweaters that you order online.

The actual philosophy page comes as a bit of surprise given the prices and emphasis on the material world. Maybe my standards are too high. I should never have gotten that master's degree in philosophy. My sister was so right. It did not prepare me for life; it did not provide me with a philosophy of style. It has made me cynical and skeptical and horribly agnostic.

On the philosopy page, you can buy (yes, it is all about buying stuff online) something called The Soothing Soak. It is a bathtub reader; a completely waterproof book of "sensuous and spiritually uplifting" stories, poems and so on. And that's not all. You can buy all sorts of waterproof books about yoga, simple food, travel, stuff, swimming pools... et j'en passe. Eat, Pray, Love and Gag Me With a Spoon.

Well, if you haven't guessed by now, Hot Moon is "a friend you can expect to be there with that ideal something to make your day a little better." For example, let's say you need a framed photo of Francesco Scavullo. You can get one for only 950dollars and, what's more, if you aren't sure who Scavullo is, there is a brief description of why Scavullo is an icon of American design. That's all you really need to know. How about a Zebra wrap in cashmere or a Chinese porcelain vase? The latter costs 2,000 dollars. If your budget is a little stretched this season, why not go for the Métier tea pot, marked down to 55 dollars. It is a one-person tea pot, by the way.

Is there a market out there for this kind of thing? Is Oprah Winfrey fat and rich?

Why does this irritate me? I don't like the use of the word philosophy to describe personal style, for one thing. I don't mind the notion of a philosophy of life, but this website's use of the terms has nothing to do with philosophical issues and what it means to be human. This is all about creature comforts and middle-class fantasies of luxury, bound up in vague suggestions of simplicity and sustainability. The implicit claim, never stated outright, is that not only will these products make you -- you being the 50-something American woman -- feel better, they will also serve as your contribution to making this world a better place. And the idea that there is something spiritual about purchasing this shit and buying into the lifestyle it promotes just kills me.

samedi 20 décembre 2008

Liberating the Nazi Librarian within

Yesterday, Mr. Wonderful, Neko and I went to pick up my snowed-in, stir-crazy mom and take her to her boyfriend's place before she went berzerk and killed a neighbor or the postman. Remember how I said we used to love to sled on Fentonwood hill? It seems that is still the tradition, although my inner child took one look at the ice and said no fucking way do I want to do that again. My inner child seems to have matured along with me, and now prefers indoor activities and sipping hot chocolate when the weather outside is frightful. Give me a warm indoor fire any day. And a project or two, the kind you never seem to get around to.

Every adult I have spoken to is organizing closets and deep cleaning kitchens. I got this sudden rage to organize our bookshelves. Actually, this was not so sudden. We built them last year, after my books and many of my belongings finally arrived from France. This was a 25-year accumulation of stuff, people. Mostly books, music and knick-knacks. We needed someplace to put the books, fast. I tried to find a suitable system at IKEA and other places, but nothing seemed quite right.

So we talked to Sean, our friend and the architect who designed our house, and he came up with the perfect solution for a space we really did not know what to do with anyway. It is not really an entryway, but not suitable for anything else. Except the three bookcases we installed. Walt had his shop guys weld the frames and we bought the wood at Home Depot. We used rusted rebar that was lying on the ground in the scrap yard at Machinists Inc to support the wooden shelves. The great thing is that the shelves can be adjusted to any height, since they rest on the rebar, which itself rests on the welded metal.

But we built them one-by-one and started putting the books on them as we built. Well, okay, I did that. I couldn't wait and I couldn't stand tripping over all of our books. We have a lot of books, many in duplicate or triplicate. As a result of this piecemeal arrangement, once all the shelves were in we had to move stuff around and the organizing system I had put in place fell apart. We repeated this same mistake for our CDs. The result in both cases is that for the past year, we have been unable to find any of the books or CDs we might wish to get our hands on. Plus, we had no light in the area, so after dark we could not find them even if they were organized. We finally (And just so you know, whenever I say "we" it usually means Walt executes what I mandate. I mandate and mandate until it gets done.) got some little clip-on lights at IKEA, and that's when I realized just how jumbled all the books and CDs were. A few days ago, I tackled the CDs. I already had these cool wire baskets from Staples; now all of our CDs are neatly arranged. Listening to the music we own has been an indescribable pleasure.

Now for the books. I just dove into the project this morning and kept at it until it was done. Now Kingsley Amis and Martin Amis are reunited, as they should be, although Amis junior's biography of his father is not, as it is shelved among the biographies. Not to be confused with the autobiographies. I started with fiction in English and, now that it is done, I have conflicting feelings. On the one hand, it doesn't look like there are too many books. Even though we have two of an embarrassing number of works. On the other hand, I saw many books that have been shelved unread. Somehow, between the urge to buy and the trip home, fell the shadow. But there is an upside, as usual. Now I know where the many bought but unread books actually are. If anyone wants to read Bernhard Schlink's The Reader before the film version comes out, just ask. I have it, filed between Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger) and Riotous Assembly (Tom Sharpe). Alphabetizing books leads to some incongruous pairings, though. I had a hard time allowing Nabokov's masterpiece Lolita to stand beside The Good People of New York by Thisbe Nissen (who? you are asking yourself, I know you are). Vladimir, forgive me.

jeudi 18 décembre 2008

Snow story

Any Seattleite will tell you: it doesn't snow very often here. And when it does, any transplant from the Northeast or the Midwest will tell you: people in Seattle do not know how to drive in or otherwise cope with snow conditions. But I digress. This is not my problem because I work from home. And when it snows, I have a perfectly good reason not to go outside at all. Not that I need a reason any day. Still, it feels good to look at Neko and say "Sorry, Poops, but no walky-walk today" and know that she will understand why.
They said to expect an inch or so, but it has been snowing small but steady flakes for at least 4 hours now. In other words, at least two inches and mounting.
When I was a kid, growing up in Seattle, it did not snow often enough. And when it did, we did not get enough full-day school closures. I used to listen to the radio obsessively, waiting for the announcement that the Highline School District was closed. There were far too many one-hour late starting times. Bummer.
The hill we lived on, Fentonwood, would immediately become treacherously slick and impossible for vehicles to navigate. For this reason, it was one of the best places to go sledding. And because of its exposure, or lack thereof, Fentonwood remained an icy death trap long after the snow had become but a distant memory.
I live today on a treacherous hill not unlike Fentonwood. I'm staying inside today.

jeudi 4 décembre 2008

Here's a poem by my niece, Josie.
It's called I Am Josie. It was sent to me by her proud dad, my brother Carl.

I am Josie
I am caring and generous
I wonder what I will look like when I grow up
I hear piano notes rushing through my head
I see myself having babies
I want my cat to grow up with me
I am caring and generous

I pretend to be a mom
I feel protected around my parents
I touch music
I worry I will hurt myself badly
I cry about my future death
I am caring and generous

I understand you don’t have to be perfect
I say I love my family
I dream of being a teacher
I try to make things fair
I hope to have many kids
I am caring and generous
I am Josie

This poem by Josie was written from the heart. I didn't meet Josie until she was about six. The was three years ago, when I moved back to Seattle. I took this picture of her. She had written all these names on a big piece of paper and when I asked her what it was, she said she was listing the names of all the children she was planning to have. There must have been 30 names on the list. And she had 32 dolls, which she lined up on the staircase the next day.

lundi 1 décembre 2008


What's so special about Northern California? Pretty much everything.

mardi 18 novembre 2008

Two cool cats

The O'Possum family at home

The coolest thing about this photo of these two cool cats is the very fact that one of them -- that would be Munchkin, the dark one -- is in the photo at all. How can a cat whose idea of motion revolves around lurching, lunging and hoping for the best get herself from the ground to this perch? You have to see it to believe it. She uses her claws and her tiny front legs and her unsinkable will to catapault (no pun intended) herself up there. It has become her favorite place to nap. How cool is that? She picks the most difficult place in her world and decides that she'll nap there. Plus, she had to dethrone Pushkin in order to do so. However, as the photo reveals, she is willing to share her new favorite perch with the one she ousted from it. She just wanted to prove a point. And Pushy totally gets that.

They also enjoy hanging out at The Castle. Pushkin likes sitting on top of it, while Munchkin feels more invincible inside.

Whoa Nelly!

We couldn't resist Nelly. She was for sale, out in front of Barnes & Noble, along with two of her siblings. She's four months old. Time for shots and neutering and all that. We decided to let Walt's mom have her, but may have to steal her back. She's a keeper. Neko loves her. Can't get enough of her. Pushy and Munchy both checked her out and decided she was mellow enough to manipulate.

Is the Coast Clear?

Is she gone? Can I come out now?

I got really addicted to television during the run-up to the election, and would sometimes watch the same Keith Olberman, Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert segment several times in the same day. I was a little worried that this addiction would carry over into real life after the election, but thanks to Sarah Palin and her sudden decision to make herself available to the media she shunned whenever any unscripted remarks were requested, I am over my addiction. It was cold turkey.

On or about November 6, Sarah was suddenly on television all the time. Every time I turned on the television, hoping for some news about the economy or the president-elect, there she was. Talking, chatting, being filmed in her kitchen. It was so horrible. The real Sarah. Or her own father, talking about how the kids' underwear gets lost. I couldn't take it. I just could not. So I did what any sensible person should do and did not consult my television for a couple of days.
I am not a huge television watcher anyway, but I do enjoy watching Keith and Rachel and Jon and Stephen. Oh, and South Park. So I need to know. Is it safe? Is the coast clear? Can I turn on the television again without having to worry that SHE will be on the screen, saying something utterly useless and utterly senseless, garbling the language of my people to a degree that makes George Bush look like a first-rate orator.

She speaks so poorly, and makes so little sense, that it cheapens whatever subject she is addressing. Or not addressing, since that is one of her standard gambits: to respond to any question by basically ignoring it. She seems like a liar to me, when she opens her mouth. She seems like one of those people who are never quite there, wherever they are and whatever they are doing.

I will refrain from judging Alaskans on the basis of their gubernatorial choice. And though I don't wish trouble for Alaskans or the state of Alaska, I do hope that Palin's work at the state level keeps her fully occupied until the end of her term. Believe it or not, I am hoping that the Republican Party puts itself back together and musters the strength to serve as a credible opposition or shadow government in the years ahead. Democracy requires this check on power to function properly, and a healthy democracy changes party hands on a regular basis. The Republican Party needs to choose leadership that appeals to moderates and to philosophical conservatives who have taken the time to understand their values. If it cannot do that, then it will not be fit to govern. And that would be bad for democracy.

There is a place for Sarah Palin in politics. But not at the head of the opposition party nor at the head of the ruling party. She is part of the lunatic fringe and that is where she needs to stay. She does not belong in the mainstream. As she so effectively demonstrated over a two-month period that I thought would never end. And if you don't believe me, go to Youtube and watch some of her recent television performances.

vendredi 14 novembre 2008

Skepticism versus Skep versus Skeptical

Today's post is dedicated to and was inspired by the one and only Corinne, soon-to-be famous Bee Guru. (It's only a matter of time, Corrine, and you know it.)

What is skepticism?
Skepticism is a method of inquiry, not a position on matters. It is a way of examining claims and making decisions. The idea is to apply the rules of logic and reason with critical thinking skills in assessing claims or issues and to form conclusions based on evidence, not on personal preference or prejudice.

What is a skep?

Skeps were traditionally made from what you could go out, find and collect within a reasonable walking distance from your home. This might be straw, reed or grasses bound together by hazel, willow or bramble.

Fire has destroyed many of the old records concerning the history of skeps. The earliest records are written in Latin. Only people who could read them wrote them! It is likely that, in Britain, skep beekeeping was the first way that people tried to control bees as opposed to harvesting from wild colonies. The disadvantage at the time was that people had to pay taxes (in the form of honey) on the basis of the number of skeps they had.

What am I?

World's most skeptical woman and my hero:

mercredi 5 novembre 2008

America is black

Here is the editorial that appeared in Le Monde, commenting on Obama's victory.

First of all, one has to write these words out in long hand. Read them slowly and aloud in order to appreciate the magnitude of the news, its emotional and historical charge: the American people have just elected a black-skinned man to the White House. And what intelligence, brio, and sang-froid it took on the part of Barack Obama to win an election that -- let's not forget -- was anything but a shoo-in if we look back less than a year ago. How many pitfalls were avoided, how much resistence and how many prejudices were overcome before this victory was assured, giving a powerful sign of optimism to America and to the rest of the world. Obama managed to make hope coincide with darkness. Without ever, and this is where his virtuosity lay, seeming to be the candidate of a particular community.

Mixing his youth with wisdom beyond his years, the Senator from Illinois was able to break through the original cleavage of a nation born in slavery and segregation and reattach that nation to its founding ideal, the famous "E pluribus unum": making one out of many; believing that a multitude of origins does not prevent us from sharing an aspiration.

A post-racial president? Yes and, above all, one who can legitimately claim to be capable of making himself heard on both sides of the badly healed scar that lies between Blacks and Whites, this past "which has not even passed" as he stated, citing Faulkner, in an exceptional speech he delivered in Philadelphia on March 18, where he calmly and confidently announced his crazy quest for a "more perfect Union."

To win, he had to win over.

And Barack Obama did it by telling a story "that would not have been possible in any other country in the world." His bi-racial history, which finds its roots in Africa and in Asia. A father from Kenya (and not the descendent of a slave), a paternal grandmother living on the shores of Lake Victoria, a white maternal grandmother who died on the eve of his election, filled with love and irrational views on race, fearing Blacks with the same intensity that Obama's former mentor Reverend Wright was able to whip up against Whites.

The new president transcended tensions in order to cut through to what is essential: he managed to place black rancor and white fear on the same scale, uniting them in a single scheme of justice. In doing so, he is the first to break free of a heavy and long chain that runs from the first slaves who built the Capitol to the Civil Rights movement. From Martin Luther King to Malcolm X, from Rosa Parks (who was fined for refusing to give her seat to a White person on a bus in Alabama) to Condy Rice and Colin Powell, both of them propelled to the summit of government.

"Even before he was elected, Obama had done more to advance the cause of black people in the world than Martin Luther King," noted an African head of state recently, off-the-record. "He will be first and foremost an American president," says another. A perfect summary of the scene that will be played out now: the United States has in fact chosen an American who will defend US leadership and interests – up to and including protectionism – and undoubtedly, millions of Blacks will feel more American than they did before without millions of Whites finding themselves left out.

"America is back," shouted Ronald Reagan in 1980. "America is black" is what the world's most powerful nation is telling us today, a devastating power judging from its endless wars, its tattered image, and the unbearable and intense hatred that the lame duck administration has generated with its self-absorption, its Manecheism and its anachronistic reflexes towards the stench of the Cold War.

After electing George W. Bush twice in an incredible move -- bold, dynamic and indicative of faith in its own resources -- America is now closing the book on its conservative revolution, made of deregulation and the unchecked law of the free market, which was killed in the subprime crisis and subsequent collapse of the financial system. Thanks to his charisma and his lucidity, Obama has become the uncontested man of the moment, the man of America's here and now. America has brutally left behind in a dark yesterday both the outgoing president and John McCain, the man who would succeed him.

What an opportunity for this country and for its partners. But also for its enemies, beginning with armed Islamic fundamentalism, which has gotten its sustenance from Bushism's bellicose ideology, its repulsive slogans about the "Axis of Evil," and practices that are not worthy of a democracy--from Guantanémo to Abu Ghraib. After Bush, who was locked inside a set of certainties with no basis in reality, Obama offers the world another face while offering America the much-hoped for opportunity to look itself in the eye with newfound respect for itself, its values and its political institutions.

"Obama will give brand America the same boost that Jean Paul II gave the papacy," as political commentator Andrew Sullivan recently noted. According to Jean-David Levitte, diplomatic advisor to Nicolas Sarkozy and a specialist of the United States, where he represented France for many years, the new president "does not have a different vision of the world. He is a self-made man who is not beholden to anyone."

The keyword for Barack Obama, subject, is pragmatism. Undoubtedly, he will be more cooperative with his allies, more adept at soft power, more inclined to seek dialogue where it has broken down, with Iran for example. "But his multilateralism will not go very far," warns Hubert Védrine, minister of foreign affairs under French prime minister Jospin. He will never make US policy hinge on the outcome of a UN meeting." Surrounded by the diplomatic teams of Bill Clinton 1 (1992-1996), Obama turned the tables on McCain. He appeared to put experience on his side. It was his rival who gradually became the scary candidate who was unsure of himself. With his "change we can believe in" slogan, the new president has laid it on the line: he will do what he can, whatever works, to reduce injustice, educate, provide health care, help people find housing and jobs, letting the government plays its role but without repudiating the market economy approach.

Obama is a "possiblist." While a comparison with John Kennedy is apt ("a pragmatist brilliantly disguised as a romantic"), it must be added that he is a man of his epoch, the man who is most in synch when it comes to plunging America into the multi-polar bath of this 21st century.

On nearly every major issue, aside from the mantra of throwing off the shackles of the Bush inheritance as quickly as possible, Barack Obama has stuck to broad outlines, confident in his ability to understand rapidly and make the right decisions.

Brought to power without a clearly established doctrine, Obama is now in charge of the American dream, open and smiling, preferring calm over drama, reason over excess. He's the man we need. It's up to him to inscribe this moment in the march of time.

Eric Fottorino

The Race Race

Elgin Baylor and the Seattle U team at Sea-Tac Airport

It is important to say, today, that last night's election was not about race. But it is equally important to say, today, that America has just done something extraordinary in electing a black man to the presidency of the United States. I had been dreading a conversation with my mother about this election, because I knew she would vote for McCain while clinging to her most resistent self-myth: that she is a moderate and an independent. She is not a moderate; she's a conservative, shifting a little bit more to the right every time Bill O'Reilly opens his mouth. Yes, that's right. She watches Fox; it shapes her view of the world. She's also my mom, and the daughter of Ralph Malone.
My grandfather was a self-made man, no doubt about it. He overcame hardship to get a college degree and then came west to Seattle, where he made a small fortune as the owner of a Ford dealership. He was a well-known and respected man in the community. He belonged to the Washington Athletic Club, The Broadmoor Golf Club, the Kiwanis Club, and all sorts of Catholic organizations. We went to luncheons at fancy places where he was loved and feted and admired. Along the way, he became a booster of black people. He brought Elgin Baylor to Seattle U, gave him work at Westside Ford and even created a team for Elgin to play on as he sat out to earn his eligibility. I remember going to the airport to meet the basketball team and looking up at tall black guys. I remember the Harlem Globetrotters. I remember wondering how he could love black people but belong to a club that excluded them (Broadmoor) and the Jews. But no matter. He loved people and he loved helping people. He was grateful for his success and wanted to share it with everybody. He voted for Roosevelt and he voted for Kennedy.
So when my mother tries to paint him as a Republican, it just makes my hair stand on end. Yesterday, we had that conversation. It wasn't so bad. I teased her, asking when she was going to give up the pretense of being an independent and just join the Republican Party. I asked her when she last voted for a Democrat. She stammered. I told her it surprised me that Ralph Malone's daughter would vote other than Democrat. She protested; I said, mom, come on, you have to admit that Grandpa would be so proud if he were alive today, to see a black man in the White House. He would have voted for Obama, don't you think so, mom? And you know what? She said yes, you're right, he would have.

lundi 3 novembre 2008

High anxiety

I'd like to offer a ride to the local polling place to anyone who needs transportation. I am willing to stand in line and wait for people who are too old or sick or tired to stand in line for long periods. I'll save your place while you sit at Spud's and have a coffee. I'll do anything to help anyone who might otherwise have trouble voting.

Not voting is for losers. Seriously.

Sarah "Whack Job" Palin gets punked

I wasn't going to write about her any more, and I was hoping that as of November 5th it would be totally unnecessary, but Sarah got punked this weekend. The entire 5-minute conversation, during which she believes she is talking to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, is worth listening to. What stands out is what we saw in the VP debate: Sarah does not listen to or connect with what is being said to her. She just comes back with vapid, mildly pleasant rejoinders. I mean, she is so dumb she doesn't even realize she's being had when the French President tells her how hot his wife is in bed! You get the feeling this conversation could have gone on for days had they waited for Sarah to get it. The prankster finally puts her out of her misery, to which she remains totally oblivious, by telling her. And when he says he is from a Canadian radio station, she asks him twice which station it is, and then I swear she says to her aide that it is a French station. You see what I mean? She doesn't connect with what is said to her! You might as well say nothing, like Marcel Marceau might have.

Scary. Scary. Scary. Americans of voting age need to hear this before they head for the polls.

vendredi 31 octobre 2008

And the winner is....

Colten Obama, hands down!

I know this prospect scares many people, so what could be better than a Brock O'Bama Halloween mask?
Trick or treat?

Here is a breakdown compiled by amazon of the number of McCain masks sold versus the number of Obama masks: Supporters of either candidate can buy rubber masks of each to wear for Halloween. So far, 57 percent of the masks Amazon has sold have been Obama masks, versus 43 percent for McCain masks.

Here's how good masks have been historically at predicting winners:

For some of you - not many I hope - that might be kind of scary. BOO!!!!!

Harry's Bar (address: sank roo dan oo) in Paris always does a straw poll. The poll has been conducted for every election since 1924, except during World War II, and has been wrong only twice--when Jimmy Carter got elected in 1976 (over Gerald Ford) and in 2004, when George W. Bush was re-elected. In the voting this year, limited to Americans who present their passports, Obama led McCain 187 to 137, as of Oct. 29.
I was there in 2004, when we at Harry's bar chose Kerry over Bush. Bush's victory literally stunned the French. And being French, this sense of shock was followed by a Gallic shrug that meant "whatever." I got the feeling then that the French had finally given up on trying to understand America and Americans. Indeed, all of Europe pretty much turned away from us in shame. Wrote us off.

Let's hope we give them something to give a "thumbs up" about this time. Samuel Legitimus, a French stage director, said that by electing Obama, "maybe the U.S. can show the world how to really live as a multiethnic country." That's the reality, folks. We live in a global world. And whether you like it or not, that means we're all in this together and we're all mixed up and blended. We need to figure out how to live together. Hate, fear and greed are not going to get us there. The only way to blow us all apart again is to blow up the world. Who wants that? Not COLTEN OBAMA!

The Ghost of Ebenezer McScrooge

That's McScrooge alright!

I must say, I'm proud of my twin sister Cathy. In the Republican state of Texas, the state that is responsible for the rise of George Bush, she caucused for Obama and is voting for Obama. It looks like she is the only one in her beautiful house on Lake Austin who will be doing so, and perhaps the only one on her street of Dell millionaires. Go Cathy! Yesterday I sent her Francis Fukuyama's excellent endorsement of Obama, which I will post here. He is an incredibly brilliant political theorist who studied under Allan Bloom, has written some excellent books (including The End of History and Trust), and is credited with being one of the thinkers behind the post-modern neo-con movement. And he's voting for Obama, for simple but compelling reasons. I asked Cathy to send his endorsement to her husband Bob, who responded by sending her a scare and greed piece about how Democrats are responsible for the HUGE cost of basic social security, which threatens to eat us alive. Be afraid!
So I sent her this in reply. I call it Today's Heartfelt Rant:

Dear Cathy,
47 million Americans (including a lot of children) have no health care. That is a disgrace in a nation as wealthy as ours. If the French can provide universal health care, then so can we. John McCain wants to "privatize" all of America, and as part of that plan give everyone 5,000 dollars for healthcare that will cost them at least 12,000 dollars a year. How is our sister Carolyn going to come up with the extra 7,000 dollars needed to pay for health insurance? I'll tell you the answer: she's not. She won't be able to. And don't tell her to work harder. She works her butt off.

Social Security spending is the least of our country's worries. You know how much the war in Iraq costs our country every month? Well, it's way more than 2 billion dollars. A month! In fact, it is costing 10 billion dollars and month and there is no end in sight (see information clearinghouse: The war was supposed to last a few weeks, remember? That was five and a half years ago! Donald Rumsfeld is gone but not that monthly bill and the mounting body count. And we the taxpayers just had to pay 700 billion dollars to bail out Wall Street, in part because of the disastrous economic policies of the Bush years. That would have paid for a lot of health care. Bush. Don't get me started. He came into office with a budget surplus and is leaving our economy in a shambles. He reminds me of a spoiled frat boy who trashes a place and, as he's leaving, says "Just use the deposit. If that's not enough, call my banker. He'll pay for the repairs."

I personally make enough money to pay my bills and have no problem accepting that my ability to be a big earner is partly due to where I started in life, which was much better off than many people. I have worked hard, sure, but it is not just hard work that got me where I am today.

If people don't want to share their toys or help to pay for the things that benefit all of society or should benefit all of society -- such as roads and other infrastructure, education, basic health care, basic retirement entitlements -- then I don't want to hear them complaining about potholes, higher insurance premiums (because those who can't afford healthcare go to emergency rooms for treatment and that costs all of us in one way or another), lousy public schools and criminality. You get what you pay for, and some of us are in a position to pay a little more. I am proud to be in that position. Most people who are not as well off as I am would love to be in that position.

That's the way I see things.


P.S. I'm not directing this at you, of course. I think it is time for people to understand that the only way a Republican can get elected this time around is to lie, scare people and appeal to their most selfish instincts.

Speaking of scary shit, watch this:

lundi 27 octobre 2008

Sarah Palin, last seen hitching a ride back home

The Anchorage Daily news endorsement of.... Obama!
"The unqualified endorsement of Sen. Obama by a seasoned, respected soldier and diplomat like Gen. Colin Powell, a Republican icon, should reassure all Americans that the Democratic candidate will pass muster as commander in chief.

On a matter of parochial interest, Sen. Obama opposes the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but so does Sen. McCain. We think both are wrong, and hope a President Obama can be convinced to support environmentally responsible development of that resource.

Gov. Palin has shown the country why she has been so successful in her young political career. Passionate, charismatic and indefatigable, she draws huge crowds and sows excitement in her wake. She has made it clear she's a force to be reckoned with, and you can be sure politicians and political professionals across the country have taken note. Her future, in Alaska and on the national stage, seems certain to be played out in the limelight.

Yet despite her formidable gifts, few who have worked closely with the governor would argue she is truly ready to assume command of the most important, powerful nation on earth. To step in and juggle the demands of an economic meltdown, two deadly wars and a deteriorating climate crisis would stretch the governor beyond her range. Like picking Sen. McCain for president, putting her one 72-year-old heartbeat from the leadership of the free world is just too risky at this time."

As a parting gift for Sarah, a complementary transition wardrobe item. Remember, the $150,000 worth of designer clothing goes to charity.

vendredi 24 octobre 2008

Next to endorse Obama: The Terminator?

Arnold is definitely looking to the left here...

Seeing the New York Times endorse Obama, which it did yesterday (read the excellent article here: is not much of a surprise. The Times tends to be left of center (indeed, it is widely regarded by the lunatic fringe on the right to be the spiritual and historical root of all liberal media evil), and even some of its more conservative opinion columnists (David Brooks) have been more pro-Obama than their past politics might suggest.

But recent Obama endorsements are really telling. Christopher Buckley, a wonderful humorist and political writer who is the son of William F. Buckley, founder of the National Review and one of the greatest and most entertaining conservative intellectuals of the 20th century, wrote a funny and intelligent endorsement of Obama on the, and then offered to resign from the NR - a resignation that was swiftly accepted, as he wryly noted. Then came Ken Adelman, followed by Colin Powell and former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan.

It is also noteworthy that Barry Goldwater's own granddaughter came out in support of Obama, although her uncle quickly set the record straight: not all Goldwaters are voting for Obama (you can read both on I guess the Goldwaters are in for a lively Thanksgiving dinner! The WSJ reports that Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke also favors an Obama victory on November 4.

Moving beyond the United States, we see that if the rest of the world had its way, McCain would get about 25% of the vote, tops:
And if he were running in France, he'd get no more than 5%.

Any day now, exepct to hear that McCain's own chief campaign strategist is urging people to vote Obama. Wouldn't that be a hoot? You betcha!

And how's this for a story of noisy desperation? Ashley Todd, a McCain staffer in Pennsylvania, cut the letter "B" into her own cheek (ouch!), gave herself a black eye (double ouch!!), and then, adding insult to (self) injury, tried to pass off this act of self-mutilation as the work of a black mugger. Apparently he was an Obama supporter who initially intended only to walk away with the 60 dollars in cash he had taken from her, but who then beat her up and carved a B on her face when he saw the McCain/Palin sticker on her car. The fact that she refused medical treatment and that the attack (near an ATM machine) allegedly took place out of security camera range aroused suspicion, but what really sealed her fate was that the "B" carved into her face was backwards -- as if it had been done while looking into a mirror. Oops! You can read all about it on my friend Steve Huff's true crime report, as the story breaks (

jeudi 23 octobre 2008

It ain't a beauty contest

France's Ségolène Royal: She lost to Sarkozy, but nobody ever wondered if she was up to the job of President.

First of all, let me say that I don’t give a hoot about Sarah Palin’s wardrobe, hair-do or make-up, but I would like to know how much she’s spending on those French manicures. Just kidding! But did you know that what we call a French manicure is called a California Manicure in France? I guess nobody wants to claim ownership of those hideous-looking things. What does that tell you?

I find all this discussion of Sarah Palin’s "hotness" rather funny, frankly. Is it really surprising that the Republican Party would never accept a female candidate for high office unless she passed the Rush Limbaugh–John McCain "hotness" test? Nobody cares about her qualifications; they just decided a gal was needed to run as Head Stewardess to McCain's Captain in the Cockpit. She just needed to be hot in the quintessentially American way: Big hair, big make-up, big shoes, big French nails. Not to mention big white Chiclets for teeth and a perma-tan.

Somehow, I am sure the French are not drooling over our newest Poupée Barbie. And she would never have made it out of the starting gate in French politics. Like it or not, the French system actually prepares its politicians for fitness to perform in public life and determine public policy. Most of its politicians and top-level civil servants have been groomed at the elite Ecole Normale d’Administration (maybe I’ll write a post about this some day). In other words, regardless of their political views, they receive a solid grounding in government, history, diplomacy and all sorts of vital things like that. The contrast with Palin, who asked in late July what the Vice President actually did and doesn't seem to have understood the answer, could not be more total. However, she apparently can see Russia from her indoor home tanning salon.

Ségolène Royal was the first woman to make it past the first round in a French presidential election – there are two rounds, and the first one includes candidates who run the gamut politically from far left to far right. She lost in the second round to current president Nicolas Sarkozy last year. Y’all know him. He’s married to Carla Bruni, ex-top model, chanteuse de charme and more, touted as the new Jackie-O.

Sexism may have played a role in Mme. Royal's defeat, but nobody would ever seriously claim that she lacks the credentials or training for high office. Her political career bagan in the mid-80's, and she has been everything from municipal counselor to deputé (like a member of the house of reps). She has also served in the cabinets of several Socialist prime ministers (environment, education, etc.), and even gave birth to her fourth child while holding a ministerial portfolio. Did I mention that she lived with but never married the father of her four children, François Hollande? And that this did not raise eyebrows in France, although their break-up after she lost to Sarkozy got some attention. But it is also true that politicians in France are not asked where they stand on abortion or gay marriage. It is a private matter. I'd better stop now. I'm starting to get nostalgic for French politics.

She is also a very attractive 55-year old woman. She doesn’t have big hair; she doesn’t wear a lot of make-up. She dresses well, in an understated way. She has imperfect teeth behind a broad grin. But the main thing she has going for her, besides having spent a couple of decades preparing herself before seeking the highest office in the land, is intelligence. She knows how to string a sentence together, she finishes her vowels and - gosh darn it - she has a grasp of the issues. Is that hot? You betcha!

mardi 21 octobre 2008

That Sarah Palin is one unreal Alaskan

The issues in this election are so clear-cut that a 5-year old can explain them.


I'm sitting on my bearskin chair beside the woodstove, in Kotzebue, Alaska, 50 miles above the Arctic Circle, while outside the ocean begins to freeze over. Inside I have about 49 things piling up to say to you, America.

I'm an Alaskan -- born in an igloo, enjoy whale muktuk, all that -- and in case you aren't sick of our state by now, I'll start off with an apology for one of our residents: Sarah Palin.

We Alaskans are not generally so magazine-pretty like her, nor are we so confrontational and vapid. Most of us don't have those peachy cheeks -- we have sunburn, windburn and frostbite. Our fingernails are dirty from actually gutting moose, not yakking about it. Our hands are chapped from picking thousands of salmon out of nets, not holding one up for the camera.

Having said that, here in Alaska we are accustomed to getting jobs we're not qualified to fill. In our far-flung villages and towns we have big money surrounded by big wilderness; the combination causes warped career opportunities. Sort of an Edge of Nowhere phenomenon -- cousin to the Bridge to Nowhere one.

For example, in the village closest to the wilderness homestead where I was raised, I remember standing in my friend's cabin when his dad got a call on the CB radio: "People are writing you in for mayor."

"Nope!" my friend's dad transmitted. "Tell 'em no, I ain't doing that." He spit in a can, peered out the door at his Honda generator -- idling rough -- an extension cord running up the hill and under his door, to power the rerun of "Dukes of Hazzard" he was watching.

If he'd lived in Wasilla 25 years later, he could have responded, "Call Sarah, she'll want it."

Similar stories abound. Jimmy: who got the dogcatcher job by telling the interviewer, "I can shoot a shotgun, .30-06, .308 " Or my friend Ian, who this summer worked with computers -- until he was named CEO of a $45 million corporation.

Tougher in Alaska? Not necessarily. Here most anyone can be dogcatcher, city planner, governor, with little or no experience. That's one beauty of our state -- although, often the only thing keeping it all working is the lubrication provided by obscene amounts of money.

Sitting on this worn-to-the-hide bearskin chair of mine, scribbling, I pause to glance at a month-old newspaper before I stuff it in the stove. Lo! There's yet another photo of Gov. Palin; she's sitting in a glass office in Anchorage, with a bearskin, too, draped across the back of her expensive couch. Sarah's wearing heels. The bear's wearing a fake head with a plastic snarl. In the foreground on a glass table crouches something with pincers -- a taxidermied king crab!

I'll have to show this photo to my Eskimo friends I grew up with. We simply never contemplated such wanton unAlaskanness. Why not eat the damn thing? We ate this bear I'm sitting on, including the paws and jaw and fat -- some of which we ate raw, while some got rendered for piecrusts.

Out beyond my window, the slush ice is thickening. In the west lie the Bering Straits. Yes, Vladimir Putin and Moscow are over there somewhere -- a little closer than London. Plenty of us reside hundreds of miles closer to Russia than Palin ever did down in the big-cities of Wasilla or Juneau. In the past 40 years, Russians have motored across a handful of times, Russian Eskimos, in homemade boats. One that I know stayed and married. She's an Eskimo dancer and ivory carver, very capable and beautiful, in a real way. And, I guess like the rest of us now, an overnight foreign policy expert.

By now the world knows our Gov. Palin is an expert at swishing around in color-coordinated this and that, with her makeup, fake Minnesota accent, and her mooseburger and mean-spirited commentary. We can only hope people realize she's a pretty unreal Alaskan, one who is simply skimming the gravy off our hard-earned Alaskan mystique to mix with her varnished nonsense.
(And yes, some Alaskans do sell varnished moose turds, also.)

In the Arctic, where global warming is melting our world regardless of Palin's lone charge against reality, her alleged appeal leaves many of us cold. With our long winters and tough trails, we still value a beaver hat and common sense more than high heels and clip-on hairdos. We simply don't want another leader less intelligent than we are.

Eight years with the cowboy and copilot Halliburton at the helm has been hard on our land. Too much polluting, an unnecessary war draining our economy and both men too cool for global warming. We can't afford to turn now to a beauty contestant and an old guy who's acting like he's run the Iditarod too many times without winning. (Beating his dogs, he's so desperate to win.)

Come on, people. Our ice is melting. Your jobs are turning to dust. Everyone's bank statements are on the verge of being firestarter. Your heating oil is $4 a gallon, ours is $8.

John McCain's answers to those problems? Heck, I honestly don't know what he stands for this week. Talk about a shifting ice floe. But his running mate, we've heard her answers: She's already sued the polar bears, now she's chanting, "Drill, baby, drill!"

Wake up, folks. Sarah Palin is America's bridge to nowhere. Get off it.

From up here in the Arctic -- not left or right but north of the campaign trail -- the reality is clear and cold: When John McCain chose Sarah Palin, he wrote America out of his will. It's time for us to write him out of our future.

Seth Kantner was born and raised in the Arctic and is a commercial fisherman in Alaska's northernmost salmon fishery. He is the author of "Shopping for Porcupine" and the best-selling novel "Ordinary Wolves."

© 1998-2008 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

lundi 20 octobre 2008

John McCain goes in for a little facial yoga

John McCain emits one final grimace in the third debate

We've all been caught by the camera in a less than flattering moment. I probably lead in this category, which is why I have become adept at hunting down and destroying bad photos featuring one of my many unfortunate grimaces. But I'm not running for President of the United States.

This picture is downright scary, as was the "moving parts" version of it at the end of the third debate. It would make a good model for the inevitable John McCain Halloween masks, although I suppose it's too late. Those were made in a Chinese factory last summer and shipped to America for retail distribution by mid-September.

There is a facial yoga exercise that looks a little bit like this. You stick your tongue out as far as you can and hold it for a count of ten. Maybe McCain was just trying to show us that he is hip and now, and that he is working on that anger management problem by embracing holistic techniques.

vendredi 17 octobre 2008

The beat goes on...

Richard Jenkins of Six Feet Under fame, in Tom McCarthy's understated masterpiece The Visitor.

Did anyone besides me see and love The Station Agent? It was the first film that Tom McCarthy wrote and directed, a quirky little story about a midget (played by the inimitable Peter Dinklage, who was recently in another under-rated film called In Bruges), with a passion for trains. He inherits an abandoned train depot and decides to retire there and live alone. That's pretty much it, plot-wise. Yet big quiet things happen as three unlikely protagonists come together as perfect strangers, much as they might if they just happened to be waiting for a train, carrying a whole load of baggage but trying nonetheless to connect. There is simply no way to do justice to this movie by outlining its main events. Just see it.

And rent The Visitor while you're at it. Richard Jenkins, who didn't do much talking in Six Feet Under, is pretty spare with words here as well. Yet he manages to convey the quiet resignation of a man whose depression, while it may have been triggered by his wife's death, in fact extends far beyond that event to encompass a general dissatisfaction with a comfortable, predictable and deeply lonely life as a university economics professor. His dedication to teaching and research apparently entails using white-out annually to change the last digit or two of the year on the otherwise unchanged course syllabus he endlessly recycles. In a short but telling scene that precedes an even shorter one, in which we see the Professor silently whiting out the 6 in 2006, a student comes to his office to deliver a late paper. To the student's dismay and incomprehension, the Professor refuses to accept it. He's not being cold, really, just unfeeling. He's numb. In his parting shot, the student notes that the Professor has yet to hand out the course syllabus. Talk about late, dude!
Into this life bursts a couple, two illegal immigrants who are squatting in the small walk-up the Professor keeps in New York City. You get the feeling that he hasn't spent much time there since the death of his wife. Indeed, he agrees reluctantly to attend a conference in the city so that he can deliver a paper he has co-written (but in reality only co-signed) for some kind of global economy and development conference at NYU. In an ironic twist, abstraction meets reality. From thinking global in the afternoon, our Professor suddenly finds himself confronted with the results of globalization in the flesh and in a position to act local. Against the backdrop of the Twin Towers and 9/11 no less.
What happens thereafter manages to be both predictable and surprising.
I won't say more.
Just see it. And then tell me you don't want to pick up a set of African drums and sit in the subway or on a park bench all day and just give in to the beat.

jeudi 16 octobre 2008

McCain's disdain originates in Karl Rove's nasty brain

McCain's disdain is often all too plain. Here, it is directed at George W. Bush.

And here is Karl Rove, aka Porky Pig, thumbing his porcine nose at the liberal media.

Wow. Forget about how badly John McCain did last night on the issues. What bugs me the most is how he just keeps repeating himself from one debate to the next. I am so glad this exercise is over; I don't think I could bear to hear him yet again make the absurd claim that Obama wants to tax people who make 42,000 dollars a year.

I felt sorrow, pity and frustration listening to him. But at least I listened to him, which is more than I can say for him. I get the feeling the old fart just doesn't listen to anyone. This reminds me of the email I received from someone who had the misfortune of spending time with McCain and his wife at a vacation resort. Apparently, when McCain wasn't telling women (including his wife) that they were too fat to be eating dessert, he was expounding on the physical superiority of Asian women over corn-fed American gals and getting overly physical with the Thai wife of one horrified fellow vacationer. He came to the dinner table every night with passages from Faulkner marked in a book he was reading, and proceeded to read aloud to his fellow diners. Nobody was allowed to talk during this nightly performance.

And another thing. Those facial expressions. Such contempt, anger and disdain for his opponent. And hence for a large chunk of the American populace. Can you imagine McCain seated at a table during a G7 meeting, rolling his eyes whenever Angela Merkel makes a comment? Or grimacing and sticking his tongue out when Nicolas Sarkozy calls for greater global oversight of financial institutions and capital markets? Or being heard to let out a sigh when Gordon Brown expresses his view on global supervision? Please! Get this man out of the public arena.

And one last thing. I believe that the age gap between the two candidates will be decisive this year. I further believe that the demographic divides between the baby boomers, the pre-baby boomers and the post-baby boomers, as well within the baby boom generation, will happily favor Obama. In other words, the oldest of the baby boomers (who are now around 60) look in one direction and see a young member of their cohort (Obama). If they look in the other direction, they see an old man who was born before the end of WWII (based on his current age McCain was born in 1936, making him nearly as old as my mom). It is a no-brainer. At 60, today's first boomers see themselves as still young and vital. After all, 60 is the new 50 and some would even say it is the new 40. And if you are 50 in your brain, your heart and your body, then Obama doesn't look so young and inexperienced. But McCain sure looks old and out of touch. He's the guy you don't want to become and are determined never to become.
Thank you, baby boom. If all goes well, we won't have to bear John McCain's grumpy and manic grimaces for the next four years. He'll retire to Arizona, where he belongs, and grimace at all those old retired people down there. But he better watch out. They might grimace right back at the old coot.

Obviously, I don't mean this as a rant against old people in general. I like people of all ages; but I do dislike grimacing sourpusses of all ages who think that the world has gone to hell in a handbasket, who see change as just one more thing to fear, and who think Bill O'Reilly is a bright young man and Sarah Palin a terrific gal.

And by the way: Check out the NY Times article on who Joe the Plumber really is. Oops! No wonder he seems embarrassed by McCain's shout-out. Whoa! Karl Rove, you're slipping. Don't you have people to do a little homework before you clear a spin point?

The Body Politic

Why is this issue still on the table?

First of all, I am as pro-life as the next gal and also staunchly pro-choice. However, I refuse to allow people who want to tell me what to do with my body and my life to usurp the term "pro-life," implying as it does that I and others who defend the right of an individual to choose are somehow anti-life. Sorry, but no. I am pro-life, too.

It has always astonished me, however, to note that those who are opposed to abortion are generally also opposed to sex education, the use of contraceptives and financial and social assistance to the women they would force to bring a baby into the world and the foetus they are calling a person and forcing to be born. In fact, I think it is important to look at all the premises underlying their position.

The premise of the first part of their argument is that life begins at conception. Unfortunately, the premise of the second part of their argument is that it apparently ends at birth.

Passionate concern for the unborn + total indifference for the born = Not really pro-life at all, but definitely anti-choice.

Frankly, I would like to see this divisive issue taken off the American political table once and for all. It is clear that overturning Roe v. Wade is about as likely as revoking the right to bear arms. It is just not going to happen. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.

Wouldn't it make a lot more sense to accept the fatality of both in American life and just move on? Maybe those who are against guns (I personally abhor guns, but I realize our gun culture is deeply and historically ingrained) could focus exclusively on making gun ownership more difficult and safer for the accidental victims of someone else's need to own one. And those who are opposed to abortion could focus exclusively on making sure that girls who find themselves in the family way have someone to turn to as they face this difficult situation. Adoption could be actively promoted and made much simpler. Abortion, if this option is chosen, could be done as early as possible. After all, China and Guatemala are no longer viable sources of adoptable babies for Americans.

Obama answered the question last night as well, as compassionately and as pragmatically as it can possibly be answered. I am proud of him for owning the pro-choice position. In contrast, McCain decided to channel Sarah Palin and started babbling about partial live births.

Here is what Obama said:
"This is an issue that—look, it divides us. And in some ways, it may be difficult to—to reconcile the two views. But there surely is some common ground when both those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together and say, "We should try to prevent unintended pregnancies by providing appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity, and providing options for adoption, and helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby." Those are all things that we put in the Democratic platform for the first time this year, and I think that's where we can find some common ground, because nobody's pro-abortion. I think it's always a tragic situation. We should try to reduce these circumstances."

McCain, who went first, used the question as an opportunity to attack Obama:
"Sen. Obama, as a member of the Illinois State Senate, voted in the judiciary committee against a law that would provide immediate medical attention to a child born of a failed abortion. He voted against that. … Then there was another bill before the Senate judiciary committee in the state of Illinois not that long ago, where he voted against a ban on partial-birth abortion, one of the late-term abortion, a really—one of the bad procedures, a terrible. … I don't know how you align yourself with the extreme aspect of the pro-abortion movement in America. … It was clear-cut votes that Sen. Obama voted, I think, in direct contradiction to the feelings and views of mainstream America."

As a reminder, and in case you had forgotten, this is the Maverick who reaches across the aisle and brings people together on issues.

With all due respect, Senator McMaverick, I believe that mainstream America wants to just move on move on and talk about the things that matter to Americans as a people: the economy, ending the war in Iraq, energy, jobs, education... Mainstream America knows this is an issue that divides us and that will never be resolved to anyone's satisfaction politically. Mainstream America knows that public policy on this issue needs to be pragmatic and not polemical. Mainstream America knows that if we let people choose to own guns or not, then we need to allow people to choose parenthood and not impose it as a punishment for bad judgement or lack of self-control.

Mainstream America knows that if we don't solve the immediate problems that face our nation--as opposed to pontificating on private matters that face men and women--then it is no use forcing women to bring babies into the world or forcing gun nuts to put their weapons down. Where once there was life, there will be only desolation.

Guest blog: Fragment G to Joe the Plumber

Hey Joe, where are you going with that plunger in your hand?

Hey Joe, last night we heard a lot about you and your dilemma. Sounds like things are starting to look pretty good for you, though, and you are wondering which of these candidates can help you the most. Yes, America has some problems right now. Much of the former middle class is struggling, healthcare costs are out of control; education and educational opportunities are suffering; the financial markets are collapsing, and so is our infrastructure. But I’m delighted to hear that things are looking up for you and your personal economy. I’m glad to hear you are earnestly considering which of these candidates is best for you. But I’m saddened to hear that you think it might be John McCain.

I want you and every other undecided voter out there to think about what JFK said:

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.

This IS a great country. It truly is the land of opportunity. Despite its serious problems, some of them listed above, our nation is a great one and we are lucky to live in it. I am very proud of this nation. I would not seek to live elsewhere. I feel lucky to have been born here, to have the opportunity to live here, to make my living here. America has been very, very good to me.

I find it increasingly difficult to take seriously people who wrap themselves in our flag, call themselves patriotic, chant “USA,USA,” and then moan about paying too much in taxes and the need to get government off our backs. You can’t have it both ways.

America is our host. America embraces us. America gives us strong soil to nurture our crops. America gives us a home and a place to raise our family. And now some people who call themselves patriots want to go cheap on her—just when she needs us most.

Hey America, they’re saying, thanks for the opportunity, thanks for giving me everything I needed, and by the way, sorry to here about YOUR problems. Good luck with them!

America is in trouble. America is in debt. We ARE America. We are in trouble. We are in debt. Instead of bitching about how much it is costing us as individuals, how about if we all pitch in and come to the aid of the great nation which has done so much for so many.

How about if we all do our part?

Hey Joe. I paid my taxes yesterday. The good news is that I can’t believe a poor boy like me, who started with so little, has done so well. Thank you, America! The bad news is that I know I will have to pay more next year. I can’t wait. Thank you, America!

mercredi 15 octobre 2008

We've all come to look for America

As Emily Dickinson wrote, there is no frigate like a book...

The silent desolation of Fourth Beach, on the Olympic Peninsula

Paraphrasing Cicero, a bus without books is like a body without a soul.

Whoever this guy is, he is angry about everything from 8 years of Bush to a child-beating plumber associated with the eery nearby community of Seabrook (founded by visitors from another planet in 2004)to State employees who pick on the disabled. And don't even get him started on those whale-eating Japanese.

This Douglas fir is 400 years old. If only trees could talk; imagine the stories it would tell.

Weekends were made for Ocean Shores

Actually, Ocean Shores is a totally tacky place that Pat Boone tried to turn into a destination resort back in the 1960's. The restaurants are hideously bad. And if you think the local IGA will serve as your workaround, think again. It has a HUGE frozen food section and not much else.

But Ocean Shores has one thing going for it: a little piece of the Pacific Coast. Long, flat beaches, the kind Neko and her people love. Here are some photos of Neko and one of many friends she made on the beach.