mardi 30 septembre 2008

In Cold Blood or In the Garden of Good and Evil?

For our next book club meeting, I am hesitating between two books. Both are non-fiction; both are true crime stories; both are considered to be among the best of this genre in terms of writing and story-telling. I don't really know why I thought of these two books; actually, that's not true. Today I was listening to NPR and heard that today was the anniversary of the birth or death of Truman Capote, who wrote In Cold Blood. The radio journalist incorrectly identified him as the author of To Kill A Mockingbird, which was actually written by a woman, Capote's childhood friend Harper Lee. So I was all "No, you idiot," as I drove to the dentist. Fortunately, he must have heard me because he corrected his error a few minutes later.

Then, I was talking to Dahli a few minutes ago and she said she wanted to visit Savannah, Georgia, which reminded me of John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.Now I can't decide between the two, both of which are available in paperback by the way.

So please have a look at these two Wikipedia links and let me know which of the two books you cast your vote for. Also, tell me if you have already read one or the other. I've read both but would love to read them again. Send me an email by the end of this week so anyone who needs to can order the book we choose. (Wikipedia - Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil John Berendt) (Wikipedia - In Cold Blood by Truman Capote)

As for the date, I am suggesting Tuesday, October 27. Does that work? By early next week, I'll send out that promised annual calendar and y'all can sign up for dates to host.
P.S. If you scroll down in this blog and see an entry called "I Hate Bookclub," don't be alarmed. It refers to my French bookclub, which I quit. Too boring.

Don't shoot until you see the whites of their eyes

John McCain, aka The Name Dropper. Still hanging out with dinosaurs.

America! Nation! What is wrong with you? How can this election even be close? How can anyone who watched last Friday's debate walk away saying "McCain won," or worse, "I think I'll vote for McCain," or horror of horrors, "McCain is the one I want negotiating for my peace and safety in a dangerous world"? How can this be?
You should all listen to me because I was the number one debator in the great State of Washington (on a clear day, you can see Japan from my doorstep) back in the day when that meant something. Here's this master debater's take on last Friday's entertainment. First of all, it was nice of John McCain to show up. Apparently, his intervention in Washington was not enough to get the bailout plan passed, which is probably a good thing because we don't even know what we're bailing out exactly. Anyone ever hear of due diligence? That's what corporations do before they think of shelling out money to buy business assets. Shouldn't our government do the same? Just thinkin' aloud, folks.

Personally, I thought Obama did a very good job of remaining calm and polite in the face of this assualt from a hunchbacked mad man with a huge chip on his shoulder, overshadowed only by the tobacco or whatever it is he's constantly chewing. Here in the US, people tend to think of debates as punching matches, so some were initially disappointed that Obama was not more combative. But when they started analyzing the content, I think it was clear who knew what he was talking about and who did not. McCain seems so out-of-touch with.... everything.

I do wish Obama had been a little more aggressive at times. For example, when McCain was dropping Henry Kissigner's name (how many names did McCain drop in the course of the debate?), Obama could have said: "With all due respect, John, Henry Kissinger was wrong 30 years ago, so why are you still looking to him for advice on foreign policy?"

In any case, it struck me watching the debate that in today's world McCain's way of dealing with other people is not only arrogant and condescending, it is downright dangerous. I would rather have Obama's hand on the trigger when things get hot because I don't think he would need to pull it. He would sit down at the table first, look his adversaries in the eyes and talk. By now many have noted that McCain refused to look at Obama or even say his name during the debate. I find that degree of scorn and condescension utterly appalling in someone who aspires to the role of statesman. Whether McCain is or is not a maverick and what that really means are issues worth looking at, but in the meantime how can you trust someone who brags about "reaching across the aisle" to work with others and yet cannot look at someone standing a couple of feet away and with whom he is supposedly engaged in a debate?

In fact, he could barely bring himself to shake hands with Obama. I have a theory about that: I believe that John McCain actually does have one remaining shed of moral decency, buried somewhere deep within his heart (or maybe that's what he's got trapped in that chipmunk cheek of his?), and that shred was telling him he should be ashamed of himself for (1) placing politics over country and common sense by choosing a ludicrously inexperienced running mate; (2) trying to use a national economic crisis to his political advantage; and (3) using Ted Kennedy's personal situation for political gain. People keep talking about toxic assets on Wall Street. What about this toxic ass on the Republican ticket?

Okay, I will calm down now. But one last thing. This business about Obama's lack of experience also ticks me off. I only hear it uttered by white males (and a few white females) who think it sounds better than coming right out and saying they could never vote for a black man. I mean, it sounds better than saying basically, I'm a racist. Don't you think?And elitist sounds better than uppity, for sure.

Well, I don't mean to be elitist or anything, but I think my country stands in dire need of a professional, a thinker and a leader whose outlook is broad enough that he knows who the president of Spain is. Or at least recognizes the name!

Even veterans are against McCain ( Perhaps they understand that he needs to be in a residential anger management program, not in the Oval Office or anywhere near the White House.

Nation! What are you thinking?

vendredi 19 septembre 2008

Fannie Mae: Wasn't she Jethro's sister on the Beverly Hillbillies?

Every time I see Todd Palin, standing behind Sarah at a rally, applauding vacantly, wearing a steadfast grin and a goatee/soul-patch combo, I think of one of my favorite television shows of all time. The Beverly Hillbillies. Story of the Clampett family: Jed, Ma, Jethro and Elly May.

Remember, old Jed barely kept his family fed until he discovered oil one day on his daily hunt for grub. Drill, baby, drill!

I don't welcome this period of financial turmoil, obviously, but I am almost glad that it came when it did. The focus this week is where it should be: on the economy, stupid! Will Sarah Palin ever live down the mistake of mistaking Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for government-owned agencies? Only in the minds of people who thought Fannie Mae was Jethro's tomboy sister and Freddie Mac was that gay rocker who died. You know, the guy from Queen.

In fact, and I'm sorry if this is a boring topic, Freddy Mac and Fannie May have an interesting history that anyone who is interested can look up. But what I find most interesting is that what happened this month has been in the making for at least five years. Yes, at least five years. Back in 2003, our country's two largest mortgage finance lenders rose alarm bells in the halls of Congress, the Justice Department and the SEC. Both Fannie and Freddie had been operating as government sponsored enterprises (or GSEs) since 1968. Basically, a GSE is a privately-owned company operated by its shareholders but protected financially by the support of the Federal Government. They get access to a line of credit through the U.S. Treasury; they are exempt from state and local income taxes; and they are exempt from SEC oversight. Already, back in 2003, some were beginning to worry about the downside of this privileged status. So why was nothing done? And why did McCain say he would like to fire Christopher Cox (head of the SEC) when (a) he cannot and (b) Fannie and Freddie fall outside the realm of SEC oversight, even though they are traded in the financial marketplace. And therein lies the problem, in my humble opinion.

But I digress. I really wanted to share the song I wrote today. It is sung to the tune of the Beverly Hillbillies theme song. If all goes according to plan (not), we'll be singing this one for the next four years. Yee-ha!

Come and listen to a story about a man named Todd
An oil mine worker with a toned and muscled bod
He was out on the tundra shootin' at some food
When along came a gal and she called him First Dude.
Oil she said, black gold, Alaska beer.
Well the first thing you know ol' Todd's a dad of five,
Kinfolk said Todd show us you got drive
Said Washington-y is the place you ought to be
So they loaded up the truck and they moved to Washington-y.
DC, that is.
Policy wonks and lobbyists.
The Washington Hillbillies!

Well now its time to say good-bye to Todd and all his kin.
And they would like to thank you folks fer kindly droppin' in.
You're all invited back again to this locality
To have a heapin' helpin' of their hospitality
Hillbilly that is. Set a spell. Take your shoes off. Y'all come back now, y'hear?

Hillarious: Why Lynn Forester de Rothschild has jumped on the McPain wagon

"I am—full disclosure—I'm always doing everything I possibly can for Hillary Clinton."

Lady Lynn in an October 2007 interview that was published on (

The day before yesterday, Lady Lynn was just another jet-setting mega-rich gal dividing her time between New York and London. But then it happened: This long-time Clinton groupie (She tells us this in the interview referred to above, laughing -- the interview was given back in the giddy days of possibility, before Hil got beat by Barak and all his little people and their damned caucuses, so she was laughing a lot -- "I do everything that I can, and I have been waiting for this since Bill Clinton left office, frankly.") made a very public switchover to the McCain-Palin ticket, accusing Obama of "elitisim." First of all, is it just me or does it seem like this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black? Not only that, but she seems to have discovered virtues in John McCain, her new best friend in the running, that no one else has seen.

Her interview with CNN reporter Campbell Brown is worth watching in its entirety, which is what you have to do to get to her unforgettable remarks about rednecks. She can hardly say the word, and even seems to be looking to Campbell Brown to make sure she's pronouncing it correctly. But the rest of the interview is far more insidious and far worse. And yet it is also hill-arious in its own way.

At one point, Campbell Brown mentions the two key issues in this campaign -- Iraq and the economy -- and points out what has been obvious to anyone following this campaign: that Senators Obama and Clinton have virtually identical positions on these key issues, whereas Senator McCain has quite different ones. (And if anyone can figure out what McCain's views on the economy are, please explain them to me because he is unable to). She asks if this means that Lady Lynn is voting not on the issues but rather on personality. She is momentarily flustered, but recovers quickly, noting that she believed the Deomcratic party was about protecting the middle class, the middle class that is in her blood and, apparently, on her radar (see below). It is interesting to contrast her passionate defense of the middle class and her disappointment in the Democratic Party for turning its back on them with two things:

First of all, in the interview referenced above, she has a slightly different view: "First of all, Hillary will be good for America. And so if we care about our country —which all of my fellow capitalists do —we'll be very pleased that she's president. And second of all, if we look at what is best for the economy, remember, she is a Clinton, and our economy under Clinton was strong, dynamic, productive, exciting. And the same kinds of people who advised Bill Clinton will be around Hillary Clinton. And she understands the importance of the business community, and it's not going to be about raising taxes or doing any one specific thing. It's going to be, What is in the best interest of all Americans? And I think if history is our guide, we've had stronger economies, more wealth creation, under Democratic presidents than we have under Republican presidents. So I don't understand why all my capitalist friends aren't Democrats."

Hmmm? Maybe she understands better now. I guess her being a Democrat had more to do with getting her Democratic friends elected, so they would take care of her and her capitalist friends. Unlike that elitist Barak Obama, who is promising to take care of... the non-capitalists.

I had been struggling to understand her motivation, and thought she was just being a bad sport who, since she didn't get her way, decided to take all her marbles (and she has LOADS of them) home and count them. And then I read the following sentence in the interview, and suddenly everything fell into place. One of the privileges accorded to Lady Lynn and other Daddy Warbucks' types is that of sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom, which she did during the first Clinton administration--in exchange for her big wallet and astounding generosity to the Clintons. They're the ones, you will recall, who understand the capitalists. It stands to reason that she is supporting McCain in the hope, not that she'll get to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom during his term, but rather in the hope that he will be a one-term president and that Hillary will have her turn sooner than she would with Obama in the White House. She wants to sleep in that Lincoln Bedroom again and soon, but only if Hillary and Bill and their capitalist friends are along for a game or two of marbles.

She needs to think this through, however. What if McCain croaks and Sarah ends up president? She will either blow up the planet and all of its people, capitalists and non-capitalists alike, or she will fight tooth and nail for another four years on the job. In which case it will all come down to looks and being able to relate to rednecks and, let me tell you, Hillary stands no chance.

Lady Lynn, you seem like a smart capitalist, but what were you thinking? The second item that makes for an interesting contrast with Lady Lynn's passionate defense of the American middle class (at one point, she tells Campbell Brown that she grew up knowing she was "blessed to live in the greatest country in the world") is that she and her husband, Sir Evelyn de Rothschild (judging from his name, I am guessing he grew up poor and black in Alabama) have their sights and their marbles set on investing in the future of the middle class in -- if you guessed America, you're wrong -- INDIA. She sees big potential in the emerging middle class there and apparently doesn't give a shit about the one being choked to death in America. A visionary, don't you think? With values! Here's what she told the interviewer about how she and hubby plan to use the money they got by selling his stake in the family bank: "I am thinking more about the domestic markets, more about the growth of the domestic market, because 10 million people are entering the middle class every year in India. You know, there are more billionaires in India than anyplace else. Let me put it this way: Every day in India, the entire nation of Great Britain is on the train, one way or another. So the numbers are pretty colossal. Seventy million people in India can afford anything they want. It's a small percent, but that's a reasonable number... Two hundred fifty million are middle-class, so you might not go for the Chanel glasses, but you sure could go for an Estée Lauder lipstick or a Starbucks coffee." Incidentally, Sir and Lady R have already got a toehold in India, having set up a joint venture with Bharti Enterprises through their own holding company (ELRo Holdings). The business is the exportation of fresh food--you know, fruits and vegetables. Soon, the people of India won't need that stuff. LET THEM EAT LIPSTICK AND DRINK STARBUCKS.

As for the American middle class Lady L is so fond of, they have a true friend in John McCain. So Lynn, don't feel bad about investing your money in another country's middle class. Anyway, Americans have been eating lipstick and drinking Starbucks forever. By the way, notice Lady L branded the lipstick: Estée Lauder lipstick. You don't suppose that's because she's on the board of that global group, do you?

This just in, indirectly supporting my theory about why Lynn wants a McPain presidency, from AP sources: "Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has canceled an appearance at a New York rally next week after organizers blindsided her by inviting Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, aides to the senator said Tuesday.

Several American Jewish groups plan a major rally outside the United Nations on Sept. 22 to protest against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Organizers said Tuesday that both Clinton, who nearly won the Democratic nomination for president, and Palin, Republican candidate John McCain's running mate, are expected to attend.

That would have set up a closely scrutinized and potentially explosive pairing in the midst of a presidential campaign, one in which the New York senator is campaigning for Democratic nominee Barack Obama while Palin actively courts disappointed Clinton supporters.

Clinton aides were furious. They first learned of the plan to have both Clinton and Palin appear when informed by reporters."


jeudi 18 septembre 2008

The People's Choice: McPain

Before Sarah Palin has to reluctantly give up on her dream (which she has been entertaining for as long as she has been entertaining us, which is to say about three weeks, although it seems longer), take the time to get addicted to this fake personal blog. With guest bloggers like Sarah's soon-to-be son-in-law Levi, hubba-hubby Todd Palin, daughta Bristol and new gal pal Cindy McCain.

Am I the only person who feels that it would be an international disgrace to have a first lady named Cindy?

I learned today that Todd Palin earns 100,000 dollars a year from his oil field job, which is pretty good considering it is not a full-time job. That's why he has so much time to hang around the state legislature and governor's office and put in his two cents' worth on how things are run in Alaska. has a very good article today called The Lying Game, by Alan Wolfe. It's at:

Basically, he says the Republicans lie because they have to. If they told the truth about their policies, they would never get elected. I would add that if they told the truth about their opponents' policies, they would not get elected either. Recent McPain lies: Obama for sex education at the age of 5; Obama against immigration reform. Sarah likes to say that her party doesn't talk one way in Podunk and another way in San Francisco (think homos, people, tons of 'em). This may be true, but that's because all her party does is LIE, LIE, LIE. Anyway, read the article and get really angry and fired up. An excerpt:
"Before we get carried away with enthusiasm about all this, though, we should keep two things in mind. One is that we are so quick to label McCain a liar that we tend to forget how much, and with what horrendous consequences, George W. Bush possessed the same character flaw. The other is that Republicans lie so frequently, not because the party just happened to settle upon one serial liar after another to run for high office, but because the form of conservatism to which they all adhere demands that if they are to win they have no choice but to lie."
Meanwhile, Maureen Dowd, who I was beginning to write off as an ill-tempered spoilsport, seems to have been galvanized by McCain's most recent desperate attempt to seize power. She actually went to Wasilla, and describes her encounter thusly: "I wandered through the Wal-Mart, which seemed almost as large as Wasilla, a town that is a soulless strip mall without sidewalks set beside a soulful mountain and lake." In the same op-ed piece, R. D. Levno, a retired school principal, who flew in from Fairbanks describes Sarah in these frightening terms: “She’s a child, inexperienced and simplistic... It’s taking us back to junior high school. She’s one of the popular girls, but one of the mean girls. She is seductive, but she is invented.”
Seductive but invented, like Lara Croft

Read Maureen Dowd (Barbies for War) at:
Just so you know where I'm coming from, I don't want a hockey mom to be my vice president any more than I want a pit bull, even if it is wearing lipstick, to sit within a heartbeat of the presidency. Take one look at McCain and you'll see that he is a heartbeat away from just exploding. Spontaneous combustion. That lump on the left side of his face? It's from all the seething rage he has to hold inside. He does it by biting on his inner cheek. That's why he is unable to open his mouth and enunciate or break into a wide grin. Soon, I will figure out why he has no neck. And I will tell you.

Maureen Dowd mentions in passing that, according to the WS Journal, John McCain is thinking of taking Sarah to the United Nations General Assembly next week so she can meet some heads of state. You know, rub shoulders with the big guys and hope a little foreign policy expertise rubs off on her. The only problem with this plan as far as I can tell is that Sarah's political platform must include the belief that the UN is the seat and root of all evil (I want US out of the UN). I would bet six moose pelts that she is totally against the UN. But if she does go, I hope she has time to rest up and above all tan up in her home tanning studio.

Remember the great Bob Dylan song, written for his wife Sara?

"Sara, Sara

Whatever made you want to change your mind?

Sara, Sara

So easy to look at, so hard to define."
That's our gal.
And Hockey Moms against Sarah Palin -- hilarious

The reason we call her Munchy

mardi 16 septembre 2008

Qué Sarah Sarah?

I wanted an image of Sarah Palin that captures my apprehension about her candidacy and her fitness for high public office at the national level, and this has to be it. Thanks to my friend Cathleen Vella for sending it. Notice that she is larger than life and has a pleasantly vacant expression. Notice too that she is wielding both an axe and a harpoon. Also, notice that she is the center of attention, to the exclusion of everyone and everything else. Finally, is it just me or is the moose looking up her skirt?
I think if she were to topple over, among the contents that would spill out would be that weasel husband of hers, Todd. Does anyone besides me have the sinking feeling that Todd is perhaps more involved in his wife's governance duties than he should be, and that this is a modus operandi they worked out long ago? She is his Trojan Horse, and they now have their sights set on Washington. Look out. Hockey Mom and Little League Dad are headed your way!
Not that this was their original plan. A couple of weeks ago, they were sitting around their living room looking at Russia on the horizon and wondering what they were going to do about that naughty Bristol. Was there something in "abstinence only" that she didn't understand? Maybe she could best her mom, and manage to hide that bun in the oven for a full nine-month term. She could be whisked off to boarding school, like people used to do when faced with this kind of mishap, or be sent off for a year of home-schooling in eastern Washington State somewhere. Then THIS happened. Sarah Palin got the call from the McCain people and, as she tells it, she did not blink. Okay, so she didn't blink. But would it have been too much to ask her to think? And what about McCain? What was he thinking? And I don't mean what were his political motivations. They seem patently obvious.
Apparently, he was thinking that he would do anything -- anything -- to be elected President. Show that fucking Republican Party a thing or two. Damn right! Country first, my ass. Me first. And in Sarah Palin, he found his soulmate, not to mention the political world's idea of a playmate. She too has mastered the country first rhetoric while putting self and self glory above every other consideration. She also knows how to use Old Glory, as a recent photo in a Newsweek cover story demonstrated. For the record, I only saw this because my dentist kept me waiting. It made me feel so numb I did not need novocaine.
But boy can she talk politics:
"Bush Doctrine? Never heard of it, why?"
"Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? It is time to take these two motherfuckers off the back of the US taxpayers. What? The government is giving each of them 100 billion dollars? Really? Well, never mind then."
"Do I think it was okay for the US to bomb Pakistan without consulting its leaders first? Well, sure, why not? Where is Pakistan, by the way?"

For just a moment, let's set aside the issue of experience, but not before noting that the Republican team vying for office has to its collective credit 26 years of national-level legislative experience (him) and less than two years of experience in state-level politics, plus a stint as mayor of a small town in Alaska. Everybody knows that. If you look at the Democratic team, you can make a similar collective tally that would add up to something at least slightly better. But I don't think experience is the problem. Or rather, I think it is everyone's problem in this race or no one's problem. It is a sterile debate. Un partout, bal au centre, if you know what I mean.

Personally, what I look for in a leader is wisdom. And that is what is totally lacking on the McCain-Palin ticket. Even if you grant McCain a few points for being a POW and a state Senator (who has supported the current Idiot in the White House 90% of the time, including throughout his disastrous first term of office), I question the wisdom (not to mention the compassion) of a man who cannot control his anger, who has called his wife an overly made-up c*nt in front of others (no wonder she allegedly has drug problems) -- presumably because his anger got the better of him -- and who showed reckless disregard for the welfare of this country by naming a running mate who has no wisdom whatsoever. I am sure she is a great hockey mom. However, I don't want to be governed by a hockey mom.

Trust me on this: I sat through her excruciating series of interviews on ABC, where she occasionally had to break with the vapid script and talk. It was heavily edited and, given the remarkably low caliber of the discussion, I had to wonder what was lying on the cutting room floor. What was left, with or without the script, was robotic nonsense. Pure gibberish. It was scary. It was like seeing George Bush in drag. She even had the same blank expression of angry bewilderment he often wears. I just made up a great joke, which I have posted on a PI blog about how Sarah's favorability ratings are falling:

Question: What is the difference between Sarah Palin and George W. Bush?

Answer: Lipstick.

I don't know about you, but I find that more scary than amusing. We have already tried this kind of executive leadership team, only in reverse --twice in a row in fact. And as a result, our country is more divided than ever; it is more hated than ever by other nations; our economy is a mess thanks to our dependence on foreign oil (and the price per barrel for crude), crazy credit and a war that is costing us 20 billion dollars a month. As those of you who have been paying attention will remember, Donald Rumsfeld told the nation in March 2003 that this war would be over in a couple of weeks at most. I guess toppling over that statue of Saddam Hussein was not enough. Oops!

The biggest joke of all is that we now have two ambitious clowns trying desperately to get into the White House by distancing themselves from their own party and painting themselves as mavericks. Give me a break! They're going to save us from the Republican Party? S.A. Maverick, the Texas engineer who inspired the term, is surely having a good laugh. Lucky for him that his death in 1870 spares him from having to see what gets passed off as maverick these days.

dimanche 14 septembre 2008

Day hike

Okay, this is not where we took a day hike yesterday. This is Yellowstone National Park, and I took this photo last year on our trip to Montana via Yellowstone. Yesterday, however, we took a day hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. But I forgot my camera, which is too bad because the light was incredible yesterday. We are having one of those rare Indian summers. May it stretch into October, please.
Neko came with us on her maiden trail experience. I gave her an A. What a trooper. She forged streams (well, trickles), walked over rocks and looked tough when faced with chipmunks. She would have gotten an A+ except for her attempts to eat horse poop. The trail was strewn with it; some was very fresh and covered with flies. The horror! Neko eats cat poop with great enthusiam and cunning. I have heard it does have nutritional value. She likes hers lightly dusted with cat litter. It looks but does not taste like Almond Roca. Not that I would know. She looks like the cat who ate the canary when she gets caught with that telltale dusting of cat litter on her snout. But she cannot help it.
With the horse poop, she would grab a hunk without breaking her stride -- in an attempt to fool us. But then some would fall out. Busted! But she was fantastic otherwise. She did not stop; she did not refuse to move forward; she did not wander off the trail; she did not whine. She kept up a man-pace the whole way. We hiked for more than two hours. We didn't make it to Kendall Catwalk, but we did make it far enough to escape the roar of I-90 and enjoy a couple of spectacular vistas. Next time, I will bring my camera.
I got about 5 mosquito bites as soon as we stopped for a water break. I guess it is better than dying from the inhalation of and skin contact with bug spray. Why do mosquitos love me? I don't love them at all.