Monthly Archives: December 2008

Robbing the rich to help the terrorists

s-mad-largeWhile reading an article in The New York Post about the Madoff Ponzi scheme that has taken mountains of money from heavy hitters all over the world, I was shocked to read the following:

Meanwhile, the FBI admitted that the Madoff scandal had grown so large that it was forced to shift agents from counterterrorism operations to the alleged swindler’s case, among other Wall Street scandals.

So we don’t have enough FBI agents to take care of the rich and the rest of us? Who forced them to chose the economy over public safety? al_qaedaDoes anyone in Al Qaeda read the New York Post? Did they call Osama with the news that because of a huge fraud case, now is a good time to attack?

What I really wish though is that we would find out that Bin Laden’s war chest was invested in one of the many international banks and funds that were lost in the meltdown. Now that would be divine retribution – a little of that good ole Biblical the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

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And the hate goes on

The conservatives are wasting no time gearing up for a new president. They have not skipped even half a beat transforming their attacks on the Democratic Party’s nominee into invectives for the new President-elect. If you cannot stop him from becoming president, then you must stop him from being effective before he even gets sworn in.
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They are lining up behind a variety of twisted logic about Obama’s “connections” to “Chicago-style politician” Rod ‘I Will Fight’ Blagojevich. The argument is that if Obama talked to him, then he is guilty of something nefarious. He must have been in cahoots with the sleazebag governor, they contend. Of course, the fact that the seat being discussed is the one that Obama gave up and that he would have an opinion about who should take that seat, is beyond their point. No doubt, the Obama team talked to the Blagojevich team about the appointment. But it is just more guilt by association.

Curiously, Newt Gingrich is coming to the aid of our new President. The RNC was quick to make a video about the supposed connection of Obama with the crimes Blagojevich is being accused of and Newt came out against it.

I was saddened to learn that at a time of national trial, when a president-elect is preparing to take office in the midst of the worst financial crisis in over seventy years, that the Republican National Committee is engaged in the sort of negative, attack politics that the voters rejected in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles.

But this is a great story. Did he really try to sell a senate seat? Trade up for himself and his wife? Is there something about being in Chicago that makes politicians think they can get away with gross ethical transgressions? On the face of it, The Blago is a fascinating animal. Born of immigrants from Serbia and Bosnia, he grew up poor and scrappy, worked his way up with a couple of Golden Gloves bouts to his name, then went to law school, married the daughter of a well connected Chicago politician and eased his way to the Governorship. So far, a real American success story. blago2But as with all such stories, it must end tragically. While his “I will fight, I will fight, I will fight” speech will be remembered and replayed repeatedly as he falls from grace, his recital of Kipling was intensely uncomfortable because it reminded me of the kid in school whose sense of self depended entirely on showing the class that he could memorize better than all the other kids, and that he didn’t really hear the words he was saying at all. All in all it feels like a Lewis Sinclair story.

A Chicago Magazine article in February 2008 reported that people have been well aware of the Governor’s problems for a long time. His approval rating long before this latest allegation came out was below even George Bush’s! People were calling him insane.

Privately, a few people who know the governor describe him as a “sociopath,” and they insist they’re not using hyperbole.

Some people think that the governor’s behavior has turned more erratic in the past few years. One reason, they suspect, could be Barack Obama’s extraordinary rise. “Obama’s ascendancy had a significant impact on this guy,” says a Democratic lawmaker from Chicago. “Here’s a lifelong plan that’s been unfolding better than anyone could ever script—an unremarkable state’s attorney becomes an unremarkable state representative, becomes an unremarkable congressman, becomes an unlikely governor. My God, everything’s falling into place! All of a sudden the proverbial skinny guy with the funny name starts making some headway, decides to run for U.S. senator, wins the primary, then gets tapped to do the keynote speech [at the Democratic National Convention]. Knocks the fucking thing out of the park. So now when political people coast to coast talk about Illinois, they talk about Barack Obama. They don’t give a fuck about Rod Blagojevich.”

Poor sod, even his “I have done nothing wrong” spiel turns out to be one of his stock speeches. Corruption charges have been swirling around him for most of his tenure as Governor. And he has taken the same tact every time.

Given that the governor has spent much of his time in office fending off accusations of ethical irregularities within his administration, many of his former backers have distanced themselves from him. For example, Blagojevich was left off the speaker’s platform during Senator Barack Obama’s presidential announcement last February. “He’s Kryptonite,” says state representative Jack Franks, a Democrat from Woodstock, who is one of Blagojevich’s biggest critics. “Nobody wants to get near this guy.”

It is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I’m staying tuned.

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If the shoe fits

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The shoe as political statement was heard round the world. It is an absurd gesture, but sums up how so many of us feel about the man. In Iraq, the message is stronger, that you are only worth the bottom of the shoe.

The Iraqi journalist, Muntader al-Zaidi, 28, a correspondent for Al Baghdadia, an independent Iraqi television station, stood up about 12 feet from Mr. Bush and shouted in Arabic: “This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog!” He then threw a shoe at Mr. Bush, who ducked and narrowly avoided it.

As stunned security agents and guards, officials and journalists watched, Mr. Zaidi then threw his other shoe, shouting in Arabic, “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq!” That shoe also narrowly missed Mr. Bush as Prime Minister Maliki stuck a hand in front of the president’s face to help shield him.

This is when you might expect applause, a heavy boot or a nice stiletto, but sadly no.

Mr. Maliki’s security agents jumped on the man, wrestled him to the floor and hustled him out of the room. They kicked him and beat him until “he was crying like a woman,” said Mohammed Taher, a reporter for Afaq, a television station owned by the Dawa Party, which is led by Mr. Maliki. Mr. Zaidi was then detained on unspecified charges.

Other Iraqi journalists in the front row apologized to Mr. Bush, who was uninjured and tried to brush off the incident by making a joke. “All I can report is it is a size 10,” he said, continuing to take questions and noting the apologies. He also called the incident a sign of democracy, saying, “That’s what people do in a free society, draw attention to themselves,” as the man’s screaming could be heard outside.

Yes W, but in “our” kind of democracy, we don’t usually take people from the room and kick the shit out of them for expressing that need for attention. (We give them a book deal or a TV show.) Bush Press Secretary Dana Perino ended up with a black eye. Seems no matter what he does, Bush brings harm to those around him and he himself remains blissfully ignorant of what he has brought to the party.

worst-ice-breaker-4If I had excess shoes though, now might be a nice time to send them to the White House. I suggest that in the final days of the Presidency, every true patriot send a shoe or two to W, just to let him know how we in this country feel as well.

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Merry Christmas, and pass the ammunition

Want to do something that will make a real difference to the troops? You can help make the daily routine of our troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq a little more bearable.
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It turns out the uber-conservative web portal Human Events dot com has a present for “the troops.” You, too, can send them coffee and cookies for only $25 per person. Real Oreos and Jelly Bellys and some fancy-schmancy coffee! I am sure that this is being done out of the kindness of a “patriot’s heart” and not for profit. After all a bag of coffee and Oreos must cost a ton.

We’ve heard from countless members of the Armed Forces serving in the Middle East that one precious resource in short supply is quality coffee. That’s why Move America Forward wanted to send only the BEST GOURMET Coffee to the troops.

Excuse me if I question this here. But isn’t some of the best coffee in the world from Africa and don’t the middle eastern people have wonderful coffee, like Turkish, Moroccan, and various other North African kinds of really Great Coffee? Ever heard of Kenyan coffee? A quick look at google shows me that coffee is produced all over the place in Africa. “Coffee was born in Africa. Both major varieties such as Arabica and Robusta beans find their origin in Africa.” And we have to send something from the USA?

This “Single” pack serves one serviceman or woman currently stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Move America Forward is proud to be in partnership with Artisan Roasters to provide our men and women standing in defense of freedom a wonderful taste of home and a reminder of our support.

Artisan Roasters produces only Exclusively Connoisseur Class Coffees sourced from the finest estates worldwide to ensure that each cup is not only a taste of home, it is most likely the most satisfying cup they’ve ever experienced! And why not? America’s Finest stationed in harm’s way deserve nothing less! When you sponsor a bag of Artisan Roasters coffee for a soldier, airman, marine or seaman to enjoy, you can be sure you are sending the very finest coffee.

What better to enjoy with a cup of exquisite coffee but with name brand Oreo Cookies? When you sponsor a care package with Move America Forward, we send only genuine Oreo brand chocolate sandwich cookies to the troops.
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Also included in MAF care packages are special treats from Jelly Belly jelly beans, part of our Candy Diplomacy Program

Candy Diplomacy means reaching out to our troops and to the people of Iraq to improve cooperation and relationships between American troops and the Iraqis or Afghans they work with every day. Each 2 oz. bag of gourmet jelly beans (which include the favorite flavors of Iraqi and Afghani children) has the following message printed in both English and Arabic:jelly_belly

“A gift from the American people in hope that your country will one day enjoy the freedom and opportunities that we have in the United States.”

The “Candy Diplomacy” program came to life thanks to the inspiration provided by President Ronald Reagan – who LOVED Jelly Belly brand jelly beans. As a champion of the cause of freedom for all people, Reagan’s vision of helping spread the seeds of freedom was never dampened by the doubts of cynics who said not all people can value and appreciate freedom.

Who are these cynical guys and gals and where do we go to stop them? And I want photos of them so I can show them to all my friends and laugh at them.

The troops can enjoy the treats for themselves, or share them with Iraqi or Afghani children to lift their spirits and inspire them.

Nice how they want to share with the kids over there. To lift their spirits since we came in and destroyed their countries. And all inspired by Ronald Reagan. Let’s export candy and maybe they will forget that we killed hundred of thousands of innocent citizens there and reduced their country to rubble. Oreos are magic. And I would love to know the favorite flavors of Jelly Bellys the Iraqi children are being given. Did they send people over to do a test audience kind of thing? Are there statistics on what shell shocked children most like to eat? SAPA970914813650

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21st Century Hobo

hobo4-filteredWhile in St. Louis for Thanksgiving, I was talking about being a wanderer, adventurer and came up with my new job: 21st century hobo. Then of course, as I am always anxious to be up on the necessary skills for a given job, I decided to research the actual history of the hobo.

An ethical code was created during the 1889 National Hobo Convention in St. Louis Missouri. They had a convention! How wild is that? But I think the rules would be a good start for society today.

1. Decide your own life, don’t let another person run or rule you.
2. When in town, always respect the local law and officials, and try to be a gentleman (kind and considerate) at all times.
3. Don’t take advantage of someone who is in a vulnerable situation, locals or other hobos.
4. Always try to find work, even if temporary, and always seek out jobs nobody wants. By doing so you not only help a business along, but ensure employment should you return to that town again.
5. When no employment is available, make your own work by using your added talents at crafts. (Be creative!)
6. Do not allow yourself to become a stupid drunk and set a bad example for locals treatment of other hobos. (This should be a rule in all bars and on every college campus in America.)
7. When jungling in town, respect handouts, do not wear them out; another hobo will be coming along who will need them as bad, if not worse than you.
8. Always respect nature, do not leave garbage where you are jungling. (Environmentalists!)
9. If in a community jungle, always pitch in and help.
10. Try to stay clean, and boil up wherever possible.
11. When traveling, ride your train respectfully, take no personal chances, cause no problems with the operating crew or host railroad, act like an extra crew member.
12. Do not cause problems in a train yard, another hobo will be coming along who will need passage through that yard.
13. Do not allow other hobos to molest children, expose to authorities all molesters; they are the worst garbage to infest any society.
14. Help all runaway children, and try to induce them to return home.
15. Help your fellow hobos whenever and wherever needed, you may need their help someday.

sjff_01_img0476There are plenty of homeless people in the US now (600,000+), but they do not seem to live by the code of the hobo. Then again our whole of society has changed. Acting like a gentleman is rare even in “polite” society.

An interesting site for the new hobo is here. traveling-hobo-signsApparently, the hobos of yore had a system of signs to alert one another of what was going on around a particular location. For instance:

* A cross signified “angel food,” that is, food served to the hobos after a party.
* A triangle with hands signified that the homeowner had a gun.
* Sharp teeth signified a mean dog.
* A square missing its top line signified it was safe to camp in that location.
* A top hat and a triangle signified wealth.
* A spearhead signified a warning to defend oneself.
* A circle with two parallel arrows meant to get out fast, as hobos were not welcome in the area.
* Two interlocked humans signified handcuffs. (i.e. hobos are hauled off to jail).
* A Caduceus symbol signified the house had a doctor living in it.
* A cat signified that a kind lady lives here.
* A wavy line (signifying water) above an X meant fresh water and a campsite.
* Three diagonal lines meant it wasn’t a safe place.
* A square with a slanted roof (signifying a house) with an X through it meant that the house had already been “burned” or “tricked” by another hobo and wasn’t a trusting house.
* Two shovels, signifying work was available (Shovels, because most hobos did manual labor).

I am now on the look-out for new ciphers of the 21st century hobo. It is a bit hard to distinguish any real signs from general graffiti. Clever hobos!

And it turns out that since 1900, The National Hobo Convention has been held annually on the second weekend of August in the town of Britt, Iowa. It is the largest gathering of “hobos, rail-riders, and tramps, who gather to celebrate the American traveling worker.” I wonder how many people arrive there by rail.

Okay, I am not really going to start riding the rails. I need a computer and a comfortable place to sleep. But the freedom that the hobo life suggests does appeal. Traveling at will, no responsibilities, few possessions, a romantic rebellious existence, however, the reality of homelessness is pretty scary. I have spent a good deal of my adult life in a nomadic fashion though, so there is a hobophilia to me. Maybe my attraction to the life is an expression that travel and adventure need to be a part of whatever I do. So how to be that 21st century hobo? The downsized life with fewer possessions and less structure are the beginning.

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Happy Reading List

Seems books are popping up in front of me right and left begging to be read. I consider buying them all, taking the stack to a desert island and reading for days, then waiting for the epiphany (in the warm sun with a nice tropical drink in hand.)

41rplgartil_bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-arrow-clicktopright35-76_aa240_sh20_ou01_Bounce!: Failure, Resiliency, and Confidence to Achieve Your Next Great Success by Barry J. Moltz

Bounce! lets you move forward from any event, situation, or outcome—good or bad—to the next place where a decision can be made based on the choices currently available to you. Bounce! allows us to be passionately excited and intensely enthusiastic about our business and our lives.

How long do I wait? Seems familiar, like the story of my life. Perhaps waiting is not the best answer.
41s1t2at2kl_sl500_aa240_Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Stumbling on Happiness is a book about a very simple but powerful idea. What distinguishes us as human beings from other animals is our ability to predict the future–or rather, our interest in predicting the future. We spend a great deal of our waking life imagining what it would be like to be this way or that way, or to do this or that, or taste or buy or experience some state or feeling or thing. We do that for good reasons: it is what allows us to shape our life. And it is by trying to exert some control over our futures that we attempt to be happy. But by any objective measure, we are really bad at that predictive function. We’re terrible at knowing how we will feel a day or a month or year from now, and even worse at knowing what will and will not bring us that cherished happiness. Gilbert sets out to figure what that’s so: why we are so terrible at something that would seem to be so extraordinarily important?

Penning my own epiphanic book after I read all the others might make me happy. People who write books must be happy when they are published and people buy them, no?

41tzkh4nrl_bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-arrow-clicktopright35-76_aa240_sh20_ou01_Release Your Brilliance by Simon T. Bailey

Each of us is born brilliant. Then we spend the rest of our lives having our brilliance buried by people, circumstances, and experiences. Eventually, we forget that we ever had genius and special talents, and our brilliance is locked away in a vault deep within. So we settle for who we are, instead of striving for who we were meant to be. Release Your Brilliance provides the combination to the vault where your brilliance is kept.

Guess I need to find an island and a big book bag and some paper to write on.
b0de820dd7a09236ebfaf010l1The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, lamented St. Paul, and this engrossing scientific interpretation of traditional lore backs him up with hard data. Citing Plato, Buddha and modern brain science, psychologist Haidt notes the mind is like an “elephant” of automatic desires and impulses atop which conscious intention is an ineffectual “rider.” Haidt sifts Eastern and Western religious and philosophical traditions for other nuggets of wisdom to substantiate—and sometimes critique—with the findings of neurology and cognitive psychology. The Buddhist-Stoic injunction to cast off worldly attachments in pursuit of happiness, for example, is backed up by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s studies into pleasure. And Nietzsche’s contention that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger is considered against research into post-traumatic growth. An exponent of the “positive psychology” movement, Haidt also offers practical advice on finding happiness and meaning. Riches don’t matter much, he observes, but close relationships, quiet surroundings and short commutes help a lot, while meditation, cognitive psychotherapy and Prozac are equally valid remedies for constitutional unhappiness. Haidt sometimes seems reductionist, but his is an erudite, fluently written, stimulating reassessment of age-old issues.

Is it possible to find the answer in books? Oh, to have the nerve.

desert-island

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The Perfect Gift

Okay I know I said I was over her Palinness, but this is just too good. Does anyone really want to see this every day for a year? palincalendarlogo1cover1

Yeah, I know there are also too guys and gals that of the good times with Sarah out there want to have a reminder, but Jesus!

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