Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I Wanna Be Elite

So, yesterday on NPR's Talk of the Nation there was a discussion of "elitism." A man who is a classical music critic got on the radio to talk with Lynn Neary about whether or not classical music is elitist. Somehow- imagine this happening!- within a couple of calls, the discussion had turned to elitism in American politics.

First, it was refreshing to hear a non-elitist view other than my own about classical music, which I enjoy, except for uptight, busy strings, which you already know, have you looked at my profile. A woman told us all, the radio audience, that she grew up playing piano and had never thought of classical music as elitist because of this experience. (Apparently, ragtime, honky tonk and whatnot were not in her repertoire.) Now, I grew up without a piano or classical music. So, honestly, I always thought both to be a bit, well, let's just say out of my league. I guess there really is a middle class in this country, or was, and they really can afford pianos and piano lessons. My parents told me I couldn't play the drums because it was too expensive- not just the wished-for Very Own Drumkit, but the lessons leading up to that eventual expected purchase.

Dammit, Dad, you did a number on my psyche with your reverse discrimination of the People with Money. Were you and Mom holding out, storing cash in a mattress somewhere, pretending you didn't have it so us kids would grow up stronger and more resourceful than either of you?

Back to the fascinating subject of elitism: A man got on the air via phone and brought up the current debate over whether or not various Presidents or presidential candidates are or were elites. This history buff reminded us how this country was founded by elites and asked wouldn't we rather have an elite who knows what he (or she... this will happen eventually, like this year if you vote for me) is doing than someone like our current President, who is not an elite? Or doesn't act like one? Or whatever it was that the man said that assumed outright that Bush is not an elite, even though it was quickly pointed out that according to at least one definition of "elite," just his holding a political office makes him one.

From Merriam-Webster online:
Main Entry:
\ā-ˈlēt, i-, ē-\
French élite, from Old French eslite, from feminine of eslit, past participle of eslire to choose, from Latin eligere
1 asingular or plural in construction : the choice part : cream bsingular or plural in construction : the best of a class csingular or plural in construction : the socially superior part of society d: a group of persons who by virtue of position or education exercise much power or influence e: a member of such an elite —usually used in plural 2: a typewriter type providing 12 characters to the linear inch
— elite adjective

OK, so we don't have to label Bush elite in the sense that we find him to be the cream, as in the best of the best, rising to the top purely on the merit of his character, but as Glen so aptly reminds me, without having to, anyone who wants to be President these days must be an elite, must have the money, the connections and so on, that set him (or her) apart from the rest of us. Of course, I think this whole theory is horsesh*te. For instance, you can vote for me, and I have hardly any money at all, though I promise I will make up for that with brains, social skillz that killz, and hard work. Put me in Aubergine House and prove that We the People do not have to perpetuate the stereotype that perpetuates the disintegration of whatever American Dream we ever had.

Crap, I didn't even graduate from high school in the Top 10, much to my friends' and classmates' surprise. I admit freely, before it is disclosed in a media frenzy, that I failed Advanced Math one quarter; I was more interested in reading the book and doing the problems on my own time, not accountable to a teacher who used to stand at the board and scratch her head and ask where the hell she had gone wrong in solving an equation correctly for the class. Advanced Math class was the time for writing stories and drawing pictures. Also, I was a terrible Class President, too shy at the time to stand up hard against the elites who had run the class for years, despite I won the popular vote by a landslide. Those days are over! Give me the popular vote by a landslide, and I will stand up hard for you!

Anyway, I checked out "elitism" on this new search engine Dennis sent me the link to, called Cuil. I like it. I got all sorts of leads, the most puzzling of which is a YouTube video of JR from Less Than Jake in an "exclusive interview." Now, that is elite. Check it all out: http://www.cuil.com/.

And go here: http://www.elitestv.com/

I have to go take a shower and get to work. (That 4-letter word people used to call "dirty" but now may be lucky to have.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Why I Love El Zarape Breakfast Burritos

Minimum Wage Hike Can Mean Higher Prices
Peter O'Dowd and Elsa Partan
LARAMIE, WYO. (2008-07-21)
"Minimum-wage workers in Wyoming and across the country will get a pay raise on Thursday. The federal minimum wage will go from $5.85 to $6.55 an hour. Some small business owners say higher wages may force them to raise prices.

"John Guerin owns a coffee shop in Laramie. He says the minimum wage increase and skyrocketing prices for fuel and flour have forced him starting today to raise his menu prices by 10 percent across the board. He says that has left customers fuming. "At both our retail stores in Laramie, we heard about it. Nobody is happy about it. And we weren't happy about it either. But we just explained we have to do what we have to do to stay in business," Guerin said.

"Guerin says he has to raise all his workers' wages now, not just for the beginners who are paid minimum wage. That's because he has to maintain higher levels of pay for more experienced workers. He says this week's wage increase of 12 percent gave him no other option but to raise prices."

I heard from the FFM, who heard the interview on the radio, that Mr. Guerin supports the minimum wage increase, despite that this policy is forcing him to raise his prices, above their current exhorbitant levels. (I also heard that the interview featured the coffee shop owner exposing that customers have been complaining anyway that prices are high.)

Aren't we all happy to live in a country where the minimum wage can be increased by 70 cents on the dollar to a whopping $6.55, so that not only can employees who are paid this amount pay their bills, but the business owners who pay them can feel good about giving their people a "raise?"

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Quetzalcoatl Returns

Glen and Joy are gone. The visit was just beginning. We finally got down off Medicine Bow Peak just before 7:30 last evening, reached Crapitude for dinner at about 8:15, and had finally settled into important political conversation, when the beer glasses were emptied and it was time to head back to my apartment. Before we could come to a conclusion about 2012 and the return of Qetzalcoatl. Thankfully there are four more years open to discussion. And it is not too late:
Vote for Me.

In the meantime, the Congressional Budget Office claims that the proposed bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could cost us taxpayers $25 billion. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/23/business/economy/23treasury.html?_r=1&8au&emc=au&oref=slogin

I am relieved to learn that my tax money may support a cause such as rescuing big business people who have chosen not to make judicious decisions, rather than, say, reducing student loan interest. According to the NYT: "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are commonly referred to as government-sponsored entities, because of the long implicit guarantee that the federal government would step in to save them if they were ever in danger of collapse." Thankfully, the government chooses to rescue only a select few. Otherwise, probably none of us would never bring home a paycheck. Right?

But now, on to the gem I promised, about drilling in ANWR- yes! yes!:
Unfortunately, the only part that would copy is the text. I creatively tried to add my own text, surrounded by asterisks, to paint the only picture I could muster of photos, maps and charts, but dag!- that was taking a really long time, and it's stopped raining so I'd like to go outside. Besides, it looked awful. However, please note the fine print found at the end of the e-mail and which I have included below, and if you would like a copy of your own, simply respond in the comments here, and I will be happy to e-mail you the one I received. I intend anyone who asks me to be a recipient. Thanks for spreading the word! (I guess it's a grassroots thing.)

NOTICE - This communication may contain confidential and privileged information that is for the sole use of the intended recipient. Any viewing, copying or distribution of, or reliance on this message by unintended recipients is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please notify us immediately by replying to the message and deleting it from your computer.______________________________________________________________________________This email is intended solely for the person or entity to which it is addressed and may contain confidential and/or privileged information. Copying, forwarding or distributing this message by persons or entities other than the addressee is prohibited. If you have received this email in error, please contact the sender immediately and delete the material from any computer.This email may have been monitored for policy compliance. [021216]

Friday, July 18, 2008

Bizzy Backsun

OK, I'll bite. I've been dying to find the time to place this crazy freaked out oil and gas propaganda (remember, without those companies, currently I would be unemployed) here, but not now. This one will take time. It's all full of graphic goodies. But really, I can't wait! In the meantime, since everyone keeps asking, and yapping about it, I'll throw my two cents in for you about that Obama cartoon on the cover of The New Yorker. (And I am not going to make you look at it again. I will ask, though, Cloudlurker, what do you think? You've been saying Michelle out to change her 'do so she looks less like Condi...)

It's easier to let Art Spiegelman and Stephen Colbert do the talking:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92555693 (Spiegelman's interview on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" earlier this week)

http://www.indecision2008.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=176187 (Stephen Colbert. Seriously.)

The only thing I'd add, would be that I find the variety of defensive postures surrounding the whole occasion ultimately telling.

Hooray! Glen and Joy are coming to visit from Pullman and yap (politics, I hope.) When I return from this brief hiatus: "Drill in ANWR, Dammit!" Yes, yes! I will show you proof like you have not seen before, sent via an e-mail that is meant only for the eyes of the one to whom it was originally addressed (which is how I got it, from someone who got it from someone who got it from someone who got it from...") Top Secret, baby!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Time Warp

Yesterday I put on my Extreme Retro Dress with the bright green and white background splashed with big hot pink and orange flowers and was applying Super Shock mascara in preparation for a little party in Stevil's backyard, and suddenly I realized as I belted out one of my favorite John Lennon songs, "Mother," along with the Musician Himself, as the CD played on my old Pioneer stereo in the living room, that I might have warped back in time about 35 years to 1972, when Shaved Fish was put out and other women were wearing little sleeveless numbers like I was, instead of just telling me how much they like mine.

Shaved Fish contains important political and social commentary. The playlist: Give Peace a Chance, Cold Turkey, Instant Karma!, Power to the People, Mother, Woman Is the Nigger of the World, Imagine, Whatever Gets You Through the Night, Mind Games, #9 Dream, Happy XMas (War Is Over)- Give Peace a Chance Medley. I don't have to tell any of you reading this thing today that we've come a ways but that a lot of this stuff still applies- or let's say "applies again." That's more fitting, I think, makes a more accurate statement. What's going on? Why are we letting ourselves back up? People, this is crazy, you know. Time to change all that.

I started wondering what was happening, exactly, on July 10, 1972, but it was time to leave. As it was, I was running so close to late, and then I had to stop and yap with friends sitting out on their front porches and riding their bikes, trying to keep cool on a hot summer evening, and I was late to meet the FFM. So, this morning, with all that time I afford myself at the table with Scutabaga, coffee, sunshine and a breeze coming in the open door and windows, here is what I have discovered was going on July 10 and July 11, 36 years ago:

On July 10, 1972, the Democratic National Convention, with George McGovern that year's Presidential nominee, opened in Miami.
Reported MIA in Vietnam:
July 10: Frank C. Green, Jr., of Waskom, TX
July 11: Kenneth L. Crody of Griffith, IN; Jerry W. Hendrix of Wichita, KS; Henry D. Lesesne of Florence, SC; Frederick J. Masterson of Oakland, CA; Robert I. Randall of Neptune, NJ.

Other stuff that happened in 1972:
Nixon ordered development of the space shuttle program; on my birthday the US and the People's Republic of China signed the Shanghai Communique; Vietnam War; Pioneer 10 spaceprobe was launched with the mission to explore the outer planets; the Goodyear blimp made its first flight; Vietnam War; the first mobile phone call was placed in NYC; Apollo 16 landed on the moon; the Don't Make a Wave Committee, founded the previous year in Canada, changed its name to Greenpeace Foundation; Vietnam War; Watergate; Atari was established; the US Senate ratified the ABM Treaty; Vietnam War; Mark Spitz won his seventh gold medal in swimming at the summer Olympics in Munich; a racial brawl involving more than 100 sailors took place on the USS Kitty Hawk; Nixon beat McGovern for President; Vietnam War.

Stevil's party was nice. The weather was perfect; the conversation was light. Except speaking of Vietnam. Harold and Annie and Leah were there, fresh from a long trip to Vietnam. Harold recently sat out front of the coffee shop on an evening and talked to the FFM and me about orphanages and a high number of birth defects and how the US of A assumes no responsibility, though the timing and effects of certain chemicals are right... Yesterday Annie told me about her encounters with street kids in her recent travels throughout Vietnam, and how she and Leah, who is approaching 9 years old, want to go back for a couple months in the future to continue working with them. We discussed homelessness as a phenomenon that is highly visible in some places, like urban areas of the US, and less so in others, like rural parts of the country. But it's still there. We promised to keep each other in touch about our research and endeavors and then went back to banter.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Alestorm - Captain Morgan's Revenge

Pirate Metal! Howl of Cthulhu!

It's a Beautiful Day, and Mi Hermana-in-Lawla Is a Beautiful Driver

I had a lot of work to do this morning on Scutabaga, even though he needs more surgery before wireless will work again. It's OK when I'm sitting at the kitchen table drinking strong coffee in the morning sun.

First, the Future First Man and I were completely lame patriots on the 4th of July. After messing around at coffee for several hours, having a beer with the Judge, and dropping in at the first local farmers market of the season- all of which sounds like Normal American Behavior, right?- we went home and skipped all BBQs and parties we'd been invited to for the evening, and lay in bed and read and napped and almost missed the fireworks, crawling out to the corner barefoot- Very American!- to watch the last half or so of the show through the trees, leaning against a telephone pole (something still not found in some parts of Other Countries, right?)

When we got back home, we were wide awake, so lay on the floor and watched three episodes in a row of season 3 of Lost on DVD. Hugely American. Patriotic? That is for you to decide. FFM's favorite character is Sawyer the sassy redneck, so he probably passes. Mine, however, is Mikhail Bakunin, The Other who never seems to die- or at least is afforded more lives than a person, or even a cat, could shake a stick at.

Bakunin is so badass he escapes knife impalements to the chest in order to moments later pull pins from live grenades and throw them while underwater. I am assuming, though I know I should not, that he survives the blast. I am not allowed to read ahead to see what's happening these days on the show, lest it ruin my experience when I actually view episodes. (Recently, however, I stumbled inadvertently across an article in Popular Science about wormholes and how Ben may have moved the island. Of course, I read this. Voters, patience is not one of my top 3 virtues, or even top 5, probably, except when it comes to enduring crappy relationships with members of the opposite sex- not the FFM, just to be clear. There will be no shouting and throwing of lamps, dinnerware or other precious household items at each other in Aubergine House.)

Back to Mikhail Bakunin: he is so tough and cunning and mysterious- and is blessed with the bonus of being named after a Fine Anarchist- that I wish I'd been cast in his role on that show. So, this morning I got up to look for a "Which Character on Lost Am I?" quiz to take to see if I could actually pass muster.

You know what I found, don't you? Every dang quiz out there makes you into a Jack or a Sawyer or a Charlie, or in my case, happily enough, my second favorite character, a Locke. That's just crap, I say. But patriotic crap, isn't it? Good v. Evil, and you can only get to be a "good" character? Although whether Locke is evil was questioned in the quiz I took. Maybe more like "Us v. Them," and we know there are some of Them lurking among the Us that need to be called out and culled out.

I also took a little break to play some anime vampire quiz game that, despite it was devised for the enjoyment of teenage girls, I enjoyed. You want your President to be able to relate to a widely varied constituency, right? I heard a guy on Talk of the Nation yesterday say he's a Gen-Xer and believes that McCain doesn't represent him or really any of his generation because those older folks just don't relate to the younger set, and it's the younger generation that is going to inherit this country. The guy made sense to me.

So, on to politics, as it must be. Last night an Exciting Discussion arose about Obama and his Faith-Based Initiative Talk and why is he doing it, and what about the separation of church and state? I will not go into that here; it's for the man himself to explain now. I got the ball rolling here earlier.

What I heard that surprised me was that a poll had found that most Americans would not vote for an atheist for President. I could not believe this, though my gut reaction is, sure, a lot of people out there probably would not be comfortable putting their future in the form of government in the hands of someone who had a dim view, at best, of a future. That's how people look at existentialism, as fatalistic, despite the excellent way mi hermana approached the subject in a recent comment on this blog; and people connect existentialism with atheism.

Here is what I found when I went online to learn more about people's views regarding an atheist as President:

from http://atheism.about.com/od/atheistbigotryprejudice/a/AtheistSurveys.htm:
A 1999 Gallup poll conducted to determine Americans' willingness to tolerate a Jewish president (Joseph Lieberman was the Democratic candidate for Vice President at the time). Here are the percentages of people saying they would refuse to vote for "a generally well-qualified person for president" on the basis of some characteristic; in parenthesis are the figures for earlier years:
Catholic: 4% (1937: 30%), Black: 5% (1958: 63%, 1987: 21%), Jewish: 6% (1937: 47%), Baptist: 6%, Woman: 8%, Mormon: 17%, Muslim: 38%, Gay: 37% (1978: 74%), Atheist: 48%.

from http://www.swivel.com/data_columns/spreadsheet/2076653:
Would You Vote for an Atheist President?
August 1958- 18%; September 1958- 18%; December 1959- 22%; July 1978- 40%; May 1983- 42%; August 1987- 44%; February 1999- 49%; February 2007- 45%. (Note that the percentage of people willing to vote atheist in this poll decreased between 1999 and last year.)

from http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/atheism9.htm:
Web Posted: August 12, 2000
A poll from the Gallup organization shows that Sen. Joseph Lieberman has made history in becoming the first Jewish American to run on a presidential ticket for either of the two major political parties, and that an overwhelming majority of those questioned say that his Orthodox faith is not an issue. The August 8 survey results show that 92% of respondents said they would vote for a "generally well qualified person for president" who happened to be Jewish, with only 6% saying they would oppose such a candidate. Similar percentages are reported when asked how they feel about a Roman Catholic or Baptist candidate as well.
A Mormon candidate generates a 79% approval rating, with 17% saying they would not vote for an LDS member.
Atheists do not fare as well, though, according to the Gallup survey, which finds "close to half of Americans, 48%, unwilling to support an atheist for president while 49% say they would."

I'll leave the rest to you. It's time to go around the corner and see Mats and Cynthia about their cats before they leave for Sweden. Don't think about finding their address and messing with their house while they are away; I have my jacknife and imagine myself to be capable of being almost as skilled as Bakunin and at least as badass as Locke (who, oh crap, I just learned is the guy in the coffin.)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Government as Religion?

At risk of alienating a large part of my fan base, I would like to ask those of you peeps out there who bristle at Barack Obama's suggestion that he would include faith-based initiatives in federal policy were he to be elected President: Is that really any worse than asking the federal government to assign tax dollars to charity or social assistance? People fear the blending of church and state, when in actuality, faith institutions for ages have taken care of people in the community at least as well as government agencies, in many instances, and people have been served, and the notion of State has not been compromised.

I know, I know: They will give you help if you will convert to Their Religious Convictions. And you don't want to be told what to believe. But if you want the government to dispense the soup, you could be waiting a long time. And I'm not saying our tax dollars shouldn't be spent on that kind of thing instead of killing our young people, and innocents, in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Those of you who know me know I am passionate about where I think the money and effort should go, if we have to rely on government. I'm suggesting that we think carefully about to whom or what we assign a higher power in our lives and why.

Government, ideally, is about the public welfare. But the people in government don't represent a large number of us, it seems to me. Of course, that's my opinion. I've heard more than enough people claim to be versus various federal decisions, including continuing to throw money and people at war, to feel justified in maintaining that bias. Meanwhile, there are people out there on a non-profit and non-governmental level, offering food and shelter and assistance to those who are in need, for whatever reasons, including that the government has ignored socio-economic divides in this country and perpetrated a decreasing budget to the government agencies and programs designed to help those who are facing economic adversity, making charity closer to home more and more necessary, like back before the government offered up in the first place.

Jesus wandered around a lot of area with little if anything he owned personally, at least according to the stories we have read and heard. He dispensed charity and healing to those in need at the same time. Even if you don't believe in miracles, surely you can extend creative thought to imagine he found the resources somewhere, whether through sweet talking diplomacy or outright trickery of the bloated. Was he really trying to convince people to believe in God the Father, some giant human figure hanging around in the skies waiting to smite us or bring us home to sit on clouds and strum harps? Or was he preaching a message to not be selfish and help each other out? We have the power to decide for ourselves, regardless of what people of various religious faiths insist. In the meantime, we are asked- expected?- over and over again to trust a bunch of people in positions of power to make decisions in our best interest. Presumably they will do so because we voted for them, elected them, assigned to them that power. I'm hard-pressed to see how this situation is less threatening to my personal liberties than asking me to believe in God. Not a lot has happened lately there that has been something I would have decided, personally.

However it happens, there are plenty of people out there in our own country, right now, who need a little help. And I, for one, am made a little more comfortable to see people reaching out, whether they do it through their churches or in their non-profit, third sector work, or through their commitment to civic duty. I am not holding my breath for the latter; I don't trust us as people in the guise of Government much. In fact, sometimes it would be easier to believe that God Himself, the fatherly figure with a beard and bushy eyebrows, might decide to come out and sit at my table and have a conversation with me than that anyone I vote for might walk into office and work with other similarly inclined people who have been elected, to change the fact so many of us are ignored.