Archive for April, 2010

YES!!!!!!

April 25, 2010

What a difference a decent rain makes. Today’s check of the potato patch turned up leaves beginning to appear over nearly every place a potato was planted. Now, the fun begins: keeping them alive!

Arizona has a massive “WTF” moment!

April 24, 2010

Does anyone know what the hell is going on in Arizona? I mean, is it something to do with the water, or has someone slipped a massive dose of LSD into everything edible down there or should I just be asking “WHAT the fuck is going on?????

My curiosity stems from some recent activities in the state legislature. They have recently passed two bills that have to have nearly any thinking person scratching their heads in confusion. The first, passed a little over a week ago, demands that if President Obama wants to be on the state primary ballot, he must show them his birth certificate. That the germ of this wakadoddle legislation is the so-called “birther movement” that claims Barak Obama was born someplace other than Hawaii. I like to think of these as the folks who, having lost the election and having no other thought of what they can do, have decided to find some excuse to not accept a president they don’t like. One Arizona legislator even admitted that this far-fringe movement was the inspiration behind the bill, but what it may have done for the citizens of Arizona (beyond proving to them that, yes, their legislature is far more creative about finding ways to waste its time than any other) escapes nearly everyone who’s heard of this law.

Their next act, though, nearly makes the ‘birther bill’ sound like the soul of reason. It is touted as a way for Arizona to “control” the flow of illegal immigrants through the state. What it does, among other things, is instruct the state police agencies to check anyone they suspect of being an illegal alien for proof of citizenship. The bills supporters and the state governor all claim that there will be no racial profiling, but the vast majority of those they seek to stop are coming from Mexico and Central America, so how will they formulate a strategy to implement the goal of the legislation without paying special attention to one racial group? Worse, how many legal citizens who happen to have Spanish forebears will find themselves being stopped by the police for no other reason than they “don’t look right”? Most of the support for this bill (and, I suspect, the other one mentioned above) comes from Republican legislators, many of whom tout it as being a way to cut taxes. How many hours of the day will they be paying police to do nothing but stop people who might be illegals? How many false arrest suits will the law generate? HOW MANY INNOCENT CITIZENS WILL BE HASSLED FOR NO OTHER REASON THAN A POLICE OFFICER THOUGHT THEY “LOOKED MEXICAN”?

I know, I know, this isn’t about doing something worthwhile, this is another attempt to posture for the camera, to get some ‘face time’ on the local news, but when the fuck are these idiots going to learn that actions have consequences? Will it take an American citizen who doesn’t feel like they have to “prove” their citizenship going to jail to get it through their thick skulls just how fucked up this legislation is? Or was my earlier question the right one to ask: Is there something in the water in Arizona that’s reduced it’s politicians to a band of jibbering idiots? I wish someone would find out, these guys scare me, and I don’t even have to live there! I wonder how safe the citizens of Arizona feel right now, knowing they might have to prove they’ve got a right to be there at their next traffic stop….or just because some cop doesn’t like the ‘look’ of them?

And to think, the Republicans are the party crying out against “Big Brother” government….

An update on the spuds

April 24, 2010

Well, it’s been over a week since the potatoes went in the ground. Up until today, we haven’t had a drop of rain, which I am hoping is the reason for there being no sign of anything coming out of the ground. With a small amount of luck, I’ll know by about this whether the digging and everything else was worth it.

Who speaks ill.

April 19, 2010

What is it that makes us who we are? Is it the things we would like to forget, or the things we will always be proud of? Is it our memories of things past, or is it our hopes for the future? What is it that makes us, each individual, who and what we are?

Part of me wants to know because tomorrow, April 19, marks a dark anniversary, the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. By any accounting, there really isn’t anything in Tim McVeigh’s past that would make you say “This person will be one of the biggest mass murders America will ever produce.”. Yet that is precisely what he became, a monster who willingly blew 168 innocent individuals to pieces. Some say he feared, even hated the federal government, and that he drew much of his “inspiration” from various right-wing writings and speakers. In the end, after listening to these people and seeing what he saw as the “wrongs” of federal law enforcement at places like the Branch Davidian compound, he decided that the time had come for him to “take action”. The action he decided to take was to commit mass murder on a scale unknown until that point in this nation.

One thing that stood out in the aftermath of that horrible day was the way that, nearly to a person, the people who had written or spoke out in ways that had helped McVeigh decide what he would do denied any responsibility for the act. They were, in their words, simply “exercising their free-speech rights”. One thing that every one of them failed to see, though, is that rights are coupled with responsibilities. You’re free to say anything you want, but at the same time, you are not free to use that right to defame a persons good name through liable. Nor are you free, as the classic example goes, to suddenly stand up in a crowded theater and scream “Fire!”. In both instances you are likely to find yourself in court facing anything from a civil suit to charges of causing the deaths of people because of the panic your words caused.

This come to another point. Today the folks in the Tea Party are using their “free speech” rights to the limit. The problem is, are they paying attention to what those words might be doing to those listening to them? They’ve most recently been busy trying to define themselves, not as a mob, but as a reasoning and sensible group angry with certain government policies. The problem is, that’s not how they come off, and it’s not hard to understand why. They demonize those who do not agree with them, often using rhetoric that goes well beyond incendiary, then deny they have any tie to people who shout insults at black legislators that would not have been out of place coming from the mouth of a Klan member in Selma in the 1960’s. The talk of the need to have a “new revolution” and then try to distance themselves from people who make threats of violence against people who they have accused of being the ones responsible for what they see as the “wrongs” done in Congress.

As they stand in front of their small crowds, railing against all that they do not like about the government, it might be a good idea if the Tea Party people keep April 19 in mind. How can they know who is listening as they denounce any and everyone who does not agree with them Or, for that matter, what is in their minds? As they call for “revolution”, do they know that nobody in their audience will take that as a literal call. Is there another McVeigh in that crowd, someone who is willing to “take the next step” and kill because of what they hear? Rights carry responsibilities, and maybe rather than trying to distance themselves from those who act out based on their words (or, worse yet, try to blame those acts on “outside agitators”), they should accept those responsibilities. When you preach hate, when you speak in anger, you pass that to those who hear you. Either accept that, or find a way to speak civilly. Or, for that matter,  just don’t speak at all if you can’t do so without spreading violence with your words.

Of spuds and hope.

April 14, 2010

There is a famous line about life giving you lemons and how you can make lemonade out of them. I’m not sure this qualifies, but it close.

A while back, I was feeling in the mood for some mashed potatoes. They’re a simple sort of “comfort food”, the kind of thing anyone who can boil water and peel spuds can make. Made wrong, they can be close to torture to eat. Made right…..ahhhhhh, now that is something to be savored. Anyway, the spuds were purchased, the plan was made, and everything was looking good.

As is usual, just when you think everything is going to plan, life throws the proverbial monkey wrench into the works. What happened in my case isn’t important, just that I didn’t get to make mashed potatoes when I’d planned to. So, no boiling, testing, mashing and feasting. So, no need to have the potatoes out waiting. So, the spuds go into storage. And they wait……….

Potatoes wait fairly well…..most times. Spring ain’t one of them. When you buy potatoes in the spring, odds are that they’re coming out of some agribusiness storage facility, because they were harvested sometime the year before. Like most plants that grow from tubers (think tulips), when the weather starts to warm, they want to grow. So it was that when I went back to my spuds….after a waiting period I will not specify (because I honestly can’t remember!), I found them well and truly covered in sprouts. Now normally, if a potato has a few small sprouts on it, you can just knock them off and you can go ahead and cook the spud with no problem. When they get to the point these potatoes where at, though, abandon all hope of eating them!

So I had something of a quandary. The potatoes where toast, so I wasn’t going to be eating them, so I’d have to buy some more. What do I do with these poor specimens, though? Two things about me: I love a good experiment, and I really love to grow vegetables. So, the perfect science experiment: plant the sprouting potatoes and see what happens! Last year I turned over a small plot of ground off the porch and grew some pole beans there. The vines yielded a decent harvest, though I had some problems with bugs late in the season. Pole beans, like any other legume, fix nitrogen into the soil, so one thing I knew for sure: that small plot would be primed for something else to follow those beans. The spot also gets good-to-decent sunshine levels, so there would be plenty of sunshine to help my new crop grow. Perfect! Time to plant!

A small plot isn’t a place for a tiller, it’s a place for something smaller, like a turning fork, a shovel, a hand trowel,………a good pocket knife. Yes, that’s right, a good, sharp knife. Planting those potatoes whole would have been both a waste and presented the very real chance that of multiple plants coming off each potato. So the plan was simple: break the soil up, turn it over a few times, slice the spuds into at least half, and dig a hole with the trowel to put them in.

Problem #1: Once I got looking at it, and remembering how far apart potatoes are supposed to be planted, I suddenly noticed that I was going to need more room…..lots more room! So the plot gets extended…..and stretched a bit more…..and I’m still short of space! Well, there is a small area in front of the plot that isn’t used (too much!), so it gets added to the plot too.

Problem #2: The lock blade I carry is plenty sharp, but it’s blade is only about four inches long….and I have to cut the spuds on an angle (so I can give the two halves at least one sprout)……and the potatoes weren’t small to begin with. The solution? Well, all I can say is that it is better if you can bury you mistakes than have to look at them! The spuds got but up, but neat had nothing to do with it.

So, everything’s planted, the soil’s smoothed and….now we wait. I’ve got some hay around (a winter project needed insulation) that will go around the plants once they get up a ways……if they get up a ways! So, here’s the deal: I’ll keep a log of what happens, any and all major event, be they good or (not unlikely) bad, get reported here. America has tons of good soil, and many poor people who need food. I don’t know if they could all be helped by access to a small plot of ground, but here’s my attempt to help myself in a small way. Know of a community garden, or a place where people just grow stuff like an empty lot? Give’em a hand, join them, and who knows, you might find you like it! At the least, you might be able to grow something for your own table, or for someone who needs it. Two good goals, those. Carry on!

The passing of an age.

April 12, 2010

Justice John Paul Stevens announced his resignation from the US Supreme Court on Friday. Stevens has been damned by conservatives for, in their mind at least, shifting his political outlook to the left. Other, more balanced observers suggest that it was not so much a case of Stevens moving to the left as the Supreme Court shifting to the right. Stevens, during his tenure, was a strong voice for the rights of the individual, which lead him to be part of the majority in Roe v. Wade, and to speak against the power of big money in political campaigns, as he did when he joined the (correct, in this writer’s opinion) minority in saying the federal government had a right to control campaign contributions. Justice Stevens had the reasoning power and persuasive ability to build the sort of coalition that could make a tough decision, and make it stand. Perhaps for that ability more than any other was he often the target of the venom of the modern conservative Right.

The announcement had been much rumored and was not a major surprise. Even before it was made official, the Obama administration began floating possible candidates to fill the vacancy. Also before the announcement, conservatives were sharpening their knives, preparing to attack any nominee. Now that it is official, many on the Right have already begun to make noises about making this, as they call it, “Obamacare 2”, no doubt referring to the campaign of dirty tricks and outright lies they used to try to derail passage of the recent health care reform legislation. Some have even suggested that they intend to stop President Obama from filling the position at all, hoping to use the resulting fight as yet-another campaign-stump-speech-talking-point to whip the faithful and the foolish into a frenzy.

The only sure thing is that whomever ends up being nominated to take John Paul Stevens slot will face, not the sort of reasoned discussion of their rulings and think he faced, but the sort of modern partisan meat grinder that now seems to be the norm. Civility, along with reason, have no place anymore in the polarized foolishness that is modern Washington politics. Farewell, Justice Stevens, you and the times you represented, when people thought about their decisions instead of letting their ideology rule all, will be missed by most of the citizens of America.

Tea Party Time

April 9, 2010

The biggest “big” city near where I live is Rockford, Illinois. A couple of days ago, Rockford was treated to a ‘tea party’, with all the trimmings.

Yes, the “Tea party” idiots rolled their “Tea Party Express” into town so they could have a chance to rail against the Evil Big Government. They drove into town (on roads funded with federal taxes and built at the behest of the federal government they love to hate) and brought their message to “the people” in a place called Davis Park (a park bought, made by and maintained by the taxpayers of the city of Rockford) of the evils of taxes and “big government”. They vented their anger over the “unconstitutional” health care reform law (one of their main speakers looking well past the age where they are probably taking full advantage of both Social Security and Medicare) and to advocate for the conservative ideals of smaller government and less “burdensome” regulation on American industry (this was the day before the mine explosion in West Virginia, now being blamed on a mine owner who loved to skirt federal safety regulations). They waved their flags and their usual signs denouncing the “socialist” and “communist” government (I wonder if any of them would like to try to stage a similar protest in, say, North Korea or China to see how a real communist/socialist government reacts to criticism?).

Hypocrisy in politics is nothing new, in fact, it’s one of the most common threads of every strain of political thinking. What I find so amazing in the case of the tea party types is the fact that they seem to be completely and totally oblivious to the level of hypocrisy their “movement” embraces. Hell, they seem to revel in it! I guess it goes hand-in-hand with their posturing of being the Next Big Thing in politics. Given that the Rockford event was advertised about well in advance, you’d think a town of over a hundred thousand would turn out a huge crowd for a movement styling itself as “grass-roots democracy”. On a dry and fairly warm day, the Tea Party Express drew around 700 people, many of whom admitted they’d come, not just from out of town, but from out of the state. A fundamental truth of the world is that, the smaller you are, the bigger you try to portray yourself. Not unlike the lizard from Australia that puffs out its frill and dashes toward a predator trying to intimidate it, the Tea Party make itself appear impressive by making lots of noise and playing the part of The Big Movement. It only is if people let it be. It doesn’t deserve to be and, hopefully, will go the way of every other “angry average American” movement that has come down the pike before it. Here’s hoping it soon joins the Know Nothings and America First movements on the garbage heap of history.

Do these people REALLY believe what they’re saying?

April 3, 2010

One of the biggest myths (okay, okay, one of the biggest LIES) being fobbed of by the Right in our modern political discussion is the “fact” that America is, as they put it, a “Right-of-center” nation.

How this horseshit ever even gained credence is beyond me. Probably one of THE biggest points against this idea has to be the last presidential election. Barak Obama is painted as everything from a left-leaning member of a left-of-center party to an out-and-out Communist……and he not only wins, he wins EASILY! No doubt some on the Right will suggest that Obama was the beneficiary of people’s desire to be part of a “historical first”: the election of the first non-white to the highest office of the nation. But does that really answer everything that happened in 2008? No, because not only does Obama win, he carries in a health majority for his party. This is difficult, if not impossible, to explain if you honestly buy the idea of ‘America: Home of the Right’.

The truth of the matter is a lot simpler: America is the home of the “What’s in it for me?” voter. The noise in politics is made up of the outer edge of the political spectrum, while the vast majority resides in the center, watching that outer edge. They’re waiting to see which side is going to offer them the best deal, the next Big Idea, and when things go wrong, the best explanation for What Went Wrong and How It Can Be Fixed. For a while, the Right was making headway in painting the discussion over health care reform as a struggle between “individual freedom” versus “overbearing Big Government”, that was interested in “taking away” what they define as “the best health care system in the world”. They made the case that they were the ones who would offer that vast center the better deal by keeping things the way they were. Mind you, most of those in the center are smart enough to know that “the way things are now” equals “pretty fucked up”, but they were hearing how change would make things worse and that was enough.

The problem for the Right is that the world didn’t end with the passage of the health care reform legislation. Hospitals didn’t close. Doctors didn’t run to other occupations. Drug companies didn’t start shuttering their facilities. In short, hey, things aren’t any worse than they were! That’s when things started going the wrong way for the Right. When “Armageddon” didn’t happen, when things kept perking along like they always had, and worse, there was a chance that quite a few in that center might benefit, the polls started shifting. Even at the height of the shouting matches, the anti-health care reform folks could claim a slight majority, but nowadays that’s gone. Things have already shifted back to a near-even split and the people in favor of changing things have only had a couple of weeks to start showing what the center might gain from reform. With large portions of the health care reform legislation due to kick in before the end of the year, it seems unlikely that the screaming heads of the Right are going to find their audiences growing.

No, far more likely is what is happening in the Senate race to fill Barak Obama’s former Senate seat in Illinois. US Representative Mark Kirk, a member of that near-extinct species, the moderate Republican, started out stampeding to the Right. He was one of the ‘loud and long’ crowd, vowing that he’d make it one if his top missions to repeal the bill. Then he started hearing from the people of Illinois. They not only didn’t fear the bill, they liked it! Not too long after that there was a sudden shift in the wind and Rep. Kirk became far less strident in his support for the “kill the bill” crowd. I will venture a prediction that, despite the pledges they’re now making, a lot of the most vocal legislative protesters against health care reform are going to get quiet too…..or they just might find out what unemployment feels like. Just remember, the center wants the better deal, and the voice that protests the loudest against that is the one most likely to draw their ire.

Just a warning, folks on the Right.

Introductions: The backstory

April 2, 2010

It occurs to me that I should do a bit of writing to explain this blog.

Over two years ago I ended a thirty year stint of employment the way many another person has: the company I worked for decided that the facility I was working at was “not making enough money” and that they were going to “right-size” their corporate structure by closing us down. How much truth there was in anything they told us is open to debate, though from my own knowledge, I would say it was bollux, as my Irish and English friends might put it. In the aftermath I had a ton of free time on my hands (you can only do so much job searching in a day) and someone suggested that taking up my other former occupation, writing, might be a good idea. Out of that germ came my first blog, “Ruminations on an average life (destroyed)”. When I started it I had no experience at all with blogging and no knowledge of which site might be a good one or not. So, Goggle to the rescue! After a bit of playing around with the results of that initial search, I came up on a site called WordPress. The software looked good as far as writing tools and options went, and the requirements seemed good, so I set things up and was off to the races.

Google, in all it’s wisdom, failed to mention one thing: WordPress both hosts blogs, and also supplies blog site hosting software! I found this out, much to my chagrin, when I went to reply to a comment about a post I’d made. When I used the link I normally used to log in, I got the dreaded “Page not found” message. Even the links in the last notice I got were dead, which puzzled me very deeply. In the end I went to the source, as it were, and found out that the site I had been using was just a site using WordPress software, not the actual site itself, and whomever had been running the site my blog had been on had either run out of funds, or run out of caring, and decided to pull the plug on myself and everyone else hosted there.

So, no more blog; two years, MOL, of writing down the drain. I gave serious thought to dropping the whole idea of writing a blog but in the end a couple of people talked me into carrying on. Some of them encouraged me to simply repost everything I’d written but, as most of it dealt with things that have become dated by the passage of time, it just didn’t make sense to do that. So instead I thought I’d post the last thing I’d posted to the old blog, thus my first entry here.

So, what am I? I’m a fairly liberal person, with a broad streak of independence in my make-up. I feel that modern conservatives are frauds who disgrace the people who once carried that banner. I think the teabag/teaparty movement is somewhere between a joke and the beginning of a new American Nazi party (that outlook has precedence in the fact that Hitler was regarded as a joke in the beginning, and I will allow the “party-ers” to be a laughing stock….until they prove themselves to be a menace). I think Rush Limbaugh is one of the best recruiting tools liberal could ever have (after all, every time that loudmouth lies and/or ‘weasels’ on what he said, who could possibly not be against him?). I hope Sarah Palin wins the Republican presidential nomination in 2012…..so Barak Obama can cruise to a second term without breaking a sweat. I hope….well, hell, just watch this space and I’ll let you know as I go along. For now, for all the pompous Republican/conservative gasbags, hell has come to lunch.