Friday, February 29, 2008

He makes me laugh

From an interview between GW and Today Show's Ann Curry:

    ANN CURRY: Some Americans believe that they feel they’re carrying the burden because of this economy.


    ANN CURRY: The economy, they say, is suffering because of this war.

    PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I don’t agree with that.

    ANN CURRY: You don’t agree with that? It has nothing to do with the economy, the war, the spending on the war?

    PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I don’t think so. I think, actually, the spending on the war might help with jobs.

    ANN CURRY: Oh, yeah?

    PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah, because we’re buying equipment, and people are working. I think this economy is down because we built too many houses.

That is how the story began on today's Democracy Now! about the "Three Trillion Dollar War," in which two entities are raking in these riches shelled out (no pun intended) by we, the tax payers: Oil companies -- and their investors -- and defense contractors.

JUAN GONZALEZ: We’re going to get into quite a few of those, but I’d like to ask you about the oil, in particular, because obviously many critics initially, when the war began, criticized it as a war to dominate Iraq’s oil. But as you point out, the price of oil has skyrocketed from about $25 a barrel to $100 a barrel since the war began. And what portion of that rise—you also try to attribute to the actual Iraq war, right?

Well, we were very conservative in our book. When we say $3 trillion, that’s really an underestimate. We attributed, in our book, only $5 to $10 to the war itself. But if you look back, in 2003, futures markets, which take into account increases in demand, increases in supply—they knew that China was going to have increased demand, but they thought there would be increases in supply from the Middle East—they thought the price would remain at $25 for the next ten years or more. What changed that equation was the Iraq war. They couldn’t elicit the increase of supply in the Middle East because of the turmoil that we brought there. So we think, actually, the true numbers, not the $5 or $10 that we used, because we didn’t want to get in a quibble, but really a much larger fraction of the difference between $25 that it was at the time in 2003 and the $100 we face today.

And there's this from yesterday's press conference:

"Wait, what did you just say? You're predicting $4-a-gallon gasoline?" Bush responded to a reporter who said some analysts expect prices to soon climb that high. "That's interesting. I hadn't heard that. . . . I know it's high now."

Spoken like a very happy investor . . . You can just about hear the glee in voice.

In the same conference, talking about immunity for telecom companies participation in illegal wiretapping of American's phone calls, he insisted that protecting American's civil rights are foremost in the minds of people listening to our phone conversations:

I wouldn't put it that way, if I were you, in public. Well, you've been long been long enough to -- anyway, yes, I -- look, there's -- people who analyze the program fully understand that America's civil liberties are well protected. There is a constant check to make sure that our civil liberties of our citizens aren't -- you know, are treated with respect. And that's what I want, and that's what most -- all Americans want.

He went on explain why telecoms need protection and American people don't:

Now let me talk about the phone companies. You cannot expect phone companies to participate if they feel like they're going to be sued. I mean, it is -- these people are responsible for shareholders; they're private companies. The government said to those who have alleged to have helped us that it is in our national interests and it's legal. It's in our national interests because we want to know who's calling who from overseas into America. We need to know in order to protect the people.

But you really should watch it for yourself.

And finally, he and his posse continue to kick sand over their tracks of their politically-motivated conspiracy to influence the justice department by seating right-leaning US Attorneys, a position that is supposed to be nonpartisan. Pelosi finally got some grit and "asked the Justice Department on Thursday to open a grand jury investigation into whether President Bush's chief of staff and former counsel should be prosecuted for contempt of Congress," only to have the White House call the request "truly contemptible."

The Justice Department said it had received Pelosi's request and anticipated providing further guidance after Mukasey's review. It noted "long-standing department precedent" in such cases against letting a U.S. attorney refer a congressional contempt citation to a grand jury or prosecute an executive branch. The top House Republican called it "a partisan political stunt" and "a complete waste of time," according to a spokesman.

"There is no authority by which persons may wholly ignore a subpoena and fail to appear as directed because a president unilaterally instructs them to do so," Pelosi wrote Mukasey. She noted that Congress subpoenaed Miers to appear before the House Judiciary Committee, which is investigating the firings.

Leap Day 2008

Mark Seeley had this to say about this year's February weather:

February mean temperatures ranged from 5 to 8 degrees F colder than normal around the state. Extremes for the month were -40 degrees F at International Falls and Embarrass on the 11th and a high of 52 degrees F at Canby on the 24th. Minnesota reported the coldest temperature in the 48 contiguous states 9 times during the month, more than any other state. It was the coldest February since that of 2001. Most observers also reported a drier than normal month, with little snow. There were some exceptions as Worthington, La Crescent, Winona, and Caledonia reported above normal precipitation. Caledonia was also slightly above normal on monthly snowfall with 9.4 inches (normal is 9.3"), while Isle reported 7.9 inches of snowfall which corresponds to their average value for February. Though precipitation was lacking most places some strong low pressure systems crossed the state during the month, bringing wind gusts of 40 mph or greater to western Minnesota counties on four different dates. These all produced dangerous wind chill conditions. Thanks to a colder than normal December and February, the winter season (Dec '07 through Feb '08) will also be noted as the coldest statewide since that of 2000-2001.

So there you have it, from the weather guy.

I couldn't find any good or interesting Leap Year fun facts or trivia, so that's all you get.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

S-s-s-s-o-o-o-o c-c-cold!

It's been another day of sub-zero weather - I think I heard them say the fifth day so far this month. And since we had handfuls in each of December and January also, I'm thinking it's some kind of record for the coldest winter in while.

When I moved here, 22 years ago, it snowed on Thanksgiving weekend. I was enchanted with the way the big Victorians in my neighborhood looked surrounded with their quiet, snowy quilt, golden light glowing beyond frosted windows. The squeak under foot, the cleanliness of the landscape. I got ice skates and drew wiggly lines on a frozen lake, holding hands with friends or beaux. I painted water colors of the black silhouettes of oaks against a twilit horizon. I learned to knit.

The snow berms got so tall, cars put ribbons on their antennae so they would be seen by other cars from around a corner. We got snowed in on a couple nights, and people didn't drive, they stayed on my floor until the roads got plowed.

I loved the snow but hated the cold. I whined and shivered like a cowering dog. I hadn't learned to dress for the weather. I was stubborn and vain and dressed more for attraction than for health maintenance. The first time I saw the Ice Palace I cried - not for its beauty, but because my feet were frozen.

It doesn't snow like those first winters anymore. But we have had good snow this season, and bone-penetrating cold. But now I just try to ignore it all, try not to take it personally. I dress in sensible down that covers my butt, with the hood securely snapped around my chin, and boots that keep my feet warm to some sub-zero temperature that I hope never to have to endure for longer than 10 minutes. I am not as enchanted with the scenery, but I still appreciate a cleansing snow to spruce up the landscape. I haven't been ice skating in years.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Friday, February 08, 2008

Obstacles and catalysts

I started reading "Uncle Tom's Cabin" last night for my current English Honors class (bragging, just a little). I don't remember ever having read it before, but the story is very familiar. Maybe because I've read so many stories of slavery and suffering. About the time I got through the second chapter, where Eliza's husband, George, gets taken out of a factory where he was respected and treated with some compassion and put back to drudgery and misery, I started watching the second series in Henry Louis Gates, Jr's "African-American Lives 2." The first series aired last year about this time, and traced certain prominent black American's DNA back to Africa. In the current series he traces the family trees of some other prominent black American's back as far into our country's history.

Chris Rock's great-great-grandfather was born into slavery, fought in the civil war, became a state Senator during the reconstruction, was tossed out and left with nothing the Republicans sold the blacks out in favor of control of the White House, but eventually became landed and bequeathed considerable acreage to his offspring. Don Cheadle's great-great-grandparents were owned by Indians in Oklahoma, before it became a state. After emancipation, and after another decade and a half of having neither a country nor a livelihood, they were each given 40 acres and formed an all black town.

As each of the featured personalities are given these pieces of history, they visibly go through a range of emotions, from disbelief to pride to resentment to grief. Chris Rock said something like, "If I had known that my great-great-grandfather had achieved so much, I wouldn't have just assumed I wouldn't ever achieve anything." As they are learning these details of their family history, how they not only survived but were greatly successful, I, too am choked up and wiping away tears. My tears come from compassion, self-loathing and self-pity. I'm sorry for the prejudiced attitudes I sometimes have to chase out of my head; I'm at a loss for the lack of empathy between people. How can a person claim to believe in god -- because American was founded on Christian ideals -- and justify such treatment of another being, human or animal?

What is it that makes some people excel and accomplish great things despite unfathomable adversity? Black Americans today don't have nearly the obstacles that their forefathers did, and yet disparity exists at levels and across so many areas of life that people who study such things are at a loss to explain. And why, then, is someone like me not more successful, if I have nothing like that excuse? No one can argue that racism isn't alive and well, but that only explains part of the problem.

The level of a person's ambition varies so much from person to person. Some people have it, and adversity feeds it. Others, myself included, suffer a dearth. One of the reasons I continue to take classes and pursue degrees is to keep goals and deadlines for accomplishment in front of me,
to keep me from being a total bum, to divert my otherwise lazy instincts away from sloth, to keep the self-loathing at bay.

I don't have the type of success I expected I would, back when I was learning to express my self-awareness and forming my world view in my early-mid 20s. And it is a matter of definition, I know. A friend of mine has been living in a Buddhist monastery in Burma for the last 5 years or so, following a path of love and asceticism. I will ask him what his motivation is. Does he believe his life is serving a purpose, is he helping the world? Or is that a matter of interpretation? Am I too attached to the worldly idea of good works? And what will it matter anyway when I go off to the next dimension?

Is this my mid-life crises?

Friday, February 01, 2008

First Edwards, now Santana. Oh, the humanity!

At the end of the day today Johan's trade to the Mets may be sealed. My heart is breaking.

I was an unapologetic spectator sports reviler for most of my life, eschewing parties (although I'm a devout partygirl) that centered on sports events, drawing the mistrust (and pity) of many of my friends. I didn't appreciate the athleticism and skill involved, but mostly I was appalled at the salaries and oppose any public money for teams via stadiums and the like. It wasn't until the summer of 2003, with nothing much on the tube on Sundays but baseball, that I discovered the joys of the great American pastime. It was the summer we moved to the Sugar Shack and I had a variety of house projects in progress. Our friend Dennis would come over on Friday eve to help and stay until Sunday, and we would drink and paint (or wallpaper, or patch walls, or break ground for a garden, you know the drill) and stay up late talking politics (arguing, to most people's ears, although we agree on everything but the fine points), and on Sunday he and Pat would want to watch the game . At first I acquiesced but with the sound turned down so I could listen to the Latin music show, Brisas Latinas, and dance while I continued whatever project was in the works that day. As the summer wore on, I got less able to resist the magnetism of the tube, and I started watching a little here and there with the sound on, while Dennis explained the pitching game. The more I watched, the more I wanted to watch.

Baseball fans will remember that was the year the Marlins, lead by young phenom Josh Beckett on the mound, pitched a nine-inning shut-out game to beat the Yankees in the World Series. I was jumping on the couch, the three of us were cheering, the exhilaration lasting the rest of the week (I thought - and still do - that Beckett was too doughy, but hey, maybe that extra weight provides leverage). I couldn't wait for the next season, which happened to be the year Boston beat the Yankees in their division championship (remember those extra inning nail-biters, especially that one that went, like, 14 innings or something?!), then went on to win the World Series for the first time in nearly100 years, breaking the curse of the Bambino. The season before last, my hometown team took the American League Central Division title , another occasion of elation that is burned into my cranial and emotional memory.

All those joyous events have made a die-hard fan of me, and my friends who know the game are impressed with my knowledge. I can talk baseball.

But this is the first year I've experienced the darker side, the heartbreak of baseball.

First to go was Torii Hunter, the prettiest smile in baseball. A couple of other less pivotal players were traded, but they were on my team so my heart clenched up a little. But now the Johan Santana Show is being traded to the Mets! Oh the humanity! If the talking heads are to be believed, at the least one of the heads we have talking here in the TC, Johan wanted to go. But I don't think I'm the Lone Ranger when I lament the lousy trade they made for the best pitcher in baseball. There's all kinds of talk from baseball watchers around the country.

Here's how Ken Davidoff, New York Newsday writer, started his blog earlier this week:

In this crazy world of New York baseball, it just might turn out that, when the Mets complete their miraculous acquisition of Johan Santana, they should thank the Steinbrenner boys most of all.

and here's how he ended:

Great work by the Mets, yet they couldn't have done it without some help from the Yankees, and some incompetence by the Twins.

From another perspective, Chop Chick in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes:

Here are the facts regarding my personal position on Santana:

• I think Santana is great.

• Nobody can play like Santana.

• Santana is a great addition to any lineup.

• If you play with Santana, you’re going to bring in fans by the turnip truckload.

• Santana deserves as much $$$ as he wants to play in a big city like New York.

• Atlanta is just jealous because WE didn’t get Santana to come here.

• In 2003, Santana’s album “Abraxas” was ranked number 205 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time and I wholeheartedly agree with that assessment because it’s one of my favorites.

So you see, there’s no reason whatsoever to go off on a “CHOP CHICK HATES SANTANA” write-in crusade. Because I’ve personally blown out a number of speakers cranking up many of his fine guitar solos and…

Oh… Wait.

JOHAN Santana? A possible blockbuster Twins-Mets deal? THAT’S what she meant?

How depressing. I’ll never listen to “Abraxas” quite the same way again now.

I'm just glad I got to see him pitch that one game with a National League team (maybe it was even the Mets!) when he had to take at bats and whacked a double and eventually scored a run, all with a big smile on his face. Or when he pitched 17 strike-outs in a row, to the frenzied glee of the crowd. I'm just glad I bought a t-shirt with his name and number on it, while he was still a Minnesota Twin.