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Archives for U.S. Politics

Cramer vs. Blamer

Mar
18
2009

I would be underestimating to say 50 percent of what is being passed off as “news coverage” on television is actually mere speculation and interpretation. Most of us accept this as the status quo and take on the responsibility of separating the wheat from the opinionated chaff, particularly when it comes to shows geared around a specific personality and dealing with mercurial subject matter.
Take CNBC’s Mad Money and stock prognosticator Jim Cramer, who came under fire by The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart for misleading the public not only about the status of Wall Street Titans like Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch, but also the economy in general. Last week Stewart went head to head with Cramer – well, it was more like heads to head, once you count the boisterous, Stewart-idolizing audience.
How Stewart is still able to get anyone who disagrees with him to appear on his show is beyond me. It’s hardly a fair fight, with his minions cheering down any rebuttals with sheer noise.
The Cramer interview went much the same way as most of Stewart’s antagonistic discussions. Rather than a light-hearted exchange over their perceived (read, “spun”) feud, Stewart took Cramer to task over everything from his inability to detect when CEOs were lying to Mad Money’s hyperactive format. This was not comedy; it was a news interview.
To his credit, Cramer never alluded to the disclaimer that runs after every installment of Mad Money stating that the show is for entertainment purposes only. This would not be so ironic were it not for the fact that Stewart, when coming up against his own critics, has consistently hidden behind the excuse that he is not, in fact a journalist – he is a comedian, he says, and his show is not a news show, it’s strictly entertainment (no such disclaimer appears in his credits). This exempts his sloppy journalism from being judged harshly.
The March 12 show was not entertainment, so much as a cringe-fest every time Cramer tried to make nice with Stewart and his screaming worshippers. He was badly outnumbered and ill-prepared for such an intense interview.
Stewart’s basic gripe is that the “financial experts” at CNBC and elsewhere – which, we were told, Cramer was representing – were unable to predict the current financial situation and are, at this point, unable to pinpoint what caused it.
Cramer could have pointed out that, if Stewart disagreed with his treatment of financial news, he was welcome to change the channel. It’s not Cramer’s or CNBC’s job to oversee Wall Street. It is their job, basically, to make money for its parent company General Electric. They do that by some reporting and also by acting as financial pundits.
Is there anyone who believes any pundit – financial or political – is right all the time?
Perhaps Stewart has CNBC confused with the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), who really had the job of overseeing wacky Wall Street hijinks. It was the SEC that ignored Harry Markopolas for eight years when he tried to alert authorities that former NASDAQ chairman Bernie Madoff was running a $50 billion ponzi scheme.
How about going after the CEOs of all the major builders who raped the housing market then buried themselves beneath layers of subsidiaries when it came time to pay the thousands of subcontractors.
There is any number of people to hold accountable. While we’re at it, we need to berate every single adult in the country for our focus on making money we haven’t worked for so we can retire even before sprouting a single gray hair. Or how about our national obsession with more house than we can fill, more food than we can eat, more cars than we can drive and more clothes than we can wear; and, better yet, how about going after the advertisers that sell us on all that stuff and the television shows that convince us we deserve it?
How about blaming our never-ending quest to get something for nothing – or more something for nothing? Bernie Madoff couldn’t have done what he did without investors who wanted to make more money than they could with an FDIC-secured investment or even with a conventional investment firm.
Cramer is no better or no worse than any other financial “expert.” Unfortunately, he cowered and indulged Stewart’s journalist aspirations (that he claims he doesn’t have); in short, he caved.
So it’s damage control at Mad Money, where this week the focus has been on restoring Cramer’s credibility.
Meanwhile, next week I look for Stewart to take The Weather Channel to task for its unreliable weather predictions.

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 9:22 AM | Permalink

Advice from the Oracle of Omaha

Mar
11
2009

When the richest man in the world speaks, one would hope someone in our nation’s capital would listen. But it looks like even when Warren Buffett offers free advice, politicians can’t let go of their own precious agendas.

President Barack Obama and every one Congress may want to rethink their hardheadedness about what is or is not included in the economic stimulus package. Buffett’s candor reaches beyond partisanship and politics and makes perfect sense to Americans making fear-based financial decisions.

I know I’m going to risk this turning into my own version of Carol Burnett’s “I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles;” but I have to fess up to having a special admiration for Mr. Buffett. I don’t mean in the romantic sense or even the faux-romantic after-his-money sense.

At 12 years old Heir 1 chose Buffett’s biography for a book report, thinking Dirtman and I didn’t know the man and wouldn’t be able to tell whether or not he’d actually read the book. He was forced to do so once he found out we did indeed know of Warren Buffett. He ended up enjoying the biography and becoming interested in current events in general.

So I connect Buffett with my son’s intellectual coming-of-age. And how can you dislike a really rich guy who complains he doesn’t pay enough taxes while recognizing we poor slobs pay too much?

We watched this fall as so many CEOs of corporations receiving government bailouts justified the distribution of exorbitant bonuses to the very upper management that had run business into a ditch. Meanwhile as CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett owned up to his disastrous decision to buy ConocoPhillips and apologized to shareholders in his annual letter.

The Oracle of Omaha, as he is known, appeared Monday morning on CNBC’s Squawkbox and showed he had a better handle on the pulse of this country than Washington. Abandoning the usual metaphor of the Great Depression, he compared the economic downturn to the dawn of World War II, calling September’s financial institution meltdown “an economic Pearl Harbor,” referring to the December 7, 1941, Japanese surprise attack on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, that marked our entrance into World War II.

“When you have a Pearl Harbor, you have to know the nation is going to be united Dec. 8,” he said. “Congressmen didn’t go adding 8,000 earmarks on the Declaration of War in 1941.”

But it didn’t take long for the Obama administration to defend their broad interpretation of what constitutes “economic stimulation.” When asked to comment on Buffett’s advice, press secretary Robert Gibbs insisted that all elements of the plan were absolutely vital to preventing economic collapse, which I assume is the goal of this emergency stimulus plan. And, again, I’m assuming this is an emergency plan since Congress was expected to digest all 1,071-pages overnight.

In keeping with the use of metaphors, Gibb compared it to a house on fire and whether you try to put out the fire in the whole house, or go one room at a time “while the rest of the house burns to ashes.”

Actually, his comparison is just a little off mark. The Obama plan calls for some of the firemen to be pulled away from the burning house so that they can apply weatherproof paint to the barn out back. All would agree that the barn needs weatherproofing. But first the fire needs to be extinguished so nothing burns to ashes.

Now let’s make something very clear: I am very much for spending money on education. I truly believe we need to fund research and implication of greener forms of energy. And nobody knows more than me the need for a healthcare plan.

Those are all necessary things. But they have nothing to do with pulling us from the brink of disaster, not to mention the state funding with earmarks so vague as to be downright porcine serving to further enrage critics.

“The minority has an obligation to support (the economic stimulus plan),” Buffett said Monday. “And there is an obligation by the majority to behave in a way that doesn’t go inflaming the minority.”

Is it possible? It’s happened before – after Pearl Harbor and, in the younger generations’ memory – after the 9/11 attacks. At least Buffett recognizes such events as equal to the level of urgency and fear Americans feel.

To ignore the advice of someone of Warren Buffett’s knowledge and accomplishment is ignorant; to do it in the name of politics is obscene.

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 8:29 AM | Permalink

Forgiving Foreclosures

Feb
25
2009

President Barack Obama’s pseudo-State of the Union address Tuesday tried and failed to placate taxpayers angry their funds are being used to rescue those they consider irresponsible, according to an Associated Press story.

Certainly such sentiment – or lack thereof – has been an underlying current since the economy tanked and government started looking around for places to throw money. Oh, we were a little miffed that top executives still received their million-dollar bonuses that went towards the purchase of new executive jets or for weekend junkets to the Super Bowl or Las Vegas – all examples of how siphoning bailout money was used, since lawmakers stupidly forgot to attach any legal caveats to the jackpot.

Financial experts claim such misuse of funds wouldn’t affect how the bailout money helps the economy and, after our initial disgust, we accepted that it’s all part of dealing with a bureaucracy. But for some reason, the fact that Wall Street and Detroit executives benefited from a bailout doesn’t bother taxpayers as much as the fact that their neighbor might get some help with their mortgage.

Here in the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia local industry was hit hard, as is probably the case throughout the country. While the auto industry may have benefited from federal funds, those factories churning out products incendiary to the industry did not. While the large housing corporations employing thousands of workers went whining to Washington for help, they continued to pay their top-heavy executive pool. Meanwhile, they laid off workers and abandoned contractual agreements with local construction contractors, hiding behind fleets of lawyers that small business owners couldn’t hope to combat. Layoffs caused by the housing crisis continue at plants producing cabinetry, decking and furniture.

Naturally, the more people that are unemployed, the less money they spend and local businesses are now feeling the pinch. If workers have not been laid off, their hours have been drastically reduced.

President Obama has assured the nation that only the worthy will receive federal aid – the process which he has yet to reveal. But apparently taxpayers aren’t buying it, painting foreclosure victims as lazy parasites, leeching stability from the hardworking responsible people. They don’t want “their tax money” going to subsidize the bad judgment of what they see as a bunch of spoiled brats.

While we have a few abandoned McMansions around here, these are not the bulk of the houses abandoned by foreclosure. Lying empty are modest three-bedroom ranches, starter homes and old farmhouses whose former owners had every reason to believe the industries that supported his or her parents would also sustain them.

Perhaps they did make a credit commitment that would fall apart in the event of prolonged unemployment. Perhaps they should have prepared for the worst. But perhaps they did. And things just didn’t go their way.

This smugness in the face of other’s adversity is an ugly side of the American persona and usually the result of some judicious editing of the individual’s past; because very few people have achieved their level of comfort without the help of someone else.

There should be a rule that you can’t begrudge your neighbor some help with his mortgage if:

• You can work because your parent babysits your kids for free;
• You received or inherited your home or land from a family member;
• You lived in your parents’ basement rent-free while stashing away cash for a down-payment on a home;
• You inherited your back-up funds from a rich relative who kicked off before you got a chance to tick him off;
• Your parents (or anyone else) gave you your down-payment for your home;
• You are in a stable, well-paying job because your parents or the government paid for your college education;
• You have one of those civil service jobs you’ve been at so long that, even though your function was outsourced years ago, you’ve built up so much annual leave you’re never around long enough for anyone to remember to fire you;
• You are receiving federal grant money to conduct a study to write a paper that will be read by approximately – no one.
• You just popped out eight kids and are living off a dubious disability claim in your mother’s tiny house in a state that can’t afford to issue its citizens’ tax refunds.

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 5:12 PM | Permalink

Inauguration Day Zen

Jan
21
2009

The Presidential Inauguration has dominated the living room television around here for over a week now. Dirtman has been firmly ensconced in front of MSNBC, taking breaks to – for some reason – check the internet.

Before dawn the morning of the inauguration, he was riveted in front of the television where a split screen showed the rear end of an idling car and the curb of an empty street while a commentator chattered on and on about an itinerary that wouldn’t begin for another few hours.

I would have complained that, Historic Event or not, the bills still have to be paid; but any future client of ours seems to be focused on the ceremony also. The only ones making money this week are area hotels and restaurants . . . and Oprah Winfrey, who has moved her show to the nation’s capital for a few days. Because, you know, there isn’t enough chaos going on in Washington, D.C., this week.

I am pleased with the outcome of the election. And I do recognize the significance of this country having elected President Obama. I am happy for him, happy for his family and happy for our country. He seems to be a man of intelligence and integrity. President Obama delivered an articulate inaugural speech that, while in content matched just about every inaugural speech I’ve heard, promises to provide a momentous boost to the nation merely because he was the one who delivered it.

That being said, I have laundry to do.

I’ll join the maniacal celebration when just a fraction of all the speculation and promise comes to fruition. But my enthusiasm at this moment falls short of canonization, unlike the bulk of the media covering the ceremonies. I thought MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann was going to pass out from gushing adoration – using, of course, only the most pompous and pretentious words in the dictionary.

I told Dirtman I’d sit and watch the ceremonies with him if he could make Olbermann shut up. So we watched the balance of the Inauguration on C-SPAN, blessedly devoid of pundit commentary.

I can’t help but be amused by all the anti-establishment celebrities at Sunday’s concert being forced into sedate clothing and language. I mean, did I really see Jack Black and Kal Penn (as in the stoner movie Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle) “orating” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial? What, were Cheech and Chong busy?

I did finally figure out why Dirtman was checking the internet so religiously. His second favorite website – next to DCRTV – is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather website. Apparently he could not access the “weather warnings” page for Washington, D.C. He was sure this was a conspiracy.

“A Bush conspiracy or an Obama conspiracy?” I asked.

“Not sure yet,” he answered, staring intently at the screen.

“Or maybe it’s neither,” I suggested. “Maybe NOAA has been planning an Inauguration Day coup d’ etat all this time.”

“That is just ridiculous,” he scoffed.

The Inaugural festivities have affected even our placid existence all the way over here in the Shenandoah Valley – full hour form the Washington suburbs and that’s if you drive fast. Hotels here are booked solid. This weekend out-of-state cars wandered haplessly over country roads, observing our “rusticity” and “provinciality”, taking outdated directions from their GPS units and winding up on dead end roads.

Technology was the first thing to suffer from the invasion; even the “emergency temporary” cell phone towers haven’t helped the overload. I consider myself lucky if I can check my e-mail once a day. Maybe Dirtman is right. It is a conspiracy – to prevent me from helping that poor man from Nigeria that keeps contacting me.

To further Dirtman’s conviction, HBO bought the exclusive rights to Sunday’s Lincoln Memorial concert. This meant only people with cable, a satellite dish or the internet could view the concert. So, basically, the only people in the valley who couldn’t access the concert were Dirtman’s parents.

I reminded him that I don’t see his parents getting too upset about missing will i. am or Bono – nor was I particularly anxious to have to explain those two names to them.

And to top it all off, the area experienced the first snow fall of the winter just in time for the ceremony.

None of this, of course, affected the pomp and pageantry that went on long into the night.

As for me: Before inauguration – do laundry, shovel snow; after inauguration – do laundry, shovel snow.

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 2:25 PM | Permalink

The Woofington Post

Nov
12
2008

Not since JFK’s Camelot has a happy presidential issue been as newsworthy as the choice of what puppy the Obamas are going to choose to assuage their guilt over not spending enough time with their kids during the past endless campaign.
The reasons people decide to own a dog are just slightly less neurotic than their reasons for having children. But we’ll leave that little age-old dilemma to Malia and Natasha’s future therapists. I’ll stick with what I know, which is dogs.
The Obamas’ decision to acquire a dog was as inevitable as the Washington Nationals languishing in last place. With few exceptions, every administration has had some sort of canine affiliation, whether notable for its brevity – as in the case of the Grits the dog being kicked out of the Jimmy Carter White House by Amy Carter’s cat; or its popularity – as in Franklin D. Roosevelts’s Scottish Terrier Fala, who received so much mail he required his own press secretary.
The Clintons arrived at the White House with only Socks the cat, but soon acquired Buddy, the chocolate Labrador Retriever, probably as the result of a focus group’s determination that the public overwhelmingly approved of dog ownership by a U.S. president.
So the promise of a puppy in the White House was a pretty safe one for the Obamas to make to their daughters. Would that Michelle Obama had put as much thought into election evening couture.
The breed choice, however, is proving to be more controversial than any ACORN connection ever was. A public choice of a breed of dog is a minefield of political correctness and diplomacy. The Obamas are about to learn their first lesson about dog people: we are opinionated, easily offended and rabid in our defense of what we believe. One go-round with dog people and Barack Obama will be more than ready to take on Kim Jong-II, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Bill O’Reilly.
Just about every dog organization has chimed in on this opportunity to publicize their cause, breed or agenda, from the American Kennel Club to its nemesis, the PETA-funded Humane Society of the United States. Naturally, the politically correct thing to do would be to choose a pound puppy, an idea that was nixed on account of Malia Obama’s allergies.

Naturally the Doodle People – people who breed dogs they insist on calling “hybrids” that are actually really, really expensive mutts – have chimed in with their suggestion. I’m sure somewhere in the massive Obama machine there is some wise person to tell him that not all “Doodle Dogs” are hypo-allergenic; that one dog in a litter will be allergy-free while the same litter will contain a dog that looks nothing like its mate and sheds twice as much as my mother’s faux-fur coat. That’s the way it is with litters of mixed-breed dogs.
Sadly, my beloved Australian Shepherds are out of the question, as my office floor will attest. I have adopted a policy of not vacuuming up all the fur shed and just allow it to felt into a rug as we walk on it. It’s not hypo-allergenic, though. So when the Obamas visit, Malia will have to wait in the car.
I equally don’t recommend the other breed I own, the Parson Russell Terrier, unless the Secret Service wants to monitor the breed most likely to stage a coup.
Oh – and as for the Peruvian Hairless Dog that is under consideration: Hell, no. peruvian hairless.jpeg. Trust me, these are not cuddly dogs. Petting a Peruvian Hairless reminds me of when my Uncle Vinnie used to get us kids to spread suntan lotion on his back. (That memory made me throw up just a little.) We don’t need a First Dog that looks like an internal organ (sorry, Peruvian Hairless people. . . ).
But I’m sure every breed club in the country is lobbying for their own. Your breed in the White House guarantees a demand for more litters nationwide, which isn’t always a good thing for the breed, but certainly a boon for the breeders.
I have no opinion about what dog the Obamas should adopt. But I do hope they take the advice from Doggyspace.com and start their own blog on behalf of their new pet. In that case, I’d like to formally offer my services as Official Presidential Canine Blog Facilitator – or whatever Obama calls his other bloggers-for-hire. Certainly there are funds in his coffers to pay me. And I’ll even promise to appease Sarah Palin by only blogging when dressed in street clothes.
Of course I haven’t been the most avid Obama supporter. But, then, I certainly wouldn’t be the first person to be won over to the Obama camp by the promise of cash.

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 2:31 PM | Permalink

The Day After

Nov
5
2008

I’m not quite sure what to talk about since for the last two and a half years, everything we’ve said or done or thought about has been through the window of Tuesday’s election. It seems rather anti-climatic that when the sun came up this morning it was in the usual way, rather than, say, looking like one of those resurrection graphics on those tracts handed out by the homeless guy outside the Smithsonian Metro station, only with the visage of Jesus replaced by that of Barack Obama.
Perhaps you are celebrating today. Or, perhaps, you are annoyed. I certainly hope, whether you backed the winner or loser, you are being gracious about the outcome. I will almost sell my first-born to purchase a one-way ticket for the first moron who sneers about moving to Canada because his candidate lost.
It is, perhaps, an old-fashioned idea, but I’ve always had a certain amount of respect for the office of the presidency, no matter who occupies it. Granted, over the centuries we’ve had our share of . . . um. . .characters. And, believe me, I’ve been a victim of presidential policy more times than I’ve benefitted.
But I am in awe of the process and its relatively peaceful outcome. I am in awe of the fact that there are two people willing to risk the biggest, most public of all losses and always do so with class and dignity. For that reason, I can’t hate a president (though I can pray to a merciful God for deliverance from incompetence).
I always feel patriotic when I vote. We vote right down the street in this little tiny village where everyone knows everyone. But I’ve voted in larger precincts and it’s always the same: a certain solidarity among Democrats, Republicans or Independents (and around here we know who is whom); a sense that this is our country at its best, hanging chads and all.
What I do hate to see is the steady growth of lawyers getting involved in the process, even before the election begins. I have visions of my homey, community-run election atmosphere turning into an obstacle course of bureaucratic hoop-jumping requiring the sort of lengthy certification and approval processes that cause volunteers to get annoyed and quit, resulting in local jurisdictions having to hire election officials that, in the end, I’ll have to pay for.
Actually, I am sort of keeping watch out my window because I’m pretty sure in the desperate last days before the election either Obama or John McCain promised to come over and mow my lawn. It was promised somewhere between assuring a cancer cure by 2011 and healthcare coverage for each and every citizen, funded by newly-philanthropic pharmaceutical companies, by next year. I’m pretty sure that’s what I heard. The visions of a rosy future were coming fast and furious when the election was coming down to the wire.
I always enjoy election day, but I’m downright amazed by the day after. Things go back to normal and normal is good. Normal is stable. Normal is safe. Everyone talks about wanting the election to be “exciting.” You want exciting? Take up an extreme sport or cover an election in a tiny South American country. I want my government to run as smoothly and quietly as possible. It’s something we take for granted, a governmental transition without gunfire and no more bad tidings than between any other friendly adversaries.
Perhaps I’ve come to terms about what it means to be in the segment of the population that knows whatever programs are implemented by whoever is elected, we’ll be paying for it; we don’t make enough to take advantage of any serious tax write-offs; and we make too much to take advantage of any services offered. So it’s the same-old, same-old here in the crock-pot and mini-van belt, though lately the belt has gotten considerably tighter.
If I don’t sound particularly happy or sad about the election outcome, it’s because I have faith in the basic structure of our government (Dirtman points out that McCain’s view of the U.S. economy in the same light was the very moment his campaign “jumped the shark,” so to speak.).
As much as Obama backers are convinced that Jan. 20 will be some sort of exorcism of Washington, D.C., the same system of checks and balances will be in place to make sure that even the most possessed Republican will have a tiny say in what goes on. And, if that bothers you, I’ve got still another kid I can sell to buy you a one-way ticket elsewhere.

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 10:20 AM | Permalink

Oh, Grow Up

Oct
1
2008

Okay, parents, could we come to some sort of consensus about what we expect from our children? Do you want to your children spending their childhood learning to be little adults or do you want them spending kid time being a kid? I know that the age of 21 constitutes an “adult,” but have you seen the brand of “adults” we’ve been churning out lately?
I thought of this recently as I watched the steady stream of former Lehman Brothers employees filing out of their office and realized I had socks older than most of them. These were the people running the financial future of the country? No wonder the economy tanked. I have houseplants with more wisdom than your average 28-year-old.
I was hoping stodgy old men or maybe some nerdy, conservative types were keeping things running over on Wall Street. But instead it turns out all the buying and selling was being done by people only a few years older than my own kids – who can’t seem to make the connection between frequenting iTunes and running out of gas money before their next paycheck.
Is it that all the grownups took early retirement? That seems to be the goal, I understand: to retire young. If we are going to persist in this early retirement thing, though, we’re going to have to be a little more vigilant in preparing future generations to take over early. Either that, or just don’t let me know about it.
I offer the following conversation (sort of) with a dental hygienist – we’ll call her Amber…or Tiffany…or Britney…whateverrrr:
Amber: Dude! Great brushing job!
Me: Me?
Amber: Yah! (This was sort of a swallowed gurgle that I can’t recreate without choking.)
Amber: You have awesome teeth for someone your age!
Let me digress. I’m sick of the word “awesome.” And what the hell does she mean “for someone your age?”
Me: Thanks. They cost a lot.
Amber: (smirking) They’re not fake.
Me: I mean the orthodontia.
Amber: Wow! You must have had the first braces ever!
Me: Did you call me ‘Dude‘?
Okay, I didn’t really say that last line. But did she miss the day in hygienist school they discussed professionalism or ways to instill confidence when you’re going to being sticking your hand in a person’s mouth, or just plain, old “How to Not Talk Like a Dimwit While You’re Gouging the Gum Flesh Of Your Patient”?
When I think back on the adults I knew growing up, they seemed older. They certainly seemed to have a better handle on things. The only adult I knew who still lived at home with his parents was my cousin Bruce who had indulged in one too many acid trips.
You know whose sagely wisdom I really miss? The Lingerie Lady.
If you are over 50, you remember the Lingerie Lady because you had to endure the embarrassment of being measured for your first bra by her. But she came to be your friend, particularly those of us who really needed a bra. You could go to the lingerie department of any big store and the Lingerie Lady would be there, grandmotherly and discreet, with her half-frame glasses and tape measure around her neck.
The thing is, you could see the Lingerie Lady knew bras from first-hand experience and, unlike today, would never suggest anything but a virginal, functional white underwire for an underage Catholic girl shopping with her mother, but would sneak in a beige lacey number when she was alone. She always knew not to deliver anything but engineering marvels of complicated structural soundness to my dressing room and, if I listened to her advice, I could drop an entire size in one afternoon.
You don’t get Lingerie Ladies anymore. Only anorexic-looking, flat-chested drones who are only there for the employee discount. Ask them if they have a specific style in stock and they will look exactly where you just finished looking and tell you, “I guess not.”
Heir 1 recently interviewed for a security job checking in trucks at a plant. The interviewer asked what he would do if he saw someone outside taking a sledgehammer to one of the trucks. Later Heir 1 found out most of the guys interviewed said they’d run out, take the guy on and prevent the destruction, one pinhead actually citing his success with a boxing program on his Wii as “fight training.”
Heir 1, by the way, said he’d call the police. He figured the company had insurance on the truck and he’d sue them for a whole lot more since he’d probably get the snot beat out of him for taking on the guy with a sledgehammer armed with only a flashlight and a paperback.
He got the job.

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 10:18 AM | Permalink

Too Ugly Too Soon

Sep
10
2008

The decision to become a politician baffles me, just like I wonder why anyone would want to become involved with extreme sports or watch Keeping Up With the Totally Self-Absorbed People With No Discernable Function On This Planet Kardashians. But I chalk it up to it taking all kinds to make the world and move on.
What I find even more baffling, though, are people who get totally behind said politician, to the point of idolization. Certainly this has been the running joke about the mainstream media with regard to Barack Obama, especially since he received his blessing from the Holy See at Harpo Studios in Chicago (though I doubt Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews are finding this quite so humorous anymore). And only the most devout follower could have been overcome to the point of cheering by John McCain’s nomination acceptance speech last week in St. Paul.
To a lesser extent, I wonder how anyone would be so totally in agreement with any candidate to want to put their bumper sticker on their car. I’ve lived with Dirtman for 21 years and we can’t agree on the right way to serve asparagus, let alone be in complete agreement about how to run an entire country.
Part of me wants to approach the driver of a car with political bumper stickers and ask, “How can you be so sure?”
Yeah, yeah. I’ll get the same old generalizations back that Dirtman listens to all day long on television. And I’ll hear the same old accusations that show up on the internet that sound like hyperbole, but are, in fact, the actual opinion of actual people.
One of the luxuries of living in this country is that when we obtain a new administration it doesn’t mean that overnight everything is different. Whether McCain or Obama win in November, I know that the day after the inauguration I won’t be forced to walk around with my king-size bed linens over my head and the local constabulary won’t confiscate my Sinatra CDs.
It’s that old phrase from civics class, “system of checks and balances,” that prevents any single person from having complete control of what happens. So, while you can’t exactly call me “complacent,” I’m can’t get so worked up about any candidate to the point of anger at a fellow citizen or, worse, denying my own country.
It has already started getting ugly on the internet: the snippy comments, the derogatory references. Polite, lively conversations that would, in a real setting, end with agreeing to disagree, dissolve into foul language and name-calling in the blogosphere – and that’s just on the knitting blogs.
And, while it doesn’t bother me when non-citizens have an opinion about a U.S. election, the saddest comments are from Americans sucking up to the international community, offering to move to their country because they can’t get their way here. Unfortunately, they never follow through.
That opinions should differ so much comes as no surprise. I accept when I express a point of view, someone is going to disagree. I wouldn’t leave the comment section up on my blog if readers weren’t welcome to do so. I’m always incredulous at a blogger who, having called half his readers “moron,” is dumbstruck that half his readers are offended. I don’t mind someone disagreeing with me politically, but I do mind the assumption that something is wrong with me personally because of it.
So I stay away from taking sides publicly because apparently I’m the only one on the planet willing to entertain the notion that I just might be wrong. I think I’m right and I’m voting for whoever comes closest to my convictions. But I’ve yet to meet a single human being whom I’m willing to say speaks for me 100 percent. And, until I do, my name will be the only one on my car.
The day after the inauguration we will neither be welcoming troops home nor instituting the draft. The economy will still need tending and I will still have the crappiest health care next to none. And then the wheels in Washington, D.C., will begin grinding again and no one – no one – will know for sure what is going to fix things. I have a feeling that, no matter whose administration is in power, it will have less to do with what we’re all going to get individually and more to do with what we’re willing to give up for the good of our country.

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 9:16 AM | Permalink

Live, From St. Paul, It’s…

Sep
4
2008

This week it occurred to me that if Barak Obama is elected, it will be the first time I am older than the President of the United States.
At first it alarmed me, mostly for egotistical reasons. I like to think that in spite of the ravages of time on my body, that old age at least gives me the advantage of increased wisdom. I kind of want the leader of the free world to be more sagacious than a 51-year-old woman who opens the refrigerator door and forgets why.
I need to interject here that I’m not particularly interested in campaign politics. From here on out we will be promised everything – and nothing – and none of it will apply to what actually happens with a new administration. Anyone basing their voting decision on anything they hear in the next few months, please give me a call: I have an exciting business opportunity for you involving a bucket of cleaning products and every person you’ve ever known.
Dirtman, though, is a political junkie. So around here it’s convention coverage on the TV all day long and into the night. From what I can tell, “convention coverage” this week consists of the talking heads of the media repeating over and over about how they’re not going to repeat over and over about Republican Vice Presidential Nominee Sarah Palin‘s pregnant daughter. And, in case you are totally deaf, a disclaimer about not repeating over and over about Sarah Palin’s pregnant daughter scrawls nonstop at the bottom of the screen.
In a totally weiner move, MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann smugly denied mentioning Sarah Palin’s pregnant daughter, insisting that the “legitimate media” has too much class to mention Sarah Palin’s pregnant daughter. Instead, he blames the blogosphere for floating rumors resulting in the legitimate media being forced into discussing how they are not going to mention Sarah Palin’s pregnant daughter. (Olbermann also gets credit for a tail-wagging-the-dog moment when, in whining exasperation at yet another rumor coming across his monitor, he complained that if the McCain people hadn’t been so secretive about their vice presidential choice, the press would have time to verify all the rumors they were reporting.)
I couldn’t help but chuckle when MSNBC assured us that Laura Bush and Cindy McCain were taking Sarah Palin aside to coach her on how to handle it when the media goes after her family. As “Let’s All Go to the Ladies Room Together” as this sounds, Ms. Palin does have a husband who would be the candidate-spouse counterpart The Mesdames seek. Can you imagine Michelle Obama and Paul Pelosi pulling Joe Biden aside to offer marital advice?
Let’s face it, while everyone pretends to be so understanding of the issue of having a pregnant teenage daughter, even some of the most progressive and open-minded pundits can’t help some Puritanical “tsk-tsking.”
If Sarah Palin’s parenting looks “sloppy” compared to Michelle Obama’s cool patience, it’s because Malia and Natasha Obama aren’t even ten years old yet. For all we know, just off camera a burly secret service guy is holding their favorite sleep toy hostage: “Smile for your daddy or Bunny Foo Foo gets it.” And what’s the most a ten-year-old can do? Pick her nose on national TV? Utter a naughty word during Daddy’s speech? The media would love it; would be calling her “precocious.” She’d be all over <em>South Park the next week and Jon Stewart would want to interview her. It would do more for the Obama campaign than Bill Clinton playing sax on Arsenio. (And if you remember the aforementioned event, then you are just under the wire to become a vice presidential nominee!)
I guarantee that when hearing about the Palin’s situation, every parent of a teenager said the same silent prayer, “There but for the grace of God go I” (there are no atheists in foxholes or parenting teenagers). Teenagers operate on the notions that: 1.) I will live forever; and 2.) That could never happen to me. Conscience and common sense are not always engaged in a teenager’s brain, so the most you can do is hope that they are in gear the same day temptation presents itself. Most examples of “parental success” are simply the result of fortuitous timing in the ebbing of the hormonal tide.
The Palins aren’t the first family who has had to deal with a pregnant teenager and their pro-life beliefs mean that sooner or later it was going to become public knowledge. If familial dysfunction was a reason to not run for office, Washington, D.C., would still be a swamp.
So, in the end, let me tell you what my 51 years of wisdom are telling me: Tina Fey will totally be coming back to play Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live (perhaps an appearance by Palin herself).

Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 9:42 AM | Permalink

The Midgets’ Fury, Part 2: Homeschooling

Mar
22
2006

Editor’s Note: Spot-on contributor Josh Trevino was a co-founder of Redstate.org with former RedAmerica blogger Ben Domenech.

The leftist frenzy over WaPo’s Red America continues unabated into its second day. And it is, paradoxically, turning out to be a good thing. Not only are they acting the fools, paranoid and aggrieved at a blog, they are also putting their own ugly proclivities on full display. Their penchant for dumb incivility in discourse is already well-noted — there’s even a book on it — but less appreciated, from the side that claims to care most about the touchy-feely things in life, is their bottomless opposition to parents. It seems a tremendous claim to make, especially as you’ll rarely get a leftist to say it outright. “Parenting” is among the indistinct absolutes that draw universal approval. Who is against mothers? Who is against freedom? Who is against peace? But conclusions can be drawn from the concrete actions rather than the gauzy platitudes of rhetoric. We already knew that the left expends massive energies on behalf of the negation of parenthood. And now, in the spluttering chorus attacking Ben Domenech, we are reminded that they also hate parents acting as such in the fullness of their roles. They hate homeschooling.

The idea that parents might be qualified — and indeed, have a duty — to educate their children was once a commonplace, and indeed the norm. The advent of public schooling and especially its extension to rural areas sent home education into steep decline. In an era of high expectations and rigorous discipline, this was often for the best, and the results were either improvements upon or equivalent to the products of home-based education. For all this, the reemergence of homeschooling in the modern era was not at first a right-wing phenomenon spurred by parents yearning for an age of standards and classical education. It was a leftist movement born of a Rousseauiste concept of the child, and a desire to free that child from the strictures of bureaucracy and norms. The 1970s pioneer of this resurgence, John Holt, cannot be described as anything but a left-wing believer. Only later did American traditionalists — Christians, conservatives, and cultural contrarians alike — realize that this leftist educational fad could serve their own ends. Homeschoolers both left and right collaborated — and still do — on methods and defenses of homeschooling. They believed in their ideologies, true, but they also held in common a belief in parenthood. And they were determined to exercise that parenthood to its maximum extent.

Fast-forward a generation. Homeschooled individuals from the first cohort are adults and in the workforce. An accredited undergraduate college exists and caters to homeschoolers. And a homeschool alumnus writes a blog for the Washington Post. How does the ideological opposite of that blogger react?

With hate. For the very creation of their fellow-travelers: homeschooling.

In the spleen against Domenech, homeschooling is invoked as a perjorative again and again and again. Steve Gilliard describes him as a “home schooled wingnut.” Jane Hamsher declares him a “mouth breathing home schooled freak.” “Patriotboy” (who is neither) invokes homeschooling in a detestable manner. “Truth”(!) denounces Domenech as a “24-year-old, home-schooled, white male Republican blogger.” Commenters at DailyKos impute poor math skills, ignorance of history, and social ineptitude to homeschooling — none of which, mind you, are in evidence in public school graduates! Dr P.Z. Myers of the University of Minnesota at Morris, who disagrees with Domenech on unrelated issues, sniffs that he’s “not surprised to learn that he is the product of home schooling, which in its worst instances can foster an unfortunately narrow point of view, and” — the worst from a professional academic’s point of view — “usually means the kid is instructed by someone with absolutely no training in education.” Duncan Black posts an old CNN transcript on homeschooling (in which Domenech features) for general mockery, and his commenters oblige: homeschooling mothers don’t have or want “lives”; homeschooling is “insidious once you understand its effects“; homeschooling is “just plain WRONG” (this from a public school teacher); “Homeschooling is evil“; homeschooling is “an effective way for abusive parents to avoid detection“; homeschooling is the provenance of “religious nutcases“; homeschooling is meant to “keep the kids from being exposed to actual thought“; and homeschooling is a way “in Amerikkka to brainwash your helpless kids into believing all kinds of sick false bullcrap.” Max Sawicky breaks ranks and at least notes that homeschooling can be a good thing, only to be rebuffed by one of his commenters. Finally, the aptly-named “Rude Pundit” asserts that Domenech will, upon becoming a parent, “isolat[e] his children in a homeschooled hell that’ll make sure they never can communicate with the rest of humanity on a rational basis.”

Note the common thread here? It’s not Domenech — he’s pretext. It’s homeschooling. And how they hate it. If you’re a parent wedded to the antique idea that you might control your child’s upbringing, look and know who will fight you on that.

As I wrote, the left’s frenzy over WaPo’s Red America is turning out to be a good thing. But it’s a good thing only in part. It’s good that we know who they are and what they think, and it’s good to see them expose those things fully in their infantile rage. But it’s a bad thing for our country. And as they ever more effectively use the multipliers of technology and frustration, they will, ineluctably, bring on the boiling point.

Posted by Josh Trevino at 1:10 PM | Permalink

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