Wednesday, December 17, 2014

It's About @#$%^&* Time

We have to give President Obama credit for finally doing what needed to be done.  No, not figuring out how to deal with ISIS without getting more people killed, not deciding that some badly-behaved bankers and other Wall Street types should don prison jumpsuits, but simply for recognizing that the little Republic of Cuba should be recognized formally after 50 years of trying to make them cry 'uncle'.  It never worked. They never did.

As others have already noted, Obama wants a legacy, and he doesn't have much on offer. This will definitely make it into the history books, after the long chapters detailing the stupid and brutal policy toward our near neighbor.  Clinton will most likely get the worst rap for beating up on them when they were down--1993--and for signing Helms-Burton which, by the way, prevents Obama from lifting the embargo and establishing diplomatic relations in one go.

Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada is most likely smiling sweetly to himself, as he noted in 1996 that it would be 20 years before the embargo was lifted. He's probably right.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Winter Solstice Bush

We have obtained the winter solstice bush, and J is putting the lights on now.  The solstice is at 3:03 PM on Sunday, and we will turn the tree topper from the moon side to the sun side then.

They Are Bipartisan--And Clueless

Turnout in the late election didn't surprise me one bit.  The Democrats touted the economic recovery, which left most of the poorest 65% looking about and saying "huh?", before sitting down to figure out how to pay the rent this month.  As in most "recoveries" since 1981, the economy has done well, while the vast majority haven't.

I don't read David Brooks very often, but was taken by this construction of his world:

Today we once again have a sharp social divide between people who live in the “respectable” meritocracy and those who live beyond it. In one world almost everybody you meet has at least been to college, and people have very little contact with features that are sometimes a part of the other world: prison, meth, payday loans, a flowering of nonmarriage family forms. In one world, people assume they can control their destinies. In the other, some people embrace the now common motto: “It don’t make no difference.”

Widening class distances produce class prejudice, classism. This is a prejudice based on visceral attitudes about competence. People in the “respectable” class have meritocratic virtues: executive function, grit, a capacity for delayed gratification. The view about those in the untouchable world is that they are short on these things. They are disorganized. They are violent and scary. This belief has some grains of truth because of childhood trauma, the stress of poverty and other things. But this view metastasizes into a vicious, intellectually lazy stereotype. Before long, animalistic imagery is used to describe these human beings.


Leaving aside the disclaimer of the final sentence above, it's interesting that his construction of the world has the rest of us in daily contact with prison, meth, payday loans and single parenthood.  I know many people who aren't part of his delayed gratification crowd who have no experience of prison or meth, and little of payday loans. Single parenthood crosses class lines, and while more poor men can't be part of their families, it's not some personal defect, but the result of economic realities.  Further, I've seen plenty of the families on my side of the class divide delaying gratification for decades.

I have come to expect this kind of silliness from both sides of the political divide.  Vice-President Biden's Middle Class Task Force, for instance, defined the middle class as:

…a combination of values, expectations, and aspirations, as well as income levels. Middle class families and those aspiring to be part of the middle class want economic stability, a home and a secure retirement. They want to protect their children’s health and send them to college. They also want to own cars and take family vacations. However, aspirations alone are not enough; middle class families know that to achieve these goals they must work hard and save.

If we look at the people presumptively left out of this definition, we get those who live in a world of prison, meth, payday loans and so on.  And of course, those in the middle class have grit and a capacity for delayed gratification (read: work hard and save).  You almost want to organize a field trip for those who not only utter this smug, self-serving, sanctimonious twaddle, but write it down and publish it.  How hard can these people really be working  if what they write is such nonsense?  You want to sentence them all to a week helping a home health aide change adult diapers and then living on her wages. Then they'd really understand hard work and delayed gratification.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Retirement

J reminded me this morning that he's been officially retired for two years today.  And he really likes it, even though he's spent enough time on our computer problems lately that it most likely feels like he's back at work.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Peter Pan Live

What a waste of three hours.  We should have read and listened to Christmas music or watched Gravity on DVD.  (Yes, we're old, we watch DVDs.)  But J had seen the Mary Martin production in 1955 and I thought it would be a nostalgia trip for him.  But you can never go back to being a child again, and the story itself is thin and more than a little racist.  Why not cast the "natives" as Amazons or something, anything, rather than try to tidy up the racism of the original story.

First, three hours!  There's very little that will hold your attention for three hours, and Peter Pan is not even in the running.  Second, every time something happened, they cut to a series of commercials, a lot of commercials, so whatever magic might have been there got lost in the anti-magic of Walmart.

When you're making a musical, it's important to cast people who can sing really well.  Not just good enough, not just adequately.  And for the most part, the actors cast in the major roles couldn't sing.  The exceptions, Kelli O'Hara (Mrs. Darling) and Taylor Louderman (Wendy) were notable, and we sat up and took notice.  Christopher Walken started out as camp, but seemed to lose interest, or get tired, half way through the performance.  Allison Williams wasn't bad, but certainly is not headed for greatness, and there must have been some nepotism at work in casting Brian William's daughter in the role.

If NBC does another Live performance, I'll probably just skip it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson

You wonder about the stupidity of government officials in Missouri.  I mean, let's decide to have a secret proceeding.  Then let's declare a state of emergency weeks before anything happens.  Then let's call out the National Guard.  What were these people thinking?  How dumb could they be?

Well, I'm not sure they were that dumb.  What if they were trying to obscure the issues that are just as important as the shooting?  For instance, the bad behavior generally of the police in Ferguson--their bad habit of stopping African Americans for any reason, or no reason at all, their excessive fines and fees that provide most of the budget for the Police Department there, and so on.

More important, these kinds of behaviors aren't limited to Ferguson, or to Missouri, for that matter.  California is a leader in increasing fees for minor infractions to fund the government.  Fees can be increased easily, while increasing taxes requires supermajorities.  And because police patrol low-income neighborhoods much more intensively, they're much more likely to catch people making California stops, crossing against the light and the like.

In the private sector we have payday lenders, it the public sector the petty justice system, both inclined to part poor people from their meager incomes.

Update:  The Onion gets it in a paragraph.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

It's Over, It's Done, Get Past It

The rights of gays and lesbians to marry is settled.  Those who oppose gay marriage should settle down and accept it.  Don't spend your time being like Alabama, which didn't repeal its law against interracial marriage until 2000.  It was unenforceable, as all laws against interracial marriage had been overturned by Loving v. Virginia in 1967, but Alabamans apparently wanted to wallow in their racism, and left the law on the books.

And if you look at this map, you'll find that the Supreme Court will probably have to get rid of the same-sex marriage bans in the very same states that kept their interracial marriage bans until Loving overturned them.  And it's worth noting that California is again in the middle of the pack, not the last, but certainly not the first, as its ban on interracial marriage was overturned in a court case in 1948, with the Legislature repealing the law in 1959.  (Many eastern states ended their bans in the 19th century, and a few states never banned interracial marriage.)

But it's not true that if your state didn't have a ban on interracial marriage, it's also progressive on same-sex marriage.  Kansas, for instance, which fought the Civil War for some years before the rest of the country, banned same-sex marriage in 2004.  However, 8 of the 17 states that never had interracial marriage bans also allows some form of same-sex marriage or civil unions.