Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Still mourning heroes


Watching the American Experience RFK bio on PBS last night, I heard so many of the same kinds of comments and decisions made by President Johnson about Vietnam that the current administration made about Iraq. History revisited and nothing learned.

Cried my eyes out, too.

It struck me hard that there is and has been an enormous difference between the expectations of Americans of the two major parties, borne in part of the men who were our Democratic leaders before us. These Kennedys, both John and Bobby, were larger than life, remain larger than life; in spite of their humanity, the public looked to and expected more of them than the average pol.

This legacy remains to this day, and is in no small part why every damned thing Dems are and do is picked apart and pecked to death by the right.

They — the right-wing and the average American — expect Democratic leaders to be heroes.

They expect us to be larger than life in order to lead, truly heroic on a scale of ancient legend, where as the heroes of the right-wing only have to be ruthless, take apart goverment and cut taxes to be their leaders.

Unfortunately, because of the mess we are left after they are done wreaking havoc on the government and the nation, we have no choice but to seek a larger-than-life hero from amongst us to rectify the wrongs. Larger-than-life means larger target, in so many ways.

Late in the program, Bobby Kennedy, in an old tape from a debate, questions the morality of killing innocents in Vietnam, fighting them there so we don’t fight them here…painful echoes reverberating.

At the end of American Experience on PBS, bio of RFK…Bobby is laid to rest, in a tomb upon which is enscribed a quote by Aeschylus that Bobby could recite from heart:

He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.

Good God, what I would give for a president that would read, recite Aeschylus and apply what he learned from the same. We are going to need someone of that caliber to lead us in the difficult time ahead.


[Photo source: George Silk/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images]



Monday, November 27, 2006

Meditations on B-School debris...


My body had just reached that state one notch above sleep last night; I was relaxed and warm under the comforter and my husband's arm, when my mind slapped me awake.

Christ, they have completely abandoned everything we've been taught in business school.

I bolted upright, startling my equally drowsy spouse, and began to scrabble for a pen and paper. I didn't want to blow this off as a dream. I scrawled a note in scant light, reminding myself that this was a nightmare and not a dream.

Everything I've been taught they've thrown out the door. They, being this presidential administration. Everything, being the basics we are taught in our earliest days of business school.

My mind must have continued to churn after last evening's Book Salon at FireDogLake; Crooked Timber's Henry Farrell and author Jacob Hacker dropped in to chat about Hacker's book, The Great Risk Shift. I've not yet read it, it's on my list (I'm afraid that I'm still backlogged on reading, too many piled up on the nightstand). Their book has elevated in priority in my reading queue now after last night's discussion. The premise of the book is that a sea change has occurred, affecting many aspects of our lives; in the process of acquiring and integrating right-wing ideology, businesses have transferred substantive amounts of risk to the consumer, to the population at large, instead of carrying it themselves either directly as expenses or indirectly as taxes that fund public services. The average American is exposed to so much more volatility, worrying about health care coverage and job security, while businesses look only at the numbers and ratchet down their risk by dialing up the exposure to their workers and their stakeholders.

How is this different from what we learned in business school? We're taught how to mitigate financial exposure by manipulating cash positions into higher yields or invest in capital improvements if the rate of financial return is higher than investments in stocks or bonds. We're taught to spread assets to minimize exposure, and how to insure business operations, as well as how to look for cost reductions.

But the first thing most business students learn is that entrepreneurs are risk takers, who are rewarded with profits for taking risk.

Day One lesson in General Business 101. Maybe Day Two. I'm certain if I go and dig out my class notes I will be able to confirm this.

And not one school, but three schools, and a Entrepreneurship Program taught me this. My junior college, my first college wherein I suffered through an unhappy start in engineering, and my final college, all of them said the same thing in their curriculums. Risk taking was MINE as a business owner, and for that I would be entitled to profits.

What the hell happened that it became so commonplace to push risk off on everybody else, to take the profits and run like wind?

Yet another point made early in my career as a business student was the nature of the free market economy. A free market was better and more efficient than all other economic forms, we were instructed in Econ I, Econ II, International Econ, and I'm sure in several other business classes; we were also told that a free market was most efficient when information was perfect. Perfect, meaning information was widely available to all players, and deep enough for businesses to be able to make highly informed decisions. While certain information is proprietary and confidential, most information should be as broadly accessible in a free market economy; even consumers needed this information to make informed purchasing decisions while communicating to vendors what products were successful or not.

But that's patently untrue today; information is bottlenecked and stifled. Were this not the case, Enron would never have succeeded in duping the public, nor would businesses see the remedies stipulated in Sarbanes-Oxley regulations as cumbersome. We'd also see all risks disclosed, including the loss of health care to production workers, as line items in our risk exposure analysis both internally and externally. And our government wouldn't be hiding M3 and real unemployment figures.

What the hell happened? How did these fundamental points become detritus to be discarded? Is there some new set of rules to which I'm supposed to manage my small business?

Why didn't I get the memo?

And how the hell am I going to sleep tonight?


Friday, November 24, 2006

Because of Dick


(And because perris asked...)

There's been an increase in Cheney activity over the last several weeks, none of which has followed the man's M.O.

Or maybe it has. I can't recommend enough Joan Didion's recent essay, Cheney: Fatal Touch, featured in the New York Review of Books; in it Didion points to Cheney's lifetime of obsfucation which clouds our view of his "other priorities".

He is rarely ever direct, except in cursing others. "Go f*ck yourself" is pretty straightforward and could hardly be misinterpreted or parsed by the recipient, Senator Leahy, or any other person within earshot. But in most communications, Cheney inserts enough content to obscure direct attribution and blame. Perhaps he has fully assimilated the concept of Nixonian "plausible deniability" learned in his salad days to the point where everything is a double-entendre, possessed of more than one possibility. "It's not Harry's fault," he said of his victim's role in the hunting accident last year; Cheney couldn't simply say, "It was my fault, all my fault. Period."

It borders on the pathological, this inability to be direct, this inability to accept full, unvarnished responsibility.

Which makes one wonder exactly what is going on in Cheney's world right now, given his persistent muddying of every matter. He goes hunting the day before the elections, his plane leaves South Dakota a full 24 hours after the polls closed, when it is already very clear that things did not meet Karl Rove's expectations. Why was he not in Washington D.C.? Why was hunting more important? Why would a man who'd accidentally shot a friend within the last year even contemplate going hunting at a time that should have been more stress inducing for most hardcore Republican incumbents? (Although Cheney has gone hunting during a mid-term election -- back in 2002, before the Iraq War, when the case for war was still being built. Coincidence? Hmm...).

But perhaps I am asking questions that would occur only to normal Americans.

And what of Cheney's trip this week to visit Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, labeled a diplomatic visit? Since when does Cheney do diplomacy? Why do we suddenly need to negotiate with Saudi Arabia? Wouldn't we send State Department officials instead of a guy with an incredibly low job approval rating and no real track record in successful diplomacy? What is the real reason behind this trip, given the rumors that Cheney was in Iraq on Thanksgiving Day that have yet to be substantiated?

Both the hunting and diplomatic trips follow the reported arrival of a shredding truck at Cheney's residence. I'm sure the truck's crew wasn't there to move furniture, but then the media has done nothing to determine the reason for a shredding truck, let alone what was shredded. I don't know about your household, but a fifty-dollar cross-hatch shredder purchased at Staples handles all my household's shredding needs -- family and small business combined -- and then some. I can't fathom how much material I'd have to generate to call a shredding truck, let alone the kind of material sensitive enough to need professional handling.

Oh wait, I do know. I worked for a Fortune 100 company that had highly specific corporate standards on shredding; the most sensitive material would require secure handling and shredding, the kind of material that if misconstrued or misused could cause catastrophic financial damage to the company. We'd call security, who'd escort the shredders to pickup the material, and then take it away to "burn" (permanently and irretrievably destroy). But the volume of material a Fortune 100 company's legal department generates is surely different than the household of the Vice President, yes?

No further explanation from the Veep at this time, in keeping with his usual obscurity.

But maybe special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has an explanation for us. I'm hoping after the recent volley of filings ping-ponged between Scooter Libby's defense and Fitzgerald's teams, perhaps an obstruction of justice charge will emerge for the Veep. But if the targets and persons of interest have been obstructing Fitzgerald's view all along, this hope may be thwarted.

And entirely fitting Cheney's lifelong modus operandi.


[Sorry, perris, no snark here. I really think the Veep is trying to get away with multiple crimes and I'm plumb all out of snark about that.]


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

All the nothing you could ever want

That's it, I need to step away from the keyboard.

The internet has finally become television.

Where television offers hundreds of channels and nothing actually worth viewing, the internet offers millions of channels and about the same proportion of material worth viewing.

My mouse has begun to feel like my television remote, idly moving of its own accord, surfing across waves of nothing.

It's time to go do something constructive, away from the keyboard. Unfortunately, I can't even think of it in "normal" terms any longer; my first thoughts are that I need to make content.

Yeesh.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Giving Thanks: what Steve G said

Yeah. The most American of holidays.

The holiday wherein my mother of French-Finn extraction swears a blue streak in the latter language, looking for some special serving dish she cannot find. Puttering away in the kitchen, my Polynesian-Asian father prepares his annual turkey stuffing from a commercial recipe. Mom won't want the bloody turkey soup yet again, which will surely follow in the evening after the turkey has been served; the threat of the soup may induce more swearing. I'd rather not have the green peppers in the stuffing, but Dad is always overly reliant upon the recipe and cannot imagine deviating from the recipe, cut from side of a bag of bread cubes nearly a generation ago, curled and brittle with age. I think it's an Asian thing, to cling so tightly to instructions.

But I will be spared, eating instead a brined-and-roasted turkey stuffed with sage-and-chestnut dressing of French origin, and no turkey soup to follow. I will be in the chilly northern midwest preparing the feast for my immediate family and in-laws, slaving away over a hot stove for the next four days, far and away from the heat and humidity of my father's kitchen in Florida, out of the reach of the green-peppered stuffing that always makes me belch for days and out of hearing range of my mother's tongue.

For which I give thanks.

Love ya', folks, but this being a most American holiday, I am glad we are celebrating it from northern and southern ends of the country.


Saturday, November 18, 2006

That annoying light in the tunnel

Looks like a train headed for Rove, doesn't it? Perhaps. But I suspect the train is really headed for the Veep and Rove just happens to be in the way.

Well, in the way that Nell, tied to the railroad tracks squealing for her Mountie to rescue her, is in the way of the train. Nell is really just bait; her annoying shrieks are intended to attract the real target of attention.

Rove is our Nell at the moment, and squeal he does. Nothing gets printed in mainstream media about Rove without Rove's implicit permission; he's had a deathgrip on the corporate-owned press for more than six years now, beating them senseless whenever the press doesn't sit-up-beg-speak-good-boy as Rove desires. Therefore stories rumoring Rove's imminent departure from the White House must be seen as sanctioned. Perhaps the rumors aren't true -- but then why would Rove permit this? Or perhaps this is a whisper campaign against Rove, one might speculate. But Rove is the master of whisper campaigns; is it possible this is yet another of his own making?

At the same time the rumors about Rove leaving the White House are flying about, there is a change in the storyline about Iraq. I doubt it's a coincidence. After all these years, the folks who are so keen on creating their own reality are not likely to leave off the practice now. You'll note that the storyline has shifted over the last three years in multiple phases, broken down most simply like this:

Phase I -- they didn’t lie, the info was super-secret, and look, mushroom clouds on the horizon!

Phase II -- they had to go to war on the truth they had, besides, look at all these other nifty reasons, including your own treason for asking.

And then finally, within the last couple of days:

Phase III -- the lies -- I mean, facts -- were only a little bit of the reason for war.

They're now admitting to the misinformation, but doing so in such a way that they innoculate the public against disclosures that confirm this, and misdirect at the same time towards other matters that could ostensibly have affected the decision to go to war in Iraq (but probably had nothing to do with the decision, and everything to to with the continuing justification).

Ah. So very Rovian.

Or Baker-ish?

It's possible that this is the handiwork of James Baker, although I really don't know if this is his scrittura a mano that we see. I suspect that Baker is speaking through Rove, muddying things a bit in the translation.

I also suspect that we've had a bloodless coup recently, perhaps no more than a week ago. The coup didn't happen overnight; it slowly gathered steam as the old-school conservatives within the uppermost handful of percentiles became freaking-out panicky at the damage this administration has wreaked upon the nation and the world. I guess I should have realized it was more than a media tipping point when Ben Stein asked us to take his money and save the world on a fairly recent CBS Sunday Morning show, albeit in his usual curmudgeonly, scornful tone. As a former speech writer for Nixon and a card-carrying member of the old-school conservatives, Stein expressed his hysteria over the damage to years of anti-nuclear proliferation work in his weekend program screed; it is surely what others of his age and older must have been thinking about the current Bush administration. But it was more than a rant or a plea for help; it was a warning or smoke signal that change was imminent. I just didn't realize it at the time.

And in steps the Iraq Study Group, compromised in large part of old Iran-Contra folks and the Bush family consigliere, right on cue. They are not experts on the Middle East as much as they are experts in administration of the presidential sort. They include the kind of people who worry beyond the end of the next week, well into the next presidential administration and beyond, unlike the current administration. As one outlet noted, the consigliere himself brandished a one-foot thick report with which he reset the tone of the current administration, as if smacking the dip switches on a clunky machine to restart it again. And if the same outlet is to be believed -- it's pretty sketchy, I grant you -- Cheney exited a meeting with the consigliere, Dubya and administration folks not to be heard from for nearly two weeks, having been told to shut up and sit down.

Heck...we heard more from him after he accidentally shot his victim this past year, and we all know how secretive he was then.

There's no breadcrumb trail here, no dots slightly askew to be aligned, but I think all these things are related. Rumors about Rove leaving, the change in the Iraq story line, and Cheney exiling himself after a rebuff -- yup, not unrelated.

My best psychic guess tells me that in the wake of the coup in which the ISG members replaced administration officials as operating functionaries, Bush consigliere Baker has promised Rove a presidential pardon if he plays ball. This means Rove falls on his sword for Junior, exits the White House...and then flips on Cheney with the Department of Justice's investigation of the Plame Affair. The rumors being spread about Rove's imminent departure are intended to communicate to others that the coup is now complete, that the older adults have forced the children to their own table, and that the ill-behaved should get their affairs in order before they can be spanked but good. Maybe it's not exactly the same as Nell shrieking for rescue by her Dudley Do-Right mountie, but there sure is a lot being communicated, and a lot of peripheral activity going on in tandem.

Someone has taken this shrieking to heart and didn't wait for the order to the children's table. Cheney has been shredding documents, possibly in a preemptive attempt to protect against a future subpoena of papers once protected under executive privilege, but no longer exempted if executive privilege is lost or possible criminal intent is uncovered. The loss of privilege would happen if Cheney was no longer Veep...and criminal intent might be uncovered if somebody within the administration's deepest circle of trust sang like a bird.

Or both.

Which brings me to the change in the storyline. Is the acting operating "committee" that has supplanted the power of the current administration now preparing the public to hear that their Veep is a criminal that lied to them?

Is Cheney going to end up becoming the ultimate scapegoat, taking the blame for all the lies and abuse of power that this administration has foisted on the public?

Maybe the better question is whether Cheney will ever get offered the same deal as Rover -- step down and we'll give you a presidential pardon?


Friday, November 17, 2006

Countertop metaphor

Boy, I have to clean off this kitchen island. This was not one of my best design ideas when building this house two years ago, adding a large kitchen island topped with stainless steel.

In spite of its weak magnetic attraction, that stainless steel top is a magnet unlike anything I've ever seen or used before.

On the top of the island are three large stock pots that need to head to the basement, used last week when making big batches of soup for election volunteers.

There's a small 40Gb USB storage device. A notebook filled with clipped out recipes, opened to the annual Thanksgiving Day planner. A calender on top of it, covered with chicken-scratched plans to shop or cook this or that within the week. A cookbook opened to pain l'ancienne. A whiteboard covered in blue ink with notes scrawled about cellular mitosis, osmosis, cytokinesis, diffusion.

A large pile of mail awaiting the shredder, a much smaller pile awaiting filing, a single letter from a Senator. Coupons for the hardware store and two small bags of hardware from the same store. A purple Crayola brand marker and an empty juice glass.

Fingerprints, cinnamon-sugar, a stray pretzel from someone's snack packing, a single drop of milk.

It's a metaphor for our life, everything we are in a single debris field. An archaelogist could make out our entire day and week from this aggregation.

And it wasn't there a couple of days ago.

I'll clean off this island again, removing the detritus and cleaning the top until it shines like a mirror...and it's like this all over again inside the week, things with weak or indeterminate attraction gradually accumulating on this massive magnet in my kitchen.

A Sisyphusian task awaits me once again; I could wait to look into the depths of the steel for my reflection, but I already see it now without moving a thing.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lookit my puppet!!


Lookee here, Grannie!! I got me a new sock puppet and I'm not afraid to use it!!

Just ask Howie-D; I sicced my puppet on him but good!!


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Political Unrest...Hello?

Senator-elect Jim Webb stirs up the hornet's nest today with his barn-burner in the Wall Street Journal. The right-wing has been trashing the outcome of elections, badmouthing Democrats and painting them broadly with an anti-business brush, trying to scare up renewed support among members of the financial industry using F.U.D. tactics.

Webb's speech will surely make the right-wing chafe and rant even more, calling out the corporatists for increasing inequity between the upper decile and the rest of the working population. What caught my eye in his speech was not the overall tone or the facts he used; it was this bit:

A recent survey in the Economist warned that globalization was affecting the U.S. differently than other "First World" nations, and that white-collar jobs were in as much danger as the blue-collar positions which have thus far been ravaged by outsourcing and illegal immigration. That survey then warned that "unless a solution is found to sluggish real wages and rising inequality, there is a serious risk of a protectionist backlash" in America that would take us away from what they view to be the "biggest economic stimulus in world history."

More troubling is this: If it remains unchecked, this bifurcation of opportunities and advantages along class lines has the potential to bring a period of political unrest.


[emphasis mine]

Political unrest is already here. It's been here for more than two years, or Bush would have garnered better numbers in 2004. The election last week only cemented this truth.

And the upper decile remains unfazed. Watch CNBC any weekday and you'll see what I mean; the facts on the ground here do not bleed through to their coverage of the day's business news, the kind of news that well-heeled Americans consume.

If there is another disruption to petroleum production infrastructure, natural or otherwise, it's going to get worse in a hurry.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Snark-o-licious

Funny, but sad, this from Bob Cesca:

ONE FINAL NOTE. Imagine being Vice President Cheney right now. He was supposed to be the mastermind. He was supposed to be the Dad who could do anything. And now it's as if Child Protective Services has been called in by concerned neighbors to haul his kids into protective custody on a live episode of COPS. And he must know that writhing on the front lawn in his boxers and wife-beater is out of the question, so there he's forced to sit. Taking it. On the world stage. With his shotgun tied in a cartoony knot. Couldn't have happened to a better guy. But like I said, it should've happened four years ago before he participated in the abuse and neglect.

Now that I've stopped laughing, I can only note what an incredible shame. This is our Vice President we are talking about here.

Maybe more sad than funny.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Noting a small business owner's first

First time I've ever been called by Dun and Bradstreet to update the information they have on record about my business.

Weird.

I guess I wonder now whether I should have asked questions before answering their questions.

Am I required to respond?

Is there any benefit to this listing and cooperating with their questions if I have no intention of seeking a business line of credit?

Can I de-list myself?

I hate this crap; it doesn't do anything for my rather tiny business with no employees save for myself. It doesn't add value to my day and only makes me sweat the small stuff.

Granted, I've used Dun & Bradstreet to screen customers and vendors while working at other businesses. The information was very helpful to me, but the situation is entirely different for me. I simply don't pose much of a risk to anyone. I'm chump change.

Oh well...maybe I'm on the verge of becoming something more than that.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Symptomatic Disconnect

All the hoo-haw following the election, Rumsfeld stepping down, Mehlman leaving the RNC, Iraq still a horrific mess...and these are the most popular stories at Forbes today:

Forbes.com Most Popular Stories

World's Most Expensive Cocktails
Most Expensive Las Vegas Suites
Most Outrageous Guest Requests
Covering Your Assets In A Divorce
Barry Diller & Michael Eisner On Media: Pt.


Jeebus. The top decile in this country is clueless.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Healing the battered child

As commented elsewhere:

Still trying to come to terms with the massive shift this week, a sea change in every sense. Feel like a too-long battered child, waiting for the next blow, in spite of conscious awareness that there won’t be one.

Going to take a while to heal the unconscious after 6-plus years of damage. Like the image of that screaming harpy who got in my face and spat at me that I was a baby-killer back in 2004, after a Bush rally…that harpy is still out there, even if I know she’s powerless to do anything now. How do I purge the memory and the knowledge she and her kind are still there?



Easy enough to say we're moving on...but that woman and her kind live on my street, around the block, across town, in state. I doubt she's changed her mind about progressives and dissent in a couple of years.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Fewer tears ahead

"Madame Speaker."

Makes my eyes well up with tears just thinking about that phrase. I cried while watching Nancy Pelosi interviewed this morning, as she discussed the job ahead and her own personal feelings about the transition to a Democratic majority, and what it meant to her to be the presumptive Speaker of the House.

The first woman Speaker of the House.

As parents, many of us tell our kids, "You can be anything you want to be, if you want it badly enough and work hard." But that hasn't been true, for all our motivational speechifying. The upper echelons of politics in the U.S. have remained out of reach -- for women. Just look at the numbers, at the disparity between the percentage of women in Congress and their numbers in the overall population. There's an enormous gap, particularly in the Senate, but still a large gap in Congress overall. Let's not even talk about the White House or the Office of the Vice President; the last time a woman had a crack at either of these jobs was twenty years ago.

For the last dozen years I have assured my daughter and my son they could be whatever they chose, knowing that it was a hollow statement. For my son, certainly, the presidency and anything below it could be his if he chose politics. But for my daughter? I had to hope that the passing years would prove my words true.

As of yesterday, I am vindicated, at least when it comes to the House of Representatives.

Surely it will not take another dozen years to be vindicated about the Senate and the White House...

In the meantime, yes, my daughter, you too can become Speaker of the House if you so choose, with education, hard work, and the support of constituents.

What a relief.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

We MOSH'd the vote


Yeah, we did, we MOSH'd the vote yesterday. And we'll MOSH the next vote, too.

The 2008 race will be won in 2007, said Howard Dean this morning, recorded on C-SPAN2. He's right; the candidates must be selected, groomed and funded in 2007.

Yesterday was great, but it is now history, only one battle won. The next fight begins today towards winning this war.


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