Showing posts from July, 2011

The media's false equivalency

One of the most maddening things about this whole interminable and wholly unnecessary squabble about raising the debt ceiling has been the mainstream media's insistence on a false equivalency of the two sides. When covering the story, they will invariably insist that both Republicans and Democrats are equally to blame for the debacle, the inability of the government to function.  This is categorically untrue, and so-called journalists do a great disservice to the country and betray their professional ethics when they choose to report the story in that way. In fact, the debt ceiling crisis has been entirely manufactured by the tea party-led Republicans whose goal is quite simply to destroy government, to do away with all regulation, oversight, consumer and public health protections, and with the social safety net that has made life more comfortable for the poor and for the middle class.  Their constituents are not the poor and the middle class.  Their constituents are the richest

Caturday fun

Tired of hypocrisy and mendacity?  Tired of your so-called representatives who don't represent you, who, in fact, don't even listen to you? Tired of people who ostentatiously wear flag pins on their lapels but don't give a flying...fig about the country and the people in it (except for those who give them millions of dollars in campaign contributions)?  In other words, tired of politics?  Then take a break.  Enjoy a little cat action - and a couple of other animals as well.  Trust me, it is good for what bugs you!

Betrayal of Trust by J.A. Jance: A review

It starts with a snuff film of a teenage girl being strangled with a blue scarf. Shocking enough, but more shocking still is where it is found - on the cell phone of the step-grandson of the governor of Washington. It was found by the governor herself who then contacts her attorney general and soon J.P. Beaumont and his partner in life and on the job, Mel Soames, are being assigned to investigate.   J.P. and Mel are members of the attorney general's Special Homicide Investigation Team - that's right S.H.I.T. It gets worse. Their boss is named Harry Ignatius Ball, or Harry I. Ball. Those jokes aside, their mission is not at all funny. They are charged with investigating murders that are of a sensitive nature, and this apparent murder certainly fits the bill.   It gets even more sensitive when the grandson, Josh, is found hanging from a makeshift rope of ties in his room on the third floor of the governor's mansion. He has committed suicide, but why? Did he kill the girl

The poor right-wing victims of liberal hate!

Last night on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart took on the tragedy in Norway and the response to it by the right-wing echo chamber in this country as exempli- fied by Fox News. The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c In the Name of the Fodder Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook Yes, who in his right mind would ever associate the Norwegian assassin's actions with Christianity?  Well, only anyone who had read his manifesto or read a description of it; anyone who had seen his description of himself as a crusader for Christianity. But, of course, with Fox News, it is all about the victimhood and we know who the victims are, don't we?  That's right - it's the right-wing nutosphere.  Never mind - Fox News is here to call out all those mean old liberals who beat up the poor little innocent fascists - er, conservatives. The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c

The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz: A review

The Spellman family is a cast of quirky, iconoclastic characters, who comprise a San Francisco private investigations firm. The main - and perhaps quirkiest - character is Isabel Spellman, older daughter of the family who is a talented investigator. She has an older brother, David, who is perfect and not a member of the family firm. He is a lawyer. There is also a younger, 14-year-old sister, Rae, who is decidedly not perfect and whose greatest talent seems to be for blackmail. She's able to achieve her blackmailing aims because she spies on her family and learns their guilty secrets. In fact, one wonders how the Spellman Investigations firm makes a profit because most of each Spellman's time seems to be spent spying on, tailing, and eavesdropping on other Spellmans. Finally, Isabel ("Izzy") has had enough and wants out. She is promised her release by her parents/employers if she will take one last case, a very cold case. It is a 15-year-old disappearance th

There's always baseball

When the world turns black, when petty politicians think more about their own reelections than the good of the country and the world, when madmen turn their guns on innocent children attending summer camp and their cheering section on right-wing radio tries to excuse them, when the earth continues to heat up and all hope seems futile, there's always baseball.  During the dog days of summer - and they all seem like dog days this year - the most perfect ballgame ever invented by humans offers respite and relief from days of unrelentingly bad news.  This season, though, for Astros fans like myself, even baseball hasn't given much relief. The Astros as of today and for most of the season are and have been possessors of the worst record in Major League Baseball.  Their current record is 33-69.  They are 36 games under .500.  This is territory that this franchise has not been in since John F. Kennedy was president.  They could well finish this season with the worst record ever reco

Neo-Nazism is not just a European phenomenon

I was listening to a discussion on NPR this morning about the rise of neo-Nazism in Europe.  The discussion, of course, was current because of the killings in Norway by an extremist Christian, Muslim-hating Norwegian who wanted to bring about a revolution that would "purify" the population and stop the inflow of immigrants from the Near East.  The rise of neo-Nazism in many European countries has been a concern for awhile and has led to the election of some fairly right-wing governments in many countries, including the United Kingdom.  What the participants in this discussion failed to mention (at least during the time that I was listening) is that this is not just a European phenomenon.  Neo-Nazism is very much a modern American phenomenon as well. You need only look at the state legislatures and governors around the country that were elected last year to see the extent of this philosophy's hold on American imaginations.  In states throughout the country that are ruled

Silent Sunday: Tolerance



The terrible events in Norway yesterday remind us once again, if we needed reminding, that sociopaths with extreme and violent political views exist in all societies, even the most benign and advanced.  The early reporting of those events by news media in this country, as Glenn Greenwald points out in his column in Salon today , reminds us of just how low our journalistic standards have fallen.  The immediate reaction by news outlets here was to assume, without investigation , that Al Qaeda was responsible.  Their stories reflected that slant.  This was true not just of right-wingers but even, as Greenwald shows, of The New York Times , the supposed "newspaper of record."   Greenwald writes: Al Qaeda is always to blame, even when it isn't, even when it's allegedly the work of a Nordic, Muslim-hating, right-wing European nationalist. Of course, before Al Qaeda, nobody ever thought to detonate bombs in government buildings or go on indiscriminate, politically m

Independence Day by Richard Ford: A review

Frank Bascombe is no longer   The Sportswriter .   Independence Day   takes place about seven years past the events of that book. Frank and his wife, Ann, divorced in the aftermath of the stresses caused by the death of their first son. Ann subsequently remarried and moved to Connecticut with their remaining two children. Frank bought her old house in Haddam, New Jersey, and, in selling their former family home, leveraged for himself a career in residential real estate. It's a job that he likes and is good at. He has made some wise investments and some would say he is sitting pretty.   But Frank hasn't been able to fully move on with his life. He has a girlfriend but can't completely commit to her because he still sees himself with Ann. Complicating matters is their 15-year-old son who seems to be experiencing an emotional and psychological crisis which threatens prospects for his future. On an Independence Day weekend, Frank plans to take his son on an excursion to the B

Heat wave? What heat wave?

Remember last winter?  It was cold.  At times, it was very cold, even breaking some records.  There was snow and ice, and on the Fox News Network, people like Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Gretchen Carlson, Steve Doocy, Stuart Varney, and Eric Bolling could not contain their glee.  After all, this proved what a charlatan Al Gore was!  Global warming was a hoax and there was no reason to amend our lifestyles.  Keep driving those gas guzzlers!  Hang on to those old incandescent light bulbs!  Drill, baby, drill! Fox spent hours covering winter storms, making fun of Al Gore and suggesting that the cold completely undermined the science supporting global warming.  They never mentioned that, for at least 40 years, climate scientists have warned that the warming of the planet will cause more extremes in weather, both heat and cold, drought and flood.  No, that was an inconvenient truth which did not fit the narrative they were selling on the instructions of their Washington managing editor Bil

Raise it already!

Are you as sick of hearing about the debt ceiling as I am?  I mean, it is not like the debt ceiling is anything new.  We've been dealing with it for years and years.  Every year Congress puts a budget in place and then, when they inevitably realize there isn't money to cover the budget they've installed, they raise the debt ceiling so that the country can borrow money to meet its obligations.  And that is the cogent point here:  Raising the debt ceiling allows us to meet our obligations, i.e., debts we've already incurred.  It doesn't allow us to spend more money.  Only Congress, which controls the country's purse strings, can do that with a new budget. In the past, when there were fewer crazy people in Congress, raising the debt ceiling was simply a matter of housekeeping.  It was accomplished as needed with a minimum of fuss.  But nothing with this Congress gets accomplished with a minimum of fuss.  ( In fact, very little gets accomplished period because the

Herman Cain is a bigot

There was a time in this country when a bigot who wanted to run for president had to hide or camouflage his feelings.  He had to pretend an egalitarianism in which he didn't believe and disguise his prejudices as a strong belief in states' rights.  Not this year though.  At least not in the Republican Party.  No, indeed, this year Republicans are more than happy to welcome bigots to the fray, especially bigots who hate gays or Muslims.  And most especially anyone who hates both. The most egregious example of this hate-filled philosophy is Herman Cain, although he certainly isn't the only practitioner in the race.  Over the weekend, Cain carefully explained to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday that in America it is fully permitted for any community to ban a mosque. Thus he casually tosses aside the Constitution and more than two centuries of judicial interpretation of the right to freedom of religion. His reasoning is that Islam is both a religion and a "law" an

Move along. Nothing to see here.

Rupert Murdoch's American media outlets have been at pains to defend him and downplay the ever-widening scandal of bribery, phone hacking, and invasion of privacy that has been happening in Great Britain.   The Wall Street Journal , the New York Post , and Fox News have not given much attention to the story but what they have done  has been to question why other media outlets are spending so much time on it. .  Even the Washington Post , which is not officially owned by Murdoch but which seems to follow his editorial policy, has spouted the same line of nonsense.  After all, "it all happened years ago" and "Murdoch has apologized," and so there's nothing to see here.  It's no big deal.  Move along. As usual, the truth is very much at variance with the line these News Corp. outlets are trying to sell.  It is, in fact, a very big deal, and it seems very likely to reach into this country as well.  We'll see whether our news media are as aggressive at

Silent Sunday: The convention


Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich: A review

Louise Erdrich can surely string words together! What is amazing to me is that in this, her very first book, published in 1984, she was able to string them together with such a sure and confident touch. The book is now 27 years old and I don't know why it took me so long to get to it, but I'm very glad that I finally did. The stories told here of the Kashpaw and Lamartine families of the Chippewa Reservation - and off the reservation - stand up well over time. They are just as relevant, poignant, and funny, that is to say just as human, today as when first published. The stories begin with a death, the lonely death in a North Dakota snowstorm of a Chippewa woman named June Kashpaw. She was just trying to make her way home at Easter in the deepest snow that had fallen in the area in forty years. Although June disappears from the book in the first few pages, her presence lingers throughout. She continues to impact her family and everyone who cared for her. She is never truly de


I long ago fell under the spell of J.R.R. Tolkien and his hobbits and so I was a prime candidate to enjoy J.K. Rowling's world of wizardry when it came along a few years ago.  I have read and liked all of her books and most of the movies based on them and now, like millions of fans around the world, I'm ready for the final movie which opens today in the United States .  I won't be waiting in line at midnight tonight though.  I'm too much in need of my beauty sleep for that.  No, I'll wait a few days and hope the pandemonium dies down a bit. As a Tolkien and Rowling fan, you would think I would have heard of George R.R. Martin and his work, but I admit I had not until this year.  Then the HBO series "Game of Thrones" started.  My propensity to like fantasy kicked in, and I was quickly hooked. Martin had written four books in his series about the fantasy world of Westeros and the HBO series was based on the first.  After just one episode, HBO realized th

Where's the ref?

Rupert Murdoch and his media empire are being investigated and castigated for their sleazy, dishonest, and probably illegal practices in managing the news.  It couldn't happen to a more deserving mogul. Murdoch is a thug who has done much to destroy the honorable profession of journalism in all the countries where he practices his black art.  A lot of journalism's ills can be traced back to his rise.  But not all. Journalism in this country is in a sad, sad state and that has led or contributed to many of the ills from which the country suffers.  Journalism has abdicated its responsibility as a fair and impartial referee of events.  Instead, it seems only concerned with what will capture readers or viewers.  The more lurid (and often misleading) the headline the better.  Journalism, in short, has become part of the entertainment industry and is obsessed with non-stories like the Charlie Sheen debacle or Donald Trump or, yes, Sarah Palin, the quitter from Alaska. Our &qu

Get your hands off my light bulb!

Our country is in trouble.  There is a very real financial crisis.  We're engaged in two wars - three if you count Libya.  We have 9.2% unemployment and in many places it is much higher than that.  Our infrastructure is old and falling apart.  We have some of the highest health care costs in the world and the outcomes of our health care are poorer than in very many places in the world.  Our educational system is in ruins and is failing our children.  So, which one of these major, intransigent problems do you suppose the tea party contingent in Congress is eager to tackle?  Light bulbs!   That's right, light bulbs. The tea partiers are incensed that in 2007 a law was passed that calls for the beginning of a phaseout of the old-fashioned incandescent bulbs beginning in January 2012.  Those bulbs waste most of the energy that they consume and they cost households infinitely more in energy bills than the new energy efficient models.  Under the law, no new bulbs can go on the m

Silent Sunday: The water turkey


Jane and the Canterbury Tale: Being a Jane Austen Mystery by Stephanie Barron: A review

(The subject of this review was an advance uncorrected proof copy. The book is to be published next month.) I am addicted to this Stephanie Barron series featuring Jane Austen as an indomitable detective, and so when I had a chance to get an early copy of the book to read, I jumped at it! I was not disappointed. It is another very satisfying read, perfectly suited to a hot and lazy summer day. We find Jane visiting her brother Edward and his family in the county of Kent. The tale opens with the wedding of one of Edward's neighbors, a widow named Adelaide Fiske, to a dashing Captain Macallister, lately in service with Wellington in the battle against Napoleon. All is happiness until, the newlyweds having departed on their wedding trip, a murdered body is discovered. It soon turns out that the murder victim is actually Adelaide's first husband. He had not been dead at all. At least not until quite recently. Edward is the Magistrate and is charged with finding the kil

Wanna fix the deficit? Here's how.

Eugene Robinson is an imminently sensible, clear-thinking fellow.  He writes opinion columns for the Washington Post and sometimes appears on MSNBC as a commentator.  Last year he won a Pulitzer for his opinion columns.  Today, in the Post, his column tackles the seemingly intransigent (if you listen to the politicians) national deficit and with a few keystrokes of his word processor, he puts it all to rights. As Robinson points out, it is evident to anyone who is paying attention that the federal government cannot continue indefinitely spending at a rate of 25 percent of the gross domestic product while taking in revenue that equals less than 15 percent of GDP.   Even a mediocre mathematician can see that this is unsustainable.  It is clear that, with the great needs that exist in our society from failing infrastructure to inadequate health care and education, it is ridiculous for this government to have one of the lowest tax rates among the industrialized countries of the world.

Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich: A review

This was a fun and fluffy summer read. I have been seriously disappointed in the last couple of books in this series, but this one, while not the best, did not disappoint. There is nothing really new here. Stephanie is still chasing the same crazy FTAs (failure to appear) and her partner, Lula, is still wearing wildly inappropriate clothing and obsessing over her weight. At least Evanovich dropped the Lula fart jokes in this one, which was a step in the right direction. But Lula is still nothing but a stereotype. Stephanie is the same incompetent bounty hunter that she was in the first book. At some point during this book, she says to herself, "I'm a better bounty hunter than I was a year ago." No, she isn't. The two men who vie for her affections, Joe Morelli and Ranger, are still there and still besotted with her. And why is that exactly? There is no clue to Stephanie's tremendous appeal for these luscious hunks of manhood. I saw one review that

Wordles Wednesday: "The great speckled bird"


Let America be America Again

( In honor of our nation's birthday, here is a poem by American poet Langston Hughes .) Let America be America Again Let America be America again. Let it be the dream it used to be. Let it be the pioneer on the plain Seeking a home where he himself is free. (America never was America to me.) Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed-- Let it be that great strong land of love Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme That any man be crushed by one above. (It never was America to me.) O, let my land be a land where Liberty Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath, But opportunity is real, and life is free, Equality is in the air we breathe. (There's never been equality for me, Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.") Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? And who are you that draws your veil across the stars? I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart, I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars. I am the red

The cat and the dove

Someone told me, "You have to see this hilarious video of a dove and a cat!"  So, I took a look and, yes, it was pretty funny.  I thought you should see it, too.  Here it is for your holiday enjoyment!     You think maybe this dove has a death wish?

One Under by Graham Hurley: A review

Graham Hurley's British police procedural series featuring DI Joe Farraday and DS Paul Winter has grown on me. At the beginning, I did not find either of the two main characters particularly attractive or sympathetic, although they were certainly interesting, but as the series has continued, now into its seventh entry, those characters have become better defined and more complex and I find that I quite like them both. Hurley's usual modus operandi is to have the two detectives working two separate cases which intersect or overlap at some point and that is the situation here. We begin with a man dying horribly while chained to a railroad track. The main questions are, how did he come to be there and is this murder or some weird kind of suicide? If it is murder, what could the man have done to have made someone want to kill him in this fashion? As the detectives begin to piece together the victim's story, they discover an obsessive loner who was politically active and eng

Happy weekend!

Have a wonderful Fourth of July weekend. Stay safe, stay cool, and think "Rain"! Here in Texas, we are hoping that all our outdoor activities for the weekend will be rained out. That would be the best gift of all.