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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Latest movies

Saw several movies this weekend, all very entertaining:

Hotel Transylvania - Alana wanted to see this movie with her friends for her birthday; it was a very fun movie that I enjoyed a lot, maybe as much as the 8 and 9 year olds that were there with me.

Trouble with the Curve - I'd been looking forward to this one for awhile, ever since I saw the very effective ads.  It was very good, though perhaps just a touch too predictable - not on par with Gran Torino for example.

Pitch Perfect - the kids and I dragged Larry to see this since it was too rainy for apple picking; fun and funny, though maybe a little too mature for the kids; my only complaint with this crowd pleaser was that it felt a touch too long - they could have edited out 10 or 15 minutes and ended up with a bit sharper film


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Republican plan: "Lie, Cheat, Buy"

In one of his recent Real Time shows, Bill Maher said that the Republican strategy this year is "lie, cheat, buy" ~

 - lying about Obama's positions, like saying that he took away the work requirement from welfare

- cheating mostly refers to voter disenfranchisement, the efforts for which are incredibly aggressive, rampant, and blatant, especially in swing states like Florida and Ohio

- buying of course refers to the massive amounts of unregulated money being poured into the campaign by wealthy donors like the Koch brothers

I've found myself thinking about this constantly said I heard it a few weeks ago, because he summed it up so succinctly and accurately.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Be yourself, but not too much

I see these funny and rather aggressive postings on Facebook all the time, and of course I resonate with them (though I rarely post them to my own wall since I have no reason to encourage people to see me as even more smug than they apparently already do).


Photo: Some of these fan comments... Damn!  Tanya

Those are the funny ones.  But there's also the "Be Yourself" ones that I see a lot too, posted on the walls of many people, even people that I don't think really believe this:

While I enjoy them, they always make me think "bullshit." Because my own experience has been that the vast majority of people really dislike people (like me!) who display this quality of speaking your mind. And I think taking a principled stand has negatively affected me in many, many situations, both personal and professional.  Just another aspect of my ongoing existential crisis - I can't get a handle on this issue at all.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

"When the moon is in Aquarius"

How great is this - the moon actually IS in Aquarius right now!

Photo: Moon in Aquarius and near Neptune on night of September 26.  Details here:  http://bit.ly/PF4SFp

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Studies show that tax cuts don't grow economy

No kidding. From HuffingtonPost:

Bush-Era Tax Cuts For The Rich Do Little To Boost Economy, Job Market
Tax breaks for the super-rich might be great for the super-rich. They just don’t do much for the rest of us.
Extending the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich would would boost the economy by an almost negligible amount, according to a recent analysis from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute -- far less for GDP growth than continuing stimulus measures. Letting the tax cuts expire wouldn't hurt job growth either, according to data from a University of California at Berkeley economist, cited by Mother Jones.
The findings echo those of a similar Congressional Budget Office report last month, which found that the Bush-era tax cuts will cost the U.S. $1 trillion over the next decade.
Though many wealthy Americans, and some Republicans, insist that tax cuts for the rich help the economy, Ronald Reagan’s chief economics adviser found that the economic recovery during that presidency had little to do with the administration’s tax cuts, according to Businessweek.
The findings come as President Obama and other critics have accused Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s tax proposal of favoring wealthy taxpayers at the expense of the middle class. Romney, who is a millionaire, recently defended his low tax rate, arguing that most of his income comes from capital gains, which should be taxed at a lower rate in order to spur investment.
Obama called for a one-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts -- but only for those making $250,000 or less -- earlier this year. A proposal that Republicans shot down.
In addition to their overall tax rates, there’s a more specific tax break the super-rich are hoping to preserve -- taxes on charitable giving. More than half of billionaires gathered at a recent Forbes summit said that tax policies affect their charitable giving, according to CNBC. President Obama has proposed putting a cap on deductions on charitable giving for those making more than $250,000.


Monday, September 24, 2012

The Happiness Project

I started to listen to this book on tape - I had heard of it a year or so ago, and it was on the sale shelf at Audible during their last big promotion.  I'm enjoying the book, though some of it is rather, er, confronting.

In the introductory chapter, she lists her "secrets of adulthood" - things that she has learned are actually true, even if cliche or counter intuitive.  I find them rattling around in my head since reading them:

The days are long, but the years are short.
Turning the computer on and off a few times often fixes a glitch.
It’s okay to ask for help.
You can choose what you do; you can’t choose what you LIKE to do.
Happiness doesn’t always make you feel happy.
What you do EVERY DAY matters more than what you do ONCE IN A WHILE.
You don’t have to be good at everything.
Soap and water removes most stains.
It’s important to be nice to EVERYONE.
You know as much as most people.
Over-the-counter medicines are very effective.
What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you — and vice versa.
People actually prefer that you buy wedding gifts off their registry.
Houseplants and photo albums are a lot of trouble.
If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.
No deposit, no return.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Latest movies

I've missed noting a few movies that I've seen lately, so I'll catch up here~

The Words - a beautiful film about life, love and professional accomplishment, but it got a bit muddled, obviously intentionally, and wasn't quite as satisfying as it could have been; solid performances by Bradley Cooper, the always compelling Zoe Saldana, Ben Barnes, and of course Jeremy Irons, but Dennis Quaid and the rather miscast Olivia Wilde were less interesting. Side note,  the film technique of having a character tell the story to another character got a bit tired in this film though it works great if used correctly (see The Princess Bride)

Goon - watched this On Demand with Cal and was surprised how entertaining it was (based on a true story), with Seann William Scott as the hockey enforcer, Jay Baruchel as the sidekick, and the always delightful Alison Pill as the love interest. The humor is very crude, but it's quite a hidden gem.

Lemonade Mouth - watched this Disney movie with Alana one afternoon; it's about a group of misfits who start a band; I was surprised how charming and fun it is - the songs are quite enjoyable too

Magic Mike - couldn't wait to take in this guilty pleasure, so I snuck off to see it one day after a doctor appt; it was pretty good, but not quite what it was billed - more following Channing Tatum through his character's identify crisis than watching hunky men dance, but still entertaining

The Artist - a major disappointment; super cliche, just a remake of A Star is Born; clearly the Oscar voters were seduced by the self-referential theme - certainly not the plot or pacing, and most definitely not the originality.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Republican difficulties

Bill Maher had an interesting and lively panel discussion tonight on Real Time. But I had a strong reaction to one comment, from Time magazine editor Rana Foroohar, who said that Romney is losing because the Republicans have no coherent economic policy. That struck me as spin. I do think that the Republican economic perspective is out of line with the average American's values, but they are quite adept at using appealing rhetoric to make those policies seem acceptable, for example, by casting even the most draconian ideas as "personal freedom."

But I don't think it's their economic policies that are impacting their current lack of traction in the presidential race. If Romney had focused on jobs and the economy, as planned, I think he would be doing well. He's not a super engaging campaigner, but Obama can certainly be criticized for the current economic situation. I believe that it's their constant detours into values issues that is slowing Romney's momentum.  Bringing rape and birth control and abortion and similar issues into the forefront is not good for Romney. Because although the positions he has been forced to take appeal to a core of voters on the far right, they are mostly unappealing (if not repulsive) to voters in the middle, who may think (erroneously IMO) that Romney the Businessman is what America needs right now, they do not want to see the government restricting access to birth control etc.

For further confirmation, see Daniel McCarthy's essay that I posted on this blog on Sep 19.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Do what's right!!

This needs to be my mantra:

Photo: (RF)


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Republicans fading as a national party

Amazing essay from The American Conservative (of all places!) Says several of the things that I've been thinking about during this campaign season (for example, see my blog entry on Sep 12).


Is the GOP still a national party?
by Daniel McCarthy

Republicans have failed to win a plurality of voters (or a majority of the two-party vote) in four of the last five presidential elections. The single win was 2004, when George W. Bush was re-elected by the lowest margin of any successful incumbent since 1828. GOP talking points at the time touted Bush’s victory as a historic landslide because the map of sparsely populated counties he won covered almost the entire U.S. Therein lies a tale.
Republicans have enjoyed a state-level resurgence even as they have lost — and lost big — their once commanding national majority. The GOP was once the landslide party, the party of Eisenhower ’52 and ’56, Nixon ’72, and Reagan ’84. Even Bush I’s 53.4 percent in 1988 was very respectable. Reagan’s 50.7 percent in 1980 wasn’t a landslide but still demonstrated that an outright popular majority supported the Republican. In the five elections before ’92, the GOP won popular majorities in four.
The parties have almost switched places since then. The popular-vote success of the Democrats in the last five elections is less impressive: they won an outright majority only once, in 2008. Far from balancing the scales, though, this highlights all the more the magnitude of the GOP’s electoral erosion: from being a party that won with majorities, the Republicans have declined to one that loses to pluralities.
The period in which this has happened corresponds to a historic resurgence of the GOP in Congress and at the state level. There’s an intuitive connection. Significantly fewer people vote in state and congressional elections than presidential elections. The GOP base is better organized and more engaged locally than Democrats are. But this actually undercuts the party at the national level. So well organized are the GOP’s ideological constituencies that they prevail in legislative primaries and push the party’s overall identity to the right. (That’s not the same as making it more “conservative,” as I’ll explain in a minute.) These ideological groups also have a great deal of muscle at the presidential primary or caucus level, but even beyond that, their success at the legislative level means that a presidential contender’s loyalty to the GOP brand — proof that he’s not a RINO — has to be demonstrated by professions of fealty to what is an essentially regional identity, not a national one.
If it seems needlessly complicated to suggest that two effects — grassroots muscle and general party branding — have to be invoked to explain the GOP’s unsuccessful presidential branding, consider this: if the only effect in play were the strength of grassroots right-wing constituencies, you wouldn’t expect the party to consistently nominate moderates like both Bushes, Dole, McCain, and Romney. None of those nominees had impeccable conservative credentials — far from it. But once they got the nomination, they didn’t run as the moderates they were; most of them sold themselves as being at least as right as Reagan, even in the general election. At least since 2004, this is because the party has pursued a base strategy: an attempt to eke out a narrow win by getting more Republicans to the polls than Democrats, with independents — a small and difficult-to-market-to demographic — basically ignored. The party tries to leverage its regional identity and regional organization into presidential victory. It has failed four times out of five.
The Democrats are regionally weaker, but this has paradoxically helped them in presidential elections: it means that a Bill Clinton or Barack Obama is not really very beholden to base Democratic groups like black voters. Clinton and Obama certainly organize their ethnic constituencies, but when they campaign in general elections they do not relentlessly highlight minority issues that other Americans find polarizing. Oftentimes, they’re hiding or even actively downplaying those issues (think Sister Souljah, Reverend Wright, or the party’s hot-and-cold emphasis on gay rights). The Democrats are less ideologically constrained by their factional interests.
Republicans tend to have a clear establishment front-runner going into their presidential contests, and that individual pretty much always wins the nomination, in part because he usually has far more money than his opponents. Indeed, that financial advantage allows the establishment front-runner to discourage viable semi-establishment opponents — your Mitch Daniels types — from even entering the race. That leaves the ideological groups to field their own non-viable standard-bearer — Huckabee or Santorum types. Because the eventual GOP nominee pursues a base strategy, though, he winds up embarrassing himself by trying to sound “severely conservative.” He has to get religious right and Tea Party voters to turn out for him. But even if they do, they’re not enough: those constituencies don’t add up to 50 percent of the electorate. Republicans are actually closer than Democrats to being the real 47 percent party. (Though it’s more accurate to say the GOP is the 48-49 percent party and the Democrats are the 49-50 percent party.)
This isn’t all about elections, however. The policy options that Congress and the president get to consider and the intellectual life of the nation are also warped by the GOP’s “47 percent” ideology. Because conservatives over-identify with the GOP, and the GOP’s identity is determined by factional and regional ideologies, the result is that conservatives take their definition of conservatism from the party and that definition is more regional- and interest-based than philosophical. This accounts for the spectacle of the GOP periodically getting worked up about “big government” while in fact expanding government — welfare state, warfare state, banning internet gambling, you name it — whenever it’s in power. The blue state/red state psychological divide is more fundamental to the party’s understanding of the world than is any consistent view of the proper extent and uses of government.
This is also why One Nation conservatism or even genuinely Reaganite conservatism, with its appeal to independents and Democrats as well as the base, is impossible today. The ideology of suburbia (“porky populism,” with its hatred of organic food and fetishistic attachment to SUVs and Wal-Mart) and the most intense expressions of heartland Protestantism, together with certain Southern good ol’ boy attitudes (less overt racism than a scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours ethos), are the matrix of GOP and “conservative” identity. The financial and neoconservative elites have designed ideologies of their own to integrate with this matrix: neocons spin their foreign policy as an expression of values (God and America are practically the same thing, aren’t they?), as a token of Protestant-Jewish solidarity (support for Israel), and as necessary for national honor and the Southern economy (wars and bases). Wall Street relies on Mitt’s 47 percent myth: the people who aren’t part of the GOP coalition are lazy and lack self-responsibility; i.e., they are sinful and un-Protestant, while the Gospel makes you rich and happy.
None of this has anything to do with the historic conservatism of Edmund Burke or John Adams, Russell Kirk or Robert Nisbet. It doesn’t even look like the capacious conservatism of Ronald Reagan. It’s a scam: it does little for values in the culture as a whole because the values in question are those of an ideological minority only interested in winning through minority-organization politics; it can’t look at big-picture economics because doing so would tick off the financial interests and get anyone who broached the question read out of conservatism by Wall Street’s coalition allies. A traditionalist or consistently libertarian critic would be perceived as speaking up for lazy immoral city-dwelling welfare queens. This fanciful identity politics, and not principled economics, is what lies behind talk about “socialism,” “big government,” and the “47 percent.” If the case were otherwise, you’d see the anti-dependency case made against the Pentagon, defense contractors, churches taking government money, and red-state recipients of all kinds of largesse. I don’t see Republicans talking about that, with a handful of exceptions whose last name is usually “Paul.”
I’m not the biggest fan of Eisenhower or Nixon, but they (and Reagan) are clearly preferable to this post-Reagan Republican Party. Those presidents won national majorities for a reason. They weren’t strict conservatives, but they certainly weren’t any less conservative than the Bushes, McCain, or Romney. They didn’t pretend they were going to abolish the welfare state — often, they didn’t even pretend they would cut the welfare state — unlike so many of today’s Republicans, who don’t follow through but do use their rhetoric to polarize. That gives us the worst of both worlds: big government plus the delusional sense within one party that it represents the antithesis of big government and may freely hate other Americans who don’t mouth the mantra. And what goes for big government goes for Judeo-Christian values, a strong national defense, and all the rest: the GOP’s rhetoric occupies a separate mental compartment from its actions, even as its voters and ideological apologists continue to believe that there is a profound moral difference between them and the rest of the country. It’s a losing strategy, and worse, it’s made the country ungovernable even as government grows.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Local death is making me think

Wow, just found out that a local woman died on Monday by slipping getting out of the shower and hitting her head on the marble sink edge.  She was 61. Of course it is shocking and super sad. But she also happened to be a big community macher, who gave lots of money to Jewish causes and was on tons of Boards and so on.  I'm sad for her family, but also really jealous that she left such a wonderful legacy. I wish I had enough money to donate to all the organizations that matter to me, and I wish I had the time to devote to them as well.  And I wish I had the kind of personality that she had, so that everyone who met me thought I was lovely and delightful. But I have none of those, and will never be held in that kind of esteem. Just add that to my ongoing existential crisis.


Monday, September 17, 2012

"We are what we do"

So so true!!


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Republican bench

I heard some commentator note that the Republicans have a "deeper bench" than the Democrats, when it come to presidential prospects, and I've found myself thinking about it ever since.  That may be true, when you consider personalities currently in the public eye - Nikki Haley, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, etc.  But I think the Dems often pull someone charismatic out of obscurity, as Obama epitomizes. So I'm not too worried, but I will be so interested to see what happens in 4 years.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

"This old picture of you"

Love this!!



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Obama and the "far" left

I have often heard America described by pundits as a "center right" country, and I don't buy it at all, because polls show that substantial majorities of Americans agree with many Democratic positions, especially those regarding the social safety net - the area that (traditional) Republicans are most at odds with.  Americans are quite willing to embrace the rhetoric of  "center right" positions, because these are so often presented in terms of "freedom" and "liberty" and other beloved concepts.  But the majority of Americans have indicated over and over, across decades, that they do not want to leave the poor and elderly to struggle on their own, nor do they want all government functions to be privatized.

But exactly how to appeal to voters, and position issues, remains a mystery that continues to defy logic.  "Obamacare" is an illustrative example.  The reforms it includes arrived out of a conservative think tank a couple of decades ago, and was adopted by the Obama administration, presumably in an attempt to achieve a workable compromise and actually pass legislation (after they decided that the single payer option wasn't worth fighting for). Once it was adopted, with virtually no Republican support, it was recast as socialism and a government takeover of healthcare.  Which, of course, it is not. And now that some of the more popular provisions have taken effect, many Americans are less willing to support its repeal.

(The cap and trade approach to clean air is another conservative idea that was co-opted by Democrats, again, presumably in an attempt to achieve a workable compromise and actually pass legislation, and was promptly rejected by Republicans, and recast as anti-business and radical and so on and so on.)

Every time the Democrats move to the right in what I hope is an attempt at compromise, the Republicans just move further to the right, and reposition their own ideas as radical far left concepts.  Meanwhile, actual far left concepts fade into the horizon without much consideration in the marketplace of ideas.

Which is a sad truth, but also makes the constant labeling of Obama as the most liberal leader of all time, and a socialist, etc, etc, even more galling.  In fact, he is turning out to be a rather conservative Democrat, at least in his style of governing at the national level.

My "far left" friends are completely disgusted with Obama, for any number of reasons:
  • unwilling to fight for the single payer option during the healthcare debate
  • not closing Guantanamo, as promised
  • escalating the war in Afghanistan
  • using drone strikes in Pakistan
  • deporting more illegal immigrants than any former administration
  • forcefully pursuing the "war on drugs," including medical marijuana
This is just a sampling - the list goes on and on. Labeling him a socialist is obviously a political tactic, and of course a stand-in for "black," which is the objection that many have to him, whether they admit it or not. But for true progressives like myself, it is bitter indeed.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Stop harassing women!

Awesome essay on Jezebel:

If You Harass Me, I Will Punch You in the Balls

by Stoya

This is what it's like to be a girl or woman walking around in public in broad daylight. With dirty hair up in a ponytail or bun, no makeup, and baggy clothing on. With headphones in, sitting in a coffee shop or on the subway with your nose in a book, or talking on the phone: 
Men have followed me down the street poking me in what one can only assume is an attempt to get my attention. Men have grabbed the cord to my headphones and ripped them out of my ears. Multiple times. Men have grabbed parts of my body, or my coat or purse strap. They've blocked me into corners on mostly empty subway cars, followed me for blocks and then stood outside whatever shop I duck into for absurd amounts of time. They stop their cars in the middle of the crosswalk to stare and yell things out of the window. Years ago, in Philadelphia, one man walked around my neighborhood asking people if they knew where this blue-haired white girl lived because he wanted to return her phone. Fortunately my neighbors were too smart for that trick.
They say I have a sweet ass, nice tits, a real pretty dress. They say I'm their future wife, or I'd look good with their dick in my mouth. They try (and probably succeed at times) to take pictures down my shirt. They ask if they can get my number, they ask where I live, why I'm not smiling, why my boyfriend lets me walk around by myself. Then they ask why I'm such a bitch, if my pussy is made of ice. They say that they never do this, as though I've somehow driven them to inappropriate behavior and deserve it. They say they're just having fun, trying to pay me a compliment. Pretty frequently they get mean, slipping into a loud tourettes-like chant of "bitch-whore-cunt-slut".
Let me tell you that every single woman I know has at least one truly terrifying story of street harassment and a whole bunch of other stories that are merely insulting or annoying.  It seems like women have been sharing their experiences with sexual harassment all over the place in the past few weeks. That's what prompted me to share mine. As Jen Bennett said on twitter, there is clearly something in the air. It should be in the air. Speaking up is the only way that we can help people understand that something is an issue. Sharing is how we let each other know that we are not alone. Open discussion raises awareness of things like Slutwalk and Hollaback.
Street harassment is not a rare or isolated occurrence. It does not only happen in America. It does not only happen to young or traditionally-considered-"beautiful" women. It does not only happen on public transit or in low income areas. 
We shouldn't have to have a big angry dog named Funster to protect us. We shouldn't have to carry Mace or a knife, hoping that we'll be able to use it properly if necessary or investing hours of our lives in self defense courses (something a lot of women have neither the time nor disposable income to do). We shouldn't have to travel in packs to feel safe (again, something that isn't really feasible). 
Men have been responding saying that they want to divorce their gender. That they didn't realize, until we started sharing our stories en masse, what it is like to be a woman. That they wish there was something they could do. That they're sorry for the way other men treat people. Men shouldn't have to feel like they need to apologize on behalf of their gender, or feel ashamed of being male. Unless they're one of the ones doing the harrassing, I don't think they should apologize. 
There are things that can be done. When someone you know engages in inappropriate or harassing behavior towards a woman, let them know they did something totally not cool. Like: "Actually, that woman had a right to be upset when you chased her down the street. She was completely accurate when she called it creepy" or "Hey, this story you're telling me about putting your dick on a drunk stranger's face at a party when she clearly didn't want it there but was too sleepy to fend you off, that was a totally not cool thing to do with your penis, bro." Teach every moldable male mind (brothers, friends, sons) that treating women (humans) with respect is the right thing to do. If you hear a woman asking a man to leave her alone or calling attention to the fact that he's whacking off in the train station, add your voice to hers. Say "This is not ok. This is not cool. We see what you are doing and it is unacceptable." 


Sunday, September 09, 2012

Shel Silverstein poem

I need to say this one every day!

Photo: (RF)

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Being loved

I continue to read super popular young adult novels like The Hunger Games and Graceling, and one thing I notice about them is that the female lead is always tough and prickly and of course super capable, and inevitably adored by all the other admirable characters in the book.  I know these books are a fantasy for young women (that's part of their raison d'etre). But they are rather bittersweet for me - because I am that exact personality, and adoration is in very short supply.  It's quite the opposite in real life - the showiest ass kissers are the most popular, no matter how phony they are.


Friday, September 07, 2012

Forgiveness is hard

I love all the wise words about how important forgiveness is, but this one is probably more realistic:


Monday, September 03, 2012

Politics are cool!

I thought this was funny (on FB), especially after seeing several posts about how annoying political posts are: