Monday, February 28, 2011

As Ye Vote, So Shall Ye Reap

This was not exactly a week devoid of tantalizing topics. In fact, it was so chock-full of them that I am overwhelmed with the possibilities. But before I get to that scintillating item I’ve chosen to dissect, there are a couple of smaller items I want to mention. 

Someone referenced the “Superman joke” in a comment on the last blog. A number of readers emailed and asked if I still had a copy and would I post the “how to tell a joke” column that Steve would periodically run. So if you look to your right, you will see a link to a page called Ziggy’s Joke o’the Day. If any of you are old ZJOD readers and have a favorite joke you’d like to see again, let me know. I have the archive.

The second item is a bit of a sad note. Duke Snider passed away  Sunday, February 27th. For any Brooklyn Dodger fan, the Duke of Flatbush was a player par excellence. One of the obits said he was the last living Brooklyn Dodger who was on the field when they took the 1955 World Series. Pee Wee Reese and Duke Snider constituted my first crush. I could never quite decide who I loved more…Duke or Pee Wee. I was four. It was a very hard choice.

Now, on to the topic of the day.

It would be easy to launch a rant on the events next door in Wisconsin especially after last week's blog, which, by the way, was not as well received as I would’ve liked. Seems some people just didn’t get the Swiftian satire part. Not sure what that means, but I think it has something to do with the concept of classical literacy.

Up front, let me just remind everyone that my sympathies lie with the workers and their desire to retain collective bargaining rights. 

From all reports, Governor Walker is not dealing honestly with the unions and that point was driven home in the recorded prank call where a writer posed as one of the Koch brothers.  You can read the transcript of the phone call for yourself. It’s pretty dodgy stuff.

On the other hand, the people of Wisconsin elected this guy with 52% of the vote. Democrat candidate Barrett received 46%, so it wasn’t a giant mandate or anything like that, but it was a majority.  So what happens if the people of Wisconsin actually get the government they elected? Clearly they wanted something other than what they had, and they dumped just about every major Democrat from office. If elections are supposed to reflect the will of the people, then doesn’t Governor Walker have an obligation to his constituency to fulfill his promised platform? Granted, his platform did not include “union busting” per se, but that had to be part of the process he was describing.

What if the tables were reversed?  What if it was a Democrat governor trying to reign in the budget and the Republicans marching on Madison with mean signs? What would be we saying? "Hey! We won; it's our call?" It's hard to guess, but given the lack of civility on both sides, I can't imagine it would be much different.

At this writing, the 14 Democratic state senators are still AWOL. Eventually they have to come back. And when they do, they will cast their votes and most likely lose this battle. In fleeing the state, all they have done is postponed the inevitable, but in doing so they have allowed significant protest to occur and that is probably a good thing.

So what has to happen here?  As horrid as it sounds, maybe we need to sit down now, shut up, and let the baloney fly where it may. In the end, that may be the only way to save what's left of the system. Perhaps letting the people of Wisconsin have the government they elected will be the best way to drive the point home.

Part of living in a democracy is that sometimes the other guy wins and you have to content yourself with voicing your discontent knowing that it’s not going to do much good. That does not, however,  absolve you from actively protesting that with which you don’t agree, and in fact, it should compel you to be a more active part of the process.

IMHO.... but then again, this blog is written by the Wifely Pollyanna.

The Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Week
Before treading the red carpet, always look in the mirror.
If your muffins are visible, get some new Spanx.

Monday, February 21, 2011

We the People, Part 4: Our Valentine from Congress

While I was lolling about being self-indulgent last week, POTUS was handing out his budget. Even before the shrink wrap was off, Republicans and the Tea Party-ers were shouting, “Deeper! Deeper!”
    © 2011, Steven G. Artley, ARTLEY CARTOON
We must be prepared for cuts into the so-called entitlement programs which, depending on whom you ask, make up between 40%-60% of the federal budget. Those savvy Republicans have figured out there’s a bonus to be had by making artery deep cuts; not only will wasteful programs to help the poor disappear, those people enabling those programs will also disappear.  Lay ‘em off and you don’t have to pay ‘em! This will save millions.

Plus, once those people no longer have jobs, we won’t need those death panels the Tea Party keeps talking about. The unemployed who can no longer afford health care should, if they get sick, have the good sense to just die, thereby saving the government even more! Not only do we save on health care, we won’t ever have to pay them Social Security because they’ll never make it to entitlement age.

But wait, there’s more! All those underemployed service industry burger flippers are also going to find themselves downsized because there will be fewer people to buy Big Macs. But that’s okay; they didn’t really make a living wage anyway, and when any sort of unemployment benefit ends, they, too, will enter the death track. Here’s where the President helps out: with his cost cutting measure of underfunding the Low Income Energy Assistance Program, they really won’t be able to heat their houses, so they will get sick and just die. More savings!

Now let’s take a quick peek at the education system. Decimation of school funding on both state and federal levels will excise all non-basic classes thereby ensuring kids get no enrichment or exercise whatsoever while ensuring huge class sizes. Now this might not seem to be an optimal situation, but wait for it….it’s great. You’ve got 50-60 kids packed into a classroom designed to hold 30 on a bad day. Way too many of the kids have unemployed or underemployed parents who have no health care. All it takes is one kid with a cold. Since there’s no longer a school nurse (she’s probably been laid off in a staff reduction) the kid has no one to tell him to go home and then he/she will infect the rest of the class. In turn, they’ll go home and infect their families and voila! they’ll die, too, thereby saving the government even more. Class size will shrink as a result, as will school staffing requirements.

At the same time, the rich, paying even less in taxes thanks to those tax cuts for the already wealthy, will get richer and will be able to hire household help. Now that the ranks of the service industry sector has been decimated by disease and are no longer available to service them, the rich will have to import illegal aliens. Since everyone knows you don’t have to pay illegals a living wage or provide them with benefits like health care, the rich will get even richer and will be able to invest their gains in companies that continue to off shore jobs to places with no discernible human rights, like China (who by the way, does provide health care for its citizens) and then bank those gains off shore in places like the Caymans so they don’t have even have to pay taxes on those profits. See, this is a great thing!

Now, there is a very slight downside. With the middle and lower classes dying off like that, there may be a minor problem with remains disposal, but that’s another issue. The rich might have to chip in to build some ovens or something like that, but they might decide it’s more cost effective to just cart the bodies over to the nearest large body of water to toss ‘em in. But hey! It’s organic!

You shouldn’t feel bad about any of this. It really is the new American Way. Just ask the Tea Party. Just think of it as the government’s valentine to America.

      The Wifely Person's Tip o' the Week...courtesy of Jonathan Swift
"Whoever makes two ears of corn, or two blades of grass to grow where only one grew before, deserves better of mankind, and does more essential service to his country than 
the whole race of politicians put together."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Whaddya mean 'we', Kemosabe?

On Valentine’s Day '75, I threw a small party in my dorm room. It was really a party for those of us separated from our significant others, and this was an attempt to keep us from feeling sorry for ourselves. My significant other had just visited me in Minnesota, but he was already back at school in the People's Republic of Berkeley. To the mostly fellow grad students, I served, amongst other things, that source of endless hilarity, the infamous heart shaped cake that refused to come out of the pan and was subsequently glued together with grotesquely pink frosting. 

Ziggy in the dorm

Since I was hosting the party, my buddy Ziggy borrowed my beloved Volvo 144 to take his girlfriend out for a romantic dinner. We were still playing records (yes, we were spinning vinyl in them olden days) when suddenly Ziggy was back.

Immediately, I asked, “What happened to the car?”

“Nothing; the car is fine. I broke up with Linda.”  There was this great, dramatic sigh. “I guess it’s just you and me, kid.” Then, he wiggled his eyebrows.

Don and my Volvo 144

“You and me we?” I raised a single eyebrow in disbelief. "Whaddya mean, we, kemosabe?” 

Glancing at my watch, I pointed out that I had an after-date with Don, my mechanic, to go out jump-starting cars, a very lucrative sideline in sub-zero Minnesota. Still, and this did take a while, Ziggy managed to convince me to marry him...but that's another story all by itself.

Valentines was our joke day; nothing was sacred. The gifts were always red and always a little weird. He gave me the flaming red wok that year we lived on Como Avenue, the red-plaid flannel maternity shirt when I was pregnant with #1 son, and the spatula with the giant red bow…one of my personal faves…to replace the one I broke in a cooking misadventure. There was always a card left for me in an odd place: hanging in the shower on a soap rope, taped to my steering wheel, stuck to the milk carton in the fridge, even tucked into my bowling bag the year bowling tournament fell on a VD weekend.

And every Valentine’s Day, at some point when I was least expecting it, Steve would say, “I guess it’s just you and me, kid,” and I would always answer, “Whaddya mean we, Kemosabe?”  The night always drew to a romantic close with dancing in the kitchen, and his famous eyebrow wiggle.

Steve was always the more romantic of the two of us, but he got his fair share of mushy cards. Y’know, I found them all not too long ago. I was cleaning out the far reaches of his closet and there was this wooden cigar box…and every Valentine card I ever gave him was in there. I never knew he saved them. I read them all.

I think he knew I’d saved every one he’d ever given me.

It’s not the gifts or even the cards that I miss most. It’s that eyebrow wiggle.

I guess you had to be there. 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Always accept a gift graciously and with kind thanks;
to  do otherwise shows not the giver's lack of taste, but your lack of manners.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Bowl v. Puppy Bowl: There Are No Winners

For reasons I do not fully understand, I found myself actually watching the Stupid Bowl. In years past, I would hide in my study, avoiding the spectacle of Steve jumping up and down, shouting at the den TV.  If he called me in for a particular commercial or half time act, I went, but otherwise, I pretty much steered clear of the whole debacle. And no, I did not see the infamous wardrobe malfunction.

Lambeau Field
But this year, I actually watched the game. The Packers were playing and as ambivalent as I am about the Vi-queens, I have a slightly odd soft spot for the Packers. It has to do with the town owning the team, as if a piece of old-time America, when sports were, well, sportsmanlike, has been preserved for all of us to marvel at. Somehow Green Bay has managed to keep the team, keep Lambeau Field, and keep a kind of sanity that is seriously lacking in the big business of sports. True, they’ve sold naming rights to the entry gates, but the club has stood pretty firm on not renaming the stadium. This doesn’t mean they are a better team, it only means that the share-holders and the club are in agreement that history means something, and roots are to be respected. I don’t know if I’m delusional on this subject, but really want to believe in the mythology of Green Bay.

Undescended Peas
All this, however, does not help the cause of the overblown, overstuffed, overexposed thing called the Super Bowl.  I happen to remember Super Bowl I, and not understanding what all the fuss was about. It was a single game, not even a series! And to this 14 year old person, it was boring. There were a couple of marching bands, and Al Hirt was the halftime entertainment, not quasi-singers dropped out of the sky to be drown out (which may not have been a bad thing in some cases) by badly balanced audio. Frankly, the half-time shows are grotesque and revolting. They do nothing to enhance the event.

I don’t know exactly when football changed into this juggernaut we have now, and I don’t really care. The halftime show was dull. The ads were mediocre. (Except for the VW Darth Vader ad which obviously was based on one of my know who you are.) The post game commentary was equally pathetic and I lasted about 3 minutes listing to that claptrap. These guys couldn't string a cogent sentence together without cue cards, and they just keep saying the same thing over and over and over. The self-congratulatory back slaps are beyond plastic. And I can’t help wondering if the Coliseum in Rome was any different after championship gladiator matches.

Basically, this is just another exaltation of the culture of violent stupidity. Do we really need to elevate two teams running at each other like the bulls of Pamplona to something worthy of lavish praise? Or is this just one sign of the media controlling our visual input until we are dulled into acquiescence toward gore?

Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet
And if all this isn’t enough to make you sick, now it looks like the Puppy Bowl has gone the same way. Ads for BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA 2 are everywhere and even the blimp and the water bowl have sponsors. It’s really hard to concentrate on unnecessary ruff-ruff-roughness when there are pop-up ads everywhere! 

I keep asking, and will ask here, too: WHAT ARE WE TEACHING OUR KIDS?????????

At the end of the day, I think the sellout of Puppy Bowl is the sadder of the two events.

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Only a couple weeks until the pitchers and catchers are called in.
Translation....every day brings us one day closer to spring.