Sunday, March 31, 2013

Thank Goodness for 3-D

Went to see my first modern 3-D movie this weekend. I managed to sit through OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (sans popcorn because it's still Passover) without falling asleep once. I think that was the function of the 3-D part, because without it, I would've been sound asleep after about 10 minutes. Truth is, it was boring. The newness of digital 3-D coupled with my not having seen 3-D anything since THIRTEEN GHOSTS back in the 60s (complete with cardboard specs) kept me watching. Honestly, I wasn't all that impressed back then, either. 

But back to OZ. Yes, the movie, like THE WIZARD OF OZ, opened in black and white, then changed to color once the Wizard landed in Oz. After that, it was the fancy-shmancy optical effects that kept the story going. Yes, they were cool. But no, it wasn't enough to carry the film. Very disappointing. 

More annoying, however, was the endless number of commercials before the previews even began. Endless, I tell you! Endless. The time in the paper was 6:40, but the film itself didn't begin until almost 7:30. I felt like a hostage. Is there no visual medium (except my ad-free blog) without a soda or a smart phone ad being thrust into our faces? I'm already paying $13.50 for the privilege of sitting in this less than pristine seat AND I'm still being inundated with ads? Puh-lease. (Only redeeming moment: new Star Trek trailer in 3-D. Count me in for that one!)

And while we're on the subject of things that annoy me, I have to add gun control legislation. Had our crack Congress actually moved quickly on the background check bill back before the recess, we would have it. It would've passed both houses because no sitting congressperson would want to go home and admit they didn't do something, anything about Newtown. Instead, they shelved it into the new year, porked it up, and now it's DOA. When the Senate comes back on April 8th, they will take up gun control again...but the assault weapons and high-capacity magazines ban is now off the table.

How is that serving the needs of America? So instead of taking a sane step toward closing at least some of the gun sale loopholes, we've opened the door to the lunatic fringe going to TV (and that specifically means you, Mr. La Pierre) saying that background checks are meant to take your guns away from you. HOW STUPID DO THEY THINK WE ARE??????? Obviously pretty stupid because it's working. 

Meanwhile, there's a quote going around being attributed to Rachel Maddow. I'm pretty sure it did not originate with her because I cannot find any reliable attribution to say that it did. No matter; whoever said it was brilliant:

There is something drastically wrong in America when the same political party that tries to take away voting rights, civil rights, human rights, religious rights, social rights and constitutional rights encourages people to take up arms in the fear that 'government' is taking away our rights.

That really sums it all up, doesn't it?  Personally, I am tired of the fear mongering bullshit. I am tired of the GOP telling me all about small government at the same time they want to invade bedrooms and vaginas. Their idea of small government means only the affluent get to benefit from its loophole ridden, tax-free sheltering programs supported on the backs of us shmucks who actually pay taxes.

Well, I pay taxes. Lots of them as a matter of fact, and while I admit to wincing, I will also tell you that I am happy to pay taxes in the US. This is my country. Taxes are my membership dues. I want to pay my fair share....and I expect everyone else to do the same. But if you expect me to sit complacently while others with far more income than me shelter their money off shore to avoid paying those dues, well, I say, "Move to the Caymans and have a nice life. We neither want nor need you here. After all, the rest of us are tired of paying YOUR share."

If there is going to be any revolt in this country, I hope to hell it's a tax one. Meanwhile, because I pay taxes, I remain firm in my belief that I get to have an opinion on the rest of this stuff. 

And on that note, "Chag Same'ch!" to those of us finishing out Passover, and "Happy Easter!" to those celebrating that holiday. As for the rest of you...have  good week!

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Now is the time to make you "OUT OF" list for Pesach 2014;
then, post it someplace you will actually see it when the time comes to shop!

Monday, March 25, 2013

No Temp-Tee Today

Well, I'm not quite done and the soup isn't started and I've not done the final floor wash yet...and I'm sitting here feeling sorry for myself and missing Steve as much as ever. Not that he would be much use..except he would've stripped and waxed this horrid, defective, yukky floor this afternoon. I don't do that. Nope. I just wash the damn thing and dream of ripping it right up.

Earlier this year, the crack outfit handling kosher food in the Twin Cities went under. No surprise there. Not that I'm going to speak ill of the dead distributorship, other than to say it needed to happen. I was not, however, prepared for the cream cheese crisis. 

Passover in Minnesota lacks many of the comforts of home. Joyva Marshmallow Twists, real meat from a real butcher, Breakstone's Cottage Cheese and Temp-Tee Whipped Cream Cheese. 

"Wait!" you cry; "we have Breakstone's Cottage Cheese all year 'round!" 

Not quite; we now seem to have it for 51 weeks; there was no cottage cheese to be had. And there is no Temp-Tee. Are we expected to be as savages? No pure whipped fluffy cream cheese, long believed to be the saving grace of Pesach????? A shonde! 

And what makes it worse is that the junior son and wife are flying in from a wedding on the west coast and I was special agent in charge of procuring cream cheese. I have failed. I admitted there was no cream cheese when I called to confirm their arrival time at 5:20 IN THE MORNING. Junior son was very brave and said, "Ma, I'm sure we'll manage," but I am certain I heard a muffled sob in there. 

I won't tell you what I spent at Byerly's in St. Louis Park, I have a seizure just thinking about it...and I only bought one piece of beef! ONE! Any more and I would've needed a second mortgage on the house. 

My mother used to send the enormo-sized box of Joyva Twists which I would keep in the freezer and hand out as prizes for not making me crazy during week of Passover. Even Steven would line up. These are a precious commodity and will be greatly missed. 

These days, people make all sorts of stuff "just like regular" trying to pass it off as Passover: passover popovers, passover bagels, passover cookies... but that's not for me. Passover should be different. It should make us think a little more. This is a week when we really have to stop and think about what we're putting in our mouths and, by extension, our bodies. It's not all totally gross any more, but you do have to have things that, at least in your family, are just for Passover. 

At the seder, we say, "Once we were slaves, now we are free." As the Rabbi Allen pointed out to me this morning (all the way from Jerusalem at that!) we are not all free. This is true. There are people all over the world who are not free. And we who are, often take that freedom for granted. And often, we confuse the choices we make with chains that bind. To be sure, there are commitments forced upon us that we don't want to make but make because it's the right thing to do. We set aside that which we would prefer to do so that we can do what we need to do. And if our own self-gratification is delayed? Well, too bad. We're grown ups; we can handle that.

Life cannot be just all about "me;" it has to be about the greater good. Passover, in it's unconventional wisdom, reinforces that idea throughout the seder: the name of Moses, the guy who did the negotiating, the leader from bondage into freedom, is never mention. 

You see, it's not about him.

So this week and next week the blog will be out a bit early to accommodate yom tov, the holy days at the beginning and end of the week. Wishing everyone a Chag Kasher v'Same'ach.  

And to those who begin the Christian Holy Week, may you have a Happy Easter.

The Wifely Person's Tip O'The Week
Drink lots of water...and eat lots of ruffage. 
It really does help.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Not So Happy Tenth Anniversary

Ten years ago, the following intro appeared on Ziggy’s Joke o’the Day:

March 19th, 2003
<sigh> Well, we're at war with Iraq.  As an American, I can only pray that an absolute minimum number of people -- on both sides of the conflict -- will be killed before it's over, and, that it _will_ be over soon.  Should the U.S. and its allies prevail, and it's probably a safe assumption that they will, I also pray that the victory and subsequent peace-keeping an  "regime change" will be administered as quickly and humanely as possible.

Civilization was weaned between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers  and has flourished there ever since.  But shit happens, especially in war.  Here's to the hope that civilization will continue to flourish there in the future.

When the Zigster read that intro to me, I went nuts. I told him in no uncertain terms that this was mamby-pamby bulloney and not even close to what he claimed to think about another war in Iraq. I accused him to copping out and not telling his readers the truth. And what’s more, I told him this was a lousy legacy to leave the kids on the subject of war. Ziggy watched me jump up and down with my usual anti-war rhetoric and waited patiently for me to stop.

“What if you’re wrong? What if there are WMD in Iraq? Then what?  Is it better to have done nothing rather than something?"

And I shouted, “YOU DRANK THE KOOL-AID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thankfully, the Kool-Aid wore off and in a matter of days, he was back to his old cynical self.  Or maybe it was the heart-attack a week later than cured him. Not sure. Either way, he went back to being anti-war, anti-Bush, and most vociferously anti-Cheney. And remained that way until the day he had the poor form to die. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch a decade later….the Republicans are still lying about the wars as if We, the People are a bunch of dumb bunnies. Do they think we didn't notice President Bush and the war machine did nothing to attempt to pay those bills, much less fund two wars?

According to the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, "the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan will cost between $3.2 and $4 trillion, including medical care and disability for current and future war veterans. This figure does not include substantial probable future interest on war-related debt."

Cost of War Project ~ Brown University
What exactly has the US gained by removing Saddam Hussein as dictator? Or the Iraqi people? Is there any semblance of peace in that nation? They remain enmeshed in a civil war that extracts in price in pounds of flesh and gallons of blood with no end in sight. 4488 service personnel dead in Iraq.

Wanna add Afghanistan to the total? There’s another 2190 fatalities to add to the list.  What have we accomplished…. other than to prop up a president who is as nutty as a fruitcake and has no desire to lead his nation into the 21st century? I suppose the more important question is, are the diverse and divergent people of  Afghanistan better off than there were before we decided to help them?

We destroyed cities and towns, were guilty of moral atrocities, were responsible the deaths of thousands of our own soldiers but thousands more civilians. We do not adequately treat our wounded veterans, and do almost nothing to help them rebuild their lives. Thousands of "weekend warriors" became full time soldiers .....for what purpose? We all call them heroes....but what actions were heroic? We know both wars were a sham. We know both wars cost lives and dollars and yielding nothing but the overriding sense we did not then nor do not now belong there.

How is any of this okay?

The soldiers who fought in this mockery of ethics are heroes because they didn't come back and start an insurrection. They're heroes because they didn't storm the capitol and the White House. Or maybe they woulda been bigger heroes if they had.

Which makes you want to rethink Private Manning and the leaked documents. Going to Julian Assange was just dumb… in the most naïve sense of the word… but I suspect this kid's heart was in the right place. That said, what makes it much worse is that most of the Pentagon and the rest of the Defense Department are not nearly as stupid as Dick Cheney made them out to be. They knew this war was fabricated yet they did nothing to stop it. Perhaps they are the ones who should be charged with treason.

And now, as if all this isn’t enough, the Republican party is performing an autopsy on itself. Really? Doesn’t autopsy kinda suggest the thing is already dead? Their long awaited Growth and Opportunity report stated:

For the GOP to appeal to younger voters, we do not have to agree on every issue, but we do need to make sure young people do not see the Party as totally intolerant of alternative points of view… Already, there is a generational difference within the conservative movement about issues involving the treatment and the rights of gays — and for many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the Party is a place they want to be.

Really. And We, the People, are supposed to buy into that little fantasy, too?

Yeah. Sure. Whatever. 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
If you haven't started your Passover cleaning...
you're running outta time.

Monday, March 11, 2013

There Isn't A More Profitable Undertaking.......

In 1955, a novel was published about the Grand Duchy of Fenwick, a teeny tiny nation no more than five miles long and three miles wide, nestled between Italy and France, tucked into a fold of the Alps. It was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post. And it was made into a movie. I loved that movie. Well, okay; in 1959 I was already a huge Peter Sellers fan and he was playing not one, but THREE parts in the movie. Oh, you probably want to know the name of the movie. Well, it wasn’t titled The Wrath of Grapes as the author originally intended; instead, it was called The Mouse That Roared.

Tully Bascombe takes NY
Here's the short version: the Duchy’s main export is a fine wine called Pinot Grand Fenwick. When an American company successfully markets a knockoff, Pinot Grand Enwick, the Ducky is practically bankrupted. Desperate to do something, anything to save the Duchy, they decide to declare war on America…with every intention of losing so that they might be the recipients of generous foreign aid…à la the Marshall Plan. Well, things didn’t turn out quite that way. As Tully Bascombe, Grand Fenwick's military mastermind, says, "There isn't a more profitable undertaking for any country than to declare war on the United States and to be defeated."

Seems that Kim Jong Whatshisname likes more than just American b-ball. I’m gonna take a wild guess that he also likes American movies…and that somewhere along the line, he saw THE MOUSE THAT ROARED. Just hunch here, but the movie is just obscure (old) enough to not be in vogue and Junior is hoping that no one remembers it. After all, We, the People aren’t real good at remembering history, much less learning from it.

North Korea is in dire straits. The country is close to broke, the population is suffering. And Kim Jung Un, spending what little capital he has on nuclear programs, just announced the 1953 Armistice has been invalidated. Can this little fellow be so delusional as to think the US won’t glass him over should he attempt to launch a nuclear device in our direction? Even China, his sole ally, is displeased with this turn of events. Apparently, the Chinese have deemed this the gateway to Nuttyland.

But is it so nutty? We have a habit of fixing up countries that come after us. Look at post-war Germany and Japan. We spent billions rebuilding their economies. One might look at those as investments, but others might think otherwise. However, this seems to be, for good or for bad, our modus operandi.

Of course, there’s no guarantee US intervention is always welcome.  Iraq and Afghanistan are living examples of that. We had no business in Iraq; it was a phony war drummed up for Cheney for his oil buddies and sanction by the infantile W…who viewed the taking of Saddam Hussein as payback for threatening President Daddy. Iraq is not a functioning government, and there are still homicide bombers roaming city streets and the countryside. Ya, sure, you betcha; we sure did a bang up job with that one. And I won’t even mention the aroigevofeneh gelt that went to baksheesh and other assorted pockets of no merit. Very little of it helped the people of Iraq…like we said it would.

What? Me worry?
The same thing goes for Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai has been showing himself these days to be the south end of a northbound horse. Clearly he’s worried about his own legacy and clearly he’s playing both sides. He knows damn well the money well is about to dry up and he’s gonna use that for what it’s worth to convince his people of, well, who knows what.

So I have a couple of suggestions our foreign frenemies.
First, to Hamid Krazy in Afghanistan: Rooze khoobi dashteh bashed. That’s Dari for “have a nice day,” which is Minnesotan for “We’re outta here.” Not one more red cent goes into that country. Not that we had any business being there in the first place, but President Krazy wouldn’t be president if the US hadn’t made that possible, which was stupid in the first place. No more American lives wasted in defense of an administration that has chartered its own path back to the 15th century. Enough is enough.

And as for Kim Jung Un, I would say, “ij-eo beolyeoyo,” which pretty much means, “Fuhgeddaboudit.” If you launch that stuff at the US, we’re going to take you out and we are not spending cent to fix you. There is no reward for being a moron, and you are not going to get to play your version of Grand Theft Fenwick. If you want to play Russian Roulette with your country, that’s your choice.

This is the part where we tell our Congress that we are not going to start another unfunded war. We will do what we need to stop North Korea from attempting to bomb us…and then we’re done. They can fix their own country. This is one case where we actually have not gone in for a regime change and we’re not doing it now. Been there, got the tee-shirt, draped caskets, and prosthetic limbs. The US will do what it has to protect We, the People, and then we’re done.  

Sorry, Kim; there is no Country Claus.

Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Week

Do watch THE MOUSE THAT ROARED…yes, it is available on Netflix.

Monday, March 4, 2013

I Never Saw A Purple Caucus.....

Here's a little bit o' PRESS THE MEET'S transcript from March 03, 213 to get things started:

I want to try to pin you down on two points. You were just talking about tax reform and your objection, it seems, to this formulation which is allow some revenues to come from tax reform to unlock entitlement cuts and then you'd get rid of the sequester. But you think that's sort of arbitrary. It's just a couple of deductions. Are you open down the line to using revenue derived from tax reform closing deductions to actually pay down the deficit?

I'm going to say it one more time. The president got his tax hikes on January the first. The issue here is spending. Spending is out of control. There are smarter ways to cut spending than this silly sequester that the president demanded. And so we need to address the long-term spending problem. But we can't cut our way to prosperity.

We also have to have real economic growth. American family's wages aren't growing. They're being squeezed. And as a result, we've got to find a way through our tax code to promote more economic growth in our country. We can do this by closing loopholes, bringing the rates down for all Americans, making the tax code fairer. It will promote more economic growth.

The above exchange just about sent me lunging at the television; I wanted to reach through the screen and throttle Speaker Boehner, all the while screaming, “CAN YOU JUST ANSWER THE FRICKIN’ QUESTION?????” This man is obtuse, obstructionist, and just plain duplicitous. And We, the People have managed to keep electing him to Congress. Please notice I said, “WE.” All of us own this one.

Just read the NY Times opinion page comments and all you see these days is mounting frustration. Frustration with the government, frustration with the political system, frustration with corporate greed. Some unnamed thing is so out of whack that the only thing people can agree on is that everything is broken. The sad part is, most of We, The People don’t quite understand the depth of broken. It’s ultimately about wealth, power, and manipulation. It’s about suppression and control. And after this last election cycle people are starting to catch on.

There’s this great video explanation of wealth inequality making the rounds these days. It’s a bunch of graphs depicting how we think wealth is distributed, how we think it should be distributed, and how it is actually distributed. It is disturbing…and the comments round it are exceptionally revealing. Yeah, it’s all about how you spin in. But the bottom line (pun definitely intended) is that in inequity is far greater than most people imagine, and when then see it on paper, they wonder how this came to be…and more importantly, how one political party is, even now, standing up to protect that curve on the backs of those who can least afford to support it.

Take a moment and watch this: 
Wealth Inequality in America

I must be living in some kind of cloud-cuckoo-land. I have this ridiculous expectation that after the November election cycle, the GOP would wake up enough to notice they are not exactly in lock step with the rest of the nation. In fact, their statements on women, immigrants, civil rights, and science would’ve provided enough of a clue to a corpse. But noooooo. They have continued down this path of we-hate-everything-we’re-against-everything-and-we’re-gonna-take-this-country-down-just-to-prove-it and expect us not to notice this isn’t about that nation, it’s about THEM. I keep waiting for someone, anyone, from either side of the aisle to stand up and say, “Okay, we all get you’re unhappy; now let’s all get over ourselves and get to work.”And I must confess, this is all getting to me. Big time.

Then, just as I was considering throwing in the political towel in favor of writing widow blogs, or grandpuppy blogs, or gardening blogs, something happened in this strange State of Minnesnowta, L'Étoile du Nord, that made me pause. Two guys stood up and said, basically, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Minnesota State Senators Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, and Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, made the strangest announcement at the capital: they have formed a Purple Caucus. According to the announcement, anyone can join; they just have to put their “status as a Minnesotan above their individual party label.”

What a concept! Who knows if it’s gonna work…but it’s something. Anything. An attempt to put the good of the state above the sticky label. Kudos to these two for standing up and saying something. I hope to hell they get lots of members who finally have figured out we need a lege that works together. We can no longer to afford to have every single bill die in committee. Seriously and literally.

And when Messrs Reinert and Miller prove this can work…let’s send ‘em both to Washington. Lord knows the bozos on that bus need help.

The Wifely Person's Tip O'the Week
I never saw  purple caucus
I  hope real soon to see one
‘cause I can tell you without a  doubt
We really , really need one.
With apologies to Gelett Burgess