Dare I hope?

January 28, 2009 at 9:46 am (Politics) (, , )

A headline in the U.S. section of the New York Times caught my eye this morning.  It’s Texas Rebellion Gives a Centrist a Lift.

Apparently, a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats have banded together to oust the former Speaker of the House, Thomas Craddick of Midland.  I suspect that he’s who we have to thank for much of our “Texas Republicans are all crazy” stuff that’s happened recently – he’s had this role since 2003.  Well, him and Tom DeLay.  DeLay helped get uber-conservatives elected, and apparently Craddick froze Democrats out of most (all?) legislative processes.

Does anyone remember when Texas Democrats fled the state so that the Legislature wouldn’t have a quorum to vote on the horribly unfair redistricting map that we ended up with anyway?  Yeah, that was under this guy.

So now, the new speaker is a relative newbie, Joe Strauss.  He comes from San Antonio’s Alamo Heights, and apparently has earned a reputation as a maverick.  I hate that word (because of gross over- and misuse), but this guy’s the real deal.  He’s a fiscal conservative…but not especially conservative on social issues.

I also didn’t quite realize that the Republican margin of majority in the Legislature is only 76 to 74.  That’s awful close for comfort, I imagine.  And, of course, conservative Republicans aren’t going to look upon this coup with any particular favor.

But, here’s what I think.  I think this could very well be a real change for the better in Texas politics.  It’s so hard for the Legislature to get anything done as it is…and there is exactly no point in shutting out even a small minority of people from the process entirely.  Republicans have controlled the state for 6 years, and they’ve ruined it.  Texas politics is not a happy place to be.

Even though Democrats will almost certainly try to get a majority in the Legislature (that’s sort of the nature of the beast when it comes to political parties), I think this is still a good step all around.  Texas could sure use some more concilliatory politics, and if moderate Republicans manage to take control of their party, Democrats will likely remember that if they ever manage to take control again.

And seriously, let’s face it.  The extremists in Texas are all to the right.  You don’t get crazy extremist liberals in a place like Texas, at least not in significant numbers, but you have plenty of crazy extremist conservatives.  If the Democrats manage to be in charge, you’ll get much more sensible and unifying legislation, and moderate Republicans won’t get shoved to the margins of their party.

So here’s hoping that we get some good, sensible people elected to the Legislature in 2010 for sure.  There’ll be another redistricting map to draw in 2011.

(Yes, I know, I live in Oregon and can’t even vote in Texas anymore.  But seriously, how awesome would it be if sane politics took hold, finally, in a place like Texas?  Symbolism aside, it would mark a pretty big change in this country as a whole.  Also, the Oregon politics don’t tend towards extremism, and people here are pretty good at voting against insane ballot measures.)

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Oh, Mondays

January 26, 2009 at 9:23 am (Uncategorized)

It’s a lovely, clear day today.  We’ve got blue sky (even though it’s supposed to rain at some point), and it was 30º when I left this morning.  I should have put my hood up sooner than I did – my ears were cold!  But I actually enjoy this sort of weather.  Oregon is great when it’s clear and cold in the winter.

Today required a lot of extra motivation to get myself out the door.  I didn’t sleep well last night, and could just feel myself dragging all morning.  The only reason I was really able to leave on time is because I decided today was a no makeup day.  My skin’s pretty clear at the moment, and my glasses make eye makeup not strictly necessary, so lucky me.

And actually, speaking of glasses, I got my lenses replaced this weekend.  I actually have two pairs of frames that are exactly the same, because one of them was originally prescription sunglasses.  But I really don’t use them anymore (largely because they’re 2 prescriptions out of date, and I can’t see anything properly), so Mom had the great idea of having my new lenses put into the sunglasses frames.  So now I have a backup pair of glasses that is close enough for me to function, should I ever need them.

My new glasses are taking some getting used to, though.  I can certainly see a whole lot better, but they don’t have an anti-reflective coating.  So I really notice when they’re dirty, and have to clean them all the time.  I can get the anti-reflective coating put on later, if I’m willing to surrender my glasses for a week and pay $69 (insurance doesn’t cover it, and I’ve blown through my vision insurance allowance for the year anyway).  So I’m thinking I might give it a couple of months to see if I can get used to the difference, and then have it done if it’s still bothering me.

But on the plus side, it’s really nice to be able to focus on things properly again.  My eyes don’t have to work nearly so hard to see things clearly again.

Amiel and I also went to the gym last night.  We really intended to start last week, but after I got locked out on Tuesday and was just exhausted Friday, it didn’t work out so well.  We’ve been really trying to add a lot more vegetables to our diet and get as much physical activity as we can.  We’re doing okay with the physical activity, because we both end up doing a lot of walking.  And the diet thing is getting better because we’ve started eating salad most nights, as well as eating more frozen vegetables.  But none of it will do as much as we’d like if we don’t lift weights.  So we went last night, and I’m ever so slightly sore today.  It’s really only my shoulders, and it’s a good kind of sore.  But I’ll need to fiddle around with how much weight I’m using for all the other exercises – nothing else is sore, and my arms and legs should be just a little.

The other thing we got to deal with this weekend was 3 of our 4 kitchen outlets not working.  They just suddenly stopped yesterday morning.  Fortunately, everything we had plugged in still works just fine, but it’s a pain to be without most of our plugs.  Someone’s going to come look at them tomorrow, and I’m hoping it’s a simple fix.  But either way, this is one of the joys of living in an apartment – this isn’t my headache.  And I really shouldn’t have to pay to fix it (since I didn’t do anything wrong or out of the ordinary).

And that’s probably quite enough of a mundane update for now.

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Shouldn’t we at least ask the question?

January 23, 2009 at 9:16 am (Politics) (, , )

I started a post last week that I never actually finished.  I won’t post it as is, because there’s more I want to say, but here’s what I wrote last week:

If I am completely and totally honest with myself, I will admit that I would absolutely love to be vindictive towards the Bush administration.  I never supported anything that Bush did, and I think he and his party have done immeasurable damage to the United States.  It could take us decades to fully undo what he managed in just eight years.

But is it truly vindictive to expect that Obama will uphold the law?  Is it vindictive to say that I don’t want Bush et. al. to be pardoned for the sake of some mythical sense of harmony?  Is it vindictive that I think the only way we can prevent all of the Bush administration atrocities from happening again is by punishing everyone involved to the fullest extent of the law?

I hope to God that Obama listens to the people telling him that he can’t just sweep this one aside.  I really do think that the only way we, as a country, can repair the damage done is to acknowledge it, fully.  And to prosecute those who thought they were above the law.

This is the most important issue that Obama will face.  It encompasses everything from the war in Iraq to the plumetting economy.

Since writing that, I have been incredibly surprised to discover that I actually feel a small amount of pity towards George Bush.  I still think he deserves all the censure he’s getting now (and more), but let’s face it, his life sucks right now.  Just because it’s his own damn fault that it sucks doesn’t make me feel any less sorry for him.

One of the people I feel absolutely no pity for, however, is Karl Rove.  He apparently wrote something in the Wall Street Journal the other day, chastising President Obama for saying bad things about the Bush Administration’s policies.  He said it was poor form, after George Bush was so nice to him during the transition period.

We Americans have a pretty common problem these days, when it comes to social interaction.  We very often conflate morality with etiquette.  To give a simple definition, morality is about what is right, but etiquette is about what is acceptable to society.

Now, often, etiquette and morality overlap.  Many people consider it morally wrong to cheat on a significant other.  It is also generally considered impolite to force people to recognize your “bit on the side” while you’re still married to or dating someone else.  So the two sets of rules overlap for the public sphere, but not in the private one.  It is not rude to cheat on your significant other unless you make it public.  But that doesn’t stop it from being wrong.

So yes, George Bush was awfully polite to the Obama family as they made their transition into the White House.  But that hardly erases eight years of conduct that was, at the very best, misguided.  Anyone who thinks that three months of playing nice makes up for eight years of horrible policy decisions is seriously delusional.

And really, I think my ability to feel a little sorry for George Bush and some of the other people caught up in that administration is what makes me (and everyone else like me) so different from people like Karl Rove.  Rove didn’t have any empathy for the lives he was helping to destroy as he ushered in an era with some of the most divisive politics we’ve ever seen.  He had no regret for the fact that he caused a serious rift in this country for his own (and others) personal gain.  To go by one definition of it, he is evil because he is so purely selfish.  He doesn’t give a flip about the rest of the world.

To be completely frank, unless people like Karl Rove are actually punished, they will never regret what they’ve done, and they will take any opportunity they find to do it again.  Social disapproval means nothing to them, because they just don’t care about what other people think.

And this is why we must investigate the Bush Administration’s activities.  If we don’t want them to reemerge the next time we see a Republican president, we have to examine them and declare them wrong.  We didn’t do that after Reagan, and we paid the price for that oversight with Bush.  Otherwise, in 8 or 12 or 16 or however many years from now, will we truly be able to recognize what’s going on before it’s too late?

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Post-Inaugural Thoughts

January 22, 2009 at 12:00 pm (Politics) (, )

I imagine it was rather surprising that I let the entire subject of the inauguration pass with just a post about fashion.  I know I’m Ms. Politics, but I was frankly rather overwhelmed with it all.  Even now, it still feels incredibly surreal to have President Barack Hussein Obama leading our country, but I imagine it will seem less so as time goes on.

I was actually thinking about the fact that it just doesn’t seem quite real.  I was 15 when George W. Bush was elected.  I’d been marginally aware of the last part of Bill Clinton’s tenure, but not in any really profound way.  The 8 years of the Bush Administration really have marked basically my entire adult life.  It’s no wonder it feels weird to have a different president, even if I am heartily glad to have him.

Either way, as glad as I am to have President Obama sitting in the Oval Office, I’ve got some concerns.  He’s gotten off to an excellent start, in my opinion (overhauled ethics, our plan for the Middle East, and signed a directive today to close Guantánamo – all of these are fabulous).  But I’ve got some concerns about what he intends to do about the economy.

First, as I said in my post earlier, he really needs to nationalize our banking system temporarily.  I’m not entirely sure he’s going to push for it, but I really hope he does.  Some of the alternative plans sound pretty shady to me.  Paul Krugman had an interesting column either this past Monday or Friday on that subject, so I won’t get into it.

Second, he really, really, really needs to hand a giant chunk of change to each and every state.  They are all facing budget crises (and some, like Oregon, were already having trouble balancing the budget before the economy imploded).  If states have to start cutting services and jobs to balance the budget, we will all suffer.  I’m not sure people realize just how many truly vital services are provided (or at least paid for) by state, county, and local governments.  The answer is: nearly all of them.

Third, he needs to initiate an investigation into the Bush Administration.  This probably shouldn’t happen right away, but it should happen soon and it should be a priority.  Even if no indictments follow, we all deserve to know what happened.  There was so much secrecy cloaking the government for the past 8 years that it was impossible for any regular American to know what on earth was going on.  And frankly, if they find any evidence of serious wrongdoing, I hope the prosecute the pants off the perpetrator.  No man, but especially not the president, is above the law.

And finally, I hope that President Obama makes good on his promises about health care.  That’s another one that can and probably should wait until things are a little more stable, but it should still be a priority.  Easing the burden of medical insurance payments would help most Americans enormously, and it would sharply decrease the building up of debt (since a whole lot of people get to the point of bankruptcy because of unexpected and/or uninsurable medical problems).

So that’s my to-do list for Obama (not that he’ll ever see it).  What do you think he should be doing first?

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A Financial Kick in the Rear

January 22, 2009 at 10:01 am (Politics) (, , )

So I was skimming a post on the Opinionator Blog (on the NYTimes Opinion page) when some things written by a Financial Times blogger caught my eye.  He was basically saying that the government in the UK needs to take over all the major banks, because to do anything less than that would be a recipe for failure (the idea being that they allowed banks to get too large to fail, but also too large to rescue – thus, the only response possible in a crisis is to nationalize them).

What compelled me to comment on this, however, was a particular term he used to describe bad assets.  We’ve all heard the term “toxic assets” – that is, after all, the source of most discussion worldwide about financial institutions.  But only a Brit would go on to talk about “dodgy assets” in an official blog.

Sometimes I really wish American English had more colorful adjectives.  It’s no wonder we borrow a lot from British English.

At any rate, I agree completely with this guy’s assessment of why nationalizing banks is really the only option left (read it here – scroll about halfway down).  And, in the US at least, we desperately need to change our status quo.  It’s really incredibly broken.  Since a huge, disastrous downward spiral is apparently not a big enough kick in the rear for the financial industry, we need a bigger one.

And, before anyone gets all worked up about my suggestion that we nationalize banks – I don’t think it should be permanent.  I’d honestly rather my government focus on other things, and I think in the long run, it would all get too bogged down.  As a long term solution, it would be much smarter to focus on keeping good regulations in place, and otherwise letting the market do its thing.  But in the short term, somebody has to overhaul the financial system, and the US government is the only entity with enough money and power to manage it.

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I’m an idiot…

January 21, 2009 at 8:39 am (Uncategorized)

…but at least I now know my new winter coat works.

So yesterday, I was in a bit of a rush getting out the door.  I almost always am the first day of the week, because I need a little extra time to get all my stuff together.  I use a backpack during the week, but a purse on the weekends (and my purse is too big to just toss in my backpack like I used to in high school).

I realized when I got to work that I’d forgotten my wallet.  It’s not honestly that big a deal, but I kind of sort of wanted to buy a soda yesterday and couldn’t.

Then, as soon as I got off the bus near my apartment, I realized I’d also forgotten to grab my keys.  Amiel locked the door behind me yesterday morning, so I didn’t realize I’d left them hanging by the front door.  This also would not normally be a problem, because Amiel is usually home before me – except that yesterday he had a meeting that started at 5:30.  So I was pretty much SOL, since it was only about 5:45 when I got home.

So, I got back on the bus and went back towards campus, expecting Amiel to be done with his meeting within an hour (as per his prediction).  I figured I’d go sit in a coffee shop somewhere and have some cof…oh wait, I didn’t have my wallet.  Then I thought I’d go sit in the lobby of a nearby building, except it was locked for the night.  So I ended up waiting outside for nearly an hour.  I didn’t want to leave the bus stop area, just in case Amiel didn’t check his phone and see the six missed calls and new voicemail.

I finally got home at about 7:15 or so.  I have this really great heating pad that is basically a towel that I cut up and sewed into a pouch, and then filled with rice.  I microwave it for 3 minutes, and then it just radiates wonderful heat for like the next hour.  It’s great.  So I heated that up, curled up on the couch under a blanket, and stuck the heating pad on top of my feet (which were freezing).

While I was waiting for Amiel, I ended up calling my wonderful friend Becca for another reason, and mentioned (read: complained a lot about) the fact that I was locked out of my house.  She felt bad for me, and she and her husband were going to be in the area soon, so they offered to bring us dinner.

So they showed up bearing food 10 minutes or so after we got home (just enough time for me to put all my stuff away and warm up my feet), and stayed for an hour or so.

I’m totally going to be paranoid about my keys for awhile (at least when I’m not driving somewhere), but at least the evening ended well.  And my coat actually kept me warm while I stood around outside, in the dark, in 32° weather.

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First Lady Fashion

January 21, 2009 at 6:27 am (Fashion, Politics) (, )

So I know that yesterday was a momentous day, etc. etc.  Plenty of other people are writing about it on the internet, so I don’t think I’m going to bother.  But one thing I did want to comment on was Michelle Obama and her clothing.

I’ll start by saying that I don’t think everything she’s ever worn is a great outfit.  I think some are definitely better than others.  When she gets it right, she usually ends up looking fabulous.  Even when she gets it wrong, she never looks hideous.

I can also see, at least kind of, what she’s trying to do with the clothing she chooses to wear.  She seems to be pretty supportive of relatively young, new designers (based on previous choices), which I think is great.  I mean, if your job requires that you spend a lot of money on clothing, you may as well do something different, right?

And that’s the other thing.  It seems fairly obvious that she’s trying to push the limits of the usual Washington fashions.  That is necessarily going to involve some misses, as some people think both of her inaugural outfits were.

But really, compare what Michelle Obama wore yesterday to what other First Ladies have worn to inaugurals.  I really thought that Michelle looked very nice, while managing to move away from the norm.  Even better, she moved just far enough away from it that it was obvious she was pushing the envelope, but not so far away that she was completely out of line with what most people would think is appropriate.

Her inaugural gown didn’t photograph especially well, but if you look at her in videos, it shows much better.  I also really liked the fact that she didn’t wear a suit and pearls during the day.  I love pearls, but they are the easy (and sometimes overdone) choice.

Anyway, I just hope that people don’t spend the next four (or eight) years ripping on Michelle’s choice of clothing.  It’s one of those things where, if she was completely fashion unaware, they’d leave her alone.  But as soon as she tries to actually pay attention to it, everyone’s a critic.  Very few people seem to want to give her props for trying to visually assist the presidency’s transition into a new administration, and (dare I say it) into this century.

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Protected: Upset part II

January 18, 2009 at 8:46 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

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January 18, 2009 at 1:27 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

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Weather Forecast

January 16, 2009 at 8:23 am (This Makes No Sense) (, )

I have two weather forecasting widgets on my MacBook’s Dashboard.  One is from Accuweather, the other is from Weather Underground.  So I checked them both this morning before leaving the house, and this is what I saw:

Accuweather: currently 33° F, high of 59° F, cloudy
Weather Underground: currently 32° F, high of 38° F, partly cloudy

Just in case anyone missed it, their predictions are over 20 degrees apart.  I also have no idea how the weather people at Accuweather think it can possibly go from 33° to 59° to 32° (their prediction for tonight’s low) without any sunlight…but whatever.

This is why I trust Weather Underground a whole lot more.  One of these days, I’m going to get rid of the Accuweather widget (but I haven’t gotten around to it yet).

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