mardi, août 29, 2006

It Puts the Lotion on Its Skin...; or: Why I Wish I Were Handy

So, we had a handyman out to the house* yesterday. He installed a light fixture and two ceiling fans. It took him a bit longer than our other handyman would have taken, but he was cheaper by the hour, so it was a push. Also, our other handyman kind of prefers bigger projects: plumbing, wall removal, etc., and he's much harder to schedule.

Both men could talk you to sleep and awake again. They just won't stop talking.

So, there are a few things about this guy that bug me.

First, he kept making observations about our house. “So, you guys like to read, huh?” “Do you play the guitar?” “Is it hard being a mixed-race couple?” Install, fool, install!

Second, an extension of the first, he commented on my modest campaign pin collection by saying “I guess you’re a democrat then.” After which he proceeded to tell me, in my own home mind you, how much he likes George Bush. During this stirring monologue** he added that war should be as awful and messy and destructive as possible so as to deter future wars. To which I replied “it sure worked with the atomic bomb,” but he didn’t reply because he was horribly hard of hearing. Under his theory though, Georgie is an unqualified success!

Third, he took a break in the middle of the day for one hour. During this time I bought a replacement ceiling fan because the previous one was flawed. At the end of the day, whilst we were discussing his compensation, he actually said "I'm trying to decide if I should charge for my break or not." I replied "no, you shouldn't." But I don't think he heard me.

He didn't charge for it.

Fourth, his voice sounds exactly, and I mean EXACTLY like the guy from “Silence of the Lambs.”

Who, Duf, Hannibal Lector? No, not him.

Oh, then you must mean Dr. Frederick Chilton? Nope, not him either.

Ew, do you mean Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb? Yep. Him. That's exactly who he sounds like, and I mean exactly.

And that kind of creeps me out – it really does.

*For those of you who find ILIM to be a bit too erudite at times, “out to the house” is meant to showcase our down-home and folksy side.

**I assure you that while my mouth was ajar, no words came out of it. Besides, I really wanted those ceiling fans installed. I also sensed that I was not going to get anywhere with a hard of hearing fool***, though my case against his boy is quite sound, quite sound indeed.

***I make no apologies for calling the man a fool. I do want to point out that his hearing impairment, when shared here, is meant to be an observation, and not a criticism. We are all blessed, and we are all challenged. I love all of my brothers and sisters without regard to their ability to hear people who are two feet away speaking very clearly and with adequate volume. Along these lines, my favorite scene took place as he was completing the installation of the second ceiling fan. I said "I'm going to run downstairs and get you a couple of light bulbs." He replied, with a straight face "I'm nearing the point where I could use a couple of light bulbs." Oh, okay, I'll go get those.

mercredi, août 23, 2006

Taxation without Representation

This morning, NPR had an excellent piece on the movement, within cash-strapped state governments*, to lease their roads to private companies who convert them to toll roads and operate at a profit. Indiana leased a stretch of highway to a foreign company for $3.6 billion dollars. They plan to use the revenue to make up for budget shortfalls elsewhere. The private company (a.k.a the lessee) is allowed to increase toll fees during every year of the lease.

Better government brought to you by the Republican Party and the fools in the tax limitation/libertarian movement.

States are trying to solve two problems by outsourcing toll road management.

1. The problem of limited revenue; and
2. The problem of not being able to afford to maintain infrastructure.

We can’t raise taxes; so let’s outsource services for a profit.

If taxpayers paid for maintaining roads (rather than having users pay), a couple of better things would happen:

The cost of maintaining the roads would go down (the state would not use the roads for profit in the way that private companies do – the state could be required to run it as a non-profit enterprise, thus reducing overall costs).
The costs would be spread among all taxpayers in the state instead of among people who use the road (yes, I recognize that many who use the road are not from the state wherein the road is located. But, if you think about it, those users are (or should be) paying to maintain roads in their own state. Stop the madness).

What fuels this outsourcing movement, in my opinion, is weak government. The movement exists as evidence that libertarian philosophy is not sound and actually produces the opposite of its desired outcome.

Libertarians argue that private enterprise can perform many governmental roles more efficiently than governments can. They apply this reasoning to prisons, schools, emergency services, roads and etc. While it may be true that, from a resource standpoint they’re more efficient (they may operate the same entities with fewer people, they may pay them less, they won’t give them nearly the benefits package), the end result does not lead to efficiency for the taxpayer. Private companies bid for the lease rights, which inflates the price to win the contract. States desire this outcome because they need revenue for other things. In order for it to be a good deal, the winning bidder inflates the price for use to accomplish two objectives: (1) to get a return on their investment, and (2) to make a profit. Not only did they pay more than the road was worth, but now users are paying for managers and executives and nice fat bottom lines.

Let me grossly over-simplify it with three hypothetical models:

Model A (State as the non-profit; no tolls)
Annual cost to maintain road: $10,000,000
Cost to taxpayers: $10,000,000

Model B (State as revenue stream, State manages tolls)
Annual cost to maintain road: $10,000,000
Revenue from tolls (controlled) $12,000,000
Cost to users**: $12,000,000
Revenue to State $2,000,000

Model C (State revenue from outsourcing tolls to private corporation)
Annual cost to maintain road: $10,000,000
Revenue to state from lessee: $15,000,000
Profit margin: 30%
Cost to users: $19,500,000
Profit to corporation: $4,500,000

Fair taxation, and well run government is a better alternative. Courageous leadership willing to call a bad idea a bad idea is all we need.

*State governments are hampered by reduction in federal financial support which, IMHO, is a direct result of tax cuts and a climate, cultivated by Republicans, that taxes should never be increased. While that’s a great policy from a re-election standpoint, it’s rings hollow when you actually see the net result (more costs to fewer people).

**Assume many users are taxpayers.

mardi, août 22, 2006

Socks, Books and Chap Stick

In 2001, twenty days before planes crashed into World Trade Towers one and two, Mrs. Duf and I were at a breastfeeding class in a building adjacent to the hospital where we’d arranged for our daughter to be born at some point in late September or early October. That night I learned a lesson that I’d learned before and that I’ve learned many times since: because a thing is natural does not mean that it is easy; in fact, natural things can be quite complicated. Breastfeeding is endlessly complicated, and numerous challenges can arise associated with this act, this thing that mothers (and not just human mothers) and their offspring are designed to do.
Just as the class ended, Mrs. Duf turned to me and, in an understated tone that was familiar to me then but is second nature to me now said “I think I’m having contractions.”

Because we were close to the hospital, we walked over and checked in for an examination. We met with a midwife, though not the midwife who presided over her pre-natal care. Mrs. Duf was in a tremendous amount of pain and said so. Two remarkable things. My wife works a full day with a migraine and collapses in a dark room when she’s finally at home. She can tolerate pain and is not one to complain. After the standard exam, the mid-wife advised us that all was well and that we should go home. Mrs. Duf was told that perhaps she should take it easy for a few days.

We did so. We planned to do so.

When we arrived home, we ascended the stairs to our back porch, and I put the key in the door to unlock it. In the false way that there seems to be a causal relationship between to things which are, in fact, not at all related, it seemed that my placing the key into the key hole caused Mrs. Duf’s water to break.

We raced upstairs. Karen changed clothes and I packed for our hospital stay. I chose a large duffel bag and filled it with socks, books, chap stick and nothing else. No camera, no change of clothes, no toiletries, nothing else: socks, books, chap stick.

We returned to the hospital, and forty-five minutes later, our precious angel was released into the harsh world, with only a tired mother, a stunned father and a few nurses and doctors to protect her. TinyE wasn’t planning to wait around for a more suitable time to be born. She took things on her own schedule and on her own terms just as she does everyday, and just as I imagine she will continue to do.

We woke this morning and teased her about being taller. Did she grow overnight as her milestone arrived? For breakfast, we gave her a few powdered-sugar donut holes (her favorite) and sang to her. We were off key and sincere. We always are I suppose. It turned out that having babies, though natural, is neither easy nor simple, in fact, it is quite complicated.

It turns out that parenting, though natural, is neither easy nor simple, in fact, it is quite complicated.

And there are times when I feel I’m almost on the verge of understanding how little I know, how precariously everything is balanced, how fragile it all is. And, there are days like today, when I cast aside all my doubts and fears and shortcomings to acknowledge simple and wonderful facts.

Like now, when I know that the sun is shining, that chap stick can be a nice thing to have when your lips are dry and that, in spite of everything, our little girl is five years old today.

jeudi, août 17, 2006

Location, Location, Location

I've never done this before. I'm blogging live from a restaurant in Kansas City. The restaurant, Qdoba Mexican Grill, does not offer wireless internet. I'm using my Sprint Wireless cellular internet thingymajig* and my Dell laptop (the battery could fry up at any moment).

I'm in Kansas City on my way to Wichita to see my Grandmother, a.k.a. TinyE's great-grandmother. She's 90.

Today, TinyE, my mother (Mrs. Duf had to stay for work) and I took a flight from the Twin Cities to Kansas City. We're hanging out at Qdoba waiting for my cousin Damon to come from Chicago (he's renting the car). We'll ride with Damon, his wife Kathy and their daughter K... who happens to be TinyE's age.

TinyE is watching a movie on DVD, and I'm blogging. I have nothing to say**, I'm just enjoying the novelty of being able to drop a post while I crunch down on some wicked awesome nachos.

I hope wherever you are you're enjoying some wicked awesome nachos too.

*To use a technical term.
**Well I do, I just don't have time (more later RE the midterm elections)

mardi, août 15, 2006

Duf Loves You and Wants You to be Happy

Duf is so busy he's talking about himself in the third person.
Duf loves you and wants you to be happy.

Duf says relax.

Duf also says that is you have three minutes and three seconds, you should watch this.

jeudi, août 10, 2006

On Ronald Reagan and Hypocrisy

As far as I know, I had two things in common with Ronald Reagan:

We were both carbon-based life forms (I still am); and
We both liked jelly beans (I still do).

This will all make sense in a second, bear with me.

When I was in high-school, I had the great and good privilege to participate in a program sponsored by the American Legion called Boys’ State (I think I blogged about this before). At Boys’ State I was elected to go to Boys’ Nation. It still ranks as one of the highest honors of my life, and I enjoyed it a tremendous amount.

We landed there in the summer of 1984 (guess who was campaigning and taking advantage of good pub?) and got to meet President Reagan at the White House, in the Rose Garden, where I had the best lemonade I’ve ever had in my entire life. It was perfect. I’d spent most of the day considering what I would say if I had a chance to speak to the President. I was not a fan. I disliked his “ketchup is a vegetable” policy on school nutrition, I disliked his policies on the mentally ill, his policies on welfare and his disrespect toward welfare recipients, his appeals to patriotism and nationalism, the way the treated the Air Traffic controllers, and, later, Iran Contra.

I disliked how he was given and took credit for the release of the Iranian hostages even though it was Carter’s play and they were released during Reagan’s inauguration, and I disliked how he was given and took credit for the fall of the Soviet Union (as though the preceding 40 years contributed not at all, as though him saying “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” carried the day. As though there was no rational action on the side of Gorbachev or the Soviet Union itself.

And I got a chance to meet him.

And as he walked toward me, I decided that I was going to ask him about welfare – that was the comment policy that bugged me the most. I took a step toward him. Secret Service agents were everywhere.

He smiled at me, and then…


And then…

I found myself listening to him talk about how being in the presence of young men always made him think of his youth and riding horses and of the military and bravery.

Friends, he was gorgeous. His eyes were amazing, and he had the broadest shoulders I’ve ever seen. He had a great smile, an even better handshake, and more charisma than anyone I’ve ever met. He smelled great.

I never got around to my question. And, what’s worse, we took three pictures with the President. In every one I would have sworn I was looking at the camera, but in every one, there’s printed proof, I was looking at the man instead. Mesmerized is what I’d call myself. Mes-mer-ized.

At least I had the strength of my convictions?

Which brings me to jelly beans. I usually stock up at Costco, but it’s 20 miles away, and I don’t get there very often. In between, the cheapest place to get my reinforcements is Wal Mart.

And it’s not even close. I usually go somewhere else and pay a little extra, but every now and then, in spite of my self (and my convictions) I sneak into Wal Mart, grab a couple of bags, pay the man and leave.

So, thinking about Reagan helps me think about my own deficiencies and how I am, like most, not always in line with my philosophies.

mercredi, août 09, 2006

Hey Joe, Where You Goin' with that Gun in Your Hand? Or, Joey, We Have Some Moving Boxes in Our Basement - Take What You Need

A couple of years ago*, as I was finishing up my studies at the best University ever created by God or by man, I was trying to decide what to do with my life. I narrowed my choices down to three things:

Go to law school.
Go to campaign management school, get an MA in Campaign Management and become the next James Carville (only handsomer)
Get a masters in Public Administration and become a City Manager – preferably of a fancy city like this one.

I chose poorly.

But I digress.

Were I Jolted Joe Lieberman’s Campaign Manager, rather than struggling, rather than trying to find the words to say to him today, rather than turning to our campaign’s speech-writers seeking the perfect note to tell Joe the difficult thing that (apparently) must be told to him, what I would do is this.

I'd walk into the (lame duck) Senator’s office, put a gentle hand on his shoulder, give him a compassionate smile, a smile that said "dangit Joe," “yes, I understand,” “hang in there (emotionally, not literally),” “this too shall pass,” "thinkinboutcha," “thousand points of light” and “I hope you’re okay” all at once. Then, having secured cheap headphones many weeks ago, and having downloaded the right song weeks ago, I’d gently place the headphones on his funny looking little head. And then I’d press play, filling his ears, and thus his mind, with a message he desperately, desperately needs to hear.

I’d do what many a man has done in many a desperate time.

I’d turn to Kenny Rogers**.

And yes, I’d play a verse from “The Gambler”

“You got to know when to hold ‘em (not now, don't hold those cards)
Know when to fold ‘em (that's right, fold those cards)
Know when to walk away (sure, you could walk, but...)
Know when the run***…” (yes, run; run like mad, better to run methinks)

Then I’d give him a pair of running shoes, and pat him on the shoulder one more time. I’d give him a firmer pat this time. And, as I exited, I’d shake my head. I shake it in way that communicated “man, we almost had it.”

Even though I would actually mean…

Nope, we never had it.

I’d leave an address where he could forward my ample, ample compensation (including a small fee for the headphones).

Then I’d come home to Minnesota to work for her and against this evil, evil spawn of satan.

*Okay, okay, MANY years ago.

**As a product of Kansas, I know Kenny Rogers well. Back in my day, Kenny was a part of the Kansas High School Curriculum. I can sing most of the words to most of his big hits. “Lucille” – yep, I know it. “Lady” – in my sleep “Coward of the County” I can sing it, but I cry every time. But back home in Kansas people like Kenny a lot. He sangs good, and he looks like Moses.

***Here, "run" does not mean "campaign for office." Here, "run" means "run away from the poker table whilst the running is good." It's a metaphor which means - don't continue your campaign as an independent. Everyone already knows you don't stand a chance. Let it go. People who voted for you in the primary will throw their vote to your competitor in order to avoid sending a Republican to the Senate. Or worse, enough Democrats will vote for you that no Democrat will win. Don't complicate things. Hang it up.

mardi, août 08, 2006

Trend? I Don't See a Trend

Invitation list to TinyE’s 5th birthday party (Sat., Aug. 26th):

Jack B.
Jack G.

Lucy (age 1)
Stephanie (age 2)

lundi, août 07, 2006

Three Summer Books: "Digging to America," "Everyman," and "Terrorist"

Here’s my take on three of this summer’s blockbuster books: “Everyman” by Philip Roth, “Digging to America” by Anne Tyler and “Terrorist” by John Updike.

Let me start by saying I’m fans of all three authors, but if I had to put them in order of knowledge and admiration, I’d go Updike, Tyler, Roth. I absolutely adored the Rabbit series, and Updike’s short stories are amazing. I even like some of his poems. Anne Tyler I enjoy about half the time. “The Accidental Tourist” is sublime, and so is “The Amateur Marriage,” but “Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant” and “Saint Maybe” both let me down a bit – let’s assume her skills we’re the same and that they were the wrong books at the wrong times for me. I’ve only read two Roth books “Everyman” and “Paternity” and I really need to read “American Pastoral,” "Portnoy's Complaint" and "The Plot Against America" soon. But, I like what I’ve read so far.

My mini-reviews in order of preference:

“Everyman” by Philip Roth

Like all three books, this is a quick read. Roth examines the life of a deeply imperfect man and presents a powerful discussion of the human inability to overcome our tragic character flaws, and what it is like to look back on a life as we prepare for the transition to…what exactly? The book starts with the protagonist’s funeral, and after I read the book, I went back and reread the funeral scene to see how those other characters whom we come to know later, take on the reactions to the protagonist that they offer at the cemetery. Roth is a wonderful story teller for those who can tolerate heaping amounts of machismo in their prose. “Everyman” is tightly crafted by a master. Not his best book I imagine, but a fine example of his ample skills.

“Digging to America” by Anne Tyler

My love of fiction is a bit hard to nail down. I love the he-man authors something fierce* (Updike, Roth, Richard Ford, Martin Amis, etc.), but I also like fiction that is marketed to women more than to men (Toni Morrison, Jane Austen, Willa Cather and Edith Wharton are on my list of favorites). “Digging to America” is the story of two different families (in Baltimore natch) who adopt girls from Korea – the girls arrive at the airport on the same flight and the two families greet them at the same gate. They go on to celebrate “Arrival Day” each year (and go on to become friends), and the story considers how an Iranian family, an immediate part of the immigrant tradition gets along, connects, fails to connect, with an “American” family. Through the conversation, I spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to be American. Tyler, in this work, seems to add careful research to her knack for the story. For a whith woman born in Minneapolis, she emphathizes well with what it must be like to be a foreigner in your adopted homeland. The family adopts girls, American adopts families, all of it is thought through very carefully. The book is not flawless, but the ending is well earned by both the reader and the writer. It is a payoff that makes the ride worthwhile.

“Terrorist” by John Updike (contains a spoiler, implied, but a bit of a spoiler nonetheless)

Ahmad is a recent grad from a horrible high school in New Jersey, and he is a devout Muslim. He hates infidels. He dislikes America, and he tolerates his mother (his father left when he was too young to really remember him) who loves him. I admire Updike primarily for his skill (but also for his style), but I must confess that sometimes, his creation of despicable characters to present loathsome ideas, tires me out a bit. Ahmad, in his characterization of African-Americans, Updike, in his chosen plot line and in his treatment of the book’s hero, a Jewish guidance counselor at the high school, alienated me here. In the middle of the book, two of Ahmad’s acquaintances from school are brought back to the story. We learn that since graduation, things have not gone well for them. In order to know their fate, we’re asked to suspend our disbelief (New Jersey becomes a small place where coincidences happen quite easily – lives intersect a bit too neatly (a sure sign of an author who's not willing to do the work - plot manipulation - right up there with resort to clichés for authorial offenses)). The African-Americans are despicable, the protagonist is not easy to like, the Jewish hero is stereotyped into the ground. Arabs, blacks, Jews: at some point they have to exist beyond central casting. The book is written well, and the story is engaging, but in order to enjoy it on its face, you have to brush aside a lot of stereotyping and clichés. Frankly, I expected more from Updike – while it’s evident that he spent a lot of time researching Islam, and especially the Koran, this effort still feels lazy. The effort he’s shown in the past, is not evident here.

All three brush up against the attacks of September 11th. Updike does it directly, but the characters in “Digging to America” and “Everyman” are shaped by them. Talking about the tragedy indirectly has a way of making its direct power more real for me. Here’s a look at how we’re doing five years later. We’re still struggling to understand it. We’re still trying to express how it makes us feel.

*All three books discuss relationships involving men who are in their 60’s. Allow me to say that Updike and Roth maintain a healthy and youthful regard for coitus as central to any romantic liaison – if what they’re saying is true, a man can expect to be a hound well into his 70’s. By contrast, Tyler goes a very long way with very little flesh. Are these books representative of how genders regard the larger enterprise? I hope so, and I hope not!

jeudi, août 03, 2006

Mel Gibson is an Anti-Semite

Looking back on it now, my decision not to use curse words on my site was a mistake.

I have, of course, broken that rule once before (November 2004 to be exact), but I usually stay true to my game.

Why? I don't really know. I curse all the time in my real life (especially in the car), and curse words don't offend me. But, I just didn't want that for my humble blog. I dunno, I'm weird or something.

Still, in honoring my rule, I'll try to make it through this post without cursing.

Mel Gibson is a freaking butthole.

First he gets drunk.
Then he drives around while still drinking.
So in addition to being a wife beater, he's also a drunk driver.
When the cops come, he starts by asking one of the officers if he's a Jew.
He was.
Then he starts blathering on about all the "fucking Jews*" who start all the wars.
And very smart too**.
Let's add racist and anti-Semite to the list.

To sum it all up then, Mel Gibson is:

...a wife beater
...a drunk driver
...a racist anti-Semite
...a Christian (just ask him)
...a hypocrite. and
...a role model

More movies please!

Remember, Mel's Dad is a holocaust denier.

And, well, his "Passion of the Christ" kinda goes out of its way to present Jews in a negative light (or so I'm told, I have not seen it - nor will I).

Then, after the PR machine demands it, he comes out with this:

"I am in the process of understanding where those vicious words came from during that drunken display, and I am asking the Jewish community, whom I have personally offended, to help me on my journey through recovery."

If I were the Jewish community, I would tell him to kiss my hindquarters.

I tell him to go blank himself. the process of understanding where the words came from?

They came from your mouth, you dumb piece of poop!

There's some saying from antiquity and it goes a little something like this "what's in the sober man's heart is on the druken man's lips."

The words came from your heart you hate-filled son of a gun.

Hey I've said some stupid things while drunk too***, but at least I didn't have the temerity to go back later and try to wonder where it all came from.

People who give Mel Gibson a voice, people who allow him to cloak his hate in Christianity and denial...well, those people allow him to continue his anti-Semitic ways. They are enablers of hate.

I hope the film industry and the viewing public tells Mell to go to...

*I can curse here because I'm quoting.

**From now on, when I get pulled over by a cop, I'm going to launch in on ethnic slurs. It's brilliant - I'm sure it leads to a "warning" more often than not.

***"Sure, but just one more."
"I bet I can swim to that island faster than you can."
"Get your hands off my friend."
"The problem with you frat boys is..."
"Nope, I don't have a girlfriend."
"I love you."
"I love you too."
"I don't love you."
"Why did you break up with me? Please take me back. I've changed..."

mercredi, août 02, 2006

Up My Nose with a Rubber Hose

A Little Background
By Duf

By way of background, first let me say that I don’t drink anything with caffeine in it.

It’s not because my body is a temple or anything, it’s because caffeine makes me feel jittery and sick.

And now that you have the background, let me tell you a little story.

A Little Story
By Duf

So, my office is close to the Mall of America.

Don’t hate.

Yesterday we were hosting visitors from another state, and they loved the mall so much we went there twice (Monday and Tuesday). Monday I shopped with them (oh did I shop with them. I exhausted my allowance* on some fancy headphones, and I bought three shirts made by some fancy schmancy designer**).

Yesterday (a.k.a. Tuesday) I was too tired to shop. And let me note here, that I’m not much of a shopper anyway, and I kinda sorta hate the Mall of America. It’s too much.

So, instead of shopping I went to an Oxygen bar in the mall for 20 minutes of oxygen therapy.

I’d never been before. I'd never had oxygen therapy before.

It all starts with them sticking two little outlets up your nose.
The outlets are connected to a small hose.
Then you sit in a really nice massage chair, and they turn the oxygen on.
You can add scents to the oxygen, and the scents vary at every chair.
I chose forest (fir, balsam and some-other-tree scent).
At my chair they also had vanilla and cranberry.
One can do all three flavors at once, but I chose just forest.
I breathed in the oxygen and the forest fragrance for 15 minutes.
Then you go to the dessert bar where you get 5 more minutes of oxygen with fruitier flavors (I chose “ocean”) while you drink an energy drink and they scratch your back with a little back scratcher.
Then they throw away your nose piece and hose.
Then you pay 20 dollars***, and you don't have to go home, but...

Anyway, friends, can I just say? I loved it.

Except for one thing.

I had my oxygen therapy at 5:00 p.m., and the energy drink had me bouncing off the ceiling until 2:00 a.m. I felt jittery and sick even as the scent of pine trees lingered in my nostrils tempting me away from the city and its chaotic chambers of commerce and excess, even as I tried to imagine myself back in the fancy massage chair, lingering, lingering, lingering, even as I lied in my bed waiting and waiting until I finally, finally, finally went to sleep.

*Yes, I’m serious I have an allowance. I use it as mad money. I have a short poem that explains what I use my allowance for:

Allowance Poem
By Duf

green fees
whatever else I please.

The allowance is a great way to prevent arguments. Mrs. Duf is significantly more frugal than I am (most of the world is more frugal than I am). If we did not have an allowance, every time I walked in the house with a hard cover book (I use it for books a lot too, but “books” doesn’t work with my poem), she’d have a coronary. To illustrate our divide, I offer only this – my wife has an allowance too. At the end of two weeks, I’m usually flat broke; at the end of the year, Mrs. Duf usually has a tremendous surplus built up. Her only luxury is coffee. Last year she used her allowance for a California vacation.

**But his clothes last a long time. They really do. You believe me, right?

***They should have you pay first. It kinda kills the vibe a bit.

****The music kind, not the bank kind.

Working Our Way Toward Kindergarten

St. Anthony Park School Supply List

2 solid cover spiral notebooks
2 solid color pocket folders
2 giant glue sticks
1 bottle Elmer's washable white glue
Pack of #2 pencils
1 pack of medium point dry erase markers
1 box of Kleenex
1 roll 400 speed film
Blanket or towel with name on it (Full Day)
Tennis shoes for physical education class

Optional for all classes: pencil box for makers, crayons, pencils, colored pencils, glue, scissors.

mardi, août 01, 2006

I Only Care if Joe Lieberman Loses in the Connecticut Democratic Primary for One Reason; or: Will the Death of a Hawk Create More Chickens?

You know what totally messes me up?

Well, besides trying to hit a three iron.

It’s talking about the whole Joe Lieberman thing.

Here’s why.

First, I could not care less whether he emerges from the primary or not. I just doesn’t really bother me one way or the other. I feel like it should, but it just doesn’t. I think part of why I don’t care is because I have this feeling that whoever emerges from the primary will win the seat. As long as it’s a Democrat (and not a DiNO), I’m good.

I don’t buy the argument that Joe is a Democrat in Name Only. Yes, he supports the war. I'm guessing that has something to do with his faith. Yes, there have been other times, when he’s seemed a bit too into the Bush agenda. But, looking at the wrong issues, he can seem more conservative than he really is. I keep reminding myself that he was our VP candidate a few years ago, even as I realize that he was chosen primarily for his holier-than-thou speech railing against Clinton or his indiscretions*. So, he was a perfect fit to help Al Gore distance himself from his former boss. He certainly wasn’t selected for his charisma. I mean, the man’s voice is like ether.

Also, there’s the reaction from conservatives. Logic tells me that if Teddy Kennedy were about to lose in the Massachusetts Democratic primary, Republicans would not be so visible on the issue. Or at least they'd be rooting hard for his opponent and using air time to try to tip over the shining tower of liberalism. The almost unlimited number of voices from conservative pundits discussing poor Joe’s fate, tells me that, in secret, conservatives would kind of like to keep him around. It’s another vote in favor of the war against Iraq (and conservatives love them some war against Iraq, and). Also, Joey can be counted on to support bad Supreme Court nominees and otherwise serve the man.

But what messes me up is this: for all his expendability, Joe Lieberman does one thing that I’d love to see a lot more of in Washington, especially from my beloved donkeys. He takes an unpopular stance, even a view that’s unpopular in his own state, because he feels strongly the other way. Washington (among both Democrats and republicans) could use a few more leaders willing to go against the grain. I worry that his ouster will have the unintended effect of making other fans of re-election even less willing to stick their necks out. Might Washington get softer and more risk adverse in order to worship at the altar of job security? Republicans won't touch tax increase because of what happened to Bush I. Might politicians avoid rocking the boat in order to avoid Joe's horrible, horrible fate?

So, from that standpoint, and that standpoint alone, I wouldn’t mind if he stayed. Even as, in the end, I’m glad he’s going (and methinks he’s going alright – I sold all my Joe Lieberman stock months ago) – because it’s more than just courage that allows Lieberman to support the war. It’s courage plus being wrong plus stubbornly refusing to change your mind even as all the evidence points to no WMD, no imminent threat, no link to Al Qaeda, faulty intelligence that was manipulated, and a ever pesky insurgency. Lieberman's smart enough to know that we could have neutralized Hussein without so many American casualties.

At some point, a Senator who consistently finds himself unable to work the numbers to a logical conclusion becomes his own best advocate in the case for his retirement. I'm not so sure that folks are voting against Joe (or in favor of his opponent) just because Joe supports the war. It might also be out of a genuine concern for what his support for the war says about him as a Senator.

* A better response would have been to at least consider the injustice inherent in attacks against Clinton. Shame on Bill for making it easy, but if you're going to speechify, at least acknowledge the motivation behind the charge.