Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Amusing End-of-the-Year Stuff

PZ sends along this NYT quiz (the quotes section is interactive; the quiz itself is way too much for me) and a link to the Top 10 RightBlogger stories that is a pleasant reminder of what we might have lost, had we not won.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Losing the News

The Ithaca Journal has downsized once again, and the only local bit of news yesterday was a piece on the SPCA. In a fit of pique, Paul has declared that we must cancel our subscription. After all, we read the bulk of the paper online anyway, and if we want national news, we read the online Times.

Of course, I feel terrible. After all, it's the loss of subscribers that has led the IJ to such a pass in the first place. Not only that, but this will mean the first time in my adult life that I haven't read a real-life newspaper once a day. Paul points out that it's not as though we're supporting a local institution anymore; the paper is printed in Binghamton, and only four reporters remain on staff. As far as I can tell, the office downtown is just a big classified ad department.

Paul thinks the paper should just use freelancers and close up the office entirely, functioning more the way the local weeklies do. I'm just very sad about the whole thing. Plus I'll miss the comics and Jumble.

I think I'll put Alex Jones's new book on my reading list.

Required Reading

I'm still puzzling over Krugman's op-ed from yesterday and have decided I don't understand economics well enough to have an opinion about it. But I welcome the opinions of others.

Friday, December 26, 2008

New Site

Former assemblyman Marty Luster has resurrected Tompkins County's progressive news site, so I'm adding it to my right-hand column.

R.I.P.

Harold Pinter, always interesting, often annoying. My favorite Pinter experience: Seeing "Old Friends" on a whim, alone, at London's Royal Theatre Haymarket. It must have been 1985, because Liv Ullman was playing Anna. Michael Gambon played Deeley, but back then, I had no idea who he was. He was better than she was. It wasn't the best Pinter I've seen, but it was the most fun--back in the days where you could just stroll up to a theater of an evening, buy a ticket for under $10, and sit in the back of a 1720 theater with those cute little opera glasses provided for each seat.

LATER: Of course Mark is right. "Old Times."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Affording the Ivies

I don't know whether it's entirely connected to the economy, but I've been struck by the announcements I've received recently from fellow Cornell alums whose children have gotten into college. Bates, Lehigh, Connecticut College--nice schools, but what can it mean that of all of my CU crowd, only one has sent a child here? Could it be that our Ivy League education didn't prepare us for the earning power we'd need to send our children to the school we attended?

CU's bursar's website states that current undergrad tuition is $36,300 in endowed colleges vs. $20,160 for NY residents attending state colleges. That does not count fees, housing, dining, etc.

O, of course, insists that she WILL attend Cornell. That gives us five years to figure out how that might happen. Tuition seems to be rising at around 4-5% annually, meaning that we'll be looking at around $48,000+ per year by the time she matriculates.

Meanwhile, it seems to be a no-brainer that everyone who holds a mortgage should refinance now that interest rates have dropped so far--not as far as the federal rate would lead you to expect, but certainly enough in our case to save tens of thousands over the life of the loan.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Paul in the IJ

Paul has a letter in the IJ today about the closing of Reynolds Game Farm, the last pheasant breeding station in NYS.

Required Reading

I don't usually blog other blogs, but Bob Ostertag's column on "Why Gay Marriage Is the Wrong Issue" is, as Mark suggested, fascinating and really smart. Mark knew Bob when he was an experimental musician in NYC. I met him a few times then--he had played in a trio with my then-boyfriend. Bob left for Central America in the early 1980s and never looked back. Now he's a prof in CA and blogs for the Huff Post.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Winter Storm Warning

The interactive weather map shows snow in our area, but there's nothing happening out the window. Paul is about to leave for Buffalo, where, weather permitting, he and friend Mark H will watch the Sabres play and eat potfuls of wings at Anchor Bar. O had to get up, crankily, because we didn't hear until after 6:30 AM that school was closed. Now she's off for two full weeks plus today. Plenty of time to nurse her recently broken finger back to health. As for me, it's a work day as usual, at least until we lose connectivity or power. They're saying eight inches, which usually translates to a foot up here on the mountain.

LATER: About an inch an hour since 10 AM. Not too dreadful, though steady. Paul made it to Buffalo, where there's already about a foot.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Barn, Still a Work in Progress

Paul put up the very heavy doors and is finishing the second one piece by piece. The truck and tractor are snugly inside. The chickens will move in spring.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Governor's Budget, Part 2

First impressions: It seems surprisingly fair, except for the part where he fails to increase taxes on the wealthiest NYers. Across the board, lots of people have to give up lots of stuff. State employees have to retire later. Everyone loses. And that is, in this climate, a good thing.

BUT

It will never happen. Already, lobbyists are storming the citadel, bearing gloom and doom scenarios--your dying grandma dumped on the faded front lawn of a closed nursing facility! your brainless nephew stuck in a class of 35 with nothing but chalk and a filmstrip projector!

He gave the legislature an extra month. Let's hope they use it wisely instead of wringing their hands and playing favorites.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Governor's Budget, Part 1

Arne Duncan for Education

Why I like him: He gets the unfairness of school funding.
Why I don't like him: The teachers' unions, for the most part, do.
Why I like him: He wants the feds to fund NCLB.
Why I don't like him: He never worked in a school.
Why I like him: He seems genuinely creative.
Why I don't like him: He's too fond of charter schools.

So I'll adopt a wait-and-see attitude.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Shoe Leather Diplomacy

Krushchev, at least, just pounded the table. Now we have shoes being thrown at the President. My question: Shouldn't the Secret Service have been right in there, taking a heel for the President? At least by the time shoe #2 was hurled? What the hell are we paying them for?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Downside of Winter

Yesterday, O and I ventured out on a county-wide Snow Day to Cortland for prescription glasses and then back home through Dryden, picking up dinner at A-1 on the way. Then we got stuck in the driveway. In truth, nothing was terribly bad out there except for the icy sheen on the newly paved section of our driveway. We ended up hauling dinner up on foot in the dark. I miss all-wheel drive.

Friday, December 12, 2008

U.S. News Ranks Schools

Both Paul's and my alma maters won a silver medal. Zoe's and SAZ's rated gold. O's didn't make the list. I guess we have to work at forcing our AP students to take the damn test (or get the rest of our results above statistical predictions for our socioeconomic classification). Go here to search by state.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Skoolz Out

Mike sent along this Albany article on the feasability of reducing the school week from 5 days to 4 to save money. It's something we're all talking about, but the minuses right now seem to outweigh the pluses. Transportation costs are significant to the state but not to the individual districts--we get substantial state aid for transportation. We still have to heat and light the schools if there are sports activities or other community events happening over the long weekends. As for personnel costs, the only savings I can see would be for cafeteria workers and bus drivers, which would require contract revisions, and we couldn't very likely just chop their benefits when we cut back their hours. The minuses include the very real question of what working families would do with their children on Fridays. Not that our educational system is just one big babysitter. But it is.

I'd rather get rid of BOCES (billions saved instantly!) and run school year round. But BOCES has managed to sell itself to the state as a bastion of consolidated services and cost containment as opposed to the bloated, self-perpetuating bureaucracy it has devolved into, so I don't think my plan will pass muster.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Politics of Water

In my 2009 book on the Assads, I wrote: "In the Middle East as the century progresses, the politics of water will become as important as the politics of oil." That's not exactly earth shattering news, but this week it surfaced in TIME in a fairly depressing story that looks at Nevada and Australia, among other places where population is overshooting potable water. If you think peak oil is an issue, wait till we hit peak water.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Chicago Politics, Redux

Oh, this is just lovely. The IL gov has been arrested for trying to sell Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder. When even Daley Jr. is all morally indignant, you know you've hit bottom.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Who Will Lead Education?

As David Brooks suggests today, it's a matter of reform vs. status quo, and the latter just isn't tenable. Reform nowadays, for better or for worse, means union-bashing. That's why potential candidate Joel Klein is so feared and why people like the wacky but fascinating Michelle Rhee are so despised. It's not a popular position for a Democrat to take, but I will say it here anyway: I don't think America's teachers' unions are helping America's schools.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Required Reading

Professor Charles Seife on the recount in MN and how it won't really determine the winner.
In an ordinary race, errors this tiny wouldn’t be a problem. But the Coleman-Franken race is so close that this error rate is more than double the margin between the two camps. And that’s just taking into account the precincts where there are no challenges. Throw in the weirdo ballots with lizard people, stray marks and indecipherable dots, and the error rate grows even more. Throw in the missing ballots, and the situation is hopeless. In truth, the counting errors dwarf the tiny numerical difference in votes between the two candidates.
Professor Seife argues that to be fair, the election must be determined by the flip of a coin, which is in fact allowable in MN law. Amazing.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Cabinet Thus Far

A quick synopsis:
VP: Joe Biden. Current job: U.S. Senator. Replaces: Dick Cheney.
State: Hillary Clinton. Current job: U.S. Senator. Replaces: Condoleezza Rice.
Defense: Robert Gates. Current job: Defense. Replaces: self.
Homeland Security: Janet Napolitano. Current job: AZ Gov. Replaces: Michael Chertoff.
Commerce: Bill Richardson. Current job: NM Gov. Replaces: Carlos Gutierrez.
Treasury: Tim Geithner. Current job: President of US Fed. Replaces: Henry Paulson.
Attorney General: Eric Holder. Current job: Obama advisor. Replaces: Michael Mukasey.

Still to come: Agriculture, Education, Energy, Health & Human Services, HUD, Interior, Labor, Transportation, Veterans Affairs.

Not cabinet level but still important:
NSA: Jim Jones. Current job: Retired general. Replaces: Stephen Hadley
UN Ambassador: Susan Rice. Current job: Obama advisor. Replaces: Zalmay Khalilzad

Still to come: Drug Czar, EPA, OMB, US Trade Rep.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Our Thanksgiving

. . .was all about games, especially pool--and food, of course--lobster and clams from Marblehead, bagels and pistachios from Brooklyn, turkeys from Clark's in Dryden. It wasn't really sepia-toned, but it was pretty gray. And it was a little bit about Sadie chewing on or carrying around various people's belongings.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Reading List

If you liked his earlier works, you'll love this one. Some of it requires a real stretch of the imagination--can the difficulty of rice production really explain Asians' outstanding math ability?--but most of it is just very clever and a lot of fun. The moral seems to be that innate talent only takes you so far--luck, personality, and culture really define your success.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

This Bodes Ill

Sign those contracts now!
Another agent who had also heard about the no-acquisitions policy at HMH called the move “very scary” and said it's indicative of an industry climate worse than any he’s ever seen.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Big 3 Bankruptcy

Consider the source, but here's a fairly terrifying picture of the world following our automobile companies' potential bankruptcies.
Eighty percent of consumers would not even consider buying a car or truck from a bankrupt manufacturer, one recent survey indicates. So once a bankruptcy proceeding got started, the company’s revenue would plummet, leading it to hemorrhage cash to cover its high fixed costs.
And that's just the beginning, as millions lose their jobs, auto financing vanishes, and Medicare/Medicaid expenses rise astronomically. "Riots in the streets, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!"

Sunday, November 23, 2008

When You Drive Through a Storm

The play is over. Today it's all about the "Twilight" movie.

Friday, O went with friends to Friendly's in Cortland. I drove to pick her up in Dryden around 11 and got caught in a blizzard so bad that I ended up staying overnight with her at the home of people I'd just met that day.

Yesterday, I got the snow tires I'd ordered. A little late. But now I can drive up the driveway, at least.

And last night, I sat in a corner throughout the cast party, which involved much picture-taking and line dancing. And pizza.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Country According to Cartograms

If, like me, you've been thinking that the country is hopelessly divided, these amazing cartograms may help you see things differently.

O's a Star

There were glitches, but she sailed through. Her voice was astonishingly rich and mature for a 12-year-old, and I say that entirely without bias.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

P.C. Update

As a textbook writer, I am in the forefront of forced political correctness. In case you're not keeping up, here are just a very few of the latest rules and regs from a client who shall remain nameless. This sort of list is not unique to that client, I rush to point out; it's just especially thorough.

Many P.C. rules come about as a way of avoiding offending folks who follow certain religions.
Avoid all possible suggestions of evolution or creationism. Do not refer to people as animals. However, if necessary, it’s generally possible to use separate sentences to discuss the similar characteristics of humans and some animals.
Avoid religious holidays, though it is possible to mention the winter or spring break in a school year. Selections may include a reference to Thanksgiving, but do not emphasize the religious aspect of the holiday. Instead focus on thankfulness for a good harvest or the abundance of food if necessary.
When it comes to people, it's a good idea to remember that their condition is foist upon them; it does not define them. Therefore, a good P.C. rule of thumb is to use adjectives, not nouns, as in these examples.
Avoid using the word slave; instead use enslaved person. Wrong: stutterers, autistics Correct: people who stutter, children with autism
It's a drag, but
Because the visual evidence of hearing impairment is subtle, they don’t count toward the “handicap” percentages.
In general, all violence is verboten, as are references to gambling or other bad behavior.
Be sensitive about animals hunting other animals. Close-up images of predator-prey relationships should generally be avoided.
Wrong: I’ll bet she is at home; I’m your best bet. Correct: I think she is at home; I’m the best choice.
And animals are our friends, although we are not related.
Any zoos in fiction or nonfiction selections should house animals in natural-looking settings instead of cages with bars.
No politics; apparently even overt patriotism is questionable.
With the exception of uniformed police, firefighters, or other community service workers, no characters should wear national flags. Photographs of public figures wearing U.S. flag lapel pins are acceptable.
And always be specific.
DinĂ© is preferable to Navajo; Lakota, Nakota, or Dakota (depending on the language spoken by the group’s ancestors) is preferable to Sioux.
Use Hispanic to refer to cultures that are connected to Spain, not cultures developed in the Americas.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Once on This Island

Opening night is tomorrow. Very exciting. 7 PM Thursday through Saturday. Dryden MS/HS Auditorium. $7 adults, $5 children. Here's the star of the show singing the ending of "Ti Moune."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Electorate Stayed Home

I know we broke no records here in Tompkins County. It seems that was true just about nationwide.
States that experienced a large drop-off in turnout included McCain's home state of Arizona, which he won; heavily Republican Utah; and Ohio, another GOP-leaning state that fell into the Obama column.
Registration was up a lot, but people didn't turn out, especially on the GOP side.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dan Rather v. CBS

I'm loving this case, which could vindicate that nutball Dan Rather, who has claimed rather shrilly that CBS fired him due to GOP pressure. Ol' Dan could come out a hero if things keep going the way they're going. Courage.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Required Reading

Frank Rich's summing up of how the GOP shot itself this season--with the reminder that
. . .at a time of genuine national peril we actually do need an opposition party that is not brain-dead.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hillary for State?

My bet: She takes it. I believe that Paterson then gets to appoint someone to her seat, although it may require a special election. Does anyone know that particular NYS law?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Internet Down

We've had little or no Internet service for over 1 week. Frontier's been out on the lines, valiantly clipping and splicing, but our symptoms lead us to believe it's in vain. The symptoms are: slow connection to no connection; some sites accessible and other sites not; some email getting through in no time while others take three days. I've been patching together a work life, spending an hour at the downtown library (their daily maximum) and yesterday, spending six hours at a back office at a nearby school. The word from the last person Paul spoke to at Frontier is, "Until the linesmen hand it off, the engineers won't be called in." Nice.

One interesting sidelight: One of my jobs this week was editing for our assemblywoman. So she was able to see firsthand what we mean when we complain about highspeed broadband service in the boondocks.

Meanwhile, O has developed a rotten cold, just in time for her debut (and All-County Band Concert tomorrow).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Nice Quote

I like this quote from Roger Cohen's column today:
Rosa Parks sat in 1955. Martin Luther King walked in 1963. Barack Obama ran in 2008. That our children might fly.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Perhaps the Singing Bird Will Come

SAZ writes, "I'm very, very proud of my country." Chuck reports that at 105th and Broadway, there was dancing in the streets. Will sends a Chinese proverb of hope (see title of post). Helen J was at Grant Park.

Here in Dryden, Simon reports that we went 2-to-1 for all the Democratic candidates. Astonishing. I feel layers of curmudgeon peeling away. . . .

LATER: Simon points out that only Obama was 2-to-1; the others were 3-to-2. DZ states that for the first time ever, including when native son FDR ran, Dutchess County went Democratic.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day, 2008

We had a very nice dinner at Rogues Harbor Inn with our congressman last night; he kindly chose to spend his last day before the election in Tompkins County. District 10 was quiet when O and I arrived to vote at 7 AM. Two more cars pulled in as we left. Since we were too early to go to school, we drove past another polling place, one where they recently merged districts. The parking lot was full, and there was a strong police presence.

Now I'll try to work for a few hours before picking up the first lists at noon. At 2:20, I'll pick up O to take her to her flute lesson. Then I'll drop her at home and pick up more lists. At 5:45, I'll take her to rehearsal, pick up more lists, and make calls at Mike Lane's office until 7:45, when I'll pick O up and deliver her home before returning to the polls to get the final results at 9. Then it's off to post the results and go to the Victory Party downtown. Not too late, though--at 7:15 AM tomorrow, I'll need to be on the radio to pundit-fy about the results.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ballot and Initiative

See the BOE website for sample local ballots (NOTE: Yours may differ! See your own BOE website!) and an explanation in simpler language of the amendment we'll be voting on.

Hockey Mom Voting Obama

Hockey mom Lara says, "Finally, something I can relate to!" LOL

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Electoral Votes

Today's numbers have Dems up to 59 Senate seats. Not filibuster-proof, but pretty respectable. Remember that back in 2001, it took Jim Jeffords's defection from the GOP to gain Dems the majority.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

R.I.P.

Studs Terkel, who died yesterday at home on the North Side of Chicago at age 96, perfected the art of the oral history. I haven't read nearly enough of his work, but I liked these two.

November 1!

Happy Birthday to O
Happy Anniversary to the Big Zs

Reason for the Season

Simon sent this, which has moments of sheer genius:
In The Know: Has Halloween Become Overcommercialized?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

It's Dryden's favorite holiday (except for those who believe it to be an anti-Christian pagan ritual). To indicate how overwhelmed we are with work, we've carved no pumpkins, and O threw together a costume in half an hour last night. She'll trick-or-treat with the neighbors in a favorite neighborhood outside the village and return for a party at their house.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Power Outage

We, too, lost power for about 6 hours last night. Luckily, the new generator worked.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Excuse Me, It's Still October

On the Ballot

Everyone knows about the top of the ticket. Further down the line, Dryden voters will be selecting a town justice and a town board member to complete the final year of a term. Dryden Dem candidates are Joe Valentinelli, who has served in the justice position for a decade, and Jason Leifer, who was appointed to town board last January and has kept his nose to the grindstone ever since.

New Yorkers will also vote on an amendment to the state constitution, which the IJ has assure me they will explain in detail before November 4.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

United We Browbeat

As a former Union Maid who hoped at one time to organize editorial freelancers, I usually find it hard to criticize unions, but the NYSUT has outdone itself this season in sleazoid political maneuvering. First they withheld all endorsements from incumbents, which I actually thought was a rather understandable stance. Then they worked a deal with Skelos and Smith in the Senate to get them to say that they would block any attempt at post-election "give-backs" (read: "take-backs"). Finally, they came out in support of all 30 GOP incumbents. I missed this when it happened, but Larry Cummings remarked on it at our BOCES session this week.

I wonder: What do they suggest we give up to maintain funding levels of the schools?

No Peace

Perhaps the most disheartening news today is that coming out of Israel, where Tzipi Livni couldn't move the ultra-Orthodox to join a coalition. The end result will be snap elections and (I fear) Netanyahu making a comeback. Not that I thought the Bush administration was going to win a Nobel Peace Prize, but nor did I want the Obama administration to start out with this new stalemate. Interesting that hardliner religious nutballs have taken over right-wing parties in both Israel and the U.S.

Local Meat

We have a seven-pointer hanging in the barn today. While in his tree stand this morning, Paul saw eight coyotes playing, a pileated woodpecker in flight, two four-point bucks sparring, a couple of migrating woodcock, a six-point that broke up the four-points, and a couple of does. None of the bucks were the crooked-antlered one we have seen up at the house. But it was a busy morning.

This is the first deer he's taken in a couple of years. Since Roxie is now on a venison-and-sweet-potato regimen for her allergies ($50/bag!), we're happy to have the meat for more than one reason.

Required Reading

Palin and McCain forces go postal as the campaign sinks below the waves.
"Her lack of fundamental understanding of some key issues was dramatic," said another McCain source with direct knowledge of the process to prepare Palin after she was picked. The source said it was probably the "hardest" to get her "up to speed than any candidate in history."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Tax Cap Unfair

Here's the Statewide Consortium's anti-tax cap video, which I find fairly convincing despite the typo. As Larry Cummings told us last night, "A crisis is a terrible thing to waste." Maybe now we'll get a fair formula, or at least we'll get certain unfunded mandates rescinded.

As Tompkins Goes, So Goes the Nation?

Well, probably not. However, this IJ article has several facts worth noting:
**3,000 new voters registered here in just the last 3 weeks.
**Of all the new voters this year, 56 percent registered as Democrats. Only 12 percent registered as Republicans.
**This year, 7,426 new voters registered. In 2004, the number was 4,862.
I guess the message is: (1) Good for local Dem candidates, and (2) expect long lines on November 4!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Snow. Phooey.

Yes, it truly snowed. I had too much going on to record it for posterity, but it stuck around for a brief while up here on the mountain.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Another One Jumps Ship

Well, it's not as though Peggy Noonan's going to vote for Obama, but she feels free to criticize her party's choice. And I do admire her ending.
In the end the Palin candidacy is a symptom and expression of a new vulgarization in American politics. It's no good, not for conservatism and not for the country. And yes, it is a mark against John McCain, against his judgment and idealism.

I gather this week from conservative publications that those whose thoughts lead them to criticism in this area are to be shunned, and accused of the lowest motives. In one now-famous case, Christopher Buckley was shooed from the great magazine his father invented. In all this, the conservative intelligentsia are doing what they have done for five years. They bitterly attacked those who came to stand against the Bush administration. This was destructive. If they had stood for conservative principle and the full expression of views, instead of attempting to silence those who opposed mere party, their movement, and the party, would be in a better, and healthier, position.

At any rate, come and get me, copper.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Required Reading

Haven't even read it yet, but anything economic by my classmate Roger Lowenstein is worth perusing.

Art Imitates Life Imitates Art

It's hard to wrap one's head around the spectacle of Sarah Palin playing herself being mistaken for Tina Fey, who plays Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live. Gov. Palin was quite pert and cute, especially in the segment involving a rap done by Amy Poehler. But. . . is it presidential? Bill Clinton playing the sax early on in his campaign is one thing. This is something unprecedented and actually kind of scary. I did say I thought she deserved her own sitcom. Or maybe a reality show. It's a question now of what exactly is real.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Palin as President

Thanks to Mark for this. Run your mouse over and click at intervals for loads of fun.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Deep Freeze

Here's an article sent by Larry Cummings of the CNYSBA. Quite depressing, but unsurprising. Schools can't possibly be immune to a 20 percent decline in revenues.

The GOP Leaves Christopher Buckley

In case we were still wondering about the fate of those Old Guard Republicans, it appears that Christopher Buckley has been expelled from the rag his father started. Can a third party movement be far behind?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sex, Drugs, and the Interior

PZ wants me to revive this one-day Department of the Interior scandal, which seemed so redolent with creepiness and bodily fluids but disappeared immediately from the media view. It's a fun one.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Kudos to Krugman

Amazing. My buddy Krugman won the Nobel Prize for Economics. He's one of only two people I know who can make the topic palatable, the other being my old CU classmate Roger Lowenstein. And he won despite--or, it seems, because of--his politics.

Fun in East Chatham

Took a pilgrimage to see young Gabe, driving up Saturday and back Sunday. Saturday night we had a fine feast prepared for the most part by Lisa's mom. DZ and Phil drove over with Klauser, visiting for the week from London, and BT showed up later to collect birthday swag. Both days we took fabulous hikes through the peak leaves, with the Taconics visible in one direction and the foothills of the Berkshires in the other. Here's the slideshow.

Friday, October 10, 2008

William F. Spinning in Grave

One fascinating part of this whole campaign season has been the sight of Old Guard Republican Conservatives throwing themselves on the rocks rather than seizing hold of the candidates their party has tossed them. David Brooks holds his nose when discussing Sarah Palin; Christopher Buckley comes out of the closet for Obama. George Will suggests that being wet behind the ears is correctable, whereas being impulsive and horrible is not. Kathleen Parker tells Sarah Palin to pack it in and go home.

For eight years, this solemn bunch has stood by and watched their party being hijacked by people they wouldn't have wax their Beamers, much less invite to lunch at the club. Can a new, committed, Conservative Party be the logical outgrowth of the GOP's sellout to the braindead hoi polloi?

There Oughta Be a Law

That's the title on this email I received from a fellow educational freelancer:
. . . Here's some industry scuttlebutt - one of the "big three," with a 40% share of the K-12 market, issued a new directive this summer. Starting July 2008, editorial and production of all TEs and ancillaries will be done in India and will be printed in China. Within the next two years, nearly all of their SEs will be developed overseas as well. This is why so many small development houses in the US are going belly-up.

Of course, the expected QA issues have started to crop up. The C printing of their TX math program had 85,000 errors. The C printing!!!!! Just wait 'til all those property tax payers find out where their dollars are going, especially once they get a look at these books!

It's Macmillan

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Oh, Perfect.

Coyright laws be damned. I have to record this AP article in its entirety.
NEW YORK (AP) -- The National Debt Clock in New York City has run out of digits to record the growing figure.

As a short-term fix, the digital dollar sign on the billboard-style clock near Times Square has been switched to a figure -- the "1" in $10 trillion. It's marking the federal government's current debt at about $10.2 trillion.

The Durst Organization says it plans to update the sign next year by adding two digits. That will make it capable of tracking debt up to a quadrillion dollars.

The late Manhattan real estate developer Seymour Durst put the sign up in 1989 to call attention to what was then a $2.7 trillion debt.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Eleanor, We Need You Now

I went to NYC for lunch yesterday--drove there and back to attend the annual Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Committee Luncheon with Irene and Cindy Emmer of Chemung County. It was in the Hilton this year, having outgrown all the other venues in NY. ERLC gives money and training to NY women who want to run for office. This year, my pal Linda Adams of Caroline and our assemblywoman were the Tompkins County recipients. We heard from lots of people, notably Governor Paterson and Senator Clinton, who reiterated their themes from Denver with a far more serious mien, since these are suddenly even more serious times. Founder Judith Hope gave a downer of speech, pointing out that most of their luncheons follow disasters, whether it be 9/11, the invasion of Iraq, or the collapse of world finance. And several mentioned that the lady for whom the foundation is named helped guide America through the last great financial crisis, and maybe we could use her now.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Don't Make Me Go All Palin on Your A**

Paul and I went to Candor to bag some pheasant today. He shot, Alex fetched, Sadie ran around wildly, I hiked. It was a beautiful day; I'll post more pictures later. But PZ challenged me to post this virulent piece by Mike Taibbi, and I thought the picture fit.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Pork in the Bailout Bill

It's larded with such winning baco-bits as: money for NASCAR tracks! tax breaks for TV producers! rebates on rum taxes! repeal of an excise tax on wooden arrows!

That $700 billion dollar "rescue" ballooned to $850 billion JUST TO GET PASSED.

Kudos to local Congressman Hinchey for voting NO again. Hard to see how "no-pork" McCain will wriggle his way out of supporting this stinker.

Friday, October 3, 2008

What a Difference a Day Makes

The House approved the "Rescue" AKA "Bailout" bill, apparently at least partially thanks to some wild last-minute phoning by Barack Obama. No news yet on who voted how, but I'll post it when it's available.

I find it hard to believe that this is going to help me in any way.

And Ms. Palin lived to fight another day, although O thought she should have been docked a point for each "Doggone it" and "Yer darned right." The transcript captures her convolutions but not her winks and "aw shucks" attitude.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Electoral Votes

The blue states are surrounding and beating up on the red states on Electoral Votes Daily. NC and FL are tied? Amazing what a little worldwide financial crisis will do.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Signs of Autumn on the Way Down the Driveway (click pix for better view)

Yellow jackets in the wall. . .
The barn facade is coming along. . .
Always the first maple to turn. . .
Wormy apples. . .
Berries and leaves. . .
No monarchs today. . .
Political signs, of course

What, Me Worry?

$3 billion a minute? Pretty soon, you'll be talking about real money.
Bush: Flaccid
Paulson: Inept
Pelosi: Stupid
Congress: Catatonic
Wall Street: Avaricious
Me: Lalalalala (fingers in ears)

LATER: Fallout. It's a bad time to run a newspaper anyway. I have a theory that within five years, the Ithaca Journal will be a USA Today-like "Gannett" paper with a single Ithaca page.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Happy New Year

Better Than the Real Thing

Can't post the YouTube, because NBC is blocking it, but here's the link.

Last night, Paul and I saw Bill Maher (CU '78) at Barton Hall, courtesy of our new BOE member, who handles CU Events. He did a lot of the same riff he did on his show last week--but he was still pretty funny.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Not-So-Great Debaters

Boooring. Obama was at his most professorial. He looked presidential, which was enough to give him the win. McCain was more articulate than one would expect from his campaign sound bites. Obama was clever enough not to use terms his audience wouldn't recall from their own history. McCain, not so much (SDI, George Schultz, etc.) Jim Lehrer looked boggled. The audience was whipped into submission and could have been anywhere--at a funeral in Des Moines or a school spelling bee in Dubuque. As Nutty Professor Ralph Nader later said, the winners were corporate interests, nuclear power, etc.

Although McCain tried to make us think that across-the-aisle Ted Kennedy was getting last rites, it turned out that the DOA was really Paul Newman. So sad--not only was he a joyful actor, but he gave a ton of money to good causes, including schools.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Different NY

Thanks to NYCO for pointing out this award-winning video by a former Binghamton U student. It won the recent "I Love NY" contest and will appear on TV in November.

Discover a Different New York - Grand Prize/Central Region Award - video powered by Metacafe

Ten to the Hundredth

Got an idea to save the world? (Paul has a brilliant one that would save our economy and cost significantly less than 70 billion, but he doesn't think emailing Schumer would work in time). Anyway, these guys are looking for a few good ideas. The deadline is October 20.

I'm off to watch the debates, which I'm sure will be cringe-worthy.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Required Reading

I really liked this piece by Barbara Ehrenreich.
The alternative to both [excessive optimism and pessimism]is realism — seeing the risks, having the courage to bear bad news and being prepared for famine as well as plenty. We ought to give it a try.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Johnny's Good Idea

Finding himself suddenly down in the polls, and fearing Friday's one-on-one debate, McCain has "suspended his campaign" and trotted back to DC to "deal with" the financial debacle, while calling on Obama to do the same.

Wassup with that? I thought the fundamentals of our economy were strong. Or strong but threatened. Or something.

Open Book, Sort Of

Here's Tom DiNapoli's new website, designed to make government movement of money more transparent. It's not exactly up-to-date, but it has its good points.

Bailouts R Us

Every hour I have a new opinion in my inbox about the trillions-dollar bailout plan, ranging from "NO BAILOUT, PERIOD" to "We need it immediately, or my retirement's in the crapper." Our two local Dem congressmen are split on the issue. The only thing I'm certain of is that our next president is inheriting a nightmare designed to ensure him but a single term. Simon sent this link, which puts things in perspective nicely. A portion is reproduced below, but it's worth reading the whole thing.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Executive Powers

You know it's a bad bailout plan when both William Kristol and Paul Krugman agree that it sucks.

Our former assemblyman wrote to us all yesterday to suggest that we write our representatives in protest. In his words,
This proposal removes from Congress the authority to oversee and obtain data and documents from the Treasury Department regarding the operation of the bail-out. It specifically provides that there be no judicial review of the activities of the Secretary of the Treasury and that Congress receive only two reports on the program's operations yearly.
In other words, it's a final opportunity for an executive power-grab, and it might just work.

LATER: Well, now it's a pissing match, as Bush announces that the whole world is watching to see whether we can fix this mess fast. So if the Dems want oversight, or maybe a plan to go with that boatload of cash, it will be viewed as obstructionist foot-dragging.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Required Reading

Nicholas Kristof on the "otherization" of Obama.
What is happening, I think, is this: religious prejudice is becoming a proxy for racial prejudice.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Manchurian Candidate

OK, new theory: GW Bush was the real Manchurian Candidate, and the last eight years were all about positioning China. Not that I need any proof, but try these: (1) BEFORE WE HAD ANY REAL OFFICIAL RELATIONS WITH CHINA, Poppy Bush was named envoy to China by Ford, who was only in office because Poppy, as Chair of the RNC, had formally requested Nixon's resignation; (2) While President, Poppy barfed on the Prime Minister of Japan, a supporter of closer ties with China; the PM left office within the year, replaced by hardliners who preferred to leave that close relationship to the U.S.; (3) Poppy picked Dan Quayle as VP, paving the way for future morons in the White House; (4) Angela Lansbury would be my top choice to play Babs in the Barbara Bush Story; and (5) JUST THINK ABOUT IT.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Category 4

PZ sends this economics lesson that even I can understand.
What is really going on, at the most fundamental level, is that the United States is in the process of being forced by its foreign creditors to begin living within its means.

Grandma & Gabe

Juno/Juneau

From Mark. Not for the kiddies.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Economic Definitions

Free market: a system in which the market forces of supply and demand determine prices and allocate available supplies, without government intervention
Nationalization: the act of taking formerly private assets into public or state ownership

I'm just sayin'. . .

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Our Worldview

Bill sent this, which made me LOL. It goes along with Sunday's post.

Note slippage in Electoral Votes Daily in right-hand column. Journalists are scrambling to insist that the economic news today will change things.

Monday, September 15, 2008

BBQ

Yesterday was a political funfest, as I went from the TCDC Meet-the-Candidates BBQ in Stewart Park to 20 minutes on the phone with WICB to a brief, standing-up Dryden Dems meeting, to analysis with Dave and Simon at Lost Dog, to a meeting of Ithaca for Obama at Campaign HQ. Here are Dave and Simon "enjoying" a speech.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Glorifying Stupidity

All of the major NYT editorialists today come at a theme indirectly that I think has permeated the last week of this campaign--and perhaps the past eight years as well. We are a nation that glorifies stupidity. Our schools founder because we don't want our kids to know more than we do. Our newspapers and news magazines are forced to write to a middle-school reading level lest they lose readership. We adore politicians who act and sound like us; that is to say, stupid. We hate the French because they look down their noses at stupidity; plus, they speak French, and we don't.

When I say "we," I don't mean "me." Say it loud, I'm an elitist and proud. Ivy League school, check. Grammar skills, check. Ability to opine on the Bush Doctrine, check.

I believe that a nation that so glorifies stupidity deserves to have its "We're Number One" status removed. And so we shall. A McCain-Palin win in November will prove once and for all that the worst & the dimmest trumps the best & the brightest in this Brave New USA.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Baby Cousin

The BIG news in our family is that O has a new baby cousin, born September 9, 2008, in Los Angeles, and legally freed yesterday. PZ and Lisa are in the Big Zs' place in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, where PZ sat happily last night watching baseball with Baby Z on his lap. They have a bit more paperwork to do before they can bring Baby Z home to East Chatham--including deciding on a once-and-for-all name for the little guy. VERY exciting.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Much, Much Worse

As the electoral college suddenly pulls even, despite Bill Clinton's prediction of a clear win for Obama, I have to repeat Paul Krugman's depressed moan:
[T]he Obama campaign is wrong to suggest that a McCain-Palin administration would just be a continuation of Bush-Cheney. If the way John McCain and Sarah Palin are campaigning is any indication, it would be much, much worse.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

There's More Than One Way to Steal an Election

In Mississippi, they're designing a ballot expressly to hide one particular race. It's (so far) illegal, but what do they care?
Defying state law, they have decided to hide a hard-fought race for the United States Senate at the bottom of the ballot, where they clearly are hoping some voters will overlook it. Their proposed design is not only illegal. It shows a deep contempt for Mississippi’s voters.
Meanwhile, it's quite possible that we'll end up with a vice-president who is less known and more poorly vetted than most contestants on "So You Think You Can Dance."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Media Responsibility

Thanks to Jim S. for this pithy observation on the role of the media in this Palin-drama.
Until the news media turn both tougher and fairer, providing contextual truth and not just balance, political operatives will hold the upper hand. And the public will move through election cycles like motorists peering into a thick fog.

The Other Palin

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The American Idolizing of Politics

It's come to this: Nightly, the candidates' performances are judged by the same panel of experts. Daily, pollsters take the pulse of the public. The only thing that separates this campaign season from the popular reality show is that the four finalists never vary, and none is voted off until November 4. Oh, and no singing on the part of the contestants, although there is often a backup band.

For those of us unfamiliar with Sarah Palin's Pentecostal upbringing, I present the 16 fundamental truths of the Assemblies of God.

BTW, McCain was raised Episcopalian but now attends a Southern Baptist church.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Double Standard

PZ sent this edifying clip:

Teen Pregnancy

The Bristol Palin tale has led to an outpouring of stats on teen pregnancies in the U.S. that is enough to curl your hair.
By age 18, 1 in 4 women become pregnant. About half of these end in live births.
By age 20, the number rises to 41 percent of whites and 63 percent of nonwhites.
Nearly 20 percent of teen mothers get pregnant again within a year.
I guess that abstinence/no sex ed in schools thing is really working out for us.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Palin Comparison

I have to say, I'm loving the Governor Palin freakfest. Every day there's a new revelation and a lot more absurd speculation. I like the one that says her baby is her daughter's by her alcoholic son. Pure nonsense, but when in a political season have things ever gotten this out there? It's as though the Straight Talk Express crashed into "The Real World." She runs a state with the population of Fort Worth, TX. Her husband fishes, but it appears that's not his main job (he really works for an oil company, which is not nearly so colorful and might even be a negative). She is beloved in Alaska, except for the folks from her hometown who truly hate her and are trying desperately to get the word out. She gave a great speech last night and is clearly a rising star, but I'd be happier if she got her own sitcom in Hollywood than her own desk in the West Wing.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Girl Effect

I love this.

Summer's End

We're rushing through the traditional end-of-summer rituals. Sunday we went to the State Fair, where for the first time we released O and friend with cell phone to ride and eat on their own (they burned through all their money in an hour and a half), while Paul and I observed birds, pigs, and part of the horse show before eating the traditional blooming onion plus sausage & pepper sandwich. Today it's back to Syracuse, where O and I will visit the zoo and then shop till she drops for back-to-school clothes. Paul thought we should combine the two and just buy her a monkey suit.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Photos from Denver

Click here to see slides from the four-day event.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Denver Convention

I leave for Denver Sunday AM, arriving around 5 PM. I will be blogging and doing phoners from the Democratic Convention and probably ignoring this blog until I'm able to upload pictures on my return. So check in using this site. There will be a link to Democrats 2008 that will contain blogging from a variety of county residents who plan to attend.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

O on Stage

This morning was spent at opening day of Les Miserables, School Edition, at the Hangar Theatre. O wants me to point out that "It wasn't very 'school edition,' because there were prostitutes, swear words, and the director quotes, 'loud noises, dramatic violence, and adult concepts,' and this was for little children." I'm so proud to have a program announcing that my own child is Whore #1. She didn't want to be, but after they gave her the role of Combeferre, they said, "Your voice is good, so we're giving you additional solos as a prostitute," and she said, "Oh, joy."

Can you tell that some of this was ghost written? BTW, the production was quite good, even though they had only three days at the Hangar for staging, plus the play itself is so inappropriate and confusingly plotted, even for those of us who once upon a time read the book in translation.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ka-ching!

See how easy it is to cut $500 million?

In our household, we are at odds over the tax cap.

Monday, August 18, 2008

What a Difference Two Weeks Make

Our next president will inherit a very different world order, as Russia waxes violent and Musharraf takes a hike in Pakistan. I wonder who will replace him--probably not his right-hand, Soomro, probably not his army chief, Kayani. Leadership in Pakistan definitely matters to the world order of the next eight years.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Barn, Continued

Paul's weekend:

Saturday, August 16, 2008

William Kohn

Yesterday, O welcomed from afar what she terms her newborn "god-brother." Bill and Lela's new arrival, Wm. Kohn Henry, was born in the early hours and joins stepsibs Isabella and George.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Georgia on My Mind

It just seems cruel to send the ineffectual Condoleezza Rice to "negotiate" with the Russians when she hasn't a leg to stand on. Not only has she no armed forces to back up her tough talk, but she can't really win with a message of "Do as we say, not as we do." Just sad.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Don't Know Much. Period.

NYCO blogged this really tough series of geography quizzes. They're long, so wait for a time when you can spare half an hour or so. They're also quite humiliating.

Pickles

We planted two cucumber vines, and boy, do we have cucumbers. Every night, Paul comes up with a new pickle recipe and I do a different cucumber salad.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

R.I.P.

A good friend of ours just died of brain radionecrosis, which is, as it sounds, the death of some part of the brain after radiation treatments. His treatments started many years ago, when he was still a teenager. He leaves his parents, his brother, his wife, and his very young child. We'll pay a shiva call on Sunday.

Sometimes I wonder whether in 200 years, people will look back on the way we treated cancer--poisoning and burning it out--and be amazed at our stupidity. It will look like trepanning or bloodletting or any number of pointless, painful treatments used by our forefathers and mothers.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Endangering the Endangered

Before he leaves office, GW feels compelled to pull the temple down around him. Now comes his plan to gut the Endangered Species Act by removing any oversight from scientists and placing it in the hands of the would-be endangerers. My familial endangered-species expert doesn't think it'll fly, but comments that their evil knows no bounds. Their reason seems to be that too many reviewers are using global warming as an excuse to protect animals -gasp-.
"It is important to use our time and resources to protect the most vulnerable species. It is not possible to draw a link between greenhouse gas emissions and distant observations of impacts on species."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hail to Thee

Sadie decided to go out in it and came running back all squinchy from being pelted. Paul got the camera and recorded it.