Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Passing Of My Beloved Little Beagle Laney

My beloved 15 year old beagle Laney passed away on Sunday morning after slipping a disc in her back, which caused her hind legs to become useless, which really frightened her.  Fortunately, it was a sunny, crisp fall day in the Pacific Northwest and she was out in the backyard vacuuming up bird seed, one of her favorite fall pastimes.

I brought her and what became her little brother Artie home from a shelter in El Segundo back in the summer of 2004 when I was living in La Jolla. They shared a kennel together for a month before I brought them home.  They were best of friends, or more like, she was the big sister and Artie was the Peter Pan of a younger brother who chose to never grow up.  Laney always took care of him, pinning him down and cleaning his ears on a daily basis while he feigned putting up resistance, groaning and making funny sounds as if it was bothering him.  Deep down I think he really liked it.

We were lucky to live in a great apartment building in La Jolla, where we met so many great friends who also had dogs.  From Max, Bailey, Newman, Cooper, Napa, and Louis, we were never at a loss for dog friends.  The funny thing about Laney, though, is that she was indifferent to other dogs as friends besides her brother Artie.  She preferred humans to dogs.   My neighbor from Japan would always light up whenever she saw me walking the dogs, saying, "Hi Ottie.  Hi Raney!"  And the nickname "Raney" stuck for years to come.

For four years, our mornings consisted of an hour at either La Jolla Shores, Blacks Beach, or Del Mar's Dog Beach, with treats to follow, of course!  At La Jolla Shores, Laney would hug the sea wall from the parking lot all the way down past the Scripps Pier, rooting out any leftover food sunbathers had left the day before.  Blacks Beach was always fun, as she and Artie would dig holes into the hillside between the access road and the mushroom house.  On Christmas Day 2006, Artie and Laney along with Bailey, their beagle friend, and Max the black lab mix, dug their hearts out for nearly two hours that morning.  Well, Max ran around while the three beagles dug holes.  Artie was so tired I had to carry him up the steep access road back to the car parked in La Jolla Farms.  Laney, being the true alpha female filled with energy and determination, pulled me up the hill as I carried her little brother to the top!  Artie, always the baby.

Speaking of her alpha tendencies.  One sunny San Diego evening, Artie, Laney, and I went for a long walk around the UCSD campus housing with my friend Shannon and Max, her black lab mix.  We were side-by-side, with Max and Laney each vying for the pacesetter spot in the front of the pack.  If Max got ahead, Laney pulled harder to get in front of him.  When Laney was in front, Max pulled Shannon to get in front of Laney.  This went on for about a minute and before we knew it, we were in a sprint with both Laney and Max trying to take the lead position in the pack.  Shannon and I busted up laughing at the little competition going on between the two dogs.

I feel really lucky that her little soul picked me to be her dad for this lifetime.  What a joy it's been to learn unconditional love from such a great little girl who was so filled with determination and shared her passion for  food with her little brother.

You're going to be missed little girl but I know I'll see you again soon.  I can't wait for that day to come.

August 2007 - Cardiff by the Sea, CA 

September 2013 - Portland, OR

August 2004 - La Jolla, CA

Christmas 2006 - Wind N Sea Beach, La Jolla, CA

October 2013 - Angels Rest, Corbett, OR (Laney's last hike, always in the lead!)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Ski Season Opens This Weekend At Mt Hood Meadows + Paying Homage To Better Off Dead

I'm taking my wonderful and funny as hell nieces Sam & Lauren up to Mt. Hood Meadows this weekend for the opening of the 2013/2014 ski season.  The conditions are supposed to be sunny and warm (mid-30s is warm on the mountain) with views south down the Cascade Range to Mt. Jefferson (above).   

Sam, 14, & Lauren, 11, took a lesson last year from a friend of my Dad.  They both took to it pretty quickly, so I think we can do the bunny slope in the morning for a quick lesson and then head up the Cascade Express chairlift and down the Texas trail in the afternoon.  

I gotta admit, I'm really looking forward to ski season.  Like, really, really, really looking forward to it.  It's been twelve years since I last skied and I hope it all comes back to me.  I may never be able to ski the K-12 like Lane Meyer, but at least I'll get a lot of practice this winter.  

And since it is the season, I think it's best to finish the blog post off with this classic ski scene from Better Off Dead.  Classic Roy Stalin!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Is The "Nanny State" Catchphrase Even True Of Obama Policies?

A very intelligent and funny friend, "FF" for "Funny Friend", sent me an email yesterday in response to my blog post about the 65 year old Realtor lady who thought my friend DT was terrorist, and then wouldn't shut up about it for five minutes, digging herself deeper into a hole of her own ignorance as she kept talking about "those people from over there" while everyone in the conversation just became more and more uncomfortable as she babbled on and on.

Well, "FF" basically said in the email, "I know this sounds horrible, but things will be a lot better for progress when that generation dies off and takes with it all their bigotry with them."  

Overall, my generation isn't too concerned about race or sexual orientation and we take religion with a grain of salt.  We've grown up with people of different ethnic backgrounds and have attended numerous weddings where the skin colors are different.  It's pretty normal.  We have gay friends and relatives who've gotten married and raised children, sometimes doing a better job of it than hetero couples.  And we've experienced enough religious indoctrination to realize it's probably best when limited to Christmas and Easter, and even that may be too much for many in my generation, including myself.  

Later in the day I was on Huffington Post, and saw this article where Oprah Winfrey basically said the same thing.  Maybe "FF" had seen Oprah's statements or maybe it's a shared view that people think but only few dare say aloud:
"The talk show queen made headlines last week when she told the BBC that racial progress will move forward when older generations of racists "die," and that President Obama has faced racism during his time in office."
Obviously people will disagree with her words.

I Googled "Oprah Winfrey" this morning and came across this article from Bill O'Reilly's show last night, where he gave his opinion about Oprah's comments, which was basically that the president is being criticized not because of his race but because of his policies, which O'Reilly referred to as the "nanny state":
"The lunatic fringe will hate, no matter what but legitimate criticism of Barack Obama is not race-centric. It is based on policy. The President wants to change America. He wants to impose a big government income redistribution situation. Many Americans like me believe that will weaken the country. 
"I have nothing personal against President Obama. In fact, he has joined with me to help thousands of wounded veterans. He has been great on that issue. But this nanny state play is causing tremendous economic problems. And that's where my criticism comes down.
The catchphrase "nanny state" really stood out to me because just fifteen minutes earlier, I'd read Bill Black's article in Naked Capitalism about the Simpson Bowles Commission and it's recommendation, which appears to be fully supported by President Obama, to cut social safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare, while giving the rich more tax cuts.  Sort of a reverse "nanny state" where the rich receive the spoils:
"Calmes’ quoted passage discusses two of the key planks of the proposal – cut the safety net and increase tax revenues (but not marginal tax rates on the wealthy, which Bowles Simpson propose to reduce).  The third plank is to cut (mostly) social program spending.
Bill Black goes on in the next paragraph:
"She assumes, implicitly, that the three planks would be desirable though she presents information that demonstrates the opposite.  Her article implies that the Grand Betrayal would be desirable because “past bipartisan panels, like his Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission, have proposed” [the three planks].  In fact, the Bowles-Simpson commission made no such formal proposal to Congress.  President Obama appointed the co-chairs – Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson.  Bowles is one of the leaders of the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party.  Simpson is an ultra-conservative former Republican Senator.  They are leading deficit hawks who keep predicting (incorrectly) that debt will cause hyper-inflation.  They are fierce proponents of cutting the safety net.  They support the partial or total privatization of Social Security – Wall Street’s ultimate dream."
And here's where I find the "nanny state" catchphrase used by O'Reilly to be very misleading:
"Obama stacked the leadership of the panel to provide him with the political cover to cut the safety net."
Bill Black believes, and I tend to agree with him, that the president is looking to cut benefits for the lower and middle classes while reducing the burden on the wealthy, the so-called "Grand Bargain" that Professor Black renamed the "Grand Betrayal".  Black believes the "Grand Betrayal" will lead to greater deficits and inequality and louder cries from the American aristocracy for more austerity, which for some reason, has been implemented all over Europe:
"Bowles-Simpson would cut the safety net and inflict even more destructive austerity on our Nation while cutting taxes on many of the wealthy.  That is a trio of terrible ideas, particularly in our current economic circumstances.  We have just watched the eurozone suffer through years of a second gratuitous Great Recession (and a Great Depression in its periphery) because of the self-inflicted wound of austerity.  The most recent data show that the eurozone’s “recovery” is so anemic that it makes the U.S. recovery roaring by comparison.  Austerity has been proven, again, to be a disastrous response to a recession."
I think the narrative that the president is some kind of redistributing socialist who wants to give away as much free stuff to the poor is a bit of a tired, and rather misleading story, that history and mathematics will not support. Obama passed health insurance reform, which may prove to be a bigger gift to the insurance industry than to the little people.  President Bush passed Medicare reform, Medicare Part D, that was a gift to the pharmaceutical industry.  Leaders of the free world specialize in bestowing lucrative gifts upon their corporate sponsors.

"FF" made the point that the older generation will most likely take their socially conservative worldview with them into the afterlife, something that Oprah publicly stated along with saying that the president receives extra criticism because of his race. Bill O'Reilly said he thinks Oprah is missing the point that Obama is being criticized not for being black but for his "nanny state" policies.  Which Bill Black directly refutes and insists that the president continues to push for a "Grand Bargain", err "Grand Betrayal", as Black calls it, which continues to take from the poor and give to the rich, extending the long-running bi-partisan tradition that rewards the very wealthiest of American citizens.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Dumb Old Women Who've Watched Way Too Much Fox News Continue To Think My Friend Is A Terrorist

My friend "DT" sent me a funny email last night that yet another senior citizen woman in Southern California told him she thought he was a terrorist and that his briefcase contained a suicide bomb.  Ugh!  Are you f*cking serious?  Can these dumbasses please stop believing everything they've been brilliantly conditioned to believe by Fox News, the premier war-mongering propaganda network that sets the tone of good versus evil for elderly white people who have no contact with brown skinned people, that men with olive skin, blue eyes, trimmed beards, fashionably shaggy hair wearing clothes straight out of the REI catalog are somehow a threat to the freedom of old white ladies in suburbia!

This isn't the first time a Michele Bachmann-like moronic person said this to DT.

A few months ago, DT was shopping with his girlfriend and her mother, who are Egyptian American, at a Target store in Iowa, where her parents had lived for 30 years.  DT was lagging behind with the shopping cart by 50 feet or so.  As he came around the corner, his cart almost collided with the cart of an elderly woman's cart.

"Watch where you're going you terrorist!" she muttered.

"What?  What did you say?" he said in disbelief.

"You people need to go back to your own country.  You're probably looking for a place to set off a bomb....." the 75 year old white woman said.

He was taken aback and a little offended.  "Did she just call me a terrorist?" he thought.

As he caught up to his girlfriend and her mom, he said, "Hey, that lady just called me a terrorist.  I don't look anything like it, do I?"

"Don't be flattered.  We get called that everyday," the mother said.

"Seriously?"  DT asked.

"Oh ya.  It's usually much worse." she replied.

As I read his email, I had to smile and marvel at the deviant brilliance of this long-running campaign to scare the shit out of old white people for profit.  The loyal viewers are bombarded with sensational news stories about terrorism, which kills an average of 15-20 Americans every year.  Yes, 15-20 people.  That's it!  Compare that to heart disease, which kills nearly 600,000 Americans each year, or about 40,000 times more people, and you start to realize that this "War On Terror" is a bit over-the-top unless one is a war profiteer or merchant of death, who relies on this for the accumulation of wealth and power.   

I also thought of this quote from an article in Gawker about newly released papers from the Nixon Administration that back in 1970 mapped out a pro-administration news network that would give away free news stories to local stations - all favorable to the Nixon world view.  Here's how they assessed human nature in the age of television:
Today television news is watched more often than people read newspapers, than people listen to the radio, than people read or gather any other form of communication. The reason: People are lazy. With television you just sit—watch—listen. The thinking is done for you.
Yes, people are incredibly lazy and they like the thinking to be done for them.  I hear it every day in my daily life and have also personally been guilty of believing stupid things I see on TV or hear on the radio.  But, to be so lazy to think that a shaggy haired, olive skinned dude fresh out of a casting call for an REI promo is some kind of suicide bomber, is taking laziness and gullibility too far.  Maybe it's time to stop listening to those who are selling "good versus evil" for fun and profit to the lazy masses who need their thinking done for them and start questioning why they're feeding you a steady stream of nonsense.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Petition To Send The Fed's QE Funds Directly To The People Rather Than The Insolvent Banks

I came across this petition to the White House about re-directing the Federal Reserve's $85 billion per month Quantitative Easing (QE) funds from the Too Big To Fail banks to every single citizen in the United States, in an effort to jump start the real economy and not just the Wall Street economy, which seems to be the primary recipient of all these drastic measures taken by The Fed and US Treasury starting with the bailouts of 2008.

The petition requested that the President have The Fed start issuing checks for $300/mo to each citizen rather than nursing the insolvent Too Big To Fail banks back to health, which seems like it will take another decade or two, if ever.  If The Fed can do it for the banks, why not for the people?
"You are currently creating $85 BILLION dollars of NEW money every month, and giving it to banks in the hope they in turn will lend it to people to boost the economy through increased spending and job creation. Instead banks are shockingly just using it to enrich themselves. 
"Why not just cut out the middle man and give this money directly to the people? Your policy of quantitative easing is nothing but another bailout for banks, enriching the few, while the great majority suffer on as the working poor. We need quantitative easing for the People. 
"Look, we know what this petition site is. It's just a way of making us think you are listening, while your actions show who truly has your ear. This is a chance for you to change that. 
"Please, be a President of the People, not the 1%.
As much as I agree with this idea of putting the money in the hands of the people, rather than replenishing reserve accounts at The Fed for the Too Big To Fail banks, I'm realistic in knowing that The Fed protects the financial system first while claiming they're trying to do everything for regular citizens, even though four plus years of QE are showing very little signs of trickling down to the masses. 

I'm also practical enough to realize that President Obama is not the man of the people that his PR staff packaged him up as during the 2008 campaign.  The wealthy got him into office and he's carrying out the policies that protect their interests the same way George W. Bush sprinkled cash upon war profiteers and merchants of death.

Putting an additional $3,600/yr into the hands of every American citizen would do a great deal of good for the economy.  That's an extra trillion a year out in the economy, which could have a significant impact on business and consumer spending along with jobs.

Unfortunately, I don't see The Fed or President Obama turning into Robin Hood.  Instead, they'll continue the policies of Robin Hood in reverse, taking from the lower and middle classes for the benefit of the wealthiest Americans and politically connected corporations.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Another Political Bait and Switch: Palin's War On Christmas Book Really A Festivus Book Filled With The Airing of Grievances

As much as I want to buy for a gag gift that will be re-gifted, Sarah Palin's latest literary classic about the War On Christmas, that I think only her, Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity profess to believe in, I just can't do it.  I cannot support her 15 minutes of fame that's been extended out an additional five years and will probably continue for another decade as long as she remains the prettiest face in the conservative movement.

Besides, her book isn't even about the fake War on Christmas.  It's a Festivus book!  

According to this brilliant review from The Daily Beast's Michelle Cottle, the book is nothing but an "airing of grievances" against those Palin despises:
"From the first chapter, it is clear that, whatever her concerns about “a Christ-less Christmas,” Palin has found a convenient frame on which to hang her rage at pretty much everything: Obamacare, Obamaphones, Nancy Pelosi, the national debt, gay marriage, sexual sin, crony capitalism, the preferential treatment of Muslims (whoo-wee! does she get rolling on that one), the lamestream media, Chick-fil-A haters, abortion, Mitt Romney’s hair, and on and on. No liberal stereotype, from Birkenstocks to the French, vegans, and NPR, is too tired to sneer at. She goes so far as to close her first chapter helpfully with a rant against those who claim the entire war on Christmas “conversation” is “the result of hypersensitivity, intolerance, or—their favorite criticism for us ‘bitter clingers’—ignorance and fear of change. (See how I did that? I just summarized 90 percent of the book reviews for my critics, so they don’t even have to read the rest. You betcha, I helped you out!)"
For my friends who feared they'd be getting this ridiculous book, and would have the perfect gag gift to re-gift, I'm sorry.  It's not going to happen this year.  I'm back to square one, falling back on the gold standard for re-gifting, The Label Baby Jr, which you will be receiving this year and I'm expecting will find it's way to an upcoming birthday party or Bar Mitzvah very, very soon.

Happy Festivus!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Why I Love The Irony Of Ron Swanson

The great Ron Swanson, played by Nick Offerman, on NBC's "Parks And Recreation" is my new favorite sitcom character.  I absolutely love the irony of his character - a staunch Tea Party libertarian who hates all government but gladly collects a government paycheck and lifetime benefits as the Director of Parks and Rec in the fictional town of Pawnee, IN.

The irony of his character is great comedy because it's so true of today's Tea Party patriots.  As a group, they hate the government, especially government spending on entitlements and handouts. But just like most Americans, democrat or republican, they don't have a pot to piss in and have virtually no retirement savings and thus, will become almost 100% dependent on Social Security for their income long into old age.  They hate the "takers" in society but 9.5 out of 10 of them will become takers as soon as they reach age 65, if not sooner.  

Burly, gruff, sovereign man's man Ron Swanson, the fictional character, is a huge economic taker against the taxpayers of Pawnee.  With salary, benefits, pension, and other compensation items, Ron Swanson probably costs Pawneeans $150,000+ per year to employ.

But I don't care.  I love the irony Ron Swanson represents because I know people in real life like this.  He has brought me several laughs from all of his funny sayings and his self-contradicting philosophy on life, the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness, which is "a perfectly calibrated recipe for maximum personal achievement".  (He surprisingly left out, "Get A High Paying Job With The Government Paid For By Evil Taxes").

We won't have to worry about Ron Swanson in retirement, unlike the rest of his libertarian friends.  Ron Swanson will have a generous Indiana Public Retirement System pension and the millions of dollars in gold to fall back on, as the irony of a gold bug public employee lives on long into old age.