Coffee heat rising

Weekend Roundup: Politics as High Comedy Edition

The Presidential debate is coming up. Am I the only one who thinks the whole affair is garnished with high comedy? Some of the things the Romney people have said, especially… The other day as I listened to the news while driving across the city, we were told that the Republican party is “the natural home of Latinos.” I started to laugh, and then broke out in guffaws when Romney followed that up with “we’re not rounding people up and deporting them!”

Freaking hilarious. I guess that makes Sheriff Joe not a Republican. 😀

Some of the things the extremists say wander so far beyond the pale that they come out as truly laughable. It’s scary, though, to realize that when our college students think World War I happened during the 1800s and Wisconsin is a Rocky Mountain State, the average Joe and Jane on the street could very well be convinced that most of the writers of the U.S. Constitution were clergymen  and that Joe McCarthy was our greatest American hero.

America needs Jon Stewart to emcee that debate.

Fortunately, PF bloggers are so staid and so stodgy that we never say anything silly. Right?


Various new stuff has been ongoing this week, none of it likely to force you to pull off to the side of the road until a crippling spasm of laughter passes. Recently, though, I did come across an entertaining and engaging writer with a fun schtick and a way with words: Mr. Money Mustache. You’ve gotta check out this guy’s site. His post on electric cars seems to be pretty typical: well written, skeptical, and thorough.

Speaking of things to make us skeptical, over at Blue Collar Workman TB reports on a moment of human greed and stupidity.

Budget Glamorous is back from a summertime hiatus. She continues to wrestle with the challenges of living well on an academic income (such as it is).

As if Mrs. Accountability didn’t have enough on her plate, she just learned that she gets to engage battle with Arizona’s endlessly incompetent bureaucrats again…this time for no good reason whatsoever.

Here’s an interesting personal story from Planting Our Pennies, about the time Mr. PoP took a minimum-wage job and viewed it as a great opportunity.

101 Centavos holds forth about American exceptionalism and…uhm…some exceptions to that. Nice, articulate essay.

Two interesting posts at A Gai Shan Life this week, one of them amazing. Those of us who have followed Revanche’s adventures for the past few years recall when she was laid off her job in the depth of the Recession-That-Is-Not-a-Depression. She spent some time searching anxiously for new work and then landed a nice position at a highly respected company in San Francisco. Lately she’s decided it was time to move on from that as she’s re-evaluated her priorities and assessed what really matters in life. Various recent sources of stress, though, seem to have caused a flare-up of a painful chronic ailment, which she’s now plodding through unhappily. In describing this episode, she publishes a poem, and it is an extraordinary thing. One would expect to find it in a literary magazine, not a PF blog. Don’t miss it.

Frugal Scholar contemplates the strategy of regarding frugality as its complement, enrichment. Burritos will make you rich!

Money Beagle’s cookies were frosted by the discovery that roller-coaster riding days may be a thing of the past. Moving on, the Beagles purchased a new video monitor to keep an eye on the puppies, with mixed results, according to their review of the gadget.

Hmm… Speaking of risk-taking (which is how timid souls like me regard roller-coaster rides), eemusings has been heavy into risk-taking this week! If she’s not losing her shirt at the poker table, she’s throwing herself out of airplanes! Take a look at those photos… New Zealand is even more gorgeous than Arizona. Which is gorgeous.

An interesting guest post by a writer named Em surfaced at My Journey to Millions this week: the author says that sticking to organic, whole foods and grass-fed beef relieves her depression, and that the connection is so evident that slipping off the real food for even a few days results in noticeable symptoms.

The globe-trotting Donna Freedman is moving—yeah, as in picking up and moving, lock, stock, & barrel—from Seattle to Anchorage. She writes winsomely about those strange going-to-miss-all-this feelings that come on us as we’re about to take permanent flight.

Over at I Pick Up Pennies, Donna’s daughter Abigail describes a surreal reunion with a suicidally inclined woman who claims to know her well, but whom Abigail herself doesn’t remember.

Fabulously Broke has published a whole slew of posts on interesting topics, about half a dozen one right after another. Naturally, being the flibberdegibbet that I am, I gravitated instantly to the fluffiest piece: how to avoid make-up shopping blunders! Buying make-up is a lot like buying shoes and purses: one tends to do it because it makes one feel better. Better than what? That’s a question best asked after the stuff is paid for and the budget has recovered…

At Bargaineering, Jim wonders about the extent of upward mobility still accessible in this country and asks his readers to comment.

NicoleandMaggie discuss the strategy of using one’s emergency savings to “float” a debt. Not my favorite scheme, now that I have no real, credible income. But I did use to do it back in the Dark Ages, when I had a real job.

Where’s My Trust Fund is collecting interviews from PF readers and bloggers.

We know there’s no such thing as too much fun. Five-Cent Nickel considers whether you can have too many credit cards.

So it goes.


Cherry-picking the Looniness

🙂  E. Murphy, one of my favorite commenters, engages the discussion that stemmed from a post of a couple of days ago. Says E.:

Okay, you can cherry pick some looniness within the Republican party. But you can also cherry pick some looniness within the Democrats also.

For godssakes women, the world is NOT black and white.

In the wee hours of this morning I was mulling over the issue: what are the roots of our present calamity? I do not see the basis of the irrecoverable disaster toward which we’re sliding on a skateboard as stemming from “looniness,” in the sense of isolated incidents of irrationality or stupidity. I see it as rooted in a deep, intransigent ideology that brooks no dissent from its dogma.

Here’s a little table showing the big missteps we’ve taken since the Reagan era. Let’s remember, too, that today Reagan would be considered “moderate” and Barry Goldwater, regarded as a right-wing loon in his day, would be trending to the left.

I submit that one does not “cherry-pick” right-wing lunacy. The crop of cherries is so thick and so ripe that all one has to do is stand under the tree, hold out a basket, and watch it fill.

Happy Labor Day, for those of you who still have a job. As for those who don’t and those who are marginally employed at a fraction of what you earned when you had a real job: go fish!


These People Would Lead America?

News report:

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Republican congressman from Florida turned to email on Tuesday to call a Democratic colleague from the state “vile, despicable and cowardly” after she called into question his stance on Medicare during the debate over a spending cap and balanced budget bill before the House.

Rep. Allen West, a first-term Republican from south Florida, wasn’t shy about his online outburst. He sent his peppery email to numerous lawmakers as well as his target, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

The subject line of the email: “Unprofessional and Inappropriate Sophomoric Behavior from Wasserman Schultz.”

The e-mail said: “Look, Debbie, I understand that after I departed the House floor you directed your floor speech comments directly towards me. Let me make myself perfectly clear, you want a personal fight, I am happy to oblige. You are the most vile, unprofessional and despicable member of the US House of Representatives. If you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face, otherwise, shut the heck up.”

Associated Press
July 19, 2011

And what did the virago say that triggered this spray of rabid slaver?

About West’s support of the Republicans’ “Cut, Cap, and Balance” plan, she observed, “The gentleman from Florida, who represents thousands of Medicare beneficiaries, as do I, is supportive of this plan that would increase costs for Medicare beneficiaries. Unbelievable from a member from south Florida.”

And there we have it. This is what’s wrong with the extreme right wing of the Republican party: they are not leaders.

It’s hard to say what they are (at least, while remaining more or less polite). But leaders, they are not.

A personal attack in place of a reasoned argument on issues is what we call an ad hominem fallacy. It is a flaw in logical thinking. It is not leadership.

Unleashing language like “vile, despicable and cowardly” is the abusive behavior of a bully. It is not leadership.

Demanding that a person who disagrees with you, however blandly, sit down and shut up is hectoring and bullying. It is not leadership.

Have Americans become so inured to the loud-mouthed meanness that substitutes for discourse on national talk radio that we actually think this is discourse? It’s not.

It’s a lot of things. It’s rude. It’s stupid. It’s ignorant. It’s vile. It’s unprofessional. It’s despicable. It’s vicious. It’s shallow. But it’s not discourse.

It’s meanness. It’s bullying. It’s intimidation. But it’s not leadership.

We Won’t Be Getting That Job…or Much of Anything

Holy F**k! If you’ll excuse the not-quite expression. And even if you won’t, I’ll say it again.

About two seconds after I hit “send” to shoot four incredibly complicated documents off in application for a full-time job at the District, I went to close the short-form resumé I’d written to supplement the 12-page curriculum vitae, the 11-page application form, and the two-page (11-point Times New Roman, line spacing “exactly”) cover letter that I’ve spent the past three days laboring over.

The resumé was an afterthought. IMHO the endless CV is something that probably is never read and, if it is, probably is the target of much seething resentment on the part of the person who is forced to read it. So I thought it would be a good idea to send a two-page business-style resumé that, while it doesn’t detail every word I’ve ever published, every conference I’ve every attended, every class I’ve ever taught, and every thought I’ve ever had, is at least readable.

My fingers alight on Command-W just as my eyes come to rest on the screen, where what should I read as the file flickers away but

…a editorial office…

Oh, hell and damnation!

I spent hour after hour after HOUR trying to get this stuff right. Went over it and over it and over it and then went over it again. If I have to screw up, does it have to be, dear God, does it have to be right where I’m crowing about my brilliant editing career?

So, if I ever had a snowball’s chance (which of course I didn’t), it just melted away in the 110-degree heat.

I’m screwed.

And if the FARKING Republicans get their way and shut the government down, I (along with about half my fellow Americans) am double-screwed.

I do not know what I am going to do if I don’t get a Social Security check next month. And I’m quite sure I’m not the only person who does not know what she or he is going to do if we don’t get our Social Security checks last month.

So far, Social Security hasn’t deposited a payment this month, either. Yesterday I spent my last available cash-flow dime on food. To buy enough gas to get to work between now and the end of the credit-card cycle, I’ll have to pull more money out of savings.

My next paycheck, which will arrive on Thursday after I’ve been standing in front of classrooms for two weeks, will cover three days, thanks to PeopleSoft’s wacko “lagging” pay periods. It might, maybe, buy enough gas for another week of commutes to the campus.

Damn it. I’m ready to go to the barricades. Americans of good will need to riot in front of the offices of these crazy Republicans. We need to march on Washington. We need to stage sit-ins at every Republican senator and congressman’s office in the nation!

If those SOBs manage to cut off Social Security—which is exactly what they want to do—I will have to double my drawdown from savings, and that will just barely cover my living expenses. It will not cover the payments on the house that Zillow now says is worth $120,000 less than we’re paying for it. Doubling my drawdown will exceed the 4% recommended drawdown, by a long shot. My savings will not last the rest of my lifetime. Before I’m carted off to the nursing home, I will be flat broke and living on welfare—assuming the Republicans haven’t managed to get rid of that, too, as they wish they could. There will be nothing to leave to my son.

Most Americans have far less in retirement savings than I do. As retirees, they don’t have any extra money to draw down. Large numbers of formerly middle-class baby boomers will be left destitute long before it’s time for them to shuffle off this mortal coil. Because they will have no financial capital to pass to the next generation, their children will fall out of the middle class—assuming any of them are still there by the time their parents die.

We will not be left that way through any doing of our own—outside the coastal cities, most people simply do not earn enough to set aside upwards of a million dollars for retirement. And we will not be left that way through any misdoing of the average man and  woman on the street, the ones who go to work and pay their bills and raise their kids in the time-honored American way. We will be left that way by a strategy to slash this country’s revenues by cutting taxes on the wealthy and on corporations that can easily afford to pay their share, by a decision to plunge our country into a ruinous war on the strength of a lie, by a bat-brained policy to deregulate the financial industry (and everything else that can be allowed to run loose across the land like so many wound-up mechanical rats), and by a nit-witted policy to resist raising taxes to fund the war built on a lie.

Something wicked this way comes, my friends. Matter of fact, it’s already here. It’s come for us, and it’s come for our kids.

Image: William Rimmer, Scene from Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I (witches conjuring an apparition). Public Domain.

A Concatenation of Fools

Lenten thanks, Day 28

Well, it was very kind of God to allow me to be born at the apogee of America’s influence and standard of living. But…contemplating the future for our children and grandchildren as we watch our country self-destruct is kinda sad.

The Republicans and their Tea Party infiltrators have dug their heels in the sand and are, no doubt joyously, awaiting the shut-down of the United States government.

Today’s AZFamily news website quotes one of our Republican senators, Jon Kyl, as saying “he believes his party is being reasonable and the other party is not.” Meanwhile the Miami Herald reports that “Republicans have not yielded on their bid to bar federal money from going to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a favorite target of anti-abortion lawmakers because it provides abortion-related services.”

A message to Jon Kyl’s robot pacifier for his constituents:

No, Mr. Kyl, your party is NOT being reasonable. Shutting down the federal government because a bunch of extremists think a woman’s right to decide what she will do with her own body should be rescinded is not reasonable. A party increasingly dominated by those who think all government is evil and that we should cut all public services is a misguided bunch of fools.

What we’re seeing here is the worst kind of blockheaded demagoguery. As a voter, I am sick and tired of watching this revolting sideshow.

In a way, I hope you do succeed in shutting down the government. And please: do keep it shut down for a good long time.

This will make it clear to the 800,000 people you are about to put out of work what your policies will do to this country. It will make it clear to every vacationer and every well-heeled foreign tourist who’s already paid heaven only knows how much to travel to spend time in a national park, only to find the public lands closed down. It will make it clear to every contractor who does business with the federal government, and to every employee of those contractors. It will make it clear to every business that supplies those contractors, and to every employee of all those businesses. It will make it clear to every supplier of products and services to the federal government, and to every employee of those suppliers.

And maybe, finally, when their own oxen are gored, the voters of this country will figure out what’s wrong with the Party of No.

Don’t agree? Fine. Let us agree to disagree. Go here to write to your elected representatives. And by all means…urge them to shut the place down. Please! 😉

Can You Support Your Parents?

Lenten thanks, Day 18

Thank God for Franklin D. Roosevelt.

So the Republicans are getting ready to go after Social Security and Medicare. Some of their followers don’t even seem to be rational. Here’s one who remarks that if Social Security goes, “no one is going to be hurt by it.”

Yeah. No one but the kids.

You know, if it were not for Social Security, I could not stay in my home. I wouldn’t be able to pay the property taxes, and pretty soon the County would come and evict me. I would be living on the streets right now, today. The house my son is living in would have been foreclosed by now, since without my salary and Social Security, we wouldn’t have a hope of making payments on the upside-down mortgage. And that is with a retirement nest egg that’s 3.3 times larger than the average 50- to 60-year-old’s.

In a culture where families fly apart as the kids reach adulthood, where the elderly are objects of disdain and discrimination, where you’ll have a tough time getting a job if you’re laid off at 45 and no chance at all if you’re in your 60s, where a man is considered not a man if his mother lives with him, where the elderly are expected to live on their own until they’re sent off to a nursing home, who exactly is going to take care of the old folks when they can no longer work?

Without Social Security and Medicare, my choices would be to depend on my son to house me, feed me, and cover my healthcare costs or to live on the street until I die, which would happen in short order. Ours is not a culture like Revanche’s, where young people expect to care for their parents no matter how much strain it puts on their own lives. Most Americans would expect their parents and troublesome siblings to fend for themselves.

This is true for a large portion of the elderly in our country. Get rid of the so-called “entitlement” programs—into which we have paid all our lives—and you’ll end up consigning huge numbers of older Americans to dire poverty. Responsibility for supporting them will fall to their adult children, who don’t have the resources to care for elderly, unemployable parents.

Will you be willing to take your parents in after they can no longer work? Oh, you say you don’t want Mom and Dad living in your spare bedroom? You don’t want them in your face all day, every day, telling you how to raise your kids and how to live your life. Well, then, are you prepared to pay their rent? Can you cover the property taxes on their paid-off home?

And when you discover the cat food in the pantry (they don’t have a cat, interestingly enough), will you shell out a couple hundred a month to buy groceries for them? When you find out that they’re too frail to get groceries for themselves, will you run to the grocery store once or twice a week and stock up on microwavable food for them?

Are you willing to pay for your parents’ healthcare? Sure you are. But can you? Can you afford to buy insurance for an elderly person who already has chronic health problems? And if they can’t get insurance at all (which they can’t, because of the chronic health issues), are you in a position to pay for their health care out of pocket? You do know, no doubt, how much treatment for a heart condition costs?

How many of you who are younger and midlife adults see yourselves, seriously, as willing and able to care for your parents when they get too old work? Take a look at these excellent young people who are coming up behind you…see any of them planning to support Mom and Dad in old age?

In the post linked above, Revanche asks readers if they have a plan for taking care of their parents when the old folks can no longer care for themselves. Do you? If you’re under about 35 or 40, you’d better get one.

And by the way, who’s going to support you when you get too old or sick to work, and the stock market crashes right at the moment when you can no longer hold down a job?

Image: Elephant near Ndutu Lodge. nickandmel2006. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.