Mr. Sandman's Sandbox

The musings of a Deaf Californian on life, politics, religion, sex, and other unmentionables. This blog is not guaranteed to lead to bon mots appropriate for dinner-table conversation; make of it what you will.

Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

Monday, October 31, 2005

Silly Rabbit, Halloween Is For Everybody!

Here in L.A., Halloween isn't just for kids. Sure, there's tons of kiddies, especially in the more well-heeled areas, running around in costumes with their bags and plastic pumpkins, trick-or-treating in the time-honored fashion. But on Santa Monica Boulevard in WeHo, once the sun sets, owls in the canyons hoot and bats begin to fly, neon starts to sparkle, and street lights brighten the dark alleyways and the well-trod sidewalks, the people emerge.

Some are leaving, some are coming, and some are doing both, but everyone is mingling in the street, on the sidewalks, and in the clubs. Most of them are in costume, and the outfits run the gamut from the ordinary, run-of-the-mill disguises you've seen since grade school, while others are quite creative, and a few are definitely outside the mainstream.

Tonight, after a long, busy day, I decided to use my costume yet again, and once I'd parked my car at a discreet distance in the tony wards of Beverly Hills, I trekked towards Doheny and Santa Monica, ready to join the hordes of revelers. I spent the next few hours wandering back and forth on the street, smiling and marveling at the potpourri of celebrants.

I saw the usual clowns, french maids, cops, devils and demons, skeletons, hobos, priests and nuns, murder victims, and the like. A fair number of animation icons were represented, including one person who had a huge "Chicken Little" head on-- in anticipation of the movie opening later this week, I suppose. Several Zorros roamed the crowd, and more than one Willy Wonka in the Johnny Depp fashion strolled the walk.

The gay denizens of the street, though, took the opportunity to push fantasy to the extreme. I hadn't seen so many people in drag since I saw Harvey Fierstein movies years ago. Some of the more fit/buff men dressed as fairies, in very skimpy outfits. One couple dressed as cowboys, in chaps, with no jeans underneath, exposing *ahem* their meaty rumps. Another couple dressed as Native Americans; one, as an Aztec warrior, the other in Plains garb, but both with emphasis on as skimpy dress as possible. Quite a few superheroes abounded, and the majority were gays-- at first I thought perhaps it was just a comic book nerd, but then I noticed more and more gays dressed as Captain America, Superman, Batman, and the like. Thinking about it, it does make sense-- those sculptured arms, the *ahem* generous basket in the crotch, the chiseled good looks. I can see how little gay boys secretly fantasize over superheroes (makes me wonder if Frederic Wertham was actually on to something when he denounced Batman and Robin's "relationship" in the 1950s, rather than overreacting!), and carry the fascination into adulthood.

The ladies weren't always much better-- the last time I saw this much cleavage was in a brochure for Rio and other exotic destinations. Quite a few couples went in "team" costume concepts-- Mickey and Minnie, Jack Skellington and Sally (from "The Nightmare before Christmas"), a hustler and a "pregnant" lady, and the like.

The costumes I saw ranged from homemade to elaborate and expensive. Regardless of how the clothes were fashioned, some of the best costumes I saw were those worn by a group of people, in "theme" costumes. For example, I spotted a group of Oompa Loompas (and I'm not talking Oompas from the recent Johnny Depp version, but Oompa Loompas in green wigs, maroon shirts and white pants-- the works). Several packs of cards ran around, and I spotted Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man all together. Alice in Wonderland and the Queen of Hearts graciously promenaded in tandem, while Alex and his droogs prowled the streets, bringing "A Clockwork Orange" to life. The best group theme I saw was a varied pantheon of gods-- Isis and Anubis, Mars and Venus, and Ganesha all walked together. Ganesha was outstanding-- the fella wearing it actually had an elephant's trunk, blue-painted skin, four arms, and the works. Anubis was a black guy, who walked around with a fantastic mask on, Egyptian headdress, a loincloth, no shirt, and sandals. Isis had her "feathered" wings and a serpent crown. Another group dressed up as the whole Mario Brothers team-- Mario, Luigi, and pals.

Politics, history, and current events occasionally reared their heads as well. Quite a few gladiators roamed the Boulevard, while a fair number of larger men dressed as Roman emperors. More than one monk (myself included) could be spotted in the crowd, and a number of people chose to dress in Egyptian or Roman fashions. One guy dressed up as Mount Rushmore, while I spotted George Bush carrying a sign: "Bill Clinton got screwed for a blowjob; I screwed everyone." But one costume I spotted was both creative and pushed the envelope for tactlessness- one guy actually dressed up as a Katrina victim, with a cardboard roof/house around his middle, with fake legs propped up on the roof, and carried a sign that said, "Katrina Victim/I need Help" with "help" crossed out and replaced with "beer". Needless to say, he carried a Bud in his hand as he wandered through the crowd. Others dressed as Hooters girls, and I spotted one guy in a penis costume-- yes, I kid you not. Definitely not family viewing material!

There were so many different and creative costumes, I can't remember them all. I wish I could have taken pictures, but our nice camera is currently enjoying a sojourn in D.C., so I have to make do with my memories.

It was a fun evening, and for the most part, I was able to navigate Santa Monica Boulevard with ease, with the exception of one area surrounding a stage, where bands were performing. The crowds actually got so thick that I was partially crushed, pushed, smooshed, and finally turned around and forced back the way I came. I was able to jostle my way over to the side and escaped what could have been a very uncomfortable situation. I also had to put up with the largest amount of cigarette smoke I've had to breathe since I went to parties in college. I finally reached sensory overload, and decided to head out-- there were still tons of people as I left, and still others were arriving.

Now, who said Halloween was for kids only? *grin*

The Great Pumpkin

Well, Halloween's here again- and it's time for the Great Pumpkin. I always enjoy watching two Charlie Brown holiday specials: "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" and the beloved Christmas special (which is 40 years old this year-- some of the original kids who voiced the characters are going to be venturing into grandparent territory soon, I imagine!).

Pumpkins are fun by themselves, regardless of Linus and his flights of fancy. It's always neat to see the different faces carved on various pumpkins. Most people stick with standard stuff-- happy faces, sad faces, scary faces, evil faces... but some take it to a higher level. To celebrate Halloween, here's a page that features some fantastically carved pumpkins. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Please, Sir, I Want Some More

If you think the war and the Plame case make my blood boil, you'd be right; but sometimes there are gummint actions that not only make me teeter close to the brink of apoplexy, they also make me sick to my stomach.

We have a gummint that rakes in tons of cash annually from our taxes; but the same gummint conveniently ignores individuals and corporations who have outstanding taxes or have managed to shift their official address to Aruba or the like, all in the name of keeping what's "theirs." We have a gummint that insists on throwing more cash to the Pentagon than even the Dep't of Defense has asked for, and shrugs when requisitions include such things as $20 ice trays. Over the last few years, Smirk has pushed for permanent tax cuts, and handed out tax breaks as if they were lollipops, largely to the well-heeled, who certainly don't need a tax break. We've spent tens of millions of dollars on the war in Iraq, and even more on agencies like the Department of Homeland Security.

All of this is in the name of defense, or in the name of supply-side economics, or even in the name of so-called "fairness." Yet out of a population of nearly 300 million, only a small number are millionaires, and an even smaller number are multimillionaires. As of last year, only about 7.5 million of us earned or socked away enough to be enumerated as a millionaire.

Yep-- I hate to break it to you (and to myself), but 95% of us will never be rich. The vast majority of us will never qualify for those tax breaks, or for any other consideration from our plutocratic gummint. As it is, a lot of us are struggling from paycheck to paycheck, or balancing monstrous debts on credit cards, or trying to just keep up with the Smiths, let alone the Joneses. Those of us who are in somewhat better shape are still scrambling, as outsourcing, layoffs, increasing insurance and health care premiums keep them from staying fully ahead of the game.

That doesn't even include those at the bottom of the heap, who for one reason or another, are far beyond struggling-- they live in homeless shelters or in one-room apartments with several other people. They work two or three jobs, and essentially are rats on a wheel, just trying to stay in place.

Government exists for one purpose-- to serve the people. Essentially, government protects the rights of the governed. Of course, this leads to a larger question-- whose rights? Which of the governed? How societies interpret this social contract is why we have such diversity of government-- from republics to dictatorships, from socialism to communism.

In this country, the myth is that it's all about the "people," that we are a "democracy," and that a strong people are a great people. Well, I don't think we are a "strong people"; yes, we have a powerful military, and a massive economic machine that is a global juggernaut. But this administration, among others, seems to prefer that while the exterior is mighty, the interior remain weak. When a people are more concerned with the basics of survival, it's hard to encourage them to participate in and improve the society they live in. When that happens, everyone suffers.

Just yesterday, the House voted to cut $844 million in food stamps. The reason for this move, ostensibly, is to save money in the wake of the war in Iraq and the expenses in the aftermath of Katrina. What it really is is just mean-spirited. There are basic human needs, and one of them is food. I'd much rather my money go to helping a child have lunch at school (which may or may not be his only meal of the day) than towards killing people in a far-off land, or handing my money to someone who is just going to sock it away in a tax shelter, where no one ever benefits from it again. I'd prefer that my neighbors can focus on other concerns, rather than suffering from hunger. I'd prefer that my fellow Americans can be strong and healthy as individuals, just as we are as a country, rather than weakened because we couldn't permit them to buy the food they needed.

It certainly doesn't help that Congress votes itself pay raises while keeping the minimum wage tamped down. If people's wages don't rise, they can't purchase food. If their wages aren't high enough to purchase the food they need, but their salaries are too high for food stamps, they fall through the cracks. We're supposedly making these kinds of cuts because of events like Katrina. Well, as we all saw during that disaster, the majority of people affected have lost their homes and livelihoods. How much do you want to bet they could use assistance such as food stamps? Katrina supposedly exposed the gap between rich and poor in this country, yet the glimpse we all caught of this chasm has been closed quickly again, and we're all supposed to just go our merry way.

The situation reminds me a lot of Oliver Twist and his run-in with the governors. The people of this country are Oliver, holding out their empty bowl, and saying, "Please, Sir, I want some more."

Congress and Smirk, Scowl & Co. are Bumble and the governors, responding with such platitudes as "Pray some decorum restore, I implore... Let us face this case, it's Unprecedented, quite utterly," "He's disgraced this place," and "Encouraging others to swallow in gluttony."

In the book and movie, Oliver manages to at last find comfort and security in spite of the governors of the workhouse. I'm not sure where the average American is eventually going to find comfort and security in spite of our "governors," but for the time being, we're stuck in the workhouse, with no foreseeable exit.

Friday, October 28, 2005


Well, the other shoe has finally dropped. After waiting with bated breath for the last couple of weeks, folks inside the Beltway finally learned who Fitzgerald was targeting in his investigation of the Plame leak. By now, you know that I[rving] Lewis "Scooter" Libby has been indicted on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements during the grand jury proceedings. [if you have time to kill, here's the indictment (PDF file); you can also see it on The Smoking Gun as well]

Although Libby is the only one indicted so far, I would venture to say quite a few other people, Karl Rove among them, should continue to hold their breath-- in the press conferences of the last couple of days, Fitzgerald has made it clear he's not done yet. While I'm happy to see that *someone* is finally being taken to task, I'd rather see more indictments/investigations into the leak itself, rather than perjury raps. Still, based on what we know so far, I'd say Rove is definitely involved ("Official A" in the indictment is already as I type this, being identified as Rove), and looks like Scowl is too. As I pointed out the other day, I wouldn't say Smirk is entirely in the clear either. At this point, it's all about the cover-up; but if you ask me, for the cover-up to be treated as a crime means the original reason for the cover-up is equally serious. None of this, "But they didn't do anything!" crap. I really don't see how anyone can justify revealing classfied information of this kind.

So far all the hubbub has been on the leak regarding Valerie Plame, but what I'd like to see is a widening in this whole case, so we can maybe get to the whole reason behind the leak: the pre-war intelligence and its credibility (or rather, lack thereof!) in "persuading" people to support the war. It appears the whole reason behind the White House's vendetta against Wilson is its fear that its case for war would be damaged by Wilson's article stating the evidence behind yellowcake manufacturing was highly suspect. If the administration was so confident in its intelligence and evidence, why fear one man? Wouldn't the evidence gathered be so strong that even if one part was found to be circumstantial or shaky, the rest would hold up? The fact that Libby, Rove, their staff, and most likely their superiors, found it necessary to confront Wilson, and then attempt to smear him by exposing a CIA agent tells me that the whole house of cards on which the Iraq invasion and occupation was built is mighty flimsy. I've already felt that way, of course, and so have thousands of others, but it seems that thus far we haven't had much of a public discourse over how we got here, and perhaps it's time we do so.

While the byzantine connections of Watergate aren't replicated here, there's still definitely a cast of characters, and it helps as we enter the weeks and months ahead to have a scorecard of sorts. Here's one I found that is pretty good-- it can take a few minutes to fully load, but it gives you a map of sorts to who's who in this mess.

My take on all of this is that Karl Rove is eventually going to face the music, one way or another. Most likely, others will be implicated as well. I'd say Scowl is definitely not off the hook either (in the indictment, Cheney apparently told Libby about Plame; so the original person responsible is Scowl. It doesn't help that Scowl has remained silent, and certainly there's been nothing about his "upbraiding" Libby, as there was about Smirk chastisting Rove), and I suspect Libby is trying to cover up for his boss. Assuming that the heat gets way too warm for Scowl (for example, in the event the Democrats actually take back Congress), look for him to "resign" for health reasons. The man's had numerous heart attacks, trips to the hospital, and other health woes, so this will be relatively plausible; after a short testimonial by Smirk & Co. in honor of Scowl's "statesmanship" (*cough cough*), look for a top GOP stalwart to be chosen for VP as part of a maneuver for 2008. I think this actually could happen, regardless; it certainly would help the anointed to be in a position to marshall forces for the election. My bet is it'll be someone along the lines of Frist, who could certainly use some help now that he's embroiled in his own scandals; he's more or less indicated he's going to throw his hat in the ring anyway.

As far as the investigation goes, there are quite a few things left unsaid, several loose ends. While no one has been charged with the actual leak yet, I think that's due to two main reasons: 1) the laws governing leaks as crimes are so narrowly written that even if a crime was intentionally committed, it's going to be difficult to prove it; and 2) the fact that a number of other officials, including Scowl, are named in the indictment means the game's probably not over and this is just Act 1 of the whole shebang.

I still strongly feel that if the administration wanted to try to discredit Wilson, they could have attempted to do so without bringing Valerie Plame into the picture. I also think too many people are seeing the forest for the trees-- the larger issues at stake here are 1) national security; why is the White House even bandying about the name of a NOC? For an administration that supposedly prides itself on "ethics" and "integrity", the act of blowing a CIA agent's cover is grossly irresponsible and unnecessary, at the very least, if not treasonous. National security is a concern that should be non-partisan; instead, Rove and gang have politicized it. 2) The pre-war intelligence on Iraq that was the raison d'etre for trying to deal payback to Wilson. Lying to Congress and the American people is a very serious crime, and warrants a full, clear, and public investigation-- which we haven't gotten yet. The revelation of Plame's identity is just an offshoot of the larger picture, and it's a scenario that should be fully exposed. [If there's anyone who's still insisting "nothing serious has happened," Here's a partial list of refutations of apologist talking points.]

What will be interesting to see is how Libby handles all of this. Will he keep his mouth shut, accept the penalty, and do the time, and hope he gets pardoned? Will he try to plea bargain (probably not likely)? Will he attempt to stretch things out as much as he can until the winds shift favorably his way (not a good idea; you don't want to keep your name, and by extension, your bosses', in the news like this)? The other possibility is that he pleads "not guilty," and the whole thing goes to trial. I doubt the White House gang wants this; it means at the very least that Scowl is going to have to give testimony of some sort, and all kinds of things may come out that they really really really don't want anyone to know. While the war and the lead-up won't become the center of any trial, enough questions will be raised that there will be pressure for a deeper, more thorough investigation.

Another question: why did Libby felt the need to lie to and mislead Fitzgerald and the grand jury? There must be some very compelling reasons to do so (and possibly some other people that are more actively forthrightly sharing what they know), or he could have just sat there and took the Fifth. Sure, it would look highly suspicious, but there wouldn't be a whole lot anyone could do about it. Libby could have walked. Instead, he's indicted, and that opens up a whole can of worms. Even the Corporate Media can't exactly ignore this.

It's been pretty clear for the last month now that Libby was screwed; the big question is, does Omerta keep these guys hanging together, or will Libby decide he doesn't want to do 30 years and pay through the nose in fines?

As a historian of sorts, this is all very interesting from a more abstract point of view-- it's the first time since the Grant administration that a sitting White House official has been indicted. Considering the Grant administration is counted along with the Harding and Nixon administrations as among the most corrupt in our country's history, that's hardly comforting, I would think.

Stay tuned. This is a story that's not going away. So far Libby's been busted; who's next?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

You Are What You Eat

Things at the supermarket and in the stores and restaurants have certainly changed over the years. It used to be that you went to the supermarket or into a store and bought food or drink which was packaged without much indication of what was in it, you went to the checkout lane where a cash register totaled your expenses, and you went on your merry way. Food sizes and portions in restaurants were of a reasonable size, what you saw is what you got, and people didn't overindulge as much.

Then about 25 years ago, the bar code appeared, and several years later, nutrition info was highlighted prominently on just about everything. The internet exploded onto the national scene roughly ten or so years ago (although there were plenty of people frequenting listservs and the like well before that time), and since then there's been more and more awareness of the things we put in our mouths. Couple this with the rise of the suburbs, the increased insulation of the family and children from the world around them (When was the last time you saw a bunch of kids out in the street, playing stickball? Running around the neighborhood? Doing anything that didn't involve a cell phone or a joystick?), and the supersizing of just about everything edible and potable, and now you have magazine and newspaper articles discussing the national epidemic of obesity, the need to pay more attention to what we consume.

When information such as the proportion of salt, fat, etc. was added to packaging, I know I changed. I started comparing food items more often, selecting those that not only had lower overall calories, but especially eschewing foods that had more salt or added junk than necessary. While I'm not haunting the natural foods aisles, I'm definitely far more conscious of what I choose to eat than I was, say, fifteen years ago when I had my first apartment.

Yet one sector remains immune: fast-food joints. While most places have a poster with nutrition and ingredient information posted on the wall (usually in the corridor leading to the restrooms, and away from the front counter. Hmm...), most people just queue up, glance at the menu, order their combos and Happy Meals and plunk themselves down in a booth or head out the door, with nary a second thought about what they're going to feed on.

Before we go any further, I confess I do the same thing. On a night when we're too tired to cook, or in a rush, or out running errands, we'll stop in and grab a burger or the like, and polish it off. Yet it would be nice to know exactly how many calories we're popping into our maws, what we're going to be adding to our digestive system. While we won't be aping Morgan Spurlock anytime soon, it wouldn't hurt to be a more informed consumer.

Enter the Golden Arches-- I don't know what prompted them to do so, but they are now going to include nutritional information on their packaging. It's probably all tied to the bottom line, but the last time I went to McDonald's, they had made some changes, such as adding salads, and offering the choice of substituting salads and the like instead of fries that not only seem geared to pull in people or keep faithful customers, but is actually a good change overall. I'm noticing the competition, such as Wendy's, starting to implement similar changes in their combo meal offerings.

Even though I'm here in L.A., I have yet to see the new packaging, but I'm looking forward to seeing it, and to observe how it changes (if anything) our culture. Will people actually act on this "new" information? Will it be a sea change? Or is McDonald's merely trying to resume leadership of the fast-food pack and regain market share? Possibly all of these things-- we'll see what happens.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

$700 Toilet Seats, Or Why Does the Pentagon Need $419 Billion?

Let's do the time warp, folks-- a jump to the left, a step to the right... and back to the 1980s. Anyone remember the Pentagon buying $700 toilet seats? Overpriced hammers? There was quite a brouhaha at the time, which was rightly deserved. The military buildup of the 80s was exacerbated by the bloated bureaucracy of the Pentagon, its defense contractor scandals, and the ridiculousness of their procurement costs. After a dustup in the press, promises were made, speeches given, and things quieted down for a while.

Fast forward to the 1990s... again, the Pentagon is revealed to have not done anything or learned a whole lot from its earlier financial mishaps. The bureaucrats handed out 1.8 million credit cards to its workers, who then racked up a ton of bills on the gummint's dime-- or more accurately, your dime and mine. Some purchases included $500 in cosmetics from Mary Kay, $700 for CDs from Sam Goody, and one soldier who spent over $3,000 at a nightclub. I don't know about you, but I really don't want any past or future tax money I might hand over to the gummint going to Mary Kay or Sam Goody; I could do that myself, with more immediate and personal benefits, thank you.

Speed up to the present: despite the federal government continuing to hand out our money like candy to the brass at the Pentagon, at a cost to social services and domestic programs (for FY 2006 the official request is $419.3 billion, and that doesn't include the costs for the boondoggle in Iraq or our continued presence in Afghanistan, both of which are eating up millions, or other expenses; here's the official gummint description of defense activities to be requested for FY 2006), the Pentagon is still mis-spending money, and often extravagantly. When you go to Target or the local supermarket and buy ice cube trays, they're pretty cheap, right? A dollar, maybe two? For the Pentagon, it costs $20. I'd love to be an executive at the company that supplies our military with ice cube trays. This is the same gummint and Pentagon that has trouble ensuring all of its personnel has body armor over in Iraq, yet they can afford $20 ice cube trays? The same gummint that says we can't afford food stamps and educational services for the people who are right here, yet our military needs $20 ice cube trays? How about $29 coffee makers for $81?

Considering that our military budget is almost equal to the rest of the world's, and considering that our gummint is suggesting we can live without just about everything else for the sake of protecting the "homeland," I think it's incumbent on the Pentagon to get its fiscal house in order so that we can perhaps save some money for everything else we're supposed to live without, so that our soldiers can be fully protected when out in the field, and so that we have a gummint that actually tries to live within its means.

In the meantime, welcome back to the world of $700 toilet seats-- only now, it's $20 ice cube trays.

"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose."
[The more things change, the more they remain the same.]

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Overhearing the Unwashed Masses

As a deaf person, "overhearing" conversations is something that's not as possible as it is for the average hearing person. As an aspiring writer of sorts, that can be a drawback: I know a lot of writers get their inspirations from things they hear just as much as they do from their reading, their own lives, the lives of others, and so on.

When I'm out with my mother or my sister, sometimes I end up privy to things said at other tables; both ladies have a knack for hearing what's being said elsewhere in the restaurant or around them, even when it's fairly noisy. It's interesting to sort of "peek" into other people's lives.

Well, there's a website/"blog" where the denizens of the Big Apple can leave snippets of overheard fragments from the lives of the people around them. After reading several entries, I am amazed at the intelligence quotient of the citizens of this nation, or at least of the five boroughs. I really do wonder if O. Henry was alive today, what he'd make of Overheard in New York. Do check it out-- it's hilarious and will leave y0u chuckling!

Hat Tip to DefBef for the link!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Another Visit to Dr. Scrivello

Well, I had yet another appointment with the dental chair today. By now, I'm getting used to the idea that this appointment and the next few will be torture sessions. Not on the scale of Abu Ghraib, no, but it's still not on my all-time Top Ten Days to Remember The Rest of My Life, y'know.

Today was somewhat surprising. Since the student dentist and I are spending so much quality time together, he met me down in the lobby then proceeded to chat me up a little while we were waiting for the interpreter. Now that I've had this particular dental student for the past couple of appointments, I'm starting to be able to lipread him just enough to have a light, superficial conversation. So we sat there and yakked a little. But still no interpreter... finally, twenty minutes later, we decide he'll go ahead and call and see what's up with the interpreter. We head upstairs, and on the way we bump into another dentist-to-be. My fella says something to me, and of course, I go, "Huh?" In jumps the newbie, who immediately *signs* back to me, doing an impromptu interpreting stint. I'm a bit surprised, then thank him. I hadn't noticed it before, but he sports a white t-shirt with "I LOVE NY" on it; but instead of the usual heart, there's an ILY sign there...

Then when the interpreter finally shows, and we get me settled in the Chair of Pain, the supervising dentist comes down to see me and check my teeth out and make sure my guy's treatment plan is what it should be. This teacher sees me and the interpreter, smiles, and signs, "How are you?" That's two people so far who know how to sign. I know whoever actually sees these guys out in the professional world are going to be lucky to have a dentist that is able to communicate with them!

Today was yet another filling, this time accompanied by five shots. Actually, two shots and three medicinal drips, where the plunger was pushed, but not the needle, and lovely, yummy, foul-tasting numbing agents were drizzled onto my gums, my teeth, my tongue, my taste buds, my throat...

I get the clamp and dental dam treatment again, and away we go. What differentiated this time from last time is that again we have a struggle to get the rubber dam in place several times, with the end result being that while drilling is taking place, the novocaine has worn off... and I *feel* the damn drill!

OUCH. As much as I hate the damn shots, I'm very, very glad I am living *now*, and not having the misfortune of living decades or centuries ago when the concept of dental care was going to the blacksmith, hanging on for dear life, and having pincers applied to the offending tooth.

Thus the five administrations of numbing sensations to my teeth. Joy, joy, joy. Eventually, the old filling is tossed, the area cleaned, the new filling poured in, and I'm sent on my way. I get the pleasure of another visit right before Thanksgiving. Even though I told my dental student to limit the shots to two, I think I'll just take whatever I end up getting, as long as I don't feel the drill again...

Sunday, October 23, 2005

What Did He Know, and When Did He Know It?

For all the furor over possible upcoming indictments by Patrick Fitzgerald, so far the whispering has been confined to people like Rove and Libby. Yet in this article, it's clear Smirk knows an awful lot more than he's willing to share.

An angry President Bush rebuked chief political guru Karl Rove two years ago for his role in the Valerie Plame affair...

Gee, if Smirk said he didn't know the facts then, why do we now have an article that says he "rebuked" Rove two years ago?

Let's look at the transcript from the White House press conference of 30 Sep 2003-- a little over two years ago:

Q Yesterday we were told that Karl Rove had no role in it --


Q -- have you talked to Karl and do you have confidence in him --

THE PRESIDENT: Listen, I know of nobody -- I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action. And this investigation is a good thing.

Gee, I wonder-- if he "didn't know of anybody" and hadn't talked to anybody, yet was able to upbraid Karl, doesn't that seem like a paradox? You imagine?

While the current political climate means impeachment probably isn't going to happen anytime soon, I, for one, would certainly like Smirk, among others, to be a wee bit more forthcoming about what they knew, and when they knew it. Despite the unpublished stories not coming out of the Corporate Media echo chamber, I strongly suspect that if journalists followed their conscience and wrote the stories they should be writing, we'd have quite a few more tongues wagging about what's happening behind closed doors at 1600 Pennsylvania...

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Having Courage Earns a Pink Slip

While every administration has its casualties, the current lot in the White House have made expulsion, vindictiveness, and just general payback the hallmark of their operations. It's very clear that dissent is never brooked from any quarter; and the numbers of people whose careers are destroyed, limited, or otherwise tarnished are adding up. Here's just a small list of people who have found themselves in Smirk, Scowl & Co's doghouse. Some of the more familiar names are General Eric Shinseki, Richard Clarke, and Paul O'Neill, but people like John Carlin and Joanne Wilson have been forced out too-- people who have had careers in government and public service, and were summarily tossed out or trodden upon. When 60 percent of the federal workforce is approaching retirement eligibility in the next few years, it's disheartening to see people like this treated so shabbily-- that their opinions, their principles, and the obligations they tried to follow were trashed.

Let's hope this trend is limited to this particular "administration," and does not sink roots in Beltway culture- or we are going to pay a price down the road.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Congrats to Surdus!

I have quite a few friends who are of a similar political bent; we rant, we rave, we send each other forwarded links and articles. A few even blog about it. There are others, such as Ridor, who publicly write about politics and current affairs from time to time. But for the most part, our audience has been limited to e-mail exchanges, IMs, and an entry on our personal blogs from time to time.

Not anymore-- one of us has hit the big time. Joseph Rainmound, aka Surdus (a very likely candidate to be added to my daily reading!) has posted at Daily Kos, not once, but twice. The first time was last week, when he discussed empowerment and visibility of the Deaf in today's society. It was a relatively brief article, and you could tell there was a LOT more he wanted to say, but I thought it was a very good start.

Today, he posted again, expounding and expanding a bit more on his first entry. Unfortunately this draft was far more academic than his first, and was in essence an extension of his original offering. While the buzz engendered was far less than for his first "outing" on Daily Kos, it's a portent-- perhaps positive- that people are starting to notice we're here, we "hear" what's being said about us, and we're NOT going away. I don't know if these "diary entries" will continue or not, but Rainmound could very well end up being a spokesperson of sorts, due to his newfound visibility. I just hope he's the start of a trend, and not just the exception to the rule. If we as a minority are going to truly change things, we're going to have to start speaking up, start advocating, both on a personal and public level, as never before. Otherwise we'll be stuck with the status quo: low visibility, underemployment, continued patronization and suppression by "those who know best", among other things.

Nevertheless, congrats! Let's hope more of us get an opportunity to seize the soapbox in bigger, grander ways.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

My Personal Blogosphere

Well, I've been at this (if rather unevenly) for roughly eight months now-- while I still don't post every day like some people do, I do try to make a good-faith effort to jot down something. Of late the blog has gotten increasingly political, compared with my earliest entries. I guess it reflects the frustration I'm feeling these days with what's happening in the world beyond my computer. Still, I view my blog as a place not only to share my worldview, my opinions, and my experiences, but also as a sieve of sorts for things I just need to get off my chest.

A lot of people seem to agree with that; there was a WaPo article the other day about how people use blogs as an escape valve: to document a serious illness, as a way to combat depression, or as mental therapy. Even the title demonstrates this: "Cyber-catharsis."

While I wouldn't say my blog is cathartic or necessarily therapeutic, I do admit it helps me to be able to share the things that I might not in general everyday conversation: my frustrations with Smirk, Scowl, & Co.; my job-seeking woes; and a sort of public diary of what I've done with my life thus far.

But my reasons for starting a blog didn't arise out of cancer, or depression, or anything quite as dramatic: it began with a gentle push from my spouse, and also from my own daily reading of a particular blog: Funny the World. It's part of my daily web routine, and although she's at retirement age, this bloggist (whose kids I went to school with) manages to write a newspaper-column length entry daily, as well as have time for other things. I figured if she can do it, so can I. Sometimes the topics are very personal, other times mundane. There are subjects she writes about that only locals "get" (and as someone who knows a lot of the locals, I have a unique insight into the town and populace that I grew up in, just by reading some of her comments!) .

As I started writing my blog, I was soon exposed to the blogs and journals of other deaf people online-- some are friends, others are friends of friends (or of my favorite walking companion), and one or two are people I've never met at all, have no connection to, but read their stuff anyway. Just Tiphanie is my walking buddy, and her ruminations while she tackles studying for the bar range from the intensely personal, navel-gazing type of stuff you see all the time in many blogs to discourses on current affairs, the law, politics, and other such grist. Needless to say, I'm a biased reader, but I'd still read it in any event.

DefBef's latest version of her blog, with a wonderfully titled URL *grin*, chronicles the life of a young deaf woman in NYC-- while her blog is probably the most personal of all those I read, her prose ranges from mellifluous to succinct, and following her new life in the Big Apple has been an interesting journey so far. Occasionally she throws in bits and pieces of her poetry, some of which is definitely publishable.

When I need gossip, I turn to Ridor. I know him mostly by reputation, but his blog is definitely one of the better-known Deaf blogs out there. There are days when the political rants mirror mine, or it reads like a sports page; sometimes it seems like a comic book geek's Nirvana. But the gossip is what keeps me returning (and tons of others, I suspect!). If you are reading this now, and you attended Gallaudet anytime after 1989, you'll find this blog somewhat familiar-- it has that flavor of the Whatsup conference on Gallaudet's VAX system that kept Gallaudetians glued to the computer instead of hanging out in the dorms or the Abbey or the Cafeteria. Ridor keeps a blogroll on the side where many other Deaf and deaf bloggists are listed, so you can explore those on your own as well.

A recent entry to my required reading list is Random Thoughts, the blog of a fellow Deaf Californian. It's too early to say whether this one has legs (i.e., will it still be around three months from now?), but since the author is a friend of mine, that clinches it for me. It also doesn't hurt that this bloggist writes well, and has an interesting perspective on a number of topics.

Adam is among a number of people I haven't met personally, but I'm a sucker for good writers, especially good Deaf writers. I'm not sure which of my many writer friends will eventually write The Great American Novel, but it's possible Adam could do it. He posts a bit more sporadically than say, Ridor, and with far more brevity than DefBef, but what he has to say runs the gamut from personal thoughts to food for thought, and can be quite thoughtful. That's a thought, isn't it?

I found Adam partially through my friend Tayler, who with his wife Debby, have chronicled their first days, weeks, and months of bliss in their private blog. Both Adam and Tayler also do double-duty as bloggists over at, where the Blog Central has a slowly expanding list of Deaf bloggists; yes, it has a decidedly DC slant, but some subjects that come up in blog entries are rather universal, and it'll be interesting to see which among this talented group takes off. I have a somewhat biased interest here as well. *grin*

While I don't check it every day, I do drop in on Jerri Lyn, who is another blog product of DC, and works at my alma mater, good ol' Gollyurdeaf. She and I go way back when, and even though the last time we saw each other was Deaf Way II, I found her blog in a roundabout way, so I occasionally drop in to see what's new with her. This blog is purely personal, so it doesn't carry the broad interest some of the others that I read do; this is one example of where a personal blog has a somewhat limited readership. I suspect that's true for 90% of blog readerships everywhere.

Two blogs that I check from time to time are either short-circuited (i.e. not past the 3-month mark!) or are just beginning to crawl, and not in toddler stage. But both are by fantastic people. The first is Deaf Discourse, whose scribe is a budding writer-- Todos la Vie is giving a reading later this week, and I'm looking forward to attending. I wish Todos would post more often, but I suspect that as Todos grows as a writer, we'll be seeing lots more from this particular bloggist, beyond the realm of the internet.

The second is the all-too-brief Frarochvia. This blog seems to have died before it even had the chance to blossom, but I keep hoping that she will consider resurrecting this site. In the brief bits here, you can see flashes of humor and a style that is engaging.

Most of these writers have a grab bag of diverse entries, and can be counted on to write interesting things. But that doesn't stop me from also checking out more single-issue blogs, devoted solely to one area or purpose. The best of these is another friend, "Deaf Jake"-- Neil's a volunteer fireman whom you may have already heard of. His blog is fascinating, since not too many people want to talk about things they either do for a living or that seem less than prosaic. People tend to blog about art, music, literature, politics, and the like. This particular blog gave me the chance to see what it's like to train to be a volunteer fireman, and it's even more exciting considering Neil's deaf as well. His last entry, as of this date, was August, but there's quite a bit in the archive to while away a couple of hours or more, if you so choose.

I also read more general blogs, those of hearing people (like Bev at Funny the World), or blogs devoted solely to politics, such as Atrios over at Eschaton or Markos over at Daily Kos (a recent addition to my reading list is Jane Hamsher's examination of the Plame Scandal over at firedoglake). But beyond that, I have to draw a line somewhere-- otherwise I wouldn't have time to blog here!

If you've checked all of these blogs out, and you're *still* hungering for more, there's a blogroll of sorts at Deaf Blogs. This is a recent development, but has in just a few weeks developed quite list of links to Deaf and deaf bloggists throughout the Web. Happy reading!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Loyalty Oaths

Under one of the least-known presidents, Chester Arthur, Congress instituted in the wake of James A. Garfield's death one of the best changes in the U.S. gummint we've had: civil service. The Pendleton Act of 1883 set the tone for civil service since. It took a while though; in the wake of the spoils system (which crescendoed in the Andrew Jackson administration and continued through to Grant and beyond), it was years before reformers could push for widespread change, which was possible thanks to the corruption, cronyism, and scandals of the Grant administration (given the recent nomination of Miers, among other things, the current Smirk administration is giving ol' Ulysses S. a run for his money). Under Hayes and then Arthur, changes were made and civil service as we know it today was given a mighty push. Sadly, Garfield's assassination by a disappointed jobseeker just accelerated the calls for improved civil service.

We seem to be going backwards these days, especially now that promotions in the U.S. Park Service, which ideally should be beyond political considerations, now seems to be less based on a meritocracy and more on essentially loyalty oaths (I'm sure you right-wingers will deny this heatedly, but things like this just remind me more and more of Nazi Germany; we definitely have a form of statist religion, that's for sure) based solely on politics. If you don't hew to what Smirk and Scowl want to do to the Park Service (i.e., destroy it), then you don't advance. Smirk and Scowl want to outsource workers, rely on faith-based initiatives for the Park Service, and institute changes like altering film of protests and demonstrations at the Lincoln Memorial, or permitting books to be sold at the Grand Canyon that state that the Grand Canyon was formed by Noah's Flood. This is an outrage that makes me furious; the US Park Service is there to serve the nation, not Smirk, Scowl, or any political hack, whether in Congress, the White House, or Foggy Bottom. For an article on this, see here.

The Park Service is a non-partisan agency that protects, preserves, and maintains National Parks, National Historical Sites, and the like. This is just yet another attempt by the radicals on the right, whether religious crazies or just plain crazy, to rewrite our historical, cultural, and natural history according to their lights. Not to mention making sure that "their people" are in place so that the damage can continue after they're out of office. Rather than allowing civil service to perform as it should and the Park Service to act as neutral stewards on the nation's behalf, instead some of what is best about our country is being twisted and corrupted. It's enough to get me frothing at the mouth... GRRRRRR....

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Closing the Books on History

Normally I'm not a champion of Kitty Kelley, although I will admit I read her last big book, The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty, as soon as it came out, and it just confirmed what I've felt based on news stories, magazine articles, personal perceptions, and some personal knowledge. But I read this editorial she wrote titled "Bush's Veil Over History" that was published in the NYT, and I fully agree with it. I know I've discussed this in the past, but I again want to say I strongly believe as a former historian-in-training, an armchair history buff, and a citizen of this country that it is incumbent on our gummint to be as open and honest as possible in all the ways there are. This not only keeps the people of this country informed and aware of what is happening today in this nation and the world, but keeps the gummint honest (yes, I know those two words together are somewhat of a paradox!). It's also important to keep Presidential and gummint papers open for scholars, researchers, and the general public so that we can not only understand today's world, but see where we come from, and make sense of the past so we can improve upon it. Casting shadows on the actions of past administrations is not only detrimental to our lives today, but shuts the door on a fuller examination by the ultimate judge: history.

I really don't see how defensible this decision is: personally, I think it's a shameless move by Smirk to protect Scowl and Daddy's other buddies who are now in the White House, as well as protect Daddy himself (after all, it was Reagan's papers that were going to be released next, with everything from the internal history of the end of the Cold War to Iran-contra-- oh, wait, did I say Iran-contra? Yep, Daddy was involved in that, despite any protestations to the contrary. I find it hard to believe a sitting vice-president of recent vintage was "left out of the loop.").

I hope for all our sakes that the AHA lawsuit (PDF link) prevails. We shall see...

Deaf America

Many of my deaf and Deaf readers probably remember Ringo, aka Tickle-- the phenomenon that flooded Deaf America last year, and just as quickly receded. This is a more visual version; a map that shows where we all are. It's kind of neat-- you not only have the opportunity to re-connect with people, but you can see where in the country everyone is! Check it out at Deaf America.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Smirk McCarthy

I have never really understood why the media hasn't pulled back the curtain earlier, and even at the times when they do, they don't pull it back fully; they just give us a quick peek, and then herd us back down on our merry way. The subterfuge continues...

First, it was all the brief press conferences. I suppose most Presidents have their own go-to guys when the going gets rough, but for Smirk, holding a press conference was akin to going to the dentist: do it as little as possible, do the minimum necessary, and get it over with as fast as possible.

Then it was the debates last year. I seriously thought (and hoped) for a time that perhaps Smirk was finally doomed; there was quite a brouhaha on the web in various blogs, listservs, and (especially foreign) news sites about the unusual lump on his back, his more unusual (more than normal, anyway) non-sequiturs, and his far-more-than-normal disjointed answers and lengthy silences. It was pretty obvious (to me at least!) that whether through a wire or some other system, he was being coached. But there was barely any mention (and when there was, it was very brief) in the Corporate Media here in the States. What was once a seemingly responsible, supposedly independent press of a generation or two earlier now just completely ignored the fact that there was, at the very least, a good amount of circumstantial evidence to suggest Smirk cheated during the debates with Kerry. I cannot for the life of me understand why Kerry didn't greet him during subsequent debates after the first with a big grin, a hearty handshake-- and a slap on the back. But then again, Kerry has never struck me as being all that politically astute.

There were also all the "forums" and "rallies" during the campaign (and afterwards) where hand-picked individuals were given softball questions to lob at Smirk, and only card-carrying Republicans could enter at taxpayer-funded gatherings to see the person who supposedly leads the entire country-- not just half of it.

So I was not too surprised to learn that our Chief Marionette was guided through a thoroughly scripted teleconference last week with mostly officers stationed in Iraq. What did surprise me was that the press took up on it and displayed it a bit more prominently than page A21, or as a blurb. Perhaps we're finally getting a media with some backbone-- or maybe not. In any event, Karl Rove is no Edgar Bergen, and I'd love to see the puppet's strings fully exposed for what they are. We have an Emperor, people, and he's wearing no clothes.

(with apologies to Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy!)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Entertainment For A Good Cause

I'm tired, and it's only 8 at night. I've been up three nights straight til 1 a.m. at least; but for very good reasons all three times!

Last night a good friend of mine invited me to go with her to a benefit performance in Irvine for Deaf survivors of Katrina who are being assisted by the Louisiana School for the Deaf. The show was at University High, so I was glad for the company on the way there!

I had no idea beforehand, but there was also a silent auction and a drawing going on as well; while it would have been nice to win something, it was just as well, as I didn't bring any money with me. Together, the proceeds from the auction, drawing, and the show itself would go to those Deaf evacuees affected by Katrina. I thought it was a great idea. I was seated early, but before long, it turned out to be a packed house.

Well, it turned out to be a very professional job, and all the performers were great. The evening's program included CJ Jones, Vae, Terrylene, Michelle Banks, Sammy Ruiz, Charles Katz, and Steve Longacre and Greg Koppel. Some of you may have seen these performers already, such as CJ, Terrylene, and Michelle. I was not familiar with Vae, and Ruiz, Longacre, and Koppel are magicians. Charles Katz is well versed in Deaf Studies, and performed a Deaf version of a well-known fairy tale.

Between the comedy, the monologues, Michelle's one-woman show (of which I saw only a snippet; she's going to have a full-length show in January in Burbank), and the magic acts, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. I thought it was only going to be a couple hours, that it'd be over at 9 or 9:30, and I'd be at home in time to blog, or watch a movie, read a book, or do bills. Nope- with the intermission (roughly twenty minutes, during which Jr. NAD sold refreshments), the whole thing clocked in at close to four hours. But I didn't feel restless at all-- it was a very smooth, polished show, and everyone involved should be proud of themselves. CSDR and HOVRS both gave donations, and at the end of the evening, it was announced that the total sum raised was somewhere around $9,000. Not too shabby...

It's nice to see that there's still concern and a willingness to help, even weeks later. It's also great that the Deaf community came together to help its own. From California to Louisiana (and Mississippi!): we're thinking of you.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

A Pleasant Surprise

Last night, I went to my friends' place for what I thought was going to be a small dinner; instead, more people showed up than I expected-- including some people I didn't realize my friends knew. I just shrugged it off, figuring they had better social connections than I thought. I enjoyed it though, as I knew everyone present.

After we'd had a nice potluck dinner of burgers, salads, and vegetables, and the conversation continued smoothly, I was suddenly faced with everyone gathered in a semi-circle and a huge cake coming my way...

My actual birthday was last month, but I'd been out of town at the time. So two weeks later, I certainly wasn't expecting a surprise birthday party! The cake was a traditional favorite of mine-- pineapple-upside down. I've had that same cake every year, since I was five. I was fortunate in that the friend who brought the cake is a fantastic cook who makes the best desserts. This cake was no different-- delicious! I also got some very nice cards, and a few gifts as well. But the real gift was the surprise party-- it's been a long time since I had a surprise birthday party, and I figured the fact that I'd already had one was enough for a lifetime. So it was a very pleasant surprise. The other gift was being able to be with friends-- despite my unemployment woes and my frustration with global and national events, I consider myself fortunate to be in relatively good health, have food and shelter, and most of all, to have such good friends.

After a delicious dessert of cake and fruit salad, we decided to play a game. The choice was between Pictionary or Taboo, and Pictionary won out. I hadn't played it in a long time, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. Rather than play by the traditional rules, we decided to forego the paper and pencils and instead run the game as if it were charades. It turned out to be loads of fun, and I wouldn't be surprised if one person ended up with a new name sign. *grin*

Naturally, after the game ended, Deaf Standard Time settled in, and a progressively smaller group chatted, and chatted, and chatted... I finally left, exhausted but happy.

To those of you that were there and are reading this now, thank you!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Open Window

Last night I had the good fortune to be able to go see "Open Window," the new offering from Deaf West Theatre. DeafWest, as some of you know, recently concluded a four-year revival of "Big River" that went from its home theatre to the Mark Taper Forum (where I saw it), and then to Broadway, where it then spun off into a national tour that concluded at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C.

"Open Window" doesn't open for another week, so what I saw was a dress rehearsal, but it looked good so far. The play is about a young deaf man who has been kept chained up in the basement for twelve years, and has allegedly killed his father with the chains. He is undergoing a pre-trial assessment by two deaf psychologists, one of them well-known, the other a novice. He has no language, so the two professionals try to teach the prisoner signs, but for their own reasons and with their own internal biases, history, and motives playing a part in their actions and in their dialogue with each other.

The play is being presented in Pasadena at the Pasadena Playhouse, rather than at Deaf West's home stage in North Hollywood. This meant a drive of sorts for me, since I live on the Westside. Since I'd never really spent a lot of time in that part of town before, and the doors opened at 7:30, I decided to brave rush-hour traffic to make sure I got there, found parking, and would be all set. I got there early enough to wander up Colorado Boulevard a bit-- the theater is in downtown Pasadena.

The Pasadena Playhouse has a nice-looking facade, and is a Mission-style revival building. Inside, the set was rather plain-- two walls, with a door on stage right-- that is, from the audience, on the left side. It was painted to resemble an institutional room, the kind you'd find in a hospital. There were a few steps on the side, and a staircase stage left that led to a balcony. The central action concerns the two psychologists, Rachel (played by Linda Bove) and Susan (played by Shoshannah Stern), and their charge, Cal (Chris Corrigan); the remaining three major actors comprise a chorus of two women and a man-- the two women also double as voice actors for Bove and Stern.

I sat with a couple of friends, and saw a few more. As usual, the conversations shifted, depending on who walked in and sat down, but since the play was on hearing time, us deaf didn't have as much social time as we're used to. *grin* The play itself was dialogue-heavy, and there were times when I got lost, there was so much information to absorb-- a lot of discussion of language, linguistics, communication in all its forms, relationships, and a certain level of self-examination going on as well. Fortunately the plot and dialogue weren't too complex, and by the middle of the play I had a good grasp of what was going on. Once the rising action morphed into the climax, I was riveted, and so, I sensed, was a good portion of the audience. At the play's conclusion, I noticed the friend who was sitting next to me had tears in her eyes. Others stood up, and we started to discuss the play. To me, that's the mark of a good story/play/movie: that it prompts a discussion. While we did have criticisms to be sure, we all agreed it was a good play overall. Of course, being deaf, we talked a lot about educational experiences, how we developed language, how important it was to a deaf person's development, etc., etc. But don't get me wrong: this play was intended for a mixed audience, and I think and hope that hearing people will come away from it with a better understanding and appreciation for ASL and the need for communication in general.

It's a brand-new play, written by the guy who wrote "Sweet Nothing In My Ear"-- I met him, and he signs-- he was not fluent by any means, but he signed clear enough to be understood at more than a basic level, and he did his level best to follow the self-introductions and questions of people who went up to him afterwards. He seemed eager and open to our thoughts, which I appreciated. While it would be nice to have more opportunities and exposure for our deaf playwrights such as Gil Eastman, Willy Conley, and others, I must say it's great that we have a writer who is willing to write a play about the Deaf and about Deaf issues, and aims such fare at a broader audience.

It's also positive that the Pasadena Playhouse is willing to stage this production-- I'd love to see more and more theaters be open about having plays, offering interpreting, etc. I know in places like Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, there are often interpreted plays, but that's not necessarily the case everywhere. I hope the example the Pasadena Playhouse sets will inspire the people that go there and work there to take a further interest in other areas, not just theatre. For example, employment, community outreach, support for captioned films, etc., etc.

In addition to hosting "Open Window," they're also going to have a one-evening presentation with Marlee Matlin, titled "Conversations With... Marlee Matlin." While Marlee has achieved quite a bit, she also has a somewhat controversial reputation among the rank-and-file in the Deaf community. While I don't know her well enough to judge her one way or another, I know she has fought for captioning, among other issues, during her time in Hollywood, so I do respect her for that. I'm curious about this - I just might go...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Welcome to the Next Generation of House Buyers!

There's a lot of problems on Earth these days: a widening gap between rich and poor; rising housing costs; increasingly limited land on which to live or grow things; environmental damage and global warming; the extinction or endangerment of more and more species; and the slow but steady decrease in natural resources. That's not even the tip of the iceberg, really. A lot of intricate issues, a lot of diverse problems, with myriad answers and possible solutions.

Yet for all the complexity, there's a simple solution: zero population growth. It may be that global warming is already tipping the balance, and the rise in new diseases means that Mother Nature will do the job for us and cull the population down to more manageable numbers, but there's no reason why we can't do our share. Considering that the world's population was approximately 1 billion about 1800, and is now at about 6.5 billion, we're talking a massive population explosion in just over 200 years. Is that growth sustainable? Hardly.

One of the most immediate things we can do is limit our family sizes. Even though 2/3 of the world's population is in either India or China, that fact doesn't absolve us Americans from helping to make a dent, especially considering that immigration, both legal and illegal, continues to keep our population steady, if not growing. The simplest method, of course, is to just have two children: one to replace you, one to replace your partner/spouse. When the two parents shuffle off their mortal coil, the kids replace them, but don't add to the overall population.

What's dismaying is that a lot of people don't make the correlation between family size and the changes in our society. I once knew a woman who wanted ten children. Ok, so say she and her husband can afford the ten kids, are willing to squeeze them all into an oversized McMansion, into a huge van or two cars or whatever, spend $100 on McMeals per night, sock away money for their education, and raise them. That's their problem, right?

Nope-- *our* problem. Each of those ten kids grows up, and wants the same thing for themselves: ten kids, a McMansion, oversized cars, the works. In turn, those ten grandkids per original child want the same thing. Keep that up over four or five generations, and you can see how we got where we are today. Thus it was kind of bothersome to read about one particular family today that seems to have no clue about zero population growth, or any idea that maybe limiting the family is a good idea. In Arkansas, a woman had her 16th child. Yes, in Arkansas, and no, you can stop sniggering-- they're all hers and her husband's, no one else's.

Now, aside from the fact that this is the good ol' USA and she can do whatever she wants, think about it: she's contributing sixteen new house buyers of the future. No, perhaps more-- she and her husband have said that they will have more, "if [that's what] the Lord wants." I don't pretend to be a theological expert, or know the Lord's desires, but somehow I don't think the initial vision of two people in a garden, or a handful of people here and there somehow amount to wanting 6.5 billion to dominate the entire planet. Additionally, are those kids getting the quality time and attention they need? I know in some large families, there's a concern about that; it certainly is a stereotype/joke at times: witness the "Home Alone" series. Despite the implausibility of leaving a kid behind on a major European trip, it highlights the perils of being lost in the midst of too many people. Personally, if I was a woman, I'm not sure I'd want to wear out my vagina before I'm forty (Mommy is now 39, has sixteen kiddies, and plans more??)-- I think I might want my genitals to last a little bit longer. But, anyway-- whatever you may think about this, I think they may want to quit while they're ahead. Right now they plan on a house with dormitory-style rooms for the kids-- Camp Duggar.

As for myself, I'd prefer to just have two kids, and that's that. We'll see what happens, but whether I have children or not, I don't plan on adding to the world's woes if I can help it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Cristóbal Remembered


Once upon a time there was an Italian,
And some people thought he was a rapscallion,
But he wasn't offended,
Because other people thought he was splendid,
And he said the world was round,
And everybody made an uncomplimentary sound,
But he went and tried to borrow some money from Ferdinand
But Ferdinand said America was a bird in the bush and he'd rather have a berdinand,
But Columbus' brain was fertile, it wasn't arid,
And he remembered that Ferdinand was married,
And he thought, there is no wife like a misunderstood one,
Because if her husband thinks something is a terrible idea she is bound to think it a good one,
So he perfumed his handkerchief with bay rum and citronella,
And he went to see Isabella,
And he looked wonderful but he had never felt sillier,
And she said, I can't place the face but the aroma is familiar,
And Columbus didn't say a word,
All he said was, I am Columbus, the fifteenth-century Admiral Byrd,
And, just as he thought, her disposition was very malleable,
And she said, Here are my jewels, and she wasn't penurious like Cornelia the mother of the Gracchi, she wasn't referring to her children,
no, she was referring to her jewels, which were very very valuable,
So Columbus said, Somebody show me the sunset and somebody did and he set sail for it,
And he discovered America and they put him in jail for it,
And the fetters gave him welts,
And they named America after somebody else,
So the sad fate of Columbus ought to be pointed out to every child and every voter,
Because it has a very important moral, which is, Don't be a discoverer, be a promoter.
-Ogden Nash

Today we celebrate the accomplishments (or lack thereof) of this rapscallion. While my prose isn't quite as mellifluous as Ogden Nash's, I'll hold forth on this topic anyway. Columbus Day was always one of those holidays where I got the day off from school, but I never really spent the day dwelling on the man himself. It was sort of like Labor Day; a three-day holiday, but I didn't really "get it" until I was much older.

Columbus Day is one of those holidays that despite what one might think, is fairly recent. Calls to remember and honor Columbus have always escalated around the "big" anniversaries: the 300th in 1792, and the 400th in 1892. The most recent, in 1992, sparked parades and commemorations (not to mention two fairly bad movies, "1492: Conquest of Paradise" and "Christopher Columbus: the Discovery"), but also led to calls to abolish Columbus Day or replace it by honoring Native Americans and idigenous peoples. Nevertheless, it's still on the books. A large part of the reason for that is the Italian-American community, the same folks who put Columbus Day on the map. While it's in vogue today to dis Columbus as an imperialistic, racist explorer (which is true in many ways), Columbus Day was celebrated partly because the people in this country wanted to commemorate the big holiday (witness the hullaboo in 1892, which culminated in the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 in Chicago), and partly because Catholic groups championed Columbus as one of their own. Indeed, the Knights of Columbus were formed during this era, and took on the cause of establishing a formal holiday for Columbus as one of their pet projects. This was a time in our history where there was a great deal of anti-Catholic prejudice, stemming initially from the hordes of Irish Catholics fleeing the Potato Famine, general economic woes, and oppression by the English, and broadening after the 1880s, when thousands of Italians immigrated and Ellis Island was at its peak. Columbus was a point of pride, and seen as inoffensive to the mainstream WASP population; after all, without Columbus' "discovery," we'd all still be cramped together in Europe and not prospering in America!

The K of C, among others, finally won their battle as Columbus Day celebrations and parades became more frequent, and in 1937, FDR declared October 12 to be a holiday: Columbus Day. It's only been a federal holiday (on the second Monday of October, no less), since 1971. You certainly don't see parades or other types of celebrations much anymore, unless you count the parade of advertisements in the papers on the second Sunday of October, a traditional holiday on the marketing calendar of corporate America.

I don't have definitive feelings one way or the other: part of the problem, I think, is that too many groups and peoples want (and admittedly deserve) a day of their own, for whatever cultural reason, historical personage of their ethnic group, or as a commemoration of a historical event or movement. It all starts to get jumbled up at some point. While we should honor and remember the idigenous peoples of both American continents, North and South, I'm not so sure adding another day to the calendar would necessarily help. This may be why some people are trying to remove Columbus Day and celebrating Native American cultures on the same day. Elsewhere in the hemisphere, different nations celebrate the day under a different name: in Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, and Mexico, they celebrate Dia de la Raza (Day of the Race); this honors the birth of a new people, a new culture, that of the mestizo. This idea is intriguing, as I think it would allow for a place for Columbus and his successors, but within a more complex historical context, and permit a celebration of the peoples who survived the invasions and various genocides (while the Spanish in Mesoamerica and South America initially conquered and devastated the native peoples, they eventually co-existed, albeit in a racial hierarchy which left indigenous peoples at the bottom; here in North America, the Europeans simply exterminated as many Native Americans as possible). Internationally since 1994, the United Nations has celebrated the International Day of the World's Indigenous People on August 9. While I think this is nice, it's not well known, and doesn't necessarily fit into American traditions as well. Here in the United States over the last couple of decades, various groups and cities have been celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day on October 12. While this is a welcome change on many levels, I'm not sure it's the final answer. Again, it's not so much the man himself as it is the culture and society changing; where once Italian-Americans and Catholics proudly paraded in Columbus's honor, now the growing awareness and political power of Native Americans has shifted the pendulum, so to speak. What will it be like on the 600th anniversary, in 2092? The same, or different?

Despite valid reasons for removing Columbus Day from the calendar, it would probably lead to opposition from the Italians, for one. Even today, the Sons of Italy still champion Columbus (even though it's possible he may have been Portuguese, Catalan, or even Jewish); on one "Sopranos" episode, Tony and Carmela chide A.J., reminding him that Columbus was an Italian, and that not all Italians were mobsters or had ties to La Cosa Nostra. Cultural conservatives also cast a wary eye on such changes, sneering at "multiculturalism." I think the best solution may be is to try to integrate some of these opposing views together in a way that works, thus making present holidays and observances into opportunities for education, reflection, and improvement.

"But Columbus merely discovered the New World," you might say. Well, not exactly. As I've pointed out earlier, Columbus merely got lucky; other peoples, such as the Vikings, had already ventured into the Western Hemisphere, and even today there are discussions about the Chinese and the Polynesians. He was also a man of his times: The Europe of Columbus' day was a bloody, warlike continent; the Spanish had colonized the Canary Islands previous to 1492, and some of the tactics and practices in the Canaries set the stage for the colonization of the New World.

"Ok, so Columbus was just like everyone else," you agree. Again, not precisely. On his first voyage, he merely explored, commented on the peoples he encountered, and there were no conflicts during this initial journey. But on his second voyage, he enslaved 1600 people, of whom 550 were shipped back to Spain. Some of the remainder ended up as sex slaves, while about 400 were released. Understandably, their encounter with Columbus and his men set the stage for future relations between the Europeans and the indigenous peoples.

"Ah, so Columbus was an oppressor, an imperialist force!" Yes and no. While some of his actions are inexcusable, does that mean that every person who lived in the pre-Columbian Americas was innocent, that the tale of the Spanish exploration, invasion, and colonization (followed by numerous Western European nations) is a black-and-white morality play? Not necessarily. Cortes and Pizarro would never have succeeded if it wasn't for the animosity various sub-tribes, subjugated peoples, and enemies had for the Aztecs and the Incas, who were recent arrivals and fairly new empires in their respective regions. Both societies were belligerent to various degrees, and practiced human sacrifice. Other socioethnic groups in the Americas practiced slavery, cannibalism, and other customs we (and our European predecessors) find abhorrent.

As you can see, the story behind Columbus Day is far more complex than it seems on the surface-- a lot of history is that way. I could continue, and write a book about all this (perhaps someday), but for now I'll just stop and say that this is why I don't lean definitively towards either end of the spectrum on the matter of October 12. While I don't believe Christopher Columbus should be granted universal adulation, neither do I think he should be obliterated from the calendar. This is why I'm curious if maybe Dia de La Raza is a possible answer: a way to acknowledge that out of the collision of two worlds, a new one was born, with a mixed legacy. This allows discussion and remembrance of Columbus and other European explorers, invaders, and colonizers in a more appropriate forum, while remembering and celebrating the peoples that emerged out of the encounters, conflicts, and tragedies of the past.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Minding Our Own Business

Despite the invectives some people might throw at me and likeminded folks, I think there's many wonderful things about this country, such as its constitutional ideals of freedom of speech and religion; the diversity that still exists in various corners of the nation; the willingness to strive to improve ourselves and our communities; and above all, the much vaunted (if not fully realized) concept of equality. I guess you could say it's the American Experiment that I think is great, and the fact that so many people have immigrated and continue to seek a home in this land is testimony to what America means and has meant.

But on the other side of the coin, what works here doesn't always work elsewhere, and when we try to idealistically insist that our way is the best way, we don't always leave room for the possibility that others might have a different idea, or that other traditions and values don't always mesh with "democracy." Even our most idealistic and supposedly altruistic venture, the Peace Corps, was initiated as a tool during the Cold War; export what's best about America, and hopefully our interactions with third-world inhabitants will leave them impressed enough that they won't be seduced by the Reds. Thankfully, the Peace Corps has morphed beyond its initial political motives, and continues today as a means to improve communities beyond our borders.

Our other efforts, however, haven't been quite as successful. Our military endeavors since World War II have had a decidedly negative impact, for the most part. Korea wasn't exactly a mission that most people tout when they want to point to American achievements, and the CIA's skulduggery in places like Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), and Chile (1973) on behalf of American economic and political interests have led to disastrous results and tragedy. Our propensity to interfere in other nation's civil wars or internal conflicts have led to consequences that could have been avoided, as in Vietnam, or increased chaos and casualties, such as in El Salvador.

Despite our generosity, our prosperity, and our ideals and values, the image of the "Ugly American" is reinforced each time we stick our noses where we aren't wanted. Iraq is no different. We paraded in, bombed the country, imprisoned and tortured its people, and have continued to camp out, claiming that we're going to bring freedom and democracy in the end.

It isn't just our military and political values and goals that we push; it's also a lot of economics as well. There's practically no place on the planet now where you can escape Coca-Cola; there are McDonald's in Mumbai and KFCs in Kuala Lumpur, Long John Silver's in London, and our film and television stars are making a pile of cash pushing American products in Japanese commercials. The rampant Westernization of the rest of the globe has slowly eradicated local traditions, clothing, and cuisine everywhere. Capitalism is pushed everywhere, and NAFTA and similar policies means workers in second and third-world nations are producing our goods, catering to our needs, handling our finances and legal transactions, and much, much more. But is it what everyone wants or needs?

In this article I ran across the other day, it appears not. It seems others around the world would prefer to be left alone. I, for one, have no problem with that. We should take our soldiers (what are they still doing in tons of countries all over?) and our institutions home, and concentrate on ourselves for a while. This isn't to say that I advocate a new isolationism; far from that. We still need to assist in humanitarian aid, global medical efforts (simply picking up our toys and coming home won't protect us from pandemics!), and intervene when horrors like the ethnic cleansing of the Balkans, or the genocide in Rwanda, or the current crisis in Sudan occur. But otherwise we should be spending our time and money focusing on our own economy, our own health care system, our own education system, our infrastructure, our environment. Only then can we continue to shine, to be a beacon and model for all others.

There's a lot to love about America, and a lot we should share, and instances where we can provide leadership. But there's also a time for minding our own business, and I think that that time is now.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Tightening Noose?

While I was romping about DC, NY Times reporter Judy Miller was released from jail for refusing to divulge her sources to federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who is conducting a grand jury that is looking into the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. Almost shortly after getting her "get out of jail free" card, she suddenly "remembered" some notes she had that she hadn't previously disclosed to Fitzgerald, and this past Friday, she turned them over.

Over the weekend, I happened to run across a blog where some discussion was taking place about this whole fiasco, and there were a few links posted within that led to some very good analyses of what exactly is happening as the result of Miller's detainment and her release. I thus refer you to "Patrick Fitzgerald's Mousetrap," which itself contains links to excellent articles by Jane Hamsher (her blog is firedoglake; if you enjoy my spin on politics, you're going to be amazed when you check there) and a fellow named "emptywheel"(who doles out her wisdom at The Next Hurrah); I particularly liked Hamsher's take, but emptywheel's outline was amusing as well. Both point to probable perjury on Miller's part, which thus suggests that Libby, if not Rove, is most likely going to be handed an indictment in the next couple of weeks.

Read the first link I gave you first, "Patrick Fitzgerald's Mousetrap"-- then if you like, you can continue on your own at the individual blogs. Essentially what both blogs posit is that not only is Miller's goose cooked, but Libby and Rove could conceivably be just the tip of the iceberg. I'm amazed the Corporate Media isn't covering this far more than they have been, but then again, considering it's the Corporate Media, I shouldn't be too surprised.

What interests me as a historian, though, is that there are some parallels to Watergate here. Libby and Rove remind me in ways of Nixon's "German Shepherds"-- Erlichman and Haldeman. They're the guardians to the doors of the West Wing, the inner sanctum of the Oval Office. The dribbles of information are similar to Watergate as well; rather than a flood or steady stream of information, we're getting bits and pieces here and there. It's especially the case with the discussion regarding whether or not conversations Miller may have had with Libby took place before certain dates. A "June 23 conversation with Libby" type remark reminds me of the various dates and tapes that formed the basis of the case against Nixon. The widespread cast of characters is akin to Watergate as well, although not as diverse (no Cuban exiles, no ex-CIA agents, no spouses seemingly involved or present, etc.). There's a disingenuous press secretary (although McClellan somehow doesn't evince Ron Ziegler), for one. But we certainly don't have a Woodward or Bernstein these days-- instead we have a so-called "ace reporter" named Judy Miller. There also doesn't seem to be a Deep Throat as yet, or even a John Dean. These days the real John Dean is writing excellent columns about the intrasigences of this administration. I do wonder what Dean privately thinks about all this; in some ways it must be a bit of déjà vu for him.

Another similarity is that the whole mess thus far is ostensibly about Plame's identity, but really reaches back into the administration's attempts to create a credible rationale for invading Iraq. There's also the side issue of the ongoing struggle between the neo-cons and the CIA over pre-war intelligence. In Watergate, we had a "third-rate burglary" mushroom beyond the confines of the Watergate and explode into the realms of the 1972 election, attempts to discredit and punish administration opponents (exactly what's happening now, actually! The whole unmasking of Plame was an attempt to get back at her husband, Joseph Wilson), noises about dropping the investigation due to "national security", and ultimately, the misuse of the gummint and its various agencies (exactly what's happening now-- a lot of different people and agencies were used to make the case for Iraq).

Unfortunately, Congress doesn't seem to want to do its part this time around; instead of establishing committees and instigating investigations, House Republicans shot down attempts to set up probes into the whole mess. The reasoning for denying any formal action by Congress is that it might interfere with Fitzgerald's work. Funny, but I don't recall any such objections when Congress decided to set up their hearings while the Watergate grand jury was still operating and Archibald Cox (and then Leon Jaworski) was doing his job as special counsel. Considering how ethically challenged its leadership is these days, it's not surprising, although saddening. We need men like Peter Rodino and Howard Baker again, methinks. So while there are definite similarities, I'm not sure how this current scandal will play out compared with Watergate. But so far, I think the noose is definitely tightening for certain White House staffers these days.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


We've had an ongoing war or two, some hurricanes, and a lot of tax breaks, leading to a humonguous deficit. We as a people have yet to hear a convincing explanation for the war in Iraq, the mishaps over the federal response to Katrina, or a logical reason for the tax cuts. We certainly have no word on just how the gummint plans to tamp down on the deficit, except for soothing noises about the free market, trickle-down economics, and the like. No accountability from anyone-- zip.

Yet, Congress doesn't seem to understand that it controls the purse strings, not Smirk, Scowl, & Co. On Friday, there was a vote scheduled for yet another handout for war funds, without so much as a murmur about holding anyone responsible, or any plans regarding exit strategies, or really, anything at all. Considering that it is the supposedly more responsible Senate that is prepared to write a sizeable check, you know that the House will follow suit, and that will be that; another $50 billion down the drain. The cost of Iraq so far is over $2 billion, and running, with nearly 2,000 U.S. soldiers dead, officially close to 15,000 wounded, and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians dead. That's not counting the destruction to the Iraqi cities and infrastructure, which we are going to rebuild, rather than focusing on our own cities, towns, and infrastructure. But Congress has absolutely no questions-- none at all. Just approve a bill, and that's that.

I'd like to see some accountability on Congress' part to force some accountability on the administration's part. Rather than just handing over money, questions should be asked, some pre-conditions should be required, and some guidelines established for just how we're going to proceed. The one bright spot about this current fiscal capitulation is that the Senate has voted almost unanimously to restrict torture and follow appropriate standards for interrogation-- something they should have done a while back, after the scandal at Abu Ghraib broke wide open. But better late than never. What's shocking is that the administration is fighting this, and has actually threatened a veto over this issue. Smirk has issued no veto thus far in the nearly five years since he and his cohort overtook our gummint; there has been no restraint whatsoever in any way in any bills, spending or otherwise -- yet, now he's going to veto his very first bill, just because he won't be allowed to torture people?

Not only that, but nine U.S. Senators voted against McCain's amendment-- yes, you read that right. Nine so-called "statesmen" who think it's okay to torture people (all Republicans, naturally). Here's the roll call of shame, for your reference:

Wayne Allard (R-Colorado)
Kit Bond (R-Missouri)
Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma)
Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi)
John Cornyn (R-Texas)
James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma)
Pat Roberts (R-Kansas)
Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama)
Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)

I'm sure they'll all equivocate when asked, and come up with all sorts of reasons why they opposed the amendment, but in the end, it really comes down to whether or not they support the Geneva Conventions, the Army's own guidelines for interrogation procedures, common sense, and some level of humanity. These are all a conservative bunch, and most are from deep-red states or regions with high levels of evangelicals and extremists, so I don't know just how much trouble they'd be in with the voters, but they should be ashamed of themselves.

This isn't to say that passing the bill was all that wonderful; it's pretty sad that there even has to be a vote to state that torture is wrong. But at least it's a indication that there are limits to the atrocious behavior we've witnessed the last few years; maybe we'll get lucky and see some more instances of accountability, fiscal and otherwise.

Hasta La Vista, Baby

Yesterday, as I was working for my bosses, I wound up in the Valley, and as I drove northward on Vineland, I spotted a pickup with a message slapped on the rear window:


Given the special election he's foisting on us, the massive fundraising he's been doing these days (making Gray Davis look like his bosom buddy), his bullying of nurses, firefighters, and teachers, and his unwillingness to cooperate with the state legislature, I'm all for another recall. You know-- what goes around, comes around. Hasta la vista, Arnie. It's been real.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Sandman Interns Yet Again

I've scored another temp position, but again as an intern (read: no pay). This time I'm working for the art department of a low-budget film that's going to start shooting later this month. I'll be working through the weekend and into next week, mostly doing filing, copying, photos online, and the like. I'm also essentially a gofer: I started yesterday, and have so far been to Office Depot, a paint store, a fabric store, and a few other places. It's mildly interesting, but probably won't lead to anything. Still, it's a line on the resume again, as I continue to sell myself elsewhere, in search of the elusive permanent, PAYING job.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Back to the Future

Monday's news seemed reminiscent of 25 to 30 years ago: the people of this nation were encouraged by the gummint to conserve energy. Now where have we heard that before? For all the derision he's received, Jimmy Carter is looking more and more like a man ahead of his time. Say what you want about those sweaters: he encouraged us to keep our thermostats at reasonable levels, tried to institute a comprehensive energy plan for the country, established the Department of Energy as a Cabinet-level agency, and put solar panels on the White House. Since then, the DOE has become more and more a tool of the monied interests, culminating in recent years with a closed-door meeting with Cheney to formulate energy policy. In the wake of Enron, not much has been said about energy, until now.

We've now got Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman telling us to go easy on the thermostat, don't develop a leadfoot while driving, and otherwise try to conserve energy as winter looms. We've even got a mascot for all this: the Energy Hog-- leave it up to Smirk to make sure everything's got a nickname! But so far, all it is is an advisory, a few tips, and that's that. No call for all of us to do more than just tick the thermostat down a few notches and make sure our car tires are inflated. Something tells me this administration needs to re-read the history of the 1970s, and then come up with something a bit more substantive. Some of the circumstances are rather similar-- the energy crisis during Carter's time came amid turmoil in Iran, and the economy was hounded by slow growth, difficulties with unemployment, and the specter of inflation.

Hello? We've got ourselves mired in Iraq, there's problems with growth, unemployment, and thanks to the costs of oil rising, we're possibly on a collision course with inflation-- if not right now, then definitely in the near future. Rather than creating characters with cool names, it might behoove Smirk and Scowl to corral their oil and energy sector buddies, crack a few heads, and then start formulating a policy that serves the country and not the coffers of the obscenely rich CEOs of transnational energy companies. For one thing, solar and wind-powered energy are ideas that surfaced during the 1970s, and certainly should be used now.

It would also help if the Corporate Media and the rest of us would recognize an opportunity, and instead of making fun of, ignoring, or defying changes in our daily habits, listen, learn, and modify. People made fun of Carter in his sweaters, but if we had followed his lead and made some drastic changes then, I wonder just how better off we might be now? Perhaps less dependent on foreign oil? Maybe not driving around in SUVs and other gas-guzzlers? Possibly even able to stretch out the energy sources we do have for another generation or so, thus buying time to find alternatives?

Some things this administration could do would be to explore commensurate pricing of oil; investigate price gouging (which I suspect happened in the wake of Katrina; there's no way California's prices should have gone sky-high, when our oil is derived using a special formula thanks to state laws regarding emissions, and we don't get our oil from areas that were affected by the hurricanes-- yet we had gas priced well over $3 at the time and only just now coming down slowly); establish fuel economy and efficiency standards for all forms of transportation; lower the speed limits again (yes, I know going 75 seems like a god-given right, but going slower actually stretches out the gas in your tank)-- they used to be 55 just about everywhere, and during WW II, a war period when we were actually asked (*gasp*) to make sacrifices, the national speed limit was 35 MPH; encourage the housing industry to develop and build smaller, more energy-efficient homes; explore and use alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal; and most of all, develop and encourage long-range solutions for the day when oil, coal, and other sources of energy are no longer available. Urban planning needs to be changed too-- the day will come when traveling to and from all these suburbs and exurbs isn't going to be feasible, and then we're really going to be up the creek.

So while the 70s were definitely not an idea of anyone's favorite decade to relive, it wouldn't hurt us to listen yet again to what people like Carter were saying then; we could benefit from it now.