Saturday, May 09, 2009

Tough Mothers

Latest Newspaper Column:

Here it is, Mother's Day. We like to think of motherhood as a warm and nurturing thing, which, of course, it is. But motherhood is also hard. In the best of times, it requires a lot of fortitude. In the worst of times, it requires extraordinary toughness and true grit. So I'd like to take this occasion to remember some of history's (and legend's) toughest mothers:

Grendel's' Mother: I always thought this lady got sort of a bum rap in most retellings of the story of Beowulf. Sure, she was a monster who lived at the bottom of a lake. And yes, she slaughtered a lot of Danes and, OK, she tried to devour the hero. But hey, Beowulf killed her baby boy by ripping his arm off. What mother wouldn't be a little ticked off by that?

Boudica (also known as Boudicca or Boadicea): It wasn't easy being a mother in Roman-occupied Britain.

Boudica's husband Prasutagus, who ruled the Iceni tribe in what is now known as East Anglia, got along OK with the Romans. They regarded him as an ally, even lent him money. When he died, his will specified that the kingdom would be ruled jointly by his daughters and by the Roman Emperor.

However, the reigning Roman governor ignored the will, annexed the province, and suddenly declared all Prautagus' loans due and payable -- by the Iceni people. When Boudica protested, the governor had her flogged and her daughters raped in front of her.

This would prove to be a mistake.

Boudica rallied the Iceni in rebellion, burnt three Roman cities to the ground (including Londinium, now known as London), and slaughtered every single one of their inhabitants, some of whom were nailed to crosses in fine Roman fashion. There are people, the saying goes, whom it will just not do to mess with, and mothers are at the top of that list.

Boudica was eventually defeated and killed (some say she took her own life), but the whole campaign was so costly that the Emperor Nero reportedly considered abandoning Britain altogether. To this day, the people of Great Britain revere her as a symbol of sheer British cussedness in the face of tyranny, so much so that a big bronze statue of Boudica in her war chariot (with her daughters, of course) stands near the Houses of Parliament.

Sacajawea: When Lewis and Clark set out on their voyage of exploration into the Louisiana Territory, they hired as a guide and interpreter a French Trapper named Toussaint Charbonneau, largely because Charbonneau's Native American child bride Sacajawea spoke the language of the Shoshone tribe.

Prior to setting out, however, Sacajawea gave birth to her first child, Jean-Baptiste, who then accompanied them on the expedition. Along the way, Sacajawea proved to be an invaluable member of the party. She helped them to find food, negotiated with the native tribes (discovering that the chief of one tribe was actually her long-lost brother), and guided them through passes she knew in the Rocky Mountains.

And she did it all, presumably, while hauling little Jean-Baptiste around with her, thus making Sacajawea an inspiration to working mothers everywhere.

Marge Simpson: OK, she's not only fictional, but also animated. But when it comes to long-suffering moms, they don't suffer much longer or harder than the blue-haired spouse of Homer Simpson.

Her husband is an epically moronic drunk. One child is on the fast career track to becoming the Antichrist, another's some kind of freakishly intelligent mutation, and I don't know what to think about Maggie. She looks cute, but that kid is planning something, and I don't think we're going to like it. The wierdest thing, though, is that the kids don't age.

And yet, through it all, Marge maintains her sunny disposition, her steadfast love for her husband and progeny, and above all, her coiffure, which has to be one of the engineering marvels of the modern world.

Maybe your mom never had to go through what these tough mothers did. But she probably went through a lot to make you happy. So be extra nice to her today.

My New Favorite Wesbite Ever

texts from last night: "Remember that text you shouldn't have sent last night? We do."

Some of my favorites:

(302): Who goes to Church hungover
(717): Those who weren't lucky enough to go still drunk

(789): If you could channel this insane talent for stalking you'd be a great weapon for this country. If you had a crush on Bin Ladin, guaranteed he'd be found, monitered and tagged within five days.

(406): When you only buy popcorn and condoms at the grocery store they know whats up.

(202): therell be strippers and coke right?
(703): no strippers. just coke.
(202): i hate this fuckin recession

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Hey Tea-Baggers! Tired of Big Government?

Come to the Libertarian Free-Market Paradise! Join the Regulation Vacation Celebration!

Michelle Bachmann: The Congresswoman From Crazytown

Bachmann: Swine Flu Happens Under Dem Presidents | TPMDC
"I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president Jimmy Carter," said Bachmann. "And I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence."

As the Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages points out, Bachmann has the 1970s flu outbreak all wrong. It happened in 1976 when Gerald Ford was in office.

Dear Lord, the woman is a train wreck. It's like crazy, hateful, and ignorant are battling for dominance inside her head. She makes Sarah Palin look like a statesman.

In any kind of rational political system, she'd be one of those raggedy people standing on street corners ranting about the Illuminati and the Council on Foreign Relations.

In the GOP, she's a rising star. I'll be surprised if they don't start touting her as a Presidential candidate soon. She's already mastered one of the more reprehensible and dishonest wingnut rhetorical devices: "I'm not really making an accusation, but.." while doing exactly that.

Here, let me try my hand at it: "Prostitution in Congresswoman Bachmann's district has gone up 30% since she's been elected*. I'm not saying that she's a madam or otherwise involved in the management of the sex trade, but it's an interesting coincidence. It raises questions."

You know, that's kind of fun.

*not an actual fact, but neither was Bachmann's observation.

Monday, May 04, 2009

The Moderate Voice: A Roundup of Encouraging Economic News

Read It And Weep, Wingnuts, while the people who want to see the country succeed start feeling cautiously hopeful.

Some highlights:

Consumer confidence soared in April to its highest level since the September failure of Lehman Brothers.

The Dow soared 214 points, or 2.6%, to end at 8426.74, the highest close since Jan. 13. The blue-chip benchmark has risen 29% since closing at a 12-year low of 6547.05 on March 9.

The benchmark S&P 500 rose above 900 for the first time since early January, on bets that banks won’t have to raise as much capital as previously thought, and housing data fueled hopes that the recession is ebbing.

Hey, Joey! Didn't you say below that the S & P was "the better gauge?" Heh.

Pending sales of previously owned homes rose for a second straight month in March, while construction spending edged higher, according to reports on Monday that suggested moderation in the long housing slump.

Tangible signs of revival in the global equity capital markets took place in April, with the amount of money raised through initial public offerings, follow-on offerings and, most noticeably, convertible bonds, reaching levels not seen since mid-way through last year.

Bill Frejlich, a futures broker at Fox Investments in Chicago, said that there has been a marked change in investor sentiment.

“We’ve reached a point where the selloffs are short-lived,” he said. “Even if you get a downdraft, it lasts a week or so, then you get a new high because people are looking for entry points to the market.”

We're not out of the woods yet, of course. But the people who were hoping and praying for four years of continued economic failure because it would make their party look better must be having a rough time of it.

Obama Tax Proposals Crack Down on US Businesses "Parking" Money Overseas

Firms Face Tighter Tax Rules -
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is rolling out details Monday of what aides are calling a far-reaching crackdown on offshore tax avoidance, targeting many U.S.-based multinational corporations and wealthy individuals.

President Barack Obama will flesh out a proposal included in his February budget blueprint seeking to curb the practice of parking foreign earnings in offshore tax havens indefinitely. By some estimates, $700 billion or more in U.S. corporate earnings have accumulated in overseas accounts in recent years.

The plan to be announced Monday will go further. It aims to change the legal treatment of offshore subsidiaries and structures that companies have used to avoid not only U.S. taxes, but taxes in other developed countries as well...


White House officials said the latest proposals simply follow through on Mr. Obama's frequent criticism that current U.S. tax rules encourage multinationals to move jobs overseas. The new tax plan also aims to increase incentives for job creation in the U.S., they said, noting that some of the money raised would be used to cover the cost of extending a soon-to-expire federal tax credit for research costs.

So, Charlie, your thoughts?

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Former Bushista: "Anger Theater. It's Not Smart, And It's Not Working."

David Frum, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the editor of

In 2001-2002, David Frum served as a special assistant to President George W. Bush. In October 2005, Frum founded and served as chairman of Americans for Better Justice, the lobbying group that led the opposition to the nomination of Harriet Miers to the US Supreme Court. In 2007-2008, he served as senior foreign policy adviser to the Rudy Giuliani presidential campaign. Frum is a member of the board of directors of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

In this article, he actually shows signs that at least someone on the Right may actually be getting it. In discussing the case of a conservative Catholic writer who refused to accept an award from Notre Dame if it meant she'd share a stage with Barack Obama, Frum quotes Daneile Crittenden (his wife):

"I fear our side is becoming like the leftists we used to mock. We refuse to recognize the American president as our president. And we reduce our politics to a single issue, showing no tolerance or desire for engagement with our opponents, including those who dissent within our own ranks.

In the coming four years, all conservatives will have cause to oppose and fight the Obama administration on many, many fronts. But let's not imitate the past eight years of political opposition. We are better than that. And we should—we must—be willing to share a platform with our elected President."

To which Frum adds:

A large part of the secret of President Obama's political success is his self-presentation as calm, judicious, and fair-minded - and his ability to depict his opponents as intemperate and extreme. You'd think by now that Obama's opponents would have figured out this trick. You want to beat him? Great. Be more calm, more judicious, and more fair-minded. Don't be provoked. Don't throw wild allegations. Don't boycott. Don't lose your temper.

Instead, we get Anger Theater. It's not smart. And it's not working.

So, how long do you think it'll be before Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are calling for this "RINO" Frum to be purged from the party? Because without "Anger Theater" those guys are out of a job.

Hat Tip to Balloon Juice.

The Incredible Shrinking GOP, Redux

Latest newspaper column:

This past week, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter made an announcement that some had been expecting for a while. "Since my election in 1980 as part of the Reagan Big Tent," Specter announced in a press release, "the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans...I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary."

Specter, who'd angered hard-Right Republicans with his support of the Obama stimulus package, was facing a daunting challenge in the next primary against former Congressman and wingnut poster boy Pat Toomey. One poll showed Toomey up 51-30 among primary voters.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, Toomey was unpopular with Pennsylvania voters outside the wingnut anti-reality bubble, and would likley lose in the general election in a state Barack Obama won by 11 points. So Specter, seeing the probability of his seat going to a Democrat, probably thought, "Why shouldn't I be that Democrat?"

We don't know what the Democratic Party may have offered Specter. However, he said in his press release that he won't be an "automatic" vote for cloture, the process by which 60 votes are needed to shut down a Republican filibuster. With his vote being vital to overcome the obstructionism of his now-former party, the biggest change may be that Arlen Specter ends up being the most courted and therefore one of the most powerful men in the Senate. Because here's a little secret in politics: people in the center are powerful. They can get concessions. Hardliners, when they're in the minority, get run over, with nothing to do but whine.

So which moderate Republican is next? It's been apparent for a while that Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are less than happy with the party going further and further into the wilderness of Wingnuttia. Snowe, noted that she herself had “always been deeply concerned about the views of the Republican Party nationally in terms of their exclusionary policies and views towards moderate Republicans.” She also said, however, that she has no plans to leave.

Not that that made any difference to the hardliners of the rage-filled right, who seem eager to embrace the idea of burning the insufficiently zealous at the nearest stake. Commenters at the right wing website Free Republic called for this to be the beginning of the Great Purge: "Let’s get rid of Snowe, Collins, McCain, etc., too," one writer sniped. South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, whose announcement that he'd be supporting Toomey against Specter in the primary may have pushed Specter across the line , insisted that he'd "rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don’t have a set of beliefs.”

Yeah, Jim, you do that. Let me know how that works for you in terms of getting anything passed, or even stopping things you don't agree with. I know right-wingers hate science; they've now apparently developed a deep antipathy for arithmetic as well.

On the one hand, I can't help but feel a certain malicious glee at the prospect of the Republicans becoming the Incredible Shrinking Party. I wouldn't shed very many tears if the party that called me "traitor" and a "terrorist sympathizer" for the past eight years ended up getting tossed on the refuse heap of history. But, on the other hand, a healthy country needs a viable opposition party, one that engages in reasoned debate over big issues and can serve as a check and balance on the excesses of its rival. Unfortunately, the current pack of teabaggers, wannabe Rush Limbaugh groupies and the proudly ignorant that are driving the GOP as far to the right (and out of the mainstream) as they can go right now don't seem at all interested in being that party.

So I'll just go with the malicious glee for the time being.