The Daily 750

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Friday, November 04, 2005

War? Hunh! Michael Kinsley writes “The Democrats have declared war” on Alito, “without much in the way of weapons.” That’s a Democrat’s war alright, since Vietnam. For a real war you need some Republicans. Harriet Miers, that was a war.

Which model works best in a country -- the melting pot or the salad bowl? Some examples.

Melting pots: America, Britain, Canada, Australia, China.

Salad bowls: India, Switzerland, the former Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, France.

I’ll have the soup, please.

Every decade gets its TV stereotype. Two that come to mind most prominently are:

1970-80s: There was a brief period of strong, political black men on TV in the ‘60s -- Bill Cosby in I Spy, Pete Dixon on Room 222 -- followed by a lengthy and embarrassing decade or so of the clown and midget or, preferably, both. JJ Walker on Good Times; Sherman Helmsley on The Jeffersons; Gary Coleman on Diff’rent Strokes; Emmanuel Lewis on Webster. (For more on this phenomenon, see Donald Bogle’s book, Primetime Blues.)

2000s: Strong, beautiful women endowed with . . . babyfied voices. Mary Louise Parker and Kristin Chenowith on The West Wing; Geena Davis on Commander in Chief. Those gals on Trump’s Apprentice. Maureen Dowd -- who, contrary to Ariel Levy, does not “purr.”

More on Maureen: My friend Pamela and I have been emailing each other about Maureen. Here’s her latest to me, with which I completely agree::::
I think it's time somebody pointed out that the reason Dowd is unmarried and childless is for the same reason that an obscure, middle-aged assistant city editor in Spokane, Wash. is unmarried and childless: Because she wants to be.

Of course, you can't make a book (or even an essay) out of that. What probably really bothers Dowd is not her unmarried status, but the fact that society still puts down unmarried women as losers, while unmarried men simply aren't judged by their marital status.

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Flatter Taxes

Thursday, November 03, 2005

My youngest sister, Elizabeth Price Foley, was a senior legislative assistant to Oregon’s Senator Ron Wyden when we shared a house in Bethesda, Maryland, and Wyden was in the House of Representatives, in the late ‘80s. Just another of those small world, whoever would have known connections. Those were the days when I thought Oregon was the place you went when you couldn’t make it in LA. Still true, still not true.

The senator is a tall man with a giant smile and so appealing that, after umpteen years, he’s just now being noticed outside his home state. Maybe the confidence and love in his new marriage will push him forward in ways that a only a loving New York bookstore-owner-wife could manage, and I’ve got a suggestion for her first project.

The Senator restated his proposal for a flat tax, or at least a flatter tax, in his comments on the Senate floor on Monday. He had initially announced his proposal a few days earlier on October 27th, when it got some play but not enough to bring about morning conversation at our house. Monday’s speech was completely buried by the day’s earlier sugar-induced vapors.

Notably, on Monday, Wyden made his case by invoking “the Great Vegetable,” as my husband likes to cackle -- Ronald Reagan: “Look back to 1986, when Reagan worked in a bipartisan way with Democrats to come up with a proposal that’s foundations would be very appealing now. He made sure that all incomes were treated equal, and that’s what this country has always been about.”

And then a baseball analogy. “The middle class has three strikes. The first pitch, a slider, shifts a sizable tax burden to the middle income. A fast ball takes away many of the deductions and credits for child care and medical needs: strike two. Third is a changeup: it may look neutral but as it flies across the plate it adds billions of dollars to force middle class citizens to pay for tax cuts for the few. The middle class simply strikes out while those at the top get a grand slam.”

I'd like first of all to refute the phrase "the Great Vegetable" and praise the Reagan years as I experienced them. Ah, the glory days of cold war policy, when the big bad Evil Empire loomed to feed the budgets of think tanks near and far. I'd like second to say how happy I am that Ron has embarked on such an interesting new life. And third...well, third should be some comment about taxes, but I know when to quit. Let me just be a non-commenting advertising arm for the good Senator. Hey Kitty: How's about you? Whaddaya think?



I mean I shared a house in Bethesda with my sister, not with Ron Wyden, although that would’ve been a blast. We didn’t know it then but the three of us were all at our goofiest -- fun-loving, eyeball-rolling, gawky, slight lispers who were determined to be serious, graceful articulators and got a little bit lost in the ambiguities. Hives, starter marriages, divorces -- yep, pretty goofy alright.

As for Wyden’s tax proposal, I dunno. Some tax good, some tax bad, you put da lime in de coconut you shake it all up. Seems like the federal income tax rate on our household is fair. The state income tax could be lower. Oregon needs a small state sales tax. The local property taxes are outrageous, mainly because of the hundreds of dollars per year for a school bond, too much of which was used to prettify the campuses. One rickety elementary school was torn down and built from scratch, and then the school administration decided to use half of it for their offices. Discuss.

What struck me (no pun intended) is the pretty good job Wyden is doing in marketing his plan, by using Reagan’s name and W’s favorite pastime (no, it really isn’t squishing crunchy bugs with his thumb).

The McDonald’s web site has an area called “From Farm to Table” and before you go there, know that it’s a heavy download and not much fun. It starts with a green lawn that grows a tree that sprouts green leafy branches, at the end of which flowers a McDonald’s food item -- a hamburger, french fries, a salad, an ice cream cone -- oddly, each in their specific wrapper. After all the branches have flowered a food item, a red apple drops to the ground.

If you’re concerned about America’s nutrition, do you think this ad, appealing to a number of your interests -- natural, organic, from the earth to your table -- do you think it's going to bring America a flatter stomach? Nah. And is Wyden, appealing to Reagan’s old fan base and Bush’s new one -- is it going to bring America a flatter tax? Nah. But it’s a good try.

If you want to experience a wowzer ad that will make you SO HAPPY Ikea is coming to Portland, clear your Internet files, grab a cup of coffee and go here. (tips to Lileks)

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When All Hell -- strike that -- Breaks Loose

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I blame it on the sugar.

Seems like the Senators consumed all the leftover candy brought in by their staffs Monday morning. By the time they got to the floor the leftover KitKats and Butterfingers were smudge-marks on their speaking notes, their blood sugars were diving, and a funk began to set in.

The minority leader, Harry Reid, stood at the podium to give the R’s hell about everything from Mother Nature to Father Time but managed only a heavy sigh about a long list of particulars with which he had lost patience: the war, prisoner abuse, hurricane Katrina, cronyism, corruption, no oversight. Contemplating the fate of his grandchildren in a world gone Republican was more than he could bear, so he invoked Rule 21 -- the Senate equivalent of an otherwise mild-mannered parent grabbing his snotty kid by the arm and dragging him straight from the table to his room without TV or dessert.

What followed was straight out of a Tennessee Williams play.

The majority leader, Bill Frist -- from Tennessee, imagine, and the kid who was supposed to be sitting quietly in his room contemplating his badness -- came out in a suppressed rage. Hijacked! A stunt. A pure stunt! An affront, I say. Deeply disappointing. Why, the lack of courtesy, the lack of respect. The lack of civility! Why, I nevah!

And then the Mississippian, Trent Lott, stepped out from the chorus: Without notice! Astounded. Not the way it’s been done! An affront to the man!

Enter the straight-talking Yankee, Jon Kyl from Pennsylvania: No agenda. No solutions. Purely political.

All that was missing was the smelling salts and the flutter of cardboard Jesus fans.

When the Fluffernutter settled it was back to regular business and darned if the first person to speak wasn’t named Blanche. Blanche Lincoln, impassioned youngish Blue Dog Democrat from Helena, Arkansas.

Ten dollars bets Senator Lincoln was raised in a Southern Baptist church led by a hellfire and brimstone preacher. In a voice combining Jesse Jackson and Loretta Lynn (think Sissy Spacek in the movie Coal Miner’s Daughter pleading with Doo: “Dadgum it, Doo! You never ask me nothing! You just say, "Hey baby, here's the deal, take it or leave it." Well, it's drivin' me crazy, Doo!”), Lincoln not simply introduced, she besought an amendment to the FY 2006 budget that would add some eight or so billions of dollars to extend Medicaid to victims of Hurricane Katrina. Shaking her fists in front of her for emphasis, she told the story of a man and his two children who lived for three days on top of a floating refrigerator. “How many stories do we have to share before Congress will act . . . and take care of our sisters and brothers in the Gulf State region?” She invoked her beloved grandmother: “One of the things my grandmother used to tell me: when you feel bad and like you could do better, stop. Think of somebody who needs something and go do it for them.”

Max Baucus, from Montana, heralded the devastation as “nothing less than Biblical.”

Trent Lott, miffed for the second time in less than an hour, rose in opposition to the amendment but proclaimed there was “no question in my mind what our needs are in Missippi and Lewzyanna. I know firsthand how bad this sitchyashun is and ever time I go home it breaks mah heart. Fortunately the people are resilient and they don’t whine a lot -- like you, Miss Blanche.” Nah, he left that last part out, but I could tell he meant it.

He went on: “If a person’s got a slab, a mortgage and no job, we’re gonna help ‘em. It’s not just low-income. Hell -- strike that from the record -- this hurricane is a great equalizer. If you’re a rich retired doctor and you lost your home and your car and your boat and your dawg, you got nuttin’.” Well, there's those IRAs and CDs and that second home on a lake in Michigan, but still....

Mary Landrieu, from Lewzyanna, finally got it right: “It wasn’t just the storms,” she said, “it was the 17 levee breaks.” And then, realizing her political blunder, she recovered: “But this was not your regular hurricane. This was an unprecedented disaster.”

My heart strings vibrate, too, at the destruction in Lewzyanna and Missippi and Flurduh. But Katrina was a regular hurricane. Big and bad, but regular and not unprecedented. And until the powers that be enact laws that prohibit rebuilding in regular flood plains, that enforce strict building codes designed to withstand the regular assaults of nature, and that strengthen protective infrastructures, it’s all money down the clogged drain.

Americans and their congressional representatives just don’t go all warm and fuzzy and open their pocketbooks to maintain America’s infrastructure the same as they do to battle the forces of nature. But it’s well past time we did. How about a Gray Cross: an organization to raise funds for concrete and rocks to rebuild bridges, levees and roads, and to build homes and offfices that aren't so easily huffed and puffed and quaked into a pile. Wilma came on the tail of Katrina, and next year begins a whole new alphabet of storms.

Remember this commercial?

this is an audio post - click to play

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Liquid Gas

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

My hat's off to those who are dedicating large amounts of their time to fighting the siting of a liquified natural gas facility near their home towns. My own efforts don't merit the maintenance of a blog separate from this one (as I'd thought they might) -- so, from now on occasional essays will appear here. They'll be headed with LNG:, and then the title, so you know to skip it if it's not your issue.

Sometime this week I'll add links specific to LNG resources. Columbia River Vision maintains a terrific site with updated news, information, pictures and resources. You can find a running commentary, some of it quite informative, some of it not, on the home page and in the Community Forum section of the Astoria Citizens Journal. Additional sources remain as links on this page.

To readers who will never read an LNG post, wish us well. We are a small community and have only recently begun to climb out of a deep recession from the almost total loss of the fishing and logging jobs that once sustained our towns. We are left with the beauty of a nearly pristine landscape. It is all we have to offer and, as luck would have it, it's all many people want.

We don't live in M. Night Shyamalan's Village. The fight against Calpine, other LNG importers and the FERC isn't a rural drama that pits hapless villagers and their wounded leaders against an unknown and invincible beast. We are biologists, botanists, economists, journalists, fishers, loggers, medical professionals, doctors, lawyers, artists, cooks, writers, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters. We've done our research. We know what an LNG facility looks like and what it smells like. We know what energy companies promise and what they deliver. We know the terms they start up with and the terms cities are compelled to acceed to after the facility begins production.

Some claim the biggest danger of an LNG facility is the damage that would come from an accident or a deliberate attack, either involving the facility itself or its pipeline, or one of the large tankers that supply it. This argument isn't going to persuade anyone who isn't already emotionally opposed to the facility. Hey, the risk of choking on tonight's dinner roll is several orders of magnitude greater.

No, the greatest risk is the damage from the mere siting of the industrial facility. Name one industrial facility that stands alone, that isn't merely the first of a number of industrial facilities that sits on what was once a wetland or some other environmentally, if not sensitive, then at least pleasant sensory area. Name one industrial city that rises up today in greatness. Would you rather live on the New Haven, Connecticut waterfront or on Guilford's. Long Beach or Venice Beach, California. Near the bridge at Longview, Washington or at Astoria, Oregon. We know. We've already chosen.

The trick-or-treaters of last night are the workers of tomorrow. We can send the pink princesses, the white witches, the devils, the slashers and the blue bunnies off to college and have them return as night watchmen down at the plant, trained to call a particular number should an alarm go off. Sure, three or four of those kids will wind up being on the other end of the phone, a certified LNG technician. Or those kids can return as doctors, nurses and technicians in a growing medical community; as instructors in a renewed, and four-year, college; as curators and gallery owners; as entrepreneurs fulfilling an individual or collective dream.

All we have left is a view and clean air, and a community that values them. We can't give up any of that -- not the view, not the air, not the people.

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Jingle Jangle Gee, You'll Like JoshMarquis dot blogspot dot com

Monday, October 31, 2005

I'm writing this at 5pm on Sunday "night" and I'm already thinking: Is it time to go to bed yet? It's dark, it's fall, I've eaten half a chocolate mousse birthday cake and a couple handfuls of locally harvested filberts -- I'm ready to hibernate.

The West Wing: Who knew it could get even more idealistic after Aaron Sorkin left? Watchers are now following the campaign of two worthy men, basically defined as an old pro-choice non-practicing Protestant Republican who opposes partial abortion and a young pro-choice practicing Catholic Democrat who believes life begins at conception. Smack dab therein supposedly lies the vast, unrepresented Majority of Americans -- and each candidate would rotate in that place, like the golden statue of Turkmenbashi, arms upraised to take in Every One, were it not for the machinations of the polticos, the PACs and the Party. Which is probably true, so long as no mention is made of foreign policy, economic policy, health care, trade, the environment, transportation, net pens, homeland security or any of a hundred other issues that the vast MoA contemplates. My husband said, "They haven't mentioned the death penalty." Sorry, dear: It's so much more pleasant for a TV candidate to stake out a position on killing life (fetuses) than on killing death (murderers).

Speaking of which, the husband finally started working on his own blog. He may type with two fingers but he fires on all synapses, and doesn't torture himself about it either. Whether he's writing about the death penalty or the latest TV movie, he's witty and smart and scathingly honest. I had a big crush on him from his writing months before I even saw a picture of him. Meeting him was the buttercream on the mousse. He'll never give you some lame excuse for not posting, like, just for example, that he spent all day training someone how to blog and now can't put a thought together that goes beyond "click here then here -- no, I meant here, not there; and you'll want to link that . . . ." Check it out.

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All Dressed Up and . . .

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Right: Nowhere to go. On Wednesday I was shopping for the Ritual Birthday Tie and literally ran into artist Mariah Manners, who was scrounging around the bottom shelf of the size 9 clearance shoes at Ross Dress For Less, looking -- like all the other gals there -- for a pointy-toed shoe that costs 8 bucks but doesn't pinch too much. Surprise: No luck. Mariah invited me to an adult-themed puppet show at the AVA Gallery put on by herself, Jessica Schlief and some other local artists -- and I thought for sure she said it was Saturday, which was last night. But the gallery was dark at the stated time, 7 o'clock, as was pretty much everything else downtown, except for a shadowy crowd hanging out in front of the Elks that I was much too overdressed to join.

The husband was home enjoying a leisurely birthday weekend of watching oopy-goopy movies and dashing off his opinions about everything from the death penalty to slasher movies. His announced plan was to watch the Paul Schrader version of the prequel to The Exorcist while I enjoyed the puppet show.

I can't believe I typed the name of that movie. It burned like hellfire into my psyche. I was terrified of the dark for years after seeing it -- probably at the great Village Theater in Westwood, California, with an actual nurse in a white uniform standing at the top of each aisle, at the ready to attend to the fainters and the hurlers. I watched the entire movie minus the first five minutes through my hands. Even the guy I went with gagged a couple times -- and he was a sax player. Afterwards, if I thought someone was about to say the name of the movie, or talk about it at all, I'd put my hands up to my ears and intone "la-la-la-la-la-la-la" until the person got the message to stop talking about it. When I visited my parents for Christmas that year, I asked my mother if she'd "take that book that was made into a movie with Linda Blair, take it out of my room and please don't say the name or anything." If there'd been an earthquake in the middle of the night any time between 1973 and 1986 I would have died of fright, convinced not that the ceiling might fall in on me, but that I had been possessed. I blame my early years at Hickory Grove Baptist Church.

Around noon yesterday I had in mind to write about health care, beginning with some whining about a recent emergency room experience. Then I read Nancy Rommelmann's latest post, which directed me to the blog of a friend of hers, the writer Cathy Seipp, who had finally decided to tell the world that she has lung cancer -- never smoked, never was a bartender -- which has an 85% death rate.

Later, I got an email from a friend who'd just set up his laptop in his house in Bangalore, where he's on business for several weeks. "The fundamentals are so different here," he began. And then: "We take so much for granted, as we are continually told but never fully appreciate."

So no complaining for now, not even if it's funny. Have a lovely Sunday.