In reaction to Ted Kennedy’s endorsement yesterday of Barack Obama, I made online contributions first thing this morning to four other Presidential campaigns.
Maybe it’s the times. Maybe it’s the New York Times. Maybe it’s the wearying, relentless Hillary bashing that sounds and smells like the misogyny that is so much a part of our culture.
In this morning’s paper, there’s a story about the epidemic of physical harassment of women on the MBTA’s Red Line. “Experts” are now telling women to slap these predators silly, a positive change from my day when women were advised to react to catcalls, groping and even attempted rape with submission. Still, why are these attacks happening at all?
The big financial companies “richly rewarded” the “wiping out” of $200 billion in shareholder value with bonus payouts of an estimated $33.2 billion.
Oprah Winfrey’s enthusiastic endorsement of Obama intersects with both of these. An unimaginably wealthy, powerful Black woman who has experienced the most horrendous kind of sexual abuse decided to publicly support a – man? Psychologists must be having a field day with this. What does Obama represent to her – a protective brother?
The Oprah and Kennedy endorsements trouble me greatly for another reason.
They remind me of a Presidential candidate ago who won the White House 8 years ago because his daddy and his daddy’s friends manipulated the Republican party and ultimately, the Supreme Court, to ensure a victory.
People get rewarded every day for reasons other than performance and merit, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. And it certainly doesn’t mean that I have to vote for them.
Anyone but Obama.

Sweet Jane

I’ve been entranced with PBS’s latest series, “The Complete Jane Austen“: the actors, the costumes, the sets and of course, the screenplays, including writer Andrew Davies’ master work, “Pride and Prejudice”.
It was a particular treat to see Jemma Redgrave, the star of PBS’s 2001 mini-series Bramwell, as Lady Bertram in “Mansfield Park”.
Giving “Masterpiece” newcomers their due as well, Mark Dymond gave a top-notch performance as supercilious lady’s man Frederick Tilney in “Northanger Abbey”.
Experiencing the foibles, romances, social triumphs and comeuppances of British country society in the late 18th and early 19th centuries has been a great escape and a refined pleasure.

Financial Genius

I just about flipped my lid the other day when I heard Orrin Hatch describe Mitt Romney as a “financial genius”.
You’ve got to be kidding.
Capping his performance as an absentee governor, Mitt left the state with a billion dollar deficit, and his much-touted Commonwealth Care plan is running deeply in the red.
Further, Mitt made his business reputation as the founder of Bain Capital, a venture company that built up its treasury through the enthusiastic exercise of blunt instruments like lay-offs and offshore tax havens.
Meanwhile, Mitt gets away with making campaign speeches about protecting middle-class and blue collar jobs without getting struck by lightning.
A testament to the power of a really good haircut.

Airhead Ad

Too cutesy for words, the latest ad campaign from Apple for their new laptop, the MacBook Air, views like pure parody.
In fact, some of the actual parodies on YouTube do a better job of pushing the product, maybe because they don’t insult us with yet another “girl singing baby-talk” music track.
Whoever thought up the revolting trend of using cloying, overly-high-pitched female singing voices in TV ads should be permanently banned from the industry. I mean it.
It’s bad enough that radio ads have used “little people” to mimic kids voices for years. Adults can’t seem to reproduce the cadence of a child’s speaking voice, and certainly not the charm.
Instead you end up with something that sounds like that ridiculous speech from Forrest Gump, the one about life being a “box of chok-lits”, that makes you want to punch the speaker in the mouth, just to shut them up.
Thank goodness for mute buttons.

Fiscal Irresponsibility

It’s been held up as an example in the Presidential debates, but now that the numbers are in, Massachusetts’ new mandatory health insurance program Commonwealth Care is turning into a cautionary tale for those who would like to implement a similar version at a national level.

Cost projections
were off by about 50%: the state budgeted $472 million for the first year of the plan’s operation, but current projections for this year are estimated at $245 million over the original estimates. The overage for next year is $400 million.
Enrollment, which was predicted to be 140,000, is now estimated to hit 225,000 by June 2009.
On the revenue side, the state had factored in contributions of $24 million from businesses that don’t provide employee health insurance. The reality is a $19 million shortfall; the actual revenue from businesses will be only $5 million.
How did state planners get this so wrong?

Not Impressed

I’ve been dubious about the Obama candidacy from the beginning, maybe because I have an innate distrust of anyone who attracts uncritical adulation based on appearance.
That’s right: appearance.
There is no way that crowds would swoon if Obama were a capable but dumpy middle-aged woman – think Green Party’s 2006 Mass. gubernatorial candidate Grace Ross or even the charismatic orator and legislator Barbara Jordan.
There is also no way that erstwhile liberals like Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann and Tim Russert would be his/her militant champions, either. The nauseating spectacle of the ganging up of privileged boys against a smart, self-made woman is almost enough to make one change party affiliations.

Continue reading Not Impressed

Racial Preference

Racial stereotyping, love it or leave it.
A test established some months ago that I have a modest preference for Black versus White people, based on assigning the value judgments “Good” and “Bad” to race-specific facial images.
At the time, I chalked this up to living in a mixed-race neighborhood with nice people, but yesterday, while listening to KKJZ, the #1 jazz radio station in the US, a deeper set of reasons surfaced.
Good / Bad
Martin Luther King / Bernard Law, the Inquisition, the Magdalene Sisters
Colin Powell / the Bulger boys and George W. Bush
Miles Davis, Coltrane / the America-firsters who have, unfortunately, co-opted Country music
Kunte Kinte / Bull Connor
Rush Limbaugh / Thomas Sowell, Callie Crossley
Tiger Woods, Randy Moss, Bill Russell / the screaming, drunken hoardes at major sports venues
Bravery, courage, defeating the odds, family loyalty / privilege, cruelty, taking advantage, sociopathy, child abuse
Based on how it used to be, if these associations were a majority view, it would be a public perception flip of no small consequence.
It might even help to explain the remarkable ascendance of a certain candidate for President.

The Physics of Sheets

This past weekend, I bought a set of flannel sheets, most places having sold out of the newfangled adult-sized fleece ones that are this winter’s fad.
Turns out, flannel does feel “warmer” than percale, evidently due to the fact that there is less heat conductivity: a “bumpy” fabric exposes less of the sheet’s cold surface.
Meanwhile, it looks like we are in for yet more snow showers today. Here’s hoping the superior heat absorbency of dark roads protects us all from black ice and other hazards.

Depart, Cold

Depart, cold, son of a cold, thou who breakest the bones, destroyest the skull, partest company with fat, makest ill the seven openings in the head!
Healing incantation from Life in Ancient Egypt by Adolf Erman
It seems like half the people I know have already wrestled with at least one bout of sickness this winter.
It caught up with me last week in the form of a head cold that wasn’t anything close to the flu, but still leaves one totally spent by about 3 or 4 in the afternoon.

Continue reading Depart, Cold