Friday, December 31, 2010

Zuckerberg is Boy of the Year for 2010.

The Facebook boy has been named Time's Man Person of the Year for 2010. Congratulations, Mark Zuckerberg.

Here is the 60 Minutes interview from the beginning of December:

Didn't we win this distinction a few years back? "Yes, you," Time magazine proclaimed. "You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hollywood is No Country for Young Men or Old Women

Here's the list of the Top Money-Making Stars of 2010 as voted by motion picture exhibitors in Quigley Publishing Company's 79th annual poll.

RankActorGenderAgeLifetime U.S. Box Office
1Johnny DeppMale47$2,731,758,969
2Angelina JolieFemale35$1,607,756,601
3Robert Downey, Jr.Male45$1,989,876,295
4Matt DamonMale40$2,511,475,356
5Steve CarellMale48$1,616,882,568
6Tom HanksMale54$4,408,107,253
7Denzel WashingtonMale56$1,833,794,005
8Leonardo DiCaprioMale36$1,883,672,916
9George ClooneyMale49$1,750,939,442
10Anne HathawayFemale28$1,188,233,811

What's striking is there isn't a man on this list under 35, or a woman over 35. Not that it's any suprise that Hollywood is no country for young men or old women.

Now if this were a different industry, such as college sports with Title IX, Hollywood would have to make one bug budget movie starring a woman for every one starring a man. But, of course, Hollywood already does that to a large extent, they are called romantic comedies.

Perhaps more draconian measures are in order, such as the CAFE standards where Detroit auto companies must sell a certain number of subcompact hybrid cars for every sport utlity vehicle to balance the gas mileage of the fleet. But are you ready to stand in line for a Johhny Depp movie at the megaplex waiting for someone to buy a ticket to see Anne Hathaway?

From another perspective, all of these actors have been in show business for more than 10 years. So these slots have been earned over a series of films by actors willing to work for a decade or longer on their craft.

And where are the women of a certain age who aren't on the list? Well here are 10 more women who were did $100 million or more at the U.S box office in 2010.

RankActorGenderAgeLifetime U.S. Box Office
1Cameron DiazFemale38$2,707,789,729
2Gwyneth PaltrowFemale38$1,752,156,187
3Cate BlanchettFemale41$2,038,042,217
4Julia RobertsFemale43$2,523,519,818
5Helena Bonham CarterFemale44$2,128,001,715
6Joan CusackFemale48$1,881,735,102
7Sigourey WeaverFemale61$2,409,910,544
8Meryl StreepFemale61$1,751,561,404
9Kathy BatesFemale62$2,561,897,494
10Maggie SmithFemale76$2,527,327,957

That list does not look so shabby in comparison to Quigley's list. So maybe the motion picture exhibitors don't know as much as they think they know. Or maybe they just didn't like Valentine's Day. But I think maybe Hollywood women just need better publicists.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Just What Was Evangelicist Pat Robertson Smoking?

There are some headlines that you just don't expect. Here is what Pat Robertson actually said a couple of days ago on The 700 Club:

"We're locking up people that take a couple puffs of marijuana and the next thing you know they've got 10 years. They've got mandatory sentences; the judges throw up their hands and say there is nothing they can do. We've got to take a look at what we're considering crimes, and that's one of them. I'm not exactly for the use of drugs -- don't get me wrong -- but I just believe that criminalizing marijuana, criminalizing the possession of of a few ounces of pot, that kind of thing is just costing us a fortune and ruining young people. Young people going to prisons, they go in as youths and come out as hardened criminals, and that's not a good thing."

A later email added this clarification:

"Dr. Robertson did not call for the decriminalization of marijuana. He was advocating that our government revisit the severity of the existing laws because mandatory drug sentences do harm to many young people who go to prison and come out as hardened criminals. He was also pointing out that these mandatory sentences needlessly cost our government millions of dollars when there are better approaches available. Dr. Robertson’s comments followed a CBN News story about a group of conservatives who have proven that faith-based rehabilitation for criminals has resulted in lower repeat offenders and saved the government millions of dollars. Dr. Robertson unequivocally stated that he is against the use of illegal drugs."

Let the punishment fit the crime. I don't know, that still sounds kind of progressive. Or is it just the spirit of Christmas?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Club Passim Goes Live on the Web

Listen up. Club Passim, the legendary folk music club in Harvard Square has taken the live music experience to the next level. They have engaged with Concert Window to broadcast shows live over the internet.

Tonight’s show with Aine Minogue was especially good. And even better with full access to the beer fridge.

I'm not sure who these Concert Window folks are, but they seem to be linked with But who are they?

Solsticing with the Parkington Sisters at Club Passim

I caught the Parkington Sisters at Club Passim in Cambridge on December 21, 2010. You should catch them too.

I like this song but don't understand a word.

This one makes me cry.

This makes me cry too. Happy holiday tears.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Stephen Colbert Wishes You a Merry Christ-box 360

"It hurts me to say this folks, but if Jesus really is a liberal, it is time to get the Christ out of Christmas.
You know me, I am no fan of the term X-mas or X anything, I make my kids play Christ-box 360. And if they break a bone they get Christ-ways.
Because if this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are or we've got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition, and then admit that we just don't want to do it."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Is Barack Obama Breaking His Campaign Promises on Tax Cuts?

With many House Democrats feeling their President sold them out on tax cuts, we wonder how far President Obama has strayed from his campaign promises.

I guess that depends on what you heard him promise. But if you go to his 2008 campaign website and look at the bullet points, it appears that he is mostly keeping his promises.

Middle class families will see their taxes cut – and no family making less than $250,000 will see their taxes increase.That's true, the Bush tax cuts will be continued for the middle class folks, and they also will get 2% cut off their social security taxes.
Families making more than $250,000 will pay either the same or lower tax rates than they paid in the 1990s.That's true too, their taxes will go down. And if you read the fine print, it says "Obama will ask the wealthiest 2% of families to give back a portion of the tax cuts they have received over the past eight years to ensure we are restoring fairness and returning to fiscal responsibility." He asked, they said no.
Obama’s plan will cut taxes overall, reducing revenues to below the levels that prevailed under Ronald Reagan (less than 18.2 percent of GDP).That's at least partly true, taxes will be cut overall, whether to the levels of Ronald Reagan is hard to say. The fine print on this one is not true: "Coupled with his commitment to cut unnecessary spending, Obama will pay for this tax relief while bringing down the budget deficit." Of course, Obama can say he still has the committment, just as soon as we get out of the Great Recession.

For some Democrats, especially pundits and politicians on the left, the most important part of his campaign promise was to let Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire. Still, for many Democratic voters, getting middle class tax cuts for themselves was the important part of the promise. And the tax cut deal keeps that promise.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Nancy Pelosi's Going Out of Business Sale

I got one of those emails today that makes you wonder about the awkward timing. It was from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee inviting me to a sale at My Democratic Store. Looks like everything must go before the Nancy Pelosi hands over her Speakership to the new Republican majority in January.

Know Your Power (autographed by Nancy Pelosi)
$42.50You can get this book from for $4.99, so $42.50 is a 750% markup. Has Nancy Pelosi once again overestimated her power?
Know Your Power (not autographed by Nancy Pelosi)
$25.00They've sold out of these so you'll have to spring for the autograph and an extra $17.50.
Red to Blue (autographed)$32.50Suspect Nancy Pelosi won't be selling the sequel Blue Back to Red here.
Third Term (autographed by Paul Begala)$32.50With Nancy Pelosi going into the Minority Leader position, we're sure to be hearing a lot from her about Obama's third Bush term.
Blue Democratic Dog Leash$6.99Nancy Pelosi is long a few leashes now that so many blue dog Democrats have slipped their collars or been defeated.
Speaker Pelosi Blue Twist Pen$.99First Nancy Pelosi twists your arm, then she tells you where to sign.
Men's Black Fleece Jacket$49.950 available. Is someome feeling fleeced or jacked by a black man? I'm just saying.
Proud Democrat Black LS T-Shirt$17.99Only 3 left, but all in the small size. When they're gone, there'll be no proud Democrats left.
We Don't Quit Black T-Shirt$14.99Again with the black sublimimal messages about not compromising?
Ladies' Black Fleece Jacket$55.20Is someone also feeling fleeced by a black lady, not the First Lady I hope?
Ladies' Organic Brown T-Shirt$20.00Excuse me? Is organic brown another dig at the First Lady? Say it isn't so.
A Woman's Place White LS T-Shirt$17.99Nancy Pelosi is a white woman, this is her T-Shirt, and I was starting to think I was reading too much into her color schemes.
Lil' Dem Baby Onesie$14.99Yes, you can get it in the Barney Frank size.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sarah Borges Comes in from the Cold

It was a cold night in Cambridge last night and Sarah Borges came in from the cold with a solo show at Passim.

Sarah is off the road after 8 1/2 years of touring. Her band the Broken Singles is on hiatus. She's taken a real job at a thrift shop that raises money for a no kill animal shelter. And she got married in September.

This new life is not the life she has been singing about in her songs. I guess that means she needs to write some new songs, not that there is anything orng with the old songs. The solo show at Passim had a lot of warmth that has always been there but wasn't front and center in the high energy punk rock country Americana band she has been fronting.

This old Passim regular thinks the solo act is more than passable as folk:

If this taste of Sarah Borges solo leaves you hankering for the fuller band sound, get yourself to the Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles online store and buy the CD Live Singles recorded on January 1 & 2, 2010 at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, Massachusetts or the DVD Live at the Livery filmed in Benton Harbor, Michigan on January 16, 2010.

There's also some miscellaneous stuff you can buy off the Borgesmord at the online store. Is that a Pabst Blue Ribbon in the SBBS beer cozie?

Yes, I believe it is.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell What Barack Obama Got in Trade for Tax Cuts

"Obama sold out the Dems," is the view I'm hearing on the tax cut compromise from some quarters. But if Obama did sell out, I wonder how much he got in return. Because if you are going to sell out, you should at least get a good price.

Democrats including the President have been saying they would go to the wall on not extending tax cuts to upper income taxpayers. The game changer that seems to have forced the compromise was Senate Republicans saying they would hold everything else up until they got the tax cuts they wanted too.

That threatened to stall the middle class tax cuts that the Democrats did want and the budget that Democrats have been working on all year. But it also threatened to derail some other things Democrats want:

DADT - repeal of don't ask don't tell to allow gays to serve openly in the military

DREAM - pathway to legal residency for children of illegal immigrants who grow up in the U.S.

START - ratification of a new strategic arms treaty with Russia

Presumably House and Senate Democrats have the votes to pass these before the Congress adjourns for Christmas, so long as Senate Republican let the measures come up for vote. Democrats won't have the votes in the House when the new Congress is seated in January. So if Democrats don't get these votes for Christmas, they won't get them.

Passage of none of those issues has been directly tied to the tax cut compromise, but is it too cynical to wonder what the private deal is? My guess is that President Obama will get DADT, START with reservations, and no DREAM. But that's just a guess. Maybe it will be START and DREAM but no DADT. Or DADT and DREAM but no START.

How this will work: The New England Republicans in the Senate will peel off and vote for the stuff on President Obama's Christmas list (hint: it's all about Susan Collins), Fox and friends will call them RINOs (Republicans in Name Only), New Republican House Speaker John Boehner will crow about how his taking charge of the House in January will close that door (but only after the horses are out of the barn).

Right now Nancy Pelosi has the veto, the tax cut deal comes down to what she'll let go to a floor vote in the House. Yes, it could all fall apart and she could block the tax cut vote (she passed the middle class tax cut version she wants, so she is covered). And the left wing may find 40 Democratic Senators willing to take up the filibuster for the next 2 years in the Senate. Meanwhile, by coming out strongly in favor of the deal, President Obama has positioned himself so that he doesn’t have to take the blame for that (and would get no credit for it either).

We may get a real-time demonstration of the sell-out theory if Nancy Pelosi and her House troops go rogue and won't pass the tax cut compromise before the lame duck session comes to an end. Then we'll get to see in real time how much worse a deal Obama can get from John Boehner’s new Republican majority in the House.

Bottom line: The Republicans are going to look mighty foolish if they can't get the tax cut passed even after Barack Obama has signed onto the deal. How do you explain to some rich old white guy on his third wife and fourth illegal alien housekeeper that you held up his tax cut because of DADT or DREAM?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Just What Are Those Crazy Right Wing Bloggers up to Now?

I met conservative blogger Robert Stacy McCain back in January during the Scott Brown surge in the U.S. Senate race here in Massachusetts. McCain came all the way up from the deep South to cover the race on his widely read blog The Other McCain (in November his site reached the 5-million-visit milestone).

So what crazy right wing blog stuff is he up to these days? Get this, celebrating the holidays with his family:

I also met Pete DaTech Guy during that race. He blogs out of central Massachusetts. He's gone progressive, setting aside his normally conservative barbershop principles in favor of a hair stylist:

I am thinking about these guys in connection with the extension of the Bush tax cuts for upper income taxpayers, which they both enthusiastically support. The conventional Democratic wisdom is that support for such tax cuts comes from the very rich.

But as I think the the videos above make clear, neither one of these two conservative bloggers is pulling down the $250,000 a year to get into the upper income category from whom Democrats want the extra taxes. Craven self-interest in getting a tax cut is not their motivation. These conservatives support the tax cut for upper income earners for the essentially selfless reason that they believe the tax cuts will grow the economy and help the country.

That's something that I think many Democratic politicians in Washington and big paycheck liberal pundits on television just don't get.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

President Barack Obama Calls His Tax Cut a Compromise

Compromise is a dirty word to many in Washington, DC. Go to Washington and Don't Compromise is the mantra of both the right and the left. But to actually get things done, Washington needs Deal Cutters.

President Barack Obama explains the tax cut deal he has made with Republicans:

President Obama says this compromise is the right thing to do but acknowledged, "I know some folks, even good friends, who are unhappy with the plan."

He traded a two year extension of tax cuts for wealthly Americans for tax cuts for Americans who are not so wealthy, payoroll tax cuts for American employees, and extended unemployment benefits for Americans who are out of work.

I always applaud getting a tax cut but must recognize that these tax cuts and increased unemployment benefit spending will push up the already high federal budget deficits even further. That may help the economy, but will push up the country's debt.

So I will agree with the President on one of his own reservations:

"There are things in here I don't like, namely the extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans at a time when we need to focus on bringing down the deficit."

The counter argument is that the high deficits are needed because of the deep recession. But need was the argument for the bank bailouts, auto company bailouts, and stimulus spending too. Where does it end? And when?

The best part of the plan, from my perspective, is that the extension being only temporary buys time, time that can be used to put together a workable deficit reduction plan. Some Democrats say they want to go to the barricades to stop the tax cuts, but that's just politics. If they are serious, they will instead spend the next two years working on reducing the deficit.

If Democrats expect Republicans to give up tax cuts for deficit reduction, Democrats should expect to offer spending cuts. So far their leaders in Congress, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, have nothing on offer. And it is now four years after the Democrats retook the House and Senate from Republicans in 2006. They've been campaigning against these tax cuts as budget busters longer than that, but still have nothing to offer on spending cuts.

After the winners of the November 2010 election are seated in January, the Democrats still have the Senate but don't have the House. We'll see if the leadership of the new House Republican majority has any spending cuts to offer. Deficits and spending were key issues for tea party voters in the election. Will Republicans deliver, which means finding a deal they can cut with Barack Obama on reducing deficits, or will they just spout empty rhetoric as did Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. I'm watching.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Senate Republicans Fall For Tax Cut Trap

Senate Republicans have followed their House colleagues into the trap of voting against extension of the Bush tax cuts for the middle class. Senate Democrats offered extension of the tax cuts for annual income of $1,000,000 or less. Republicans are holding out for extension of the tax cuts at all income levels, including annual incomes above $1,000,000. House Democrats previously voted to extend the tax cuts for annual income of $250,000 or less.

The trap is that the tax cuts enacted during the Bush years are set to expire at the end of 2010. Democrats can now argue that they have voted to extend the tax cuts for most Americans, but were blocked by Republicans voting No.

On the other side, the Democrats now have their votes on record to extend the tax cuts for the middle class. So they could sit tight and not budge, calling the Republican bluff. But there are other things they want, such as extension of unemployment benefits, that they can't get without acquiescence of the Republicans.

There is much talk in Washington of a compromise to extend the tax cuts temporarily for two years But they don't have a compromise deal done yet.

In the meantime, the problem of getting the federal deficits under control continues to mushroom. The Bowles-Simpson deficit commission has come forth with a plan to slash income tax rates but also take away many deductions (lower tax rates on a higher tax base). The net result would substantially increase total federal tax revenue levels. The deficit commission also wants to cut total federal spending levels.

Republicans and Democrats don't like the sound of the deficit commission plan even though that is what is needed to get the deficits under control. So you can see where this is going. Any compromise on the tax cut extension will likely put off deficit reduction for a couple of more years.

In the floor debate, Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley laid out the rationale for not looking to tax revenues for deficit reduction: "The taxpayers are smarter than we in Congress are. They know that if they give another dollar to us to spend it's a license to spend $1.15."

That strategy of passing tax cuts to starve the government of revenue and contain spending has been Republican Party dogma since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980. The problem is that it lacks an end game. A 15 cent deficit may not seem like much, but after 7 years that adds $1.05 in debt, a whole year's worth of spending. After 30 years, that's $4.50 in debt.

You see, it's too easy for politicians to cut taxes and borrow money so they don't have to cut spending. Then everyone seems to get what they want for now. It's the old Keynesian trick. It works in the short term, and in the long term we're all dead. It ended badly when Ronald Reagan tried it in the 1980s. It ended badly again when George W. Bush tried it in the 2000s. It will end badly if we try it again. The Republican strategy is, in a word, insane.

I'd like to suggest a new strategy. Set the tax rates at the level needed to equal federal spending. If those rates are too high, that will create the political pressure to reduce spending so that the tax rates can be reduced. And in the meantime we aren't running up a huge debt. I have a great new term for this strategy - I call it a "balanced budget."

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mr. Shit Sandwich Boehner Eats the Pelosi Chicken Crap

Outgoing Speaker of the House, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, got to be tax cut queen for the day by passing renewal of the Bush tax cuts for the first $250,000 of income. It passed by a vote of 234 to 188. Who voted No on the tax cuts? House Republicans led by incoming Speaker John Boehner.

Republicans voted No on the tax cuts because they say they want to extend the tax cuts for income about $250,000 too. And how does voting against the tax cuts for lower and middle class Americans get you tax cuts for wealthier taxpayers?

Republicans also say they want to reduce the federal deficits. We might need some tax revenues to do that. It's fair to ask why these Bush tax cuts are going to expire at the end of the year. When they were first passed during the Bush administration, there wasn't enough money in the budget for Republicans to make them permanent. Then federal tax revenues plummeted while federal spending soared as the country entered the worst recession since the Great Depression. Were budget busting tax cuts over the long term a reason for the recession?

Boehner will probably win this one, since come January he can pass the tax cuts when his new Republican majority from the November election takes office. But in the meantime he's gotten his House Republican members on record voting against tax cuts. Senate Republicans now face being accused of holding tax cuts for working and middle class Americans hostage in order to give the rich a tax cut.

The questions is, what will Boehner trade to get his tax cuts for income above $250,000? Probably sustaining current federal spending levels with borrowed money. Borrow and spend has been Republican policy for 30 years. That's what the tea party voters who turned out the Democrats want the Republicans to get away from. If Boehner isn't careful, he'll have completely blown his electoral mandate before he even takes up his Speakership.

Boehner referred to the tax cut vote as "chicken crap." That brought to mind his description of the fall 2008 bank bailout as a shit sandwich. Boehner voted for the bank bailout too. Some advice to Boehner: If it tastes like crap or smells like shit, just don't make that vote.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Iowa Congressman Steve King Calls President Obama the U Word

Steve King, our favorite Republican Congressman from rural Western Iowa, has thrown another wild pitch. That's right, on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives King referred to Barack Obama as "very, very urban."

This has cause considerable consternation from some who think the U word may be some new type of coded racial slur:

Ryan Grim on the Huffington Post noted that "King emphasized the word 'urban,' drawing the first syllable out."

Hillary Busis at hints "we all know what he means by 'urban.'"

MinistryofTruth at labels this an "obviously racially charged tirade" under the headline "Rep. Steve King invents new way to say N-BOMB on House floor."

Oliver Willis says, "They just want to use the 'N' word so badly."

Is Urban the new U word? You can judge for yourself:

Steve King was interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CNN and had this to say on the U word controversy:

"It is not something that would ever occur to anybody in my background that that would be something that could be some kind of a racial pejorative. It’s just simply, he comes from the city, that’s urban. You come from the country, you’re rural."

My take: Steve King doesn't talk in code, he says what is on his mind. And when you come from the country, calling someone urban is a putdown. It's just not a racist putdown.

The context here is a class action suit claiming discrimination against black farmers by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. King's complaint is that a lot of the claims were fraudlent but black activists and legislators pushed for them to be paid anyway. He further suggested that this was done as form of reparations for slavery with accustations of discrimation by the USDA just a pretext in many of the cases:

"We've got to stand up at some point and say, 'We are not gonna pay slavery reparations in the United States Congress.' That war's been fought. That was over a century ago. That debt was paid for in blood and it was paid for in the blood of a lot of Yankees, especially. And there's no reparations for the blood that paid for the sin of slavery. No one's filing that claim."

Steve King is making a charge of reverse racism. He's suggesting that because then Senator Obama was an urban dweller from the city of Chicago he had no natural legislative interest in black farmers or black persons claiming to be harmed by discriminatory farm policies, except that the claimants were black.

This is a repeat of a charge Steve King made last June, that President Obama "has a default mechanism in him that breaks down the side of race, on the side that favors the black person."

My take: The evidence that President Obama is a racist is a little thin. At the same time, it would not shock me that black farmers who were never actually farmers got undeserved monetary settlements. Steve King might have done better to present the evidence for that.

When you call someone a racist on such thin evidence, you risk getting called a racist yourself in return. But that's something those who are quick to jump on Steve King should consider too.

U are the racist, no U are, and U know who U are.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

2010 Clarinda Lighted Christmas Parade

The Clarinda Lighted Christmas Parade commerates the Page County Courthouse fire, which was put out saving the historic courthouse with help from the volunteer fire departments of several neighboring communities. The pararde is held in Clarinda, Iowa annually on the Friday after Thanksgiving, this year November 26, 2010.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Sunset over Clarinda, Iowa

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pac Man Pumpkin Pie

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Red Berries at Nodaway Valley Park

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Britain's Prince William to Marry the Girl Next Door

Prince William gets nine of ten points in our book for his engagement to Kate Middleton, which was announced Tuesday.

(1) Kate along with several other students was one of William's housemates in college, so she very literally was the girl next door.

(2) William is beginning to lose his blond hair, so he showed good judgment by waiting until that was apparent so as to give Kate ample opportunity to dump him before he proposed.

(3) Kate has long brown hair, supporting our long held view that blonds may have more fun but brunettes are more beautiful.

(4) Both William and Kate turned age 29 in 2011 and are rumored to be fulfilling a pact to get married before they turn age 30. Yes, a marriage pact.

(5) Kate proved at the press engagement announcement that she knows how to wear a blue dress.

(6) The blue saphire engagement ring William gave Kate may break the diamond engagement ring racket, and reusing the ring your father gave your mother could break the new jewelry racket altogether.

(7) William's full name and title is Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales and he is actually living in Wales with Kate where he serves as a search and rescue helicopter pilot.

(8) Kate is no member of royalty or even nobility. Her parents are entrepreneurs who started a mail order firm selling stuff for children's parties (not a .com but a .uk). They are, very literally, in trade. There was a time when that wouldn't do for a royal.

(9) Kate's full first name is Catherine, the name of one of my sisters. Of course, there may not be room in this world for two Queen Catherines and my sister had the title first.

There is one point we can't award yet:

(10) The thing that would make their marriage perfect is if Prince William abdicates in favor of a republic. That, however, probably has to wait until his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II and father Prince Charles have passed away.

And why do we care whether Great Britain is a kingdom or a republic? Well, our neigbor Canada is a monarchy too, and shares the same sovereign. As a neighbor, we have the right to butt into the succession. At least that is how it always worked in Europe. No monarchies is in the Americas, that's our policy. And yes, we do have our eye on the Netherlands too.

In the meantime, we will observe that William and Kate may not become King and Queen of the United Kingdom for 20 to 30 or even 40 years. Plenty of time for a royal wedding and a tea party or two.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Is Our Friend Aleister at American Glob Running for President in 2010?

We are waiting for comment from Aleister at American Glob.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Just What Are They Growing at the Harvard Community Garden?

The Harvard Community Garden, this is what it has come to at Harvard University during the greatest recession since the Great Depression. It's all about sustainability.

That's lettuce. That's right, Harvard students are growing their own lettuce.

We don't know what this is, but we can identify the hay bales leaning against a Harvard building in the background. We didn't see any haymaking on the Harvard grounds this summer, so we have to remark that this is not sustainable.

We also see that the garden is all in raised boxes, so we wonder where Harvard got the soil for those boxes. Home Depot is our guess.

It's good to see the Harvard students getting some dirt under their fingernails, but I remember my grandmother's vegetable garden and the Harvard Community garden is small in comparison. And I'll bet they don't do any canning or freezing. Harvard still has a thing or two to learn about sustainability.

Cambridge Gives David Halberstam a Square

I was walking down Mount Auburn Sreet in Cambridge last weekend and came upon some plants in the middle of the street in front of Claverly Hall. At first I thought it might be a Harvard Lampoon prank, as the trail or plants leads to the Lampoon castle.

But it turns out that the City of Cambridge has designated a new square between the front drive to Lowell House, Claverly Hall, and the Lampoon building.

And just who is David Halberstam? He arrived as a reporter for the New York Times in Vietnam in the early 1960s, during the period the Kennedy administration was sending advisors but after The Quiet American by Graham Greene (1955) and The Ugly American by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer (1958).

The Best and Brightest in the Kennedy administration and later in the Johnson administration had to learn the lessons of Vietnam all over again. And Halberstam made his career documenting and explaining that hubris to the American people.

The stone inscription reads:

David L. Halberstam
Member of Harvard's Class of 1955
Managing Editor of the Harvard Crimson
Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist for the New York Times
Author of twenty books and public intellectual
He appealed to America's conscience on the issues of civil rights and unjust wars

A small irony is that the Harvard Crimson and Harvard Lampoon are big rivals, and now the Lampoon has a memorial to a Crimson editor just beyond its front doorstep.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

That's Where I Call Home Too

Country music up-and-comer Jara Johnson shot a music video this past summer on her family's farm near Clarinda, Iowa. Who can resist a taste of honey waiting down the dusty road. That's what I call home too.

Jara is another in growing line of musicians and writers coming out of Southwest Iowa these days. For years now George McGargill has been the singing farmer from Iomogene. Bedford author James Lucas published Birth in a Chicken House in 1999. And now two authors with local connections have just burst onto the Christian Lit scene.

Local Shari Barr who has been sending Camp Club Girl McKenzie on mystery adventures in Montana and Oregon, and soon to Missouri and Iowa.

Married-to-a-native Rachelle McCalla has set her Holyoake Heroes series in Southwest Iowa. Out on a Limb came out in Septmember 2010. Danger on Her Doorstep comes out in January 2011 and Dead Reckoning in July 2011.

You can find all three newcomers at Jara Johnson (also iTunes), Shari Barr, and Rachelle McCalla.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

2012 Republican Presidential Candidates Go on Sale

Who is the Republican Party going to run against Barack Obama in 2012?

We'll find out soon enough, but in the meantime the Spalding GOP Store is selling campaign buttons, t-shirts, and other electioneering material for the following potential candidates:

Sarah PalinAlaska GovernorShe's a political rock star but many people have written her off as a loser, quitter, and nincompoop
Mitt RomneyMassachusetts GovernorMasterminded the Massachusetts health care reform that was used as the blueprint for Obamacare
Newt GingrichU.S. House Speaker, Georgia CongressmanThinks his Contract with America invented the Tea Party
Mike HuckabeeArkansas GovernorStill has support in Iowa, but is host of most boring show on Fox
Rudy GiulianiMayor of New York CityCan Republican voters get past that he is prochoice?
Ron PaulTexas CongressmanWill sit out in favor of a future run by son newly elect U.S. Senator Rand "Aqua Buddha" Paul
Bobby JindalLouisiana GovernorBlew his 15 minutes of fame giving the Republican response to Barack Obama's first State of the Union speech
Haley BarbourMississippi Governor, RNC ChairmanHe can whistle Dixie
Jeb BushFlorida GovernorIs America ready for a fourth Bush term?
Rick SantorumU.S. Senator, Pennsylvania CongressmanThe left would commit him to a sanitarioum
Mitch DanielsIndiana Governor, OMB DirectorI knew Dan Qualye, Mitch Daniels is no Dan Qualye
Tim PawlentyMinnesota GovernorNo one knows him outside Minnesota
John ThuneU.S. Senator, South Dakatoa CongressmanNo one knows him outside South Dakata

There are a few other names being talked about, but they aren't on sale yet at Spalding:

Jon GreensponMontana BusinessmanAs the first announced candidate he aready has his own website and online store
Fred KargerCalifornia political consultant and gay rights activistHe has a website but nothing to sell, and gay rights will be a very tough sell to Republican voters
Chris ChristieNew Jersey GovernorWould have to turn his back on his governorship in the middle of his first term
Rick PerryTexas GovernorSays he doesn't want run, might prefer to be President of Texas
Jim DeMint U.S. Senator for South CarolinaSelf-proclaimed Tea Party kingmaker may want to be king
Mike PenceIndiana CongressmanJust gave up his House leadership position but may intend to run for Governor not for President
Paul RyanWisconsin CongressmanKeeps updating his Roadmap for America's Future
John BoltonU.N. AmbassadorHe'd have to shave his mustache if he wants to be taken seriously as Mr. Right for America
Donald TrumpBusinessmanCouldn't get elected Mayor of Atlantic City but may secretly dream of telling Barack Obama, "You're fired!"
Herman CainRadio Talk Show HostConservatives love him on the radio, but how many votes will he get in Virgil Caine country?
Michele BachmannMinnesota CongressmanTea Party Caucus organizer was passed over for House GOP Leadership

Update 1/7/2011: added Herman Cain.
Update 1/21/2011: added Michele Bachmann.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Republicans Have a DIfferent Mandate Than They May Think They Have

The Republicans won nationally on November 2. Well, they won the House of Representatives but not the Senate. They needed independents, and they got them in a lot of races but in others they didn't.

Can Republicans win again in 2012? That depends, because it took a lot of independent voters across the country to win in November 2010. Those independents may stick with the Republicans, or may go back to Barack Obama and the Democrats as they did here in Massachusetts in November 2010.

So listen up Republicans. The narrative that is running around in your head is not why you won. The narratives that are important are the ones running around in all the heads of all the independent voters all around the country.

Looking back over my adult lifetime, here is the narrative I remember:

1980 - Jimmy Carter is a downer, Ronald Reagan is an upper
1982 - Ronald Reagan maybe isn't working out
1984 - Ronald Reagan is working, let's try that again
1986 - Ronald Reagan could use some more oversight from Democrats
1988 - Mike Dukakis is a guy who will raise our taxes
1990 - Stay the course with the Gulf War looming
1992 - George Bush broke his promise on no new taxes
1994 - Bill Clinton let Democrats in Congress raise taxes again
1996 - Bob Dole is too old and his pal Newt Gingrich is too cranky
1998 - Shut up already about Monica Lewinsky
2000 - Something is just a little off about Al Gore
2002 - George Bush needs a little more support in the war effort
2004 - John Kerry won't bring the war to a quick and successful end
2006 - George Bush isn't bringing the war to an end either
2008 - George Bush put the economy into the ditch
2010 - Barack Obama hasn't gotten the economy out of the ditch

What Happened to the Scott Brown Vote in Massachusetts?

Was it just this past January that Republican Scott Brown beat Democrat Martha Coakley in the U.S. Senate race?

We wondered how Scott's majority voted on November 2. There were no Republican winners in any of the major races across Massachusetts. Did they just disappear?

Here are the results from January:

1,168,107Scott Brown (R)
1,058,682Martha Coakley (D)
22,237Joe Kennedy (I)

In the Governor's race, 38,000 more people showed up to vote but that about equalled the Green Party vote for Jill Stein. A lot of Scott Brown voters went for independent candidate Tim Cahill rather than Republican candidate Charlie Baker. And maybe 40,000 to 50,000 Scott Brown voters went for Democrat Deval Patrick:

1,108,028Deval Patrick (D)
962,671Charlie Baker (R)
183,892Tim Cahill (I)
32,816Jill Stein (G)

In the Treasurer's race, Democrat Steve Grossman picked up 145,000 Scott Brown voters:

1,203,647Steve Grossman (R)
986,768Karen Polito (D)

By contrast, in the Auditor's race, there was a big drop off in total votes, but the winner Democrat Suzanne Bump didn't get much bump from Scott Brown voters:

1,015,616Suzanne Bump (D)
976,014Mary Connaughton (R)
108,333Nat Fortune (G)

But a big beneficiary of Scott Brown voters in November was none other than Martha Coakley herself. She picked up around 354,000 Scott Brown voters in her reelection race for State Attorney General (no hard feelings?):

1,412,959Martha Coakley (D)
837,616Jim McKenna (R)

An even bigger beneficiary was Democrat William Galvin who picked up 357,000 in the Secretary of State race:

1,416,166Bill Galvin (D)
718,138Bill Campbell (R)
60,948Jim Henderson (I)

Most of these Scott Brown voters who switched to Democrats and other candidates in November are independents, and the mind of a independent voter is a curious thing. And if it doesn't make sense to the political parties or outside observers, it does make sense to the independent voter.

What is the lessen here? If you want to keep the independent vote, you have to win it all over again in every election, in every race. Take it for granted, and it's gone.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Electioneering Against the Tea Party in Harvard Square

The newspaper boxes in Harvard Square got pasted up with a few electioneering signs.

It's best to match the language of the poster with the language of the newspaper. Just an opinion.

Someone forgot to close quote on the Tea Party. Next time, I guess.

Stuffing the Ballot Box at the Cambridge Armory

The guy in front of me at the Cambridge Armory had about 25 ballots which he was feeding one at a time into the ballot box while chatting with the cop on duty. They were absentee ballots, but still it makes you wonder ...

Newtowne Market in Front of Grendel's Den Gets Plowed

It seems a little late in the season for reseeding, but what do we know?

Fall Finally Arrives in Harvard Square

Random Election Day Musings on November 2, 2010

Some random election day musings from friends on Facebook:

GAME DAY. To all my friends fighting the good fight: Go. Fight. Win.

Gotta remember to take out the trash tomorrow.

Yes, Bring our state back to it's christian roots and vote out those that stand opposed to the ideals 99% of us were brought up with.

Only a half day of work! Only 2 days 23 hours and 52 minutes until the ship pulls out!!!

congratulates the S.F. Giants for winning the World Series!

OK, now what do I do with all the candy left over? I wonder if I can freeze it for next year:).

...and so hibernation begins...just keep the library open please....oh, and the coffee shops with wifi to have a place to read or use the computer that relieves cabin fever. Thanks!

To all my friends posting "Alcohol is more lethal than heroin" articles: I suppose you won't mind if next time I come over, I bring my works and some fine brown sugar instead of my usual Rosso di Montalcino. Or if instead of going for drinks, we head to a local shooting gallery instead.

Whoppers! The girtty center, bathed in waxy, faux chocolate, polished to an unnatural sheen- no wonder thet pakage them together with Reeses and Kit-Kat. It's the only way they can get rid of the things.

I will say this Democratic candidates: Please try not to be on the verge of losing your job every two years. Please try to do better so I can vote for a 3rd party candidate who more accurately reflects my beliefs every once in a while, and not feel compelled to do this lesser of two evils things to save our country's ass from the likes of Carly Fiorina.


thinks Nicholas Kristof's advice to America to NOT "allow economic malaise to cloud our judgment and magnify America’s problems in ways that become self-fulfilling" is the wisest that he has heard in this boisterous election season.

Newt Gingrich keeps calling me, and I keep hanging up on him. You'd think he'd get the hint...

Obama called my Moms house last night! She tried to interrupt him cause we had a couple questions but she couldn't get a word in lol!

We got an extremely folksy call that sounded exactly like a Sarah Palin impersonator ... but was in fact a recording of the real thing.

Thinking of writing political ad scripts, they go like this: (Dark, foreboding music) My opponent is evil, stupid, and selfish. He/she is only interested in money and special interests. (Music changes to bright, cheery stuff). But I'm "insert name here", and I'll work hard for you.

Final Words from the 2010 Candidates for Governor of Massachusetts

Deval Patrick:

Charlie Baker:

Tim Cahill:

Jill Stein:

Keith Olbermann No Longer the Worst Person in the World

MSNBC Countdown host Keith Olbermann has announced that he is discontinuing his "Worst Person in the World" segment. This in response to the Jonathan Stewart Rally to Restore Sanity on the Washington Mall this past weekend.

Keith did not much like Stewart's implication that MSNBC is just as bad as Fox News. He put Jonathan Alter in the guest chair to argue that there is a false equivalence that confuses reason and fact with emotion and opinion, with MSNBC supposedly offering reason and fact, while Fox News offers emotion and opinion.

We'll be the first to agree that Fox News does fight like a girl these days. Have you watched Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck lately? They even have girl names, Foxy ladies that they are. But just because Chris Matthews, Lawrence O'Donnell, Keith Olbermann, and Rachel Maddow on MSNBC fight like men and not like girls, that doesn't make them better than the Foxy ladies.

By the way, Keith only promised to discontinue the segment for the time being, which means he's only promising temporary sanity.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Control of the U.S. Senate May Come Down to My Nephew in Washington State

I am looking at the polls going into Tuesday's election, and it appears to me that the fight between Democrats and Republicans for control of the U.S. Senate may come down to my nephew, who is a college freshmen in the state of Washington.

The Republicans start with 41 Senate seats, and need to pick up 10 Senate seats to wrest control from the Democrats. A 50/50 tie would make Vice President Joe Biden Democrat as the tie-breaker for Democrats. So Republicans need 51 seats.

Republicans are on track to easily pick up Senate seats in Arkansas, Indiana, and North Dakota. That's brings them to 44. Of 11 battleground states, Republicans stand a very good chance to pick up Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. That would be 49. Democrats lead in the battleground states of California, Connecticut, Delaware, and West Virginia, but we'll assume Republicans win won of those, which would bring them to 50.

That leaves Washington State, where Republican Dino Rossi and incumbent Democrat Patty Murray are essentially tied, with some polls showing one ahead and other polls showing the Murray. An election that close could come down to a single vote.

And how is my nephew going to vote in this his first election? I know he proudly wore a Barack Obama t-shirt 2 years ago as a high school junior in Oregon. On the other hand, he may not even be registered to vote in Washington.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Best Halloween Costume at the Burren

Best Halloween costume at the Burren in Davis Square, Somerville.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Late October Trip to Fieldston Beach in Marshfield

I've been coming down to Fieldston Beach in Marshfield, Massachusetts for the past nine summers. These last few years have seen some changes, which look ultimately they will be for the positive.

Gerard Farms in Marshfield falls into the category of things that hasn't changed.

A man's castle is a good place to park his boat for the winter.

The seawall is showing its age and starting to erode. This is what is left of the stairway and red cross marker for the old lifeguard station at the end of Hartford Road.

The seawall collapsed a little further down after removal of the stairwell at another street.

The new seawall is taller and thicker at the base. For now, they are replacing it in sections as needed.

The beach is still expansive and beautiful even on a gray day.

Lots of seagull activity is evident in the sand.

The seagulls are after clams, this one had been cracked open and cleaned down to the shell.

The seagulls were also after fish.

And more fish.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Are Republicans Headed for the Big Victory or the Big Fail?

Let's review the Republican Party objectives for this fall's elections:

(1) Elect an overwhelming number of Republicans to state governorships.

(2) Win control of the U.S. House of Representatives, retiring Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker.

(3) Oust U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid by either winning control of the U.S. Senate or tea partier Sharron Angle defeating him in Nevada.

(4) Keep Bristol Palin safe from elimination in this season's Dancing with the Stars.

Republicans seem poised to go 4 for 4 on election night next Tuesday. But then what? Let's look at the three key planks in the Republican platform:

Repeal Obamacare - Several Republican Senators have already indicated a disinclination to repeal Obamacare outright, preferring to make changes to the health care insurance legislation.

Stop the stimulus spending - Past experience suggests Republicans are likely to just substitute their own bridge-to-nowhere projects. The public won't stand for cancelling completion of half-paved roads.

Reduce the deficit - Reducing deficits runs contrary to the campaign promise of extending the Bush tax cuts. Will tea party influence force Republicans to address the deficits before tax cuts?

The big victory expected for Republicans is not expected to be nearly big enough to override Obama vetoes. They may unseat Reid but not win control of the Senate.

So it seems inevitable that Republican voters are likely to be disappointed. And it's quite possible for Republicans to unseat Harry Reid without winning control of the U.S. Senate, and unlikely even if they win control that they will have the 60 votes needed to move legislation through the Senate nor enough votes to override Presidential vetoes.

The big leverage for Congressional Republicans may be the power to refuse to pass funding bills. But that did not work out well for Newt Gingrich when he forced the federal government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996. And that could prove even worse if laid off federal workers add to the unemployment figures in this jobless recovery.

That means this 2010 election may be a no-win for Republicans. Either they come up short of expectations on election night, or they come up short after winning the election.

So, Bristol Palin, keep on dancing.

They Can't Help It, They Were Born That Way

By the way, Barney Frank approves this message. And wants you to send it to all your friends.

Monday, October 25, 2010

SomerStreets Closes Down Somerville Avenue

We were dubious. A celebratiomn of the reconstruction of Somerville Avenue? Big whoopee. Turn Somervile Avenue into Pumpkinville? It's a long street, that would take a lot of pumpkins. A parade? Well, everyone likes a parade.

We will say this: Shutting down Somerville Avenue from Union Square to Beacon Street was a lot of fun. No cars or traffic sounds. Just pedestrians, strollers, dogs, and bicycles. A cool thing to do on an otherwise quiet Sunday. Maybe Somerville should consider doing that for a few hours every Sunday throughout the warmer months.

Does two parents and a baby make a parade?

OK, there were a lot more than three people.

And if Somerville Avenue did not become Pumpkinville, a couple of pumpkins did spectate the event.

And there was a band, so that makes a parade.

Break Out Dem Hula Hoops Down by the Riverside

They've been singing "ain't going to study war no more" since at least the Civil War. Now beating the swords and shields into hoola hoops, that's a new angle. And more fun than plowing. Maybe this guy is onto something.

2010 Head of the Charles Regatta

While the crew races are billed as in Cambrifdge and Boston, we'll point out that the racing lane is on the Cambridge side of the river.

There was the usual throng of fans on the Boston side of the river.

And even more where the action is on the Cambridge side of the river.

No, these are not the Winklevoss twins.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cambridge Goes to Single Stream Recycling

Cambridge passes out new reclying bins, which will allow all recycling to go in a single bin with no sorting.

Another big advantage is that lids on the new bins will allow paper recycling to be left outside without getting wet.

And what to do with the old blue recycle bins? I guess you have to recycle them.