December 24th, 2011
I had just sat down at my computer this morning, thinking that there is nothing I can usefully add to the welter of comment, analysis, reminiscence, and blether about this season, when I came across this little gem of purity of spirit. Sit back, sigh, and enjoy.
December 18th, 2011
First, a couple of disclaimers.
Siri Nilsen is the daughter of Shari Nilsen, whom I knew back when she was jus’ plain li’l Shari Gerber back in the ‘hood. Shari had long straight black hair, perfect olive skin, considerable personal beauty, and one of those pure angelic soprano voices. Kind of like a short, Jewish, Buffalonian Joan Baez, only more buxom. She was a year ahead of me at Kenmore West Senior High, and I used to go listen to her play her guitar and sing folk music at the Rue Franklin coffeehouse. I had a hopelessly unconsummated crush on her, of which she was either entirely unaware or in denial. But we were good friends. (Ouch!) A few years out of high school we lost contact. She went on to marry and then divorce a Norwegian folk musician, Lillebjorn Nilsen. No, I never heard of him, either, but he is a big deal in Norway. Siri is one of their daughters. Not long ago, Shari and I came back into contact via Facebook. So that’s how I know of Siri.
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December 14th, 2011
The Tea Party's Bitch
On public radio this morning, I heard three stories whose rapid juxtaposition seems to illustrate perfectly this moment in our society’s life.
First, congressional Republicans were playing politics with extension of tax breaks for the working classes. The version they passed would have paid for the tax break by freezing federal employees’ wages, instead of the funding mechanism proposed by the Democrats to increase taxes slightly on the highest income earners. The GOP bill also contained a “poison pill” provision that they knew would be unacceptable to the Senate Democrats and the President. The poison pill would, if enacted, force the President to decide quickly whether to allow construction of an unnecessary and environmentally questionable oil pipeline from Canada to Texas, rather than wait until after the election. I guess the idea is to divert attention from the GOP’s unwillingness to increase taxes on the richest of the rich for any purpose whatsoever, and to allow themselves to say the Democrats oppose both working class tax breaks and “jobs creation.” As an added bonus, in this age of climate change they get to continue the pretense on behalf of their corporate masters that protection of the environment conflicts with economic development. Of course the cynicism is breathtaking. To add to the bizarro world flavor of our national politics, later today, a Senate vote on the bill was blocked by… Senate Republicans playing politics! But read on…
The second story was about testimony before a legislative committee by a woman in her eighties, concerning the cuts to the federal home heating assistance program proposed by the Obama administration. Funding to help poor people buy fuel for heat would be cut roughly in half. She was talking about what a reduction in this assistance would mean to her, this winter. Last winter, she kept her thermostat at 60 to save money on heat. This winter, she’s wondering what she has to give up in order to keep from freezing – food? medications?
The third story was about a local arts center, the Flynn Theatre. It has just received an anonymous $1,000,000 donation to help replace its squeaky seats.
December 11th, 2011
Evil Kenyan Socialist Muslims, Beware This Man!
Long-time readers of this blog will know of my affection for Charles Dickens, class warrior extraordinaire and the greatest wielder of snark and outrage the English language has ever known. Often, reading Dickens, I am struck by the feeling that except for the funny costumes he is talking directly about contemporary America. Apparently the wonderful blogger Lance Mannion feels much the same way, likening New Gingrich to the evil schoolmaster Wackford Squeers from Nicholas Nickleby. I would quibble with only one thing. Nobody named “Lance Mannion” has any business making fun of “Newt Gingrich” as a moniker Dickens might have invented.
In this same vein, and with a nod to Newt’s claim that whereas most people think in terms of relatively short periods of time, he himself habitually contemplates vistas of 500 years, I would like to direct your attention to a fairly recently published book, one of whose themes is the unvarying nature of malevolence over the centuries.
December 1st, 2011
In addition to exquisite taste in literature, Ted Lehmann seems to have a fine blog.