Saturday, March 26, 2005

Thoughts and prayers are needed 

I'm praying for Mrs. Schiavo not to expire tomorrow. Should she do so on Easter Sunday, I predict someone will say or write the most asinine comment in human history. And I don't want that.

I'll also be praying for Jeff May and Steven Cobenais.

Who are they?

Two fifteen year olds who were shot in the head this week at school. They suffered brain and nerve damage, and are currently fighting for life in a hospital in Fargo, N.D..

That's horrible.

Isn't it, though? Family members of the victims are reportedly selling items to pawn shops in order to make the 150 mile trip to visit these young men. Please consider donating to the Red Lake Nation Memorial Fund via Wampum.
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Friday, March 25, 2005

Hey, stop slaggin' on the Wonderful Counselor. He's got game; you don't. 

Or words to that effect. (As you may know, I'm fond of the Nazarene's right-hand thief.)

Peter Paul Rubens
"Christ on the Cross Between the Two Thieves"
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Lit to pop and nobody's gonna stop 

NYT-- "Trading Places: Real Estate Instead of Dot-Coms":
Real estate-crazed Americans have started behaving in ways that eerily recall the stock market obsession of the late 1990's.

AP-- "Mortgage rates rise above 6 percent":
Rising mortgage rates have now crossed a threshold.

Reuters-- "U.S. mortgage refinancing plunges as rates rise":
Home loan refinancing activity slowed sharply last week after climbing steadily so far this year, as rising interest rates dampened demand...

Forbes-- "Fresh Pricks In Housing Bubble"
First, a new study by the National Association of Realtors shows that 23% of all homes purchased in 2004 were for investment, while another 13% were vacation homes.

Traditionally, one of the bulwarks against a sharp decline in housing prices has been the fact (or belief) that most people live in their homes and would be unlikely to sell even if the market heads downward. But the same logic would not apply to investment homes or vacation homes.

Wall Street Journal-- "In hottest markets, renting is the real bargain"
Potential home buyers increasingly are facing a difficult economic and emotional quandary: Soaring housing prices in many parts of the country have made renting a bargain.

Updated link: Stephen Roach (Morgan Stanley)-- "The Test"
America was much more of a normal economy in 1994 -- with a personal saving rate of 4.8%. It had yet to experience the joys of consuming and saving out of assets. The equity bubble of the late 1990s and the property bubble of the early 2000s -- both outgrowths of extraordinary monetary accommodation, in my view -- changed everything. Now it is a very different animal -- the Asset Economy -- that must come to grips with monetary tightening.
It didn't have to be this way. The big mistake, in my view, came when the Fed condoned the equity bubble in the late 1990s. It has been playing post-bubble defense ever since, fostering an unusually low real interest rate climate that has led to one bubble after another. And that has given rise to the real monster -- the asset-dependent American consumer and a co-dependent global economy that can't live without excess US consumption. The real test was always the exit strategy.

In one of my college anthropology classes, the professor held up a big humanoid leg bone fossil and started discussing it. But everyone in the class was focussed on this huge fin-shaped deformity right in the center of the petrified bone. When the professor allowed for questions, a student immediately asked "What is that sticking out of the middle of the bone?"

"That is pain", the prof replied.

Looking at these articles, I'm also visualizing pain. This isn't a South Sea or Nasdaq Bubble, but even a ten percent average price drop in housing would be brutal.

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Thursday, March 24, 2005

Can I get a "F*** you" ? 

Trout meuniere at Mandina's
Charbroiled oysters at Drago's
Roast beef "debris" po boy from Mother's
Shrimp Uggie at Uglesich's
Souffle potatoes at Galatoire's.
Calas and syrup at the Coffee Pot
Fried Mirliton at Jacques-Imo's
[insert your favorite here]

These are some of the many deserving local tastes not listed in this month's Esquire, which features an article titled "Esquire Eats America: The Best Bites of Food in the USA". They supposedly rank particular dishes based on the quality of their first bite-- those "moments of ecstasy" which reveal the very essence of good eating.

Yet it seems the magazine's foodies didn't even bother to stop and sample New Orleans' "best bites". We have quite a few, though none are ranked. Las Vegas and Houston get two mentions each, but the Crescent City is shut out.

Aw, hell no!

Maybe Harold and Koomar were contributors to the piece, because White Castle burgers were ranked #27. Still, I don't care how far you've "ridden the cheeba"; if you can't recognize New Orleans' deliciousness then you aren't going to be bouncing with my crew.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

"We love free speech in America." 

Thus did our beloved President Bush respond when he was rudely interrupted by a protester during a recent Social Security "discussion" in Nebraska. The audience rightly cheered W's noble sentiment.

Sadly, this love of freedom couldn't be found amongst the White House staff during a similar event yesterday in Tucson. Apparently a snooty Weepublican operative spotted a college student wearing a Young Democrats shirt waiting in line to see Bush. The operative proceeded to question the young man's politics, and then took his entry ticket and destroyed it. A spokesman for the Young Democrats of Arizona put this gross offense in its rightful context:

If this would have been paid for by the Bush-Cheney campaign and they discriminated entrance, it would have been unethical, undemocratic and wrong, but they would have had the right... The distinction is that this was paid for with taxpayers' dollars-- some of the money even comes out of Social Security.

Nicely done, sir!

That's right: American SS dollars (partially) fund events where Bush touts his privatization non-plan to the converted. Bush then warns Democrats that they better come to "the table"... or else! And then some little goosestepper prohibits a guy wearing a t-shirt with a donkey on it from hearing Dear Leader's canned spiel. Now, if this were an isolated instance, I'd let it pass. But recall the eery similarities between Tucson and this utterly chilling episode from last year. Sadly, there's plenty of others. (By the way, can someone please get a name or a quick photo of these pissant brownshirt operatives? A picture is worth a thousand votes, people!)

You may wonder what sort of informed citizens are deemed worthy of admission to one of Bush's orchestrated "forums". Well, let's all take a gander, shall we? (My emphs):

"There are some crazy liberals here," said Devin Michalski, 13, an Old Vail Middle School student on spring break. "I want to see my president. I love my president. I'm also here to argue with some liberals."


His father, Tyler Landis, wore a T-shirt that read, "Right wing extremist."

Could there be a timelier moment to self-identify as such?

"Without Social Security my wife and I would never be able to retire," said the 30-year-old, stay-at-home father of four.

Wow. That last sentence is a keeper. It's not every day that you hear a "right-wing extremist" proudly proclaim his dependence on his breadwinning wife the hallmark of FDR's New Deal!


(Sorry, I'm still giggling)


Ok, so what sort of presentation do "outed" Democrats miss when they're banned from these events? Here are some typical excerpts, highlights mine. [Warning to my leftist brethren: reading further may cause intense laughter, nausea or a nasty combination thereof]:

PRESIDENT: I think it's important for people to be open about the truth when it comes to Social Security. That's what we're here to talk about. And I also have an obligation to help come up with solutions. It's one thing for a President to say, we've got a problem. A President, in my judgment, also needs to come up with solutions.
I came up with an interesting idea that I want to discuss with you. I know some of our panelists will discuss it with you, as well. I believe that younger workers ought to be able to set aside some of their own payroll taxes in what's called a personal retirement account
... of the reasons I'm traveling the country is not only to say we got a problem, let's come together and fix it...

Next on GOPTV a very special episode of: Buffoonery, the Irony-Slayer.

(Big H/T to Philosoraptor)
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Yes, I will continue to joke about this story... 

Justin at Approximately Perfect links to the new "Get Your War On" comic about the Schiavo case. It's typically funny throughout, and speculates about "feeding tube apparel", as I did yesterday. The quote Justin excerpts is such a beaut, I'll duplicate it here:

My wife and I made our living wills last night. Mine says that if I fall into a persistent vegetative state, and Tom DeLay comes within a hundred miles of me, I am to turn into a zombie and rip his fucking head off. They can't prosecute the undead for manslaughter, can they?
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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Can we write this off as a "working lunch"? 

Mel Gibson takes time out from his charbroiled oysters(?) at Drago's to send a fax decrying Terri Schiavo's "cruel starvation". See it at The Talent Show.

[Was he really in town the other week?]
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How can I put this? 

I'm really not so fond of the Washington Post's choice of title for their (positive) editorial on Condoleezza Rice. "Well Spoken" is what they came up with. And the link on the front page declares "Rice Well-Spoken in Asia."

What's next, "She's So Articulate"?

Nothing in the editorial indicates that there's anything behind it, but "well spoken" makes my skin crawl when used... in certain situations.

If you have no clue as to what I'm talking about-- good.
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Are the feeding tube bracelets available yet? 

I want to express my solidarity with those who value life, and who believe in the dignity of all souls. Wearing a feeding tube bracelet at this moral crossroads is the most important thing I can do right now. If any readers know where such bracelets can be ordered (with rush delivery) I'd sure appreciate it.

In the meantime, I'm demanding that my congressional representatives paint their fingers green, to show that they care for persistently-vegetative Americans.
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Monday, March 21, 2005

Hester report 

Friday March 11th was a difficult day for me. I happened upon Sandra "18 Wheeler" Hester's cable access show that night, and what I saw wasn't uplifting at all. As you may recall, Ms. Hester is frequently described as a "tireless" activist on behalf of students suffering within the execrable Orleans Parish School system. And such targeted activism is a good thing-- up to a point. Gadflies are good. Energetic malcontents who stir the shit at all costs-- not so good.

Anyway, on Friday the 11th faithful viewers of the Hester Report witnessed a disconcerting sight. Ms. Hester was completely worn out.

Thoroughly Exhausted...

I became worried.

She informed her audience that at a recent School Board meeting she had propped her swollen foot on a chair (the one that she'd broken a year or two ago) and a policeman came over and unceremoniously removed the chair out from under her bad foot, which dropped to the floor, causing her pain. She verbally informed the School Board of this "police brutality" during the meeting, but they would not listen to her urgent pleas.

Also, Ms. Hester spoke about a lawsuit she had filed against the School Board (whom she would sue "every day" if she could). But she did not elaborate on the details. Clearly, though, the events of the past week were weighing on her heavily.

So, during the show, in an effort to cheer her up, her show's producer put up an updated background graphic of the new School Board members' asses-- complete with new nicknames. You may recall how eight months ago we noted how Ms. Hester stirred up-- what else?-- a controversy on her show by referring to School Board member Jimmy Fahrenholtz as "Fahren-honkie". She also displayed a drawing of the School Board members' asses with their names tattooed across their buttocks. Regrettably, these hijinks interfered with her later campaign for a School Board seat (against Fahrenholtz), because the media would bring up this "honkie" controversy which she would not apologize for or discuss.

The new picture on the Hester Report still shows an artist's black and white rendering of everyone's ass. They're left unpigmented but are drawn approximately to scale. For whatever reason, S.B. President Torin Sanders is shown with a remarkably hairy derriere. Only three of the members get nicknames this time around:

Jimmy Fahrenholtz is still "Fahrenhonkie"
Lourdes Moran is "Lawd dis Moron" (Hester-- like myself-- is unimpressed with Moran. Her overwhelming outright victory in the S.B. primaries still mystifies me.)
Una Anderson is Tuna Anderson (because she's too skinny and "needs to eat")

So this graphic cheered Ms. Hester, but only briefly. Then she said she felt lonely; like no one could really understand her, because no one is quite the activist that she is. And that is certainly true (and in more ways than she meant it). Ms. Hester proceeded to sigh several times and did an extended meditation on a TR quote which she felt applied to her. She was the "man" in the arena, the one who counted, rather than the sniping critics.

All of this is written so that you can understand this story in context.

Outspoken Orleans Parish School Board critic Sandra Wheeler Hester was arrested Tuesday on domestic violence charges. She pleaded not guilty at her Wednesday arraignment.

According to investigators, Wheeler-Hester and her husband were arguing when the fight became physical, and Wheeler-Hester punched her husband in the stomach. He refused medical treatment.
"These charges are bogus," she said as she walked out of jail. "It's just a witch hunt."

another story notes:

This isn't the first time Wheeler-Hester has been in handcuffs. She was escorted out of several school board meetings for disruptive behavior. In 2000, she faced charges of criminal tresspassing, disturbing the peace, and resisting arrest at her children's elementary school.

The "18 wheeler" is having a really rough week month. We wish her the fortitude of a bull/moose until she regains her characteristic zest and vigor.

h/t to kelly at yer mom an dem
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From Yatpundit, I just have to link to this tasteless and hilarious list.

(If you're reading this right before lunch, skip over Reason #44. Update: and if you need context on the pure politics of this ordeal, here's a pithy summation.)
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