Thursday, March 29, 2012


Not mine. The news media. If a person watched only U.S. mainstream media, you'd think only two things were happening in the world today: the Supreme Court hearing the oral arguments about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Sanford Police Department bungling the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida. Both are interesting events, but surely something else is happening elsewhere in the world?

I will admit watching the Supreme Court coverage has been moderately amusing, especially when reporters have  interviewed the Tea Party types protesting in front of the court building. If those people ever had a clue as to how our government actually works, they lost it long ago.

Of course, the talking heads on MSNBC, CNN, et al. aren't much better. They all seem to think that the oral arguments are it -- that whatever drivel emerges from the attorneys arguing pro and con is the sole support for whatever conclusions the justices reach. Bizarre. Haven't they ever heard of a brief? Are they really all so ignorant that they truly believe that the way the system works is that the justices listen to the oral arguments and then disappear into the equivalent of a jury room to make a decision then and there? I can understand the tinfoil hat types with the funny costumes and misspelled signs not grasping how the process works, but shouldn't the so-called professionals know better? There is a reason there's usually a gap of several months between the time oral arguments are heard and when the court's decision is released: the justices are spending that time reviewing the mountain of documentation associated with each case (the merits briefs submitted by the plaintiff and defendant, the friends of the court briefs submitted by various interested parties, the summaries prepared by the justices' clerks, the preliminary drafts of each other's opinions, etc.).

In short, although it's quite possible that the final decision will indeed fall along the lines the pundits are currently predicting, we're not going to know that for awhile -- so why did everyone insist on talking like the court would announce its findings as soon as oral arguments ended?

As a side note, I keep having this feeling that this whole mess could turn into cause for major regret among the  conservative anti-federalism foamers who made the short-sighted decision to fight "Obamacare." If the Supreme Court tosses out the Affordable Care Act on the basis of it being unconstitutional to require people to buy private insurance, then the door is wide open for Medicare for All -- a single payer, national healthcare system administered by the government -- because it'll be the only legal option left. Despite all the babbling about how the U.S. has the best healthcare in the world, most people recognize that line as bullshit -- if we had the best healthcare in the world, there would be no need for fundraisers to help people pay their medical bills. Everyone knows reform is needed, and if a plan that was originally designed by the Heritage Foundation doesn't cut it with the court, what's the alternative?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Happy Camper?

My life is complete. I have seen Andy Williams' Christmas sweater.

The sweater resides in the Ralph Foster Museum on the College of the Ozarks campus in Hollister, Missouri. The campus is lovely. The museum is. . . interesting. It bills itself as "the Smithsonian of the Ozarks." If a person thinks of the Smithsonian as an oddly curated collection of whatchamacallits and thingamabobs, maybe they're right. Gems in the collection include:
That's not the world's largest bracket fungi with a painting on it. It's an African elephant ear. With a painting of an African elephant on it. That is so wrong on so many levels. . . 

On the other hand, if a person thinks of a museum as a place where collections are curated and exhibits scripted to actually impart some useful information to the public, the Ralph Foster Museum is definitely hit or miss. Ralph Foster was apparently a rich guy (he made his money in radio) who collected all sorts of odds and ends; he donated the whole mess to the college and established the museum. If he'd been less wealthy, he'd have turned up on "Hoarders;" as it was, there's now a three story building full of his tchotchkes. Cabinet after cabinet full of, for example, "collectible" china with no information provided other than who donated it is pretty meaningless on any level other than "look at the pretty vases." Not that it was a total bust; some exhibits did do what a good museum exhibit should do -- there was obviously an underlying script, things were arranged in a logical order, and the exhibit as a whole told you something you didn't know before. 

Besides, the musuem does have one thing going for it that no other museum can boast:

For a mere $10, you can have your photo taken while sitting in the original Beverly Hillbillies vehicle. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Road tripping

Ghost ad, downtown Mass, Michigan
On the road, heading South, posting is going to be rather sporadic for awhile.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Maybe the Mayans were right

I saw a woman in L'Anse yesterday wearing flip flops. It's March. This is the U.P., the place the S.O. refers to as UP on the Tundra. No one should be able to wear flip flops in March around here. We're supposed to still be in our Sorels and worrying about shoveling snow, not rummaging in the closet for the high water pants and sandals. Granted, it was only in the 60s, but that's like summer weather for Yoopers. According to the Weather Underground, the projected high for today is 81. Up here we consider it an unusually warm summer if it hits the 80s in July!

It's been an unusually mild Winter in general. Ice never did form on Keweenaw Bay to the point where anyone was able to get out there ice fishing, and I noticed the last time we went to town that some guys already have their boats in the water. I also spotted a white pelican at the head of the bay. White pelicans do not winter this far north, so I guess that's another sign the usual weather patterns are truly out of whack this year.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tinfoil hat time

Rick Santorum won the Republican primaries in Alabama and Mississippi. Not much of a surprise -- the tinfoil hat types and religious zealots outnumber rational people by quite a bit down there, at least among white voters (and black Republicans are pretty rare in the heart of Dixie). Santorum's success, like that of Newt Gingrich, shows just what short memories voters have. After all, Santorum lost his Senate seat by a record margin because the voters in his home state of Pennsylvania figured out he was a corrupt son-of-a-bitch who'd say or do anything to keep corporate money rolling into his pocket. His ethical lapses were in the news and have been re-reported since he began his presidential campaign, but too many voters would rather believe the lies he's telling now than remember the lies he got caught out in a mere six years ago.

I do have to say it's rather astounding to see how enthusiastic all those Southerners, those white fundamentalist Baptists and Pentecostals, are about Santorum, a man who's made it plain his religious beliefs trump everything else. Whatever happened to "omigod-Catholics-worship-idols!!" or "the whore of Babylon" beliefs? We live in strange times. . . .

On one level, I kind of hope Santorum ends up as the Republican nominee. He's such a blatant religious bigot and misogynist, someone who makes it real clear his idea of the perfect society would include creating a cabinet-level Department of the Inquisition, that he might actually motivate all the lukewarm voters who think there's no difference between the parties to come out and vote. However, given that no one has ever gone broke by underestimating the intelligence of the American populace, I think the safer bet would be Romney. He's an opportunistic flip-flopper who can shift from one contradictory position to another with blinding speed, but at least he's still marginally sane.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A trip down memory lane

". . . there must have been at least two hundred girls active along Silver Street simultaneously, and perhaps many more. There were a lot of miners, and a girl can only do so much." -- J. B. Martin, Call It North Country, 1944.
This is the town where I graduated from high school. One of my first real jobs was as a waitress at the Club Carnival (on the right in the photo). It was an interesting place to work. The building was designed like a lot of supper clubs, restaurant on one side, lounge on the other. The stage wasn't visible from the restaurant side, but we could hear the music. As a minor, I wasn't supposed to ever step into the lounge side, but of course managed to satisfy my curiosity eventually. Back then, it was old-fashioned Gypsy Rose Lee style burlesque -- lots of sequins and feathers and g-strings and pasties that covered more than some bathing suits do today.

Most of that side of the street is now vacant lot -- lots of mysterious* fires happened after the mines closed but before winter tourism (skiing and snowmobiling) became popular. Business was already dying when I worked at the Club Carnival -- most nights the restaurant had barely enough customers to justify staying open, and the lounge would be practically empty. There was definitely something very sad about a dancer having to get up on a stage and do a strip tease for an audience that could have fit into a phone booth.

For awhile after the night life on Silver Street faded the locals weren't too happy about the lingering association between Hurley and vice, but at some point someone realized that, although the hookers were gone, there was still money to be made off their memory. The Chamber of Commerce now brags about Chicago gangsters having frequented the saloons, and cheerfully describes the city as "long known for gambling and prostitution."

[*although the only real mystery in most cases was how the fire marshal avoided smelling the accelerant or tripping over the gas cans.]

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Voter ID laws and unintended consequences

Following the latest round of primary elections around the country, there have been stories about old white guys getting turned away from the polls because they lacked proper identification. In each case, the old white guys had tried to use their Veterans Administration photo ID as identification. They were outraged that it wasn't acceptable. I can understand why they're upset, but, hey, guys, maybe, just maybe, you should have paid more attention when your state legislators were debating the laws. The time to protest was when they were crafting the laws and pushing them through, not after the fact.

Voter ID laws have been a favorite talking point of right wing politicians for years. They're always fulminating about the rampant voter fraud that's corrupting the election process. They can never point to any examples of it happening, but they managed to get a lot of people worked up about the issue, usually by claiming that hordes of illegal immigrants were showing up to vote for undesirable socialist radicals (aka Democrats). This has been such a favorite talking point among conservatives that a sizable contingent within the tinfoil hat crowd is convinced that's how Barack Obama got elected: pure fraud.

In response to the right wing paranoia about voting fraud, the left has responded by arguing that voter ID laws are a blatant attempt to disenfranchise the poor and minorities, two groups that are less likely to have a driver's license. Although it's been brought up a few times that another group -- old white people -- could lack state-issued photo IDs, most of the protesting about voter ID laws has come from groups associated with minorities, such as the NAACP. This could explain why in their eagerness to disenfranchise minorities, the Republicans haven't noticed they're also disenfranchising their own base.

This is the Law of Unintended Consequences in action. You set out to achieve one thing (discourage brown people from voting) and end up achieving another (preventing your supporters from voting). Over on the left,  now that these ID laws are a reality, Get out the Vote activists have been busy encouraging people to both register to vote and make sure they have an acceptable form of identification when they go to the polls. On the right, however, they've just assumed that all those loonies with the tea bags dangling from their hats know what they're doing.

I know it kind of ticks people off when I say stuff like, hey, if some geezer gets told his VA ID isn't acceptable identification that's his problem for not paying attention to what the politicians he voted in have been up to, but it's true. Based on demographics, the elderly veterans getting told their VA ID isn't good for voting are the same people who supported voter ID laws to begin with. Until they got told their VA ID wasn't on the list of acceptable IDs, odds are everyone of those geezers would have told you they supported tough voter ID laws and were happy they were in place. You get what you pay for, and if you vote in politicians who decide that only a very limited number of forms of identification are valid at the polls, you've no one to blame but yourself.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pass the aspirin

I don't need it to put between my knees -- it's for the dull ache generated by the many head*desk moments that occurred while listening to the bloviating about women's health and oral contraception over the past week. I know Rush Limbaugh makes a living by catering to the ignorance of the poor dumb fools who listen to him, but are there really that many men out there who think birth control pills are like Viagra?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Do we have snow?

After the latest 9 inches fell, the S.O. decided he'd better clear the roof on the Garden Shed (aka Tammi's Shack; the Younger Daughter built it when she was in junior high) after he noticed the rafters had a distinct bow. I'm not sure just how much we've got on the ground, but the snow was about 3 feet deep on that roof.