Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Peace, Love and Joy; Holiday Cheer

To be fair, my wife loves Christmas as much as she loves her birthday. She just hates to have her day devalued under the excuse that "it's Christmastime."

She is, in fact, a Christmas expert. She decorated our spectacular tree and produced festive meals for the eve, Christmas breakfast and Christmas dinner. Her entertainment business is called Food 'n' Music. She can provide it all.

So, slamming into instant festivity isn't such a challenge for me when she pre-assembles so much.

Peace, love and joy to all.

Bon appetit.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Isn't there some holiday right about now?

Christmas comes up like an animal leaping into my headlights on a dark road. I had no sense of its approach, no festive buildup to the happy day. Partly it was eclipsed by the far more important celebration of my wife's birthday.

No more miserable creature crawls the surface of this wretched globe than one whose birthday falls within the week before Christmas. They grow up annually slighted as their special day gets absorbed into the avalanche of mandatory festivity attendant to the revels that each civilization has placed around the solstice and repackaged to suit social and philosophical developments of each successive age. Religious and commercial energies are at their height, drowning out the celebration of a single mortal existence among the rank and file. So Christmas must never take precedence in our house before the all important 20th of the month has passed.

Not that we don't make a lot of holiday preparations as well. Ideally we will have produced and distributed our card by then. Not this year, though. It won't be as bad as the year we were so late we made one that said Merry Groundhog Day, but we have certainly missed The Day.

Still, festivity is lacking. I blame my involvement in the ski business for most of that. If we don't have snow, we're all teetering on the edge of depression's abyss, because we can't ski and aren't earning any vitally-needed income. But when we do have snow, we're so busy with the customers' incessant needs that we have precious little energy left over to spend on a mere holiday. Maybe the people lucky enough to live minutes from work can get into the swing of it, but not those of us pouring two hours of every day down the toilet we call commuting.

In keeping with the miraculous nature of the season, I did find my favorite last minute Christmas shopping store open for a very profitable ten minutes in which I redeemed myself from Christmas deadbeat to Jolly Old Elf.

Time to wrap.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Slick Willie in Mittboro

Former President Bill Clinton will be in Wolfeboro today, campaigning for his wife, whose name is Hillary, in case you've just emerged from a coma recently.

Wolfeboro is the site of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's summer palace. Back when he was just the arrogant governor of Taxachusetts, the locals couldn't bitch enough, but now that he might put their burg on the map by becoming President of the United States, he's become some sort of home-town boy. There are plenty of signs from all candidates around Wolfe City, but Mitt's appeal as a tourist attraction and source of bragging rights has given him a solid jump in the polls.

Presidential candidates have tended to brush by Wolfeboro in the past. George W. Bush breezed through in 2000, but blew us off in 2004, giving us a token visit from his surrogate, former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card just a few days before the voting in November that year. I suppose not much was at stake when New Hampshire seemed like a granite block of Republicanism. So we can thank George W. Bush for making other options look attractive. Let's at least have the discussion.

Still, it strikes me as interesting that a candidate would single out Wolfeboro as a source of significant votes or financial support. I know the money's there, I just can't imagine too many people in that bastion of corporate and inherited wealth handing any of it over to those "tax and spend, populist rabble rousers."

I wish I could be there when the earth splits and the flames issue forth, as the forces of liberalism and conservatism gather in the skies to smite each other with their bright swords. Make up your own mind which side is good or evil. Personally, I like that rascal Bill. Maybe you can't trust him with your girlfriend, but at least he's not arrogant.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hot Tip from Spam

Spam informs me "girls like when you have a big instrument," so I'm taking up the stand-up bass.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Primarily Annoying

Now is when living in New Hampshire becomes a pain.

Is it the snow? The ice? The cold? Wind, darkness and the price of home heating fuels?


It's constant phone calls from Presidential campaign staffers asking how we intend to vote in the upcoming primary.

Has anyone figured out whether such tactics actually help by a few percentage points? Because most New Hampshire residents I know hate the damn phone blitz. It's enough to make you want to ream out the candidate you like, let alone one you don't. They may be trying to create awareness, but there's awareness and there's awareness. You may become aware that someone just brought in a tray of your favorite cookies, or you may become aware that someone left a screen open and the house filled with annoying mosquitoes. A New Hampshire resident would have to be blind, deaf and imprisoned alone in a tiny vault not to know who's running in the damn primary. The obscure, whacko candidates who can't afford ads can't afford annoying telephone staff, either. So no one is handing out exciting new information here.

I can tell you right now that the perfect candidate is not out there. And I know from long experience that what they say to get elected most likely will not turn out to be what they do. The road to Washington is paved with well-expressed intentions. Many of them are laudable. But not one single candidate shares my position on every issue. So I'm compromising, as they will have to compromise when one of them actually takes office. It almost doesn't matter who you vote for. By the time all the analysts get finished pissing in the data, no one will even be able to say for sure what the electorate hoped to get for their trouble based on how many voted for whom in the primary field. No one seems to examine the results based on each issue as represented by each candidate to get a sense of what the voters might have liked to find all in one. We always end up making a deal with ourselves first, deciding what we're willing to give up in return for electing someone with various other qualities. Often what we have to discard was not unimportant, it just lost out by a whisker. But does anyone ask us anything once the election is over?

Fuck no.

We'll hear from the candidates again the next time they're feeling us up for another vote.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

More from the Campaign Ads

Rudy Giuliani says that you should vote for him because he will scare the bad guys in the part of the world where we are currently engaged, just as Ron Reagan did in the Iran hostage crisis in 1980.

"The hostages were released in one hour," he says. "It was the hour during which Ronald Reagan was taking the oath of office."

That doesn't make me think St. Ron and the Republicans intimidated our enemies. It makes me think they had insider agreements in the oil-producing region. How much did US insider cooperation have to do with the long duration of the hostages' captivity prior to their coincidentally timely release?

Hillary Clinton says that our economy is in trouble, indicated by the fact that oil prices are rising and the value of our homes is falling. "The middle class is getting slammed," she says.

Rising oil prices bring significant stress to people with low or marginal incomes. But falling home prices only matter to people selling houses or borrowing against their value. To a person with a low income and poor prospects for its improvement, rising housing prices are bad, bad news. Property gets revalued, tax bills get rewritten and suddenly you're getting taxed out of your home. That house is on the market (or in the hands of the bank or a tax sale) whether you like it or not. You have to find a slum with no services more in line with your lowly economic station.

Property taxes present a particularly ominous strain. As municipal costs go up, the tax on where you live goes up with it, regardless of how many services you are actually using. The burden is distributed over all the property owners in a given jurisdiction, but you may accidentally find yourself living in a house that, according to tax assessing formulas, you don't deserve. But don't panic. Economic mechanisms will straighten that out. Then you will be renting or living in a packing crate, and all will be as it should be, according to the numbers.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Welcome, Theocracy

Mitt Romney stated in a speech Thursday, "Freedom requires religion. Religion requires freedom." He has also supposedly stated that the separation of church and state should not be absolute.

The first statement is just blatantly stupid. Freedom requires a sense of fairness. A sense of fairness is notoriously overlooked in many religions. Be fair to the faithful, but screw the other guys. So eventually you fall afoul of either the fundamentalists or the compromisers. You end up where we are now. So get over it.

The assertion that religion has a role in government just opens the door to theocracy. Put one religion in charge and the others get jealous. Religious civil war ensues. Put them all in charge and the fundamentalists fight the compromisers.

Religion does one thing. It manipulates people through their fear of death to concentrate power among a self-appointed elite. It's no different from aristocracy or Corporate America. Aristocracy and Corporate America have made good use of it throughout history.

Religion does empower the common people by incorporating their helpless, directed mass into the base of the pyramid supporting the religious power brokers and decision makers. But, as in the unions that came along later, the regrettable corruptibility of those decision makers renders the whole body less effective or ineffective to represent the best interests of the vast majority of the members.

Religions have a major advantage because most of them don't have to pay off until after the chump is dead. Did the poor schmuck go to heaven? Of COURSE he did.

Religion benefits some people because it stimulates their better impulses. Doing good things causes a rush of pious good feelings. By tying this feeling to a specific cosmic entity and philosophy, a religion gives the believer a framework in which to set feelings they would have had anyway. It feels good to do good.

Unfortunately, it can also feel good to do bad. Religious leadership can use those feelings to command their darker minions to do religion's dirty work in the name of [insert deity here].

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Next President of the United States

A man I know who is both a Republican and a fatalist said, "Pretty soon we're going to have a woman President telling us all what to do."

"It's still a horse race," I assured him. "Nothing is certain. All Hillary has to do is make one misstep and all the Clinton stigma will fall on her. And the Democratic party would go down with her. Congress would turn back the other way. It's still a race."

The more prominent the office, the less the person in it can actually get done, with all the problems of image. If you look like political poison, no one will deal with you. So you can't even do something idealistic as a political martyr, because no one who wants to stay in the game will want to be associated with it.

I just hope whoever gets elected isn't too annoying, although I'm planning on ignoring them anyway. There's plenty to do at local levels, and a lot of leadership through other channels. Government follows trends, it doesn't set them.