Friday, October 31, 2008

Believe It Or Not...

So Mom has decided she will not be voting this year--which is a shame. I was counting on her to cancel out Dad's vote, and thus ensure Obama would win the presidency... Not that my father has that much sway in Pennsylvania politics, mind you--it's just insurance that my vote will instead cancel out someone else's "wrong" vote instead of wasting my vote to cancel out Dad's...
It's not a perfect system. In fact, if we were witnessing such a vise-like control of a two-party system in any other democratic republic, we would decry the mockery it makes of the label "democracy"--in fact, we do decry such blatant systems of overt control and power over governments supposedly by the people. It is easy to become jaded to the point of not caring, because Party's A and B aren't too terribly different, and honestly, every ten or twenty years, they simply switch positions so that neither one looks like the one held by the last elite generation of politicians...

It's also very easy to romanticize, isn't it. After all, our forefathers fought tooth and nail, with their lives and their children's lives to secure us this land, this freedom, this democracy. We even delude ourselves into thinking that preemptive strikes are for our security, and our good, lest this nation fall into the hands of evil Others from across an arbitrary boundary...

In all honesty, I would love to vote for any one of the 109 candidates running for president this year--after all, I would like to think that voting for president is a bit more important than making a menu choice at Lorenzo's Pizza, and Lorenzo's gives me ten times the number of choices than Pennsylvania is giving me this year:
  • Lorenzo's: 91 items to choose from
  • Pennsylvania Election 2008: 4 Presidential candidates to choose from
I'm feeling a little jaded myself...


My mother just phoned. She is voting. My father has decided he isn't sure if he is or not. When pressed, my father replies:

Dad: Because socialism will destroy this country, and Obama is a socialist. McCain has taken the low road, and even if I agree with McCain, I can't vote for him for taking the low road.
Me: And... what makes Obama a socialist?
Dad: I don't have to explain that.
You know, sometimes when you really talk things out like that, you can solve anything, can't you?

Father, if you are reading this, let me clear the air for you and explain why Obama is not a socialist.

Socialism defined is: 1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.

What is it about Obama's stand that makes everyone around here claim he is a "socialist"? One of the main themes of his campaign has been "A tax cut for 95 percent of American families" and "spreading the wealth," which, on the face of it, do sound pretty socialistic, I'll give you that. But how, in what way, does that sound like government ownership of products and goods? You want government ownership of products and goods? What was that we've been hearing in the news? Our democratic republic buying into and owning banks?!? That is socialism, my friends, and that's why we were all so pissed about it (rightly so!) That was the blatant disregard for the quasi-free-market capitalist system we've been using for the past 95 years (with both socialist and free market undertones with the blessing of both Democrats and Republicans)--and McCain and Co. call Obama the socialist?? McCain wants the government to buy everyone's mortgage and refinance their home loans. McCain wants (in a complete and utter flip-flop from just a few weeks ago) to über-regulate the banks and market (as does Obama, but differently... I can go into this further if you need me to, but please people, try to do your own homework, okay?). And Palin?: "You know, take the oil profits, impose a tax and kick it back to Alaskans." I think this qualifies her, under the new anti-Obama definition of socialist, as a socialist. There's your ten thousand spoons, Alanis.

Our tax system (much as most of us love to hate it) has always been based on those who make more, pay more. Sometimes it ebbs, sometimes it flows, but its called (and I know all you conservatives will howl and kick and scream when you hear this...) a progressive tax system, and much of the world employs it.

Of course, a lot of you are also claiming that Obama is all about "class warfare"--funny, where was that charge of Bush when he decided the wealthy all needed a tax break? Is this not also a symptom of your lala-land "class warfare"? Where were all the cries of "socialism" then?

I think Darrell West (director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution) said it best at the Huffington Post

Obama is about as far from being a socialist as Joe The Plumber is from being a rocket scientist. I think it's hard for McCain to call Obama a socialist when George Bush is nationalizing banks.
But then again, my father voted for Bush, so he couldn't possibly be a socialist, right?


Okay, that's a bit unfair. Bush wasn't a socialist back then, he was just plain incompetent. But it still doesn't let my father (and all of the others who wrongly think of Obama socialistically) off the hook when it comes to such a flat-out wrong charge. I realize he probably has other reasons not to vote for a Democrat (which I will defer on for now), but socialism?

That's really almost as bad as people still believing Obama is a Muslim... Or that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9/11...

Which I will state for the record: Obama is not a Muslim. And Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11.

And here's one more for you to ponder on: Mars Bars are made right here on Earth! Believe it or not...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Rose by Any Other Name...

According to Rich, I win "GQ Lumber Jack of the Year" Award for this photo. Mind you, the only thing we did with lumber was burn it, and we didn't jack shit, but that's neither here nor there... (Although I love his rose-colored glasses...)

I know that's not why you are here, dear reader. No, camping isn't your thing, is it? You are here for the hard-hitting, no-holds-barred commentary on god, church, politics, religion, life, and otherwise, are you not?

"After all," you must be saying, "when did Jason become this world-traveling cover model? When did life begin to center around... camping?!"

It's the simple things, dear reader. The smell of a burning log. The crisp leaves crunching underfoot with the rainbow of colors that the slumbering oaks and maples have provided. A lightly browned marshmallow smashed between two crunchy graham crackers, the chocolate melted just so. Staring at the stars, tracing the lines of Orion, the moon rise and fall, the night owl calling for information.

Oh, and the caves! They were beautiful! A little water, some minerals, and tons of times, and the most stunning formations appear. Ice cream sundaes of iron and calcite, chandeliers of salt, waterfalls of iron and granite. This needed no creator, my friends. Just time. Time, water, and a conscious mind to reflect and admire...

Time marches on, however, and all too soon I was staring at a monitor at work making green things so that people like you, dear reader, can go to the store and buy them, never realizing the headaches, micromanagement, and over-thinking that goes into such items.


But at least we'll always have Luray. And you won't lose a writer.

So I suppose it's win-win. (CLUE: Put those rose-colored reading glasses on and tell me how you couldn't live without reading this blog...)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Its Sunday Morning in Our Quiet Little White-bred Redneck Mountain Town!

I park in front of my home. Something is different... floats through my mind. Granted, I had just pulled an illegal U-turn--twice--to read a sign at the end of the bridge that reads, and I quote:

If you won't vote for Obama because he's black, then vote for the white half!
I'll see if the sign is still there tomorrow and snap a picture. That something like that even needs put on a sign in my quiet little mountain town says something.

But this isn't why I was sitting in my car, engine off, staring at my yard.

My Obama sign.

It wasn't hanging on the black Shepherd's hook at the end of my sidewalk.

That's odd, I think as I step out of the car...

And step on my Obama sign. It's dirty. It's smeared with purple gunk. The two corners where it was hanging from the Shepherd's hook are torn.

Now I'm angry.

I turn and stare up the street, then turn around and stare down the street. McCain seems to have suffered no losses. Granted, I could be wrong--after all, there are so many, who is to say if one has gone missing? But the fact that I just passed an overtly-racist pro-Obama sign less than a mile from my home, I have to wonder if I was the victim of a knee-jerk reaction to someone who wanted to avoid being seen at the busiest intersection in town...

As I lean down and pick up my sign to carry it inside and clean it up, I do another scan of the neighborhood. Seeing no curtains being fluttered or other suspect persons ducking beind bushes, I step into my home to inventory the damage. Luckily, the plastic casing I had the sign in received the brunt. I managed to get most of the dirt, mud, and purple stuff off, removed the sign from the sleeve to inspect it--mostly just creases, nothing that makes it illegible--but the plastic is different story. Some of the purple gunk just won't come off.

Never mind, I think. I put the sign back into the sleeve, tape it shut, grab more twine, and head back out to my Shepherd's hook where I proudly reattach it. I am angry, but I will not succumb to the pressures of ill-motivated persons. If I come home tomorrow and it is once again on the ground, I will hang it back up. If it goes missing, I will go to Wal-Mart, buy some poster board, and make my own damn signs.

But I will not be silenced.

This is despicable. I don't care if it's bored teens with a hormonally charged sense of indignation at the town faggot voting for a nigger. I don't care if it's Grandma Moses thinking she's simply doing what Jesus would do (although the purple what I suspect is paint-balls gunk certainly doesn't point in their collective direction...)

Yes, I sacrificed some things when I moved out of the city--one of those things being tolerance, apparently, which I didn't think was the case. I realize people get emotionally charged over politics, the (mistaken) intertwining of their personal morals with those politics, but I certainly don't forgive or condone vandalism or censorship. I realize this was probably just one rogue individual, but I can't help but wonder how many of my McCain-supporting neighbors silently agree with the action taken on my front lawn today...

I can only wonder...

The sun is shining and the grass is green,
Under the 3 feet of the snow I mean,
This is a day when its hard to wear a frown,
All the happy people stop to say hello!
Stranger: Get out of my way!,
Stan: Even though the temperature's low,
Its a perfect Sunday morning in my quiet little mountain town...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Second Annual Pumpkin Carving...

If our last computer hadn't passed on to that great motherboard in the sky, I'd let you see last years' pumpkins, but alas--to everything there is a time and a season...

I carved the werewolf, Rich decided he wanted something a little more spooky, so we went with Icabod Crane as his inspiration (courtesy of some very lovely pumpkin-template web sites).

Happy Halloween everyone!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Less-than-Average Joe...

Yes, yes, yes, his name was mentioned more times than either "change" or "hope" at the debate, only so both candidates could use him as a pawn in their efforts to appeal to the rest of us "average Joe's and Jane's" that they would make the better candidate.

This is politics, after all, and I don't expect anything less, really. What would hearing a political speech be if they didn't mention some story or anecdote about someone they spoke to for five seconds after a meeting or speech, am I right?

But then there are the "less-than-average" Joe's. The one's whose logic consists of the same fear tactics Republicans use whenever they need to rustle up some votes. Things like "He's dangerous!" or "He pals around with terrorists!" I'm surprised the "Gay marriage will lead to people marrying their sheep!" argument hasn't been raised in any Palin speeches thus far. "Slippery slope" and all that.

But then Joe, the now infamous plumber of Ohio, uses that same dumb-ass slippery-slope reasoning while trying to appear as if he isn't sure who he's going to vote for:

WURZELBACHER (aka, "Joe the Plumber"): I mean I have a pretty good idea who I’m going to vote for but you know that’s my - you know, the nice thing about going into the booth is only me and the lever knows. I think McCain did a fine job this evening, I think he brought up some good points. I do like his health care and I do like his, where he stands on taxes.
COURIC: Well, he [Obama] supposedly will raise taxes only on people who make over $250,000 a year. Would you be in that category?
WURZELBACHER: Not right now at presently, but, you know, question, so he's going to do that now for people who make $250,000 a year. When's he going to decide that $100,000 is too much, you know? I mean, you're on a slippery slope here. You vote on somebody who decides that $250,000 and you're rich? And $100,000 and you're rich? I mean, where does it end? You know, that's - people got to ask that question.
What's to stop that dangerous, terrorist-pal Obama from deciding that $25,000 is wealthy? Where does it stop? Oh my god!!! What if Obama thinks a fiver is "the new wealthy"??? Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!!!

Yes, because so many people are making $250,000 a year--that's pocket change, you know?

In fact, only 2 percent of households make that much money--2 PERCENT! When the new president will take office, those folks will earn 24.1 percent of all income (a whole fourth of all the earned income in the United States), and pay 43.6 percent of all personal federal income taxes, the Tax Policy Center figures. This web site puts the percentage of people making $250,000 a year at 3 percent.

The median American income? $48,000. "Even if you take out those just starting their careers and only count workers older than 25, the median household income is still about $53,000. That’s the true middle of the spectrum," states this web site. (Other sources: here, here, and here.) That's the average American household income: $48,000. Any way you slice it, compared to $48,000, $250,000 is stinking, filthy rich.

Now, bear with me: It is possible that Obama could get into office and suddenly decide that $100,000 is now wealthy. But what is the percentage of Americans who even make that much money? According to the 2006 figures:

So only about 6.5 percent of the population makes more than $100,000 per year... Which I suppose could be considered wealthy. But considering MOST of us tend to live quite nicely at the median of $48,000...?

I'm sorry, you won't get much sympathy from me, Joe. And if I were making $100,000 a year? I obviously won't mind paying more taxes.

You know why, Joe? McCain? Because I realize my taxes go toward things our country needs (and sometimes just plain wants, granted...) Public education (which Bush fucked up), snow plows, pot-hole filling, my mother's Social Security, planetarium displays ("overhead projector" my ass...)--a wealth of services most people don't realize their taxes pay for, which I suppose is why so many people grumble about them.

But knowing I can live perfectly fine on a lot less than $100,000, not to mention $250,000? I don't mind paying more if I know my money is not only going to make my life better, but to actually help others who make less than I. Call it political optimism if you like...

The facts about Joe the Plumber and "buying the plumbing business" which Joe estimated was worth $250,000 to $280,000? Turns out it's only worth about $100,000. Which may explain Joe's "slippery slope" fears above. What's even more interesting is that:

Wurzelbacher also acknowledged that he had no specific plans for buying Newell’s business, saying he and Newell had simply talked about the idea from time to time. He might have difficulty making the purchase: Court records from his divorce show that Wurzelbacher made $40,000 in 2006.

Even if he did buy Newell Plumbing and Heating, Obama’s tax plan wouldn’t affect him. While Wurzelbacher told Obama that he would be taxed at a higher rate because the company grossed more than $250,000 a year, Ohio business records show the company’s estimated total annual revenue as only $100,000. Actual taxable income would be even less than that.

In any event, Obama’s tax plan specifies that the higher rate would apply only to income above the $250,000 threshold. Assuming Wurzelbacher’s income as owner somehow hit $280,000 — the top end of his supposition of the company’s revenue — only the extra $30,000 would be taxed at a higher rate.

Analysts calculated that the extra tax would amount to $900, which would likely be more than offset by separate provisions of Obama’s plan: a 50 percent tax credit for health care and elimination of the capital gains tax for small businesses.
So... Not only is Joe's future business not worth as much as he thought it was, not only can he not afford to buy it, not only is he not a plumber in reality, not only would his business--should he buy it, learn how to run it, and become licensed by Ohio to be a plumber--have to unclog a lot of toilets, but even if he did manage to reach the magic number of $280,000, his taxes would still only work out to be about $900 more per year. Or to put it more simply, .36 percent more in taxes... Not 36 percent--point three six percent.

Hardly a tax increase...

Personally, I like the tax proposals put forth by Eddie and Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous:

EDDIE: Yes, Yes!… Why, oh why, do we pay taxes, hmmm? I mean, just to have bloody parking restrictions- and BUGGERY-UGLY traffic wardens, and BOLLOCKY-pedestrian-BLOODY-crossings?… and those BASTARD railings outside shops windows, making it so difficult so you can’t even get in them! I mean, I know they’re there to stop stupid people running into the street and killing themselves! But we’re not all stupid! We don’t all need nurse-maiding. I mean, why not just have a Stupidity Tax? Just tax the stupid people!
PATSY: And let them DIE!
Now there's a tax plan I could get behind. (And I do believe it would solve the Social Security crisis at the same time!)

Not bad for an average Joe like me, eh?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I'm Just Saying...

Rich: I'm just saying, everything you plant there, you end up moving. Why don't you just leave it empty? Or leave a plant there?
Me: This is my default plant zone. If in doubt where to put it, I put it here until another part of the yard screams to be filled by it.
It's a Zen thing.

Rich: But the last five things you had there looked good--why not just leave them there?
Me: I have a vision (tapping my head) and those weren't part of that vision.
Sort of like, "How many screaming banshees can dance on the head of a pin dominated by angels?"

Rich: Well, I don't see it.
Me: You don't have to. I know you'll end up seeing it when it's done...
And that's the only real test, isn't it? Seeing it there...

Rich: Aren't you ever going to leave anything in that spot?
Me: One day, when the right plant--or tree--comes along. Hmm.... A tree...
A big black horse AND a cheery tree! Nah--I'd have to move the horse eventually....

Rich: You're hopeless.
Me: I'm just not willing to settle is all. I know what I want my gardens to look like, and I also know when I see a plant I want, but don't yet know where it should go. Thus, it calls this home for a brief period of time until I find out where it actually belongs.
Back to that Zen thing... Or "Garden Fung Shui for Defeated Perfectionists"--great title for a novel--or perhaps an alternative rock punk band with goth influence, don't you think?

Rich: As I said, hopeless.
Me: Not hopeless, hopeful that one day it will look like it looks up here (tapping my head again)
Perhaps a statue of a big black horse? Sans cherry tree?

Me: I do believe they call persons such as myself "visionaries."
Rich: Not outside of an institution they don't.
"The Visionary Institutes of America." Sounds catchy, if a bit new-agey. What would I charge for tuition?

Me: Hey, that's my line.
Rich: You know I love you more than my luggage, right?
I could get Julia Roberts as professor of big beautiful smiles...

Me: And that's Olympia Dukakis's line.
Rich: I'm just saying...
Did you just call to say 'I love you'?

Me: What are you saying?
Rich: You're weird. And I love you. And leave a plant there for chrissake!
You did just--stop by on your way into the house--to say 'I love you'! How sweet!

Me: Find me the right plant and I will.
Rich: You have every gardening catalogue known to mankind! You can't find what belongs there out of hundreds of color photos?
Me: That's all I'm saying...
Rich: Hopeless...
Me: Love you too!
It's a Zen thing...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Here's Your Sign..."

Actually, not so much. When you wait four weeks to proudly proclaim to your right-wing-filled, Sarah-Palin-loving, McDush-hugging neighborhood that you are not on board the "Straight Talk Regress," it's a bit disappointing when only two of the four signs you ordered arrived, and the two you did get? Aren't for outdoor use...

I'm hoping they just shipped them in a different box and will arrive promptly to put a snag in the McCalin orgy that is happening up and down my street...
Shifting gears...
Is it just me? Last week we had "the worst losses ever" on Wall Street--all we heard was "Like 1929, but worse!" and "It's going to keep getting worse!" But as soon as we step in and say, "Here ya go! No worries! We have your back! We'll buy your bad debt!", suddenly Wall Street has the single biggest gain ever in history? This was The Financial Crisis??? Are you kidding me?

Granted, I'm no economist. I readily admit that: "Hello, my name is Jason, and I am not an economist." ("Hi Jason!!") But it seems to me that if the crisis were THAT BAD, and we were THAT CLOSE to the edge of FINANCIAL COLLAPSE, ECONOMIC RUIN, and THE MONETARY APOCALYPSE, you would think Wall Street would have a bit more discretion than to just jump right back on that wagon, wouldn't you?

It's that old axiom: the safer you feel, the more risk you take...

Something tells me Wall Street is feeling pretty damn safe, which makes me feel even less so, no matter how many times Dancing Monkey Shrubya decides to get on television and mumble. But as long as the millionaires and billionaires don't find out what it's like to be middle class, eh? What would America be if not for our rich, wealthy, and affluent ruining the rest of the world, right?

In other news (and a much happier note...), hats must be off to my little brother--he's getting MARRIED!!! And I have to say I'm overcome with happiness, not only for him, but for the awesome woman he has chosen as his bride.

Congratulations to my baby brother and his future wife! I love both of you very much!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Connecticut Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage

HARTFORD, Connecticut (CNN) -- The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Friday that gay and lesbian couples have the right to get married.

The ruling makes Connecticut the third state, after Massachusetts and California, to decide its constitution mandates treating citizens equally when applying for marriage licenses, regardless of their sexual orientation.

"Interpreting our state constitutional provisions in accordance with firmly established equal protection principles leads inevitably to the conclusion that gay persons are entitled to marry the otherwise qualified same sex partner of their choice," the ruling said.

"To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others. The guarantee of equal protection under the law, and our obligation to uphold that command, forbids us from doing so. In accordance with these state constitutional requirements, same sex couples cannot be denied the freedom to marry."

The decision would only allow gay couples the state benefits of marriage. The Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996, denies gay couples federal recognition of state marriages, which provides for federal benefits with regard to Social Security, taxation, immigration and others.

Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and New Jersey have civil unions.

In 2005, Connecticut began to allow civil unions, intended to be marriage in all but name, without being forced by its courts. Two years later, Connecticut's Legislature tabled a bill allowing marriage.

Eight same-sex couple sued the state, saying that civil unions were not equal to marriage and that Connecticut's Constitution guaranteed them equal treatment.

In the dissent, one justice said he disagreed with the majority's opinion that "sexual orientation is a quasi-suspect class under our state constitutional provisions guaranteeing equal protection of the laws" because that point of view "unduly minimizes the unique and extraordinary political power of gay persons in this state."

A representative of Connecticut's commissioner of public health said he does not know when the state might start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The suit was called Kerrigan and Mock v. the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

This is How It Works...

Clicking on the image will open it up in a larger window. Betcha ya knew that, eh?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

This Is Not for the Birds...

I gave a dog a reference today. No, seriously! Okay, well maybe not so seriously...

However, a very dear friend of mine is in the "looking-for-a-dog" business, and recently went to Pet Finder to find the puppy of her dreams.

So the lady calls me up, and it goes something like this:

Lady: Hi, can I speak to Jason?
Me: Speaking.
Lady: Hi, my name is [something forgettable], and I'm calling in regards to a puppy [who shall not be named] to be adopted by [a friend]? She gave us your name as a reference.
Me: Oh, sure, yeah. Well, [babble, babble, babble]
Lady: Oh, that sounds wonderful. What else can you tell me?
Me: Well... er... what were you looking for?
Lady: Well, since she filled out our application, there really isn't much we don't know, but what can you just tell us generally about her?
Me: (Isn't that what my five minute babble was about?) Well, she also... [babble, babble, babble]
Lady: Well, I think this is going to be one lucky puppy! Thank you for your time, Jason!
Me: Uh, your welcome. Bye.
And then I thought about it.

I'm sure I made her sound too good to be true, yet I know I didn't say anything that wasn't true. Well, except for the fact that after the phone call, I found out her one fish--who lived to the ripe old age of nine--is dead. Has been for two weeks. Let's hope they don't do a follow-up home visit and ask to see said-spoiled fish. Something tells me they won't fall for the "Oh, he's just playing dead" line... On a happier note, I did manage to avoid key phrases such as "temperamental bitch," "Chief Satanic-Sacrifice Procurer," and "Cruela deVille-type," so I think she should be good.

But then I thought, "There really isn't much they don't know?" Do they have some type of "secret service" with which they put your home, your family, your life under surveillance? Do a criminal back ground check? Put you on the stand to give a deposition?

Okay, I suppose I can understand the criminal back ground check. After all, no one wants to rescue a dog only to hand it back to Michael Vick, right? What would be the point?

But there are--literally--hundreds of dogs and cats that need homes. Not all of them will get one. So what's with all the hoopla? Do you really think someone who wants a dog for fighting is going to call an agency and risk getting caught lying just to get a dog? They may be stupid for being criminals, but that doesn't mean they are stupid at being criminals...

What's worse is I decided to check out the web site for myself and immediately fell in love with at least three dogs that need homes.... Sigh...

Not only would the hubby kill me--after all, Hawthorne + Mary-who-we've-been-babysitting-open-endedly-for-three-months (not that I'm complaining!) each eat their weight in dog food every day! And Hawthorne never gains any freakin' weight! (The bastard!--that whole thing about animals looking like their master's is bunk!) Add in a Husky named Ella, a Jack Russell mix named Feisty, and a Norfolk Terrier named Lucky?

I had to stop looking before I did something the husband would regret...

But as I gently remind him that Hawthorne may still act like he's six months old, he is actually eight, and won't be around forever, I remember why loving a pet is a double-edged sword. The pain of losing these unconditionally loving friends...

Sigh. Well, when Mary does return to her actual owner (which I'm not looking forward to...) and Hawthorne once again throws a temper tantrum at losing his one-woman harem, I will begin the search for that perfect puppy once again...

And I know where I'll probably start looking...

Into the warm, soft, furry eyes of a dog...