Tuesday, January 31, 2006
I had the craziest dream, last night
Ok, I totally forgot to post anything today. I didn't sleep well last night due to a very bizarre dream, which if any of you dear readers try to analyze you'll just come to the inevitable conclusion that I am in fact, plain crazy.
So here's the deal. In my dream I was on vacation or for some reason at some sort of resort at the beach or on a lake. I was staying in a condo that was part of a larger development, only the condo building I was staying in looked as if it was just built and kind of wedged into the existing buildings and landscape. Anyway, there was a whole bunch of ravers at this little resort and most of them were on "X" or some other type of drug. Anytime I had to go somewhere at the resort, I would get delayed as I would run into all these folks who were like "We love you man..." and "No, really how are you?". The only problem was, that they were all tweaked and ham handed and if any of them touched me, I got a nasty contact buzz.
So, for some reason I'm off to meet with an old friend (in my dream it was "The Crow") and her entourage. A bunch of sweaty X'ed out slackers come up and are all like "Dude..." It was funny. But they were all trippy and stuff so they grabbed my shoulder for support. After I ditch them I get all trippy myself (contact buzz) and fall into the lake..but I can't drown because the lake is more like a big blue bean bag/moon bounce and I just have to kind of 'go with the flo' until the buzz passes. It was pretty cool.
So anyway, the buzz wears off and I find myself on these planks over a small pond with what appears to be killer cat fish/walleye swimming around. The Walleye shoot poison and I have to gingerly step across the planks to get to the other side. (I'm thinking this is the result of my recent mini-obsession with some marble madness like game on my iBook)...I make and try to work my way back to the condo, but the whole resort has kind of morphed into a surreal version of my old summer camp "Camp Dagget" and I'm no longer going to meet up with the "Crow" but rather a person who, as best as I can remember, is sort of a composite of many of the people I hang out with in real life.
Anyway, the stoned slackers are still around, but I seem more adept at avoiding them. I make it to the condo to meet with the composite person..just as we are about to start talking the fire alarm goes off...it is actually my alarm clock. Weird
Of course I knew that those after school specials about "Angel Dust/Angel Death" and Nancy Reagan and her "Chemical People"and William S. Burroughs books would someday come back to haunt me. But for the first few hours this morning, I reveled in the general surrealness/trippy-ness of it all...
Monday, January 30, 2006
After the warming...
Dude, it's January...JANUARY and the high temp in DC today will be close to 65. Yeah, there's no greenhouse thing going on or nothing...I'll just miss the snow.
And then there was SOTU
I must admit, I've completely given up on this presidency. In fact, I had a nice chuckle this weekend when I read this by Andrew Sullivan..who appears to have coined the phrase "King George" to refer to our current leader. (Perhaps I was too quick to write off La Sullivan in his move to news-rag Time's website).
We've got another SOTU to listen to this week. Anyone want to wager on wether or not the Prez talks about the FMA? We didn't hear much about it last year and now with an election looming, and a lack of results and lots of reports of corruption from the GOP could potentially hurt their chances..so why not roll out the gay marriage boogey man?
Also, one area where I think the Prez gets it right is immigration. But alas, I appear to be in the minority on that one with my support of a guest worker program.
Will I listen..probably...it's kind of my job. But five years into this, I've pretty much written Bush off.
A Big Week in Congress
It's Monday, and that means I'm sitting at my desk, freshly scrubbed and eager (yeah..that's it..eager) to dig into a new week of work. Congress too is headed back into town (I thought I smelled pork) and will get down to brass tacks in electing a new majority leader. I'm I hopeful...not really, I don't recognize the party I used to work for much these days. But I do know that either Beohner or Shadegg would be better than Blunt. Blunt is confirmation of the status quo..Boehner and Shadegg would be a cleaner break and perhaps...just perhaps get the House majority back to the principles that got them there in the first place.
Of course the Post reminds us that we're all whores anyway.
Friday, January 27, 2006
Kill NASA: Twenty Years After Challenger. . .
I don't know what is more disturbing, this article about the myths of the Challenger disaster, or that fact in the intervening twenty years, very little has changed at NASA...
What has changed is that thanks to the X-prize and Burt Rutan and other engineers, the government's monopoly on space travel is coming to an end. NASA does some things well...like planetary exploration...human space flight is not among them...it's the worst example of the theory of the self-perpetuating buracracy. The future holds more of the same, with a politically driven, ill-concieved idea to return to the moon. But nobody is asking the why?
Don't Do It...
I'm no fan of SCOTUS nominee Alito, but at the same time I don't think he rises to the level of a Bork or even his supposed Italian brother Scalia. Oh, he's conservative alright and may vote to approve restrictions on abortion (which are allowed under Roe), but the more troubling issue with Alito, one that could lead to a successful filibuster, is his support of the concept of the so-called Unitary Executive. You know, that President Bush has significant lee-way - constitution be damned - to do things like spy on us without warrants and to hold American citizens in jail, without charges or access to a lawyer...yadda, yadda, yadda. The anti-alito forces could win on this issue, but from the left side of the aisle we've heard very little on this matter...and its too bad.
For the last four years, I keep waiting for the left to get organized. What I keep seeing is a lazy retreat to the tired rhetoric of the past and almost a reflexive retreat to crystallize a singular litmus test for the court...that being unconditional support for Roe. For those of us who cherish individual liberty and autonomy, Roe is an important case and it should be part of the vetting of any court nominee. But from what I have seen, the focus on Alito's confirmation has been disproportionately on Roe, and is ignoring other factors - like the Unitary Executive" theories that could expand the doubts from a fifty-fifty split, to one that could pull in some moderates.
My hope that the Democratic Party would get its act together and provide a clear vision to the current (and might I add - worst in my lifetime) track this Administration is on are being dashed with the ham-handedness of how the Dem Senators are handling this Alito thing. For my friends on the left, it has to be frustrating...more so because I really think that Alito is defeatable. But perhaps, if folks like Senator Kerry, weren't off in Davos attending a blab fest on future utopias (NOTE: Davos meetings are sad if you ask me, a bunch of folks jetting off to Switzerland to stay at $500 a night lodges, nosh on caviar and discuss the plight of the poor...Someone I know over at the World Bank went this year...his airline ticket as $10,000!) Anyway, Kerry is jetting back from Davos to try to organize a last minute Filibuster on Alito...
Had Kerry been in DC, working with the promising leadership of Harry Reid, perhaps the Dems would have had developed a plan..but no...
So, my advice to Ted, John, and Chuck...if you weren't willing to do your homework on Alito and make a comprehensive case beyond Roe and the Concerned Alumni crap...a case that could have outlined some very troubling views and would have garnered support to stop his nomination...don't bother jetting back from your vacation/summit in Davos...You've already lost the fight
Interviewing people today for a marketing position within my firm. Marketing types are funny as they are all edumacated to be good communicators (or as I say...You shur talk purty). Of course many say the first marketer was of course Satan..(Apples are sooo yummy! Try it)...so really, marketing may actually be the oldest profession. Yet I digress. None of these candidates will be a direct report to me, but their role in packaging and branding my office's 'product' will be crucial. For all practical purposes, I oversee the product side of my firm...thus, the person hired for this position will need to be able to work with my 'people'.
So, I'm reviewing a stack of resumes of people coming in today for round 2 (hopefully the last round). In reviewing one candidate's papers I found this gem of a sentence:
I believe what makes me the strongest candidate is my overall marketing background, coupled with my segmentation experience and my ability to overlay the social norming aspect of the brand message.
I have only one response this....Sweet!
Finally, as I sit in my office trying to leverage the nascent synergies to maximize member efficacy, I'll have someone who can help me overlay the social norming aspect of the brand message. Thank God!
The cattle call seating, the trying-to-be-cute-but-being-annoying flight attendants and now this...
Well, now, the jig is up for Kenny, thanks to Paula Jackson. The Southwest Airlines flight attendant, age 47, announced to a plane load of people last week that she had been Chesney’s lover for 10 years before he met and married Zellweger.
Um..Paula..that's real nice for you, but if I really don't care who you're humping this week, just get me my damned diet coke and a bag of pretzels. Seriously, is this professional? I'm thinking no...Does Southwest support having its flight attendants blather about celibrities they've shagged during the preflight safety talk? and of course, quoting Helen Lovejoy.."What about the children?"....
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Elephant on Hudson
I'm back...gave a speech somewhere north of Manhattan called Something-on-Hudson or well something. Cold and windy, but stunning views of the Hudson River Valley as I droned on to my audience about this and that. So, now I'm back...and in the office...ughh.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
iPod Shame Index
No shame index per se today, but rather a look ahead at songs likely to appear on the list in the near future. First, while in LA, Midgie and I caught the last 1/2 hour of Footloose on cable. Two words - "Almost Paradise!" (Heart's Ann Wilson and Loverboy's Mike? Reno). Then on while driving over to LDM's house (to play Guitar Hero!), we caught Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty's "Stop Dragin' My Heart Around" (Which always reminds me of another great Nick's duet - Leather and Lace)... So, I'll grab those off of iTunes sometime this week.
Also, happy to report that the video iPod I got for the holidays is a great thing to have along on long flights. Using this, I'm able to download TV shows I own from DVD, or even movies. So, I caught Star Wars, some episodes of Arrested Development. Nice.
For a brief time, say in the mid 1990s, it looked as if the worse was over for my home state of Michigan. After growing up in the economically dreadful 1980s, when the auto industry fell apart and old industrial alliances crumbled, it was nice to see a breif resurgance in America's manufacturing heartland. But alas, things have come full circle. Parts maker Delphi is on the ropes, Ford is laying off 20% of its U.S. work force, cuts coming in from Chrysler...
Even before this round of contaction, things in Michigan didn't seem all that 'hot'. On trips back to see relatives, I've noticed even newish suburban office parks vacant. Sad. Many reasons for all this of course...but sad none the less.
The Detroit Free Press is tracking the ongoing decline...check it out here.
And I'm Off
I'm in the office today, but will be heading out to NYC Weds and Thurs...Sigh...
I'm back. Actually I got back yesterday, but I flew in on the red-eye and came straight to the office and I was a bit...well, red-eyed, so I didn't post. But boy what a fun trip! The sun and surf made a nice break from the cold-ish and dreary DC.
The goal of the whole trip of course was to just kick back and visit with Midgie. But we managed to get some fun in as well. Friday we hung out and took a drive up to Malibu for a nosh at Neptune's Net.
Saturday we biked along the shore from Santa Monica through Venice (Oddly, Venice Beach reminds me of Phom Penh Cambodia). Of course I bought some T-shirts in Venice. (You can buy three things in Venice - T-shirts, Bongs and Dried Sage)
Sunday we went to a nice, simple hike up in Malibu Creek State Park. Nice because the trail we took wound its way up to the site where they used to film the outdoor scenes from the TV show M*A*S*H. In fact, even though that show's been off TV for some twenty plus years, an abandoned jeep and army ambulance from the show. The helicopter pad is still there too.
Finally, this is the BIG NEWS. Midgie saw Bea Arthur at pavilions (a grocery store near her flat). I did license the story from her so I could claim that I saw Bea Arthur, but with a sighting of such significance, it's best probably to tell it like it is. Besides, I never see any celebs when I'm in LA...unless you count the time I saw Bob Sagget...but I don't count that either.
A nice break and a good time...
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Off to La, La Land
A short week for Elephant as he jumps on the plane tomorrow and jets off to LA for some QT with Midgie. Should be a nice break as its been cloudy and rainy here in DC for the last couple a days. No major plans, just hanging out, riding bikes on the beach and perhaps a hike or something.
Putting Things In Perspective
Over coffee this morning I was reading an interesting article from Reason. It does, in my opinion, a great job in outlining the problems and challenges with the current immigration system. Pity the House passed legislation in December that will make things even worse.
Who Grew Your Tree?
If you like Christmas trees, thank an immigrant
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
The Changing Blogosphere
Boy, it's been a strange new year in terms of the blogs I like. First, Wonkette's Anna Marie Cox 'retired' and seems to have been replaced by the blog equivalent of unisom...Eric Peiffer. Eric's headlines are getting a little more racey this week, but oh do I miss the inuendo and turn of a phrase the Ms. Cox could churn out like White House interns under Clinton. It's not the same..and not funny anymore. In fact, it's almost as boring as Elephant.
Independent thinker and conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan seems to have 1) sold out to news-rag time and 2) Lost focus. Over the holidays readers were treated to a boring treatise on zygotes and the right to life....Andrew's been one of the most articulate voices in critiquing the lack of conservative principles of the Administration, but too much latetly he's gone off into areas that are unique to his personal philisophical struggle, which aren't of any interest to me.
I don't know why I read Instapundit, perhaps I have some secret nerd affinity with him as there's some sci-fi discussion on his blog. But as you could tell from his post yesterday, he's trending flip and is too often an appologist for the Administration. His work in promoting Porkbusters is admirable, but that's about it. Lest we forget for us partisans that it is the principle, not the politician. So, I'm drifting away from this blog as well.
On the left, I sometimes try to get a handle on their throught process throught John Aravosis, the antithesis of Andrew Sullivan. He occasionally does a good job on civil rights and scandals. Daily Kos is pretty productive and popular as well, but he's so far left it's sometimes like reading Chinese. Neither embraces the philosophy of the DLC (Clinton Dems) which if you asked me is the key to winning races...but of course no one asked me.
Even my lofty aspirations has fallen short of there mark in the past few months. A blogging maliase if you will - blogaise?! But, lacking inspiration from others, perhaps I can aspire to write what I want to read, what is missing from the blogoshpere at this point. Perhaps... I'm working on budgeting time in the first quarter of the year to work on setting up a blog independent of blogger, one where I can control more the of the look and feel of the blog and share more things with you....travel photography, video clips and such. I purchased the deliciously slick new iLife software this weekend and will sit down and figure it out at some point. That would be nice, wouldn't it...and needed in a blogosphere that's fast becoming the computer equivalent of VH-1.
We shall see.
Monday, January 16, 2006
NWA Delivers an Answer
Ok, I did manage to get through to customer service and a very nice person helped me out. Seems that when I made this reservation, I cashed in an unused ticket to defray the cost. When booked this older ticket I was silver elite and was traveling with some one who was not elite. NWA's computer assumes you want to sit with your traveling companion and will not upgrade you unless you indicate you want to ditch that person and leave them suffering in coach. So, it's showing me as not being eligible for an upgrade, even though I'm now traveling to a different destination, on a different ticket and traveling alone...
Here's what NWA had to say...
Thank you for contacting nwa.com Customer Service. In reviewing your reservation Elephant, I see that your WorldPerks number was listed initial as Silver Elite. This indicates that when the reservation was booked you were still Silver Elite.
I then noticed that the number had been entered a second time and this showed your Elite status, however, the Silver Elite information was not deleted. It appears that when the system began to run the elite upgrades the Silver Elite status was still being read, as it was the first notation in your reservation. I have remove this, and the automatic upgrade attempts should begin during the next attempts, which will most likely be made tonight.
Currently, if you wish to select new seats in economy class you can visit nwa.com. Also, you may not process the elite upgrades through nwa.com. These are processed automatically within the reservation system 5, 3, or 1 day before travel depending on the elite status. Also, since your travel is domestic, there is no Business Class, and any upgrades will be processed into First Class. You will be unable to select a seat in First Class through nwa.com until the elite upgrade has been processed for your reservation. In addition, if for any reason you have not yet been upgraded within 24 hours of your flight, and if you use the nwa.com check-in, you will be asked again if you wish to upgrade. If you select yes, another attempt will be made to upgrade
I hope the information above helps explain the current status of your elite upgrades.
Thank you again for using nwa.com Customer Service. We appreciate the opportunity to serve you, our customer.
Well, I do appreciate the answer, even if it amounts to the English equivalent of the Spanish no-fault Se...e.g.- The system didn't process you right.
Seems to me, when your company in loosing $1 billion dollars a year, you'd want to make sure your system works, especially for people who've made an effort to patronize your company in an otherwise fungible industry.
But then, I believed that the GOP cared about limited government, accountability and fiscal prudence... I think that's called naivete.
I'm sure I'll get my silly upgrade..and if that's the biggest problem I have, then I am truly a luck Elephant.
And another thing...
Seriously, for a man who claims gravitas on the right side of the spectrum, I found his comment today (here) offensive on many levels. First of course being I lack his ability to mock MLK and at the same time downplay allegations of the administration's potentially unconstitutional violation of the 4th amendment in a conscise single sentence - an ability possed only by the likes of Coulter and Malkin. Second, as someone who's right of center he should be skeptical of the expansion of federal power at the expense of individuals. Thirdly, let's just downplay the current allegations and at the same time make light of one of the most egregious abusers of civil rights (and cross dresser)- J. Edgar Hoover.
Of course Glenn is a law professor...(those who can't...)
You lost me dude...If I wanted flip hubris, I'd still be working on Capitol Hill.
Ok, I don't think anyone out there will have any sympathy for my on this one, but hey, it's not about me, it is about the total lack of customer service I find in dealing with American companies, like Northwest Airlines.
I travel a moderate amount for my job and usually take one or two trips outside the country for leisure travel a year. Unlike a true road warrior, I don't have a schedule that takes me on the same route week in and week out. I'm all over the place. But anyway, despite the inconvenience, I choose to consolidate my travel on Nortwest for 2005 in an effort to get elite status and make what is usually near intolerable travel conditions..perhaps...tolerable.
It worked! I managed to squeak my way into gold elite status on NWA. One of the nice benefits is the ability, pending availability, to upgrade to business class -gratis - three days out from one's trip. Well, we're three days out and the website doesn't let me upgrade. I contacted a NWA agent this morning and she told me that I should be able to based on my status and the fact that there was availability on both legs of my trip. She couldn't answer why this was happening and did not offer to help me fix the problem. Sigh... Now when I call (a special line for gold elite members) I get a recorded message saying they are too busy to help me...how nice.
I so feel like Elaine from Sienfeld who was obsessed with getting her sub sandwich card punched so she could get a free sub. She hated the subs, but none-the-less had invested too much time and wanted her free sub. I want my free sub... I got it over Christmas...the ability to upgrade 3 days prior to my trip..in fact it was automatic. So what gives now?
So, since I could not reach NWA on the phone...I tried their website and found this...
Talk To Us
We respond to most booking related questions within 2 hours, 24 hours a day 7 days a week
So I write this....
I am writing to request that you fix/update my account and allow me to access my eligible upgrades as per NWA gold elite member benefits. My member number is XXX. I am currently a gold status member. Although it is three days out from my travel, the website will not let me upgrade or choose seats in business class for this flight.
I called the NWA worldperks line this morning and an agent confirmed that I am in fact a gold status member and that there was availability for upgrades, she was unsure why I have not been upgraded and was unable to answer any of my questions.
Since that time, I've called you line numerous times only to get a recording to call back later. Is this the type of service that I can expect from NWA as a gold elite member? Have I made a mistake in choosing NWA as my primary carrier? Could you please help?!
Thanks so much...
And I get this auto response:
Thank-you for using nwa.com! Your suggestions, comments and concerns are important to us and we appreciate the opportunity to serve you. This reply has been sent automatically to let you know your message has been received. Please do not reply to this email as we respond to questions about online bookings within 3 hours , 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. All messages are personally read and handled to give you the attention you deserve.
We respond in two hours, perhaps three...perhaps never. Perhaps my blog has landed me on some don't fly list...or something...But geesh...Bad service is one thing, but bad service and inconsistent information is another.
Seriously though, I don't know why I should expect anything from an airline that told its mechanics to 'bite it' and is now doing the same to the pilots and flight attendants...I won't be missing you when you're gone NWA.
Iran to World....
Things just keep going down hill with everyone's favorite fundamentalist state-Iran. Their newish leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not only is threatening to create a world oil crisis, but also to convene a scientific summit to debunk the Holocaust. It just goes to show us that you really can't trust a person who's official attire amounts to a plaid shirt and a members only jacket.
But seriously, can the world really allow Iran to become a nuclear power? It's clear with the U.S. engaged (winning, bogged down, whatever..) in Iraq that we don't (despite our military spending and defense posture) have the men and equipment to handle Iraq and Iran at the same time. This may play out to the West's advantage as any sanctions or military options (blockade, surgical strikes, etc.) would have to be the result of a broad consensus among our allies (Europe) and friendly competitors (China, Russia). Such a consensus would be difficult to cobble together (probably exceeding Bush/Rice's capabilities) but certainly, if forged would create an incredibly difficult situation for the mullahs in Iran. And anything that makes their lives difficult is fine by me.
Meanwhile in North Korea...
Things can only get better, that's what I say (or that's what Howard Jones said in the 80s and I just shameless stole). But anyway, the corporate consciousness at Washington Gas has finally realized that replacing my gas line might be less expensive than sending crews out to my house to restore service on a daily basis. Somehow, they've assigned me Mr. D. Mr. D is a supervisor on the repair crew and he's personally taken on my cause as his own..he rocks the house.
My gas went out twice over the weekend, brining our running total to 11 times I've been without heat in the last three weeks. On Friday, Mr. D showed up with some good news. Tomorrow, WG will be replacing my gas main with a new hook up. This should eliminate the problem. Until that happens, WG will be sending over a crew to the house in the AM and PM to check on the service each day. Hurray!
It is also comforting to know that after 11 repair crew runs, no matter how much I pay for my natural gas this winter, WG will not be making any profit off of me....
I should also note that the City of DC was instrumental in helping me with this issue. (Shocking, I know!). The public service commission, in charge of protecting consumers on utility matters, has been working the phones on my behalf for the last couple of weeks. It certainly helped the situation and it's nice to know that in a city with so many disfunctional agencies, there are gems of people like KN at the PSC to help me out.
So, perhaps this drama will be over tomorrow...I hope so, but if not I'll just complain to you all about it.
Well behind the scenes here in DC, calls are being placed, promises made and folks jockeying for position to assumer the 2nd most powerful post in the U.S. House of Representatives- Majority Leader. Reports (Mostly from Mr. Blunt) seem to indicate that Congressman Roy Blunt, who served as Delay's deputy, leads the horse race. Other candidates include Rep. Boehner of OH and Congressman Shadegg of AZ. Both Boehner and Shadegg would be preferable for Blunt. Here's why:
- Congressman Blunt served as Delays deputy, he shares in the blame for allowing the House majority to stray from its mandate (lower taxes, fiscal prudence, smaller government).
- Blunt helped preside over one of the largest expansions of spending in federal history.
- Blunt assisted in the rapid expansion of federal power, now thought to include warrantless spying on American citizens...Blunt was complacent in the House leaderships decision to forego oversight of federal agencies.
- Blunt too, is tainted with the stain of Abramoff ties (but as we are learning...who isn't?!)
From what I know of Congressman Boehner, he generally epitomizes all the good elements of the 1994 GOP revolution. He's not a pork barrel spending, he's made his career on strong oversight of federal agencies, and he's not someone who's always shared the vision of Mr. Delay. In short, I think Boehner, and to a lesser extent Congressman Shadegg would both move the party back to its alleged focus on good government rather than the excesses of the current crop of so-called GOP leaders. Over the next week or two, we'll see an important message emerge from the GOP. That message is where they (at least in the House) are going to stake their future. With Blunt it is more of the same excesses of power and spending, Boehner and Shadegg seem to offer a more libertarian-break with the past approach. I'm so hoping for the later and so expecting the former.
The Hill has the whip count...
Friday, January 13, 2006
Again...for the 10th time in two weeks....The good news is that they're supposed to give me a new line next week...the bad news is that the phone number they gave me to call for details doesn't work...sigh!
Wal-Mart is Dumb
I'm no fan of Wal-Mart. They don't really sell anything that appeals to me, their stores are usually dirty and smell funny and they don't seem like a well run company from a PR perspective. That being said, I also don't think that the recently passed "Wal-Mart" bill in Maryland is a particularly good idea. The legislation would requires companies with more than 10,000 Maryland employees to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on employee health care or pay the difference into the state's Medicaid fund. Only Wal-Mart falls into that category.
Wal-Mart's stinginess with its employees is wrong, but as we all know, the health care system in this country is messed up - big time.Att any given time roughly 46 million of us don't carry any health insurance. Even for those of us who do have employer provided policies, escalating costs are crushing employer budgets. I know that's true for my office and for many of my clients. Targeting Wal-Mart alone, doesn't do anything to help fix the problem....Bringing some balance to the health care market, breaking down interstate barriers to insurance providers and eliminating state mandates would be a good start. In fact part of the reason health care is so expensive is that the same folks targeting Wal-Mart havelobbiedd to successfullyy mandate state coverage for a variety of medical procedures and treatments...boosting the cost of coverage and balkanizing the marketplace.
The state legislature has contributed to the rising cost of health care through such mandates, and at the same time is decrying employers who don't pony up for this ever rising benefit. Wal-Mart is stingy, a corrosive force in communities and just a plane gross store if you ask me. But I seem to be the exception, millions of people shop their daily, their low prices have helped curb inflation (and drive up the trade deficit) and it'saggressivee cost cutting strategy has expanded lower income people's access to 'quality' goods. As with most things Wal-Mart's story has two sides. Maryland's legislature should address larger insurance concerns rather than singling out specific employers..after all the legislature helped to create this problem.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
That was fast...
Ok, that makes this the 9th time since December 26th (and 2nd time this week!) that my gas service has gone out. I'm beyond mad, it's just ridiculous that this is what passes for customer service in the new millenium. At least I'll be saving money on my heating bills and thank God for the Alito hearings, all the blustering on Capitol Hill has created a huge hot air bubble over the city, making the weather unseasonably mild. But seriously...9 F'ing times....
For the rest of the night I'll be sounding like a Beatles album, puttering around the house mumbling "Number 9, Number 9, Number 9..."
First the came for the smokers...
Well, it's been what...a year or two since NYC went smoke free. Remember how proud you felt during the whole debate, getting all up in here with the "Smoking stinks...we should ban it" and looking down your nose at the nicotine challeged. Well, to borrow a phrase from Christopher Guest in Waiting for Guffman - "You all are a bunch of bastard people".
Yes, that's what you are. By passing the smoking ban you enabled all these Nosey Parkers to start prying into every aspect of our lives. Exhibit number 1, Mayor Bloomberg is now getting his panties in a bunch over 'unhealthy' (read: tasty!) food. Thanks! It's only the beginging people and you have no one to blame but yourselves. Five years from now, as we sit snacking on Soylent Green, while wearing city issued organic gray jumpsuits, you'll have only yourself to blame.
(On a related note, this article induced such personal hysteria that I ordered TWO CASES of Girl Scout Cookies from one of my colleagues daughters today.)
It's been sad to watch the slow decline of DC's metro system. A good portion of that decline was presided over by Richard White who's been running Metro since 1996. Broken Escalators, trains that are overcrowded and don't run on time, track fires, etc. For years, Mr. White and the Metro Board have complained about funding problems. Of course, as a public employee Mr. White (and his failed tenure at Metro) isn't going unrewarded. He'll get:
A severance payout of $238,000
$116,000 a year pension for life, and his wife will get $58,000 for her life upon his death.
oh and Free Metro passes for life too
Not too shabby for 9 or so years of service.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
The Wingnut Index
Well, it has come to this. Listening to the Alito hearings and generally absorbing news throughout the day I've come to the conclusion that just about everyone in a position of power is an idiot. There's no ideological bent with a monopoly on moronism. So, to memorize and measure this growing phenomena, I've devised the Wingnut index. It's a completely arbitrary way to measure the level of sheer stupidity coming from those who have far too much power and get paid way too much.
The format is quite easy. We simply find stupid stuff people say or believe, place that person on the left side or the right side of the equation and measure. To keep it simple we'll be measuring lefty opinions in units called "Frankens" and likewise the right side in units called "O'Riely's". That way we can conveniently measure the ongoing decline of Western Civilization. Of course this would all be much prettier if I had any knowledge of adobe photoshop...but that will come with time. For now we'll just have to cope with what I can bang out in my pirated version from Beijing where all the directions are in Mandrin.
Here we go: Current Status: Draw -
I'd like to declare a winner, ties are so soccer and soccer of course is a communist sport. But alas, everyone is an idiot this week. First we get Pat Robertson claiming that God personally turned Ariel Sharon into the human equivalent of broccoli because he 'split God's Land". Yep, if you believe Pat, you God is truly powerful as he can help reality show contestants and strike down world leaders at the same time. Pat has great company on the right this week with Robert Knight of Concerned Women of America (Who I'm generally concerned about as Robert appears to be..you know..a man). Mr. Knight and his forces claim that Barbie promotes transgenderism because of some website survey by Mattel. Yup, Barbie and her molded plastic 'area' probably was the tipping point for them, I mean Mattel could have prettied it up with some of that old-school GI Joe beard fuzz or something...err...Anyway.
On the left we have Sean Penn. Mr. Penn cannot quit smoking because of George Bush. (Funny that's why I can't quit smoking too!). We all connected with that Sean, but doesn't it, in some way, undercut the left's arguments about Bush's environmental record..you know with you puffing all that carbon into the atmosphere? Wuss! And of course there's the ever sanctimonious Ted Kennedy who attacked aspiring Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito for once, perhaps belonging to Concerned Something Alumni, who at some point or another was anti-woman and/or black. Now there's no evidence that Mr. Alito was an active member of this group at the time these views are alleged, and it's not like he was driving around drunk and killed someone (cough-Chapaquidick-cough)...AND it's not like this is a smoking gun like lets say holding the belief in unlimited executive power or something. In short, Ted if this is the best you can come up with against Mr. Alito (with whom I'm not enamored) then let's just get him his robe and forget about it.
Final Score: ON THE LEFT 4 Sean Penns + 3 Bloated Kennedy's = 5.35 Frankens
ON THE RIGHT 4 Brother Pats +10 Robert Knights = 5.45 O'Riely's
Of course I'm forgetting about Harry Belafonte, but he's neither famous nor powerful... Day-O!
Perhaps in the future this index will be wry, funny and even intelligible...but for now it's the best I can do...
(And it still beats the ultra-lame Eric Pfeiffer who is ruining Wonkette!)....
(And another thing- I've spelled a bunch of stuff wrong in this post, but I'm just following CNN's lead as checking things like spelling and facts is just to damned hard - Good Day Sir!)
What's Wrong with Wonkette?!
WTF? Looking for my daily snark fix, I've noticed that dishy DC blog Wonkette seems to have totally jumped the shark now that blog-celebrity Anna-Marie Cox has left.
She's been replace (temprorarily let's hope) by some Eric Pfeiffer person who is definitely NOT FUNNY AT ALL!
Dude, posting pictures of your cat and yourself is just not funny...in fact, it's just sad...
A New, New Orleans?
CNN reports that, "...As officials put together a blueprint for New Orleans' rebirth, a commission appointed by Mayor Ray Nagin was expected to recommend on Wednesday that residents be given the power to decide what shape their neighborhoods should take."
I'm hoping it looks like this...
I've been saying this for years!
"While the Republicans captured the House of Representatives in 1994 following a popular backlash against perceived corruption in the Democratic party, the party’s conservative critics say it has now fallen prey to the same Washington culture. A group of more than 100 members organised as the Republican Study Committee is hoping to use the leadership race to rein in what they see as runaway government spending championed by Mr DeLay and his allies. "
Of course this link is from Drudge and the article is from Britain, but one can hope...
Ypsilanti was never what I'd call I nice town. It's always kind of been the poor step sister the nearby Ann Arbor. But it is kind of sad that yet another rust belt city in my home state falls into obsolescence, adding to the list of cities near death like Saginaw, Detroit, and Flint. Oh wait, Flint is dead. Kind of sad too that most of the people I know from college at Michigan didn't settle in the state, they, like me, went to find greener pastures elsewhere. I'm afraid it will just be getting worse in the years ahead.
Snow in the forcast
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Ok, so I'm in this meeting today with a bunch of republican lobbyists giving them my take of DC's new smoking ban and how it will affect their businesses. Some one asks me if they can contort the langauge and claim that thier business is a residence (which it sort of is) and therefor be exempt.
I jokingly replied, "It's kind of Clintonian, you know, it depends on what your definition of 'residence' is"
Grumbles, my boss says, "Clinton isn't a good reference for this group."
I reply, slyly, "Ok, we will put it in strong republican terms...it depends on what your definition of 'torture' is."
(I still think it was funny)...
Ok, despite calling Washington Gas this morning at 10 am and requesting that they send out a 'drip' truck to pull the water out of my gas line (same problem every time), they sent a guy without a drip truck...but of course! He was quite nice however, and he did inform me that my house is becoming quite the legend within the WG road crews. Even when I call the Washington Gas outage line (open Mon to Fri - 8 to 5pm for my inconvenience) the associates there seem to know the whole story know. Some cryptic spray paint marks on the lawn and a missing chunck of sidewalk also seem to indicate that progress is being made, though heaven forbid they actually tell me the customer what's going on. Who knows...perhaps it is time to put up the "Footprints" poem and just pray.
Bored, Bored, Bored, Bored
I am bored...
Seems that lately even my favorite blogs, right or left are getting all whinny with this or that. Listened to the Alito hearings at work today and I found it moderately enjoyable. But the bottom line is that I've pretty much written off the current administration and the current congress as far as my personal aspirations of a limited government that is fiscally prudent and errs on the side of liberty. That's not what we've got...
I've been focused on capital projects for 2006 at the elephant home. Thinking about commissioning a landscape architect to help me create a 'vision' for my back yard. I'm thinking of the summer (I don't have to worry about heat that way!) and my love of 1) being outside and 2) using my grill. So there's that. I also have a dreamy finished attic space that I want to turn into something usable...a reading lounge, x-box area perhaps...who knows. I briefly toyed with the idea of upgrading to an HDTV in the media room, but there's nothing on TV to justify it. So that just leaves me with writing lame-o self absorbed hooey. Sigh.
And I have to wait until Friday to find out what happens to that deliciously evil Admiral Cain on BSG...
If it is Tuesday...
Then my gas service must be out...again..
Arggghhhhhh! Without referencing my ever growing documentation as to why Washington Gas is perhaps the worst company ever, I can't recall if this is time number 7 or 8 that my gas service (and heat) has gone out since December 26th. But I do know that last night when I got home from work my furnace was out, so I tested it and it is in fine working order. What gets me red faced angry about this is that if your service goes out, you can only call between 9 am and 5 pm (Monday to Friday) to report it, as it is not a 'emergency'.
I'm really at the breaking point with these bozos. Thank goodness my water heater and stove are electric or my house would be unlivable. Perhaps I need to lobby city council to require Washington Gas (as a regulated monopoly) to have a 24 hour service line? Is my anger worth the work that would require? Yes, if costs Washington Gas money and resources to fight it.
Monday, January 09, 2006
The Trouble with Harry
I was enjoying my morning until I read this. Spending my time getting 'all up in here' with my Bush detracting. Then I read this nonsense about Harry Belafonte, you know the Banana Boat singer and now apparently excitable pro-socialist. Harry, it seems, needs a history lesson.
Mr. Belafonte was in Venezuela (soon to be the new Iraq), and claimed that "President Bush is the greatest terrorist in the world". A bit of hyperbole don't ya think Harry. Bush is many things, but topping the list of world's terrorists he aint. I mean has Mr. Belafonte heard of folks like Stalin (estimated to have killed 20-30 million), Mao (30-ish million), Pol Pot (1-3 million) and the list goes on.
Bush is a poor president by my estimating, but he isn't the evil usurper these washed up Hollywood commies make him out to be...not by a long shot. Mr. Belafonte's comments are offensive in the diservice they do to tyrants around the world. I guess, yet again, I have a reminder that there are crazies to the right of me (last week Pat Robertson) and to the left of me (Michael Moore, Harry Belafonte).
Perhaps Mr. Belafonte is trying to work through his guilt over the Banana Boat/Amos-n-Andy-esque song that put him on the map?! Day-O!
Sad and silly actually.
Speaking of sad, silly...Babs wieghs in on Iran...Still waiting to see her thoughts on the constitutionality of the Bush/NSA thing..that and an appolgy for Yentl...
And they're reading your mail too?!
Well, after the revelation that the Bush Administration is pushing the bounds (i.e.- ignoring the Constitution) and potentially spying on American citizens, we get this report that the government is opening and reading people's mail. It's all so Brehznev.
If you ask me the BLESSING OF America is that the Bush Adminstration is THE KINDEST, GENTLEST, BEST DARNED ADMINISTRATION EVER.
Now I can protect my lungs...
Sniffle...DC joins the growing list of nanny-states in banning smoking in all bars and restaurants. Thank goodness I no longer have to worry about accidentally getting lung cancer as I work on my cirrhosis. And of course, per the 'Post, this won't affect businesses one iota...
Readers here know that Elephant is no fan of Tom Delay. Of all the people in leadership I've worked with, I always felt like I had to take a shower after a meeting in his office. (Sort of like how you feel after watching Trainspotting. Anyway, none of the GOP members I knew or worked with were particularly crazy about him either. So good bye Mr. Delay. Don't let that ornate door on your luxurious Capitol office his you on the way out.
The bigger issue was summed up quite well on the radio this morning by GOP majority architect Newt Gingrich. Newt said that Delay wasn't the core problem, the problem is that the GOP has moved so far beyond it's strengths (and in many cases simply abandoned them) that they've becoming everything they fought against in the early 1990s. I can't say I agree more...
(oh, and I think John Boehner would be a big improvement over Delay or even Blunt as the new ML.)
Friday, January 06, 2006
Dude, I'm so Trendy
Hmm...do I see a pattern? Last February I went to Nicaragua, only to return to a WSJ story on how it is an emerging and trendy eco-tourism destination. Now this. China is the hottest destination for 2006.
All kidding aside, China was pretty interesting. If you can, it's a great place to visit.
The Abramoff Conspiracy
It Goes to the Highest Levels
Like real estate, Washington is all about location, location, location. In other cities the ice-breaker question at happy hour might be.."so what's your sign?" In DC the question is always, "So who do you work for?"
That being said, it is important to know the vast scale of the Abramoff scandal, and how, inadvertently, it seems to have netted both yours truly, my good friend Donkey, and even professional skeptic and left coast correspondent Midgie. Here we go.
First, Elephant (that me!) 1, is friends with Donkey. In 2003, Donkey and his friends formed the "Coalition of the Swilling" (yes, oh so clever) that included members of Washington's media elite (2). Meetings of the coalition were held at the divey- Big Hunt. Emily Miller (3) was a member of the coalition. Miller, as is now being reported, was dating Michael Scanlon (4) partner of Jack Ambramoff (5). Abramoff was fleecing folks around the country, most notably Indian tribes(6), and using his pot of money (7), to unethically, and illegally influence a host of members of Congress (8). Michael Scanlon allegedly dumped Emily for a manicurists (9, here represented by Madge - who incidentally Donkey used to work with back in his advertising days!). So with Scanlon (4) banging Madge (9), Emily Miller (3) allegedly went to the FBI to give up Scanlon (4) and Abramoff (5). Meanwhile, Emily decided to take a break and go to LA to relax. Elephant (1) put her in touch with Midgie (10) so Midgie could provide Emily with details on LA hot spots where Ms. Miller might run into her favorite celebrity Reese Witherspoon (11).
Incredible I know. It is so hard to work in this town and not be tainted by scandal. And just remember, your G-level blogger Elephant told you first!
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
10 Hours Waiting
For 6 Hours of Heat....
Well, after waiting for nearly 10 hours to get my gas restored yesterday, I awoke to a chilly house at 3:00 am. Wandered around the house in a daze turning on portable radiators...and called the gas company at 3:05 am. So, no heat yet again....
I spent some time reading this weekend, a good activity while waiting for the gas company to arrive to turn on my heat...Anyway, I may struggle to articulate this, but it becoming apparent that there is an emerging pattern whereby the world seems to be organizing itself in such a way as to bypass the United States. Growing importance of the Chinese and Indian economies, U.S. multilateralism and fiscal recklessness, the reemergence of leftist nationalism in South America all seem to be on a path of convergence to an international system the relagates the United States to a international backwater, although still an important part of the world economy...for now.
Ok, so now that I've thrown that out there, I'm going to leave it lie for a while and pull together information that supports my thesis. Think about until then please.
Monday, January 02, 2006
Still No Heat
Ok, so after calling the emergency line at 9:00 ish this morning, and calling again and noon, the phone rings at 2:30 and it's the robo call telling me that the gas crew will be at my house within 15 minutes. 3:36 PM and still no gas crew...they did show up at 5:00pm, and despite reporting water in the gas line, the crew did not have the equiptment to pump out the line and restore the service. They supposedly called for another crew...no word on when they will arrive.
I really, really, really don't like this company...
So far in the past week, I've been without gas five days....
There used to be a time, when being a Republican was all about questioning the government. The assumption was the government was the least attractive alternative to perform functions in society...and the power of the federal government (and size) needed to be kept in check. Of course that's all changed now.
When it comes to the fearless (read: incompetent) leadership of President Bush, the only response is "George Bush is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known". He can disregard the constitution and spy on American citizens, drag our countries morals through the mud (torture), stoke the fires of intolerance and fear (FMA), expand the federal government (and spending) at an LBJ rate (Medicare drug benefit)/DHS, and even interfere in personal family decisions (Terri Schiavo) and still wave the banner of Reagan. He is no Reagan.
The truth is that over the past five years, we've witnessed the death of the GOP party that was (if ever) committed to limited government and the rights of individuals. Partly, of course, this is due to the rise of the southern states in importance to the party's claim on the majority position (and the southern states are such a good model on anything...as they rank pretty low on any scale- education, high divorce rates, high teen pregnancy, etc. But I'll save that for my therapist.
The GOP today is a bunch of koolaid drinking whinny wusses. Despite having control of the major branches of government, they are under siege at every turn and these enemies of America (mostly Americans who dare question their direction) who are so powerful they amount to a fifth column. Please.
Of course the Democrats aren't any better at this point. They're stuck in the wilderness wondering weather or not to embrace the centrist positions of the DLC as epitomized by Clinton or to take a track farther to the left along the lines of Howard Dean.
So, here I am stuck in the middle and darned tired of it too. There will be, without question, much to complain about in 2006, especially from these bozos...but what's the point really. Most people I meet on the road are reasonable - conservative or liberal - and don't represent the types of extreme silliness we see on either side...that gives me hope. So, perhaps it is time to direct my energies elsewhere for a while...work on abook, another screen play or something. Hashing out my musings in the first 1/2 hour of the morning isn't going to change any hearts and minds...other than to demonstrate that even a highly education lawyer can't spell worth a damned.
So, we'll shall see...
Meanwhile...In South America
Gee, something funny happened while we were focused on the Middle East. South America is in the midst of a leftist revival. The ongoing problems with Venezuela have now spread to Bolivia with the election of Morales. We are now looking at a Chavez-Castro-Morales Axis in South America which isn't really good for the U.S. as the three of them are likely to cling to power through fear monger of the "Imperialist USA". Of course things will be worse for the citizens of these countries as socialism, at least the Cuban model, doesn't seem to deliver the goods to the people....
How long can we keep telling the world to get screwed before they stop financing our deficits?
Puttie, Poot, Poot, Poot
A few years ago, President Bush met with Vladamir Putin, looked into his heart, and found a man of good character, someone he could work with. And, like Iraq, the intelligence looks to have turned out prefect.
Putin sends a shiver through Europe
Yup, Putin appears to have cut off natural gas exports to Europe. Why? The gas runs through the Ukraine, which - during the Orange Revolution, rejected Russia's handpicked successor in favor of ...gasp! Democracy.
Baby It's Cold Inside
Another Day, Another Gas Outage
Well, let's see, it was 49 degrees in my house this morning when I got out of bed. That makes it the 5 times in that past ten days that I don't have heat. Washington Gas, bless there hearts, is sending someone out today to fix it, but no word on when. Of course last Wednesday the said they were sending someone out each of the three times they were called, then on Thursday they said I never called.
I'm taking a Zen approach to it all (although it is hard to do). I tried to personalize the situation for the WG representative on the phone, saying, "Look, I appreciate you help, but in the last week, I've had to take every other day off of work to wait for a WG technician to come and fix my heat. I'm sure you understand, that you'd probably loose your job if you kept missing work like that, what can we do to fix this problem in the long term."
WG rep response, "Well, I can't help you with that, this is the customer service line. You know you don't have to call during the day, you can wait "
Me, "And what do you advise to help prevent my pipes from freezing during that time?"
WG, "Sir I really don't know."
Me, "Ok, fair enough, your the emergency line and you've been helpful. Happy New Year."
I hang up...have a brief bout of turrets. "#$#%! Mother-#$#(&%#@!" call and leave a message with my Public Service Commission (City utility oversight agency), turn on some space heaters, and wait.
Damn it's cold!