Thursday, November 30, 2006

End Runnings

Thankfully, blessedly and mercifully, hurricane season is over, and it was far quieter than last year's Atlantic atmospheric riot. El Nino and West African duststorms will be our friends until Category 5 levees are in place, it seems.

I think we still had more named storms than the University of Miami Hurricanes football team had wins, though. Something tells me the climate in Boise in December isn't conducive to tropical storm development, so expect to see the "Hurricane Season Over" signs figuring prominently alonside the smurf turf.

Speaking of lead balloons, did anyone read the Iranian President's letter to America yesterday? I did. I have to admit, the idea of our nations at least speaking to one another appeals to me, but you'd think, with the international situation being what it is and all, we'd have a little less tolerance on all sides for fluff pieces. The only thing that would make this more sterotypical is if President Bush responded to this letter with his own, written in crayon, complete with many refrences to "nukyalar" technology and with all the "s" and "e" letters written backwards. And, of course, the Beard's name misspelled.

Though I checked, and it seems the Beard's letter had a profound effect on the twin tools of US policymaking: right wing websites and MySpace blogs.

Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki took the "hunh?" moment of repose everyone had after looking at the Beard's letter to upstage his regional rival and announce that Iraq will take over Iraqi security on or around June 7. Let us one and all pray that this is the case, so many of our folks can come home and stay home, and someone over there gets their hands on the steering wheel.

I'm sure there will be a host of pundits on the right wing who sing praises to the 'stay the course' policy working, and I'm sure there will be a host of pundits on the left who say this is the result of the Democratic takeover of the Legislature (they still haven't been sworn in) and the aforethreatened timetables of withdrawal. I'm sure that in reality this has far more to do with Iraqis being uncomfortable with the continuation of Iraqis getting blown up by Iraqis. Whoever is responsible, let us hope that by June 7th, 500,000 Iraqis take over security for their own country, bid us a hearty thank you and farewell, and that there are 100,000 Americans on their way back to America, ready for the July 4th Victory Parade for the Ages Days that will undoubtedly follow.

In local news, I'm wondering what, if any, good can come out of this. Double edged swords all around. Open public housing: give folks a place to stay vs. concentrating populations in areas the governments have proven they can't maintain. Redevelop public housing: keep folks homeless or in exile vs. mixed use development & possible sell off to monied interests. So I'm opening the thread for debate, specifically, on the topic of public housing.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Thanksgivinin'

Sorry to leave that last post up for so long, the things I have to be thankful for took me away from the internet for several days, and I hardly realized how many days that actually was. We were blessed with a beautiful day on Thanksgiving Thursday in New Orleans, that my cousins and I spent circling Audobon Park. Then there was Turkeydaydinner, spent close enough to the track to see the suited men and hatted ladies making their way to and from the races. I haven't spent a Turkey day around that many people I was related to in years.

Then there was the long drive on Friday from NOLA to the ATL to pick up, of all things, Turducken. Coffee with friends in Marietta and then onward to Athens to help set up for Thanksgiving Saturday. There was more cooking, the glory of the Chick-fil-a Chicken Biscuit hangover breakfast, and a Georgia - Georgia Tech game for the ages.

So much fun, in fact, that the drive back had to wait till Monday. So I was right last Monday, when I said it was gonna be a good week.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Face of Courage

Tell me again why we were supposed to fear Democratic Committee leaders? Rep. Charles Rangel, D-NY and Korean War Veteran, says that next year, he will propose a bill calling for a draft to national service. He says that such a thing would deter politicians from engaging in wars of choice, and I think he is right on target with that. He also discusses the possibility that military service would not be the only beneficiary, but also things like airport security.

With politicians like the President and GA District 1 Representative Jack Kingston sounding the 'War on Terror' = 'Our Society's Survival & Our Generations's Great Challenge' frame, isn't it about time we take them to task on their terminology? If this is our great challenge, isn't it time, as John Stewart said, to "WWII this thing?" Isn't it time to put the burden on the whole society and not just the military and their families?

That means a draft, putting hundreds of thousands upon hundreds of thousands if not millions more boots on the ground, backed by the arsenal of democracy that is the American industrial machine. That means Ford stops making SUV's that don't sell and starts making tanks, that means the Gulf Coast will become an industrial hub building troop transports and landing craft, that means oil rationing. It means going all in when you say "all in."

And if America isn't ready for that sort of thing, what does that say about this war?

Monday Commutes

First of all, got two things accomplished yesterday that I’m down here on the Gulf Coast to do. Primero, help get the greedy lion’s share of my cousin’s stuff moved out of Alabama and back to New Orleans. Segunda, play music in front of people in the Central Time Zone, specifically the Knock Knock Lounge in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The first involved a Penske truck and a blown out tire. The second involved a very small crowd who still danced, a drummer who hadn’t played on a kit since 48 hours before Katrina, and two Georgia transients on the Gulf Coast – one we call Bandit.

Then, first thing I read on the internet this morning is Dante’s post here, which made me laugh out loud. It’s gonna be a good week, bubba.

Here’s your commute for Monday:

It always feels like election time in New Orleans. Earlier this year was the Mayor’s race. This fall was the national, statewides, and local elections (which still aren’t over), and next year is the battle royale for Governor of Louisiana (which I’ll handicap right now as a big win for Bobby Jindal, 57 – 43).

But before we really get into all that, there is the matter of Karen Carter v. “Dollar” Bill Jefferson for Congress. Tim Tegaris is down in New Orleans, covering the LA – 2 campaign for MyDD. NOLA bloggers Ashley Morris, Matiri, Adastros, and Oyster spent some time showing him around.

I’ll tell you why this is very important. One reason the Democrats won the national Congressional elections has to do with the aftermath of Katrina. Not a primary reason, I’ll grant you, but a reason nonetheless. Pelosi and the Democrats made some awful big promises to do better helping the recovery of the Gulf Coast than the current crop of congressmen, and the NOLA bloggers (generally a pretty left of center bunch) are watching very, very closely to make sure those promises are delivered on. MyDD is one of the big liberal/Democratic blogs that reaches a great many individuals in the national liberal/Democratic “plugged in” base. So, having some NOLA bloggers who lived the storm and the recovery interacting with the national blogosphere is very important when it comes to dispelling myths and going over the hard on-the-ground truths that the national media tends to sensationalize or generalize.

Speaking of the current crop of congressmen, and perhaps the main reason the Democrats were successful, A La Gauche points us to this opinion piece about the derailing of the 1994 Republican Revolution because of the individuals involved. (And the "chess club on steroids" refrence also plays in the week running up to the Georgia - Georgia Tech game which plays heavily on my mind...)

Though I would disagree with the contention that the Senators cut a finer figure (please see: Santorum, Cornyn, Allen, Vitter & Frist’s shenanigans on the right, and – not to be forgotten – John “Foot in Mouth” Kerry on the left), and that we have seen the last of the Gingrich (2008 campaign for President is gearing up). The examples of moral lapses v moral language to win elections is one of the reasons this congressional cul de sac has met its current end, its corruption of actual conservatism and its notorious distinction as Worst Congress Ever (or awfully close).

On a more local note along the same lines G-Bitch points to the ‘disaster profiteering’ being allowed by some state and federal agencies in the cleanup of the Gulf Coast. You want to know why it costs so much to Defend New Orleans? “Flood prone” ain’t the half of it.

And one post script I kinda forgot to add last week. DADvocate
links us to GMRoper’s groupthink analysis of Democrats and ‘their allies.’

If anyone was wondering what my last week’s references to groupthink were about, here’s the origin. Though I am glad to see GM point out that such groupthink affects the other side as well, I found many of his examples of Democratic allies' shenanigans to be extreme. To reiterate: groupthink affects every subgroup ever, from Frat Boys and Townies to Southerners and Yankees to Red State and Blue State, Left Coast and Flyover Territory. As we’ve seen already with this group of Democrats (who, having yet to be sworn in, have gotten a great deal done already) are anything but a lockstep group of ideologues afraid to disagree with one another.

Return of the Return of the Dragon

I knew President Bush was displeased about the most recent election results but I didn't think he'd resort to Kung Fu action to avenge his party's losses. Alas, it looks as both the President and Russian President Putin are both training to be bad@$$ kung fu warriors. Bush could not be reacheed for comment but Putin did release a statement: "Anyone who opposes us will be destroyed!"












Before Training
After Training

Bonus intrasite circular reference

Friday, November 17, 2006

More Groupthink

'Cause us Southern Liberals and Democrats never disagree on anything important...

< / sarcasm>

Thursday, November 16, 2006

149-86

Oh yeah, "intraparty warfare."

Hoyer beats Murtha for Majority Leader in the House. RESOUNDINGLY. Going away. No matter how much the radio screamers or the shrill machines on the right wanted Democrats to, no matter how big this relatively small procedural vote overshadowed any other really real news for the past three days, no matter how much the naysayers and detractors want to make mountains out of this molehill, the Party isn't jumping off a cliff anytime soon.

Sorry, fellas.

I mean, what a difference a year makes. Wasn't DeLay making headlines as Majority Leader just this time last year? It sure feels like it. How long was DeLay Majority leader? How long did the Hammer rule the house, making the rules up as he went along? How many headlines did he get hold of? How much embarassment did he bring to real conservatives and Texans everywhere? When was the last time he was challenged, within his party, for leadership, without a Federal or State subpoena being involved?

And they tried to make Hoyer v Murtha some dynasty sounding stuff. I was waiting to see Don King describing the build up on the O'Really Factor.

That's what you get from the Party of realism, however: A Speaker from California balanced with a centrist Majority Leader from Maryland. No groupthink to see here. This is what a big tent looks like, y'all: variety.

And Trent Lott got the Minority Whip position for the Senate Republicans, reemerging as a leader despite Karl Rove & Tennessee's leadership takeover with Dr. Frist. Though the left wing shrill machine may make a lot of hay over Lott's affable comments to an ailing old man on his retirement day, at least he knows how to be a Senator and a leader. Perhaps we will go down fewer Schaivo Roads with him near the top of the Republican Reinvention*.

(*As they struggle to remember what this "conservatism" thing that they talk about all the time really is....)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Democratic Congress So Far

Oh yeah, the really cool thing is, they haven't even been sworn in as the majority yet. Think the country was ready for a change?

So, we all know that, the day after the elections, Rumsfeld was out as Secretary of Defense, and hopefully the soon to be confirmed Mr. Gates is a conservative member of the reality based community, a huge step in the right direction for this country. As I've said before, I think this is going to be a very good thing.

Second, I submit a hearty Thank You to ultra-Northern Progressive Sen. Feingold, for announcing that he will not run for President in 2008. I don't like Senators running for President, and this has nothing to do with their success rates. They have a huge responsibility to their posts in the legislature, and Presidential campaigns destroy their Senatorial credibility (IMHO). Also, Feingold as an almost undefeatable progressive Senator is far more valuable to the nation, even on issues where I disagree with him, in the legislature than mounting a distracting fight for the Presidential nomination. (Now, if only She would announce that she will not run for the Presidency in 2008...)

Third, I'd rather Maryland Representative Hoyer become Majority leader than Jack Murtha. Only part of this is that the dude is from Maryland, and that's almost considered a Southern state. But Rep. Murtha is not the dude I want to publicly speak for the party from an actual position, because even when he makes good points, I don't like the way he makes them. I'm very tired of lightning rods filling every leadership role. I saw what our side was able to do with Tom DeLay (and, truthfully, what Tom DeLay was able to do to himself), and I don't want that going on. I mean, who's the current Republican Majority Leader until January? When's the last time you saw him on the news actin' up? I want someone who's going to organize and pass legislation, not someone who likes to go on TV and yell, is what I'm sayin.

Fourth, Pelosi is being awful shrewd, and is talking an excellent game so far. The right wing shrill machines will howl about how liberal she is all they want, if Americans see her holding out a hand to the other side to get stuff done, it is the shrill machines who will get egg on their faces. I hope she walks the walk she's talkin about.

This also sounds like a really smart divide and conquer plan, as the schism war between the really real conservatives and the big government Bushitistas has already opened up cracks. If the door to get legislation amended and passed remains open, especially with a Democratic focus primarily on effective government and Congressional oversight instead of partisan retribution for the past decade, some real work may get done - and quickly - without falling into the same holes of hackery that led to the Republican Congressional maturity issues (that consequently led to the GOP's electoral defeat last Tuesday). I think that's one thing the real conservatives and the variety of Democrats are really looking to achieve at this point.

This is some pretty cool stuff to hear about, and like I said up front, they haven't even been sworn in yet...

The Insanity Defense

A few words on this.

Y'all know me, and y'all know that I believe that the only acceptable number of prisoner executions is zero. But that is a perfect world number, and we do not live in a perfect world. Unfortunately, I do believe it is sometimes required of society to take the lives of the incarcerated.

I know it sounds heartless, but I believe it is necessary, despite all my religious belief to the contrary. But religion is a utopian philosophy, religion is the compass light that tells us how things could be better. Civil government, however, must take a far more pragmatic approach.

Here is a tragic case of a mother who killed her three young children, but is certifiably crazy. I mean, she knowingly killed them in order for them to get into heaven and be raised by God instead of her. Because of the insanity defense, she will most likley be looked after for the rest of her life in a state mental institution - undergoing incarceration indefinitely.

Let me say that I am proud of our society for trying to temper vengeful and emotional justice with compassion. The existence of the insanity defense at all, as problematic as it has turned out to be, is a testament that our nation strives to uncover the natures of our better angels.

However, and again - I may sound heartless, but I do not believe that represents justice for those children. There comes a time, I believe, that your crimes outweigh the compassion society employs in order to take care of the infirm of mind. I believe there is a barrier that can be crossed where society and civil government are not acting draconian to demand a prisoner execution, when the action isn't to be used as a deterrent but as a means to its own end, that society and civil government are responsible for persuing such action.

I think such action should be persued in this case, despite the woman's mental instability. That is one of the reasons I believe in keeping the death penalty, though rarely to be employed, as a legal punishment to certain crimes.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Hard Hitting Post Game

There are a lot of right wing editorials trying to round up the election analysis these days. Contrary to the shrill "country is going over a cliff-ism" emerging from some blogs and talk radio concerning the election returns, many of us who are on the left and Democratic side of this maintain that this election wasn't a mandate for any particular ideology, it was because the Republican Congress was one of the worst ever.

But while the 'blame the Democrats machine' is already working, before any new members can even be sworn in, predicting future doom for the nation, many of us are continuing the calls of BS against the machine.

Excellent post by Your Right Hand Theif.

Some highlights:

"I love these conservatives who are now saying that the past six years of total GOP rule didn't represent "true conservatism". Yeah, no freakin' kidding. Thanks for the belated "head's up", though!"

"Why? Because power corrupts conservatives, too, and liberals should always be able to out-promise them on the campaign trail. (Which explains why conservatives are susceptible to bewitchment by pretty fantasies like supply-side voodoo and neocon foreign policy. Always beware when a so-called conservative is telling you about economic free lunches and easy/cheap nation-building.)"

"And now they are starting to say, "what you saw over the past 6 years wasn't really our 'true' selves."

"Oh, OK. Well, let us know when you stop snorting political faerie dust and return to your "core" principles. In the meantime we'll try to clean up the mess after your binge."
Damn. Just. Damn.

Luckily, many conservatives also mirror this thinking, and to be fair, were fed up with the Repbulcian Party's ineptitude for a while. Though they may be unduly frightened witless by the prospect of a Democratic legislature being as bad as this one, they need to keep that in mind the next time they win the majority when keeping their own folks in line. (Here's a hint, spend less time worrying what inconsequential 'liberals' think, and spend more time worrying about what how your own folks are doing/not doing their jobs....) DADvocate has a short round up here.

Victimology

Yup.

This guy is good. You're not paranoid if they're really out to get you. Then again, sometimes bureaucracy attacks, and makes it seem like they're out to get everyone.

The best part, however, is the rationalization. An example:

Well, they can't very well make it look obvious, the man explained. They've got to treat some white folks poorly, too, so officials can say with some plausibility that their pace doesn't have anything to do with race.
Fair and balanced red tape?

Whiskey is a Hell of a Drug

And the award for "Best Performance Combining Litigation and MouthBreathing" goes to these two winners in California. I can't stop laughing at this one. I don't know what's funnier, the fact that they showed up with their faces 'plastered' across the big screens of America and then asked for their names not to be mentioned on the lawsuit, or the fact that their instinct to get on camera as drunken exhibitionists outweighed their prior knowledge that frat boys aren't usually portrayed as nice guys in comedies. (Cause you know they've seen Animal House at least once...)

For those folks out there that may think the media and feminism are the co-conspirators in making American men look like the biggest toolboxes on the planet, I'll now refer you all to Beavis and Butt-head here as exhibits A & B that, we don't appear to need any help in that department.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

That Didn't Take Long

Wow. Talk about an immediate effect. Democrats take the the House just before midnight, and just after noon the next day, Rumsfeld Resigns. They haven't even been sworn in, and already they're doing a better job!

Thank You

Rev. Nelson,

I know this might not be the best morning, but I would like to personally thank you for running for Congress this election. Because of you we had a choice that we wouldn't have had otherwise. Good folks like you, who stand up and run for office with all the mud and frustration and work that entails, win or lose, make Democracy work and keep this country the shining light to the world.

Again, thank you.

Patrick Armstrong

What I Get From this Election

First of all, I don't see this as a mandate, I see this as an absolute repudiation of the child-like behavior of this Congress. Pelosi & Co. didn't have to represent a really good hand to take this electoral pot, they just had to beat the awful hand the Republicans were bluffing on. I mean, Georgia beats Florida every once in a while, its doing it two times in a row that seems to be the kicker. But enough analogies, I see these elections as a distinct victory in the War Against Ass Clownery, but the Democrats are going to have to prove in big ways that they aren't the same neandertals they just unseated.

I think they will, considering I thought this was one of the worst Congresses. Ever. They left a pretty low bar to jump over to gain control.

Thing is, I don't think America will be satisfied, in two years, of just being better than the other guy. Maybe they will, two years is a long time electorally speaking.

What I found more interesting was this news. It may be buried in all the huffing and puffing going on the airwaves today (you talk show callers stay classy in defeat, y'hear?), but South Dakota rejecting the Roe v Wade challenge law, Missouri's Stem Cell research referendum, and traditionally libertarian/conservative Arizona's defeat of a gay-marriage ban are some of the most important referendum level voting guages I've seen in a while.

That for me was the heart stopper. You don't get more Middle America than Missouri, and though the margin was tiny, that demonstrates how even conservative, family based, middle class Americans are willing to support medical science in the face of a blistering culture war battle. Arizona's result should have been expected from the 'outta my wallet and my bedroom' West. Thanks, Wildcats, for remaining ideologically consistent yet again. But wholesome, dyed in the wool Republican, wind swept American prairie South Dakota rejecting - in direct democracy fashion - the ban on reproductive choice?

I almost fell out of my chair.

I think the winds of change that affected these referenda, and played into the national debate, is the most important aspect, politically speaking, of yesterday's election. First and foremost, the culture war backlash may be beginning, as voters grow weary of being told they are under constant assault. Think about it, one of the mainstays and most effective tools of the Republican Party Machine over the last 20 years has been the "values under attack" frame that they hit constantly and reliably, reaching crescendo in 2004. But you can only cry wolf so many times, and end up doing nothing about it, and expect the gambit to be effective. I also think that there is a growing part of the middle class that will begin to tire of feeling under cultural assault all the time - the assault as described by Republicans and talk show shills and their most ardent and obnoxious base supporters - before the broken record starts to be overplayed.

They may also be losing their fire because they're running into real liberals (like me) at work and play and while watching Georgia games at the bar, and we're eating red beans and rice as a side to our medium rare steak, drinking Abita or Sweetwater while watching the game on TV, and we're volunteering to work for Catholic School fundraisers. They see these things, and then they hear from the talking head in a shrill voice, with a psychotic lilt, that godless liberals (like me?) will encourage terrorist takeover, pre-natal genocide, and bring a gay dance hall to their town. I think folks are hearing that nonsense more and more these days, and I think folks are calling "bulls**t."

They'd rather hang with us and discuss Sean Payton's probable elevation to Coach of the Year, than keep listening to 'how under attack' they are all the time. Because football is fun, being under attack all the time sucks.

But anyway, that's what I got out of it. Maybe I'm reading waay to much into it, though.

If you thought the politicians were bad sports...

...check this out. This is a sports-related story but it deserves all the coverage I can possibly give it. Here's a teaser quote: "He is my son, I own the league, and he plays every snap on defense."

Random election thoughts....

First, a not so random thought. Thank you, Georgia voters for re-electing Sonny Perdue. Not so much for any Republican leanings I may have. I wouldn't have been all that upset with Governor Taylor. Thank you though for putting the flag issue to rest. The "flag" vote doesn't matter. It never did. We don't care about the stars and bars. This was not the issue that got Sonny elected and it's sure not an issue in his reeclection.

When did Republicans become red and Democrats become blue? When I was a kid, it was the opposite. I remember the big blue map with the little red dots from the 1984 Presidential election.

It was good to see the more conservative candidate win in Rhode Island. In fact, in most of the tight Senate races, the more conservative candidate won. Then again, "more conservative" doesn't mean much. I'm pretty sure Leon Trotsky was "more conservative" than Lincoln Chafee.

All the blame being laid at Bush's feet is on issues that Congress ultimately controls. It seems like with their jobs on the line, Republicans could've tried a bit harder and maybe stood up to the President more than once or twice.

I watched about three hours of election coverage from two different networks (Fox and CBS) and I never once heard anything about the issues of the Democratic Party, only the inadequacies of the Republican Party. If Democrats want to keep control for any length of time, they need to find a way to capitalize on this victory. "I oppose Bush" isn't a sustainable election platform.

There are people without eyeliner in India and Ethiopia because Katie Couric used it all up. That was a cheap shot but on a more serious note, I can see why absolutely nobody watches the CBS Evening News anymore. If CBS weren't my only source for Athens area election results, I would've changed channel a few minutes into coverage. Couric is an abysmal anchor.

And finally, where is Newt when conservatives need him? Oh that's right, House Republicans sold him up the river after the gov't lockdown.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Election Endorsements

Instead of the usual editorial focus on 'who you should vote for tomorrow,' here's some items I'd like to see dealt with at the polls, or more specifically, the voters' feet.

1. Redistricting must make sense. I looked the other day at the 1st, 2nd, & 3rd Congressional Districts of Louisiana. Wibbiduwabbida. I don't even want to see State House districts. This comes after a long stint of examining the Georgia Congressionals and the absolutely incomprehensible mess of State Rep districts. I know a desire to make districting not suck is like asking to win the lottery, but c'mon folks, aren't we a little embarassed by this mockery? I think if we can get them fixed, somehow, to geographic sense or even 50% - 50% patterns, our Congressmen and State Houses would become an order of magnitude more reasonable, and maybe incumbency wouldn't be so much of a problem. Maybe I'm just a utopian liberal idealist, though.

Oh yeah, and you gotta live in the district you represent for at least a year before you represent it.

2. Term. Damn. Limits. I don't care if it was ever a Republican idea back in 1994, it was a good one. If you serve in Congress, you may serve four two year terms for that district, max. If you are a Senator, you get one, yes, one six year term, ever (I am open to negotiation for a second term possibility, but that is all). If you are President, two four year terms, ever. A Supreme Court appointment lasts ten years.

And: sitting Senators may not run for the Presidency.

Yes, I know this will require Constitutional change. I think that such change, however, would overcome an 8/9ths requirment of the voting population. The only people voting against this would be the 500 some odd people it directly affects, and their staffs who can't find real jobs.

3. Libertarians must get their S*** together and become a viable third party.

4. Paper reciepts for voting.

5. A national holiday for voting in Congressional & Presidential elections.

6. National. Damn. Service. For the military, police, education, public safety or infrastructure maintenance. Yes, that means a draft, and yes I expect to be drafted first.

7. National Consumption/Fair Tax must be directly linked to Universal Health Care. We either make both work, or we get neither. Yes, this will take a great deal of work, but politics is about negotiation.

8. Get involved with your local political infrastructure. I don't care if it is Republican, Democrat or Libertarian, normal folks need to go to meetings to balance the activists in all three.

9. We need a better way to fund education than property taxes alone.

10. Ethics laws must be simple, and Ethics committes must be made up of people the same way we select folks for jury duty. That'll get the folks running the inquiry in the absolutely right frame of mind for the task we will set them to.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Editorials

I gotta say, since arriving in New Orleans and starting to read the Times-Picayune paper edition, I've become something of a Jarvis DeBerry fan.

This cat is on point.

My favorite, so far, was his excoriation of USA Today's editorial page by starting with a Mark Twain quote: "I tell you I have been in the editorial business going on fourteen years, and it's the first time I ever heard of a man's having to know anything in order to edit a newspaper. . . . Sir, I have been through it from Alpha to Omaha, and I tell you that the less a man knows the bigger noise he makes and the higher salary he commands."

Heh heh.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Cooking with Dante

So MSN Money has an article titled "Is eating out cheaper than cooking?" It looks at more than just the price issue. It also looks at time and a general disdain most folks have for cooking nowadays. It also spends a little bit of time on restaurants and the nutritional value of their food.

First and foremost, the answer to the question is "No." Don't believe me, refer to the "author" of this piece's website. The name of the article on the Cristian Science Montior's site is "For not that much more, Americans opting to eat out" and I really think if you compare apples to apples, you'll probably come to the same conclusion, especially if you are a somewhat responsible grocery shopper. Add steak to the mix and there is no comparison.

Then again, sometimes apples to apples doesn't matter. For example, my family usually eats at either Sonic or Domino's on Tuesdays. Each has a Tuesday special that is just too cheap to pass up. My typical homecooked meal would probably cost slightly more and be a better meal but for a once-a-week thing, I'll take the cheap burgers or pizza.

I do most of the cooking in my family and I also do the bulk of the grocery shopping. That gives me a pretty good idea of how much each of my meals cost. One thing I find essential to buy meat on sale. The other stuff is either too perishable or too cheap for a sale to matter but cheap meat is the single biggest thing you can do to keep your cooking costs down. That would be my Rule #1 for cheaper home cooking.

"By the time he's driven to the farmers market, bought the organic veggies and spent an hour cooking a meal for himself and his wife, Mark Chernesky figures he's spent $30."

So Rule #2 would be not to buy overpriced goods. If you're buying organic for at home, don't expect to save that much over non-organic restaurants. And if you're willing to go regular while you're out, why not save yourself some cash and do the same at home.

And Rule #3 would have to be that you should only cook meals that are as long as they are worth. If you're upset at the prospect of having to cook for an hour, then the particular meal you are thinking about cooking is too complex to be worth it tonight. Go with other options. I'll get to it in a moment but I have an arsenal of 20 minute meals for thos occasions.

""When I add my hourly rate, the time to cook at home, I can instead take my family out to dinner, and it comes out pretty even," said Paul Howard, a manager-instructor at Café Laura, a restaurant run by college students at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pa."

If you're time is so important that you can't be bothered to use it cooking, then eating out is probably worth it but my guess is that Mr. Howard would not be making his hourly rate during the time he would normally be cooking dinner. In fact, I'd even go so far to wager that he would spend that time losing money by sitting on his couch (or recliner) and watching TV. While the hourly rate argument sounds good at first, generally speaking your hourly rate is $0.00 in your free time (hence the word "free").

The article goes on to more detail on time. It dredges out the working mother argument but that really doesn't hold that much water for me. My mother and father both worked yet we still ate at home far more often than we ate out. It might just be that you don't want to spend your time cooking and that's fine but you'll pay a premium for someone else to do it for you.

Then there's this lady who is complainging about an $8 package of chicken wings without being too specific. Are we talking $8 for a package of raw wings or $8 for precooked ready-to-eat wings? I'd wager the latter. If she's talking about the former, then she is either getting a WHOLE lot of wings or getting ripped off. A family pack of raw wings cost about $4-$5 and that's about 40-50 wings. On the subject of precooked foods at the grocery store, a lot of times if that's all you use you will indeed spend a lot of money.

And then we get to my favorite part of the article: restaurant food's nutritional value. I've spent enough time in the restaurant industry to know that you don't want to know what's in the food. And I'm not talking from a gross standpoint. I'm talking from a health one. Cane sugar makes its way into almost everything you eat. There's always at least twice as many butters and oils on the food than you'd ever think to use at home. Now this is fine for an occasional meal but not for every meal you eat. And while restaurants have been getting better about this and that is mentioned in the article, there is often no middle ground between ultra healthy and gossly unhealthy menu items. The article also ignores that most of the "healthy" menu items are loaded with sodium to offset the lack of fat. Substituting one health concern for another isn't healthy at all in my book.

Then this article mentions the push by restaurants to get healthier by cutting your portion size. I will be one of the first to admit that portions sizes are out of control at some places but at the same time I can understand the customer's animosity towards the restaurant doing this because the restaurants who have reduced portion size have not lowered the price of their entrees. If these restaurants really care about a customer's health, then they will put their money where their mouth is and drop menu prices accordingly. Until then, customers will continue to see this as a way for restaurants to act like they care while shrewdly padding their bottom line.

So what about you? Do you eat out often? Do you cook often? What do you think about food pricing? What do you think about restaurant health? What kinds of things do you cook? Maybe in a later article I'll go in-depth on my cooking strategy if there's interest. I have a West Coast Meal Plan* I implement most of the time that yields a variety of 3 to 5 item meals in about 30 minutes or less.

* West Coast Meal Plan is named after the West Coast Offense as used in football due to the similarities in WCMP meal selection and WCO playcalling. It is not based on the eating habits of those on the west coast.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Family Time

I find it difficult to keep up with the news media and the minute details of what particular pundits are saying about what these days. In a way, I've gone from 'plugged in base' to 'muggle' in a few short weeks. Amazing how quickly that change can come about when TV goes away and you aren't a slave to the 24 hour news cycle.

I've also noticed another thing: family time destroys pundit time. Perhaps this is the best signal that civilization is not yet in the dumps. When the kids are around, what Bill O' Reilly or Al Franken says are far, far, far less important in the scheme of things, and rightly so.

Last night, Halloween, was an absolute delight to see in New Orleans. I'm not talking about whatever beautiful madness they had going on at the corner of Frenchman and Esplanade (as the stories of costumes and street theatre are nothing short of legendary), I'm talking about what goes on in a neighborhood full of children whose parents are taking them for an evening stroll on a night where even the adults dress up and have as much fun have divesting themselves of sweets as the kids have collecting the loot. So that's what 'the joys of being a parent' are.

I got to play the role of 'media' (I had a camera) last night, and trapsed up and down the avenue as parents and kids formed a column of screamed and ignored orders that hit an absolute obstacle every time the vanguard reached street they weren't allowed to cross without 'adult supervision.' It was a great deal of fun for kids and parents alike, and was nothing like anything I had ever seen. I had imagined that this is what Halloween was supposed to look like, but had never really seen it happen this way. Though I know not where parents get the energy to work all day and play with kids all night.

Two other family links today: the always proud DADvocate brags on his kids today, and Hip Mama's got a hilarious post at Flagpole. That last one rings especially true for all of us who are either parents or Creswell Hall denziens who have a true appreciation for sidewalk chalk.

Oops, He Did it Again...

Welp, John Kerry has done it once again. The king of foot-in-mouth-itis let fly with a 'bad joke' that doubles as an absolute slander against our troops.

Kerry, in full backpedal mode, claimed that he will... "apologize to no one for my criticism of the president and of his broken policy", while Kerry spokesman David Wade unleashed the usual spin cycle with the memorable, "We made a decision not to allow the Republican hate machine to use Democratic candidates as proxies in their distorted spin war."

Guys, I hate to tell you, but you've already lost this one. Proof? Take a look at this cry for help that some of our troops have sent out.

Dems, this is why you need to put Senator Kerry on a shorter leash. He may well have just cost you about 10 congressional seats.

In the interest of fairness, here's the original speech clip, from those wacky kids at youtube.