Opposing Viewpoints Still A Problem For Democrats

This is breaking news here:

Outside groups supporting Republican candidates in House and Senate races across the country have been swamping their Democratic-leaning counterparts on television since early August as the midterm election season has begun heating up.

Driving the disparity in the ad wars has been an array of Republican-oriented organizations that are set up so they can accept donations of unlimited size from individuals and corporations without having to disclose them. The situation raises the possibility that a relatively small cadre of deep-pocketed donors, unknown to the general public, is shaping the battle for Congress in the early going.

The yawning gap in spending by independent interest groups is alarming some Democratic officials, who argue that it amounts to an effort on the part of very wealthy Republican donors, as well as corporate interests, newly emboldened by regulatory changes, to buy the election.

“While each of our campaigns has the resources they need to be competitive, we now face shadow groups putting their thumbs on the scale with undisclosed, unlimited and unregulated donations,” said Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Attention, inattentive: Senator Menendez is talking to you! Forget about Moveon.org, Code Pink, AFSCME, ACORN and its affiliates, League of Conservation Voters, and any other gothic groups (that is, shadow groups, but Democratic, so they’re all epic, romantic, and cooler) putting money into races. Pay attention to the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy shadow puppets I’m making in the New York Times using the shining light of my intellect and political hack rhetoric!

Teaching The Unemployed To Text

A Missouri government program teaches the unemployed valuable skills:

For Miklos, technology is a bit of a mystery.

“Cell phones are a new thing,” he said, “and I’ve just recently found out how to send pictures on my cell phone.”

He knows he’s at a disadvantage in today’s workplace.

“The young kids today, they get taught that in school. They’re a whiz at it. You see them with both hands and all ten fingers [texting].”

Thanks to the Work Ready Missouri program and the Taney County auditor, he is getting up to speed. The program teaches new skills for new careers.

Is that seriously going to land him a new job?

No, but it’s what the community organizers and liberal arts majors that the program employs know how to teach, so that’s what the program participant learns.

And when the program fails, you want to know why it will fail? Because they didn’t have enough money.

Investment Advice From MfBJN

Want to avoid fiscal doomsday that could come when the stock market collapses, the Chinese sell the bonds, people run on their banks, and the Federal government cannot cover depositors?

Do what I’m doing: I’m taking my money from bank accounts that offer almost 0% interest and are subject to collapse, and I’m putting it into Amazon gift cards that I apply to my Amazon prime account.

Because when the bank is running on E and chains its doors, Amazon will still be there, shipping out groceries and DVDs.

Book Report: Frederic Remington by Peter Hassrick (1988)

This book includes a representative sampling of Frederic Remington’s drawings, paintings, and bronzes along with text that tells of his youth, his desire to be an artist at an early age, and his stints as Western artist for major magazines back East. I saw “Back East” as though Remington did his work from the frontier. He didn’t. He visited the West numerous times, including Mexico, and captured the spirit of the Fin de 19th siècle West in drawings and photos that he took home to NY to work on.

He found a lot of success as an artist, living from his art’s ample proceeds and able to experiment with a sort of Impressionism and enjoying some critical success at it. I’m always inspired when an artist has success in his lifetime.

Also, the book has lots of pretty pictures. One can flip through them and their explanatory text while watching football.

Watching football and looking at pictures of horses helps me recharge my Man Points after a hard day of découpage. At least, I hope it does.

Books mentioned in this review:

Listen To The Maudlin Rain

Wow, bicentennial quarters sure are getting thin in regular circulation, aren’t they?

For those of you who don’t remember, back in 1976, the United States quarter, the twenty-five cent piece (one quarter of a dollar, you see), deviated from the standard Washington profile/eagle design to recognize the nation’s 200th birthday. On the reverse side, where the eagle would have appeared, you see a drumming Uncle Sam. That was kind of a big deal, since before the state quarters started showing up in 1999, the quarter had the same design for many people’s lifetimes.

You used to find them every so often in the wild, at least you did in much of my lifetime. For 32 years, I’d see them often enough to not think anything of it. However, I guess I haven’t seen one in quite a while.

I found one on my dresser this morning after dumping the contents of my pocket last night. Just for a moment, I thought to put it aside for my mother as I’d done for years, saving bicentennial quarters, Susan B. Anthony dollars, and Sacagawea dollars so she could put them in coffee cans and glass jars for the sheer hoarding joy of it (you can guess where I get it from then).

My mother passed away a year and a half ago, so I guess I haven’t seen a bicentennial since then. So I paused for a moment and thought about her. I wonder if I’ll not have those little moments, those little remembrances as time passes, especially as the incidental artifacts of our shared experiences and minor traditions disappear from the world.

And I’ve taken this quarter from the dresser and don’t know what I’ll do with it. Maybe start a jar, although a small one, of them.

UN Official Acknowledges America’s Sovereign Rights

Embedded here:

It’s America’s sovereign right to do whatever is good for them. But don’t tell us what is good for China.

About damn time. And a Chinese UN official.

Oh, wait:

China’s top-ranking UN diplomat embarked on a drunken rant against the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, telling his boss he’d “never liked” him, and adding for good measure that he didn’t like Americans either.

Well, I guess we can discount that now that apologies have been issued and others have tried to explain it as inscrutable Chinese attempts at Austrian humor or something.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Reminds Voters That Robin Carnahan Doesn’t Think You Can Handle Guns, Citizen

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch runs a piece that reminds the world that Robin Carnahan was behind the effort to defeat Proposition B in 1999:

Democrat Robin Carnahan’s official campaign bio catalogs her feats in flying (she’s an instrument-rated pilot), endurance (five marathons) and farming (she runs the family cattle ranch).

Nowhere in the U.S. Senate hopeful’s list of achievements are voters told about her efforts leading a group of underfunded advocates that took on — and defeated — one of Washington’s most powerful special interests.

In a year when even veteran office-seekers such as Carnahan are running against the political establishment, such a David-versus-Goliath tale would make prime grist for an outsider’s campaign narrative.

But not when the issue is guns — and Goliath is the National Rifle Association, known for its deep pockets and long memory.

Eleven years ago, Carnahan led the successful opposition to a statewide ballot issue backed by the NRA that would have changed Missouri law that, at the time, prohibited carrying concealed firearms. The victory was pivotal to Carnahan’s political development, yet also short-lived: Four years later, the Legislature overturned the results of the vote.

Hey, thanks for reminding us. I wonder if Jake Wegman is trying to gin up some grassroots support for Carnahan by reminding them she’s really leftist or if he’s engaging in some real journalism here. However, only in a journalist’s prose does a citizen organization become Goliath and the government and a daughter of a political dynasty represent David in metaphor.

(Cross posted at 24th State.)

Book Report: Dick Tracy: The Secret Files edited by Max Allan Collins and Martin H. Greenberg (1990)

This is the second Dick Tracy book report on this site; the first was a collection of the actual comics (The Dick Tracy Casebook in 2005–good Lord, has it been five years?).

This is a collection of original short stories including Dick Tracy written by a number of popular authors of 1990, or at least people Max Collins knew. It was released to ride the success of Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy film (which also starred Madonna–good Lord, has it been twenty years?). As such, it’s a mixed bag. Most of the stories are tolerable, but one of the volume is darn near unreadable as it goes into very heavily cinematic action and the writer can’t capture it well in the text.

Sometimes I get the urge to read short fiction as my primary fiction book because I think how easily I can put it down when it’s time for bed. That’s a double-edged wrist radio (sorry, I should have issued a spoiled metaphor alert). It makes it too easy to put down sometimes, and this book is a good example of that.

I suppose the book is more worthwhile if you’re a big Dick Tracy fan, but what person under the age of fifty is. I mean, really.

On a personal note, someone ran a contest tied into the movie where you could win a yellow trenchcoat and fedora like Dick Tracy. I entered the contest, and that’s when I started thinking of myself in a trenchcoat and hat. A couple years later, I got my first trenchcoat for Christmas and then my first fedora from Donge’s on Third Street in Milwaukee. Twenty years later, I still affect that look.

Books mentioned in this review:


Book Report: Creative Juice by Cathie Filian and Steve Piacenza (2007)

As some of you know, I love the television program Creative Juice and blame it for the masculinity-reducing program I’ve undertaken. I started watching it a couple years ago when I was looking for a 30 minute episodic program I could watch while feeding my child (with a bottle, and the firstborn, so it’s 3 years or more). Each program has four short craft projects, and I’ve watched most of them by now considering that the show only ran for 3 years.

This book collects a couple of the projects I recognize from the show and some I don’t. As always, the crafts work with a variety of media and do some creative repurposing.

So I have nothing snarky to say about the book. Really, I only browse these to get ideas, so I don’t get to into the individual steps of the individual projects. This book is good fodder for the imagination, so it suited my desires.

Books mentioned in this review:

‘Journalist’ Position Reclassed As Projectionist

Election likely to show shift to right:

Two years into the age of Obama, America may be about to change course.

The hope and optimism that President Barack Obama stoked into Democratic control of Washington two years ago has faded.

Great seizer’s ghost!

Correct me if I’m wrong. I realize that two years ago was BAO, Before the Age of Obama, but wasn’t the election sort of close? 7 percent? And of that losing side, weren’t a whole hell of a lot of us somewhat concerned about what the election meant? A couple percent of us, those who sort of listened to Obama’s rhetoric before he toned it down for the gulls, might have suffered from some particularly acute dismay.

But in this “analyst”‘s opinion, it was the dawning of the Age of Hopechangius (Let the Sun Shine In), and that’s fallen off because of factors unrelated to Obamus Magnus.

Book Report: It Happened In Lemay by William F. Alden (1958, 1970?)

You cannot find this book on the Internet, mostly because it’s a 40-or-more-year-old (although I think it’s a later printing, but it’s still undated) comb-bound publication of the Naborhood Link News, a small free newspaper in south St. Louis County at the time. It’s a little better than photocopied typewritten article proofs, but the content is fascinating.

The worn cover of It Happened In Lemay

I lived in Lemay for a couple years in the middle 1990s, when the Naborhood Link News still existed (it ceased publication in 1996). This precedes my interest in reading up on the history of the region where I live, so I overlooked this book at that time. But Lemay has a far greater history than Webster Groves, word. Currently, the Lemay area is kinda defined as a portion of the unincorporated area in South St. Louis County where they tried to make Southpointe (with an E, like the car dealership whose owner led the charge) and that the small, 900-resident Bella Villa, best known as the eight-square-block speed trap on Bayless Avenue, helpfully offered to annex about the same time. However, historically, the Lemay area used to include Affton, Lakeshire, St. George, and a bunch of other municipalities that later made their own little town halls to…well, I suppose, impose a subdivision’s will on neighboring subdivisions.

The book tells anecdotes about Jefferson Barracks, how the villages that came to comprise Lemay were founded, the origins of Lemay Ferry Road and Telegraph Road (this last used to be called “El Camino Real” because it was built when the area was under Spanish control, which preceded French control, which preceded the Louisiana Purchase). A restaurant my wife and reviewed for our wedding rehearsal dinner dates from the 18th century; Lafayette purportedly stayed there once. Lemay was once considered for capital of the United States (story here.

And so on. Of course, the stories are all told informally with a lot of basis in recollections of the locals and some recourse to Missouri history periodicals. However, it’s best not to take them as the gospel truth. Still, good starting points for historical research or, at the very least, good legends to pass on.

I didn’t live in Lemay for that long, although my mother, the former owner of the book, lived there for much of her life, so I drove down some of the streets mentioned in the book (often accompanied by parentheses and “Now called Orient Avenue” or “Now called Ripa Avenue”). I sort of wish I was still in St. Louis so I could go look to see if many of these locations remain after the sixty years between the book’s publication and now.

As I mentioned, I inherited this book from my mother, who might have inherited it from her sister or mother. I wonder if my mother read it. I wish I could ask her and talk about it with her. One of the things I used to do on Sunday mornings was to have breakfast and coffee with her and regale her with stories and histories from books I read. This would be extra poignant as it is a book about her town.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Alberto Vargas: Works from the Max Vargas Collection by Reid Stewart Austin (2006)

I’ve been a fan of Vargas’s work since the Great Playboy Caper (someday, I’ll have to re-relate that story since I cannot find it on the blog here). Vargas (and his s-less alter ego Varga) did pinup and nude art for Esquire and later Playboy. They were always playful and attractive, so when I saw this book at Barnes and Noble, marked down, I knew it was the proper way to spend a Christmas gift card so long as I didn’t mention it in the thank you note by name.

The book chronicles the eras in Vargas life and selective art from each period from the collection of Vargas’s nephew. There’s plenty of text to tell the sad story of Vargas, from his start doing promo portraits of Zeigfield girls, to his rise when discovered by Esquire, to the final contract at that magazine that rooked him into indentured servitude, his break with Esquire, the lawsuit over the contract and its aftermath, and then his return to publication with Playboy.

He had a rough life, fiscally for sure, but he produced some great work. I cannot help but compare his life with that of Frederic Remington, whose art book I expect to complete during the Packers game next Sunday. Remington lived a generation before Vargas, and his work came from a life that was pretty cush and unfraught with drama. It puts lie to the hypothesis that great art must come from rotten lives. Sometimes art comes in spite of surroundings. Which is what I tell myself since I live a pretty cush life, which contrasts with my most productive writing period.

Although, to be honest, the Great Playboy Caper brought me more fiscal reward than my creative writing has.

So this book is worth a look if you’re not too embarrassed to buy it or be caught reading it. Because the other Republicans might ostracize one who knows who Vargas is or has an event in one’s life called The Great Playboy Caper.

Books mentioned in this review:

Tomorrow’s Non-Profit Today

I have a great new idea for a non-profit organization, and I’m going to get in on the ground floor and get rich. My stunning idea:

An Urban Chicken Rescue Organization.

Throughout Missouri and probably the nation, people are deciding that they want to raise chickens in their suburban and urban backyards (see stories in St. Louis and Springfield). These people are doing it as part of an environmental nutbar fad and they’re doing it with a bit of Internet research and without any experience in farming or treating livestock qua livestock instead of livestock qua food-providing-pet.

Ergo, when their circumstances change, when they get tired of them, or when they reach the end of the hens’ productive years, people are going to need to get rid of these damn birds. Are they going to slaughter them? Of course not! They’d just as soon slay their bichon frise or lifestyle accessory only child.

That’s where my UCRO steps in. It will give them a conscience-friendly way to get rid of their chickens without having to turn them loose on the streets (although there wouldn’t be much of a pack of stray chickens problem if there are any stray dogs or cats about or foxes, coyotes, or automobiles). UCRO can save cities from the dreaded Giant Chickens in the Sewers rumor, too, although to be honest, I’d rather help perpetuate that myth.

So send your checks and money orders as soon as I get my 501(c) status and start paying myself a hefty salary to help young green hipsters out of their foolishness. For a fool and his chicken will soon be parted for a small gift to my forthcoming charitable organization.

UPDATE: Hey, thanks for the link, Ms. K. If you readers are in IT, don’t forget to check out my QA blog QA Hates You.

Brian’s Secret Shame (Part of a Continuing Series)

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, not only am I a hypocrite, but I am a hypocrite!. Wait, I already bolded it. I need to bold it and italicise it (full on British italicisation, too, not that cheap American knock-off): I AM A HYPOCRITE! You should know how knees-on-cobblestones I am with this whole thing since I don’t use a WYSIWYG editor and actually have to type the tags for those embellishments, and <strong> and <em> even, not the sissy <b> and <i>.

You see, my very first op-ed was in favor of a tax increase.

Behold, the St. Louis-Post-Dispatch letters to the editor from sometime in January 1986:

Brian's secret shame, one of many

In my defense, I was 13 years old at the time (almost 14!), and Mrs. Weissflug made a pretty compelling case that if the taxes didn’t go up, Northwest R-1 and maybe even North Jefferson Middle School might have to let teachers go.

25 years later, I’ve seen a little more of the world and untold similar cases presented pretty regularly on the ballot.

But that does not diminish my sin. Wait, no, I’m not a hypocrite!; I am actually a hypocrite who is also a WAFFLER! FLIP-FLOPPER!.

You may discontinue taking me seriously if you haven’t already. And if you’re that way.

Also, please note that even in 1985, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s fact-checking and knowledge of St. Louis was lacking. Northwest R-1 covers part of Jefferson County, including Murphy, which used the Fenton post office (hence, my address at the time used Fenton as the town). However, Fenton itself is in St. Louis County and was unaffected by the levy. However, they titled my letter based on my address, not, you know, knowledge.

Book Report: Kilobyte Couture by Brittany Forks (2009)

I thought this book would have a lot of ideas on building geek jewelry and crafts and whatnot. Well, no. It has, essentially, one: Use resistors and capacitors as beads!

Pretty much, that’s it. We get different designs with different colors of capacitors and resistors, but that’s the big idea, and it’s replicated over dozens of projects within the book. The author talks about different parts of electronic gizmos in the introduction, but then recommends only using new resistors and capacitors ordered from Radio Shack.

The single idea is a good one, but it’s not enough in my opinion for a full book. The story of the author’s success with the idea is neat, but the book fills out with a too-cute explanation of geek culture and identification of geek things with top ten lists designed to fill the white space in the book. That being said, one of the top ten geek blogs is linked in my sidebar (Neatorama. So kudos, John and co., although I suspect that John is one of the co. and I don’t know whose name to put in front of it.

Worth a trip to the library if you want to see the one good idea in action, but I really have given away the ending.

Books mentioned in this review: