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"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

...............................................................Thomas Jefferson

Friday, February 29, 2008

Cooked Goose

Long before there were telecommuting and home offices, there were—and are—American Farm Families. No 40-hour work weeks for them. Instead, a routine of daily chores, animals to be fed, a future to be planned for. Farmers are the ants of the economic biosphere.

The rest of us? Mostly grasshoppers.

Well, gather round, grasshoppers, as we contemplate the benefits of foie gras vs. golden eggs.

Foie gras—that oh-so-elegant and pricey paté for the have-mosts, goose liver to the rest of us—is basically force-fed geese forced to give up their lives for a moment’s rest on the tongues of the one percent crowd.

Don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling a lot like those geese for a few—oh, let’s say seven-plus—years now. Force-fed a steady diet of propaganda packaged as public relations on everything from the food we eat to the way the White House spends our money—profligate son, anyone?

The White House Bush Administration practices a kind of economics most of us at the kitchen table wouldn’t recognize. Laissez-faire. Let the capitalists do what they do without restraint. We don’ need no steenkin’ oversight. Cut the funding and the people [that would be jobs] for sensible regulation and monitoring of the [you fill in the blank] industry. The unseen hand—that would be the one up your skirts—will make sure things work the way they should work.

Tell that to the school districts across the country who are gathering up their beef from Hallmark Meat Packing in California. Or tell yourself, but check your Progresso soup can against the recall list before you do it over lunch.

Watching video of downer cows being scooped up by front end loaders to become part of the food supply, well, makes me contemplate going vegan.

Also pretty much sums up the philosophy of how the Bush Administration thinks about government and how little it thinks of ordinary Americans. Just throw everything into the meat grinder, offal included, and serve it up to the people. Hey, if they’re dumb enough to buy it….

For quick, short-term profits and profiteering and crony capitalism, you can’t do better than the Republicans who have run this economy aground the past seven years.

There’s a better way. Instead of killing the geese that lay the golden eggs, let’s sustain the economy and the country, lay the nest-full for future generations, build a strong, thriving flock that will keep our tummies healthy…and our country, as well.

That takes planning, and candor to the American people, and sensible monitoring of where the food supply and the propaganda supply both are coming from…and, yes, each of us thinking thru what’s being served up for us and separating the foie gras from the golden eggs.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Red-Tailed Balk

Okay, this little "postcard" is for sheer funsies, because who could resist writing a headline like that. Of course, we're talking a very serious issue for Prairie Country, and that's gateways...to the world.

For many of us hereabouts, Northwest Airlines and their airlinks are the only game in town and country. So their recent merger talks with Delta Airlines have unsettled more than a few. Travelers, yes, but also the folks who staff the hub and headquarters operations in the Twin Cities. And the customer service phone folk up on the Range where NWA is the economy these days.

We're breathing a little sigh of relief that the pilots of the two airlines can't seem to agree on how to merge their seniority lists. But the subtext is unmistakable. Merger means lost jobs.

Lost paychecks, but also fears of fewer flights, higher prices for less service, and lost connections. Gateways matter. And big birds matter these days.

So the possibility that the big bird that is Northwest may keep its red-tailed self is good news for Prairie Country.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Greybeards on the March

We added updates to the previous post, but it merits restating here. The shift in endorsement by John Lewis from Clinton to Obama and the new announcement of endorsement by ND Senator Byron Dorgan, part of the Senate's leadership team, are a clarion call from the greybeards of the Democratic Party in Congress.

As was recalled on the Imus Show this morning, Bing Crosby's reputed to have said that Frank Sinatra was a once in a lifetime singer...just why did it have to be in my (Bing's) lifetime?

Hillary just may be wondering the same thing today.

She Wore Brown

aybe Hillary caught a bit of CBS Sunday Morning's pre-Oscar discussion of movie costuming. The bit about Indiana Jones wearing brown while all the villains wore black. She certainly did borrow the Indy motif with her continued assertion "I am a fighter."

Yes, and ordinarily I'd say if you are a fighter you don't have to tell anyone. They know.

But these are not ordinary times, and thanks to BushCo and the corporate media's American Idol-ized dumbing down of the public discourse, yeah, you do have to do a Mr. Whipple [please don't squeeze...] a bazillion times before it registers in the lizard brains of those asleep.

Plenty of people aren't asleep this time around, and more and more are waking up. Unfortunately for Hillary, Obama's the one waking them.

And let's lose the assertion that media have a pro-Obama bias. Tim Russert's sleazy questioning of Obama regarding Farrakhan was Karl-Rovian in its reach. Prairie wasn't the only one to take notice. As blogger Attaturk over at Firedoglake notes this morning,

After all, Louis Farrakhan is black -- Barack Obama is black -- therefore anything Farrakhan says must be automatically what Obama thinks because apparently to Tim Russert all black men have an intellectual osmosis that links them....

Maybe Michael Kinsley can opine about that one as he did about the NYTimes article on McCain and the lobbyist. Or not. As Digby points out, until we change the Russert culture, nothing's gonna change.

In the meantime, last night, Hillary wore brown, a somber color, not yet mourning, but not the vivid hey look at me colors she's worn on other occasions. She stayed late after the debate, hugging her daughter, then signing autographs, lingering... while Obama signed autographs for a short time but then moved purposefully on.

A sign of the times.

UPDATE: It's official, Georgia Congressman and civil rights era icon John Lewis has changed his superdelegate support from Clinton to Obama. First Dodd, now Lewis...the party greybeards are speaking out.

UPDATE 2: Prairie's own homestate Senator, Byron Dorgan, part of the Senate leadership team, endorses Obama. The true tide of inevitability?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Million Mega-Watt Smile

There's a difference between winners and also-rans. You can accept it with good grace, like George Clooney, acknowledging that Daniel Day Lewis is something in a whole ’nother stratosphere.

As is Tiger Woods to Phil Mickelson. And Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton.

Sportsmanship’s been on display a lot lately, more off the field than on. We’re getting a good education in what makes an iconic figure in a chosen field, be it baseball or golf, politics or film.

It’s not lost on Prairie that the stench of corruption has followed one man from Texas baseball to the “hardball” practiced by the White House team.

If you haven’t yet seen it, check out this 60 Minutes report on the political show trial and prosecution persecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman...now labelled felon sitting in prison.

This is stuff straight out of the old Soviet. Sorry times we’ve come to, indeed.

The man from Texas tells us he’s the decider, the commander in chief, the one lookin’ for those WMD under the desk in the Oval, that he doesn’t have a problem with dictators as long as he gets to be one.

On his watch, under his command: Hugh has a list that’ll knock your eyes out. The Siegelman story is only the latest.

In the meantime, though, give a thought to the power of a smile, and words of hope, and the seasoning to win and win and win again.

And never trust the smile of a man without lips. Nor truth in his heart.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


So Ralph Nader announced his candidacy for president on Meet the Press this morning.

* yawn *

Nader is now officially Prairie-dubbed "the Stassen of the 21st Century."

One can only wonder whazzup with Russert giving the guy airtime. Nader said he heard the voices telling him he needed to run.

There's a cure for that. And for Russert, hmmmm, early retirement time?

Oscar and Feeney

It’s Oscar night tonight, and in anticipation we watched Michael Clayton for the first time last night. We’ll be rooting for George Clooney and his film tonight. In large part because it’s the only one of the “majors” we’ve seen so far. So our admitted bias is just that—bias. And likely a lot of Oscar watchers—and Oscar voters—are the same. We could make all kinds of comparisons to the larger political season and how people make their decisions about candidates.

But no prognosticating here today—about politics or movies and their makers—there are a bazillion other places on the web where you can find that. And we’ll get back to that soon enough.

Instead, consider Chuck Feeney.

Amid all the Oscar coverage on CBS Sunday Morning earlier, there was a profile of Chuck Feeney, he of the airport Duty Free Shops around the world, once named by Forbes as the 22nd richest person in the world. Except he wasn’t.

By the time Forbes wrote his profile, Feeney had already given away most of his money. To the tune of over a billion dollars. By the time Atlantic Philanthropies disburses the last of the money in 2020, they will have given away over eight billion dollars.

And that money is given anonymously. “What’s important is the new hospital, not the name on it.” Feeney’s philosophy extended to this morning’s interview, when his obvious reluctance for publicity was palpable.

A noble man, award and acclaim worthy, yet he expects, demands, wants none. Oh, he didn’t give it all away, he kept about five million, and thru his daughter you can see the quiet pride in his legacy.

And legacies do count. Whether they’re on the silver screen or in the harsh realities of life that so many of this year’s Oscar nominees portray. We live in bloody and fearmongering times and the movies show that. And so do words. “What’s important is the new hospital…”

Or, here’s money for Katrina relief…buy my son’s software with it.

Just words. And a legacy.

Well, you didn’t think we’d leave politics out of this entirely, did you?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Kickin’ Back

Something there is—do I have to footnote that?—about a weekend. For a few folks—Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bill Keller, John McCain come to mind, oh, and toss in a bit of Boll Bennett and rightwing ranters who shall remain nameless because we refuse to give them any further publicity on what’s turned into a typical Beltway contretemps of spin, deflect, and denial—this weekend won’t be different than the rest of the week.

But for the rest of us, the weekend’s a perfect opportunity to kick back, reflect and rejuvenate for the week to come.

Renew the well.

Now that the campaign season seems to be pretty much a 24/7/365…have the candidates for 2012 announced yet? And who are they blaming?

Yeah, me, too. It started too damned early and it’ll last too long, and it’ll be too nasty and nobody will be satisfied for long and….

There’s something to be said for stepping back.

Put on your cuddle-duds and your boots and your jacket and cap and venture out into the fresh air. Had any lately?

I’m heading back out into the sunshine, the bracing mid-20s temperature (hey, after record minus-thirtyish temps just days ago, this is downright tropical…almost…), whistling for the spaniels, stoppin’ in my tracks, and raising my face to just bask in the moment.

How about you?

At the cabin I turn to a fun little book, If My House Were on Fire…These Are the Recipes I’d Take by Lori Powell Gordon. You’ll find this kind of combination of recipes and family nostalgia and fun under various titles in gift shops in touristy country just about anywhere.

But instead of recipes, I assemble moments in my mental spiral-bound book. And today will be one…chickadees at the bird feeders, a downy woodpecker overcoming shyness to zero in on the suet feeder, ice houses out on the snow-covered lake in a necklace chain right where the lake bottom drops away, the low hum of snowmobilers for undernotes.

A moment to kick back and savor… and save for a day when you need to pull out a moment.

Had any lately?

Friday, February 22, 2008


Remember... hope is a good thing.
Maybe the best of things.
And a good thing never dies.

Shawshank Redemption

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Branding McCain

When even his loyal buddies at the Imus Show say John McCain has some 'splainin' to do, you know he's in deep doo-doo. Guest Jeff Greenfield says the key question is: can McCain deal with questions about telecom advocacy in the context that goes back to the Keating 5 S&L scandal.

In Prairie Country, the b.s. detectors will be on full alert for McCain's scheduled press conference in about an hour. Serious questions of impropriety are raised by the articles in the NYTimes and Washington Post.

I don't care doo-dly whether there's a "romantic" or "salacious" side to this story, it's the conflict of interest side I want clarity on. Did McCain exceed his role as Senator and Chairman of the Senate Commer Committee in writing letters and contacting the FCC on behalf of telecommunications companies represented by a lobbyist he had cozy ties to?

And why did the NYTimes allegedly sit on yet another story that served to protect a Republican candidate? The New Republic was looking for answers to that one.

The integrity of both the media and the politicians will be on display today. And through it all, good ol' Bob Bennett will be dippin' his beak into the pie. You know there's trouble a-brewin' when his name surfaces in a scandal.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Prairie Nightside: Bringin' the Heat—the Republican Edition

Well that didn't take long, the latest example. Eighteen minutes ago, a story went up on the NYTimes website: McCain and the Lady Lobbyist. It's already viral. Breaking News on MSNBC, posted throughout the blogosphere.

NYTimes has four bylines on the story. Considering how many times the old grey lady has been excoriated for her reporting—Judith Miller, anyone?—is it any wonder they're dotting all the i's on this one.

Will the story have legs longer than the....ah, nevermind, it's too easy. At least the Lady looks better than one of DC's freshest lobbyists, Trent Lott.

Let's just say that a day is a lifetime in politics and the campaign season can spin in a heartbeat. How will the media acquit themselves on this story compared to their reporting of late? We'll be watching....

Bringin’ the Heat

n a fridgery-cold winter's morning, nothing heats up Prairie Country like dashing out the door, unplugging the tank heater, and turning the key...and the car starts right up and settles about warming up with a nice purrrrr.

Kinda like that in politics these days. Team Obama brought the heat to Wisconsin—and Hawaii—and roundly trounced Team Clinton. Dominating numbers in a state where Clinton came in near the end trying to stave off just such a scheiss-kickin'. Didn't happen for her.

The game's turning into a rout now. Obama and his team are dancing circles around Clinton. It must be truly frustrating. Whether the metaphor's a horserace or a game of hoops or a cold start on a winter's morning, the truth cannot be denied.

The Obama juggernaut—week by week, primary [and yes, Wisconsin was a primary and Obama won in a landslide] by primary by caucus, delegate by delegate, and dollar by dollar—is pulling further and further ahead. He's got the mo... and the Clinton campaign is slipping back into "no."

It's time for Clinton to graciously acknowledge the tide of history that transcends intraparty politics and even a general election she would not win. It's time for Clinton to not listen to the Mark Penns whispering in her ear as they scuttle to the bank with the beaucoup checks. It's time for Clinton to stand aside for the rising tide.

The global warming that's going on right now is Obama.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Prairie Postcard: Weather Eye

he local weatherman this morning is alerting us to brace ourselves here in Prairie Country. The wind chill advisory starts at noon, the temperature tonight's expected to drop to thirty below. Hmmm, that doesn't read any easier than -30. That's air temperature, not wind chill factor, by the way.

Weather's a big deal around here. Wind matters, temperature matters, whether we're contemplating planting or harvesting, or just driving to the next town over on a flat windswept highway on a snowy winter day.

A lot of Red Staters take a dim view of that global warming talk when they're lookin' at the likelihood of the coldest temperature since records of such began.

"Global warming" ...just words. But you need to consider the downside of up with words. 'cause they can have a way of coming back to bite you if you don't. "Extreme Weather"...now that covers just about all the bases. "Climate Shift" is kind of namby-pamby, so I'm looking for options on a day when sitting in with a hot cuppa is a lot more appealing than venturing out into "Harsh Weather." "Global Climate Change" isn't the kind of change people want to talk about these days... Maybe "Survivor: Planet Earth."

Monday, February 18, 2008

Thugs Walk Among Us

There’s a sorry videoclip making the rounds of YouTube—a deputy tipping a quadriplegic man out of his wheelchair, facedown so he can see it coming, onto the hard concrete floor.

I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch it. Our family knows what it is to be wheelchair reliant, and frankly it’s a little like gawking at an injury accident scene along the highway. I just can’t look.

But I can listen, and this morning I heard the defense attorney for the deputy lamenting that all that YouTube coverage means his client can’t get a fair trial.

Cry me a river.

I want an outraged jury. I want them to look. And decide based on the cold hard facts. Not let the woman off the hook because the facts show her for the thug that she is. And no better are the sniggering deputies around her.

We live in a thug culture these days. It starts at the top. A little shoot an old guy in the face and get away with it here. A little waterboarding and Gitmo and Abu Ghraib and other tortures there. And gaming the legal system. Trying to backdate the laws, skirt the responsibility, withhold the evidence, rationalize the blame—boogga-boogga, ticking timebomb anyone—and you’ve got a whole societal norm that extends from the Oval Office right down to the local sheriff’s office saying, hey, we’re the law, we get to do whatever we want. And get away with it.

And look where it gets us.

The media play no small role in this situation. This morning, instead of telling us anything about FISA, for example, the Morning Mouths are giving us More Hill, Less Bill, then proceeding to wallpaper Bill all over the airwaves.

When there were voices loudly crying out against the use of torture, including voices of WW II vets and professional interrogators saying it does not work…including a Senator who has lost his way who knew first hand torture did not work…those voices were given short shrift for more of the BushCo spin. And media consciences were shut down for whatever reason they told themselves—bad for the corporate bottom line; it’s unpatriotic; it’s treason; oooooh, it’s hard and it gives me a header… but no reason excuses such compliance.

Meanwhile, who watches the watchdogs when they’ve been so watered down and hamstrung and w-ussified by Bushie that they’ve lost their will? The Congress, the media are both complicit in the thug culture. But so has been the rest of the country. Fear worked, for a while.

It’s not just the Congress that needs a spine, it’s every last one of us. We’re working on it, and so far, we’re looking pretty fair. And Congress may even be sitting up and taking notice.

And it’s important cleanup work we have to do. Because when a country is debased, when people are made beasts, then they have lost their claim to leadership and honor in the world community…and in their own hometowns.

Accountability matters.

So give that deputy her day in court. If I were on the jury, I’d sentence her to every payday for the rest of her life write out a check to that man in the wheelchair. Doesn’t matter the amount so much, it could be one dollar. Let him collect a bigger compensation from the government that failed him…and all of us. Let's all of us wheel a mile in his shoes.

There’s a segment of the country that believes dinosaurs walked the earth with man some six thousand years ago. As long as thuggery is ennobled, for whatever excuse, they still do.

Prairie Postcard: Presidential Looks

orning Joe Scarborough telling Andrea Mitchell today that Bill Clinton trying to build up an audience and dealing with hecklers--from both sides of the political spectrum--just "doesn't look Presidential."

What, Joe, we should have another go-round of staged, scripted, voice in the earpiece, invitation-only, "town hall" appearances to "look Presidential"?

Well excuse me for thinking that it looks exactly presidential to see a President interacting with real people, even the ones who disagree with him.

Enough of the imperial bubbleboy surround yourself with people who KYA emperor has no clothes kind of presidency.

Get real.

UPDATE: Scarborough goes on a riff to the Clinton campaign: More Hillary, Less Bill...More Hillary, Less Bill. *ahem* Joe, you're from the Bible belt, how does that line go...take the beam from your own eye... yeah, that's the one.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


istening to Charles Barkley talk to Wolf Blitzer on CNN this Sunday morning was a powerful lesson in positioning and framing. Barkley said forthrightly that he is pro-choice, he supports gay —“it's none of my business”—marriage, and he moved to Alabama in 2007 and will be running for governor in 2014.

Barkley's a strong Obama supporter and sees him as both friend and role model for the black community. But whoever the nominee is this year, Barkley, who says he's an independent, will be votin' Democratic.

And he took on the Christian conservative meme that the rightwing and the co-opted lazy media have been pushing for years. "Fake Christians," says Barkley, who've annointed themselves the judges, hypocrites who totally ignore the imprecation to judge not and be forgiving.

Does it take a sports icon to gain traction in the media against the judgmentalists who've held sway over the conventional wisdom far too long?

UPDATE: HuffPo's got the video.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Lessons in Framing: The Big Picture

Have you ever tried to build a frame? Not one of the ornate, heavy wood ones, just a simple metal frame? The kind you can buy in two packets at the local hobby store. They’re easy. Just measure your picture and buy one packet for the long side, one for the shorter side. Then a few twists of a screwdriver, slip in a piece of glass, your picture, and some sturdy backing, and fasten together the last side, add the hanger, and you’re ready to go.

See… framing’s easy. Anybody can do it.

And these days, as the political season stays at near-fever pitch, it seems any and everybody is trying to do it. Framing’s coming at us from all sides.

Call it whatever you want…fancy jargon from communications specialists, spin from pundits and consultants, it all comes down to “I’m gonna tell you something, and you’re going to think about it the way I want.” Also known as catapulting the propaganda. Truth is optional.

And these days, as No Child Left Behind—a true bit of false framing if ever there was one—continues to dumb-down the thinking process to rote rather than motes of critical thinking, framing can lead people and whole communities down false paths.

There are a legion of examples this weekend, so it’s worth stepping back a bit and taking a look at the whole business of framing, and the monkey business that too often manipulates it.

The Republican Congresspeople who walked out in protest on Thursday are a nice example of framing gone awry. There they were, staging their departure, dissing the memory of Tom Lantos in the process, walking out to the set-up cameras and podium so they could try to slam the Democratic leadership about “political theatre.” Ooops.

Then last night, on HBO’s Bill Maher Show, one of the high priests of framing, Frank Luntz, tested out a few Republican talking points about Barack Obama while framing himself as oh, not that Republican anymore—I’m wearing a blue collar, open shirt, not one of those “haves” that are Bush’s base. Beware of false prophets…and wolves in sheep’s clothing.

And earlier today, CNN reported by Soledad O’Brien on the black-Hispanic divide between Obama and Clinton supporters [hint: hers are Hispanic, his are African-American…except when they’re not….]

This is a frame in early stages, and there’s considerable potential to build this frame the right way, or the false way. The media will play an important role in how it’s done. Some critical thinking needed here. Not just posturing by “Sharks” vs “Jets.” So far, I give CNN and O’Brien props on their measured reporting [and I'll link to it when CNN gets around to updating its website].

One thought I keep in mind is, who benefits by making adversaries instead of allies of two different groups? Not either one of the groups, that’s for sure. In a political season past, there was advertising showing a black hand reaching for a white hand’s paycheck. Making the paycheck a scarce resource makes enemies. The real enemy is the guy writing the check who’s at the same time pocketing all the ka-ching.

Framing isn’t inherently bad. On Animal Planet Channel this morning, a show presented rottweilers as an intelligent, hardworking, family-oriented dog, playing an important role as therapy animal for acute care patients. Caring people trying to restore the image of a dog breed that was tainted by bad breeders and bad owners and over-breeding. Good framing.

Framing is nothing new, of course, as wobblybits reminded over at Firedoglake this morning, recounting study of how cultures meet and how one culture frames the other. An interesting conversation well worth visiting.

Thing is, framing is everywhere. I could link you to a bazillion examples today. But instead, I’m going to ask you to do a little homework. Listen, really listen, to what someone is telling you. Then look closely at what he or she is showing you, by their actions, by their history, by their context or slice of life.

Then do some thinking. What does that person have to gain by persuading me? And what do I have to lose?

If you can say, I have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, great!

And if you go forward and remember that framing’s just a package, no matter how fancy or finely polished, and the important thing is to focus on the picture within, so much the better.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Lotsa “F” Words

ome Very Important People are letting fly with “F” words these days.

There’s Keith Olbermann in a Special Comment calling out George W. Bush as a Fascist and a Liar. Welcome aboard, Keith.

And then there’s Michael Bloomberg, labelling the U.S. economy a Failure...likening it to a Third World Economy.

But there’s another “F” word that caught the eye of Prairie Country today, and that’s Flex-Fuel...and how it can Free all of us from dependence on Foreign Oil. An article in Esquire magazine reports on Gal Luft's simple 4-part proposal for Flex-Fuel Freedom. Instead of ethanol, recommends Luft, the Focus should be on methanol.

Now here in Farm country, them could be Fightin’ words. We raise corn and that makes great ethanol, except...hmmmm....in North Dakota, we have coal, tons and tons and megatons of coal...we see it heading east on milelong trains more times a day than I care to contemplate. And you say, Gal Luft, that coal can be made into methanol? And garbage and paper recyclables can, too? And it starts with mandating all cars must be flex-fuel-able? And that's about a C-note to do? Hmmm, something even a gentlemanly C-type should be able to understand.

Now that’s an “F” word to spread around. Go for it. Before some other budding super power—we name no names—beats us to it.

[h/t to Farm Island Girl for the news tip.]

And then there are the Feckless Folks from FEMA, who Finally this week after years of stalling had to 'Fess up that those Fine trailers that over 100,000 Katrina victims still occupy are laced with 5% to 40% more Formaldehyde than "normal" homes. A dangerous level that causes immediate side effects and may have long term consequences as a known carcinogen. Give to George Bush's administration
another Grade F.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lessons in Framing: Typhoid Tweety

esterday Chris Matthews brought his good ol' PFFFFHHHILLLY-it's-a-tough-town-PHILLY friend Ed Rendell onto his Hardball Show to address the controversy of those "alabamans" between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Seemed to me they did less addressing a controversy than having a conflation conversation. Rendell injected Lancaster as an example of an area where the Dems are more liberal within a Red area. He and Matthews did a nifty two-step from seemingly talking about likely primary voting results that could favor Obama vs. a historical "conservative white" pattern that may hold in a general election in a conservative part of the state.

Maybe Chris is feeling like a Typhoid Tweety these days, between the temporary suspension of one of his "reportorial" minions and the blogosphere's buzz about Rendell's ham-tongued explanation of voting patterns in Pennsylvania.

Perhaps his friends and allies wouldn't find themselves in such a stew if Matthews would temper his own tongue. Less "there's Philly and there's Pittsburgh, and in between there's ALABAMA!!!" more presenting issues and events and how they would have impact on real people's lives.

But oh, that's hard. So much easier to catapult the horserace and the Big Number and the sleazy smarmy comments about women...and working people.

[h/t to reader Melody for the framing request. We plan to offer Lessons in Framing—the spin, p.r., hype, fearmongering, half-truths, faux-truths, untruths, and sins of omission that comprise the whole stew as often as the politicians and the media make necessary. ]

Happy V Day

ep, it's Valentine's Day. We won't tell you to take your sweetheart to dinner or buy a batch o'flowers or candy today or even that heart-shaped pizza from Green Mill. Nope.

Take your sweetheart by the hand and take a walk. February is National Heart Health Month. Wear red if you want to, but keep your heart pumpin' healthy and get a move on. And bring the couch potato kids along with you.

More food for thought in the works today.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Top Dogs

here are winners to celebrate this morning. Top dogs in politics and—who can resist 'em—in dogdom. Uno the beagle won the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show last night, and hurray for the underdog. Although as the hours of Westminster played out, it was obvious he was the crowd favorite and the media darling. Salut! to Uno.

And sorry, politicians, you play second fiddle today. Maybe because the primary season, as important as those wins are, seems like an avalanche of primaries and caucuses coming at us pell-mell like a runaway train. But a shout-out to Barack Obama and his team today, continuing to pile up impressive wins, this time in the Potomac Primaries. And to Donna Edwards, the upstart candidate who defeated her incumbent opponent. Kudos to the Democrats for rallying stellar numbers of turnout. And yes, even the Republicans have awakened and taken notice and are turning out to vote.

We, the people will be the winners come November if this pattern sustains and the movement for change continues to grow and grow. We need, desperately, to be the winners.

Because there are men and women to be brought home from Iraq. And there must be homes for them to come back to. Healthy homes. This morning on the Imus Show, Senator Chris Dodd soberly discussed the dire state of the housing industry. This isn't just a subprime mess. This isn't just a regional mess, like the California housing bust a few years ago. This is, says Dodd, the worst national housing crisis since the Great Depression.

And its ripple effect is flowing through the entire economy. When a home mortgage is foreclosed, everybody in the neighborhood loses value on their own home. When the subprime market goes bust, even the prime-est of borrowers has a tougher time getting credit.

How did we get here? Seven years of no oversight, no cops on the beat, no guard dogs at the gate, no controls for a runaway pack of predators. Bad lending practices luring in the foolish and the naive. Dodd laid out the grim projection for the housing market that will prevail long after BushCo hightails it back to Texas. We'll be cleaning up his garbage for a long time, and it will be hard work. And in a year or two, don't let the rightwing barkers get away with saying it's not his crap.

So what is government, anyway? Is it dog eat dog? I don't think so. It is the team, working together, covering the Iditarod miles as champions, working at Westminster in spirited competition for best of show.

And showing us in primary after primary that underdogs can win...with a plan and a vision and championship attitude.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Prairie Quibble: Inner Irish

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell has repeated what Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama has noted on occasion. TPM Election Central reports that Rendell said, in a meeting with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s editorial board:

“You’ve got conservative whites here, and I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate.”

Seems to me there's only one answer: Barack must release his inner Irishman sooner rather than later. With a nod to the Black-Irish side of our own Sunshine family, we're ready for O'Bama, and we bet even the most "conservative whites" will be, too, if they take time to listen and refuse to be taken-in by the cynical political game of racial profiling. Unlike Rendell, I don't believe conservative white inherently means red neck.

Greed’s Gravy Train

Just when you thought you couldn’t be shocked anymore by the level of greed and avarice of the apostles of BushCo, along come the big credit card companies—in the wake of Bernanke’s boys cutting-the-prime two-step. Yep, the big credit card companies, when the prime was cut 1.25 basis points [that would be 1.25 percent in plainspeak], have been busily raising their interest rates.

But did they settle for small potatoes? Nah, not our apostles of greed. They’ve raised interest rates in the range of a whopping 3 times. Not 3 percent. Three times. So Joe Customer, who had an 8% interest rate on his card, now gets socked 24%—spell that out, children…24 percent.

And not just to delinquent customers either…they’re sockin’ it to their good customers, the steady payers, the consumers of their commodity who have paid their bills every month…with interest.

Note to consumers: if you can’t afford to pay your complete credit card bill every month, and you don’t have a major life emergency overriding, you better be takin’ a serious look at your spending. And no, you won’t be tried for treason if you don’t shop, shop, shop. So far, the only one that idea seems to be helping is China, and look how they pay us back…they spy on our industries.

There’s plenty of blame to go around for this mess. Congress and the lobbyists who dance with ’em have had their fingerprints all over this one, too. The economy these days looks more like vampire economics than voo-doo. And the willful absence of oversight the Republicans gave us while they were in charge has allowed the vampires to dance like Blackbeard (why does Grover Norquist’s face pop in my head with that name..eeeeuuuuwwwww).

IANATPE (I am not a trained professional economist)…and I don’t pretend to be one. My economics starts at the kitchen table. And the total at the bottom of the grocery bill, and the price at the gas pump, and the bottom line on the utility bills…

And it seems pretty simple to me. When you’ve got a working middle class making enough income to pay for their goods and a few goodies besides, everyone makes a profit. But when you stir gouging and greed and excess profits and profiteering and a corrupt occupation of another country into the mix, well, the profits may be ginormous in the short term, but they’re going to only a few and everybody else is going down the bathtub drain.

Team BushCo came riding in on the Enron Express, steered by the mindset that greed is good, screwing granny on her California energy bill even better. Sad to see, nothing has changed. And for Joe Customer, now that the credit card companies are gouging worse than Shakespeare’s Shylock, with neither shyness nor shame, all that’s left for once-working America is small change, chump change, until we stop voting against our own interests—listen up, RedStates—and change the leadership in Washington.

Because the unseen hand can’t be trusted to operate without common sense regulation and rules. And the politicians can’t be trusted to operate without that wee bit o’oversight called elections.

There’s another voting day today…in the Potomac neighborhoods. Pay attention, because who we elect matters, getting there is a long train ride, and the only ones who can put the brakes on the runaway practices of vampire economics are we, the people.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Prairie Postcard: To Your Health

omething important happened Sunday night on 60 Minutes. We saw the two Democratic Senators contending for President offer more substance on the nation's health care than the President and Congress seem to have done for the past seven years.

Obama: get your daily exercise (he does basketball).

Clinton: quit the sodas and drink lots of water. Wash your hands...or use sanitizers like Purell. Eat hot peppers.

Thanks, Senators. Lesson taken: your good health starts with you.

Remember the blueberries and cinnamon on your oatmeal this morning, folks...and have a good health day.

UPDATE: As the folks over at Crooks & Liars remind us, today is Chee-knee shot a guy in the face and got away with it day—the second anniversary of the day Vice President Dick [his first name is "Dick"—that figures...my daughter's best line ever, long before BushCo] Cheney shot 78-year-old Harry Whittington in the face while "hunting" on a "hunting" ranch in Texas with no women named Lynn. Protect your health...never "hunt" with Dick.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Mile Marker 60

There are some mileposts in life which attract special notice, and in the Sunshine family we mark one today. We’re part of the baby boomer generation, we’ve watched nearly half of the 20th Century and all of the 21st so far.

So we’re taking a little stock today. We’ve traded in the Corvair convertible of our youth for the sedate sedan and another set of wheels. Wheels that keep us going day by day.

We watch political pundits and Lemur Kingdom and coverage of war and wonder if any of it signals any evolution at all.

Our children are grown and growing on and a new generation has already arrived and there’s justice in that.

We travel less in planes and more on the Internet and in the recesses of the mind these days, ever thirsty for more and more knowledge and understanding.

Some reach 60 with wisdom and the wrinkles of a life honorably lived and grown into post-middle age. And some merely grow old, using up time, and wither forgotten away.

There’ll be no big party for Mr. Sunshine’s mile marker today, instead there will be the quiet reflection that a waypoint has been reached in life’s unending journey, and that, on this snowy blowy wintry day, in the words of Robert Frost, there are yet miles to go before you sleep....

Happy Birthday!--to the man who’s put the Sunshine in my life for quite a while now. And many, many more. May you always remember to reach for the stars….

How about you? Have you reached a waypoint lately? And have you paused, really paused, to reflect on how far you’ve come... and how much you have yet to discover?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Prairie Weather: Snow Job

Now that the Super Bowl and the Super Tuesday and even Groundhog Day are over, we can start looking forward to spring and the warming season. But there’s still some rough weather to get through.

Rough weather like the folks in Tennessee and Kentucky and five states altogether felt as lives were uprooted, ended, changed forever by horrific tornadoes. It pays to pay attention to the weather warnings when we have them.

Around Prairie Country, we’re bracing for Alberta Clipper, and the likelihood of a weekend blizzard and high winds and… well, we’ve learned it’s practical to carry “winter survival gear” even in town since Fargo decided to go and get sprawly.

There’s a good bit of Groundhog thinking going on these days. That all we have to do is just wait a year and check whether things will be different. That may work for the Democratic-led Congress, but some of us are a mite bit impatient at that. So on Super Tuesday, the numbers were awesome, the lines long, the voices raised.

No, we didn’t decide on a nominee that day, but we did decide that we’re all taking part.

It was nasty cold around here on Tuesday, but the grin on the face of the 80-something white guy walking out of the caucus site into the sunshine with the Obama sign tucked under his arm was a sight to behold.

Prairie Country’s pretty white around here, and it’s not just the knee-deep snow. But the times they are a-changin’, and we welcome new neighbors from the Himalayan foothills to the survivor camps of Sudan to just about any point on the map you can name.

The welcoming heart, the open door may be because around here most of us are mindful that our grandparents came in waves looking for their own opportunities. And those grandparents didn’t arrive with many fancy goods, but their children taught us well…lessons of history, and lessons of learning.

How to cut through the snow and recognize the snow job. We could use more of that these days.

Seems if you’ve got the biggest megaphone or the loftiest perch, you can catapult the propaganda. Or so it’s been. The times there, too, are a-changin’.

This morning Doris Kearns Goodwin chatted on the Imus Show about her Abe Lincoln book, Team of Rivals. Seems Barack Obama has said that book would be close at hand if he were in the Oval Office.

Lincoln, our greatest of presidents, valued the give-and-take of a leadership team that would challenge him. And lived America’s greatest values thereby. Compared to our current president who seems to value only his gut, his bike, his chainsaw, and his yes men. Or his puppeteers.

The contrast is marked.

There’s another noteworthy contrast, too, in Obama’s response to a question posed to candidates about their greatest flaw. While the other candidates spun an overzealous pushing of a self-perceived strength, Obama’s wry confession that he keeps a messy desk rings true.

So as the weather season and the campaign season move forward, read the weather signs. Think about who’s authentic and who’s giving you just another snow job. Because this time, yes, it really does matter. And one vote, your vote, does matter.

Isn’t there something reassuring that a candidate for president keeps a messy desk…and a copy of a biography of Lincoln and his team?

Instead of a blank desk…and My Pet Goat….

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Show Me the Numbers

It's Super-licious Tuesday, and ’most likely there’s a vote or a caucus going on today in your neighborhood. So show your power, show your voice, show me the money numbers! Get out and vote today.

You'll feel great. You can do it, yes you can.

UPDATE: It's noontime in Prairie Country and I've already gotten four emails and two GOTV phone calls from the O-folk and friends, and our caucusing doesn't even start for two hours. Numbers lookin' good for participatory democracy.

UPDATE #2: I've cauc-ed, have you? Have you voted in your primary or caucus? Exciting to learn that 500 or so people were lined up waiting for the doors to open this afternoon at 2 for the North Dakota caucus site in Fargo. May all our states be enriched by the enthusiastic voters, old and new, young and old, taking part in Super Tuesday....and beyond.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Prairie’s Kibble: Tidbits to Chew Over

With a tip o’the Sunshine family hat to our resident cocker spaniels, Marley and Nova-diva, we introduce Prairie’s Kibble today, a sometime collection of little tidbits to chew over.

In Prairie Country, there’s much buzz about the likelihood that Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty will get the nod when the Republican dog-and-pony show, er, convention, comes to the Twin Cities next summer if John McCain is the nominee. Well, I’m torn about this because “sources say” that Cindy McCain has a “grudge list.” That would be interesting....

Yeah, Twin Cities, the same place where the I-35W bridge went crashing down into the Mississippi River last spring. Which brings us to Pawlenty’s personal pick, Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau, who would succeed him. She is also the current head—yes, she will soon be the former head—of the Minnesota Dept. of Transportation. Pawlenty wouldn’t fire her as MNDoT head, so others will, but the lege say they can’t get rid of her as Lt. Gov...evidently there’s no incompetency test there, either.

So I’m wondering, being a weekend Minnesotan, is it too early to start talkin’ recall? Is that do-able? Just say Mol-No!!!!!

Over on the North Dakota side of the Red River of the North, voters are gearing up for our caucuses tomorrow. Senator Kent Conrad’s never endorsed before, but this year he signed on early to Obama-nation. Conrad gets our props for voting against the Iraq War back in the day. And just this past week in true teeny-tiny-state, everybody-knows-everybody-or-was-married-to-their-sister fashion, Kent gave up his seat for the SOTU to Nancy Shafer, the wife of the newly confirmed agriculture secretary, Ed Shafer, Kent’s former brother-in-law. Ed, he says call him Ed, heir to the Mr. Bubble fortune and a former governor of North Dakota, was seated as ag secretary in a speedy confirmation process so he’d be able to sit in the chamber for SOTU. Kent, we’re told, stayed home and watched it on teevee. Okay, we’re buyin’ that.

And yesterday, the Giant/killers toppled the mighty Patriots in a surprising upset. A meta-for these days? Rumors of spying on opponents aka cheating throughout the season have dogged the Patriots right up thru game time. Giants—two of ’em—still standing in the Democratic race. And one has her cronies, like former North Dakota first lady Jane Sinner, going around saying U- make that O-know-who would be weak against the Republicans, weak in the White House. Hmmmm, they were sayin’ weak right up ’til game time about a kid named Eli.

And the endorsements have been flyin’ fast and furious the last few days. Bet those Kennedy family phone lines have been really fascinating of late. Yep, it’s already been said: only Chee-knee knows….

“Chow” for now. I’m off for some nice chianti. May need it to get thru tomorrow….

Sunday, February 3, 2008

PEBC: On Change...Not So Big and Bird by Bird

And so we begin Prairie’s Eclectic Book Club.

Change is much in the wind these days. The weather is changing…storms batter places they’ve never visited before. The WGA strike has changed teevee programming. Tired of winter we look forward to the change in seasons, reading our garden catalogues. The economy is changing—interest rates going down, down, down instead of up. Even though Just go shopping as a solution to everything from 9/11 to the 2007 Christmas doldrums just isn’t making it any more.

We are a country hungry for change. You can see it in the crowds drawn to Obama appearances. You can read it in the blogs educating us about the issues the MSM leaves out or gives scant shrift or spin to…and building vibrant online communities in the process.

The political landscape is going through a titanic shift these days, and about time doing it. We are looking for new leaders, we are looking for rebuilding, we are looking for restoration of the sturdy foundations of the nation.

But how can we expect such great change unless we are willing to change within ourselves? If we remain unchanged, will anything around us truly change?

We must be the change we wish to see in the world.

Mahatma Gandhi

The architect Sarah Susanka named a way of thinking about homes in her seminal book, The Not So Big House, and in the process of describing that concept, she gave voice to a restless rebellion against the McMansioning of our lives. The overbuilt, overblown, grandiose grotesqueries all the more silly for being plunked down on teeny-tiny plots of ground.

Her masterstroke was the away space. Be it a room, a nook, a corner, a closet, the away space is respite from the hectic, cluttered, frazzly parts of a house where most of the time the living takes place. A porch where you can sit and contemplate the birds at the feeders, a shelf where treasured tokens carry you to faraway places, a room totally bare but for a mat where you can sit and meditate… the away space is yours to define and find.

At this time when ’most everyone says they want change, how will we get there? It starts within, and Susanka has taken the building/remodeling concepts of her world of architecture and put them in a new frame that we all can use: The Not So Big Life.

Just as the series of Not So Big House books bring us to a new way of looking at and living in our homes, The Not So Big Life is a handbook for remodeling—changing—our lives.

And as with any remodeling, there is the blueprint, what will be the right structure…for me? How do I—and you—look at self and decide what needs changing, what’s worth keeping, what’s just clutter needing casting away?

There are a bazillion self-help books on the market, a bazillion guides to self-improvement. Susanka brings a freshness to the subject by putting us in the context of the place where we live and guiding us through looking around and taking stock…of our home and our heart.

Bird by Bird

And if you’re not new wave, and change seems too daunting, no matter how much you feel it resonate. If you feel a bit of “buyer’s remorse”—if you worry that maybe change is just “hoo-hah” as Medusa Matalin would like you to believe, then meet another wise woman: Anne LaMott. Her iconic book Bird by Bird transcends its Instructions on Writing…to become a nurturing guide to life. And right now, in the pivotal time of change when change comes with its own hobgoblins gibbering to push us back to status quo, we need just such a reminder that change, improvement, remodeling, rebuilding comes step by step, day by day, bird by bird.

Will it be the right change, we wonder, as we go thru the primary process and leaf through the seed catalogs. Hosta or hydrangea? Democrat or Republican? Two-story or rambler? Red state or blue?

Oooh, the hand-wringing potential, the obstacle building we can set up for ourselves if we let go of hope and promise and let somebody tell us change is “hoo-hah.”

But you know what, you are just you, and I am just me, and if we get it wrong, we can still work toward getting it right again. If we are willing to change.

PRAIRIE NOTE: We’re workin’ on change around here, too. Soon we’ll have links to where you can buy these books—for you and your library, just sayin’—but in the meantime, please support your local indie bookstore whenever possible.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Playing for Pride

This being Super Bowl weekend, there’s much talk of the Patriots’ undefeated season. Why even bother to show up, Giants? Oh, yeah, it’s the Super Bowl, you suit up and get out there and kick A. Or try.

By the end of the football season here in Prairie Country, there’ve been a lot of teams, high school and college, about whom it gets said: they’re playin’ for pride.

Except, pride’s taken a lot of hits of late.

Because of pride—hubris, stubbornness, “gut instinct,” I’m gonna do it my way and nobody’s gonna tell me otherwise and I’ve made up the intelligence to prove it and besides Cheney says its all right.

Because of pride—we’re right so we’re going to ram thru our Republican-controlled Congress for years whatever we damn well please, and then we’re going to appeal to the pride of one of yours, and even if you Dems are in control we’re going to show you who’s really runnin’ the show.

Because of pride—hey, look at us, we’re preachin’ the gospel of prosperity on Wall Street and in the megachurches and we’re flyin’ high in our corporate jets on the fumes of glory.

Mr. Sunshine linked me to an essay at MarketWatch that had something interesting to say about pride. Now, I’m presuming since this is a columnist writing on ethics I’ll have no trouble finding similar strong-worded commentary about the role of the bankers [due diligence anyone?] and the money lenders and the money bundlers and the lack-of-oversight by government regulators and…what’s this? Just brush that aside with a broad brush?

But still, there is this:

It would be better if people looked at their homes as a nice place to live and a good place for their kids to grow up and not just as an investment. They'd stay put longer and maybe gain some pride.

Right now pride is at a low point in this country. We need to stand firm and tall—not walk away. And it seems to me that our homes are a good place to start restoring that pride.

Pride is really out of whack lately, battered by the twin forces of wretched excess—hubris on the one side and shame on the other. We’ve been led down the path that was promised to be strewn with roses and too many of us still don’t want to look at the truth. And too many in power have a vested interest in not telling us the truth.

Or telling that part of the truth that serves their interests.

Do they take pride in their work? How’s that taking a cold hard look in the mirror thing workin’ out, Tim and Chris and Brian and Charlie and Katie and…I almost tucked in a Fox name or two, but they have no pride over there that isn’t so tainted I don’t even want to include ’em. And huzzah, the era of the right-wing radio screeders seems to’ve peaked. Wrap their pride in a cigar wrapper and set ’em out in the sun ’til they’re done.

We’re winding down the season on Team Bush. But it’s not over yet. And we’ve been lied to and cheated on and the refs have had sand thrown in their eyes and some have taken a little something in the back pocket and it’s a pretty dirty game out there these days.

For seven years we’ve been led by a cheerleader catapulting the propaganda and trying to draw our eyes from the real games that are going on.

And so we must suit up. And get on the playing field with honor and enthusiasm and, yes, pride.

Pride for team, and home…and country.