Saturday, December 8, 2012

"Tis the season of . . . Scrooge"

Good old Scrooge, who graces Atlanta stages at this time of year when "A Christmas Carol" is the obligatory production of several theater groups.  So, I decided to drag out my Bah Humbug schtick to go along in honor of Dickens.

Again, it's about dining out in local restaurants.   My complaint today is about over-solicitous wait-staff.   Being attentive to the diner's pleasure/displeasure with what he's been served is a good idea.  But, come on, folks.   Asking once is enough.

There's one place I go frequently that's a step up from fast food franchises but definitely not one of the upscale, tablecloth restaurants.  It seems that the staff have been over-trained to ask, "How's your meal?"

During a quick lunch recently, I was asked not once, not twice, but five times by 3 different people.   Once would have been enough.  It's even worse because, dining alone, I am always reading;  and I hate to be interrupted to answer silly questions.   And, no, I don't want to sit at the counter so I can watch TV.

Look, if I'm obviously absorbed in what I'm reading and not looking around to catch your eye, I'm fine.  The food's all right.   And I don't want to have to answer questions like, "Is everything wonderful?"

Well, no, it's not wonderful.   If I wanted wonderful, I would have gone elsewhere.  I just wanted the four-vegetable plate with no frills.  I don't expect wonderful.  It's ok and it's what I ordered.  Enough, leave me alone.

First, my server came by within seconds of the food being delivered.   "How is everything?"  Well, I hadn't even tasted it yet, but it looked ok and it was what I ordered.   Then the manager came by, going from table to table, asking if everything was all right.   Then the server came back again.   Then someone else -- maybe the boss ??? -- came by asking, "How's your meal?"  Then the server came again as I was mopping up the last morsel -- obviously I wasn't dissatisfied, since I ate every bit.   But he asked anyway.

I have an even bigger complaint.   If you're going to interrupt my reading, at least listen to my answer.   Often, the question is asked -- and it takes a second to get out of the article I'm absorbed in and bring my attention back into the room, and before I can even get a couple of words out -- the reply comes back, "Great."   And he/she moves on to the next table.

Bah humbug !!!!     Leave me alone, already.   That's why I'm dining alone.  Respect my wish not to be constantly interrupted, please.  Besides, really good servers are attentive, but not intrusive;  look my way occasionally in case you're needed, but don't substitute intrusive questions so you can then disappear for five minutes, not to be seen -- even if something is needed.


aka Curmudgeon-in-Training

Friday, December 7, 2012

Economy improving

The U.S. economy added 146,000 jobs in November, and unemployment fell to 7.7% -- down .2% from October and the lowest in rate four years.   Housing prices are up.  The economy grew at a solid 2.7% annual rate for the July-September quarter.

Things are definitely looking up.  Even with the uncertainty of the fiscal cliff looming.  Either they will come to some agreement or they'll fix it afterward, which wouldn't be hard if the political will is there.

The biggest stumbling block is that the Republicans don't get it that they lost the election and they do not have the clout to continue obstructing progress.   Judging from Aunt Minnie's miscalculation yesterday, they've entered the season of making stupid mistakes.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Reid calls McConnell's bluff

"Aunt Minnie" McConnell got out-foxed by Harry Reid in the Senate today.

McConnell made a motion this morning to take a vote on President Obama's proposal to allow him to extend the nation's debt ceiling on his own -- apparently thinking that Reid wouldn't allow it at this point because not all Democrats are on board with it yet.  It would be defeated, he assumed, and McConnell could crow that even the Democrats didn't support giving the president that authority.
To his surprise, Reid agreed to bring it to the floor for an up or down vote.   BOING !~!  BOING !~!~!

Talk about backfire -- and backtracking.   Aunt Minnie had badly miscalculated.   So he wound up filibustering his own bill.

Now gleeful Democrats are jumping up and down, because what better proof do they need to show that the Republicans are abusing the filibuster -- and it should be changed?

It's not Aunt Minnie's first miscalculation.   Back in July he called for a vote on extending the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class but not for the upper 2%, thinking it would fail.

But it passed.  And now that is putting extra pressure on the House to take a vote on it, with the Senate having already passed it.

Damn, it feels good to see the Democrats outmaneuvering the Republicans -- and winning, for a change.  What a difference an election makes.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What a difference an election makes . . .

Not only was the president re-elected with a 4.6 million vote margin in the popular vote and and an electoral win of 332 to 206, but his campaign's get-out-the-vote drive helped carry Senate and House candidates with him, improving the Democrats' standing in both chambers.

Not only that, but no one seems to doubt that President Obama has more political captial than before, giving him a stronger negotiating position on the budget and other legislation.

But here's my election-results, take-home news trivia of the day:
Marco Rubio has embraced scientific knowledge.  

Remember, during the campaign when he was asked if he believed the earth was only 6,000 year old and he said "I'm not a scientist . . . . . the age of the earth is one of the mysteries."

Well, now he has found out.   Today he was asked about it again, and said: "There is no scientific debate on the age of the Earth, it's established pretty definitively, it's at least 4.5 billion years old. . . .I was referring to a theological debate."  It was also about not offending his ultra-conservative base.

Well, it's good to have that cleared up.   Yes, indeed, what a difference an election makes.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Is Fox News reforming? #2

His election night antics, as well as his way-off-the-mark predictions, continue to stain Karl Rove's standing with Fox News.

New York Magazine is reporting that Roger Ailes -- uber-boss of Fox News -- is limiting the appearances of Karl Rove and Dick Morris on the network.   Morris also made outlandish claims about Romney winning in a landslide.

Ailes supposedly said, in reference to it, "The election's over."

It's one more indication Ailes can read the tea leaves and found his network on the wrong side of history.   He's more of a businessman than an ideologue.


Monday, December 3, 2012

There is "No presumption of innocence for young black men . . . "

Jordan Davis, an unarmed, black 17-year old boy, was shot last week by Michael Dunn, a white man, during an altercation concerning loud music on a car radio at a Florida gas station.   The white man fired shots into the backseat of the SUV.  He claimed he had seen a gun in the car and felt threatened.  But no shotgun was found, and second degree murder charges have been filed against him by local police.

Melissa Harris-Perry is a professor who has taught political science and African-American Studies at Columbia University and the University of Chicago;  she is now professor of political science at Tulane University and hosts her own tv news show on MSNBC, frequently commenting on race in America.

On her Saturday program, she commented on the parallels between Davis' death and the killing of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager who was also unarmed when he was shot and killed by George Zimmermann earlier this year.   Both instances, she said, continue "that sense for those of us who know them and love them that this country is no place for young black men."

Referring to the murder of Emmett Till in the 1950s, she said that one thing remains the same over generations of American history:
"No presumption of innocence for young black men, no benefit of the doubt. Guilt not determined by what they did or said but presumed to be inherent in their very being. They need not wield a weapon to pose a threat because if you are a young black man, you are threat enough."
Some are saying this will be another test for Florida's "stand your ground" law.   That is patently absurd.   Here's what happened in this case.   Dunn parked next to an SUV at a convenience story in Jacksonville, FL while his girlfriend went into the store.   In the SUV were four young black men, and their radio was playing loud music.  Dunn got out and told them to turn it down.  Words were exchanged.   Dunn then got his gun and fired eight or nine shots into the back seat of the SUV, killing Davis.   He said he saw a gun and felt threatened.  But there was no gun.   Just four young men coming from the mall and having fun listening to their music.

There is no way -- in a sane world, at any rate -- where this could conceivably be stretched to be justified under "stand your ground."    This was not Dunn's home;  it was a public place and Davis had just as much right to be there.  Dunn initiated the contact.  There was no provocation on Davis's part -- unless you call loud music a provocation -- well, I might, but I wouldn't kill anybody over it.

Except . . .  except.   Harris-Perry is right on target in this sense.  But, of course, that justifies nothing in the action of the white man.  Nor is she suggesting that.  But there are many white people who feel threatened just by the presence of young black men.    

If I were a shrink, I might suggest that this is an obvious example of projecting one's own feelings on to "the other" like this formulation:  'I want to eliminate him, so I assume that he wants to eliminate me too.   Therefore, he is a threat to me, and I have to protect myself by getting rid of him before he kills me.'   That projection is the basis of paranoia.

Well, you don't have to go that far into speculating about unconscious psychodynamics.   We do still have a race problem in our society.    We are still paying the price -- both white and blacks -- for slavery and the less severe forms of injustice that are not yet gone.

Is it that same feeling of threat that is behind the vicious Obama-hatred that played such a big part in this year's election?   Perhaps.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Thinking about the GOP's problem #2

The other big problem I see for the party is that it is leaderless.

George W. Bush left as his legacy two wars, one of which at least should not have been started, and a disastrous economy much of his own doing.  They want him to get lost.

Their 2012 presidential candidate lost decisively, and they didn't like him anyway.  So Romney has no future as a party leader.

There are several potential strong candidates for 2o16:   Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, Marco Rubio.  They cancel each other out for the party leadership position through competition with each other.

John Boehner, possibly?   But he has his hands full just trying to hold his House caucus together.

So:   lack of leader, ideological in-fighting, and a losing demographic base.   They have very big problems to overcome to be a viable political party.   The only thing they have going for them now is strong control in many state governments.