Thursday, November 25, 2010

Say happy Thanksgiving with pictures

My mom died on Thanksgiving two years ago. My dad nine years ago died on my birthday. I have mixed feelings about holidays. They make me a bit sad, but they also bring back memories of my folks. Fortunately, we are a family that likes each other and likes getting together, so my holiday memories are mostly pleasant. Earlier today I was getting annoyed a other people's snide comments about dysfunctional family holidays and decided to go look for a nice picture of my folks to post. I found the one I wanted, but I found much more.

This is Mom and Dad leaving their wedding reception. They were a very good looking couple, very good looking parents, and very good looking old folks.

This is Thanksgiving 1965 at my uncle's house. During the sixties, we lived close enough to Mom's brother and his family that we spent every Thanksgiving together, alternating between their house and ours. Here, at the kids' table, that's me on the far left (appropriately) followed by Sister. One Cousin One got to sit at the grown-ups' table (neener, neener neener). I notice my little sister has not eaten her roll. Number One Sister will probably steal it, because Mom made great bread, and we really like those rolls.

Here are my big sisters and Cousin Number Two filling their plates under Mom's careful supervision.

This is the grown-ups' table. That's Favorite Aunt on the left, followed by Grandma, putting a little sugar in her coffee, and Cousin Number One. I'm not sure who the man at the end of the table is, possibly a relative of Favorite Aunt's. Mom is on the right with Dad in the shadows behind her and another unidentified person beyond Dad. Favorite Uncle is behind the camera. While Mom smiles for the camera, Dad is busy chowing down.

It's only fair to warn my sisters and cousins that I have lots more pictures of us during the sixties. Oh, the hair. Oh, the glasses. Oh, the humanity.

A little bit of a famous mammoth

"Smithsonian Snapshot" the other day had two pictures of preserved bits of the Berezovka mammoth. For most of the twentieth century, the Berezovka was the best known of the frozen mammoths and subject of some of the worst myths and misconceptions about mammoths and their demise.

The mammoth was discovered in August 1900 on the banks of the Berezovka River, a tributary of the Kolyma in the far northeastern corner of Siberia. It was just over a year later that Otto Herz and Eugene Pfizenmayer arrived to recover the remains. The Smithsonian published an account of the mammoth written by Pfizenmayer for their 1903 report. In 1922, they acquired these tissue samples, which are muscle from the left rear leg. I'll be writing several posts about him over the next few months.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Doctor, heal yourself

Where on earth could we liberals get the idea that Republicans and conservatives are mean, greedy, and live by the rule of "screw you, where's mine"?
A conservative Maryland physician elected to Congress on an anti-Obamacare platform surprised fellow freshmen at a Monday orientation session by demanding to know why his government-subsidized health care plan from the government takes a month to kick in.

Republican Andy Harris, an anesthesiologist who defeated freshman Democrat Frank Kratovil on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, reacted incredulously when informed that federal law mandated that his government-subsidized health care policy would take effect on Feb. 1 – 28 days after his Jan. 3rd swearing-in.

"He stood up and asked the two ladies who were answering questions why it had to take so long, what he would do without 28 days of health care," said a congressional staffer who saw the exchange. The benefits session, held behind closed doors, drew about 250 freshman members, staffers and family members to the Capitol Visitors Center auditorium late Monday morning.

"Harris then asked if he could purchase insurance from the government to cover the gap," added the aide, who was struck by the similarity to Harris’s request and the public option he denounced as a gateway to socialized medicine.

Harris, a Maryland state senator who works at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and several hospitals on the Eastern Shore, also told the audience, "This is the only employer I’ve ever worked for where you don’t get coverage the first day you are employed," his spokeswoman Anna Nix told POLITICO.

Under COBRA law, Harris can pay a premium to extend his current health insurance an additional month.

Nix said Harris, who is the father of five, wasn’t being hypocritical – he was just pointing out the inefficiency of government-run health care.

You see, he was actually trying to make a brilliant point. We should all oppose health care reform because, if any of the nearly fifty million Americans who have no insurance at all were to get insurance from the government, which is not provided for under the bill, they might have to wait twenty eight days for it to kick in and that is the sort of tyranny that Americans will put up with. I'm sure all of the other conservative Republicans in the room will be rethinking their strong support for socialized medicine after this bit of stellar theater.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Armistice Day

Especially to:

Frank Woodruff Buckles, American Expeditionary Force
Claude Stanley Choules, Royal Navy
Florence Beatrice Green (née Patterson), Women's Royal Air Force

The last known veterans of the Great War.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Forward! Into the past!

It's been a week since the Republicans won the election and they've only moved the country one hour back. They're going to have to work a lot harder than that to get us back to 1901 before the next election. At least Sarah Palin is doing her part. In her new ad, the sun moves backwards across New York.

Monday, November 01, 2010

My after election predictions

America is screwed.

Oh alright, I'll go into a little detail. My prediction for the election is that Democrats will salvage a thin majority in the Senate and Republicans will gain a small majority in House. It means that, politically, the next two years are going to be vicious and destructive. The economy is a mess, global warming is not going to wait, American prestige and relevance (outside military firepower) are declining rapidly, are millions are loosing their futures. The next congress will not only pass up opportunities to turn things around, it will actively work to make things worse. But that's not what I'm here to talk about. I'm here to look at the next couple of weeks--from the election to the when the new congress gets to work.

When the Tuesday votes are counted, the division of power in the two houses of congress will appear to be clear, but there will still be surprises. Naturally, some races will take a while to be decided and a few will go on till all the lawsuits are done *cough* Alaska *cough*. No matter how many seats they win, Republicans will be crying fraud because they didn't get more. Making baseless claims about Democratic voter fraud has become too important a part of their fundraising machine for them to give in to reality. Beyond that, I expect there to be much more maneuvering and intrigue than usual.

First, the House. If the Democrats pull off a miracle and somehow still have a majority, the republicans will try to fix that by getting Blue Dogs to change parties. Ironically, there will be fewer Blue Dogs for them to court. Something like one third of the Blue Dogs will have been replaced by Republicans. That's fairly unlikely. What's more likely is the ensuing chaos within the Republican caucus. The Republican establishment is going to try to impose party discipline on the newly elected Tea Party congresspersons. This class of radicals is not going to be as easy to digest as some from earlier years. They not only are nuts, but there are aspiring king-makers in the caucus who will try to harness them for their own purposes. Boehner might be challenged for the leadership. Bachmann has already named herself leader of the tea party caucus. DeMint wants to form his own power bloc in both houses. I'm sure some of those who are planning to run for president are weighing the pros and cons of becoming the tea party candidate. That last is an important point, the tea party is not going to go away. They've had a taste of blood and the demagogues who've whipped them up aren't going to suddenly back off.

In the Senate, Joe Lieberman is probably going to start caucusing with the Republicans or officially become one. My logic is this based on the assumption that Lieberman will run for another term in 2012. If he does, he can't count on the big Republican crossover vote that he got in 2006 and he can't count on any Democrats voting for him instead of the party's nominee. His only chance is to claim the nomination of one of the parties. There's enough bad blood among the Democrats over his 2006 behavior that he's unlikely to win their nomination if there is any credible alternative. But if he's able to run in the Republican primary as the incumbent, he has a shot at cinching the nomination. The wild cards are the party establishments. If the Democratic establishment decides to support him and intimidates credible challengers into staying out of the race, he could get the nomination. But that would lead to massive staying home in November. On the other side, he could face a tea party insurrection if he goes for the Republican nomination. He'll do his Hamlet routine of publicly agonizing over the decision, telling us over and over again how principled he is, and forcing both parties to court him. And there's no guarantee that he'll get the nomination of the party that bids the most for him, but I think he'll decide that his best chances lie with the Republicans and his BFFs McCain and Graham. Then again, he might decide to quit the Senate and take a high paying slot as the other token "liberal" at Fox.

I could say more, but I'm too depressed.