25 February 2009

A Portugese What DOG??

A Portugese Water Dog. That's the breed of dog that First Lady Michelle Obama says daughters Malia and Sasha will be looking to adopt or "rescue" in April. The announcement was made late Wednesday that the girls, who agreed "Dad can run for President, if we can have a dog."
Never heard of a Portugese Water Dog? You're not alone. And you're looking at a picture of one, coat trimmed in the finest tradition of Portugese Water Dogs everywhere.
The White House pooch has traditionally been a small breed, made for sitting in a lap or by the feet, but definitely out of the way. (Although President Bill Clinton acquired a lovely chocolate labrador named "Buddy," after he uh, earned his time in the doghouse and needed a companion.) So here's what we know about PWDs, gathered from the breed's website:
The existence of the Portuguese Water Dog along the Algarve on the coast of Portugal can be traced back to very remote times. Evidence exists which indicates that in pre-Christian times, the "water dog" was held to be nearly sacred, and severe penalties came to those who killed a "water dog."
The first written description of the Portuguese Water Dog is dated to 1297, and concerns a monk's report of a dying sailor who had been brought out of the sea by a dog which had a "black coat of rough hair, cut to the first rib and with a tuft on the tip of his tail."
Which almost explains the odd grooming job. (Doesn't it remind you of the time when you were a kid and the next door neighbor's wife got a really bad haircut and refused to come outside for two months?)
Fortunately, the Obamas are not shallow, like us. Here's a description of the breed's personality and behavioral attributes:
This seafaring breed was prized by fishermen for a spirited, yet obedient nature, and a robust, medium build that allowed for a full day's work in and out of the water. The Portuguese Water Dog is a swimmer and diver of exceptional ability and stamina, who aided his master at sea by retrieving broken nets, herding schools of fish, and carrying messages between boats and to shore.
That would be just excellent... if Barack Obama was a longshoreman. However, there must be some abidingly good reason that the Obamas are choosing a dog known for its love of and abilities in the water, along with its very unusual grooming procedures.
Mrs. Obama says "the folks that we know who own them have raved about them. So that's where we're leaning." We'll be doggedly searching for more information until the pup's arrival.
Sorta makes you miss ole Socks, the Clinton's cat which passed away quietly one week ago at age 19.

"Madame Tse Tung... er, I mean Speaker..."

The reviews are in and they aren't kind. From "what was she wearing?" to "she looks like she's channeling Mao Tso Tung," is the gamut. Nobody, but NOBODY liked what Nancy Patricia D'Alesandro Pelosi wore during last night's State of the Union address.
One extremely well known network correspondent who shall remain nameless likened it to a paper bag, both in color and fit.
Here's the thing: when you have that job, you know this is going to be one of your highest visibility nights of the year.
And considering the President's popularity ratings going into his first State of the Union Address, along with the exceedingly high level of concern about the economy right now, you had to know that viewership would be sky-high.
As I said to a fellow viewer last night, "She's thinking that is the best thing in her close?"
We would like to gently suggest that she can do better.

24 February 2009

State of the Union

Noted at State of the Union Address: big smiles on everybody standing behind Obama. Clearly Vice President Joe Biden (he of the flashing white smile) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (she of the very matronly attire that still somehow channeled Mao Tse Tung) knew they would be on camera during the entire speech.
But the rest of the audience, while jumping to their feet several times to clap, didn't smile a lot. With one exception.
The Junior Senator from Illinois, Roland Burris. The camera caught him looking as happy as any man ought in being somewhere that he paid the price to be. Figuratively, of course.

"This... or That?"

This is the man that President Barack Obama appointed to hold White House Press Briefings.

This is the man who held a mini-news conference last night on the White House lawn.

Which one would you prefer to get briefed by? Ah, well, a girl can dream.

If We're Truly "Over It"

"Pigs were seen flying over the United States Capitol today. In other news, Rupert Murdoch apologized."
The New York Post Chairman apologized for the cartoon (below) that compared President Barack Obama to chimp in a recent incident in Connecticut. A violent chimpanzee had attacked a woman and was shot to death by police there.

In a statement in the paper, Murdoch said he wanted to "personally apologize to any reader who felt offended, and even insulted." He also said the paper would try harder to be more sensitive.
Mr. Murdoch said the cartoon was only intended to "mock a badly written piece of legislation."
First, let me take a moment and retrieve my jaw from the floor. More sensitive? Huh?

Second, let's point out that our new President, like any political leader, is open to criticism. Yes, there is a honeymoon period. But this stuff goes along with the office. It's part of the glamour and glitz. It's part of the daily grind and perks. It's attention. It's just more attention. It's the equivalent of a second grader pulling the pigtail of a girl in front of him. Yes, this time, he pulled too hard, but I don't see the "girl" in this case crying about it.
(And our "second grader"/Rupert Murdoch is looking at share prices of News Corp. stock off 75% of peak, his COO of movies and TV is leaving in June. You gotta think more than mere regret, Rupert is feeling BAD.)
But at a certain point, we have the obligation to get past the fact that "oh my goodness, we elected an African American. It's historic, it's ground-breaking, it's amazing, it's... just another American President." If we're going to say we made history and got past racism, we need to get past it in every way.
We have to put away the "Obama 2008" buttons, the Obama hats and mufflers, and step aside of his race and get on with the business of watching him run the country. And being critical of it. That is, if we truly are past the race issue?
Yes, maybe the cartoon was tasteless, but the animal in question was a chimp, it had died, and that was the news of the day. That poor dead wild animal/household pet was at the forefront of New Yorker's minds. And the economic stimulus was right there along with it.
Wasn't the cartoon more offensive because it depicted our new chosen leader lying dead? And less so because it showed him as another news figure, however poorly, tastelessly chosen?
If we are ever going to past racism in this country, then we have to accept a few missteps along the way.

21 February 2009

"But I Used to Be..."

Did you ever hear the one about a spouse who went to the partner's company party, shot their mouth off, embarrassed the spouse, and that spouse was never promoted and finally left the company in disgrace?
How about the better half who refused to leave the party, kept going on and on about their spouse's contributions to the company, how great they were, how that spouse should be promoted above everyone else?
And then there was the one who told waited until the spouse was away on a business trip before running their mouth off, telling the company leader what he should be doing, and demanding that the leader follow their rules instead of the leader's own instincts and policies?
It's interesting when the shoe is on the other foot and its no longer a high heel but a wingtip. Someone needs to tell him to leave the stage gracefully. It's someone else's turn.

20 February 2009

25 Not-So Random Observations

Let's play a little game like they do on facebook, rather like 25 Random Things about Me, but not.
Instead, let's go for 25 Things We Can Observe about Michelle Obama, in the first 100 days in office.
1)She likes color.
2) She likes bling.
3) She's not afraid of J's Crew or probably even their henchman in the Old Navy.
4) She wears the color purple. She wears it well.
5) She likes her gloves to match her outfit.
6) She doesn't do "matchy-match." She just ball-parks it on colors.
7) Big colors are in, in her closet.
8) She doesn't have "old lady arms"... yet.
9) She may have partylines, but no sign of pantylines... yet.
10) Her daughters rooms are organized and their toys put away.
11) Likes her some lipliner. Likes her some shiny gloss.
12) Likes big fluffy fake ones... on her eyes, that is. Eyelashes. (Geez, what did you think I was referring to???)
13) Thinks a belt hides a multitude of sins. Uh-oh!
14) Didn't shiver for a moment, visibly, at the Inauguration.
15) Already has an "effect" that is hitting the NY Fashion week. (Did you see the squeeze at Jason Wu's?)
16) Likes to "accentuate the positive" and knows the First Husband thinks booty is a gimme.
17) Wears sensible shoes. Sorta.
18) Dresses like a girl. Really.
19) Has better hair than Laura, Hillary, or Barbara. Combined.
20) Ought to skip the ruffles. Every time.
21) Doesn't have a stylist... yet. Ought to hire one. It'll give her someone to blame because she will want to blame someone... sometime. Plus it'll make all the other celebs feel more comfy.
22) Doesn't do the mini. Thank the Lord.
23) Very soon, faces the biggest question a First Lady of Color could ask herself: pantyhose or nude legs? Summer is right around the corner.
24) Got along well with Liz on The View. She could do it again. Not that she needs to, or anything.
25) Should NEVER do this to her hair again:

Hey! Don't laugh. You had your "awkward stage," too. And if hers was during her teenage years, then so much the better.

19 February 2009

What Did You Say Is the Name of Your Bank?

I am fantasizing this afternoon about the possibilities. Ahhhhhh, the nearly limitless possibilities.
The Obama administration is going after that big fat Swiss bank, UBS, filing a lawsuit in a Miami federal court forcing the bank to turn over records of wealthy Americans who have been hiding their money over there and in doing so, avoiding paying their share of federal taxes.
Most of us can be quite happy about this because of course, we don't have enough money to make it worthwhile to hide it and attempt to evade taxes. So it's time to smile and let the government chase down these big, fat tax evaders.
The U.S. Attorney General's office, in prosecuting the banker-weasels ("Oh, poor UBS! They lost millions in the mortgage meltdown and now they have this happen?" No, I don't believe anybody is saying that.) expects to recover close to a billion dollars. And that's just the recovered taxes at about $380 Billion; another $400 Billion is penalties. But oh! The loss of face and future business!
The Swiss banking industry has functioned for decades on their reputation for keeping secrets. The UBS case is particularly egregious because apparently, they didn't just look the other way. They actively advised wealthy Americans on how to avoid paying taxes. And they never identified customers. Ever. Absolute secrecy was their promise. They no longer can make that claim. Although they are expected to fight the loss of their neutral status. I mean, seriously, what's next? Having to take a stand against Nazis?
And why did our government let it slide, because apparently, we thought all Americans are honest taxpayers? No, no indeed. "Git 'em!"
An estimated $14.8 Billion in American-owned cash has been stashed in UBS alone. The government is only going to get the names of about 250-300 customers from the bankers. The actual estimate, when the documents were filed forcing the bank to cooperate was that some 20-thousand Americans were hiding money along with other financial gains in the bank. But then a day later, with no explanation, the government more than doubled its estimate.
"At a time when millions of Americans are losing their jobs, their homes, and their health care, it is appalling that more than 52,000 of the wealthiest among us have actively sought to evade their civil and legal duty to pay taxes," the acting assistant attorney general, John DiCicco, said in a statement."
I like that word, "appalling." It's almost adequate, isn't it? One sort of hopes that these 52-thousand Americans are squirming right now, wondering will they be among the 250 unluckiest people in the world... the ones unmasked as being task cheats by the bank that formerly protected them. I like to think of all 52-thousand tossing and turning, at the very least.
My goodness, banking in Switzerland is now almost as dangerous financially as being nominated for high political office in the Obama administration.

18 February 2009

Money, Money, Money...

President Obama is pouring $75 Billion into helping Americans keep their homes. These are Americans who borrowed too much when the most commonly heard word in real estate circles was "bubble." Sadly, it may not help those who invested in housing as a speculative endeavor to make money. Someone should show them the dictionary definition of speculation. You know, the part where it says "risky."

The city of New York is putting $45 Million into helping those other victims of the Mortgage Meltdown. Those are the ones known as Wall Streeters. Bankers. Investment bankers. Analysts. I know we're all relieved to know they are getting some assistance as their jobs disappear.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the program which will help retrain the bankers, saying he believes the financial industry will rebound, but "We’re not waiting for that day to come."

The city expects to lose 31,000 jobs in the financial sector this year. $45 Million will pay for a lot of hot dog carts.

GE's CEO, Jeff Immelt has declined his annual bonus. GE's board approved eliminating the $12 Million payment. Mr. Immelt will make do on his $3.3 Millions in regular pay this year. On behalf of all my friends who work (or did until recently) at NBC stations and are currently re-applying for their jobs, I'd like to say something, but I don't write things like that out.

One analyst said Immelt couldn't be blamed for GE's stock price dropping from a 52 week high of $38.52 to under $11 per share. "Immelt's fault? Only if he could see the recession coming." Why couldn't he see it? The rest of us have been howling over it for more than a year.

Meantime, nobody else at NBC stations got to waive anything. They don't get to waive buyouts, layoffs, learning new skills, filling out those job (re)applications with weird new titles or having to work at triple speed to produce news products that will be embarrassingly poor quality, since they are now told "It's not about quality. It's about survival."

I wonder if Mayor Bloomberg has a program for them?

16 February 2009

"If I Had Been in Office..."

It must be great being Bill Clinton. He gets up in the morning. Scratches himself... as all men do. Or perhaps not. Perhaps he's not a mere mortal man.
He says he's been advising our new President, Barack Obama on some "nuts and bolts" about the office. He wouldn't get specific on what his advice was and I'm not going to take the obvious shots here. We'll just move on quickly.
But this one I can't resist. Did you see where he said where the recession would not have occurred under his watch? That's okay if you didn't catch it. I've clipped a snippet from a web article about it. Hang on to your hat. This is some mighty wind a-blowin.' Here we go:
Asked his perspective on how the country fell into such economic hard times, Clinton responded in an NBC "Today" show interview by asking rhetorically: "Did any of them seriously believe that if I had been president and my economic team had been in place the last eight years, that this would be taking place."
Nevermind that some believe the economic policies enacted and signed into law by him directly led to the sales of mortgages to untold numbers of now very frustrated and angry Americans who couldn't afford them and stand to lose everything.
Nevermind that in the past, he's admitted that his policies and Congressional Democrats greatly added to those very problems. (It's on this blog, but apparently the 42nd President with the legendary memory has apparently forgotten his own words.)
Nevermind that experts tell us the economy is a cyclical thing. In fact, the theory of economic cycles would call for a Depression approximately every 70 to 80 years. If you do the math, you'll understand why that's got some folks shaking in their shoes.
Nevermind that he thought he could help out in his wife's Presidential campaign. We all saw how that worked out.
Nevermind that Bill Clinton is generally ranked in the mid-section of American Presidents. Yes, he did just move up to the ranking of 15th among our 44 leaders. Last week, he was ranked 23rd (technically, the lower half) but now he's 15. And this makes him King?
It's good to be King. Let's just don't anybody let it slip to the former president that his throne is now in the bleachers. Kings and gods don't usually sit in the cheap seats.

15 February 2009

Three Strikes... You're OUT? Or Third Time's A Charm?

I've been a little distracted. But in the back of my mind, I've also been busy. I've been counting the bodies dropping out of the sky. (Don't be morbid. This is not about the plane crash in Buffalo.) It seems like they're piling up.
I'm referring to the number of President Obama's nominees that accept, and then back up once the confirmation process starts to look... icky. Or perhaps more properly sticky. Particularly in one federal agency.
Another nominee for the Commerce Secretary position, the Republican Senator from New Hampshire, Judd Gregg, has now withdrawn his nomination. The Senator cited policy differences.
Well, yeah, there's that. It's hard to be bipartisan when you aren't.
"The Senator will remain... a senator."
But look at this track record. Before Gregg, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was nominated. He backed when an investigation into "pay to play" practices in his administration (Blago II?) was revealed.
Former U.S. Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) withdrew his name as nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services. You remember him? He was formerly one of the most powerful men in Washington.
But after the people of the Great State of South Dakota voted him out of office, he became forgetful. He forgot that yes, you do look a gift horse in the mouth. If chauffeur-driven limousines are offered as part of the job, you may owe taxes on this "gift." Here's my question: was he doing his own taxes?
Also a nominee for the Obama administration-created created position of budget and government spending reform, Nancy Killefer, withdrew because she had a "tax issue" with the "DC unemployment tax." That's a very generous way to state someone owes back taxes, isn't it?
One of the nominees was in long-term limbo on her confirmation because her husband didn't pay $6400 in taxes on his business. Labor Secretary nominee Hilda Solis' hearing was hastily stalled; rescheduled last week and *poof!* things are now moving forward.
Not to be rude, but um, who wants to be the THIRD person nominated as Commerce Secretary? "Gee, thanks Mr. President! I'm very delighted to be your THIRD pick for this great honor and high office, serving you and the people of the United States. I'll do my best to deserve the honor you've bestowed on me, as your THIRD pick."
Ahhhh, the grandkids will be so proud!
Anyway "batter up," President Obama. We're going to need a Commerce Secretary so that your stimulus plan can get our economy rolling again fast.
Vetting: the process of investigating thoroughly, interviewing carefully, checking and rechecking the tax records and backgrounds of potential candidates for a job in order to eliminate as much as possible the potential for embarrassment in looking like you don't know what you're doing and can't choose honest people to work in your administration.

08 February 2009

Here Today, But Tomorrow?

I read the Sunday paper today. It's not the Washington Post but rather something put together by a little group out here in Northern Virginia. It's been awhile since I've read an actual paper delivered to the house. I'd forgotten what a wonderful, tactile thing it can be.

It's sitting on the floor next to me as I write this. I read the first bit over lunch. Then lunch "struck" and I was suddenly overcome with drowsiness. But it's waiting there for me to pick it up, peruse through, keep a coupon or two, make a mental note or three and move on.

It's been awhile. It's been missed. There's only a Sunday paper delivered to this household, near as I can tell. But at least there's that on a cold, dreary Sunday. And if we're not careful in this country, we won't have that little bit of tactile comfort anymore either.

02 February 2009

Taxes? But... It Was a Gift, Right?

This is Tom Daschle, the former Senate Majority Leader from South Dakota. Don't those red-rimmed, round frames make him look a bit eccentric? I always think when someone wears glasses like that, that they must have four more pairs in orange, yellow, green and blue. Who owns just one pair of glasses that are red? That's a fashion statement, not an astigmatism cure, for heavens sake!
Well, anyway, Mr. Daschle has been very busy since leaving public office. So busy, in fact, that it never occurred to him that friendly "gifts" from employers that are worth thousands of dollars are taxable. But that's ok. It almost certainly occurred to the giver.
Senator Tom Daschle, the former "choirboy and flag carrier" under Bill Clinton's administration was voted out of office a couple of years back. But he who was formerly one of the most powerful men in Washington, and thereby the Free World, has risen again from the ashes.
It's just that he's still wearing a little of the dirt.
Now that he's been nominated as the Secretary of Health and Human Services by our new President Barack Obama, his finances are being examined. It turns out that he forgot to pay taxes on the "gift" of a chauffeur and limosine placed at his disposal by the founder of InterMedia.
Mr. Daschle needed it to get to and from all the jobs he was working after he was "laid off" by South Dakota's voters. He did okay for himself. He got a job at a big Washington DC law firm, in spite of not having a law degree. Paid $2.1M over the past two years.
And he worked as a consultant at InterMedia, which is a private equity firm. Took in another $1M a year there.
Of course he also made lots of speeches and picked up another $500K and sat on some boards for another couple hundred thousand bucks. Yep, he stayed busy. So he definitely had need for that limousine and chauffeur. He just forgot to include that perk in the column marked "pay."
He's said he's sorry and he's paying back taxes. Probably penalties, too, if I know the IRS like I think we all know the IRS. It might end there. But let's look at who is listening to his apology: his former fellow members of Senate.
They're pretty understanding guys... and a few gals in those hallowed chambers. You know why? Because they get a chauffeur-driven limousine with the job, too. And they aren't required to pay taxes on theirs either.
It's sort of the human version of being "franked" every morning. "Franking" is the law that allows all of Congress' mail to go out without being stamped. It's "franked" and is delivered by the U.S. Postal Service at no charge to Congress. So every morning, all senators get "franked" by their chauffeurs to the Capitol.
Suh-weet, huh? Yeah, if I were one of those members, I might be pretty understanding, too. After all, Mr. Daschle is a working man. And me? I'm just trying to understand.

By the way, a new survey reported in the Washington Post says 9 out of 10 Americans don't like tax cheats. Not at all.