Monday, August 22, 2011

Libya: What Now?

In 1969, I was only six years old. I wasn't tuned into politics except for writing a letter to President Nixon along with my entire class in elementary school.

In 1969, Qaddafi took over in a "bloodless coup." I wonder about how bloodless it really was. In the years to come, Qaddafi ruled seemingly unopposed.

As far back as I can remember, Libya meant terrorism, death and an insane leader. It wasn't until I was older that I realized it also meant oil. That the 70's oil crisis I lived through, when gas could only be bought on certain days based on your license plate, was mainly due to Qaddafi.

He believed in Arab nationalism, and hated the West. And the West hated him.

It was a time when there were great evils: Not only Qaddafi but Idi Amin, who brutally slaughtered hundreds of thousands. Maybe it was the Saturday Night Live skits, but the two live in my mind together, although they never actually were. Libya had oil- Uganda did not.

Before Qaddafi, there was a monarchy. What now? The people have fought hard against an oppressive regime. Forty two years is a long time, with countless generations living in fear. What kind of psyche does that create? How will the people heal?

And who will control the oil?

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Obama: What is the Alternative?

There is a beautifully written piece in the New York Times, What Happened to Obama? . I don't disagree with a single line of it. In fact, I've said all along Obama has been running for office since the day he took office. it is the nature of politics in America. Not one day, not one single day, without fundraising, without a careful eye on the next election.

My question is this: What is the alternative? Hillary Clinton won't run against Obama. that deal has been cut. And I'm fairly certain the country's obsession with Bill Clinton's penis would have made her presidency riddled with questions of less than important issues. Whitewater would look small in comparison. (Pardon the pun.)

Start another party? The Green party is already rife with corruption. It takes decades to make one that sticks and can compete on any real level against the Dems and Repubs.

We can't change to a parliamentary system. Could you even imagine? Anyone suggesting it would be tarred and feathered just like the British governors in colonial days.

Not vote for Obama? Okay, so I stay home. I say, I cannot do this. Bachman is too extreme, but Romney sure knows how to walk the "moderate" walk. Then what?

No one riots in America. Greece passes an austerity plan and people riot in the streets. here? They'll turn the channel. Tt's not that no one cares- I believe people are incredibly anxious and worried about the future, for themselves, for their kids- but people have been so stripped of any feeling that they could actually create any kind of change on their own, they roll over, and wait for the next kick.

The Presidency is about more than just one thing. And that's what I'm trying to hold onto. the fact that we have hate crimes, the end of DADT, the START treaty (to disarm Russia and us from cold war nuclear warheads once and for all), at least a stab at health care reform, TARP (no, not perfect but something), TWO SUCCESSFUL US SUPREME COURT NOMINATIONS (because for me? that was the biggest crisis we were facing), thousands of changes in political appointments to rid the world of Bush appointees... the list actually goes on.

And every word of the New York Times piece is true.

My question again: What is the alternative?

Friday, August 05, 2011

Fried Chicken... Finally

For those of you long long LONG time readers, you know I have battled with my inadequacy around fried chicken. Try as I did, over and over, I never, ever managed the beautiful, delicious, fried chicken my mother made.

Now, those of you who had my mother's fried chicken- and there are a couple who read this- you know it was the stuff of blue ribbons at the country fair. That is, if my mother would have ever been caught dead at a country fair. Perfectly browned, full crispy crust, and juicy, perfectly cooked chicken.

Even the breasts, which we all know are almost impossible to do- without a deep fryer.

Nope, she fried her chicken in a shallow pan, with bacon grease. There, I gave the family recipe away. Good luck trying to make it great. It's only taken me a quarter of a century to get it right.

My sister and I used to argue about how to do it. My sister would say, buttermilk. Gotta soak it in buttermilk.

Mom didn't do that.

Yes, she did.

No, she didn't. We never had buttermilk. Ever.

Well, my friend chicken is soaked in buttermilk, Cathy would say.

Yeah, but Mom's wasn't. I want her chicken. I want to be able to do that fried chicken. You make delicious fried chicken. But... it's not Mom's.

Today, as I stood over a hot stove, wondering why I let Ben talk me into yet another try which I was certain would fail, I could almost smell my sister leaning over my shoulder.

Too hot. Turn down the grease. You letting Ben roll those drumsticks? Has he washed his hands?

Ben was eager to help- eager to eat, too.

I could see that day in my mother's Canfield Road's kitchen, when I begged her to show me one more time.

Oh lord, she had said, I haven't done that in so long.

But she was game, as long as I was washing the dishes. She knew I could make her potato salad. I could make her cinnamon buns.

My mother was a meticulous cook. Dishes were washed as she went along- always using the measuring cup to stir an egg, and usually only a fork for stirring, cooking, testing. (Yes, I am the same way in the kitchen, although not quite as anal.) I sat on a stool, by the counter and wrote everything down.

And watched. Watched when she turned the chicken, watched when she rolled them in flour, then egg, then flour. Contrary to deep fried chicken, she cooked it low and slow.

My mother was never, ever in a hurry. It was annoying when trying to get to the airport, but delicious when it came to the results in the kitchen.

So, with my sister over one shoulder, and my mother's kitchen in my head, I proceeded with Ben Boy to make fried chicken.

It's going to be awful, I said.

No, not this time, Mom. You can do it. I mean, Grandma was from the south and she was your mother.

No pressure.

I did one thing I've never done before. Something I always do with chicken now- brine it.

Then, I followed the recipe. From my head, from my heart, from my sister's bad advice.

Halfway through, I thought, Nope. It's going to be bland and awful. I can't get the crisp right.

Oh well, at least I bought drumsticks on sale for a buck a pound.

But then, I turned the heat down, and it started to come together. I took off the first batch and put in the second.

I sliced into one of the thicker legs. I wanted to know if it were cooked through. And I took a bite.

I did it. Almost- the gorgeous blue ribbon coating didn't happen- and I know what to do to achieve it (I've done that before).

I got the taste. The slight bacon flavor, salty, juicy chicken deliciousness. I felt like I took the same bite I did when I was five years old.

I did it.

Ben tried it. He said, Mom, this is total deliciousness. I mean, it's so good. It's salty and crunchy... thank you.

I will never run a marathon. I will never sail the seven seas. I will never climb Everest.

Doesn't matter. I finally made my mother's fried chicken.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Revenue, Revenue, Revenue

A couple of quick questions:

Are we in a recession?

Do tax cuts create jobs?

Who wanted to cut 1 trillion plus dollars from Social Security?

I ask these questions because it's important to think about the frame. The overall frame the American public have about our economy and economic situation. People are quick to blame Obama for the mess we are in, and I find it so wrong, I can barely sit in my seat.

It's like staring at a penny and thinking you met Lincoln.

We are not in a recession. I know it feels like it, smells like it, our newspapers constantly hammer on it, but we are not. The GDP is growing and that means, no recession. It's not about feelings, people. It's about numbers.

Tax cuts have not ever created jobs. Not ever. As Barney Frank said this morning, a tax cut has never built a bridge. I don't know what kind of kool-aid the Republicans have been drinking for 30 years, but it doesn't work.

Republicans wanted to cut over a trillion dollars off Social Security. Hey, Grandma, how's that Alpo? I wonder if they even remember why it was created. In 1935, FDR signed the act to act as insurance to our elderly, to widows, for fatherless children. It was saying, Hey, we're all in this together. Because in 1935, we were. It was about lifetimes of work being rewarded with a safety net at a time when there were no safety nets at all.

People were starving. Money wasn't tight, it was gone. Imagine going to the ATM and having it say, oops. Sorry. You put it in but, it's not there anymore.

Think it couldn't happen again? Think again.

Oh, we have new economic models! I hear people saying. Really? Like that nifty one that said invest everything in stocks that don't give out dividends, with price ratios that were beyond the imagination, but everything is new and different? That was the internet bubble of the late 90's. Guess what? Didn't work out. What happened? Oh, that crazy thing called history repeated itself.

Obama has been in office for two years. He inherited the Bush tax cuts. When I first heard of the Bush tax cuts, when Bush was first proposing them, it was from an economist who said, This is an attempt to defund the federal government. To extinguish it, minus the military, forever.

That is Obama's fault?

Two wars, outrageous tax cuts (mostly for the wealthy), interests rates so low why would anyone think of saving, mad spending, real estate bubble, bad mortgage after bad mortgage (what? have no money? of course you can get a 500k house!), and we were on the brink of collapse.

You think those Republicans voted for TARP because they liked it? No, because if they didn't, they'd never see office again.

Was it perfect? No. But unemployment benefits were extended, social security saved, along with medicare, medicaid, and military veterans were no longer being tossed from their foreclosed homes while serving the country.

We are no longer in a recession. When you think that? I want you to go to the mirror, look yourself in the eye and ask, How much did welfare cost the government?

Or, what is the biggest export from the rainforest?

Your answers will surprise you. And the truth? Make you realize you've been brainwashed.

We need revenues, people. We need money to pay off debt, to invest in our people, our infrastructure, to create jobs. Bridge building creates jobs. Having money to hire teachers in schools, creates jobs.

Imagine a program that built public buildings and roads, that operated large drama, arts, media, and literacy projects. That fed children, redistributed food, clothing and housing. That created jobs and a flow of money to those in need of both.

Hmmmm. Oh, that would be the WPA- Works Progress Administration.

That requires revenue.

And a belief that the American people mean something. All Americans.

The only "T" word we should ever use again is Transgender. The other one is gone. Don't even whisper it at night in your dreams.

Obama took Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare off the chopping block. We are in debt so far over our heads, it makes your own personal credit cards look simple. The time for more revenue is here.

Obama came into office and immediately solved a crisis. It was a bandaid. He then did more for LGBT civil rights than any President ever in the history of our country. Can we have his back? Please?

We are not in a recession. Tax cuts do not create jobs. Republicans are happy to send Grandma out for Alpo.

Watch carefully, listen carefully. You think Obama has let you down? Go re-read all that's been done. Then re-read the Bush years.

You are being played by carefully orchestrated frames of reference.

Welfare cost less than 2% of any budget. Not 50, not 30, not 10. Rubber is the largest export- not wood for paper or construction.

Sometimes what we believe to be true, isn't true at all.